Asparagus Casserole

asparagus casserole photo d stewartThis baked asparagus and cheese casserole is my mother-in-law’s recipe. It was one of her potluck favourites because it travels well and easily warms up in a microwave. And if it can’t be warmed up, it still tastes good.

Ingredients

2 tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
2/3 cup grated cheese (your choice;  I used extra old cheddar)
1 lb fresh asparagus or 2 cans asparagus tips

optional: sliced or slivered almonds,
– thin strips of red pepper,
– crushed Ritz crackers or cornflakes

Asparagus

chopped asparagus photo-d-stewartChop washed asparagus into 2-3 inch pieces. Use 2/3 to 3/4 of stalk, leaving woody ends. Microwave pieces about 1 1/2 minutes, or steam on stovetop for 3 minutes, to partially cook them. Distribute evenly in a low greased casserole dish (I use an 8 x 8″ one).

Cheese sauce

white-sauce-photo-d-stewartMake white sauce by melting butter in small saucepan, add flour, stirring in well. Turn heat down and continue to stir for about 2 minutes until roux bubbles and thickens. Slowly add milk, stirring often to prevent lumps. When it starts to thicken, add cheese slowly and stir until smooth. Turn off heat.

Combine in casserole

pouring sauce over asparagusPour cheese sauce evenly over asparagus in casserole dish. Top with crunchy bits and red pepper if you wish. I added all of them here: a small handful of crushed cornflakes, red pepper strips and sliced almonds.

Bake at 350° for 25-30 mins, until bubbly. Serves 2 as main dish or 4 as side. You can double the recipe, using a larger dish.

pork-chop-asparagus-potato-photo-d-stewartAsparagus needs nothing extra to make it glorious. But baked in a cheese sauce adds flavours and textures that make it a meal all on its own. If you want it vegan, replace the dairy with soy products.

Missouri Puppy Mills

Last week, the Humane Society of the US released its 7th annual list of the 100 worst puppy mills in the USA. For the 7th year, Missouri took first place.  From April 17 2011, here’s what I wrote in the St. Thomas Dog Blog about state legislators overturning Proposition B. It was a law providing regulatory standards for one of the biggest industries in Missouri – dog breeding.

Missouri Puppy Mills – Business as usual? (2011)

Proposition B, setting rules for animal care by commercial dog breeders, last week was repealed by the Republican majority Missouri state government. Despite being voted into legislation in the last election, it now will be kept in place only if the Governor vetoes the state legislature action. (Also see my 2016 Prop B)

puppy mill terrier mother and pupsBreeding puppies for sale doesn’t have to be a cruel business. Many breeders breed dogs responsibly. They don’t breed females in every heat. Nor do they keep dogs in wire-bottomed stacked cages. They assess their breeding stock and use pedigrees to avoid congenital problems. They don’t flood the puppy market just because a movie created demand for a particular type of dog.

There’s nothing wrong with making a living from dogs, whether it’s in training, dog clothes manufacture or breeding. What’s wrong is not treating those animals – your capital investment – properly. What’s wrong is breeding without ensuring to the best of your ability that physical and temperamental problems are not passed on.

Responsible breeders should be able to do their business without harassment. If the animals are treated properly, as living, breathing sentient creatures, regulations about space, exercise, food and water shouldn’t be a burden for them. If providing decent housing and care is a burden, then there’s something wrong with the people’s business operation and ethos.

Several other states were watching to see what happened in Missouri, puppy mill capital of the US. If the repeal of Prop B occurs, you can bet your last puppy that they will be reluctant to introduce legislation designed to improve the lives of breeding dogs.

Also in Canada

cage with rat terrier pups for sale, OntarioCanada has puppy mills too. We have people in the breeding business who do not want government controls. We also have people trying to stop large- and small-scale puppy mills. Our governments are watching Missouri as well.

But there’s more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak. If government won’t regulate dog breeding and puppy mills, we can. Puppy mill operators won’t make money if people stop buying from them. That’s why most pet stores have stopped selling puppies – they come from backyard breeders or puppy mills. If no one buys them, the pet store is stuck with them. Not a position the store wants to be in.

However, letting rescue groups use that cage space to showcase available pets is a good corporate citizen act. It also has other benefits for the pet store. Animals are still there – a big drawing card to bring people in. Adopted pets will need food and supplies  – available right there on the shelves. And the animals go back to the rescue group if they’re not adopted. Win-win-win.

puppies for sale adpuppies for sale adWithout pet stores, online venues like Kijiji and  Craigslist have become the place to sell your “pure-bred” litter of Lab-Husky-onlymomknows pups. Please don’t buy them. Switch Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams mantra around: if you don’t buy them, they won’t breed them.

Puppy pics

Yes, the puppies above are adorable. I hope they don’t end up unwanted in a pound.  Both pictures are from Kijiji ads. The one on the left is a “lab/sheppard/collie/husky mix”. Those pups are selling for $200 and $250. On the right are “Boxer/Mastiff” pups selling for $400. Not cheap. Maybe these puppies are the result of one-off ‘accidents’. But if the mothers were spayed there would be no ‘accidents’. The picture at the top is from a Canadian Wheaten Terrier breeder site. They give advice about good and bad breeders (pdf p 11). The middle picture I took myself nearby in SW Ontario. I can see this cage, with rat terriers and many other breeds of pups, every week.

Murel Anger, Mail Carrier

In 1972 my mother wrote this Dorchester Signpost article about her mother-in-law’s retirement from rural mail delivery. Mom was the weekly’s Belmont reporter. She put it in her scrapbook with a photo of Grandma and two siblings. From left is sister Bernice with husband Ray Alward, Murel Anger (in curtain camo), brother George Mabee and wife Nancy (Rice).

1972 Dorchester Signpost on mail carrier retirementHappy retirement to Mrs. Anger

Dorchester Signpost, Belmont News – Ruby Anger, Jan. 1972

We’re sure the residents of R R 2 Belmont have missed a familiar face these past three weeks. The woman who has become almost a tradition in that area has decided to call it quits. In a word, Mrs. Anger has retired from the mail route.

She and her late husband, Austin, started to carry mail in May 1946, before many of her present patrons were born. Mr. Anger did the route alone for a number of years with his wife helping him whenever she was needed. In later years it was a combined effort until Mr. Anger suffered a stroke and was hospitalized from May 1969 to the time of his death in August 1970. Mrs. Anger with her assistant, Mrs. Verna Legg have continued their daily route until Mrs. Anger decided to retire Jan. 10th. Mrs. Legg and her father Mr. J. D. Meikle are wished well as they continue to serve the R. R. 2 residents. But Mrs. Anger will certainly be missed after twenty-six years. She is wished a healthy, happy retirement by all.

First time on mail route

And now for a personal note. As much as we try to be impersonal in this column there are times we just can’t refrain. When I think of this mail route I think of my first time around it or should I say, partial trip. My husband had taken on a milk route in this area which made it necessary for us to move here from Tillsonburg. He had moved our furniture into the Frank Moore farm house on the 5th Conc. of North Dorchester. When I arrived later with small son and daughter, we went to my husband’s parents’ home. Mr. Anger drew the mail then in June 1947, assisted by his wife, my mother-in-law.

The next day my children and I rode around the route, up one road and down the other, before we eventually were told our new home was in sight. I thought we’d never get there! Not knowing what was done I was worried about getting settled as my husband worked away until late. My mother-in-law coaxed Mr. Anger to help me set up beds, etc. and he pretended to be too busy, but went in under protest. Everything was placed and ready to live in – what a surprise! He thought that was a big joke.

Frank Moore and family

That was the first time I met the Frank Moore family who turned out to be the best neighbours and landlord anyone could find. Especially for a town girl who had never lived in the country before. It was nice to know the mail car was coming through every day, too, with my dear parents-in-law aboard if I needed them.

Although I never lived on their farm, Frank and Evelyn Moore made a big impression on me as they also did on my mother. In Barn Cats I wrote a bit about them.

Jump!

I’ve wondered what real jockeys think about horse racing novels. Especially those where newcomers – human and horse – manage against all the odds to win THE BIG RACE. It’s a frequent, and beloved, theme. National Velvet, The Black Stallion.

cover of Jump! by Jilly Cooper
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Jockeys know too well the years of blood, sweat, tears and broken bones that go into racing. Trainers do too. For the horses, many may be called but an infinitesimal number make it to the top races. So when I read the back cover of Jump! by Jilly Cooper, I was dubious. An older woman finds a horribly injured filly – and the rest is racing history. However, I absolutely love Jilly Cooper’s novels. Especially the Rutshire horsey ones. if anyone can do justice to the horse world with this premise, I thought, she can. And she does.

It takes a village

It takes a village to get a horse to the races. Fortunately our heroines, horse and human, can call on a village full of trainers, riders and wannabe owners. All of them love racing and most love horses. Enough of them have money. Horse_racing_Paul-2009-Bangor-on-Dee-wikicommonsThe wherewithal for preparing a horse – and a Jilly Cooper story – is here. The truly good, the selfish and silly, those evil to the core, and all points between. In this novel, Jilly Cooper keeps a curtain drawn on most of the evil done. Thank heavens! Some descriptions of horse “training” in her earlier books still give me nightmares.

So it works. It’s classic Jilly Cooper and as true to life as any of her tales of the English horsey set life may be. The covers of her books alone tell you what to expect. A fun, racy (in all senses) farce. Many people, horses, dogs, cats – all with huge personalities. A lot of sex, a lot of drinking. Schemes and manipulation. It’s as competitive off the course as on.

cover of Mount! by Jilly Cooper
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You get pulled into this world and you happily live there for as long as you can. You want to keep reading to find out what happens next. But you don’t want to come to the end either. So like many of the characters, you face a difficult choice. It’s just not as difficult as the choices that the characters must too often make. I thought I had read all Jilly Cooper’s novels so was delighted to find Jump! (2010). Looking further, I found another, Mount!, published in 2016. Jump! is about hurdles and steeplechase while Mount! is about flat racing. I can’t wait.

You could start reading the Rutshire Chronicles with Jump! since it’s set much later than the others. And the major characters are new. The main characters of the earlier ones are in Jump! but you can figure out their history.

Amazon link for UnbreakableLooking through Amazon.ca for links, I found this book. A 41-year old countess and a little mare compete against Nazi riders in a Czechoslovakian steeplechase just before World War II. It sounds like Jump! and National Velvet put together – but it’s a true story. Unbreakable is the story of Lata Brandisová and her horse and their 1937 Grand Pardubice. (tap image for link)

Today is Derby Day in Kentucky. Best of luck and safe ride to all the horses and jockeys!