Saturday, January 16, 2010

Roma's Brown Bread

Here is the bread that I make that Roma seems to enjoy, especially when it is covered with peanut butter. I got the recipe from an old standby, a book I've had for nearly twenty years. It's called Quick Vegetarian Pleasures (HarperCollins, 1992) by Jeanne Lemlin. The recipe is called Irish Brown Bread. The bread is a quick bread, which means it contains no yeast and does not have to sit and rise several hours before it goes into the oven. As a result, the bread is dense, rough, and crumby, and the crust is thin but crunchy. It's delicious toasted with butter or crumbled into soup. Here is the recipe as I make it:

One and one quarter cups unbleached flour, plus some for sprinkling
One cup whole wheat flour
One half cup rolled oats
One quarter cup toasted wheat germ (Note: If you space out, like I do in the grocery store, and buy wheat bran, you can use it instead. You can toast the bran or germ in a saucepan or skillet on the stovetop. Again, if you space out it will burn, so be careful. Still, the burned bits add lots of flavor.)
One and one half teaspoons of baking soda
Three-quarters teaspoons salt
Four tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter (Note: I have cholesterol issues, so I use heart smart butter spread instead.)
One and one-third cup buttermilk or plain, low-fat yogurt (Again, butter fat is not my friend, so I use yogurt.)

1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease and dust a baking sheet with flour. Set aside.

2) Mix dry ingredients (flour, oats, wheat germ/bran, baking soda, salt) together in a bowl.

3) Cut butter into bits and work with your fingers into the flour. It will feel crumbly, not sticky.

4) Stir in the b. milk or the yogurt. Now the dough will feel very sticky. You are supposed to turn the dough out on to the counter top or bread stone to knead for one minute, adding flour as necessary. However, if you have used bran and yogurt, the dough is really too sticky. Instead, I knead it in the bowl until I can make a cohesive ball of dough.

5) Place the ball on the baking sheet. Pat it down to make a circle 7 inches in diameter. You can sprinkle flour on the top of the loaf. Cut an X lightly into the top of the loaf. Bake 30 minutes (up to 37 minutes if your oven is slow to heat up or your dough is particularly sticky).

6) Cool the baked loaf two hours before cutting. Cut in thick slices and slather with peanut butter or hummus. Give bites to the dog. Watch the dog wag her tail.

Enjoy! -z

Friday, January 15, 2010

Always a Cross Word

As an underemployed person, the challenge every day is to fill up the hours in a meaningful and satisfying way. I always start out the week with a burst of activity. This week, for example, I filed all my office papers and reorganized by client files. (So easy! Half are out of business. Those papers get filed in the shredder.) I also cleaned the bathroom, made a pot of soup, baked bread, and cleaned out a closet. Then I borrowed Erica's power drill and installed a new screen on my carport door and reinforced my sagging privacy fence. In addition, I walked with Muzzy to the library twice. That was just Monday and Tuesday.

By Thursday, things slow down. I look up at the clock and realize that it's only noon, and I wonder how the heck to fill in the hours until I can walk a dog. (Muzzy says, "It's always time to walk the dog!" Nice try, Muzz.) That's where crossword puzzles come in. I'm not very good at them, as you can see. I have a book of NY Times x-words called something like Cafe Crosswords, which is a polite way of saying crosswords for the lame. (The lamest part is that these puzzles were originally published in the paper in 2003-2004, which means that I have already done most of them before.) I can kill hours working on these things, and lately I have, especially at night. I have no wisdom to impart or tricks that I have learned—except to be patient and let the words form themselves. Each new puzzle is, for me, like starting at the foot of Mount Everest and hiking to the peak. But here are a few clues—and answers—that involve a favorite topic: dogs.

Clue: "Treat for Rover" (4 letters): bone

Clue: "Nick and Nora's dog" (4 letters) : Asta

Clue: "Ark or bark" (4 letters): boat (That one took me a while.)

Clue: "Friend of Fido" (3 letters): Rex

Clue:  "Garfield's pal" (4 letters): Odie (Not to be confused with "Andy Taylor's son": Opie)

Clue: "Dogfaces" (3 letters): GIs

Clue:  "Onetime White House pooch" (4 letters): Fala

Clue:  "Terrier type" (4 letters): Skye

Clue: "Genetic engineer's observation about his pet?" (14 letters): My dog has fleece
(This puzzle featured phrases in which the last word ended in the -eese sound.)

Clue: "Dog-paddled" (4 letters): swam

Thursday, January 14, 2010

They Put the Fur on the Furniture

"Ah, Cocoa. Are you comfortable? Would you like another pillow? Or are you just fine, draped as you are amid the blankets?"

"Well, I might like a nice cup of tea and a biscuit--and a crossword puzzle. I do like to have a little lie-in on Sundays."

Erica kindly sent me this photo of her lounging girl. It made me smile. Until recently, I took a serious stand against animals on furniture. My Roma tried once, on her first night, to get into the bed. My husband and I told  her no way, and she never breached the divide again. (Although once, while camping on the Appalachian Trail and staying in a lean-to with benches for sleeping, I hauled her up to sleep between us. Even though it was August, the temps were near freezing. Roma protested—until she got in between the sleeping bags. Then she snored all night.) A few weeks ago, though, while I was standing in the living room folding laundry and idly watching a cooking show on TV, I heard an unexpected rustling sound behind me. When I turned, I discovered the Muzz sitting on the sofa, a forbidden zone, wagging her tail. She was sitting in my usual spot and looking only a little anxious. I had suspected for some time—maybe since the summer months when I worked on UT campus and was away from home for nine hours every day—that Muzzy had been sneaking onto the couch. Friends, I must admit that she looked so cute on the sofa that I let her stay. I put down an old quilt, and now every night she curls up against my thigh while I do crossword puzzles or talk back to the news. Roma will occasionally check in. She-who-never-got-on-the-furniture looks appalled at how low standards have fallen before she leaves the room in disgust.

Still, we all seem to have mutually decided that there will be no dogs on the bed, at least while I am in it. I don't bathe Muzzy regularly enough or trim her nails neatly to deal with her all night. But plenty of folks I know sleep with their dogs. What is the expression? "Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas." Thanks to Sentinel and other flea meds, that's no longer the problem. In our case, I think that I could persuade the Muzz to get in the bed with no problem. But as someone who lives and works at home, I need at least some small piece of real estate that is dog-free. (The bathroom? Forget it. Unless I shut the door, I have an audience.)

I'd be interested in hearing about others' rationale for dogs on the furniture. Stay dry today!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Picky Eater

My Roma has always been a robust eater. Now a dainty 43 pounds, she once weighed in at 60 lbs, back when I worked in an office and she free-fed all day. Lately, though, her appetite has faltered. About a month ago, she refused to eat hard kibble. Fair enough. It's easier to get the nine different pills (five different medications) down her throat when I can hide it in soft food. So we switched to expensive, stinky (tripe!) canned food. But then, she lost interest in it. She ate less and less of it and none of the bits that had pills hidden in them. Yesterday she did not eat for 24 hours, yet I knew she was hungry. I took her on brief walks to generate some appetite. She spent most of the time sussing out bits of trash. I morphed into my mother, actually saying out loud, on the sidewalk, "You eat garbage and turn your nose up at wet food I pay $3.00 a can for?" And she didn't just turn up her nose; she shivered and fled from the bowl.

At this point, nutrition is almost an afterthought. My goal is to get something in her stomach. If I can get at least one pain pill down, all the better. So I rummaged through the refrigerator to find some alternatives to dog food. We started with plain Dannon yogurt, always a favorite. It is a humbling moment in a woman's life when she is crawling around under the ironing board trying to ply her skinny old dog with a scoop of yogurt. But it worked. Hooray! Until I blew it by crushing up a pill in a later helping. Then she stopped eating it.

My next plan of attack was homemade bread, sliced thick and slathered with peanut butter. This, too, worked. She not only ate it with gusto, but I was also able to slip in one pill, wrapped in the gooey spread. If Roma noticed, she did not complain or reject it.

So now each meal is an adventure. This morning, I crossed my fingers and offered her a smorgasbord—a plate of tiny servings of the foods she has been willing to eat recently--yogurt, wet food, peanut butter sandwich. She snarfed down two plates, including medication. Woohoo! My goal now is to see if I can also get her to eat a wider range of foods—maybe some chicken and rice or eggs or banana. Now, am I being manipulated? If Roma were younger, I might say yes. She has always been a schemer. But when a hungry dog actually acts afraid of the food in her bowl, something else is afoot, or apaw. If any of you, dear readers, have any advice, I'd be happy to hear it. I can barely get it together to cook for myself, but for Roma, I will make a greater effort.

Thanks for reading. -z

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Walkabout II: To the Library

As an underemployed person, I have plenty of time to walk to the local branch of the Austin Public Library. To make the trip more fun yesterday, I brought along Muzzy. Here's some of what we saw. Note: You can't take the #19 bus to the library; however, you can take it to the Dog Park, as long as you don't bring the dog.

Vintage sign in our neighborhood. Oops. I cut off the actual lantern. Sorry. Still, you get the idea: Faux nostalgia.

These two statues need to be seen side-by-side. Bare-footed golfer and his caddy are a bit bigger than life-size. Muzzy flipped out the first time she saw them.

The Texas State Cemetery is across the street.

These birds need sweaters.

Tell us how you really feel.

Bridge over Shoal Creek

See the litter behind the sign?

Two enormous lurking vultures. Check out the wingspan on the one in the foreground. Muzzy actually barked at them. Whenever I see vultures, I feel a little frisson of dread. I always have to remind myself that they are scavengers. They are not the kind of creature that will swoop down and pick up a little dog and her owner, like the monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. Still, they creep me out.  

Our local Kwikee Mart. It really is right around the corner!

No comment.

Look. The sign actually uses an apostrophe. Clayton's what, exactly?

Once a movie theater, the building is now the local library—the Yarborough branch. Yarborough is the third of the triad of Austin names I get always get mixed up. The other two are Scarborough's and Yarings, both once-grand downtown department stores. Put the two store names together, and you get Yarborough's—no wonder I'm confused.

Here's another warning that is not posted--NO DOGS ALLOWED! I had tied Muzzy to a post in front of the library and dashed in to collect a book. On my way to the checkout, one of the librarian's stopped me to ask if "that was my little dog waiting out front." I could see Muzzy sitting so patiently. Well, yes; yes, it was. There was some hemming and hawing, and then another librarian told me, sotto voce, "They don't like having dogs tied out front." News to me! I've parked my dogs out there a handful of times in the past. I apologized, grabbed my book, and ran out to Muzzy. Stupidly, I thought that the librarians were concerned for the dogs' well being, but the one who followed me out to pet Muzzy explained that people who are afraid of dogs have complained. It was not clear if the no-dog policy is official or not. The librarians were very sweet, however. They did not threaten to call Animal Control. But the news did ruin our walkabout. We were scofflaws again! Even when leashed!

So much signage; so many, many rules.

Thanks for coming along with us. -z

Monday, January 11, 2010

"What [bleepbleepbleep] Doesn't Like Dogs?"

Okay, okay. You all know that Animal Control has been visiting our little slice of paradise. Yesterday the City was out twice that I know of, in the morning around 8:30 and later in the afternoon, around 2:30-3:00, to troll for leashless dogs. Bring your leashes and be on the lookout for a white City of Austin vehicle that looks like a taco truck. Word on the trail is that tickets are costly, around $90 per unleashed dog. The fine is reduced if you take dog-ownership classes sponsored by the City. I know, I know. Of course you are good owners; you are outside on a freezing day letting your dog get exercise by running its brains out. But this is Texas. You can take a gun to church, but you can't let your dog run on unauthorized property. I hear you.

So the best part of The Simpsons 20th-anniversary special was a brief interview with Joe Mantegna, the actor who does the voice of Springfield's most lovable mobster, Fat Tony. He said something like this: "Who doesn't like The Simpsons? I'm suspicious of people like that, the way I'm suspicious of people who don't like dogs. What do you mean you don't like dogs? What [bleeeeeeeeeeeeeep] doesn't like dogs?" Wiser words were never spoken by an animated character actor. (Seriously, it was a really long bleep.)

Ta. -z