Watermelon Soup (aka summer chili)

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PSjournal

A “P”eace offering, of sorts. I think perhaps I offended my friend. Well, not offended as much as skewed some of the facts, hence making him crazy. He needs things to be accurate and perfectly factual. I just like to tell it like I see it, even if my view is slightly skewed. So, as an offering of goodwill (and subsequent editing – well, one item at least), I used his “gifted” watermelon to make my favorite watermelon soup.

This one is “from the journals” (mine)July, 2009. I came up with it on a trip to my brother’s place in Manzanita, Oregon where we were vacationing with my in-laws, Lois and Bill, at the time. Each of us had brought a few baby watermelons to the gathering on the coast. When life brings you watermelon (or 5), eat it with salt, then use the leftovers to make soup.

Watermelon Soup (AKA Summer Chile) Serves 6 – 8

Although this is served with a “salsa”, the salsa is actually the body of the soup. The watermelon broth is ladeled over the the salsa and they mingle nicely to become a light chili. I like to dollop a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraîche over too before serving. This soup would also be good chilled but I prefer it warm.

INGREDIENTS (for soup broth)

Olive oil for sautéing (approx 1 TB)
1 heaping cup chopped sweet onion
2 TB chopped jalapeño
2 TB chopped, peeled, garlic
1 tsp chopped, peeled, ginger
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5 heaping cups, rinds removed, sliced, seedless watermelon (juice from sitting counts too)
Juice of 1 lime (approximately 2-3 TB)
1 tsp honey (you might want to omit this if your watermelon is overly sweet)
1 tsp ground cumin (1/2 tsp if you are not a fan of cumin flavor as I am)
1/2 tsp kosher salt (+/-) to taste
Many grinds of fresh pepper (I did 20, for the record)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
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1/4 cup (+/-) mix of fresh mint, basil, cilantro
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INGREDIENTS (for salsa)

2 cobs of corn, grilled, corn removed from cob
2 cups cooked black (or pinto) beans (I make mine from scratch which you can see here). If you are using canned beans, drain and rinse them then add some salt, cumin and chili powder to taste)
1 TB lime juice
Minced jalapeño, to taste (optional – only if you want to add some more heat. Alternatively, a little bowl could be offered to guests on the side if some like it spicy (Bill) and others are more tame (Lois))
1 avocado, peeled and diced
A sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste

PREPARE (soup broth)

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Sauté the onion, jalapeño and garlic in olive oil until soft (approximately 5 minutes).

Add everything (including the cooked onion mix) other than the herbs to a food processor and purée. You might need to do this in two batches.

Transfer to a saucepan, bring to a simmer and reduce by approximately one cup.

Check for consistency and flavor. Adjust to your taste. Perhaps a little more lime juice or another pinch of salt? Like it spicy? Add more jalapeño to the base or keep it for your salsa.

Stir in the chopped herbs, let warm a few minutes longer while you pull together the salsa and heat your bowls.

PREPARE (salsa)

Mix all the ingredients together. I leave the avocado out to place on top, separately, so that any leftovers won’t spoil.

TO SERVE

In heated bowls, place a large spoonful of salsa (topped with the avocado if you haven’t. Mixed it in yet) in the center and ladle the warm soup broth over top. Garnish with sour cream or crème fraîche if you like.

PS2 with beans

PSladeling beansPS4For “P”, I have included a spoonful of chopped garlic, since I left “lot’s of it” out of his “loaf” burger.  It was meant as a joke but before I could warn him, he had already added to soup and consumed half the bowl.  I have yet to hear if it was too much (but I suspect not).  This is where I would argue that minced jalapeño would be nicer than garlic.

PS5 doorstepKnock, Knock.

Who’s there?

Soup.

Soup who?

Souper sorry.  :o)

photo 8We told her to do it… (“P” – please keep visiting us and taking us for walks, signed “Princess” + buDdY).

The Burger that “Loafs” About

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buddy selfieI asked Buddy to take a picture of the burger but he took a selfie instead…

PSginger close up burger…his sister was only slightly amused.

I like to give my friend Piotr a hard time. I don’t do this to be mean, but just because he is so easy to tease. The first time Tom and I ate dinner at his house it was admittedly good, despite his self-proclaimed inability to cook. Good in a no-fuss, pleasantly simple, but tasty sort of way. Having (then) recently rejoined the ranks of bachelorhood, he had just moved into the house, had no furniture (literally) and very few dishes. He did have a sheet pan though, and it was filled with chicken, plenty of it. We all stood around the long (very long) kitchen island that serves as his hub, munched on chicken thighs, ate salad, drank wine and became friends.

Now, “P” (that’s what we call him), doesn’t entertain often but you can be assured when he does, one of two things will be served, chicken or salmon, and sometimes both. He’s the kind of guy that likes a routine and cooks what he knows, which is wise for company (I could learn something from that,preaching it often as I do). I am pretty sure he only knows how to cook in large quantities and has a hard time adjusting to the size of the crowd; not sure if that is a one-size-fits-all type of deal, or a more-is-better guy kind of thing.

But I admire him putting it out there and every year he throws a party for the anesthesiology team at the VA Hospital where he works. This year, by request, he made bison burgers. I was surprised to hear this, thinking outside his comfort zone and all, but then I found out chicken was on the menu as well. Baby steps.

After the party was over “P” stopped by our house bearing a platter of watermelon, cherries and cheese (yum). It was a hot, lovely, only-in-July NW week and (regardless of that) we were out on our deck in the shade, so he pulled up a chair and we chatted a bit. Me being me, began asking about food, which brought us to this – he did not have a bowl big enough for mixing 5 lbs of bison. To this I expressed my surprise that he formed them himself rather than buying pre-formed patties? “No, no”, he said. “You must form them with love. I mixed in the onions, the parsley, egg and breadcrumbs….” This is where I interrupted him (me being me). He was not describing burgers; he was describing grilled meatloaf, I told him. As I razzed him and gave him a hard time, I remembered that I do like meatloaf and I’m sure it was quite good. So, with my motivation being part inquisitive, and part proving my point, that night when he left I set out to make a burger that loafs around and right alongside, a meatloaf that cooks in it’s pan (so basically, I set out to make meatloaf disguised as a burger).

As an aside, later that same night, we found additional goodies surface on the deck including a bowl of green salad with many vegetables, plus beer (!). And ironically, cucumbers in the salad. What?! I had been bitching about not having cukes all weekend. I even mentioned how nice it would be to see if on some crazy notion “P” might have some and then I would not have to go to the store. I, of course never asked, because I never thought he would have one… turns out he did! Goes to prove, you just never know until you ask.

Loaf” burger

This makes three+ burgers, sliced loaf enough for three sandwiches (or two dinner servings). This is all relative of course, to appetite, size of person feeding and multiplication (was math your strong suit?). You might notice this yields an odd-sized portion, because of course, it was a “proving a point” experiment…

PS2burger on grillIt’s not pretty but…

Also, I had no bison on hand so I used grass-fed beef instead. I had no parsley, hence oregano. No white bread allowed, so whole wheat breadcrumbs instead. Since my tray of watermelon “P” brought us sported a wedge of Stilton, I decided to mix this in too. Obviously, you can use my experiment to form all patties or all loaf, your choice.

1. 4 lbs ground beef, ground bison or a combination of the two
1/4 cup chopped sweet onions
1 tsp kosher salt
Many grinds of fresh pepper
1 egg, whisked (3 TB for burgers, the rest reserved)
1/4 – 1/2 cups bread crumbs (1/4 cup for burgers, the rest reserved)
2 – 3 oz Stilton or bleu cheese, crumbled
3 TB chopped poblano chili
1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped soft herbs (I used oregano, summer savory and chives)
3 TB organic ketchup

1/2 cup purée of roasted tomato, balsamic and onion (all reserved for the loaf)

Mix the meat with the rest of the ingredients, holding back on the egg and breadcrumbs as mentioned above, as well as reserving the tomato purée.

Form three patties, 5 oz each. The remainder goes to baked loaf.

Form the remaining mixture into a loaf shape set over waxed paper. Pour over the remaining whisked egg then scatter with more bread crumbs. Pour over the purée of roast tomato and then carefully transfer to a non-stick loaf pan (sans waxed paper).

Grill the patties on a hot, oiled grill, 3-4 minutes per side. I like to grill slices of onion at the same time.

Cook the loaf pan, alongside the patties, on the heated grill or in a 450-degree oven for approximately 30-45 minutes, or until cooked through. Let rest 10-minutes before slicing. Served on toasted bread with caramelized onions and perhaps a little barbecue sauce, it would make (and did) a mean sandwich!

After our dinner, I packed up the “loaf” burger I made for “P” along with a few slices of the the MEATloaf and texted him to see if I could bring it over. No reply. He had already gone to bed. 8:30 pm. Good boy (school night and all).

The next morning, my text had been answered (at probably around 4:30am), to which I tardily-replied (bad girl). When we came home that evening, there was a cooler on our back porch housing the frozen “loaf” patty I requested in exchange for the one I made for him (it was necessary to compare, don’t you see?).

coolers

Hmmm… ya think someone ought to remind him that his salary affords him the ability to buy a new cooler all this time later? Take note of the blackened out name before his; I bet Sue has one that is not chewed on by critter. Again, all in good fun.

I removed the patty from the cooler and replaced it with the patty (and loaf slices) I had made. I then put the cooler back on “P”‘s porch (since he was not home) and sent him a text.

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textMy message to him is in green.

What?! He thought I thawed his burger, mashed it up and put it back into a completely different shape (1/2 the diameter and twice the height), placed it in a bun, with cheese, and grilled onions and called it my own?! We’re still laughing, and mean absolutely no offense to those with English as a second language. Not your burger to me, but a burger from me to you. Lesson learned on my end, I’m a putz.

Oh yeah, druuuuuumm roll please. Yes, this tasted good. Still, I am a purist and will stick with my way when I put burger to grill. However, there are many of you out there that have an opinion and I would love you to chime in. Do you make your burgers with breadcrumbs and egg or do you consider this an infringement on the sacredness of a burger and teetering on meatloaf? This inquiring mind wants to know. Oddly enough, I had never considered this an option a mere week ago. I’m growing, I’m changing…

So, since these were made because of a party, it seems fitting to bring them to a party – Happy Fiesta Friday everyone. Join Angie over at the Novice Gardener for more good things to eat, Hilda and Julianna will be greeting guests too. Ginger and Buddy are sitting this one out.

hammack

 

 

 

The quick little “big salad”

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I set out to make a small salad to supplement our dinner of leftover fried chicken (yum, yummy, yum). I began with various lettuces, growing in my “garden” (read pot, sitting on my patio table), then, because they looked lovely, I picked a few snips of fresh herbs as well as fragrant chives to layer over and toss within. I found myself boiling an egg, which sounded, yum; perhaps because I had just purchased sweet Canadian shrimp meat that I was toying with setting on top (of the salad). A small handful of baby tomatoes, sliced, slowly began building it up, mushrooms (thinly cut) and corn, (shaven from it’s cob). A large crumble of blue cheese (Pt. Reyes, Oregon) mashed into a bowl of freshly squeezed lemon juice, ground pepper and green onions dissolved lovingly into a puddle of buttermilk. When we sat down with wine poured and ready to dig in, the ensemble looked rather large and I said, “Looks like the big salad”. Tom, being who he is, pulled up this clip on his phone (or click here for a short version). Enjoy!

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Buttermilk Bleu Dressing

Freshly made bleu cheese dressing is a bleautiful thing, it is not only great for dipping, with carrots, cauliflower and fried chicken (or fried gizzards for that matter) but is also a nice way to enjoy a salad of crispy greens on a warm summer evening. No hydrogenated, overly processed ingredients required.

Full disclosure: I have made this for years and have, at a few points in time, written the quantities down as I make it but…this is not one of those times and I am just guessing here…. As with most dressings, it does (loosely) conform to the typical rules:
1. Use a 1:3 ratio of acidity to fat.
2. Garlic and onions are well served soaked first in the acidity, even if just for a few moments prior to adding in the rest.
3. Taste, adjust, taste, adjust….instinct.
3. Salt, pepper & sugar are to taste. If too salty, add more acidity, if too tart, add more sugar.
4. Whisk the fat with the acidity to emulsify. Adjust consistency as desired.

Specific to this dressing rules:
1. The buttermilk, bleu cheese and sour cream will knock out the typical 1:3 ratio rule but as a rule of thumb, I would use 1 TB sour cream and 1 TB lemon juice for every 2-3 oz cheese. The buttermilk is used to thin the dressing and quantities can be altered depending on your desired thickness (perhaps 3-5 TB for 2-3 oz cheese).  Also, I always use low-fat buttermilk since that is more readily available to me.
2. If using shallots, soak them in the acidity (lemon juice), if using green onions, add them in at the end. Use more green onions than you would shallots (perhaps 1 TB chopped shallots for 2-3 oz cheese)
3. Soft herbs are good in very large quantities (and multiple varieties). This go ’round I did not put them in the dressing, as I usually do, but rather tossed them in with the lettuces (the dressing keeps longer this way + I was lazy).

INGREDIENTS

Lemon juice
Diced shallots or chopped green onions
Fresh ground pepper
Raw sugar to taste

Good quality bleu cheese
Buttermilk
Sour cream
Mix of fresh soft herbs, chopped

PREPARE

Combine the lemon juice with the shallots, fresh pepper and sugar (just a pinch to start).

Crumble in the bleu cheese and mash with a fork. Add the sour cream and mix well. Drizzle in the buttermilk to thin and bring the dressing to the desired consistency. Mix in the herbs.

“Big” Bleu Shrimp Salad

This can be as little or “big” as you like (and no, Dad and Linda, I’m not referring to “big blue” the suburban).

INGREDIENTS

Mixed lettuces (from your garden if you have), cleaned and patted dry

Hard boiled egg, peeled and cut in half (1/2 per person)

Cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters (2-3 tomatoes per person)

Crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced (1-2 mushrooms per person)

Freshly grilled corn, removed from the cobb (1-2 TB per person)

Green onion and mixed soft herbs, chopped (even if you added to the dressing)

Fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste

Buttermilk Bleu Dressing to taste (see above for “recipe”)

ASSEMBLE

Squeeze a little lemon juice over the lettuces then lightly sprinkle some sea salt and grind fresh pepper over. Carefully toss with your fingers (you may toss some dressing in too, if you like, but be gentle and stingy so as not to make soggy).

Divide the lettuces among individual plates. Spoon over a few bits of dressing then layer on the vegetables and pile the shrimp meat in the center, slightly scattered; place the egg half on one side. Sprinkle with green onions and herbs and grind over more pepper, if desired.

I used to swear by our (local) Oregon shrimp meat that can be had fresh, for a short bit of the year. I have been having a harder and harder time finding it to be as fresh as I would like (it is delicate, for sure) so one day, on the recommendation of my trusty fishmonger’s at Gemini Seafood, I purchased the Canadian shrimp meat. It is as delicious and sweet as they said!…some day, I’ll have to tell you the story of how Ginger became our head “shrimp-tester”. Until then, just know that she endorses this statement (and will be telling everyone over at the Novice Gardener’s shin dig. For sure she will let Selma, Hilda and Indu (the co-hosts) know about these yummy shrimp (and for now, we will offer this to Angie as the elusive “blue fish”).photo 5

 

Nibbler, Nibbler: Red, White and Blueberry pie

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I am a nibbler. Not like the elf, but like a picker, of food (not noses). I learned this from Mom. She snacks and picks and nibbles. I noticed this on her last visit, and on all visits previous. Now I know where my nibblery (not a word?… oh well) came from. A bite of this, and many bites more of this and that, equals nibbles, if done slowly and spaced out with at least 10 seconds between nibs.

I am not a baker, but yet I am baking a pie. Not sure why I decided to bake a pie, but at least it allows me to nibble. No actually, I do know why. I have excess berries, about to go spoiled. Plus, it is the Fourth of July (which, in fact, rhymes with pie). Also, I just want to bake a pie. I feel like doing this, if for no other reason than that it sounds like a good way to spend a slice of a holiday afternoon.

Bear with me though, as I puddle around the baking world and try to bake something that resembles a pie. This is my second, maybe third attempt, ever (so be kind).

Red, White and Blueberry Pie
Caddywhompus, haphazard, tasty and good

I do love a buttery crust, so I did need to nibble… the edges. I didn’t mean to, but I did - nibble… pieces and edges and burnt things (oh my) and buttery sides. It is not pretty but I fixed it with more dough, more nibbles, and more time in the oven.

INGREDIENTS for Dough

2 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp raw sugar
8 TB butter

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 TB lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

PREP dough

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Yes, this used to have edges… (the nibbler strikes again).

In a food processor, mix the flour, salt and sugar, then add the butter in slices. It will be a course mix.

Stir the lemon juice into the egg, then add this mixture to the water. With the machine running, pour in the liquid. The mixture should all come together. Do not over-process.

Scape the dough out into a ball and divide in two. Flatten each ball into thick discs and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour or you can proceed making the pies the next day.

Roll out one disc to approximately 1/8″ thick. Put it (carefully) into a pie pan and shape to fit. Poke the bottom with a fork and freeze for at least 15 minutes.

Remove from freezer and top crust with parchment or foil, then fill with pie weights.

Partially bake in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove foil/weights and continue cooking another 5 minutes.

Remove crust and let cool.

It is now ready to use. You have a second disc of dough that can be frozen for later use, or use to top or decorate this pie, or you could make a second pie. I vote for second pie.

INGREDIENTS for Filling

A fleck of butter
1 cup very-sweet nectarine chunks (skin removed)
3 cups cleaned blueberries
2 TB lemon juice
1 tsp spelt flour
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cocoa powder (I thought it was cinnamon, but hey, it works)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 TB water

4-6 figs, stem removed, sliced thin
6-8 strawberries, tops removed, sliced thin

PREP filling

Melt just enough butter to keep the fruit from sticking. Add the fruit, flour and spices. Cook over low for a few minutes then stir in the water. Let simmer, stirring every so often for approximately 20-30 minutes. Let cool completely.

TO ASSEMBLE

Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with raw sugar (just a little).

Cover the bottom of the crust, lightly with fresh blueberries (approximately one cup)

Arrange the fig slices and strawberry slices around the very edge (or however you feel like arranging).

TO COOK

Bake the pie for 20-30 minutes in a 350-degree oven (mine was 400-degrees, but edges were a little dark (so I ate them) and then added a little dough and continued to cook with the oven off but still warm (around 300-degrees).

Top with more whole, fresh blueberries if desired and more fresh slices of strawberries. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream (like La Loo goats milk), or just plain, right out of the pan.

Happy Fourth All!

I have packed up my pie and am bringing it to a party with fireworks, sparklers and good people that know how to cook! (Fiesta Friday with Angie @ the Novice Gardener, Margy @la Petite CasseroleL and Sylvia @Superfoodista)

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Ready to dive in! (I added a few cross pieces when I put new dough over the burnt edges)

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We’re not there, but an appropriate view from Mom’s cabin. A salute to all those that have served, in any fashion.

His kind of gal, her kind of guy!

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My mom has skills. Had I paid more attention and wasn’t put off by blood and guts, I might have learned to clean and fillet a fish, but alas, no. This is one thing I now wish I had paid attention to, because unlike the other skills she has, this is one that would be of particular benefit to someone who loves food as much as I.

Needless to say, I did not need to perform that task on her last visit to Seattle, boasting her freshly caught salmon, because she had already exercised this fishing ritual prior to getting on the plane. She delivered a chunk to a friend of hers who lives in Tukwila, took another large portion to my brother’s house (where she spent the next couple of days) and sent the rest of it with her “opposite sex partner”, John, to bring to our house where he would be camped out working with Tom to finish our deck.

When John and my mom met, he was living/working in the Bay Area but had a cabin and airplane in Alaska (where his heart lived).

Despite the un-commonalities between them, they are at their core, kindred souls. Mom can fish with the best of them, sleep on a cot, squat in the woods, and spin a good yarn. They both like to travel, both love to fly, and the crisp chill of Alaska will never be replaced by the wet dampness of Seattle or the sunny bustle of California. They thaw their chilled bones in Tucson part of the year, but can mostly be found doing those things that only true Alaskans do… such as fishing.

So… a man, a woman and a fishing pole:

my kind of guy_gal

I asked Mom to write a few words about Alaskan salmon and this is what she had to say:

“Simply put—I love it! And that means fishing, catching and best of all: eating.  Usually John and I fly to the Deshka River. It is about 15 minutes from the cabin or a several hour drive + boat ride from Anchorage. Weekends are horrendous but it’s pretty crazy any time the kings are running since so many boats anchor at the mouth and plug up the river. We prefer to troll a bit upstream since it’s much more civilized, our lines don’t get tangled with everybody else, and we are much more successful! We also make certain to be in the boat, hooks in the water, at precisely 6:00 am. Fish and Game closes the river between 11 pm and 6 am to allow for sufficient escapement, so you will often see 10-20 fish being caught the first five minutes. As you alluded in your previous blog (post), not too many women are as avid as I am, so even though the regulars are nearly all men, through either luck or skill, I definitely keep up.

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The picture on the right is a view out the cockpit window of the propellers spinning around.

John goes to the Nushagak River in Western Alaska every year with friends and I went for the first time in June. It was three hours by John’s Cessna but so worth it. The fishing was great, but I was surprised at how many boats were on the river so far from civilization. Most of the boats were chartered and the camps were leased from the local Native corporations. The village store carried a few essentials and sold gas for $7.50 a gallon.

While I like every kind of salmon, especially when fresh, king (Chinook) is my favorite. I could eat it every night and never get tired of it.

salmon x 2 test
Mom prepping and the glorious outcome.

My favorite method of cooking is with nothing but lemon pepper, Wondra flour and maybe a few sprinkles of brown sugar. I very lightly grease a hot pan with olive oil and butter, brown the filet good side down, turn it once and finish it off in the oven. The critical thing is to not overcook it. I usually leave it a little red in the thickest part. Salmon is also good on the barbeque, but I miss the crust you can get in the pan.”

Mom forgot to mention Grandpa’s “fried salmon” which is what the lucky (no pun intended) recipients of my Grandpa’s fresh catch will get when he cooks some up at his restaurant, the Lucky Wishbone (never to be found on the menu… This is a “special treat” for his friends and family only).

My favorite way to cook salmon is on a wood plank on the grill.  When John and Tom finished the deck, I asked Mom to cook the salmon she brought her favorite way.  She was perplexed that I did not have lemon-pepper, “everybody in America has lemon-pepper,” she said in disbelief.  But not us, so we used lemon zest, sea salt and fresh ground pepper instead.

The next day we went shopping (stopping also for her stock-up at Trader Joe’s).  When we returned home, she handed me a jar of lemon-pepper and Tom and I had a hearty laugh.  I promised I would give it a try on the other half of the salmon that night (they were on their way to the airport, time to go home).

I still prefer fresh lemon, salt and pepper but hey, I at least gave it a try.

Cedar Planked Salmon

A big, big… no, HUGE thanks to John for his stamina, endurance and encore on our deck; we could not have done it without you!  Mom – thanks for everything else.  I love the way you cooked your salmon for us!  However, in honor of our new cedar deck, cedar-planked salmon (using planks left over from construction) it had to be – the night we ate dinner for the first time on our new deck.

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. fresh king salmon fillets (in one piece or cut into individual pieces), de-boned, skin removed

1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp raw sugar

Many grinds of fresh pepper

Herbs (of your liking – basil, thyme, tarragon, fennel frond, etc.)

5-plus thin slices fresh lemon (enough to cover circumference of fish)

1 cedar (or any type (alder is especially great) of clean, untreated wood) plank, sized to fit the fish; soak in water for at least one hour before grilling to prevent from burning

1 very hot grill, heated to 400-plus degrees

TO COOK

Pat dry the salmon and season both sides with sea salt and pepper, then sprinkle over sugar on the top side that had no skin (inside).  I like to add a little more salt than I normally would since it is slightly curing first, but I also don’t want to overdo it as to make it too salty.  The sugar is to offset the salt and adds a little color.

Top with fresh herbs and slices of lemon.  Set aside until grill is hot and plank is ready to accept the salmon.

When you are ready to cook, put the soaked cedar plank, top-side down, on the hot grill for 10 minutes to heat.  When hot, turn plank over and top with salmon fillet.

Place the plank of salmon on direct heat and close lid.  Let cook until it is opaque with just a slight bit of red at the thickest part, approximately 10 minutes.

Remove plank with a hot pad or spatula and let rest a minute or two.  Divide the salmon amongst plates, letting guests squeeze the juice from the lemon slices over their salmon.

FOR THE PUPS

I like to trim the ends of the salmon that are the fattiest (lots of good omegas) and the brown part on the back side left from the skin.  I place the trimmings into a piece of foil, seal the foil and cook it on the top warming rack of the grill (not direct heat) or in the oven, until cooked through.  I then open the foil, let it cool to a manageable temperature and feed it to Ginger and Buddy.  This is not only healthy for their coat, cancer-fighting and good for their hearts, but it is also something that lets them enjoy the good eats of life too (AKA – good for their souls).

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Buddy on patrol on the new outpost (staining and furniture to come later…).

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Plotting the next (t)ask on the tiny mobile device.

Stamina, Endurance and an Encore

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photo 5 As I start to write this, I realize that, while I meant to write only about one piece of the story, the title is appropriate for the bigger story. Three Fridays ago kicked off a weekend of celebration, hard work and accomplishments. The celebrations were for hard work and accomplishment and they were followed by a different type of hard work with great progress but not final accomplishment. Both ended in an encore. My oldest niece, Catherine, graduated last weekend from high school. Back when I graduated, it was a small sort of affair held in the auditorium of our school followed by a few handshakes and hugs on the lawn outside then a few pretty-unmemorable parties. Cat, however, kicked off her high school exit weekend with a cello recital that brought down the house, with a little help from sister Julia (also on cello), brother Axel (that little ham, on violin, and ego), Grandmother Doris (wow, can she sing) and Cat’s friend Sophia (Juilliard, here she comes… no really, for real – she’s in!). Following the recital was a reception back at my brother’s house which mimicked a small wedding reception, boasting around 100 guests (top that one x3 when the moments come Scott & Christine; not so far in the future now…). 20140629-183811.jpgHow cute is she (and happy)?! The following day was the graduation ceremony and it was an impressive cast of students, teachers, performers and speakers (Catherine played a small bit on her cello and Sophia got a standing ovation on her violin solo later – wow, those gals can play!). After the ceremony, the graduates mobbed a fleet of buses that whisked them to Puget Sound where they partied (safely, drug and alcohol free…) until the wee hours of the morning (my brother Scott chaperoned the graveyard shift dealing cards at the blackjack table… say whaaaat?). Tom and I stayed on-island Friday night with Scott’s in-laws who have a house a mile down the road from theirs so that we need not shuttle back-and-forth on the (damn) ferry for the multi-day events. Doris, Scott’s mother-in-law, makes all of her own bread and is the type of cook that I wish I could be, simple, rustic and real. No matter what she makes, it is effortless to watch, comforting to eat and memorable for years to come. Our breakfast was a humble plate of scrambled eggs served with thin slices of ham, thick slices of Swiss cheese and her mouth-watering bread that I smothered in butter and honey, scrumptious – oh yeah. We washed it all down with deep mugs of hot coffee and went about our day visiting with each other and admiring their garden (with the “Tom-Tom Club” slug hunting) before joining Tom (not my Tom, Doris’ Tom) for lunch at his local joint, The Island Grill, before joining the rest of the fam for the graduation ceremony (oops, we got the stink-eye for being fashionably (on-time) late. 20140629-190412.jpg That guy can tell a story! 20140629-183754.jpgDoris and “her” Tom making tracks toward the ball field for graduation fashionably (on time) late. With deer escort. Now, you are probably wondering, what was the other piece of the story? Well, here it is: Flying in from Alaska to attend the graduation festivities, my Mom and her opposite sex partner, John, were put to work right-away cutting vegetables, slicing meat and doing various bits of helping hand. After the reception, (my) Tom and I said good bye for the night as we headed over to (the other) Tom and Doris’ and as we walked out the door (a little (or lot) bit after midnight), John and my Mom were still slung with aprons, knee deep in dishes and cleaning up of things. The next night after graduation, everyone went back to my brother’s house except Catherine (because she was on the party bus) and us (because we were exhausted and had a long ride home with preparation of guests to be had); and they cooked a salmon for the island dinner that my Mom had caught just a few days prior (she can out-fish all the curmudgeons on the Nushagak River). If that weren’t enough fun, they then traveled the 35 minute ferry ride (not counting waiting in line) and 18 miles to our house for the night, only to wake up at 6:00 am (John, not Mom) to demo/build our deck. Crazy right? Talk about stamina and endurance, the last time John helped us with a project, they had just deplaned a flight from Europe and came straight away over to help build a storage loft in our garage. Well, that had not been the plan, but me, in the middle of cooking dinner, put it on indefinite hold, while John and Tom started banging away (John insisted and Tom followed his lead, never one to reject skilled help in a seemingly daunting task). John decided we needed this more than we needed to put up a small bamboo fence in the corner of our yard (which was the original request for the weekend since it was keeping a car out of the garage); he was right of course. But then they did that too. No kidding. A new storage loft, a cleaned out garage (with enough room to actually fit the car) and a bamboo fence, all in the course of a weekend. John, of course, didn’t return for several years after that (do you blame him?). 20140630-120434.jpg Hmmmmmmm, the beginnings of a new daunting task. So, with boards on our deck rotting to the point of footsteps sinking right through them, we decided it was time to do a little restoration (I couldn’t bare thinking of the eight little paws catching mid-step). We knew John was traveling our way with Mom and we sheepishly asked if he could help change out a “few” boards, though after months of analysis we new it was at least 85% or so. At the time, we were unclear about schedules and such; silly us, we were left with only 2-1/2 days – plus, silly him, he agreed! I certainly won’t be going into a list of “Oh, but I made him this food”, sort of list because it doesn’t compare to the efforts, energy and hard work that he sweated-out and burned-off in return (plus, believe it or not, he is not motivated by food – crazy). I will say though, that I made beef for John, plus potatoes, the mashed-up kind, no vegetables (okay, maybe a few) and no wine (well, not for him). Yep, he is a meat-and-potatoes job, diner-establishment and vodka and tonic number (no fault there other than vodka over gin) -preferred over crushed grapes and white linen). He is also a big Cookie Monster and I was feeling particularly guilty for not making a batch; I resorted to (good, local heathly-ish) store-bought cookies instead. So, as I said, we had two and one-half days, 2 men full-time, 2 women (very) part-time and a (very) special appearance for a few hours by John’s son, Luke and our neighbor and friend Piotr, as well (huge thanks). We also had a Helluva lot of work and inclement weather (because why would it choose to cooperate?). You already know that John is an achiever, but I forgot to mention that he is relentless as well. 14-hour days, straight through without (seriously) so much as a potty break and food taken in only when hand force-fed during action (until a late-night dinner, s t a m i n a). So, two (okay, three…possibly four) sore backs, aches and many pains, bruises and blisters later, it was time for them to catch a flight back to the North (where the weather was behaving(?)). Right down to the wire and it was so close…but not quite done (no stairs to the yard for the pups and no benches that make up the rail… oh how this bothered John (mostly because as he gave the five-minute intense discussion on how to build stairs before peeling off to the airport, Tom looked like a deer in headlights, his day-to-day occupational device is a “mouse”). John kept at it until the final minute when my Mom literally pulled him out the door in order to make the flight (e n d u r a n c e). 20140629-183011.jpg Serious progress by Monday. We were ecstatic at the progress by Tuesday evening (not thinking it would even get as far as it did get on Tuesday) but Tom did have an apprehension of his ability to finish by himself. I, of course, was going to help (blind, leading the even more blind). Later that week, Tom was texting John back and forth, sent a picture of the cleaned up site and jokingly wrote “see you Saturday”. John wrote back “Saturday??? I can’t make it Saturday, but how about Thursday, does that work for you?”. “You wouldn’t kid a guy would you?”, was the reply (along with a full-fledged WTF?! and so on… it was a good day. So John has come back for an encore, all the way from Alaska (with more freshly caught king salmon in tow). We will give him a standing ovation and this time, store-bought cookies simply won’t do. Chocolate Chunk Pine Nut Cookies So this past Thursday night, as I made dinner while “the boys” were out slinging wood, I found myself with enough time to make cookies. I am much more of a cook than a baker so I don’t have a lot of cookie recipes up my sleeve. I had opened my email earlier and – low and behold, one of my blog friends had recently posted about chocolate chip cookies. She claims not to be a baker either, so I’m not sure it was the wisest choice to try making her recipe but it was Prudy from Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs, so I felt I couldn’t go too wrong. As I pulled up the screen to look at the recipe, I realized it was adapted from Crisco’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie and I’ve never cooked with shortening, let alone had any in the house (except when it suspiciously appeared from house guests). I started to slightly panic when I realized I was low on butter, had only whole wheat flour, no raisins, or walnuts and most importantly, no chocolate chips. Hmmm… improvisation was in order. I kept hearing Tom in my head saying, “Don’t make them taste of cardboard!” (which, to him, my cookies tend to taste of because I try to make them “healthy”). These however, I will be making again… and again, and again, and again! Ingredients 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour 2 tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda 1/4 tsp baking powder 3/4 cup Turbino sugar 6 TB butter 1/4 cup olive oil 1 TB vanilla extract 2 TB milk 1 egg 1/4 cups coarsely-chopped raw pine nuts Approximately 1 cup or 4 oz – mix of milk and dark chocolate cut into chunks I used Theo “salt and dark chocolate” plus “milk chocolate” plus Chocolove hazelnut milk chocolate, plus 1 oz Endangered Species dark chocolate (left over from Halloween, heh, heh…). 20140627-133232.jpg To Make Mix the flour, salt, baking soda and powder in a smallish bowl. Combine the sugar, butter, oil, vanilla, milk and egg in a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer until well-beaten. Add the dry mixture to the wet and continue mixing until well combined. Mix in the pine nuts and chocolate. Scoop small balls of dough onto a non-stick baking sheet (space a few inches apart). Cook at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes (or so) until golden and cooked through. Let cool, slightly on the sheets and then transfer to a rack or eat right away.

Oops!

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Well, yep. You all now know… I am technology-challenged. It came to my attention, from several corners of the world, that I might have hit a wrong button, saved something incorrectly, or had way too many devices open trying to do the same thing. Turns out I maybe did (I guess? Maybe?)! So, for those of you that opened a blank page or saw a post in progress, you can get to my latest (correct) post here…sorry if this is a rerun for any. I swear I’m not just trying to improve my stats!

My Writing Process, “A Blog Tour”

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20140622-181737.jpg Taste treats!

What is dis tour de blog? Apparently it is a far-reaching trek across the blogosphere asking bloggers, with subjects vast and varied, to look inside their process and share what makes them do what they do with the masses (errr, well, in our case, with our beloved 94 followers and whomever-else deems our insights worthy of reading – we thank you in advance).

(France-living canine) Hugo, via (France-living Mom) Fiona of the Healthy Epicurean, passed this tour-de-blog torch to our 10 little legs (2 legs actually not-so-little, but 8 legs quite dainty, messy and cute) for contributions to this blog tour. We are particularly honored because the Healthy Epicurean is one of our most-coveted blog sites, filled with delicious food, solid health advice, and best of all, charming wit and personality. Whether the antics of the day are to do with the horses, the chickens, eleven-year-old son Leo, curmudgeon (and news corespondent) canine Hugo, or BHFF (best hen friend forever), the story always amuses, plus the whole clan lives in Southwestern France (and how idyllic is that?). I might also add that her header is an ever changing array of perfectly depicted watercolor scenes done by her father-in-law? (Fiona, did I get that right?) We just love them!

Bear with me as I am (happily) obligated to answer the following four questions, but be forewarned, I may have exceeded the average word count!

What are you working on?

I have multiple balls in the air right now; multiple pencils on the page, fingers on the keyboard…and so on.

In addition to answering these questions, I have recently tried to resurrect my focus toward publishing a cookbook (which is what got me writing in the first place). I am shaking off the dust, seeing where I left off and deciding where I want to take it going forward.

I also have a running list of things I want to post on my blog but am having a hard time keeping current posting on things as they occur. I have a file of posts “in progress” and a list of ideas for future posts.

How does your work differ from others of the same genre:

I think the main way anybody’s work differs, one from the other, has to do with their voice. I try to write with my heart, which means my personality will show through, and hopefully, come across in the spirit with which it is intended (for better or worst). Also, since my dogs Ginger and Buddy are such a large part of my world (as is Tom), there is an infusion of their stories with my writings about food (sometimes from their point of view); we are so intwined that their inclusion is really just another extension of me and my (our) kitchen.

I try not to put the main emphasis on a recipe, because for me, it is the story surrounding the food that is as interesting (if not more so) than the food itself, even if that story is a description, in some form, of the food. Food marks certain times in my/our, life/lives (similar to the way a song or a perfume scent evokes nostalgic memories) so I like to remember what I was eating, cooking, making, growing and buying as our lives unfold.

I don’t spend a lot of time “styling” my food for photographs; not because I don’t want to but mostly because it is our dinner (lunch or breakfast) and we like to eat it at it’s best (AKA, still warm). The photos I use are “in the moment” as we would (and do) eat if the blog did not exist. Plus, and I think this is important, I don’t consider myself a “foodie”. Not sure where that term came from but I am just a lover of food, not a snob about food. I can be a snob about food (as my family, not Tom, would surely tell you) but I mostly just think of food as a benefit of life. I love grubby food as much as fancy food but want any food to fit the moment or the experience presented. Mostly, now, I am so aware of the better foods and try to skip the processed foods. I grew up with the stuff our government (in the USA) “made” for us and am now in a position to move away from that processed crap and eat smarter.

I try to form a meaningful connection between the story and the food, rather than just being “The Turtle” on Sex in the City who bores Samantha by reciting everything he knows about mushrooms or the Jim Nabors character on the Love Boat who describes to the passengers each night exactly what he ate for dinner, boring them beyond belief (although, admittedly, I found it very entertaining which was an indication that I am, in fact, a food geek).

Why do I write what I do:

I write about food because, I can’t think of anything else that defines my life so much as food. When I talk about my life, the subject of food always bubbles up. After I began journaling my food (well over a decade ago), I decided to write a cookbook, but wanted it to be something more than just a book of recipes. I dabbled in a myriad of ideas but as a designer (of interior environments), my work-life finally consumed me and eventually I quite writing. I started my blog because it was a more manageable chunk to bite off and has now inspired me to write again.

When I/we (Pete, Tom, Ginger, Buddy and me) first launched my/our blog, I planned only to post once a month. As I began, I realized that in addition to enjoying the writing, I began craving the connections to a community that thought about food in a similar way as I think about food. I became excited to write and allowed myself more freedom to pay attention to what I was making in the kitchen. I post once, sometimes twice a week rather than once a month. I don’t write for an audience as much as I write for myself though, but I am always thrilled when what I write resonates with someone else. I continue to write about food and life because it excites me and I don’t want to forget my experiences; plus, those experiences often include food.

How does your writing process work:

My process works in multiple ways and is more of an evolution than a process. Sometimes I start talking to myself (quietly, inside my head) and I realize that I am onto something, so I write it down. It is usually involving food but not always. Other times I might have a random thought, this could be a thought about food (what to make, what to eat, what to do with an ingredient) or a random thought about life (what I did, what I want to do, what I saw, where I have gone, where I want to go, or what happened in the world). The thought could be about a feeling, or a season, or just about anything; if it sparks an emotion that makes me want to write about it, I just start writing. If I run out of something to say or hit a road block, I store it away for another day (and many of those jumbled thoughts sit parked forever on my iPad). I develop recipes this way too and then try them out later to see if they turn out or make sense. I tend to be a thinker though and like to sit on things a bit, then revise, read, revise, read and then finally edit. Tom is always the final editor (so you can blame him if it still doesn’t make sense to anyone but us).

Then there are times when a fun title pops into my head and I mold a subject around that title. I might bounce ideas off Tom and through our discussions come up with something very different then what it started out as being. I always edit, edit, edit and then Tom edits a bit more.

I often write in the car on the way to work (don’t worry, Tom is driving, and also not editing). I might add to that throughout the day here or there, or I might not. I usually write again on the ride home, or I read what I have written instead and try to figure out where I want to go with the story or the recipe.

Finally, there is the sheer emotional experience that gets me writing. If something happens to make me happy, sad, nostalgic… I allow that feeling to wash over me and see what comes out from that in writing, or in cooking. Often, if too emotional, these moments get lost because I have a hard time writing them down.

My writing is merely a compilation of my life as I see it, expressed in the form of food.

Next up:

Now, in the spirit in which we received the tour de blog torch, Ginger and Buddy have asked that it be passed onto the following two bloggers (and each will describe their choices and a then Tom and I will describe ours; of course, we are grateful to Hugo and Fiona for thinking of us):

Ginger: It has to be Minnie from Minnie in Manhattan. I think of myself as a stylish gal, with my red hair, soft, thick and cut on trend; my wardrobe boasting a colorful and interesting array of fashion-forward pieces partial to pink even though I am a tomboy at heart. I have a prance about my step that could rival even the most highly-trained runway models, albeit heavy-hoofed and fancy-free will typically win my step over in the end. I like to frequent all the best outdoor patios for dining and prefer to eat my food from a silver fork rather than out of a bowl. I can bat my big eyes and win over the toughest of crowds, but when I read about Minnie’s escapades in Manhattan, I just knew that I found a friend. Minnie has some great sources for fashion and is not stingy with her insights. Her Mom takes her to some great East Coast places and if you check out her site you will feel like you are “in the City” as well.

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Buddy: Em parchall to Pattee from Patty Nguyen. Lyke me, she haaz A intresteng heretage an juzt az My Mommy lovz me, Pattee lovz her itzee Bailey beeond wordz She iz kine too everyonze and is a thotfull Mentor, teach perzon an frend. her photographingz iZ stunnig and her foode lookz yummiez 2. plus shez iz one of my biggeszted followerzz

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Stacey and Tom: Sheri, from the Unfettered Fox is an inspiration both as an artist, gardener, writer and cook. No pretension, quirky and fun. Her house made for bees won our attention and our hearts. Her preference to wearing pajamas all day hit pretty close to home, as did her “plough through the work” attitude once motivation sets in. This artist knows how to entertain, work hard, relax and have fun. She also knows how to cook, eat and write. We especially like that she and her husband co-exist on the same property, both at work and play. Loving the life, given twice the reward.

Buffy: And in the not-to-be-forgotten category… Buffy (our dear but sadly departed blonde dog) would want me to add on:

Rachel Mankowitz of The Cricket Pages is one to be read. Her heart-warming humor shows how our four-legged friends can both mystify and delight, comfort and amuse you, watch over and protect you. Most of all, she has two blonde gals that will changed to course of her life, just as my blonde gal, Buffy, changed the course of my life – Stacey.

20140622-181854.jpg Pups eating arugula?! Crazy. And crazy good breakfast pizza.

20140622-181055.jpgHappy as clams to be participating.

A Fragrant Smell

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Home from Lummi Island (two weeks past), we needed a simple meal. Simple and humble and good. It was still warm and beautiful outside but as the sun goes down and light fades from the sky, a crisp chill begins to set in. There is something about going away that leaves a house feeling empty once one returns. I wanted to fill the house with warm cooking smells to let it know we were home. There is just something so comforting about the aroma of roast chicken. So fragrant and inviting, as if the surrounding air could penetrate your skin and fortify you without even taking a bite. On island, I had been wise enough to purchase a bottle of Brookfield Farm raw honey-infused apple cider vinegar that was begging to be opened, tasted and tried. I had organic chicken wings waiting to be cooked. I began thinking of the bread we were served at Willows Inn with a bowl full of chicken pan drippings. As the wings began roasting, I could almost taste those drippings in my mind. Simple and humble and good.

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Roasted wings of chicken, ginger, garlic and spinach

6 wings, drumettes separated from the wing (rinsed and pat dry)
1 TB olive oil 1 TB raw honey-infused vinegar
A few pinches sea salt and many grinds of fresh pepper (I use my roasted “seasoning”)
1/2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into dice
4-5 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled, cut into chunks
1/2 fresh lemon
1 large handful, baby spinach, cleaned and spun dry (approximately 2 cups)
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

Toss the chicken with the oil, vinegar and seasoning.

Spread out onto a baking sheet and tuck the garlic and ginger in amongst the pieces.

Lightly squeeze the lemon juice over (leave much of the juice in the lemon, un-squeezed, so it will roast along with the chicken and can be squeezed later).

Roast in the oven for approximately 45 minutes. Check in on them at 20 minutes and give them a toss if needed. They should turn a lovely shade of caramel but not burn. When cooked through, sticky, caramel and wafting of delightful aroma, remove from the oven. Drizzle in a little more vinegar if you like and cook a further 5 minutes or not.

Toss a large handful of cleaned baby spinach over the chicken and squeeze the lemon juice over the spinach. Gently, using your clean paws, mix the spinach in with the chicken pieces which will help transfer flavor to the greens and warm them.

Divide amongst two plates and serve right away.

20140618-200214.jpgFreshly sliced tomatoes make a nice garnish.

20140618-231237.jpgGoing our way?
Ginger and Buddy want to take these to Angie at the Novice Gardener for Fiesta Friday; they just need to agree on a direction and find a ride. Maybe one of the co-hosts, Elaine from Foodbod or Julianna from Foodie on Board will give them a lift.

There’s Something About Buddy – part two

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20140612-191311.jpgJust when things are going well; going as you might think they are planned, the other shoe drops, and it is not always the right size. It is important to take pleasure in the moments that are good; the moments that at the time, seem insignificant, silly or mundane. Our lives happen fast and it is important to slow down and take it all in; enjoying the good but learning from the bad. I was reminded again of this fact shortly after posting this same title, but part one. If you haven’t read that, you may want to read it before this: here.
Buddy is happy; Buddy is snoring. Ginger is waking us up. Saturday morning started out as usual – Ginger begins scratching her ear wildly after her snarfing, growling and jumping from the bed failed to wake me. Then came the flipping, wildly, on the floor like a “floppy fish”; our cue to wake up. Outside, check. Treats, check. Back to bed, sort of. 15 minutes later, the routine replays. Then coffee, more horseplay and breakfast ensues. The phone rang. A call we were expecting. Expecting the usual news; but it was not (the news we expected).

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On that not-so-distant Saturday, the blood results that were taken for Buddy at his previous visit to the Doc, came back shaded, and with a cloud of uncertainty. From there, more tests ensued and then an ultrasound uncovered several lumps. Two, on opposite sides of the liver, some in the spleen as well as the pancreas. I had gone to this appointment for the ultrasound with my eyes wide shut. It blind-sided me, but must have been something I was akin to expect. Yet deep down, I was not willing to believe it was time for him to leave us quite yet.

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Again, Ginger sat by his side, offering comfort (or, at least, the best she could do). I listened to the results and had so many questions but I was just fishing for the answer I wanted to hear. This was something they were unable to deliver. Had it been one organ, one side of the liver, or a million other things, hope might have been there. I felt cold inside even though the sun was out, heating the air around us. I remember once sitting in a room at my Doctor’s office being delivered news about myself that filled me with the same feeling of desperation, despair and disbelief. It could not be happening – again. I knew, that it was not going to happen without a fight. Buffy, our first dog (read about her here) suffered from cancer of the liver; she died 2 weeks after diagnosis. This was an event that changed our lives forever (a story still untold here).

We were prepared to do what was needed to make this be better, whatever “better” might be. They took aspirations from the liver and the spleen and now we had to wait three days for the results. I spent three days researching about cancer of the liver, cancer in canines, chemotherapy, holistic healing, acupuncture, and… you name it. I found a particularly useful site that, if the need should unwontedly arise, you can visit here.

I was amazed at what all I had discovered in the ways of holistic medicine and healing. It opened my eyes to things I wish I had known all along for both ourselves and our dogs. For instance, milk thistle is a powerful helper in promoting liver health; as the Doc put it, “With all the environmental contaminants we are exposed to, this should be in our drinking water”. Arteminisin, an extract of the herb sweet wormwood, is a potential new discovery for helping cancer cells to kill themselves; it is currently under study by Dr. Henry Lia at the University of Washington. It is also the second most used herb in cancer treatment by Lena McCullough, DVM (author of Path with Paws) at her practice in West Seattle. Acupuncture is also one of the most widely accepted treatments among holistic practitioners (and not disputed by Western medicine doctors alike) for everything from cancer to joint pain. There are so many things we can do (and should be doing) for not only ourselves, but also our pets, to lead longer, healthier lives.

After extensive reading over the weekend, I decided to be proactive on a game plan; I ordered artemisinin, bought milk thistle and booked an acupuncture session for Buddy for that Monday (I had already started him on acupuncture for his back pain the week before). I also went to the market and loaded up on broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, liver, chicken hearts and bison. I bought fish for dinner that night and bought cod liver oil formulated for pets, as well as mushroom powder. Buddy and Ginger already had a pretty nutritional diet of Darwin’s raw bison and raw duck. They ate this in the morning and evening but had access to dry duck and potato prescription diet during the day and a bit of what we ate during our dinner (unseasoned). They also ate a lot of bread (which I didn’t realize was bad) but most of their “treats” contained grain. This would need to be altered; we needed to starve the cancer cells and feed Buddy his nutrients; grains are not good to feed dogs with cancer. There would need to be careful proportioning of proteins to fats to vegetables to carbohydrates. One of the most important things we could do to improve and extend his chance of survival would be to feed him a cancer fighting diet. The cod liver oil would help boost the omegas he needs, the milk thistle would help provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidants, mushrooms would boost the immune system and the artemisinin would (potentially) attack the cancer cells.

I felt slightly better knowing I had the start of a plan and was armed with questions for the oncologist and our holistic Doc (we were lucky that Dr. Rice, their normal veterinarian at Issaquah Veterinary Hospital also practiced holistic medicine and acupuncture). I was less on top of things when it had been my own life that hung in the balance.

There was no time for tears and no room for delusions and wishful thinking. The odds of a non-malignant prognosis was slim to none. It was what we were going to do about it that mattered now. As I sat outside in the sunshine reading as much as I could, I looked over at Buddy and Ginger sitting side-by-side on the porch, air lovingly bringing them delicious outdoor smells that activated the movement of their wet little noses. They were sitting as closely as I had ever seen them sit outside before and could almost picture them sitting in a little porch swing like Mr. Bartles and Mr. Jaymes. I wanted to wiggle my nose and make this terrible disease go away. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, grab hold of Buddy and escape from the sadness, the inevitable pain. Instead, I snapped out of it and went over to lay next to them and we all fell asleep in the sun.

On Monday, we went to his acupuncture appointment. This was his second session but I had not been there for his first and didn’t know what to expect. I kept trying to imagine him laying still with needles sticking out of him, un-moving. This seemed absurd since he won’t even let me brush his hair without fussing. Dr. Rice came into the room and we discussed the results of his ultra sound. She had not seen the biopsy results yet but agreed that I was right in being pro-active in ordering the artemisinin and starting the milk thistle.

After explaining a few things about holistic medicine and her diagnosis of a stagnant chi (in Buddy’s liver), she began inserting the needles, swiftly and confidently. Buddy let out a few minor yelps (and then we were left alone to sit quietly for 15 minutes. I put Buddy, carefully like a porcupine, into my lap and Ginger laid fidgeting alongside.

20140612-235651.jpgSee, the needles are quite small. He hardly knew they were there.

20140612-191105.jpgGinger is actually quite concerned; turns out she kind of likes having him around (shhh…don’t tell Buddy).

Five minutes later, Dr. Rice came back in, door swinging open and a chart in her hand. It turned out the results had come in from the biopsy. The next few moments were surreal. I was not sure I fully heard things correctly as I listened to her words… “the tumors were all benign…”!!!!  B E N I G N (no cancer!!!)!

Life is not always easy and the news is not always good but I now realize that there are those things in life that matter and those that matter notably less. The ones that matter most are the ones worth our worry. The other stuff is all just part of the noise and should be tuned out.

It is the big wins that make the small losses seem insignificant and although It is unlikely we will ever win the lottery, with Buddy, we already did; he won’t be leaving us yet. There is just something about Buddy… and that something will always make us smile.

20140613-001058.jpgBuddy wins!!!

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