When the Great Ones Walked the Earth

I visited the dinosaur exhibit at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. Outside sat huge frogs for children to climb onto.

Inside the exhibit, a tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, found in Montana, is shown near a stuffed mountain lion, so you can realize how big that creature was. It ate meat, but herds of herbivorous dinosaurs roamed North Texas. Imagine having to eat enough plants to sustain a body that big. You’d be hungry all the time. The second picture shows the full skeleton of the tyrannosaurus rex. The largest complete skeleton found was 40 feet long. Several of the skeletons were found in Texas.

 

I watched a 3D film about a dinosaur, which died 67 million years ago. It was strange seeing the neck and head of a dinosaur stretching out into the theater so close to me. I learned some dinosaurs could see as far as seven miles on a clear day.  Potential prey would have a hard time hiding from them. The next picture is of a tenontosaurus from the early cretaceous period. The skeleton was found in Wise County, Texas.

When archaeologists find bones, they cover them with burlap soaked in plaster, which dries. Then the bones are transported to be cleaned and assembled. At the museum, an archaeologist worked to remove dried  soil from an artifact.

The skeletons reminded me of a book by Russell Ferrell, The Bone War of McCurtain County, (2018) a true story of Arkansas hillbilly Cephis Hall and Choctaw Indian Sid Love, two backwoods naturalists who sought buried treasure and nature’s booty in the American South (Oklahoma). Their troubles began after they discovered and excavated a world-class dinosaur specimen on land owned by a major timber corporation, which propelled them into a drawn out conflict with the company and its friends in government and academia.

Geologists blame Dinosaurs’ extinction on several likely causes, climatic change, diseases, changing plant communities, and geologic events. Perhaps a giant meteor that crashed into the earth near the Gulf of Mexico in the Chicxulub Crater near the town of Chicxulub on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, caused dust clouds and carbon dioxide that blocked sunlight and killed plants and animals. The crater, which extends out into the ocean, is estimated to be 62 miles wide and 19 miles deep. The megasunami would have reached Texas and Florida.

I also visited the Perot Museum’s extensive rock and mineral collection as well as exhibits on oil wells. It was amazing to see how far horizontal drilling can be extended beneath the surface to collect gas and oil.

Parking was handy, but cost $10. General admission ranges from $13 -$20. 3DFilms are $6-$8. Tickets for $25-$30 include admission and two 3D films. Special exhibits like the dinosaur one cost extra.

 

 

 

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Oopsie – Correction to recipe – Strawberry Cheesecake Pie

I made the pie recently to take to a meeting and discovered the amount of strawberries needed to be increased from the recipe I posted last. However, it turned out fine, and best of all, there was some left over to take home. See the picture below.

Strawberry Cheesecake Pie

I have copied the correct amounts for the recipe below.

 

Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie

Nut Crust (Blend together with a pastry blender or two knives, then press into 3 eight inch pans (or 2 eight inch and 1 nine inch pan) Bake 12 minutes at 400, separate with a fork, then press back down into pans and let cool.)

2  and 2/3 cup flour

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 and 1/3 cup margarine or butter

Cream Cheese Filling (blend next three ingredients together)

1 – 8oz, pkg. lower fat cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar (or 1/4 cup powdered or granulated sugar and 3/4 cup Stevia or Splenda)

1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Prepare Dream Whip and fold that into the cream cheese mixture.

2 envelopes Dream Whip – prepare as directed with 1 cup cold skim milk  and 1 tsp. vanilla

(Or fold in 4 cups of thawed Cool Whip) Spread over crust and chill in refrigerator

Strawberry Filling Mix in saucepan and bring to a boil. (Boil one minute to eliminate raw cornstarch taste.) Let cool and spread over cream cheese mixture. Let chill two or more hours for flavors to blend.

2 lbs. frozen sliced strawberries, thawed (all I found were whole ones, so I cut them up while cooking them)

1/4 cup Stevia or Splenda

1/4 cup cornstarch

Cherry Filling If you are not counting calories or sugar grams, use 2 cans of Cherry Pie Filling instead of strawberries.

Enjoy!

 

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Cooking Experiment

An agent rejected my cookbook proposal for More than Lettuce, a cookbook for heart patients and diabetics, but I will send it out to cookbook agents. Meanwhile, I will still work on a few more recipes to add.

I tried a new recipe for apple cheesecake bars and substituted enough Stevia to make the sugar content okay for diabetics, even with the dribble of caramel syrup. In the interest of saving time, I sliced the apples instead of chopped them finely as the recipe called for. I could have used my blender, but did not want to have to wash it.

Making the crust was easy, but it never got even lightly brown, although I cooked it longer than the recommended time. After I added the cream cheese layer, the sliced apples, and the streusel layer, I baked it the recommended time in a 9 X 13 pan.

Apple Cheesecake Bars

The recipe said to cut it in 36 pieces. Each serving would have only 7 grams of sugar, but it would not be much bigger than the size of a piece of fudge. Instead I cut it into 24 pieces. In the picture, you can see 12 pieces. Now, I’ll have to refigure the amount of Stevia to use to make it right for 24 servings.

However, there was another problem. The result was delicious, except the crust was bland, despite the inclusion of brown sugar, and kept flaking. Probably more than 1/3 cup margarine would have helped. I would have preferred the crust for my recipe for Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie, which called for less flour, more margarine, more brown sugar, and chopped nuts. It also made enough for three 8” pans. Here is the recipe for that.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie

1 8-oz. pkg. low fat cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar (or ¼ cup powdered sugar and ¾ cup Splenda or Stevia)

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

2 envelopes Dream Whip (prepare as directed with 1 cup skim milk and 1 tsp. vanilla)

2 10 oz. pkg. frozen strawberries, without added sugar, slightly thawed, with 2 Tbs. cornstarch (low-calorie version)

Or 2 cans cherry pie filling (not for the low-calorie version)

Crust

1  2/3 cup flour

¾ cup brown sugar

1 ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1  1/3 cup margarine or butter

Directions

For the crust, mix ingredients together and pat into three 8-inch round pans. Bake at 400 for 12 minutes. Crumble with fork and press back into pans. Let cool before adding filling.

Soften cream cheese with a mixer, and blend in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Prepare Dream Whip as directed and fold into the cream cheese mixture. Chill one hour. Add cherry pie filling or strawberry topping. To prepare strawberry topping, mix cornstarch with strawberries and heat to boiling. Boil one minute (to completely cook the cornstarch and eliminate that raw taste). Let cool to room temperature and spread on top. Makes 48 servings with 7.5 grams sugar per serving for the low-calorie version.

Next, I’ll try it using Cool Whip instead of Dream Whip, which is getting hard to find.

 

 

 

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Christmas Goodies and Weight-watching – Are They Oxymorons?

At the Village Library where I tutor once a week, I watched the kids decorate Christmas cookies. They had a lot of fun designing Christmas sweater cookies.

 

 

Then I went home and baked some of my own to give to neighbors. I tasted one or two—to be sure they were good—but the last tray got burned. After packing up cookies for five different neighbor houses, there were none left to eat that were not burned on the bottom. Maybe that was a good thing—for my waistline.                                                                      My husband and I took a pumpkin pie to my daughter’s house on Christmas Eve. We planned to celebrate my oldest grandson’s birthday—he was born on Christmas Day, so we try to have a separate time for him—but he got the dates mixed up and didn’t show. My two daughters and a friend had baked six or seven different kinds of cookies, including Baklava, so rich it was cut in one-inch pieces. Of course, I had to try several, but I was careful not to bring any home.                                                                                                                    Except when my daughters and both grandsons this time, showed up for Christmas dinner, one daughter brought a small plastic container of cookies. It took my husband and I only two days to finish them off.                                                                                                              I got on the scale the day after Christmas and found I’d added three pounds. Returning to my regular routine, 30 minutes on an exercise bike and a six-block walk was definitely needed. My New Year’s resolution is to rejoin the gym and go once a week.                                   With all the leftovers in the refrigerator (Oriental Green Bean Dish, Corn Pudding, Sweet Potato Dish with Pecan Topping, and Macaroni and Cheese), I only add servings of two dishes and one roll to the turkey slices I warm in a Ziploc bag and serve with a little gravy. I alternate pumpkin or pecan pie for dessert with berries, so I don’t add so much rich foods, and so far, that’s worked to keep the weight from rising—but now one pound will get me back to normal and ten will get me to my desired weight. I’ll never weigh as little as Miss America, but that’s okay.                                                                                                       Now here’s a recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini from my cookbook, There IS Life After Lettuce, (now out of print, but I’m working on a new one.) Chicken Tetrazzini was originally developed for the opera star, Luisa Tetrazzini, around 1908-1910, probably by Ernest Arbogast, the chef at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where the popular soprano stayed a long time. I like to make it with fresh mushrooms that have been fried in Imperial Margarine. Sometimes I make it with ham and chicken instead of turkey.

Turkey or Chicken Tetrazzini

8-oz. raw spaghetti noodles, cooked in

Unsalted water

1 can Campbell’s Healthy Request Mushroom Soup

(it’s a low salt version)

½ cup skim milk

3 cups cut up turkey, chicken, or ham

or a combination

1 4-oz. can mushroom pieces or 6 large fresh mushrooms

fresh are nice fried in margarine

1 Tbs. parsley flakes

4 slices processed cheese (better with 6)

1 tsp. No Salt (use regular if you don’t have to watch sodium)

¼ tsp. pepper

Mix and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through. For microwave oven, cook on high 6-8 minutes uncovered. This makes 6 servings.

Nutrients per serving (using turkey or chicken, 4 slices cheese and no margarine) 222 calories, 7 g. fat, 57 mg. Cholesterol, 15 g. carbohydrate, and 332 mg. sodium.

8-oz. raw spaghetti noodles, cooked in unsalted water

1 can Campbell’s Healthy Request Mushroom Soup (it’s a low salt version)

½ cup skim milk

3 cups cut up turkey, chicken, or ham or a combination

1 4-oz. can mushroom pieces or 6 large fresh mushrooms (fresh ones are nice fried in margarine)

1 Tbs. parsley flakes

4 slices processed cheese (better with 6)

1 tsp. No Salt (use regular if you don’t have to watch sodium)

¼ tsp. pepper

Mix and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through. For microwave oven, cook on high 6-8 minutes uncovered. This makes 6 servings.

Nutrients per serving (using turkey or chicken, 4 slices cheese and no margarine) 222 calories, 7g. fat, 57mg. Cholesterol, 15 g. carbohydrate, and 332 mg. sodium.

 

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Thanksgiving, now and then, plus turkey soup directions

My husband and I finally finished off the turkey soup. Of course, the cranberry salad, sweet potato dish, corn pudding, and pumpkin and pecan pies are long gone. (See directions for turkey soup below.)

Curious about what the pilgrims ate on that first Thanksgiving, I read an interesting article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram by Julie Lesnik. Since waterfowl was plentiful…” they were probably “… eating goose and duck rather than turkey.” An Indian leader gave five deer to the governor, so venison may have also graced the table. “There’s no account of cranberries at the first Thanksgiving,” probably because boggy regions of Massachusetts were several miles away. Since the first record of potatoes grown in New England was in New Hampshire in 1722, no mashed potatoes were served at that Thanksgiving dinner.

A stew called sobaheg, generally consisting of beans, corn, poultry, squash, nuts, and clam juice may have been served along with Indian maizium, or corn bread.

I should have persuaded my daughters and grandson, who came late, to take more leftovers on Thanksgiving Day, but my husband and I sure enjoyed the rest of the turkey, side dishes, and pumpkin and pecan pie with whipped cream.

I finally lost the four pounds I gained from feasting on Thanksgiving dinner and eating the leftovers, but then I enjoyed a birthday lunch and steak dinner, plus attended two Christmas parties. Thankfully, there are only two more Christmas parties coming up, so maybe after New Year’s Day, I can lose more pounds than I gain.

TURKEY SOUP

After I cut most of the meat off to save for sandwiches, I broke up the carcass enough to get it into my big stew pot, added plenty of water, cooked that for an hour, and refrigerated it, pan and all. The next day, I took the pan out of the refrigerator and let it warm up for an hour before cutting the rest of the meat off the bones. {I didn’t want to freeze my fingers.} After rubbing off the gelatinous mixture, which held all the flavor, into the pan, I discarded the bones, added more water and heated the mixture. I sliced carrots, about two cups, and added those with 2 cups of frozen peas. After boiling that for twenty minutes, I added about six spoonfuls of congealed gravy, which I’d kept refrigerated. As soon as that melted and blended in, I tasted the soup and added enough water, gravy, salt, and pepper to make it taste good.

We ate two bowlfuls, and I refrigerated the rest.  The next time I served it, I added more water and more gravy and heated it until the gravy spoonfuls had melted.

Since I’m serving turkey again for Christmas dinner, I guess I’ll be making it again.

 

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November in North Texas

Fall is in the air, and so are pumpkins. Below are pictures of pumpkins painted by two students I tutor at the Village Library, part of Mission Central, which serves Hurst, Euless, and Bedford. The first was painted by Daniela, a teenager who celebrated her birthday the day I took the picture. The second was painted by another girl, who writes very well, but has to work at math. After lifting hers, I discovered how heavy it was and volunteered to carry it to her mother’s car.

A boy asked how to make pumpkin pie from the pumpkin he painted. I told him you had to cut off the outer skin, scrape out the seeds and stringy stuff, then cut the pumpkin into pieces and boil them. Then you have to mash it before you can make pie with it. I did it once and decided I prefer to use canned pumpkin.

 

 

 

Today I dressed warmly as there was a nip in the air. From nine to eleven I handed out food to people from Hurst, Euless, and Bedford. We didn’t have many volunteers, so I was handing out huge cabbages, cantaloupes or honeydew melons, spaghetti squash (a foot long and six inches thick), carrots, and bags of potatoes. I tried to bag the carrots, but couldn’t always keep up. Luckily, I had a helper part of the time. The carrots were big too. Some were over a foot long, and others had divided into two or more lower protrusions. I’m sure they would be tricky to peel, but taste good in soup. Below is a picture of me on a warmer day handing out potatoes.

 

A few days ago, I had business at the Hurst police station. Walking out, I saw a little something flopping around on the floor. Imagine my surprise when I looked closer and discovered a baby bat trying to fly.

 

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HALLOWEEN AT DFW WRITER’S WORKSHOP

DFW Writer’s Workshop celebrated Halloween with scary stories, costumes, and a  potluck dinner. We had Darth Vader, the Devil, an angel, and someone in a skeleton T-shirt. Fried chicken, meatballs, potato salad, fruit salad, cupcakes, chocolate brittle with M & Ms, and other goodies filled the table. As they do, every Wednesday at seven o’clock, the writers of scary stories and other stories read out loud for 15 minutes and received 5 minutes of constructive critique. This has helped our members get over 310 books published during the forty years the organization has been in existence.

 

 

 

I read from my work in progress, Romancing the Vet, about a vet who finds drugs sewn into a retired, racing greyhound and his girlfriend, the dog’s owner, who are being chased by the drug dealers.

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