Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Easiest Beef Pot Roast (aka Crock Pot, part two)

Back in the day...(before kids)I would whip up complicated gourmet meals with expensive ingredients. Dinners consisted of multiple courses paired with matching wines. Working from home, as a corporate refugee, with college tuitions, a mortgage, and no bailout in sight, my culinary endeavors are simpler these days.

While not quite as simple as the chicken recipe I posted a few days ago, this is the simplest beef recipe I know. It is also a favorite of the two teens that still live at home--who are not known as adventurous eaters. When you make it the first time, don't be tempted to play with it by adding anything else--its amazingly good with just these three ingredients.

What's Needed
*2 1/2 - 3 lb. beef pot roast (chuck or bottom round both work well)
*1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup
*1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup

1. Place beef in crockpot
2. Open soups, and pour over beef
3. Cover the crockpot, and cook on low 8-10 hours, or on high 4-5 hours

Serve over noodles or mashed potatoes, with whatever vegetables you have around.

Back in my gourmet days, I would have sworn that I would never have made a recipe that required canned soup--let alone two cans. But given that Campbell's is one of the companies that's doing well in this wretched economy, I suspect I'm not alone.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Easy Crock-Pot Chicken, with Bonus!

This is so simple, it probably doesn't even count as a recipe. Its the simplest meal I know, and guarantees moist flavorful chicken.

What's Needed
*Whole chicken
*Two lemons
*Seasonings of choice- I use garlic pepper and tarragon, but you can just use salt and pepper if you like--or let your imagination go wild.

1.Poke the lemons with a fork a few times.
2.Pull the giblets out of the chicken and discard.
3.Place the lemons inside the chicken.
4.Place the chicken in the crockpot.
5.Sprinkle the seasonings on the chicken.
6.Cover the crockpot, and cook on low 8-10 hours, or on high 4-5 hours.

That's it! Now for the bonus.

*When you take the chicken out, there will be juices left in the pot. You may spoon some over the chicken when serving, but there will probably be excess. Leave whatever you don't use in the pot. After you've carved the chicken for serving, put the carcass back in the crockpot. Add 2 carrots, 2 celery ribs, 2 onions, and 2 bay leaves. Don't worry about peeling the vegetables, just wash them and chop them coarsely. fill the pot with water to cover the carcass, and turn it back on to low. Allow it to simmer from 4-12 hours. Strain and discard the carcass and vegetables, and you have a flavorful stock ready to freeze or use for soup.

If you have any left-over chicken, you can use it to make a great chicken pot pie.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

White House Uses Taxpayer Funds to Get Stimulus Passed

Consider this: The United States is in a grip of a raging crisis. George W. Bush is at the helm, and is positive that he knows how to fix it. The Senate and Congress, both with Republican majorities, have crafted a bill that accomplishes his goals. The problem? He's one vote short. A strong advocate of the bill is out of town dealing will a personal tragedy. President Bush sends a government plane, at taxpayer expense, to bring the senator back to cast the crucial vote. The bill passes, and the government pays to return the senator back home.

Pretty outrageous, don't you think? The party in power uses taxpayer money to further their agenda, because, in their opinion, its important--and after all, they know what's best. When asked, they won't tell how much the plane cost. Arrogant. Outrageous. Abuse of Power. Those are the headlines you'd be reading.

Well, that exact situation happened this week, with a twist. The White House sent a plane to Ohio to bring Senator Sherrod Brown back to cast the deciding vote for a very partisan stimulus bill, in a rush to get it passed before anyone could read it.

It is not appropriate for the party in power to spend everyone's money to further their agenda.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Beverly Eckert, September 11 Widow

I grew up in Rockville Centre, New York, a commuter town outside of New York City, that lost more than 20 people on September 11. Two of my classmates from Cornell died in the Twin Towers, as well. The day was a black hole for me, and for a long time after it, hearing the words 'September 11", brought back powerful feelings of loss and horror.

Over the past several years, with the phrase "September 11" being tossed around like a political football, the words have lost their impact. It all came rushing back to me this morning, though, when I awakened to hear that Beverly Eckert, widow of Sean Rooney, was killed in a plane crash on her way to announce a scholarship in his name at a high school in Canisius, New York.

Her death has brought out the conspiracy theorists in the blogosphere, as Ms. Eckert had refused the settlement offered to families of 9-11 victims, electing to sue. She stated:

"I've chosen to go to court rather than accept a payoff from the 9/11 victims compensation fund. Instead, I want to know what went so wrong with our intelligence and security systems that a band of religious fanatics was able to turn four U.S passenger jets into an enemy force, attack our cities and kill 3,000 civilians with terrifying ease. I want to know why two 110-story skyscrapers collapsed in less than two hours and why escape and rescue options were so limited.

I am suing because unlike other investigative avenues, including congressional hearings and the 9/11 commission, my lawsuit requires all testimony be given under oath and fully uses powers to compel evidence."

She was a brave woman, who picked herself up after a tragic loss, and used that loss to work for good in the world. She used her the past eight years to work for a cause she believed in. And now, on her way to honor her husband's 50th birthday by setting up a scholarship, she perishes, as he did, in a fiery plane crash. Is there a deeper meaning here? A conspiracy? A government plot?

In my opinion it was just a tragedy--a horrible senseless tragedy--for all the passengers on Continental Flight 3407, and the loved ones that are left behind.

Life is short.

Use each second wisely.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Twitter Success Story - More Financial Aid!

Two days ago, Christopher Penn of Financial Aid Podcast posted this on Twitter:

"Any parents following me that are appealing for more financial aid midyear? DM or @ please! (need your help w/CNBC opp)"

I thought of my brother, who'd been laid off in December, and his daughter who is a freshman at an expensive private college. He'd gone through all of the school's procedures, filled out the "mid-year change in circumstances" forms, and had received a "Sorry, this year is all set" note back from the financial aid office. I wasn't sure if this was the type of situation that Chris was looking for, but sent him off a tweet in response anyway.

He responded, I sent him my brother's contact information, and that was that.
Or so I thought.

At 7:30 that evening, my brother called, telling me to make sure to watch CNBC's ''On the Money'' at 10 pm, as he was going to be calling in with a question about how to get your financial aid package adjusted if your circumstances change.

You can watch the exchange here:

Hugh asked his question, and Chris gave him some advice.

The morning after the broadcast, Hugh crafted a note to the school, using the tips Chris had given him. An hour after hitting "send", he received an email back, letting him know that his daughter's grant had been increased for the semester.

Twitter FTW.