Sunday, June 26, 2011

New (Old) Car Blues...

Sooo... A few days after buying "Whitey" (a name that I find rather 'rascist!' But it's Hubster's car!), we decided to bring Scarlet in to the Chevy Dealer for troubleshooting....

Now mind you, we haven't settled on a selling price but, initially, I was agreeable to $5,000 (after having seen similar cars on the 'net for anywhere from $7,900-$15,000) (but *those* cars had lower miles and were - ahem - "running!"). So we were going to drop Scarlet off for "Early-Bird Service" and I managed to get myself out-of-bed and functional before 7:00am (No Easy Feat!!!). I went out to the driveway, inserted the key and cranked the engine... She spluttered to a start and, almost immediately, coughed-and-died.


Splutter. Start. Cough. Die.


Splutter. Start. Cough. Die.

The Dealer is only about 3 miles from home, but clearly we aren't getting there under our own power!

Scarlet is, essentially, undriveable.

Hubs - at my urging - calls a tow truck and they showed up with a big ol' flatbed...

Poor Scarlet!!!

Scarlet gets loaded up and dropped off at the dealer...

Now, when Hubs dropped her off, he told the dealer "I'm 'giving' this car to my wife..."

The dealer initially quoted $145 for "Trouble-shooting" - but after 2 days with no resolution (they couldn't even get their electronic gizmo to "read" her trouble-codes), they doubled the "Estimate" price... And it took them several days to figure out...

I *knew* that Hubs wasn't paying the bill for this, so I got a little nervous every time he agreed to pricing increases!!! But $290 is still within my Comfort Zone. So I didn't b*tch too much!

At the same time, I *did* get a little "mileage" out of the fact that he was claiming he was "giving" the car to me. I had also posted, on Facebook, that I was "buying" the car from my husband - and several "friends" [who don't *know* Hubs] were posting, in response, that DH should *give* the car to me!!! To which I replied "LMFAO!!!"

Anyhooooo... After about a week, the Dealer determined that the ECM ("Computerized Brain" I think), as well as the PROM (some kinda "Performance" sub-brain Electronic Gizmo) were hosed and needed to be replaced. The ECM was relatively easy, but the PROM was not "stock" so we had to go online and find a place that carried it, and would be willing to "overnight" it to us...

In the meantime, DH was carrying on about how Scarlet would have to be covered, if kept in the driveway. Both our sprinklers, and the neighbors' sprinklers would wreak havoc on her pristine paint. Hubs sent me to a Corvette-Specialty website where I could purchase the "Typhoon" (or "Monsoon" or "Hurricane Katrina" or "Armageddon" - I can't remember!) model of car-cover (for over $200!!!).

I opted for a somewhat-lesser model of waterproof car-cover (I'm sorry, we don't get Typhoons here. Nor do we get 12+ feet of snow per year!) (And I need to purchase something that I can wrestle-off, single-handedly!).

Anywaaaaaayyyy... Between the car-cover, Chevy-Dealer "Estimate," new PROM and new ECM, I am already "into" the car for well-over $1,000.00, right?

Now... The following weekend - which was LAST weekend (car is still in the shop, right?), my College Buddy D came to visit, and we went out Sailing last Saturday... We had a FAN-Freaking-Tastic Time... But while we're loading up the truck, a guy pulls up in his 1987 Red Corvette. Hubs goes to chat with him (completely forgetting that he'd met the same guy, previously, at the Dry Boat Storage yard). The guys start chatting about their respective Corvettes while I'm standing there, listening...

Guy tells Hubs "I paid $600 for this car... Had to put $3,000 into it to get it running, but it's running real good - don'tcha think?!!"

I'm sure Hubs was wanting to cringe and die at this point because we haven't "finalized" our negotiations!!! (and, to be fair, I wouldn't put Scarlet in the same "category" as this '87 Vette. She is *clearly* in better shape. But still...!)

Nevertheless... I felt that $5,000 was a bit "aggressive" - given her issues. Had she been *running* when I bought her, then Yeah, Maybe! But she wasn't. Annnnnd... While she was in the shop, Hubs asked the dealer to *also* look into her Oil Leaks and provide an add'l estimate (Again, I'm thinking, *I'm* paying for this!!!).

Well, Long-Story-Short: We got the new PROM (Fed-Ex'd from some Corvette Specialist in Tennessee), got the new ECM (from the Dealer), and got "Estimates" for her 3 oil leaks ($1,600+). I paid for all of that to the tune of >$1,000.00. NOT including repair of the 3 oil leaks!

THEN we started pricing negotiations....

Yes, I did get *some* mileage out of the fact that he told the dealer he was "giving" her to me (as well as the comments on my Facebook post!). I also dredged-up the fact that "Mr. 87 Corvette" only paid $600 for *his* car...

The negotiations were rather comical - in retrospect. Hubs kept mentioning prices which I agreed to (far too readily - hindsight being 20/20!), then when I'd drag out my checkbook, he'd raise the price!!!

We finally settled on $3250.00 - which is acceptable. She still needs her oil leaks addressed, but I can do that at my leisure.

In the meantime, we are attempting to address the A/C leak in "Red." (I may have my friend's son, Chris, try to trouble-shoot that). Annnnnd, I'm trying to sell Albatross - our 16.5' sailboat - so we can clear some space in the driveway....

Initially, I thought I would try to sell CreamPuff, Mom's Sebring Convertible, but she is the "most reliable" car I've got right now - so that would be kinda silly.

I just can't bring myself to part with Red - I love the car too much! Plus, there weren't many Sunfire Convertibles made - so she *might* be worth something, someday... Luckily, my friend, P, has a Mobile Home with an open parking space, so I can park a vehicle there - at least temporarily!

The Fun just Never Stops!!!

Heinz 57... (New Car Blues)

Ketchup - err - Catch-up Time (Get it?! Har-Har-Har!)

Man, I stop blogging for a couple of weeks and all hell breaks loose!

Where to begin? Oh, lets jump back to a couple of weekends ago. DH had been hemming and hawing about Scarlet, his 1988 pristine Garage-Princess Corvette, not running properly. Of course, he'd also been muttering, for months (No - Probably YEARS) about how he wanted to buy a new(er) Corvette... It became, kind-of, an ongoing theme of his and my only take on it was "If you can afford it - Go for it!" (in the meantime, it sort of-almost started to become "background noise" whenever he'd bring it up - because I'd already "memorized the tune!")

(Side-Note: We decided, even before we got married, that it would be best for all concerned if we kept our finances separate. We do go-in together on the Big Ticket items, but we keep totally separate accounts. It's kept everyone out of prison and/or the morgue!)

Well... He took Scarlet in to the Corvette Specialist and was vacillating about whether or not he wanted them to trouble-shoot her issues and finally settled on: "No, just give her a tune-up." They also swapped out her ECM (mind you - I have no idea what that means, but I think it's part of her computerized brain) and that fixed *part* of the problem, but Long-Story-Short, it really didn't completely address her problems.

And, to be fair, she does have 137K miles on her and probably *shouldnt* be relied upon as a Daily Driver. And Willie the Tundra only gets about 13 mpg, so he really isn't very economical for daily use either. I've got Red ('97 Pontiac Sunfire Convert w/144K miles and non-functional A/C!) (But I *love* her!!!) and Cream Puff (Mom's 2002 Chrysler Sebring Convert with low-low miles - but she's kind of an "Old Lady Car!"), and Rog isn't listed as a driver on my insurance policy anyway...

So anyway, weekend before last, there was more of the "Humunha-humunha-I-need-a-new-car" chattering going on. Along with a sprinkling of "I don't think the Corvette Place did very much trouble-shooting on Scarlet."

"Well, you told them not to!"

("Oh yeah!")

Then more humunha-humunha Scarlet's not reliable, I need a newer vehicle, yada-yada... Only now there was a change to the lyrics. Now he's decided that he wants a Brand New car. And, at appx $50K (base model), a new Corvette was not very realistic.

"I think I want a Camaro." (See? I was listening!)

Well, I let him yammer about it for awhile (to see if he was serious. He's *generally* not too impulsive - especially when it comes to parting with large sums of money!). Actually, Hubs has done pretty well with his investments this year, and his stock options have performed *quite* admirably, so he has determined that a New Camaro is within reach... Okay....

"But maybe I should have them try to trouble-shoot Scarlet..." "But I really want a New Car..." "I haven't bought a NEW car since 1985...." "But Scarlet's such a GOOD car..." "But the V6 Camaro is only $26,800 and it gets better mileage..."


I let him argue with himself for awhile (No point in me diving into the ring!). In the meantime, I pulled up my company's intranet site to look into vehicle discounts. We do get "Fleet Pricing" with several major automotive manufacturers, so I wanted to see if it would be worthwhile to pursue.

Well, he had printed up the Window Stickers for a couple of specific cars that he was contemplating. I was able to pull up the exact same cars thru the "Discount Pricing" site and it appeared that we could get about $1000 off of MSRP (for the cars he was looking at. The discount was chunkier for the more expensive ones)...

Annnnnnyyyywaaaaayyyy... This must've gone on for a couple of hours, and when he started to ask for my opinion, I totally chickened-out (because sometimes asking for my opinion *really* means it's time to start a lively debate!). "Look, I've printed up these two cars - using my company's fleet-pricing discount - Do you want to buy a new car? If so, let's go, okay?!!"

And off we went. On the way, I did ask about the fate of Scarlet. He indicated that he wanted to trade her in, and that he hoped to get $5,000 for her.

"Not gonna happen. And if it does, that just means they're gonna jack-up the purchase price of the new car."

(Although - since he was a cash-buyer - I don't think they'd have that much "wiggle room" to bury the trade-in in the purchase-price).

"Let's see what they offer you for her. I might be interested in buying her."

('cuz I *need* another friggin' car!!!)

So we went to the dealer with our respective print-outs. We agreed, in advance, that I would keep my "fleet pricing" quiet and let Hubs handle the pricing negotiations. I must say, he did *extremely* well and I didn't have to gnaw my tongue off - not even once during the initial negotiations! They didn't want to wheel-and-deal too much, initially (But c'mon kids - in *this* economy?! Just how many new cars are you selling, anyway? And I couldn't help but notice all those EMPTY LOTS on Auto-Row where NUMEROUS dealers have gone completely kaput!!!). Well, we did end up having to 'fess-up to having a "Fleet Pricing" discount (and I had printed up my 'Approval Code' or whatever), but DH managed to beat the Fleet Pricing, as well - by about $250.00. So Good For Him!

(Our Truck-Shopping Adventure was way more scary than that - but that's a story for another day!)

So then the whole Trade-In discussion started up and, as I predicted, they didn't offer him squat. They were willing to offer $1,000 for Scarlet "As-Is" and Hubs was not happy - at all. However, Scarlet is *not* the kind of car they would feature on their used-car lot. Instead, they'd sell her at some wholesale car auction and she would, undoubtedly, end up at one of those No-Name Used Car Lots in a shady part of town (Happy Jorge's Auto-Rama - "No Credit? No Problem!") Oh, the HORROR!!!

Hmmm... Looks like I might be buying me another car!!!

Anyway... Hands were shaken, and keys were handed over (and - amazingly - we never got locked in "the little room" - nor were we subjected to 'Musical Salesmen'/"Hi, I'm the Sales Manager" yaya-bullsh*t that you normally endure when purchasing a new car), and then we were off to see the "Finance Girl."

Mind you, this is a cash-purchase, but there are papers to review, and contracts to sign, and more opportunities to up-sell sh*t that we don't need! I remembered this routine from when we bought Willie. We got an "okay" deal on the truck - but we totally got raped on the Lo-Jack and Extended Service Plan...

So we're in Finance Girl's Office and there's the whole On-Star Contract ("if you sign-up today!") and the XM Satellite Radio ("Last hot dog in the ballpark!"), and "Roadside Hazard" (which will cover your tires if you get a nail - for *only* $750 - "Are you freaking kidding me???"), and "Paint Protection Plan" (Umm, it's a WHITE car!), and the ubiquitous 72-month Extended Warranty (which is *really* only 36 months - since the car COMES with 36 months Bumper-To-Bumper)

So this is the part where I'm gnawing through the tip of my tongue as Hubs is getting the particulars on each of these "Added Benefits" (and "If you sign-up today, we can use your Fleet Discount to yayayaya..."). I couldn't help but cough -audibly - over the Roadside Hazard Protection ("Umm, you could BUY a whole new set of tires for that!"), but I thought I exercised GREAT restraint!

After about 20 minutes, I couldn't hold my tongue any longer and I suggested, oh so gingerly, that "If you were asking my opinion... Here is what *I* would select..."

I think, the fact that Hubs was paying CASH (as opposed to financing), made him a little more agreeable to money-saving strategies, so he *did* end up taking my suggestions (Whew!). And no blood was shed!!!

So he only got the 72-month Extended Warranty (with $100 Deductible). The XM Radio can be added to my Sirius Account (at a discount) after the initial 3 month-freebie expires. Paint Protection?? Puh-LEEZ! And I think I've said enough about Roadside Hazard Protection! OnStar is on him - if he wants it, he can renew it...

So anyway, we showed-up in one car. We drove home in two.

Hubs was happy and I was - well - a little apprehensive. Looks like I just bought myself a high-mileage "Classic" Car with "Unknown Issues!" And now, for the two of us, we have: 3 Sports Cars, 1 Old Lady Car, 1 Pickup-Truck, 2 Harleys and 1-1/2 Sailboats. Excessive???

Oh, and our house is on a corner lot. Not an "open" corner lot where we've got front-and-side parking! Oh Noooo! It's an "inner" corner where we really only have room for ONE car on the street!

One Very Smart Thing that Hubs did, while we were there: He mentioned that he was gonna have to sell Scarlet on the open market (since - even the salesman agreed - $1,000 Trade-In was not-at-all satisfactory). DH did manage to negotiate a discount on Labor for bringing Scarlet in for trouble-shooting and repair.

We took advantage of that a few days later.

To be continued....................................

Happy Hubs - with his New Toy!
And - GASP - I think I bought Scarlet!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

More Randomness...


So, just for sh*ts and grins, I've been watching old episodes of the A&E TV Series "Hoarders." I find the show positively fascinating. In part, because I'm driven by that same morbid curiosity that makes you slow down and gawk at car-wrecks, but [mostly] because certain members of my family could be featured on that show!

I'm not going to "air dirty laundry" however (I'd need a totally separate / completely anonymous blog for that!). I will say that it's definitely not as bad as *the worst* of the Hoarders episodes (no vermin or bug infestations), but when mom's house was put on the market, we filled TWO 15x25 foot storage lockers (We're talking to-the-ceiling-without-an-inch-to-spare) (I *wish* I was exaggerating!) with "stuff."

And that's all I'm gonna say about THAT!

Anyway, I find the show fascinating. Especially all the different "stories" about how people got to that state. And I can definitely relate to the "resistance" that some of the folks exhibit when it's time to "Let Go" of their stuff (Oops - I said I wasn't gonna share Family Dramas!)

Actually, I sometimes find myself with "too much stuff" as well. I'm definitely not a compulsive shopper (I practically hyperventilate at the thought of setting foot in a shopping mall!). I do a fair amount of online shopping, however...

I do have my Tacky Tiki Fetish (although nearly all Tikis are proudly displayed outside during the summer months!). And, in preparation for my studio, I have accumulated a veritable buttload of "stuff" that will go into the studio. Much of it has set-up temporary housekeeping in the living room - much to hubbie's dismay! And - truth be told - ALL of the stuff that I accumulate *is* put to use (Not stashed in the garage/closet in it's original packaging with price-tags still attached!).

Although - in the interest of full-disclosure - I do rent a small (9x10) storage locker for a lot of "Personal Crap" that I have had for years. If you've been to my Home-Page and read about my Liveaboard Daze (back in the 90's when I moved to a boat), you'll see "how" I ended up with a storage locker (Made perfect sense - at the time!). Over the years, I have purged a lot of stuff and my current locker is significantly smaller than what I started-out with. And there definitely *is* room to walk-around in there! But I would like to continue with Reviewing and Tossing a lot of the stuff. Some of it is valuable (I suspect my extensive model-horse collection from the 60's-70's would fetch a fair price from collectors); Some has no monetary-value but is irreplaceable (to me! Ask me about my "Sock-Parrot!"); But much of it is just old "crap" and needs to go (I just need to set my mind to it and find the time to deal with it)! So, yeah, I guess there's a *teeny* bit of "Hoarder" in me, too! (But, to be fair, we *have* used my storage locker for "Seasonal" storage as well - so it's not a *complete* waste!)

Annnnywaaaayyyy: The fact of the matter is: Our house is just too small (appx 1200 SF 2BR 1BA). And, having been built in the 70's, closet space is minimal - at best. And - believe it or not - we use the garage to store *vehicles!* So, yeah, things tend to get a bit cluttered around here. But I definitely don't have a problem with getting rid of stuff - other than being too lazy to haul it over to Goodwill!

Anyway, the upside to watching "Hoarders" is that, invariably, I get a sudden and overwhelming "Urge to Purge!" This week, the Trash Bin had a bit more crap, than usual. Ditto the Recycling Bin! And I've started a new Goodwill Box, as well (Now if I could just get off my lazy duff and deliver it *to* Goodwill!!!)...

Part of the impetus for all of this is that my college buddy, D, is coming to visit next week and I do want the house to look presentable - not that she cares! But it's funny how having house-guests kinda forces you to re-evaluate! Our place most-definitely isn't *dirty* (we have a maid to take care of the yukko-scrubbing) (June Cleaver, I ain't!), it's just cluttered and somewhat disorganized. And yes, it's almost entirely my doing! (And it drives hubbie nuts, I'm sure! Yet he puts up with it - bless his Super-Organized/Uber-Methodical/Engineer heart!)

So that's the latest, there.

I have been moving more of my Ceramic Supplies out to the Tiki Shack/Studio (Yay!). I have a horizontal storage bin (like what you'd use to hide trash cans, lawnmower kinda stuff) out at the side of the house - the "original" home of all my Ceramic Supplies. I was gonna move it to the back-garden - next to the Studio. But I found the logistics somewhat daunting. First I've got to empty it. Then I've got to move it. Then I've got to figure out how to get it *into* the back garden (it's too big to fit through the pergola and too heavy/unwieldy to lift over the fence, and too much of a pain-in-the-@$$ to disassemble, etc.).

I ended up buying a duplicate horizontal bin and assembling it back there! And that's actually better. I can relocate my Ceramic Supplies in a more organized fashion (and at my leisure!). And, once the old bin is empty - we can use it to store "yard stuff" (especially the lounge-chairs - over winter).

Okay, enough rambling about disorganization!

Studio Update:

The Tiki Shack is coming along. No, I *still* haven't painted the kiln corner and it looks like the giant toe-stubber (kiln) will *still* be in the living room when D visits (Oh, well!). I did receive my baby-wheel, and I purchased a Kiddie Table @ IKEA, along with a stool. Luckily, the wheel-table *does* fit under my slab roller. And all the stuff that has gone into The Shack is still visible, neat and organized (Yay!!!). I have a few more pieces, in the works, and hope to do a bona-fide "Artsy" update one of these days!

Garden Update:

Garden is growing like mad - now that the days are *finally* warming up! The tomato plants are threatening to take over! Pics coming...


And lastly, I was feeling "Domestic" this afternoon. One of the last Farm-Share deliveries included RHUBARB. Yummmmmm!!! I *love* Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (and you just can't buy it ANYWHERE around here) (And I'd be in trouble if I could because I really can't tolerate all that sugar :::sigh:::).

One of the (many) cool things about living here in Silicon Valley is that we're really close to a lot of the farming areas. Watsonville cranks out about a zillion pounds of cherries and strawberries every year and it's not at all unusual to find migrant farm-workers standing out on the street-corners - here in Suburbia - selling flats of whatever is in season. Guess what?! Strawberries are in season! So it was really quite easy to acquire all the necessary ingredients for Strawberry Rhubarb jam!

*More* than enough for 2 batches of jam *and* shortcakes!
(That's my Mom's Big-@$$ Mixing Bowl)

Last year, I tried one of the (many) recipes I found, online, for making Sugar-Free Rhubarb Jam, using Sugar-Free Strawberry Jello. It was waaaaaay too sweet for my tastes.

Today, I Googled again and just couldn't find anything satisfactory so I figured I'd "adapt" a sugary recipe and smush in some fresh strawberries and, basically, make up my own damned recipe! So here it is:

"QT's [mostly] Sugar-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam"

2 lbs fresh rhubarb. Cut into 1/2" pieces
4 cups strawberries, sliced and smushed
2 packages No-Cook, Freezer-Jam Pectin
3 cups granulated Splenda (+/-)
1 Tbs Lemon Juice (optional)
sprinkling of sugar (I'd say no more than 1/4 cup).

I made the jam in two batches.

2 lbs of rhubarb will yield just-shy of 4 cups of fruit - after it's cooked down. So batch #1 was probably 50/50 rhubarb and strawberries. Batch #2 was definitely more strawberries and much sweeter (hence the addition of Lemon Juice).

Slice up the rhubarb and put it in a bowl. Sprinkle a tiny dusting of real sugar on top and toss it together (the real sugar seems to help start the rhubarb "sweating"). Then sprinkle 1 cup of Splenda on top and toss it all together again. Let it "set" for about an hour so the rhubarb starts releasing it's juice. One of the recipes I'd read suggested leaving it overnight (and that might improve the overall tartness - but I wasn't that patient!).

Glistening Rhubarb (after sprinkling sugar and Splenda on it)

While the rhubarb is juicifying (I'd rather just call it "sweating!"), clean and top the strawberries. Slice them up in a bowl until you have appx 4 cups. Then sprinkle a little "real" sugar on top to get them juicifying as well. The strawberries don't have to sweat for that long, though.

Once the rhubarb started sweating, I went back and stirred it around a few more times. Then I dumped it all into a large saucepan and heated it up on low. I think low and slow is best - to facilitate releasing the juice. Eventually, the juice started to exceed the rhubarb chunks and began to boil. I kept the heat very low and stirred frequently. It all turned into a lumpy mash after about 20 minutes or so. I taste-tested it and determined that the sweetness-to-tartness quotient was just about perfect! The texture was mostly mushy with a few small (soft) chunks of rhubarb.

Yep! Perfect!
(This is the texture when it's time to take it off the stove)

Remove from the stove and let it start to cool. While the rhubarb was cooling, I started mashing the strawberries to get 'em softer. I did not add a significant amt of sugar, nor did I add Splenda to the strawberries.

Once the rhubarb mash was warm (meaning it wouldn't burn if I stuck my finger in it), I dumped the strawberries into the pot and stirred everything together.

In a separate clean bowl, I mixed 1 pkg Pectin and 1 cup of granulated Splenda. Then I added 4 cups of the Strawberry-Rhubarb mixture into the Pectin/Splenda mixture. Stirred it thoroughly for 3 minutes. Then poured the jam into 8 oz plastic freezer-jam jars, using a canning funnel. Make sure you leave appx 1/4" of space on the top because the jam will expand when it freezes.

Then I went to make the 2nd batch and quickly realized that I didn't have 4 cups of fruit left in the pot! So I quickly sliced and mashed more strawberries, and mixed 'em in with the rest of the fruit until I had 4 cups. Unfortunately, I don't have exact measurements - "Oh well!"

Anyway, I did the same thing with batch #2 (mixing Pectin/Splenda, adding fruit, mixing, etc.). I did determine that batch #2 was sweeter than I wanted, so I added a tablespoon of lemon juice to 'tarten' it up a bit!

End Result: I got 10 x 8oz jars of Freezer Jam, I did mark the jars with the different batch #'s so I can taste-test 'em later.

Yum! 1st taste test (after an hour in the fridge). Batch #1 is Perfecto-mundo!
Texture, tartness and sweetness are *just* right!
Now I wish we had some warm sourdough to serve it on!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Random Recipes (including booze!)

I just realized that I never posted the recipe for my deeeeelicious Cream-Cheesy Ranch Crock-Pot Chicken.

I Googled several different combinations of Crock-Pot Chicken and Ranch Dressing. Can't remember what-all I found, but I ended up "adapting" them into one recipe - so I shall call it my own!

Recipe #1 for today:

"QT's Cream-Cheesy Ranch Chicken"
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter [+ / - To Taste]
  • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup [or cream of chicken-mushroom]
  • 8 ounces softened cream [or neuchatel] cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 & ½ (x 1 ounce) packages of dry Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
  • ½ of a medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • Handful of sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic [or 1 whole fresh clove which is waaaaay better!]
  • 1 dash papriks
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano [I used about a whole tsp b/c Rog likes oregano a lot]
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes


Prep Time: 15 mins

Total Time: appx 5 hrs (crock pot) [No clue how long oven-method would take]

  1. Wash and dry chicken breasts and place them evenly in crock pot. Sprinkle with paprika.
  2. Sprinkle pkg. of Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix over chicken.
  3. Drizzle chicken breasts with 1 tablespoons melted butter.
  4. Cover and cook on Low for 4-5 hours.

    ***You could skip the crock-pot part and just cook the buttered, paprika’d breasts in the oven ‘til they’re done. The sauce is what really makes this dish!***


  5. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan along with chopped onions, minced garlic and sauté slightly (til the onions are limp). Add mushrooms and sauté some more
  6. Add cream of chicken soup, the 8 oz. of cream cheese cubes, 1/2 cup chicken broth, dried Oregano and dried Parsley flakes and half a package of Ranch Dressing [or if you use the oven method, put 1 and ½ packages of Ranch Dressing in at this point because it's probably not on the chicken yet]. Stir on medium heat until smooth.
  7. Add mixture to crock pot, cover again and continue to cook on low for 30 mins to one hour.

    ***Or plop the cooked chicken breasts into the sauce and continue to cook on low for 30 mins to one hour.***

  8. Serve over buttered egg noodles [I used bow-tie pasta] or rice or cheesy scalloped potatoes from a box or whatever. It'd probably look prettier if you sprinkled it with fresh parsley.

I've made this dish twice now. I like the crock-pot method because it keeps the chicken breasts moist 'n tender!

I did notice, the second time around, that the stuff in the crock-pot got more "liquidy" and I probably should have used a turkey baster to schlorp some of the watery/buttery/liquidy stuff out before I dumped the sauce in. It was a little more "soupy" than "saucy" when I made the 2nd batch and - since I shun carbs - I was hesitant to try to thicken it with corn-starch or flour.

I should probably try to calculate the nutritional info for this recipe - but I'm too lazy right now. I'm sure it's quite fattening, but it is fairly low-carb (if you skip the pasta).

Also - the 2nd time around - DH (The Carbo-Maniac) was out of town, so I decided to serve it over sauteed fresh spinach instead of pasta. That was delicious, too!

No pictures, unfortunately (and it won't photograph well after being in the fridge for a couple of days). But it's basically a light creamy glop-covered chicken dish that you'll probably want to garnish with fresh parsley!

...And now Recipe #2...

Awhile back, I was online ordering a bunch of DaVinci Sugar-Free Syrups. I tend to go a little nuts when I make these purchases (and oftentimes end-up tossing out partially-empty bottles a year or so later!). I'm not sure what I was thinking at the time, but I ended up buying a quart of Sugar-Free Watermelon Syrup. Honestly, it *does* sound good - but I couldn't - for the life of me - figure out what I was gonna use it for, once it arrived! So it's been sitting on the shelf for a good 6 months now!

So I went to DaVinci's Site - looking for recipes. Didn't find anything that thrilled me. Then I started Googling "Watermelon Cocktails" - found several recipes that call for the use of "real" watermelon. And several that call for Midori (or other melon liqueurs - loaded with carbs!). I also found some recipes for Watermelon Margaritas - and, well, I'm a bit of a "Purist" in that I think that Margaritas should be *primarily* lime-flavored (which reminds me, I'd better post my Fresca-Rita Recipe, too!)

Anyway, after reading a bunch of recipes, I did some more "adapting" and came up with this:

"QT's Wimpy Sugar-Free Melon-Tini"

  • 1 oz GOOD vodka (I prefer Stoli)
  • 2 oz DaVinci Sugar-Free Watermelon Syrup
  • 4 oz. Club Soda
  • 1/2 oz (+/-) Lime Juice (Real Lime Juice, or from Concentrate. Not that Sicky-Sweet Rose's Lime Juice stuff)
Put in a shaker with ice cubes and shake *lightly* (otherwise the Club Soda will spew all over you!). Strain into a Martini Glass (or hurricane glass or Jelly-Jar - I don't care!) and enjoy! It'd probably look really nice with a couple of watermelon balls floating in it - if you wanted to get all Fancy Schmantzy!

Warning: These "Sweet Drinks" can kinda sneak up on you (hence the generous addition of Club Soda!).

If I had room in the freezer, I'd keep my Stoli in there (love it when it's frozen and syrupy!). But shaking it over ice seems to work - and it's a very refreshing drink!

...And Lastly...

"QT's Sugar-Free Guilt-Free Fresca-Rita"

Fresca-Rita: The Perfect Summertime Libation
(Would that summer would ever arrive!)

Not sure if I ever posted this one before, but here it is:
  • 1 part Tequila Blanco (Just about any brand will do - as long as it's not hooch!)
  • 4-5 parts Fresca
  • 1-2 parts Lime Juice (again, the real stuff)
  • Teaspoon of granulated Splenda
  • Pinch of coarse sea salt or margarita salt
Serve on-the-rocks. If you try to whir Fresca in a blender, you *will* live to regret it (unless you enjoy scrubbing your ceiling). Plus, the "texture" isn't quite right, blended without the sugar.

I don't have exact measurements (I've gotten to where I can eyeball it pretty successfully), but those are the basic ingredients. Want it sweeter? Add more Splenda. Not tart enough? Add more Lime Juice. Basically you can adjust it to your liking - but it's a damn good substitute for the real thing!

I manage to suck these down all summer long............................

I did notice, last time I was at BevMo, that there are now several different "Light" Margarita Mixes on the market now. That's encouraging. I did buy the Margaritaville Brand - but I haven't tried it yet. I suspect that *my* Fresca-Ritas are probably a whole lot better (and I can almost guarantee that they're a heckuva lot cheaper!).

Anyway, that's my Great Contribution to the Blogosphere for today (It's my Birf-day, BTW! So I can enjoy my cocktails guilt-free thankyouverymuch!)

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