Sunday, June 29, 2008


Well, the biggest thing in my life is that hopefully I'll be getting a new bathroom floor soon. I live a sad life, I know... Ever since I moved into this house (about 4 years ago) I've noticed a smell coming from the bathroom. I chalked it up to the former renter, who had a small boy child who probably learned his toileting skills in my bathroom. No matter how many times I tried to clean the carpet, the smell never came out. It is especially bad whenever it rains, or it is humid. It reeks! Anyway, I finally got up enough guts last week to call the owners of the house, and ask whether they would be willing to pull out the carpet, and replace it with linoleum. First of all, I'm not sure why anyone would want carpet in the bathroom (or in the kitchen, for that matter--I'm sure I'll have to wait several more years before they will replace that!), but the owner was surprised that I wouldn't want to replace it with carpet again! I don't care if they just put a remnant of linoleum in there, it doesn't need to match anything, but I do want LINOLEUM!!! Anyway, while I was in NE visiting my family, the owners came in and inspected the carpeting and bathroom situation. They called to tell me early Thursday morning that the problem was worse than expected, and was I still gone? Nope, I was at home. "Oh, we really were hoping you were still gone, so we could come over and fix the problem. You see, the toilet isn't set right, and everything that is going in the stool, is coming on the carpet, and the wood underneath...."


I told the landlord that I would be happy for them to come fix it as soon as possible, and that I know plenty of people here in Marion who would let me use their toilet and shower while mine was out of commission. That was last Thursday, and I have yet to see anyone coming to fix it. We'll see how long it all takes...the owners are notorius for not fixing anything in my house. The garage door didn't work when I moved in, and it just got fixed about 2 months ago. I may be falling through the rotted floor before anything happens.

In other news...I've been doing a lot of cooking in the past few days. The farm family sent me home with 2 gallons of great farm milk, so I'm slowly enjoying one gallon, and will probably make the 2nd gallon into mozzarella. Mom and Dad came for dinner on Friday night to pick up their gallon of milk, and I made grilled salmon with basil butter, grilled broccoli and cauliflower, roasted zucchini spears, and then homemade chocolate gelato for dessert. Mom and Dad also benefited from my zwiebach and jam making at the farm. After dinner, we (Dad mainly) dug a hole in my back yard, and poured concrete for my new collapsable clothesline. During clean up Mom and Dad noticed my neighbor's apricot tree. The terrible renters have moved out and the house is unoccupied, so Mom and Dad thought I needed to pick up all the rotten apricots on the ground and turn them into apricot jam. I did that yesterday morning after working at the clinic, and spent the rest of the day cutting apricots, and making jam. I made 2 recipes yesterday, and I'm working on batches 3 and 4 today.

Last night I went out to Julie and Quinn's for a fish fry--good catfish, and grilled striper. Lots of people, lots of great food and laughter. I had a wonderful time, and the weather was actually cool enough to sit outside and not sweat to death. I even had to ask Julie for a sweatshirt when the sun went down!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Farm Family

Kat, sorry I haven’t answered your question. I haven’t been spending as much time on the computer lately. The gathering we had last week was for my Uncle Calvin (Patrick and Carmen’s father) who turned 65. It was also Father’s Day, but the celebration was really a surprise party for Calvin. Lots of good stories and great food shared!

I’ve spent the past few days in Nebraska visiting my Johnson grandparents, aunt Terri and uncle Tim. It’s been nice to spend time with this side of the family. I slept at Terri and Tim’s house, and spent evenings with them. During the day I spent time with Grandma and Grandpa. The weather has been really nice here, and Grandpa frequently reminds me that it isn’t “hotter than hell, like in Kansas”. It cools off in the evenings, which is unheard of in KS. They also haven’t turned on the air conditioner yet, AMAZING! Last night we had a terrific thunder and lightning storm. I went to sleep watching the streaks across the sky and listening to the loud booms. They had a bit of hail with the storm, but nothing like we had in Marion last week. My garden is in ruins, so I was happy that that didn’t happen to these up here. Grandpa keeps telling me I came at the wrong time, since I’m not going to get any fresh produce from the garden, but it was the only time that worked with my summer schedule.

Yesterday we spent the day going to all the “hot” spots in North Platte, running errands and stocking up on supplies. We stopped at the pharmacy, Ace Hardware, Dollar General, Alco…Hopp “E” (local diner), and then on the way back through Hershey we stopped at the lumber yard for another look at the plants available. All the plants were 50% off, so Grandpa bought another rose bush, and Grandma bought some little impatiens to plant in the bird bath we gave them for their anniversary. The base has broken, and the rest has cracked, so it no longer holds water. Grandpa’s roses look magnificent this year. The dalias aren’t up yet, but the roses made up for it.

Today I spent in the kitchen with Grandma. First on the list was making rhubarb jam. I had brought all the supplies with me from home, but knew that Grandma and Grandpa would have plenty of rhubarb for me to use. No one up here uses rhubarb to make jam with, so I’ve suffered quite a bit of ribbing. :) They don’t know what they are missing out on.

That took most of the morning, and Grandma fixed a good meal of barbequed ribs for lunch. After lunch we made zwieback together. There was a lot of laughter in the kitchen, as Grandma showed me how she “beats” the bread instead of kneading it. I showed her how the Grandma Buller taught me to pinch the dough, but Grandma Johnson’s zwieback ended up being much closer to the size they were supposed to be. Again we laughed! I told her that I made them “Dad” sized, because when my Dad helps make them, that is the size they end up. The recipe said that we should have 3 dozen, and we did! We would have had more if I had made them smaller though! It was good to laugh and giggle together!

Zweiback (Grandma Hilda Buller’s recipe)

2 ½ cup milk, scalded

6 TB sugar

2 TB yeast

¾ cup melted shortening

1 egg

2 tsp. salt

8 cups flour

Mix thoroughly. Let rise until double. Punch down. Pinch off pieces of dough a bit larger than a walnut. Place on greased pan. Make a depression in each piece with thumb. Pinch off smaller pieces of dough and press firmly into depressions. Brush with melted butter. Let rise until doubled. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 min. turning pan once during baking for even browning. When golden brown, remove from oven. Brush again with melted butter.

Tomorrow I head for home after lunch. I’ll be taking 3 gallons of fresh farm milk with me. I’ll give one gallon to Mom and Dad, but I’m intending the others for OstKaka, and some fresh mozzarella. Terri and Tim have an extra cow giving milk right now, and until the guy they are selling her to comes, they’ve got plenty of extra milk. I’ve been drinking my fill while I was here, and they’ve been bartering with the rest! So far they’ve gotten fresh farm eggs, strawberries, and hamburger in exchange for the milk. It’s been interesting to see everyone driving in the lane and picking up milk, some getting as much as 4 gallons at a time! The milk is good though, with plenty of THICK, THICK cream on top. I may have to just make icecream with some of it!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Odds and Ends

So my technology course ended yesterday, with a final day of "show and tell". Of course, mine was the best! Ha, just kidding. I do think that people were impressed with what I had put together for my project, and then I also showed some samples of things I've done in the past. It was a lot of review for me, but I am thankful that I had some extra time to work with Microsoft Office 2007 before starting school and having it thrown on me, along with everything else. Overall, I like 2007, but it does take a little while to find where things are at, and figure out what tools might have been renamed, etc...

Monday and Tuesday bring another workshop: "What's Going On In Their Heads". It will be in Hillsboro, and all day, instead of just mornings. There are a few other Marion people who are going, so I should probably call them sometime today and arrange for carpooling. I'm picking up some extra college credits this summer, so that I can move over on the pay scale...always a good choice.

Tomorrow is a *hush, hush* family gathering--I doubt I'll spoil the surprise here, but I won't say who or what it is for. Anyway, I was supposed to bring a side dish to go along with a Mexican entree. The anaheim peppers at the grocery store were on sale, and actually looked good (our grocery is notorious for putting out rotting vegetables and fruits, as well as out of date canned goods and dairy products). I figured I'd come of up with something to make out of the peppers and bring it along for my contribution. This is what I came up with.

Erica's Take on Chile Rellenos

14 mid to large Annehiem peppers (These can be both mild or hot, so you never know how spicy they will turn out to be!)

1 8 oz. block Neuchatel (low-fat cream cheese)

1 8 oz. block Monterey Jack cheese (freeze so that it is easier to shred)

1 lb. Chevre goat cheese

1 TBSP basil

1 TBSP parsley

2 tsp. onion powder

cayenne pepper, or chili powder to taste

Broil or grill the peppers until they are blackened and blistered. Allow to cool before you try to do anything with them. Make sure your Monterey Jack cheese is frozen (I put mine in the freezer overnight), and then shred. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix the Neuchatel and goat cheese together, adding the spices. Chill again. Goat cheese warms up quickly, and it will be easier to work with if it is cold.

Go back to the peppers. Cut a slit in one side of each, taking out the seeds and inner membranes. Wash each under running water to get any seeds that may have been left behind. Allow to dry on a towel.

Get the goat cheese mixture out of the fridge and portion out 14 equal servings. Once the peppers are dried, you can start filling them. To do this, you take 1 serving of the goat cheese, drop it in the monterey jack to coat it, and then roll the cheese into a snake shape that will fit the chile pepper. The monterey jack on the outside allows you to work with the goat cheese more easily. Place the "snake" into the pepper and fold up the sides around the cheese to look like the chile shape. Place the chile into a lasagna pan coated with Pam. Repeat the process with the rest of the chiles. When placing the chiles into the pan, make sure they are close together! That way they won't ooze all over the place when you bake them.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the chiles.

Bake at 350 degrees until done, and cheese on top is melted. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro, and serve with salsa.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Summer is here

Well, it's been awhile since I've last posted, and this afternoon I finally had a chance to sit down and update this site. School has been out for about 1 1/2 weeks, and in that time I've: gone to the Indy 500 with Mom, Dad, and brother-in-law's brother, Jon; had a massage class; worked at the clinic on several afternoons/evenings as well as full days; weeded the larger of our two gardens; lots of mowing and weed-eating; washed my car; deep cleaned several rooms in my house; and many other things.

Since this last Monday, and continuing through next Friday I'm taking a computer course through USD 408. It's a two week course, meeting every morning from 8-12 and learn about integrating technology in our classrooms. We don't get paid for being there, but are rewarded with a laptop and projector for our classroom (that will be left with the school if we ever leave the district). I'm enjoying the class, but I do have to admit that it is a lot of review. We do have Office 2007 schoolwide for the coming school year, which has some changes and updates to get used to, so I'm using my time to better understand how to navigate all the new twists and turns. So far I really like it. Each of us are taking one of the units we teach during the school year and we're learning about different aspects in technology that can enhance the learner's experience. Since we are all on different levels of how comfortable we are using technology, the class can be interesting at times. So far we've talked about and used all of Microsoft Office 2007, we've discussed "fair use" policies, how to properly cite things... Today's subject was blogging and wikis. I created a blog today that will be used during the school year with my students. If you're interested in checking it out (once we get started) I'll provide the link for all of you. The kids names will remain confidential (maybe with a codename of their choice), but at least you'll be able to see some of the things we do/talk about in class.

This afternoon I'm concentrating on cleaning up the house a bit, and getting food ready for supper guests. We're having some weird weather today, and who knows whether supper will actually happen. This week has had very warm weather, high humidity, and a cold front is blowing in as I type. We're supposed to have severe storms all afternoon and evening, and we've been told to make preparations for spending lots of time in storm shelters today. We'll see if it all happens!

Since I've haven't posted any pics or recipes lately, I think I'll devote the rest of the blog to that. Here are the recipes (as closely as I can remember) for the food we'll have tonight. I'm back on my South Beach Diet, so they are all low-carb and very healthy. Sorry!

Italian Grilled Chicken Breasts

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast per person

1 wedge Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss Original cheese per person

1 slice bacon, cooked crisp, per person








italian dressing

Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket in the side of each chicken breast. Spread the cheese into each pocket, sprinkling spices on top of cheese and topping with the crisp bacon. Secure pockets if needed with toothpicks. Brush chicken with italian dressing and grill over medium coals until chicken is done. Keep brushing with the italian dressing as they cook.

Ricotta Cheesecake with Lemon Drizzle and Pine Nuts

adapted from "The South Beach Diet Parties and Holidays Cookbook"

3 TBSP pine nuts

6 large eggs, separated

3/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. Splenda

2 tsp. vanilla

1 32 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese

1 tsp. grated lemon zest

2 TBSP lemon juice

Toast pine nuts, either on the stove in a skillet over low heat, or in the oven at 275 degrees for about 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as they burn easily! While they are toasting, lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

Increase the oven temp to 325 degrees.

In a large metal bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, beat egg yolks, 1/3 cup Splenda and vanilla for 1 minute. Add the ricotta and lemon zest (I used more zest than called for), and beat on high until smooth.

Gently fold 1/3 of the whites into the yolk mixture, then add the rest of the whites and gently fold until well combined. Pour batter into pan, place pan on a baking sheet, and bake until cake is golden and mostly set, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove cake from the oven and cool on a rack for 20 minutes.

Combine lemon juice and remaining 1 tsp. Splenda in a saucepan; bring to a simmer over low heat. Remove from heat and gently brush the surface of the cooled cake with 2/3 of the warm lemon mixture; drizzle the remaining mixture into the cracks. Sprinkle the top with pine nuts.

Cool cake completely, then run a knife around the edge before releasing from pan. Chill, loosely covered for 4 hours or overnight. Serve chilled.

Makes 12 servings

Other things on the menu for tonight: wilted spinach salad, and roasted zucchini sticks with Parmesan.

I'm sure there will be plenty of leftovers, anyone else want to stop by?