A Good Deed Is Just A Few Clicks Away

This post from "Learning From Dogs" came my way a few days ago and I want to share it with you.

The author of the post lost a beloved dog recently. Right after that, he found out that a local animal rescue organization is competing in the Pepsi Refresh Project for a grant. You can find the rescue, Tara's Babies, here.... or you can click here to vote for them in the Project. You can vote every day! They're in the running, folks, and they do a lot of good in our little world.

I am a big believer in choosing rescue dogs. There are so many, many, many lovable dogs out there who need a home. Our family's first dog came from the Payson Humane Society. She was a little black puppy, half Labrador Retriever and half Cocker Spaniel. She was a real treasure. She was patient with our babies when they came along, she was sweet-tempered and anxious to please. She loved to sit next my Sweet Hubs in the front seat of the truck and put her head on his shoulder like a girlfriend. Even when she was old and arthritic, deaf as a post and nearly as blind, she never so much as growled at anyone. We miss her still.

We had one dog, Sydney, who was also a treasure. She was killed in a tragic accident one August Saturday, and we, in our grief, went to the Humane Society again. We came home with two dogs and a cat. We brought home a tiny, starving, red-coated puppy who had just been brought in, and a grown girl who was Labrador Retriever mixed with something, and a brown tiger kitten.  The Payson Humane Society is great. I dare not go back. LOL.

Our current dog, the blue Australian Cattle Dog with whom I struggle for the title "dominant female", was not a rescue dog. Maybe that's why we struggle. I'm telling you, the gratitude and instant love that the rescue dogs show is boundless and very telling. Many of them have had a less-than-wonderful life, and you may have to convince them that you aren't going to dump them in the woods somewhere. Some of them are just so glad to have a home that they'll turn themselves inside-out trying to please you.

Don't buy a dog at the mall, please. Go to your local animal shelter. Or look at Tara's Babies website and meet your next best friend.

Ground Meat Marathon

What am I up to now? Oh, yes. Night 6 of the great GROUND MEAT MARATHON!

This time, I made Stuffed Cabbage Rolls.

Except I was a little short on cabbage, having used the inner parts earlier for tostado and taco toppings. So I browned the elk meat very well, added some minced onion and a can of tomato paste. The only rice I had on hand was some good Arborio rice for risotto. I know it seems like a crying shame, but I went ahead and made beef risotto and added THAT to the mixture for the Cabbage Rolls. I wouldn't normally use something that special for peasant food like this.

Since I only had the outer leaves of cabbage, having saved them for this dish, I threw in a bit of good sauerkraut. I hope you won't rat me out. Some sweet basil and a beef stock added for a nice, moist and flavorful filling.

I dropped the cabbage leaves into boiling water until they were limp. Then I put a nice dollop of the filling into the center of each one and wrapped them up into tidy little bundles.

I have a confession to make. I just don't cook with condensed soups. All those recipes for things like chicken tetrazzini where they use cream of mushroom soup? Not me! This is the ONLY recipe I make that I use condensed soup. Are you ready? You better sit down. I spoon undiluted tomato soup over the top of the Cabbage Rolls. Sprinkle on some grated cheddar and bake until the cheese melts.

Now you know my dirty little secret. Tomato soup. I don't even like tomato soup, but it serves this dish well.

Night 6. Over and Out.

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Pepsi Refresh Contender!

Have you heard about the Pepsi Refresh Project? Pepsi is donating money to causes YOU vote on.

A client of the agency I work for (and a truly worthy cause) is competing to win a grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project. 

http://www.refresheverything.com/tarasbabiesanimalwelfare

They are a no-kill animal shelter here in Arizona's beautiful Rim Country. Visit their website if you wish to know more, but I can tell you that they are very dedicated and devoted people. Please click on the link above and vote for them!

Ground Meat Marathon

Night 5 of my Ground Meat Marathon!

This is getting kind of thrilling, isn't it? I can just hear you now....What will she do next? Is it something I've never heard of? What would I do, if I were blessed with over a hundred pounds of ground meat? Oh, it's too exciting to think about!

No? Huh. I was so sure.

Last night I made tostados. Mexican food is just such a natural for ground elk meat, you know? Early in the day, I threw a couple handfuls of pinto beans in my trusty sidekick, The Crock-Pot. God bless whoever invented it. I do not soak beans if I'm going to do it this way. I just let them take care of themselves. I promise, you'll never notice.  added some crushed red pepper, a little black pepper and a smidgeon of minced onion and that's it. I started them around 10:00 a.m., and by 5:30 they were perfect for re-frying.  Usually, I put them in a non-stick skillet and just mash them with the back of wooden spoon. I was feeling very wild and adventurous yesterday, so I used my stick-blender. Good heavens! It was amazing! Zip! Done! But I did leave a little too much of the bean "juice" in them and they were slightly runny. So I put them in the skillet anyway and cooked them down until they were perfect.

Guacamole. Once again, my handy-dandy stick blender mashed 3 avocados with a few tablespoons of salsa verde (commercially prepared), a pinch of salt and a splash of lemon juice. That stick blender is a wonderful invention. (It makes the custard part of making French Toast so easy, and the filling for pecan pie? Awesome.)

Any who. Back to business. I use the same ingredients for tostada meat as I do for tacos. A chipotle pepper, a can of diced tomatoes with green chilis, a pinch of cumin, salt, and pepper all added to the well-browned meat. Heat until the tomatoes mostly disappear, the chipotle is well distributed and everything smells just right. If you are using beef, I imagine you would want to drain it first. I hear there's fat in beef? I wouldn't know about such things. Since the first time my sweet hubs brought home an elk, I've never bought a package of ground beef. I did once buy a box of frozen beef patties for a barbecue at which some of the guests (Mom!!!) wouldn't eat unless it was domestic meat. Silly people. I bet my cholesterol levels are better than their cholesterol levels.

For the shells, I just bake store-bought corn tortillas in the oven until they are crunchy. If I'm feeling a little crazy, I drizzle them with chili oil first. I have made homemade corn tortillas, but most days I simply don't have time.

Get some shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa, and set out everything so everyone can build their own tostada. So easy. 

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Ground Meat Marathon

Night 4 of my Ground Meat Marathon:

More meatballs! This time, I made Stroganoff Meatballs. Just the normal meatball mix: a couple of tablespoons of finely minced onion, a good handful of bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and an egg to glue it all together. I usually bake meatballs instead of pan frying. I'm lazy that way.

While they brown in the oven, I saute a couple of finely minced shallots in butter. Real butter. It just goes better with the sour cream that's going to show up later. Once the shallots are lovely and translucent and fragrant, I throw in a couple tablespoons of flour to make a shallot-laced roux. To this I add a cup of milk and cook, stirring, until it thickens. Add about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan and a tablespoon of parsley.

Meanwhile, I cook a package of egg noodles, according to the directions. When the meatballs are brown and the noodles are done, I had a cup of sour cream to the milk-shallot mixture. Just bring this up to hot but don't let it boil or your whole dinner is going to collapse before your very eyes. It ain't pretty if that happens, I'm warning you. When your sauce is hot, add the meatballs, give it a righteous stir and pour this over your drained egg-noodles.

Elk-Meatballs in Stroganoff over noodles.  Achtung!

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No, Really. No TV.

People look at you a little strange when you tell them you don't have TV. Seriously. No TV. We cancelled our satellite service about 9 months ago. We've opted to be TV-free at other times, too, like when our boys were small. Is it a coincidence, you think, that both my boys were early readers and still enjoy reading?

We never did watch that much TV to warrant the expense, for one thing. Oh, I like some of the old-fashioned kind of reality television....those things called "documentaries" and "nature" shows. Remember those? I know those are out of style now. I'm a big fan of "NOVA" and "The American Experience" on PBS. I can watch those right from www.pbs.org. I like classic films and anything with John Wayne in it. I can find a lot of that online, too, if I'm in the mood to watch. I don't miss having TV.

I read more. I write more. So far, I haven't been cleaning more, though I need to. Sweet Hubs and I talk more, about a lot more than just what to watch on TV or what we saw on TV. It's an interesting marital experience.

OK, I admit it isn't a perfect recipe for togetherness, because Sweet Hubs is in the other room on his laptop, looking at craigslist or something, while I'm cozied up in my jammies in bed.  Glass of wine, the mesmerizing glow of the computer screen and a qwerty keyboard.

But no TV.

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The Importance of Trying

It's been a anxious couple of a weeks for my family.

Our oldest son, our Corporal, went to North Carolina to try out for Special Forces.  He felt like he had to give it a shot, or else spend the rest of his life wondering.  I'm not sure of the statistics, but I guess something like 1% of the people enlisted in the military will want to try for Special Forces.  Of that 1%, only a handful will be selected TO try, and of that miniscule number, some 10% might make it all the way to being selected for S.F. 

So, yeah, our darling Corporal was not one of the tiny fraction of a percent who made it to becoming an Army Ranger.  At first I was concerned that he would be very disappointed and maybe feeling like a failure, but I talked to him last night and he sounds good.  He's disappointed, sure, but his head seems to be in the right place.

I don't think anyone could really call this a failure.  No, he wasn't chosen.  Is that the same?  I don't think so.  When I look back at my own attempts at things, and when I think about all that I didn't do because I was afraid to try, I think even chasing that dream is a success in itself.

Our son's experience has reminded me that I need to be braver.  I need to take more chances in life, and go for what I want.  He also reminds me that it takes a lot of work to get ready to tackle your dreams.  The balance is, it does no good to spend all your time preparing and never take the next step of trying. 

Which reminds me:  I need to get a proposal ready for the next literary agent.

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Ground Meat Marathon

TACOS! 

Browned meat, a tablespoon of finely chopped onion, one chipotle pepper, a can of diced tomatoes with green chilis, a pinch of cumin. I'm probably going to some kind of culinary hell for this, but I do use a little butter when I brown the meat. Oh, quit yelling!  Elk meat is SO lean that if I don't add a smidgeon of fat, it even sticks to my non-stick skillet. 

I drizzled a little red chili oil over corn tortillas and baked them until they were slightly crisp.  Made guacamole, shredded some cabbage and grated some cheese. Throw on a little salsa verde. Yes, I use cabbage on tacos and tostados.  It's more traditional, yes, but more importantly, it agrees with my digestion better. Is that weird? For some reason, raw lettuce just TEARS me up, but cabbage is fine. Go figure.

We can't agree in my house. We have the flour-tortilla followers, and the corn-tortilla followers. I'm a corn girl. 

And there you have it.  Night 3 in my Ground Meat Marathon.

Ground Meat Marathon

Doing something new here, folks. Vegans: best to go visit another blog today.

My family put THREE elk in the freezer this year. After you take the good steaks, roasts and stew meat out, there is an amazing amount of ground meat.  An astonishing amount of ground meat. An appalling amount of ground meat!

I figured it out the other day, and I think I have prepared (in my almost 26 years of cooking game meat) somewhere around 4000 dinners just out of ground meat. Welcome to my life. Now, try not to get too excited, but I'm going to try and share some of the thrill with you. I'm going to do my level best to write a quick post every time I make a ground-meat dinner (just for a while--don't be scared), and share with you the joy and excitement of trying to think up something to do with the same old stuff.  So let me catch you up:

Saturday, I made little individual meat loaves, with Italian seasonings.  When they were done, I topped them with mozzeralla and baked until the cheese was brown and bubby.  Funny.  It still tasted like meatloaf.

Sunday, I made a jillion tiny meatballs, adding a chipotle pepper in the usual mix for kick.  Browned well, and meanwhile I made a sort of a bordelaise sauce.  I say "sort of" because there wasn't any bordelaise in it.  A shallot, garlic, sauteed in butter.  Lots of black pepper, some thyme, parsley and beef stock, thickened to a sauce. No bordelaise because I'm the only one in my house who likes wine.  That's ok, I'll just drink it straight instead of turning it into gravy.  Instead, I added morel mushrooms, and served the saucy meatballs over egg noodles.

Tonight?  I haven't decided yet.

Chasing a Dream

For the first time in my life I am chasing a dream that is all my own.

Our little Montana cabin was a dream, but it was one we shared.  Having children was a certain kind of dream, too.  But this time, I'm only looking at MY dream. 

I'm willing to work for it.  I'm willing to take the knocks that come along with a dream.  I'm a little scared, and a little excited. 

I want to walk into a book store or a library, and see my book on the shelf.   So I'm chasing a dream.

Snapshot

It's a new year.  I want to be better.  I want to stop judging people so quickly.  I want to stop calling other drivers bad names (which I only do under my breath, but still).

I think I need to wait and try again when the roads are clear.