hogs and blogs

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Part II of the Beer n’ damn it’s hot Chili series.

To kick off the holiday spirit, which in my calendar, starts right around the corner from the  Día de Muertos, (come on, I live in New Mexico), Malcolm and I host a Loop Group Celebration.  We open our doors, invite the whole neighborhood and lock the dogs in their pen.  We catch up on the happenings of those that live close by and those we wave to in passing, but never see (there is a little bit of guilt-trip thinking… if they eat our food, they won’t complain about the dogs). Even house numbers bring a cold appetizer, odd numbers bring a hot hor d’oeuvre.  Malc and I supply the beverages and the main substance, usually a spiral sliced ham from the Honey Baked Ham joint down in Albuquerque.  I serve the ham with homemade cornbread biscuits (Malc is from Georgia) that  is devoured and destroyed by the night’s end, leaving a just a few ham scraps and a huge bone.  Not enough for leftovers, not enough to throw away.  And nothing for Dolce and Amore to snack on.

the perfect hog bone

the perfect hog bone

If it falls on the floor blog is a lot like our Loop Group party – everyone is invited and everyone brings something to the table.  Through “likes” and “comments”, “follows” and “views”,  we catch up on the happenings of those whom we enjoy reading.  The Wandering Gourmand is one blogger I make a point to read. I chuckle over his droll humor, his sarcastic absurdity.  I love how he can dig deep into some suds and produce a thumbs up or down on a beer.   TWG has become one of the ‘hood and If it falls on the floor’s resident beer expert.  While I pick a beer based on the cute label, TWG selects a fermented hop grounded in well-constructed depth and heart.

I had asked TWG to pair some beers with some of my cold weather chili/stews/soups.  Last week I think I sent him into a cardiac fit after he read the amount of jalapeno and chili powder in the recipe.  This week I’m hoping to lower his blood pressure…

 

Excerpt from The Wandering Gourmand  http://thewanderinggourmand.com/about/

Lately, I have become the beer pairing expert.  On a recent bachelor party in Charlestown, SC, I was tasked by almost each of the 12 partiers with picking out a beer to accompany their meal at Craftsman, a gastropub and tap house.  I’m not sure why.  (Maybe it’s the recent beard.  Beards and beer go hand-in-hand.)  Luckily, almost everyone ordered the Crunchy Dane so my job was easy.  It was only fitting then that Megs asked me to create beer pairings for a few recipes from her new cookbook.

I was stoked.  Not only do I enjoy her blog and the adorable (yes, even bearded beer experts can use that word) photos of her dogs, but I heartily support any blogger who can turn this hobby into a business.  I truly believe in the entrepreneurial spirit and love seeing the Internet allow ideas to generate household income be they products sold on blogs like Megs or artists selling their masterpieces on Etsy.

Please don’t be disappointed by the fact that the pairings are from the macro-craft breweries.  As much as I wanted to promote Natty Green’s Southern Pale (best pale known to beerkind), nobody outside of North Carolina could buy it.  Thus, you’ve heard of these beers and that’s the point.  They had to be accessible.

Mexican Ham Soup – More smoke.  I’m thinking something with bourbon– New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk.  The spice levels aren’t atomically high like the Beef Chili and Beer recipe.  A hearty, boozy beer would enhance the flavor of the smoked ham and chipotles.  In fact, the idea is so perfect that I think New Holland should brew a version with smoke chipotles added.  Just saying…   

–  The Wandering Gourmand

Huraches Ham Chili

Huraches Ham Chili

MEXICAN HAM SOUP  

I am my mother’s daughter after all…   I couldn’t bare the thought of tossing the bone, so I came up with Mexican Ham Soup, aka Huraches Ham Chili.  WOW!  Perfect for the cold weather, great for large crowds, the smoky essence adds some hidden depth to the chili and a touch of the outdoors to your dinner.

  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 8 c chicken broth
  • 2 c chopped onions
  • 1½ c cubed smoked ham steak + a big smoked ham bone
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 bag frozen corn kernels
  • ½ c diced green chili (Hatch Chili if you have them)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 smoked chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced + 2 tbsp. sauceSour cream for garnish
    Cheddar cheese, grated

Combine beans, broth and the next 8 ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Partially cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 2 hours. Stir in the tomatoes and chipotle chili, simmer another 30 minutes.  Discard bay leaves and bone and ladle soup into bowls. Top with grated cheese and sour cream.

 

For more delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

Victoria’s Secret

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How do you break the news to your wanna-be-dog-model that she is not quite ready for the runway?  That those angel wings all the VS models wear at the fashion shows are going to other bitches? That jowls are not cheek bones, the dog paw crawl is not a cat walk and cleavage on a dog is so very unbecoming?

How do you enlighten your canine that dog shows are not fashion shows and she plays chase with Ralphie at the community dog park not Ralph Lauren.

How do you explain to your precious pet that sharing the cover of a cookbook is not the same as flying solo on the cover of Elle, Cosmo or Marie Claire  (however on that note, I highly disagree!)?  Try telling your beloved dog that while her body size is perfect for Purina, it’s not a size 2.  Nor is her deep-chested frame svelte enough, tall enough or waif-like enough to be a Ford Model (although it is perfect for counter-surfing and crumb-chasing).

But, boy is she cute!  You should see all the adorable pictures of her in her debut modeling portfolio called If it falls on the floor, it’s mine!  a newly released cookbook found on Amazon.

DSC00205P.S.  Dolce would love to sign your cookbook – with a little mud, a few drops of dog drool and a big paw print!

For more delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

 

thunder

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For years, New Mexico has been in a terrible drought.  With water rationing and water conservation signage throughout our restaurants and hotels, New Mexicans have learned to sip carefully.  This summer we have been lucky.  Deluged with a monsoon season that has been plentiful, the rains have brought buckets of precious water to our parched landscape and left knee-high weeds mingling within a plethora of wildflowers.  We have never seen our high desert countryside so green, so lush with foliage, so full of nature.  With each rain, the elevated fire danger alerts lessen, the fire gauge’s arrow slowly creeping back from red to orange to yellow to green. Earlier this summer, we saw fires in the Jemez Mountains to our west and fires in the Pecos Wilderness to our east.  Our mornings saw smoky haze creeping around Santa Fe, our afternoons showed us billowing smoke clouds topping the Sangre de Cristos.  We held our breath each time  we heard thunder, fearing a lightning strike against nature’s dryness.  When the monsoons arrived in July, our tension eased, knowing the pinon trees and grasses were soaking up the moisture, re-building their arsenal against the ever-present dryness.

Some time around the first part of July, we received our first round of monsoon showers.  The normal thunder and lightning came along for the ride.  Out of the clear blue, Amore decided she did not like thunder.  In fact, she decided she was downright scared of thunder.  So scared, and so unexpected, the first time she freaked, we immediately took her to the vet, knowing something was horribly wrong.  Shivering, shaking, not eating, agitated, up and down, insistent to be on us or right next to us, we were clueless to what was wrong with her.  Thunder had never bothered her in the past.  She slept though it, never giving the loud crackling noise a thought.  Even when the thundering storm was right overhead, like cymbals crashing together, she wouldn’t bother to lift her head, twitch her nose or jerk her paw.  Amore was oblivious to the thunder.  And now, she shivers and shakes with fear, sometimes for hours after the storm has passed.

New Mexico lightning

New Mexico lightning

We purchased a thunder shirt for her, hoping to lessen her anxiety.  The moment we hear the rumbling drums of thunder, we put Amore in her shirt, wrapping the fabric snugly against her.  It helps.  Not completely, but it brings her panic to a more manageable level.  For five years, thunder’s loud roll overhead never affected Amore.  Today, the distant reverberation brings  her to her knees.

Last night’s rain brought another round of thunder.  At one in the morning, Amore awoke in fear as the storm let loose above us.  Lightning, thunder, rain, and hail crashed through the night, pelting the land with more than an inch of moisture in less than fifty minutes.  Amore shook with terror as the loud booms of thunder were clashing over us.  She headed straight to Malcolm to calm her, jumping up on the bed and onto Malcolm’s sleeping form.  Malcolm woke to a trembling dog crushing him, breathing in dog hair, a dog tail flapping in his face.  Paws stepping all over him, Malcolm was Amore’s security blanket.  It was sunrise before Malcolm was able to fall back to sleep, Amore nestled up against his side, gently snoring, safe.

THUNDER & LIGHTNING CAKE

Best to make when a storm is approaching in the distance!

  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 4 egg yolks (save whites)
  • 3/4 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 tbsp. cream
  • 1 tsp. Kaluha
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c chopped pecans
  • 1/2 pt. of whipped cream or Cool Whip (I prefer homemade whipped cream)

Preheat over at 350 degrees.  Grease two (2) cake pans and layer parchment paper on bottom of each pan.

Cream butter and 1/2 c brown sugar, slowly adding the egg yolks one at a time.  Add flour, baking powder, salt, cream and Kaluha.  Pour batter into prepared cake pans..  Spread out batter (it will looks like very little, but will rise up as it bakes).  Beat egg whites until stiff and gradually add 1 cup brown sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar.  Beat again until peaks are stiff.  Spread over top of batter, then sprinkle with pecans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Turn out on cake plate with the egg white side down.  Spread top of cake layer with whipped cream.  Place second layer of cake on top of first layer of cake, this time egg white side up!

If layers stick in pans, run a knife around the edge to loosen the meringue.

s.n.o.u.t. wrestling

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The dogs love it when company arrives.  It’s even better if the visitors are over-night guests… a long weekend visit is nirvana.  They know additional people around the house equals more lovin’ and more lovin’ means more petting and belly rubs.  To Dolce and Amore, house guests equates to another unsuspecting victim foolish enough to keep their “petting hand” lowered at nose height.  Just low enough to fandangle a head rub from the gullible guest, or a scratch to the ear or if they’re lucky, a full body massage.

I tell ya, we have smart dogs…. multiplied by the number of guests, Dolce and Amore can calculate the amount of adoration they should be receiving, and for how long.  A gentle nose nudge to the hand, served as a courtesy reminder, is quickly given when a guest isn’t paying enough attention to their rubbings’, when the petting starts to be a bit absentminded, or when the caressing slows to a stop.  This soft nose nudge is usually good for another seven or so minutes of full attention.  A second tender nudge can easily add another two to three minutes on to their massage session.  The third nudge, given under duress once the petting hand has completely stopped all contact, no longer qualifies as a nose nudge – the girls are now into a full-on, no-holds-barred S.N.O.U.T. wrestling approach.

SNOUT wrestling occurs about 36-48 hours after arrival, just about the time when the novelty of the dogs has worn off.  It usually starts with Amore, eager for more lovin’ and attention, illegally using her muzzle to gain your attention.  It almost always ends with an upset, a drink tossed into the air, only to land back on you, after your arm has been jolted upright by a distraught hooch hooter.  Coined by one our favorite guests, SNOUT wrestling stands for STRONG NOSE ON ULNA and TIBIA and it means business.

At best, SNOUT wrestling might give the dogs a few minutes of rubbing.  Usually it just encourages our guests to move to higher ground – a tall bar stool, out of reach from Dolce’s strong nose,  or better yet, in a standing position with the stool arranged as a barricade from Amore’s attempt to mutt muzzle her way for more consideration, more ear scratching, more rubbing.  But at worst, SNOUT wrestling will bring irritated shouts of “NO!”, “STOP IT!”, and “QUIT!”, hopefully without someone tripping or falling after losing their balance from a brief SNOUT wrestle.  SNOUT wrestling begins with the nose, usually under your arm, sometimes behind your leg, lifting at a high rate of force, thrust, and energy.  The move is always unexpected, even when you’re expecting it.  It is always quick, with no notice, and always gets the pin, shoulders on the mat!

Insistent, intrusive and annoying, SNOUT wrestling is the dogs at their brattiest and way past the point of cute, but, on the flip side, it keeps the company from staying too long!

eureka!

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In my past life, I was a caterer, where I custom-catered small cocktail parties, fancy galas, annual dinners, intimate dinners for two and fundraising events for 750 attendees. 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. Every day was an adventure for Tiamo: there were cookbooks 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.  Anyone who has ever owned a dog has had a similar experience: turning your back for just a few minutes while cooking, resulting in missing ingredients and a look from your pooch 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 – they are both joyous! And a stray dog hair is a reminder of their unconditional love.

A cookbook recommended by three 100-pound lap dogs, sampled by a wonderful husband and fed to some great neighbors and friends!

Every kitchen needs a dog! A dog quick to lick up the drops and drips that occur in the kitchen. A dog that looks at you with beseeching eyes for a nibble of cheese or a sliver of meat. A dog that awaits with hope and longing, a scrap of food will land on the floor. We all know better than to feed our crafty canines “human food”, but we still do!

Here’s a cookbook that will charm you with adorable pictures of puppies and dogs as they try to beguile their owner into giving them a taste of what’s to come. Recipes that have been served to former Vice-Presidents, pro athletes, family members and best friends – all savory, all tasty! These recipes were created for taste, ease, and an opportunity for the chef to showcase their talent in the kitchen. Recipes guaranteed to receive compliments – the cook will need to make enough for seconds!

Go to  http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823 to order your book!

COVER-final-coloredition

sneaky snake

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We have a sneaky snake.  No, it’s not Dolce, who is usually our first choice to blame as she likes to double-back on the trail to sneak a bite at a road apple.  Nor is it Amore, a likely culprit however,  who likes to quietly slip into the kitchen undetected to counter-surf for any and all crumbs left behind.  Both girls have well-deserved and well-earned reputations of being sly, cunning, evasive, clever, crafty…  and, well, just down-right sneaky when it comes to some delicious little tidbit of food that they desire.  They are pros when it comes to measuring the distance between master (us),  the goal (food), and the trials and tribulations to obtain said goal.  They can recognize the challenge and process the steps necessary to achieve victory without being scared or turning back.  And, usually they are spot-on thieves, quick as a wink and unafraid of retribution from Malcolm or myself.

No, this sneaky snake is just that, a snake.  A real one.  Four to five feet long, I can only pray it is either a Bull Snake, Whip Snake, or a Red Racer.  Of course, by the time I finish this tale, the snake will be at least 6 to 7 feet long with a girth wider than Malcolm’s chest and has fangs to rival a vampire.  Unfortunately, the only evidence we have gathered is the skin.  A long, scaly, ugly snake-skin.  Uck!  Double uck!  Triple, quadruple, uck! Let me say it in plain English –  UCK!  I. HATE. SNAKES.  Big, small, skinny, fat, friendly or deadly, doesn’t matter, I hate’em all and it doesn’t help matters that I live in an area that is populated with such creatures.  Give me a spider or a mouse any day (more on the mice at a later date).  I know, without a doubt, if Dolce or Amore ever saw a snake they would think it’s play time, something to chase after, play with and perhaps bring into the house to show off to the folks.

With the frequent monsoon rains we have the past couple of weeks, the flash floods and the wash out roads, many rodents and reptiles have moved to higher ground.  We’ve seen more snakes in the last two weeks than we have in all the years we’ve lived in Santa Fe – bar none.  To year-to-date, the total count is:  4 Rattlesnakes, 4 Bull Snakes, 1 Whip Snake and 2 Red Racers – a zillion Kangaroo Rats, a couple dozen Pack Rats (imagine a mouse on steroids)  and at least 6 gophers.  Mice aren’t part of the totals, as they are beyond counting.

Even though, every spring we give Dolce and Amore a Rattlesnake booster shot, even though we are vigilant when we hike the trails and the green belt, miles from anywhere and no cell service, even though it’s often said, “they are more afraid of you” – I still fret and worry about snakes.  Especially when the below picture was taken 10 feet from our garage door.

sneaky snake

sneaky snake

Now that I’m examining the photo a little more closely, it’s evident this is probably a twelve footer with wings, can squeeze you in half, has a tail like a scorpion and can spew fire from it’s mouth.

the mutt mobile

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Dolce riding shotgun

Mutt mobile.  Canine car.  Pooch Pick-up.  Datsun Dog.  Honda Hound.  Berner Bus.  Names, throughout the years, we’ve christened our more mature automobiles.  Autos that have seen happier days and in the days before dogs,  cleaner ones.

Our mutt mobile was a Chevy Blazer, grey with matching Corinthian leather seats, back seat air conditioning, a great sound system, and it came with every button, lever, and knob, right down to the MAGPIE plates.  It was the BOMB!  It moved us to the high desert of New Mexico, carrying Thugs, our cat, 1,300 miles from California.  It hauled all of our “crap” cross-country through valleys, mountains, streams and rivers.  It cleaned up real nice, handled the road well, got good gas mileage, and was just an’ all-round good ol’ car.

When we brought Tiamo into our family, MAGPIE was our puppy Porsche.  We didn’t notice the wrinkles at first, the first strands of gray hair were few and blended in.   At 10 years old, Ol’ MAGPIE was still stylish.  The scratches from Tiamo leaping on the car door were barely visible.  And, what’s a little dog hair along the floorboard – we’ll have the car wash attendants vacuum it out real good the next time.  The broken vent for the back AC went undetected for several weeks, as did the cracked cup holder and the chewed middle seat belt.  Malcolm and I both ignored the teeth marks that perforated the back seat – it added character we said.  The fuse blew out on the passenger door window from Tiamo hitting, and holding, the up/down button with her paws when she stuck her head out of the window, and the overhead dome light cover had disappeared months earlier, no telling where to.  All fixable and all re-breakable.

Slowly, over time, MAGPIE’s age started to show.  When the little pups arrived, MAGPIE was the Berner Bus, hauling eight squirming, wiggley BMD puppies to the vet for their shots.  As the litter whittled down to Amore and Dolce, along with Tiamo, MAGPIE was known strictly as the dog car.  Each dog had their spot:  Dolce riding shotgun, Tiamo in the middle back where she could have the air conditioning full blast on her face, and Amore on the back driver’s side seat, one paw on the window.  Pealing paint, ripped leather seats, and a cracking dash-board, in dog years MAGPIE had already turned eighty-three and was going on ninety.  After years of hauling Tiamo and the girls around, the interior was trashed, covered in dog hair and reeked of dog smell.  And yet, we still drove the Dog car, Dolce in the front, Tiamo middle back, Amore on the back left. It was our car of choice, allowing us to bring the girls with us.

When the government came out with the CASH for CLUNKERS program, we jumped at the opportunity to scrap it.  Dog car was worth more dead than alive.  We traded in Dog car for a more “economical” vehicle.  Something that was easy on the road.

But still, we needed a Dog car – and sadly, that meant we elevate our Pilot to the next Honda Hound.  We’re at the dog hair on the floorboard stage.

 

memories

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No story tonight.  No cute antidote of the girls.  No humorous tale of Dolce sitting on my lap or Amore stealing the kong.   No recipe at the end of my ramblings relating to the storyline.  No deep meaning words of wisdom, quip, or quote.

Tonight, it’s just about memories of our Tiamo.  Remembering the softness in her eyes, her tender nudge with her muzzle to get our attention, her gentleness when she would tend to her litter.  Tonight it’s about reminiscing how she would con me into giving her nightly belly rubs, every night, for 6 years straight.  It’s about her joy to be with us on road trips and trips to the grocery store.  It’s about her companionship to Malcolm and myself and her unconditional love for her “pack”.   It’s about her protectiveness with Thugs, our cat at the time, following her at a close distance to keep her safe when outside.  It’s about how she would flirt with the big male Berners, and show disdain to the little lap dogs, though she was a lap lover herself.

Malcolm and I often play the “remember when” game.  Remember when Tiamo would counter-surf and steal the cookies.  I would blame Malcolm for sneaking a cookie off the cooling rack, when all the time it was Tiamo.  Remember when Tiamo would start barking at 5:10 p.m. on the dot, wanting out the front door to wait for me to drive in from work.  She knew I was due home soon and wanted to wait for me in the front portal, running immediately to the car door as soon as I turned the engine off.  Remember when Tiamo would bust out of the dog pen and run around to the back porch, pawing  at the door to get back inside – how she hated being separated from us.  We abandoned that pen for two years until the puppies were born.

Other times we play the “remember how” game.  Remember how Tiamo would lay her head on my lap, her paw on my leg when she was tired, and other times she would lean so close to us, we were supporting her full weight.  Remember how Tiamo would give us big bear hugs, her huge paws wrapping around our waist, squeezing us hard.  We knew better than to have her jump on us, and yet, we still let her, even encouraging her.  We just loved her hugs!  Remember how we swore we would never, ever let her on our bed.  And, for two years we didn’t, until I broke down and literally picked her up, placed her on my side of the mattress and cuddled with her.  From then on, Tiamo slept with us.

Our “remember whens” and our “remember hows” usually ends with a saddened, “oh, how I miss her”.  Malcolm and I will share a tender smile full of Tiamo memories.  Once in a while, a tear drop will slip past my armor, Malcolm nodding in understanding, silently acknowledging our bitter-sweet memories.  I miss her hugs. Our cuddles, Our belly rubs.

Oh, how I miss her.

 

DSC00740

TIAMO

puppy breath

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a bouquet of puppy breath

a bouquet of puppy breath

When told we were expecting our little litter of puppies, a dear and close friend exclaimed, “aah, I so love puppy breath!  It’s so sweet”  I thought she was plum crazy.  No dog had pleasant breath let alone a puppy.  In the following weeks, several more friends made the same comment in varying degrees.  We heard everything from, “puppy breath is so precious!” to “I just love their little breath!”  to “their breath is adorable!”  Seriously?  What planet are these people from?  It’s a dog’s breath for criss-cross sake.   I would politely smile, but under my own breath,  I would mumble “good lawd” to Malcolm, who was trying in vain to keep a straight face.

It wasn’t until the puppies were old enough to be held and played with that I started to get an inkling of what my friends meant.  With their still pink little noses, at three-n-half weeks old,  our little ones were just starting on softened puppy chow.  They were old enough to be cuddled and held up close against our necks, while we absently rubbed their soft ears.  At five to six weeks, we were bringing our herd of yipping mutts outside to their  playpen to enjoy the fresh air and the still warm fall days.  Malcolm dragged a huge wooden rocking chair into the pen so we could sit and watch the eight little blighters sniff and explore their new world.  As they tired one by one, they would all end up at our feet, ready for a little puppy nap.  Inveritably, I would end up with two or three canine belly balls in my lap, falling fast asleep in my arms, their fat round tummies gently swaying with their soft breathing.  On warm sunny days, Malcolm and I would sit in the pen for hours, enjoying the melodious sounds emitting from the puppies.  Loving the feel of their silky fur, their soft little paws pressed against our arms, their muzzle tucked under our chins.  It was during these endearing moments, that I learned the true meaning of “puppy breath”.

Truth be told, there is something sweet about little puppy’s breath!  The scent is precious, with just a hint of baby puppy.  Taking a deep breath, I smell a little puppy’s trust, I inhale the wonder and  joys of a pint-sized creature filled with faith in their caretakers.  I breathe in the love of a new friend and the loyalty of an old one.  I catch a whiff of an adoring puppy, a devoted dog, a committed canine to its custodian.  Puppy breath is a precious bouquet of entrusting love.

HUSH PUPPIES

A quick and tasty appetizer or side dish, these little guys will disappear fast so make extras.

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. beaten egg
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced jalapeno
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • frying oil

Mix together the first six ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk  the buttermilk, egg and jalapeño together.  Stir the dry ingredients and milk mixture together.

Add enough oil to a deep medium saucepan to at least 1 1/2 inches.  Using a deep fry thermometer, heat oil to 320F to 330F over medium heat. Working in batches, drop 4 to 5 balls of batter by the tablespoon into the oil.

Fry until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 4-5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, lift the hush puppies from the oil and place on a paper towel.

Can be made 2-3 hours ahead, leave at room temperature.  Rewarm in a pre-heated oven of 375F until crisp (12-14 minutes).  Garnish with a little chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese.

pool paw play

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It’s Memorial Weekend! The kickoff to summer!

Picnics and BBQ‘s, flip-flops and short shorts, watermelon and lemonade.  One of the best parts of Memorial weekend is our local community pool opens for the summer.  8:00 a.m. on Saturday the race is on to be the first in the pool.  Moms have a free babysitter for youngsters over 12 and an energy burner for those under.  It’s the summer hangout for teenagers and an outdoor tanning booth for the housewives of Santa Fe.  Tri-athletes in training, adult swimmers exercising.  You see everything – from bare bottom babies splashing around in the kiddies pool to the pursuit of the perfect cannon ball tidal wave.  Sunburned cheeks to darkly tanned leather skin.  Old men in speedos, old ladies in bikinis.

Malcolm and I swim laps in the evenings when the kids have been called home for dinner.  75 feet of clear blue water, heated to just above chilly. It’s the perfect time to unwind from work and cool down from a hot day.  Most of the water brats have left, their forgotten pool toys and towels littered around the chairs and loungers to be found the next day.  Those remaining are the serious swimmers, jumping in the pool for laps, leaving in their wet suits, a towel wrap over their neck.

The dogs know when they see our swim bags and beach towels, they are staying put, guarding the fort back home, except for Dog day.  At the end of the summer and the chlorine has been diluted to a low enough level , its Paw Play at the Pool.  Dogs of all sizes, shapes and breeds converge at the pool for their own brand of fun.  And, it’s a wet time for all.  Excited dogs jumping in the deep end chasing tennis balls, even more incited dogs barking at waves of water splashing at their paws.  Once dry owners snapping pictures of their happy dogs. Total chaos.  Pure mayhem.  Wet dog everywhere. 

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HOMEMADE GEORGIA PEACH ICE CREAM

A perfect summer treat!

  • rock salt
  • ice (per manufacturer’s instructions)

Puree chopped peaches with the sugar and cream in the blender or food processor.

In a gallon ice cream freezer container, mix together the peach mixture, sweetened condensed milk and Kahlua.  Pour in enough whole milk to fill the contain to the fill line.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to freeze the ice cream.

“Yeah! babee!” Malcolm exclaims……. p.s.  Malcolm’s from Georgia!

mud

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Dog doors are a great invention and ours was one of the better remodel decisions Malcolm and I made…

When Tiamo was still a puppy, we added a large coyote-fenced enclosure that wrapped around the back of our New Mexican styled home.  Aesthetically pleasing for the neighborhood, it fit in with the landscape.  We carefully planned the gate placement, the amount of  shade provided by the Pinon trees growing around the perimeter and size of the pen around Tiamo’s needs.  The one thing we didn’t plan, was installing a dog door for entrance from the pen to the house.  Mistake number one – however a moot point since we only put Tiamo in the pen when we left for town and couldn’t bring her.  Tiamo’s new playground was over 1,800 square feet of soft sand and shade.  Made just for her – and she hated it!  She hated being left alone outside, barking excessively.  She hated being separated from us and most of all she hated knowing Thugs, our cat at the time, was indoors while she was suffering outdoors.  She dug deep holes under the gate and tunneled out to freedom, magically appearing at our back door to come inside.  She scratched, clawed and budged her way out through any opening she could find, bending the gate frame, ripping the wiring.   We added reinforcements, new gate latches, heavier gauged wire, and still Tiamo would find a way out.  One week after we christened our new dog pen addition, we abandoned it.  Tiamo happily trading the pen for all the comforts of pillows and couches found inside our home.

For two years Tiamo’s dog pen sat empty – until the puppies were born.  The pen was the perfect dog park for eight little pups to explore and discover their new life.  We would bring the kids out to the pen during the late hours of the afternoon, when the sun’s heat was less severe. Tiamo had finally accepted the pen, enjoying the fresh air as she tenderly watched over her rambunctious brood.  The little ones romped and tumbled for hours until we brought them back in to their make-shift pen set up in the garage.  Tired and exhausted, the puppies would settle into a fast sleep for the night. 

As each puppy left for their new life with their new caregivers, Malcolm and I came to the conclusion we needed to add a dog door to the pen for our remaining three; Tiamo, Amore and Dolce.  However, our careful planning of the pen placement several years past, failed to appoint a common wall for a dog door.  Mistake number two.  We concluded after a careful study of where to place the large rubber flap, to install the dog door in our bathroom’s linen closet.  I know, it sounds weird, but our thinking was (and still is) if there came a time when we needed to close off the dog door, we could re-install the linen shelves back in and the large, unsightly dog hole would  “disappear” behind bath towels and sheets.  Plus, we could close the closet door to keep the girls in or out depending on what we wanted.

Installation day was on a Friday, right around the first of July.   We wanted to have the door installed and finished before our Monsoon season started so the girls could come in out of the rain.  Training was easy.  A little nugget of ground hamburger was all it took to entice Tiamo through the opening, with Amore and Dolce  quickly following.  It wasn’t long before each dog was barreling through the flap looking for a meatball.    The girls immediately used the outdoors as they should, doing their duty discreetly outside.   No more getting up to let one of dogs out, no more waiting in the freezing cold as Dolce sniffed for the perfect spot, no more chasing after Amore as she sensed freedom.  Life was just made easier.

Five days later, the rains came. Blessed drops of liquid fell on our parched acreage.  Never lasting very long, the afternoon showers can alternate from a gentle pitter-patter to hard torments of destruction.  The dry land will soak up the moisture like a sponge, filling its cracks with water, letting the excess wash over into arroyos and gullies creating flash floods and hazards.  Not only do our summer storms bequeath us with fiery sunsets that paint the sky with vibrant colors, they also leave us with clay dirt that quickly becomes slick, clinging to our shoes, dragging your steps with the extra weight of the mud.  It was on a day such as this, that I came home from work to find mud, lots of mud, strewn from one end of the house to the other!  There were muddy paws prints in every room, every part of the house. On the sofa, on the bed, everywhere.  The girls came running to greet me, each with a wet, muddy underbelly, each filthy and dirty, mire and sledge oozing from their paws.  and each with a huge happy grin on their face.  The new dog door was a gateway to mud and muck.  Mistake number three!

Luckily, we have brick floors.  And, we have a house cleaner.

Dolce washed up after mud wrestling with Amore

Dolce washed up after mud wrestling with Amore

 

MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE

an ooey-gooey delicious mess!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 6 oz Oreo cookies
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp. melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan.  

To prepare the crust:  place Oreo cookies, nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and process until fine crumbs are formed.  Add the melted butter and mix until just moistened.  Do not over process.  Press the cookie mixture over the bottom of the springform pan, pressing the mixture up the sides of the pan about 1 1/2 inches.  Cover and chill until filling is ready.

To prepare the filling:  add butter, chocolate, corn syrup in a medium sauce pan over low heat until melted together.  Let cool.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time and then the finely chopped Macadamia nuts.  Pour filling into the chilled crust and smooth the surface.  Bake for 30 minute or until just set but still soft in the center.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Serve a room temperature with homemade whipped cream.

 

cat fight

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This morning was a normal 5:00 a.m. wake-up.  Amore lumbered by at her usual time of 4:55 a.m. to press wet wake up doggy kisses on my cheek.  Not to be outdone, Dolce barreled in between Amore and the side of the bed to ensure her share of early morning love.  Like clock-work, the girls followed me through my morning ritual of getting ready for work, eagerly anticipating breakfast once I was finished.  About 10 minutes in, Gordita arrived from her night-time-hidey-hole to loudly scratch at the bottom of the bathroom door, determined to be let in to join the party.  The three quietly lazed about, each curled up in their own special spot on the floor, still waking up to their full potential for the day to come.  One by one, they took turns in giving me good morning hugs.  Amore likes to put her front paws on the counter next to me so she can rub her muzzle up against me, receiving a rub in return.  Gordita jumps from the rim of the tub to the sink counter and weaves her quiet way softly over hair brushes and toothpaste to leap onto my shoulder, liking to nuzzle my neck for a few minutes before I set her back down, and Dolce loves to push her way through from behind your legs to get her ears scratched.  About the time I’m ready for some hot coffee, Amore and Dolce have fully woken up and are ready for their own breakfast.

We all headed out to the kitchen, Dolce in the lead as Gordita sprinted between dog paws  and dog tails to reach a safe haven under the kitchen table, ready to watch the breakfast festivities.  I performed the routine procedure of  filling their dishes with their kibbles and bit of water before making the two sit.  Both Amore and Dolce have learned to sit quickly down on their honches, knowing I won’t place the feed bowl down until they have earned it.  Side by side, they immediately dove into their respective dog bowls, slurps and crunches and the rattle of the tin bowl,  the only noises heard.  Once I gave them their chow, I grabbed a flashlight and walked up the drive to retrieve the newspaper.  About the time I get back to the house, the girls are usually just finishing up.  Sometimes one will polish off their meal ahead of the other, sometimes they clean their bowls at the same time, but always, once finished, they wander over to where I’m sitting with the paper for a little love.  Until this morning…..

This morning the little bitches got into a cat fight!  For 4 1/2 years, Amore and Dolce have happily enjoyed their meals together, shoulder to shoulder.  They have their own dog bowls, nestled in a raised double-panned stand – Dolce’s on the right, Amore’s right next door on the left.  For over four years, they  have received the same portions, the same food, at the same time.  Dolce is always the first to sit.  Amore is always first to dig in.  And, this morning the two big babies started a fight over the last nibble!  It’s typical for Amore to finish her meal first and Dolce to lap up her’s in a close second.  Today, Amore unwisely decided to see what was left in Dolce’s bowl and gobbled up what was there before Dolce could.  War broke out in the middle of the kitchen with snarls, growls, raised paws and big fangs barred.  I’ve always been told to never get in the middle of a dog fight – with a long-handled broom, I swatted the behind of the closest dog to me, allowing a distracted mutt to cease-fire.

Talk about a little early morning excitement, their loud and contested dispute brought Malcolm running into the kitchen from a sound slumber to see me taking my last wallop with the broom and Amore slinking off to her corner to lick her pride.  Suffice to say, this evening their feed bowls were separated and the broom was kept handy.

Fat & Sassy French Toast

So good, you’ll fight over the last piece!

  • 8-10 slices day-old bread, crusts removed
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 3 cups of sliced fruit i.e., bananas, strawberries, raspberries
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Lay 4-5 slices of bread on bottom of pan, then top with cream cheese cubes and sliced fruit. Top with the rest of the bread slices and set aside.  Beat together eggs, milk and brown sugar and pour over bread.  Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Remove plastic wrap from pan and bake for 40 minutes or until top layer of bread of lightly golden brown.

Serve with additional warmed maple syrup if desired.

Bobcat’s

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Traditionally, when family and friends visit, we treat our out-of-town guests to Bobcat Bite, an old trading post-turned-gun shop-turned-burger joint located halfway between us and Santa Fe.  A family owned business since 1953, Bobcat’s sits off of historic Route 66, so named for the wild bobcats that came down from the surrounding mountains and were fed meat craps and leftovers at the back door. Owned by Bonnie and John, Bobcat’s has only 5 small tables and a long counter for singles and one-sie’s, you pay with cash or check, are given a Tootsie roll pop for dessert, and those waiting for a table get restless if you linger too long.  The name at the top of the chalkboard gets the first available table.  Those names under them impatiently toe-tap, waiting to be moved up.

The menu has changed little, except perhaps they don’t serve homemade fruit pie anymore.  Burgers, steaks, pork chops.  Salad, garlic bread and country fries.  Cole slaw, potato salad and skillet baked beans.  A simple menu, but I can guaran-damn-tee you, it is and will be, the best burger you will ever have.  Bar none.  Ten ounces of ground daily choice sirloin and chuck, cooked to order on an old cast iron griddle, it’s a two-fisted burger, bookend by a specially baked sourdough bun and served with potato chips.  The first bite is a jaw-bender.  The last bite is an assembly of hamburger pieces, broken potato chips and green chili that fell out of the burger into the paper-lined burger basket.

I like the green chili cheese burger, rare-to-medium rare, onions, no chips.  Malcolm orders the green chili cheese, medium, onions, two tomato slices, lettuce, yes on the chips and the potato salad, but only if Bonnie made it.  Dolce and Amore enjoy the leftovers minus the onions and green chili.  We’ve learned to flip the burger as soon as it arrives so the juices gravitate into new territory, spreading the succulent flavors.

Best damn burger! Ever!

Best damn burger! Ever!

When it was just Tiamo, we would bring her with us, sitting outside at a small bistro-styled table on the portale.  Tiamo would lay under the table at our feet, occasionally handed scraps of hamburger when Malcolm wasn’t watching.  Tiamo learned at a young age, if we turned left at the blinking light, it was a Bobcat night, and a sure bet she would get a treat.  She would go from zero to wildly excited before we could even round the corner.  Should we turn to get on the freeway, Tiamo sulked in the back corner of the car all the way into town.  When Dolce and Amore came along, we would leave the three dogs in the car in the parking lot while we enjoyed our meal.  Every so often, we would hear loud barks from the girls, encouraging us to hurry it up.  They knew Bonnie had wrapped up our leftovers and there were meat scraps to be had.

Typically, repeat house guests will request a Bobcat burger upon their return to Santa Fe, telling us they’ve been craving Bobcat’s since they started planning their trip.   On occasion, they will demand to come back for a second round of burger before they leave town – sort of a  “one for the road” talisman.

Dolce and Amore certainly don’t mind, they get the leftovers.

RECIPE (strike that) RULES FOR A BOBCAT BITE BURGER

  • Drive fast, dangerously fast to Bobcat’s to arrive before the other patrons, believe you me, this is serious business
  • Run, don’t walk, to the chalkboard to write your name down before the out-of-town-never-been-to-Bobcat’s-before folks have a chance to get out of the car and figure out the system
  • While waiting for a table, stare through the windows, intimidating those slow pokes eating inside into speeding up their meal.  This isn’t Paris, they don’t get to dawdle over coffee
  • Once seated, read the menu quickly and know what you want – don’t dilly-daddle.  There are people waiting for your table – like us – plus, you don’t want to delay that first bite of your burger
  • Inquire who boiled the potatoes that morning (just kidding John)
  • Order and enjoy the best damn burger ever, ever, ever!  This is no ordinary burger – hold on to your socks, you’re in for a treat!
  • Ask for more napkins, you’re gonna need’em – now ask for another one
  • Discreetly undo the snap on your jeans, pulling your shirt out and over to cover the opening.  Okay, now you have more room to indulge in your burger – oh, yeah, and you can breathe
  • Eat, pay and grab your Tootsie pop as you exit, you can enjoy it in the car on the way home
  • Start planning your next visit to Bobcat’s
  • http://www.bobcatbite.com
Bonnie with one of the buddy gang

Bonnie with one of our repeat offenders

Goldilocks

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Growing up, our father had a big ol’ over-stuffed leather chair and ottoman positioned just so — enabling him to watch our black & white at just the right angle.  That was HIS chair.  All the dirty rubber bands from the evening newspapers, his toothpicks, his torn-out magazine articles, his dog-eared paperbacks, collected on, in or by his chair.  If one of us girls happened to be sitting in HIS chair when he came in the living room to watch TV or read the paper, we had to vamoose out that chair lickety-split, forfeiting all rights to the seat.  Saturdays we would dig through the chair sides under the seat pillow, searching for loose change and coins that had slipped out of his pockets throughout the week as he sunk further into the chair.  On a good week, we could net a hefty profit, easily tripling our paltry allowance.  Most times, it was a bust.  The years brought longer afternoon naps and more cracks to the aging dried out leather,  the worn seat sagged way below the equator, the arm rests wiggled but stayed put with extra nails to the frame, and it was still HIS chair.  Worn down, broken-in, and mighty comfortable, that chair was dad’s and always would be.

Tiamo had a special seat as well.  Our kilim covered ottoman-slash-coffee table on steroids.  As a puppy, the ottoman was the only piece of furniture low enough for her to climb up on.  All of 10 weeks old, Tiamo would put her front paws on the top edge of the large oversized ottoman, her short little hind legs furiously working to gain purchase as she would pull herself up to the top where victory lay.  And there she lay, eyes sparkling from her achievement.  From the day she reached the summit, that ottoman has been hers and hers alone.  That was her spot, her place, her chair. If someone happened to be encroaching on her ottoman, a bark and a paw nudge was usually enough to get them to move along to another spot.  We have experienced her literally pushing us off her spot, leaning with all her body weight until we gave in and let her have her ottoman back.

When the puppies were born, her ottoman became more sacred and Tiamo became more territorial with her special place. Momma had staked her claim to the ottoman years prior and no little whippersnapper was going to poach on it. Amore and Dolce eventually learned to leave the ottoman to Tiamo.  The only trespasser allowed on the ottoman, was Thugs, our cat at the time, whom Tiamo grew up with and had always been protective of.

When Tiamo passed, Malcolm and I wondered who would be the first to take over the ottoman. Dolce or Amore?  Both had tried repeatedly, but to no avail when Tiamo was alive.  My bet was on Dolce, as Amore has always preferred the cold brick floor under her belly.  So far, neither has shown any desire to acquire the ottoman as “theirs”.  Amore has jumped over it, Dolce has used the ottoman as a launching pad to chase after Amore, but the girls have yet to enjoy their afternoon nap, stretched out with the sun warming their belly, on the ottoman. In their minds, it will always be Tiamo’s ottoman.

And, perhaps Gordita’s, one of the few intruders Tiamo allowed on her “spot”.

Gordita

Gordita

Sunday tradition

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Monday through Friday, I am the one to feed the girls their morning meal. Early.  5:00 a.m. early.  Our dogs are conditioned to enjoy their breakfast at the crack of dawn, when it’s still dark and cold out.  Once their bellies’ are full, they settle back down on their huge dog pillows for a little morning shut-eye as I sip my coffee and read the paper before I leave for work.

Come the weekend, my wonderful, sweet hubby gets up early to feed Amore and Dolce, allowing me to sleep a couple more hours before I start the day.  For some perverse reason, on the weekends, the girls start scrambling for their breakfast  around 4:00 a.m.  They’ll come around to the side of the bed, checking to see if one of us is up yet, being sure to whack their tail several times for good measure.  On a good day, they might wait until 4:30 a.m. before starting their wake-up antics.  If need be, Amore will jump up on the bed and sit on one of us in her attempt to get fed.  It’s about this time, I’m kicking Malc in the back, “it’s your turn to feed’em!” I mumble.

Blurry eyed, and three-quarters still asleep, he stumbles out to the dark kitchen, tripping over 200 excited pounds of two hungry dogs in their mad bid for their kibbles.  From the other room, I hear several choice words spewing loudly from his lips as his bare feet and legs are clawed by dog paws in their eagerness to be fed. I hear the clank and clatter from their metal dog bowls being pushed around the hard floor as they devour their food.  Then quiet. Blissful quiet.  Wonderful-fall-back-to-sleep quiet.  While the girls are still chowing down their food, Malc will crawl back into the still warm bed, staking out his territory on the mattress.  He has about 2 minutes to fluff his pillows and get comfortable before the girls search us out, climbing up on the bed to snuggle in for a few more hours.  A half hour later, Gordita joins the family snugglefest, stepping over fur and bodies to curl up on a down pillow.

By the time, I’m ready to rise, I have two dogs stretched out on each side of me and a cat up on my pillow loudly purring in my ear, a black cat tail draped across my face. I can’t move.  I look over at Malcolm and see a slight smile peaking through the covers.  “Psst! You awake?”, I persist in waking him.  One visible eye opens, we share a contented, loving look as we view our menagerie nestled on the bed.  Our family.  It brings a warm hug to our hearts.

Sunday morning is our special day of the week to laze around, read the paper, drink our coffee, share breakfast.  It’s turned into tradition, having our girls curled up around us as we read the comics, the OpEd page, the local news, sipping hot coffee, being careful not to spill any on the covers.  Breakfast turns into brunch, but who cares, it’s our lazy day to enjoy our family.

RASPBERRY PANCAKES

Perfect for those lazy Sunday mornings, these cakes are light and fluffy – the secret is taking the time to beat the egg whites separately.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup non-fat milk (may use buttermilk)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest, finely grated
  • 2 large egg whites (save extra egg yolk for your canine friends)
  • 3/4 cup sliced bananas
  • 3/4 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam (heated in microwave)
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg yolk and zest.  Set aside.

Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks forms.  Stir milk mixture little by little into the flour mixture.  Carefully fold in egg whites and then add the sliced bananas.

Spray non-stick cooking spray on a large non-stick skillet or griddle and warm over medium heat.  Ladle batter onto hot griddle using a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour batter, making a hotcake.  Repeat until griddle is full.  Cook until bottom is set and golden brown, about two minutes.  Flip and cook until firm, another 2 to 3 minutes.  Set aside and cover to keep warm until you’ve cooked all the hotcakes.

Serve hotcakes topped with warm raspberry jam and vanilla yogurt and raspberries.

must love dog….. hair!

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When Malcolm and I married, we knew we wanted to move out of California, only we didn’t know exactly where.  My only condition: it had to be west of the Mississippi.  Malcolm’s only condition:  it had to have home-delivery for the New York Times.  The dart landed on Santa Fe, New Mexico, a southwest tourist mecca.  Tucked in tight against the Sangre de Cristos Mountain Range, Santa Fe is host to a wide range of culture, several museums, great restaurants, outdoor sports and lots of shopping opportunities from expensive art and indian jewelry to cheap T-shirts with silk screened scenes depicting the Southwest.  The lure of Santa Fe not only brings thousands of travelers and visitors annually, it also brings lots of family and friends, guests who arrive for mini get-away vacations.

And while we open the doors of our home, welcoming our friends, we always need to preface their visit with a few words of warning:  YOU MUST LOVE DOGS…… AND DOG HAIR!  Oh yeah, and a very fat cat named Gordita.

What we really mean is, you must love OUR dogs and not be allergic to cats.  House guests are not allowed to be upset if their kicked off shoes ends up outside in the dog pen, if they discover they are missing a sock days after they go home, or if there is black dog hair clinging to their pants leg and to their shirt and to their jacket and to everything else they own.  Throughout their stay, the odds are high they will pull a stray strand of dog hair from their wineglass, or see a puff of canine curls floating down and around.  Malcolm and I chuckle to ourselves when we catch sight of a guest discretely pulling out a hidden hair off their lips.  We advise our friends to shut their bedroom door tight at night or they could very well end up with one to three animals curled up next to them, sharing not only the soft mattress but more dog hair.  We regularly invest in lint rollers,  placed in every room for convenience.  Even I do a roller-run-through on my slacks every morning before leaving for work, checking for dog hair.

from dog - to couch - to the back of the shirt - dog hair!

from dog – to couch – to the back of the shirt – dog hair!

After several years, we have filtered our guest list down to three categories:  Those that LOVE our girls, keeping their bedroom door wide open, hoping for a midnight cuddle and don’t mind the stray dog hair; those that don’t mind our dogs, but are careful with their shoes and keep the lint roller in hand; and those that stay in a hotel.

Hair of the Dog
The old saying “hair of the dog that bit you” is a common theory for curing a hangover.  The Hair of the Dog cocktail is a great alternative that serves the same purpose: a little bit of alcohol, sour citrus and the hot digestive aid to calm the stomach.
Pour the Gin, lemon juice and Tabasco into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake generously.  Strain into a chilled glass.  Garnish with a colorful chili pepper.  Be sure to wash your hands well with soap (especially before touching your eyes) if you handle the chili pepper.
Yield: 1 Cocktail

moms and meatloaf

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Growing up, I would cringe when I heard the words, “you take after your father”.  Or better yet, “you look just like your mom“.  At fifteen, I did not want to be compared to either parent.  I only saw dad as hosting a big nose and a larger belly.  And mother, well, suffice to say, I did not want to grow up to be like my mother.  Only now do I understand those words were sweet compliments full of promise of what was to come.  Their moral fiber was imprinted on me in my early years, their love and emotional support has stayed with me even with their passing years ago.  Now, at full maturity and with a clear mirror, I see a bit of both my parents in me, from sharing my father’s gift of gab to sharing my mother’s propensity to uphold her Scandinavian heritage – being a stubborn Swede on occasion.  I’ve borrowed my father’s coloring, with fair-hair and blue eyes, and copied my mom’s easy-going manner.  I find myself mimicking their mannerisms, their habits and their likes and dislikes.  And, buying only French’s mustard and Best Food’s mayo and using only real butter, cuz that’s what mother did.  Like mother, like daughter.

DSC00641

like mama, like daughter

With dogs, all traits and characteristics are individual.  They might share looks, the same blaze on the forehead, the same white-capped paws, but all similarities end there.  Their personalities are all their own.  I once had a dog trainer tell me, “Dogs do not learn from other dogs, they learn from repetitive learning and rewards”.    I used to believe that, now I’m not so sure……

When Tiamo was just a puppy, she would prance a little jig as we walked her.  A special spring in her gait, unique to just her.  I’d never seen another dog with the same perky step.  Until just the other day – I noticed Dolce dancing a little jig, as we walked the loop, so like Tiamo.  Tiamo had a habit of holding her head up, tucking her muzzle in, and looking up at you with a shy, Princess Di glaze.  She was so graceful, like royalty.   Recently, I saw Amore lift her head and tuck in her muzzle, as she peered up at me.  In that instant, she looked so much like Tiamo.  Tiamo had a special spot under the table, where she would lay as we ate dinner, her front paws draped over my toes, just to let me know she was there.  Now Amore lays there, in the exact spot as Tiamo, her right paw touching my left foot,  so like Tiamo.

Is it genetics?  Is it environment? Or is it just being a dog?  Malcolm and I find ourselves saying, “Dolce acts just like Tiamo” or “She is so like her mother”, something every teenager hates to hear.   Amore has always “looked” more like Tiamo – Dolce has always behaved more like Tiamo.  Both have taken on traits only Tiamo possessed.

MEATLOAF AND LOAF

All moms have a special recipe that spells out M-O-M.  My mother’s was meatloaf.  I make it just like hers.

Mama knows best!!

  • 1 sourdough bread loaf (un-sliced) – hollowed out, saving the bread filling
  • 1  –  3 oz. can sliced mushrooms and liquids
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs from sourdough bread loaf
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine liquids, egg, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and bread crumbs.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Stir in ground beef, mushrooms, and onions.  Fill the sourdough bread loaf with the meatloaf mixture.  Bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for one hour.

Mine!

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DSC01381Grrrrrrrrr!

Mine!

Do. Not. Even. Think. About. It.

Whether it’s a shoe, a bone or a peanut-butter filled Kong – the treasure becomes more valuable when you have possession… and, fair game to all others who don’t.

One of Dolce’s favorite past-times is chewing her Kong.  She’ll carry her Kong from room to room, as she follows us around the house, tucking it under her paw for additional security if Amore gets too close for comfort, a low growl of warning rumbling from deep inside her throat.  Should the cone-shaped rubber Kong slip out from her grasp, awkwardly rolling under some piece of furniture, she’ll spend several minutes digging it out.  She’ll wiggle under the couch, as much as a 100 lb. deep-barrel chested Bernese can, her nose buried, paw extended, the Kong just out of her reach.  A huff and a puff later, and she is squirming back out from under the sofa, sending us a beseeching look, silently begging us to assist her in recovering her toy.  Now it’s our turn to wiggle on our stomachs, cheeks against the cold brick floor attempting to flush out the Kong.  Having to incorporate a long wooden handle of a broom to sweep it out from down under, Dolce supervises the save from her perch on the couch, eagerly anticipating the return of favorite chew toy.

It’s usually about this time that Amore becomes interested in ownership of the Kong – barreling her way into the fray to steal the Kong away from Dolce as it orbits out from its hiding place.  Like a typical sibling, she parades in front of Dolce, holding the stolen loot in her clenched jaws, taunting Dolce with the prize.  Retaliating, Dolce barks her frustration at losing her Kong.  Still barking, she frantically paces from one end of the couch to the other,  tracking Amore as she continues to mock Dolce.  Pillows flying off the couch, Dolce gets in position to leap across the ottoman to lunge at Amore gripping the Kong.  – chaos has erupted!

Now, imagine you are still laying on your stomach, the cold brick floor against your skin, broom handle still in hand, Amore stepping on your back as she needles and antagonizes her sister.  You’ve another dog, whose barking has intensified to a loud frenzy, one second from flying across you to begin a well-deserved Kong attack against Amore.  In your effort to crawl out from under the couch, you try to stand at the exact moment Dolce takes the first shot, jumping towards Amore to retrieve her Kong.  You are in the middle a Kong fight, buried under eight paws and two hundred pounds of canine, battling it out for the glory of red rubber.

Dolce and Amore have a running tally of who has stolen, swiped, taken, nabbed, grabbed and all out fought for, the golden prize out from under an unsuspecting nose.  With Amore slightly ahead in steals, Dolce leads in cunning rebounds.  Malcolm and I surrender.

Canine cuddles

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Nothing says “romance” better than a dozen long-stemmed red roses.  Nothing says “love” better than a sparkling diamond.  And nothing says “sex” better than chocolate!

Unless you are a dog!

canine cuddles

canine cuddles

Dolce has always been our little cuddle-bug, our little sweetheart, our little lover.  She’ll sidle up besides you, nudging your hand to get her ears idly scratched, she’ll sit next to me (or rather on me) in the passenger seat for some extra pets and pats.  She’ll roll over in front of you, stopping you in your tracks, for a belly rub, kicking her back feet in happiness that she got you to stop and rub her.

But her favorite is to cuddle on the couch….

She’ll stretch and slowly crawl up on the leather lounge, keeping to the south end of the couch, patiently waiting for you to get settled in and comfortable.  She’ll then snuggle up against your side, burrowing in, pushing aside pillows, newspapers and blankets to make way for her.   Little-by-little, between her wiggling and leaning, pushing and tugging, she’ll end up with her furry frame wedged between the back of the sofa cushions and your own stretched out body.  Less than five minutes later, she’ll be draped across your torso, her soft head tucked up under your chin.  Instinctively, your arms will reach around her, holding her to you  as you automatically start rubbing and massaging her shoulders.  In due course, her gentle brown eyes will lower in ecstasy, savoring the moment.

There are moments when Dolce will lift her big head and gaze at you, softly starring with pure love in her eyes.  Sometimes gentle, sometimes intense, always with loving sentiment shinning through.  She’ll tenderly drop her head back down to rest on your collar, nuzzling closer, so content.

Nothing says “I love you” from a dog better than a couch cuddle.

CHOCOLATE ADULTERESS

Nothing says ‘sex’ like a taste of chocolate!  Serve with a port or Cognac.

CAKE MIXTURE

  • 1 lb. sweet chocolate
  • 6 oz. unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. flour

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.  Line an 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper.

In a saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter over low heat.  Meanwhile, place the un-cracked eggs in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes.  Crack and combine the eggs and sugar in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer on high-speed for 8 to 10 minutes, or, until tripled in volume.  Sift the flour on top.  Fold into the eggs.  Stir 1/4 of the egg mixture into the chocolate.  Carefully fold the chocolate into the remaining eggs until thoroughly combined.

Pour into the prepared cake pan.  Bake for 2o minutes.  The cake will still be slightly soft int he middle.  cool completely in the pan.  Cover and refrigerate in the pan overnight.  May be frozen for up to two weeks.

RASPBERRY SAUCE

  • 8 oz. raspberries, fresh
  • Superfine sugar to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. Mexican vanilla
  • Fresh raspberries for garnish
  • Mint sprigs for garnish

Puree the raspberries and strain.  Add just enough sugar to sweeten.  Pour the cream and vanilla  in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer until firm.  Invert the cake onto a serving platter.  Cut into wedges and place on a pool of raspberry sauce, garnish with fresh raspberries and mint leaves.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Simply irresistible!

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As puppies, Amore and Dolce were simply irresistible. And they knew it!

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With their little white-tipped tails wagging to and fro, their noses wrinkling as they sniffed new territory, their puppy breath as they pressed puppy kisses on us – as puppies,  they were the sweetest, cutest little things.  They were absolutely adorable, simply irresistible!

They each had their particular quirks.  Dolce would tilt her head as she was learning a new command, you could almost see the wheels turning as she was figuring out the process, her brain working out the equation.  Of the two, Dolce learned her lessons quick and fast.  She also learned she would be rewarded with a treat if she scored high on the test.  After she accomplished her task, she would sit at our feet, tilting her head to the side, patiently waiting for her gold star, her treat.  Again, you could visualize her thought process, her brain trying to figure out where her special nibble was, and when would she be getting it.  If Dolce was in High School, she would be the honors student, the one who never got in trouble, never cussed, smoked or slept around.  Teacher’s pet.

Amore on the other hand, would rise a brown-winged eyebrow, as if to question our sanity in asking her to perform the small learning task.  “You want me to do what”? she silently sassed, looking at us askew.  “Seriously?  Again?  How many times do I have to do this”?  First her ears would flick back and forth, then her two matching red-brown brows would draw together, frowning, not sure she wants to do as asked.  With a puppy pout and long drawn-out sigh, her eyebrows would twitch up and down once more before she followed the command.  If Amore was a teenager, she would be the rebellious 16-year-old, stealing a smoke behind the gym bleachers, swigging Jimmy B. out of a paper bag.  The horror student.

Between the head tilt and the brow lift, we never stood a chance.  One forty-five degree slant of the head and a five degree raise of the brow had us wrapped around every one of their paws.  It’s been that way ever since.  Four years later, Amore and Dolce are still irresistible.

SANTA FE RICE CASSEROLE

Make extra – it’s hard to resist seconds!

Mix green chili and jalapeno with sour cream.  Season cooked rice with salt and pepper.  In a 2 quart casserole, layer the ingredients with the rice, then sour cream mixture and then Monterey jack Cheese.  Repeat the layers ending with rice on the top.

Bake at 350 F degrees for 25 minutes.  cover the top with the Cheddar cheese and sprinkle with paprika.  Bake another 5 to 10 minutes.