Midweek Mumbles, Marvels, and Miracles

Oakley’s at day care, so I’m catching up on domestic duties in five- or ten-minute increments. Just put away a basket of laundry that had been hanging out there for over a week. Easier to do without canine assistance. Oakley’s favorite variation on the keep-away theme involves grabbing a pair of my underpants and running through the house with them until he’s tired or been bribed to drop them with a treat. Still need to do the kitchen and vacuum. It will be done before I go shopping today.

Just saw something food related that appalled me to no end. Not the food itself, mind you. It was the price. Through Amazon. Some wraps made from coconut flour that could be used in Mexican recipes or as crepes or in any other cuisine that involves tidy bundles of food. It came out to $9 for a package of seven. What I do: 2 t. coconut flour, 4 eggs, 1/2 c. arrowroot powder, 2 T. water, 2 t. melted coconut oil, dash salt. Whirl in a food processor, then cook in a lightly oiled nonstick pan for about 30 seconds on each side. If intended for dessert, throw in a little vanilla. Not sure how the numbers break down, but sure as heck less that $9 and change. Here’s the link: http://stupideasypaleo.com/2013/08/23/simple-paleo-tortillas/. I think that you could make a lovely dessert with them, and see no reason why they couldn’t be used as noodles in lasagne.

Another recipe I had fun with: http://www.satisfyingeats.com/breakfast/10-grain-free-cereals/. It’s coconut chips mixed with spices, stevia, vanilla, and enough water to make everything stick. Toast in the oven, and voila…it really does have the same mouth feel as cereal. I’ve been having it with cashews or walnuts and fruit. 

Discovery of the week: Oakley likes cantalope. I bought one last week, and we’ve been working on it. He also likes raspberries and apple slices. Orion liked his bananas, so why not?

So we go on with this day.





Stuff It! (In the Nicest Possible Sense)

Hubby is up at his mom’s house for another round of repairs. While he’s doing that, I’m writing, being creative, and indulging my inner child with her favorite recipes that Hubby doesn’t like. 

Last night I made stuffed peppers. I cooked a package of turkey, some going for Oakley’s dindin and the rest for my stuffed peppers. I mixed it with rice, onion, and tomato paste with some water to partially cook the rice. I sliced off the tops of the red bell peppers, scooped out the seeds and ribs, then filled them with the turkey-rice mixture. The tops went back on, and into the oven at 300 (325 if you’re using a metal or ceramic pan) for an hour and a half. 

Yummmmm…..the perfect counterpoint to a cool rainy evening. 

I have left over stuffing and an eggplant. That will be next. 

If you wanted to do a vegetarian version, try cooked lentils in place of the turkey. You’ll need some fairly assertive seasonings since lentils run a little on the bland side. Or a good veg chili. Adjust the cooking time so the rice and pepper or eggplant is pleasantly done. 

The stuffed peppers of my childhood were green. No complaints; i love peppers in any color. If you wanted to get a little more kick, I don’t see why poblano chiles wouldn’t work. 

Leftover stuffing could be cooked as one would a pilaf, perhaps with a handful of spinach thrown in. Or you could stuff cabbage leaves. The possibilities abound. 




Happy Birthday, Your Majesty and William Shakespeare

If you’re in the UK, there’s a lot to celebrate this week. Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch, turned 88 a couple of days ago. She doesn’t look a day over 80. Today, William Shakespeare turns 450. I’m sure that he doesn’t look a day over 445. 

The Queen usually has a big national celebration in June. Because she’s the Queen; that’s why. I’m sure that HRH the Duke of Edinburgh  (a/k/a Prince Phillip) came up with a suitable token of esteem, hard as it might be to surprise someone who owns her own country. I’m sure, too, that something lovely for tea was served. 

In Shakespeare’s time, however, not so much. Unless someone was of noble rank, birthdays were not regularly acknowledged. Feast days and festivals abounded, but individual birthdays, not so much. Even though ren faires are based on festival days, I doubt that fried mac and cheese would have been available, or the banana-chocolate crepes topped with ice cream and whipped cream and a cherry. Nor would the diet Coke that you may have chosen as an accompaniment.  

What would have been available were treats flavored with honey, spices, and almonds. Ale, wine, and beer were the beverages of choice. All the drinks were flavored with spices, honey, lupins,* and sugar. Even though germs had not been discovered, it was common knowledge that water was bad for human consumption.

Everyday meals depended on your social rank. Bread, cheese, and fish were common parts of everyone’s meals. The working people ate a lot of vegetables. The nobility, on the other hand: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnAhSBCa584. Lucy Worsley goes on a shopping trip for Henry VIII in this clip. Food wasn’t that different for Elizabeth I or Mr. Shakespeare, so this clip will give an idea. 

Some New Word foods had started to appear on the culinary horizon, but due to spoilage issues and expense were few and far between. A pineapple popped up here and there, but only very occasionally.

For a period party celebrating Mr. Shakespeare, I’m sure a nice bit of gingerbread or marzipan would have provided a delightful surprise. A good mug of ale might have gone even further in pleasing him.






The Evolution of the Waffle

Try these on for size: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/21/waffle-sandwiches_n_5174255.html?&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000038.

I’m more of a pancake person, but waffles have their place as well, preferably in the center of the plate with real butter and real maple syrup, perhaps with a side of fruit. Maybe, for the sake of decadence, with a scoop of ice cream. I vastly prefer to make pancakes at home. It’s easier to find decent frozen wheat- and gluten-free waffles. 

Some of these sound pretty good. Anything with Nutella gets my attention as does almond butter. But as with many other things, and my unresolved childhood hangups about wanting some space between the protein, veggies, and carbs (Asian recipes excepted) in addition to not being a huge meat eater, I would politely decline. 

In fact, I would be wondering if the inventor was stoned, pregnant, or PMS-ing when he or she thought these up. 

I don’t know if this was what the inventors had in mind at all. The story goes that an exhausted knight staggered home from battle and sat on a bench near the fireplace. He didn’t see the plate of freshly made oatcakes and plunked his chain-mailed behind on top of them. They were still ok to eat, just had the pattern pressed into them. They realized that the oat cakes could hold more butter and jam thanks to the ridges in the pattern. So born was the gaufrette, named after the chain mail pattern.

The concept and name evolved into the waffle as we know it today as the thick fluffy Belgian, the thinner everyday one, and the crunchy decadence of the cone for ice cream.   

I’ve not made them from scratch, but as long as I have a toaster and access to the wheat-free ones, I remain in good shape.


The Killer Rabbit: A Working Theory

So I’m flipping through my Facebook newsfeed this morning and find two items of interest: the clip from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” where King Arthur and company deal with the Killer Rabbit and a recipe for (wait for it) cake batter fudge. 

I care about you, Dear Reader, too much to post the link to the latter. Please eat some protein before reading further. I’ll wait.

Did you get your nuts or cheese or egg? Proceed. The gist of it: white cake mix, powdered sugar, butter, white chocolate, and sprinkles. Mixed all together and allowed to set up, then cut into little squares as is regular fudge. It didn’t even look good to me, just looked like vegetable shortening with sprinkles in it. Just reading about the sugar content made me start shaking. 

What, then, theoretically speaking, could it have done to a rabbit? Could the Killer Rabbit been driven into his behavior by a pan of this…this…stuff? Did his search for protein drive him into the coldblooded murder of passersby, only to meet his end by the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch?

This blog post has to be the silliest one I’ve ever written. But with Easter and its sugary treats on the way, I can’t help but wonder. 

Leaving It to the Pro

This Friday, Oakley will have a spa day.

Not as fancy as it sounds. He gets an extra day of day care with a break while the on-site groomer gives him a bath, then does his ears and nails. His coat landed on the hound-y side of his ancestry, albeit very fluffy by hound standards, and he just needs a good brushing once a week for routine maintenance.

Oakley loves baths. The problems are 1. getting 75 pounds of stubborness into the tub, 2. getting him to cooperate while his ears are cleaned, and 3. the nail trim. 3. is the worst. Somewhere along the line, he must have been trapped by a paw either under a crate or by someone grabbing him by a back leg. Despite a lot of work to desensitize him to paw handling, he’s still really skittish about having them touched, making nail trims are a tag-team event. Ms. Judi, the day care center’s owner, hugs him and talks him through Ms. Marcy’s wielding of the Dremel and clippers. 

But at the end of the grooming session, he looks and feels better, strutting around in his clean white coat and bandana. He gets to go back and play with his friends until I pick him up and fuss over him. He’s had a good experience; I don’t have to try and lift him or push him up the ramp into the tub; all is peaceful between us. 

We both relax on the sofa, happy to have had good days.



Reflections du Jour: It’s Happening Again

I’m not doing this without a heavy sigh. Well, several. This came down the pike:


Briefly, some kid with two knives ran around stabbing and cutting fellow students at his high school in suburban Pittsburgh. No motive has been discerned as of this time. 

The questions that go through my mind at a time like this include:

  1. What in the unadulterated hell is going on here on a societal level as well as in the suspect’s microcosm?
  2. Which, if any, psychotrophics was the suspect taking?
  3. Whisky-tango-foxtrot?
  4. Has the suspect ever had a workup by a qualified mental health provider and a healthcare provider who takes a holistic approach and doesn’t just scribble a prescription to make the suspect sit quietly in class? Probably not, but one can dream. 

For those of you who don’t know, I graduated with an MS in psych in the late ’80’s. My first and only job in the field was at a community-based mental health and addictions treatment center. Prozac, touted as a cure-all for mood disorders, came on the market at the same time. 

Indulge me with a little shop talk: it’s a selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitor, or SSRI. Drugs in that family lengthen the time that it takes for the brain to reabsorb the seratonin, the feel-good neurochemical produced when a person is in a good place with themselves. Too little leads to depression. Too much leads to suicidal ideation and delusions. 

Now, I know several people who have greatly benefitted from modern psychiatric medication. They are adults whose brains were fully developed when they began taking appropriately prescribed meds. I also have memories of calls from clients who went on Prozac and developed suicidal ideation within a few days of beginning treatment. Peeling someone off a roof is no one’s idea of a good time. 

Another class of drugs that may help-or not-are the ones widely prescribed for ADD and ADHD. The theory is that people living with either condition are deficient in internal stimulation, causing them to be unable to focus on what’s in their surroundings and leading to impulsive behavior. Many of them are in the amphetamine family. As in speed. And you don’t outgrow ADD/HD, either. 

AD/HD has also been linked to chemicals in the food supply and to processed food. Back in the ’50’s, a pediatrician named Dr. Feingold had noticed a spike in consults for behavior problems. One night as he read the paper, he saw a story with a graph depicting the rise in food processing after the end of World War II. He asked the parents to make more of their food at home to avoid sugar and chemicals, and this obtained good results. So was born the Feingold Diet.  

Again, I know several people who have had their lives made liveable with appropriate medications such as these. However, for example, the kids responsible for the carnage at Columbine were on meds that had been linked to increases in violent behavior.

How, then, do we respond to the near-weekly episodes of violence at schools? “Complex” doesn’t begin to cover the question. In the days to come, there will be another round of finger pointing at the parents, the school, violent video games, and so on.

What I’d like to see is our culture taking a collective step back and asking why we need violent entertainment, why we need to arm ourselves to the teeth for trips to the grocery store, and why we need to implement solutions where someone gets hurt as the first line of defense instead of the last. I’d like to see food without dyes and additives linked with craziness priced affordably. Let’s add in holistic and alternative treatments as the remedies of choice and meds as the last line of defense instead of the first.  And let us not forget lots and lots of time in nature to help children understand that everyone and everything is a part of the web of life, and that no one is ever really alone. 

That is the long answer. 

The short: I don’t know.

That is the long and long term answer.  

The Attack of the Perfect Woman

She dwells inside of us all, observing, judging, censuring. She thrives on making us miserable. 

She is the Perfect Woman. You know, that part of your psyche formed by the mean teacher, a critical relative, or exposure to Martha Stewart at a young age. She turns the other parts of your personality against each other, driving you into the chocolate or absenthe. That one.

The bee-yatch reared her head today while I researched an article on climate change for the newsletter. I took a quiz to determine the size of my carbon footprint. The results were not what I expected. I already use cloth bags, group errands together, put in state of the art toilets and lights and 2×6 framing to accommodate extra insulation when we built this house 15 years ago. I shop in bulk, buy locally when possible, eat about 80% vegetarian, and maybe buy clothes once or twice a year. Hubby does an impeccable job of maintaining my car, too. 

But nooo….that wasn’t good enough. According to this quiz, I should be walking more or taking public transportation (neat trick when one lives two miles out of town off a road mistaken for a drag strip and have no access to public transit, except for the mini-bus service geared towards senior and people with disabilities); composting (nice thought, but we get enough critters in the yard without enticement); and buying a lot more locally grown food (nice thought, but there are three confirmed dislikers of kale, one of the few things that can grow in Illinois in winter, and I’ve never been able to find locally grown citrus).

And then the litany of failure in the Perfect Woman’s eyes began. What kind of environmentalist are you? Oh, you preach a good sermon, but see all these counterproductive things that you do?

I took a second look at the scores while she tried to shred my self esteem. Except for the necessity of driving and the lack of gardening, I still ranked above average, even though the website conspired with Perfect Woman to shred my confidence to ribbons. I quietly told her to STFU and took Oakley to the forest preserve. 


Life with a Smart Dog

Another windy, cold day here in the soybean field. Tried to walk this morning, but it’s as if the clock on the weather was turned back two months. We’ll try again shortly. Probably make cauliflower crust pizza tonight.

The trick on days like this is providing Oakley with physical activity and mental stimulation so that he doesn’t decide that it’s time for breakfast at 4 AM tomorrow. If I can get him out for one good walk, the former is solved.

The latter is a little more tricky. His trainers said that he was one of if not the brightest dog they’d ever worked with, and one of the contacts at the shelter said that the families who’d adopted his sisters had reported the same.  As with bright children, smart dogs need challenges. Otherwise, boredom sets in and the risk of destructive behavior increases. That’s why Oakley and I practice obedience training several times a week and he gets treats in a treat ball.

As he’s matured, the potential for chaos has decreased. While he was still a puppy and eating kibble, I fed him from a variety of puzzle toys to keep him from gobbling his food and make him think about  how best to get to the savory nuggets. I invented a game called Kibble from Heaven, sort of a canine quiz. I measured out his meal, then gave him a command. When he responded properly, I tossed a handful of kibble into the air, let it scatter on the floor, and waited until he’d cleaned it up, repeating until he was all done.

Nosework is another good way to enhance adverse weather days. I have some freeze dried liver that I keep for just such an occasion. I hide little chunks of it on end tables, stairs, the dining room chairs, any place that will challenge him a bit, but not so hard as to frustrate him.

It takes a little innovation, but the results have been worth it. I don’t need two holes in the drywall to get my attention.    

The Hummus Purist

Hummus is not that mysterious. It’s chickpeas, lemon, garlic, and tahini (sesame paste) whirled together until they form a smooth spread or dip. 15-oz. can partially drained chickpeas; juice of 1/2 lemon (may add more); enough garlic which around here is three or four cloves; and about a quarter-cup of tahini. Traditionally, a drizzle of olive oil tops it. Pita triangles for scooping go on the side as do black olives and onion petals.

Occasionally, I’ll get a tub of the red roasted pepper flavor hummus from the store. It’s a bit clandestine, since Hubby thinks it’s a crime against nature for it to have anything but the simplest ingredients in it. He hates red peppers anyway, but that’s for another day. I get that and some gluten-free crackers and I am a happy WolfMama.

Some of the flavors raise my eyebrows as well. Black olive intrigues me. Sun dried tomato, maybe. But pesto is incomprehensible.

Some of the ingredients in the storebought brands are suspect as well. One brand I tried had high fruticose corn syrup in it for body. Very unpleasant surprise. 

I love it on toast with tomato, alfalfa sprouts, and cucumber. Or in a wrap. 

Just don’t forget the black olives and breath mints.