Peanut Butter Kongs!

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The best-ever puppy sitter!

It’s Labor Day weekend.  One last family gathering, one last BBQ, one last picnic.

It’s Labor Day weekend.  The last of the garden has been harvested, all the fruit has been picked, red, white and blue decorations has been replaced with pumpkins and foliage.

It’s Labor Day weekend.  The last weekend before the pool closes.  The last weekend of tourist season.  The last weekend of summer.  Summer homes and cabins are closed up for the coming of winter, shorts and swimsuits are put away until next spring, cool refreshing salads are replaced with hearty soups and stews.

It’s Labor Day weekend.  It’s potato salad, slaw and beans.  It’s watermelon and homemade ice cream.  It’s hotdogs and ribs on the grill, smoke curling up through the trees, the aroma of grilled meat lightly flavoring the air.  It’s dogs underfoot and under the table, hoping to score a dropped hotdog or a rib bone or two.  It’s three Bernese Mountain Dogs praying someone will toss them a bone.  It’s three dogs, each hoping to grab the bone before the other two dogs discover who has the prize.   It’s discovering dog bones might be good puppy sitters, but the vet bill is much, much more expensive….

Now, when we go over to friends for BBQ, and we want the girls to be on their best behavior while we are gone, we bribe them with Kongs.  Filled with peanut butter and placed in the freezer, Frozen Peanut Butter Kongs can keep the girls entertained for hours while we enjoy our night out.  Tiamo would grab hers and run for her special spot in the middle of the living room.  Amore takes her Kong into the bedroom to her dog pillow and Dolce jumps over the couch on to her blanket, the Kong clenched tightly in her jaws.  Not a peep is heard out of the dogs except the slurping and licking while mauling the Kongs to get to the cold treat inside.  About an hour later, Tiamo moseys’ over to Amore and Dolce, slyly investigating to see if they are still working on their Kongs, and unsuccessfully trying to steal their treat.  Amore covers her Kong with her paw, not letting Tiamo close enough to be in grabbing distance.  Dolce has taken to the habit of carrying her Kong with her where ever she goes, not willing to risk one of the other dogs taking her Kong.

PBK’s are our new puppy sitter.  It is the only time, the girls don’t care if they are left behind at home.  In fact, they are so excited at the prospect of a PBK, they can’t wait for us to leave.  And, let me tell ya, they know when there is a possibility of getting a Kong.  They know the sound of the freezer door opening and sound of rummaging around for the Kongs.  The minute we hand them their Kong, we don’t even exist.  Each dog is in their own Peanut Butter nirvana.

It’s Labor Day weekend:  BBQ, Ice cream and Peanut Butter Kongs!

PEANUT BUTTER & CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2  cups chunky peanut butter
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • rock salt
  • ice

In a double boiler, bring the water to boil.  Combine sugar, chocolate chips, and whole milk in top of double boiler.  Reduce heat to low, and cook until sugar is dissolved and chocolate chips are melted, stirring occasionally.  Stir in peanut butter and eggs, remove from heat.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients.  Mix until completely blended.

Pour mixture into freezer container (3 quart size).  Place freezer in the ice cream bucket and add about 4 inches of ice in the space between the freezer and bucket.  Layer ice with 1/2 cup of so of salt.  continue laying ice and salt to the top of the bucket.  Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.  When freezer stops, remove the freezer paddle from the container and place container in freezer for at least an hour before serving.

 

WARNING:  Do not let dogs near peanut butter jar.  Has been known to disappear.

 

 

 

! Hot Tamale !

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Dolce sliding down the hill

I’ve noticed the weather is juuusst baarrrrely starting to turn a little bit nippier.  The nights are cooler, mornings crisp, the days not as warm.  The girls are noticing the weather change as well.  Usually, in the hot days of summer, they tend to be a bit sluggish.  This past week has seen cooler days and they are rearing to go, eager for their hikes at the Galisteo Basin Preserve.  Bernese Mountain Dogs are cold weather canines, they have a double coat that keeps them insulated and warm, allowing snow play to be a daily activity.  As summer fades into fall, the girls instinctively know snow is soon to come.  Whoa Nellie!  they are way tooo excited!

Our dogs love the colder weather.  There is nothing like a 20 degree, blistering cold, clear blue sky day with some snow on the ground to get the dogs going.  On those days, they are full of  #*&%(^&*$  and vinegar!  They absolutely LOVE snow!  Especially Dolce and Amore.  They find a small hill, scramble to the top and slide down on their bellies, like a free ride at the fair!  And then they race back up to the top to slide down again.  They will sniff out a clean patch of white stuff and make snow angels, rolling over on their backs and wiggling in the snow.  A favorite is to nip at the powder as they tear down the trail.  When there is fresh snow , they try to be the first to break trail, jumping through the snow like deer springing over tall grass.  Snow wrestling is a daily game played by the girls.  An outdoor sport only to be brought indoors so they can shake the snow off their fur coats and onto the furnishings. There is never a clean floor when there is snow!   By the end of the day, they are tuckered out –  and as I’ve always said, “a tired dog is a happy owner”!

Cold weather brings yearnings for roasted green chili and hot soup .  A favorite of mine is Hot Tamale and Tortilla Soup.  Tamales are great any time of the year but especially good in the early fall during chili harvest.

HOT TAMALE & TORTILLA SOUP

  • 1 lb. cooked, boneless chicken meat (I buy a roasted chicken and pull the meat off)
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup roasted green chili, diced  (best time to buy green chili is in August/September when vendors heat up their roaster, set up shop in a parking lot and sell roasted peppers hot off the fire)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 – 1/2 cups crushed unsalted tortilla chips
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 – 14 1/2 oz. cans low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 – 14 oz. can tomatoes, chopped with juices
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 12 purchased tamales (chicken)
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels

GARNISH

  • 1 cup tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • crushed tortilla chips

Heat a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Melt butter and add the onions, bell pepper,  celery, roasted green chili, and garlic, cooking until softened and translucent.  Add cooked chicken, tortilla chips, spices, broth and tomatoes.  Cover and let simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat tamales according to the package instructions.

Add beans and corn kernels into soup mixture, stirring to blend.  Continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes.  Add cream, Monterey Jack cheese and cheddar cheese and stir until cheese has melted and is well blended.  Season soup with salt and pepper to taste.

Place a tamale (or two) into the bottom of each soup bowl.  Ladle soup over the tamale into the bowl.  Garnish with diced tomato, green onions, shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips.

Can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cover tightly and refrigerate.

 

 

 

 

Apple Snatching Thief!

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Dolce – the apple snatching thief!

Every year, my husband, ever the rural gardener (NOT!), decides to plant fruit trees.  Cherries, peaches, apricots, apples, you name it.  And every year, he has high hopes of a bumper crop.  Unfortunately, we live in an area where the wind blows right about the time the blossoms are popping on the tree, blowing away any glimmer of  fruit off the branches.  And, we live at an elevation of 7,000 feet where it can easily snow into the month of May, freezing the fruit.  If the wind and the freeze doesn’t get the apples,  in late August, the coyotes come and feed off of the trees.  Needless to say, at best, we might be able to pick a dozen or so of token apples, just enough to bake a pie  – a small pie that we can claim the apples grew in our garden.

One year, we were able to gather two huge baskets of apples.  I left them on the high kitchen counter to use at a later date.  Each day when I came home from work, I noticed the pile of apples was getting significantly  smaller.  Naturally, I assumed my husband was pigging out on apples.  To our surprise, we learned differently….

Our two movie star felines – John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe, had co-op’ed with our three Berners:  Tiamo, Amore and Dolce.  Together, our sweet little kitties would jump up on the counter to the basket of apples and knock down the fruit with their paws to the floor, where three canines were eagerly waiting.  In one chomp, the apple would disappear down the throats of the dogs.  They were all in cahoots together!  In less than a week, the apples were gone.  Watching the antics of three dogs madly scrambling to catch the apple before the other two could was hilarious!  Watching the cats toy with the dogs, knowing they were in control, was more so.  You could see the cats thinking; “silly dogs going crazy over  shiny red balls”.  Watching the five of them playing together was worth losing two baskets of apples.

This year our apple tree is loaded with fruit.  Having survived the wind and any possible freeze, the branches are lowering to the ground with the weight of its produce.  Only now it’s not the coyotes we need to worry about – its Dolce!  The little stinker has learned a new trick.  The apples are low enough for her to burrow into the branches, sniff for the perfect fruit, grab the apple and run to a safe spot to eat it.  She loves the snap of the fruit as she is pulling it off the branch.  She knows at that exact moment, the apple is hers!  When the branch springs back from her tug, when the water droplets on the leaves from the recent rains splash onto her face, when the resistance of ownership transfers from the tree to her mouth, she knows she is the victor.  And, let me tell ‘ya, she is one happy camper!  Shiny bright eyes, a mouth full of apple and believe it or not, a grin of pure happiness.

Here’s to all the apple-snatching dogs in this world!

DOLCE’S APPLE PIE

  • Pastry for a 2 crust 9″ pie
  • 7 cups of apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 -1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice or vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • a little bit of milk

Divide half of the brandy and pour into a brandy sniffer.  Sip a few times to be sure the brandy is good enough to be used for the pie.  Sip again throughout the baking process to ensure the pie was worth the effort of making it.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out 1/2 of the pastry and line the pie pan.  Add the apples to the pie pan, layering the slices evenly.  Add lemon zest over the apple slices.

Combine all of the remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly.  Pour evenly over the apple slices.  Roll out remaining half of pastry dough and arrange over the apples and filling.  Flute the edges and cut vents in the top crust.  Combine the egg and milk and brush over the top crust.  Place prepared pie on a baking pan and place in oven for one hour or until done.  If the pie crust is browning too fast, tent foil over the fluted crust edges to slow the browning.

Great with the remaining brandy!

Counter-surfing: A Dog Burglar Sport!

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Licking the pumpkin can

Tiamo was taught early on not to beg.  We were especially carefully not to feed her table craps or human food.  She knew the rules and she obeyed them, or so we thought….

As soon as we left the room or our backs were turned, mischief happened. Leave something tasty on the counter and she’d be waiting in the wings.  Tiamo had an alarmingly keen sense of timing, so specialized and perfected, she could lift a whole loaf of pumpkin bread off the counter without dropping a crumb and be out the dog door before you returned.  She could transport a filled glass creamer 20 yards to the doggy door and out to the pen without spilling a drop of evidence.  Her specialty was cookies.  Since she only took one, most times I didn’t realize there was one less of a dozen.  And, if I suspected a thief, all I had to do was look to my husband – a likely culprit.

Tiamo was wise.  She knew not to look suspicious. No guilty look, no “if-I-can’t-see-you-you-can’t-see-me” covering of the eyes, no hiding in the corner.  She hid her crimes in the open.  Or, if she knew she might get busted, she would lay down on the goods, hiding them under her belly and poise innocently.  Her Oscar performances usually led me to scold Amore and Dolce.  Oh, she was good!  So good, she knew to paw the canisters back into position after shoving them out of the way to grab the hidden treasure.  We learned not to thaw out steaks on the counter, leave bread out or wait to wash the dishes until later.  Later meant the dinner menu needed to be changed.

A while back, I had asked my husband to pull out some hamburger from the freezer to thaw for dinner.  He placed the meat in the back of the counter well out of reach from sniffing noses and searching paws.  Unfortunately, he forgot to move the step-stool used to reach for items on the top shelf in the cabinets.  No surprise here.  Tiamo had climbed on the stool and was licking the frozen hamburger.  When she realized she was busted, she grabbed the frozen block of meat  in her jaws and ran through the dog door.  By the time, we had gone around the pen, she had gulped down the hamburger and was licking off the left-overs.

Her favorite was Pumpkin Bread.  Time and time again, she found ways to snarf the loaf off the counter.  The below recipe is in honor of Tiamo.

PUMPKIN PANCAKES

“yummm, pummmpkinnn, our favorite!” – Tiamo, Amore and Dolce

  • 2 cups Bisquick mix
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 – 12oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup solid packed canned pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the above ingredients and mix well.  Lightly grease a non-stick griddle and heat to a medium heat, about 375 degrees.  Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pancake mix onto griddle.

Cook until top surface is bubbly and edges are lightly browned.  Flip over and cook other side the same.  Remove from griddle and serve with honey butter and/or warm maple syrup.

Sluggin’ it Down Sluggers

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Serve on a snowy, lazy day with a roaring fire.

  • 1 cup freshly brewed strong coffee
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 oz (1 tbsp.- or more) Kahlua
  • 2 oz. finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
  • 6 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. sugar

Heat coffee, bourbon, Kahlua, chocolate and 2 tbsp. of cream in a 2 quart heavy saucepan over low heat, whisking constantly, until chocolate is melted (about 2 minutes).  Do not let boil.

Whisk remaining 1/4 cup cream with sugar until it holds soft peaks.

Divide mixture into coffee mugs and top with whipped cream.

“i like licking the coffee rings left on the end table, even though I’m not suppose to!” – amore

Who’s who….?

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People often ask us how we tell the “girls” apart. Sometimes even we get confused.

Of course, this usually resulted in Dolce being accused of something Amore did or Tiamo getting away with a no-no. When they were puppies, we never knew which one had committed the crime. Today we know they are all in cahoots together.

Tiamo, the mother, had a deep-barreled chest and a more queenly stature. She had a prance in her walk, like a model walking down the catwalk. She will always be our “girl.”

Amore has a bit more spice in her personality. Always on the go, always has to run. She is the one who gulps her food down the fastest and the one who has seen the vet’s office the most.

Dolce is our sweetheart. With a thin white stripe on her forehead and almost no white on her tail, Dolce likes to hang with the old folks but is always first out the door and in the car.

… So, if you don’t know which dog is with you, just love the one you’re with.

Caipirinhas

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How to stir up a pitcher of Brazilian Fun!

  • Peel the green rind from 4 large limes into 2-inch strips
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 8 (1/4 inch thick) slices of peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 30 large fresh mint leaves + 10 mint sprigs for garnish
  • 1 cup rum
  • 3 cups ice cubes
  • 5 cups ginger beer or ginger ale

Combine the lime peel, ginger, sugar and 30 mint leaves in a medium bowl.  Using the handle of a wooden spoon, crush the lime peel, ginger and mint leaves together.  Add lime juice and mix well.
Transfer mixture to large pitcher.  Add the rum and cover.  Place in refrigerator to chill.

To serve, stir in ginger beer or ginger ale.  Fill cocktail glasses with ice cubes and pour.  Garnish with mint sprig.

Turn up the volume and dance the night away!

DOLCE

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The “Dolch”.  Dolce was one the smaller pups in the litter, and, from day one, she was determined to be next to me or on me.  When we took the puppies to the vet for their first set of shots, somehow, she ended up on my lap.  From then on, she has been our 100 pound lap dog.

When she was 6 months, she needed shoulder surgery.  While recovering, Dolce would sit on the sidelines with my husband and me, watching Tiamo and Amore play.  This turned her into a big cuddle bug.  Boy, does she love her hugs!

Of the three, Dolce is the most passive, except when it comes to loading up into the car.  she could be 20 yards behind the other two, but it’s a sure bet she’ll be in the car and on my lap before either Tiamo or Amore can even think about jumping up into the car.  It’s a sight for other drivers when they pass us.

Today, Dolce is one of the sweetest dogs.  She still sits right next to me.  She still comes up on the bed for a night-time cuddle session.  She still wants the front seat of the car (passenger beware).  And, she still continues to sit on my lap no matter where we are.

Dolce has lived up to her name!

 

 

AMORE’

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AMORE’ – our little “first”!  First to be born, first to climb out of the whelping pen, first to bark and first to start mischief!  Amore’ is our hyper-active child.  She loves to run just for the joy of it.  Loves to chase lizards and bunnies.  Loves to jump in water and shake to see where the water drops fall.  Loves to pull apples off the tree and loves life to the fullest.  We kept our little “first”.  A handful, yes, but worth the adventure.Image

It’s a’ comming!

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It's a' comming!

Soon – a human cookbook highly recommended by Tiamo, Amore, and Dolce

Hello world!

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In my past life, I owned a catering business where people often asked me how I learned to cook.

My father, a cattle rancher from the central coast of California, was one of the originators of the “Santa Maria-style BBQ” back in the 1950s. He was fortunate to be able to combine his love of food with his gift for gab; weekends often included invitations to dinner for friends and neighbors. Dad would barbeque his famous beef tri-tips and mother would put us kids to work in the kitchen, making salads, beans and casseroles. It was the start of my cooking lessons.

Years later, I started catering on my own and opened my business, Divine Bovine. I custom-catered small cocktail parties, fancy galas, annual dinners, intimate dinners for two and fundraising events for 750 attendees. I catered lunch for Al Gore, then Vice President of the United States; other congressmen and political hopefuls; Steve Young, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers; and a very close friend of Julia Child. I gave cooking lessons to children and taught cooking classes for adults, all with standing room only. Rarely did I serve the same entrée twice.

Three file cabinets crammed with recipes and 237 cookbooks later, I closed my catering business, married the love of my life and moved to New Mexico. I swore I would never work nights, weekends or holidays again.

Little did I know how that would change the minute I gave my husband a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy for his 50th birthday. Named Tiamo, the newest member of our family had us wrapped around every one of her paws within five minutes of bringing her home. Every day was an adventure for Tiamo: there were books to chew, magazines to rip up and wooden spoons to carry from room to room. Friends would fight over who held Tiamo’s leash on walks. Neighborhood kids would randomly drop by to pet her. She was the darling of the community and our hearts.

Tiamo knew not to beg for table scraps, but she was quick to lick up any tasty tidbit that fell to the floor. We learned Tiamo had a keen ability to counter-surf, quickly and quietly. Cartons of cream would go missing, only to be found empty in another room. Cookies cooling on racks would be one fewer of a dozen. Licked-clean butter plates would be discovered under couch pillows. Then she was busted — caught in the act with one paw reaching for the goods! At two in the morning, we were awakened by a big crash; Tiamo had crawled up on the kitchen table to lick up crumbs.Anyone who has ever owned a dog has had a similar experience: turning your back for just a few minutes, resulting in missing ingredients while cooking and a look that says, “Who, me?”

My love of cooking for family, friends, and my enjoyment of Tiamo’s humorous antics while sniffing for a fallen crumb has produced a cookbook designed to bring compliments to the chef and smiles from the cook … along with a tasty morsel for your dog.

Yes, cooking and dogs do go together. A stray dog hair never hurt anyone!

Tiamo

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Tiamo

the start of it all….