All posts by sammee44

Triple Chocolate Doodles

When I was growing up, everyone in my family could cook or bake or do both, equally well.  We weren’t fancy cooks or bakers, just good at comfort foods and family favorites. One of the family faves was “Triple Chocolate Doodles” that my grandmother baked.  As I grew older, I realized it was actually a variation of the “Snickerdoodle,” a vanilla flavored cookie dough, soft enough to drop from a teaspoon, onto a cookie sheet. Snickerdoodles were good too, but if your tummy had a craving for chocolate, then the Triple Chocolate Doodles filled the bill.

The problem is, Grandma didn’t have a written recipe for this family favorite. It was made so often, the recipe was engraved on her brain.  It wasn’t exactly a real recipe when Grandma would show her grand-daughters, “Now, a chunk of butter like this, a couple of large eggs, a dollop of vanilla, cups of flour plus a smidge, until the dough feels right. . . .” and as she was talking, my tiny grandma would be beating the life out of the butter and eggs.  Fry’s cocoa powder played a huge part in the recipe as well as lots of chocolate chips. When the cookies were hot out of the oven and cooling on the racks, Grandma would add the finishing touch by drizzling melted dark chocolate over each doodle.

Every time Grandma made these, they were melt-in-your-mouth delicious and absolutely fail-proof. It didn’t matter if you asked what precise measurement would make a “chunk” or  how much exactly was a “dollop?” After all, it had to be the same every time because scientifically, a more or less difference in chunks or dollops would produce a less than perfect triple chocolate doodle, right?  At least, that was my logical reasoning. And another thing, when does the dough feel right?

Well, I just figured out the secret of the family recipe–precise amounts of ingredients won’t work. Throw logic out the window. Go with the chunks, dollops and smidges.  Add lots of chocolate and a heaping amount of love. Triple Chocolate Doodles are still a winner and absolutely fail-proof when you use “Grandma’s recipe” with her own special measurements.

COFFEE AND DESSERT

Dish of pastries        Okay, my official approval is officially recorded here.  Dark Belgian chocolate brownies and doughnuts still head my list of preferred goodies to co-mingle with my caffeine fix. Danishes are delish and will do in a pinch. Apple, lemon or pumpkin pies are a close second, but only if the pastry and fillings are made the way my Mom and Mom-in-Law, made them. They made the absolute best. But, whatever anyone else prefers, I believe desserts are getting a bum rap–yep, desserts deserve to be heard and seen. . .and eaten.  I’m speaking up for the real desserts.

What brought this on? Well, my fave coffee place ran out of desserts! What kind of caffeine-brewing place ever runs out of Danishes, doughnuts and brownies? Hoo-boy, this one did and not only that, the “vacancies” were filled with new tenants occupying their platters. Stuff like fat-free “Blueberry Bran Muffins,” “Whole Wheat Crackles” and “Oatmeal Quinoa” squares. Well okay, the squares did have cranberries and coconut. The muffins did have a cutesy-poo name like “Blue Mountain Muffins.” Carefully I scanned the display case again. Yep, no buttery croissants. No crisp flaky Danishes. Not even a light-as-air, puff pastry sausage roll. Don’t get me wrong. I have been known to eat the good-for-you goodies, but when you head out for a perfect cup of coffee, then it needs a delicious piece of pastry as its perfect mate.

“Hey, Stan. Where’s the good stuff? Still in your back room?” I asked.

“Too much fat and sugar, Toots. We gotta eat more healthy if we want to live longer.”

“Trust me, Stan. You will be losing a heck of a lot of clientele if you don’t bring back the sugar and fat. I like my sugar and fat—-in fact, I want your terrific coffee and all my fave desserts back.”

I figured, someone had to make a stand for desserts. The healthy ones are okay if you really, really need something to go with that great cup of java. However, the flipside is, if you don’t make a stand for all those delicious goodies made with real butter and  real sugar, then you’re going to be paying for more fat-free, sugarless, wholegrains, healthy stuff you can make and eat at home—free.  Pretty soon, fat-free sugarless goodies would be invading and taking over all the coffee bars in town. Desserts were definitely getting the bum’s rush out the door and no one was speaking up.

Well, I made my official stand for desserts–real desserts–with my caffeine fix. A week later, I stopped at Stan’s for my usual cup of his superb coffee and glanced at his showcase.

“Whoa, Stan! What happened? Your Danishes and Belgian chocolate brownies and croissants are back.”

“You were right, Toots. Not everyone wanted healthy. Apparently my place was their get-away from fat-free and sugarless. But, just in case, I have a few muffins for those who want healthy.”

“Stanley, you did the right thing,” I beamed at him. “I’ll have the cherry Danish and the brownie. It’s been a “dry” spell for your pastries and I’ll have to make up for lost time.”

Another Neighborhood Ramble

I love walking and discovering new things. My morning walk takes me to interesting places. I’m very fortunate living in an area where, no matter which direction I walk, it will be scenic with probably water, mountains or beautiful gardens.

Early in the morning is the best time as it’s lively with dogs walking their owners, wandering deer, some errant raccoons scurrying to their beds and those busy squirrels, scampering up trees and dashing across roads. The coffee bars open early and I have discovered some nifty ones tucked in a corner, known mainly by the neighbourhood locals. This also holds true for the bakeries that sells warm cinnamon buns, buttery croissants and flaky pastries wrapped around savoury fillings.

I tell Hubby I’m off on one of my “power-walks” and he knows I won’t be back for at least an hour or even longer. I usually choose a random direction and if I see an interesting road, I check it out.Mystery Path

I know my streets, but where I live, the streets do not move in a straight and orderly line. One street may start out as one thing. When it’s interrupted by hills and lanes, it usually emerges as something else.  I think I have devised my own version of a map of my area. Sometimes my mental map of the area doesn’t exactly match the actual map. I may be      slightly off my planned route, but I’m not lost.  A person can miss a treasure trove of fun things when passing in a car, but as a walker there are numerous things along the route that grabs your attention.

First of all, there is a number of “free lending libraries–many are miniature houses        painted in eye-catching colours and a few are entertainingly creative.

Snoopy Books - Copy      Library Retaken Closer

My faves are the Snoopy, draped on the roof of his “house” and the original  piano house.  Next, there are the garden ornaments that makes that particular home unique.      I like garden knick-knacks with a personality and some of the ones I’ve discovered             definitely fits that criteria. I’ve seen the mysterious East reflected in Buddha’s stone face,  the “sleeping Goddess” nestled in the ornamental grass and the “dancing lovers.”

Cropped Figure Head                           Cropped Lovers                     Sleeping Beauty Ornament

Down the street and around the corner is an attractive birdhouse as well as my favourite “fairy house.”

Cropped Birdhouse               Fairy Door

A detour down a beckoning lane takes me to an unexpected “Keep Out Deer” sign,          no doubt posted by a frustrated gardener. . .

Warning to Deer - Copy

Time to head homewards by a different route—wonder what other fun things I’ll see along the way?

 

Love, Not War

                                         Cropped Sole Red Heart-Shaped Leaf - Copy

On my  early  morning walk, I saw this  one lonely red leaf, still clinging

to its branch.

It had curled into a heart-shape and I saw it as a positive sign for this

November 11th.

Let’s have more Peace and Love, not War and Hate for this

beautiful World of ours.

Dollars and Surprises

Next to coffee, dark chocolate and doughnuts, I like dollar stores.  Do you have them? Victoria seems to have a plethora of them and these stores proliferate like a—well a     dollar epidemic.

My hometown has different versions of dollar stores and their names would denote how organized they would be:  Dollar Store, Dollarama, Amazing $$$ and Dollar Bin to name a few.

I grew up with Woolworth and Kresge. That’s what dollar stores remind me of.

I prefer the small dollar stores. These are stores where the aisles, if any, have a certain method in their maddening, maze-like meandering. That’s when a person, with no purpose in mind and lots of time, may find a treasure or two. The super huge dollar stores are extremely organized. There are signs at each aisle, clearly stating what can be found down its long, neat-n-tidy lanes–no surprises along those pathways.  I like surprises.

Few people ever admit that they found any bargains or treasures or bought stuff in a dollar store, but heck, who doesn’t love a bargain?  I have bought mailing envelopes, file folders and notepads at a fraction of prices found in stationary stores–same brands too.  When I was doing my beading workshops, I found some fabulous beads and leather cords for a pittance, compared to the prices for the exact same thing at a bead and accessory store. Paper crafts are an on-going project and I often found unique stickers, paints and colourful stick-ons–again, for a fraction of the costs at a regular craft store. Party decorations, all-occasion cards, gift bags and wraps are all worthy of buying at you-know-where.

You can’t be anonymous when you venture into a dollar store because you’re bound to meet up with someone who knows you. Having an attitude helps. You know the one—the “yes-I-shop-here-and-I’m-so-happy-you-discover-this-too” works every time.

Hmm-mm, it looks like there’s another new place opening. With a name like “Dazzling Dave’s Dollars,” I bet it may be a larger and more organized store. But then again, it may be one of those smaller ones with treasures packed in every nook and cranny. I think Dazzling Dave should be checked out and maybe, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

It’s All Attitude

I think wild animals, as well as the domesticated ones, have me figured out as soon as they see me. Take for instance, this young deer that crossed my path this morning. Well, he didn’t exactly crossed my path, the deer was actually in someone’s garden, happily nibbling his way across the buffet of blooms.  I was passing by, on the other side of a low rock wall. At seeing wildlife so close, I whipped out my senior phone and fumbled for the camera setting.  The deer didn’t even lose a beat chewing and munching—he just stared at me as if to say, “Well for Pete’s sakes–hurry up and take the darn picture so I can move over there where there’s even tastier stuff.”  Hubby always told me it’s not what a person say, but the attitude delivering it. He was right. These darn deer have the attitude thing nailed.  When Hubby and I were returning from the Village, across the street from our condo building, two young deer crossed at the pedestrian cross walk with the walk sign flashing.  They then leaped over the rock wall of my building and proceeded to munch their way around the garden–probably their version of a delectable lunch date.

Last week, I encountered a deer, ambling across the road to get to a corner lot where there had been some clearing of brush and trees. I swear this deer knew I was trying to get a decent photo with my senior cellphone. It actually posed–first, turning his head this way and then turning his head that way. I assumed this deer didn’t play poker as his expression plainly showed his disgust at how slow this human was in aiming for a good photograph. While I was still adjusting my camera, the deer turned completely around, showing me his butt-end, which came out perfectly framed and focused on my cellphone’s camera.

When Hubby and I had our little house some years ago, the deer were beginning to invade civilization, but not to the extent the deer invasion has taken place now. I remember coming home and turning onto our street. A young deer had wandered over to the house across the street from us, peeked into the living room window and satisfying itself that no one was home, proceeded to eat our neighbour’s prized roses.  See, it’s all in the attitude.

My area also has lots of dogs. And trust me, dogs have attitudes too. Some dogs are scrappers and barkers. Usually these are the tiny ones. The smaller the dogs, the more feisty and confrontational they seem. And, the bigger the dog, these frisky scrappers are in their element, tossing down their challenge. I love the attitudes of the huge dogs like the St. Bernard or the Newfoundland Bouvier. One swipe of their front paw would be enough to knock a yapper into the next county. But you have to admire their restraint because the look they give is absolutely priceless. It’s as if they say, “Tone it down, Junior and give some respect or I’ll knock you silly.”  The look, just like the parental looks we got as kids, worked too. The noisy “fuzz-ball” instantly quieted until the ginormous dog ambled past and almost out of sight before the gleeful yapper began again.

Cats are notorious for attitude. A cat can out-stare its human and show a range of expressions that its owner know does not bode well, especially if the human left the cat alone for most of the day. The cat’s posture manifests a territorial boldness that reminds their owners exactly who the real Boss of their domain is. Owners develop a deep sense of guilt when they get that look from their feline room-mate.

Again, it’s all attitude and in the animal kingdom, attitude is alive and well.

 

 

On My Bedside Table

From time to time, I like to share what books and/or magazines I have on my bedside table. As most of my friends know, I do have very eclectic tastes—and it usually depends on my mood. Am I looking for an exciting blood and guts thriller or a gentle cosy or a hot romance or an exhilarating sci-fi? How about a good ol’ western or the intrigues of a historical drama? At some point or other, I have had all of these and more—AND yes, I have slept like a babe after reading them.

I have always been a fan of Robert B. Parker and mourned when he suddenly passed away in 2010. But the Robert B. Parker Estate had other ideas and passed the continuity and creativity of his private investigator, Spenser, to Ace Atkins, a famous writer himself. To be able to take over someone else’s character is not as easy as it sounds. The writer has to make Spenser sound the same with that distinctive speech pattern and off-beat humour, his comfort style, his beautiful Susan, his loyal friend and “weapon”, Hawke, as well as all the other characters he calls upon for information or support.  Ace Atkins has succeeded. I would know as Atkins has written 6 Spenser books and I have read all of them.  Ace Atkins is Robert B. Parker. I thoroughly enjoyed “Old Black Magic,” by Ace Atkins as it had all the ingredients that loyal readers like.  Best of all, “Old Black Magic” is Spenser, older but as tenacious and likeable as always.

James Rollins has never disappointed. His previous book, “Kill Switch,” co-authored with Grant Blackwood, introduced the close working and non-working relationship between Captain Tucker Wayne and his Belgian Malinois army dogs, Kane and Abel. In this second book, “War Hawk,” Wayne and Kane have retired from the army, trying to settle into a peaceful civilian life and dealing with the loss of Abel. When a former army colleague asks for his help, he and Kane face the newest threat in the 21st century—information.  And the biggest threat will be the utilization of new technology that sifts through all the collected useless information and extracts the mother-lode of useful bits. James Rollins and Grant Blackwood have written another exciting thriller that is believable in the 21st century: wars are changing; control of power is understanding and using the intricacies of technology. The scary enemies will be relentless drones, built for death and destruction.  “War Hawk” was another page turner that was difficult to put down.

I have long been a “Jack Reacher” fan, the solitary modern vagabond created by Lee Child. As all fans know, Reacher is a large 6 feet plus, muscle-bound male who has seen a lot of what humans can do to each other, in his journey criss-crossing the United States. A recent Lee Child book, “No Middle Name,” is a complete collection of Jack Reacher short stories–the earliest written in 1999 titled “James Penney’s New Identity.” The others were written over the years with the newest short story, “Too Much Time,” written in 2017.  Each story finds Reacher at different phases of his life, as a young man, Army career and eventually retired army officer, hitch-hiking his way around the country. Perhaps his years working in the Military Police has honed his observations and sense of justice, but one thing is certain, Reacher can hear the lies before they are uttered.

James Patterson is a prolific writer and in recent years have paired with other writers. “Haunted” is no exception.  Written by Patterson and James O. Born, “Haunted” delves into Michael Bennett’s worst nightmare for any parent. Escaping to the quiet idyllic life in a small town in Maine, he hopes to give his family and himself a holiday. But at the request of a colleague, he finds himself involved in the disappearance of several young teens, the discovery of a number of grave sites and a drug problem that is as devastating in this small Maine town as it is in New York. Wondering where he has failed as a parent, “Haunted” shows that being a cop doesn’t exempt you from having a kid caught with drugs and sent to jail.  The old saying of “do the crime; pay the time” has never proved truer or more painful for the Bennett family.

After reading a number of exciting crime thrillers, I switched to something much lighter. Bailey Cates is one of my go-to authors for fun cosies. And cosies that deals with murder and food are perfect. I had read Bailey Cates “Magic and Macaroons,” before but decided to reread this entertaining story again. Katie Lightfoot, one of the co-owners of Savannah’s “Honeybee Bakery, serves up her delicious baked goods, made with some added magical charms.  When a stranger collapses on the floor of the Honeybee Bakery and mumbles something about a voodoo talisman, what can a fledgling witch do but investigate with the help of her elders, a group of experienced “charms and spells” witches.

I had recently attended a panel discussion at Victoria’s Bolen Books. It was moderated by a Canadian mystery writer, S.(Sandra)G.Wong and her fellow Sisters-in-Crime, Canada West writers, Laurie King, Marcelle Dube, Liz Freeland and Janice MacDonald. It was a very fast-paced and entertaining panel discussion as all the ladies discussed how they managed to research their respective periods and historical backgrounds for their mysteries. I bought one of S.G. Wong’s books, “Die on Your Feet,” as I was not familiar with her books. This book was set in the 1930s, in Crescent City, somewhere near L.A. Lola Starke is a private investigator hired for one job and reluctantly pressed into service for another. Crescent City is also a town with ghosts and Lola has one of her very own, a helpful ghost named Aubrey, whom she doesn’t want.  “Die on Your Feet” launched the first of the Lola Starke mysteries.  I liked the 1930s setting and the book grabbed me from the first page to the last.  It wasn’t the blood and guts reads that I gravitate to prior to bedtime, but “Die on Your Feet,” will keep you entertained.

Ending on a lighter note, a good friend gave me my latest acquisition, a foodie book that is fabulous to dip into—not only for the terrific photography and great recipes, but also for the comments and little stories behind the food. I highly recommend Joanna Gaines “Magnolia Table.” I find this a delicious treasure to add to my collection of recipe books. Recipes such as JoJo’s Biscuits, Syrian Donuts, Dulce de Leche Apple Pie and Bevie’s Chocolate Roll as well as more serious sides and mains like Cream Corn Spoonbread, Almond Chicken Tenderloins, Fried Chicken with Sticky Poppy Seed jam and Grilled Raspberry-Chipotle Pork Tenderloin are all easy to prepare.  I am looking forward to trying many of the dishes and desserts that Joanna Gaines shares. All the recipes in “Magnolia Table” seem to be the Gaines family favourites.

I hope you will enjoy these books too. Happy Reading, Everyone!