Cookies for Oldsters

Chewy, buttery, loaded with regularity and middle-aged goodness, this recipe is so similar to the Quaker Oats oatmeal cookie recipe that I should probably be arrested for plagiarism (or grand theft auto, but that’s a story for later). Instead of oats, however, there is bran in these here cookies.

Bran, as you are no doubt aware, tastes like sawdust. The texture is much like sawdust, too, and requires plenty of moisture to make up for its inherent dryness. There is a lot of butter and brown sugar in this recipe. A lot. Do not labor under the illusion that these are low calorie. I don’t do low calorie.

I bumped up the spice factor to delight the palette and bury the sawdust taste in the woodworking shop where it belongs; and the end result is so good, I ate six of them in an hour. I can’t wait for them to kick in… if you catch my drift.

THE INGREDIENTS:

1 cup margarine or 1 cup butter, softened (Please use butter. Please.)
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon (Also add 1/2 teaspoon cloves, cardamom, allspice and/or nutmeg. Whatever you got.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups Allbran, Bran Buds or a generically branded sawdust
1 cup raisins or currants (I prefer the latter because they stay chewy and aren’t quite as sweet.)

SOME INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars by hand or in mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Dip-level-pour the flour (or sift, if you’re like that) and add it and the salt, soda and spices to the wet ingredients. Stir until combined. Add the bran and the raisins or currants, and stir to combine well.

Place walnut-sized blobs of dough around two inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet, and bake for approximately 10 minutes. They should be slightly dark around the edges, and the sheen from the center should be almost gone. Cool them briefly before removing from sheet. Makes around 40 amazingly tasty cookies full of fiber, iron and whatever vitamins they put in the cereal.

A PHOTO OF THREE COOKIES:

brancookies

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Mincing Words

After I wax on a bit about how annoying it is when someone on a certain substance (meth), who wants more of that substance, tries to break into a building in broad daylight in order to loot the contents by repeatedly kicking a steel plate door, I’ll get to the recipe portion of this post. I promise.

When Mr. Kicksit launched his assault on said door, the noise distracted Sam-dog who was about to do his part to fertilize the grass near said door. It was pouring rain, Sam was frozen completely through, he was being distracted by the noise, and as I’m not exactly Mother Teresa in the live-and-let-live department I yelled, “Holy bleeping bleepsticks! Would you please knock that bleep the bleep off?!” Silence was restored, and Sam and I were able to complete our mission. I’m certain it was because I said ‘please’.

Obviously I don’t mince words, but I do mince pie. I make mincemeat pie, that is, as did my mother, grandmother and great grandmother before me. Unlike my small crowd of estrogenic, vaguely British ancestors, I don’t make the mincemeat myself. That would be madness when one can simply drive to a grocery store, hunt around for jarred mincemeat, end up asking a clerk where it is, wait for the clerk to find his manager and ask her where it is, and end up back at the front of the store where it is conveniently hidden behind bread crumbs and canned pumpkin…

Come to think of it, the 12-hour process of boiling the suet out of some tough cuts of mutton and sunning my own grapes to make the raisins doesn’t sound so bad. Original mincemeat wasn’t intended as dessert, it was a meal made with odd bits of this and that out of necessity by stooping surfs hovering over a pot for the better part of a day, praying the food would come out good. Modern mince contains very little–if any–meat, and relies on a bevy of spices for flavor. It is mostly raisins, apples and corn syrup.

To make up for the lack of beef or mutton fat, I add a half cup of chopped walnuts per jar of mincemeat. To stretch it I add a small, cubed apple and 1/4 a cup of raisins or currents. If you like, add a teaspoon of cinnamon and/or half a teaspoon of ground clove for extra zip. If you like to live on the edge, add one tablespoon of rum.

The crust, however, is what brings it all together. If pride be a deadly sin, then I shall die with crust crumbs on me lips, a spryly tined fork in me eye and me crust recipe clutched in me blue hand. It’s that good.

You are strongly encouraged to forget everything anyone has ever taught you about making pie crust and do this:

1. Per double crust pie, place 2 1/4 cups of unsifted flour in a large mixing bowl or food processor.

2. Cut up 3/4 cup of cold, unsalted butter and toss it on top of the flour.

3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

4. Have by your side some chilled water and a measuring tablespoon.

5. Either cut in the butter with a fork or hand pastry cutter, or pulse-process the flour and butter together until it forms small clumps.

6. Sprinkle one tablespoons of water on the mixture and pulse or cut in until it starts to absorb. Add one more and repeat until the dough comes together when you squish it. Use no more than five tablespoons. It won’t look like ordinary pie dough, but more like cookie dough.

7. Form dough into a ball by packing it tightly in plastic wrap (the less fondling, the better) and chill it for however long it takes you to prep the filling. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t want the dough too cold.

8. Roll out slightly more than half the dough on a floured surface to fit the bottom of a 9″ or 10″ pie dish. The dough will likely break on the way from the rolling pin to the dish, but can easily be patched.

9. Prick a few holes in the bottom crust (as it were) and pour inside it the stuff I mentioned above. (I’m checking to see if you’re paying attention.)

10. Roll out the rest of the dough to form the top crust and plunk it over the mincemeat. Pinch the bottom and top edges together (as it were), leaving no room for the contents to escape. We aren’t going for perfection, people. A perfectly fluted edge is not only intimidating to your guests, the peaks tend to burn. There is nothing I despise more than burnt pie crust peaks, and that’s the truth.

11. Cut slits in the top crust so steam can vent.

12. Dust on a tablespoon of sugar, if you wish. You do.

13. Cover the edges of the crust with foil or a crust cover (yes, they make those). This year I used the outer part of a tart dish with a removable bottom. It flattened the edges during baking, but once again we’re more concerned with taste than elegance.

14. Bake pie on next to lowest rack for 35-40 minutes until faintly golden. Placing it on a lower rack ensures the bottom crust is cooked. If the top crust edges aren’t golden enough for you, remove the foil or other device for the last few minutes of baking.

15. Cool for at least two hours before serving. Cover leftovers and store on your counter like some pre-dental, Medieval person, or in the fridge if you are the nervous sort.

If you insist on using vegetable shortening, use 2/3 cup and up the water to five-and-a-half tablespoons. (Butter contains its own water.) This crust can be used for any pie, from apple to chocolate cream. It has a flakey, shortbread consistency. I discourage an egg wash because an egg wash turns a crust to leather. There is no need to follow suit with my poor, British ancestors and eat your shoes.

Fuggly Boots and a Bottle o’ Rum

Quick questions: Anyone still bothering to watch football? I’m so discouraged with this season, I’ve cancelled my Seattle Seahawks Jockstrap Flip-Up Advent Calendar order. I’ll just have to wallow in curiosity, and smooth my ruffled hawk feathers by walking my dog in my new Ugg boots*. What’s the point of having children if we can’t humiliate them with bad fashion trends, right? (Limit your answers to “Yes,” or “No, and what is wrong with you?”)

Now for the real reason we’re here: fruitcake. Dark fruitcake, to be exact. It’s notoriously hard to photograph, but I think I may have done it some justice by adding an empty bottle of rum and being ripped on Ambien when I set up the shots. I purchased said bottle o’ five years ago**, and will have to–ulp–brave the local methy liquor store before I can make my Great Aunt Mary’s*** famous rum balls. Life is a constant struggle.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to read recipes, I follow the dictates of page 75 of the 1968 edition of Better Homes & Gardens “New” Cook Book; adding prunes or dates instead of raisins and swapping out the canned OJ for some seedless jam, fresh juice or a dry gin martini, and pretending I’m in the spectacularly modern feature kitchen.


___________

*Yes, Sam-dog will be wearing the Ugg boots.

**The rum, not the Ambien. Apparently I’m a bit too ambiguous since being dropped on my head at the tender age of 43.

***The one on my mom’s side, not my dad’s side. If you’d been paying attention to this blog AT ALL, you’d know I had two.

Weak Cup of the Week: The “Why I Tried Red Bull” Edition

The prognosis is bleak. I’m not just lactose intolerant, it’s a strong possibility that I have a full-on allergy to cow’s milk. It’s dismal and life altering, and though not directly responsible for my inability to post weekly Weak Cups of the Week, it has everything to do with why I tried Red Bull. Let me ‘splain.

At this stage of life sans dairy, it’s easier to point out what I can’t eat than what I can eat. I can’t have ice cream, for instance, and there is no true replacement. Later this evening I’ll dip into a “frozen chocolate treat” made with almond milk and make note of my findings, but I can tell you all right here and now it isn’t going to taste anything like Haagen Dazs.

When people say, “Oh, but you can have soy and rice and almond and blah blah blah, ” it takes me a second to get that, “You’re an idiot with no taste buds,” look off my face and attempt polite agreement. I then point out that I can’t have too much soy (gas city) but I can have goat’s and sheep’s milk, and love the cheese and yogurt culled from these critters. I then receive a, “You’re an idiot with no taste buds, and you’re gross,” look from my conversation partner and we agree to disagree or mount a cold war.

I can’t have Starbucks Doubleshots in a can, either. This is my go to drink when I don’t have the early morning wherewithal to operate a Melitta filter and a coffee grinder, but it’s mostly milk. Bibicafe is good, but expensive and hard to find. Pepsi is too sweet and Coke dissolves dimes and teeth, and both are very high in sugar; and that is why I bought my first Red Bull.

I’m not going to lie. I didn’t fancy the stuff. To keep things somewhat genteel I shall give my assessment in wine-tasting terminology. Sort of.

When I first pulled back the flip top on the slender, blue and red can I caught a whiff of vanilla and dare I say floral? A deep floral, like Hawaiian white ginger, neroli (a variety of orange flower) or exotic ylang ylang would pair well with many cola beverages, but the vanilla made me nervous.

It was odd that the top note was ever so slightly deeper than what comes next in perfuming and wining; the sustained middle note. The next thing that hit me was citrus, which is a typical top note. Mandarin? Bergamot (related to grapefruit)? Lime? Regardless, when mixed with the strong florals and vanilla it started to smell like Cascade dishwasher detergent.

I bravely took a sip and felt the surprisingly bland, caustic fluid strip my teeth of their enamel. Apple and cherry leapt to the forefront, and who doesn’t want grapefruit and vanilla on their apples and cherries? After that it became chemical. Though it doesn’t contain a chemical sweetener, it tasted as though it did. Much like milk substitutes don’t taste like milk to me, chemical sweeteners will always taste like anything but sugar.

I swooshed the sip in hopes of finding something redeeming, but instead ended up with a mouth full of explosive calcium carbonate that had to go somewhere… so I swallowed.

*ulp* *burp* Pardon.

The can sat staring at me for a few more minutes, chiding and bullying me into trying again. “Billions of teenagers think we’re da bomb, you dopey old lady! What’s wrong with you? 80 milligrams of caffeine and I can stay awake through history class AND math!”

When I brew a cup of coffee or tea, I’m hard core. What I end up with has more like 200 milligrams of caffeine and tastes good. I have two or three cups, too. Mind you I doubt I could keep my eyes open during 10th grade English, but I can get in a ton of housework and social networking AND still make time to watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills while knitting a 300 mile long scarf. Good luck with that, teenagers.

The can waited patiently, breathing and wheezing carbonation for half an hour, and I thought, “Okay. Maybe the taste improves with aeration.”

The vanilla, citrus, chemicals and tree fruits were gone, and were replaced not with a bottom note of cola nut, chocolate or espresso bean, but with what could easily be described as Perrier.

“Mmmm, boy,” I said to the dog. “To think I paid $1.99 for the experience of drinking lightly caffeinated, overly carbonated mineral water, when I could be sipping a full, round, smooth, deadly strong cup of coffee with two tablespoons of sugar and a hefty sprinkle of non-dairy creamer.” He watched intently as I poured the rest of the Red Bull down the sink.

At any rate, now I know what I can’t have–and what I don’t want. That’s progress, right?

Weak Cup of the Week, Week Seven

Today’s post brought to you by me dying of a fever/flu/plague/bad karma… I really don’t care what you call it, it’s miserable. Or as I’ve been saying lately, “biserable”.

This Week’s cup of weak green tea is a bowl of chicken broth, homemade by someone but certainly not by me. In their defense, the fat hasn’t been skimmed from the dead, brown liquid in this photo. That was shown in their next photo, which was even less appetizing than this.

As a general rule, chicken freaks me out unless it’s white breast meat cooked just so and preferably breaded, fried and slathered in mustard or barbeque sauce. I can’t remember the last time I, personally, handled raw chicken flesh. Unless it’s slightly frozen, it’s like cutting into human flesh. (I have vast experience in the human flesh cutting arts from my serial killing days.)

That aside, I have made broth from pieces of raw chicken dropped from a package that allowed for no physical contact. I then added veggies, aromatics, salt, wine and water. The cooking smell is a little gamey and fatty for me if I don’t add wine, and though some say not to salt until the end I find it imparts a more rounded flavor in the finished product.

The resulting chicken is, itself, too rubbery and full of cartilage and skin, and I’m not one to patiently pick the scant palatable flesh from the bones (not since the aforementioned serial killing days). I strain the whole thing very well, and then make risotto, clear matzo or noodle soup with just the broth; or I add some chicken breasts, tomatillos, jalapenos, avocado, etc. and make a fiery chili verde that really cleans out the sinuses.