Monday, February 27, 2017

Belated Sunday Black and White


Whatever your faith - I could not help but read these words this last weekend when we saw our first bit of snow in 3 months.  It was words from the Old Testament and I could not help but think of my dog, Abby Lab, who will never abandon me, and follows me, even out in the cold and the wet -always by my side.

"Don't ask me to leave you and turn back.  Wherever you go, I will go, where you live, I will live.  Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God." Ruth 1:16

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Monkey Bar Memories

A playground in Montana. A time long ago. I'm the little-redheaded girl that looks as if she's ready to give someone a little help down the slide. We used to polish them well with waxed paper to get even more speed out of them. (hehehe.)


Big Bro was going to go swing like a monkey from the monkey bars.  He was safe. . . for now.

Have you noticed that some the playground equipment has been seriously lawyered up since you and I were kids?

The slides are now about four feet tall and have bumpers and areas of thick soft mulch to fall in (we had rocks). Monkey bars are getting harder and harder to find, and the ones out there aren't exactly high off the ground (oh no, I might fall 3 inches!)
What happened to that merry go round that was the childhood equivalent of a G Force accelerator. If you got going fast enough with a siblings help, hanging on by one hand, you could get up to about 2 g's. Or come flying off and break a tooth as I did and get banned from the playground for a few days. Then, there was the teeter totter (lever and fulcrum = initiate launch sequence!) Yes, we had discipline, the 9th and 10th amendment were alive in our parents hearts, but Mom and Dad let us get a few bumps and bruises along the way, so we'd learn, not only our limits, but how to take care of ourselves. Mom also made sure, when we got home, there were homemade cookies or bars to munch on.

So with that memory, I did a little creating in Abby Lab snoopervized kitchen this afternoon.  I just combined elements of  a brownie and snack cake recipe using bananas  I found on-line, then added a couple Johnson kitchen touches. When I brought the wooden spoon with a bit of the glaze to my husband, he tasted it, smiled and said, "you're evil" ( and he hasn't seen me with a waxed 20-foot slide).

It turned out better than I expected.  The sides and bottom were chewy, like a brownie, the interior was light and moist like a snack cake and the glaze made a sweet aromatic crunch to the top.  Add in the chunks of dark chocolate and the browned butter taste, it's going to be hard to keep your hands off of them.
Monkey Bars

3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 very ripe bananas (skin starting to turn dark brown/black) sliced into chunks and then smashed
1/4 cup milk minus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup flour
1/2  tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
A generous (overflowing)1/4 tsp Penzeys Cake Spice (a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves, or use an equivalent measure of one or more of those spices)

40 grams of dark chocolate (use a thin bar, roughly the surface area of a CD), chopped
Brown Butter Glaze
1/4 cup butter (not margarine or spread, it WILL burn)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 Tablespoon plus 1/8 teaspoon milk

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease an 8 x  8pan

For the bars
If you've not worked with leftover bananas, over ripe is good.  The texture is soft and the fruit has a lot more oil in it giving it an intensity of flavor in baked goods you will NOT  get from a fresh banana.

Directions:

In a coffee mug, combine milk and apple cider vinegar.  Stir well and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and cake spice.

In a medium bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the sugar and the egg, then add the bananas, beating until combined (it won't be totally smooth).  Beat in the milk mixture and vanilla on low speed, then slowly drizzle in butter while mixing on low.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients all at once and stir with a spoon until blended.  Then fold in the chocolate Spread the batter evenly into greased pan. Bake 22 to 26 minutes or until  edges are dark golden colored and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (center will  be light colored and appear soft)

Remove from heat and cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then make glaze.
For Glaze

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium/high heat until boiling, reduce heat to low and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the butter turns a darker golden brown color (like honey) and has a nutty aroma, moving it immediately from the heat. Depending on your stove,  that's just a couple of minutes after it comes to a boil).  Let it cool for a minute, then whisk in sugar, vanilla, and milk, blending until creamy.  Spread on bars immediately, or it will start to crystallize up a bit.

Then retire to the shop with your stash to play with stuff  that's almost as fun as playground equipment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sugar and Spice. . .



Abby Lab here.  Dad has taken to requesting a muffin packed into his lunch to eat mid morning (at which time his 5:30 a.m. bowl o'Grape Nuts has worn off). Since Mom loves to bake, not a problem, but she tries to make different recipes so he's not eating the same kind every day as muffins freeze well, and I can keep an assortment of types on hand.

This was this weekends Mom

experiment and it turned out VERY tasty. I'd not call it a particularly healthy muffin (you could replace some of the butter with more applesauce and reduce the sugar) but Dad requested Mom keeps it just the way it is. The spice mixture, though, really makes them zing and the butter makes the edges sort of crisp like really good cornbread gets when you bake it in a cast iron skillet

Applesauce Spice Muffins

In a small bowl mix:

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking SODA (NOT baking powder)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom (it's a Scandinavian spice and most larger grocers should carry)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


In big microwave safe bowl:

soften one stick of butter in the microwave until just starting to melt
Cream, which means mix the "HBO word" out of it with an electric hand mixture set on high - both the softened stick of butter and  1 cup of sugar.
then on lower speed, mix in:
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup applesauce.

Hand stir dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until you no longer see any raw flour bits and dough is uniformly moist.

Spoon into a dozen muffin cups sprayed with non-stick spray.  Sprinkle tops with a pinch or two of sugar on each one.

Bake in preheated 350-degree  F. oven for 22-24 minutes until the edges are lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Set on top of a wire rack until somewhat cool then remove to a plate.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Finding Erma Bombeck

Abby Lab here -

I need some assistance here.  You have to tell me who Erma Bombeck is?

Mom just did a new radio interview for her new novel.

After her last interview, one of her social media friends who had never heard her voice said  "with her Midwest accent" she sounded just like Erma Bombeck, not at all what he expected.

Mom laughed so hard at that she snorted tea out her nose. "I have an accent?", she said.

So who is Erma?

Anyway. Mom's book was one of four selected by NPR WNIJ/WNIU for their Spring Read series and Mom gets interviewed AND reads an excerpt (there are two links on the page, one for the excerpt that was picked by the station and one for the actual interview).


Monday, February 20, 2017

Belated Sunday Eats - Buttermilk Biscuits

Weekends in our house start earlier than most people. Since I have a good hour commute to work, I leave extra early, or the drive home will be up to 2 hours due to heavy Chicago traffic. That means getting up before 5 a.m. So on weekends, "sleeping in" means getting up around 7. That makes it easier to get up so early on Monday morning. But today was a day off for me, and my husband took a vacation day to spend time with me. Abby wasn't so inclined to get up. When I went into my office, I could barely see her little head from around the corner of the desk where she was still snoozing on her dog bed (during the day she prefers to be on the futon, but at night she can see the front door from the dog bed).
Mom, I'm not awake yet, would you make biscuits?

Still, no one was moving too fast this morning, so I decided to make a hot breakfast, some Einkorn flour homemade bread toast for me (ancient grain Einkorn doesn't trigger my wheat allergies like hybridized wheat) and a batch of hot southern buttermilk biscuits for my husband.

In my decidedly Yankee kitchen with 70-year-old gas stove, I'm always tweaking recipes. Sometimes you find one that you don't need to do anything with. This one, sent by a friend in Georgia, is perfect and they freeze well, so I can just thaw some out and reheat for my husband, or in this case, took some ones hot from the oven to our elderly next door neighbors who were out in the garden already getting ready for planting soon.
Don't let the extra steps discourage you.  Pressing and folding the dough takes only a couple of extra minutes and the results are worth it.  High, tender biscuits. If you don't have a jelly roll pan, simply bake 8 of them on a cookie sheet and the remaining four separately or on another small cookie sheet.

Another decidedly southern take on these is to add 4 Tablespoons of pickle relish to the buttermilk before mixing with flour. Those make the backbone of an awesome little off the bone ham with mustard sandwich.  But today, simple breakfast biscuits.
The soft wheat flour (White Lily is my preferred brand) is the ONLY flour you should use for biscuits.  It's made from soft red winter wheat and the low protein and low gluten content keep the biscuits from becoming too dense.  If you put some in your hand and some all purpose flour in the other you can feel and see the difference, the soft winter wheat flour is much lighter, finer and whiter. There is a reason southern biscuits are so much higher and lighter than "northern" biscuits Traditional flour available across the country is made out of HARD winter wheat and just doesn't make the same quality biscuit.  If you can't find it at a larger retailer, order from Amazon.  Link is:

https://www.amazon.com/White-Lily-Rising-Bleached-Flour/dp/B006E5E8O4

(cut and paste this in your browser window).
Paired with some Oberweis Dairy pork sausage and Lingonberry jam, it got me a thumbs up and a dog laying right under someone's chair waiting for a crumb or sausage to fall.

Best Buttermilk Biscuits Ever

1/2 cup cold butter
2 and 1/4 cups self-rising White Lily flour
1 and 1/4 cups buttermilk
Self-rising soft wheat flour (a little extra set aside for working with dough)
2 Tablespoons melted butter

Directions

1.  Cut butter with sharp knife or pastry blender into quarter inch thick slices./  Sprinkle butter slices over flour in a large bowl.  Toss butter with flour.  Cut butter into flour with pastry blender until a crumbly and mixture resembles small peas.  Cover and chill 10 minutes.  Add buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.  (if you don't have buttermilk, replace 3 teaspoons of the milk with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and let set out at room temperature 5 minutes.)

2.  Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.  Knead 3 times, gradually adding additional flour as needed.  With floured hands, press or pat dough into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches)  Sprinkle top of dough with additional flour.  Fold dough over onto itself in three sections, starting with one short end. (fold dough rectangle as if folding a letter sized piece of paper).  Repeat entire process two more times, beginning with pressing dough into a 3/4 thick dough rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches) then folding, again.

3.  Press or pat dough into half inch thicknesses on a lightly floured surface.  Cut with a biscuit cutter and place side by side on a parchment paper lined (or lightly greased) jelly roll pan.  Dough rounds should touch (for higher biscuits).

4.  Bake in preheated 400 F oven for 13 - 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from oven.  Brush with melted butter if serving immediately (for ones I'm going to freeze, I skip this)

5.  Accidentally drop one to the dog. And a couple of thse sausages.  (Abby, quit taking over the keyboard when I go to get a coffee refill!)


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday Dog Haiku

Of course I'm asleep
you said fluffy bed was mine
you meant the small one?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dogs! Cats! Horses! Heifers!


 I'm not sure how I stumbled across this, but this has to be THE most annoying pet informercial I have ever witnessed. I'm not sure if she has a cough drop in our mouth to keep from coughing from all the hair, but the voice is. . . well, you'll just have to experience it.

 I played it and Abby whined and went and hid in the closet.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Where the Wubba Hits the Road - A Barkley Memory

Angel Barkley stayed at a doggie day camp occasionally when I knew I was going to be away from home 12 hours plus, til myself or a friend picked him up. We were living in Indiana and visiting my boyfriend (now husband) in Chicago on our weekends. He loved that day camp place as it had lots of outside and indoor play areas with wading pools when it was hot and all kinds of toys. His favorite was this really hard rubber ball with feet on it. It also squeaked. Any of you who read The Book of Barkley, know all about the infamous Mr. Squeaky, but in looking through some old photos today, I saw a photo of another toy that I had forgotten about.

Abby Lab LOVES her stuffies and is normally very gentle with them. Barkley would destroy any cloth toy with a squeaker in minutes, but the doggie day camp had this large toy with feet that was so hard, he couldn't get his teeth through it and could just work it with his jaws, SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEAK. (I was thinking at the time I should buy the folks at the dog camp some high caliber ear protection.)

I wanted to get him one, but I'd never seen one in the pet toy section of the small pet store where I normally shopped. It looked to be made out of the hard Kong material but that's all I knew. Then, surprise! my boyfriend (now Abby Lab's "Dad") was able to find one at a big pet store in Chicago and presented it to Barkley for his birthday and he continued to play with it until the incessant squeaking was such it got taken away for a while each day (Look! A Squirrel! Mr. Squeaky? What Mr. Squeaky?)

Until the day the squeaker died.

He got a tooth in the little vent in the back for air to move in and out of. Over a few days, he worked enough of a hole in it that it wouldn't squeak but would just sort of wheeze like an asthmatic blowfish.

He was seriously bummed.
I know, Mr. Squeaky is DOA and your other friends are home with their paw-rents. But come on, it's the new issue of Classic Trains!

I got tired of the look so off I went.

To the big-box pet mart. They didn't have one in stock, but they did have a similar device, a kong style big ball that squeaked. Not as big, and not quite as hard, but pretty thick AND wrapped in extra tough fabric (reinforced! it said). The instructions were in English AND French (do not ask me why as it was "American designed and tested" and "made in China"). Jeu amusant et interactif! Fun, interactive play! At last I could use my college French, -yes, for instead of taking a language that appears to be more popular than English in most border states I took French, finding out quickly I did not have a talent for languages though I got an A, out of sheer effort and some tutoring. Put it this way, one day in my airline pilot days, I made the announcement to the back of the airplane about checking your seatbelts and flight attendants be seated in English and what I thought was flawless French as we had about two dozen French students on board on some sort school-relatedted trip. When we landed they were all totally cracking up when they were deplaning, waving at me and giggling.  Finally, I said "OK, what DID I say?"

Apparently, the French announcement was "We're becoming unglued, guard your nose for a quick abruptness".


The Kong WUBBA!

He was so happy. For three minutes. SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEAK, JOUET COUINEURrrrr!

Silence.

I removed the remains in a bucket.

That night it was another annoying night at the crash pad with Calgon Dog, but fortunately, my soon to be husband was able to find another pink Mr. Squeekee, that now sits on the top of the box that holds the remains and memory of the black lab that stole both my shoes and my heart.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

More Valentine's Day Excitement! (It's the Kaboomy kind)

It's that time of year folks, flying cupids, Hallmark cards, and presents.

I got a new stuffie and a cup to put treats in.

And a BEAUTIFUL card from my sweet Frankie Furter.
 You can't really see it in the picture but the "water" in the card is all sparkley and so pretty.
I'm so tired out from the great day at the K-OSS pawty and getting to be town chef for the day, I was too tired to even get on my bed or the couch.
Best Day Ever!  Blogville really outdid itself.  Fun, Food, dance lessons, skydiving, bungee jumping games for the kids.  WOW!  But now it's time to tell you about Mom's Valentine's day
Mom appears to have received an old antique box. Mom wasn't sure what was in it as Dad usually makes her something for Valentine's day - she's had a bouquet of duct tape roses, a carved wooden cupid that shot a rubber band weapon (perfect for bouts of  workplace immaturity), a hand enameled red whiskey flask that said "Candy is Dandy but Liquor is Quicker" and some beautiful paracord creations or handmade pillows (Dad actually likes to sew crafty things, Mom would rather have a root canal).  She had NO idea what to expect this time.

It started with a card.
with a somewhat cryptic message.

Hmmm, it's a copy of the Blaster's Handbook (copyright 1949)
 Apparently, Mom is  going to need some directions with her "gift"
Time to carefully open the box.

It seems Dad has Put the BOMB in Bath Bombs!

If you haven't seen one, ladies buy them at the drugstore or from Etsy shops for their bathtime. Made out of baking soda, citric acid, Epsom salts, water, oils and fragrance oil they are usually formed into round balls and make a wonderful fizzy and moisturizing bath. The home DIY ones usually turn out a bit more crumbly than the store bought and Etsy ones but they use very simple home ingredients in them for even the beginner.

Mom's smell like lavender/sandalwood/orange, very relaxing. Just toss in the bath water.  Mom removed one for a test bath (after removing the "fuse") and gave it a thumbs up!

Well done Dad well done!

We hope you all had a memorable Valentine's Day. Thanks to everyone that participated in the pawty antics and had such detailed and clever posts about it.  We loved meeting old friends and making new ones. That is what Blogville is all about.
I know I had a BLAST.

The Catering Truck has Arrived - Time to Paw-ty

It's time to PAW-ty folks.


Abby Lab - Blogville Chef here with the NEW and improved catering truck.  I've got it set up to have both hot and cold foodables set up for the Banquet Hall and we'll have some snacks set up outside for those that want to enjoy a little sunshine.

For fun for all of the Blogville adults visit our hosts


They also include links for Madi, who is giving the dance instruction and Oreo who has a HUGE aerial surprise for all.

Plus Arty will be hosting a Kid's Room for the youngsters over at

Frankie and I will be hitting the dance floor with his brother Ernie and his beautiful girlfriend Roxie once the food is set up so help yourself. 
There's pizza bones but this time you can eat the whole slice!

Here's thin crust squirrel sausage pizza
And my favorite:

Classic Furter Pizza made out of hot dogs!

Don't forget your Woofle Fries.

We have so many nummy things to offer for party goers today!

We've got country fried bacon with squirrel gravy to dunk it in.

I've even got my favorite wiener dog here to help me out. Hi Frankie!
And more hot dog goodness with weiner wraps
 There's lots of yummy fruits and veggies for those that don't eat meat plus

cheesy mice~


The day isn't done til you've had some paw-some cookies (and we have some catnip ones for our feline friends)
 Yummm - gluten free rice crispy bones!
 Of course, since it's valentine's day you have to have some conversation heart cookies.

 Don't forget to grab a pupcake or a kitticake.
 And thanks to our friends at Chewy we have a whole table full of crunchy treats.

 Cat Pops

Yum - they have coconut!
 Said NO ONE EVER!


And if you are thirsty after dancing cool off with some. .

or go see Ruby at the Margarita truck for one of her tasty concoctions!

Hey - where did Abby and Frankie go?