Friday, November 6, 2009

Food Friday: Chicken and Phyllo Pie

Perhaps you remember me venting about my oven a couple of weeks ago. Well, I now present you with the recipe that was infamously "in process" when the baking coil decided to explode. Clearly, I have a thing for spinach and phyllo (remember my spanakopitas? Yeah baby.) But I promise you, this recipe is not as labor-intensive, and should only take you about 20 minutes to make.

So, here's a look at what happens when an oven coil goes bad:

Want a closer look?

Weird right? So anyway, obviously you know me well enough to know that I cannot function properly without a working oven. I mean, really... something weird happened to me during this down time. I suddenly started eating ramen, macaroni & cheese from a box, and frozen Indian meals. Why? I don't know. I mean, I still had a perfectly usable stovetop, and even just here on this blog you can find many, many good & healthy recipes that do not require an oven. It was something psychological, I think. What I'm trying to say is that I fell deep into an ovenless abyss. You may be asking yourself, what about the other oven? Because you know my oven is actually a double oven. Well, in fact, during this 3 week period I realized that the baby oven on the left-hand side also had a coil problem and one of them wasn't working. Ugh. So, not only were both the ovens malfunctioning, but the door was broken.

Well, I did some research, and found that even though my oven is about 60 years old, Sears still sells parts for it (yay Kenmore!). So I ordered all the parts, and we set out to fix it last weekend. You see, we had gone apple picking, and I had a big bowl of apples just waiting to be thrown into a pie, and I just absolutely refuse to borrow a friend's kitchen and oven for that kind of project. Plus, who wants to share an apple pie? I don't. I need it all to myself, and I'm sure any friend would require some sort of payment measured in slices.

After about 3 hours of replacing parts, and tinkering around with wires behind the oven, we finally got everything fixed. I have to tell you in case you don't know... Justyn and I are bad-ass do it yourselfers. We have also fixed our own washing machine before, and just last night fixed our own LCD television for only $20! We don't need no stinking repairman, so :P. I have to tell you, it feels great to have a fully functioning oven again. I feel like I've been away from the land of the living for the last few weeks, and now I can breathe again!

Chicken and Phyllo Pie
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
3 slightly beaten eggs
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chopped cooked chicken (I used leftover chicken I pulled from a rotisserie)
4 sheets frozen phyllo dough (18 x 14 inch rectangles), thawed
3 tablespoons butter, melted

1. In a medium skillet cook onions and garlic in 1 tablespoon hot butter until onion is tender. In a large bowl combine onion mixture, eggs, spinach, mozzarella cheese, milk, Parmesan cheese, and pepper. Stir in chicken; set aside.

2. Lightly brush 1 sheet of phyllo with some of the melted butter; fold in half crosswise (not lengthwise). Cover remaining phyllo with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying. Gently press folded phyllo into a 9-inch pie plate; allow ends to hang over edge. Repeat with remaining sheets of phyllo and remaining butter, staggering pyllo in pie plate sot he bottom and sides are evenly covered.

3. Spoon chicken filling into phyllo crust. Fold ends of the phyllo toward the center. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Cut into wedges to serve.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Squirrel Stakeout

One of our nice neighbors told us when we moved in that he could see squirrels nesting up in the eves of our house. But we never could hear anything, so we weren't all that worried about it. Plus, squirrels are kind of cute, right? I mean, as long as they're not hurting anything, is it a big problem? These are the the kind of thoughts that make me a bad homeowner. For the record, squirrels are BAD.

You see, we recently had our entire house insulated (exterior walls, basement band joists, and the attic.) And, I guess when the guys were insulating in the attic, they found major evidence of squirrels living there like pee, droppings, etc. I have to admit, it is pretty gross, but still... what could we do? So we asked our neighbor how they were getting in. We don't have any trees on our property, so that wasn't it. The only other option would be power lines, of which we have three running next to our roof. Then one day, I saw him. Everyone, meet Sherman:

It was exactly where we suspected he was getting in, and so Justyn came up with a plan of action. He bought some heavy duty, industrial-strength steel grating to cover up the hole they were using to get in. We watched to see when Sherman would leave (after all, we didn't want to trap the little guy in there). This is Justyn on our neighbor's porch, scoping it out:

Of course, eventually Sherman left to go get food, or scamper on trees, or whatever it is that squirrels do. Justyn promptly installed the steel grating over the hole, and we waited some more. We wanted to make sure it worked, and that when Sherman came back, he couldn't get in. We made ourselves comfortable and even had lunch.

When Sherman came back, he couldn't get in (of course). I'm no expert in squirrel behavior, but I honestly expected him to just leave once he figured out he couldn't get back in. But no. Sherman then did something very unexpected. He totally freaked out. He grabbed onto the steel mesh and started shaking it violently, and then started scampering around all over the roof. We were still on the lawn watching all of this unfold, and he looked at us from over the edge of the roof, and started barking and whining at us. Sort of like a dog, yes, but more high-pitched, like a squirrel. I didn't even know squirrels made noise so the whole thing was totally weird. Then, Sherman ran up to the top of the roof ridge and laid down.

Sherman stayed there for hours, and it made me feel like a bad person. All the while, he was chirping and barking and whining. It made me feel so bad, that I started to talk to him in the special voice I usually only reserve for Oliver. I told Sherman that I was sorry, and that I promised everything would be okay. It was only just beginning to feel like fall, and he would have plenty of time to find other lodging. And, just down the street I had seen a beautiful oak tree with tons of acorns on the ground, and one of our neighbors has a walnut tree from which I was sure he could get some food. When I started talking to him, he just looked at me like this:

And by the time I was done, Sherman had turned his back on me. Yes, he was still on the roof ridge, but instead of listening attentively, he shoved his bushy tail in my face. So, I went inside. Every half hour or so, I would check to see what he was doing, and he was always still right there. Every now and then he would go back down to the hole and shake the steel door again, only to return to the roof ridge and keep whining. After several of hours of this, we started to wonder if maybe there were more squirrels inside. We did some research on the internet, and found that some squirrels live in nests of 3, 4, 5, sometimes 6 in one place. It was the only explanation I could come up with for why Sherman would freak out like that, so I pleaded to Justyn to please remove the steel, and to try and find another way. I didn't want dead squirrel babies on my conscience. No sir.

So I did some more internet research, and after a couple of days I found a pretty cool idea. They said to get some 2-foot long pieces of plastic tubing, slice it open lengthwise, and thread the power line through the tubing. This way, when the squirrels try to run down the power line to your house, they will land on the tubing and just roll off. Kind of mean? Yes. Funny? Also yes. Justyn was very excited about this idea, and rushed right out to buy some plastic tubes:

You can see him getting in the mood. He was definitely in "battle-mode". (Obviously, he didn't have the special feelings for Sherman that I did.) So, we followed the directions and ended up with this:

Kind of hard to see, but you get the idea. We put them on all three of the power lines providing access to our house, and didn't see Sherman for quite a while. We also stuffed a paper towel into the hole he was using, just to see if he was still getting in (if the paper towel was moved to the side, we'd know it wasn't working). After a few days of the paper towel remaining in tact, we saw Sherman hanging out on our power line just outside of the tubing, eating a walnut.

No sign of him since. I don't know if it was the tubing that actually worked, or if we scared him so badly with the steel grating that he decided to leave on his own. Either way, we're squirrel-free!

I'm not sure if it was the most humane thing to do, but at least we didn't trap any squirrel babies in the attic. To me, that's a success.