Holiday Goodies

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I’ve been contemplating some holiday goodies lately.  I don’t do a large scale bake-a-thon because I don’t need to be eating that much sugar. 

Yeah, I know, but it sounds good, right?  🙂

Midnight Bliss Cake

One item has been returning to my mind: the Midnight Bliss Cake that Kraft and Bakers One introduced us to years ago.

Check out the recipe here:  Bakers One Bowl Midnight Bliss Cake.  I like to play with flavors, so I’m contemplating replacing the chocolate bits with Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips.

This cake is an easy to prepare show stopper that can be baked in smaller bundt pans to be wrapped and gifted.  It is moist, however, so be thoughtful of the amount of time between creation and gifting.  Wouldn’t want the cake to be stale when first bite is taken.

Cocoa Cinnamon Pound Cake

The cocoa cinnamon pound cake is another easy to do showstopper recipe that I was first introduced to by Hershey.    It has a rich flavor with a touch of cinnamon that is different. 

Check out this recipe from Cooks.com:  Cocoa Cinnamon Pound Cake.  It is also one that can be made in smaller pans for gifting.

I hope you check out these two recipes and enjoy both.  They are great additions to a dessert table, pot luck, holiday fare or for gifting.

Categories: Cooking Food Gifting

Sherlock Holmes

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Like many people, I grew up with Sherlock Holmes.

Books, movies, television, radio, Holmes was everywhere.

I have owned the Complete Collection, watched the various Masterpiece series and the movies, listened to the Old Time Radio shows.  But recently I discovered a new way to enjoy the Master Detective.

Audio – or, more accurately, audiobooks.

Stephen Fry has narrated the Sherlock Holmes collection that can be found on Audible.com.  All 62 hours and 52 minutes.  Yep, 3 days plus of some amazing stories.  🙂

Granted you can get various versions of the entire collection;  Amazon has quite a variety of ebook and print versions.  I picked up the audible version on a whim, and it turned out to be a wonderful experience.

First, Mr. Fry does a wonderful job of introducing the listener not only to the series, but to the various works in the collection.  Second, his mastery of various voices used in the production is a joy – a good reader is a definite plus when listening to audio books.

The stories themselves are engrossing and entertaining.  I like to listen when I go to bed at the end of the day.  If I’m not careful, I can be up all night caught up in the story.  🙂

If you like a detective story that actually explains ‘who done it’, Sherlock Holmes is a great series to delve into.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did, actually, set the standard and the bar for what came next in the genre.

Whether you are new to Holmes or a long time fan, this version is well worth investigating.

Categories: Audiobooks Books

Holiday Programming

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When I was growing up, the holidays included lots of specials on TV that were not just cartoons for the kids, but musical and variety programs and special holiday episodes of series programs.

Over the years, this has fallen away until there is not much out there for folks to enjoy.

Before television, radio celebrated the holidays with all sorts of amazing and wonderful shows.  Musicals, variety shows, kids shows and more.

For the past few years I have enjoyed the special programming put on by one of the Old Time Radio stations I listen to. 

Radio Once More (radiooncemore.com) will begin its Christmas Classics lineup at midnight (eastern time) Thanksgiving night and continuing through December.  Check their website for listings and schedule and to find out how to listen online.

I listen to the station via TuneIn – a free app for my phone, computer or laptop not to mention Smart TV. 


What are you in store for?  How about the Jack Benny Show, Fibber McGee and Molly, Lux Radio Theater and more.  Listen to A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street.  Hundreds of shows that share the spirit of the holidays with a smile, a tear and warm thought.

I sincerely hope you take this opportunity to add a little something extra to your holidays this year – and if you like what you’ve heard, please drop Neal and the gang an email or a post on their Facebook page.  The information is on the site.

Categories: Musings Old Time Radio

November Not Quite Rush

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I had intended to write a piece about preparing the Thanksgiving meal, but life got in the way.

Anna Olson has some great recipes and ideas as does Entertaining With Beth and the Domestic Geek.  Check them out on YouTube and see what inspiration grabs you.  Don’t forget Sara’s Weeknight Meals – she has some great How To’s as well as guidance on avoiding mistakes.

Over on Magic Journeys, Mig Vee and Janell have been exploring new menu items and interesting holiday decor.  To be honest, I’m enjoying watching Disneyland’s Christmas decor appearing.  They always do the holidays right.

Miss Annie and I woke up to temps around 18 degrees today.  Winter seems to have arrived.

On the one hand we are enjoying being together and cuddling (sweet smelling kitty fur!) and on the other we are happy to not be out and about with the rampaging hoards of folks who are running about in a panic getting ready for The Holidays.

Did I mention I hate crowds?

I’m enjoying the few holiday catalogs I’ve received in the mail.  Contemplating what, if anything, I might send to those few folks I gift to.

During November and December, I find excuses not to get out and hit the mall or the big box stores and if I can pick up my groceries without going into the store, more the better.

The Holidays are what you make them.  Keep that in mind as you stress making your lists and setting up your calendar.

Here’s to a great cup of cocoa and a nice cookie or two.

Categories: Musings

Rethinking the Holidays

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In the last week or so I’ve had some interesting conversations with friends about the upcoming holidays.

Over all, most of us are pretty stressed, tired, budget crunched and not exactly looking forward to the potential mine field that often accompanies holiday gatherings.

What to do?

Many people approach the holidays with the mind set that they need to continue traditions that they either started “way back when” or grew up with.

This becomes more and more complicated when you blend families.

Some folks are not in a financial state to spend the money they used to – or simply do not want to – but don’t know quite what to do to make the holidays special.

Why not switch it up a bit?

Have you heard the story about the mother and daughter reminiscing about Grandma’s wonderful roast ham and how it was always made in that Special Pan?  They spent a lot of time discussing the preparation and the wonderful presentation but when it came to actually doing the recipe themselves, they felt it impossible.  Why?  Because they didn’t have the Special Pan.

When they explained this to Grandma (who was hoping to not have to make the wonderful roast ham that year), her reaction surprised and shocked them.

Turned out that the only reason the Special Pan was used was because it was the only one Grandma had Way Back When and she just continued to use it as the years rolled by.

Traditions are what happens when you continue to do something.  That doesn’t mean that the something needs to be repeated, it can be replaced.

Why not try a pot luck instead of making the entire dinner yourself?  Share the fun in the kitchen with others in the party who might actually want to participate.  Entertaining With Beth has a great Friendsgiving menu that is easy to put together and no one has to be a Chef to make one (or all) of the dishes.

Not really into a turkey or roast ham?  Why not change the menu to something that you would prefer?  I knew of a family who created an Italian feast for Christmas Eve. 

Why not really make it special and check out a local restaurant to see if they will be open for the holidays or if they will prepare a feast that you can take home?

When you compare the cost of cooking yourself to eating out, you might be surprised to find it isn’t what you expect.

Gift giving can also be an issue.  Lots and lots of stress surrounding budget and wish lists and crowds and traffic.

It may fly in the face of Tradition, but why not shop at home?  A good cup of coffee, slippers, some nice music in the background and a lot of online catalogs could provide you with what you are looking for without spending a lot.  (And if you use Ebates &/or Honey you could save even more!)

At the end of the day, how you celebrate the holidays is up to you.  There is nothing that says you can’t make them the kind of experience you want.  If you have family, bring them into the conversation and see what they would like to do.  You might be surprised to learn that maybe they want a break from the hustle and bustle too.

Food for thought.  🙂

Categories: Musings

Inspector Ian Rutledge Series

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I first learned about this series when book #20 was released this year.  I added that book to my Audible wishlist and picked up book number one to see if the sample I had listened to was worth diving into.  It was.

The series is written by a mother/son writing team that goes by the name of Charles Todd.

The series is set in the years after World War I.  Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge is a survivor (barely) with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) which exhibit itself in the manifestation of the spirit of one of the men who served under him in France.

The setting is one that I do not normally tend toward.  When I first thought about this series, I reminded myself that I enjoyed Downton Abbey which covered pretty much the same period and area of England. 

That seemed to provide a frame of reference that allowed me to slide into what is a typical British character driven mystery.  Think Masterpiece Mystery and you get the idea.

The characters are well developed and interesting.  Rutledge himself is quite a complicated mess – and that is without the inclusion of his shadow.  I have to think it difficult to deal with the public opinion of PTSD (negative) along with the reality of living with it (complicated).

The stories themselves are very well written.  I would tend to align them with Agatha Christie.  There is a similar complicated simplicity to them.  The stories themselves are not simple, there are some very complicated themes with characters that have many shades of grey.

I admit I listened to the first three in the series, then jumped to number twenty – in part to move forward with the series and in part to get #20 off my wishlist.  🙂  Totally worth it!

I would definitely recommend starting with #1 because it provides the groundwork you will need to understand Rutledge’s journey.  After that…  I am contemplating catching up before the next new one comes out.

Categories: Audiobooks Books

Simple Luxuries

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As you no doubt can imagine, I love a good cup of coffee.  I’m a bit particular about it, in fact.  I also enjoy a good cup of hot tea.

Sometimes, however, I want something to go with the beverage.  Something a bit … extravagant.

I love a good scone.  Cookies are nice, cupcakes and doughnuts are fine – sometimes even preferred.  But there are times when I want a good scone.

A few years back I came across a scone mix that was so simple, so easy – and so flavorful – that I thought it couldn’t possibly be good.  I was wrong.

Sticky Fingers Bakeries produces a scone mix in a variety of flavors that ticks so many boxes I don’t mind the $ I pay for them.  You literally add water, shape as you desire and bake.  That is it.

If you can make drop biscuits or drop cookies, this mix is for you.

I just got my order from Amazon and I am debating which to try first: pumpkin cranberry, raspberry white chocolate or peppermint chocolate chip.  They are all new to me.  I love their blueberry, but there is a list of flavors that are sure to appeal to just about anyone.

No, they are not cheap and they are hard to get.  Because they use only the best ingredients, some flavors are not available year round (grab the pumpkin quick) and because they are limited the price point can be a bit high.

But a good scone with a good cup of coffee or tea?

Heaven!

Categories: Cooking Food Musings

Message to My Readers

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You may have heard that Google+ will be closing by August 2019. While we understand that many users in this environment prefer not to join or engage at other social-media platforms, we would still like to make you aware of the other ways you can stay in touch with The Orange Plaid Cat.

Our Facebook page is currently active and you can always sign up for our newsletter or bookmark the site.  You can also set up an RSS feed with our page address.

I will be honest with you, there have been several conversations and a lot of contemplation on continuing with Facebook.

I have issue with being a commodity for use by someone else for their use and not mine. 

That being said, there may well come a time when I leave Facebook.  Should that time arrive, I will give as much advance notice as possible.

In the meantime, however, please do not hesitate to bookmark the site (both the blog and the Facebook page)&/or add the site to your RSS feed so you get notification of updates.

I would also encourage you to share our site with your friends.  Annie & I like to think we offer a different, quieter, place to visit and hopefully offer a touch of humor, along with the usual odds and ends.

Believe me, we appreciate your visits and your input.

Categories: Musings

Breakfast. Easy. Anytime.

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I love breakfast.  Anytime.  Anyplace.

I’m also the occasional lazy cook.  <shrug>

I developed this…process over time and it seems to work no matter what I use.

Potatoes

Hash browns are pretty iconic.  They are also pretty interchangeable.  Potatoes are potatoes pretty much any way you prepare them.  For ease and budget reasons, I keep tater tots in my freezer.  Years ago I discovered that if you wanted some really radical hash browns without the work, let some tater tots defrost a bit before you put them in a hot skillet with a little bit of oil or butter.  Smash em and let them brown.  Crispy, crunchy and everything a hash brown aspires to be.

The only thing easier is to put them in the oven.  Hmmm.

Step One

Set your oven to preheat at the temperature on the package of tater tots you are using.  Usually this is 350 degrees, but it could be a bit higher.  Line a baking tray with foil and put the required amount of tater tots on the tray.  Once the oven is hot enough, put the tray into the oven and set your timer for 1/2 of the recommended cooking time.

Bacon

In my house, the breakfast meat of choice is bacon.  I like ham or sausage occasionally, but not enough to hassle with it at home.

Step Two

If you are cooking bacon from a raw state, you might want to put this in before – or with – the potatoes.  Check out this article from AllRecipes for more information.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and get out your broiler pan.  Why a broiler pan?  It allows air flow around the bacon and the dripping falls into the bottom of the pan allowing easier clean up and a lot less mess.  Don’t forget to line the bottom of your broiler pan with foil.  Save yourself work!

Lay the bacon side by side on the pan.  You don’t need to put a lot of room between slices if you have a smaller pan or a lot of bacon, or both.  Try not to overlap the slices.

Put the bacon into the oven for at least 10 but up to 20 minutes.  Watch carefully because it can go from perfect to perfectly inedible in a flash.

NOTE:  You can put the tater tots and bacon into the oven at the same time and temperature, but be mindful that you will need to adjust cooking times for both.  I’d suggest using the 350 degree temp for both which will allow you a bit more time.

Waffles, Pancakes, French Toast

Remember I said to set the timer for 1/2 of the recommended cooking time for the tater tots?  Frozen breakfast breads like waffles, pancakes, etc. can be heated to a perfect state in the oven.

Biscuits may take longer, but any frozen waffle, pancake or french toast strip can be put on the baking tray in that last 10 minutes and reheated.

Step Three

When the timer goes off, put the breakfast bread of choice on the baking tray alongside the tater tots and return to the oven for the remainder of the cooking time for the tots.  Check your bacon – if it is done to your liking, remove it and set it aside to cool.  If not, leave it in the oven for a few minutes more.

Keep an eye on the bread items because they will heat FAST and get crunchy before you know it.  Not a problem if you like your french toast or waffles in that state, but not really great for pancakes.

The last ten minutes are important.  You will want to watch to be sure nothing gets overdone.  This means you may be pulling things out before that 10 minutes are up.

Eggs

While your oven is taking care of the majority of breakfast, you can spend a few minutes cooking your eggs.  Or not.  Your choice.

Finale!

When all the component parts are cooked to your preference, turn off the oven, set the baking tray aside and dish up.  If you used foil to line your pans, most of your clean up is also done.  If you use precooked bacon, the cooking time will be seriously reduced – I usually add it onto the pan along with the waffles.

Notes

You can always precook a batch of waffles, french toast or pancakes and freeze them.  I often buy a large quantity of tater tots to be used for a variety of meals, but you can also buy premade hash brown patties.  I don’t recommend putting the shredded or home style versions in the oven as they are made more for cooking in a pan rather than on a sheet pan.

Ham and sausage are always options.  Try them in the oven and see what happens.  Of course, you could also cook them on the stove top while the rest is in the oven.

You might also find that my timing is off for your oven.  It happens.  The first couple of times you try this – and you know you will – make notes about what you tried and how it worked.

Categories: Food

And Now For a Brief Time Out

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I recently signed up for a free trial of BritBox.  BritBox, like Acorn, is a streaming service that you can subscribe to either on its own or thru Amazon.com.  Both carry predominantly British television programming; Acorn also includes Canadian and Australian programs.

Why did I do this?  Frankly, I needed some diversity in what I watch and American TV just wasn’t cutting it. 

The irony of this is that some of the shows both services carry can be found on American TV, usually PBS.  The infamous BritComs that many fans have supported over the years, plus the wonderful costume dramas, are purchased to fill voids left by American production companies that failed to provide content that appeals to discerning viewers.

For those who aren’t sure what I mean, PBS usually purchases productions from the UK because their viewers actually want to watch something that the other American networks are absolutely certain no one wants to watch.  Like Downton Abbey or Poldark or Dr. Who.

Although, come to think of it, my first encounter with Dr. Who was a syndicated series on an independent channel.  Makes you think.

Why do we gravitate toward such programming?  Some of us love to see other parts of the world.  Some are curious about how other people live.  Some just want to see something that doesn’t treat them like lumps on a sofa.

That is not to say that all non-American programming is high brow.  Far from it.  Sit through a season of Are You Being Served? and let me know how high brow that is.  Once you stop laughing.

One of my recent discoveries is the Hairy Bikers.  Two guys who ride motorcycles and love to cook.  At first glance you might raise an eyebrow.  At second glance you might hope for an invitation to their table.

For the armchair traveler, Penelope Keith has several wonderful series touring Britain.  Julie Walters has provided wonderful company as she tours England by train.  Martin Clunes has provided several series about animals and life in other countries.  And these are but a few.

As you contemplate what is available to you from your provider, I suggest you take a good look at what is available via streaming.  As long as you have Internet access, you can stream.  The purchase of a streaming device (Roku, Amazon Fire, etc.) makes the process simpler and easier.  The cost is nominal and the potential is enormous.

Categories: Musings TV

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