How to Make Homemade Noodles

DSC05531Nothing says “I Love You” more than homemade noodles.

If you grew up in the Midwest, you know I’m talking about the homemade noodles like your mom or grandma used to make. And, to be very clear, homemade noodles are NOT pasta.

No, homemade noodles are wonderful comfort food goodness, best eaten with a roasted chicken or turkey. Some like to pour them over mashed potatoes, and some prefer to eat them as a stand-alone part of the meal. I may, or may not have been known to eat them for breakfast.

I prefer to make them thinner, like my mom made. Or, you can make them a little larger and call them dumplings. Like chili, the making and consumption of noodles is a personal, individual choice.

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And with that last sentence, I decided I had to make some RIGHT NOW. 😀 Sorry about the less than stellar picture quality. Turns out my kitchen lighting isn’t so good for cooking on cloudy days. :-/

Learning how to make homemade noodles is a talent passed down from older generations. You still have time to practice and impress your family!

You almost can’t screw them up!

The keys to this recipe:

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You need a really, really sharp clean knife.

Use flour liberally. And then use more. Like, you can’t really use too much.

Cut the noodles as thin as you possibly can.

Here’s the recipe, along with some play-by-play info. 🙂 Even the eggs are happy to be made into noodles. 😉

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Mom Gunnels’ Noodles

3 eggs

2 Tablespoons milk. Whole milk or 2% is best, although when I made this last batch, I had to borrow 1% from my neighbor. Other than a slightly different texture with the dough, we couldn’t tell any difference in flavor.

Salt (I use kosher, probably about 1/2 teaspoon)

1 1/2 Cups Flour

2 Tablespoons chicken bouillon granules

2-3 LARGE cans chicken broth I usually buy reduced sodium broth, since the broth granules have  quite a bit of sodium in them. You can always salt them more, but not less!

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Mix together all ingredients with a fork, adding more flour if necessary until you have a stiff dough that’s too stiff to stir.

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Divide the dough into thirds, adding flour if needed to make it less sticky and easier to handle.

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Some of these pictures are from last year, when I taught my friend Peggy how to make noodles. Her husband is from Pittsburgh, so we enjoyed introducing him to the glory of homemade noodles gently spooned over a mound of mashed potatoes.

Using 1/3 of the dough at a time, place it on a large, liberally-floured cutting board.

Adding more flour as you go (see what I mean?), roll it it out very thin, as if you were making a pie crust.

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(I think I’ve made pie crust like, 3 times in my life. But I’ve seen it done. ) The best comparison I can think of would be a large flour tortilla.

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It’s very likely you’ll need to keep adding flour, as it may get sticky as you roll it out.

Once the dough is rolled out flat and nice and thin, pick up one side and fold it over in half. Add more flour if necessary.

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Then fold it in half again, so it’s 1/4 of its original size.

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Starting from the side with the fold, gently roll the dough up.

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Holding the rolled dough gently in one hand, start slicing thinly from one end (like 1/8″ thick, or as thin as you can get them.) I typically use gentle sawing motions in order not to squish the dough.

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Once the rolled dough has been sliced, add some flour and toss the mound of noodles gently within the flour until they are broken apart and in a loose pile.

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Slide to the corner of the cutting board, and repeat these steps with the other 2/3 of the dough.

Once all the dough is sliced and tossed, add more flour and toss it all together, then spread out across the cutting board in a thin layer.

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They will look something like this. The  noodles do best if they’ve had some time to dry. Typically, I cover them with paper towels and let them dry overnight. If I’m going to cook them the same day, I leave them uncovered.

When I was a kid, I used to love to eat raw noodle dough. My grandmother, horrified, always told me not to eat too many because they would plug up my butt. 😀

Oh, the memories.

Two or three hours before you plan to serve them, heat up two large cans  (like the size you’d buy canned juice in) of chicken broth in a large dutch oven along with the chicken broth granules. You don’t want this to boil, you just want it to heat up so the granules dissolve.

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Gently scrape the noodles into the dutch oven, and stir to break up any clumps. Turn the heat to a low temperature; ideally, you want these to barely simmer. Too hot and the noodles will stick to the bottom of the pan.

Stir frequently during the first half hour, and periodically after to make sure they don’t stick to each other or the pan. Leave the pot uncovered, letting the steam rise, and the noodles bubble ever so gently.

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Simmer until the broth reduces and the noodles have a gravy-like texture. If your noodles are bigger, you may need to add more chicken broth during this period to ensure the noodles are fully cooked in their own gravy.

When you can no longer keep your family out of them, you know they are ready. 😀

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My husband’s favorite way to eat them is drizzled over turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes. Or chicken and stuffing. Or by themselves.

How do you like to eat your noodles?

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Living in the Shadows, Part 2

2015-10-05 10.22.49Now where did I stop in Part 1? Hmmm..

Ah yes, my epic meltdown.

That would be the one where I irrevocably dented Ekko’s poor food bowl.

We were both different after that, in a good way.

I began to actually embrace our walks, and felt a wealth of patience and love. I knew that we’d both passed a milestone; now that we’d both found peace. It was time, he was ready.

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Shortly after Buckley came to the Rescue, we received an application from a potential adopter named Lauri from Seattle. Gordie, her aged Gordon Setter had passed over the Rainbow Bridge earlier this year. From her half-acre lot with a creek to her love of dogs and rescue experience, she was perfect!

I was optimistic, but Seattle was oh, so far away, and it was a long way to come to get a dog and then find out he didn’t fit in. We began corresponding regularly via email. I gave her detailed information and honest descriptions of our ups and downs so she would know what she was getting into. (Okay I might have glossed over the whole meltdown thing.) 😀

In turn, she confided that she wasn’t completely sure she wanted another dog. Her long-time boyfriend, also named Lori – his family is Scandinavian, where that is a man’s name – has Alzheimer’s. She thought Buckley might be a bright spot for both of them as the disease progressed, something they could simply enjoy with no remembering needed.

She surprised me with a ‘care package’ of coffee for the 5 a.m. walks and dental chews to help with his teeth, which needed cleaning.

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We seemed to have a lot in common as the weeks and emails, which now included video and pictures, passed. My reaction when, focused on shooting video, I ran into a stick dangling from a tree and gouged my forehead was just a bonus. 😉

Around the end of August, about 5 weeks after we began fostering Buckley, I received an email from Lauri:

“I wonder if I found the reason that you didn’t give up on Buckley.  Without you providing updates and info on exactly what Buckley is like I might not have continued to have interest in him, because of the distance.  As it was the stories kept me thinking.. hmm,maybe.  Well last night I showed my boyfriend the photo of Buckley looking at the printer and the photo of him standing on a leash looking at the camera with his head cocked.  I’d shown them to him before but he didn’t remember.  Anyway, this time he looked at the first photo, and looked and looked.  I reached to take the phone to bring up the 2nd one but he held on to it a bit longer.  Wanted to look some more.  When I showed him the second one he did the same… lonnng look…  with a dreamy-eyed smile.  It made me think, whether *I* need Buckley or not, I think my boyfriend needs me to have him so he can enjoy him.  It was a look I hadn’t seen for a very, very long time.  

The photos came up in conversation because I’d sent them to a trusted friend.  I told her I was considering adopting and asked if she wanted to ‘talk me down’.  Her reply;

Lauri, you can’t say no now, this one needs you and you need this one, just look at this face,  he needs your love!!!!!!!!!!!  (Not much help, am I?)”

I was too moved by Lauri’s email to respond right away. It brought tears to my eyes.

Lauri and Lori must be incredibly special people for God to weave his handiwork to bring Buckley into their lives.

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If we had never lost Harley, who was a boisterous handful, we would have never been able to take in Buckley. And if I had refused to listen to my inner voice and given up on him, this adoption would not be happening.

From that point forward, things began moving quickly. I began things to prepare him for his new people: we stepped up the car rides and increased our leash training.

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Labor Day weekend Lauri surprised Lori with a drive to the airport; she told him they were flying to Minneapolis, renting a car and coming here to pick up Buckley. He was overjoyed.

My friend Jenny suggested wisely that we get him an Adaptile collar, which emits ‘happy’ pheromones to calm him for the transition to a new home and a cross country car trip. I placed the collar on him as they pulled in the drive, hoping that he would associate the ‘happy’ feelings with seeing them.

It worked like a charm! See? 🙂

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Lauri and Lori were as nice as I knew they would be. They had planned to stay for an hour or so to get to know him, but thanks to the ‘happy collar’ he took to them so quickly that it seemed they were here only a few minutes.

Off they went on an epic road trip back to Seattle, venturing through the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, visiting the Corn Palace in Mitchell and the famous Wall Drug among other highlights. 2, 552 miles later, they were home safe and sound.

Buckley is now Bo, and is settling nicely into his new life.

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He has some challenges: he still needs work socializing with other dogs,  and he still hates being crated and left alone. But he’s learning to play, and he’s getting love and patience from people who have plenty of it to give.

“And Lori.. well he’s totally enjoying Bo.  Loves to watch him run in the yard, the way he hunkers down and walks low when he hunts, the way he sits so tall and watches for squirrels and birds in the trees, the speed Bo has when he takes off on a dead run (after who knows what), his playfulness when we throw toys for him in the house and he fetches and prances around.  (another video I need to get).  He calls him Gordie 90% of the time and it makes me think that not always, but sometimes, Lori thinks this is Gordie.  Has this allowed him to go back to when Gordie was still with us?  Wouldn’t that be wonderful for anyone.. to be able to go back in time, before a loss, as if it never occurred?   What a gift that would be.  Sometimes I’ve thought it might be too confusing to have gotten a dog that’s the same breed as the one we recently lost, but maybe for Lori it was exactly the right thing to do.” 🙂

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As for us, Bo gave us a new appreciation for our sweet little girls we have. Sometimes it’s easy to ‘want’ instead of appreciate what you have. It reminded me how precious time really is and how you shouldn’t squander it on things that don’t matter. And, thanks to him, I have a new friend.

It’s an amazing demonstration of God’s work that a sweet little boy who spent the first years of his life living in the shadows should accompany a man as his life’s journey takes him deeper into the shadows of Alzheimer’s.

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Thank you for helping all of us grow into better people, Bo. Have a wonderful life. You deserve it. 🙂

Living in the Shadows

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I really wouldn’t have believed this had I not lived it myself. It just goes to show how God’s plan for us is so much bigger than we can ever conceive.

I almost gave up on him.

He was a mess.

Dogs tell you a lot about their former lives through their behaviors. Buckley was a timid and sweet but nervous, un-socialized ball of fur who’d lived on scraps supplemented by dog food. He didn’t know how to play with toys and had never had treats. He’d never had a collar much less walked on a leash and most likely his only bath had been right before he came into the Rescue.

It’s not like people tell you “Basically I had this dog in my backyard, I fed it and occasionally he got to play and that’s it.”

Buckley was the product of an accidental litter between a Gordon Setter and an Irish Setter. His parents were breeding stock, and the only time in his 5-year life he’d been out of the backyard was to go to the vet. He saw the same people, the same dogs, and did the same thing every day.

It’s like he lived the first part of his life unseen: he lived in the shadows.

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His previous owners were not bad people. They were very nice, former breeders who had simply had grown older and out of the business with several dogs they had never placed. Life is busy, and time had simply slipped by.

One quality I’ve observed about breeders is that most of them think of their breeding animals more as livestock. It’s not a mindset I understand nor share, but that doesn’t make them wrong and me right; it just IS. And that’s why we live in America. 🙂

There’s obviously a need and a place for breeders in the world. I have friends who are good, responsible breeders and are huge advocates of rescue. Not all breeders are bad. (Some are, but that isn’t what this post is about.)

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The reality was that we had so little information about him when he came in that we didn’t realize Buckley had all these issues. It’s very likely his owners didn’t either. After all, he had lived in their backyard all his life where everything was comfortable and familiar, and since they didn’t spend any time with him, how would they know?

“What was I thinking, fostering a BIRD dog without a fenced yard?”I ask myself now.  😀

And yet, he taught me more about life in the 6 weeks I’d had him than anyone else ever had.

He was full of nervous energy, unmotivated by treats or toys, hated being crated with a passion. My friend Jenny, very knowledgeable and wise about these matters, offered wisdom and crate toys to prevent boredom. Unfortunately, he wasn’t treat or toy motivated.

For the first week or two he was here, he would wail constantly when I left the house, no matter who was home. My poor husband, who is notorious for being impatient, was wonderfully patient. He was much more gracious than I would have been after listening to him wail for 45 minutes.

After several battles, Buckley and I finally came to a mutual understanding: I would agree to stop crating him, and he would agree to stop wailing every time I left.

Everything was new to him. Sounds, mirrors, dog beds, television.

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He hadn’t yet learned healthy outlets for his nervous energy, such as chewing on a bone or toys. So, we walked. And walked and walked and walked.

I walked my yard more in the 6 weeks I had him more than I had in the last 15 years. When I look back upon that period, I feel like it was spent walking Buckley, with short stints of productive activity in between.

And we walked.

In the rain. In the heat. In the dark.

I prayed daily that he would be adopted, and yet in my heart I knew he wasn’t ready.

I had grown to care about this sweet little boy who deserved a life and a loving family. And certainly no one would be willing to take him on at this point; I could barely do it myself.

Something inside me just kept telling me to hold on. “Don’t give up on him! Don’t give up!” the tiny little voice said.

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And so I kept plodding along. Get up, walk Buckley. Work out, walk Buckley. Shower, walk Buckley. And so it went.

One hot, miserable summer day my increasing frustration bubbled over. I couldn’t take it.

I had an epic meltdown.

Fortunately, only the dogs were here to see it. It involved yelling, screaming, and repeatedly banging poor Ekko’s food dish on the kitchen counter top. It has a nice little dent in it to remind me of that day.

And then, it was over. I was exhausted, and but relieved. I felt lighter.

Sitting at my desk a while later, I realized something that was so profound, I wrote it down in my notebook so I would be sure to remember.

“I’m focusing on the wrong things for the direction I want to go.

Spend time working on the activities that get you where you need to be.”

Time is a precious commodity, and life will always be busy. I needed to spend my precious hours between Buckley walks working on the things that are really important. The big things. The things that matter. And my family, the parts of my work that really matter, those are the things I needed to be focusing on, not the busy work of scratching things off a list.

WOW.

And just like that, I let the “To Do” list go.

I still make notes  and write down things I’m afraid I’ll forget to do so I don’t have to carry them in my head. That list just matters less.

Most people have to get sick or suffer a loss to come to these conclusions. All I had to foster a difficult dog. I am truly blessed.

BUT THE STORY DOESN’T END HERE.

2015-09-03 19.52.31This picture is blurry, but it still makes me laugh.

“What, momma? Is there more?”

Yep, there sure is. I hope you’ll come back for the rest of the story, because it’s awfully special too. 🙂

How About Some Grilled Meatloaf?!

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I’m here to tell you that grilling your meatloaf is a total game changer. In fact, I’m not sure I will put it in the oven ever again! Unless it’s pouring rain or blowing snow, which might convince me otherwise.

Grilling meatloaf transforms it from a cold-weather comfort food into a refreshing change from burgers. Not that burgers aren’t great, mind you. But change is good. Especially when it involves the grill!

That’s what happened to me…bored with the same old thing, I wanted to shake things up a little. Adding a little char to a comfort food favorite adds a whole new dimension of smoky flavor and texture. Oh, my!

In fact, I’m eating the last piece for breakfast right now. Except there’s not as much left now as there is in this picture. 😉

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When Jimmy and I first got together, I must have tried at least 8 different meatloaf recipes before I found one we both liked. This really versatile recipe for Market Meatloaf calls for cumin and finishing it off under the broiler with cheese and green onions. Sometimes I do that last step, but most often I just pull it out of the oven and serve.

It is NOT spicy, although I think a dash of Tabasco would be really, really good and give it some kick.

The recipe came from Leanne Ely at SavingDinner. About ten years ago or more, I was really going through a cooking rut and subscribed to her service, Menu Mailer. Every week I received an email with 6-7 entree recipes and a shopping list. Most of the recipes were really good, made with normal ingredients, and I ended up with several that I still use to this day.

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Here’s the recipe in its entirety if you prefer not to grill; grilling instructions are in italics. This way you can prepare it either way!

Market Meatloaf 

(Serves 4)

1 pound ground beef (I actually had 2 pounds and doubled it so if it looks like a lot, that’s why)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup oatmeal

1 egg, slightly beaten

3 tablespoons milk (I have used coconut milk before and even mayo as a substitute when I was out of milk and there’s no change in flavor. But Shhhh, don’t tell my husband, he things he doesn’t like mayonnaise.)

1 tablespoon ketchup

3/4 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup green onion, thinly sliced (optional)

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees or pre-heat grill to between 350-400 degrees.

In large bowl, combine meatloaf ingredients, ground beef to salt and pepper, mix thoroughly and press into an 8 x 8 or 9-inch square pan. If you’re grilling, saute the onion first until soft with a little bit of char on the edges before mixing it with the rest of the ingredients. 

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For the grill, I used a cast-iron griddle pan, then just sauteed the onion in it first. If you don’t have a griddle pan, I imagine a cast-iron skillet would work just as well. 

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Bake 20-25 minutes, or until no longer pink and the juices run clear, then carefully pour off drippings. Sprinkle cheese over the top and broil 3-4 inches from heat source for 3-5 minutes, or until top is lightly browned, then sprinkle with green onions. Cut into 4 big servings.

For the grill, press it into the same pan in which the onions were sauteed and let it sizzle away. I have no idea how long I kept it on the grill because I was hanging out with Jimmy in our bar downstairs. HA! So just grill it with the lid down and, like you would a large burger, check on it periodically until it looks mostly done and has some nice char on the bottom. 

Cut the meatloaf into pieces wide enough to flip and cook on the other side. Mine ended up approximately 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Because I was…ahem…multi-tasking, I flipped all the pieces then simply shut the grill off and went on about my life. When you’ve decided it’s done to your liking, remove from the grill and serve.

This would be fabulous with a slice of Pepper Jack cheese melted over it! Or for a breakfast variation, how about an over-easy egg sitting prettily on the top?

Or how about a slice of Colby Jack, some grilled onion strings and on a bun? YUM!

Or simply with ketchup. Or without, since I’m out. 😀

Whatever way you eat it, it’s bound to be good! Give it a try this weekend, and give me a shout out if you tried a different variation. 🙂

Cheers!

How to Make Grilled Corn Dip

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It’s sweet corn time, hooray! And if you love the taste of fresh sweet corn, you’re going to love this grilled corn dip. Trust me on this!

The first time I made this dip, Jimmy and I ate the rest of it for breakfast the next morning. And while I can neither confirm nor deny my involvement, it may have been dinner the last couple of nights. 😀 It’s just that good!

You may know that I am a huge fan of the Pioneer Woman; growing up a farm girl, I can totally relate to her stories. I miss living on the farm! And I love her recipes, because their simple and easy and delicious. The grilled corn dip is in her Year of Holidays cookbook.

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Not only am I posting this for your benefit, it’s for mine too. I can NEVER remember where I put the recipe when I go to make it! Now I’ll know where I need to go. 🙂 She also lists a number of variations for it in the cookbook, but I can’t get past this one to change it. Maybe you’ll be more adventurous!

This is the original recipe;  I doubled the recipe this time so I could share it with friends. (Sorry if you didn’t get any.) 😉

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GRILLED CORN DIP

4 ears of sweet corn, shucked

One 8-oz package cream cheese, softened.

1 cup sour cream

4 green onions, sliced

4 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

4 oz. queso fresco, cotija or similar Mexican cheese, crumbled

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, more to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Juice of 1 lime

Several dashes of hot sauce (I used Tabasco)

Clean and wash the corn, and either hold it with tongs over the flame of your stove, or grill them if that’s easier. I usually put them outside on the grill, although if I’m making this in the winter and using frozen corn, I have been known to use a grill pan. This is how PW does it.

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I recommend having the heat high enough on your grill that the corn gets a little bit of char pretty quickly. While the dip is still wonderful, it’s the char that gives it the smoky taste. Naturally, it was the hottest day of the year when I decided I had an overwhelming need to make it NOW, so I got impatient and took mine off before mine got a really good char. But no one is complaining! 😀

When the corn is cool enough, slice the kernels off the cob.

Add the cream cheese, sour cream, and green onions to the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, and whip until it’s totally combined.

Grate or add pre-shredded Cheddar and  Monterey Jack cheese, and crumble the queso fresco cheese  (I used cotija) with a fork and add them to the bowl with the other ingredients. Mix in the cheeses until they’re totally combined.

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Next, add the cumin, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper along with the lime juice and the hot sauce.

Finally, throw in all that beautiful corn!

Mix it until the corn is distributed. Cover and refrigerate the dip for at least two hours. It gets better over time!

Serve in a bowl with tortilla chips, corn chips, crostini, or empty potato skins.

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A couple of her suggested variations:

Add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro to the dip for a really fresh flavor.

Add 1 seeded, diced jalapeno for a little more heat.

Enjoy it, and give me a shout if you make it. 😀

Cheers!

The Lost Cupcake

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Currently, I am slightly obsessed with gourmet cupcakes from our local HyVee grocery store. I love them so much I tend to give them as gifts. They’re clutter-free, and you never have to worry about them being the right size or the right color. And who doesn’t love a pretty cupcake?

Recently, it was my friend Michelle’s birthday.  I wanted to do something nice for her, so a cupcake would be perfect, right? Right.

I picked up one large, beautiful cupcake in its pretty box and off I went to the office to deliver it, only to find she’d taken the day off and gone out of town for the day. (Good for her!)

The next logical step would have been delivering it to her husband to take home to her. I drove by his office, and he wasn’t in either.  Shoot.

“Well, I’ll just take it to her when I go to the office in the morning,” I thought.

Sounds easy enough, right?

The next morning, I was up plenty early, and I really don’t know what happened. I had plenty of time. And then suddenly I didn’t have plenty of time, and I was running late.  I scrambled to finish getting ready and get out the door to go to the office.

I swung through McDonald’s for breakfast, only to discover they were closed. Seriously? Closed? CLOSED. (There was a skid loader jack-hammering concrete in the parking lot, which I’m guessing was the reason for the closure.)

I looked at the clock. I had precisely 8 minutes to get to our meeting, not nearly long enough to get to the other McDonald’s on the north end of town (which would have been open, by the way.) SIGH.

I don’t know about you, but when I am hungry and geared up for a certain something, a substitute, no matter how good, is still a poor substitute. So I had to go somewhere else.

Finally, I blaze into the parking lot, juggle my purse, a bag, some magazines, my water, breakfast…and the cupcake, which I had sat up on the car sitting next to mine.

I reached out for the box which held the cupcake. In a slow-motion blur, the box opened as I brought it towards me, and the cupcake came tumbling out, falling, falling, falling…coming to rest upside down on my foot. :-/

I was stunned speechless, although I must have made a sound. My friend Debby, who was our guest speaker, walked around the front of my car.

“Carmen, do you need some help?” she asked.  There I stood there with the open cupcake box. I looked at her blankly, unable to speak. She looked down at my foot.

She bent down and picked up the offending cupcake from my shoe, helped me put it back in the box,  and went on inside for her meeting.

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In a fog of disbelief, I set the now-destroyed cupcake inside my car, grabbed a paper towel and wiped the worst of the frosting off my shoe.

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This is where it landed. :-/

I’m not sure which was more disappointing: not having the gift I envisioned for Michelle, or the total waste of a perfectly good cupcake!

It was only once I got back in the office my wits came back and I remembered to thank Debby. And as I told the story of the cupcake, someone noticed I had frosting on my other leg. 😀

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At home later that day, I threw the cupcake box away.

I must confess: I had serious thoughts of eating that cupcake. I actually went back to the trash, plucked out the box, and stared longingly at the now misshapen cupcake.

I pondered. It was my foot, after all.

And then I saw the telltale specks of dirt; apparently it had touched the parking lot too. Dang.

Oh well. They’ll make more. 😀

How To Organize Your Kitchen Spices

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I know: you’re probably reading this and thinking, “Why on earth would I want to?” 😀

But trust me when I say that once you figure out a system how to organize your kitchen spices, it will save you money and it will save you time.

And honestly, there are probably better systems out there than mine. My spice cabinet is kind of small, and I’m not inclined to move it (nor do I know where I’d move it to.)

But think about it. Have you ever ended up on more than one occasion with multiple obscure spices that you don’t use often?

Like cardamom.

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Or coriander.

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Or what about this one?

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I’m a big fan of Paleo cooking. One of the reasons I love Paleo meals is that they are very flavorful. In other words, they are recipes which require spices. Multiple spices.

When you have a household with two cooks who both like flavorful food and have a tendency toward impulse seasoning purchases, you end up with a cabinet that looks like this.

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And this.

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That’s the top shelf, with about 10 varieties of hot sauces.

See what I mean? Would you want to dig through this every time you needed something? I’m in spice hell! 😀

2015-06-30 15.17.09This picture is all the tall spices on the middle shelf. Seriously.

One item that has made finding them a whole lot easier is a lazy Susan. (Just who was Susan, anyway?) I’ve been using this guy for about 16 years. (These work great in your bathroom vanity too, by the way.)

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All the little ones sit nicely on the top shelf, and the bigger ones on the bottom.

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This certainly makes it a little easier to identify what’s there. But what about all these?

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Wait. I saw something out the window. What is that?!?!

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Yep. Squirrel! Sorry. The little stinker.

So the other day, after digging through that cabinet for the LAST time without any idea whether I had something or not, I snapped.

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My solution to this cesspool of spices was to take inventory. Sure, it took a few minutes to set up: I was waiting for something to come out of the oven, so I alphabetized them while I was waiting, and I jotted them down on paper.

Next, I typed them into a Word Document. The beauty of this is that you only have to do this ONCE. (Unless your hard drive crashes and you lose everything on your computer. In which case, you have bigger problems than this.)

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I sorted mine into 3 categories:  Spices, Seasoning Blends, and Hot Sauces.

The final list looks like this, and hangs just inside the door. Now do you feel my pain? 😀

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This handy dandy system has already saved me money: I was at the shop yesterday making my grocery list, and realized I’d forgotten to check and see if I had some whole cloves. Dang. It meant either a trip back home, or a guess. What would you do? Exactly: I would have guessed. And had a 50/50 chance of getting it right.

Wait! I have a list! So I went into my computer files, and Ta Da! I had ground cloves but no whole cloves.

My plan is to update this list every once in a while, after I get several scribbles on it. And if I run out of something, or it’s past the expiration date, immediately add it to your grocery list.

A little bit of time for a lot of rewards. That’s a winner in my book.

Add a little SPICE to your life, friends! 😀

Before & After: A Rindercella Story

Once upon a time, there was a handsome Prince who bought a cozy little house on a small acreage just outside of the nice small city he lived in. There were trees, and wildlife, a beautiful yard, in the country, and he could still get a pizza delivered.

House 2002

After he worked at painting and adding new carpet, he was pleased with his efforts and his charming 960-sq. ft. house, and all was well.

A year later, he met a Princess, who moved in shortly afterwards. Not long after that, her two dogs came to live with them. And over the next few years, as they began their happily-ever-after journey, two more dogs joined their family.

So they added a fence to their yard.

West side

The Prince and Princess, while cozy and content in their little cottage, began to feel cramped. Their rooms felt small; in fact, one year at Christmas there was only 3-feet of space between their Christmas tree and TV. This wouldn’t do!

And so, after much discussion, they decided an addition was the way to go. Could they stay married? Could they agree on anything? Would it ever be finished? This remained to be seen, and while they both might have been skeptical, neither spoke out loud, and they forged ahead.

That was how it came to be that 13 years ago today, June 26, 2002, the Prince and Princess broke ground for an addition.

SW corner

But first, one pesky big tree had to go.

Tree

With the tree gone, the digging began in earnest.

West side excavation

“Wow! Does that look different!”, they said.

West side dirt

“What’s going on here?,” Maggie and Cassadie asked. (Did you really think this fairy tale would be without dogs? Seriously?)

On a humorous note, in the background is a 24-ft. 5th wheel.  Yes. 24. Not 42.

Cassadie Maggie

Then, the walls began to go up.

First walls

And so, the handsome Prince and his crew began to set forms. It was really taking shape!

Concrete pour floor

And then the floor was poured.  The Princess thought they should have their picture taken for their Christmas card standing on that concrete floor, with the words “The Money Pit” spray painted beside them. In red.

The Prince wasn’t enchanted with that idea.

Jim n Maggie

Look how young the handsome Prince looks! And Maggie, with no gray hair.

Lull

After a lull, the framing began to go up. (Lull? Get it?) 😀

Framing traps

This was the Prince’s stepfather building the framing for the trapezoid windows. Just a guess, but the Princess is pretty sure that if the Prince’s mother saw him up there today he would be in big trouble!

without traps

Things have a way of looking really funny until they are completed. The Prince asked the Princess several times, “Are you sure that’s going to look right?”

west side of house

Slowly, it began to come together.

Installing windows

Windows came in, and were installed in the original part of the house. And, the trapezoid windows were installed in the addition.

New front door

Over the years, the Prince and Princess continued to work on their house. Through stops and starts, re-do’s and do-overs, mistakes and accidents, they’ve almost got it just the way they want it.

Many of you may know this place.

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Better known these days as Black Dog Lodge. 🙂 You’ve come a long way, Rindercella!

 

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Have a great weekend, friends!

Recovering From Fibromyalgia (Part 2)

A fibromyalgia diagnosis doesn’t have to mean the end of everything fun. Here’s the rest of the story of how I got back to feeling like a Rock Star (or, if you remember the 80’s, better than a Rock Star most likely.HA)

2. Exercise.

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Your body was made to  move, not made to sit on your ass all day every day. But, modern living being what it is, we all have to make a living. That is what makes exercise doubly important.

I know it’s hard to start new habits, but it’s an absolute necessity if you want to feel better.

Exercise is also one of those things that’s a process. You need to do it consistently. Find something that you enjoy doing that helps you move.

Be patient! We live in such an instant gratification society that when people don’t get fit or feel better instantly, they give up.

If you’re starting an exercise program for the first time, start out slow. Walk 5 or 10 minutes every day for a couple of weeks to give yourself time to adjust. Each week after that, add a couple of minutes or a couple of blocks.

For instance, let’s say you’ve decided to take the plunge and start exercising. The absolute worst thing you can do is overdo and end up really sore, which makes you dread your workouts. You’re simply dooming yourself to fail if that’s the road you take.

For example, what if you started walking 5 minutes every day for a week. That’s it. Just 5 minutes a day. The next week, add two minutes per day, and the next week, another two minutes. That’s 120 seconds of additional walking per day each week. Then continue adding two more minutes per per day each week after that.

At the end of 3 months, you’d be walking almost 30 minutes per day. If you walked 6 days per week, that’s THREE hours of exercise a week! Phenomenal! See how it adds up, folks? Where else would you be in 3 months?

Just think: you went from ZERO to THREE hours a week in only THREE months. That doesn’t sound too shabby, does it? And you only started with 5 minutes per day.

I’m a Slow and Steady Wins the Race kind of gal myself, that’s why I think this way.

Progress is still progress, however long it takes. Do you think it matters now that it took me 12 years to finish my college degree? Heck no! And as far as I was concerned, it didn’t even matter then! 😀


Jackin steel

Once you’re up to speed with a walking program, gradually add in some weight bearing exercise. Weight-bearing exercise is so important to prevent osteoporosis as well as help keep your strength up as you age. Weight-bearing exercise will help you balance out your body strength so you don’t fall, help slow or prevent your muscles from shrinking which naturally occurs as you age, and help you get up off the toilet. 😉

I highly recommend consulting with a trainer or utilizing machines to make sure you are doing the exercise correctly in order to prevent injury. Again, work up slowly.

When I started lifting weights is when I really started to see improvement.

And remember: not all muscle soreness is bad!

If you’re starting an exercise program, you may feel some soreness. A little soreness is natural; you just want to avoid the intense muscle soreness that hurts so much it discourages you. Shoot, if you’ve ever had a massage, you know your muscles are sometimes sore afterwards.

This does not mean it’s bad, or that your fibromyalgia is acting up. There IS a difference.

3. Consider Supplementation.

2015-01-12 15.47.56You’re right, this picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I was just checking to see if you were paying attention. 😉

Do you take a probiotic regularly? If you don’t, you should. A probiotic is an over-the-counter supplement which contains good bacteria to keep your gut healthy. Gut health, or lack thereof, is a factor behind many illnesses. While you may not notice an immediate improvement upon taking it, over the long term it makes a huge difference.

If you don’t like or eat seafood, check out a good quality fish oil supplement.

Talk to your doctor about other supplements. Besides a probiotic, I take Vitamin C, Vitamin D (unless I’m out in the sun), and Magnesium. I also am an avid user of essential oils, which promote and support good health, energy and a healthy immune system without adding chemicals to my life.

4. Get Plenty of Sleep.

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Wind down naturally at the end of the day, allowing yourself some time to relax, at least an hour before bed.

Stay off electronic devices. Make sure your room is dark; get some blackout drapes if you have to. Keep a small flashlight by the bed for bathroom breaks.

Watch your alcohol intake; it can be especially disruptive to sleep. (I know this from experience.)

Try bathing at night instead of a shower if you have a tub to help you relax. Rub your pillow with lavender (a good quality essential oil) to help you sleep. I diffuse lavender at night, which helps us relax and sleep better.

Try some gentle stretches to release muscle tension and prepare your body physically for sleep.

Consider the use of white noise to help you sleep better and block out other noises. My husband and I use a fan. The TV does NOT count as white noise, sorry. 😀

5. Take Care of Yourself.

Keeping your stress level low is incredibly important. Learn to say no, stop trying to do everything, recognize your limitations, and give yourself a break.

I have taken up yoga this year, and I really love what it does for me, mentally and physically.

2015-03-07 09.56.56Not to mention the people in the class, of course. 😀

I hope you found this helpful, and wish you the best of luck in your journey to good health. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts! But day to day, it will make a difference. 🙂

Cheers!

Goodbye Harley

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As I sit writing about the loss that we feel, I admit it comes with almost a feeling of guilt. There are others who have lost so much more than us: families who have lost loved ones, those who are suffering from horrible illnesses or injuries, a friend who recently lost her oldest son, taken from this life far too young.

We can’t possibly know or understand what they feel, and our hearts hurt for them. But to us, our loss is painful. Without children, our dogs have become, in a way, our children. They are our family. They are who we look forward to coming home to each night.

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Harley liked to live life his own way. We did our best to try to teach him to live by our rules, but he was his own man. His life had gotten off to a rough start, but when he came to us, he brought something that we’d been missing for some time and really didn’t even realize.

Harley was a Doofus Maximus. In other words, a goofball. A lummox. A dingbat. He brought us joy, laughter, and silliness. Over-the-top boisterous fun, which we hadn’t had for a long time.

Jimmy’s heart really had never healed after losing his beloved Maggie. You see, the other girls are sort of Momma’s girls. He really didn’t have a buddy anymore.

And then Harley came along. For a few weeks, there was unrest until everyone figured out their job  in our household. Once that happened, it came easy: Harley looked after Jimmy, Ekko looked after me, and Charra looked after both of them. And for the most part, we had peace.

Every day, Jimmy rejoiced that he “had a wiener in the house!”

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Little did I know it was a ploy.

He’d been out once already. Our potty ritual was for me to let him outside, and I would stand on the front porch and watch. Once he realized I watched, he would watch to see if I was watching. It became a game.

So for the second time this morning, he acted very excited to go outside. It was an emergency! He needed to go now! I assumed he needed to poop.

I opened the door. He shot past me off the porch, running full speed toward the front of the yard as if he were after something. Knowing he wouldn’t listen to me (as in the past), I sighed and walked to the kitchen, stuck my coffee in the microwave, immediately walking back to the front door. That probably took 20 seconds or less.

I thank God that he protected me from seeing it.

By the time I got to the front door, it had already happened. I saw him lying in the road, the vehicle just past him slowly moving, then speeding up and driving away.

It didn’t register.

“What is he playing with that he’s lying in the road?” I thought.

I called to him.

He raised the front of his body up, barked twice and yelped, not so much in pain, but more as in telling to hurry up, he needed help.

Realizing what happened, I ran to him as fast as I could. My worst nightmare would be seeing him ran over yet again right in front of my eyes. Our yard seemed to be huge, but in reality it probably took less than 15 seconds for me to reach him.

By the time I reached him, he was taking his last breaths. I couldn’t believe it. Surely this was a bad dream.

Dragging him off the road, I called Jimmy and laid there snuggled up against him (pajamas and all), until Jimmy could get here to pick him up.

A neighbor, whose kindness I am grateful for, turned around and waited with me until Jimmy came. Several vehicles stopped, but there was  nothing to be done.

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My heart hurt for my husband. His heart hurt for me. We talked about every hour or two, because we didn’t know what else to do.

Harley made Jimmy smile again. He finally had a dog of his own, a buddy. They were inseparable. I knew he would feel the loss acutely.

Thankfully, we are not “what if” people. What is, is.

We all suffer setbacks. But to torture yourself doesn’t change anything. All it does is make you miserable. Life will always hand you lemons, and sometimes it makes you feel weary, as if you don’t want to go on.

But the quality of your life and your character are determined by how you react to things.

You see, we believe that things happen the way they are supposed to. We don’t always understand them, and may not for years. But at some point, it all makes sense. By no means does it hurt any less. But our faith helps provide us perspective and logic.

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I have experienced premonitions in the past that have always preceded a loss.

I didn’t remember until this evening that I’d had somewhat of an ominous feeling the last few days. I couldn’t explain it, and it wasn’t terribly intense. Just a feeling that something bad was going to happen.

Our friend Jenny (who also happens to be our veterinarian) came by to bring us a card this evening and to offer her condolences

“I don’t understand why God would give us something to fill such a void only to take it away,” I said tearfully.

“Because he needed you,” she said wisely. “He lived a wonderful life with you that he most likely wouldn’t have had otherwise. Not many people would have been willing to take him  and his situation on. And in spite of your best efforts to train him, to calm him down, he wanted to live life his way.”

And just like that, it all made sense.

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Our time with Harley was way too short. We had him less than a year, and he was only 15 months old. And to quote my husband, “he lived life full bore until it was over.”

We all should be so lucky. And at the end of the day, it’s about him and not us.

Thank you Harley, for all that you gave us. I’m so glad we were able to share our lives with you. We’ll miss you always.