Monday, October 27, 2008

Clip of the Week: The Vet Who Did Not Vet

Making fun of the McCain-Palin ticket has become a national pasttime. It really makes me wonder what we'll do after next Tuesday is said and done.

(Which reminds me, in spite of Obama's lead in the polls, I'm still VERY nervous for Election Day!)

Just keep repeating: Oooooooobaaaammmmaaaa...Ooooobaaaaaammmmaaaaaaaa...

Mama Cat's Visit

This morning I had both a hot water heater inspection, as well as a conference I had to attend. Since I couldn't be in two places at once, I asked my mother to represent me when the inspector arrived.

(Let me clarify before I continue. Our condo association conducts hot water heater inspections every two years, and each building is scheduled for different times of the month. My building happened to fall in the same week I was attending a statewide conference, and I didn't want to take another day off from work, so I asked my parents if one of them could be at my condo to let the inspector in. My mother, to be henceforth known as Mama Cat, graciously volunteered).

Last week, Mama Cat asked if she could sleep over Sunday night. The inspection was at 10:30, but Mama Cat, like me, likes to be an hour early for everything, and was afraid she'd get into rush hour traffic on her way down 91 South. I said, "Sure. Why not?"

Well, Mama Cat stayed over, we hang out, and had a grand old time. Then it was time for bed. We pulled out the sleeper sofa in the living room, made the bed, then got ready for bed ourselves. We finally went to bed at 11:15, right after the news finished and the Sunday night sports report began.

Mama Cat fell asleep right away.

I had forgotten how much--and how loudly--she snores.

Since I have a loft bedroom, I could hear her loud and clear--in stereo, HD, however you want to call it, the sound was louder than the cars speeding by the condo. (I live on the side of a state road that leads into an interstate about 5 miles west of where I live).

I woke up feeling very unrested, cranky, and out of sorts. It didn't help, either, that I had to get up at 2 AM to pee (thanks to the mug of tea I chugged before bed).

Mama Cat apologized profusely--again and again--as I got ready for the conference.

By the way, the inspection went well. My hot water heater's still running well, as well as my smoke detectors.

And for those of you who think I shouldn't be saying such things about my mother in a public venue, well, you're probably right.

But I could write worse things. However, there aren't any horrible things to write about Mama Cat. She's a pretty good Mama, overall.

Except for when she snores.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cooking With Kitten: Chocolate Chip Cookies

As promised from a while ago, here's the recipe for my mother's chocolate chip cookies:


2 sticks of softened butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 12 oz. bag chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugars together until light. Add eggs, vanilla, and blend.

3. Slowly add flour mixture, 1/3 at a time. Blend. Fold in chocolate chips by hand.

4. Drop by teaspoonful on ungreased cookie sheet.

5. Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes; if the edges are browning, cookies are done. Remove from oven, allow to cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, remove to cooling rack or a sheet of wax paper.

NOTE: These cookies don't spread on the cookie sheet like other chocolate chip cookies do. They also aren't as brown as the others, because of the low brown sugar content. They're still tasty, though!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sidewalk Sermons

One of our local residents, David Schultz, likes to have fun with campaign signs. Click here to see all of his sidewalk sermons, courtesy of our unofficial city blog, The Middletown Eye.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sick Bay Redux

I am sick again, but I am worse off than I was last week, when I experienced my first symptoms of some coldish virus. This morning I slept till 11 AM (but it didn't help that I only slept three hours the night before), and woke up with stuffed-to-the-gills sinuses.

At 11:30, I called a friend to cancel plans and took a Sudafed.

I'm defrosting some more of the chicken soup that I made last week.

I've gone through almost an entire box of Kleenex today.

And now, naptime.


Clip of the Week, Part Two: October 19, 2008

And now here's John McCain's roast of his Democratic rival for the presidency.

Clip of the Week, Part One: October 19, 2008

Barack Obama roasts his Republican presidential rival at the Alfred E. Smith Foundation dinner in New York late last week.

Very, very funny stuff.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday Cat Blogging

I'm trying to do some schoolwork right now, but Maggie keeps bothering me.

She's assuming her usual position in front of the computer monitor, sitting right in front of it with a grimace on her face, as if to say, "Pay attention to me, NOW!"
Like this:

She just tried to gently swat my face, the same way she does when I don't get out of bed right when she wants me to. She paws my cheek if I ignore her for too long, but she only does this when the food dish is empty.

Right now she's curled up in what I call her "L'il Loaf" position: laying down, paws tucked underneath, tail curled around her hind legs. I love it when cats sit like this.
Other times Maggie will jump to the shelf that's immediately above my computer monitor:

Eventually, Maggie'll get the message that I'm working and she'll jump off the desk and leave me alone for a little while.

Then Gabby trots in and the cycle repeats itself. She's not as bad as Maggie, though; she knows when to sit down. Other times, however, she sits on the top of my chair--yes, the top of it--and her body almost weighs down the chair so much that it could fall backwards.
Felines--good for your mental health, but not always good for work productivity.

Today's Mail

I only received two items in today's mail. Both were little fliers, printed on cardstock, that encouraged me to re-elect my state representatives.

With all of this talk about going green, don't you think it's time for our lawmakers to follow suit?

I have a lot of respect for my state reps, but please, STOP CLUTTERING MY MAILBOX!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Columbus Day!

Happy Columbus Day, kittens! I hope that you are enjoying this lovely fall day. I know I sure am--I've got the day off! Wahoo!

Seriously, though, I just made my surf through all the morning shows, and they've got Italian food cookin' today! Lidia Bastianich was on The Early Show cooking up something in honor of Signor Colombo. (Hope I've got the spelling right--and I'm half Sicilian myself!) There was something cookin' over at GMA as well, and the Fox 5 morning show, Good Day New York, had a specialty from a local Italian cafe. Hell, the parade's coming up today!

So I just had a thought about all of this. I live in Middletown, Connecticut, a city of about 45,000, where much of its population can trace its heritage back to a little village on the island of Sicily, Melilli. Middletown is proud enough of its heritage to acknowledge it in posters near Melilli Plaza, but not so proud of it that we don't have any Melilli heritage days, or anything to acknowledge the history of our town.

WHY?!?! This is what makes our city so unique!

On another note, we do have an Italian market on Main Street, but there's no place for me to grab a cannoli should I have the craving! (And it's got to be the one filled with ricotta cheese and lightly sweetened with almond extract and mixed with mini dark chocolate chips. Americans got it wrong with the cream cheese filling).

Maybe I should head on over to the Middletown Eye blog and pose my queries.

In the meantime, how should I, Ms. Kitten, honor my Sicilian heritage today?

Well, pasta for dinner sounds too easy, and I have no pastry in the house for breakfast.

But I do have bocconcini--little balls of fresh mozzarella.

And I have coffee.

Yeah, it's a stretch.

I think I'll just listen to Dean Martin's Volare on my iPod instead.

Yep, that'll do.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookie Time!

Why have I been so domestic this weekend? First I made the chicken soup, then I made some fish for dinner tonight. Tilapia with a honey mustard sauce. Yum!

Earlier today, I picked a whole bunch of apples to make applesauce.

I got home, and cleaned my living room like the dickens, and washed a whole bunch of dishes.

How do I reward myself for all the hard work?

I made a batch of my mom's chocolate chip cookies.

I whipped up the dough in my Kitchen Aid, but did NOT want to have to bake cookies all night. That, and a whole batch o' cookies would be toooo tempting, especially since I've lost a bit of weight recently. So I took an idea that I got from Ellie Krieger of the Food Network, and wrapped the extra dough in wax paper logs to freeze. I was tres proud of myself!

I baked only four cookies, but only ate two of them. Even better moment for me!

Recipe to come...I've got laundry to do!

I've Gots to Have My Honeycrisps!

It's a beautiful, beautiful autumn day here in Connecticut. A perfect day for picking apples and pumpkins. I got this great idea yesterday as I made chicken soup.

It turns out, everyone else in Connecticut had the same idea.

Lyman's was incredibly crowded today. So crowded they needed at least three or four cops to direct traffic around the Apple Barrel and the Corn Maze. (Photos coming soon of last week's trip to the Corn Maze, I promise!)

I knew that it was late in the season for apple picking, but I didn't count on many of the trees being picked clean. Well, there were plenty of apples near the tops of the trees, but I am only five feet tall, and that's not a good thing.

I managed to pick decent amounts of mitsu crispin and golden delicious apples for applesauce, but one particular variety eluded me, and I had to go to the Apple Barrel to purchase it.

The honeycrisp.

What is a honeycrisp apple, you ask? It's only the most delicious variety of apple ever created, EVER!!! According to the Lyman's website, honeycrisps are "honey-sweet and amazingly crisp! Developed in 1991." They are also "an excellent eating apple; good for sauce, baking, and pies. Excellent eating fresh out of hand; super-crisp."

Lyman's honeycrisp trees are still fairly new; in fact, they're still growing against stakes.

I knew that the pick your own honeycrisp wouldn't be available, but I saw a ten-pound bag when I was at the Apple Barrel last week, so I took my chances, weaved my way through the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of vehicles parked around the Apple Barrel, and went inside.

They were sold out of honeycrisps.

I wanted to cry.

One woman in line at the pick your own, however, said she saw honeycrisps at Stop and Shop for $2.49 a pound. Pricey, yes, but since honeycrisps are still a newish variety, there aren't that many trees in this part of the country just yet.

So once again, I took my chances and drove to Stop and Shop in Middletown to find this apple. I beelined towards the produce section. No honeycrisps in the totes! So I went to the bag your own area, and saw:


I dove right in and bought almost seven pounds. I didn't care how expensive it was!!! I was feeling like that little gremlin in the old commercials for Honey Comb cereal, only instead of saying, "I've gots to have my Honey Comb!" I was shrieking, "I've gots to have my honeycrisps!"

Words cannot describe the succulent, sweet, amazing flavor of a honeycrisp. It's very sweet, sugary, and the texture is ever so crisp and firm.

If you can find them in your area, get them before they're gone! They have a short growing season. You won't regret it!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cooking with Kitten: Applesauce

Tomorrow I am bound and determined to make it over to Lyman Orchards to picks me some apples! And what do I do with such an abundant supply of apples, kittens? Why, I make applesauce!

Here's how I do it. The photos are from an earlier applesauce-making adventure this summer:

The first things you'll need, of course, are some apples. For my previous batch, I used ginger golds, which are pictured above.

Then you'll need this little tool:
I honestly don't know what the official name for this gadget is. I call it "the apple corer slicer thing." Here's how it works:

You place it over the center of the apple...

...and press down. You're left with the core standing straight up, and the slices spiraling around the side, kinda like the bloomin' onion appetizer you can get at some chain restaurants.

Put the core in your compost heap, if you've got one, or throw it away. Save the slices. Note that I didn't peel the apple first. It's not necessary in my version.

Now as you core your apples, put them in your largest pot. Once you've cored and sliced all of your apples, add water to the pot--but only enough to cover the bottom of the pot. You won't need much water, since the juices in the apples will provide you enough liquid during the cooking process.
Turn your stove to low. You want to cook your apples very slowly so they don't burn. You'll hear the water at the bottom of the pot bubble up soon enough.

Here's what the apples look like once they start to cook down:
The apples will start to look as if they're starting to sink. Note how the color of the skins is a lighter green.

Now while the apples are cooking, you're gonna need two other tools: a foley food mill, and the largest bowl you own. Set the two up like this:

I set mine up next to the stove, which makes it easier. That way you can spoon the apples directly from the pot and into your foley food mill.

Where can you find a foley food mill, you ask? My mother gave me mine for Christmas one year, and I have no idea where she found it. Here are some I just found on Amazon. You really don't need to spend a ton of money on this gadget; my mother paid next to nothing for hers and it's lasted over 35 years.

Meanwhile, check on your apples...

...when they get good and soft, but not soft enough that they collapse under the weight of a metal spoon, it's time to add your spices. I use cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ground cloves in my applesauce. Be generous with the cinnamon, but use no more than a tablespoon or two each of the cloves and allspice. As for the nutmeg, make sure it's freshly grated. It just tastes better, and there's no better scent making applesauce than that of freshly grated nutmeg. Be generous with the nutmeg, too, but not as generous as the cinnamon, and a little more so than the cloves and allspice.

Now wait a few minutes after adding your spices, so the apples start to absorb them. Then give your pot the spoon test:

See how soft the apples are? See how the spoon just sank to the bottom? You're ready for the foley food mill now!

Here's what the apples look like right after you've spooned them directly from the pot and placed them in the foley food mill:

Now you're gonna need a lot of elbow grease! Start turning! The sauce will start to trickle down from the bottom of the food mill.

Here's what the apples look like in the middle of the process. Notice that there's a LOT of sauce in there! Once in a while, you're gonna need to clean the skins out from the bottom of the food mill to prevent clogging. Either throw them away, or use 'em in your compost heap.

And now, here's what the finished product looks like:

Homemade applesauce has been a tradition in my family since I was a kid. My mama passed on this tradition to me. I refused, as a kid, to eat commercial applesauce, 'cause it tasted yucky. I still refuse to eat commercial applesauce for that reason.

You can use your applesauce in many ways. It's wonderful, of course, while it's still warm, and it's especially good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a bit of real whipped cream. (NEVER the artificial Cool Whip processed stuff! Yucky!)

It's excellent when you mix it with a little granola and yogurt to make a parfait. And it's especially good with breakfast! Mix it in with a bit of hot oatmeal. Or, here's my favorite breakfast: Heat up a bowl of Grape Nuts with a little vanilla soymilk. When you take it out of the microwave, stir in some applesauce. It is TO DIE FOR!

Finally, if your four-legged housemates don't like applesauce, know that you can freeze this. It freezes beautifully.

Now tell me, is there any other way to spend a spectacular fall day than to celebrate the bounty of its harvest?

Clip of the Week: October 12, 2008

This is from the 1975 animated special, "Really Rosie," which featured music by Carole King and lyrics by Maurice Sendak. This song, "Chicken Soup with Rice," is especially appropriate, given my chicken soup quest all week!

I know I'm posting this a day early, but I couldn't wait!

The Quest for Dishwasher Detergent

And not just any dishwasher detergent, kittens! It has to be environmentally friendly and free of phosphates. (Say THAT five times fast!)

I am almost out of the Seventh Generation detergent that I bought a little while ago, and while it cleans dishes well, it's not as good as ol' reliable, but full o' phosphates, Cascade. It's also not very good at cleaning grease and oil off your dishes.

So I mosied my way over to Method's website, for the good people there sent me an E-mail not long ago about their new dishwasher tabs. I love Method. Their products are environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and affordable. I use all of their cleaning products, and I adore their hand soap, too. So much so that, when my mother found a ginormous refill bottle at Costco, she bought it for me.

According to the website, the dishwasher tabs cleaned as good or better than the leading brands--or so say the company tests. And the product is supposedly available at Stop and Shop and the A&P--the two local supermarkets in my town. (Yes, they are chains, and I would really prefer to shop the local businesses, but I have to go with what's open tomorrow, and It's Only Natural has limited Sunday hours).

So tomorrow, when I venture out of the house, I need to stop by one of those stores and pick up these dishwasher tabs. In the meantime, Kittens, do you have any recommendations?

Sick Bay Update

Jane's chicken soup did the trick! I'm feeling a LOT better, plus I am starting to sweat out whatever nasty toxins are in my body. I slept on and off on the couch for about three to four hours, and got up only 20 minutes ago. By then the soup had cooled completely and I was able to put it in containers and freeze most of it. I'll be eating a LOT of chicken soup within the next few days!

Right now the bones are in my pot, waiting in lots of water, to become stock. Surprisingly neither kitty begged for either bowl of soup I consumed this morning, nor are they pacing the kitchen for the smells of stock. Still, they cuddled up against me while I napped, and that furry medicine was excellent, too!

By the way, where did I finally end up getting the chicken? Stop and Shop sells whole organic chickens under their organic line, Nature's Promise. It was quite tasty, but very fatty. I'll be skimming off the layer of fat from each of my frozen containers soon.

Now to check on my stock, and heat up a nice cup of decaf tea. What flavor of tea shall I drink today, kittens? It has to be decaf, 'cuz I'm still sick. At least I'm not sniffling as much as I did this morning.

Sick Bay

I have been looking forward to this three-day weekend for a long time...and of course, I wind up coming down with a cold!!!

It's not a full-fledged cold just yet, so my plan is to nip it in the bud ASAP. I'm making a batch of chicken soup today from a recipe that I found from Jane Redmont's blog. As you know, I've been wanting to make this recipe for a few days, and have been going batty trying to find a decent chicken, one without hormones, sustainably raised, and died while listening to Mozart and watching PBS. (The latter words describing the chicken are Jane's, not mine).

The plan is also to have lots of soothing cups of tea. Tea with honey. Mmmm. And curl up with my latest book club read, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

Maybe this won't be such a bad weekend after all. I haven't had a night home to myself in two weeks, so this might be a gift!

Now to go make that chicken soup!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Quest for Chicken

And not just any chicken, might I add. I'm looking to buy an organic whole chicken. Or, as Jane Redmont just wrote in a recent post, "chicken with whole, sustainably raised, died-while-listening-to-Mozart-and-watching-PBS, in the prime of life, happy, hormone-free, fed with healthy stuff, chickens."

You see, Jane just posted what sounds like a wonderful recipe for chicken soup and stock. I have never made homemade chicken soup before, and since I have Columbus Day off, I figure that the weekend will give me the perfect opportunity to make some wonderful soup.

So yesterday I started calling around to find out where I could buy such a special chicken as the one that Auntie Jane described. I called two local health food stores; they carried "sustainably raised, died-while-listening-to-Mozart-and-watching-PBS, in the prime of life, happy, hormone-free, fed with healthy stuff" chicken breasts. No, no, I explained, I want the whole chicken.

So today I asked a colleague who is also a serious foodie. I told her I really didn't want to drive the half hour to Whole Foods for "sustainably raised, died-while-listening-to-Mozart-and-watching-PBS" chicken. I wanted the whole damn chicken! She suggested I try the Nature's Promise line at Stop and Shop.

So that will be my next stop, although I really would prefer a smaller, local store. That way I can really trust the quality of my goods. Keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I'm Still Here

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the less-than-meaningful, unfruitful blogging that has occurred as of late. I've been really busy with school, just wrapped up a housesitting gig, and have been preoccupied in general, as you may have witnessed in a couple of posts from last week. I also haven't had much to write about, either. However, I went to the corn maze at Lyman's this afternoon, took a lot of pictures, and plan to blog about that as soon as I upload the pictures.

Normally I would post the links to Lyman's and the previous posts, but I am exhausted, physically and mentally.

But anyway, I just wanted to let y'all know I'm all right.

Ta ta, farewell, staaaaaaaayyyyy loose!

Clip of the Week: Mornin' Ralph, Mornin' Sam

I don't know why, but somehow Ralph and Sam remind me of the working relationship McCain and Obama must have whenever they're together, either in the Senate or on the campaign trail.

Don't ask me which character symbolizes who, though.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bonus Clip of the Week!

I only wish car repair was this easy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Biden-Palin Debate

I'm embarrassed to say, I fell asleep during the proceedings.

But I will say this:

I'm in luuuuuurrrrrrrrvvvvvvvvve with Joe Biden. Or at least the way he looks when he grins.

When he smiles, he's just so damn cute!

But that's NOT the reason I'm voting for the Obama/Biden ticket, though. Just want to make that point clear.

Sarah Palin, at times, I wanted to scream at her, "Answer the stupid question!" (I used much stronger language, but this is a family-friendly blog). And I HATED the way she winked at the camera. That aw-shucks tone may work with some Americans, but it doesn't work with the Vice Presidency, people!

Can you imagine, if McCain were to die in office, and President Palin (Arrgh! Perish the thought!) were to deliver an address to the nation in such a manner? Would anyone take her seriously? Would world leaders take her seriously?

Would she convert the White House lawn into a hockey rink so all the hockey moms can watch their kids play?

I don't have much else to say about it, other than, I fell asleep. I'm still housesitting, and one of the dogs likes to wake me up during the night to play.

Don't get me wrong, I loves me my animals...but I am much more of a cat person, anyway.

Oh well, all the sound bites will be on YouTube and CNN later, anyway.