Monthly Archives: November 2012

Arizona Desert Museum

The last Sunday adventure that we went on was to the Arizona Desert Museum. It’s pretty cool because the museum is somewhere between a hike through the desert and a zoo. There are many different desert animals there, along with displays of Arizona’s geological history and how deserts work, but you often feel like you are on a desert path with nothing around.

Desert Mountains

Desert Mountains on the drive to the museum

Prairie Dogs

Prairie Dogs!

Nate Saguaro

Nate with a Saguaro – the things you take pictures of when you’re not “from” the desert

Saretta Saguaro

My turn with the cactus

dead cactus

What a saguaro looks like when it’s dead

Javelinas

Javelinas

Water Fountain

They have water fountains all over the museum. Can’t let that dehydration sneak up on you. We took our water bottles, but it was nice to be able to fill them up.

Red Dirt

Red dirt in the desert

Play

He wanted to play!

My new favorite cactus

My new favorite cactus – too bad I forgot what it’s called already

Hummingbird

In the hummingbird aviary

Tagged , ,

Musings on Mid-November

Sunset

A gorgeous Tucson sunset

To read my blog you would think I’ve spent the whole month cooking and drinking coffee! Which is partially true. Cooking takes a ridiculous amount of time, and just when I’ve finished cleaning up from lunch, it’s time to start on dinner. Now I remember why we went out all the time in Cincinnati, and why I like leftovers so much.

But there have been other things. We’re still unpacking. We did such a terrible and quick job of it when we moved into our house, we decided that we’d do it right this time. Which is kind of funny, considering we are most likely moving again in a few months. I’ve been going through boxes that we’ve carried around for years, Nate since leaving for college, me since, well, forever. It’s taking a long time.

Blooming

Flowers blooming on the bush in front of our apartment.

For a while we were going on weekly adventures. Sunday afternoons were dedicated to exploring our new city. Then we tried to go to the zoo for about three weeks in a row. When it never happened, I think we gave up on our Sunday adventures. Now we lounge around the house. I often think that’s more fun than adventuring.

Daisy

We had a nice thanksgiving, despite being so far from our families. I’ve always thought of Thanksgiving as my families “best” holiday. We have a strict schedule that we adhere to, starting with the Turkey Trot in the morning (I do not partake in that part) to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, to the dog show, to the movie, to the evening spent in front of the fire place. The food is always the same, and if ONE THING is forgotten, someone will notice. I don’t think I have ever missed Thanksgiving with my family. I think it’s the only holiday that was left that I hadn’t missed. And then we couldn’t get the parade on the TV (we don’t get NBC at our apartment, WHAT?) and then I had a meltdown, and then I was fine. We went to Cracker Barrel with some friends for dinner, then back to their house for pie and board games. I professed my hatred of board games, and then played them happily. It was fun.

Turning Leaves

I found some turning leaves while walking to church. Unfortunately I haven’t found any more.

I’m still unemployed. It’s a weird space, being unemployed on purpose. I’m not a housewife, this is not what I want to be doing, but I did choose to leave my job knowing that there wasn’t one waiting for me here. So I stick with “not working.” I send out the occasional resume, have the occasional interview, don’t get the occasional job. I’m glad for the people who have said “Contact So-and-So, you can use my name.” It makes it so much easier. But what I hear most often is how firms are closing or struggling or still laying people off.

Pears

I’m excited for the holidays. I love this time of year – there’s something magic that happens from Thanksgiving until New Year’s. We’ve been listening to Christmas music in the car, even though it still hits 80. There are no spruce trees here, no bare branches, no dark skies. It certainly doesn’t feel like the holidays. We’re not getting a Christmas tree this year, we didn’t get one last year, and I asked Nate the other day if he thought we would get one while we lived here. He said no, and I’m inclined to believe him. Somehow it feels like a lie, to truck in a tree from somewhere else, decorate it with “snow” and pretend nothing ever changes. We’ll come up with our own new traditions, it will just take some time.

Fire Truck

Found a car show with a fire truck while on our run

We sold our house. Which is wonderful and kind of amazing, but I was sad to see it go. I’m glad we won’t be taking care of it over the winter. We owned it for almost exactly 11 months. Now we start the process all over again. This time will be much different; no super-easy only-went-to-see-one-house hunt for us this time! We’ve already been to 10 or so (I’ve lost count) and by the time we start looking again, it will probably be a whole new crop of houses. We have a pretty good idea of what we want, but I’m not so sure that house exists.

Flowers

Pretty flowers – the purple leaves are dying the water purple

Well this has turned into approximately a novel. See, there are things going on! Just not super-exciting photo-worthy things. But I have some stored up – maybe next week.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

NoCoPoMo – Weeks 2 & 3

I have to say we have been eating very well since we got all our stuff back. We were eating pretty well in our one-bedroom without our stuff, too, but it was a lot harder to make meals and I had to plan what food would cook in which of our one pot, one pan, one baking sheet, and, eventually, one baking dish. But basically anything was better than in Cincinnati where we barely ate at home at all.

Weeks two and three of NoCoPoMo were full of good food and LEFTOVERS. My favorite. Really. Leftovers means you don’t have to cook some nights or that there are lunches ready to eat. And using the crock pot means there are always leftovers. It’s hard to find a crock pot recipe for two people.

Week 2 we feasted on Beth’s Crockpot Sausage Lasagna. It was delicious, and got better the longer it waited in the fridge. I don’t usually make lasagna with sausage, but I think it will become a permanent addition. I used one hot sausage and one mild sausage (because the meat counter didn’t have any medium) and it worked out perfectly. Now, my favorite part of lasagna is the crunchy over-baked noodles on the sides of the pan, so I don’t think I will always make my lasagna in the crock pot, but it certainly was easy and a great way to feed a bunch of people!

lasagna

Lasagna in the Crock Pot

The Herbed Balsamic Chicken that kicked off week 3 was not as much of a hit. And it wasn’t the poor chicken’s fault. We had a thyme problem; we’ve always had a thyme problem. I have since rectified the situation and purchased crushed dried thyme instead of the ground thyme that we had, but when you sprinkle 1 tsp of ground thyme on anything, it’s a bit overwhelming. Nate dubbed it “mud chicken” because it looked like it had mud on it there was so much thyme. I thought it tasted good, but then what food looks like has never had anything to do with whether or not I will eat it. So use crushed thyme.

I was also a little worried because of our previous very vinegary roast, but the chicken turned out well. It had a taste of balsamic, but it was not overwhelming.

Mud Chicken Cooking

Mud Chicken Cooking – I also didn’t pour the liquid over the chicken, which might have helped thin out the thyme.

Herbed Balsamic Chicken, Better Homes and Gardens The Ultimate Slow Cooker Book:

  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 tbsp quick cooking tapioca, crushed
  • 6 chicken breast halves, skinned
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chicken broth
  • 9 oz. package frozen Italian green beans
  • 1 c. sweet red pepper strips

Place onion in slow cooker, sprinkle with tapioca. Top with chicken, sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Pour vinegar and broth over chicken. Cook on low heat for 4 1/2 hours or high heat for 2 hours. Turn to high heat, add green beans and red sweet peppers, cook for 30 min.

Herbed Balsamic Chicken

Herbed Balsamic Chicken

I’d never made beef stroganoff before. It was one of those classic American comfort food meals that I never had growing up, so I never had the chance to miss when I left home. When I opened the sour cream container, I found out that the seal had been put on incorrectly and the container had been open since the factory. Luckily, a little googling told me I could use Greek yogurt instead. It tasted good to me! But I don’t exactly have a frame of reference, so I can’t vouch for its “correctness.” I used this Classic Beef Stroganoff from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens The Ultimate Slow Cooker Book:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. beef stew meat
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 c. sliced fresh mushrooms (which I did not include)
  • 1/2 c sliced green onions or chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 c. beef broth
  • 1/3 c dry sherry
  • 8 oz. sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 c. cold water
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • snipped fresh parsley

Brown meet in hot oil, drain fat, set aside. Combine mushrooms, green onions, garlic, oregano, salt, thyme, pepper, & bay leaf in slow cooker. Top with meat and pour broth and sherry over. Cook on low heat for 8-10 hours or high  heat for 4-5 hours. Remove bay leaf, turn to high heat. In bowl combine sour cream, cold water, cornstarch and about 1 c. hot cooking liquid. Stir sour cream mixture into cooker. Cook for 30 min or until thickened. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

We served ours with wide curly egg noodles and green beans. And it was delicious.

Only one week left of NoCoPoMo. And Nate picked the menu for the entire week. He was getting tired of my “trying new things.” Ah, it happens.

Tagged , ,

Coffee #21

bn-coffee

A picture from last year because apparently I have not been drinking enough coffee.

 

“Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.”

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

via: Spilling the Beans

Tagged

Coffee #20

Coffee #20 on November 20th. HeheHehe.

New Coffee Again

No coffee can be good in the mouth that does not first send a sweet offering of odor to the nostrils.

~Henry Ward Beecher

via: Spilling the Beans

Guess what!? I got ANOTHER coffee maker. One might think that I have a problem (and maybe I do…) but there is some rational. In college, Erin and I shared a big, red coffee maker, out of which we drank many of the cups of coffee that got us through school. But, it was Erin’s coffee maker, and when we moved out, she took it. I had a small coffee maker that my in-laws had given me for my desk at work (where there was NO COFFEE MAKER! Have you heard of such a thing? An office without coffee?) which I used until I smashed it on the counter. Eventually, I got a new coffee maker, and I was unimpressed from the start. Mr. Coffee made coffee that smelled funky and tasted worse. I thought it was just new-coffee-pot-funk, but it never went away.

We’ve been doing a lot of cleaning out and getting rid of things we don’t need/want/like very much, and Mr. Coffee made it into that last category. Tired of making terrible coffee, and with a bunch of coffee left over that was already ground, so no good for the French press, I caved.

There are three important benefits to this coffee maker.

  1. There is no carafe for me to shatter. The coffee is held inside and is released by a (very spill-proof) button, directly into your cup. As someone who has problems both keeping glass carafes in one piece and in getting coffee from the pot into the cup, this is an huge advancement.
  2. It has a make-ahead timer. So I can have it ready when I wake up.
  3. It makes good coffee. It took a few times for the new-appliance smell to wear off, but the coffee has always been good.

I hope this will be the last coffee maker I have to purchase for several years.

Tagged , ,

Coffee #19

 

Red Cup Storm

First red cup of the season – and moody November mountains in the background.

It was one of those mornings when a man could face the day only after warming himself with a mug of thick coffee beaded with steam, a good thick crust of bread, and a bowl of bean soup.

~Richard Gehman, The Haphazard Gourmet (1966)

via: Spilling the Beans

Tagged ,

NoCoPoMo – Week 1.5

When I signed on to November Crock Pot Month in the middle of October, I was worried that it would be way to warm for the hearty meals that I love the crock pot for. The stews and roasts I usually make don’t sound so wonderful when it’s over 90° during the day. But November has been decidedly cooler (hooray!) and, combined with my quest to find all things fall, it’s turning out to be a really good idea. In the past few days I’ve even pulled out my wool socks and thought about turing on the heat! It won’t last, though. It will be back in the mid-70s to low-80s soon.

The idea of NoCoPoMo is to get people cooking and sharing recipes for homemade food. Since slow cookers are an easy way to make a warm, hearty meal, and we’re basically all overbooked and a bit crazed (especially at this time of year), sharing slow cooker recipes is a great way to make this happen. We’re supposed to make 1-2 meals a week and share our recipes. Since we’ve been in Arizona, I cook pretty much every day. But I remember the craziness of our lives less than a year ago and how much I relied on the crock pot (and also the restaurant…) to feed us.

I started about a week early, but I really couldn’t help myself. I had discovered the apple display at the grocery store and came home with way too many apples.

ApplesApples that I only eat during the fall, and that Nate basically doesn’t like at all. So I made applesauce. And it was delicious. Delicious when I ate it, first hot right out of the crock pot, then cold every morning on my oatmeal, and delicious smelling as it simmered all day long with cinnamon.

Apple SauceI used this recipe minus the lemon peel. I did not have a lemon. I used bottled lemon juice. It was still delicious.

Ready to eat

Then! On the first of November, I kicked off NoCoPoMo with an Herbed Beef Roast from the Betty Crocker Cookbook! And it was a big fat flop. Boohiss. It happens. I’m not going to post the recipe, because I wouldn’t recommend it. But I will tell you what was wrong with it. It didn’t start off well, really. I had a smaller roast than was called for, which happens every time I cook because there are only two of us. I thought I could put it in our little crock pot (the one I have never used) but it was a bit too big. And it was way too small for the crock pot I usually use. So I threw in a bunch of vegetables to fill it up. The recipe calls for 1 cup of balsamic or red wine vinegar as the only liquid added to the roast. This seemed quite excessive to me, so I put in half vinegar and half beef broth. And I used red wine vinegar, because we have a ton of that. The whole roast tasted so much like vinegar that we had pucker lips while we were eating it and decided not to make it again. I think it would have been better with balsamic, and maybe even more beef broth and less vinegar. Oh well, we ate it and it was fine.

Since that roast did not turn out so well, I tried another recipe. This one is from Better Homes and Gardens the Ultimate Slow Cooker Book. As usual, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 – 3 lb. beef chuck roast
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes w/ basil, garlic, & oregano – undrained
  • 10.5 oz can condensed French onion soup
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 16 oz package frozen sweet pepper & onion stir-fry vegetables (or 1 chopped pepper & 1 chopped onion – wait to chop until needed)
  • 1 1/2 cups instant white rice (or not)

Put meat in slow cooker; add thyme, cayenne pepper, tomatoes, French onion soup, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 4-4 1/2 hours. Turn to high and add peppers, onions, and rice. Cook for 30 min.

I used fresh peppers and onions instead of frozen, and I didn’t use rice at all. I think I made potato pancakes instead. This one was pretty good, but it’s a bit of an onion overload if you don’t love onions.

Slow Cooker

Have I mentioned how I have a habit of breaking slow cookers? One just stopped working in the middle of making a meal, and I broke the knob off this one approximately the 4th time I used it. Now it requires a wrench for operation, but it still works otherwise!

Finally, this past weekend I made pulled pork. I made it on Saturday so we had to sit at home and smell it all day, but it was definitely worth it in the end. We actually had dinner at about 3pm when the pork was finished cooking because we couldn’t wait any longer!

This recipe is also from Better Homes and Gardens the Ultimate Slow Cooker Book. And! I followed the recipe! Exactly! This never happens!

Ingredients

  • 3 to 3 1/2 lbs boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz bottle chili sauce
  • 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Put pork in slow cooker, combine remaining ingredients and pour over pork. Cook on low for 10-11 hours or high for 5-6 hours. When finished, pull pork into shreds, return to crock pot, mix with sauce, enjoy.

Pulled Pork

The pulled pork was really good, but I think we’d prefer the good old pour-bottle-of-your-favorite-barbeque-sauce-over-pork-and-cook method.

Bone

OK maybe I didn’t follow ALL the directions – I used a bone-in cut and all the meat fell right off! Isn’t that beautiful!

Tagged , ,