Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pantry Cookies

I'm a big fan of the Food Network's program Chopped.  Have you seen it?  I love watching the chefs open their basket of mystery ingredients and try to beat the clock, as well as their competitors, while attempting to make an appetizer, entree, and dessert out of the unusual combination of ingredients.

This week my dear friend's father passed away and as they would need to drive to Mississippi to attend the service, I would get to take care of their basset, Franklin, for the long weekend. Food, to me, is a comfort in any situation.  If I am upset or sad..I'm in the kitchen.  If I am happy..I'm in the kitchen.  What better way to show I cared than to bake some cookies for the family to nosh on while on the long trip home so off to the pantry I went.

I originally decided to make my son's favorite, Ranger Cookies, but I discovered I was out of chocolate chips.  Now anyone who knows me would be shaking their head in disbelief as they know you can always find chocolate chips by the bagful in my pantry.  As a confessed choco-holic I"m not sure how this happened. As I stood there woefully wondering what to do, my eyes landed on the bag of soft granola that had been languishing in the pantry for months.  Costco, a few months back, had been offering samples of soft granola with a buy 1 get 1 offer.  Have you noticed that samples in the stores always taste better at the store than when you get them home?  Why is that?  My family did not find the first bag as delicious as promised and they informed me that granola should be hard not soft, so the second bag was relegated to the pantry.

When I cook I usually don't follow too many recipes, except when baking, preferring instead to grab some ingredients, think about what flavors I want, and cook away.  I decided that this lone bag of granola would be the mystery ingredient in my cookies.

I took 2 sticks of butter out of the fridge, always a staple in my fridge, and started creaming it in the mixer.  When it was light and fluffy, I added sugar until it tasted sweet enough. I then added a couple of eggs and knowing I need some chemical action going, I added about a teaspoon of baking soda and some salt. I mixed this well and then added the granola.  Hmm...a little soupy.  I added flour until it looked the consistency of cookie dough.  Now to season..a generous splash of vanilla, a heaping spoonful of cinnamon, a pinch of cloves, and a larger pinch of nutmeg. I tasted the dough and WOW it tasted pretty good! Scooped them out onto the pans and baked at 350 until they were browned around the edges.

I received a text from Cherie that they were delicious and her husband said I needed to recreate the recipe.  Rob came home from Omaha and finished off the cookies.  He too wants me to recreate the recipe.  Success!  I am the Chopped Champion!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jail Break or How it Took a Village to Install a Baby Gate

Yesterday I had to take Keith to the airport and put him on a plane to Queretaro, Mexico where he will be in a Spanish immersion program for 2 months.  Not only would I be missing him, but my new puppy, Rufus, would be missing him.  Keith went with me to the breeder and helped choose him and he had been Rufus' caregiver for the last month while I was at work.  Now Rufus would have to be alone during the day for the first time.

As Rufus is only 14 weeks and is not housebroken I would either have to put him in a crate for 10 hour or find another solution.  I decided that he needed more room than the crate so I decided my sun room (currently filled with all my lovely orchids) would be a great place.  I placed his bed, water bowl, bucket of toys, piddle pad, and closed the entrance with a wooden baby gate that operated on tension.  I set him inside and off to the airport we went.  Fast forward 10 hours.  Who met me at the door when I came home? Leonard, as usual, but Rufus too!  I had had a jail break.  I only had 1 tinkle and 1 poo to clean up which I thought was pretty amazing for a 14 week old puppy but this wouldn't do so off to Target I went where I bought a metal gate that screwed into the wooden door jamb of the sun room.

As Rob is in Omaha, Keith is in Mexico, and Kevin is in Oklahoma this meant I would have to install the gate myself if I wanted it done.  I'm not the most mechanically minded person but I do know how to use a screwdriver and the box said "easy to install" so I put on the Rangers game and began to try and read the instructions.

Instructions to my mind mean step-by-step written directions not pictures without words.  I stared and read and stared and read.  It took me at least 30 minutes to figure out how to begin.  At this point I was willing to have the instructions in Spanish or French as I knew i could at least figure out most of what I was supposed to do. I separated the parts, wrote their corresponding letters on the backside with a sharpie so I wouldn't forget what was what, taped up my template, made the markings for the holes, and then came to a grinding halt.  For the life of me I couldn't figure out what the red plastic things were for and how they could possibly go into the hole. I texted my husband and Jason, my friend's husband, for help.

Jason called me and told me that they were for drywall and as I was going into wood they weren't necessary.  Why couldn't the instructions have printed that tiny little bit of information? Then Rob called me back and told me the same thing.  How is it that guys instinctively know these things?

I drilled my pilot holes and tried to screw in the screws.  Whew!  I found out that I really need to work on my upper arm strength but I finally got them in. I placed the gate in the brackets and nearly started crying as the gate seemed too wasn't big enough to latch on the other side and I couldn't expand it as then it would be too big.  At this point I had been working on the $@@#$ gate for about 3 hours as I had to contend not only with non-written directions but the needs of a puppy who was intent on getting underfoot.  He must have known it was for his incarceration and was trying to sabotage the whole project.

Luckily, my friend Barbara called and after a quick consult she and her husband Roger came over.  Roger calmed me down and said the gate was not defective that all I had to do was unscrew the bolts to make it stretch.  Again, why wasn't this in the directions and why do guys instinctively know what needs to be done? With his help the gate was finished.

This morning I put Rufus into the newly gated sun room and made it to the garage before he let loose with a mighty racket.  Who knew that much noise could come out of such a small body.  Then he started howling.  I stood in the garage for several minutes waffling about whether to go back in or just get in the car and hope for the best.Then Leonard, who is allowed to run loose through the house during the day as he is housebroke, started to howl in accompaniment.  Wow! Now I had 2 bassets going full out and it was incredible.  I walked outside the front, around to the side of the house, and stood at the gate to hear how loud it was. It sounded like it was coming from right outside and as if there was a pack of wild dogs in the yard.

Our neighbor to that side doesn't really care for dogs and I wasn't sure if this noise was what they wanted to hear at 6:00 in the morning.  Can animal control write you up for excessive barking if it is coming from inside your house?  I'm not sure. So I went back in released the puppy, hugged and kissed him and put him in the crate with the TV on to help drown out his cries.  I'm thinking of trying to leave him and Leonard in the gated sun room on Friday as it is a half-day for me.  What do you think?  I'm also thinking of buying 3 more gates and just leaving him to have the entire kitchen to run around. I know I need to harden my heart to his cries but it is hard.  Surely he couldn't keep it up all day. Anyway, here is a picture of my two boys.