Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup (Feed an Army)

3 quarts chicken broth (buy, make, or use bouillon)
2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 sm onion (chopped)
3 stalks celery (chopped)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (drain a little)
1 sm can Rotel (tomatoes w green chilies) (drain a little)
1 sm bag frozen corn
3 bags Success rice, or (what-ever left-over rice you have) = 4-6 cups
1 chicken (cooked & deboned) -or- use 2 cans chicken
1 T butter
tortilla chips
sour cream

Directions: In stock pot- spray w Pam, cook onions & celery in the butter until tender. Add chicken broth and turn heat to medium. Dump in black beans, Rotel, diced tomatoes, and corn. Debone chicken & add. Add cooked rice. when it's done. Set out tortillas, sour cream, and cheese to allow kids to add what they like on top.

Truth: Here's what I do- Don't laugh....OK maybe a little- This is one of those cool recipes that can feed an army QUICK because most things I have in my pantry. I love it because it's hearty and filling and my husband LOVES it. You can make it as simple or as difficult as you like (ok- make it difficult) LOL. I buy a BIG rotisserie chicken at Walmart, or use the canned chicken from Costco- you can bake a chicken in the oven for an hour if you want to...ok I just laughed a little. I dump my 3 quarts of (store bought) broth into my stock pot (I was in a hurry so I grabbed store bought this time...but if you have chicken base, it's just as quick to make your own and tastes better). While my kids open the cans... I debone the chicken. Rinse beans in colander, add to pot. Dump tomatoes into colander ( I don't rinse them but just let the juice drain a little) add to pot. Dump frozen corn into pot. Dump deboned chicken into pot. Dump rice into pot. Bring to boil. Done. OH- I 'forgot' the onion, dang-it...I 'forgot' to chop the celery...double-dang-it. Next time. LOL. No-one misses it and I just saved 10 minutes of washin, choppin, & saute'in. Hehe. But if I have company...I'll do the onion & celery. (I also slap myself with a couple of puffs of flour in the face to show 'e' for effort.) As far as the tortillas, cheese & sour family would rather have a fresh roll and some butter, so go with what you have. Also, if your family likes things really spicy, add 2 cans of Rotel instead of 1 of each. We like it milder so I do 1 can Rotel to 1 can of tomatoes. My husband prefers rotisserie chicken to canned so thats what I do...but canned works great. I like to make this when I have left-over rice from another meal. But I have the Success rice in the pantry. You need approx 6 cups so I use 4 cups of white and 2 cups brown. Thats what I like about this can't make it wrong. You can use white rice, brown rice, Minute Rice, or left-over rice. You can also dump all the ingredients into your crock-pot and cook on low for 4 hours, or 2 on high. If you want to add REAL rice...just increase your liquid accordingly. You cannot break this recipe!

Now go, dump, cook, enjoy!

~Aunt Sandi

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dell's Zucchini Bread

3          eggs
1 C      veg oil
2 C      sugar
3 tsp    vanilla
2 C      raw zucchini, shredded
3 C      flour
1 tsp    baking powder
1 tsp    baking soda
1 tsp    salt
3 tsp    cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 C      raisins (opt)
1/2-1 C chopped nuts (opt)

Directions: Mix eggs, oil, sugar & vanilla. Add zucchini.
Mix dry ingredients & add to mixture.
Pour into 2 greased & floured loaf pans.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

- This recipe was submitted to the family cookbook in 1995, by my aunt Della Marie Mertz Bown. Aunt Della is my Mom's oldest sibling, she is currently 82 years young. She was born in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. She has an amazing life story, and I wish I could do it justice here. Let me just tell you that she has raised a beautiful family. She worked in the BYU athletic department as executive secretary to the dean for years and years. Uncle Keith passed in 1994, but she has not slowed down a bit. She has been to China, sailed the Nile, been on every continent and visited every clime. She is an avid doll collector & maker, and has dolls from all over the world. She also collects clocks. She has been highly involved in the local Senior’s Club, and is a patron and lover of the arts, especially at BYU. She still bakes her own bread, and brings a hot loaf over to my Dad frequently. Aunt Dell was raised on Bread and Coulee Water. I love you Aunt Dell!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Snapware Flip-Top Containers- COOL!

I have to blog about one of my new favorite things. Snapware- Flip-top Conainters, in particular the big 23 cup cereal containers like this:
I got mine at Costco in a 3-pack. I didn't know if I'd use all three but I figured I'd pass them along if I didn't, but I do use them, all the time. Thats what makes this my 'cool thing of the day'. Or one of the happy things that makes life easier, which every Momma is looking for. Remember when I blogged about a gratitude journal? Well, today this would have to be listed as one of mine. :)

I don't think certain people (who shall remain nameless), lol, can open a box of cereal without tearing it up, or ripping it down the side. For SURE they can't open it without ripping the little tab that you have to stick the other side of the box-top in to close the lid. :) So these handy containers make it so there are no worries. When a new box of cereal gets opened I just dump the rest into one of these containers and voile, no problem. Air-tight, dry, and keeps it fresh.

We have problems in Texas with humidity, heat and bugs. So keeping a sugary cereal air-tight gives me peace of mind that I'm not going to attract any unwanted visitors. Ew.

When we have a party or guests for dinner and I pour out a bag of chips, or two, or three into pretty serving bowls now I don't have to worry about re-bagging the left-over chips. The lids on these flip-tops are big enough that I just open the top and dump the left-over chips into the container. Who doesn't like easy clean-up after a party? The flat ones (with no handle endentations) would be great to store cookies.

Also, they are dishwasher safe. Yay! I put the container part in the bottom of my dishwasher, and the top I put on the top rack. I have never had a problem, it has worked out very well. (Just make sure they are completely dry before you use them again)

Now, before you begin to think I am selling these, or have a vested interest, quit it, I don't. I am just sharing something I like. I did try to go on to find out how much they are but I couldn't find them. I also went to but they didn't have them in their online store either. But I did find plenty of them for sale at I found the 23 cup container for $7.39, and the 15.3 cup container for $9.25 (go figure). You may be able to find them at Walmart or Target, I have never tried there. I know the cost might be a little spendy for a container, but the bagged cereal in the cereal isle is even cheaper than the boxed so in the long run it could pay for itself. :)

Recently we had a Dodge-burger BBQ and we had dinner guests (the Missionaries), and I ran out of containers, boo. So I justified purchasing another 3-pack the next trip I made to Costco. I think the 3-pack was under $20. Don't you think that would be a fun kitchen shower gift? :)

I know a bunch of you have food storage items. If you open a big bag of rice, these work great to keep them air-tight, and dry in your pantry. Or dried milk, pasta, beans, or anything like that. The lid is completely flat so they stack well. They're versitile though so don't forget being able to use them for punch, water, and other drinks.

I hope you'll post a comment and tell me your favorite kitchen gadget or time/money saving tip. Make it a great day!

You know, I love you more than my luggage.

~Aunt Sandi

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Drug $$

Remember: I told you there would be times I would use this blog to discuss things that float my boat" ..well, this is one of those times.

I have a perscription that the Dr. gives me a coupon for that lasts for three fills. Each fill I should pay no more than $25.oo. Thanks Doc! :)

So I go into Walmart today to pick up the medication and the pharmacy tech says, "That will be $480.oo please." I said..."Um, no." I realized I needed to go get another $25.oo coupon from my Dr's office. Which I gladly did, and was grateful that was an option.

Enroute to the Dr's office, I was thinking, what kind of mark-up is on these little pills if the price at Walmart for 30 pills is $480.oo? But, with a little gold ticket (coupon) I get it for $25.oo? Thats quite a difference.

I'm printing out the Walmart $4.oo perscription list and when me or my family get sick from now on, or need some meds...I'm going to whip out my little list and let the Dr. pick a drug from my list. Done.

Yes, I have insurance. But they informed us that we now have a $1000.oo cap per person, per year. That means on this medication at full price (1 medication) I would run out of benefits the 2nd week of March.

I am thankful that my Dr. let me know about the coupon and lets me come in multiple times to get another one. I feel bad for the folks that need the meds and don't have the $480. for 30 pills or have a little golden ticket like I do.

P.S. 30 pills for $480.oo= $16.oo per pill. Booooo! The price of meds are insane.


Lessons Learned

Today was supposed to be one of those productive, get things done kind of days. I had the ingredients for our dinner waiting in the fridge and I was going to use my time wisely and get things crackin early today. But life has a way of teaching you a few things as the day goes along.

I lost my Crock Pot! I know I'm 50...but seriously? I looked for my big one the other day when I made the Apricot Chicken, couldn't find it. So I used my small one and kinda crunched everything in there. But today, I wanted my big one because I had a nice 3 and 1/2 lb roast I was making and I knew the little one just wasn't going to fit everything in it.

I do have a big kitchen, but it's not THAT big! So I was going to tear it up till I found that elusive crock. I felt like Sherlock Holmes. Let's just say my cupboards have been cleaned out, reorganized, some of the dusty dishes have been scrubbed clean and placed back into a tidy spot. I did find a large crock pot, but, the one I found was my ancient one, the one that the lid dropped off and hit my tile floor and shattered into a thousand pieces. You cannot slow cook without a lid!

Now, I started mumbling. How does one lose a Crock Pot? My husband insists I made something for someone, took it to a funeral, or a party and left without it. LOL. Probably. I just do not remember. So I chopped a gorgeous purple onion, crispy celery, baby carrots, and fresh mushrooms and then had to cram them into my SMALL Crock Pot, the roast had to be cut in half to fit (stuffed would be a better description). It was a good thing Jered was at school, Cassi was at a job interview, and Jerry was taking a blissful nap because someone let Grumpy Grumperson into my kitchen. LOL.

I went online to to see if I could order a new lid for my old crock. But, it said that there were no longer replacement parts for that model. Of course! *sigh* The thought did cross my mind that my Liahona had quit working. Murmuring much?

No, we're not quite to the 'lesson' part. Wait for it......

So, when dinner was finally going and I was at my computer. I was all excited because today is P-day and I get to receive and send our Missionary letters, and pictures. Yay! I feel myself snapping out of my annoyance, and I am beginning to enjoy emailing Sister Dodge...when Cami called me. She is working at Glamour Pets as a dog washer/groomer while she goes to school to become a nurse. Anway, she calls and tells me that one of her customers who lives alone, fell and broke her wrist while she was walking her dog at around noon. The ambulance came and took her to the hospital and she had no ride home. She wondered if I could go pick this lady up and take her home. I said. "Sure." Cami said the lady was going to call me when they got finished with her and she was ready to go home. I told her okay, I'd be waiting.

My mind was going 90 mph. I couldn't quite put the pieces together yet, but I knew my heart hurt for a lady so alone in this world that she had to call her dog groomer to see if there was someone who could give her a ride home.

Her name, I learned, was Mrs. Finley. She called me and told me that they might have to do surgery on her arm and they were still waiting for the surgeon to come and take a look. I assured her that I was gettin ready and would be along shortly.

Soon, Jered came home and I asked him if he would come along with me. He did. We went to the hospital, parked, and went inside the ER to try and find her. I had written her name down so when I got there and asked at the front desk they happily waived me on back to room #2. She was probably about 65, short, maybe 5 feet at the most, and had curly gray hair. The nurses were really glad to see me when I went into the room. They gave me instructions and told me she needed to have her perscriptions filled and that she needed to be back tomorrow for her surgery. I assured them I would see she was all taken care of. She gave her nurses hugs, and they hugged her right back. She was a nice lady.

Mrs. Finley talked and talked as I got her loaded in my truck and buckled in. She said she'd been out walking her dog, Cloe, and the sprinklers had been on and she hit a little slick patch and went down. She said she tried to catch herself with her arm, (which she admonished me never to do) and it hit the cement. Not good. Some ladies who lived near her apartment drove by her, and knew something was wrong so they backed up, saw her arm and called 911. She said, "Honey, those ambulance people were just so nice."  :)

I took her to CVS where she got her perscriptions, and a few groceries. That CVS pharmacy was hoppin' busy, I tell ya, and it took well over an hour. I kept thinking of how long of a day she'd had and what she'd been through, alone. She cheerfully shopped for a few things while we waited. I was thinking that there should be special consideration at a busy pharmacy for the elderly that had been through such a tramatic experience.

When she was ready, we took her to her apartment and helped her in with her things. She was so proud of her apartment and wanted to introduce me and Jered to Cloe. While she was looking through her purse for the key that the nice ambulance driver dropped in it for her...she explained she used to live with her brother at his house and only had one room, and not much privacy. So she felt very blessed to have this studio apartment to live in now. I smiled and nodded.

We were met at the door by a VERY excited dog. Cloe was HUGE! I do mean HUGE! She was auburn in color and her fur was soft like a poodle but she had a kind of boxy face, not a pointy face, so I knew she wasn't a poodle. Plus, she was enormous. I seriously think she was bigger than her mistress. Mrs. Finley told Cloe to be polite and shake my hand. I think that dog looked me right in the eye, smiled, and shook my hand. It was the cutest thing. I could tell this was one sweet dog and I was glad Mrs. Finley had her, and Cloe had Mrs. Finley.

I was humbled by the few posessions this little lady had in this world, but she kept everything clean, and also what she did have she was so grateful for. She told me her sister-in-law was already on her way from Oklahoma City to come stay with her and take her to her surgery in the morning and she would stay with her for a few days after the surgery. She explained her sister-in-law didn't have any children and assured me it wouldn't be a hardship. So she didn't need my help any more. I told her she just never knew when she'd need someone again and to keep my phone number handy. She was a sweety. I hugged her carefully and we left.

When we pulled away in our car Jered was talking a mile a minute. He had so many questions. So did I. Like, where was she from? Where was Mr. Finley? Did she have children? Where were they? Did she have friends, or a church family? There wasn't much time, and I could tell by the way she happily chattered that I needed not to quiz her, but be a good listener. I was hoping she'd get to those things but time passed and we didn't. Jered was glad I asked him to come along. We had a pretty cool conversation on the drive home. The kind Moms and Dads smile about later.

When I walked in the door, my good husband was sitting in the kitchen peeling potatoes for me, while happily watching the Texas Rangers. I could'nt help feeling guilty about how I'd spent most of my day... fussing over a lost crock pot.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apricot Chicken (Crock Pot) EASY!

11 oz jar Apricot Preserves
1 tsp       Dried minced onions
1 T         Dijon Mustard
1 T         Soy Sauce
1 1/4 tsp Ginger
1/4 tsp    Red chili flakes (opt)
6-8         chicken thighs (or equivalent)

Grease crock (I use the new Reynolds Crock-Pot Liners & spray inside w Pam)
Mix- all other stuff
Pour on top of chicken.

Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours, -or- on high for 4-6 hours

You can even use frozen chicken- just add an hour of cooking time.

Serve with rice and a nice steamed veggie.


1 pkg     Lipton Onion Soup Mix
8 oz       Russian salad dressing
1 Cup    Apricot preserves

(same directions as above)  

~Aunt Sandi

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why Bread and Coulee Water?

Hi Everyone,

I would like to introduce you to a couple of folks.
This is my Grandma Rosina (Nelson) and My Grandpa William John (Bill) Mertz
This picture was taken on their wedding day, the 23rd of March, 1927. They were
married in the Cardston, Alberta, Canada Temple.

As long as I can remember few people could compete with my Grandmother's cooking. When we'd come visit (they lived in Stirling, Alberta, Canada) she would say all she had to feed us was 'bread & coulee water'. Then she'd procede to feed a bunch of us like it was our last meal.

I remember walking in her back door (which she always left unlocked and the porch light on for us) and just the smell made me know we were at Grandma's house. I loved my grandparents, and I loved being at their house. They were hard working farmers and we loved to go there to visit them on that farm. It's to them I pay tribute with the name of my blog.

I hope to add some tried and true family recipes as I go along with my blog. Yes, even some of hers. I have been taught by many fabulous cooks. In 1995 I was asked by my Mom and my aunts if I would compile a family cookbook for the Mertz Reunion....which I did. That was back before there were all these amazing websites, and cool programs for compiling recipes. I was using a friends computer and it was a very long process. But...there were no cookbooks left over after the reunion. All of them were sold. That was a great experience for me. The name of it? You probably guessed, 'Bread and Coulee Water'.

My other Grandma, Maria Beaujeu, was also a terrific cook, as was my own mother...and I feel the need to share some of their dishes as well. Thats one of the ways they loved us, by feeding us well. Look at me....I am SO loved! :) And, I love y', I worry about some of those family recipes being lost to the younger generations. I'll be posting some recipes soon. So keep watching.

As a side note: My blog is not a cooking blog. It is a 'Sandi' and her family blog. I won't be pigeon holed. This blog will feature stories, genealogy tips, journal tips, encouragement, things I'm grateful for, things that make me mad, political insights, hobbies I have, dealing with special education , books I am reading, spiritual experiences, adoption issues, and yes, recipes, or what-ever else floats my boat. There'll be no disclaimers, what you see is what you get. I hope you mark this sight, visit frequently, and come along for the ride.


Blog Beginings


Welcome to my blog!

I originally started a blog for my daughter, Sister Maria C Dodge, to help keep all her friends, and the family posted on what is happening with her while she serves a Mission in Raleigh, North Carolina. I was new to blogging, and felt like a baby, since I know blogging has been 'the' thing to do for a long time. At first it felt like a chore. But then...the more I learned, the better I liked it.

You can visit her blog at: .

Many people have said to me, "I didn't know the Church provides Missionaries with Blogs now." -or- "When does she find time to work on her blog?" -or- "Wow, Kristi sure does a good job with her blog!" It makes me laugh. I never intended for her blog to be a deception. I posted in the begining that I would be doing a blog for her. I take the letters and emails she sends us and I go through and cherry-pick what I think she would like to share and I write her blog. Sometimes from very cryptic rushed letters, and emails.

No...Kristi does not write her blog, or have the time. She is a VERY busy and anxiously engaged (in the work) Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I, do the best I can. Anyway, I hope you enjoy her blog too.
For years I have been the family scribe. I have been encouraged, told, asked, conjured, and arm twisted to write a book. I am a closet writer. I currently have a personal journal that is 618 pages...(yes- I just checked.) I lost about 500 pages a few years ago to a horrible computer crash. I cried for days. But as is my M.O. I picked myself up and brushed myself off and began again. So actually 618 pages is pretty impressive. :)

Before you get too freaked out about the time it would take to write over 1,118 pages let me share a few journaling secrets.

1) Keep your journal handy. My journal is on my computer. It's a simple word document. I keep it on my desktop for easy access. You don't have to have a fancy leather bound journal with your name engraved in gold on the front. You don't even have to have a Monte Blanc pen. Just open a word document and print 'Journal' at the top and begin.

2) Use technology. For example: When I receive or write a letter, email, or FB Status I like, or has meaning to me, I copy and paste it into my journal. My Jr. High School was torn down and I saw a picture of it on a news website so I copied and pasted it in my journal. If you need help, call me and I'll walk you through.

3) Use a Time-Line: I learned in a genealogy class several years ago to use a 'time-line' as a way of organizing entries. That is ALWAYS the first thing I write in my journal entry. Example: 16 Oct, 2010 (Sat): I use the genealogical way of dating ie. day/month/year. Sometimes when I remember I add the day of the week but it's not critical.

4) Date EVERYTHING!  Dating is THE way to journal. That way, if I run across an old letter, email, or when I remember a story from my childhood that I want to write, I know exactly where to insert it into my journal because my time-line is in place. Voile.

5) Add a heading. Immediately after the date, I explain my entry (be consise). Example: 16 Oct, 2010 (Sat)- Email I received today from my Dad: (Then later I may just need to add)- My response:

6) Journal when you can. I wish I could say that I write in my journal daily. What I can say, is that I do write something, or someone daily. When I get behind on my journal. I simply go back to my emails (usually Sunday evening), and spend a few minutes copying, and pasting those things I want to keep into my journal.

7) Only post things with meaning to YOU. I don't keep important business emails, letters from teachers, jokes (unless they're mine), email pass-alongs, falderall -or- fiddle-dee-dee. You get the picture. That way you have a beefy journal that is the heart of who you are.

8) Have more than one. You may want to have a personal journal, one for your kids, a study journal, a reading list (wish, finished, or in progress), or, you may want to have a journal of just your relationship with one person. Example: If your husband travels and you get some sweet emails from him and yours to him, you may want to keep those in a seperate sweet-heart journal, or one between you and your Mom, etc.

9) Complete Signatures. If I receive a letter or an email from someone and they sign it 'Love, Sarah', I simply add her last name to my Journal. If I get a particularly wonderful Christmas letter that I want to keep (only the exceptional) and it's signed, 'Love Eric & Misti, and kids', I would then go ahead and add their kids names and maybe even their ages. You'll be surprised years from now when you are reading that entry how much it helps to know those little details. But don't bog yourself down with too many details or it becomes work.

10) Write your FEELINGS. As a mother I wish I had a nickle for everytime I told one of my children to 'use your words' to describe what they were feeling, or explain what was happening. One of my most cherished entries is the one I wrote soon after I found out my sweet mother had cancer. It was entitled simply 'Cancer SUCKS!' and I went OFF about how I felt about it. I don't visit it often but I find comfort in knowing it's there. Because sometimes when I need to...I visit it.

11) Get started. How many journals have you got lying around your house with the first three pages written in? The cool thing about having a journal on a computer is that it's so easy to access. Remember the Doogie Houser show? At the end of each episode he wrote one sentence, or one paragraph about his day. Don't underestimate the power of one sentence, they accumulate.

12) Baby steps. A few years ago Oprah Winfrey started a gratitude journal. In it she simply wrote down 3 things she was grateful for during the day. She said it was amazing what happened to her. She soon found that after she'd done it for a while she started recognizing and taking a mental note of cool things that happened to her during her day. The things she was grateful for became more and more clear to her. Example: black cherries, shade, and Sonic ice. However, if you have time and feel like you want to elaberate...DO! You can call it what-ever you like, a gratitude journal, or a blessing journal (because thats what it is). It makes it easier to hit your knees at night and talk over with your Heavenly Father what you were really grateful for during the day. You'll begin to notice not just that cool things happen to you every day, but you'll actually see the hand of the Lord in your life and the lives of your children. Then you have something special. You'll actually have a journal that begins to become precious, and the essence of you. Cool.

Alrighty then....time to get busy!