Southern Comfort – Biscuits

by Betty Owens

french-fries-367515_1280When I think of comfort food, French fries come to mind. Not just any French fries. Spicy ones. And I dip them in a mixture of ketchup and Cholula. Now, that’s comforting.

When I’m not feeling well, I usually crave a bowl of fresh veggie soup with a tomato base. Because Grandma always made that when we were sick. And a hard-boiled egg and buttered toast at breakfast. It really did seem to make me feel better. Or maybe it was Grandma’s kisses and all that attention.

But those are not really very good recipes to share, so I need to dig deeper. These days, my cooking and baking has changed. We try to eat “healthier” – cut down on refined sugars and use less salt (except in spicy fries). I learned that I could substitute coconut oil for shortening. It works beautifully, even when making something a little more complicated like biscuits.

So all of my recipes are adaptations. I make substitutions and hope they work. If it doesn’t work, I try again. I’ve had mostly success with coconut oil.

This biscuit recipe results in a product that is a little better for you (until they find bad things in coconut oil). But, if it was too good for you, would it be comfort food? They are so yummy and with just the right amount of butter and jam, absolutely comforting. And your house will smell wonderful.

2212907384_a3114ecff5_zFlaky Biscuits
½ stick cold butter (1/4 cup)
¼ cup coconut oil*
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk**

*I mash coconut oil with a fork before mixing it in flour, because sometimes it’s lumpy.
**I use dry milk, so ¼ cup of dry milk to dry ingredients, then ¾ cup of water instead of milk.

Preheat oven to 450° Yield is 12 biscuits. Prep time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 14 minutes

graterFirst, stir or sift together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut in butter and coconut oil. To make this really, really easy, I grate the cold butter into the flour and toss it a few times. Yes, you read that right. I use an actual grater with the larger holes. Then I add the coconut oil and use my fingers to blend the ingredients. Add the milk (or water if you used dry milk) and stir with a fork just until all the dry ingredients are absorbed by the milk. Don’t over stir, or they’ll be tough.

Sprinkle flour evenly on a clean surface. Place the dough on the floured surface. Knead it 5 or 6 times. By kneading, I mean fold half the dough over (like a tortilla) mash it down a little and fold it over again. Do this 5 or 6 times. This forms the layers in the biscuits. You’ll be very happy about those.

You may need to lift the dough off the surface and add a little more flour so it doesn’t stick, but don’t overdo it.

Using your fingers, press the dough evenly flat until it’s about ½” thick. Now you get to use the biscuit cutter. If you don’t have one, you can use a glass. Dip your biscuit cutter or glass in dry flour between cuts to keep it from sticking.

Move the biscuits over to the baking sheet (you may need a spatula to move them). Gather the remaining dough into a round ball, knead it a couple of times and press it into another ½” round. Cut and place on the baking sheet.

When all the biscuits are evenly spaced on the baking sheet, place the baking sheet in the fridge for ten minutes. This is important.

While you’re waiting, you can clean up your mess. After the ten minutes is up, move the baking sheet of biscuits to the preheated oven and bake for approximately 14 minutes, or until golden brown.

Enjoy. And for a real Southern experience, serve with a glass of sweet tea.

NOTE: I’m not sure why, but placing the biscuits in the fridge for ten minutes makes them rise really high. Love that. If you master these, your family will love you and that’s comforting, too.

Instead of a writing prompt — I’ve provided a chuckle prompt:

What I Wanted to be When I Grew Up

by Betty Thomason Owens

10171180_10203041015340695_307067443322518168_nA long, long time ago…about the time this picture was taken, I imagined a life filled with my favorite things (I’m the one on the right, by the way). I loved flowers and animals. I frequently invaded prize-winning flower gardens and brought bouquets home to Mom. She was not happy when an angry gardener showed up at her door. I was a sweet, girly version of Dennis the Menace, apparently.

So I dreamed of growing my own beautiful beds of flowers. I’d imagine myself sitting in my porch swing surrounded by cats and dogs who could understand every word I said. Birds sang in the trees. A peacock prowled the yard. All in my fanciful world, of course.

At the time, I lived in a magical place called San Diego. Where flowers bloomed all year round. Tangerines ripened on a tree outside our back door. We climbed date palms and ate cherries from a hedge. Not sure about that last one. I remember eating cherries, but not sure why it was a hedge.

Just blocks away, the beautiful mission of Balboa rang its bells during the day. Not far away, lions roared and elephants trumpeted from their environs at the San Diego Zoo.

Sounds lovely, I know. It was my reality at the time. So I imagined myself in whatever walk of life included beautiful flowers and taking care of cute and cuddly things. My destiny.

51hUtA3M-cLFast-forward a few years and I’m eleven years old and living in a small town in West Tennessee. A far cry (in so many ways) from San Diego. I visited the school library and found a red-and-white book, one of a series of books about Cherry Ames. Cherry was a nurse. The series followed her from candystriper to head nurse and beyond. I vaguely remember romance and intrigue. I determined to follow in her footsteps and earn the white cap.

I made it as far as nurses’ aide in a retirement home during my high school years. I was accepted to a prestigious nursing school, but never went. Life intervened. Dad lost his job a few weeks before I was set to enter. I couldn’t pay for the school, and he wouldn’t let me get a loan. I didn’t have the confidence to do it on my own.

Dreams derailed, I went to work in an office. I married, raised three sons, developed a sense of humor while raising three sons. Hey, you do what you have to do to survive.

Years later, I’ve retired from full-time work as an office manager. I didn’t have much choice, the company I worked for closed. I still love flowers. I love animals. I long to visit San Diego again. Life didn’t turn out the way I imagined way back then. It might actually be better than my dreams.

crocus-673477_1280Fast-forward to 2015. I watch the seasons pass outside my window, waiting for the first signs of spring so I can get out in the yard and dig in my flower bed. I write books and stories and blog posts. I talk to friends all over the world on Facebook and Twitter. I welcome my grandchildren and enjoy spending time with them. Dreaming with them, about what they’ll be when they grow up.

 

Here’s your Writing Prompt: 

Lois Maxwell smiled as she watched her six-year-old roll out cookie dough. “You’re doing a great job, Lily. Maybe you’ll grow up to be a baker, or a chef.”

Lily laughed as she popped a bite of cookie dough into her mouth. “Tell me the story again, Mommy. What did you want to be when you grew up?”

Complete the prompt for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

A Little History of Cartooning

by Betty Thomason Owens

Cartoons have been around for centuries. Even the cave dwellers drew cartoons on the walls of their caves.
Were they:

1. Documenting history?
2. Lampooning local government?
3. Entertaining the kids?
4. Drawn by kids?

Fast-forward a few years:
Woodcuts and mezzotints are used in the early printing process. Those were a bit like rubber stamps. Artists carved their cartoon or illustration backward, so when the print was made, it showed up correctly.

Long before you could attach a file or snap a shot of something and post it to Facebook or include it on your latest blogpost, illustrators and artists created cartoons. These were often political in nature. Imagine that.

Political and editorial cartoons usually express one man’s opinion–also called lampooning and often involves caricature. Have you ever had someone draw you in caricature? They will usually overemphasize and under-emphasize some of your features to make it slightly comical, but still recognizable.

512px-Lincoln_and_Johnsond

An editorial cartoon of Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln, 1865, entitled “The Rail Splitter at Work Repairing the Union”

This is a well-known example of early political/editorial cartoons. Notice the detail (click on it to enlarge). As you can see, it’s hand-drawn with a pencil. Most of today’s cartoons are a lot more professional, but personally, I still love the look of pencil drawings.

Note: I’m providing links below for modern examples, since most are copyrighted and require fees for use.

800px-Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_DieBenjamin Franklin was one of the earliest Indie writers. Yes, he self-published, and was best known for Poor Richard’s Almanac. He was a very busy man. When he wasn’t electrocuting keys, he wrote, taught, mentored, helped draft the Declaration of Independence, wrote books, made a fortune, printed…well, you get the picture. At a critical point in American history, he created this cartoon to encourage the colonies to join together during the French and Indian War.

Dr. Seuss Goes to War

Dr. Seuss Goes to War

Another famous cartoonist was Theodore (Ted) Geisel. You may know him better as Dr. Seuss. He drew political propaganda cartoons during World War II. He took a lot of flack for it, also, but his signature style shone through those cartoons. There is no doubt who drew them. If you’ve read many of his children’s books, you’ll know he was very concerned with politics (Butter Battle Book, for one).

As an aside, cartoonists were also utilized by the war departments of some countries including Great Britain, to work on accurate maps for bomb crews.

My Grandpa Christy was an armchair politician. He drew cartoons for local “rags” — tiny hometown newspapers. He kept a scrapbook of those. I tried to get my hands on it in time for this post, but it didn’t happen.

His favorite subjects were (then) Presidents Nixon and Johnson. Why? He loved to draw big noses. He had one. He also had big ears and the biggest smile I’d ever seen. An omnipresent smile. Mom has many pictures of Grandpa, and that smile was in all of them. Except in the picture I have of him when he was about five or so, but they were warned not to smile for photos in those days.

20150313_134209Grandpa had a great sense of humor, which is one very important requirement in a political satirist/cartoonist. Open your newspaper and turn to the editorial pages. You will probably find at least one editorial cartoon. They are almost always political in nature. They can seem snarky, even cruel. Apparently, the ruder, the better.

Political/editorial cartoons sometimes make you laugh, but more often make you think. And that’s their reason for being.

Here are the promised links to some present-day quality political and editorial cartoons:

http://www.usnews.com/cartoons

http://www.washingtontimes.com/cartoons/

http://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/daily-cartoon


Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

Writing Prompt: Senator Douglass opened the morning paper and was shocked to see…

 

Pop Culture – It’s What’s Happening

by Betty Thomason Owens

Awkward Family Photo

Awkward Family Photo

You saw something horrible on the internet, a picture you can’t get out of your mind or a sentence so badly written, it haunts you. Once you’ve seen it or read it, it’s stuck there. The easy solution is to stay away. Don’t look. Don’t read anything. No Facebook or Twitter. No pictures on Instagram. No recipes on Pinterest. Yes, they’ve even invaded your favorite DIY sites with their pictures and bad grammar.

So what do you do?

All of this may sound silly to you, especially if you’re a little behind on current events.

But it has become a part of our life. It’s called … Pop Culture. Pop Culture is current, it’s trending. It can be edgy, dark, or sensational. As simple as a photograph snapped on your phone and sent instantly to a half dozen social sites. It’s far-reaching. A selfie. You, eating Italian food at your favorite restaurant. You, hanging with your friends on the riverfront. You, posing in front of a burning building. Happening right now.

And while we’re on the subject of picture-taking, snapshots are taking off. Pictures are better than words, right? You see them everywhere, all the time. A photo snapped at just the right moment can make you famous. The day of instant sharing of information has arrived. It’s Dick Tracy’s watch. It’s almost Big Brother.

58970_1497426570013_2111010_n

The Wall of Gum, Seattle WA — We were here.

I remember when you got invited to your neighbor’s or your uncle’s to view the slideshow of their vacation. Long, boring. But they offered snacks and soft drinks. And they just knew you’d be riveted. Now you’ve almost gone with them on their vacation. You watched as they ascended the mountain or rode the rollercoaster. Pop Culture.

Yes, there’s a downside to all of this, but there are many positive things about it, too. You can talk face-to-face with your loved one on the other side of the world, or seven states away. I remember when that was something you only saw in a science fiction movie. Now we take it for granted. We get upset if our cellphone coverage cuts out and we can’t talk to Mom or send a text to our BFF from the top of Pike’s Peak.

Our cars synchronize with our phones so we can touch a screen or speak something out loud and a call is made or answered, a text sent or received. We’re never really free from distraction. Such is our life, if we so choose. This is Pop Culture.

theresa 173_peSo this is one opinion, my idea of Pop Culture.

Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments…

What is your favorite pop culture? It can be past or present. Share it in the comments below. Or use this picture as a writing prompt. Tell us what you see, give it your own slant. Have fun with it.

It’s Pop Culture!

The Naturo-path to Better Health

by Betty Thomason Owens

Right around this time, every year…

Everyone starts talking about choosing healthier lifestyles by going to the gym, or making better food choices. The gyms do a raging good business in the month of January. And we really do plan to keep our new regimen going throughout the year. We want to lose those extra pounds and firm up those flabby midsections.

file8471259606314I have an exercise plan in place throughout the year. I walk three to four miles per day, outdoors, five or six days a week (weather permitting). I work at home and for me, the freedom of being outside in the open—especially when there’s sunshine—is worth the time and effort.

I wish I could tell you I’m in perfect health with no extra weight. I wish. But I am in moderately good health, seldom sick. I do have some stubborn pounds hanging on. I wish I could charge them rent. I’d be rich by now. Truth is, I’d love to find a way to get rid of the excess.

Extra weight can adversely affect your health. Most of us know that. But if you exercise and eat healthy, you may just be looking at your body type. In that case, be happy with thyself. But if you do have health issues, perhaps you do need to make some changes.

A couple of years ago, I made my first visit to a certified health professional—a naturopath. I had known him for years and saw him make some very positive changes in his own life that convinced me he knew what he was talking about. So I made an appointment. A very simple twofold test (urine and saliva) told him what he needed to know about what’s happening in my life.

Turns out, I was much older than I should have been. What does that mean? Because of some bad choices on my part, my body was suffering. My bad choices consisted of sleep deprivation, dehydration, and … I wasn’t breathing enough. What? How can you not breathe enough?

I remember doing breathing exercises in chorus and choir practice. “Breathe from the di-a-phragm!—All together now—breathe!” Physical exercise helps with the breathing issue. The consistent outdoor walking began, and now, I’m pretty much up to par with the breathing. Sleep better, too, because I get outside and get the blood flowing and the oxygen processing.

But I’d still be coming up short if I didn’t hydrate. I push myself to drink more water. Sometimes it’s herbal tea, or flavored water. I got rid of the sweetened drinks. And yes, I still drink coffee. Hey, I love the stuff, but I try to counter it by matching each ounce of coffee with an ounce of water later in the day. Consistency, this is the key.

But you’ll still need a good, healthful diet. Cut out sugar. I hear your screams. Did I do this? No. I cut back on sugar. And, according to our naturopathic physician, you should populate your diet with living foods. No, he doesn’t advocate eating live animals. Get that picture out of your head.

cuyBvv1uSo what are living foods? Think raw veggies, or gently cooked veggies. Especially garden-fresh, that were in the ground hours ago, sucking up nutrients. If you’re a gardener or farmer, it’s easy. If not, you might want to join a co-op or find a good green grocer, farm, or farmer’s market.

According to my guy, frozen is a good second-best, and canned is okay, when you just can’t get fresh. The less it’s processed, the better.

If you’re on a gluten-free diet, you’re probably already somewhat familiar with these principles. Live vegetables are a good way to eat right, increase fiber in your diet, and multiply the nutrients, without starving yourself.

Here’s an interesting and friendly website for beginners. Her veggie chili looks really good. http://livingveggie.blogspot.com/

You can find plenty of information dealing with eating healthy—my favorite go-to is Pinterest, of course. I just enter whatever I’m craving and voila! I’ve got several recipes to choose from.

So, am I going to finally drop those extra pounds? I’d like that, but even more, I hope to reverse the aging process a little. So far, I have seen real improvement, because I’m getting exercise, drinking more water, resting better, and I’m breathing!

If you’re interested in finding a Naturopathic doctor in your area, do your homework. Check them out thoroughly before you go. We were fortunate to have a long-standing relationship with ours. But a good place to get recommendations is through your local chiropractic office.

Whatever you choose to work on this year, I wish you great success. Now, inhale—push out the diaphragm—hold—exhale—crunch that carrot!


Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments–

saturday 184_peWriting Prompt:

“Is this a living carrot?” Carol Anne Pendergast asked Jacob Bauer, owner of her local farmer’s market. “My naturopathic doctor told me to only eat living vegetables.”

Jacob’s bushy brows blended as his forehead creased. “All my vegetables are alive. Those carrots were plucked from the ground this very morning.”

“No need to get huffy about it,” Carol Anne said. “I was just asking.” She picked up a beautiful brown egg, her gaze cutting back to Jacob’s. Her mouth opened, but before she could ask the question poised on the tip of her tongue, he propped his fists on his hips and said, …

 

(Photos courtesy of MorgueFile)