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

It’s That Time Again

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I don’t know about you, but I always find myself forgetting something important at this time of year.  Considering I use it each and every day, it is a bit silly to forget it.

What am I forgetting?  Calendars.  If you use one other than on your phone or computer, now is the time to get a replacement for next year.

This year I am adding a reminder and a link on the site so we can both go out and order our calendars.

Up to 50% off Huge Selection of Clearance Calendars, Games, Toys, Puzzles and Gifts!

Action Figures, Collectibles and Games

In addition to those all important calendars, there are gift ideas for those who are interested in collectors items or playables.  And if you are in a group who love tabletop games, now is a good time to look for something new to add to the rotation.

Free shipping doesn’t hurt, either.  I’m off to see what I can find to replace that calendar that will be out of date on New Year’s Eve.  See you there!

FYI:  If you are a member or either (or both) Ebates and Honey, your discounts are waiting.

Categories: Gifting Musings

Fall Dinner

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Looking for something a little different?  This is an old recipe that I’ve used many times over the years.  It is a slightly different take on dinner that is easy to prepare, works well with a side salad and simple dessert and can easily be used for Company.

Broccoli Beef Squares

Course Main Course
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 2 c Broccoli — Chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 c cheddar cheese — Shredded
  • 1/3 c onion — chopped
  • 4 ounce mushroom pieces
  • 2 c Bisquick® baking mix
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese — grated
  • 1 Dash pepper
  • 4 eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Fresh Broccoli – steam until almost tender. Drain.
  3. Brown ground beef; drain. Stir in the onion, mushrooms and 1 1/2 cups of the cheddar.
  4. Mix baking mix, water and the remaining cheddar cheese until soft dough forms; beat vigorously 20 strokes.
  5. Pat dough in greased 13/x/9 pan with floured hands, pressing dough 1/2 inch up sides.
  6. spread meat mixture over dough; sprinkle with broccoli . Mix remaining ingredients, pour over broccoli.
  7. Bake uncovered until golden brown and knife inseerted near center comes out clean – 25-30 minutes

Recipe Notes

1 10 ounce package frozen broccoli, thawed and drained, can be substituted. Do not cook.

Categories: Cooking Food

Why I Love “Murphy Brown”

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This article has been simmering on the back burner for a while and I hope it comes out saying what I intend it to say and understood in the way I intend it to be understood.

When I look back on my life, I see a lot of dualities.  I am a city girl who was a country girl who lived on a farm after living in town.  Eventually, I returned to live in a semi-country area. 

I am the country kid who appreciated things kids my age had no real understanding of or interest in – the arts, books, life outside the bubble we were living in.  In other words; the World.

I am a city girl who appreciates her country roots.  I know how hard people work on farms and in jobs that require more physical than mental labor.  On the other hand, I can also appreciate the more mental jobs because I know what is required to do them.

I say all this because, as we have been reminded repeatedly in the past couple of years, our country is Us vs Them.  How each individual defines “Us” and “Them” can change a lot depending upon the questions asked.

When “Murphy Brown” hit the television airwaves back in 1988 it was revolutionary.  Its main character was not married.  She was no shrinking violet.  She wasn’t out to snare a husband.  Murphy was a graduate of the Betty Ford program who had to learn how to navigate a stressful life without drinking.  She couldn’t sing worth a damn and she barely knew she had a kitchen, much less knew what to do with one.  She was strong minded, willful, arrogant and a bit (?) much.  Let’s be honest, to many people Murphy was a holy terror.

Murphy was, in many respects, the woman I hoped I grew up to be.  I also idolized Julia Sugarbaker from “Designing Women” for similar reasons.  🙂

As I look back, I recognize that I really, really appreciated seeing a woman who had a backbone and a brain, who didn’t let her fear rule her life and who managed to live up to her own standards, not those others would prefer to impose.

Creator Diane English and performer Candace Bergen created not only a wonderful show full of original characters and thoughtful commentary – and some seriously great comedy, they created Murphy. 

This last week, I sat back ready to visit once again with a few old friends.  I was not disappointed. Feisty, opinionated, combatant, Murphy was back.  While I enjoyed reconnecting with the old timers (Miles living at the Watergate?????!) I really enjoyed seeing a grown up Avery Brown.

Avery Brown intrigues me because I see his mother’s influences and I see his own experiences.  I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of human, man, reporter, journalist, thinker Avery Brown has become.  And I’m interested to see how he influences his mom.  And he will.

As I have grown older and wiser, my point of view has broadened and evolved.  Because of my experiences, I see things in a different manner than some folks.  I have also surprised some folks because I do not see things the way they assume I would.

I get the political influences – and I’m amazed/shocked that You Know Who hasn’t commented on the show…yet.

I understand that there is an entire generation who really has no clue who Murphy Brown is/was.

I’m looking forward to sharp writing, on point acting and thought provoking material that will not only make me laugh, but make me think.

For me “Murphy Brown” is thinking people’s comedy.  Multi layered, multi faceted, not afraid to share a joke or poke some good natured fun, but not afraid to call a spade a spade, either.

Frankly, as far as this new television season goes, in my mind at least, “Murphy Brown” is refreshing, and a lot of fun.

Categories: Musings TV

Check It Out

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I wanted to take a minute to share some things that I thought you might find interesting.

Intelligence For Your Life – John Tesh

John Tesh can be found on the radio (no surprise there) but in a non-musical format.  His “Intelligence For Your Life” show provides information and ideas for living your best life.  Learn more by visiting his website:  Tesh.com.  You can find his show by going to his website, clicking on “Find The Show” in the top right corner of the header.

GrokNation

Grok Nation is a project Dr. Mayim Bialik began a few years ago.  The site looks at an array of life issues with postings from a variety of contributors.  If you enjoy different points of view, this is a place you will want to visit.

We will update you with more places to visit as we find them.  Don’t hesitate to drop us a line if you know of a spot you think we might enjoy, too!

Categories: Musings

Exciting Times For The Bookshelf!

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I am a reader.  I am an audio book listener.  I love books of all sizes.  For all those reasons, there are two very distinctive times when it is exciting to be on or near my bookshelf.

First, when my Audible credits appear in my account and I can look for new books to listen to.

Second, when a favorite author publishes – or a book I’m interested in is published.

Genres

There was a time when I was pretty stuck in one or two genres.  Evolving to my Kindle sort of eliminated that.  I literally had the entire book store in my hand and could find whatever I wanted to read.  I never, ever, found that to be true going to any bookstore.

Expanding my genre choices exploded the envelope.  I could try different authors and subjects as I chose without hesitation.  I gravitate toward detective and fantasy fiction, with a side of science fiction.  I have a fondness for a particular author’s historical fiction.  All of those options gave me opportunities to try different writers (usually at the recommendation of the author I read) and see if they were intriguing enough to keep up with.

There is a catch with the ability to have the library in your pocket – having the library in your pocket.  🙂

You can get used to binge reading a series or an author until you have read all and … now what?

Tools

Why did I buy an ereader?  I’ve been asked this quite a lot.  My normal response is to say that my chiropractor prefers I not carry around a lot of weight on my shoulder.  This is usually after he has attempted to move my purse out of the way and finds he needs a hand trolley.

The fact of the matter is a little different.  But not too much.

Carrying around books – especially the door stops I tend to read – means carrying around a lot of extra weight.  There is also a logistical aspect – one has to dedicate an arm to carry whatever the book is or is not in.

As anyone who has attempted to pick up a quick meal with a lot of luggage knows, this isn’t always easy.

I love my Kindle, but it doesn’t fit in my pocket.

A few years back I was looking for a way to be able to listen to audio books and internet radio.  After a lot of searching, I decided upon an iPod – not an iPad – and discovered the flexibility of having my library in my pocket. 

The iPod was a perfect solution for me.  I could tuck it into one pocket, my wallet in another, and be able to grab a quick lunch and be able to read a bit without back strain or the threat of inadvertent avalanche.  If you are a hardcore reader, you will understand.

Audio Books?

I love being read to. 

I get that some people really love the feel and the smell of paper.  I don’t have the physical space to hold all the books I would own.  As my eyesight has evolved (or devolved) audio books allow me to keep up with my favorite authors.  For kids, they are great tools to introduce them to reading.  Really.

I’d love to hear from you about why and how and who you read.  Maybe we share a fondness for a particular author or character.  Let’s find out!

Categories: Audiobooks Books Musings

Mid Week Catch Up

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Or, yes, it really is Wednesday.

Vinnie’s Vittles is BACK!  Maymay’s trusty sidekick/hubby Vinnie is back with his cooking channel.  I have to admit, I’m enjoying it – and the recipes – quite a bit.  His food is not low calorie and I seriously doubt it can be classified as healthy food.  What it is, though, is home cooking comfort food.

New Fall TV Season starts NEXT WEEK!  Can you tell I’m excited????????  While not all of my shows begin next week, the majority are.  I’ve set up my calendar and have begun working on the TV schedule app.

It may still want to be Summer outside, but when the Fall TV Season begins…  Pumpkin season can’t be far behind.

Which reminds me to keep an eye out for the Peanuts specials.

Have you checked out our Following page?  The idea came to me as I was working on the next newsletter.  There are quite a few folks I follow in various places.  The Following page will help you keep up.  I hope!  🙂

Annie is slowing recovering from a late season bout of fleas.  🙁  We had a bit of a battle for a few days, but I got her medicine and vacuumed like crazy.  So far, so good.

Which reminds me, if you have had a bit of dry skin lately, don’t forget to drink more water and use your lotion.  It will help.  Really.

All for now – happy Almost Fall!

Categories: Annie Cat Musings Pets TV

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