Thursday, July 31, 2008

CCI Puppies: Ceres is here and O'Hanna was released

Reflections from the Backcounter

Well, yesterday was the much awaited day for the arrival of Ceres our new CCI pup. We have been anticipating her arrival and unfortunately at the last minute she could not be flown to Arizona because of the heat. We were in a panic because of the fact that we were in Albuquerque at Arabian Youth Nationals. To the rescue came the CCI puppy raising Chair....Michaele Conners and Pat Lawson volunteered to drive to Oceanside and pick up the new baby and also O'Hanna. We were notified that O'Hanna was being released back to us last week because she was too stressed and timid. We are very sorry that she didn't make it but are thrilled to have her back in our family.

I have found the perfect answer to those who ask me, "How can you give up your puppy, I could never do it" Yes you could. Just watch the video below and you will understand

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Top ten tips for traveling with teens

Reflections from the Backcounter

This has been a busy summer for our family and as a result, I have not had the opportunity to do menus and meal planning because we have been traveling so much. I thought it would be a great idea to share some of the lessons I have learned from being on the the road with my three teens.

So here it goes

TOP TEN tips for traveling with teens:

1. Allow them to sleep. Teenagers need infinitely more sleep than the average adult and their circadian rhythm is usually completely out of synch with that of the exhausted supervising parent. Just as the monosyllabic, grumpy, sleepy bordering on surly teenager is waking up and ready to engage in activities (5pm-7pm) the irritable wine deprived adult is ready to collapse into a heap and recover from the days activities(see below)

2. Herding cats is easier. Attention all feline wranglers. Teens are harder to wrangle than their feline counterparts. If you think it is hard gathering up a herd of those wily kitties, try to get a group of teens all together in one place at the same time ...on time. It never fails, just prior to departure one always goes missing and we can't even use catnip or tuna to entice them back to the herd.

3. Keep IPODS on hand. When the little darlings begin to bicker and the decibel level in the car is close to reaching that of a jet engine idling on the tarmac, do not panic! Merely, insert ear buds into teen ears and see immediate decrease in decibel level of noise and experience immediate depressurization of parental stress. No longer is a quick game of license plate bingo going to calm the troops. Those days are over and only electronic devices will stop the cacophany. If teen IPOD use fails, insert ear buds into parent ears ...Caution: always decrease volume before inserting ear buds into parental ear canals.

4. Food, food and more food. Food in the car, food in the hotel room, food in your purse and lots of money available to buy more food when they consume all aforementioned food.

5. Friends are a parent's best friend. Keeping teens connected with friends while traveling offers a huge benefit to parents who are attempting to engage teen in meaningful conversation. Warning to parents. Nothing you have to say has any meaning after 10 days on the road. GIVE IT UP. Plug teen into nearest wifi access and allow them to get a dose of facebook.

6. Carry phone/blackberry charger with you at all times. Get used to it. Your Blackberry is NOT for your use or for communicating with business contacts or work contacts. It is to be used solely for the entertainment of bored teenagers who need to immediately search Google, check facebook or when all else fails, play brickbreaker . Warning....Battery will always be low on this device. Forget the fact that you have plugged it in at night. Remember that teens are nocturnal animals who are most active after the sun goes down and parental awareness is in REM sleep. The Blackberry will be unplugged, used and tossed aside to slowly lose charge overnight while you are blissfully sleeping and thinking that all is well.

7. Request extra towels from the front desk and hide one for personal use. Invariably, you will find yourself naked, cold and trapped in a small hotel bathroom with only a pile of used wet towels on the floor or if you are lucky one dry fresh washcloth. If you have not requested extra towels from the desk, you will have only two choices, both unacceptable...1. run naked through the room littered with lolling teens and risk searing into their retinas the vision of beauty that you aren't or 2. dry off your body with a mildewed towel retrieved from the germ infested bathroom floor and risk contracting a skin disease yet to be identified but recently associated with a fungus found in the Amazon rain forest or the Cross country lockers at the high school.

8. Take them to movies. This will buy you 2-3 hours of uninterrupted peace that you can use for personal gain or if you are so inclined to watch the movie.

9. If in the US find a Costco. Food, snacks and water are essential and the best bargains are at Costco. Also hedge the bet and while you are finding the Costco scout out the location of the nearest ER that takes your insurance

10. Keep your sense of humor and remember...the family vacation will soon be a thing of the past as the little darlings graduate and go off to college and the rest of their lives. Just like childbirth the only memories that will populate your brain will be the pleasant ones of sun filled beach holidays and delicious restaraunt meals shared with teens who are actually interested in what you have to say and who engage in planning the next trip as they politely talk amongst themselves in the back seat on the way home. STOP daydreaming while you are driving and start looking for the nearest McDonalds...the pressure in the backseat is building and the hunger is palpable...chaos is next.



Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reflections on mothering

Reflections from the Backcounter

The chance to spend time away from the day to day grind with my kids is truly a gift. Although a mom never truly gets away from the duty of mothering, the change in pace is energizing. Having said that we have already been to the laundromat to launder our mud encrusted jeans and the business of nagging the kids to pick up after themselves never ends. Hopefully, the opportunity to experience the shared passion of horses and showing will help to solidify our bond during the turbulent teenage years. I look at all the parents who are here to support their children and I realize the commitment they have made to enhancing the lives of their kids. I know that this is going on around the country on soccer fields, at swim meets, dance competitions and baseball fields. This investment of time and energy in our children is truly priceless. I know that they will look back fondly on our crazy early morning calls to the barn, our laughter about our horses and our long hours on the road.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Arabian Youth Nationals: The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat

Reflections from the Backcounter also known as the barn:

Day 3: Held hostage on the show grounds. Dust, sun, manure and nervous tension threaten the integrity of my cardiovascular system let alone my gi tract. This is anxiety personified and the stakes are high. Not only are we dealing with the uncertainty of a national competition but we must also factor in the unpredictable variable of a living breathing member of the competition team, the fragile horse. Doing well at nationals is like going to Las Vegas. You can never beat the house. Your favorite youth competitor can deliver the ride of her life and still not make the cut . Yesterday we added another layer of complexity to the equation when my oldest daughter got tossed off of her horse onto the concrete pavement and we had the distinct pleasure of spending the next 6 hours in the University of New Mexico Emergency room. Luckily, no broken bones but plenty of bruises and of course a new layer of fretting for the already nearly frenetic mother. Add to that a less than enthusiastic teen age brother who is clearly put out at having to spend his precious summer break hanging around a barn and my nerves are frazzling. Hopefully, they will all look back on these experiences with fond memories and a desire to reproduce the
experience for their children.... and to think I was worried about the this point we are ordering pizza...daily...



Thursday, July 24, 2008

Road food: SOS

Reflections from the Backcounter

Road food!!

Keeping the ducklings fed while traveling is a constant challenge. Teen age appetites and my wallet are on a collision course with bankruptcy!! I am always looking for ways to feed them healthy fare and avoid restaurants and fast food chains. Having said this it is a challenge and I am being tested! I expected that there would be an available microwave in this hotel but to my dismay there is not even one on the premises. I am now rethinking my entire vacation menu plan and have to come up with ways to feed the crew cold food or premade food from the grocery. We can heat water in our little coffee maker..I am having a flashback to my freshman year in the dorm. I remember eating a lot of dry packaged soup and kool aid!
On a positive note, we made the road trip with a minimum of fuss and bickering. We have graduated from the "Are we there yet" phase of parenting (they know better than to ask that inflammatory question when they are perfectly capable of reading the road signs) to the "Why can't I drive on this straight stretch of semi-truck infested road?". Still a challenge and at the end of the four (or was it six) hours, my nerves were stretched taught on the way to being frayed.
And now the little darlings have the audacity to be hungry and somewhat disdainful of the leftover sandwiches that are being offered to the teenage god of hunger...I need some ideas

Menu ideas

Rotisserie Chicken from the grocery

French Bread

Bagged salad

Carrot sticks

Egg salad (Made from purchased hard boiled eggs)

Tuna Salad

Ramen noodles ( I hate them but the kids love them)

Sandwiches/cold cuts/PB and J (Hard for us because one of the kids has a peanut allergy)

Not a crisis but a challenge..I could use some ideas...Please send them to me and I will report back! I am confident that someone will have a better plan...I am the mental equivalent of burnt toast! Luckily, breakfast is provided...on for coffee..I am sure I will perk up with a little caffeine



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

View from the road

Well, the Clampetts made it all the way to Flagstaff without losing a bicycle or a suitcase from the exterior of the car. Road trips are infinitely less fun these days as I watch the fuel gauge consuming my meager wallet. Filling up on the road can actually induce hyperventilation. Hyperventilating at the fuel pump is fraught with difficulty as one can get more than a little high on the fumes! Maybe that is the key...self medicating with fuel fumes to ease the pain of the purchase! A quick eight hours of sleep and back on the road across the Northern Arizona moonscape and on to New Mexico. A long six hour trip across dry harsh landscape.

Arabian Youth Nationals or Bust!!

Reflections from the Backcounter

Early morning riding, sore muscles, saddle sores and many tears have built the foundation for the highlight of the show season: Arabian Youth Nationals. In Albuquerque, New Mexico hundreds of youth from around the country come to experience the thrill of participation in a national competition. Accompanied by their entourage of parents, friends and family each competitor will have the chance to show their stuff and have a chance at winning the roses. This is an exciting time and we are packed and ready to go. After twenty two trips to Walmart, a returned bicycle rack and the purchase of a roof top cargo holder we are ready to hit the road albeit looking a lot like the Clampetts of Beverly Hills Hilbilly fame. Our roadster is adorned with the usual campaign slogan: Youth Nationals or bust and the driver (mom) is prepping for the 8 hour drive a thon by studying a map to determine where the Starbucks stops are...hopefully, evenly spaced two hours apart to allow for achievement of steady state caffeine levels.

Blog posts may be sparse in the next ten days but that all depends on the hotel internet access and my caffeination



Monday, July 21, 2008

Did you know? Great tips to think about

Reflections from the Backcounter

It is too hot to cook and I am taking a break from menu planning until August. Sandwiches and salads are about all we can stomach in this heat and so no need to share those non recipes!

This was sent to me by a friend on my email and honestly I did not know many of these things. There is always a better mousetrap out there


Peel a banana from the bottom and you won't have to pick the little 'stringy things' off of it. That's how the primates do it. Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.

Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!

Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking. Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.

To really make scrambled eggs or omelets rich add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up.

For a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt Andes mints in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Let set for a wonderful minty frosting.

Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic and at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic.

Leftover snickers bars from Halloween make a delicious dessert. Simply chop them up with the food chopper. Peel, core and slice a few apples. Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes!!! Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream. Yummm!

Reheat Pizza Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza. I saw this on the cooking channel and it really works.

Easy Deviled Eggs Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw bag away when done easy clean up.

Expanding Frosting When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.

Reheating refrigerated bread To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.

Newspaper weeds away Start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil. Wet newspapers, put layers around the plants overlapping as you go, cover with mulch and forget about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic they will not get through wet newspapers.

Broken Glass Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can't see ea sily.

No More Mosquitoes Place a dryer sheet in your pocket. It will keep the mosquitoes away.

Squirrel Away! To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.

Flexible vacuum To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.

Reducing Static Cling Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and ... tada! ... static is gone.

Measuring Cups Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.

Foggy Windshield? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car. When the window's fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!

Reopening envelopes If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals easily.

Conditioner Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair. (Walter - That tip is not intended for you.)

Goodbye Fruit Flies To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2' with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!

Get Rid of Ants Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it 'home,' can't digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!

INFO ABOUT CLOTHES DRYERS The heating unit went out on my dryer! The gentleman that fixes things around the house for us told us that he wanted to show us something and he went over to the dryer and pulled out the lint filter. It was clean. (I always clean the lint from the filter after every load of clothes.He told us that he wanted to show us something; he took the filter over to the sink and ran hot water over it. The lint filter is made of a mesh material ... I'm sure you know what your dryer's lint filter looks like. Well ... the hot water just sat on top of the mesh! It didn't go through it at all!He told us that dryer sheets cause a film over that mesh that's what burns out the heating unit. You can't SEE the film, but it's there. It's what is in the dryer sheets to make your clothes soft and static free ... that nice fragrance too. You know how they can feel waxy when you take them out of the box .. well this stuff builds up on your clothes and on your lint screen. This is also what causes dryer units to potentially burn your house down with it! He said the best way to keep your dryer working for a very long time, (and to keep your electric bill lower), is to take that filter ou t and wash it with hot soapy water and a n old toothbrush, (or other brush), at least every six months. He said that makes the life of the dryer at least twice as long! How about that!?! Learn something new everyday! I certainly didn't know dryer sheets would do that. So, I thought I'd share! Note: I went to my dryer and tested my screen by running water on it. The water ran through a little bit but mostly collected all the water in the mesh screen. I washed it with warm soapy water and a nylon brush and I had it done in 30 seconds. Then when I rinsed it ... the water ran right thru the screen! There wasn't any puddling at all! That repairman knew what he was talking about!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Be prepared

Reflections from the Backcounter

Sunday is a day to think things through and reflect. I found this great article on finding balance for mothers and thought I would share it. Suzanne at mommy footprints has some great insights.

This came to me through my email and I thought it was a great reminder

Years ago, a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals.

Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. "Are you a good farm hand?" the farmer asked him."Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man. Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man's work.

Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand's sleeping quarters. He shook thel ittle man and yelled, "Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!"The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, "No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows."Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew. When you're prepared, spiritually, mentally, and physically, you have nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life? The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm. We secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves in the Word of God. We don't need to understand, we just need to hold His hand to have peace in the middle of storms.



Multitasking is linked to the X chromosome

Reflections from the backcounter

I am convinced that the ability to do more than one thing at a time is definitely linked to the X chromosome. Women of course have two of these chromosomes and as a result are master multitaskers. The next time you are talking on the phone arranging how and when to pick up your child from their activity and you find that you have emptied the dishwasher, folded a load of laundry and answered the door to sign for a package, remember this post. Women are wired differently and thank heaven for that because in a typical woman's life, there are no large chunks of time available to complete ANYTHING. Mother's of young children are acutely aware of the fact that they cannot even carve out a personal bathroom moment!!!! Consequently, a woman hones her multitasking skills as she journies through the progressively more complex phases of her life. Childrearing, household managment and the juggle of work and home are the playing fields where women practice their abilities to organize, delegate, direct and complete a weeks worth of tasks in an afternoon.
If the multitasking gene is on the X chromosome...shouldn't men be able to do at least one thing more than one thing at a time? There is after all one operating X chromosome....Gotta go...gotta get my 16 y.o. boy back on task.



Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday: Summer garden salad with shrimp

Reflections from the Backcounter

The blogging community that supports Entrecard is a warm and helpful group of people who support one another through visiting and dropping entrecards with each visit. I have especially enjoyed communicating with Polly at Random Ramblings. Her help and guidance has been invaluable and she has again extended herself by awarding the Backcounter Buffet another award. The Just Plain fun to read award.!
Following Polly's lead, I am tasked with awarding this to four other blogs:
1. The Junk Drawer Kathy is a great writer who creatively shares her experiences and observations with others. Her posts always bring a smile to my face and I love the name of her blog. Visit her and leave a comment.
2.Gina's weight watcher recipes need I say more? We all need to read these recipes. Better to watch the points than my waistline expansion
3. Crazy working mom: Aren't we all?
4. Random Ramblings: I have to link back because I visit this blog every day!
Happy reading !

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meet CERES: Our new CCI puppy

Wednesday : Grilled Panzanella salad
Reflections from the Backcounter

Well, we finally have the full information about our new CCI puppy who will be arriving on July 30th. Her name is Ceres and she is 75% golden retriever and 25% yellow lab. She is one of ten puppies born to Rowina and Alijah. Her littermates all have C names and are darling as you can see from the pictures above. We are very excited to meet her and cannot wait for her to arrive on the 30th. O'Hanna has now completed one month of advanced training and we have had one progress report on her to date. She is somewhat timid and has been playing rough with the other dogs! We hope she makes it to graduation but we would not be surprised if she is released and sent back home. Only about a third of the puppies actually graduate and are paired with a person who needs a service dog.
I have added a banner for CCI on the blog. Click on it to learn more about how you can participate in this most worthy philanthropy. If you want more information on being a puppy raiser, feel free to ask me. This has been a wonderful experience for our family although giving up the puppy to advanced training is always a heartbreaking experience.
Ceres is a dwarf planet in our solar system named for the Roman goddess Ceres who is the goddess of the harvest, gardening and motherly love. Ceres is also a town in northern California and it is pronounced ...series.

More to follow as we learn more about her.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Textbook Shopping: Save a bundle

Sunday: Turkey Dinner
(see recipes and menu posted 7/12)

Reflections from the Backcounter

My children attend a local Catholic High School. A Catholic education has alwayas been my goal as a Catholic mother. Catholic Grade school and middle school were not possible because in our area there are too few slots and too many applicants. Add to that geographic undesirablity and the inability of this working mother to do the drop off and pick up and public school becomes the only option. We have been very happy with our public schools and are grateful for the opportunity for our kids to attend a Catholic High School. Having said that, let me also comment that this is a tremendous financial investment that does NOT stop with the hefty tuition checks that have to be written. Uniforms, books and extracurricular activities add to the bill and one must carefully plan to include these costs in the budget so as to avoid a shortfall.
I have learned a lot and yesterday I saved more that $500.00 when I purchased the textbooks for this year. Patience and know how are all it takes to be frugal and smart with book purchases. Our school directs parents to the school sanctioned on line bookstore where books can be purchased new or used but even the used texts at this site are pricey. I have had tremendous luck using the website: All you need is the ISBN number of the book and the website searches all of the on line sites to find the cheapest price. Interestingly, I purchased 90% of my books this time from Last year I had better deals on I started by finding the new and used price on our school bookstore site and worked backwards from that to find the deals. It took me about two hours and I began to see double but the effort and tenacity paid off in huge savings..

I hope this helps another family who has to purchase textbooks for their high school or college students. Hard to believe that we are already getting ready for school.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mid year turkey craving: Menu (finally)

Reflections from the backcounter

The weather is hot and it makes no sense but just about every year at this time, I begin to crave a turkey dinner with all the fixin's. Heavy on the stomach but delicious, this is my favorite meal of the year. A few years ago, I decided that I should treat the family to this meal more than once a year and so every summer, I pick a Sunday dinner to highlight this family favorite meal. I do concede to the heat and usually only cook a turkey breast. Cooked in an oven roasting bag, it remains moist, and is nicely browned without making a mess of the oven. Additionally, fresh cranberries are out of season so I just use canned cranberry sauce and jazz it up a little with fresh orange peel.

I realize that all home cooks are a little paranoid about the recent Salmonella it tomatoes? cilantro? Jalapeno or serrano peppers??? It is definitely a little nerve wracking and is making me less than enthusiastic about eating raw foods. Certainly poultry is always a worry for Salmonella and checking the internal temperature is always important to determine if the target has been achieved. The current recommeded target for a turkey breast is 165 degrees.


Oven roasted turkey breast in a roasting bag. (Click on link to get information on cooking in a roasting bag.)
Sage and onion stuffing

1 loaf of day old white bread, cubed
3-4 yellow onions chopped
small bunch of celery chopped
Salt and pepper
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup milk

Cube bread and set aside. Saute onion, celery sage and salt and pepper until soft but not brown. Add enough sage to turn the bread mixture somewhat green. There is no defined amount...add to taste. I like mine very sagey. Add to bread and mix . Add egg to milk and mix. Add milk mixture to bread and mix. Put into casserole (buttered) and cover. Before cooking dribble turkey drippings or chicken broth over the top. cover and cook at 350 degrees for one hal an hour until top is lightly browned.
Cranberry sauce
Mashed potatoes and turkey gravy

The best turkey gravy.

Make a roux, whisk in turkey drippings until smooth, add chicken broth until desired quantity. Season with salt and pepper, add a generous 1-2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce and 1/4 cup of white wine. Let simmer for a few minutes.


Chuck Roast in the Crockpot
Chuck roast
1 sliced onion
1 can El Pato sauce
1 can tomatillos with liquid

Cook on high until tender. Shred and serve with corn tortillas. Let's avoid the cilantro on this one!!!

This is an easy yet delicious light pizza that is perfect for a summer meal. Serve with a salad

Boboli pizza
1 Boboli pizza crust
3-4 chicken breasts
1/2c chopped green onions
1 tsp garlic
2 Tbsp rice vienegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1-2 Tbs olive oil
red pepper flake
black pepper
2c jack cheese
Cream cheese
1 can chopped black olives
sliced mushrooms
2 tsp pine nuts

1/2 the amount of green onions and reaminder of ingredients up to cheese are combined to make marinade. Cook chicken and cut into pieces. Marinate.

Cover pizza with a layer of cream cheese then chicken (pour extra marinade over pizza top with olives, mucshorooms and cheese

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes Top with remaining onions and pinemuts. cook 3-5 more minutes.


Grilled Panzanella salad


Summer Garden Salad with Chili-Garlic Shrimp
Garlic Bread

Southwestern Chicken Pasta Salad

1 pound farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced cooked chicken
8 green onions, chopped
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 15-ounce can golden hominy, drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1 12-ounce bottle mild green taco sauce
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro We may want to avoid this!!!!!
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain; rinse under cold running water and drain again.
Transfer pasta to large bowl. Add oil and toss to coat. Mix in chicken, green onions, tomatoes, hominy, beans, taco sauce and cilantro. Season salad generously with salt and pepper.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How to fold a T shirt: Do everything a little better

Reflections from the Backcounter

Summertime and the living is easy...unless you are in charge of summer laundry. Vacation loads, beach towels and play clothes seem to add up faster than school year laundry. It is impossible to keep up with the laundry in my family. Add to that the heat from the dryer and it is tempting to let the laundry pile up. I ran into this hiliarious video on You Tube and thought I would share it. Someone always has an idea for building a better mousetrap. This is how to fold a T shirt in two seconds. Really funny but it does work. Give it a try and happy laundering.



Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fresh Fruit Cobbler: The taste of summer

Reflections from the Backcounter

Fresh fruit cobbler defines summer. We were given lug boxes of fresh peaches, nectarines and and cantaloupe this week. The fruit all came from central california and the taste and texture of the fruit was delicious. Unfortunately, this much fruit is destined to spoil as our family cannot eat it quickly enough. Cobbler is just the answer. My daughter made the cobbler tonight and it was wonderful. Cobbler is a simple dessert that can be made easily from almost any summer fruit. Typically, fruit is topped with a biscuit dough that is spread unevenly on the fruit. Served with ice cream or cream it is a favorite with kids and adults.
Active time: 20 min. Start to finish: 45 min.
6 large peaches, cut into thin wedges
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
For biscuit topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup boiling water

Cook peaches:Preheat oven to 425°F.
Toss peaches with sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch in a 2-qt. nonreactive baking dish and bake in middle of oven 10 minutes.
Make topping while peaches bake:Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.
Remove peaches from oven and drop spoonfuls of topping over them. Bake in middle of oven until topping is golden, about 25 minutes. (Topping will spread as it bakes.)
Enjoy the taste of summer!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Gas crunch

Reflections from the Backcounter

We celebrated Christmas in July this 4th of July. I think that this will become a new tradition for our family as it was really fun to break out the Christmas decorations and combine them with red, white and blue.

The highway to the mountains this 4th of July weekend was much less busy than many in the past. I have to think that we were seeing the effects of the gas prices on the enthusiasm of travelers. Today I discovered a great website that gives prices of gas across the country and in various zip codes. Interesting to see the variability in price even in the same zip code. A little planning can save up to ten cents a gallon. Gas buddy .com has great information and is a very interesting read.