Friday, September 16, 2011

Perky Produce People

If I were alone in the world and needed a friend, the first place I'd go is the produce department of my local grocery store. I mean, have you ever noticed how the people who work in the produce department always—and I mean always—say hi and ask if they can help you?

Of all the places in the grocery store where I need help, it usually isn't produce. I can tell a Fuji from a Granny Smith. I can divine whether a watermelon is ripe (mostly). I can even choose a darn fine head of iceberg lettuce.

And yet the one place in the entire store where you can't avoid human contact is produce. Not dairy, where I would like to know why the price of butter has skyrocketed to roughly the value of gold. Not canned goods, where I can never locate those light red beans I need for chili. And certainly not the jam and jelly aisle, where I can't find a three-berry jam to save my life.

If you try to avoid eye contact because you just want some alone time with your radishes and corn, they'll persist. You can't escape them. "Are you finding everything?" "Oh yes, although I did have a bit of trouble with the snap peas. They seemed to be hiding behind the butter beans, but I scoped them out! Thanks, though."

One of these days I'm going to ask the produce guy (or, rarely, the produce gal) exactly what they teach you in produce school. It has to be something like, "Every person who enters the produce department is either a complete idiot who has never seen anything green, red, or purple, or they're desperately lonely and in need of a friendly smile. Now get out there and make the world a happier, more produce-filled place!"

When I do, I'll let you know what he/she says.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Coach’s Oats No-bake Cookies

This isn't a cooking blog. Really, it's not. I just seem to keep cooking things and baking things that beg to be blogged. Hence a post about a no-bake cookie using Coach's Oats.

Never heard of Coach's? Me neither, till I found them at Costco a few months ago. I like old-fashioned oatmeal (I used to eat it uncooked when I was little because back then, I could pretend I was a horse). I like steel cut oats. But I never knew how good oatmeal could be till I tried Coach's Oats. A special process makes it better, somehow.

Anyway, back to the story. I friended Coach's Oats on Facebook because I wanted to know more, and I was charmed by the down-home, warm approach they took to their Facebook presence. And their blog had some pretty interesting stuff too—information about their products, sure, but also great recipes.

Then I noticed a comment that surprised me: they were still searching for a great no-bake cookie recipe using Coach's Oats. Well, they came to the right place (me). I have a great no-bake cookie recipe, so I took up the challenge of remaking it with Coach's Oats.

I had already asked the blogger/Facebook person about substituting Coach's Oats for regular old-fashioned oats in recipes. She recommended a ratio of 1/1, so that's what I used in the no-bake cookies: half old-fashioned, half Coach's.

I also cut the recipe in half, because who wants to use up all those ingredients when it may turn out yucky? Not me.

The result, shown above, was chewier than regular no-bake cookies, with a nutty texture. But that's what Coach's Oats is famous for, and I like these cookies that way. A lot. They remind me of granola bars. I also cut back on the sugar a bit and switched from shortening to a more healthful extra-virgin organic coconut oil. I definitely will use Coach's Oats in this recipe every time I make it. Yum!

Coach's Oats No-bake Cookies
Adapted from a recipe by Debbi DeSisto
Can be doubled.
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil (or shortening)
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup Coach's Oats
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Put milk, sugar, and coconut oil in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, whisking vigorously to blend. Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients (I blend the dry ingredients by hand while waiting for the boiling to begin) and mix well. Don't forget the vanilla! Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. I use a cookie scoop. Let cool until they can be picked up without falling apart. Makes about 14.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Modern Woman vs. the 179-year-old Cup Cake Recipe

Modern conveniences and I are fast friends. I could not have lived in 1832; I would have figured out a way to have myself preserved until the twenty-first century, perhaps in a pickle jar—like the ones touted in The American Frugal Housewife.

I discovered this 1830s-era version of Hints from Heloise via Amazon. It was free for Kindle, and what modern woman doesn't love free? Besides, I adore Heloise and her hints & tips (or anyone else's).

About the time I started devouring Frugal Housewife, I noticed the America's Test Kitchen “Dish It Your Way” Blogger Challenge, which in its final week featured cupcakes. What had I just read in that 1832 book for housewives? Author Lydia Maria Francis Child's quaint and simple, but impossibly outdated, recipe for "Cup Cake"!

"Cup," I discovered, didn't mean those cute little paper wrappers in 1832. It meant "a cup of this, two cups of that, three cups of something else." The result promised to be "about as good as pound cake, and...cheaper."

The entire recipe read like this:
"One cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, and four eggs, well beat together, and baked in pans or cups. Bake twenty minutes, and no more."
Missing: pan size & (gasp!) oven temp. Back then those frugal gals baked in wood stoves with no temperature controls or gauges. So I was stuck with giving it my best guess. Also missing: any type of leavening agent, like baking soda or baking powder, and any liquid, like milk. Staying true to the time period, I could experiment a bit and toss in a couple teaspoons of baking powder (invented in the early 1800s) and half a cup of milk (around much longer than 179 years).

Not staying true, but saving myself some time and trouble, I mixed it all up in my modern miracle (AKA the stand mixer). I used unbleached regular flour, not cake flour. The batter was thick and delicious, even without the addition of vanilla, an ingredient I couldn't find referenced anywhere in Frugal Housewife. Oh, so yum. (Yes, I eat batter and dough containing raw eggs once in a while.)

Using an ice-cream scoop, I divvied up about half the batter into cupcake wrappers. The other half I reserved for another experiment: chocolate. I added 1/4 cup of cocoa powder, turning the batter a rich, milk-chocolate color. That would have been the norm, 179 years ago, before our current fascination with dark chocolate.

Guessing at a moderate oven temperature, I put the regular, non-chocolate cupcakes in at 350°. As directed, I checked them at 20 minutes. They hadn't risen much, just cresting at the tops of the muffin cups, but they were a light golden brown. Time to come out. I couldn't resist tasting: Wow! Light, delicate, not airy or spongy, but delicious.

And crumbly: only six of the 12 came out of the pan clean. I reserved the prettiest six for frosting.

Next up: the chocolate cupcakes. I like chocolate as much as the next woman (in other words, heaps and loads), so these would be a rich treat. I'd been limiting myself for weight-loss purposes, but "challenge" recipes don't count. They must be tested, tasted, consumed, and devoured.

Oh, the loveliness of chocolate cupcakes coming out of the oven. The aroma, the anticipation... Oh, the bitter disappointment of what happened shortly thereafter.

I set the pan aside, cleaned up the kitchen, and returned to them after about ten minutes. Cooling time. And sinking time, too—not a single chocolate cupcake had risen to the occasion.

The little 8"x8" chocolate cake I had baked at the same time, with the extra batter, came out just fine. The six chocolate cupcakes were a sunken, dreary mess. Nothing to salvage there. Believe me, I tried, but the batter just wasn't cooked through. Bummer. I guess I didn't leave them in long enough. If I tried this recipe again, I'd bake the chocolate cupcakes for 25 minutes.

Here is the final result, the crowning achievement of the "Cup Cake" experiment: one perfect cupcake, crowned with vanilla whipped-cream frosting. I like the boxed kind sold by Wilton (so easy—you only add ice water). OK, I cheated on the frosting. I was in a hurry.

At the end of my evening of experimentation, I came away with a couple of thoughts: first, I'm more inclined now to bake a cake from scratch. Before, every cake in my kitchen came from a box. But with a few simple, wholesome (please don't argue with me) ingredients, I discovered I could have a delicious treat.

Second, the proportions of ingredients may make a difference, and a little more baking powder or a touch of salt may have helped the cupcakes to rise more, but the fun of this recipe was in the imagining: seeing myself in 1832, slaving away in a hot kitchen in Arizona's summertime without air conditioning, and then realizing that I live in 2011 with the benefits of a cool kitchen, a lovely stand mixer, and an oven with an accurate temperature gauge. I am more privileged than the wealthiest woman of Frugal Housewife's time. And I'm very, very glad.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Coconut Overload

This isn’t a cooking blog, which you already know if you’ve read a few of my posts. I don’t fancy myself much of a cook, although I love to bake. Occasionally I'll make something fun that I feel like sharing, and today is one of those times.

Fair warning: If you don't like coconut, close this tab and come back next week, or read one of my older posts (please), because you aren’t going to like this recipe.

I like coconut a lot. Fresh & natural, flaked, sweetened, dried: you put it in front of me, I'll eat it. I also like candy, but a coconut lover like me doesn’t have many choices when it comes to candy bars. There’s Almond Joy and there’s Mounds. And that about does it, unless you like those old-fashioned neopolitan coconut squares—you know, the ones that have a stripe of pink, white, and brown. I used to when I was a kid, before I discovered chocolate. You can include on that coconut-candy list the Idaho Spud, if you live anywhere near Idaho—it’s a chocolate and marshmallow bar rolled in coconut. Those are an acquired taste, though.

Since I like Mounds better than just about any other candy bar (Idaho Spud is a close second), I’ve often pondered the possibility of making my own. Why would I bother, when three stores with Mounds on their shelves are less than three minutes from my house? Good question. I suppose it’s because I feel slightly less “that’s bad for you, don’t eat it” guilt when I make something at home. I wouldn't dream of buying commercially made fudge, cookies, or brownies, but if I make them at home, I feel like the work of making them cancels out the calories. Right?

Actually I have fun experimenting when I’m pretty sure the result will be yummy. I started looking through the Internet for a Mounds-type candy recipe, and wow—there were dozens. I had the ingredients for the most basic recipe on hand, so I cut the amounts in half (no need to waste good ingredients on something that might fail), left out the pecans (pecans in a Mounds?), and went to work.

Roughly twenty minutes later, my small batch of Almost-like-Mounds-only-better-and-homemade bars were going into the freezer to set up. I had tasted one and found it good, very good. Today, fresh out of the freezer, they are even better! Now I want to share...not the candy, just the recipe. (Scotty, bless his heart, had one bite and said he would resist the temptation to eat any more.) I also want to give credit to the originator of this recipe; you'll find a link to her recipe at the bottom. If you make it, let me know how it turns out for you.

Almost-like-Mounds-only-better-and-homemade Bars


1/2 package (7 oz) sweetened, flaked coconut
1/2 pound (1/2 of a one-pound package) powdered sugar
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp coconut flavoring, if you have it (simply adds more coconut flavor)


One bag chocolate chips or 10-12 oz chopped chocolate, light or dark depending on your preference
One Tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil, or one ounce paraffin (optional—it will thin the chocolate a bit and make it more glossy and easier to dip)

How to:
Mix coconut, sugar, condensed milk, and coconut flavoring well. You may need to get your hands messy to mash it up.

Forming the filling: Roll it out into a log that you will freeze and cut into slices, or roll into small balls, or flatten to 1/2'” thick on waxed paper in a square pan. Freeze; unless you’ve formed it into individual balls, slice before dipping. Your slices can be whatever size you prefer.

Melt 12 oz chocolate chips (and the oil or paraffin, if preferred) in a bowl or glass measuring cup in the microwave for 2 minutes. Stir and nuke again for one minute if necessary. Don’t overcook, or it will burn! You’ll have to throw it out and start over.

Let the melted chocolate cool a bit before dipping the slices or balls of frozen mixture. They’ll hold up better. Dip and cool on waxed paper. These keep well in the freezer and taste great frozen; the chocolate will be hard, but the inside will be soft. Best refrigerated, because at room temp, the chocolate will be messy. Keep napkins handy!

Note: This recipe is half the normal amount you’ll find on the Internet. Double everything, and you’ll have enough for a large plate for your holiday party, or to snack on from your freezer.

Suggestion: Use the rest of the sweetened condensed milk to make half a batch of fudge. Who needs a whole batch? Just mix in 12 oz. of chocolate chips, a tsp. of vanilla, and a pinch of salt; microwave a minute or two; pour in a pan and let harden.

Adapted from

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Poise" vs "Posie"—or, why spelling matters

My husband has a favorite misspelling story from his business life that has to do with the word "public." Leave out the "l," and you're left with what is perhaps the most feared of all misspellings. I fell victim to that same horror once too, but fortunately for my career, I caught it before it went, um, public. This was before the days of spell check, but spell check wouldn't have caught the misspelling anyway.

One little letter in the wrong place (or a missing letter) can make a big difference. That's why people who do what I do (copyediting and proofreading) are still employed, despite the wonders of technology.

What does misspelling have to do with the image above? Oh, I can't wait to tell you. It concerns the most famous cake decorating company in the U.S., or perhaps the world: Wilton. Not too long ago, they advertised a cute new decoration on their Facebook page, with a link to their website. The lavender, flower-shaped decorations were supposed to be labeled "Purple Posies," but apparently Wilton's proofreader was on vacation that day, because somebody transposed a couple of letters. All the Purple Posies became Purple Poises.

In case you haven't been listening to TV ads, "Poise" is a brand of adult incontinence product. As soon as I saw Wilton's unfortunate misspelling, I posted a slightly sarcastic response on Facebook pointing it out (something like, "That's the last thing I'd want on my cake"). Then I waited a couple of days, thinking surely such an awkward error would quickly be corrected.


I sent Wilton an email. And waited. Then I sent another. Then I posted again, this time directly on Wilton's website. Finally, whether simply because I was persistent or perhaps because others were laughing as hard as I was, Wilton cleaned up its act and disposed of the Poises. You can see for yourself at

By sheer coincidence, I saw an ad today for a new product, the one shown above—a purple Poise. Oh dear, it's too funny.

Please don't depend on spell check for important documents. Depend on a pair of trained human eyes with a brain behind them. Like me.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Five things I hate about my cell phone

A couple of years ago, my new Blackberry Storm was one of the best smartphones on the market. (Obviously this was pre-iPhone.) Its cool features and Verizon's buy-one-get-one-free deal hooked my husband and me into buying a pair. I've rued the day many times since then.

His BB Storm has served him well; mine has beaten me into the ground with its quirks. Try to take a photo: the flash goes off, but the shutter doesn't click (sometimes). Try to open a website in the browser: you could wait for hours, and if it does eventually come up, you can't read it on the tiny screen (most every time). Try to use the phone: the screen goes black, and all you can see is a tiny square with a revolving arrow (at the most annoying times). Try to play the highly addictive Word Mole game while your husband is sleeping beside you: the tap-tap-tap noise of the keyboard wakes him up, and he says, "Are you playing Word Mole again?" (sigh)

I'm actually on my fifth Blackberry Storm. No lie. I've had to send four phones back to Verizon for free replacements because one by one they have gone suddenly, irretrievably black. I've complained out loud so often that my husband has found himself saying the same thing over and over: "So, when are you going to [stop complaining and] get a different phone?"

My commitment to the Blackberry and to Verizon expired last April. I continued to complain; I had no excuse for not upgrading except that the pain of switching would be worse than the pain of keeping what I had. Kind of like living with a broken leg because you don't want the doc to set it.

This week I found my courage and set my broken leg with a new Droid Incredible 2. It was smart, it was free with a 2-year commitment, and it had great reviews. I knew it wouldn't have Word Mole but figured I could keep the Blackberry charged up for the game.

Now I'm wondering, What the heck was I thinking? This amazing new phone has become Jenny's Enemy No. 1. Here's why I hate it:
  1. Turning it on is a 2-step process, and that's one step too many. Why do I have to push a button AND swipe the screen?
  2. The Facebook interface stinks. I can't see at a glance whether I have new notifications in Facebook. That's a separate, five-step process. Swipe, swipe, touch, swipe, touch.
  3. I can't get email set up. After four days, I'm still trying to get the IMAP settings from our domain admin. Paul, call me!
  4. Making anything larger takes two fingers and a special pulling-apart motion instead of one finger pressing the screen.
  5. I lost my ring tone: the theme song from Firefly, one of my favorite movies.

    Bonus item:
  6. It doesn't have Word Mole. That means I'm stuck carrying around two phones until I can download an equally addictive, challenging, fun time waster on the Droid.
Yeah, I know—new technology can be hard to adopt when you're so in tune with the old (the enemy you know intimately can be a more comfortable companion than a new friend). Give me another week or two, and I'll eventually find a few things I like about my Droid.

The positives so far:
  • It's thin.
  • It doesn't constantly reboot itself.
  • It can automatically switch to speaker mode when you flip it over.
  • The clock display is so big I'm sure the astronauts can read it from the space station.
  • Its touch screen doesn't make any noise, so when I do eventually find another game, I can play it in stealth mode all night long.
Do you think I could bribe the Droid programmers to make an Incredible version of Word Mole?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How city living stacks up to country life

I miss my stacks. Nicely, neatly organized stacks of canned goods, chocolate chips, cake mixes, napkins and paper towels, cereal, gravy mixes, Crisco—if it kept well on a shelf, I had six or seven.

For 26 years (most of my adult life), I lived in a beautiful rural setting that was at least seven miles from the nearest... anything. Store, gas station, restaurant, coffee shop. The only thing within hollerin' distance was our white-steepled country church, but when you need a cup of sugar or a couple pounds of potatoes, church isn't going to do you a whole lot of good.

One Thanksgiving I was cooking the turkey for my young family when I discovered I was low on potatoes. Like, down to two. An early blizzard had made driving treacherous, and I knew the stores would be closed even if I could get out of our driveway. Then I saw my neighbors, who were supposed to be driving to another town for the holidays, pull back into their ranch down the road. I called Judy and found out they had turned around because of the icy roads, and no, they didn't have anything prepared for Thanksgiving, and sure, they'd love to come over. So the seven of us had a wonderful time dining on turkey, pies, veggies, rice, and one spoonful apiece of mashed potatoes. It was one of the best Thanksgivings ever, but I never wanted to run out of anything again.

My failsafe was to stock several of everything. I worked full time in town and had my hands full with two little boys, so I would rush to do my grocery shopping on the way home and fill the pantry with whatever was on sale and would last. The fewer trips to the store, the better. I loved the sight of my overflowing but neatly stacked shelves in the kitchen and, eventually, in a good-sized area of our large basement. You would have thought I was prepping for Armageddon.

When I moved out of that house last year, I found the fruits of my overzealous labors tucked into the nooks and crannies of my basement shelves. I can tell you from experience that (a) when you move 1400 miles you do not want to burden your movers with canned goods, even if that tub of Crisco did cost $5; and (b) most of the stuff that's been sitting on your shelves for ten years isn't going to taste very good. Did you know sweetened condensed milk turns a lovely golden brown when it's past its prime? Or that frosting in those little cardboard tubs goes rancid, even though it still may sport a beautiful shade of pink?

Starting over in a new city—in the suburbs, where almost nothing is more than five minutes out of reach—has given me a new outlook on what might have been called "hoarding light." I no longer have a plethora of shelves to fill or a basement or a full-sized, stand-alone freezer (there was stuff in there from the 1990s, no kidding). I have exactly one small pantry with a few shelves and a garage that is, at present, around 120 degrees Farenheit because that's how garages are in Phoenix in the summer. It's perfect for paper goods or chips and crackers (boy do they stay crispy!).

Something about stacking items on shelves still appeals to me, though. I fight the urge to stock up whenever there's a great sale on, say, canned tomatoes. I know I'll need them for all the chili I'm going to make this fall and winter. I have to keep reminding myself that it takes exactly two minutes to drive to Fry's. Two and a half to Safeway. Five to Target.

Right now I have way too many chocolate chips, something I always grab when they're on sale. So I'm going to make chocolate hard-shell topping, like the expensive and chemical-filled Magic Shell by Smuckers. Mine is better. Here's how:

Hard Shell Chocolate Topping
Melt 7 oz. of chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips, if you aren't picky—any type works fine) with two tablespoons of coconut oil. You can do this on the stovetop or in the microwave. If you're nuking it, go slow, 30 seconds at a time. Stir after each 30-second interval. Two or three times should do it. Spoon it or pour it over your ice cream. The extra will keep in your cupboard just fine. I put mine in a covered Tupperware container and nuke it again, briefly, if it's set up instead of liquid-y.

I suppose when we move from this small rental into a larger home next year, I'll have more pantry space. I may even buy a freezer. But somehow I'm going to resist the urge to stack stuff to the ceiling—I promise. And if I have too much, I can always have my toddler grandson unstack it all for me. It's one of his favorite things to do, and hey, then I can have the satisfaction of re-stacking it all over again.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Top five things to do before taking your child to a movie

1. Go to a stranger's house.
2. Seat the child in a chair next to you and seat the strangers around you.
3. Turn off the lights and turn on a movie with the same rating as the one you're planning to attend.
4. Tell the child to (a) sit still and (b) be quiet.
5. If the child can't do either (a) OR (b) throughout the entire movie, DO NOT GO TO A PUBLIC THEATER. Please. I beg you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Baker's Dilemma

I want to make a tall, snow-white coconut cake, with a light, fluffy frosting that's covered in big, fat coconut flakes. I saw it on the cover of Family Circle, and it looked irresistible. I also want to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies using the new, improved recipe I just saw on the America's Test Kitchen show. You melt the butter first – in fact, you brown the butter. Then there's this amazing-looking chocolate bundt cake dusted in confectioner's sugar. I could go on, but that brings me to my dilemma.

You see, there are two of us at home now, and neither of us needs any added fat or sugar. We have to work out almost every day just to take OFF some of the fat we've added to ourselves. So when I'm craving the enjoyment of baking something sweet, the question always comes up: Who's going to eat it?

I can allow myself a piece (so can he), then work like crazy to get rid of the calories. But that's not the point – there are 6, 8, or 10 (maybe a dozen) MORE pieces that shouldn't be consumed in this household. I can't bear the thought of creating something dazzling and yummy only to throw the rest away. So I can let it sit until it grows mold (that happened recently with a covered-up apple pie), which makes it much easier to toss, or I can eat it all and regret it.

Maybe there's a better way. My dream is to run my own bakery, but that is highly improbable and impractical (and bakers get up WAY too early in the morning). If I can't sell it, I could give the excess away. So I'm proposing a baking exchange, sort of like a Christmas cookie swap, but different. Here's how it would work:
I can't resist making that lovely coconut cake, so I get the word out to my friends and/or neighbors (the nice, safe ones) that cake is imminent. Or cookies, or pie. Maybe even a nice loaf of cheese bread. You get the idea. I give them a window of time to come over, and at the appointed time, I answer the door with one or two pieces on a paper plate, nicely wrapped, and the caller takes it home to enjoy it. No muss, no fuss, no obligation to come in and chat and have coffee, although I would very much like that, from time to time. Then, when my friend gets the urge to bake but doesn't want to overindulge, I'll go to her house and she'll hand me something yummy. Unless it's lemon, because I don't do lemon.
What do you think? Would it work? I am living in a new neighborhood and have yet to make friends of the neighbors, although Pat and Judy seem nice. There are the church ladies, some of whom live close to me, and then there's Lisa, a woman I met through Freecycle. She's a baker too, so maybe she has the same dilemma.

I'll let you know what happens.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie the New-fashioned Way

When four of us were all living in the same house, I made chicken pot pie from scratch. Everything about it was homemade, including the gravy and the pie crust. The only thing that would've been more authentic would be a freshly killed chicken, but I didn't have one of those, so I bought a cheap frying chicken, dunked it in a pot of boiling water, and then spent too much time picking the meat off the bones.

Now, as the mother of grown children and the wife of a man who doesn't eat pot pies, stews, or most anything else involving veggies, I have no one to bake that old-fashioned pot pie for, except myself. I'm not about to go to all that trouble just for me; if I'm going to do that much work, it must somehow involve chocolate. (Sorry, chicken and chocolate don't mix.)

Yet I still crave it—the flaky crust, savory gravy, fresh-tasting vegetables, and chunks of genuine chicken. After trying various store-bought versions, I'm convinced there is no substitute for homemade.

The need: a pot pie for one. The problem: I can't find a recipe. The solution: Create my own recipe, and make it do-able in 20 minutes instead of two hours.

I gathered a few staples from my pantry & fridge: chicken bouillon, chicken gravy powder, Heinz chicken gravy, frozen peas, fresh carrots, one small potato, Kirkland chicken, refrigerated croissants (the kind that come in a roll), and milk. Then, guessing but not measuring, I did this:
  • Preheated the oven to 350 or so (this old oven is off by about 25 degrees)
  • Heated some milk on the stove
  • Mixed some chicken gravy powder with a little water and poured it into the heated milk, stirring a lot till it thickened
  • Dumped the rest of the leftover Heinz chicken gravy into the heated mixture; stirred
  • Chopped up some baby carrots, nuked them till tender, and dumped them in the mixture
  • Nuked the potato for a couple of minutes until slightly tender
  • Put a handful of frozen peas in the mixture
  • Peeled the cooked potato, diced it, and put it in the mixture
  • Put an entire can of Kirkland chicken breast in the mixture (I'm stirring all of this together, right?)
  • Tasted the mixture and decided it needed more chicken flavor; put some bouillon in
  • Heated the mixture thoroughly for a few minutes, then poured it in a small (Marie Callender-sized) pie tin
  • Quickly poured it into a larger pie tin before it spilled over the edges (this was shaping up to be a family-sized pie after all)
  • Unrolled the refrigerator croissants and laid most of them over the top of the mixture, cutting and shaping as necessary so they fit with edges mostly touching
  • Put the whole thing in the oven and set the timer for 11 minutes (about the time recommended to brown the croissants)
  • Guessed at the 11 minutes after my husband accidentally shut off the timer
  • Pulled out a perfectly browned, delicious pot pie
From start to finish, it took a little more than 20 minutes; it'll be faster next time, now that I have a "recipe."

After I realized how much I had made, I did my best to talk Scotty into sharing it with me, but he firmly maintained his "I don't do pot pies" stance. I texted my son who lives 10 minutes away to see if his family had already had dinner; they had. So I dug in with a fork, not even bothering to scoop a serving onto a plate.

I'll be eating it for a week, but... Yum.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dollar theaters: Mecca for old folks

I've been pestering my husband to take me to Secretariat. Since it's gone from the major theaters, I had little hope of seeing it on the big screen. Then I saw an ad for a second-run theater here in the Phoenix area, and yes, they were playing Secretariat. AND the ticket price was $1 on Tuesdays (normal price is a paltry $2).

With a price like that - especially when "regular" theaters charge $7.50 for the matinee - we planned for dinner and a movie yesterday. Actually movie and a dinner, since the best time for us was the 3:15 showing.

Neither of us had been to this "encore" theater, but Scott knew it was in a major shopping mall. In other words, it wasn't a dive in a bad neighborhood. What we didn't know, however, is what it turned out to be: a big, giant magnet for every white-haired person with a cane or walker within 100 miles.

The place was packed. If we'd been any later, we would have had to sit in the front row or on some old geezer's lap. For the first time since we moved to Phoenix last summer, we almost didn't find a seat. Not at a first-run, opening weekend, blockbuster movie, but at a feel-good flick about a famous racehorse. A movie that's so old it's almost out on DVD.

Now I enjoy a bargain as much (or way more) than the next person, and I'm not young; I'm well into middle age. Part of me enjoyed feeling like a dark-haired, wrinkle-free whippersnapper amongst all that pure white fluff. Sadly, it wasn't the aroma of popcorn that greeted us in the theater, but the odor of liniment. You see, elderly people who get their kicks out of paying $1 for a movie apparently don't buy popcorn or drinks. Out of 200 people in the theater, we could see only a couple besides us who had any refreshments. If this were your average group of elderly in any other town, I might understand that this was out of economic necessity, but come on - this is PHOENIX, and most of these folks are driving a Mercedes and have a second home in Connecticut. Apparently they don't understand that a) theaters survive on popcorn, candy, and drink sales, and if they don't buy, the theater will close; and b) popcorn is GOOD.

Oh, and the movie? Yes, it was amazing. I liked it better than Sea Biscuit, although for all I know, the writers may have messed around with the facts in the Secretariat story just as much. (They do that to make what they think is a better movie.) Those of us of a certain age remember when Secretariat won the Triple Crown; my memories of watching those races are vivid. That doesn't make the movie any less compelling. It's really the story of a woman's courage and determination: Penny Tweedy, the owner, fought a tough fight to hang on to Secretariat and race him. She won, he won, they all lived happily ever after. Go see it.