Sunday, June 12, 2011

Marinated Cheese

Went to a wine and cheese party last night at a friend's place out in Fountain Hills. 14 different types of wine, yet I am somehow escaping hangover hell. Maybe there's still pinot noir dripping through my veins. The chocolate wine that I had found by accident in our pantry at the last minute was such a hit that it won first prize (a huge glass wine carafe)!

Also popular was my cheese, although it was a far cry from winning - the victor by a long shot was an amazing strawberry-dripping-jalapeno-cream cheese concoction that was melt-in-your-mouth-yummy. But, since a few people also asked for the recipe for my marinated cheese, here goes:

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. dried basil
3/4 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
pinch dried oregano
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. unrefined (turbinado) sugar
a couple of drops of lemon juice
1 or two chopped green onions
1 chopped and seeded roma tomato
one pound of your favorite cheese, sliced or cubed

Put all ingredients* except onions, tomato, and cheese in a covered jar and shake well. Allow flavors to meld for at least 8 hours or overnight, shaking occasionally. Add tomato and onion to the mixture. Put cheese in a large bowl and gently mix in marinade until cheese is covered. Refrigerate for three hours. Remove cheese from marinade and arrange on a serving platter. Serve with crackers and 14 varieties of wine.

I suppose you can use just about any type of cheese, but in this case I used pepper jack and mozzarella. People seemed to especially like the pepper jack, but it was a bit crumbly. The mozzarella held together well. With fresh herbs instead of dried this probably would have been a lot better, but it was pretty good as it was. This marinade is also delicious with fresh vegetables (I couldn't resist dipping mushrooms, cucumber, and cauliflower in it while it was melding)

Bon Appetit!

This week's mission: go to Total Wine and find me some more of that chocolate vino.

*ingredients are approximate - measuring tools were not used.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to Prepare Your House to SELL!

If you're in the process of selling your home, you know there's a lot of competition in today's market. Here are some examples of creative ways to make your house stand out from the rest:

Add bold color. Have your house professionally painted, choosing from a wide selection of popular color schemes, or make up your own combination. This home owner chose from a cheery spectrum of primary colors. Notice how the yellow compliments the saltillo tile.

If you can't afford to hire a professional, get the entire family involved to make the process quick and efficient. Attention to detail and moving furniture may be difficult for a seven-year-old, but you can compensate by skipping baseboards and painting around the bed. The addition of a tasteful mirror can make a master bedroom appear larger. For an inexpensive alternative to carpet, the floor can be painted with high gloss paint.

It's important to pay special attention to the kitchen. This dated kitchen was modernized by simply painting the cabinets black, utilizing an interesting array of colors,  and incorporating slate tile to the cabinet backs, producing an air of luxury.
 This seller drew buyers' eyes away from the missing, mis-matched, and damaged appliances by contrasting the rosy pink counter tops and floor tile with dark algae-green walls.

Descriptive elements in the actual listing remarks are very important if you want your listing to stand out. Your agent should draw attention to the best aspects of your house. For example, this listing read "updated window coverings throughout the home".
The listing photos should also show off your home in its best light. To draw attention away from overhead high voltage electric transmission lines, this clever photographer shot 1313 Mockingbird Lane during a thunderstorm and patiently waited for a lightning flash to add dramatic effect.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Industrial Hemp - The Greener Solution

“Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?” – Henry Ford

The production of industrial hemp in the U.S. has been virtually illegal since 1937, mostly due to political reasons. That's a major bummer, because hemp has many uses that are much more environmentally friendly than common products we currently use: 
Hemp as an alternative fuel source to petroleum: Hemp seed oil can be used in bio-diesel engines. Henry Ford intended the Model T to run on bio-diesel, specifically hemp. Hemp is more easily turned into bio-diesel than peanut and soybean oils, the original diesels. Unfortunately, Big Oil entrepreneurs, who were making it rich searching for and manufacturing petroleum oils, made up fallacies about hemp that eventually led to the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act, that made growing of hemp and all cannabis virtually illegal in the U.S., even though the production of hemp bio-diesel could lead to reduced dependence on fossil fuel, less war, corruption, and pollution over oil. Hemp as a bio-diesel is a totally renewable resource.

Hemp as an alternative to cotton: Unlike cotton, hemp does not require large doses of pesticides and herbicides, as it is naturally resistant to pests and grows fast, crowding out weeds. Hemp fabric is more durable, mildew resistant, and blocks out more UV rays.

Hemp as paper: To make paper, trees must grow for many years, while a field of hemp can be harvested in a few months and make four times the paper over a few decades. Also, the making paper from hemp uses only a fraction of the chemicals required to turn trees into paper. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both farmed it. Ben Franklin owned a hemp paper mill.

Hemp as an alternative to plastic. Biodegradable and recyclable plastic blends address global policies for CO2 reduction and oil dependence. Hemp is also used in many other products, such as toothpaste, lubricants, inks, paints, cosmetics, cleaners, and even concrete.

Hemp as rope and canvas: All ship's ropes and sails were previously made from hemp fibers. In fact the word canvas comes from cannabis. It wouldn't surprise me if Jesus Christ walked the earth in sandals made from hemp.

Hemp as a super-food: Hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids necessary to maintain healthy human life. The seeds can be eaten raw, ground up and added to breakfast cereal, sprouted, made into hemp milk , tea, or used in baking. Fresh leaves can be a tasty salad additive. Products include cereals, waffles, hemp tofu, and  butters. Retail hemp food products have virtually zero THC, so there's no worry about getting high off it!

Don't forget about the obvious: Hemp (well, "marijuana", actually) as an alternative to many chemical-based, animal-tested, Earth un-friendly pharmaceuticals. Uses range from well-documented reduction of nausea and vomiting, stimulation of hunger in chemotherapy and AIDS patients, lowered intra-ocular eye pressure (shown to be effective for treating glaucoma), as well as general analgesic effects (pain reliever) Some studies have also shown that cannabis-based drugs can reduce or prevent certain types of cancers. Many U.S. States have made, or are considering making, cannabis sativa legal for medical purposes. Shhhhh, don't tell Pfizer or Monsanto... they'd want to patent it.  
So in honor of upcoming Earth Month in April, write your favorite U.S. legislator and ask that they ignore their fat-cat lobbyists, and recognize the potential value of ending hemp prohibition, for the environment and as a tax revenue-generating industry.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Trash Walker of Stetson Valley

Jim Linagan
Today while walking near home in the adjacent subdivision of Stetson Valley, I met an intriguing older man ambling along the sidewalk with two bags of trash, in an area where you wouldn't normally see transient people. With beads of perspiration welling up on his sun-reddened face, he answered my queries about what he was doing. Walking side-by-side, as he picks up some loose debris off the road, he tells me that he walks four to five hours around the neighborhood every morning, partly with his wife, Chris. He figures that since he's already out walking anyway, he might as well be picking up litter while he's at it. He usually starts around 7:00 am, before the sun gets too hot, but got a late start today. He often gets four or five bags full after walking for this long, but today has been a low-litter day. He's been doing this every day since he moved into his Stetson Valley home in 2006. The reason why he does it? To keep the neighborhood looking clean. And it does. I thanked him for doing such a noble thing for the environment and his neighbors, and he went on his way, occasionally bending over to pick up a stray candy wrapper or squished water bottle.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top of the Valley - Deem Hills Recreation Area

Last winter, the City of Phoenix opened a new park in Stetson Valley, a Phoenix subdivision adjacent to our own. I was not impressed - it seemed that all that the park included was several soccer fields and a small children's play area. What a shame that the dozens of acres that the city had set aside for public recreation was left undeveloped. Land that for decades has primarily been used and abused by hunters, target practice shooters, ATV'ers, illegal dumpers, and partiers, all of whom have left a devastating amount of debris and destruction upon what was once pristine Sonoran Desert. I was disappointed - if it were cleaned up a bit, this area in the Deem Hills would be a prime location for some excellent hiking trails.

Later in the year, sometime in the fall, I noticed that there appeared to be a trail parallel to Happy Valley Road cut into the hill behind the Stetson Hills subdivision. My wish must have come true! I went to the Deem Hills Recreation area and now found that the city had indeed built some new trails over the summer. My maiden hike in late November, with my husband and visiting mother, found us plodding happily along several miles of new, well-graded trails.

Since then, my husband and I have found a new favorite in the Ridgeline Trail, which runs off from a trail that circumferences the highest hill, zigzagging its way up to the top, then switchbacks back down to the main trail. The views are amazing. From the ridge, you can see pretty much the entire Valley of the Sun and its surrounding mountain ranges - the Bradshaws, White Tanks, South Mountain, Estrellas, McDowells - even Weaver's Needle in the Superstitions! You can also see glimpses of Lake Pleasant, the reflection of windows on hillside mansions in Carefree, Piestewa Peak, Shaw Butte, the hills of Thunderbird Park, and up-close-and-personal views of Ludden Mountain and Pyramid Peak.

Miles of the CAP canal are seen from here. I can even pick out my own house from the middle of one of the hundreds of subdivisions visible from this point. Hot air balloons make a regular appearance, seeming to almost graze the hill to give their passengers a thrill. We often sit atop the hill close to dusk watching them go by, land in the close by desert, and take off again.

We've now hiked this trail at least a dozen times this winter.  The ~4 mile trail connects to a community trail that flanks Stetson Valley along the canal, all the way to a block away from my house, making a perfect 7 mile hike from my doorstep. I'm thrilled that the City of Phoenix has answered my wish for a trail system so close to home!

Below is a map of the Deem Hills Recreation Area trail system. The trails are still being improved, but are already a favorite among hikers, wanderers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers.