Saturday, October 30, 2010

Witch's Fingers

I've had this recipe in my recipe box for ages, but never made it before.  Dawn from Dawn in Austin inspired me to give it a shot with all of her recent Halloween ideas.



Pardon my pan.  Stoneware stains as it's used, but the uglier it gets, the better it works.

The cookies themselves were kind of fun.  I might bring them to a party or serve them to kids for their shock value, but the truth is that their taste is nothing special.  I'm not a huge fan of sugar cookies to start off with, but if you have a sugar cookie recipe that you like, you might want to use it instead.

1 cup of softened butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almost extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cup of flour
1 tsp baking soda
whole blanched almonds
1 tube red decorator gel


  • Mix butter with sugar, egg, vanilla and almond extract.   Beat in flour and baking powder.
  • Cover and let refrigerate for 30 mins
  • Working with one quarter of the dough at a time, roll about a tbsp (maybe a little more) into finger shapes.  
  • Press almond into 1 end of each cookie for the nail.
  • Squeeze in center to create knuckle shape.   Use a paring knife to create slashes in several places to look like knuckles.
  • Place on lightly greased baking sheets, and back at 325 for 25 min.  (This wasn't hot or long enough for me to get the golden colour.  I ended up raising the temp to 350 for 5 minutes after the 25 mins was done.)
  • Let cool slightly, then lift up each almond and squeeze red decorator gel into the nail beds.  Press almonds back into place so that the gel oozes out from underneath.
I found this dough hard to work with so I added a splash of milk to help it stick.  That seemed to help.   The recipe says it'll make 5 dozen cookies.  I only made one pan (about 24) of them before I put the rest back into the fridge and left for the afternoon.  I'm not sure if I'll be ambitious enough to make the rest.


Friday, October 29, 2010

The Hunt

The best place to hunt is in the bedroom at night.  The victim presents himself as a lump under the covers.  He's grumpy, and he makes rumbley noises if he knows you are coming.  You have to walk very, very softly.

First, you jump on the bed.  Stop.  Wait a few minutes.  Pretend to clean your feet.  Then you take one, maybe two steps.  Stop.  Stand very very still and wait some more.


Take a few more steps towards the victim, and stop.  You have to be very still.  The closer you get to the victim, the slower you have to move, and the more rumbley he gets.  To do this properly, it should take you at least thirty minutes to cross the bed.



Be careful not to wake up the human in the room.  It's OK sometimes, if you do.  Sometimes she sits up and watches; but then she might give you away by laughing.  Or, she might be cranky when she wakes up, and she might tell you to go away.  


By now you should be fairly close to the lump.  Step very, very carefully until you're beside de lump. Stand still – do not move – for at least ten minutes. Just when the victim thinks you're gone, 








BOP HIM ON THE HEAD!




You've got to run very, very fast after that, because the victim will tear out from under the covers and he'll be mad. He will attack if you let him. Instead, let him bark and think he's chasing you off the bed. Go to another room, and he'll go back under the covers and become a lump again soon. 


On a good night, you can hunt two or three times before the human locks you out of the room.



The above entry has been a reposting of a previously published article by our guest columnist, Winter the cat... 
who will hopefully let me get some sleep tonight.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The deal

A friend of mine talked me into something that's way out of my comfort zone.  She's in a fresh and new and seemingly wonderful relationship with a seemingly great guy, and she feels pretty strongly that I need a man in my life too.  Personally, I don't think it's a very good time for me to be starting something.  I'm in a pretty crappy place right now, and not exactly showing my best foot forward.  This friend, however, is convinced that the right guy could get me out of my current funk.

She met her new and wonderful guy on EHarmony, and she thinks that I could too.  She nagged me until I looked into it.  Then I gagged and stopped the presses when I saw the cost of an EHarmony membership.  I would have dug in my heels, but she made me a deal: If I try this out for a year and remain single, she's going to pay me back.

So, it's a win/win situation.  Best case scenario, I meet a great guy.  Worst case scenario, she's out a lot of money and I have a lot of blog stories to tell.

The current story is about a guy with whom communication has barely begun.  English is almost certainly his second language... which is why I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt when he said in his profile "I've been married X years".  I'm really hoping that he means I was married for X years.  (I can't ask right away because EHarmony does this thing were you ask each other canned questions for a few rounds before you're actually allowed to talk.  It seems kind of weird to me, but hey - she's going to pay and I get blog stories.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Where my cranky slips out

I drove up to Edmonton yesterday.  I had a few things planned - oil change, pet food, books and oh hey - a new computer.

The dealership refused to do the oil change for free (which they agreed to do as long as I own the car when I bought it) unless I paid $56 for in-cabin air filter.  $56!  For a filter that blocks dust in a car that's driven with the windows down 6 months of the year.  There's no question that they'll be the recipient of a pissed off letter on Monday morning.

Then I traded in some books at what used to be my favorite used book store, and they charged me GST, which is the national sales tax in Canada.  It is not supposed to be applied towards used goods, and there wasn't any GST registration number on the receipt.  (I'm particularly sensitive to this because I used to work collections from companies who charged GST but never submitted it to the gov't.)

Then I went to the pet store to find that they'd raised their prices on kibble and stopped carrying the freeze dried chicken breasts that Tula loves.  Oh, but they carry a new brand now that's twice the price and has 200mg of  SALT per serving.  Salt.  For a dog.

Then I went to what I thought was the Apple store.  It turns out that it's just Future Shop that has a section for Apple products.  I'd gone online the night before to check out prices, so I'd noticed that Future Shop has their iMacs on sale.  I wasn't going to buy from them because I don't generally like their service, but I figured I was there and I might as well check it out.  A salesman practically met me at the door, and he seemed helpful to a point.  I pretended like I know nothing about computers at all, and he answered most of my questions with a semblance of intelligence.  But when it came time to name the price, he came in $200 higher than what was listed on their website.  When I turned to leave, he reminded me that he works on commission and that I'd just used up 3 whole minutes of his time.  So sorry about your luck, dude.

Finally, and against my best judgement, I went to Ikea.  I hate the chaos in this store, but I do like some of their products.  I wanted 2 things, and in an unprecedented move, I somehow found the combination of shortcuts through the store that brought me directly and almost immediately to the sections I was looking for.  I picked up what I needed, checked out and was ready to go in under 10 minutes; which is a record in and of itself.

But as I walked out to the car, I realized that one of the glasses I'd just bought was chipped.   I thought about taking it home anyway, but knew that my OCD would kick in if I started out with an incomplete set.  So, I went to the returns section and settled in for the projected 15 minute wait (seriously!) to do an exchange.  Of a 99 cent glass.  Luckily for me, the sales girl who had just checked me out recognized me as she walked by.  She agreed to hold my purchases while I ran back and got another glass, and then didn't make me go through the whole exchange process.

My faith in humanity was restored a notch.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oops

There comes a day in every dog's life, when they get left loose all day in the house for the first time while their owner is away.

Even though it was unintentional, today was that day for Tallulah Belle Poodle.

The house is still standing.  The white fluffy dudes have survived.  Upon first inspection - because you know I looked - there is no apparent damage.

Good girl, Tallulah.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

RUN!













THAT is why I want a video camera.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Brownies

I set about making brownies yesterday.  I just won some new kitchenware through the cooking club that I belong to, and I wanted to try out my new pan.  I've been craving brownies for a while, and when I realized I had all the ingredients at home, I decided to christen the new pan with a forbidden yummy.

First, I melted the butter.  The recipe called for a half a cup of butter, so I chopped a block of butter in half and tossed it into the hot pan.  Then I measured out the sugar and vanilla put them into a bowl.

Right about then, I clued in that a half a block of butter is actually a cup of butter.  Since I can't unmelt butter, I decided that I'd have to double the recipe.  I doubled the sugar and vanilla.  I added the butter, and then cracked 4 eggs into the mix.

Then I was distracted for a few minutes while I figured out what the heck pan I'd use because the new pan was too small for the doubled recipe. I oiled and washed three different pans before I finally settled on the one I used.

Back to the batter, I added the remaining ingredients.  I mixed it up with the magic 200 beats of a wooden spoon (because somebody once told me that brownies have to be hand mixed, and that you can't beat them more than 200 turns of the spoon or they'll end up like rubber.)  I poured the batter into the bar pan, and placed it in the hot oven.

As I started to gather up the dirty dishes to clean up while the brownies baked, a thought occurred to me:  I'd doubled the ingredients until I changed pans, and then I'd forgotten to double the remaining ingredients.

So...  I yanked the brownies out of the oven, and poured the batter back into a (new) mixing bowl.   Except, my spatula - the last clean one because I'd been cooking all day - had gone into the sink.  Once a dish touches the sink, I never let it touch food until it's been thoroughly washed with soap and hot water.      So, I balanced the dirty pan on top of the mixing bowl and a few pots I'd stolen from a nearby drawer.  Batter dripped all over while I washed a spatula and then used it to scrape what was left into the bowl. The batter was only slightly chunky and cooked.   additional ingredients were mixed in.   The mandatory 200 beats of the brownie batter were exceeded.  

...Back into the oven it went.  There was some debate about how long a double recipe of brownies should back (vs the 30 minutes needed for a non-doubled batch).  Ultimately, I decided to stick with 30 minutes.

I made brownie frosting.  Then I made some more when I remembered that I'd doubled the original recipe.  I spread it on the still warm brownies, and called it a day.

A few hours later, Jen came over to help me make some apple crisp so that I really could try out my new pan.  When she left, I sent her home with half the brownies and instructions not to judge me based on them alone.  This was not my best day in the kitchen.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Beer Stew

In my continuing quest to find flavourful, salt free meals, I made beer stew tonight.

3 pounds of stewing beef (I used bison)
1 1/2 pounds of thinly sliced onions
2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 cup of  beef broth (I used homemade veggie broth to avoid the salt, and it worked well.)
2-3 cups of beer
4 minced garlic cloves
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Fresh herbs to taste (I used what I had left from my parents' garden: thyme, oregano and chives)
cracked pepper to taste
1 1/2 tbsp of corn starch
2 1/2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
(I also added about 3 cups of fresh bite-sized button mushrooms.)

Preheat oven to 325F.
Heat the oil in a dutch oven to a high temp on stove until it's almost smoking.  Add meat, and allow to brown (a few minutes).
Remove meat, and reduce to medium heat
Add onion, and let brown for about 10 minutes.  Stir periodically.
Add broth, scrape the sides and bottom of pan as though you were making gravy.
Add meat back into pot, and then add just enough beer to barely cover the top of the meat.
Add garlic, herbs, pepper and brown sugar.  Mix well.
Bring to a simmer on stove
(this is where I added the mushrooms)
Cover, and place the dutch oven in the bottom third of the oven
Let cook for 2 1/2 hours.  Check periodically to make sure that it is lightly simmering throughout.
After 2 1/2 hours, take out of the oven.  Dissolve the corn starch in the red wine vinegar.  Mix well into the stew, cover and set aside for about 10 minutes.

I served this over mashed potatoes with steamed carrots and asparagus on the side.  I don't like beer, but this stuff was delicious.   I'll definitely be making it again.

I hope that there's no salt in beer.  I forgot to check that.

Friday, October 15, 2010

You can't hear this...



...but purrs are echoing around the house.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Man Hands

I'd like to think that I've got nice hands.  I can't promise you that there won't be scratches from working with roses or calluses from yard work, but I've always thought that I had smallish, feminine hands.

I can't say that I pamper them.  I work, I paint and garden.  Lucky for me, a friend of mine is trying to start up a home business.  She does nails, and agreed to give me a great deal.  Tonight I had my nails done.

She used some sort of bio gel over my real nails, which were long to start with.  The coating strengthens the nails and helps to prevent chips and cracks while allowing the nails to breath through it.  That means that you can leave it on as long as you want without doing damage; and she only painted the tips so that I can let them grow out without them looking unkempt.  (My biggest concern about having my nails painted is having to maintain them.)

I tried to take a picture for you, but I swear to the good Lord above, every picture came out looking like I've got man hands.  Which I don't.  It's not even a up for discussion.  I only got a limited number of attractive features: my long legs are a pain in the arse to clothe, and my good feet have failed me.  My hands are all that's left, and there ain't nobody gonna tell me that they're anything but feminine.

And so, all you get to see is one single, solitary finger.


Isn't it pretty?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thanksgiving dinner

It's Thanksgiving today in Canada.  I stirred the pot a bit when I decided not to drive up to Edmonton to be with my sister's family and my parents today, and then bowed out of the local invites that I received from friends.  Instead, I stayed home and puttered about; and then made an untraditional Thanksgiving dinner.

A few weeks ago when the hard frosts were about to hit, I brought all the green tomatoes in and set them on the counter.  This, of course, led to them all riping at the same time, and I am left with a bushel of garden fresh tomatoes.  I went looking for a recipe to use some of them up and decided to try one that I got from a new cookbook that I recently bought - Quinoa 354 - the  Everyday Super Food.

Crustless Tomato & Basil Quiche
2/3 cup of water
1/3 cup of quinoa
4 large eggs
1/4 cup quinoa flour or white flour (I used white)
1 1/2 cups of diced tomatoes
1 cup of onions
1 tsp vegetable or olive oil
1 cup of shredded mozzarella (I used shredded marble, because that's what I had)
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp or fresh basil or 2 tsp dried flakes (I used dry, because that's what I had, and it was good.)
1/4 of milk or cream
salt & pepper to taste

Bring water and quinoa to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer, cover and leave for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat, leave covered for 5 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork.

In pan, sauté diced onion at medium with oil until translucent.  (The book said 10 minutes... I did about 5.)

Whisk eggs and flour together.  Mix all ingredients together well in a bowl, and pour into a 9" round baking pan and bake on the center rack for 50 minutes at 350F.   Serve with a fresh salad and enjoy.

Confessions:
I realized as I was getting everything ready and preheating the oven that spillage in the oven from earlier in the day was causing copious amounts of smoke (as in - smoke alarms were screeching ).   I turned off the oven, let it cool and cleaned it up before starting again.  I'd whisked the eggs with the flour, cooked the quinoa and the onions before that little interruption and I wonder if the delay contributed to how little the quiche rose.  (But I think it might be a good thing that the quinoa and the onions had a chance to cool first too.)

Another contribution towards the lack if height of the quiche could be that I forgot the milk.

Also, I baked it in my 11" stoneware dish.  That spread it out quite a bit and definitely impacted the height.  BUT, stoneware makes for a great texture.  I don't know if you could get such a crusty texture on the outside with such a moist center in a  metal pan.

Either way, I thought it turned out yummy.  I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Because compromise is the name of the game

When I was at the farmer's market with my sister a few weeks ago, we passed a kiosk where a guy was selling fantastic kitty condos.  I stopped to admire them, and my sister suggested that Himself would love to have a condo of his own.  I told her he had one, that he loved it very much; but that it lived in the basement because it's ugly.

You see, in my house form trumps function... or close to.  If something doesn't look the way I want it to, it better be pretty darned functional to justify my having to look at it.  In fact, I will go out of my way to avoid having to look at things I don't find attractive.

So, Himself's condo was sent to the basement the day that we moved in.

Not that that was a bad thing.  Every time I went downstairs to clean his pooper, or to get something out of the freezer, he follows me down and I take a few moments to play fight with him through the tunnel part of his condo.

However, my sister thought that my refusal to have the cat condo on the main floor was selfish.  When you live with others, you have to compromise, she says.  After all, look at her house.  She's got a husband and two boys; and the house is most definitely inhabited by males.  It's clean, but the decor is decidedly male.  That, and there's a lot of toys... just about everywhere.  That's life, she said.  You love somebody else, you live with somebody else, you put up with their stuff.  I may not live with another human, but I share my home with other creatures.  If something as simple as a cat condo would make Winter happier, then I should find a way to work it into my decor.

And so, because I'm a sucker...
The condo was moved to my front room/office.

You know, because I wouldn't want to be accused of being selfish towards my pets.

Dog Bed in the office

Cat basket under bench in front foyer

Dog bed in living room

Cat bed on book shelf in living room

Cat bed on dresser in bedroom

Dog bed in bedroom.