Plants, Cats and Cooking
December 18, 2019
Just yesterday my husband noticed one of my older amaryllis bulbs is sending up a flowerbud. I have seven older ones sitting in their original pots in the south-facing dining room windows. I really should repot a few of those. They're splitting into multiple bulbs and distorting their plastic pots. They also have volunteer mother-of-a-thousand plants joining them. One even has a decent sized jade tree crowding it. My newest amaryllis, purchased this fall, is sitting in the kitchen, a bit farther back from the French doors since the planting instructions said to use indirect light. It's started and is slowly sending up multiple leaves. I don't expect it to bloom before Christmas, but that older one should reward us with a bit of beauty before the holiday.
We had a fully grown, albeit small, male cat show up here a few weeks ago. He was very timid, not wild, but wouldn't allow me to get close. I managed to get him trapped (I still had the live trap here that I use for raccoons in the corn), and he was transported to the main farm. There are multiple buildings there in which he could find shelter from the harsh winter weather. A large bag of cat kibbles went with him.
My mother-in-law reported him perched up in her kitchen window, staring in at her while she ate, and meowing for food. After just a few days there, he hitched a ride back here under Dennis's pickup. He found his way under our home. We could hear him crying from underneath. The sound carried nicely through the heating vents.
By now, he'd gotten over his timidity, and let me pet him a few times when I set food outside the door for him. We trapped him again, and this time he went to a neighbor, who'd agreed to take him. We will not dump an animal where he's not wanted, although it seems others don't feel the same way about that. He'll room with the other cats there, in his "cathouse". Eventually he will be neutered to prevent more unwanted feral cats. Of course the large bag of kibbles will soon join him. I hope I remember to occasionally resupply this kind neighbor with more cat food.
So, on to cooking, the need for which never ends. Last week I modified my recipe for stuffed manicotti. It turned out quite tasty, so I'm sharing my version of that with you.
Italian Dish, Version 2.0
1 lb hamburger
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 - 3/4 C bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
Salt & pepper to taste
1 - 1 1/4 C spiral noodles
1 (16 oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 (16 oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 C water
1/2 C shredded asiago OR parmesan cheese (optional)
1 - 2 C shredded mozzarella cheese
Brown meat, drain. Add onion and garlic and brown. Season to taste. Add bread crumbs to beaten egg, then add to the meat, stirring well. Add the tomatoes, sauce, and noodles, mixing well. Simmer, covered, until noodles are cooked. Uncover, let simmer until no longer soupy. Stir in cheeses, and let them melt. Serve. Leftovers are wonderful, too.
I had altar care duty this month, which includes bringing treats to enjoy after the service once during the month. Church was cancelled the first Sunday due to the icy roads. The Northern Lights 4H club had their community appreciation dinner after the service on the second Sunday. So this duty was fulfilled on the third Sunday. I brought butter cookie sandwiches, angel crisps, pecan sandies, buttermints, and peach tea. I'd never made mints before, and they're much easier than I'd expected. Of course, they're pretty much pure sugar, so I'll resist making them very often.
1/4 C butter
1/3 C light corn syrup
4 C powdered sugar
1-2 tsp mint/cherry/orange extract
Food color (gel or paste is best)
1/2 C granulated sugar
Combine butter and syrup in a small bowl. Add 2 C powdered sugar and your choice of the extracts, 1/2 tsp at a time, until it tastes right. Add another 1 C sugar. Turn onto a board sprinkled with the last cup of sugar. Knead unto all the sugar is absorbed and the mix is smooth. Divide into 3 portions, tinting each a different color. Shape into 3/4" balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Gently flatten with a fork. Let stand at room temperature for a day. Store air tight.
I mixed mine in the large mixer, and used mint extract. I tinted them all green, and used liquid coloring. I flattened them using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped into more granulated sugar. I did no kneading on a sugared board, so it wasn't messy at all.
After church, I partook of my cohorts' offerings. I thoroughly enjoyed her pistachio/cranberry shortbread cookies, and her lemon curd tartlets. She also brought Russian teacakes. I hope to get her recipes when she returns from being a snowbird next spring. Right now I'm experimenting with mock baklava, using puff pastry instead of phyllo dough. They smell great, but I'm sure I'll be adjusting the amounts of ground walnut mix and honey syrup used. So that recipe won't be shared just yet.