Sunday, April 23, 2023

Saving Wildlife

I love looking out my kitchen window to see a surprise such as this: a sweet young mule deer curled up and resting!

Our weather this spring has been unusually cold and damp, after a winter that has been colder and snowier than usual. In most of Colorado, the snowpack is at 132% this year.

Instead of "April Showers," we have been having "April Snow Squalls." These were the views from my windows on Saturday. More snow!  The good thing about spring snow is that it melts quickly in spring and by today most of it was gone. 

Sadly, though, I've read in The Wildlife Society that the severe weather this winter has caused the deaths of many deer, elk, and pronghorn in  Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana.  

The Mountain Journal has stated that "April is typically the hardest month of survival for a range of species, particularly ungulates that include elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn (antelope), and bison, says Julie Cunningham, a veteran biologist with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks." Food has been extremely difficult for big game to find as much of it is covered by deep, hard-packed snow.

The Mountain Journal has also stated that "Looking at GPS-collared animals in the Wyoming Range mule deer herd, of the 128 does wearing collars at the beginning of winter, 35 percent currently have been lost. In an average year, adult deer mortality is approximately 20 percent. And of 92 juvenile deer collared, 90 percent of those animals have died to date."

Colorado Outdoors stated: "In addition to mortality from malnutrition, wildlife officials have seen an increase in animals injured or killed from vehicle collisions. With normal migration routes difficult for wildlife to navigate, they have resorted to using roadways as they search for food. Sometimes that food is located on a narrow shoulder along a windy section of road. Wildlife officials are also seeing animals bed down on roadways after a sunny day to get a little warmth and reprieve from the cold."

One good thing that many western states have been investing in to help save ungulate animal collisions with cars and trucks is building wildlife crossings over highways.  This is an example of one which I saw in northern Colorado when we traveled to Steamboat Springs in November.

The Road Less Traveled from monteith. shop on Vimeo.

In this Vimeo video called "The Road Less Traveled"-- click here to watch if you can not see the video player above -- a Wyoming Wildlife Scientist states; "Each year, Wyoming sees an average of 6,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions. Wildlife-vehicle collisions are costly for all of us, but it's a clear problem with a clear solution. Wildlife crossing structures like overpasses and underpasses are effective at making our roads safer for people and for wildlife."

The video shows the chronicles of a tagged mule deer and her two-year struggle for survival and trials toward raising her young, as monitored by a University of Wyoming research scientist.

So what can we do to help wildlife?

  • The best thing residents and recreationists can do to help wildlife is to give the animals plenty of space and keep pets from harassing wildlife. Keep your dog on a leash when hiking and use designated areas and trails for your winter activities. This helps wildlife retain the energy they need to survive. 
  • Never feed wildlife. Artificially feeding wildlife can lead to chronic wasting disease and is illegal. If you want to help wildlife find food in your area during the winter do not rake up leaves or remove dead plants in the fall, as they will become a food source for deer, etc. 
  • Advocate for your state to install Wildlife Crossings in ungulate migration areas or where their numbers are high to help avoid vehicle collisions. Use caution when driving when deer or elk are in the vicinity.
  • Be aware that hunting tags and permits may be reduced in number this year in many states to allow for the re-population of deer and elk, etc. 
  • Support state and national wildlife organizations 

I do love watching the deer visitors to my yard and I hope they will be able to rebound after this unusually harsh winter and spring. 

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Monday, April 17, 2023

Our Easter--Food, Fun, and Leftover Ideas

We had a wonderful Easter Day at our house!  The appetizer lunch was stuffed clams, panko shrimp, arancini (rice balls), a Caprese salad, deviled eggs, pickled beets, artichoke, mushrooms, olives, dips with chips, and fresh vegetable crudites.

We then had fun taking family photos, our grandchildren did an Easter egg hunt, and we all played some games -- this year it was the game Scattergories.

For dinner, I made a small roast leg of lamb, a spiral ham with a maple brown sugar glaze, manicotti, a corn pudding, stuffed mushrooms, peas and carrots, asparagus, and escarole with chickpeas and peppers.


Dessert was a cheesecake and mini bundt carrot cakes, which I decorated with cream cheese frosting and Peep bunnies.

My kids took home lots of leftovers!

I always freeze a portion of the ham and the ham bone to make pea soup at a later date, but this year I was left with quite a few vegetables. I decided to chop all the leftover potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and half of the asparagus and incorporated them into a frittata with eight beaten eggs, and some cubed mozzarella cheese. a quarter cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and a few grinds of black pepper.  I greased a springform pan and sprinkled breadcrumbs on the bottom of the pan to cover the bottom and then poured in the mixed egg, vegetable, and cheese mixture. and then sprinkled bread crumbs on top.  I baked it in a 375-degree F oven for 40 minutes,  The frittata is so easy to make this way in a springform pan and it is a good way to use up pre-cooked vegetables. It came out so delicious!  We ate slices for both dinner and breakfast.

The next day I made elbow pasta--any small pasta shape can be used--and in a skillet, I sauteed chopped leftover ham, leftover peas and carrots, and asparagus chopped into pieces in small amounts of olive oil. I then added some chicken broth and grated Parmesan and gorgonzola cheese mixing well until the cheese was melted. I blended in the almost-cooked pasta to the skillet, removed the skillet from the heat, added about a half cup of pasta water, mixed well, and covered the skillet for five minutes until the pasta completed cooking.  It was another delicious and easy-to-prepare meal.

I hope I gave you some ideas on how to re-invent leftovers so that you can make them into a new delicious dish and cut back on food waste. 

Our grandchildren are keeping us busy as their annual baseball and lacrosse games have begun, as well as school theater plays, art shows, and upcoming dance recitals. It's wonderful that we can enjoy all these special events in their lives. 

Spring weather in Colorado always keeps us guessing and we've had unusually warm temperatures followed by snow so far this April. I'm sure there may be more snow before summer arrives, but we welcome all moisture in our dry high altitude climate.

My little "kitchen windows greenhouse" is doing well.  I repotted the peppers and tomato seedlings into larger containers and I'm patiently waiting until the end of May when I can replant them for the final time into their larger pots on my patio.  I will then surround the pots with wire to keep out the deer and rabbits the best I can. I had success doing this last year and I hope for the same this summer. I just love watching them grow!

Pasque Wildflowers

I hope you all had a Happy Easter if you celebrate it, and that your Spring is full of wonderful things!

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Sunday, April 2, 2023

Our Favorite Italian Easter Cookies


Both my mother-in-law and my husband's oldest sister, made these Calabrian-style Italian Easter cookies every year and would give us many of them to enjoy. They are called "Nguti" in their Reggio Calabria town's dialect.  If you are Italian, you may know them by another name, as it seems almost every southern Italian town or district has another name for them. My mother-in-law passed away many years ago, and we no longer live near my husband's sister, so we have not had these cookies in a few years and felt nostalgic for them. Years ago, I watched my mother-in-law make them, and I copied down the recipe.  After a quick phone call to my sister-in-law, to make sure I had all the ingredients and methods right, I decided to finally tackle making them myself.  Was I glad I did!  The recipe makes a lot of cookies, but they keep well and the plain ones are wonderful with a cup of coffee or tea at any time of the year. I imagine you could halve the recipe if you'd like to make less, but they are light and not too sweet, so you will find you can enjoy eating quite a few at a time.  I'm resharing them again as I know many missed the original post that I wrote in 2015. 

Italian Easter Cookies


12 cups of flour, divided into 6 cups and 6 cups -- have more flour available if needed--it is almost an entire 5-pound bag of flour.
3 cups of sugar
12 extra-large eggs for the batter
12 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons vanilla 
1 pound butter or margarine.
1 tablespoon cooking oil
Have extra egg yolks beaten, for the glaze--I used 4 egg yolks in total.

If you desire to make the bunny shape holding the egg, clean as many eggs as you like (I used one dozen), and dye them if you desire. 

*Important: The eggs used in the bunny shapes are raw --they will fully cook in the oven along with the cookie holding them.


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and then lower to 375 F
Melt butter or margarine and let it cool.
In a mixing bowl with the beater blade, add 12 eggs and mix --do not overbeat.
Then add sugar, vanilla, baking powder, and butter or margarine to the egg mixture and mix well.
Then add 2 cups of flour and mix
Add 2 more cups of flour and mix
Add two more cups of flour and mix until the entire mixture is smooth. 

Place the remaining 6 cups of flour on a clean board or counter and make a well in the middle. Pour the mixing bowl mixture into the center of the flour. Using clean hands, mix the wet and dry ingredients together, kneading until it forms a smooth ball.  You may have to add a small amount of flour if the mixture is too wet. I did not need to do this.
Clean your hands, pour 1 tablespoon of oil on your hands, and rub the oil all over the ball of dough--this helps to keep it from drying out as you make the cookie shapes.

Cut a piece of dough off the dough ball and roll it into a rope about ten inches long and about 3/4 inches wide (see photo above).  Loop once to hold the egg and twist the top around twice to form Bunny ears (see photo). Place a raw egg in the bottom loop.  Flatten out a small amount of dough, about a quarter-inch thick, and cut two strips, which you then crisscross over the egg. pressing the ends into the loop to hold the egg in place. Using a thin spatula, pick up the cookie and place it on a lightly greased cookie sheet, then brush lightly with egg yolk.  Do not crowd cookie sheets as the cookies will rise.

You can also cut pieces of dough and roll them into shapes.  I made "S" shapes. circles, and twisted (See photo above). Brush lightly with egg yolk to glaze them.  

*Important: make sure to add the non-egg holding shapes to a separate cookie sheet, as they will cook faster than the Bunny shape.

Place the egg-holding bunnies in the 375 F oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until edges are turning lightly brown. The raw eggs will cook inside the cookies. If you place two cookie sheets in the oven at the same time, switch the sheet positions midway through the baking time. 

Place the non-egg-holding cookies in a 375 F oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until edges lightly brown.

Cool on a rack.  Enjoy!

My mother-in-law did not refrigerate the bunny egg-holding cookies, but you can if you'd like. The non-egg-holding cookies store well in a cookie jar.

I am having Easter dinner at my house this year and it will be nice to have the cookies as part of our dessert, along with my New York Cheesecake that I will make with a gluten-free crust for the members of my family that must-eat gluten-free.

Our community had an Easter Egg hunt this past weekend and our oldest granddaughter, that lives nearby, joined in the fun again!  

The first time I shared this post, was in April 2015, when she was just two years old. That post has a collage of our granddaughter at that age.  How time flies!