Archive for December, 2010

Don’t Forget The Dogs! And a recipe. For them.


2010
12.21

For most of her adult life, my sister Kim has lived with big dogs. Really big dogs, like this one:

It has given me a deep appreciation for dogs, especially since I’ve always been a cat person, mostly because cats are the Lazy Person’s Pet of Choice. You don’t have to do much for cats. Feed them regularly, clean the litter box, and give them a warm place to sleep. It’s pretty easy. You can own cats AND hold down a full time job and still not be completely exhausted.

Dogs need lots of attention and they need to be walked. Every day. Maybe more than once. Whew! Who’s got that kind of energy? Certainly not me. Or I.

But dogs are big in the payback department. Kim’s dogs are energetic and affable and a lot of fun to have around. They like to play, they like to cuddle, and they seem to possess a good sense of humor. You can put costumes on them or those silly reindeer antlers or even cardboard Happy Birthday hats, and they will go along with the plan, unlike my cat Sam who once fell over on the kitchen floor when I tried to put a scarf around his neck.

So dogs deserve a little something extra this time of year, sort of like we deserve a bonus in our paychecks, though we probably won’t get one and will FEEL like dogs because we know the CEOs got them, but hey: don’t get me started.

If you know some good dogs, wrap up a pile of these for Christmas gifts. They will last 3 weeks in the refrigerator, or up to 1 year in the freezer, or about 5 seconds if your dogs are like Kim’s. This recipe is veterinarian approved, too.

Liver Brownies

1 pound beef or pork liver, or all those chicken livers you saved all year long in the freezer

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup corn meal

2 Tablespoons garlic salt

1 Tablespoon garlic powder

Heat your oven to 350. Puree all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. (I do not have a food processor, and over the years I’ve learned to cut up the liver into small chunks before putting them in the blender, so you don’t have to remove all those string-like pieces from around the blade.)

Pour the mixture evenly onto a greased cookie sheet or shallow baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes or just until the concoction loses its pink color. Cool and then break into pieces, or cut into exact squares if you have that kind of mind. Store in a covered container 3 weeks or freeze for 1 year.

These actually smell kinda good. I think a person could eat them, if they felt the urge. In the past, I’ve often though they would go nice with a large salad or perhaps a bowl of soup.

But that’s just me.

Merry Christmas!

Caramel Party Mix


2010
12.19

Here’s a Christmas treat that’s really easy to make and fun to hand out. It’s also addictive, so make lots. And buy some of those little Christmas treat bags at a craft shop, or use the ones you wisely bought last summer at Goodwill for 49 cents.

Caramel Party Mix

6 cups cereal squares, like Crispix or Rice Chex or the generic brand

1 cup salted nuts (any variety, but I use peanuts)

2 cup small twist pretzels, or those buttery pretzel squares, which are even better

Mix all those dry ingredients in a roasting pan or large oven-proof kettle which you have sprayed with a vegetable cooking spray. If you’re using the pretzel squares, break them up a bit. Heat the oven to 250 degrees. (Two hundred fifty.)

Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet, melt 1 stick of butter. Then add 1 cup brown sugar (dark or light) and 3 Tablespoons white corn syrup. (Have you noticed all the corn syrup bottles now say “lite” on them? I can’t figure that out. But anyway, “lite” works. Even the generic kind.) Simmer and stir this concoction for 3 minutes.

Pour the syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and stir to coat all the pieces.

Bake for 10 minutes, and then stir again. Return the pan to the oven and bake 10 more minutes.

Spoon mixture onto waxed paper to cool. When cooled, break up into small pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. Or one good movie, which may happen in some households. I don’t know. I don’t keep track of such matters.

Makes good last-minute gifts, or something to leave for the mail carrier or the guy who shovels your walks.

Everyone goes ape over this stuff. (Get it?)

Google is my friend.

Weather. Or Not. And Cookies.


2010
12.13

You know what I hate? (Well, come on. You know it isn’t cookies.)

I hate the current weather obsession that seems to have insidiously sneaked into our culture, made more ominous by access to things like TV’s weather channel(s) or weather mapping online, or general hysteria pervading workplaces where windows are actually available. (The kind you look out of; not the Windows 10 or whatever you have on your computer.)

This past weekend, dire storms were predicted. 10 inches! 12 inches! 24 inches! Worse than the storm of ’91. Worse than anything we’ve ever seen!

We’ll all be killed!

Quite by accident, I turned on the weather hour the other night, and there was our local weatherman doing some kind of kabuki dance in front of his map. His arms were in the air. His arms swept across the states like the prairie winds a’ howlin’. His arms drifted downward, and then back up. He was all over the place. Had the sound been turned off, I’d have thought I was watching “Sweatin’ to the Oldies,” though this guy didn’t look like Richard Simmons and (thankfully) he wasn’t wearing the TMI short shorts.

People, listen up: This is Minnesota. It snows here every winter. Every single one. I promise.

Since man first crawled out of the cave, which was about 3 years before I was born, it has snowed in Minnesota, even before Minnesota had a name. It usually starts in late November and it lasts until March or April. You could set your clock by it.

Snow is not news. Storms are not news. I don’t know why we obsess about it. It’s cold here. It SNOWS.

Predicting storms, which is often incorrect and just sort of dumb because you have to come back later and say oh, I guess we missed it, is just pointless. You know it’s going to snow. Turn off the TV or walk away from your computer and do what the Boy Scouts tell you to do: Be prepared.

It is never too early to start preparing. Three months ago was a good time, but today’s okay, too. Here are the simple rules any of us can follow:

• Get a warm coat, a hat, a few pairs of gloves and mittens, a long soft scarf and warm boots. You will need them.

• Do not wait until the first snow storm to purchase a shovel, snow tires, a snow blower or scraper for your windshield. Buy them BEFORE the snow flies so you will be prepared. Hardware store employees will thank you. (These are not potentially useless items like, say, a pineapple corer or an inflatable air-mattress which you may never use. If you stay in Minnesota, you will need the aforementioned items.)

• Leave the house earlier and drive slower when it snows.

• If your car was parked outdoors overnight and got snowed on, as happens every winter to many of us, sweep off all the snow and ice before you leave your parking space. All of it. Do not wipe a dinner plate sized circle over your steering wheel and think you are ready for the open road, because when World Domination takes over, I swear to God we will confiscate your car and leave you standing on the side of the road with your lunch pail in your ungloved hands, wondering when the next bus will come along and how much it’s gonna cost. You know who you are.*

That’s enough to get you started for now. Keep shovels and ice melt-y stuff in your garage, along with brooms and a jug of anti-freeze, because if you are staying in Minnesota, you will need them. Get your battery checked, too, which is easier to do in summer than winter, if you think about it.

Having unburdened my heavy sorrows tonight, I leave you with a recipe. These are sometimes called Mexican Wedding Cookies or Russian Tea Cakes or a number of other goofy names, but I like to call them “Snowballs,” because that’s what they look like. And because if you don’t get away from that Weather Channel I’m going to chuck a few at your head.

These are great winter treats and they mail well so you can tuck them into Christmas presents. They’ll last a long time in an airtight container, too, but who are we kidding? One weekend stuck indoors because of a storm, and these gems are gone, along with last year’s turkey carcass and some experimental tins of Fancy Feast.

Be Prepared, my friends.

Snowballs

1 cup soft butter (Not melted. And not margarine. Live a little, why dontcha.)

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon water

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds

1 more cup sifted powdered sugar for later

Cream the softened butter and 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Stir in the vanilla and water, and then add the flour and nuts. Mix just until all ingredients are blended. Cover the bowl and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. (Let me add here that an oven thermometer is a wonderful invention that you can get at any hardware store for well under $10, and by doing so you might save yourself an $85 house call. Or you could do both in reverse order, and end up sadder but wiser. I tell you this absolutely free.)

Anyway, shape the chilled dough into walnut-sized balls. Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 15-20 minutes, just until they begin to turn light golden brown. Remove the cookies to a wire rack. When they are completely cooled, roll each one in a shallow dish of the 1 cup of powdered sugar. Store these at room temperature in a tightly sealed container.

Enjoy!

*PS: $1.50 after January 1st, but there are no buses on London Road.