Imagine if…

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PS_posole 3

Life is moving along, happily.  Hard work has gone into this happy.  This happy moves subconsciously some days and fully consciously the next.

There is love.

There is life.

There is food.

There is hard work but, most importantly, there is love of life.  And food; Big love of food!

Love happens and life happens and everything is better than fine… until it’s not fine!

Accident’s happen.  Do they happen to us?  If not to us, to whom?  We are all so fragile and at risk.  It is a good thing that we don’t all live life with this thought in mind… always in our minds.

It is something that does pass, ever so nonchalantly, though our thoughts when we hear about the news or come across a situation that rattles us yet leaving us unscathed.

I am a deep thinker, so I do have thoughts of mortality and immortality, somewhat often.  I am thankful to be alive and yet I am most thankful when reminded, yet again, how fragile life really is.

This post is about thoughtfulness of life.  Other people’s lives… who might need people to be thoughtful, of them.

It primarily has to do with two women I have met only once.  One is Raquel Ruiz Diaz, the life-partner of Chef Blaine Wetzel of Willows Inn.  Raquel was charismatic and delightful on the night we dined there a year ago.  She brought us our food, our drink, relocated us to the perfect table for a warm Spring night, and her compassion, plus enthusiasm of all that the Willow’s Inn bestowed upon all of us lucky diners.

Unfortunately, the beginning of this dining season, she is holding court from a hospital bed in South America.  Charming as I’m sure she still is, this is not the place neither she nor Blaine expected they would be on this glorious day of May.

During the winter break on a visit home to her family in Paraguay, she was struck down by a drunk driver (who fled) during a run and was left with…a long road ahead.

Raquel was uninsured due to a technicality.  She luckily, survived and is now, thanks to the love and support of a vast community, mostly going to be okay.  Her recovery though, will be long.

More love and support are needed (and more money is welcome)!

I know first-hand how much change a health issue bestows; it significantly alters one’s world and that of their loved ones, and I am asking those that I know or who are reading this post, to consider helping her cause.  Help by sending well-wishes, getting the word out, or by donating yourself here.

Equally disturbing, and on a very familial note, my sister-in-law Irma, has had such a traumatic experience with her family as well.  Quite upsettingly, her situation does not have the foreseen positive outcome as Raquel’s.  Clara is living with quadriplegia after being gunned down by hoodlums on their Mexican ranch last year.  Despite being transported across the country to better hospitals and with many surgeries behind her, the prognosis is eternal paralysis.

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Again, I ask you to imagine, what if… ?

This could happen to any one of us in the blink of an eye!

I think of this today as Irma was sharing me photos of her making Pozole with my nephews in the background, and after reading the recent newsletter from Willow’s Inn and checking in on Raquel’s situation via the internet.  The long road ahead for her coincides with an amazing award for her Blaine.  He has won, yet another, James Beard award for his (their) efforts.  While he might feel delight and accomplishment in the attainment, I would bet that he also feels… well, who am I to say what he feels?  I just know, he would have preferred to have Raquel with him to share this achievement.

There has been a huge reach out from the community at large from all over the world; a pretty amazing thing in itself!

If for no other reason than one of sheer hedonistic desire (on my part) to see her in person, once again, sharing her charm and bringing us a wonderful experience at the Willows Inn, I ask you to donate to her cause.  Or, get the word out that this is a cause worthy of donation!  I have very little blog bandwidth but those of you that do can help to message her needs.

And to this, I offer a personal thought about my sister-in-law, Irma!  Irma’s sister is someone that was (and still is) full of life.  She always will be in my mind as I remember her during the one occasion at which we met; in Ajjijic, Mexico, at the christening of my nephew Alex, followed by a fiesta at my Dad and Linda’s bed and breakfast, Los Artistas.

DSC01199The backyard on that lazy afternoon before the fiesta.

For Raquel and Blaine, and with love for my sister’s dear Cardona family, I offer Irma’s Pozole and hope you will enjoy our passion for food, friends and family.

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Irma starts with fresh hominy (which I was recently lucky enough to source in Arizona while visiting my Mom).  I found it to be superior over dried hominy but either will work.  If using dried hominy, it will take a bit longer to cook (add 2 hours to the cooking time before adding the meat, or if using a pressure cooker, consider cooking it for 30 minutes before adding the meat).

Irma makes hers in a pot over the stove-top; long, fragrant cooking.  Since pressed for time, I made mine in a pressure cooker which finishes in about an hour from start to finish.

I cooked my fresh hominy for 15 minutes on high-pressure using the whole 35oz bag plus 8 cups of water.  I then added 2 lb boneless, country style pork ribs,  1 chopped onion, 6 cloves of peeled, chopped garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp dry oregano and 1 cup freshly-made tomatillo salsa.  I turned the pressure cooker to high heat and cooked for 20 minutes.  I then added the juice of three limes and fresh pepper to taste, plus about 1/2 tsp more salt.

This concoction will thicken overnight and the quantity of liquid can be adjusted to your liking by adding more, or by simmering it down to have less.  I don’t cut my pork into pieces, but rather let it cook to the point of shredding tender, which may not necessarily be best, but Tom likes it.

The condiments for this stew are as important as the stew itself.  Present bowls of the stew already garnished, or set out the garnishes on a platter with bowls for guests to decorate their own.

My must-have garnishes include:

Green cabbage, cilantro, radish, green onion, lime wedges, avocado and peanuts.  Sour cream is a weakness of mine as well, so mine got a big dollop of that.

PS3_Irma posole

Irma’s Pozole (as written by Irma Cardona Edwards)

Hola!

I recommend to clean the hominy really well and boil in enough water to cover by double for an hour, at first without the meat.  Cut the meat in pieces and put it together with the hominy to cook until it is tender (another 45 minutes).  As you add the meat, you add peppercorns, oregano, onion cut into 1/4’s, and a whole head of garlic, plus salt (enough to make the water taste, not quite as potent, as the sea, 2 tsp).  I like my pozole like soup so I add more water to cover well as it simmers.

You can make your own green or red salsa and mix it all together into the simmering pot till is cook, or just put it on the side; it is up to you, I like it both ways.

Chop some cilantro, onions, Serrano pepper, radish and some green cabbage; you can add some slices of avocado if you want, and some lime!

Personally I like red pozole, I make my salsa with some dried red chillis, roast everything in the stove, red tomatoes, garlic and onion, then blended all together add salt and oregano, after blended you fry in a pan with a little oil.

You can serve white pozole and add the red salsa on the top or you can add the whole salsa to the pot of pozole when it is cooking!

Green salsa – use tomatillos and green Hatch peppers or any other long, green chile, garlic and onion, but in this case you boil everything and blend in with the water you boil with.

Gracias mi hermana Irma!

Buddy in bed

And most dear to my heart, yet on the subject of personal sadness, well-wishes and doing good, might I be so bold as to send out to the universe, our plea to let Buddy stay with us a little (uh, a lot) longer; his little brain needs to trump his little body, his work here is not done!

We love you baby boy!

buddy sunshineIt’s a beautiful day… keep chasing the sun!!!

Time Passes

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I came to realize recently that no matter how much we hope to slow the clock, it moves ever-forward, one tick at a time.  Busy moments rush by as quickly as they erupt and people fade into the distance, slowly at first, until the rhythm of our lives picks up pace and whisks those people further into the background. The back pocket of our minds where they are thought of often (certainly more often then they realize), but seldom ever seen.

To rejoin and see one-another again is the same occasion that makes me ponder; what it was that kept us apart for so long?  It is that same occasion which leaves me promising to never to let that much time pass again.  Yet then, the ticks tock and the pace resumes, full-speed once more and I can only hope that I am able to pull myself back from the race, much sooner than before, to linger in new moments with those I hold so dear.

This is especially true of family, as well as friends and acquaintances (new or old). Luckily, (long) overdue family gatherings usually require the involvement of food. At my Dad and Linda’s house, the food is never less than exceptional, in a comfortably casual, yet civilized and celebratory way.

I can hardly believe that the last time I had been to visit my Father was over a decade ago.  We had all gathered at his place in Mexico (quite the hacienda) for a true Fiesta in celebration of the christening of my (then tiny) Nephew Alex.  The (rather large) mariachi band still sings in my head as I recall those fond memories.

We had never been to their (somewhat new, to them) house in Arizona, yet when Tom and I went for dinner during our Easter weekend with my Mom, it felt like coming home.  The house itself was nothing like the house we had grown up in in Alaska, but it had the convivial quality to it that the house in Anchorage had when I went home for Christmas every year during school.  Back then, there were always dinner parties and entertaining, as there still are today, in whichever house they reside in at the time.  The eclectic smattering of collected pieces of art, furniture, dishware and decoration, as well as the smells and sounds that erupted from the kitchen, all added to the warmth and comfort I felt when I was there.

This visit brought me back to that place of happy contentment. The moods were light and inviting.  The house was unique, quirky and had character, just like my Dad and Linda.

dad and linda by pear

There was a heavy Spanish influence to the architecture and a wonderful connection of outdoor courtyards to indoor living spaces.

The yard had not had much tending to yet (so says Dad), but the abundant olive trees provided lush shelter from the street, and the native growth firmly held their place in the landscape as a stunning foreground to the mountainous sky.  There was more rosemary growing around one of the trees than I could imagine using in a lifetime; how I wish I could grow one good shrub, even a fraction of that scale.

Many birds had taken up residence, to which my Dad happily encouraged.  We needed to be quiet in the front by the fountain so as not to disturb the nest of quail.

(shhh…quiet please)

Cracked terra cotta pots and well-placed lanterns all lended to the easy vibe; several outdoor spaces, all directly accessible from the house, made for happy discovery moving from room to room.

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The bar was open as we arrived and stayed open until well after Linda went to bed.  We talked and reminisced, filled in missing bits and stayed up long past bedtime, sipping on the nectar from a bottle of Maker’s 46.

the bar

PS_tom and dad in living room 2The boys discussing the adjacent courtyard fountain renovation.

But first…let there be lamb!

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Yogurt and lemon-roasted Leg of Lamb with herbaceous pesto

I tend to go for lamb chops or rack of when I order or cook lamb; similar to opting for the tenderloin of beef rather than a delectably fatty rib-eye or lusciously large T-bone.

Linda does the leg… and has always done it well.  This was no exception.

In fact, rack or tenderloin be damned.  This was flavorful, tender and AMAZING!

Her delicious marinade of balsamic vinegar, garlic, rosemary and red wine had been replaced with lemon juice and plain yogurt; garlic plus rosemary still in tow. A platter of grilled eggplant plus asparagus went perfectly with the gratin of potato and aioli with which they were served.

The marinade and pesto were adapted from Food and Wine. The pesto called for hemp seed but Linda used pistachio, which worked perfectly.  I happened to have a bag of raw, shelled hemp seed as a sample from IFBC so I gave that a try.  Yum!

INGREDIENTS 

2 1/2 lb bone-in lamb leg

6 cloves garlic, minced (3 TB)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
A splash of bubbly (if you have some open)
1 TB Dijon

Pesto for saucing (recipe to follow)

A nice size bouquet of fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme)
1/2 tsp kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, plus a drizzle of olive oil over rubbed lamb

Prepare

Rinse and pat dry the lamb. Use the best quality you can afford; it will make a difference.

Combine the marinade ingredients, garlic through dijon, in a metal bowl or Ziploc freezer bag.

Add the lamb and season with sea salt, fresh pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Seal it up and let marinated for a night or a day; whatever time you might have.

Transfer the lamb and marinade to a baking dish. Cook, uncovered in an oven set to 375-degrees.

marinade

Cook, uncovered, for approximately 1 1/4 hours.  An instant-read thermometer should measure at 135F.

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Herbacious Pesto

I never really measure things when I make pesto; it is a touch and feel sort of affair; or rather mix and taste.  I grabbed a big mix of herbs from my pots (oregano mostly, plus a little basil and some thyme).

In a mortar with a pestle, smash a clove of garlic into paste then squeeze in a little lemon juice.  Add the herbs (cleaned, dried and stems somewhat removed) and gently grind them into the garlic forming a green paste.

Add in some raw, shelled hemp seeds (or pistachios) and grind into the mix.  I used about 1 TB.  Add more lemon juice to get it flowing and a little drizzle of olive oil too.  Perhaps some salt might be needed but I didn’t bother.

No cheese for this one; it really isn’t needed.

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You can always use a food processor and if making a large batch, it is probably more efficient. In this case, add all but the olive oil and puree.  Drizzle olive oil in with the machine running until it is of a consistency that looks right.

(insert picture from Dad here; oh wait, I can’t, he hasn’t answered my request yet…maybe later?)

Because I’m a procrastinator on posting, an update from Dad on the pair of Gamel quail that built the nest in the middle of their courtyard flower bed.: “They have successfully produce a large covey of 16 baby quail for whom I have been throwing out bird seed and filling small containers of water each day. I have been enjoying watching them, darting all over while the father stands on the wall edge of the fountain and keeps an eye out for their safety. The mother stays on the ground with her babies showing them where to peck and where to move. They all run back to the nest whenever they spot any movement by us. The babies are such tiny creatures and appear to be on jet skis.”

Too cute.

We’re gonna have roast… (pheasant)

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BugsPot

To the tune of “We’re gonna have roast wabbit” by Bugs Bunny

An annual hunting trip by Grandpa George and John, brought back many pheasant, a la Elmer Fudd.

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I personally am not a fan of hunting but am a fan of eating (including meat), so perhaps I am a hypocrite?

Well, I guess that might be true.

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Between the two of them, a few birds made their way back to their freezers.

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By way of Easter weekend in Arizona, with Mom and John (plus a lovely evening on the side with Dad and Linda), Tom and I were the lucky recipient of a home-cooked pheasant dinner.

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I love poultry, but am, admittedly, not an expert in the way of cooking pheasant.  I can put out a tasty meal involving quail and have been known to cook squab, now and again.  I often roast chicken but prefer grilling a split, poussin under a brick.  Duck is something I also roast; usually just the legs, the breast takes on a quick sear followed by about 7 minutes in the pan.  I have tackled cornish hen, but not for a while, yet I should consider doing this more often.  I have never actually cooked a Christmas goose and to my recollection have never eaten pheasant, let alone roasted one.

So when my Mom suggested we prepare pheasant for dinner the night after we arrived in Arizona, I was… slightly skeptical.

I had visions of a gamey, tough bird that was akin to the wild duck we used to eat after Grandpa’s duck hunting trips when I was young (absolutely no offense meant, but at the time, I was not the biggest fan of those meals).

I left the preparation of the pheasant in my Mom’s capable hands, who in turn, looked to inspiration from her Grandma.

The kitchen smells were mesmerizing as the pheasant roasted and as we sat down to the table (outside, in the warm, dry air looking at the beautiful, mountainous sky), I became a fan of pheasant!

The pheasant was dripping in moisture and bathed in succulent flavor.  The wild rice provided a toothy texture to the silken meat and the cranberry sauce was a happy splash of cool refreshing fruit, even though it still resembled the can it came from; you can take the girl from Alaska but you can’t take Alaska out of the girl (I’m talking about you Mom).

…and so, with that, I give you, Roast Pheasant, in my Mom’s words: PS_cooking pot

Roasted Wild Pheasant by Patricia (AKA Mom)

“Because my grandma cooked wild birds this way, I wouldn’t mess with tradition or success; however there are a few slight embellishments.  Note that our birds were skinned so I had to be careful not to dry them out. 

Check carefully for any remaining b-b shots and soak a little while in salt water.  

Place a carrot, quarter of an onion, and a quarter of an apple in the belly and place birds breast side up in a roasting pan.  

Splash a little cherry balsamic on top then completely cover the birds with bacon strips.  Add a little red wine to the pan. 

Cook at 400-degrees for 10 minutes then cover and reduce heat to 300.  Cook about 1.5 to 2 hours till tender.  

Serve with a wild rice pilaf and cranberry sauce.

  ——-

In my quest to use up leftovers I made the following and it was yummy:

Dice leftover pheasant meat and place in a mixing bowl (I had about a cup of meat).

Add the following:

3 T diced sweet onion

1 small apple diced (or about 1/2 c sliced grapes or 1/4 c dried cranberries)

2 stalks celery, diced

1/2 cup chopped nuts 1/2 tsp curry mixed into about 1/2 cup mayo

Mix all ingredients and use enough mayo to make the mixture moist and creamy.

Serve on sweet crackers (Rain Coast or Trader Joes’) as an appetizer, on greens as a salad, or in a sandwich”.

…now back to me (Stacey):

After our dinner, there were a few leftovers.

Leftover wild rice pilaf, leftover green beans and leftover pheasant, not to mention the bones from which the pheasant came, still sporting a bit of meat.

I did what any respectable person would do; I made soup.

The roasting pan was still pretty full of liquid to which I added a little more water.  I removed any remaining bits of meat from the bones and tossed them into the pot as I tossed the bones into the trash.

I removed the apple, carrots and onion from the pot and chopped them, returning them back to the pot in a smaller form. I then dumped in the remaining rice, the left over green beans I had prepared for dinner (after dicing them) along with some chopped celery and a few diced tomatoes.

I splashed in some cherry balsamic vinegar, squeezed in the juice of one lemon (from the tree outside), sprinkled in some kosher salt + ground pepper and set the pot to simmer for a few hours as we cleaned up and finished our wine.

We didn’t eat the soup the next day, because it was Easter, but Tom and I downed a quick cup of the soup before heading to the airport the next day.  We were quite pleased with the results.

John sent us away with one pheasant to cook back home (luck, lucky, lucky us).  So I decided to try and recreate our meal (minus the cranberry can, green beans and warm, dry weather).

Here are my notes to Mom’s above:

What she said, (+)plus, my two cents:

I used 1 cup red wine.

I used a whole apple plus a half.

I did not put them in the belly but just wherever they fit (which goes for the onion and carrot too). 20 minutes at 400-degrees because I had thicker bacon wrapped around than Mom and wanted to get it to brown a bit before turning the oven down.

PS_my not blur pot

Pomegranate molasses plus regular balsamic vinegar stood in for the cherry balsamic vinegar.  I also added 1 TB Dijon mustard.

To serve: I cut the meat away from the bone and laid it on top of the wild rice.

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The wild rice was cooked in a rice maker.

To the rice, I added 1 stalk chopped celery, 1/4 finely diced apple, a handful of chopped, raw almonds.

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I also added about 10 chopped, cooked crimini mushrooms.

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The drippings in the pan are lovely ladled over top of the bird.

PS_plate 4 juiceDeebuhdeebuhdee, that’s all folks!

snouty-pride-thats-not-all-folks-snoutypig
Looney Tunes content copyright Warner Bros Studios, thanks for the memories!

A zen moment

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Sometimes, life happens around us.  We are there too, experiencing the life but not participating in it, other than observing.  I am looking out at the Arizona sky, from Grandpa’s backyard.  The wind is whipping warmly across my face and I am an observer rather than a participant.  For this moment I am zoning out the requirements of life.  The cooking temperatures or timing.  The dry or moist feel of my skin.  The lizard that may be crawling toward my leg.  I am unaware of the savory waft of smells from the kitchen.  These smells, I set in motion.  Subconsciously, they add to this moment of zen.  This zen that is now.  I breathe in the air.  Through my nose.  I release through my mouth.  Thanks to Cristina for teaching me this life altering move.  All of the noise is shut out…momentarily (seconds, or minutes or for whatever you make time).  I actually see the beauty, not just hear about the beauty.  I feel it on my skin.  I smell it wildly tickling my nose.

As quickly as I allow it to begin, it ends.  And off I go to make sure the kitchen is not burning.  Make sure the food is happy.  The people are eager to partake.

PS_mtn from dad club

Lemon curd cake

This cake is dense and slightly dry without a nice spread of lemon curd on top.  It is based off of a rosemary olive oil cake that I love to make, but I changed it up to try and utilize as many lemons as I could from my Grandfather’s plentiful lemon trees.  There is little fat or sweetener in the cake, but the curd makes up for the lack of fat with its wealth of egg yolk and butter.  It makes for a light dessert, a “zen moment” mid-day snack, or a prelude to brunch.

The lemon curd will keep a week or two, covered tightly, in the fridge (if you don’t use it all up on the cake).  You can add fresh strawberries, cooked into the center, or leave it plain.  Either way, it is best warmed, then sliced and spread with a healthy layer of the lemon curd, which unless short of time, you hopefully have made

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup reserved lemon curd batter – recipe follows
2 TB honey
1 egg yolk
2 oz goat cheese (chèvre)
1/3 cup milk (or yogurt)
5 egg whites (4 reserved from the lemon curd and 1 from this cake)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TB chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt

10 strawberries, diced (optional)
Lemon curd for glazing

PREPARE

Combine the uncooked lemon curd, honey and egg yolk.  It is best to use an electric mixer for several minutes.

Add the milk and goat cheese.  Continue to beat the mixture until creamy; a few minutes more.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.  Stir into the yolk mixture then add the olive oil and blend with the mixer until well combined.  Stir in the rosemary.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, slowly mixing it in 1/2 cup at a time.

For a moister cake, you can add in the cooked lemon curd, reserving 1/4 cup to spread on the top and on the cut slices for serving.

Butter 1 loaf pan (or two mini-loaf pans) and pour in the batter.  If using the strawberries, pour in half the batter then add the berries.  Pour in the remaining batter.

Cook for approximately 30 minutes at 350 or until a toothpick poked in the center comes away clean.

Brush some lemon curd over the top and let cook another 5 minutes.

Let it cool slightly in the pan.  Turn it onto a rack.

Serve warm, sliced, slathered with lemon curd…and perhaps, a cup of tea or a crisp glass of Albariño.

PS_curd

Lemon Curd

House-made lemon curd is far more delicious than that from a jar.  I like mine on the tart side so I use just enough honey to keep me from crinkling my nose.  Leftovers can be used to spread over your morning toast instead of jam, or an english muffin and a slice of ham.

I used freshly-picked lemons from the lemon trees outside my Grandpa’s house in Tucson during our Easter weekend with my Mom.  They were large and juicy and produced thick zest.  Oh how I wish I could grow a lemon tree!

INGREDIENTS

4 egg yolks (whites reserved for cake above or another use)
1/4 cup honey
The juice of 4 large lemons (approximately 1/2 cup) plus their zest
1 stick of butter

PREPARE

Bring some water to simmer in the bottom of a double boiler; it should not be able to touch the saucepan that sits on top.

Using an electric mixer, in the saucepan of the double boiler (or in a stainless steel bowl), beat the egg yolk and honey together until smooth.

Add in the lemon juice and zest, continuing to mix.

Set the saucepan over the simmering water in it’s counter-pan and whisk briskly until the batter becomes pale yellow and smoothly cooked, 6-8 minutes.

Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter, 1 TB at a time, as if making a butter sauce.

Transfer to a clean jar or container and cover tightly once cooled.

cactus bloom
It’s all zen until you come across a little prick…

PS_lemon tree
but when life gives you lemons, make lemon curd!

our happy place

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There comes a time of day where nothing feels quite as good as the heaviness of blankets, mixed with fluffy pillows, soft cotton sheets and a familiar smell.  In the wee hours of the morning, I can burrow myself in and feel as if I never have to leave.  In the late hours of a long afternoon, I can dream of the moment I will be cocooned once again.  As I shed my clothes at the end of a day and finish going through my usual bedtime routine, I anxiously await the moment I will fall into bed, snuggle between the sheets and feel (safe) as if the burdens of the next days can wait.

Ginger, sleeps in our bed too, but she has always had a bed (or four) of her ownI think it must be a similar kinship that dogs have with their beds as we have with our own.  Her first bed was three sizes larger than her small, 8-week-old puppy self.  She was in it so much though, that we used to pick her up while she was still laying on it, fold her up and take her with us to the next room or in the car.  For that reason, it became know as “the taco”.  If she was not in “the taco” and it was time to go in the car, all we had to do was set it near the door and she would jump into the bed, waiting for us to fold her up and be whisked away to another adventure.

Buffy’s last bed was only a few months old when she passed and Ginger wanted nothing to do with it; perhaps because it was monographed with Buffy’s name?  At one point, (obviously) unable to throw the bed out, we decided to see if Ginger would at least use it outside.  For similar reasons as her first bed, this bed (aka the blue bed) became known as “the outdoor taco”.  Next came “the raft” (her new inside bed with high sides and cute pinstripes), then the replacement “raft” (which really just meant that the first “raft” went to the bedroom and second one replaced the first in the living room.

Then, along came Buddy.  His first steps in the house (before he was even “ours”) led him straight to the “living room raft”.  Ginger must have set him straight early-on when we were not home, because he didn’t make himself comfortable in that bed again, for many years.  Buddy did however, resurrect the taco.  It had long-since been abandoned by Ginger.  It had not been removed from our office however.  Once Ginger realized how valuable the “taco” still was, she decided she liked it again too.  Buddy was again without a personal bed.

I was at Mud Bay one day and saw a little teeny bed with tall fuzzy sides and a goofy (but appealing) bone design in the middle and it was on sale for all of $14.00.  I thought it might be nice to bring home, just to see if Buddy might like it next to our bed since we noticed he jumped off in the middle of the night. We usually found him laying on the floor, all alone, no bed, (which broke our hearts as he was our family now).

I brought it home, set it on the open end of our L-shaped couch, where Buddy always laid (because of a rookie move I made, placing him there in the first days he was in our home, before he knew his boundaries); he hopped right in.  Problem was, he didn’t want to leave and he didn’t want the bed to leave the couch, ever!  We were stuck with that bed (not pretty either or frankly, even meant for permanent use), sitting on our couch, for over a year.  Ginger had her “raft” and now Buddy had his “dinghy” (very appropriate in a Gilligan sort of sense).  It was his and his alone.  Ginger let him have it and he held on as if it were bringing him to shore, no matter how long the journey.

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The “dinghy” was finally replaced by “sheep” one Christmas, who is large and apparently a pretty cozy friend (plus much more chic on the Italian couch).  Still, Buddy had no bed.  No real bed of his own, that is.  We paraded many new beds into the house and set them on the floor next to “raft”; all were rejected and returned.

Sheep makes an obligatory visit outside.

Sheep makes an obligatory visit outside.

As for the “outdoor taco”, Buddy hopped off of it the second we put him on.   One summer, I am not sure which, maybe only the second Summer, Buddy began using “outdoor taco” when Ginger was sitting elsewhere on the deck, basking in the sun.  We had bought another outdoor bed for him, which Ginger took control of too.  When we saw Buddy laying on the “blue outdoor taco”, one sunny afternoon, our hearts melted from love.  He was so small on it that he looked lost in a pool of comfort.  “Buffy” was monogrammed above his head; it was then that we started calling him Budfy.  He fell in love with “outdoor taco”, so Ginger fell back in love with it too.

A long time coming!

A long time coming, Buddy finally wins a spot!

Ginger shared the new bed too...

Finally, in an attempt to retire “outdoor taco” for good, after many, m a n y years of excellent service, we ordered a new outdoor bed.  It was from LL Bean (excellent, long-lasting rough-and-tumble beds).  It was the same exact bed as “outdoor taco” except it was one size smaller and had a cuter outfit.  We planned to let Ginger and Buddy share the most recent outdoor bed with this one and retire “blue outdoor taco” to a needier home.  The new monogram for “orange taco” is “BuG” (Bud (ff) y  +  Ginger).

blue bed

That was last summer.  Since then, as Fall came around, then Winter, and currently into Spring, Buddy finally, now, has his bed.  There is no catchy, silly name attached (other than the rarely-used “orange taco” when clarity is needed); It just belongs to Budfy.  In it, he sits alongside his sister, in her “raft”.  Side-by-side (something we never thought we’d see to this extent).  When Ginger leaves her raft, he often jumps from his bed to hers, depending on his mood.  He hops from bed to bed, around the house and in the car.  He is never scared or shy and Ginger let’s him have his way.  It is this new orange bed though that he has claimed to be his own.  He has not only found his bed, he has found his happy place, his forever home.

This is not a recipe.  Because there are no recipes in my Happy Place, just good food + love.  I found some love, in these English muffins. did not make these English muffins.  My lovely friend, Paula, hand-carried them to me from North Bethesda, Maryland, where some clever people at Summer House made them.

They blew my mind.

Wow.

Yes, really.

Wow!

Mind-blowing English muffins.

Really!  Take my word for it!?

I have no photos, of the muffins.  Because I (we) ate them (and it was one of those opportunities where the moment(s) didn’t need interrupted with fussing with a camera).

The first, just toasted, near midnight, slathered in butter and a little bit o’honey.

Next, as a bun for hamburgers (thanks Pete, for the tip).

This morning (er…afternoon), we brunched on a most exquisite breakfast sammy (AKA – sandwich).  It had procuitto, crisped to just the proper crisp.  It also had an egg, organic, farm-fresh (like, actually, really farm fresh…makes a difference, yes!).

The egg, fried.  Just.  Not too fried, but just fried.  There is a difference!

It also had cheese.  Beecher’s Flagship cheddar.  This doesn’t slice well so it was partly sliced and partly just chunked on.  Makes no difference in the yumminess factor.

Chunked on = thick, gooey cheese (yum!).

But, back to the muffin.  Oh my.

Paula, thank you!  Next visit…pleeeeese?

Happy place

our happy place!

 

 

It’s NOT complicated!(?)

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I am standing behind the line, toes angled toward the net post, feet positioned inches apart with the left slightly forward of the right.  I take the ball in my left hand; small, yellow, fuzzy, and cup it with my fingers, as if we are making friends.  The racket is low to my side, gripped lightly with my right hand.  I lift my left hand, giving it an upward motion to toss the ball.  As the ball releases from my cupped fingers, the racket simultaneously glides back and swings up until my elbow is pointed straight back, upper arm parallel with the ground, hand so close to my head I look as if I might be scratching my ear.

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It is that moment, that defines the serve.  Has the ball gone high enough, straight enough into the air?  Are my eyes following the yellow ball of fuzz while my racket reaches toward it with the intention of sending it strategically over the net to the opposite court with great force?  Will my mind stay focused and shut out the noise of negativity in my head that stands in the way of the mechanics of all these motions?

Thwackk!!  My wrist snaps forward and the strings make contact.  The ball sails through the air toward my opponent, landing just inside the line.  It’s not complicated…or is it!?

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Tennis is like a BLT.  The ingredients are simple, but if you leave out one of the parts, it just doesn’t work.  Or, if you have all the parts, but don’t put them together properly, it doesn’t work out well.

I practiced that motion, my tennis serve, oh so many times today, that as I came home to make lunch, I realized, I needed a BLT.  I needed to assemble something perfect today, something I was so familiar with that I could “ace” it without giving it much thought.  S o m e d a y , I hope my tennis serve will be as easy as making a BLT, but for now, I think it is time to eat.

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Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato (sandwich)

I can’t decide which of these pieces makes it my favorite.  Is it the cool tanginess of the tomato cutting through the salty bacon, the crispy crunch of the fresh lettuce between my teeth, or the creaminess of the mayonnaise stepping up, washing over and bringing the flavors together into a harmonious blend of sweet, salty, creamy and crispy tang?

There is something magical about the mixture of these simple ingredients, but the mixture must be correct; fussed enough, yet not over-fussed.  The bacon should be crisp, but not burnt.  Thin slices of quality bacon provide the perfect texture; uneven, limp-cooked slices should be avoided (on and off the court).

The tomatoes should be full of flavor and sliced to a 1/4 of an inch.  The lettuce need be crisp; good choices are Boston, Romaine or Bibb.  Sometimes I use Arugula because I like the bite of pepper it provides, and then again…sometimes I only have mixed greens.

Mayonnaise is an e s s e n t i a l .  It does not need to be homemade.  I use Wildwood Aioli which is readily available now in stores (refrigerator aisle) and is basically a good-quality mayonnaise.  I really think the sandwich should be renamed the BLTM (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Mayonnaise sandwich), because without the mayonnaise, the trio will not properly mix.  In fact, I think it might just be the magical ingredient.  They call it mixed-doubles, not mixed-singles for a reason.

I don’t know where you stand on the bread thing, but I am of the camp that feels it must be toasted.  Not too much; just enough.  The right amount of crust will hold the juices in and give way perfectly, softening the bread without falling apart.  A thickish slice is best and something hearty like a como or batard is preferred.  I usually only eat whole wheat bread, but this is one place I like to make an exception…unless of course, I can’t (today it was Campagnolo, from Grand Central Bakery, because that is what I had).

Contrary to the order for which the sandwich is named (B, L, T), the bacon should not be first.  The tomato and the lettuce should make contact with the mayonnaise, with the bacon pillowed gently in-between.

There is no recipe required to make a BLT, just a few simple mechanics that should be followed:

1. Cook the bacon

I like to use 3 slices per sandwich.  I heat the oven to 400-degrees.  I set my slices on a tin, lined with foil and cook it for approximately 10 minutes, or until it has rendered the fat and turned a nice shade of brown.  I then set it aside on a paper towel until the rest of the fixings are ready.PS_bacon

2.  Toast the bread

I like to use a loaf from which I cut the slices myself, to a thickness of 3/4”.  Although I do love burnt toast, for this sandwich, the bread should be toasted lightly and look the color of a very-light golden brown.

3.  Slather both slices of bread with mayonnaise, on one side

4.  Slice a tomato into 1/4” slices and lay them out over one of the slices of bread

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5.  Sprinkle, ever-so lightly, with sea salt

(This is optional)

6.  Lay three slices of bacon over the tomatoes

7.  Lay a few leaves of freshly-rinsed and dried lettuce on top of the bacon

8.  Top with the second slice of bread

9.  Push gently together

(This helps coax out the juices)

10.  Slice and SERVE

…yes, you heard me – SERVE!!

THWACK!!!!

(15-love)

Happy discovery: #1

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Yesterday morning for brunch (a somewhat late brunch), we resorted to pancakes and bacon.  Not to say that we don’t like pancakes and bacon because we really do.  I say “resorted to” because once again, even after buying the obnoxiously large 24 pack of (organic) eggs, I found myself this Saturday morning, left with only one egg.  I didn’t even get around to thinking about brunch until much later than usual because Tom and I woke up, showered and each went to our computers to work with a mug of coffee in hand.

Next thing we knew, it was 2:00 pm and I was starving (not Tom, I think he might be part camel??). Lunch-like foods were not sounding that good to either of us; it was Saturday and we felt deprived of brunch!

So, knowing what I could do with one egg, I began to make pancake mix; only to discover that I was without dairy. I rarely have milk, unless it is buttermilk, but I had no plain yogurt or cottage cheese either.  I eyed a suspiciously empty jar of Wildwood aioli (our substitute for mayonnaise) and decided that adding water to the jar was a bad idea, for many reasons.  I quickly moved on, scanning the fridge one last time before giving up, when I spotted a possibility.

My eye had stopped at the tapioca pudding from Trader Joe’s (TJs).  I had choices here; I could just drive down to TJs and buy milk, but then I would also buy eggs… which would make me question what I had already decided to prepare.  Pancakes, because I only had one egg.  It was only minutes away though.  Yet I knew that I would not stop at buying milk; I would obviously buy eggs too (well, not obviously) and then it would snowball from there, arriving home an hour later with just as much time needed to put everything away.  Then I would begin making dinner instead. Okay, okay, tapioca!

I looked at the label and the first ingredient was milk; this was promising.  I decided that it had enough sugar to not need more and it was also flavored with vanilla; this might actually be good.  Turns out, it was!  Really good!  Happy discovery #1 – enjoy with a glass of prosecco!

Tapioca Pancakes

main image PS

INGREDIENTS

1 (not quite full, packed or fussed over) cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

1 TB butter, melted (I like to do this in a Pyrex measuring cup put in the microwave, because then I can just whisk in the egg and stir in the dairy without fussing too much).

1 egg – whisked into the butter
A glob (technical term, no?) of TJs tapioca pudding – I had about 1/4 of the package left so I estimate it was about 1/2 cup – whisked into the butter and egg.

Water – whatever is needed to bring the consistency to a good pancake batter (I probably added 1/4 cup)

SIDES and GARNISH

Strawberries, cleaned, hulled and quartered to go alongside
Maple syrup and butter for serving

Bacon –  2-3 slices for each, preferably thicker cut (we like apple-smoked from Whole Foods the best, but there are many good ones to choose from).

PREP

MIX all of the dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl.

WHISK TOGETHER the melted butter, egg and tapioca, adding just enough water to make it fluid.

PREHEAT THE OVEN to 400-degrees.

PLACE THE BACON, on a baking pan lined with foil.

COOK

HEAT A CAST IRON SKILLET over medium heat.  Lightly DRIZZLE with olive oil and spread evenly over the surface.

MEANWHILE, POP THE BACON into the oven for about 10 minutes.  Be sure to turn on the fan, and don’t forget that it is in there and pull it out when done.

DROP DOLLOPS OF BATTER onto the skillet and cook until it starts to bubble.  Flip and cook until cake-like and done.

SERVE

Pile the pancakes into a stack of three or so per plate.  Butter and drizzle with maple syrup.  Serve sliced strawberries and the bacon alongside.

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Arriba!!!

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It’s been a while since I’ve visited my friends at Fiesta Friday so I thought I would stop by the party and bring a little flavor of Mexico.  Since I have my little “jumping bean” and his sister, back (no pun intended) to feeling well after a tag-team bout of bad backs and slipped discs, I feel like there is reason to celebrate.

Couples acupuncture session with Dr. Rice

Couples acupuncture session with Dr. Rice

Yes, yes, I know it is Sunday but as you might be aware, I am self-proclaimed to be notoriously latesometimes, it is better late than never.  These ribs are some of the best I have had (Mr. Fitz, you should appreciate that) but this is really about the quinoa salad because so many are vegetarians at this little Fiesta.

My sister-in-law, Irma is from Oaxaca, Mexico and her Mom makes the best mole sauce that I have ever tasted.  I’m hoping she (Irma) will bring me some when she returns from her visit (hint, hint), but until then, I have found a really good product that I do recommend.  I am not one to like bottled sauces since I am big on making my own, but every now and again, I do find one that is well worth it’s weight in gold.  This one was a “must-try” since it is, in fact, “Smoked Oaxacan Mole Sauce” from a company called Bunches & Bunches.  It is no “Mama Elowina Cardona’s” sauce but it will definitely, always have a place on my shelf (and in my food).  Yum, yummy, yum!

Spicy quinoa & pozole salad in an acorn squash bowl, served with a side of Oaxacan-kissed ribs

The sum of the parts can all be prepared far in advance, making this perfect for entertaining; just the kind of thing I love!  Making one cup uncooked quinoa will yield more than you will need if feeding only two feet and eight paws; the rest can be used as a do-ahead for weekday lunches (bonus!).

You can cook your own cacahuazintle (AKA pozole) or use canned.  Again, you won’t need the whole lot but now you can use the leftover pozole to make a fabulous (true) pozole stew, (Irma, when will it be ready?, I’m/we’re coming over!).  If we ask really loud, perhaps she will share her process?

The avocado should be added carefully to only the amount of salad you will be serving.  Leftovers should be saved without avocado (if possible) and added at the time you will be eating them (otherwise they will turn slightly brown; no real big deal).

The squash is not added to the salad but rather scooped up bit by bit as you are eating out of it’s natural bowl.  The sweetness of the squash is a welcome partner to the spiciness of the mole sauce.  Tom even proclaimed it to be delicious and he is not a particular fan of squash (or quinoa).

INGREDIENTS (for 2 servings, easily multiplied)

1 acorn squash
1/4 cup cooked, drained cacahuazintle (AKA pozole,)
3/4 cup cooked quinoa
2 TB lime juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 roasted red pepper, diced
1 green onion, diced
1 TB Bunches & Bunches, Smoked Oaxacan Mole sauce (or another delicious mole)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 avocado, 1/4″ diced

Oaxacan-kissed Ribs (recipe to follow)

PREPARE

Cut the squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds (I save these to cook like a pumpkin’s).

Cook the squash, wrapped in foil, for approximately 45 minutes in a 350-degree oven, or until soft.  Set aside.

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In a bowl, mix the cacahuazintle (AKA pozole) with the lime juice and sea salt.  Let sit for 10 minutes then add the rest of the ingredients.  Stir and season to taste.  That’s it, simple huh?

SERVE

Divide the salad between the cooked halves of the squash.  Garnish with some whole cilantro and serve alongside the ribs, if you wish (Tom insists you wish).

Squash, similar to sweet potatoes, is very healthy for the canine connoisseur.  It goes without say that I scoop some of the squash meat out for Buddy & Ginger which they eat mixed with some of the plain, cooked quinoa.  Bon appe-pup!

Oaxacan-kissed ribs

INGREDIENTS

1 slab baby back pork ribs (I go for quality over quantity and favor small over large)
Sea salt and pepper to season (I roast sea salt, pepper and coriander for my own “seasoning”; ground with my molcajete or in my Blendtec)
Juice of one lime
Enough mole sauce to evenly coat the ribs (approximately 1/4 cup) (as mentioned, I used Bunches & Bunches “Smoked Oaxacan Mole Sauce”)

PREPARE

Wash and pat dry the ribs.

Season evenly and then squeeze over the lime juice.

Line a sheet rack with foil and place the ribs on the rack.

Brush evenly with the mole sauce.

Add a 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the sheet rack (for moisture) and cover well with foil.

Cook at 375-degrees for 2-3 hours or until tender and succulent.  I like to check in on them every half hour or so just to see how they are coming along.  Baste with a little more sauce if they seem receptive.

When tender and succulent, uncover and cook 10 minutes further.

Let rest a few minutes before cutting between individual bones and serving.

These can be cooked in advance and reheated, uncovered, or grilled.

Muy Bien!

Irma, por favor, tráenos salsa de mole de tu madre y más “botella de coca cola”. Te queremos y enviar mis mejores deseos para la salud de su hermana y su familia!

Irma,Buddy sueños de ustedes

Irma, Buddy sueños de ustedes

Buddy Hop

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PS2_hash on pink plate

Buddy can’t jump up or get down our bedroom step in the dim light anymore (but Tom says he can still get down and get funky). There is only one step but he will stand looking at that step, whining, until he is rescued from it to the wool carpet or to the comfort of the bed, fluffy with down and warmly coated with a thick wool throw. The bed is only a foot and a half high but he has trouble jumping up to that too… even more-so if the covers are untucked, because he then has no access to the lower perimeter ledge of the upholstered frame.

Somewhere between 3 weeks to a month ago, he stepped up his game (yes, pun intended), and flew down the stair (singular), without a blink in the dimly lit room, but because I had food (in bed). The movement was quick, so determined, yet graceful and swift; he landed in the proximity of my lap (up on the mattress top, plus fluff, bed) all before I could blink. He landed even before Ginger could get to the step. I think he likes cheese!

I am always amazed at how much time I can spend just watching my dogs. They aren’t always doing anything especially exciting and there is rarely a time that they do something new, or something I have never seen them do at least a dozen times before.

Yet there I sit, watching, never growing tired of what I see. The slight movement of one’s head will have me smirk or smile as the nose on that head nestles under the nose of a stuffed bear, or as a tiny paw tucks underneath their own wet, cold nose. Watching them sleep is an activity I am particularly fond of; I like watching their inactivity.  Particularly the newer activity of sleeping next to each other, sometimes even touching back to back; a sight we never thought possible a few years ago.

There is a sound that comes out of Buddy as he sleeps that I find myself listening to as intently as if there were a jazz band jamming on a new tune. It is somewhere between a snore and a groan but it is rhythmic and undulating, moving his breath in and out. Ginger doesn’t snore, she rests softly, until she lets out a large sigh. The sigh is so long, peaceful and cleansing that it reminds me to let my breath out and breathe, yes, yes,  b r e a t h e.

Ginger is still active for a gal of fourteen. She loves to play like a puppy and she spends many moments flopping to and fro on her back. Ginger is a ham (which, of course, goes well with cheese). She likes to perform and she wants all eyes on her. Buddy is more of an onlooker. He sees all and makes sure he is always in the know. I can’t walk two steps in the house without him following frantically behind (tap, tap, tap, tap, hop).

If there is food, or even if Buddy thinks there should be food, he makes it a habit to levitate while letting out an enormous squeal. The sound should have me cringing as I would from the sound of a slow, d e e p scratch over a chalkboard. However, watching a small, furry, live cartoon character, lift off the floor, all fours at once, is amusement enough to let the sound become overlooked and to send me to the kitchen to get food.

Buddy has a hop to his step. Sometimes, when he gets excited, his hop becomes higher and more pronounced, like a bunny. He is animated in his movements and I can see how he might be considered the real inspiration of “jumping beans”. He would also make a good fencer because he is agile, plus quick to duck back and forth to get out of my way as I swiftly prepare a meal in the kitchen or two-step at the bathroom sink getting ready each morning.

Some days, I think buddy is a puppy, but others I realize he is an old(er) man. Sadly, recently we had one of those “old man” days. Last Saturday morning we awoke to a hunched back, little/old furry guy. No telling why but the skip and the hop were not present; in their place were moans, agitated snoozing and hesitancy to move. He looked disoriented, uncomfortable and (gasp) old.

At least he has his friend

At least he had comfort in his friend.

The severity of our concern escalated for 24 hours without apparent relief or restitution of symptom. No more leaping at cheese (on the bed or elsewhere), hopping, skipping or otherwise enjoying the usual happy pursuit claiming food. This could not end well, I thought. I was once told (and believe for myself as well as for my pups), that without the rudimentary, yet essential yearning of food, it is time to be concerned. In other words, as long as one has an appetite, it can’t be too bad. Luckily, his appetite did remain, it was simply the lengths to which he would go to obtain the food that had changed.

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Come Monday, we were able to secure an acupuncture appointment with Dr. Rice. We were hopeful that relief was in store but not convinced that it was going to provide complete recovery. Thankfully, we were proven wrong (about complete recovery). Within mere seconds of the first needle going in, a large, dumb, tongue hanging grin appeared on buddy’s previously tortured looking face. I don’t think Tom or I could have smiled any larger than we did at the sight of that toothless grin.

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porcupinePin cushion Buddy

We are avid believers in the practice of acupuncture, both for dogs and of humans, after experiencing it first-hand for ourselves; if ever skeptical about the effectiveness of it though, this was proof enough for us. At the exact moment that the smile appeared on Buddy’s face, relief washed over us and we realized the power was deep and even more powerful than we first had believed. We brought in an old man and went home with a pup.

Pitter pat, pitter pat….pat..pat…pat….pat! To and fro, up, down, hop…skip…jump!

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Duck confit hash with poached egg, roasted mushroom & cauliflower sauce
Serves 2, easily doubles

Buddy and Ginger used to eat duck and potato kibble from Prescription Diet; this was due to Ginger’s early allergies that were suspected to be due to food. Apparently, this is a very common thing for canines to suffer from and it was(is) believed that by feeding them sources of food not readily available to their ancestors, there bodies would be less susceptible to allergy. Hence, duck to replace chicken and potato to replace traditional grain. It has been awhile since they have eaten that food (since Buddy’s first scare) but their newer diet does still consist of duck (raw, from Darwin’s). We try to lay low on potatoes but they love them and are sometimes allowed to still have them snuck into their meals (boiled, not fried).

Last weekend, while brunching at Sitka & Spruce on Valentine’s Day (a day I have long ago sworn off from eating out on, but this brunch was spontaneous), we stopped into Rain Shadow Meats. For those of you who have not been to Melrose Market on Capital Hill in Seattle, you must go. If you live here, you probably have been, if you haven’t, it is worth a trip. The brunch at Sitka & Spruce still has me drooling and attempting to recreate the roasted carrots with rhutabega puree.

Our duck confit

Our duck confit from Rain Shadow Meats, pictured on the counter to the right

With several brown packages tucked neatly under my arm, we looked forward to our dinner. Plans always sound better with a cocktail and a good meal. We ended up eating pizza, but did make a series of delicious meals on the days to follow as we pursued using up all of the meats that we bought that day. The remains of their house-made duck confit was still in our fridge the following Saturday morning (yesterday), so I decided to make a duck hash for brunch.

The hash is topped with a poached egg drizzled with roasted mushroom and cauliflower sauce. The sauce is actually a soup that I made mid-week for Ginger and Buddy but it works nicely over the egg, and they enjoyed it this way for brunch too (sans hash for them).

This starts with my breakfast potatoes, then gets layered with caramelized onions, roasted pepper and the duck. Cooking low-and-slow helps everything to remain soft while developing a nice crust. You can purchase duck confit from a good grocery store or your butcher if you aren’t in a position to confit it yourself. This would also be equally good with a roasted duck leg which is really easy to do and less expensive to buy.

INGREDIENTS

3 potatoes, cut into 1/2″ dice, parboiled in salted water
1 TB butter or duck fat
1/2 of a roasted red pepper, cut into strips or 1/2″ diced
A handful of caramelized onions (approximately 1/4 cup)
Meat from a 1/4 leg duck confit (approximately 3-4 oz.)
1 oz chèvre
2-4 poached eggs (1-2 per person)
3-4 spoonfuls roasted mushroom & cauliflower sauce per person (recipe to follow)

PREPARE

To a very hot pan over high heat, add the butter or duck fat. When it has melted, add the potatoes and turn the heat to low.

Let the potatoes cook, undisturbed for about ten minutes then stir them around to brown the other side.

After a few more minutes, when the potatoes begin to soften and color, add the bell pepper, onion and duck. Stir to combine then let cook, undisturbed for another 10 minutes or so.

Stir again, then cover with foil and continue to cook over low heat while you poach the eggs. Turn on the broiler before poaching the eggs.

As you remove the eggs from the poaching water, crumble the hash with the chèvre and place the pan under the broiler for just a minute or two.

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TO SERVE

Divide the hash between plates, top with an egg (or two) and drizzle with sauce.

Roasted mushroom & cauliflower sauce (or soup)

This makes a delicious soup both for us and our dogs. You can adjust the thickness by adding or omitting chicken stock. Vegetable stock works too if you want to keep it vegetarian or use water if you don’t have any stock. When I serve myself this as a soup, I drizzle the top with truffle or Argan oil. You could also slice raw mushrooms very thinly, season them with sea salt and pepper, then marinate them in lemon juice, truffle and olive oils. Add these as a garnish on top of the soup.

The quantities below are just a suggestion. Using more or less vegetable will require more or less liquid. There are so few ingredients that the roasting and coloring of the mushrooms and cauliflower are what will yield the intensity of the flavor. I like using a ratio of more mushrooms than cauliflower to bring out the nutty earthiness but it is the cauliflower that smooths the consistency nicely enough to use it as a sauce. I use my Blendtec to puree which turns it velvety smooth.

INGREDIENTS

10-12 oz Crimini mushrooms, stems discarded
1/4 head cauliflower, large stocks removed and discarded, florets separated
Olive oil
2 cups chicken stock (from this recipe if serving to pups)
Approximately 3 TB lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper to taste (limit this if serving to pups)

PREPARE

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the mushrooms and cauliflower on a sheet pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast them in the oven until the mushrooms are slightly crisp but not burnt and the cauliflower is browned, approximately 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool slightly. Transfer to a food processor or blender (again, if you have a Blendtec or similar, use that). Add the stock or water and lemon juice.

Puree until completely smooth. Add more liquid if needed or desired. The consistancy should tend toward the thickish-side. Season to taste and serve warm as a soup or a sauce.

Brunch is good!

Carrots at Sitka and Spruce

Roasted carrots at Sitka & Spruce

roasted carrots from Sitka and Spruce

Brussel sprout, flora & parsnip fritatta at Sitka and Spruce

Brussel sprout, flora & parsnip fritatta at Sitka & Spruce

Duck confit hash at Chez Stacey

Duck confit hash at Chez Stacey

Happy pups, begging for more at Chez Stacey

Happy pups, begging for more at Chez Stacey

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