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Memories and Musings

By Cheri Sims
As you may have read I love finding new recipes, trying them and adapting them to our family. Recently, my friend Larry, Hubby’s tennis partner and great cook, surprised me with a delicious bowl of “Dressing”. I call it a dressing casserole and for the life of me I do not know why I have never thought of making this delicious food. In simple terms, to me, the consistency is like Thanksgiving dressing in a baking dish with many other wonderful added ingredients. Of course I know about oyster dressing and sausage dressing served at holidays but I never thought of adding other ingredients to make it not taste like Thanksgiving and serving it year round.

In my defense, Hubby did not like casseroles or like he said, “mixing food together just like garbage”; so I never mastered casseroles other than mac and cheese with variations for our son. Larry’s first surprise had an Italian flavor which really surprised and pleased me and I began to wonder if I could make something similar with ingredients I had on hand. I roasted a turkey breast and then made fresh broth and the next day I made my first dressing casserole. I added turkey, diced potatoes, carrots, plantains and mushrooms with the typical sage and onion flavors. I wanted to make a flavor with which I am familiar in order to test the consistency. My first endeavor was quite tasty but I made one big mistake and I should have asked Larry for advice but I thought I knew what I was doing.

Instead of following my Thanksgiving dressing technique of making dried bread cubes I used fresh oat bread and the baked consistency was too moist. The taste was great but I had to bake it much longer than anticipated and it was still pretty moist. I then asked for advice and Larry advised that I needed to use a French bread or something with more texture or to use the dried bread method. He also suggested that I pre cook some of the vegetables to reduce the moisture of the dish. Great advice, I wish I had bothered him just one more time and asked the question during preparation. I am so pleased with this one dish discovery that I am planning a second venture. I am either going to make a Canadian  Poutine dressing which is ground rib eye,  French fries and curd cheese with a package of Poutine sauce or a pizza casserole. I shall use sausage, pepperoni, green pepper, onion, mushrooms and homemade tomato sauce with other spices for the pizza flavor. Wish me luck! Thanks Larry, for teaching an old dog a new trick.

Now that we are finally having cold weather I would urge you to be aware of your animal’s safety when outside and especially all the stray cats roaming around. My bird feeder developed a problem; the water did not drain out last week and formed a big chunk of ice, making it difficult for the birds and squirrels to get food. I fixed the problem when the ice thawed and bird seed is dry now. I am also making my homemade bird treats out of leftover bacon grease, peanut oil and anything leftover in the fridge. I buy bulk nuts and seed from Rural King and mix them with the oil and grease and the birds seem to like that better than commercial suet. When I find off brand chunky peanut butter, I like to add that to the mix too. This is also a great was to use up leftovers and the animals seem to appreciate the extra treats.

I am especially concerned about the stray cats in our neighborhood and have provided them with warming pads in my lawn chairs and I even made a shelter in the shed with a warming pad. When the weather changes I plan to make the shed shelter a little more weather tight; I made it in a hurry when I noticed one tom cat shivering on the porch. After I completed the task he deemed it acceptable and has spent a couple nights in residence.

Within a six block radius I have three friends who feed the strays; my son and daughter-in-law have taken in a momma cat and two kittens and provided them shelter and food in their garage. Two other friends are feeding strays and between us we have counted ten homeless cats in the area. I have one stray that comes daily and I have noticed at least three others within recent weeks. One morning, after placing the food out on the back porch, I returned to the window to see if Chessy’s cat was eating and was surprised to find a straggly fox enjoying a meal. I did not scare him away until I was sure he had eaten his fill. I then refilled the bowls and within the hour there were more cat prints in the snow, so I know some of the others were well fed for the day. We will all try to gentle the stray cats and find them homes as soon as possible.

 We also need to be mindful of cats sneaking into our garages when the doors are open. Sometimes the neighbor cat “Tiger” is too smart for the auto sensor and he got to spend two nights in my garage over the last snowy weekend. I did not go out one entire day and he made himself at home in all the summer pillows and ate popcorn until I rescued him two days later. He was pretty hungry but none the worse for wear. I have since installed a dry food container since this is the second time this has happened.  “Tiger’s” sister “Rosie” met the same fate in the summer so I made sure to have a big bowl of water in the garage all summer long.

If you would like to make a shelter for an outdoor animal you might want to read this article and watch the video on the “Save Them All” website: ( . From the page, “When the temperature outside begins to drop, it’s time to make sure the outdoor cats in your community have warm shelters where they can go to remain safe and comfortable. Community cats — stray cats who live outdoors — grow a thicker coat of fur when it gets cold outside, but they still need protection from the harsh weather’. “The Humane Society of the United States” also has a very informative web site ( as does the “Pet helpful” web site at ( If you would like to read a heartwarming cat lady story read about a “Panama City woman who has spent $24K helping stray cats gets nationwide aid after sharing story”.: at (

My ultimate recipe for feeding the birds and squirrels is to make a batch of peanut butter cookies and while my cookies are baking I add other ingredients to the batter, for the outside animals. Squirrels love berries so I will add blueberries and cran-raisins, and other seeds to the cookie mix and bake them to dole out during the week. Oatmeal cookies with nuts and seeds are really good for the birds too and I don’t feel like I am being wasteful by sharing them with them.

For years I have wanted to put some of my writing online and even have a web page which I started prior to the host changing the editing rules. Recently, I have had a couple email questions about where my column can be read online and “The Journal” does have an online paper. You can visit the site at Click on SUBSCRIBE at the top left of the screen and follow the directions. Online subscriptions are $30.00 a year with a senior discount of $27.50. I am thrilled that we can read the paper online, as many of our readers have told me that they enjoy this convenience.

Stay warm!

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