Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gone to the Dogs....

Meet my girls..... Trixie & Lucy.   

We've always had dogs, mostly labs.   My husband, Gary, and I raised three sons.  We made a conscious decision to raise our boys out in the country.  Over the years, along with our sons, we  also raised a whole tribe of assorted large, outside dogs.     Most of them were rescued or inherited from one place or another.  Anyone who knows me can tell you I pretty much prefer dogs over people.   I have a heart for animal rescue.   These beautiful four-legged souls depend on us to be their voices, their hands & their advocates.  In return, they give us unconditional love, loyalty & devotion.    But it wasn't until my kids were almost grown that we added some sweet little inside dogs to our family.  

Trixie is 13 years old and was "rescued" from a friend's newly divorced daughter who was overwhelmed by 2 small children.  The kids were doing their best to stretch this sweet little wiener dog from 1 ft to 3 ft.     My husband, Gary, had always had a "no dogs in the house" rule.  For some reason, even though I'd grown up with a sweet little dog sleeping at my feet every night, I went along with it.  Probably because I was too busy raising 3 human boys at the time.     But all that changed the day I got a frantic call from my long time friend.   She was in tears.  Between dealing with her devastated daughter, who just lost her marriage, as well as taking care of 2 small grandchildren, she was overwhelmed.  I heard myself telling her to bring Trixie on over.  At first, I told Gary that she was just staying "for a short time" to help out my friend & to save the dog from being physically harmed.   He grumbled a bit but somehow sensed I wasn't budging.  (After all these years, he knows how to pick his battles.) After a few weeks turned into a few months he finally caught on.  My evil plan had worked!! (insert evil laughter here)  By that time he had fallen in love with Trixie.   She was a snuggle buddy in his recliner every night.   He pretended to be grumpy about it but when he thought I wasn't listening, I could hear him baby talking to her.  LOL    Trixie is the sweetest dog I've ever met.  She LOVES to be loved on.

Our second addition came only 3 years ago.  I got a call from a friend who knew a breeder who had a "last of the litter" mini-dachshund that was born with a broken tail.   The breeder was trying to decide whether to euthanize the puppy as "defective".  If she didn't euthanize her, she was planning to use her as a "breeder" dog.  I knew that meant she would spend her life in a small play-pen giving birth to litter after litter of puppies.  She was leaning toward not keeping her because potential buyers didn't like to see defective mothers.    Defective?   Her tail was just broken!  I know there are responsible breeders out there, but this was yet another reason I will never, ever, buy from a breeder.  It was the day before Christmas Eve & I knew time was of the essence.   I took off work & drove into the middle of nowhere.  It was over an hours drive to an area I probably couldn't even get back to if I tried.   I swooped in and even paid the breeder to take the sweetest little black & tan puppy off her hands.   Yes, her tail looked like the "flag-up" on a mailbox, but her life was precious!     I named her Lucy after my sweet mother-in-law.     When I drove back home that afternoon, I figured I'd just brace myself for the storm to come.  (I think after 30 years I've learned it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.)   Once again, the grumbling ensued, but Lucy was the cutest little puppy you ever saw and it only took Gary about 2 days to fall in love with her.   

Fast forward 3 years later and to hear him talk, these are HIS baby girls.. haha     He even tries to plan our vacations around pet friendly places.   He brings them out every morning and evening and LOVES them unconditionally.   Heck, I'm not sure if it was  between me or them, that he would choose me!!  Trixie & Lucy are 2 of the most spoiled princesses in the neighborhood!

Gary & are very involved in animal rescue and a local no-kill shelter, as are many of my friends.  I LOVE dog people. I've picked up hungry dogs on the side of the road.  I've chased frightened dogs down the highway.   Of course my stories are tame compared to one of my sweetest friends, Charlene.  She has a passion for animal rescue that makes me so proud of her.  Some of her stories are equally hilarious/borderline illegal!   But ALL in the best interest of a sweet dog.  Personally, I will NEVER pay for a specific breed of dog again.   RESCUE IS MY BREED OF CHOICE.   I can't imagine life without my "girls".   

If you're thinking about an animal, contact your local shelter.   Rescue dogs make the BEST pets ever!!

Take good care,
Cindy



Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hallelujah Chicken!

So it's January and, of course, time to eat less & move more.  It's so hard to diet in Louisiana.  As you've probably heard our 4 seasons are:  Hurricane, Football, Mardi Gras & Crawfish Seasons!   Each one with their very own delightful assortment of wonderful foods and drinks.   As soon as the Christmas cookies are gobbled up, the King Cakes come parading out! 

That being said, my husband and I both need to lose a few pounds & get healthy.    Luckily, my husband, Gary, will pretty much eat anything I serve him.   Due to our mild winters, I keep the Weber grill going year round.   Our dinners usually consist of grilled tilapia or chicken with a good salad and roasted potatoes.     We eat a LOT of chicken.  I mean a LOT.   One of my favorite ways to cook chicken is grilling it whole.  Hallelujah style!

When my local Winn Dixie puts whole fryers on sale, I usually buy 3 or 4 of them & cook them all on the grill on the weekend.    We start eating one that day and I wrap the others really well in heavy duty aluminum foil for the freezer.  I'm generally NOT a person who enjoys frozen food but these freeze really well.    Pop them straight from the freezer in the foil into a 350 preheated oven for about 30 minutes and they are just as good (if not better) than fresh off the grill!

I call them "Hallelujah Chickens" because they look like they are having church all lined up in the pan.  LOL    Yes, I know I'm a bit throwed off sometimes, but that's just what they look like.  PLUS, it beats what lots of folks call it: Beer-Butt Chicken.

Hallelujah Chicken:
Hallelujah Chicken

I don't stick to a hard & fast recipe..but generally this is what I do (recipe for one chicken):

1 can beer (brand not important but don't use lite beer)
1/3 jar Cajun Injector (or any brand) Creole Butter
1/4 cup melted butter
1/3 can sprite or 7up (not diet)
Any other type of liquid flavoring you might enjoy (i.e. liquid smoke, flavored beer, etc.)
Tony Chachere's (or other any type of cajun seasoning) to taste
Salt & Pepper to taste


Preheat grill to around 300 degrees. 
OKAY-- you don't HAVE to use the can holders..but it makes it much easier.  Plus it gives you something to grab when the chickens are hot while cooking if you need to move them around the grill a bit.   I have 2 types.. a black iron one that ROCKS... it cooks chicken much faster than the smaller wireframe ones..but I generally only use this if I'm cooking only 1 chicken because I want them to all be done at the same time.   The cast iron ones are more expensive, but worth the price.  You can find these at most hardware stores.  I'm pretty sure they carry the wire ones at Walmart.

ANYWAY.... clean out your chicken "hollows"... (can't bring myself to call it a cavity..just sounds too morbid).   I coat my chicken hollows with Tony Chacheres (the salt & pepper of the south).. But you can really use your imagination.  Just put some seasoning down in that hole.   Then cover the entire chicken with it as well.    


 NOW for the mixture to put into the can:




Pour out (OR better yet DRINK) about 2/3rs of the beer.. add in 1/3 can of the Cajun Injector Creole Butter...and finish filling the can with 7up.  The goal is to have a full can (1/3 beer, 1/3rd creole butter, 1/3rd 7up).  You can add in any flavors you might like.  

Use your imagination.  My son, Caleb, drinks Woodchuck Hard Cider.  I had some in the pool fridge, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. It created a great slightly sweet flavor.   NOTE: if you don't have access to the creole butter, just melt some butter and infuse it with some garlic, add in a little EVO and your good!



Make sure to pull the tab off the cans completely and then put the can down into the holder.

Then set your chickens in the "hallelujah position" on top of the cans.   Careful..don't SPILL the cans after drinking all that beer!



Take what's left of the Cajun Injector Creole Butter and pour over top of the chickens, along with the melted butter.  You can also rub in a little EVO.   Make sure entire chicken is slathered with greasy goodness!

This is what they should look like once finished.  





The liquid in the cans will create a wonderfully flavored steam coming up through the chicken hollows and keep the meat very moist as it cooks.

(NOTE: You can do all these steps the NIGHT BEFORE and keep them in the fridge until you cook the next day. It's even BETTER that way!)

AS far as timing goes... you need to get your core temperature to at least 180 degrees for about 1/2 an hour.   For this you NEED an insertable meat thermometer.



We generally cook 4 birds at a time and it takes us about 4 hours, low & slow.   Once the chicken is cooked long enough the internal temperature should reach 180 degrees F.  Let it continue cooking for about 30 more mins & stick a fork in it...it's done!  NOTE: If in doubt, give the drumstick a tug..it should be easy to separate from the rest of the bird.   

I generally grill mine IN a large pan to keep the drippings from catching my grill on fire..that allows me to go back inside and drink more beer rather than sitting alongside the grill fighting fires for a few hours.    BUT at the end, I like to put directly on the grill for about 10 minutes.  It crisps up the skin. 



This is the golden, delicious chicken that comes out:


The outside of the bird is crispy and inside the meat is tender & juicy.  We usually eat one now & I let the rest cool, wrap in heavy coat of heavy duty aluminum foil & pop into the freezer.   Later when I want to add chicken to a salad,  make a pan of enchiladas or dumplins, I'll take it out and heat it thru in the oven (350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes).   The reheated birds are actually more tasty than the original if that's possible.

This chicken will leave you wanting more & .......well, shouting Hallelujah!!!!  

ENJOY!!!

Take good care,
Cindy



Saturday, January 14, 2012

Touchdowns, Tackles & Tears....

My heart is literally broken that the chances for another Black & Gold Superbowl are not in the cards for us this year.  

But, I'm soo freakin' proud of Drew Brees and the entire Saints football team.  They played with class & worked hard for each & every single yard OF each & every single game.  They played with heart.   Let's not forget that Brees broke NFL records for passing yards, as well as shattering other records.

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I love, love love Drew Brees.  I admire the way he carries himself.  He's not only a great football player, but a great husband & father.  He's a Christian man who is humble and treats others according to the golden rule.   He may not be "in your face" about his beliefs, but he lives it each & every day in the way he deals with his job & life.    I don't know Drew Brees personally but I've been praying for him, his family & his team for years and will continue to do so.

When San Francisco pulled off that last minute TD tonight I didn't cry until the camera panned onto Drew's face. When I saw his glimmering eyes fighting off the tears, I lost it.   What a warrior!

And yes, I do realize that in the big picture of life..it is, after all, ONLY a football game.  But we all should be passionate about something and football is one of those passions for me.   I will continue to pray for my Saints & Drew Brees over the next off season and there's always next year....... THAT IS, UNLESS the Mayans were right after all!   

I wish best of luck to the remaining teams in the playoffs...... oh, heck, who am I kidding?  They can all just SUCK IT!     WHAT??? 

WHO DAT!??????!!!

take good care,

Cindy



The little salad that could.....



This is one of my favorite little salads to throw together.   It's not too heavy & a delicious family favorite.  

Ingredients:

Salad greens (I'm admittedly somewhat of a lettuce snob.   I usually use a mixture of leafy green, spring mix &/or baby spinach.  It really doesn't matter which type but I find it best using something other than regular iceberg.  In fact, the ONLY salad I generally make with iceberg is a blue cheese wedge). 

Add some:
Feta or gorgonzola cheese (crumbled)
Cranberries  or Craisins
Chopped purple onion (some of ya'll northern folks call it a red onion..but we in the south know it's purple)
Chopped nuts of some type.  I LOVE to add pecans for a southern flair. Walnuts are also excellent in this salad.
You can also add some durkees fried onions and some great croutons (I love cracked black pepper & sea salt)

Mix it up with our favorite vinegarette.  This is my latest obsession.  



It's a tad pricey..but OH SO FRESH and delish.  PLUS you get all those wonderful health benefits of pomegranate. 

This is just a simple, great all around salad to have with any meal.  

Bon appetite!

Take good care,
Cindy

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nearer My God to Thee



for Anita, Cody, Andrew, Frank, Lisa & Joseph

Freedom



Life is a fragile state.  It’s like thin glass with cracks forever forming.  We should treat the package of life with care and proper handling.  Making sure we try to keep the “THIS END UP”…..well up.

These past few weeks I have lost friends or friends of friends in record numbers.  Those who have passed were old, young &  in between.    Particularly hard was a long time friend & 2 young men in their late teens and early 20s with separate automobile accidents.

At times like this we lower our heads into our hands and cover our ears.   We simply cannot process such a thing.  One day there is vibrant energy.  One day there is laughter & brightness and a future and the next there is only silence.  How can that be?   

A few times in my life I’ve received what I consider a WORD from God.  An epiphany.   A mental picture in my mind or words so clearly spoken to my soul that I can bring them back into my remembrance years later with little or no effort at all.  Thoughts that were not created by me & sometimes not even sought out, but gifts from a place higher than myself.  These were eternal, ethereal thoughts.

Several years ago I woke from a dream and I had a KNOWING.   That’s the best way to describe it.   I just knew something that I didn’t before.  A question I hadn’t even asked.  A fact I hadn’t sought out.  It sounds so simplistic on paper.  The thought that I KNEW that life is not what we are truly striving for.  Our true goal in this life is to get to the next stop on our journey.  Our souls are brought here to experience and to love, and to hate and to forgive, and to learn, and to grow.  But our crowning glory will be when we finally get released from this life.  When our souls can rejoin God.

This may not seem like a new idea to many.  This may not seem like an epiphany at all to some.  When I write it down, it’s not the same as the vision I had.  It’s missing the clarity, the brightness, the impact.  But words are restrictive.  Words are one dimensional, but they are the tools we’ve been given. 

That being said, this epiphany doesn’t make me less appreciative of life.  It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t savor every moment of this life and appreciate it’s wonderment, but it removes all fear.  Before this KNOWING I realized I was living a very guarded life.  I grew up in a constant state of fear on some level or another. Fear of weather. Fear of the atom bomb.  Fear of losing those I loved.  Fear of dying in some form or fashion.  My behavior was affected.  I wouldn’t ride a roller coaster. I wouldn’t ride a motorcycle. I would nervously watch the weather when it clouded up.   I was afraid of wasting this beautiful life.  When I had kids my fear just multiplied & amplified.  I was now worried about more lives.   I’m a worrier and I come from a long line of worriers.  This gift of KNOWING from God took away my fear.  It RELEASED me.  It literally changed my life.  My vision expanded into limitless possibilities.  It’s a knowing that our entire existence on this earth is about living….about staying alive, about fighting for life & breath.  That is as it should be.  Life IS a gift not to be taken lightly.  A gift we don’t get twice, or maybe we do, but not with the same people or in the same time.   I believe some folks have older souls than others.  Does that mean they’ve spent more time with God before he gave them an earthly body?  Does that mean they’ve lived before and got other chances at life?  I’m not sure about either of these things.  Sometimes my Christian friends seemed shocked that I think this way.  But nothing in this takes away my belief in God and in redemption through Christ.  I think so many of us make our God fit into a very small, narrow box.  But I KNOW that he is so much bigger than my small mind can comprehend.

Does this take the sting out of our loss?  Does it take away the sadness, emptiness or pain of losing someone?  I don’t think so.  What it does is give HOPE & PEACE & LIFE to those of us who are left behind.

Take good care,
Cindy

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Inspiration






Invictus 

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Does God laugh?

A POLISH CHICKEN.......WHO SAYS God doesn't have a sense of humor?