Post #387 A Family Celebration

June 29, 2015 at 3:01 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What an emotionally hectic week and weekend it’s been!  From the death of a parent, to being finally legally accepted as an ordinary citizen with rights as all ordinary citizens in our country are, it’s been a roller coaster.  Friday, I was just starting to calm down and SCOTUS released its ruling and the internet exploded and the country started celebrating.

I spent a large part of the day reading about reactions to the decision.  I commented; I posted; I debated; I discussed.  I watched videos.  I shared with Partner/Spouse some of the nicer things, and some of the not-so-nicer things.  I had mixed emotions all day.  I was happier than I thought I would be.  And there was a sense of let-down, like something was over.  There was also an overriding sense of something just starting.

Partner/Spouse and I both said we should be drinking champagne to celebrate.  But we didn’t.  Neither of us wanted to go out and get some, but neither of us truly wanted any.  The sense of celebration was muted and I couldn’t figure out why.

Then it got time to make dinner.  I was making a meatloaf.

I had two pounds of plain old hamburger.  I added a small amount of fresh onion, and a larger amount of fresh garlic.  I put in half an envelope of onion soup mix.  I wanted a binder, something to soak up the meat juices and flavors, but there was no way I was making a panade.

Do you know what a panade is?  You probably do, but maybe by a different name.  It’s likely the worst thing to come out of America’s Test Kitchen in my experience.  It’s added to ground meat of various types to thicken it, stretch it, keep it moist, etc.  It’s white bread soaked in milk for several minutes.  Then the milk is squeezed out and the bread it mixed into the meat.  It’s sludge and tastes awful.  We tried it and vowed never ever ever ever to do it again, regardless of what the instructions say.  Awful stuff.

Usually when I made meat loaf, I grate a potato and a carrot and use that.  Just as often, I use stuffing mix, particularly the flavored ones.  I didn’t have any of those.  So I took two cups of whole wheat Ritz crackers and mashed them into one cup of crumbs by hand.  Well, by hand and a wooden spoon.  Whole wheat Ritz crackers are good.

I put half a cup of water and two tablespoons of ketchup into it and used the wooden spoon to mix the heck out of the whole mess until everything was blended.  Then I added two eggs to bind it together and mixed until it was done.  Following instructions from one of The Two Fat Ladies, I formed my meat loaf free from style, more like an elliptical dome.  Then I squirted ketchup over the top and spread it evenly.  Into the oven at 350 for an hour and fifteen minutes.

During the last half hour, since we’d been to our favorite farm stand earlier, we roasted two ears of corn (spread softened butter and seasoned salt and chili powder over it all then wrapped in foil) and a half pound of Brussels sprouts.

We sat down to meat loaf, roasted corn, roasted Brussels sprouts, and fresh bread.  I kept wondering where the celebration was.

Then I realized, we were celebrating.  We were eating dinner, in our home, with our dogs, just like a family.  Which we now were, legally, everywhere in our country.  No longer to be sneered at.  No longer having to hide our relationship.  No longer worried about what the neighbors might think or say.

Suddenly, our family dinner meant a whole lot more.  It was pretty damned good meat loaf.

Thanks SCOTUS.

Enjoy

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Post #386 A Death in the Family

June 26, 2015 at 7:56 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

In my last post, I mentioned that family biz was occupying a great deal of my time and attention.  My father passed away early Tuesday morning.  He’s not been well for several years, and the situation came to a head over the weekend.  He was on the operating table and went into cardiac arrest.  They managed to resuscitate him, but my sibs and I decided that a DNR was in order.  His quality of life would have been such that he would be unhappy in the extreme if he regained consciousness at all.  He took his last breath at 1:00am Tuesday morning.  His pain was gone and his face was relaxed.  And, as my sister-in-law put it, he was finally able to join the love of his life.

Dad and I had a complicated relationship starting when I was in diapers.  I can be an angry and stubborn s.o.b., traits that manifested themselves while I was very very young.  We never really understood each other.  He was a marine for over twenty years.  As his oldest son, I was supposed to follow in his footsteps.  But I was the artistic one.  I wrote stories and poems; I played a musical instrument; I learned to cook; I was the “ultra religious” one (albeit in my early teens, something I grew out of.)  I did arts and crafts of nearly every kind.  I was confused growing up, not able to handle what I knew to be my true self and forced to be dishonest to myself and those around me.

He taught me a lot, too.  Some were overt lessons, the kind where he said, “Let me show you how to do this.”  Others were silent lessons, the kind you learned by paying attention.

He was fond of saying that his fingers just tasted good.  On weekends, we were always firing up the grill.  He’d grill the flesh of some animal, and nearly always there was potato salad.  I don’t like potato salad and resented being forced to make it.  I’m not saying I did a half-assed job, but it’s difficult to make something taste good when you refuse to actually taste it.  So dad started making it, and he mixed it together by hand.  Everyone who ate it remarked on how good it was.  Dad finally became convinced that is fingers tasted better than anyone else’s because that was truly the only difference between his making it and anyone else making it.

I like my steak rare, and he took it as a personal challenge to cook one rare enough to suit me.  He did not like his steak rare and had perfected a well done but juicy slab of beef.  At first, I’d get steak with the slightest red discoloration in the center.  Each time, the slightly red stripe would get wider and redder.  I kept giving input and it kept getting better.  Then one day, he set my steak in front of me and I sliced into it.  It was blue in the center.  It wasn’t even cooked.  The outside had the wonderful char marks, and it was seasoned perfectly.  But I couldn’t get past that raw center.  “Uhh, it needs a few more minutes on the grill, I think.” I said.  The whole family cracked up.  I stopped offering suggestions after that, and my steaks came out fine.

Just after mom died, dad decided to buy an RV and do some traveling, something he’d been wanting to do all his life.  When my ex-wife took over the ranch he was living on at the time, I was making supper just before he left.  I wanted something easy so it was homemade macaroni and cheeseburger.  He watched with interest and finally asked me to write the recipe down, along with any other easy one pot meals so when he was traveling he wouldn’t have to rely on McDonald’s every night.  I felt foolish writing down “Brown hamburger and season.  Make boxed macaroni and cheese.  Mix the two.”  But he liked it.

Mom and Dad were fisherman.  Avid fisherman.  So was my brother.  Dad did all kinds of fishing.  I remember once when we kids were very young and still living in South Carolina.  Dad went deep sea fishing and showed us a sting ray he’d caught.  Another time, he went deep sea fishing in San Diego.  He went with several other marines, and when they got back, they divvied up their haul.  Our freezer was always full of various forms of fish.  I don’t remember that we ever ate any of them.   Mom and I were the only two in the family that enjoyed seafood or fish.  But dad had the best time standing on the bank of any body of water casting a line and hoping for the best.  In Arizona, he and mom were constantly trying new forms of bait, some of them illicit in our state.  Like black licorice.  Supposedly, the local fish were crazy for the flavor, but you weren’t supposed to use it for that very reason.  Didn’t want to deplete the fish populations, I guess.

One of our family favorite meals was tacos.  We started eating tacos in New York, and when we moved to Arizona, it was like we’d moved to Heaven and started eating.  Fixing the tacos was an individual thing.  But making all the stuff to go into the tacos was a two person deal, for us.  We never used the store bought crispy tortillas.  Mom fried the corn tortillas in a small pan full of oil.  They’d get fried on one side for a few seconds, then flipped and fried on the other side for a few seconds.  This gave us hot, tasty, soft tacos.  There would be an enormous stack of these separated by paper napkins to help absorb the oil.  By the time we reached the bottom of the stack and burping stage, the tortillas would have grown soft and a little mushy.  About ten years ago, I went to visit dad, and my brother asked if we were having tacos, and could he have some?  He looked at me and said, “I love dad’s tacos.”  When they were ready, I bit into one and it was perfect.  I watched how he did things and it was exactly as I remembered growing up, but different.  And better.  Something dad did made them better though we couldn’t figure out what.

Maybe he just had better tasting fingers.

Mom and Dad's Wedding Day.  This is their flower girls, my cousins.

Mom and Dad’s Wedding Day. This is their flower girls, my cousins.

Post #385 The Family Biz

June 22, 2015 at 6:19 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #385 The Family Biz

No posts this week.  Family business takes precedence.  I will post again next week!  You’re not rid of me easily.

Enjoy

Post #384 Stuff on My Mind

June 19, 2015 at 1:23 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #384 Stuff on My Mind

It’s been a rough week, news-wise.  The biggest, of course, being the shooting at the AME church in Charleston, SC.  It was a tragic event and my heart goes out to all the victims and their families, as well as the church and its members, and the extended families of the church and the victims.  There are a lot of people hurting, and a lot of sympathy, guilt, grief, and bewilderment from the nation and the world.

Some of my own bewilderment comes from other people’s reaction to the tragedy.  Even before the nation woke up, people were saying this was an attack on religion simply because it happened in a church.  They ignored the fact that the gunman himself said he was targeting the people because they were black.  It was an attack on black people, peaceful, god-fearing black people.  And some people were trying minimize that, or sweep it under the carpet.  They were trying to make the tragedy about themselves rather than the victims.  The gunman was trying to start another race war, not a religious war.

In South Carolina, the capital building flies a confederate flag.  In South Carolina, many streets are named for southern civil war generals.  In South Carolina, rhetoric spawns the kind of hatred we saw on Wednesday night.  In South Carolina (and many other southern states), the civil war, called The War of Northern Aggression, still rankles in the hearts and souls of its citizens.  Healing has not happened.  Feelings are still bitter.  People are still fighting.  And as we saw, people are still dying.  That flag has to come down.  People need to know that their rhetoric is having an impact.

What is rhetoric?  In its simplest form, rhetoric is simply speaking.  But it’s way more than that.  It’s communicating; it’s persuasion; it’s oratory.  It’s spoken or it’s written.  Sometimes, it’s simply a look.  As long as it conveys an idea, it’s rhetoric.  It’s beyond true or false.  My opinions when expressed are rhetoric.    Your opinions when expressed are rhetoric.  This blog is an example of rhetoric.  Pictures are an example of rhetoric.  People need to own their rhetoric and accept its consequences.  The people of South Carolina need to understand that the environment of hate they’re perpetuating has an impact.  They need to take steps to correct that.

Several years ago, a popular politico put several pictures on her blog showing a gun’s sighting telescope and in its crosshairs were pictures of several candidates in the opposition.  The captions read “We’re gunning for you!”  The meaning was political.  However, an unstable person took the meaning literally, and opened fire at a political rally.  A twelve year old girl lost her life, and the member of the opposite party was shot in the head, ending a promising career.  The picture was removed quickly from the blog and statements were made saying “It wasn’t our fault.”  On one hand, I agree to some extent.  Inciting to riot is no excuse for rioting.  And the original politico had never spoken to the crazy person.  But they had advocated for a violent solution rather than a peaceful one.  Had it been me, I would have owned it and apologized saying the picture was ill-advised at best and wrong at worst.

Rhetoric has an impact.  In this case, nine people lost their lives.  Here are their names.

victims list

But nice things happened this week, too.  The community came together to heal.  In a different area, a woman whose yard was decorated to her tastes was called out by a “Christian” for being “relentlessly gay” (my new favorite phrase, by the way) and her neighbors stood by her.  We went to our favorite vegetable stand and I got some great tomatoes.

tomatoes (2)

But this is a food blog so let me give you a recipe a friend shared with me a long time ago that’s simplicity itself and makes a great snack or appetizer.

saltine-cracker-brickle-articleLarge

Saltine Brittle

  • 48 or so saltine crackers
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (two sticks) salted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup mixed nuts chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, optional

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Arrange the crackers so they fill the baking sheet and are touching each other.  Over medium heat, melt the butter and sugar together and allow to come to a boil stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Pour over crackers and spread evenly.  Bake for 7-10 minutes, watching the sugar carefully so it doesn’t turn brown.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the crackers and sugar.  Bake for 2-3 more minutes, remove from oven.  Using a clean rubber spatula, spread the melted chocolate evenly.  Sprinkle the nuts and coconut evenly and gently and carefully press into the chocolate.  Allow to cool for half an hour then freeze overnight.  Remove from baking sheet and peel the foil carefully off the crackers.  Break into pieces, place in an airtight container, and store in fridge or freezer.  Yummers!

Enjoy

Post #383 The New Dog Days of Summer

June 17, 2015 at 11:56 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #383 The New Dog Days of Summer

Summer is heating up quickly in our part of the world.  The dog days which are usually at the end of summer are happening now.  High temps, high humidity, low energy.  But that’s not what this post is about.  I’m going to be sharing, again, tips on feeding our furry friends of the canine variety.  Here are mine (you’ve seen them before):

 

Jack Relaxing

Jack Relaxing

 

Dusty Chillaxing

Dusty Chillaxing

Buddy in a Non Energetic Moment

Buddy in a Non Energetic Moment

These are “the guys” and they’re all special and perfect in their own ways.  There’s very little we wouldn’t do for them.  Matter of fact, there’s an internet meme going around right now saying “I would give up a meal if it meant my dog would eat.”  That’s about the way it works in our house.  We’ve been known to save the last few bites of a perfect steak to share with the guys.

Giving dogs table scraps is not really the healthiest thing for them.  There are tons of people food they shouldn’t get and for good reason.  Just like many of the things that birds eat are toxic to humans, many things that humans eat are toxic to dogs.  Everyone knows about chocolate, right?  If not, check back in my blog.  There are at least two posts about not feeding chocolate to dogs.  The toxins in chocolate can impact dogs either quickly or slowly.  It does take a large amount of chocolate based on body weight, but it’s not a good idea for dogs to get the taste for chocolate.  I’ve never given any of my dogs chocolate, even though a single M&M won’t hurt them.

But there are other things, common things we keep around the house that aren’t good for dogs.  For instance, did you know garlic and onions weren’t healthy for dogs?  I didn’t until several months ago.  I used to give my dogs garlic to keep fleas and ticks off them since garlic exudes from the skin and fleas and ticks don’t like it.  But it can cause anemia for dogs, and each dog’s sensitivity is different.  The debate about how much garlic is bad has been going on for decades, so if you’ve been giving your dog garlic with now ill effects, carry on.  It’s dosage size that counts.  I prefer not to deal with the bad breath that comes along with that particular dietary supplement, but that’s just me.

Peanut butter!  Who knew?  The guys love peanut butter.  I mean, the LOVE peanut butter.  They’ll lick it off each others faces to get a taste of it.  It’s the only way we can give them their meds is in peanut butter.  So why is peanut butter bad for them?  Well, it’s not the peanut butter that’s bad, but one of the ingredients, and that ingredient is not found in all peanut butters.  It’s artificial sweeteners.  More and more, the bring down the calorie count, manufacturers are making peanut butter with various artificial sweeteners.  NONE of these are good for dogs and the newer ones can actually be toxic for them.  I won’t go into the fats, sugar, or allergy concerns because each owner makes their own decisions on that.  But check your peanut butter first.  If there’s an artificial sweetener, you eat it.  Don’t give it to Fido.

I love grapes.  My favorite are those red ones about the size of a ping pong ball.  They’re sweet, juicy, and very grapey.  A handful will fill me up as a snack and it’s kind of fun to eat them.  I swallow the seeds whole and never suffer for it.  Occasionally, one will drop on the floor and I will wrestle my dogs to the ground to get it out of their mouths.  Not all dogs will react badly, but do.  Grapes will cause kidney failure, even a small amount of grapes.  No one really know why yet, but larger brains than mine (if that’s possible) are studying as I write this.  Raisins will do the same thing, so just leave anything having to do with grapes in your hands and not your dog’s mouth.  That includes jelly and juice and any other form you can think of.

Another form of grape that I love is wine.  Who here doesn’t know that?!  Don’t give it to your dog.  Nothing alcoholic should pass your dog’s snout.  Alcohol isn’t spectacular for humans, and it’s worse for dogs.  The worst one, though, is beer.  The yeast content of beer will bloat your dog’s stomach and intestines which can cause burps and farts.  However, it can also cause pinches, gaps, obstructions, and very high vet bills.  And hangovers your dog won’t thank you for.

Many fruit treats for humans are nice for dogs, too.  Frozen blueberries are terrific for them.  However, if the fruit you want to give them has a seed big enough to remove, then remove it.  Most fruit seeds can cause small choking hazards for small dogs.  Apple seeds can release cyanide into their system during digestion.  Larger pits and seeds can also scrape and cut your dog’s gums and teeth, aside from releasing poison into their system.  So just nix the seeds and let them have the fruit.  But not grapes.

Another fruit/vegetable that has a toxin in it is avocado.  It contains a toxin called Persin which causes vomiting, diarrhea, and heart congestion.  And it has a big pit.  No form of avocado should be given, so that includes guacamole.  Me, I don’t like avocado or any of its formats, so keeping it away from the guys is easy.  But if you’re using it and some drops on the floor, don’t rely on your four legged vacuum cleaner to get it.  You aren’t doing them any favor.  And no grapes, either.

Raw meat is seldom ever good for dogs.  It’s true that dogs were bred from wild animals whose main diet was raw meat.  Centuries of breeding, inbreeding, human selection, etc. have bred the capability of digesting raw meat easily right out of the furry critters.  Cooked meat, even rare cooked meat is better than raw.  I’ve dropped raw meat on the floor only to see our dogs pick it up and spit it out because it’s so unfamiliar.

Having said all that, there are some really nice things you can give your dogs to help cool off in the summer.  We give our ice cubes.  They love ’em!  It’s just frozen water, best thing in the world.  They play with them, chomp on them, have a great time.  We pay close attention so that when they get the size of choking hazard, we taken them away.  Lots of times, the guys lose interest and you have to determine if the wet spot on the carpet is from ice or something else.

This list is by no means complete, but it’s something to think about when you’re looking at your plate.  Your dogs would thank you (maybe) if they had a voice.  I’m of the opinion that most dogs, if they had a voice, would mostly say, “Throw the ballThrow the ballThrow the ballThrow the ballThrow the ballThrow the ballThrow the ballThrow the ballThrow the ballThrow the ballThrow the ballThrow the ballThrow the ballThrow the ball!!”

Enjoy

 

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