“Fly” Fishing

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I have never been fly fishing.  I have been fly-in, then fish-fishing though and do realize how lucky that is.  I recently saw a picture of my nephew with his first-caught fish.  I smiled at the image because it reminded me of my first-caught fish which (by the way) was bigger than my then seven-year-old self and, I believe, weighed considerably more than me (yes, that sounds fishy to me too).  I did truly “catch” the largest salmon on that fishing trip though, even if my Grandpa had to help me reel it in!

IMG_3532What ‘ya got there Derek?  Need a hand?

derik
…ok, you got this one by yourself?

Among many other things, Grandpa is a pilot (as is John and for that matter, my Mom).  When I recall fishing in Alaska, I recall flying to the destination.  I hate to fly in general, still to this day, but I liked flying with him (or is that why I am now scared of flying; upside-down flying and all?).  Truth be known, I am not that crazy about fishing now either.  I like the idea of it though.  It sounds pretty cool for someone who loves eating and cooking fresh fish.  My Mom always baited my rod for me and when I reeled one in, she was the one that got dirty taking it from the hook.  I wasn’t a “girly” girl, but I didn’t like to get my hands in the guts (yuck) either.  Good thing I had Mom for that.

IMG_3531Grandpa taking off

In any case, I am much more interested in cooking than fishing now, but I’m lucky to have Grandpa, John, Mom and sometimes my brother Mark, to fly-in and catch it each Summer.  I am also lucky because Mom and John just came to town, bringing (in addition to fried chicken from Grandpa’s restaurant) king salmon + sockeye, caught literally the day before.  Sorry Gemini, it just doesn’t get fresher than that, for me!

Grandpa still flies himself (!!!) to fish for salmon, at, well, lets just say he’s had over 90 years on Earth, let alone the years in the air!  How many people can say that?  He brings it back to his restaurant and fries it up for the Lucky regulars sitting around the counter (who likely caught wind of what George was up to that day).

Grandpa in action: 

So, for our little eight legs, two medium legs and Tom’s larger legs, we scurry to the grill to cook up the rest of the catch brought by hand, by way of commercial airlines, insulated bags and cold packs, just in time for an unconventional heatwave in Seattle’s June summer.

Mom cooked her signature salmon for us a few nights ago (see below).  It awaited for us upon our return home from work, at the ready, for flash-cooking and begged to be devoured quickly along with sweet corn, grilled asparagus and whole Rainier cherries bitten from their pits and spit into the garden in hopes of cherry trees next year (of course, we do this every Summer and the squirrels usually just haul them off, and alas, the two decades-old “planted” cherry trees in the yard, are non-fruit bearing).

ps_salmon platterThanks for the great dinner Mom!

We brined the fish, smoked the sockeye and pre-smoked the king.  At the end of the day…we had fish.  Smokey, yummy fish.
PS2_hot smoke smoking
King Salmon smoking…

PS hot smokedHot-smoked King (salmon, not Elvis)

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Hot-smoked Sockeye

Sorry, no photos available of the grilled king salmon with smoked jalapeño cherry sauce – I know you can use your imagination for this though.

Gin and Tonic Smoked Salmon

Today’s weather is a reprieve from a 91+ degree F heatwave that day (a paltry 88 for the high predicted).  I brined my sockeye fillet in a mix of gin, tonic, lime, lemon, sugar and salt.

INGREDIENTS

2-3 lbs fresh salmon fillet (mine were sockeye, skin on… Mom didn’t want me to smoke the king – oops, did a little bit anyway… ssshhhhh).

1/4 cup turbino sugar
1/8 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup gin (I used Tangueray)
1 cup tonic water (I used Q-Tonic)
Juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 a lime

Fennel fronds (or whatever herb you might want it’s scent imparted)

Prepare 

Making a brine is easy and requires less fuss than one would expect from the things I have read on the internet.  Simply mix the brine ingredients in a Ziploc freezer bag,  stir well to let the sugar dissolve and then add the fish.

The fish should be rinsed and patted dry.  The skin can be left on or removed.  You will want to let it brine for 4-6 hours or overnight for a real immersion.

Set your smoker to “smoke”.  *We use our new Mak 2 Star General wood pellet grill for our smoking and the grill temp was between 180-200 degrees at that setting.  Let it smoke until the thickest part reaches 140 degrees F.  For us, it was 3 hours.

Easier than you thought, eh?

You can eat this straight from the bone or add to a cracker with dill sauce or creme fraiche + drink a gin & tonic (again, use your imagination, sky is the limit).

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But whatever you do, do try this!  It is outstanding!  Smokey, but not too smokey.  As spicy hot as you want it to be (1 jalapeño with seeds removed worked for me but go with your gut, it may or may not thank you later).

smoked cherry

Smoked Jalapeño Cherry Sauce 

This was a bonus because I had a bag of cherries and a fire-pot of smoke.  I simply emptied them onto the grill (in my side cold-smoker tray) and let them smoke alongside the hot-smoking salmon.   The jalapeño tagged along for the ride.

IMG_3481Hmmm…not sure where that eggplant ended up?

The cherries were perfect for eating with a cheese plate in that they were still raw but contained a mild smokey quality.  I wanted to make a sauce though and the smoke was to be more assertive, so I took the cold-smoked cherries and threw them directly onto the grate with the king salmon as I smoked it the next day and let them smoke away (this is starting to sound like a Cheech and Chong movie).

Two hours later, I pulled them off, pitted them and threw them into my Blendtec with just enough water to make them saucy (1/8 cup?).

That’s it!  De-lish!  Stay tuned for rack of lamb with this sauce….

or use your imagination!

buddy + gingerMeanwhile…Buddy & Ginger are back to the observation deck awaiting their next meal.

Red Rover

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PS_ginger on marimeko

I never liked games like dodgeball in school.  I always got hit.  Hard.  Red Rover was equally un-satisfying because I was often the kid that didn’t get picked.  I didn’t mind not being picked, but it still made me hold my breath as each name was called.  I hated to draw attention to myself, but somehow I always did.  Not knowingly, but did.  Not during this game though; it showed me no love.

I don’t pay much attention to my blog statistics, but okay, I peak, now and again.  I get really excited when I have a new number (of followers).  That sounds kind of creepy when I say it out loud.  What I mean is, people who choose to follow new Posts on my Blog.  It was climbing rapidly and then all of a sudden went backwards.  I got hung up on one number.  124.  I loved number 124.

But then, it became 123 once again.

123, no, 124, no, 123, 124…123, again!

Red rover, red rover, send 124 right back on over.

Number 124, I am talking to you!   You know who you are.  I couldn’t help but notice you un-followed me, four times!  I understand.  No, really, I do.  I’m not in this for the numbers, I like the love though, don’t you like the love?  Did you really mean to hit the “unfollow” button?  Let me take just a moment to break this down a bit.  Is my Blog not your style?  Are Ginger and Buddy not cute enough?  Perhaps it is my food.  Is it my food?  My food is too fussy, isn’t it?  Wait, is it not fussy enough?  I can make it really fussy.

What if Ginger and Buddy cooked instead?  Hmmm, that might be challenging though.  I can take your requests.  I will cook just for you!  I bet it is my writing, not my cooking at all.

Is it my writing?  I can be too wordy?  Do I offend?  What if I write you a poem?  Can I beg you to come back?  Oh wait, I make it a habit not to beg.  Ginger and Buddy have less scruples though and are wondering, “What will it take to bring you back?”!!!  They say they will stop snarfing (well, I don’t think they will, you can’t really count on that!).  They say they will be cuter (but nobody is cuter than them)!  They will talk less and be cute more (ha)!  What if they start wearing hats?

Buddy_Ginger in Hats_cropped

What if I talk less and cook more?  Take better photos?  How about no photos at all?  Oh well, like I said, I am not in this for the numbers.  I do like the love though.  So, to show you the love, I will cook more and talk less, just this once.  Just for you number 124!  I’m cooking this for you, only you!

Tomatillo Chicken Thighs over Jade Rice and Pinto Beans

I’m not chicken to ask you to come back number 124!  This is full of flavor and completely satisfying.  Served over jade rice and pinto beans, with a few leaves of quickly-grilled romaine lettuce and a dollop of yogurt; I think, even you might agree to come back.  This is not fussy, light on words and full of love.

INGREDIENTS

3-4 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in

Sea salt and pepper
2 tsp dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
2 tsp cumin
Squeeze of lemon juice
3 TB plain yogurt
Olive oil for browning
1/2 cup tomatillo salsa (good-quality purchased or home-made)

Serve with rice and beans, romaine lettuce, tomato slices and yogurt – see below.

PREPARE

Rinse the chicken and pat it dry.  Season lightly with salt and heavily with pepper.

Mix the oregano, chipotle powder, cumin, lemon juice and yogurt in a medium bowl or freezer bag.  Add the chicken and let marinade for at least a 1/2 hour and up to a day, before cooking.

Heat an oven-proof pan, large enough to hold the chicken in one layer, but small enough to keep it snug.  Add enough olive oil to coat the pan. When hot, add the chicken, skin-side down.  Let the chicken sit, undisturbed, until browned.  When the chicken is ready to release itself from the pan without tearing away the skin, turn it over.

Add the salsa, mostly around the sides with a little dollop on top.  Transfer, uncovered, to a 350-degree oven.

Cook approximately 30 minutes.  The chicken should be cooked all the way through and very tender.  The top should be beautifully browned.

MEANWHILE – make the rice and beans

While the chicken is cooking, cook the jade rice (I use a rice cooker with a 1/2 cup rice to 1 cup water and a dollop of salsa thrown in).  Mix with 1 cup drained, cooked pinto beans (I cook mine in a pressure cooker with a good amount of chipotle powder and cumin).  One cup dried beans with 3 cups water, cooked on high-pressure for 20 minutes produces a slightly spicy bean.  Season with salt after cooking and add a splash of vinegar.  You will want to strain the beans out of their liquid for this dish.

Mix one part rice to one part beans and serve under the chicken with a few leaves of grilled romaine lettuce.  A dollop of sour cream is always welcome in our home.
PS_IMG_3189It was too yummy and late to photograph the first night and clearly too late the second.  I know I am not helping my case here, but the photograph I did get is grainy due to the dark night.  I reheated the thighs in a pan with the rice and beans.

The Twentieth of May (and a visit to Paws Cafe)

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bed buddy's

May 20th marked the anniversary of Buffy’s passing.  As with every year on that day, for the past 15, we lit a candle by her tree near the place she rests.  We sit with her a while and speak of stories past.

Ginger sits with us too, and then Buddy joined in.  They quietly sit, knowingly.  The candle burns through the night, putting itself out as the moon gently lights up the sky.

The next day, Ginger turns one year older: this happens every year.  On that day, she happily eats her salmon dinner and blows out her own candle, thankful for having had BUFFY lead her to our home.

This year though, there was a heavy mood looming the day before.  Buddy has been ill.  It started with a simple change that was barely detectable.  The back, which has always been a little stiff, seemed a little bit more stiff.  The appetite, which has always been great, became only moderately good.

At first, it was just turning down a carrot.  No to carrots, yes to sweet peas.  No to snack kibble, but yes to Darwin’s raw food.  Yes to chicken, no (?) to sweet peas.  Then it was just, no.  No food.   No!

A blood test had revealed an alarming change in the progression of Buddy’s kidney disease.  What once was mildly concerning had escalated quickly from, worth-watching, to demanding action.

Tom and I pride ourselves on taking care of our pups.  We do what we think is best and what we learn is right.  No matter how much we read or learn though, something else is needing to be learned.

May 19, 2015

Buddy was curled up in my arms on my lap, in the front seat of the car, in a position known well to babies (well, not the car part).  I know this was not the safest way to drive and I knew that it was not the proper place for him to be.  But against my chest, in my arms, was the only place.

Dr. Rice had told us about Paws Cafe awhile back.  With all the research I do, scouting of the Internet, I do not know for the life of me, why it was I did not look this place up more seriously until now.  Dr. Rice mentioned it again, this time more pointedly, singing praises of the owner, Shelly, as an authority on the subject of nutrition for specifically this thing.  This thing that we (Tom, Buddy, Ginger and I) now have to accept and somehow make it through – renal failure!  A subject I had not yet learned much of, but could now probably tell you more of than you really care to know.

Buddy traveled, on this day, the nineteenth of May, to work with me.  We went from work to two meetings downtown.  After the first, I came back to the car and Buddy had gotten on the floor and pooped.  He was stuck down there on the floor, with the poop.  Returning to the car, my heart skipped a beat because I could not see him on the seat.  Ginger was in the back, asleep.  I cleaned it up (with the help of my client bringing me paper towels).  But I was happy to see poop.  I had not seen it from Buddy in more than two days.  The timing was unfortunate however…for us both.

This slight variance from the day’s plan caused me to be late to my next meeting.  When I arrived, I was slightly smelling of odor, and I do not mean perfume.

After that, finally, we were on the road to Oz.  We had contacted Shelly of Paws Custom Petfood (formerly Paws Cafe) and she had made us a tonic of detox and nutrients that I was to put in Buddy’s food.  Having evaluated his blood work, Shelly recommended that I make his food because she didn’t want to sell me 10-15 lbs only to find it something he refused to eat.  I didn’t want to, but I did read between the lines, regardless of if the lines actually said what I thought they read.

By this time, Buddy had not eaten in close to 48 hours.  Dr. Rice was on vacation and we were somewhat on our own (although other doctors were on hand and there was our faithful friend and neighbor, Piotr, who helped with the needle and subcutaneous fluid administration).  I did not mention this earlier to you, but Buddy was also suffering from small seizures brought on by specific, sudden sounds (such as cutlery clinking, foil crinkling or high pitched squeaks and vibrations, even a door closing).  He would twitch and fall suddenly yet momentarily, legs splaying out bringing him to the ground.  He was also wobbly and drunken as he moved across the yard, but still intent on getting to his destination, wherever that may be.

He acted this way when we got home from Oz that day.  But it was sunny and more than warm.  I went to the kitchen and began cooking Buddy’s food.  Tom had not yet come home from work and the sun was the perfect temperature for Buddy and Ginger to lay outside on their respective beds.

When I finished, I brought a bowl outside.  Two bites!  Buddy took two bites of food into his mouth off of a tiny spoon.  That was enough for now.  The fluids from his injection were going to have to get him through another night.  I looked to Buffy’s resting spot and remembered…another time.

May 20, 2015

This day is always bitter-sweet for us.  There is a heavy presence of Buffy in the air and even Ginger, who (sometimes) can be cantankerous and ornery, is on her best behavior.  It feels almost spiritual, Buffy’s presence is still so strong.

In the morning before work, I looked at Buddy, so small, curled up in our bed.  I brought in a bowl of his “new” food and he did something quite surprising; he actually began to eat, ravenously, greedily eating!

Buddy and Ginger stayed home that day and when I came home at lunch-time, Buddy decided he would actually eat lunch!

The twentieth of May; a day I thought might take our Buddy from us too, was a turning-point instead.  That day, Buddy decided to live, at least little longer (and hopefully a lot more).  Buffy may have had a word or two, to him, or someone; we will never know.  Every moment is precious when you realize how few moments there might actually be, so for now, we will count each and every moment as a gift.  This gift we will always treasure.

Paws Custom Pet Food – A version (or two) for Buddy

I can not stress enough how thankful we are for finding this place.  They are located in Redmond, Washington, right down the road from the Pomegranate Cafe.  They deliver locally (in a (our) limited area), but ship via UPS to anywhere.  The food is available in many different sizes and with chicken, turkey or grass-fed beef.  They will also make food custom for your dog or cat’s needs based on their blood-work (which might include rabbit or lamb with an adjusted amount of protein and added nutrients or herbs).

They also provide a starter-kit for those that wish to make their pet’s food themselves.  The kit provides the vitamins and minerals needed for proper nutrition in a simple, one-step container.  I have always wanted to make my own (dedicated pet) food but worried that I wouldn’t know how to balance the nutrition levels to their needs.

Shelly spoke with me in great length on the phone, describing the percentages of proteins to carbs to veg required for a dog with renal failure.  The phosphorous levels in Buddy were extremely high, so foods with low phosphorous were needed (in tandem with his medication).

Shelly provides recipes in the kit so you can get the proportions correct.  Her recipe is for 10 lbs of food though and I needed to start a little bit smaller.  Below is my recipe from the first batch of food.  It resembled the texture of baby food because I used my Blendtec to puree, which required me to add water.  He loved it, but I had to feed it with a spoon otherwise he would have worn most of it in his fur.  The second batch of food I pureed in my Magimix (or a Cuisinart-type processor) and it was much more similar to the consistency of the food you can purchase from Paws Custom Pet Food.

This food is really easy to prepare and can be portioned out (and frozen if you make large quantities at once).  Speak with your Vetrinarian (or Shelly, or another animal nutritionist) as to the right amount of food for your dog, based on age and weight.  Ginger polished off a 24 oz portion sample size given to us by Shelly, in about 2+ days.  Buddy ate the first batch of food I made in the same time (yay!).  They shared a bit of each other’s but it mostly evened out.

Happy Turkey Coma with carrots and peas

Turkey is a great lean protein for compromised (or healthy) animals.  The “feel good” comatose that we experience post-Thanksgiving is from the feel-good (but sleepy) dopamine found in turkey.  I also added a few bits of lamb so that Buddy was enticed by the “stink factor” (a good stink, we think).

As with all foods we eat and feed our loved ones, use the best quality you can afford and if possible, organic is best!  The idea is to heal, not harm.  Ingredients should be as natural as possible with no added chemicals.

buddy breakfast on sheep

INGREDIENTS

8 oz. cooked turkey and lamb

(I had 2 turkey cutlets of approximately 3 oz. each which were poached while making broth. The rest was lamb leg chunked for stew which I had purchased to flavor rice the previous day in an attempt to get Buddy interested in food – sadly, a failed attempt).

6 oz. cooked carrots

2 oz. cooked sweet peas (in pod, stringy side seams removed)

6 oz. baked sweet potato (no skin, just the soft meat)

4 oz. cooked white rice

1/4 cup broth (made from cooking the turkey, peas and carrots)

3 tsp nutrients*

*Nutrients:  As purchased from Paws Custom Pet Foods (Shelly made my bottle of nutrients using vitamins & minerals, turmeric, slippery elm, probiotics, DGL etc…)  Please note that I added the detox option to my nutrients which she added to the regular mix. All ingredients are organic.

PREPARATION

The food will all have been cooked by now.  That was easy, right?

The ingredients should be cooled before mixed and pureed.

Add the ingredients to a food processor (as mentioned, I used a Blendtec, which wanted me to add water so as to actually blend).  The water or broth is not needed if you use a Magimix or Cuisinart, but since animals with kidney disease need to stay hydrated, it certainly won’t hurt).

Divide the food into 12 oz – 24 oz containers with tight-fitting lids.  You may freeze them this way, or they will last up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

A few words from Shelly via email answering my questions:

I like the crockpot for small batches because it’s fewer dishes to clean.  I cook and drain the meat and then if I’m cooking the veggies, I’ll either leave the meat in the pot for soft veggies like zucchini or peas that cook fast or keep it in a separate bowl to cool while I cook the harder stuff like carrots & yams.  You shouldn’t need to add much if any water. If you’re putting everything through the food processor after it’s cooked and you’re adding water, that may be why it’s runny?  I usually recommend cooking ground meat because you get a good texture by default so a food processor isn’t needed.  If you aren’t cooking your veg you’d still need to run that through the food processor but it sounds like you are so maybe you can just chop your veg into smaller pieces and cook it and that’s it.  

Regarding the foods you mentioned, mushrooms are not well tolerated by dogs.  Parsley in small amounts would be safe but I’m not confident about the palatability.  It’s pretty strong.  Bell peppers are good.  Again, they are strong so cooking them would be helpful.   Chickpeas would be a carb more than a protein source in this context.  Whole eggs are well-liked.  Sometimes you need to omit the yolks if they get gassy.  Lentils are also good; quinoa, blueberries, cantaloupe, pumpkin, cabbage, green beans, carrots, yellow squash, kale, dandelion greens.  Most fruits are ok, but grapes are poisonous and all fruit seeds are.  Onions, garlic, mushrooms, chocolate are also poisonous or ill-advised options.  

Any fruits or veggies that are sweet should be proportionally limited.  So if you add 20% yams or peas or carrots, then balance with at least 20% green beans, zucchini or squash.  Too much sugar will cause acid reflux.  White starchy foods convert to sugar like white potato and white rice, so those general guidelines should be applied to those as well.  

Just one more tip, cook meat on low-heat if you’re putting it on the stove. 

http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet

Batch #2 was made with bison (16 oz) cooked like stew with carrots, peas and zucchini.  Once cooked, 1/2 can garbanzo beans, 1 sweet potato (minus skin), 1 cup rice and 1 cup blueberries were added along with the nutrients*.

buddy eating from  bowlBack at the bowl again!

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.

PS_irma clara

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.

hominy 2

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.

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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.

PS_Bud in dinghy

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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half cut

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.

PS_shoes

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.

PS_full on

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

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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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