Animal Circus

Snuggles & Yuki

Hello Wolff Pack!

I thought I’d share a funny little tidbit today. The above picture is of one of our cats (Snuggles) and our littlest furbaby, Yuki. This is about Yukikins.

Today my morning started normally. I got my coffee and the blanket I put over my lap as my office is starting to get chilly. I sat down in my recliner to begin my usual morning ritual of checking facebook, twitter, blog stats and my book listing at amazon. I was soon joined by a menagerie of fur babies.  I had Spirit (cat), Worf (poodle), and Pooka (Chihuahua) all sleeping peacefully in my lap. Then, this comedy of errors transpires.

Yuki (Chihuahua in the picture above) decides he wants to join us. He jumps up on a box of papers near my feet. Big surprise, I have boxes of paperwork in my office…I am a writer after all. Anyway, he gauges the distance calculating how hard/high he must jump in order to clear my foot/leg which is blocking his view of his chosen landing strip. Then with a mighty leap he easily clears all obstacles  Unfortunately, he didn’t stick the landing. In fact, he lands with such force he bounces straight off the cushy surface of the footrest only to land on the ground in front of the chair. Then the little guy turns around, looks up at me with a look of dejection and whimpers. I could see his earnest little eyes and the accusation reflected in there depths. Why’d you shove me? He seemed to ask as I laughed heartily over his antics. As if I would of ever done such a thing…okay, yes I would, but that’s not the point.

Brushing off the first attempt and my continued chuckling, Yuki became even more determined to claim his lap real estate. He tried a different route, this time coming at the chair straight on, between my feet. He’s successful…kind of. He lands solidly this time, but just as Pooka’s butt hits the button to put the foot of the chair down. I’m still wondering if this might have been intentional. Poor little Yuki loses balance and falls yet again! Oh the outrage, as I burst out laughing even harder. In fact, I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my cheeks. Deciding that he no longer desired a warm, cozy spot on my lap, Yuki turned and walked to the living room where he laid down…alone, humiliated and all together not happy.

A friend of mine called it an “animal circus”. I responded, “yes and it’s full of clowns!”

Pumpkin Pie Minis

Hi all!

Today I must be in the mood for baking, which means you get an extra recipe!

 

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

 

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

 

What you’ll need:

  • 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line 12 cup muffin tin with silicone liners or foil liners sprayed with cooking spray. Alternatively, just spray the cups with cooking spray. Do not use paper liners as they will make removal of cupcakes difficult.
  3. Mix the pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and milk.
  4. Add flour, pumpkin spice, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  5. Fill each muffin cup with 1/3 cup of the mixture.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven.
  8. Let cool for 20 minutes.
  9. Remove cupcakes from pan.
  10. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  11. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkling of spice.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Enjoy!

Harvest Sweet Potatoes

Fall is in the air. How about some wonderful Harvest Sweet Potatoes –

HarvestSweets

What you’ll need:

  • 5 large sweet potatoes (about 5 lb. worth)
  • 3 Golden Delicious apples
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tspn ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Wash sweet potatoes. Place on a baking sheet and prick with fork. Bake at 400° for 1 hour or until almost tender. Remove from oven. Let stand 45 minutes or until cooled.
  2. Peel and core apples. Slice apples into 1/3″ thick wedges.
  3. In a bowl, toss apple slices with half of lemon juice, set aside.
  4. Once potatoes are cooled, peel and slice to 1/3″ thick.
  5. In a greased 13″ x 9″ baking dish, arrange apples and potatoes alternating slices.
  6. Pour second half of lemon juice over potatoes and apples.
  7. Combine brown sugar, honey, butter, bourbon, cinnamon and ginger in a saucepan. Stir well.
  8. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally; boil 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
  9. Promptly pour glaze over potatoes and apples.
  10. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 30 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven.
  12. Baste tops with the glaze from the bottom of dish.
  13. Sprinkle nuts across top.
  14. Bake another 14 -16 more minutes or until apples look roasted.
  15. Baste one more time right before serving.
  16. Serves 10 – 12

Enjoy!

Courtesy: Christmas with Southern Living 2008, Oxmoor House 2008

Sweet! Bloomin’ Onions.

New week, new recipe!

Here’s one for a Bloomin’ Onion:

BloominOnion

What you’ll need:

For Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp ketchup
  • 2 tsp creamed horseradish
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 dash black pepper
  • 1 dash cayenne

For Seasoned flour

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne

For Batter

  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 24 oz beer
  • 4 Vedalia onions

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients for dipping sauce well, cover and place in refrigerator for at least two hours.
  2. Combine all ingredients Seasoned Flour – mix well.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients for batter – until blended.
  4. Add beer to dry mixture and mix well.
  5. Take each onion and cut about 3/4 inch off top then peel.
  6. Cut onion into 12-16 vertical wedges. Be careful not to cut through bottom root end.
  7. Remove about 1 inch of petals from center of onion.
  8. Place cut onions in cold water for a couple hours to open up.
  9. Once they’ve opened sufficiently remove from water, drain them well.
  10. Dip in seasoned flour, gently shaking to remove the excess flour.
  11. Separate petals to coat thoroughly with batter.
  12. Gently place in a fryer basket and deep fry at 375-400 degrees for 1 1/2 minutes.
  13. Turn over and fry another 1 1/2 minutes or until golden brown.
  14. Drain on paper towels.
  15. Place onion upright in a shallow bowl.
  16. Remove center core with a circular cutter or apple corer.
  17. Serve hot with dipping sauce.

Enjoy!

Where were you?

NeverForget

Often during days of remembrance for great tragedies the first question asked is “Where were you?”

This day is no different. I invite all to tell me their tales. Where were you when the Towers were hit? When they fell?

In return, I shall tell you my tale, unique by perspective only.

You see, in spring of 1998 we moved from the US to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. When we moved there, we purposely chose to live in an area that was locally populated, not the Expat area. We wanted our children to have a true to life experience when it came to living in a foreign country. We were the only expats living out in Mirdif at the time and we loved it. For several years we lived a quiet life enjoying our Expat status and the sights and sounds of a foreign nation. Mosques surrounded us and the calls to prayer sounded five times a day.  As much a part of our lives as the sound of church bells ringing at a nearby church. It became the backdrop to our lives. We were not afraid.

But, on September 11, 2001 our sense of safety was shaken to the core. I had gotten up, like I did everyday and turned on my computer to meet a friend online for our morning IM chat. Immediately she asked, “Are you okay?” I paused and kind of laughed to myself. “Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Her response took the breath from my lungs. “Because a plane just flew into the Twin Towers in NYC. Go turn on the t.v.”

I immediately signed off and ran to the living room. I turned on CNN and watched in horror as they spoke about the first tower being hit. As I watched the second plane hit and my knees went week.  They began to banter about the word terrorism.  In a panic, I picked up the phone and called our house maid/nanny who’d taken our children out to a local grocery store to buy some candy. Suddenly the neighborhood where we’d felt safe seemed a dangerous place to be. The mosques around us started chanting over their loud speakers and the words America and Americans were interspersed with Arabic.  I know logically that they were calling people to prayer…to pray for our people and our nation, but in the moment it seemed almost sinister and frightening. The children arrived home with our wonderful housemaid (we loved her like family and that’s what she was to us). I hugged them and her and then told them what had happened. We all watched the news together. I cried as they talked about the lose of life. Then…then news of the Pentagon being hit…and my knees buckled. I sat on the coffee table and wept. As a Veteran, my heart ached for the men and women at the Pentagon. They were my brothers and sisters in arms. Then the news that another plane had been taken and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. I prayed for those people too. We watched the news all day. They grounded all flights within the US, including International flights. Those words sent a shock through us. For the first time since our adventure began we had no way of going home.

That night we stood out on our steps and looked at the sky above our gates and spoke in soft tones about the days events. We heard the mosques chants echoing around us and we clung together, comforting each other. The next day the embassy called with a request that all Americans bring their passports and come to the consulate for a meeting. We attended the meeting and listened as they tried to reassure us that we were safe in Dubai. One person brought up the fact that the Bin Laden family owned the construction companies doing all the work in Dubai. They told him that’s the Saudi Bin Laden’s and have no connection to Al Qaeda. Then someone said “Well, what about the picture in the paper today of Osama Bin Laden sitting on the beach? He was sitting in front of the Berj Al Arab.” The man from the consulate kind of laughed it off.  We were all scared and no amount of reassurance was going to keep our families safe especially when the news stated that terrorists flown from Dubai and some financing had come out of Dubai.

There is more to what happened over the days following 9/11 but this exercise was to tell you where I was.

Now, if you are so inclined, tell me your tale…

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Just in time for fall!

cheesecake bars

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars 

What you’ll need:
Crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

Cheesecake Filling:

  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus 2 Tbsp divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Apples:

  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping:

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar.
  3. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or 2 forks) until mixture is crumbly.
  4. Press evenly into a 9×13 baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  5. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
  6. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 3/4 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth.
  7. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine.
  8. Pour over warm crust.
  9. In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 Tbsp sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  10. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.
  11. In a small bowl, combine all Streusel topping ingredients. Sprinkle evenly with Streusel topping.
  12. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel topping and let cool.
  13. Serve cold.

Enjoy!

 

Pizza Pork Chops

It’s Friday…how about some pizza or pork chops…or both!

 

pork chop1

What you’ll need:

  • 5 boneless pork chops
  • 1 pinch salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 5 slices tomato (1/2-inch thick)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 slices mozzarella cheese
  • Disposable aluminum pan and tin foil
Directions:
  1. Heat your outdoor grill to medium.
  2. Season chops with salt and black pepper.
  3. Arrange the chops in the bottom of a disposable aluminum pan
  4. Top each with one tomato slice.
  5. Divide the basil, oregano, and garlic between the chops.
  6. Drizzle with olive oil.
  7. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.
  8. Cook on the preheated grill until the pork is no longer pink in the center, about 25 minutes. (An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 145 degrees F or 63 degrees C).
  9. Remove the pan from the grill.
  10. Top each pork chop with a slice of mozzarella cheese.
  11. Replace the aluminum foil over the pan and wait allow cheese to melt 3 to 5 minutes, before serving.
Enjoy!