Friday, December 31, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello, and happy New Year's Eve!!

Sofi the talking Schnauzer has a date for the New Year's party this year, but she's a little wary.  He looks like a shady character.  So true - when your date is wearing a burglar's mask and it's not Halloween, maybe you should re-think your decision....

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Burglar's Secrets

It's never too late to learn more about keeping your house safe from intruders.  I recently came across this information, and thought I would share it with you.  I will have more next week....

Things A Burglar Won't Tell You....

1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste... and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.

4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it..

5. If it snows while you're out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.

6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy.

7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom - and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
8. It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door - understandable. But understand this: I don't take a day off because of bad weather.

9. I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere
 or offer to clean your gutters. (Don't take me up on it.)

10. Do you really think I won't look in your sock drawer? I always check
 dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

Sources: Convicted burglars in North Carolina, Oregon, California, and Kentucky ; security consultant Chris McGoey, and Richard T. Wright, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who interviewed 105 burglars for his book Burglars on the Job.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Wow, we have almost survived the holidays - one more to go!

Today, straight from the recipe box of Lois Elaine Mueller, is a recipe for Black Cherry Drink. For the next several months I will be featuring Lois Elaine's recipes every Monday. Her heyday was in the 1950's and 1960's, and her children swear she was the best cook that ever lived. Many baby boomers will remember these mouth-watering recipes, and these dishes are just as tasty today as they were in the sixties.

The recipe I am featuring today was not enjoyed by the kids, but I'm sure the adults loved it during the holidays.  With New Year's Eve approaching, I thought that this Black Cherry Drink recipe was appropriate.  But it has to sit for 6 months, so make it in early summer to enjoy it during the holidays.

The Muellers are from Michigan, one of the best producers of cherries, so quite a few of Lois Elaine's recipes feature cherries.  Cherries are one of my favorite fruits, and none are better than those from Michigan, in my opinion.  Black cherries are black, without any red tint.  They are wonderful, but you probably won't find them in the supermarkets.  We order our's straight from Michigan.  Expensive, but great.  I'll bet that you can substitute other sweet cherries for black cherries in this recipe, but it might not be quite as good.  With this much alcohol, you probably won't notice....

Lois Elaine's Black Cherry Drink:

2 qt. fresh black cherries
1 fifth whiskey or vodka
2 c. sugar

Mix the ingredients.  Let sit for 6 months.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello....Hope you are having a terrific Christmas Eve!

Here is a dog for your holiday enjoyment....

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer is a serious dog with only one thing to say today....


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Have A Great Holiday!!

Here's hoping that your Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah is joyful and peaceful this holiday season.  Put a log on the fire, mix up some hot chocolate and count your blessings.  While you're at it, watch 1983's A Christmas Story one more time - another helping of Christmas goose (minus the head) and the Bumpus' dogs will put you in a great frame of mind!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello and happy Okie Monday.  Don't you just love the holidays?

Today, straight from the recipe box of Lois Elaine Mueller, is a recipe for Lebkucken (Lebkuchen). For the next several months I will be featuring Lois Elaine's recipes every Monday. Her heyday was in the 1950's and 1960's, and her children swear she was the best cook that ever lived. Many baby boomers will remember these mouth-watering recipes, and these dishes are just as tasty today as they were in the sixties.
The Muellers were a German family and enjoyed many traditional German dishes.  One was Lebkuchen, a German biscuit dessert that is somewhat similar to Gingerbread.  Lebkuchen has been around since the 1200's, so it definitely has staying power.  It evolved from an even earlier dish called Honey Cake, and was invented by monks.

The cookies are traditionally very large, around 4 to 5 inches in diameter if round and bigger if rectangular.  This is a recipe for an experienced baker and requires the dough to stand for a week before baking, so don't start this if you need a batch of cookies tomorrow.

Even Lois Elaine would sometimes skip a year in making Lebkuchen, so be aware of how much of a challenge this recipe is.  But you love challenges, right?

Lois Elaine's Lebkuchen:

4. c. honey
4. c. white sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 lb. citron, ground
1 lb. salted large peanuts, ground. (rub off all the salt by Turkish towel)
9 T. cidar vinegar
1 T. ginger
1 T. cloves, ground
1 T. anise seed (grind and sift)
1 T. fennel seed (grind and sift)
1 T. salt
2 T. cinnamon, ground
1 lb. raisins, ground - (pour hot water over them, drain, then grind)
3 T. baking soda, dissolved in...
1 c. warm water
19 c. all purpose flour

Mix all together except the flour, then add enough flour to make a soft dough.  Let stand a week.  Roll 1/4 inch thick.  Bake at 350 degrees about 11 minutes on a greased baking sheet.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Happy Friday, folks. It's time for another pooch pic. This one loves gifts so much that she will dress up, dance and beg for them. It's....Merry Christmas Schnauzer!!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Oprah Book Club Selection #9 - Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton. 1948, Charles Scribner’s Sons

This is an outstanding novel by a South African author. It’s the story of a journey and a search. And a story of loss and new beginnings. The story centers around an old Anglican priest, Stephen Kumalo, who pastors a dying church in a small, also dying, South African village. Ignorance of agriculture has caused the soil to become barren and hard and the rivers to dry up, while the village people suffer and starve. The able-bodied men and young people have fled to Johannesburg, where they can find work and survive. These people include most of Stephen’s family, including his sister, Gertrude, his brother, John and Stephen’s son, Absalom.

The book opens with a letter, delivered to Stephen by a small child. Stephen and his wife, unaccustomed to receiving mail, are fearful to open it. When they finally do, they learn that Stephen’s sister is seriously ill in Johannesburg and needs his attention immediately. The cryptic letter is sent by an Anglican priest in Johannesburg, who is to become a central figure in the book.

Stephen and his wife pull out their entire savings, and Stephen begins the long trip to the city, hoping to find not only his sister, but his son and brother as well.

Stephen’s search leads him to all three, but the results are not joyous. He searches fruitlessly for his son, Absalom, hitting “just missed him’s at every turn. When he finally catches up to his son, Absalom has just been charged with murdering a white activist – the son of Stephen’s well-to-do neighbor in the small village.

This is a wrenching story of a man attempting to put his family and his village back together against all odds. It’s the story of a friendship between two men – one whose son was brutally killed by the other’s. The political strife of South Africa plays into the story, as does the difference between South African whites and blacks.

After Absalom is sentenced to death, the family’s hope and prayer is for the boy’s life to be spared through appeal. Stephen returns home to try and repair his tiny village and await word on his son’s fate.

The story ends with a sunrise, symbolizing hope in a dark world.

I highly recommend this book.

Out of five stars, I give Cry, The Beloved Country…..

* * * * *

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

We are right in the middle of the holiday season, and it's a great time for another Lois Mueller recipe!

Today, straight from the recipe box of Lois Elaine Mueller, is a recipe for Candy Cane Cookies. For the next several months I will be featuring Lois Elaine's recipes every Monday. Her heyday was in the 1950's and 1960's, and her children swear she was the best cook that ever lived. Many baby boomers will remember these mouth-watering recipes, and these dishes are just as tasty today as they were in the sixties.

Lois was an expert cookie-maker, and her kids swear by her Candy Cane Cookies.  So, let's give them a try!

Lois Elaine's Candy Cane Cookies:

1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. butter
1 c. sifted powder sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 t. almond flavoring
1 t. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1/2 c. crushed candy cane
1/2 c. sugar
Red food coloring

Mix all ingredients together and divide in half, putting each half in a medium bowl.  To one bowl, add the red food coloring until the dough is nice and red.  Take a piece of the white dough and roll it between your hands to make a worm of at least two inches.  Do the same with the red dough.  Then twist the two together and bend the end to resemble a candy cane.

Bake at 375 degrees on an ungreased baking sheet for about 9 minutes.  Mix the crushed candy cane and sugar and sprinkle this mixture onto the cookies when they come out of the oven.

Note:  When I made these cookies, they took a LOT of time.  Rolling two little dough worms, then twisting them together for every cookie was a pain in the keester.  Crushing the candy canes was not pleasant, either.  These cookies are good and look like Christmas, but be prepared to spend some time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

What a great Friday! Here is the Friday Dog Blog pic -

It's...Christmas Is Coming Schnauzer!!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Do You Know How To Iron A Shirt?

Hello - Hope you are getting your holiday shopping taken care of early - Christmas will be here before we know it!

A little more about using the iron....Last week's post was about ironing a pair of pants.  But do you know how to properly iron a shirt or blouse?  I didn't, until I came across this information.  So, here we go....

How To Iron A Shirt:

Just simply iron in this order:
1.  The trimmings
2.  The underside of the collar.
3.  The upper side of the collar.
4.  The back of the sleeves and cuffs.
5.  The front of the sleeves and cuffs.
6.  The back of the garment.
7.  The front inner facings.
8.  And last, the front of the garment.

Hang the blouse up quickly on a hanger, never over a chair.

So, there it is....For all of us who grew up in a permanent press world and never learned to iron, (and who knew that cotton and natural fibers would make such a comeback??), we won't have to feel lost with an iron in our hand anymore....

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello, hope the weather is good in your neck of the woods.  Winter is coming on strong, and so are the holidays.

Today, straight from the recipe box of Lois Elaine Mueller, is a recipe for Caramel Delights. For the next several months I will be featuring Lois Elaine's recipes every Monday. Her heyday was in the 1950's and 1960's, and her children swear she was the best cook that ever lived. Many baby boomers will remember these mouth-watering recipes, and the dishes are just as tasty today as they were in the sixties.

The holiday season was a favorite in the Mueller family of the 1950's and 1960's.  Winters were hard in Saginaw, Michigan, but Christmas was always white and beautiful.  Bill, a police detective, and Lois, a housewife, always got into the spirit of Christmas and the month of December was a delicious one for the Mueller kids.  Lois Elaine specialized in holiday cookies, but her other dishes were great as well. 

Here is the recipe for her Caramel Delights...

Lois Elaine's Caramel Delights:

28 Kraft caramels (about 1/2 pound)
2 T. cream
1 1/4 c. small pecan halves
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Melt the caramels in the top of a double broiler (note:  it's easy to melt caramels in a microwave oven now)
Add the cream, stirring until smooth.  Add the pecans.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet.  Let stand until firm and not sticky to the touch.  They will set more quickly in the refrigerator. 

Melt the chocolate chips over hot (not boiling) water. (note:  see above re. the microwave oven)  Remove from heat.  Spread a teaspoon of the melted chocolate over each caramel delight and let stand until the chocolate is firm.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello, hope you are having a great Friday!

Well, Christmas is approaching, and all good dogs' thoughts turn to, what else, reindeer.  Tery and Barb's dog Max is trying on his reindeer horns hoping that Santa will be impressed and leave an extra special toy under the tree this year.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Do You Know How To Iron Slacks?

Hello, and happy December! 

A lot of us own an iron, but do we really know how to use it?  Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to iron items, but unless we are June Cleaver, we may not know it.  Here are a few helpful hints about ironing a pair of slacks that you may or may not know....

How to iron slacks:

Iron the pockets first, then the waistband, then the seat.  Next iron the front down to the crotchline.  Then lay both legs out, overlapping, with the inseams aligned and the legs smooth, straight and matching.  Pull the top leg back and iron the inseam side of the bottom leg, moving from the seam out and straightening as you go along.  This should create a perfect, sharp crease down the front and back of the leg.  Flip the pants over and do the same with the second leg.  Now bring the inseams together and iron the upper side-seam side of each leg.  Hang them up immediately, and never over the back of a chair unless you want some new creases.

Now you know how to iron pants!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello everyone, hope you are having a great Monday!  Well, we are in the holiday season now, and you may be attending some gatherings where you are expected to bring a dish.  You may be hosting your own holiday party. 

Today, straight from the recipe box of Lois Elaine Mueller, is a recipe for Bisquick Olive Balls.  For the next several months I will be featuring Lois Elaine's recipes every Monday.  Her heyday was in the 1950's and 1960's, and her children swear she was the best cook that ever lived.  Many baby boomers will remember these mouth-watering recipes, and these dishes are just as tasty today as they were in the sixties. 

Bisquick is a pre-mixed baking product marketed by General Mills under their Betty Crocker label.  It was originally meant to be an item to make biscuits very quickly, but after its introduction in 1931 housewives everywhere developed many ways to use this ingenious product.  It can be used to make pizza crust, bread, cookies, and lots of other things.  One caveat here, though - I believe it still has hydrogenated oils, which makes it less healthy.  However, a batch of Bisquick Olive Balls once a year or so shouldn't make the sky fall.

Lois Elaine's Bisquick Olive Balls:

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (about 4 oz)
1/4 c. oleo, softened (this means margarine or butter substitute)
1/4 t. Worchestershire sauce
1 c. Bisquick baking mix
1 jar (5 oz) pimiento-stuffed olives

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix cheese, margarine and Worchestershire sauce;  Mix in the Bisquick until a dough forms (work with hands).  Pat olives dry on paper towel.  Shape 1 T. dough around each olive.  Bake on lightly-greased cookie sheet until light golden brown.  This will be about 10 minutes.  Recipe makes about 45 appetizers.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello....Well, we are officially into the frantic holiday shopping season.  To give you a break, here is a dog....

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer has been called a devil dog more than once.  Today her head turned red and she grew two horns.  The transformation has begun.....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Have A Great Thanksgiving!

Here's a wish that your Thanksgiving will be full of wonderful things this year!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

I recently came across a treasure trove of recipes.  My friend's mom, a wonderful cook, died several years ago leaving, among other things, a recipe box packed with, what else?, her recipes.  From the 1950's to the 1990's, these recipes, all written neatly or typed on the traditional cards, will make your mouth water.

Ever hear of egg white cookies?  How about Lebkucken?  Popcorn cake?

For the foreseeable future I will be raiding the recipe box and posting these terrific recipes right here on Mondays.  She specialized in cookies and according to her children, would make several kinds of special cookies whenever the holidays rolled around.  I'm planning to try her renowned Springerle soon.  I have her wooden Springerle press and her little rolling wheel to cut them.  Never mind that I had never heard of Springerle cookies before - I'll research it and find out the origins, then report back to you.

For today, I'll post her recipe for shrimp cocktail sauce.  I've always wondered what was in that stuff, even though I don't like shrimp.  Now I know.  It's simple and fast, but I promise that more elaborate recipes are coming.

So, when you read these terrific recipes over the next few months, please give a few thoughts to the lady who worked every day to make life wonderful for her husband and three children.  Here's to you, Lois Elaine Mueller!

Lois Elaine's Shrimp Cocktail Sauce:

1/3 c. catsup
1/9 (that's what it says) c. horseradish
1/2 t. Worchestershire sauce

Mix together and you have it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Well, another Friday is going in the books....

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer likes big water bowls....The bigger, the better!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Is On Its Way....

Thanksgiving is one of America's favorite holidays, and why not?  Most of us get two days away from work, there are no mountains of gifts and related debt to deal with, the weather is usually not too bad, we get to reflect and give thanks for what we have, and we watch a couple of nice football games.  And, we reconnect with our family.  What could be better?

If you are the one hosting the annual Thanksgiving fest, this may be a time of high anxiety.  There are so many things that could go wrong (even if they almost never happen), you spend an extreme amount of time worrying and sweating the small stuff.

Being told not to worry doesn't work, of course, so I won't do that.  I'll offer a solution... What you really need is a plan.  A written plan.  Having a plan in writing allows you to sit down and really think about what is needed and when it should be done.  There's something calming about putting it in writing and being able to check off tasks as they are accomplished.  Here are some pointers to keep you on track and ensure that your plan is a good one:

Your plan should include a list of your grocery items, including recipe ingredients and things such as aluminum foil, plastic wrap, paper plates for sending leftovers home with the guests and centerpieces, platters, tableclothes or decorating items.  Don't forget the ice.  If you are having turkey, plan on 1 pound per guest, and then add some if you want leftovers.

The timeline for buying everything you need, including groceries, should end at least three days before Thanksgiving.  In other words, you should not have to visit the store after the Monday before Thanksgiving.  And be aware that the weekend before Thanksgiving and every day after that until the big day means huge crowds at the stores, and crowds add stress.  Ideally you will visit the store at least a week before Thanksgiving with a complete list and take care of that chore early.

On Monday:
If you are planning on cooking a frozen turkey, Tom should come out of the freezer and go into the fridge on the Monday before Thanksgiving.
Give your house a thorough cleaning.
If you are using an ice chest for the ice, pull it out of the attic and clean it up. 

On Tuesday:
Iron your tablecloth and napkins.
Prepare things like cranberry sauce, relish, etc. and store in the fridge.
Prepare your veggies to go into the dressing or other dishes.  You can chop your onions, peel your carrots, etc. and store them in zip lock bags in the fridge.

On Wednesday:
Set your table.  Put out the candles, centerpieces, decorations, everything - as if guests will be arriving any minute.  Ask your family to eat in front of the television for one night.  They'll love it!
Make the desserts.
Before you go to bed, set out the pots, pans and bowls and dry ingredients that you will be using.  Arrange the measuring cups and spoons neatly on the counter.  The recipes should be in a prominent position.  Everything should be ready for you to jump right in as soon as you enter the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning.

If you have a written plan and stick to it, checking off every task as you go, you will find that your Thanksgiving is much less stressful and a lot more organized.  I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving this year!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Another Monday in store for us today - we're barreling down on the holiday season!

What better breakfast on a cold morning than buttermilk pancakes, and what better cookware to prepare them in than cast iron?

Buttermilk Pancakes:

You will need:

10 or 12 inch cast iron (or other) skillet
2 c. flour, all purpose
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 stick butter, salted and melted
1 T. vegetable oil

In a big bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  In another bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk, milk and melted butter with a whisk until it is well-blended.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk just until the ingredients are combined.

Heat the skillet or a cast iron griddle over medium heat and add the vegetable oil.  Pour the batter, 1/4 c. at a time, into the skillet, forming little pancakes.  Turn the pancakes over when bubbles start to form and cook them until golden brown.  This will be about 2 or 3 minutes.  Continue until all the batter is gone.  You can add more oil, if needed.

Serve with warm syrup and melted butter.  (Butter Pecan syrup is great with these!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello and happy Friday to you!

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer loves fall leaves and roaming in forests.  This is Sofi from her last vacation a few weeks ago....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can We Be A Little Nicer To Each Other? (Part 2)

About a year ago I posted a plea for people to please wake up and discover kindness again.  The "Town Hall Meetings", a/k/a screamfests, had bothered me to the point of wondering what the heck has happened to our society?  When did it become ok to remove all filters and yell whatever is on your mind, regardless of who is hurt?

Things since then have gotten, not better, but much worse.  We have a kid being driven to suicide by his college roommate who placed a secret camera in their room to record and post the kid's amorous adventures on Facebook.  The November elections have brought forth the worst in us and in the candidates.  Some candidates appealed to our ignorance and deep-seated hatreds and prejudices and, guess what, were rewarded by our votes.  Are we who they think we are?  Maybe so. 

Unhappy people walk around with a chip on their shoulder and clinched fists, looking for a fight.  There are many, many unhappy people in our country right now, evidently.  And I'm talking about people with good jobs and nice futures - they've have found a way to twist themselves into a ball of rage.  People seem perfectly fine with going nose to nose with the store clerk who makes a mistake or the candidate with whom they disagree or with a co-worker that unintentionally creates a problem.  The spate of recent suicides by bullied young gays is sad beyond belief.  Who gives a person the right to bully someone to death?  And what darkness within a person would give them pleasure to cause pain to an innocent person?

What about the extreme racist and ignorant behavior at the Tea Party rallies?  Where is that coming from, and when did it suddenly become funny?  Posters of our president - OUR president - with bones in his nose and holding a spear - If this is a glimpse of the society of the future, I feel sad for all of us.

What's happening in our country today is disturbing.  I hope there is a change coming very soon.  We're smarter and better than this....

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello, hope you're having a great Monday! 

There's nothing like a pot roast cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven.  Seriously.  'Nuff said.

Pot Roast:

You will need:

A chuck roast, 5 or 6 pound, with consistent marbling.
Garlic Salt
Salt and pepper to taste, or Mrs. Dash
2 T. vegetable oil
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 medium onions, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces, or (easier) use baby peeled carrots
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into halves

Rub the roast with salt, pepper and garlic salt.

Heat the oil in a 5 or 7 quart cast iron Dutch oven on medium high heat.  Here's the secret to a really tender roast:  Sear it on all sides until the roast is really brown.

Remove from heat, add hot or very warm water to almost cover the roast and add all of the other ingredients except the salt to taste - this should be added in the last 30 minutes.

Cover and place in a 275 degreeF oven.  Cook for about 4 hours or until fork tender.

Remove the roast and vegetables to a large platter.  Strain the broth and use it for making the gravy.

This roast is terrific when served with buttermilk biscuits right from the cast iron skillet.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Happy Friday, and it's Sofi the Talking Schnauzer again....

Sofi is the University of Oklahoma's biggest fan - she loves them, win or lose!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Oprah Book Club Selection #8 - The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy, 2006, Alfred A. Knopf, publisher.  256 pages.

 This is a book about a journey.  A father, known as the Man and his son, known as the Boy, travel a bleak, ash covered road following an apocolypse that destroyed most of the world and most of its humans.  The boy's mother, pregnant with him when the cataclysm occured, died by suicide before the story takes place.  The father carries a revolver with two rounds - one for him and one for his son.  As they walk down the highway headed south, hoping to find warmth and good people, they attempt to allude the others, mostly wanderers and tribesmen, who search for humans to kill and eat.

The journey is harrowing and bleak, and its few happy moments usually involve the pair stumbling upon deserted houses with canned food and supplies.  Several cans of peaches provided untold joy to the father and son, who reveled in the sweet and strange tastes in what amounted to a food orgy.  But always, the lack of hope hangs over the pair like shroud.

The father is spitting blood and knows that he doesn't have long to live.  He hangs on as long as he can for his son, who will be forced to grow up quickly or succumb to the evil forces roaming the countryside.

This book is not for the faint of heart.  There are some passages that are truly disturbing, particularly one involving a new-born infant.  However, it is a wonderful book that will lead you to think about what mankind is doing to the world and how we can improve the situation.

This novel won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Out of five stars, I give The Road....

* * * *

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello and happy Monday, everyone....Today we are featuring a meal-in-a-pan (preferably a cast iron pan) - Green beans and pork chops.  The green beans are always better when purchased from your Farmers' Market, but that may prove a little difficult this time of year.  Never fear, you can pick up some nice ones at your local grocery.

Green Beans and Pork Chops

You will need:

Medium cast iron Dutch oven
2 pounds of fresh green beans
1 T. butter
4 or 5 thick pork chops
1 medium onion
4 medium potatoes, or the equivilent in new potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste, or Mrs. Dash

Wash, string and break the green beans.  Discard the ends.

Put the butter in the Dutch oven and set on a medium-high burner.  Lightly-brown each chop on both sides in the butter.  (Browning the chops is very important - it will sear in the juices and make the chops extra-tender.)  Just brown a few chops at a time - Don't overcrowd the Dutch oven.

When finished browning, place all of the chops in the Dutch oven and remove from heat. Add 2 cups of hot or very-warm water, the beans and the onion.  Put back on the heat, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.  Put in the salt and pepper or Mrs. Dash to taste.

Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters, if using regular-sized potatoes.  Place them on top of the beans.  Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender.  You can add more hot water if needed, to keep the water level 1 inch deep.

This is great served on a cold day with cast iron skillet cornbread!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello everyone - How about a really scary dog for Halloween?

Princess Leia, the 10 foot tall poodle from Poteau is back, this time chowing down on a poor jack o'lantern.  A giant poodle is scary on a normal day - one with glowing eyes attacking a pumpkin will make a grown man scream like a baby....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Oprah Book Club Selection #7 - Songs In Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris

Songs In Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris. 1995, Allen Lane. 740 pages.

This one took awhile to grow on me, but when it did, it definitely took hold. Songs In Ordinary Time is the story of the citizens of Atkinson, Vermont in 1960. With the world on the precipice of huge changes, the good citizens of Atkinson were feeling the uneasiness. The book has a huge list of characters, which created a challenge for me while listening to the book on my Ipod. As with other long, detailed books, there were times that I wanted and needed to “page back” and see who was related to whom. The author admits that she had to resort to cards taped all over her walls to keep up with the large number of characters while writing the book. But listening to the book did force me to pay very close attention to every detail until I was able to sort out the people and their relationships to each other, and that’s a good thing.

A major theme in the book is morality. The morality of the times as well as the morality of the individual characters. Marie Fermoyle, the center of the story, is a struggling single mother of three children. Alice, the oldest child, is graduating from high school and holds out hope that money will materialize for her to attend college. The middle child, Norm, is about sixteen and headstrong, but with a strong sense of responsibility to his mother and siblings. The youngest, Benjy, has emotional problems and spends most days in front of the television set.

The Fermoyle family is beset almost daily with humiliations and struggles. They must deal with Sam Fermoyle, the town drunk and ex-husband of Marie (and father of her children). Sam lives with his dour sister and invalid mother and his drunken antics are legendary in the small town. The two oldest children get jobs to help Marie with expenses as she desperately holds onto her pathetic, low-paying bookkeeping job. She manages to buy a ramshackle house, but the house is falling down around them and she has no more money to put into it and no husband to fix it up.

Omar Duvall, an intenerate salesman, enters the town after committing a horrendous crime known only to him. The citizens, all struggling with various trials, accept him as a hard-working, smart man. His silver tongue ingratiates him to the people and especially to Marie Fermoyle. Going against her nature, Marie lets Duvall into her home and into her heart. When Duvall comes across with a pyramid scheme involving selling soap, he sees the good folks of Atkinson as the perfect fools to launch his scheme. To the willing citizens, he is the Messiah that they are seeking.

Mary McGarry Morris has drawn these characters beautifully. The length of the book is understandable when you see the detail she has put into the descriptions of these people. This book’s greatness is in its characters, their constant struggles and their gut-wrenching need to believe in a savior. These are truly ordinary people in ordinary time. The book refers to Ordinary Time in religious vernacular as the time of the year when there are no holy holidays – just ordinary time. These folks are living through the ordinary time immediately before the country and the world undergoes great and momentous change. Their struggles and needs mirror our own. This is a book that I highly, highly recommend.

Out of five stars, I give Songs In Ordinary Time….
* * * * *

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Don't you just love fall??  Nothing like cooler weather to make you start thinking about good, comfort food made in your cast-iron cookware!  Here's another recipe that doesn't require cast iron, but just tastes better when cooked in a black pan!  I'm not sure our ancestors made these, but I do know that my ancestors loved sweet potatoes.  They normally just baked them and loaded them with churned butter from the cow.

Sweet Potatoes Fries:

You will need:

Medium (4-6 qt) cast iron Dutch oven
Deep fry thermometer
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cut lengthwise into eights, then cut crosswise to make 16 wedges per sweet potato
Enough vegetable oil for frying, this will be about 8 cups
Salt and pepper to taste (or use Mrs. Dash)

Preheat the oven to 400 degreesF.  Put the wedges ina single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork, but firm (not hard) in the middle.

Reduce the oven temp to 200 degreesF.

Put the oil into the Dutch oven, to a depth of about 3 inches.  Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350 degreesF on the deep-fry thermometer.

Fry the wedges in batches, but don't over-crowd.  Turn them often and fry until they are golden-brown and have a crisp outside, this will be about 2-4 minutes per batch.

Pull out the fries with a slotted spoon onto a paper-towel-lined plate and let drain.  Then transfer them to a foil-lined baking sheet and put them in the warm oven until all the batches are ready.

Serve immediately, seasoned with salt and pepper or Mrs. Dash.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello, and happy Friday to you!!

Today we have the return of our favorite Princess Leia, the 10 foot tall poodle from Poteau.  She's romping in our Oklahoma snowstorm of last winter.  And yes, I said poodle, not pony!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Few More Home Remedies

Over the past few weeks I have posted some alternative home remedies to try when you don't have the right item in your house for what you need.   Here are a few more....

16.  Wet Dog Odor - Nothing smells worse than a wet dog, and a wet dog in the house is really yuckky.  The next time the smelly wet dog comes in the house, quickly wipe him down with dryer sheets.  He will smell soooo good.

17.  Urinary Tract Infection - Alka-Seltzer comes to the rescue here.  This is the plain old Alka-Seltzer, NOT Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine, which contains aspirin and other things you don't need.  Simply dissolve two tablets in a glass of water and drink as soon as your symptoms begin.  The Alka-Seltzer starts working immediately to knock out the infection. 

18.  Rust Stain - Coca Cola gets the job done here.  Soak an abrasive sponge with Coke and scrub the stain.  The acid in the Coke dissolves the rust stain.

19.  Stuffy nose - Ever had a "Curiously Strong" Altoids peppermint?  Try a couple with a stuffy nose and your nose will be clear before you know it.

Hopefully some of these solutions will come in handy when you need them!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello, what a great autumn Monday day it is!  Here's another recipe that works great in a cast-iron skillet. The cast iron puts a nice, crispy crust on the bread and it smells so good when cooking. Put a bottle of seasoned olive oil on your table to dip it in, and this bread will be gone in seconds!

Garlic Skillet Bread:

You will need:

1 T. sugar
1 c. warm water (105 degreesF) divided
1 pkg active dry yeast
2 1/4 c. flour, all-purpose
2 t. salt, divided
1/4 c. plus 2 T. olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, thinly-sliced

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in 1/2 c. of the warm water - watch the temperature closely - you need it to be around 105 degrees for the yeast to work properly.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Then add the other 1/2 c. of water, flour, 1/2 t. of the salt and 1/4 c. of the olive oil.  Stir this with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft dough.

Put the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes. 

Form the dough into a ball and put it in a large, oiled bowl.  Turn it to coat the ball with the oil, seal the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Coat the bottom and sides of a 10 inch cast iron skillet with 1 T. of olive oil.  Put the dough into the skillet and press it evenly into the pan.  Score the top lightly in a crisscross with a sharp knife, brush with the remaining 1 T. olive oil and sprinkle the garlic over the top.  Sprinkle with the remaining salt and let rise for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degreesF. 

Place the skillet in the oven on a center rack and bake until the crust is lightly-golden.  This will be about 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove it from heat immediately and place it on a wire rack.  Drizzle some olive oil on the top, slice into wedges and serve immediately.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

TGIF!!!!  Here's a good dog just for you!

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer has to keep her mouth in tip-top shape in order to perfect her speech.   Sofi recommends chewing a nice rawhide to keep the dentist away....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Try These Home Remedies

Over the past couple of weeks I have posted ten alternative remedies to use when you don't have the "right" solution at home.  Here are five more....

11.  Dog Fleas - Dawn Dishwasher Detergent comes to the rescue here.  Just add a few drops to Fido's bath and wash him thoroughly.  Rinse well and say goodbye to the fleas.

12.  Headache - Drink two glasses of Gatorade or similar sports drink - I'll bet your pain goes away in an instant.

13.  Toenail Fungus - Soak your toes in Listerine every night until the fungus is completely gone.  It's that simple!

14.  Wasps - If you have a wasp, yellow jacket, bee or hornet in your house, reach for the 409 cleaning solution.  Spray it right on the bug and he'll meet his demise very quickly.

15.  Sore Throat - Mix up this solution and take a tablespoon about six times a day:  1/4 c. honey and 1/4 c. vinegar.  The honey soothes and the vinegar kills the bacteria.  They are a potent team!

I'll be back with more home remedies in a week or so.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello, hope you are having a great Monday!  If you have a collection of cast iron cookware, you may have a corn stick pan.  Here is a recipe for corn sticks.

Corn Sticks:

You will need:

1/2 c. flour, all purpose
1/2 c. white cornmeal
1  t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 medium egg
1/2 c. milk
1T. vegetable oil or bacon drippings

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and generally coat your corn stick pan with vegetable oil.  Place the corn stick pan on a cookie sheet and put in the oven to heat up.

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  In a separate small bowl, mix the egg, milk and oil.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pout in the egg mixture.  Stir until mixed, but don't overstir.  The mixture will be a little lumpy and that's fine.

Spoon the batter into the hot corn stick pan, filling each stick level with the rim.

Bake until the corn sticks spring back when touched in the center, this will be about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let the pan cool for about 5 minutes.  Then loosen each stick with a fork and remove by inverting the pans.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

How's your Friday going?  I hope you're having a terrific day!  Here's a patriotic dog for you....

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer likes to show off her favorite colors - red, white and blue.  With her nice beard, she looks a lot like Uncle Sam, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More Home Remedies For What Ails You

Hello, and I'm back with some more alternatives to the usual solutions....Please see my post last week for the first five remedies.

6.  Kitty ear mites - Reach for the corn oil in your kitchen cupboard.  Put a few drops in the cat's ear, massage it in and then clean with a cotton ball.  Do this daily for about 3 days.  The oil smothers the ear mites.  It also soothes the skin inside the ear and promotes healing.

7.  Boil - Tomato paste makes a great compress.  Cover the boil with the paste.  The tomato acid brings the boil to a head.

8.  Glasses - Protect your glasses with clear nail polish.  If you put a drop of clear polish on the earpiece screw threads, then tighten them up, the screws will stay put and not loosen.

9.  Burn - White mint toothpaste is a terrific salve to apply on a minor burn.

10. Bruise - A cotton ball soaked in white vinegar and applied to the bruise for about an hour speeds healing and reduces the color in the bruise.

I'll be back before long with some more remedies....

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

What a great Monday!  How about a recipe that you can use with any pan, but tastes better when cooked in cast iron?  Although you normally think of Fridays when you think of fried fish, this is a perfect Monday for a pan-fried catfish recipe.  Gives you the rest of the week to go fishing and bring home the fish!

Pan-Fried Catfish:

You will need:
Medium cast-iron dutch oven
Deep fry thermometer
4 catfish fillets, 5 or 6 ounces each.
1/2 t. ground pepper
1 t. salt, if you want to add salt.
1 c. white cornmeal
1 T. plus 1 t. Old Bay Seasoning or similar fish seasoning mix
1/2 t. celery salt
1/4 t. cayenne pepper, ground
Enough vegetable oil to fry the fish, this will be about 8 or so cups

Season each fillet with pepper and salt, if you like.

Put all of the other dry ingredients into a large plastic resealable bag.  Put each fillet, one at a time, into the bag and shake until coated thoroughly with the cornmeal mixture.

In a medium Dutch oven (4-6 qt), pour in the oil and heat over medium heat until it registers 360F on a deep-fry thermometer.

Fry the fillets all in one batch until they are golden brown on both sides, this will be about 3 or 4 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Remove from heat and drain on paper towels, serving at once.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello - What a great autumn Friday this is!!

This poodle and bulldog pair are the bravest dogs I've seen - as long as there is a fence around!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How About A Few Home Remedies?

Sometimes you need quick action and you don't have the right medication or the proper name-brand cleaner in your house.  Here are a few "in a pinch" remedies using items that are usually in most everyone's cabinet....

1.  Splinter - Use your bottle of white Elmer's Glue-All.  Pour it on the splinter, let it dry and then peel it off your skin.  The splinter should stick to the glue and be pulled right out.

2.  Skin blemish - Before bed, cover it with honey and put an adhesive bandage like Band-Aid over it.  It should be much better in the morning because the honey speeds healing and kills bacteria.  It also keeps the skin sterile.

3.  Arthritis in your hands or fingers - Try oatmeal - Mix 2 cups of oats and a cup of water and cook in the microwave for a minute.  Let it cool a little, then apply the warm oatmeal to your hands.  It provides a soothing relief to arthritis.

4.  Broken blister - Pull out the Listerine.  Dab it on the blister to disinfect it.  Might burn a little, but you're tough, right?

5.  Muscle ache from the flu - Horseradish to the rescue!  A tablespoon of horseradish mixed with a cup of olive oil provides a terrific massage oil after you let it set for about 30 minutes.

  I'll be back in a week or so with a few more home remedies....

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

How's your Monday going?  Nice and cool, I hope!
Today we have another recipe that is terrific when cooked in a cast-iron skillet.  This cobbler is a traditional cast-iron dish, but our ancestors would have frowned on today's recipe.  It uses canned peaches and the crust is super-easy.  It's almost a dump recipe.  I should have gotten mine browner (see picture on the left), so use that picture to know what NOT to do :)

Super-Easy Peach Cobbler:

You will need:

1 stick of butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
1 c. milk
1 large can sliced peaches - don't drain them

Melt the butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet.

Mix the sugar, flour, salt, baking powder together, then add the milk and mix well.

Pour this into the buttery skillet, spread to the edges, then add the can of undrained peaches.

Bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hope your Friday is going great!!  Here's a dog for your enjoyment....

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer has teeth like little razor blades, but can't pop a balloon.  What gives???

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Have You Had Your Identification Stolen?

Hello....As we approach the holidays, identity theft becomes more prevalant.  There are a few precautions that we can take to ward off these attacks on our privacy....

1.  Use your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone number.  The less information that you can hand to people, the less chance you have of getting your identity stolen.  If you feel comfortable using your work address on your checks, do that as well.

2.  Don't sign the back of your credit cards.  Instead, put "Photo ID required".  If your cards do get stolen, and the cashier is alert, this may stop the bad guy in his tracks.

3.  Keep a photocopy of your passport in a safe place - a safety deposit box or a very safe place in your home.

4.  Empty your wallet contents, spread the cards across the photocopy machine and make a photocopy of every card in the wallet, including your drivers license.  Then turn them all over and photocopy the backs.  Keep the photocopies in a safe place in your home or in a safety deposit box.  If your wallet is stolen, you will know immediately what cards must be replaced, and each card should have a phone number that you can call immediately to cancel.  Time is of the essence if your cards are stolen - Before you even realize they are gone the bad guy will be using them in gas pumps at convenience stores.  They know to use these cards immediately, and they know where to use them.

5.  File a police report quickly, and do it in the jurisdiction where the theft occurred.  You probably won't get your property recovered and there may not even be an investigation, but filing the report shows your credit card providers that you are serious and diligent and that you are doing all you can to minimize the damage.

6.  Place a fraud alert on your name immediately.  You have to call three national credit reporting companies to do this, but it is essential.  After you file this alert, any company issuing new credit in your name has to call you for your permission first.  I believe the free fraud alert lasts for 90 days, but I'm not sure about this.  Here are the three numbers to call:
Trans Union - 1-800-680-7289
Equifax -  1-800-525-6285
Experian  -  1-888-397-3742

7.  Finally, call the Social Security Administration fraud line and report that your number may be used by a thief.  1-800-269-0271.

Be prepared, and hopefully you will never have to go through an identity theft.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello....Fall is fast approaching, finally!!  Here's another recipe that works great when using a cast-iron pan.  You don't normally think of cast-iron when you think of these sandwiches, but try it - you'll love it!

Monte Cristo Sandwiches:

For 4 sandwiches, you will need:

8 slices of white sandwich bread
2 t. Dijon mustard
8 oz. thinly-sliced roasted turkey
8 oz. thinly-sliced smoked ham
8 oz. thinly-sliced Swiss cheese
4 large eggs
1/2 c. milk
1/2 stick butter, unsalted

Spread 4 of the bread slices with 1/2 t. of Dijon mustard.  Place on each of the mustard slices 1/4 each of the turkey, ham and cheese, then top with the other bread slices to make 4 sandwiches.

Put the eggs and milk in a medium bowl and whisk until blended well.

In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.

Dip each sandwich into the batter.  Turn the sandwiches to let the sandwiches absorb the batter well.  In the buttery skillet, cook the sandwiches until they are crispy on the outside, the cheese has melted and they are golden brown.  This will be about 2-4 minutes on each side.

Cut each sandwich on the diagonal to form two triangles and serve quickly.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

It's shaping up to be a beautiful September Friday!!

Michelle's double-trouble Schnauzers Smokey and Shadow know the value of a good nap.  Looks like their grand-dad does, too!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Oprah Book Club Selection #6 - Paradise by Toni Morrison

For September's Oprah Book Club challenge, I have chosen Paradise, by Toni Morrison....

Paradise by Toni Morrison. 1997, Alfred A. Knopf. 318 pages.

“They kill the white girl first”. Another great first line, from a compelling book by one of the premier authors of our time, Toni Morrison. I listened to this book, and wished I had chosen the hard copy instead, because I often felt the need to go back and re-read pages. This book can be rather confusing, and not being able to page back makes it even more so.

This is the story of a small Oklahoma town called Ruby, formed in 1950 and inhabited by mostly-African Americans. The founders intended the town to be free of the prejudices and hatred encountered in other parts of the world, and the little town was, indeed paradise, at least for a time.

People being people, of course, Ruby could not be paradise forever. The base, animalistic tendencies of human beings eventually destroyed what the founding fathers of Ruby built, culminating in a bloody 1976 event that begins and ends the book.

As troubles begin to creep into Ruby, the good people of Ruby look for reasons. They focus on the people who are “different” from themselves – a group of down and out women of various colors and ages who, because of their circumstances, live together in an old convent at the edge of town. These women provide support and sustenance to each other, gently caring for the older women and bolstering those who have been beaten down by people and troubles.

This is a book about tolerance and intolerance. Even the African-Americans are intolerant of those not of the same blood (color) as themselves. The book is non-linear – it veers wildly – starting with the ending and moving back and forth through time. Again, I strongly recommend that you read, rather than listen to, the book for this very reason.

I found the ending rather ambiguous, probably by the author’s design. It’s not an easy book to read, but it will definitely keep your interest and make you think.

Out of 5 stars, I give Paradise…..

* * *

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello, hope your Monday's going good.  Here's another recipe that goes great in cast-iron.  You can also use another type of cookware, but to make it taste its best, pull out the cast iron!

Rancher's Breakfast Skillet:

You will need:

5 strips of bacon
2 T. finely-stopped onion
3 medium potatoes, cooked and cubed
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 C. mild cheddar, shredded

In a large cast-iron skillet, cook the bacon until crisp, then place it on paper towels to drain. 

Into the drippings, place the onion and potato and cook.  Then pour the beaten eggs and cook, stirring gently, until the eggs are done.  rRemove from heat, sprinkle the cheese on top and let it stand until the cheese is melted.

Serves about 4 hungry people.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello - Hope you are having a wonderful Friday!

Tery and Barb's Max is enjoying the dog days and dreaming of a snowy, beautiful Christmas with lots of bones....

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Some Cast Iron Rules

Hello - How about some more on cast iron cookware?

Even though cast iron is tough, like with all types of cookware, there are some hard and fast rules that should always be followed when caring for your prized possessions.  There are only a few, and I will list them here.  They aren't hard, and you will find that cast iron is so wonderful that this little bit of care won't bother you a bit. 

Here's a cast iron rule: Once the pan is seasoned (or if it comes pre-seasoned), never use soap when cleaning the pan. Hot water and maybe a plastic (not metal), scrubby should do the trick, and with some things such as biscuits or cornbread, you shouldn't need to wash the pan at all. Just wipe with a paper towel.

Here's another cast iron rule: Never, ever wash cast iron in the dishwater. Along with removing the seasoning, it can ruin the finish and cause you a lot more work. If you have to wash it, hand wash with no soap.

Another cast iron rule: After using the pan, always coat the inside of the pan lightly with vegetable oil or mineral oil before storing.  You don't want rust to develop, do you?

Yet another cast iron rule: Always, always dry your piece immediately after washing.  Never let it air dry. (This is another reason it can't go in a dishwasher).  Dry it with a dry towel, not a damp one.  Ensure that your pan is absolutely dry, then rub a little oil on it, then store.

And one more cast iron rule:  Make sure you have a lot of good, heavy trivets and potholders.  Cast iron is very heavy, especially with food in it, and is unforgiving when it sits on a cabinet or when you pull it out of the oven with a thin potholder.  You can purchase a super-potholder just for cast iron, or double up if you need to.

See, these are pretty easy rules to follow!  If I think of more, I'll post them later.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello, hope you're having a beautiful Monday.  It's almost football season, so things are looking up!

Continuing on my quest to convince the world to cook in cast iron, here is another recipe that just tastes better when cooked in a cast iron skillet.  Of course, you can bake these in lesser cookware, but it's just not the same. 

For years I have tried to replicate my grandmother's biscuits.  Still not there, but this recipe comes fairly close.  My grandmother had a huge, deep flour bin built into her cabinets.  It held 2 things - flour and an empty red baking powder can.  The can served as the biscuit cutter.  The cast iron skillet was oiled up with bacon grease, and she would dip each biscuit in the bacon grease, then turn it over and place it in the skillet.  This way, both sides got the benefit of the grease.  Maybe not the healthiest food in the world, but she baked them every day at breakfast and dinner and lived to be 92.  My grandfather, who loved her cooking, died at 91.  Hmmmm.....

Ok, here comes the recipe - not her's, but it's pretty darn close....

Buttermilk Biscuits:

4 c. flour - all purpose
2 T. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
2/3 c. unsalted butter (I'll bet my grandmother used lard)
1 1/2 c. buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and blend.  If you have a food processer with a chopping blade, it will come in handy.  If not, no big deal. 

Cut the butter into chunks, then cut it into the flour mixture.  This is where you would use that chopping blade.  Don't worry about leaving a few little chunks of butter, you won't get rid of them all. 

Add the buttermilk and mix.  With your hands knead the dough some, not a lot.  Pat the dough out on floured wax paper until it's about 3/4 inch thick.  You can also use a rolling pin. 

Cut the biscuits and place them in an oiled 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet.  If they touch each other, their sides will be soft.  If they don't, all sides will be crunchy.  Your choice.

Bake about 25 or 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello and a HOT TGIF!  Here is your weekly dog....

Sofi Schnauzer gets her hair done at home.  Through teeth-gritting and whining, sighing and glaring.  She gets a treat when it's done, but I'm not sure she thinks it's worth it....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How To Season Cast Iron Cookware

Hello everybody!  Some more about healthy cast iron cooking today....

While it's true that cast iron is practically indestructible and, like cockroaches, would probably survive an atomic bomb, there are some special things that you must do to keep your pan black and shiny with a non-stick surface.

The first thing after restoring an old piece that you must do is to re-season the pan.  This will fill in the microscopic holes that are in all cast-iron and make your pan smooth as glass (hopefully).  If you buy new cast iron, you can pay a few more bucks and purchase a pre-seasoned piece.  These pans are ready for the oven immediately, after washing the pan with water, no soap.  But you will still need to re-season now and then.

Ok, so you have your pan that needs seasoning or re-seasoning.  Here's how I do it:

1.  Make sure the cast iron is free of rust and gunk (see earlier post).
2.  Rub the entire pan, including handle and bottom, with a thin coat of Crisco or vegetable oil.  I have found that Crisco does better and oil can leave splotches, but I don't generally have Crisco in my cabinet, so I  use Canola oil, which does fine, although there may be a splotch or two.  Don't overdo it with the oil/Crisco, just a thin coat.  If you use Crisco, put a cookie sheet on a lower rung in case the Crisco drips.
3. Put your oven rack on the top-most rung that will still accomodate your pan and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
4. Place your pan, upside down on the top rung and bake at 400 degrees for one hour.
5. Then turn off your oven and let it cool down with the pan still in it.
6. When the pan in completely cool, remove it from the oven.
7. You may have to repeat this process several times before the pan achieves the sheen that you want.  If it isn't nonstick when you cook most things, then put it through the seasoning process again.  Remember, though, no one is going to cook a hamburger patty or something similar without some sticking.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello - hope you are not too hot on this Monday!  Fall is right around the corner, at least that's what I keep telling myself.

Here's another recipe that works nicely in a cast iron skillet - fried corn.

Fried Corn:

8 ears of fresh corn
2 T. butter or bacon grease

Cut the kernels off of 8 ears of corn, scraping the cobs to get the milky liquid.  Put the corn and corn liquid in a cast iron skillet.

Add the butter or bacon grease and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium.

Stir constantly, cooking until the mixture begins to thicken.  This will be about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low - a slow simmer.

Simmer for about 5 minutes more, stirring constantly or else it will scorch.

Remove it from heat, stir in a little salt and pepper to taste, then serve immediately.

Note - Be sure and don't salt the corn until the very end, or else the kernels will be tough.

This recipe yields about 4-6 servings.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello and happy Friday!!

Jim and Mary's Shepherd pup has blue eyes and a sweet disposition.  She's wishing she could ditch her fur coat until winter rolls around again!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Oprah Book Club Selection #5 - White Oleander by Janet Fitch

The next book in my year-long Oprah Book Club Challenge is White Oleander, 1999, 390 pages. Published in hardback by Little Brown and Co., paperback in 2000 by Back Bay Books.

This is an intriguing first novel by Janet Fitch. Narrated by 13-year-old Astrid Magnussen, it’s the story of a young girl faced with heart-wrenching circumstances beyond her control. The mother-daughter theme is prevalent throughout.

Astrid lives with her mother, a poet with astounding beauty and considerable skills and fame. Astrid’s mother, Ingrid, uses her beauty to manipulate men. Her emotional problems ensure that Astrid’s life will never be safe and secure, and her huge ego ensures that Ingrid will never be a true success as a poet.

When the mother, Ingrid, becomes obsessed with a boyfriend that proves difficult to manipulate, she finds herself separated from her daughter.   Astrid is left in the apartment, alone and terrified. When it becomes obvious that her mother will not be returning, Astrid enters the world of institutions and foster homes.

Throughout Astrid’s teenage years, her disturbed, manipulative mother wields her considerable power over her daughter in absentia.

This is a story of survival, of finding oneself in the worst of circumstances, in understanding who and what you have become, and eventually, in triumphing over what life has offered.

It’s a nice read. Out of five stars, I give White Oleander…..

* * * *

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

What a great Monday it's turning out to be!!

Here's another one of the traditional cast iron recipes - Pineapple upside-down cake.  Again, you can use other cookware besides cast iron with these recipes, they just work and taste better in cast iron.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake:

3 T. butter
1 c. light brown sugar
7 slices of canned pineapples
1/2 c. pineapple juice (reserved from the canned pineapples)
7 candied cherries (optional)
12 pecan halves (optional)
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

You will use a 10 inch cast iron skillet.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Melt the butter in your skillet over low heat.  When melted, sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter and remove from heat when the brown sugar begins to melt.

Place the pineapple rings in the skillet.  You can cut some in half if you need to in order to fit them in.  If using cherries, place one in the center of each ring.  Lay the pecan halves between the rings.

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl, then stir in the white sugar.  Add the vanilla and pineapple juice - mix all of this up well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, then add them to the egg mixture and blend it together.

Pour the batter over the brown sugar and pineapple rings in the skillet.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until nicely brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  While it's still warm, invert it onto a platter.  The pineapple rings and caramelized sugar will be on top, and the cake will be delicious!

This recipe will serve about 8 people, and has 445 calories per serving.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello everyone....In the hot dog days of summer, it's kind of refreshing to look back at our nice snowstorms of last winter.  For the dog blog today we have Vicki's Princess Leia, the 10 foot tall poodle from Poteau. 

Wouldn't you just love to have some of that snow today?????

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How To Restore Old Cast-Iron Cookware

So, your grandmother said you could have all of her old cast-iron.  Great!  But she hasn't used her cast-iron in years.  This could pose a problem.  Unless cast-iron is stored properly, it will develop rust and worse, pits.  There also may be burnt-on particles of food from sixty or seventy years ago that need to come off.

How can old, abused cast-iron cookware be restored?  There are several ways....

First, determine whether the pan has serious cracks or pits on its surface, or is warped.  If so, it may be time for the junkpile.  A crack means it has to go now.  Deep pitting will ensure that your food will not cook evenly and defeats the purpose of using cast-iron in the first place.  And you don't want a warped pan, do you?

So, the pan doesn't have cracks, warps or serious pits, but it has a ton of rust, several dead spiders and looks like it has been in the barn for fifty years.  Well, it may have been.  Rust isn't a deal-breaker.  Almost all old, unused cast-iron pieces have rust - no big deal.

Some techniques for removing rust:
Sandpaper, fine to medium grit, may do the trick. 
Scouring the rust with dish detergent and steel wool.
Scouring powder and a potato cut in half.  The potato acts as your scrubber.
Drill and wire brush sander.  Be very careful - you don't want to sand too much off of your pan.
Sandblasting (by a professional).  This also removes any markings on your pan - and if your marking says something like "Griswold" or "Wagner" this is a very bad thing.  I wouldn't use this option.

Once the rust is gone, you will need to remove the gunk that has built up on your pan.

Some techniques for removing gunk:
Put the piece in your self-cleaning oven and turn on the cleaner.  This burns off the gunk at a very high temperature and should remove all it.
Using plastic gloves, spray oven cleaner on the pan and put it in a plastic bag for a couple of days.  Then wash off the cleaner and wash the pan in hot water and soap.  Rinse twice to make sure all the oven cleaner is off the pan.

So, there you have it.  Restoring old cast-iron isn't rocket science, and it doesn't require any special equipment.  Once you have restored your piece, you will need to re-season it.  That's a subject for a later blog....

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello....How's your Monday going so far?? In keeping with the recent and upcoming blogs featuring cast iron cookware, I will post some recipes in the next few weeks that are great when using cast iron. Please bear in mind that other types of cookware can also be used with these recipes, but they taste best when cooked in cast iron.

Some dishes immediately spring to mind when discussing cast iron. Examples are cornbread, biscuits and pineapple upside-down cake. Today we'll look at a great Southern cornbread recipe. (Northern cornbread is sweet and generally uses yellow cornmeal, and Southern cornmeal is not sweet and uses white cornmeal.)

Southern Cornbread:

1 1/2 c. white corn meal
1 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
3 level t. baking powder
2 c. buttermilk
1 egg
2 T. oil of your choice (old-timers used bacon grease)

You will use your 10 inch cast iron skillet with this recipe.

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the egg and buttermilk and mix until everything is combined. Rub your skillet with shortening or oil and put it in the oven while preheating the oven to 450 degrees. When preheated, remove the skillet, pour the batter in immediately and bake at 450 for about 20 minutes.

Cornbread goes great with any meal. I use stone-ground whole grain cornmeal, which makes it healthier. Try a Tennessee Milkshake, which is crumbled-up cornbread in a glass of ice-cold milk. Delicious!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hope you're having a great Friday!  Here's a dog, just for you....

Kristi's Schnauzer Shadow is in a contemplative mood today.  Or maybe the weather's just too hot to do anything but sit and and brood....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Loving Cast-Iron Cookware

I love my cast-iron cookware.  There are so many benefits to using cast-iron that I don't really know where to start....

For one, cast-iron is healthy.  Eating food cooked with cast iron adds trace amounts of iron, which we all need.  (There are certain rare diseases where iron in the system is actually detrimental - if you have one of these, then you wouldn't want any extra iron in your system).  Many physicians actually recommend switching to cast iron to their enemic patients.

Many foods taste better when cooked with cast iron.  No kidding.  Try cornbread cooked in a cast-iron skillet.  You'll fall in love.  And once you eat an egg cooked in a cast-iron skillet, you'll never want an egg cooked in anything else. 

Cast-iron is almost indestructible.  I use a Griswold Good Health skillet that was made in the 1920's.  It belonged to my grandmother, and it only gets better with age and use.

Cast-iron is highly collectible.  There are some brands that are more collectible than others, but all of the old, American-made pieces are sought-after.

Cast-iron is affordable.  New cast-iron manufactured by a top brand such as Lodge and made in America (where there are rules and regulations on how it must be made) can be purchased at such places as Bass Pro Shops and some Ace Hardware stores, as well as online.  Compared to "designer" cookware, cast-iron is very inexpensive, with pre-seasoned skillets usually going for $20-30.00. 

The older cast-iron, which I prefer, can be picked up for a song at farm sales and garage sales.  There are simple ways to restore these old pieces, so long as they are not pitted or misshapen from years of neglect.

I will continue to post information about cast-iron cooking and cookware, as well as some recipes that are great for cast-iron.  I hope that some of you will try it out - you won't be sorry!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

We are now officially in the Dog Days of Summer.  Hot enough for you, yet?

Today we have another grilling recipe.  You don't normally think about bread when the subject of grilling comes up, but some nice flat bread slapped on the grill makes a terrific appetizer when paired with your favorite spread or topping.  Here's how to make some grilled flat bread...

Grilled Flat Bread:

1 1/2 c. water, heated to 100 to 110 degrees
1 pkg of dry yeast, fast-acting
4 1/2 c. flour, all-purpose
3 T. olive oil
2 t. kosher salt

In a large bowl, combing the water, yeast and sugar.  Make sure the water temperature is between 100 and 100 degrees - it's best to use a thermometer - this ensures that the yeast will be able to do its job.  Mix this together a little and let it sit for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is starting to get bubbly and frothy. 

Add the flour, oil and salt to the yeast mixture.  Mix it, preferably with an electric stand mixture and dough hook, but not absolutely necessary.  If you're using the mixer, mix it on low with the hook for about a minute, then increase to medium.  Either with the mixer or without, the dough needs to be mixed until it is a little sticky, smooth and elastic.  This will take some time - at least 10 minutes.

Roll the dough into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl.  Turn it to coat all sides with oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

You will cook this bread in direct, medium heat so now is the time to prepare your coals.

When the dough has risen, cut it into 12 portions.  The surface and your fingers should be oiled well.  With your hands, stretch each portion to about 8 inches long.  If it springs back, keep working it until it is consistently the right length.

Place each strip over direct medium heat.  Only do a few at a time, because they don't take long to cook.  When the undersides of the dough crisp, darken and harden, about 1 to 2 minutes, and the tops puff a little, burn them and continue cooking until both sides are dark brown.  This will be a total of about 5 or 6 minutes.  You can keep them warm over indirect heat while the others are cooking.

Serve with your favorite topping.

Serves four.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello, TGIF! 

This is Bill's Bella -  She's a huge Groucho Marx fan....