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Thursday, October 27, 2022

Love, Death and Apple Pie

Yes, I’m from Transylvania. And no, I’ve never seen a vampire. Why do people always ask?

Flip through any fantasy magazine, and you’ll see the ads. Lovers of the Night - Join Us! Vampire swords for sale. Vampire jewellery. On-line chatline - conversation that bites! Read the magazine’s guidelines and you’ll see ‘No more vampire stories.’ But people keep writing them.

Why the movies, books and clubs? Why the advertisements for red contact lenses and cosmetic dental surgery?

Maybe it’s the supernatural powers. They say vampires are stronger and faster than mere humans. They’re immortal and can change into bat form and fly. Faster and stronger, especially without having to work out, sounds good. And flying, sure, flying appeals, but I don’t see the attraction of bathood. They’re still rodents, after all.

No, that can’t be it. After all, how many adults wander around dressed as Superman or the Mighty Thor? Outside of cons, I mean.

Let’s drag a little Freudian analysis in to get to the bitten—er, the bottom—of this. You know, where someone’s innocuous-looking behaviour actually represents a longing buried deep in their subconscious. Most people find vampires sexy, so that can’t be the motivating desire. Too easy. It has to be something hidden, something relating back to childhood.

Why not start with a list of things to be explained. Vampires roam at night, avoiding sunlight. They sleep in coffins. They steal the life-force from other people by sucking blood. They’ve apparently got hypnotic powers, as their victims take pleasure in being abused in this way.

What do these behaviours really represent? Ah-hah! Blood-sucking, that’s the clue. It’s not normal human behaviour, but taking nourishment from the body of another is - for a baby. So vampires represent a wish to return to our infancy, where our desires were met without our having to do more than cry.

It all fits. Vampires live in darkness - surely an analogy for the safety of the womb. And most babies are safely wrapped up before ever being taken outside. Have you ever seen one of those frilly little beds for newborns? Or an old-fashioned pram? Oval, lined with satin, trimmed with lace and ribbon, not so different from a casket.

Hypnotic powers? One gurgle and every adult within hearing rushes over to help. Supernatural speed and strength? Don’t tell me you’ve never let a younger sibling win a race or a wrestling match. How do you think they felt, knowing they were faster than the grownups?

Immortality? Every kid thinks they're indestructible. Ask any mother. And one preschooler has enough energy to exhaust several adults.

The whole thing is pretty clever. Instead of looking like whiny little brats who haven’t grown up, vampires come across as cool, sophisticated, sexy rebels. If only I could find a similar shtick.

So the next time your neighbourhood’s infested, forget the garlic. If a vampire approaches you for a midnight snack, offer him a bottle instead.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Bisquick Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

 Bisquick Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

This one’s also from the out-of-print Bisquick cookbook, Two in the Kitchen. It’s easy to make, no exotic ingredients, makes lots, the dough handles well, everything I like in a recipe. While the results the first time I made it were good, you couldn’t really taste the chocolate so I tweaked it the second time.

3 ounces chocolate chips, melted*

1 cup peanut butter

¼ cup shortening

½ cup white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup water+

2 cups Bisquick


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Melt the chocolate chips. If you have a large microwavable bowl, you can do it in that and then add the rest of the ingredients, saving dishes and the chocolate that would be lost by transferring from another container.

Cream together melted chocolate, peanut butter, shortening, and white and brown sugar. Stir in water (or hot cocoa) and vanilla. Add in Bisquick.

Shape into 1-inch balls. Flatten with fork. Bake 7 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before removing from pan as they’re a bit fragile while warm.

Makes approximately 5 dozen, depending on size of balls and how many are taken by quality control before the last batch is baked.

 

* If you’re out of chocolate chips (the horror!) you can use 2 ounces of Baker’s Chocolate instead. The recipe won’t be as sweet.

+ For more intense chocolate taste, combine 1 tablespoon cocoa, 1 tablespoon sugar and enough hot water to make up 1/3 cup.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Ordinary People

 Our world’s attention is centred on celebrities, whether they be athletes, politicians, models, the very rich, or just famous for being famous. And yet, if they all suddenly disappeared, would anyone but their managers notice? Sure, we’d miss the entertainment, but they’re not the ones who get their hands dirty doing the world’s work. That’s done by ordinary people, you, your family, your friends and neighbours. All of us who get up each morning (or evening) and put in an honest day’s work, whether that work’s paid or appreciated or not.

The mother who wakes up early to make her kids’ lunches, the older brother who keeps his younger sister amused so his dad can make dinner, the niece who visits her aunt each week in the seniors’ home, these are the people that matter.

The school crossing guard, the volunteer at the food bank, the greeters at church, the women’s group at the synagogue, they’re the ones that keep things running.

The workers on the assembly line, the cleaning staff at the gym, the teenager stocking shelves at your grocery store, they’re all doing important work. We should celebrate that.

So smile at the grocery store clerk, thank the librarian, wave at the guy picking up your garbage. Take time to appreciate somebody each day.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Microwave Graham Date Tea Cakes

These come out about the size and shape of an English muffin but have a soft crumb and cake-like texture.

1 cup cut-up dates
hot tea
1 cup margarine (combined with shortening, if you like)
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 cup graham wafer crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder

Place cut-up dates loosely in a one or two-cup measuring cup. Pour hot tea over them to the one cup mark. Let soak for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cream margarine and sugar. Add in vanilla and egg. Combine flour, graham crumbs and baking powder. Stir into margarine/sugar mixture. Stir in dates and tea.

Drop a large tablespoon into each well of a silicon muffin pan. Microwave on high for 2 ½ minutes. Let cool a few minutes before unmoulding. 

Makes 15-18

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Polar Dreams

 Note: Since writing this, I've added a bright light to my repertoire. It really helps!

            It's not that I hate winter.  The first snowfall is always beautiful, and I delight in the sight of bare trees, branches limned in frost.  Hearing the snow crunch under my boots as I walk on a crisp January morning, or staring up at the brilliant winter stars, I rejoice in the variety of the Canadian climate.  But not every day is a Christmas card.

            I crave heat and sunlight in the dank, dreary, dismal depths of darkest December; crave them fiercely.  Bad enough that the days are short, but when they're gloomy and overcast as well, so am I.  My happiness and optimism levels depend on the amount of sunshine each day.

            I'd hibernate if I could; turn my bedroom into a cozy den where I could sleep through the worst of the winter.  Soft pillows, warm blankets, a darkened room.  But I can't live off my fat like a polar bear.  Sighing, I struggle out of the blankets each morning and find my way downstairs.  Maybe a cup of coffee will give me the energy I need.  It's hard to wake up before the sun does.  And some days the sun never does.

            I do have methods of coping.  When I used to work in Toronto, I would spend sunny lunch hours perched on the stairs between the third and fourth floors of the office.  The south wall of the stairwell was made of glass, and the heat of the sun pouring through was a mood-altering drug.  While I've lost that window, there are others.

            If I've been grocery shopping and left my car parked in the sun, I'll sit for several minutes, basking in the light, before I turn the key and head for home.  Sometimes I join the cat and lie on the living room carpet, belly exposed to those warming rays.  I keep all of the curtains open during the day, to let in as much light as possible.

            By February, the dreams start, dreams of sunny tropical islands with blue-green water, warm sand and palm trees.  And always warm white light surrounding me.  Aaahh!  I was disappointed when I travelled to Tobago and discovered that the Caribbean was the same boring blue as Lake Ontario, quite salty, and not at all warm.

            There was one exception.  We took a tour in a glass-bottomed boat out to the reef.  I don't swim well, and I'd never snorkelled, so I was nervous.  Floating on top of the water, looking down through my mask at all the brightly-coloured fish, I soon relaxed.  The reef was a marvellous experience, but the high point for me was the stop on the way back to shore.

            We anchored out in the bay at a spot the locals called the "Nylon Pool".  The sea was shallow enough there that I could stand on the bottom, digging my toes into the sun-warmed sand.  Waves as warm as bath water gently lapped around me.  And the colour!  This one small patch of sea was the blue-green of which I'd always dreamed.

            It's only October, but the dreams have started already.  I think we're in for a long winter.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Almost Angel Food Cake

 

My chocolate cola cupcakes came out so well that I decided to try new variations. This white cake and cream soda version reminded me of angel food cake, but was a lot less work. I baked this in a 9 x 13 pan but I think I’ll try the ring pan or my bundt pan next time.

There are several versions of cake or cupcakes with pop as an ingredient online but, given the ingredients, I suspect this Betty Crocker version is the original: https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/two-ingredient-soda-pop-cupcakes/3cbb154a-60b4-4250-bc2a-70909d1b924a. And with only two ingredients, it doesn’t get much simpler.

However, some of the reviews said the resulting cupcakes were dry and crumbly. When I read the back of the box, I realized that the liquid from the pop that was going in was a lesser volume than the liquid being left out (eggs, oil, water). So I put two of the eggs back in when I tried the recipe and the result was moist and luscious.

1 box Betty Crocker white cake mix (the size that makes a 13 x 9 cake)
2 eggs
1 ½ cups cream soda

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour into cake pan(s) of desired size. Bake according to directions on the cake mix box, using the longer time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Chocolate Cola Cupcakes

 

I found several versions of cake or cupcakes with pop as an ingredient online but, given the ingredients, I suspect this Betty Crocker version is the original: https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/two-ingredient-soda-pop-cupcakes/3cbb154a-60b4-4250-bc2a-70909d1b924a. And with only two ingredients, it doesn’t get much simpler.

However, some of the reviews said the resulting cupcakes were dry and crumbly and it was hard to get the paper liners off. When I read the back of the box, I realized that the liquid from the pop that was going in was a lesser volume than the liquid being left out (eggs, oil, water). So I put two of the eggs back in when I tried the recipe and the result was moist and luscious. And since I was baking them in a silicon muffin mould, sticking wasn’t really a problem, though I did have to make them in three batches since my mould only has six wells.

1 box Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix (the size that makes a 13 x 9 cake)
2 eggs
1 ½ cups cola (generic is fine)

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour a scant 1/3 cup of batter into each well of the silicon muffin mould.

Bake according to directions on the cake mix box, using the longer time. Let cool slightly before removing from mould. I find running my cake tester (a very thin wire) or a toothpick around the edge of each cupcake before turning out makes them more likely to come out in one piece.

Makes 15