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Cooking in the West

Our county 4-H Fair is this week, and it brings back a flood of fond memories of my own 4-H years and those of my children and grandchildren. When I transitioned into the role of 4-H Grandma, it was way more fun and less work than the role of 4-H mom or 4-H exhibitor. I got to show up, watch, visit with everyone in the county, celebrate the thrill of victories, and of course dry the tears from the agony of defeat.

One of my not so fond 4-H memories was my daughter Brooke’s 4-H cat project. As a first year 4-H’er she had already signed up for a horse project and a breeding heifer, so what harm could come from signing up for a cat project? Right!

Brooke’s herd of cats had grown from the original seed stock cats, Max and Macho, who were both females regardless of their obviously masculine names. My good friend (despite the fact that she gleefully provided our feline seed stock), Marie Cowen, had given the cats to Brooke. That was 27 years ago, so I have ALMOST decided to forgive Marie for that transgression.

Max and Macho were obviously products of generations of careful inbreeding. When she got them home, Brooke decided to teach them to go down to the creek about 75 yards from the house for water. They never could master finding their way home from the creek, so she had to leave water on the porch for them.

One day Brooke came home from a sleepover and couldn’t find Macho. She asked Remi if he had seen Macho today. He answered truthfully, “No,” because Macho had committed suicide the day before by jumping out of the tall grass into the path of his truck.

In Brooke’s search, she found 2 strands of orange cat hair on the road. Brooke, being far smarter than her cats, concluded the obvious--that her father had run over the cat. It has been 27 years, but I am sure that Brooke is still suffering residual effects from that betrayal that a therapist may have to unlock.

Being down to one female cat of impaired intelligence, we didn’t bother with spaying Max. Miraculously, a cat who could not find its way home from the creek found itself a mother of three kittens. (Perhaps it was truly a miracle--an immaculate cat conception?)

From that divine litter came the show cat, Mico. Now, a cat show does not involve walk, trot, lope, figure eights, rollbacks, or side passing, so we had no idea where to begin. We mistakenly chose bathing. There are not enough words in Webster’s to describe that experience adequately. By the way, cats do not like water.

Obviously, we should have begun with claw clipping, which was another indescribable experience. My advice to 4-H’ers is that you should clip your cat’s claws several weeks prior to the fair, so the cat scratches on your body have time to heal before the judging.

It was worth it all though. Mico (and every other cat in the show) won a coveted blue ribbon. However, the decorated cat carrier that Brooke spent three days and $28.69 designing and decorating received a purple ribbon, making the cat project so successful that she decided to take two cats the following year. That was in 1996, and both Brooke and I are still carrying physical and perhaps emotional scars from that cat project experience!

I don’t have any recipes for cats fortunately, but I do have some great summer treat recipes for kids of all ages! One of my favorite cookie recipes of all-time came from Shelly Carroccia of Melville, Montana long ago. Thanks, Shelly!

Shelly Carroccia’s Trailside Oatmeal Treats:

1 C. soft margarine

1 C. peanut butter

2 C. white sugar

2 C. brown sugar, packed

2 t. vanilla

4 eggs

3 C. flour

2 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

5 C. uncooked oatmeal

1/2 C. milk

1 C. chocolate chips

1 C. peanut butter chips

1 C. raisins

1 C. chopped walnuts

1 C. coconut

In a large bowl, cream the first four ingredients. Stir in eggs, milk, and vanilla. Add flour, soda, salt, and oatmeal. Mix well. Stir in chips, raisins, and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.

Chocolate Pizza:

2 1/2 C. vanilla chips

2 C. chocolate chips

(Microwave chips until melted. Stir until smooth--be careful not to scorch them!)


1 C. Rice Krispies

1 C. chopped walnuts

2 C. miniature marshmallows

Pour mixture into a pizza pan lined with waxed or parchment paper. Top with 1/2 C. halved maraschino cherries. Sprinkle with 1 C. coconut. Then, microwave 1/2 C. vanilla chips until melted. Add 1 t. oil, stir together, and drizzle on top to decorate it. Chill but restore to room temperature to serve the pizza. (You can make many variations of toppings on this pizza!)

Black Forest Pie:

one chocolate or shortbread prepared crust

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 t. almond extract

1 1/2 C. whipping cream, whipped

1 can cherry pie filling

Melt chocolate and condensed milk in the microwave. Stir in extract. Cool to room temperature. Beat until smooth and fold in whipped cream. Pour into the crust. Chill for four hours. Top with pie filling before serving.


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