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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Mama Wendina’s Brew

Hi. I’m Mama Wendina. Am I Italian? No, not really. There are a few Italians hanging from my mother’s branch of the tree, but this post isn’t about my lovely cousins, Toni and Tina, their uncles or Grandma Angelina’s splendid Sunday gravy. (That’s red sauce, for those of you not in the know.)

What Mama Wendina has in common with Italians is a passion for a strong, smooth, sumptuous cup of coffee*, and I make-a da best. The two ex boyfriends who’ve had the privilege would lay testament to that. In fact, they’re probably sharing a cell in a maximum security facility, talking about my coffee and trying to decide which of their mothers to kill first when they get out. One of them will be heavily armed and the other is clinically psychotic, so avoid the greater Seattle area if you can.

First, let’s discuss beans. Buy these beans: http://bargreencoffee-store.stores.yahoo.net/frenroas.html End of discussion.

They have an organic French roast but it doesn’t cook up as nice. Other coffee snobs and snobettes are finding these beans to be near the best, and have even blogged about them. Imagine that? If you live near Seattle (and haven’t encountered one of my exes) you’ll find Bargreen Coffee at Bartell Drugs, so make sure to grab a bag of the whole beans while waiting for the pharmacist to refill your happy pills.

If you don’t own a grinder, buy one. I have a typical home grinder that holds around two-thirds of a cup of beans. Fill it to the top, then grind the holy heck out of those poor beans until they are almost an espresso worthy paste. On any given morning, my neighbors can hear horrific cement grinder sounds, followed by loud slams on the counter as I loosen unground beans from the sides of the well. Then back to RRRRWRRRRWWRRRR SLAM! BWEEERRRRRWRRR… They hate me.

While you’re shopping for a grinder, also purchase a #2 plastic Melitta cone and some #2 filters. I sometimes buy the unbleached filters for aesthetic reasons. At this point, bleaching my brain cells won’t make much of a difference. The plastic cone will cost less than a latte, and a box of 40 cones will run about the same.

Heat water until you see a hint of steam. Do not let the water reach a full boil. If you’re using a tea kettle, you’ll be pulling it off the heat well before the whistle blows. Hotter, and you’ll add bitterness**.

Put a filter in the plastic cone.

Scoop half the ground beans (around 1/3 cup) into the filter, and place the rig on top of a coffee cup that holds 10 or 12 ounces.

Slowly pour hot water over the beans until you reach the top of the filter.

Gently stir the contents to incorporate all the grounds into the water and form what is known in the espresso world as crema. Crema is the caramel colored swirl that forms on top, and is an indicator that the essential oils in the coffee are now flavoring the water.

DO NOT bump the cone full of hot water and grounds with your elbow and splatter the wet grounds all over your kitchen. I cannot stress this enough.

Let the water filter all the way through, until there is absolutely none left in the cone. You’ll have around eight ounces of coffee at which to sip.

I take mine with two huge spoons of raw sugar and one large spoon of non-dairy creamer. Sounds sacrilegious, but non-dairy creamer doesn’t water down the coffee, it has a Twinkie-like shelf life and it’s great for those of us who can’t even look at a glass of milk without getting gassy. If you do use a milk product, use heavy cream.

If you insist on using one of those flavored creamers, please don’t tell me about it or I’ll have to ‘unfriend’ you on Facebook. Years ago I pulled espresso at a friend’s cafe. When someone would order a “nonfat, single tall, decaf vanilla latte with two packets of sugar substitute” we referred to it as a “why bother” and banned them from the premises.

My next post will be a continuation of my Christmas cookie series. Don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time between now and then to finish reading Atlas Shrugged.

*I also have a violin case, but there’s a violin in it.

**If you’re like me, you’re already bitter enough.

The Letter ‘M’

I’ve been contemplating doing another product endorsement, possibly for Fred Meyer’s new Home Sense Facial Tissues that come in a set of four decorative boxes and cost, like, almost nothing AND are soft and strong. BUT there is something distracting me from that titillating topic. What could be more interesting than quality facial tissues at bargain prices, you ask?

Professional psychics. I’m obsessed with professional psychics. I want to be either a psychic or an FBI profiler; or at least a writer for The Mentalist. (Call me, Simon.) The amount of information they get by simply asking, “Have you lost anyone whose name starts with the letter ‘M’?” blows my mind. Think about it. Who hasn’t lost someone whose name starts with the letter ‘M’? Why, I had two great aunts, both named Mary. Both are deceased!

I didn’t mean to sound so excited about that. Sadly, one Mary died many years ago and the other a year ago. That leaves the door wide open for the next question: “You lost them recently?” Or: “You lost them long ago?” Either way, we have a winner.

The holidays are approaching, and it’s a great time to tap that vein (as it were). Both of my great aunts had a strong influence on our family during the Christmas season. One Mary was so natural at keeping kids happy she should have taught the first grade. Maybe she did. It doesn’t matter. The other lived a little higher on the hog than the rest of us, and decorated her home with fascinating beauty and kept the adults out of us kids’ hair so we could “steal” her expensive caramels that were left well within our reach. *wink* One Mary was in charge of Christmas Eve, and the other was in charge of Christmas Day.

“But you don’t like holidays, do you?” asks my internal psychic/profiler. Exactly right. What’s important here isn’t the delightful memories I’m having, it’s what’s happening to my shoulders while I think about those memories. There were some not so great things afoot that time of year for almost everyone in Western society.

A good psychic/profiler would watch my shoulders, and then say, “You don’t have to tell me why you don’t enjoy holidays. I can tell it’s private.”

What is private? They and/or I don’t know. Neither one of us/them can see into my mind, let alone chat with either Mary, but we don’t need to. We watch. My shoulders are rolling forward, not down. Okay, I remember what happened to me, but I’m having trouble keeping my pronouns straight. Shoulders. Watch the shoulders.

A psychic would say, “They both want you to know that if they could have done something, they would have.”

An FBI profiler would say, “You found a way to get whoever hurt you back. Everyone has that darkness within them, and you are one of the lucky ones. You know how to let it out.”

What a lovely sentiment to be told that two women, both fun and entertaining, were on my side. Or to be told it’s normal to want to kill people. I want to believe and take comfort in those words. Sometimes that longing for acceptance is enough to make people spill their guts. I’m so relieved my aunts supported me and that killing people and hiding their remains in my freezer and serving them to guests in lieu of a Christmas turkey is okay, I’m ready to talk about all of it…

…to a licensed therapist.

Four aces, baby!

Let’s see what I can do with a deck of cards. It doesn’t have to be a mystical deck like a Tarot deck; though I know those decks well, any old deck will do. (I’m typing ‘deck’ over and over again for my own amusement, obviously.) Pick a card and I’ll tell you what it means to YOU and we can share a super special moment, or just click the “like” button down there to let me know you actually finished reading this ridiculous, pronoun-ridden post.

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.