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SadieDoggie’s Yummy Peanut Butter Bars, for the Whole Family

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As many of you know, we live on a mountain, literally, and the yard slopes seriously downward, from the porch onward, in fact, leaving the front edge of the porch about 5 feet off the ground, on stilts. Several years ago, our doggie Sadie dove off the porch to chase a rabbit and severely injured her left front leg. Periodically, she re-injures the same elbow joint and has to take some Doggie-anti-inflammatory medication till the swelling goes down and she stops limping.

A couple months ago, she began limping again, but this time, her elbow was also hugely swollen and red. She had hurt the joint again, and somehow it got infected. Though we’ve mastered getting the relatively innocuous pain medicine into her, hidden in cheese or deli meat, it’s dreadfully difficult to get her to take the antibiotics. For one thing, she had to take 4 large pills a day, and they must taste — and smell — awful. If she can smell them, she refuses to take them. Now, add the fact that the antibiotics make her so nauseous that she vomits, and… well, you can see why she doesn’t like those big red pills. Now she even hates the word “pills,” along with “medicine” and “doctor.”

Last week, SadieDoggie injured her elbow again, so we started the pain medication. By Friday, however, her elbow was swollen and red, so we had to get another round of antibiotics. This time, she’s not having anything to do with those nasty antibiotics, and not just because the pills are big enough for a horse. She’s just decided that nothing will induce her to take them, not cheese, deli meat, tuna salad, salmon patties, fried noodles, bread-and-butter, grilled cheese, or peanut butter and jelly. So Mommy had to try some new recipe to trick… I mean, “coax” her into taking her medicine.

Of course, Sadie is a clever doggie, being part border collie, terrier, and hound: she’s got an incredible vocabulary, knows how to spell, knows where we keep her pills, and is simply refusing anything that we’re not eating ourselves. Mommy and Daddy decided to sacrifice themselves for Sadie’s welfare, and try a new recipe: Peanut Butter Bars.

Suffice it to say that we’ve gone through half the pan already, to make sure they were the right kind of treat. They have to be soft enough to put hide a pill but tasty enough to hide the pill’s smell. It’s preferable for Sadie to just swallow any of her pills whole, and since the antibiotics are capsules, we can’t break them in half for her. Since she adores peanut butter more than practically anything, I was looking for a peanut butter cookie recipe.

I found, instead, a recipe for peanut butter bars, which I adjusted according to the ingredients I had at home, and voilà: a crispy on the edges but chewy in the center peanut butter bar that is absolutely delicious. She has gobbled down all of today’s pills in just a couple hours. Mommy and Daddy have eaten the rest already.

SadieDoggie’s Peanut Butter Bars

Ingredients
½ C butter, cubed
½ C smooth peanut butter
1.5 C dark brown sugar
1 C flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 t vanilla

Stir together the flour and brown sugar in a bowl, breaking up any chunks of brown sugar, and set aside.

Break 2 eggs into blender, add vanilla, and blend well. Set aside.

Lightly butter a 9×13″ baking pan and preheat the oven to 350º F.

Put butter and peanut butter in a large bowl. Put in microwave for 1-1.5 minutes, until butter is melted and you can stir the two ingredients into a smooth mixture.

After the butter is melted into the peanut butter, stir until the two are well combined. Slowly add the sugar-flour mixture, about ½ C at a time, and stir well after each addition. Continue until you have blended all the dry ingredients into the peanut butter and butter mixture. You don’t need a mixer: this is quite manageable by hand.

Pour in the blended eggs and vanilla. Stir gently until the everything is combined well.

Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. The edges should be nicely browned and beginning to pull away from the pan. This is the crispy part. The center will be moist and chewy.

Cut into bars when warm.

If you’re trying to get pills into any of the pieces, I suggest breaking the bar into bite-sized pieces, slipping in the pill, and wrapping the chewy bar around it. Doggies who love peanut butter will no doubt have the same reaction as our Sadie and gobble the entire cookie-bar in a couple bites, pills notwithstanding.

I suppose you could store the peanut butter bars in an air-tight container, but I’m not sure how long they would last since ours didn’t make it to any container. Daddy and Mommy felt morally oblgated to ensure the bars were tasty enough for SadieDoggie, and she wolfed down quite a few taking her medicine.

The pain pills are already working, and she’s bouncing around the house in joy, asking for more “cookies,” which are baking in the oven as I write this.

SadieDoggie’s Peanut Butter Bars are Doggie-Tested, and MommyAndDaddy-Approved!

Enjoy!

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A Basic Formula and Some Healthy Recipes

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Homemade Maple Granola

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For the past 13 months, my migraine attacks have been so frequent and so long-lasting, that I am beginning to fear they have become chronic. When this seemingly never-ending round began in April 2017, I thought it was due to stress from my car’s dying on the road and being irreparable. Though I got another car within 10 days, the migraine didn’t stop. “Reduce your stress,” said my doctor at every single now-monthly visit, until I was virtually living like a hermit with no apparent reduction in migraine pain or frequency. Several months ago, I began going through every single item in my kitchen, vowing to eliminate any food additives or artificial sweeteners that might be lurking in my meals. I went through my cookbooks and vowed to make everything from scratch. Everything. From scratch. So I would know every single ingredient that was going into my body. Unfortunately, every time I thought I’d found the offending trigger, and had a half-day’s respite, the migraine would return with furious anger.

In the meantime, however, I found lots of ways to enjoy food prepared as simply as possible, with very few sauces or condiments (unless I make them myself). One of my most exciting discoveries was that I could make my own granola. I love it over yogurt, as muesli (I eat mine with cold water, a hold-over from my years as a vegetarian and/or vegan back in the days when such conveniences as soy-milk were unheard of), or straight from my hand into my mouth. Most of the commercial brands are high-fat or, if low-fat, covered with honey. (I’m allergic to bees, and the last time I had some honey in baked goods, I ended up in the ER.)

I’m a big fan of Deb Perelman, of Smitten Kitchen fame, and earlier this year, I treated myself to both her cookbooks. It was in her 2012 The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook that I found her recipe for Big Cluster Maple Granola (pp. 26-27), which you can also find online at Serious Eats.

Deb’s version is very fine, although the egg whites she uses for “clustering” made me a big nervous. I used her recipe as is the first time, and then, when it didn’t cluster despite the addition of the egg whites, I went off on my own and tinkered away, burning quite a few batches in the process.

I’ve finally mastered my own low-fat, vegan granola, and I cannot keep it in the house. And that was before I finally pronounced the recipe an actual success, wrote it down on the pages of Deb’s cookbook, and offered my guy a taste. I may have to start making more than one batch a week of this very fine granola.


Ingredients *
4 C old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked (I use a generic brand)
1 C pumpkin seeds (kernels, shelled, no salt)
1 C flax seeds (whole)
⅔ – 1 C maple syrup (I started with the ⅔,  and finally settled on 1 C because of the extra ingredients
2 T olive oil (extra virgin, and be sure to taste it first: you want a slightly sweet taste, not a bitter one)
1 t Vietnamese cinnamon, ground (any kind of cinnamon will do, but Vietnamese has the best taste)
½ t sea salt (coarse or fine: both work)

Dried Fruit
½ C each dried blueberries, dried cherries, dried cranberries (or any mixture you wish)

Pre-heat oven to 300º F.

Combine all ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl and stir well until all the dry ingredients seem evenly coated with the liquid ingredients. Spread it on a large cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. (This will work fine without parchment paper, but if you don’t have any parchment baking paper, do not use waxed paper instead: it will smoke — if it doesn’t catch fire — and will taint the granola.)


Bake for 20 minutes. **

Using a large spatula, carefully turn over the granola in sections: it browns on the underside and on the very edges. Rotate the pan to ensure even toasting.

Bake 15-20 minutes more.

If it looks like it needs a bit more browning, rotate the pan, turn the oven off, and “bake” for 5-7 more minutes, checking the granola every minute. It goes from it could be just a little browner to burnt, blackened, and ruined faster than you can imagine, so keep an eye on it.

When it looks light to medium brown, remove from oven. Set aside while you pour dried fruit into a heat-proof bowl. Mix the fruit slightly.

You do not have to wait for the granola to cool completely before mixing it with the dried fruit. In fact, I prefer mixing the warm-to-hot granola in with the dried fruit and letting the two parts mingle their flavors. You do what you prefer.

Lifting the ends of the parchment paper by both sides, slowly lift all the granola off the cookie sheet and pour it directly into the bowl of dried fruit. If you’re not using parchment sheet, you may have to spoon the granola into the bowl: the small seeds and toasty oatmeal scatter easily.

With a large mixing spoon, carefully stir until the dried fruit seems evenly distributed among the granola.

Serving Suggestions
Eat straight from the bowl (I mean, from the storage jar), serve mixed with yogurt, sprinkled over ice cream, or with milk (soy milk, almond milk, cold water, juice) as muesli for breakfast.

Storage
Store in an air-tight storage jar. Deb Perelman says hers lasts up to 2 weeks on the counter in the air-tight jars, but I’ve never had any granola left after a week.

And if you have any questions or suggestions, please do let me know.

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* I use Gerbs seeds and dried fruit because, although the dried fruit has a bit of sugar, it’s not very sweet, and all their products are non-GMO, vegan, and kosher. I get everything else at the grocery, and I use generic when I can find it.


** I’m high-altitude, about 8500 feet in the Rockies, so you may have to adjust your own baking time. Perelman’s original recommendation is 45-55 minutes at 300º F, turning/rotating etc. about half-way through.

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The Ultimate Comfort Food: Potato Casserole

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I’ve always loved Potatoes au Gratin — a mixture of potatoes, cheese, and milk baked in a gratin, a shallow, oven-proof baking dish — but was never very successful making my own from scratch, despite the various recipes I tried. Usually, no matter how thinly I sliced them, the potatoes took so long to cook that any liquid I’d added would completely evaporate, and the dish would be inedibly dry. This spring, while looking for any hints about how to ensure that the potatoes in my au Gratin would be entirely cooked, I stumbled across a French dish I’d never heard of: Tartiflette. Since most of the Tartiflette recipes recommended boiling the potatoes before putting them into the baking dish, I immediately knew that it would certainly solve my undone-potatoes au gratin problem. Additionally, these recipes featured intriguing ingredients I had never thought of putting in with potatoes. My Potato Casserole was about to be born.

Tartiflette is a modern recipe inspired by a traditional dish from the “Provence region of France called péla: a gratin of potatoes and onions in a long-handled pan called a pelagic (shovel).” Tartiflette was apparently developed in the 1980s to promote sales of Reblochon, a soft French cheese made from raw cow’s milk in the Alpine-region of Savoy.

Because Reblochon is made from raw milk, it is no longer available in the United States, so there are many different Tartiflette recipes with alternate cheeses. Reblochon has a nutty taste, so most of the recipes substitute some form of Swiss cheese. Many substitute Brie for the Reblochon, in an attempt to mimic the melting soft-cheese texture. As much as I love Brie, I couldn’t imagine adulterating it by putting it into a casserole, so I substituted Jarlsberg for the Reblochon.

There are, literally, hundreds of variations on Tartiflette recipes. Sometimes cooks include wine, garlic, butter, or creme fraiche, but I prefer a less complicated version, especially considering the astonishingly delicious combination of the main ingredients: potatoes, bacon, onions, and cheese. Some dice to potatoes, some fry them beforehand, some break up the potatoes, but I prefer to slice mine into thick rounds. I just like the texture of the casserole that comes from that procedure. After a couple tries mixing and changing ingredients and techniques, I’d whittled the more complex versions of the Tartiflette into my satisfying, easy Potato Casserole.*

I make a humongous pot of this dish, having long ago gotten used to cooking casseroles on the weekends so that I would have meals ready to eat when I got home from work each night. Though I’m retired now from University, I write full-time, so I still like having meals ready for me at the end of a long working day.

I’ve halved my original amount of ingredients here in this post,** but feel free to double them if you have a large family, or halve the ingredients if you’re cooking for a smaller group.

Alexandria’s Potato Casserole

Ingredients


5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, skins on
(boiled to firmness, but not crumbling), sliced into thick rounds

1 medium to large Sweet onion, diced

1-1.5 pound Jarlsberg cheese, shredded
(you can substitute any Swiss cheese, but the nuttier flavors will work best)

1-1.5 pounds bacon ends, coarsely chopped
(use thick-sliced bacon if you cannot find bacon ends and pieces)

1 pint heavy whipping cream
(substitute Half-and-Half or milk if you want to cut calories, but be aware it will taste different)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

Set baking rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 400° F.

Boil the potatoes whole, with their skins on, until a knife inserts easily but before they begin to fall apart. I cook mine the day before and refrigerate the cooked potatoes to reduce assembly-time on the day I make the Casserole. If this is inconvenient, boil the potatoes as above and, when the potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully slice them into thick rounds. Set aside.

Put the coarsely chopped bacon ends into a heavy pan and cook over a medium flame. There is no need to add any additional butter or cooking oils.

While the bacon ends are cooking, grate the Jarlsberg cheese into a separate dish and set it aside.

When the fat in the bacon ends has cooked but the meat is not yet well-done or crisp, add the diced onions. Stir well, and continue cooking until the onions just begin to become translucent.

Do not cook the bacon until crisp as it will continue to cook in the oven.

Drain the bacon ends and onion mixture, then pat with paper towels to absorb excess fat, reserving 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of the cooked fat.

Coat your empty baking dish with the cooked bacon fat by drizzling 1 t to 1 T (depending on how large a pan you’re using) into the baking pan, and spread thinly with a paper towel: this will ensure that the casserole becomes crispy. I bake my Potato Casserole in a 6-quart cast iron Dutch oven to maximize the tenderness of the potatoes and the crispiness of the outer layers of the casserole, but any baking dish will do.

Assembling the Casserole

Carefully layer potatoes on the bottom of the dish. Season with salt and pepper. Generously spoon on about ⅓ of the bacon and onion mixture. Top with approximately ⅓ of the grated cheese.

Repeat — layering potatoes, bacon & onions, grated cheese —  until you have used all the ingredients, ending with grated cheese.

Carefully pour the whipping cream over the entire casserole. Do not stir.

Cover with freshly grated pepper.

Insert into oven. Bake covered for 10-15 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350° F and continue baking, covered, for 60 minutes.

Remove cover and bake for 10-20 minutes, until top is browned and crispy.

Remove from oven.

With paper towels, carefully blot any bacon fat that has risen to surface (usually, there is just a bit of fat bubbling around the edges of the pan).

Spoon onto individual plates, and serve with more freshly grated pepper.

This recipe makes enough for both of us to have it for meals, lunch and dinner, for 2-3 days, so it should serve as a meal for 4-5 people, with leftovers, at the very least.

Serve with salad if desired.

Enjoy, my Lovelies.


* I had to change the name of my dish from “Tartiflette” to “Potato Casserole” because every time I asked my guy if he wanted Tartiflette, he said, “What? You mean that Potato Casserole?”

** For your convenience, in case you’re cooking for a larger group, here are the original proportions of the Potato Casserole when I make it. This version fills a 6-quart cast iron Dutch oven, and lasts two of us several days, eating it for both lunch and dinner.

10 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 large or 3 medium sweet onions
3 pounds (1 package) bacon ends and pieces
2 pounds Jarlsberg cheese
1 quart whipping cream

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