Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Zeke's First Christmas

Written by: Dr. Robert Darnell, Elizabethtown, KY

Final Segment

So I stood there stinking and laughing at my canine friend as she tried to escape the skunk's retribution. She wallowed on her back; she put both paws on her nose and blew repeatedly, sending puffs of powdery snow and skunk smell all over the clearing.

I really got tickled and laughed so hard I slipped and fell slap down in the clearing with her. She climbed into my lap for some comfort and began licking my face. I gave her a stinking hug and clambered to my freezing feet. Somewhere in the melee, the skunk had made a strategic retreat and waddled off to recharge his devastating weaponry and, presumably, rejoin his nestlings.

"What in the world are you laughing at?" came my wife's voice through the woods.

"We've been skunked!" I called back laughing.

"Merry Christmas!" Constance replied in her beautiful contralto. "Now come up here and let me wash you off. You can't open your presents smelling like a skunk."

That year, I opened my presents smelling like a skunk wearing tomato juice and ivory soap and lots of cologne. It was Zeke's first Christmas and one of my fondest.

Skunk Odor Remover

1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide

1/4 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)

1 tsp liquid soap or dish detergent

Mix these together and bathe the spray victim thoroughly.

*Be sure to use this mixture immediately, it is unstable.

Rinse with tap water afterward, and repeat if necessary.

For spray in the eyes, flush with water as soon as possible.

Merry Christmas to all! And, to warm your tummies on Christmas morn, the following recipe for cinnamon rolls is the only recipe I use because the dough is made the night before. The rolls are tender, cinnamony, and just plain delicious. Originally the recipe called for a powdered sugar icing, but we prefer a cream cheese frosting.

Best Ever Cinnamon Rolls

Serves: 24


2 packages active dry yeast

2-1/2 cups luke warm water (105-115 degrees)

1 tsp sugar

1 pkg (2-layer size) white cake mix

6 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

1/3 cup cooking oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 cup sugar

4 tsp (heaping) ground cinnamon

1 cup (generous) dried fruit such as cranberries, blueberries, raisins, currants, chopped apricots, or a mixture of the above, optional

1 recipe cream cheese frosting (below)


1. Four dough, in a large mixing bowl, stir the yeast into 1/2 cup of the warm water; add the sugar. Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes or until foamy.

2. Stir the cake mix, 1 cup flour, egg, cooking oil, salt , and remaining water into the yeast mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed for 3 minutes, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the remain flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

3. Cover and let rise in the refrigerator overnight.

4. Next morning, lightly grease two 13 x 9 x 2 baking pans. Set aside. Remove dough from refrigerator, punch down. Cover and let rise again until doubled (about 1 hour because dough is cold). Punch dough down again. Divide in half. Turn 1 part of the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Turn to coat lightly with flour. Roll the dough into a 12 x 8 rectangle. Brush with half of the melted butter.

5. For filling, in a small bowl, combine the 1 cup sugar, cinnamon, and dried fruit, if using. Sprinkle half of the filling over dough. Roll up, jelly-roll style, starting from one of the long sides. Pinch along edge to seal.

6. Cut crosswise into 12 pieces. Arrange, cut sides down, in a prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining dough, remaining butter, and remaining filling. Cover loosely; preheat oven to 350. Let dough rise in a warm place until nearly doubled (about 45 minutes).

7. Uncover pans. Place a baking sheet under each pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until lightly brown and rolls sound hollow when lightly tapped.

8. Invert onto serving plates. Using an offset spatula, smear cream cheese frosting over warm rolls. Serve warm. Delicious reheated the next day, if you actually have any left over.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 8 oz. pkgs regular cream cheese, room temperature

4 cups pwdered sugar

2 tsp vanilla

3 TB or more of milk, if necessary

Beat cream cheese in a medium bowl with an electric mix until loosened. Gradually mix in powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Mix in vanilla. If needed, stir in enough milk to make a fluffy frosting, be careful not to add too much milk which would make the frosting runny.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Zeke's First Christmas, Part 3

Leo shook him to stop the noise, but it only increased. By the time she reached the door, she had shaken him unconscious. We hurried into the night with me whispering, "Good doggie girl! Goooood Leo." She blinked her acceptance of my praise.
We walked together off the porch and into the snow-covered woods behind the house. It might have been pleasant if I had worn shoes and had we not been carrying a skunk. But the path through the leafless winter trees was glorious.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of midday to objects below;
I and my shorthair, a skunk in her mouth
Turned down the trail and headed due south.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a striped tail raised high and a skunk's puckered rear?
Yes, as you might have imagined, the skunk woke up in Leo's mouth. He found himself in the familiar surroundings of his woods and in grave danger. Like all of his long ancestry, he knew exactly what to do.
There was a sound. Yes, a little flatulent sound right before the full spray of the skunk's mighty defensive armada struck me squarely in the face. There was not so much an increase in the smell as a moist announcement that I had been marked as a fool. Why, every animal in the forest knows to stay away from skunks. And, every animal that ignores this primeval warning smelled like I did that lovely Christmas Eve in the moonlight, in the snow.
"Drop!" I croaked the command that signaled the pointer to release the game. The skunk belly-flopped into the snow and fired another volley straight up the sensitive nose of the finest German Shorthairs that ever walked the earth. Leo, whose nose was five zillion times more sensitive than mine, began snorting and sneezing wildly and rubbing her face in the snow. I had to laugh.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Zeke's First Christmas Part 2

Zeke's First Christmas
Written by: Dr. Robert Darnell
Part 2

Still, there was the skunk. The choir singing "Silent Night" on our stereo seemed to be holding their noses as they recounted the traditional events of that holy night.
Constance scooped up baby Zeke as she bolted to the bedroom and called over her shoulder, "Bob, get that skunk out of here."
Her words halted my escape.
I had already started to run behind her.
I stopped, looked at the skunk and imagined him saying, "Yeah, Bob, get me out of here."
The concept of removing a skunk from the house was clear. But viscerally I was frozen with the intrinsic dread of handling the stinking beast. I couldn't just reach down and pick him up. Nor could I kick him. A shovel? What would keep him from lifting his tail at me while I carried him?
The skunk and I had a big problem. We stared deeply into each others' eyes. Leo broke the silence with an exasperated whimper. She looked from me to the skunk with a fretful expression that begged, "What do we do now, Boss?"
Encountering a truly wild and unpredictable creature in the house had set us all on edge. The dog's thrill reminded me of how she behaved in the field when we hunted together. A fresh idea penetrated the stench, Leo will obey me.
As the skunk seemed to wobble, I ordered, "Leo, get the skunk!"
She ran to the skunk, picked him up without hesitation, brought him to me and dropped him at my feet like a good retriever. The skunk, still dazed, toddled under the Christmas tree. It must have seemed a familiar haven in an otherwise threatening circumstance.
"Whoa girl," I whispered as she snapped into a perfect bird dog point with her nose aimed at the prey under the tree. Then, "Fetch!"
As my German Shorthair sprang at the critter, I moved toward the door. She clamped her jaws around the skunk and trotted proudly toward me with her prize. "Good girl," I cooed, "bring him here."
The skunk chose that moment to cry out. I'd never heard a skunk voice before and was startled by the sound. It resembled a chortling baby. Was the creature laughing?

I hope you are enjoying this heartwarming story. I've read it several times and smile everytime I read it.

Your family will have their hearts and tummies warmed with the following recipe. It was given to me maybe by my sister several years ago. Originally, it was the Cracker Barrel Hashbrown Casserole recipe from one of those websites that figures out the signature recipes from favorite restaurants around the U.S.. But, it has evolved with a tweak here and there into my recipe. Sometimes I add a couple tablespoons minced chipotle with adobo to add a little heat, but really it is delicious on its' own.

Hash Brown Casserole
Serves: 8-10

1 16 oz container sour cream (full fat, no light or fat free)
1 can cream of celery soup (low sodium, healthy choice, they all work)
1 stick butter (no margarine!yech)
1 cup chopped onions (can use green onions or chives)
1 bag shredded cheese (2 cups) (I use a cheddar/jack blend)
1 bag hash brown shreds, frozen do not thaw out (I use Ore Ida)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together with a spatula or big spoon, the sour cream and celery soup. Put butter in a small bowl and melt in microwave (high for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes). Mix melted butter into the sour cream mixture. Stir in onions, and 1 cup of shredded cheese. Stir in frozen hash brown shreds (if they are thawed, you get a mashed potato-type of casserole).
Dump into a 13 x 9 x 2 glass casserole dish. Even out and smooth the top. Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese over the top. Cover with foil. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the casserole edges are bubbling.
This is good for breakfast with sausage and scrambled eggs.
Freezes well. I portion it out and freeze. Then, pop the microwaveable container in the microwave. Hit "reheat" and it comes out tasting as good as the day I baked it.