Smoked Meats (and tangy drinks)

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margarita two glass

It seems fitting that I should roast a pork on Father’s Day.  Firstly, because pork brings back “Thoughts of Dad”.  Secondly, because pork is manly and can be roasted on a grill.  Ironically, I found out recently that my Dad doesn’t like smoked meats.  In fact, he doesn’t like smoked food.  Yet, I am pretty sure, as I was growing up, we ate bacon once a week (!), and in last year’s visit, (the one where I became aware of his disdain for smoked food), he exclaimed his love of smoked pork chops.  Perhaps he doesn’t think these are actually flavored of smoke?  In any case, I started writing this last year on Father’s Day and for Dad, I was making pork (even though he was back home in Mexico), and for Tom, the father of our adorable furry kids, I roasted said pork, in smoke!

I could smell it as I typed, wafting smoky loveliness throughout our yard and down our street.  Sadly, I didn’t write down what I did so when we finally get the replacement part for our wood pellet grill, I will explore a re-creation.  Until then, it was one year and two months later that I found myself in Arizona, visiting Dad (and Linda).  It was Father’s Day (again) and I planned on roasting a pork.

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…and Linda brought me to the right place.

Instead, I let someone roast it for us, overnight in applewood smoke, until it fell apart and filled with just the most perfect essence of smoke.

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Did I say Linda brought me to the right place?!

This tender pork I stuffed into charred poblanos along with charro beans, sautéed onions, tomatillo salsa, cumin and coriander.  It was then topped with mozzarella and cojita cheeses before going into the oven for 30 minutes at 375-degrees.  It came out melty, smoky and delicious.

But I’m not here to tell you about that, I am here to tell you about this – a taco bar.  In addition to the poblanos, the pork was set out on a platter with other taco fixings.  We were having a few guests over; and since it was crazy hot out and a few guests could mean two – but could also mean 10, I decided to keep it simple while keeping the kitchen coolish (it was 111 degrees outside).  Since we were in Arizona, a taco bar sounded like a good idea.  Okay, to me, a taco bar always sounds like a good idea.

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As does a fountain!

But not as good as a pool!

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Good thing we got both… a pool and a fountain!

Serving suggestion: Think about using colorful dishes with food set out on large platters surrounded by smaller bowls of salsas and garnish.  Chips and guacamole are perfect to nibble while sipping on cool mango margaritas before dinner.  Festive music should include the likes of Tito Paris, the Champs or Jenny and the Mexicats.

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But first…

...start by making margaritas! It is summer here in our piece of the world and better yet, it is the ideal time for nectarines in the Pacific Northwest. Specifically, in Yakima, Washington.  I don’t have mangos (and am not in Mexico, Hawaii, nor Arizona for that matter) but I do have a large quantity of nectarines.  Picked fresh from the Yakima Valley and purchased yesterday at Hunter Farms, so I’m thinking nectarine margaritas!

The margaritas I made were from these outrageously delicious, tender, sweet with a-bit-of twang perfection.  If you use other nectarines, purchased from a grocer without access to really good nectarines, I will first off, feel sorry for you and secondly, feel grateful that I didn’t.  No worries though, I am here to help you through by letting you know, your margarita will still be stellar.  Perhaps a little more Grand Marnier will do the trick? Peaches, mangos or apricots could be used in place of the nectarine.  Just remember that it is adding most of the sweetness to the drink since we aren’t adding sugar (or even simple syrup).

Nectarine Margaritas:

In a blender or food processor (such as a Vitamix), add the juice of 2 limes and 1 lemon (which should equal a total of 6 TB), 1 large nectarine (minus 4 slices for garnish; pit removed, skin on), 6 oz tequila (your favorite kind or the best you can afford), 2 oz Grand Marnier, and a big handful of ice.  Puree until smooth and serve in salt-rimmed glasses, garnished with a slice of nectarine and a sprig of herb (basil, mint, thyme…).

The fixin’s (for a taco bar):

Chunked Watermelon – lime juice, Serrano pepper & mint (literally that – dice some watermelon and mix with chopped Serrano chili, chopped mint and a little sea salt; very refreshing)

Pork butt – slow cooked, tender and smoky

Swordfish – cumin, coriander & heat

Sautéed Red Pepper and Onion

Black Beans

Sliced Cabbage

Torn Cilantro

Pico de gallo

Mango salsa (see my version here)

Avocado slices

Chipotle lime crème (just add chipotle chile powder or a small amount of the sauce from a can of chipotle chilis, and lime juice to CRÈME fraîche or sour cream).

By the way, if anyone is wondering why the hell I am writing about Father’s Day in August (when it happens to be in, uh, June), I believe you might want to reread this post.

Buen provecho!

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Ahhh summer…!  Buddy: “Do we like nectarines?”  Ginger: “Yeah, remember they gave us their drink garnish.  Is that why your pants are on backwards?”

The “Family” game

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This comes from Sacramento* where Tom and I are currently traveling to Dixon, CA, on a bus, filled with fellow food bloggers; destination unknown, to us anyways (and sponsored by the American Lamb Board).  My husband is sitting next to me and I just consumed a full sandwich filled with smoky slices of lamb; it was delicious!  I also ate the potato salad, all of it, and some of Tom’s.  I’m a little crazy about potato salad, but perhaps not the best idea at the beginning of a bus ride in the country.  I won’t go into that, but did I mention I am claustrophobic?  I certainly am now!   We are sitting in traffic, sun beating in, 101-degrees outside and I am listening to the cackle of many, many chatty voices, which are making me slightly insane!  I do see there is a restroom located in the back of the bus, conveniently, one row behind us.  I keep eyeing it over my shoulder, plotting my path, just-in-case.  I’ve been recently reminded that I can get car sick while riding in the back seat and am flashing back to my childhood.  I am adamently questioning our decision to leave the rental car parked at the hotel?!

* Well, it would have if I posted this last week when it was written, oops!

To keep my mind occupied (and my stomach, um, unaware), I am reminiscing the day leading up to this where we had hiked in the morning, sat in a creek (because it was again over 100-degrees), boated on Lake Wildwood, and best of all, after going my whole life unaware it existed, finally learned Zion Check, the “Family” game.

Tom and I are attending the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) again, but this year it’s earlier in the year and in Sacramento, which turns out, is halfway between Alamo (no, not that Alamo) and Lake Wildwood.  The significance of that geographic trivia has to do with our motivation for attending this year’s conference (in addition of course, to the lure of the farm-to-fork culture of the area and the generous sponsors who will be there, providing stellar food, drinks and interesting + important facts, as usual).

My (our) main motivation however, was that my cousin Julie (you might remember her from this…), lives in the East Bay Area and has a vacation home in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where we have just spent the last several days.  Julie is the daughter of my birth Mom’s twin sister.  We had sadly not spent but a couple short times together since we were quite young, but apparently had spent a great deal more time together than either of us realized when we were young (as documented by the numerous photo albums that we finally got through, and I mean that in a good sense).

As we arrived at their home, greeted suspiciously, by their sweet dog Angela (AKA, Angie) and (slightly) less suspiciously by her husband Joe; Julie whisked us inside exclaiming how while we were here, we needed to look through old photo albums and play the “Family” game.  Growing up at my house in Alaska, we most definitely played games.  We played Cribbage, Gin Rummy and such.  Monopoly, Survive, Battleship, Scrabble and Yahtzee.  Old Maid, Dominos, Risk.  We played Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Parcheesi, Hearts and Go Fish.  The list goes on.  But not once though, had we played Zion Check, which Julie enthusiastically pointed out, we would be playing this trip.

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Ms. Angie on lookout at the bow.

The first night we popped open a bottle of champagne and caught up.  Then we loaded onto their boat with a platter of cheese and our cocktails to set off on a sunset cruise around the lake.  After we got back and finished a late dinner, we all agreed that the next day, Tom and I would learn the “Family” game. The next day, after breakfast on the deck, we decided instead, to escape the forecasted heat by driving 90 minutes northeast to Lake Tahoe, where we parked ourselves at a shaded table, under a tree by the lake, to have cocktails and eat crab.  In Nevada (because we can).  That was a good plan.  Did I mention the temperature had reached 106-degrees that day?

Time was running out and we hit our last day at the lake, no more knowledgable about how to play the “Family” game than we had been any day prior.  We did learn that Julie had been playing it for forty years and playing it with Joe for twenty-three of them. With no breakfast preluding, we kick-started our last full day with a hike.  It was invigorating!  It was hot!  Damn hot (but bonus!) it allowed us to sit in a running river, yay!  Upon our return, I happily watched Joe make a large breakfast, hungrily ate said large breakfast, showered (the hot stink away) and proceeded to look through many nostalgic photos.  It was (now) the hottest part of the day, so we finally sat downstairs (the lake beckoning beyond the windows, but from air conditioned comfort) at the poker table to play the “Family” game.

This was a card game, it turns out!  Perhaps best described as Gin Rummy meets Poker.  Card play can be as ruthless…and tricky but fun. I could tell from the start that this would be no exception.  We all antied up our 55 cents (no pennies accepted) and each got our 11 poker chips in return.

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Cool hand Luke!

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Not our tally sheet, but a history lesson.  Julie often wins.

As Julie wrote out our “contract” (what the heckfire?!), I could immediately tell Tom was getting nervous that this game, might be over his head (he is not a card player as such, but sneakily good and catching on and beating those well-versed).

Well, I have digressed, so, to make a short story less long, I will go back to the bus ride and let you know that it ended just fine (and stomach intact).  As you know, it started a little sketchy.  The bus stopped in the middle of nowhere and we were concerned there might be a bit of walking involved, through cows and sheep and sunflowers, no cool air, hot sun pounding down; I did spy a cute sight though, out the window was a sweet girl and her father on a bundle of hay.

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Now that’s a farm girl!

Turns out we were meant to go on a hayride.  How fun, if it was not so damn hot!  Our guide, Ryan (and daughter Macayla) thought the same thing, so we toured the farm in a bus.  Ryan’s a 5th generation farmer and his family supplies meat to Superior Farm, which, as luck would have it, I do buy a lot of my lamb from.  I have good taste!

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…and he has a cute daughter!

Our final destination turned out to be Yolo Brewery which makes exceptional beer.  I have that on good authority because I tasted them all!  Tom and I were particular fans of the Orange Blossom Blonde (refreshing for the hot weather) and the Coconut Porter (surprisingly delicious!  It was good just by itself but would make a good pairing with chocolate or as a replacement for dessert).

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To be truthful, Tom and I went a little bit rogue.  We did, hard to believe, we know!  Rule breakers.  It was so hot and we all had waited around for so long to understand what we were doing there (in the brewery) besides drinking beer, that is (kudos to Paige (the bartender who spent a short stint in Seattle before succumbing to the gray winters and heading back home) to kick the taps off on her own accord), that Tom and I opted to sit outside under the misters.  Yes, I know this was rude.

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However, not only were we full, we were hot.  The water misters, in hot, fresh air, sounded good.  Stuffed in a warehouse corner, watching a lamb be butchered sounded, not good, for me (us).  There you go; we sometimes roll like that.

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Speaking of rolling…

As we reluctantly (did I say it was hot?!) stuffed our very full faces with hallava, from the King Kabob food truck parked outside the brewery (more treats sponsored by the American Lamb Board) we decided we could stuff in some more (because they were GREAT)!!!  Exceptional in fact.  Now Tom and I were on our second one.

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I can’t give you a pretty picture of the food because it was consumed quickly!

I strongly felt the need to go talk to the Man!  Two Men as it were, father and son, to let them know how much we enjoyed their food.  If you recall, I am a bit particular (and may I remind you, already full), so coming from me, I feel there should be put an extra emphasis on how exceptional this lamb dish was!

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I swear the guys are in there actually talking to me.

As I got to talking to the Owner, Rasul and his son John, I learned the lamb came fresh from a farm just down the road where Rasul says Chuck sells only the best meat.  I can attest to the fact that the lamb we were eating was the best lamb of its kind I have ever tasted.  Expecting the typical chewy and unremarkable flavor to which I am accustomed to finding in a food truck, I instead bit into tender morsels exploding with balanced flavor.

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…and then we had thirds.  This was an offering after talking about the nuances of rice.  These guys know how to make rice (oh yeah, and lamb)!

The two men were at first, reluctant to divulge any of their secrets, but after much conversation and interest, they gave me some information that I consider to be golden (and I didn’t even need a gold pan).  How lucky did I feel when the rest of the bus missed out on the most important part of the trip – getting to know the Makers.  I am reluctant to share those secrets, especially since I haven’t had a chance to try them out yet, so stay tuned…

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King Kabob:  Find them in Sacramento now…and bring your appetite!

Hope to see you there next year!?

Waffling about Waffles

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I received my first waffle maker as a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law Laura, some 22 years ago.  I coveted that thing, but in all honesty, probably only used it a dozen times.  It was stored in a hard-to-access cabinet, along with, many other “need-to-have” tools that were rarely used, if only because they were out-of-sight.  Not “outta sight”, as in Issac Washington cool, but out of sight, as in, can’t see it, don’t even think to use it kind of way.

Then those damn Eggo Waffles that I used to crave as a kid kept showing up in my freezer somehow.  Until, of course, those healthy versions of “Eggo” waffles kept showing up in my cart (and then into the freezer).  How easy was that?  Pop into toaster, butter, syrup and then eat, yum!  Now that’s convenience.

Then the whole gluten-free fad took hold, convincing even the most unconvincible (Me) to think about not eating gluten.  Until.  Until!  Until…I realized, (yes, me, I figured it out) that gluten is only bad for you, if it is actually something your body can’t handle.  For instance, if you have, (oh) say…Celiac disease.  Not if you have… “I-need-to-stop-eating-gluten-because-everyone-says-so disease”!!!  I didn’t want to catch THAT virus!!!

A few years ago, I began wanting to make waffles again.  Previously-mentioned waffle maker was no where in sight (yes, pun intended).  I think it had made it’s way to the garage during our kitchen remodel, over 10 years ago, never to re-surface again.  In any case, I wanted a waffle maker!  I needed a waffle maker!  I did a little research.  Tom did a little research.  And one year later, I still didn’t have a waffle maker!!?

One weekend, while at “the cabin” (my in-law’s vacation spot in Hoodsport), we discovered a waffle maker in the far-back reaches of the pantry.  We decided to make waffles!  Turns out, this might not have been the best idea?  Well, actually, it was a good idea, it just was not a good waffle maker.  What seemed like a solid piece of classic, old school kitchen equipment, began quickly to appear more like a medieval torture device.  Two burns and no waffles later (all the batter stuck to the grids, which simultaneously came out to attack me) I decided to seriously re-think buying a waffle maker; they were dangerous.
V e r y ,  very dangerous.

I continued to dream about waffles; sometimes with blueberries and maple syrup, sometimes with fried chicken and champagne.  Finally, I decided that while I had always been more partial to waffles, pancakes were equally good.  I would continue to make pancakes.  Yes! pancakes were good enough for me.  And safer.

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As I shut the door to waffle making, Tom opened his secret quest to find a waffle maker that I would love.  Christmas morning, I said hello to my new friend, the waffle maker.  It too was stout, was friendly to the eye, it was easy to understand, and most importantly, it did not attack.  Waffles are now in solid rotation on the weekends at Chez Stacey.

On a recent weekend, we were at “the cabin”; this time, my in-laws were there too.  As we discussed plans for food, the subject of waffles surfaced.  How perfect for a forest escape?  But I let it be known that we would not be making waffles with their waffle maker!  Lois and Bill both looked at each other perplexed.  “What was wrong with it?”, they wanted to know.  “Well let me tell you”, I said, and boy I did say.  In fact, I said quite a bit.

They continued to defend it,  so I curiously encouraged Lois to show me what I was doing wrong.  The next morning, we awoke to the happy site of a busy kitchen.  Coffee in hand, I took my place at the counter to watch the show; the batter was mixed and ready to go.  Lois went to the pantry and pulled out a waffle maker that was compact, on a stand with a handle and looked nothing like the one I had described.  “Where did that come from?”, I asked.  “That’s certainly not the one I was talking about”.  “Oh”, she replied, “you must be talking about that old one that was stuck back in the corner”.  Yup, circa 1965 we’re guessing.

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WAFFLES
Makes approximately 6

The first few attempts at making waffles on my new iron were fine but a little too heavy; perhaps I was trying to be a little too healthy with the type of flour and lack of oil; sorry Tom!  I did hit gold on pass three though.

These are made with whole wheat pastry flour but yet are still light, fluffy and with the perfect amount of crisp.  They freeze exceptionally well, which makes for a great way to enjoy an easy Sunday brunch the following weekend.  You can scatter a handful of blueberries over the batter after it is poured in, or for another variation, try mixing in a TB of cocao powder to the batter and serving it with bananas and creme fraîche.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp sea salt
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp raw sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs, yolk and white separated
1 1/2 cups almond milk
10 TB butter, melted

PREPARATION

Mix the dry ingredients together, sifting the sea salt through your fingers to make it finer.

Mix the butter with the almond milk.  Whisk the egg yolk to mix and add to the milk mixture.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff (or nearly stiff if doing by hand).

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.

Fold in the egg whites.

Let sit for 10- 15 minutes while you heat up the waffle iron.  I use the Breville waffle maker which I put to “Custom” and cooked for 5 minutes.

I'm feeling a little hungry

I’m feeling a little hungry

Hey Ginger, want to go get waffles?

Hey Ginger, wanna go get waffles?  Ok, Buddy, but I thought we weren’t supposed to have gluten?  Oh well, we’re 16, I suppose we can do whatever we want.

I hear there is a good diner just ahead

I hear there is a good diner just ahead (here we go a waffling…)

Those were good but Mom's are better

Those were pretty good but Mom’s are better

 

 

Lamb Curry (happened along the way)

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I was standing at the meat counter patiently waiting my turn. The gal ahead of me, a lovely Indian women, kept adding items to her order; “while you are down there, add four of those”, she said, speaking of lamb shoulder blade chops.  I contemplated those chops as I eyed the lovely marbling of fat nestled amongst the thick, red slabs of meat.  I have contemplated them before but pass them up for the illustrious rib rack or humble bone-in leg.  She seemed so confident in her selection though, that I couldn’t help but ask what she was doing with them; a lamb curry she replied.  “I brown them first, which is the most important part, then add some Indian spices, chopped onion, tomato and braise them. It is kind of like making a stew; sometimes I’ll add turnips or something, then you can just let it go by itself”.

Then it was my turn to place an order, which began with two pounds of ground lamb (one of which would be used for Ginger and Buddy’s dinner), 1 lb of apple-smoked bacon (breakfast maybe?), a slab of baby back ribs (they looked particularly good), and what the heck, “I’ll take four of those too”, I told the butcher, pointing to the lamb shoulder blade chops.

Off I went, with my packages in the cart and on to the cheese counter where I sampled the Spring Gouda (and threw a wedge of that in on top of the other things that were not on my list). I was standing in the bread aisle when I heard an announcement over the speaker for the person who took the wrong cart to please come to Customer Service; “idiot”, I snickered. For now I was intent on finding my chestnut crackers and luckily found the last pack straggling behind by itself on a lower shelf.

My mind was scanning itself for what else I might be forgetting; I had come here for three items and wasn’t convinced that I had any of those three yet in my cart. I had spent so much time in produce that I lost track of why I came to the store in the first place. Ah yes, fresh-squeezed orange juice, check; I remembered getting that from produce. Natural all-purpose cleaner, yes, I remembered going with the one that disinfects. Check. Chestnut crackers, uh huh, just picked them up. My work here was officially done.

I got to the check out counter (20 minutes later) and as I stood in line, a weird sensation came over me. I felt a little lost as I started pulling the items from my cart onto the conveyer belt. I had picked up a large planter of baby lettuces from the garden racks outside on my way in; where was my planter? Who took my !@#$%! planter?

In the child’s seat of the cart, were two ears of corn, Roma tomatoes and a plastic bag with three mangos. I had selected two ears of corn but mine were much smaller and while I also chose three mangos, I had just thrown them into the main compartment without a plastic bag; I rarely use a plastic bag. I knew I didn’t put those tomatoes in because I always buy the brown tomatoes, if not those, the ones on the vine; vines that these tomatoes were missing. A wave of panic came over me as I looked up onto the belt and scanned it quickly for my cold-pressed orange juice. It wasn’t there. Tom would freak!

I looked at the gal behind the counter and asked if she remembered the earlier announcement about the missing shopping cart? I was standing there holding a plastic bag with a single artichoke, I had not picked out, and confessed, “It was me, I am the idiot that took the wrong cart.  It was me!”

She told me to go to Customer Service but, nobody was there , and I did not see a cart with my items. So I left the, mostly empty, cart with the wayward corn, tomatoes, mango and artichoke (in case it’s owner came back) and ran quickly to produce so I could get another orange juice (for Tom). On  my way back to the register I grabbed an ear of corn, a mango and a bag of cherries, assuming that I had lost the rest of my produce. I got back just as she was finishing up my order, handed her the items and she told me that she already rang up a bag of cherries. I was perplexed as to how I could still have had cherries in my cart when the cart must have gone missing after I left produce?!

When I got home, I realized that not only was I missing the cacao powder I had convinced myself to try, the sprouted brown rice I was happy to find, and that cute jar of local, raw honey, but I managed to make it back with only one of the items I had set out to buy, the orange juice (for Tom). I also realized that the bag of cherries were not the ones I had selected because my bag was open and this bag was closed. And, while I didn’t take the time to get another planter of baby lettuces, I did end up with a head of live lettuce, neatly tucked into a plastic bag. I guess it is like the song says, “You don’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you get what you need!”

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Lamb Curry

As I set out to make this, I realized that I had no idea what a lamb curry was. What Indian spices was the woman referring to? Does a curry need a curry paste or is it okay to use just the powder? Does it have to have coconut milk to qualify? I decided that it didn’t matter what an authentic curry should be, I would just approach it like a stew – with some Indian spices thrown in.

I started out with just the lamb blade chops, which were probably plenty of meat, but since we decided to take it with us to Hoodsport to eat with my in-laws, I decided to add an extra pound of lamb, but this time I used “lamb stew meat,” AKA chopped leg meat. I cooked that separately (because I had to cook it in “off-site” a few days later) with a sprinkling of ground coriander and curry powder, sea salt and pepper. I added red wine and let it braise, covered, for a few hours to get it to the same tenderness of the other meat. I then removed the meat from the lamb shoulder blade chops that I had already cooked a couple days prior, added them to the stew meat and poured the braising liquid and vegetables over top. I let that cook for another hour and left it to warm until we were ready to eat.

I always think it is better to make slow-cooked meals a day or so in advance because they tend to get better with a little age. You can make this with all stew meat or all blade shoulder chops, or a combination of both. I suppose, if you use the chops, you can serve them whole on top of the braise liquid and vegetables, but I think it is nicer to remove the bones and let the whole thing become one.

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs lamb shoulder blade, lightly salt and peppered, and at room temperature
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TB chopped, peeled ginger (no, not that Ginger)
1 tsp curry
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp tumeric
2 TB chopped, seeded, jalepeño
4 kumquats, sliced thinly
1 large tomato, chopped
1 eggplant, 1/4” diced
1 turnip, skinned and 1/4” diced
1 cup red wine
2 TB lime juice
1/2 cup yogurt

PREPARE

In a large sauté pan, heat some olive oil and brown the lamb well on each side.

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A n t i c i pation…

Remove them to a large, low, oven-proof pan (I used my Le Creuset paella pan); add the onion, garlic and ginger to the hot pan. Sauté a few minutes and add wine, curry, coriander, turmeric and lime juice to the wine and simmer until it is just mixed together.

Meanwhile, scatter the jalepeños, kumquats, cilantro and tomatoes over top of the lamb.

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Pour the wine mixture over the lamb mixture and bring to a simmer.

Transfer the pot to a pre-heated, 350-degree oven and let cook for one hour.

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Mmmmm…smells gooood!

 

Add the eggplant and turnips by simply lifting the lamb out of the vessel slightly in order to tuck the vegetables underneath.

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Stir in the yogurt and cook one to two hours more or until the meat is very tender.

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What’s taking so long?

Either serve right away over (brown) rice or let come to room temperature and keep it up to three days more in the ‘fridge. If reheating, allow an hour in a 350-degree oven to let the flavors mix and heat all the way through.

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Is our food ready too?  Mommy, I think Buddy’s blood sugar is low; feed us, please!

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Sweet 16 & always been kissed, by Ginger & Buddy

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By Ginger:

Every year humans seem to complain about getting one year older.  This, I don’t understand!  How many of us actually get the chance to grow old?  I feel so lucky today because I have lived yet another year!  I have had 16 years (s i x t e e n  y e a r s!!!) of special salmon dinners and carrot cake.  I have had sixteen years helping Mom taste things in the kitchen, helping Dad have a reason to go clean up the yard and prove to Buffy that she sent the right dog to take her place as guardian of this home.

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By calculation, I am old but in fact, I feel very young!  I can run fast, climb stairs quickly, bark loudly with great force and authority;  I may even be getting my driver’s license soon (Dad says I have to practice a little more first).  I have traveled by plane, by train and by automobile; by bike, boat and shopping cart.  I have run freely on the beach with sand softening each blow.  I have entertained at parties.  I have made friends and influenced people (to my way of thinking).

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Really Mom?!

I have embraced the fashions, both classic and trendy.  I have been photographed, published, video taped and listened to.  I have made my mark on the world (or at least the world that surrounds me) and have every intention of making more marks!!!  (Including those that don’t need to be cleaned up!)

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Uh, yeah, deal with it. (Yes, Mom did.)

I am sweet sixteen and I have always been kissed, loved and hugged (sometimes within an inch of my life)!

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Kiss me you fool…

I know Buddy has not always been kissed  but he is kissed now, and often, with sometimes even a peck by me.  We are both sixteen now.  I wasn’t so sure at first, but we are both in this together and I want to do my part to keep him well, keep him with us and keep him feeling happy and loved (as I always have been).  Buffy would want it this way.  Happy birthday to us!

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(A puppy at heart)

By Buddy:

I’m 16 too!  I’m six-teen!   Me, s i x t e e n !  This has been a good year.  I am still here!  I very much enjoyed the summer last year when everyone was more concerned about me than usual.  Ginger and I got a new deck, very comfy new furniture on it to lounge, and so much love I was sometimes bothered, but just a very little.  I like it here.  I have an amazing new menu that is served to me three times a day (and more when I act feisty).  I am bathed every week, whether I like it or not, carried practically everywhere (even when Mom is cooking;  I like that I can get a good view).  I mostly even get enough exercise (because Mom and Dad bought me socks so I don’t slip so much when I can walk), and I get kissed all the time!  They say I am sweet sixteen and boy do I get kissed! (I’m glad I found my way to my true home five years ago).  Buffy was right, this is a great place to live!  I want to live!  I am alive!  Bring on the sunshine!  Oh, and I want to EAT mmore meet !!!

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Macaroons (Little Presents: orange-filled + chocolate Bailey’s-filled)

Macaroons are like flavored kisses, dressed up as little birthday gifts .  To our delight, Ellen, the most fabulous person at the place Mommy takes us for her work, brought us a plate full of flavored kisses last week.  We (Buddy & Ginger) think these particular kisses were meant for us.  Why wouldn’t they be?  It was between our birthdays and although Ellen doesn’t kiss us, she takes great care of us at the office and she even tucks us in our beds with a blanket.   Plus, she likes food.  Not in a simple, likes to eat food kind of way but in  a sophisticated picnic and pleasure kind of way.  She gets what it means to enjoy  food; which means, she gets what it means to enjoy life.  We like Ellen; she’s our pal.

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“Ellen, look at the view with me…  Oh and yeah, a little more to the left. Thanks.”

These macaroons were quite pretty but not in the macaroon, Paris poodle sort of way; more in the wow, cute, cuddly and scrumptious type of way.  Mom thinks macaroons are too fussy but she sure seemed to like these that Ellen made.  They were the right kind of pretty with pretension left aside.  They were Hobo Buddy kind of good, meaning, they had (almond) grit but lots of character and flavor.

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There are a few bits of advise concerning the making of these cookies that Ellen thinks are important to note (also underlined below in her recipe):

  1. The eggs need to be room temperature because they will whip better.
  2. Use parchment paper and smack the tray to get rid of all the bubbles.
  3. Let them sit for 1/2 hour; you should be able to touch them without them feeling sticky anymore.
  4. 4.  If you use almond floor, they will be smooth.  If you use almond meal, they will have little speckles (which is what Ellen used).

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“Happy birthday to us, happy birthday to us, happy birthday us cuties, happy birthday to usssssss!  Okay, time for a nap.”

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In loving memory of Buffy Edwards-Bender:  August 1985 – May 20, 2000.  We miss you!

 

 

Happy Campers

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Getting out of town is always a good idea, even when one lives in a good town.  A change of pace, a change of scenery, a change in attitude, a mini-break always does good things.  This weekend, I am taking you to the Hood Canal in Washington, where we will sit by the water, sit by the fire, eat oysters and fish, drink beer and wine, soak up the sun and breathe in the salty and fresh air.  We will watch eagles soar and happily look over our pups as they relax, play, sleep, eat and walk in the natural beauty of the NW.

Four weekends ago, we got out of town and headed to my in-laws vacation home 2 hours south of Seattle in Hoodsport, WA.  We have been there many times and enjoy every visit, but interestingly, we never once stopped at the waterside resort in Union, located a mere 20 minutes from their place called Alderbrook.  Being that it was a sunny Friday afternoon and hunger pains were calling, as we rolled through town we decided to stop and have lunch on their patio (finally).

Of course, despite this being the nicest Spring in the region that anyone can remember, the patio was not open yet (even though it was 72 degrees!).  BUT, they served “picnic lunches” which really was a fancy way of saying you could take the food “to go” and sit on the property, anywhere.  The best part for us (of course), was that our dogs were allowed to sit with us too.  We ordered a couple of drinks and strolled down to the lawn which was right at waters edge.  I went back to the car, collected Buddy and Ginger, and then the four of us settled into Adirondack chairs and watched a man collect many bags of oysters.  Many!

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And as the hours passed, starring at the water, the sky, the flora and fauna, a cart appeared and they were served water-side on the dock, being freshly-shucked as the happy guests strolled by.

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The lunch menu was extensive but not so large as to overwhelm.  It showcased the abundance of seafood we are blessed with in the Pacific Northwest and also provided plenty of alternatives to satisfy those that did not want to eat fish; the burger we tried the next day proved to be one of the very best (sorry Burger Stand)!

We were hankering for a well-concocted batch of fish and chips, and along with a couple of local beers, we ordered that as well as the brown sugar steelhead naan “sandwich”.  The fish and chips were thickly battered, cooked to the perfect state of golden brown, moist, tender and best of all, not soggily dripping with oil.  The tarter sauce boasted the perfect tang of pickle, partnered with just the right amount of dill.

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It was the steelhead that we were most taken with though.  So simple yet a delightful pocket of flavor easily eaten by hand; making a well-suited partner for the surroundings.  One order came with two rounds of naan spread in garlic aioli, topped with a single leaf of lettuce, a sautéed fillet of steelhead and fried capers sprinkled atop.  A wedge of lemon squeezed over just before taking a bite set up an explosion of flavor that was akin to the sound of a favorite jazz tune, keeping a beat slow and steady as expected but with a lick of sass thrown in.

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Nearby was a pit of fire sending out lovely wafts of smokiness that mixed happily with the briny air.  A happy bunch of “campers” were gathered ’round with sticks of marshmallows roasting.

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Buddy was snuggled in next to me, snoozing peacefully under the shade of my scarf.  Ginger had her own chair and eagerly looked over to the action at the fire pit, holding court as many other four-legged friends stopped by to exchange a quick hello as they moved on with their happy families

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Needless to say, we had found what seemed like, an old friend.  Sun, beachfront, comfy chairs and each other.

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Mixed with the company of our pups, good food, well-made drinks and the casualness of a day off at the beach, we were ready to move in.

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So as I write this, it should come as no surprise that we landed back to that happy place once again two weekends ago.  You can’t recreate a moment but you can create new ones, which is precisely what we did.  Sun, surf, substanence and seafood!  Life is good.

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King Salmon Naan with Fried Capers and Garlic Aioli
Serves 2

We recreated our (current) favorite menu item from the Alderbrook Resort at home, using fresh Alaskan king salmon, because that was what was most available to us at the time. Steelhead is a much thinner fillet which produces a crisp crust giving way to delicate flesh.  Steelhead is really just trout disguised as salmon.  King salmon is a happy substitute, also sporting a delicate flesh but is thicker, juicier and has more richness.

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This is a simple preparation as well as a healthy alternative to eating grab ‘n go when time is short during a busy week.  The naan we like to get is a brand called “Stone Hearth” and easily found at our local grocers.  The aioli we used was our go to”mayonnaise, aka Wildwood aioli that we buy at PCC or Whole Foods.  It is low in cholesterol and has a mildly sweet taste of garlic with the creaminess of mayonnaise but no chemical after taste.  The best capers are sold jarred in salt rather than brine. Yes, it does seem counter-intuitive but those stored in salt actually retain less sodium than those in liquid.  I always soak my capers in water and drain before serving to expel any additional, unneeded salt.  Just as they serve this at Alderbrook, for added crunch,  a nice hearty leaf of lettuce is used but for added color and perhaps a little bit of elegance, spinach can be substituted.

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INGREDIENTS

1 lb king salmon fillet, bones and skin removed
1/2 tsp brown sugar
Sea salt and pepper to taste
3 lemon wedges
Olive oil for grilling
2 TB Wildwood Aioli (or homemade garlic aioli) plus more for serving if desired
2 large, crunchy leaves of lettuce (Romaine, Red Leaf, Green Leaf or Butter Lettuce)
2 TB salt-packed capers, rinsed and soaked thoroughly in water for at least 10 minutes, then drained and soaked again.
2 rounds Stone Fire Naan, or other naan

PREPARATION

Rinse and pat-dry the salmon. Spread the brown sugar over the fillet and season lightly with sea salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice from one lemon wedge over.

Prepare a grill to very hot.

In a small fry pan, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Drain the capers and pat dry. Add them to the pan and fry for a few minutes until crisp. Remove capers with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel until ready to use.

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Brush the salmon with olive oil and brush the grill with olive oil (I prefer a dampened paper towel). Grill the salmon on the top side for approximately 5 minutes without moving. It is ready to be turned when it comes away easily from the grill with a spatula. Grill the second side until just barely cooked in the center, only a few minutes more.

Meanwhile, as the salmon is cooking on the second side, add the naan to the grill. Cook them on each side until slight grill marks form and the bread is soft and warm.

TO ASSEMBLE

Slather each naan with 1 TB aioli, top with one leaf of lettuce. Divide the fish among the two pieces of naan and top with a sprinkling of capers.

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Serve with a wedge of lemon and perhaps a side of sliced tomatoes.

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Do we have to leave?

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Happy Mother’s Day Mom (Pat), Mom (Lois), Mom (Linda), Mom (Talita), Mom (Doris), Sis (Laura), Sis (Christine) and Sis (Irma),; all of the lovely mothers in our family!!!!

Love,
Us (4)

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Time for a spa day!

The Sound of Spring (and a good egg)

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It is a bit like music, the sound of Spring.  The melodic repetition of a single bird, singing, loudly.  The slow and gradual whoosh of a warm gusting wind followed quickly by a baby sparrow calling out for food and possibly, a slight drizzling of rain.  All the while, the leaves softly rustle in the background, like a constant rolling of the drums.  A dog barks, three times.  My dog scratches, tch..tch…tch…tchh…then shakes her head. There is a rake, a bike and the near-to-far sound of a passing car.  A shovel moving gravel, thump, scrape, dump…thump, scrape, dump ricochets through the air from three houses away.  The bird is still singing, yet softer now and more happily; perhaps it has found something to eat?

BLOODY MARY ENGLISH MUFFINS and A GOOD EGG (serves 4)

I like to make my own bloody Mary mix, starting with a good can of San Marzanos tomatoes.  Having armed myself with a large container of my magic mix, I realized, it can be used for more than just a brunch-time drink; it can also double as a sauce.  The best part for this recipe, you make your drink and sauce with it too.

This English muffin is a simple yet elegant way to make something quick, satisfying and (somewhat) healthy for the, typically, fat-laden brunch-time meal.

INGREDIENTS

approximately 1/3 cup homemade bloody Mary mix (recipe follows)
2 English muffins, split in half
4 eggs (+ olive oil to cook)
1 (4) oz. fresh (preferably Buffalo) mozzarella ball
8 thin slices good quality salami
fresh pepper to taste
fresh basil for garnish

PREPARE

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

(optional) make yourself and your three friends a blood Mary by adding your freshly made mix to glasses of ice with a shot of vodka (shake or stir).

Toast the English Muffins and transfer them to a metal tin.

Spread a healthy dollop of homemade bloody Mary mix over each half, reserving the rest for cooking the eggs and refilling your glasses.

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Dry the mozzarella ball with a paper towel and tear it into pieces, dividing the pieces onto each half of muffin.

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Top each half of muffin with 2 slices good quality salami.

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Set a non-stick  pan on the stove and add a small drizzle of olive oil.

Put the metal tin with the prepared muffins into the over while cooking the eggs.

Heat the non-stick pan until hot.  Break the eggs into the pan, carefully, so as not to disturb the yolk, and let cook, undisturbed until the white is slightly beginning to set (a few minutes).

Add in the reserved sauce and continue to cook, basting the top occasionally, but taking care not to break the yolk.

When the eggs are cooked to your liking, remove the muffins from the oven, divide amongst four plates and top each with an egg.  Grind over the pepper or let each person add the amount of pepper they want.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

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HOMEMADE BLOODY MARY MIX

The ultimate quantities of spice, citrus and salt are all very personal so feel free to add more or less for your own liking.  I tend to like mine with medium spice, extra citrus and less salt.  I do find the brand “Tabasco” to be the best (or most nostalgic) flavor for me but with so many hot sauces on the market, use whichever you find to be your favorite.  A good quality horseradish sauce is somewhat key, in my opinion; I like Bubbies quite a bit.

INGREDIENTS

1 28 OZ can whole cooked tomatoes (preferably San Marzanos)
4 TB worcestershire sauce
4 TB prepared horseradish sauce
1 1/2 tsp celery salt
as many shakes of Tabasco (or other hot sauce) as you desire
the juice of 1 lemon
freshly ground black pepper to taste

PREPARE

Simply add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  If you prefer a thinner consistency, you can strain it too but I like mine full strength (the ice will thin it when adding it to your drink).

This will keep several weeks, well sealed, in the refrigerator.

What do you mean we can't have any

“What do you mean it isn’t for us?”

 

 

 

Luna – a love story

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I first met Luna at a most wonderful eatery in Pioneer Square called London Plane.  We had curried avocado toasts for lunch (or at least her mom and I did).

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I have now known Luna for 5 days.  I hope to know Luna for 50 more years.  I think she will do great things.  How can she not, with that smile that lights up a room, and those eyes, that convey her ability to know all that surrounds her?  I looked at her innocent little face; at that moment, her binky dropped, her eyes looked straight through me and she smiled, a very happy and honest smile.

It makes me realize that time goes quickly and ever on as the lives of those we cherish go on without us.  I am too easily distracted from the happenings of their lives, only to try and catch up with my own.

September of 2015, on a sunny afternoon, I finally caught up for lunch with my friend Hana.  She stood to hug me and I noticed that she looked as radiant and stylish as ever.  It wasn’t until midway through our meal that her pregnancy was revealed; she was due in less than 2 months.  How is it I didn’t notice?  She is a small woman, whose bump was barely visible but yet still…?

Hana is part of a story we all know; boy meets girl and both boy and girl fall in love.  Like most stories though, their’s too is unique.  They came together against small odds and become a couple that we all root for.  They are cute together and are made for each other so we are all thrilled that it has worked out.  Ups, downs, tiny (but beautiful) houseboat and all, they are a creative couple that are well suited for one another.  Now, along comes Luna.  Lovely Luna. Two, soon became three and what fun that will be.  Luna.  She came along and…life is her song….  Jon, marry that girl and finish the Love Story.  I’ll finish (with) the toast!

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Curried Avocado Toast with Pickled Radish, Melted Cheese, Roast Chicken and Fried Egg 

This version is not actually on toast but rather on Summer House English Muffins, brought to me by my travlin’ Tom.  This is also somewhat my brunch version of what Hana and I had at London Plane, but from what I hear, you can order it there with an egg too if desired.  We (Hana and I) quite liked it as it was served, cold and with no egg.  My version, made over a weekend, was gearing toward brunch.

The curry in the avocado is lovely (like Luna), make sure it is fresh.  The pickled radish is key to an explosion of flavor and crunch.  Cheese or no cheese, egg or not, hot or cold, English muffin or toast, all choices to be had but do what you will, and perhaps, try both (or all) ways.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

1 avocado
1/2 shallot, chopped
pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

3-4 small radishes, stemmed and sliced very thin
2 TB amber vinegar or rice wine vinegar
1 TB water
pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tsp raw sugar
a sprinkle of chili flakes

1 English muffin, slit in half
1/2 cup roasted chicken, shredded
2 thin slices swiss or gruyere cheese
2 eggs

PREPARE

In a small bowl, mash the avocado with the shallot, pinch of sea salt, pepper, curry and lemon juice.

In a separate small bowl, mix the radish slices with the vinegar, water, a pinch of sea salt, pepper and sugar.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Toast the English muffin halves.

Top them with the avocado mix, then some roasted chicken and then slices of pickled radish.

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You could stop here and just enjoy, or keep going for a warm meal.

Top this with a slice of the cheese.  Broil for a few minutes in the oven until the cheese melts and the muffin warms through.

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Top with a fried egg and enjoy.

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Meanwhile, my precious babies nap.

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Lentils, with a side of pizza

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I have had a love affair with pizza only since adulthood.  As a kid, even though I did like going to Shakey’s, I was more interested in the salad bar and video games than I was the pizza.  It was, most notably for me, when I moved to Seattle, specifically Pioneer Square, that my true interest in pizza formed.  I courted it often at a quaint little restaurant around the corner from where I lived.  It was a Trattoria that I first visited with my (then) neighbor and (still) friend Kevin; it was there that I fell in love with Pizza Margherit(a).

I am not here to talk about pizza though.  I am here to talk about lentils.

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I can’t maintain this composure much longer, let’s eat!

Lately I have been craving a Margherita pizza, it’s true.  We eat pizza often(-ish) but Tom has always flirted with Pepperoni.  If not pepperoni, then something equally meaty.  I go along willingly because, well, they are fine too.

This weekend, however, I am without Tom.  When Tom is traveling, I tend to eat what he won’t; or more fairly put, what Tom doesn’t care to eat and I, of course do (crave to eat).  In addition to calamari, eggplant and mushrooms, I have lentils.

Lentils had not been on my mind until I read a post by Elaine at Foodbod.  She had a round-up of vegetarian soup and one of her favorite was the lentil soup.  I knew then, that I needed to make lentil soup (and in fact, told her so).  I do often get distracted though and hence, I did make lentils but did not make the soup.

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Already on my mind was pizza margherita, which I had planned to have at the Club watching tennis (Tom’s league team was playing and I thought I would cheer them on in his absence).  I skipped going to the club though.  Sadly, they lost.  Do you think it is because I wasn’t there?  Me neither.

Regardless, we (the eight legs and I) had a lovely meal consisting of arugula and lentil salad kissed by truffle oil, served with a side of Miss Pizza Margherit(a).  Well, my rendition this week anyway.

Lentil & Arugula Salad – serves two (easily doubled)

This is one of those things that can go many ways and requires less instruction than improvisation.  It doesn’t look particularly packed with flavor but I assure you that in this instance, looks are deceiving.  The lentils have been slow-cooked in the oven, but only after sautéing them in shallots and bacon.  They are then treated with a sprinkle of sea salt, a drizzle of olive oil and a dousing of balsamic and apple cider vinegars.

This in itself does not the flavor make; it is simply preparing the lentil to be at it’s best since it will be meeting up with two more stars, Arugula and Truffle.  I love the peppery flavor of the arugula with lentils.  All that is needed to dress them (for me) is a smidge of flaky salt, a drizzle of olive oil and a drop of vinegar.  With my pizza I also like truffle oil. Alas, why not just skip the drizzle of olive oil on the salad and rub the arugula with truffle oil instead?  Exactly, no reason not to at all.  It was genius in fact (if I do say so myself, and I do).

With or without pizza on the side, this salad is a perfect light meal.  You could also dress it up with a seared scallop or embellish it with any number of vegetables depending on your mood.

INGREDIENTS

2 large handfuls baby arugula, cleaned and spun dry
1/4 cup cooked lentils (approximately), recipe to follow
1/2 tsp white truffle oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

PREPARE

Simply take the arugula, drizzle it with truffle oil and rub together between your fingers.  Set it on a plate, sprinkle with salt and then toss in the lentils, warm, cold or hot, your choice.  Grind some fresh salt and enjoy, with a side of pizza or…whatever.

Lentils

These lentils can serve many uses.  Most notably of course, is to use them with the arugula salad as described above.  However, they can be eaten by the spoonful (which, they usually are regardless, by me) or served beside grilled Italian sausage and poached egg, made into soup (the original intention) or put under seared, rare tuna with a red pepper sauce; so you see, the list can go on…

INGREDIENTS

1 large shallot, chopped (approximately 1/4 cup)
3 thick bacon slices, cut into dice
1 cup lentils (preferably French or beluga)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
3 cups liquid (any combination of chicken or vegetable stock and water or wine – I used 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup water but sometimes I add 1/2 cup red wine)
1 TB olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Fresh, ground pepper to taste

PREPARE

In a high-sided pot with a lid, add the bacon and turn on the heat to medium.  When the meat begins to sizzle and cook, stir and add the shallots.

Turn the heat down slightly and cook until the bacon is rendered and the shallots are tender but not browned, 5 minutes or so.

Add the lentils and continue to cook, stirring frequently to coat the lentil with the bacon fat.

Add the balsamic vinegar.  Stir again.

Pour in the liquid (if using wine, I like to add that first and let it cook down slightly before adding the rest of the liquid.

Bring to a simmer then transfer to a pre-heated 300-degree oven and cook until the lentils are tender, but not mushy.  This can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour depending on the quality, age, or variety of lentil.

Remove from oven and add the olive oil, salt, vinegars and pepper.  Stir and let sit for a few minutes to let the flavors meld before adjusting the seasoning.

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Looks yummy, huh Ginger?!

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Insert yummies here!

bored meetings are boring: by buddy

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I thought I was a Pup of Leisure.

Mom recently got into the habit of hauling us to the office with her and now I spend my days surrounded by paperwork (literally)!

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And the buzz of electronic machinery.

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I even had to attend a meeting in the talking room.

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Ginger’s not paying attention!

So, I’ve already been invited to a bored meeting; I now see how it got it’s name.

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Huh?  Even my attention is waning.

The first day I came to the office, I started out taking dictation.

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Uh huh, yup, I’m listening….(snort, snarf, snoozzzzzzz).

They didn’t even let me take off my coat first, but at least I got to bring my own chair.

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wutz that?  yes, yes, I’m listening…

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dictation is  h a r rr d .

Of course, Princess didn’t have to work.

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As soon as I’m rested, I think I’ll go to the water cooler where the real action is…

After proving my abilities though, I got promoted; now I get sent out to fetch lunch.

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i have to watch out for princess too (don’t forget that I’m the boss)

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come on ginger, the food is better at this truck

I wonder What’s for dinner? or betteR yet, I wonder what Mom iz cooking for dinner?

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I think tomorrow I’m gonna call in sick

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