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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Monday, September 28, 2015

Weird Things I See

Have you ever heard of turducken? It's a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey. It's supposed to be delicious, but I've never tried it. The closest I've come is chicken cordon bleu, which is cheese stuffed into ham stuffed into a chicken breast that's breaded and fried. It's delicious but oh so fattening.

The other day I was driving my son to work and we saw vehicular turducken driving down the road. It's a trailer loaded with a pickup loaded with a four-wheeler and topped off by a giant Barbie waving her arms and smiling as bugs splatter her face. I love the weirdness of the world.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thursday Recipe - White Chicken Chili

I served this for dinner the other night. Very tasty soup. My daughter was upset when I told her it was White Chicken Chili. Then she tasted it. Her face lit up in a smile and she said, "I love this soup! Why didn't you just call it tortilla soup?"

Similar soup, but not quite the same.

White Chicken Chili

1 lb dried white navy beans
1 T. butter
1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 4 oz can chopped green chilis
1 T. chicken bouillon
1 t. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
6 small corn tortillas

Rinse the beans and pick out anything that isn't a bean. Sometimes, stuff gets in the bag like rocks. It happens. Put the beans in a 3-4 quart saucepan and cover with cold water. Set aside to soak overnight. (Or use a quick soak method: wash the beans, cover with hot water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let them sit for an hour.)

Drain and rinse the beans again. Put back in the saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2-3 hours until the beans are mostly cooked.

While the beans are cooking, heat up your trusty 4-6 quart crockpot. Dump the butter, onion, and chicken into it. Cover and cook on high for about an hour, until the chicken is mostly done and the onions are soft.

Dump the beans into the crockpot with the chicken mixture. Add everything else, EXCEPT the tortillas. Add enough water to barely cover. Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours.

An hour before serving, tear the tortillas into smaller pieces. Dump into the soup. Stir well. Cover and cook on low for about an hour.

Serve with sour cream, chopped tomatoes, jalapeƱos, and shredded cheese.

It takes a long time to cook, but most of that is just simmering. It's a great all-day recipe that doesn't keep you in the kitchen.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Movie Review - Maleficent

Or Malignant. Or Deficient. Or something.

I finally got around to watching Maleficent. Angelina Jolie was fun to watch, but overall, the movie was a mess. It just didn't work for me. But it was fun to quote other movies.

My son got the best one in: "We can rebuild him. We have the technology."

I give the movie a B-. Not the best Disney has put out, but not the worst either.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Butterscotch Fudge

Fudge is my unicorn - that elusive, unobtainable thing that I desire. I can buy fudge, true. We have several local places that make delectable fudge. But there is something very satisfying about pulling a pan of fresh fudge from the fridge, then eating it.

I have a very hard time making fudge. It just never turns out right. This recipe worked for me, though. It's based off a recipe in the Taste of Home website/magazine. (Good recipes there, check it out. I used to subscribe but they have gotten too commercialized.) The original called for evaporated milk, something I just never buy. But I do have powdered milk. I got creative. It was extremely tasty. And it was FUDGE!!! Now to figure out how to make it chocolate and still turn out. (Update: chocolate chips don't work in this recipe. It's tasty, but it isn't fudge. Stick with butterscotch chips or white chocolate chips.)

Butterscotch Fudge

1/2 c. warm water
1/3 c. instant powdered milk
2 T. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 c. miniature marshmallows
1 10-12 oz. package butterscotch chips

Butter or spray a 8-inch cake pan or pie pan. Set aside.

Mix the water and powdered milk in a 2 quart saucepan. Stir until completely mixed. It will be thick. Add the butter, sugar, and salt. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until it boils. Boil and stir for 5 full minutes. Remove from heat. You're basically making sweetened condensed milk.

Add marshmallows and butterscotch chips. Stir until marshmallows and chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour into the prepared pan. Spread carefully, just to even it out. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours until firm. Cut and devour. Share if you want.

Optional items:
Chopped nuts, if you like that kind of thing
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. maple flavoring (the original recipe called for this but since I never have any, I didn't put it in)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Movie Review - Divergent and Divergent: Insurrection

The books these movies are based on have been making noise in my online circles so I decided to see the movies. It also helped that they are now on Netflix.

The posters and book covers led me to believe these were science fiction, as in a high-tech future or another world. I probably should have paid more attention to the descriptions. These are futuristic Earth where something horrible has happened and most everyone is dead and the society that is left is repressive and bleak. And the main characters are teenagers who have to decide their entire life RIGHT NOW. And the whole course of human history depends on one teenage girl, if she can get over her angst.

Yeah, been there, done that, way too often lately. Is anyone else tired of depressing, bleak, angsty teen movies that are only redeemed by the cool tech gadgets they invent for the storyline?

It wasn't quite that bad. I did enjoy the first movie. There were a lot of quirky, interesting twists to the society that intrigued me. Until the teen angst kicked into high gear. See the main character sees a really hot guy and of course impressing him becomes her main focus in life. The romance was good in the first movie, though, believable and not overwhelming to the rest of the plot. The villain had me wanting more of her story. I was actually looking forward to the second movie.

Except the second movie devolves into a muddle. The villain is just another megalomaniac who wants power. The hot guy is desperately in love with and totally devoted to the main character even though she gives him absolutely no reason to be that way. In fact, she lies to him and pushes him away to the point where the romance is no longer believable. Either he's an absolute idiot, or there's a lot more to the story than they show in the film.

The plot for the second movie was much too predictable. The ending felt tacked on and not justified. I had almost no emotional involvement with the characters by the end so I didn't care what happened to them anymore.

I know a lot of teen girls who love the movies, though, so to each their own. They weren't my personal favorites. Or even close. But they were watchable, even if the second movie was a disappointment.

Divergent - PG-13 mostly for violence, I give it a B.
Divergent: Insurrection - PG-13, I give it a C.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Orange Rice and Baked Salmon

My neighbor made a version of this years ago. I loved the taste enough that I tried to re-create the recipe. I think I'm finally close with this version. It goes really well with salmon.

Orange Rice

2 c. short grain rice, it cooks up sticky but you could use regular rice if you really wanted to
3 1/2 c. hot water
1 11-oz can of mandarin oranges
2 t. caraway seeds
2 t. salt

Mix everything in a 2-qt casserole dish. Bake at 425°F for one hour, or until the rice is tender. Stir gently before serving to distribute the caraway seeds. The oranges will fall apart, but that's supposed to happen.

Baked Salmon

2 lb frozen salmon fillets, more or less
1 t. dried dill weed
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 lemon, optional

Don't bother thawing the salmon, it cooks quite well straight from the freezer. Arrange salmon in a baking dish. Sprinkle with the dill and pepper. Slice the lemon, if you want it, and arrange the slices over the fish.

Bake at 425° for 25-35 minutes, until the fish flakes easily when you take a fork to it.

I like these together because they taste great together and you can bake them both at the same time, just put the fish in after the first 20 minutes or so of rice baking time and they should finish at about the same time.

Add steamed broccoli and fresh fruit and you have a delicious, healthy dinner that's easy to throw together.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Household Tips - Decluttering and Painting

We're cleaning out the house. It's amazing how much you can collect in twenty years. The clutter piles are huge. We've hauled more stuff to the dump and secondhand stores than I want to think about. But the house is finally getting to the point we can rattle around again.

Household tip #1 - don't buy stuff just to have it. If you aren't going to use it, get rid of it. For new hobbies, buy it, try it out, and if it doesn't work for you, find someone who wants it and give it away. Stuff takes time and energy to maintain and clean and organize. Why keep it if you aren't doing anything more than shifting it around and cleaning around it?

We painted my daughter's room. It's been needing it for years. We've been waiting for her to clean it up and organize it so we could move her out and paint. I finally got tired of waiting, after over three years, and did it for her. So I don't feel bad that she ended up with a pink wall. She hates pink, but since she didn't clean it out, she didn't get to choose the paint color. It looks very pretty and feminine now. And clean, since we haven't moved her back in yet.

Household tip #2 - Paint your walls the colors you like, you're the one who has to live in it. And go two or three shades lighter than you think you want, especially for large spaces like walls. The colors end up darker than you think they will. Dark colors make spaces feel smaller. If you want an open airy feeling, use lighter colors.

Do you have any good household cleaning or organizing tips? Please share in the comments!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Bird Poop, aka No-Bake White Chocolate Cookies

I offered to make cookies for my daughter the other day. She announced she wanted Bird Poop. So we made bird poop for her. They were very tasty, despite the name.

Bird Poop Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. milk or coconut milk
2 c. sugar
3 c. oatmeal, quick-cooking is best
1/2 c. shredded coconut
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1 c. mini marshmallows
1/2 c. Craisins, optional

Toss together oatmeal, coconut, white chocolate, marshmallows, and craisins in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
Melt butter, stir in milk and sugar. Bring to a rolling boil, boil and stir for two full minutes.
Pour over the oatmeal mixture. Stir until mixed. The white chocolate and marshmallows should mostly melt, but not all the way. Scoop out by large spoonfuls, plop onto waxed paper. Let cool and set up for at least 30 minutes.
Makes about 24.