Thursday, December 30, 2021

Winter Dog Haiku




 - Lorelei Lab

Monday, December 27, 2021

Another treat deprived Labrador

 Every evening at 6:30 Lorelei gets her "yogurt treat" - a big dollop of plain or vanilla nonfat yogurt in a small dish.  She and Abby Lab LOVED that, and would definitely let you know if you forgot.

Whoever is up and around the kitchen will get it, sometimes my husband, sometimes me.

The other night, he was in the shop and Lorelei came to me with the "hey, I never got my yogurt treat look" laying on the pitiful look quite thick.

So I got her the treat as it was almost 7 pm.

Just as she was finishing up my husband got back into the house and said "Hey, she ALREADY got her yogurt treat - did she tell you she hadn't?"

Lorelei wouldn't look me in the eyes.

Me:  "I was Lab-boozled!"

Who ME?  Would I do such a thing?

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Have a Geeky Christmas - 2021

 It wouldn't be Christmas at the Johnson house if I didn't post the year's Geeky gifts.  Christmas Eve was a traditional turkey dinner (since I was in the hospital over Thanksgiving), and like a 5-year old I woke my husband up about 5 a.m. because "There's presents. . . and coffee. . . did I mention COFFEE".

The Color Wheel was turned on, and the
stuffie and all of the elves were ready.

This year there was more of the practical for him as his work has his traveling, often to places colder than here.  So warm vests, hats, sweaters, pj's, etc., and then, the fun stuff.

His stocking had an assortment of toiletries and snackables as well as the next Green New Deal vehicle. The balloon didn't have the face of a politician on it - but we might remedy that.

My tactical stocking came well equipped.  The dogs are little pens - and the magnets are perfect for our three favorite Labs - Barkley  - who loved to retrieve, Abby, who hated to retrieve unless it was edible, and Lorelei - who just loves her ball (but maybe loves the one on the ground more. . .let's see.)

Let the nerdiness begin:

Yay - just what the Doctor ordered - a flash fill light for my Canon (so evening dinner photos have proper foodables illumination).

Always - we have to have out T-shirts.

And things for good, clean fun.

To keep him occupied - some Russian surplus tool stuff, books to read, and a desk organizer for telework central downstairs.

I scored in the girly stuff department (and no jokes about the Vegan cookbook there to the right of the "secret squirrel" desk mascot, it was on my wish list as I cook meat free several meals a week and can only do so much "beans and rice").
And there's the illustrated copy of Backyard Ballistics!  I'm not sure what a Cincinnati Fire Kite is, but I guarantee one will likely be built by summer.

I wondered what the noise was down in the shop - finally, some organization for my utility drawer AND some new knives!~

"Really Honey - you bought me a broom?"

Oh wait - it's a disguised walking stick - made out of a deer antler and hickory - because hickory is perfect if you need to whack the )*# out of someone because they called your "walking stick" a "cane" (PT on the leg IS going well, up to walking 2 miles a day now but it's been uphill).

For extra safety, I can walk with the guy with the flashing LED beanie.

It also has red and blue "police light" lights, just in case one of us needs to make a "traffic stop" to pick up dog poop while on K9 walking duty.
A little something for the shop wall.
And the living room wall

We couldn't forget Lorelei Lab. The "death tail" is an indicator she's happy with her duck.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A Word of Caution For Those Buying Animals as "Gifts"

Everybody has seen cute pictures of those lovable chubbies on TV, and who hasn't played a game of "Hungry Hippos?"  Every kid wants one!  It's a yuletide tradition, just like bunnies for Easter.  But sadly, each year most of the Hippos that Santa brings through the front door (that's not an easy thing to do by the way) end up unwanted at the local shelter!  A two-car garage is NOT "lots of room" to play and Hippos eat as much as 150 pounds of grass a day.  They can chow down on an entire suburban neighborhood in a week.  And while your teacher may say Mr. Hippo is a vegetarian, don't be fooled.  The beast can be very aggressive and may attack you even if you are simply trying to give him a treat and some cuddles. "Hippo-allergenic", and "no-shed" take on new meaning when they've chased your partner up a tree after flattening the gardening shed!

So please this year, give your child an age-appropriate toy. Please tell them they really don't want a Hippo for Christmas. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Thursday Smile

Due to supply chain issues, the role of 
Baby Jesus will be played by Earl.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Would We All Have Mornings Like Our Dog

(1)  Poofy Bed - CHECK!

(2) Sun - CHECK!

(3)  No job, chores, no worries - CHECK!

Friday, December 10, 2021

Corn and the Muffin-less Dog

During the summer and fall we drive over to a Historic Grist mill that's a couple of miles from our house and after biking or walking the trails along the river, we pick up some of their stone-ground cornmeal.  It's unlike anything you can get in the stores, and it's pretty hard to go back to "corn dust" once you've tried it.
They were closed not long for some upkeep on the structure, which is some 150 years, so when they reopened we were able to go over and stock up before they closed for the winter as the cornmeal freezes nicely in ziplock bags.
As usual we picked up an extra bag to mail to friends, as usually someone requests a bag every year.

This last weekend, I decided to do three recipes with it and was very happy with the results.

My favorite was the cornmeal pancakes.  Not only are they super light and fluffy they have the perfect little "crunch" of the cornmeal amidst the fluffiness. The recipe is adapted from one in the Graue Mill's Brochure (I soured the milk and added slightly more sugar)
Before syrup - see how light and fluffy?

This makes 8 pancakes double if it cooking for a larger group.

Mix in large bowl:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix in another bowl

1 egg whisked (I used an extra-large one, if using a smaller one you might want to add another Tablespoons milk).
3/4 cup milk to which you've added 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons melted butter.

Mix wet and dry ingredients

Cook on an oiled griddle.

Next up is a recipe for some homemade corn tortillas for carne asada tacos for lunch. (Yes, I don't like raw tomatoes, hence my tacos are a bit "nekked" with just lettuce and a little Mexican cheese and some Scoville Brothers hot sauce from Northern Indiana)

Note: making these from just stone-ground cornmeal is not going to work, you need the traditional Mexican masa harina flour to which you add just a bit of cornmeal for a slightly crunchier texture. Masa harina is made by drying field corn (maize) and then treating it in a solution of lime and water. I This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn.  In addition, the lime reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive track.

Corn Tortillas

1 and 1/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons masa harina (I buy Bob's Red Mill Brand, in health food sections at the store and at Amazon at a good price).
2 Tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lard (or veggie equivalent)
About 1 cup hot water, or more as needed
Flour for kneading

Combine the masa, cornmeal, and salt in a bowl; stir in the oil. Slowly stream in the water while mixing with your hand or a wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a ball.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until it is smooth and elastic — just a minute or two. Wrap in plastic, and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to a few hours.

Break off pieces of the dough (you’re shooting for 12 to 16 tortillas total), and lightly flour them. Put them between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, and press them in a tortilla press, or use a rolling pin, or roll them out or press them with your hands to a diameter of 4 to 6 inches. Begin to cook the tortillas as you finish pressing or rolling them.

Put a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Cook the tortillas, 1 or 2 at a time, until brown spots appear on the bottom, about a minute. Flip, and do the same on the other side. Wrap the cooked tortillas in a towel to keep them warm; serve immediately, or cool and store tightly wrapped in the fridge for a few days.

Lastly, for dinner. Pork chops dredged in egg and milk and coated with crushed cornflakes to which some lemon pepper was added, baked at 350 F. for 50 minutes (these were thick cut) served with veggies, garlic mashed potatoes and topped with lemon slices.
My husband changed into more formal dining attire, given our corn themed meals.
 Served with a side of stone ground corn muffins.

Metric ingredients provided for our Canadian readership (Hailey and Zyphod's Mom)

Note: the conversion came from "the Metric Kitchen" so if a chicken explodes I won't be held responsible. :-)

1 cup yellow cornmeal Plus 2 Tablespoons (175 grams)
1 cup all-purpose flour Plus 2 Tablespoons (140 grams) Gluten-free flour works, just add 1/2 teaspoon Xanath Gum
1 tablespoon baking powder (15 mL)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (65 grams)
1 teaspoon salt (7 grams)
1 cup milk plus 2 Tablespoons (270 mL)
2 large eggs (make sure you use ones from Metric chickens)
1/2 stick butter, melted (60 grams)
3 Tablespoons honey (65 mL)
1/4 teaspoon Mexican vanilla

Getting the "stink-eye" when the muffins are not tossed to the dog like tennis balls. 

Heat oven to 400 degrees (about 200 C). Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the whole milk and eggs. In a small glass bowl in the microwave, melt butter and then add the honey to that. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until mixed.

Bake in a greased 12 muffin tin, or use the little paper muffin liners. Bake for 14-15 minutes, just until golden.

Monday, December 6, 2021

I Wouldn't Pee In the Yard When It Was 10 degrees Out Either.


photo from doggylawn

A few years ago, when I was still commuting between Indianapolis and Chicago after getting married and waiting for my job transfer we got hit with a "Polar Vortex".  As a former airline Captain, I can explain that in precise and scientific meteorological terminology.

It's (#(@! COLD out!!!!!

I had sold my house and was renting a small condo in a nice complex with its own dog park.  But there was no "yard" and taking Abby outside to potty late at night was a challenge.  She did NOT want to leave the front porch and I don't blame her with temps down in the minus 20's. I also didn't want to risk falling down in the dark and freezing to death either. 

So we went to plan B, which was setting up a doggie potty station in the attached garage with some turf and a shallow pan to hold it. It worked - she did her business and came right back in.  But it wasn't as big as I needed so she sometimes "missed" which meant clean up. Then I had to figure out how to replace the turf as it was winter and the stores weren't selling any. Not fun and it meant going out in the cold to find more turf.

So I was happy to find when I moved here that there are companies that specialize in such things.  Abby would usually just go really quickly off the porch (on a leash so she couldn't spend 20 minutes trying to sniff everything before coming back in).  Lorelei is another story.  She just doesn't want to go out at all when it's really wet and cold.

So glad I found Doggie Lawn - we set up her potty station on the front porch (which is open-air but covered) and when the weather is really bad she just goes out, does her thing, and comes right back in.  With a doggie gate up at the steps she can't leave the porch and I can watch from inside where it's warm, rather than standing out by the back stairs hoping I don't fall and becoming a Momsickle by morning if my husband is on the road. (I don't like to let her out at night unattended, we have coyotes around as we live near a large forest preserve)

Signing up online was easy. After the initial set up with the plastic turf caddy and some scented spray to quickly train her (note: do NOT use as an after-shower body spray, for dog training use only :-) I get a new strip of custom-sized turf every 3 months (or more frequently in the winter), and the old bit is easily composted.  It magically arrives on the porch in a big "bark alert" truck and I can adjust the times between deliveries as needed.  

Today, she got a walk and later lots of playtime with her ball in the yard when it was a balmy 22, but tonight, when the wind chill is supposed to get to minus 15, we will be heading to the porch before bed and first thing in the morning while the coffee brews.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Chicago Winter Day - Southern Style

I teleworked again today and adjusted my lunch to run an errand before the sun went away and the weather got any ideas about snowing. The weather has been odd this year, the trees turning color almost a month late, and no snow yet to be seen.  
With the sun out and post-Thanksgiving shopping still going on it was crazy out there.  I was tempted to just park the bat truck and "assume the position".

But no, I needed to hurry on home so I could . . . . wait for another train.
It wasn't long until the clouds were bunching up and the temperature had dropped to the low 40's.  It's a good night for comfort food. 

Southern Style Mac and Cheese

8 ounces macaroni
8 ounces American cheese
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoon flour
1 1/2 teaspoon Janes Krazy Mixed-up Salt (or any low/no sodium blend with herbs)
1/4 heaping teaspoon crushed garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon plus 1 pinch nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup  sour cream (not the "lite" version)
3 cups half and half or a mixture of half and half and whipping cream
half of a small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups grated cheddar (grate your own, the pre-shredded stuff has fillers and stabilizers that do change how good it turns out.)
8 slices bacon.
4 sprigs of green onion chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix all of the spices and the garlic and set aside.

In a cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour, stirring so it doesn't brown too much. Stir in half and half and cook, whisking briskly to incorporate the flour, making sure it doesn't come to a boil,  for 6-7 minutes.  Remove from heat and add in American cheese, stirring until cheese is melted.  

Let cool while you cook the macaroni for 4-5 minutes ONLY (do not cook it all the way) and drain, fry the bacon, and chop the sweet and green onion.

Into the cooled milk mixture, whisk in the eggs (that you've already whisked in a bowl) and the spices, sweet onion, and Worcestershire sauce.

Put the macaroni in a buttered 13 x 9 pan, pour the milk mixture over the top.  Give it a stir then top with 2 cups of the grated sharp cheddar, bacon, and green onions.  Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes.  The edges should be firm and starting to brown, with the center still a big jiggly (it will finish cooking as you let it sit 10 minutes).

This is a little different than the ultra-creamy mac and cheese many of you know and love.  Made with either a warm or cold custard (I've done it both ways) with eggs, and made with a mild mixture of American and Cheddar, it bakes into a creamy casserole you cut into squares. The traditional southern Mac and Cheese is made with Velveeta, but we prefer ours with American, sliced fresh at my grocer's deli.  It's very good hot or cold and reminds me of meals from childhood.

Of course, the ones from childhood weren't covered in bacon, but hey, it's my kitchen.

And there WILL be dessert.

Mini pistachio cream pies