gritty blog buddies

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One of the great things about hosting a blog are the friends you make.  Virtual friends.  Blog buddies you probably will never meet in person but interact with on-line.  You exchange comments and replies.  You “like” their post.  You even reblog from time to time.  There aren’t any long winded phone calls to keep in touch.  Just short blog messages, and smiley faces.  LOL comments and a few LMAO remarks.  We “oooh” over photos of beautiful Ms. Harper Lee, a Golden Retriever from Louisana, from Thek9harperlee blog and “ahhh” over pictures of Colorado from Mike’s Look at Life blog.

When my cookbook was just off the press, I asked a fellow blogger, PAWS IT ON, to sample some of the recipes and write a critique on her findings.   When I started to follow a traveling wine and beer blogger, The Wandering Gourmand, I asked him to “pair” a beer with three of my soups.  I would like to think a friendship of sorts was started. A virtual friendship.  I know if any of the above mentioned ever found themselves in New Mexico, aka Santa Fe, I would love to meet up with them and have a LIVE conversation.

Turn around is only fair.  A month ago (or so), fellow blogger The Wandering Gourmand started a wine vs. beer pairing contest.  Asking the blogging world and his readers to submit a pairing with a selected entree, The Wandering Gourmand garnered several entries for the first round.

yes, my fish n' chips looked just like this!

yes, my fish n’ chips looked just like this!

Fish n’ Chips was our first pairing course.  Malcolm and I dusted off our stored-in-the-garage fryer and proceeded to inhale a double batch of homemade beer battered fish with some spicy french fries.  Delicious!  It brought back memories of London.  And Brighton Beach.  And Bath.  And York.  And all the pubs we visited while in Great Britain.  There is nothing quite like the Brits’ fish n’ chips!

Our next pairing contest was Shrimp n’ Grits.  More like a test – not contest.

I can’t say I’ve ever made Shrimp n’ Grits.  I can’t say I’ve even tasted Shrimp n’ Grits, let alone just a taste of grits.  In fact, grits aren’t even on my top 100 fave foods list.   And, to be honest, grits of any kind, ranked pretty low on my order pad.  So, here I was, about to make Shrimp n’ Grits, and for company to boot.  Oh, boy….

Hubby-dear is from Georgia. Atlanta. Inside the belt. Buckhead, which he considers Atlanta proper. Not those suburbs like Marietta, Decatur or Alpharetta.  We’re talking Atlanta.  A true southern boy. When I mentioned we were having Shrimp n’ Grits for our weekend feast to test out the perfect pairing, he sent me a stern look.

grits IS NOT polenta!

grits IS NOT polenta!

“Now Honey,” he said, “Grits IS NOT polenta!” Clearing indicating a West Coast transplant to New Mexico would not know the difference. He had a point. My first trip to the grocery store brought home corn meal. Oops!  It was a Lucy & Ethel moment.  I thought I grabbed the grits, I swear! I didn’t realize my mistake until I had the corn meal cooking on the stove top and it wasn’t thickening properly.  Yikes!  Company was due in ten minutes.   Like Malcolm said, grits isn’t even close to corn meal.  A first cousin and married, but according to Malcolm, Grits is not Corn Meal! I think Malcolm was most grumpy mainly because he was elected to run back into town to get the real deal.

We already had some fun beer in the frig, and our guests had volunteered to bring an appropriate wine. We were ready to sip and sample.  One of our invitees is a cider drinker, so at the last moment I added Stella Artosis Cidre  in the pairing line up.
Our sampling included a Fox Glove Chardonnay, a Spanish wine, Licia Albarino, and finally, Stella Artosis Cidre (made with handpicked apples).  Along with an assortment of beers, we were set.

WOW! Not only was the Shrimp n’ Grits totally fantastic, we had one of the best times sippin & samplin!  We had a pairing party to end all pairing parties!

The top choice was the Stella Artosis Cidre, with the Albarino a close second. I gotta tell ya, the Cidre was perfect with the Shrimp n’ Grits. Crisp with a hint of carbonation, it was the perfect foil for the slight heat of the sausage. I’m sure it’s the “hand-picked apples” that made the difference!

Shrimp & Andouille Sausage Grits

Shrimp & Andouille Sausage Grits

SPICY SHRIMP WITH ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE ON GRITS

  • 1/2 cup green hot pepper sauce (I use Mrs. Renfro’s Jalapeno Salsa)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Combine hot sauce, wine, onions, lemon juice and vinegar in a heavy medium sauce pan. Boil over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup.  About 15 minutes.  Stir in cream.  Cover and refrigerate.  Can be made one day ahead.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 12 oz. smoked Andouille sausage – sliced (Chorizo and hot Italian sausage works as well)
  • 1 cup minced white onion
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
  • 4-5 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 30 or so uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off

Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat.  Add sausage bits, onion, jalapeno and garlic.  Saute until onions and garlic are tender.  About 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and seasoning.  Stir and heat over low heat while grits are cooking.  When grits are close to being ready, turn up the heat and add uncooked shrimp, sauteing until shrimp are opaque in center, about 3-4 minutes.

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups corn grits (I cheated and used quick grits)
  • 2 cups grated sharp white cheddar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring chicken broth to a boil over medium heat.  Add 1/4 cup butter and S&P.  Gradually whisk in grits.  Cover and let simmer until grits are thickened and very soft, stirring often.  About 1 hours.  If using quick grits, about 5-10 minutes.  When grits are done, add rest of butter and cheese.  Season if needed.  Keep warm.

Bring hot-pepper cream sauce to simmer.

Spoon grits in swallow bowls forming a well in the center.  Spoon shrimp/sausage mixture over grits and drizzle the hot pepper cream sauce over.  Serve.

poor Malcolm

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Guarding her treasurer

Tiamo’s favorite – a peanut butter filled KONG

Whenever we have company visiting, especially those guests with children, I try to have some type of cookie or snack ready. Something sweet, something special for the little ones.  I  usually have to whack Malcolm’s fingers  with the wooden spoon, as he tries to steal a cookie before company arrives, saving them for the kids.  Malcolm has appointed himself as the resident taster and feels he gets first bite of any sweets.  And if that doesn’t work, he calls his stealth of a cookie the “Malcolm TAX”, owed to him by virtue of him being “Malcolm”.

When our nephew Sam came around, I made sure the cookie bin was always full.  By the weekend’s end, as he was getting ready to leave, the cookies would be depleted to just a few left.  I would send him off with a bag of “left-overs”, the few cookies still uneaten  a part of his care-package.  Malcolm was always tweaked that I gave the cookies away.

When our Dennis the Menace neighborhood kid, came over to play with Tiamo and her eight little puppies, I would keep extra treats hidden in the garage freezer (hidden so well, even Malcolm didn’t know they were there!) ready for him to enjoy.  When the puppies outgrew their yelping pen, we moved the litter into the garage where we built a huge pen.  The pen took up the whole garage, everything pushed to the perimeters to make room.  “Dennis” had permission to come on over to our house and head out to the garage to play with the kids.  After a couple of play sessions, I noticed that every time, “Dennis” left, a box or a chair was always moved over by the refrigerator/freezer.

Naturally, I assumed Malcolm was moving things around in the garage and left the box there.  Malcolm figured I used the chair to sit with Tiamo and her kids.  It took about a two weeks before I realized “Dennis” was using the chair to climb up on to reach the top freezer and grab some cookies for his pocket before he left.   “Dennis” was double dipping!  He would enjoy a treat when he first arrived and he would enjoy several as he was leaving!

When I baked cookies for work, Malcolm would complain I only baked for others, that he never got to enjoy the bounty.  Unfortunately, he was right.  I didn’t bake for just us – I baked for others.  So one weekend, I decided I would bake a batch of his favorites.  Peanut Butter Cookies.  Made with Skippy’s Chunky Peanut Butter.  Not Jif.  The old-fashioned kind of peanut butter cookies with cris-cross fork tyne indents on the top.  I made a double-batch so I could freeze some for later.  The kitchen air was filled with a warm peanut butter scent as I pulled the baking sheets filled with the golden brown cookies fresh out of the oven.  I gently transferred the cookies to the cooling racks.  Malcolm was outside in the back watering, so I grabbed a few still warm cookies, wrapped them up in a paper napkin and brought the tasty cookies out to him.  I’d do kitchen clean up after Malcolm had a chance to eat some cookies.

I wasn’t gone long, maybe four to five minutes at most.  Long enough to walk down to where Malcolm had water running on the Purple Robe Locust trees around back, hand him his treats and head back up to the house to wash up.  Tiamo joined me as I delivered the fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies to Malcolm, running out of the house ahead of me.  As she was in the habit of doing, Tiamo wandered off as I chit-chatted with Malcolm.  As I  turned to walk back up to the house, I told Malcolm I was going to leave Tiamo with him.  She wouldn’t run off and she loved to be with Malcolm outdoors.

I entered the kitchen, gathering the dirty baking utensils to wash.  I bent down to pull out a zip-lock bag from a bottom drawer to freeze the cookies, turned to the corner counter to pack up the cookies and froze.  A cooling rack was laying haphazardly against the brick floor.  My eyes quickly looked up to the counter.  All of the cookies were gone.  ALL of them!  GONE!  The remaining cooling racks were empty.  One rack on the floor, one half-off the counter, the last one pushed back against the back counter wall.  The only evidence of any cookies were a few cookie crumbs left on the counter.

Tiamo hadn’t just wandered off, she had snuck back into the house while I was with Malcolm and ate all the peanut butter cookies.  Every last one! Finished them off!  Obviously, Tiamo loved peanut butter.  She was our counter-surfing thief!  And, it didn’t take her long to pilfer the peanut butter goodies.

Poor Malcolm – out of a double-batch of Peanut Butter Cookies, Malcolm only had two.

PEANUT NUTTER-BUTTER COOKIES

These outrageous cookies need to be kept under lock and key.  Do not leave unattended while cooling!  Have been known to disappear down to the crumbs.

  • 1 cup super chunky peanut butter (with nuts)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp dark corn syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 12 oz of chopped up peanut / peanut butter candy bars such as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Payday or Nutrageous

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Line two large baking sheets with foil.

Beat peanut butter, brown sugar, butter, egg, corn syrup and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended with an electric mixer.  Stir together flour, oats, and baking soda in another bowl and mix into the peanut butter mixture.  Add chopped candy bars.  Mix.

Drop dough by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.  Slightly flatten cookie dough with the back of a moistened spoon or your fingertips.  Freeze unbaked cookies on sheets for 12-18 minutes

Bake cookies 10 minutes.  Switch top and bottom sheets and bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cookies cool on sheets until just beginning to firm.  Transfer to finish cooling on a cookie rack.

WARNING:  Keep husbands and dogs away!

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the berner sandwich

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The best sandwich starts with two substantial slices of still-warm from the oven, crusty bread.  I never use that day-old bread crap often buried in your mom’s chest freezer.  Found six months later, the loaf’s slices have already started to show off their curled corners.  With ice particles clinging to the outer crusts, the bread slices are separated and thinned from their once highly advertised, don’t squeeze the bread bag, freshness.  What I’m talking about is a hearty bread with a crust worthy of a sandwich.  Perfect tops and bottoms, perfect bookends to hold all the flavorful goodness of your sandwich makings together.

The best sandwich always has some sort of special sauce.  Generously spread on the inside flanks of the sliced bread, it might be a garlicky aioli, or a spicy brown mustard, or perhaps a savory chutney.  An oniony jam, a cranberry-brandy marmalade, a citrusy-fruity preserve, are all considered for their deliberate culinary palates.  The special sauce is an integral part of the whole sandwich package, a succulent pairing of tang and piquancy.

The best sandwich has complementary enhancements.  Such as Romaine lettuce, a thick slice of “tamatah” from a dark reddish-purple hued Beefeater, or some roasted green chili peppers.  Augmented with a wedge of peppery jack cheese or some smoked Gouda, and you’ve just increased your sandwich stack with both subtle flavors and added height.

The best sandwich has a mountain of tender, thinly sliced meat.  Usually left over from last night’s dinner and stacked in the middle of the sandwich with folded precision.  The sandwich is best when layered with beef steak that has been grilled over aged and seasoned oak logs, finished to a medium-rare redness and has a light dusting of seasonings still sitting on it’s outside edges.  Or perhaps some residual roasted turkey from Thanksgiving dinner.  Or maybe some BBQ’ed boneless pork loin chilled in a mustard sauce.  In any case, the main entrée of the sandwich, the meat, is the key principle in any double-decker and the center piece of any sandwich arrangement.

Some might think the best sandwiches are bestowed with specialty side lineups.  A scoop of homemade potato salad or a small cup of minestrone soup. But for Malcolm and I, we have a totally different idea of the best sandwich.  Our view of the perfect sandwich doesn’t need any of the above …..

You see, for us, we would rather be sandwiched in between our two girls, Dolce and Amore.  Folded in the middle by 100 pounds of fur on each side, we call it our Berner sanwich.   The Berner Sandwich is generously spread with a huge dollop of canine kisses, drool, and enhanced with paw pats and nose nudges.  Add a wedge of dog hair, some slices of doggy love and you have the best dog gone sandwich ever.  The Berner sandwich! DSC00489

Now, that is the best sandwich ever!

TRI-TIP STEAK SANDWICHES WITH HOMEMADE TOMATO PESTO

Be sure to drop some steak ends on the floor for your four-legged beasts.
  • 2 -3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup drained bottled dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed, cleaned
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pound thinly sliced medium-rare Tri-tip steak (about 2 cups)
  • 4 Romaine leaves, cleaned and left whole
  • thin sliced Monterey Jack cheese
  • eight 1/2-inch slices sourdough bread, toasted lightly

In a small saucepan, saute’ garlic in olive oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened.  Cool. In a small food processor or blender purée tomatoes, basil, oil mixture, and vinegar until pesto is smooth.  Set aside.

In a bowl toss steak slices with half of pesto and spread remaining pesto on bread. Divide steak among 4 bread slices and top with romaine lettuce leaves, Monterey Jack cheese and top with the  remaining 4 bread slices.

blog signature 2-25-14

Love’s special day

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Next week is Valentine’s Day, celebrated by couples around the world.  A busy day for florists and candy shops, a busy night for restaurants, bars and clubs.  A day ladies hope for flowers, a night young men hope to get lucky.  Malcolm and I still like to celebrate Cupid’s famous day, but with dogs, it is easier to stay in, then travel into town for an expensive meal.  We would rather commemorate our love with a special meal, cooked at home with our dogs at our feet.  A little wine, a warm fire, a delicious meal.  A stray dog hair.

Enjoy Love’s Special Day with your special one, dogs are optional!

HEART SHAPED FILET STEAKS with WINE SAUCE and CHEESE

Share your heart with your favorite person (or dog!)

  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 4 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 large shallot, sliced
  • 1 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup ruby Port wine
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 4  2″ thick beef tenderloin steaks, fat and silver lining removed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 2/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Butterfly the filet steaks by slicing through the steaks horizontally but not slicing all the way through.  Open up the steaks and shape into a heart.  Season both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.  Do NOT leave unattended on the counter – known to disappear by four-legged thieves.

Butterfly the steak

Butterfly the steak

Shape into a heart

Shape into a heart

Melt 2 tbsp. butter in saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and shallot slices, 1 cup beef broth, port wine and cranberries.  Bring to boil  until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup.  About 8 minutes.  Set sauce aside.

Fire up your BBQ grill to medium-high heat.  Place the  steaks on the grill and cook to desired done-ness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare.  Transfer steaks to a platter and cover with foil.

Melt the remaining butter in a large skillet. Add rosemary, then the sauce and the remaing 1/2 cup of beef broth to the skillet.  Bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits.  Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon sauce of steaks and top each steak equally with the Gorgonzola crumbles.

Grilled to the perfect done-ness

Grilled to the perfect done-ness

Chi chi wow wow!

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Rug rats.  Carpet crawlers.  Couch climbers.  Those tiny little two-legged adorable tots known to mankind as kids.  In our case, kids that belong to someone else.  Malcolm and I don’t have children, we have dogs.  At one time we had three large, very demanding Bernese Mountain Dogs.  Now two.  Still just as demanding.  Like kids, they can be expensive.  No, we don’t worry about paying for braces, prom or college.  We worry about vet bills, boarding costs and bath time.

There is nothing a small toddler enjoys more than to run screaming through the house after bath time, a bare bottom streaking by as their parents chase after them with a dry towel trying to catch the slippery little hellion.  As my mother would say, “Chi chi wow wow!” exclamation mark, exclamation mark, producing giggles and laughs from the two-year old flasher aka grandkid.

Our girls pretty much do the same thing.  Run.  Bath time brings out all sorts of bad behavior and antics as Dolce and Amore try to avoid soap and water.

wet dog

wet dog Dolce

When Dolce and Amore were little puppies, we could give them a bath ourselves, usually in the kitchen sink.  Still small enough, we would put their front paws in one side of the double-wide sink, the back paws over the divider and in the other side, using the handy-dandy faucet nozzle to rinse them.  I can tell ya’, they didn’t enjoy their baths.  One of us always needed to keep a hold of them while the other washed, as they squirmed and wiggled their way to freedom.  There was more soap and water on us as we scrubbed them, then in the sink. Just like a little tyke, the minute we set them down from the high counters after their rub down, they would streak through the house.  Usually trying for the pen, where they could roll in the dirt.  After we wised up, blocking the entrance to the outside, Dolce and Amore would retaliate by jumping on the couch, rolling their still wet bodies over the cushions, leaving wet dog hair and fur in their wake.  UCK! plus more clean up.

When the girls grew too big for the sink, they graduated to the double-headed shower, large enough for both Malcolm and I, swimsuit clad, to bathe them.  That lasted two tries.  Amore learned to tolerate the water and the cleansing.  Dolce absolutely hates it.  There is no blocking a determined dog.  When Dolce has had enough and wants out of the shower, she’s gone, dog-gone gone.  The first sniff of freedom and she is shaking the water.  All over the bathroom.  Soap and water drops up to the ceiling and sideways.  Landing on mirrors, counters, and cabinets, there isn’t a dry spot available.  She is rolling on her back, leaving locks of her fur on the floor mats.  The one phase of grooming she does love is the rub down.  With lots of towels.  I mean a lot of towels.  Meaning a lot of washing afterwards.

After two attempts to bathe Dolce and Amore ourselves, we gave up.  Time for the groomers.  Well, that was a mistake.  Not only is it horribly expensive for a large dog, however justified it is, at the time, we had three Berners.  The total grooming bill after tip and tax was around $300 big ones.  Tiamo was used to going to the dog groomers.  Didn’t like it, put on the brakes when we entered the establishment, but she endured the process.  And when we are paying for just one dog, the expense wasn’t as hard to swallow.  Add Dolce and Amore to the invoice and we were eating rice and beans for the month.

The first time we brought all three girls into the groomers, they literally destroyed the joint.  Cages, brushes, and dryers went flying.  They did not like it, not one bit.  Dolce and Amore didn’t like the fur brushing, the blowers, nor the cute little kerchief tied around their necks.  We were not too nicely told that perhaps we might want to make other arrangements for their grooming.  Well hell!   Our big rug-rats were kicked out of pre-school!  PreSchool!  Shheeeee-it!  Now what?

Enter Tara, our puppy-sitting college student friend.  Silly her, raising her hand to volunteer to bathe our dogs, but what college student doesn’t want a bit of beer money?  Tara has been our life-saver.  We named the date, purchased the supplies for washing, grabbed all our towels for rub downs and pointed her to our huge shower.  Done!  Our shrieks of “get back in here” to a dog racing out of the shower, that A) does not listen, B) does not know what it means (what dog hears), and C) is meaningless to a 100 pound wet dog determined to avoid a bath, have turned into cooing “Chi chi wow wows”!  as Dolce and Amore parade past us sweet-smelling, with fluffy clean fur.

Yeeeee Haaaaw!

TATOR TOTS –  Chi chi wow wow style!

Get it?  Tator TOTS!  Ok, poor kid humor!  Truffle oil and minced black truffles make this appetizer anything but kid food.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour plus additional for coating
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped black truffle
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white truffle oil*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Vegetable oil (for deep-frying)
  • *Truffle oil is available at some supermarkets, specialty foods stores, and Italian markets.

Bring first 3 ingredients to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Add 1 cup flour; stir over medium-high heat until mixture pulls away from edges of pan, about 1 minute. Transfer to medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat dough 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well between additions. Measure 1 1/2 cups dough and reserve (discard any remaining dough).

Place potatoes in medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Boil until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain. Press potatoes through ricer or food mill into large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups reserved dough, chopped truffle, truffle oil, salt, and white pepper. Using electric mixer, beat dough on low-speed to blend.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer dough to pastry bag fitted with 3/4-inch-diameter plain tip. Pipe dough in logs onto prepared sheet. Freeze until firm but not frozen, about 1 hour. Cut logs into 1 1/4-inch-long pieces. Toss in flour, return to sheet, cover, and freeze completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Store in airtight container; keep frozen.

Pour enough oil into large saucepan to measure depth of 2 inches. Heat oil to 350°F. Working in batches, cook frozen potato pieces until cooked through and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

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

fat man gifts

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DSC01384

There is a reason why jolly ol’ Nick is rather rotund – all that Christmas candy and cookies he is served on Christmas eve.  Those many platters of Christmas treats, piled high and plentiful.  All those sweet concoctions made especially for Santa.  And there is a reason why all of us add a little extra tonnage on the ol’ thighs somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Years, between office parties and neighborhood gatherings – all those holiday treats our neighbors and friends gift us, all those tasty nibbles that we swear we will only have one. 

Ha!  One, my ass!  You can never have just one – one cookie, one bite, one taste.  One doesn’t take into account the three cookies you snuck in your mouth while no one was looking.  One doesn’t mean the extra bites and samples you had, “to make sure it was okay”.  One doesn’t explain the chocolate smear on your lips as you exit the bathroom.  Nope, just one does not justify the evidence.  The damming evidence of, dare I say it, tummy tonnage.  GASP!  It can be found anywhere, under your chin, around on your rear, behind your arms.  FAT! 

Hell, weight gain is fine….. on someone else.  So, enjoy helping your family and friends get fat with these wonderful and rich chocolate chubby gifts.  Gifts with good taste!  Gifts that keep giving well after they have all disappeared!

 

PUDGY FUDGEY SAUCE

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. of your favorite liquor such as Amaretto, Bailey’s, or Kahlua (yes, add some more calories!)
  • Small decorative jars with lids

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil over medium heat.  Remove from the stove-top and whisk in the chopped chocolate until melted.  Stir in the liquor.  Pour into jars and cool completely before covering (otherwise the sauce will become granular).  Once cooled, cap with the lid and refrigerate.  Makes approximate 2 cups and will keep up to 1 month in the refrigerator. 

Now just tag, bag and gift!  Add a small serving spoon to your package to encourage sampling right out of the jar!

 

CHOCOLATE BON BONDS

they will bond smack dab onto your belly!

  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

       Optional:  add 1 tbsp: peppermint oil; coconut oil; Kahlua, Grand Marnier or a flavor of your choice

In the top pan of a double-boiler, bring the heavy cream to a gentle simmer.  Remove from the stove-top  and stir in the chocolate pieces and butter.  In the bottom double-boiler, bring 1/2 ” water to a slow simmer over low heat.  Set the top pan on the bottom double-boiler stirring continuously until completely melted.  Remove from the heat.  Pour the chocolate mixture into a shallow bowl.  Cool completely, cover and refrigerate until the firm, at least two hours. 

Pour the cocoa in a glass pie pan.  Line an airtight container with wax paper.  Using a melon scooper, dip into a glass of warm water then quickly dip into the chilled chocolate mixture to form a 1” ball.  Drop and roll the chocolate Bon Bon in the cocoa powder until covered and place in the prepared container.  Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks or the freezer up to 3 months. 

Makes approximately 30 Bon Bons if you don’t eat any.  Ah, screw it, keep these for yourself!

 

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD

make two batches and hide one for later!

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. unsweetened dark cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 5 tbsp. softened butter – pliable but not easily spreadable
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • cooking spray

Combine flour, cocoa and salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Place Sugar, butter and oil in a medium bowl and mix with your CLEAN hands until combined.  Add the flour mixture, again, mixing with your hands until blended.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place dough on a baking sheet that is coated with cooking spray.  press dough into an 8″ x 5″ rectangle about 3/8″ thick.  Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork. 

Bake for 30 minutes or until just set.  Cut shortbread into 24 pieces (one less and we’ll know you ate one!)  Cool.  Gift box and deliver all those calories with a smile on your face!

 

PrintFor 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

snowflakes and mud

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A tired dog is a happy owner!  And nothing tires out our girls more than snow.  Play time in the snow is probably Dolce and Amore’s number one favorite doings.  In the life of a dog, there is nothing better than a full belly, a warm bed and a romp in the snow.

A week after our big snow dump, most of the snow has melted but there are still patches to be found, snow angels to be made and fun to be had!  On the lookout for fresh snow, Malcolm and I took the girls on a new trail at the Galisteo Basin Preserve this weekend.  We knew the snow was getting thin, but certainly didn’t anticipate the amount of mud we would encounter.  Snow melt brings slush, and then comes the mud.   And more mud.  And then more mud.  As we swished down the trail, accumulating thick mud on our boots, Dolce and Amore took off like the wind.  They smelled fun!  They got a whiff of excitement and ran ahead like a bunch of banshees, barking for the sheer joy of dawggy play time!

Dolce immediately sniffed out a sizable plot of snow and began her rattle, roll and shake.  Angel time!  Amore followed suit, building her own snow angel.  Then it was a race to the next patch of powder.  They ran through Juniper and Pinon, leaping over small gulleys and rain carved-out arroyos in search of more snow.  They found it – along with a lot of mud, returning with mud capped paws and more.

The mud and the muck is worth it.  The look on their faces, the expression in their eyes – there is nothing more joyful than watching them play and seeing unadulterated happiness shine back at you.

Amore and Dolce - perfect angels!

Amore and Dolce – perfect angels! (not)

the race is on

the race is on

muddy paws and all

muddy paws and all

twist and roll!

a twist and a roll in the last of the snow

happy dawg

happy dawg

grins and smiles

grins and smiles

SNOWFLAKE COOKIES – a favorite at Christmas!

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, silver white winters that melt into springs, these are a few of my favorite things!

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour (do not use self-rising)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips – melted (and a few extra to nibble on)
  • Star shaped cookie cutter
  • powdered sugar

Mix sugar, butter, egg and vanilla well.  Mix together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to the butter mixture.  Let chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out the chilled cookie dough on a floured board and cut into star shapes.  Place on an un-greased baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes.  Remove from oven when lightly brown.  Completely cool.

Place some melted chocolate in the middle of a star cookie.  While chocolate is still warm place another star cookie on top with the star points alternating with the bottom cookies.  Add a small dab of chocolate on the top cookie and sprinkle powdered sugar lightly over the finished cookie.

Keep under lock and key – husbands and dogs are  known to swipe one (or two!)

shake, rattle and roll

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Sunday morning we awoke to a good nine inches of snow.  Throughout the night, a blanket of pristine white had covered our southwestern landscape.  The girls loved it – especially Dolce.  Her favorite winter sport is making snow angels.  She has perfected the art of finding the perfect spot to drop and roll, wiggling her paws for more leverage, then leaping up to shake off the snow dust.   Shake, rattle and roll, or I should say, rattle, roll and shake.

The girls played until Malcolm and I couldn’t handle the cold any longer.  Our cheeks rosy from the below freezing temps, our fingers near to frozen from the numerous times we had to take our gloves off, we lasted a mere 60 minutes before heading in to the coveted warmth of a roaring fire and some hot homemade soup.

searching for the perfect spot

searching for the perfect spot

dropping in the snow

dropping in the snow

the rattle and the roll

DSC00241

the shake

the happy snow angel maker

the happy snow angel maker

Salute to the first snow of the season!

WILD RICE WITH SMOKED SAUSAGE

perfect for cold snowy days – serve with a savory herbed scone or biscuit

  • 13 c chicken broth (low sodium)
  • 1¼ c wild rice
  • 6¼ c frozen corn kernels (about 2½ lbs.), thawed
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. cooked Kielbasa or Polish sausage, cut into ½ inch cubes/slices
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced (or minced)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1½ c half and half cream
  • 1 c fresh parsley, chopped

Bring 5 cups of chicken broth to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Add wild rice and simmer until all the liquid evaporates and rice is almost tender, about 45 minutes.   In a food processor, take 4 cups of the corn kernels and 1½ cups chicken broth and puree. Continue until smooth. You might need to do this in batches.

Heat oil in heavy, large cast-iron pan. Add sausage and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add onions and carrots and cook another 3 minutes. Add remaining chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for another 20 minutes.  Add cooked wild rice, corn puree and rest of corn kernels. Continue cooking until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.

Soup can be prepared up to this point two days ahead. Refrigerate.  Reheat soup over medium heat. Once heated, add half and half.   Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle chopped parsley over top.

 

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

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

beef, beer, and blogs

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

The blog universe is essentially the FedEx of a global cloud of words.  A big, huge cloud that covers every subject matter known to man.  The blogs themselves are a specialized international courier and delivery of tales, stories, pictures, advice, adventures, recipes, foods, wines, travel, sources, and resources.  Blogs are written about everything, anything and all things, in all languages, all styles and all formats and platforms.

At it’s best, blogs are a written handshake between fellow bloggers and devoted readers that enjoy and share a common interest.  A howdy-do amongst those that love to travel or those that share a love of food.  A wave of the hand between dog lovers, cat lovers, or animal lovers.  A wink to your fellow jokester, a nod to another great cook, a toast to the wine aficionado.  Bloggers are the ambassadors of their hobby, their crafts, their talents.

Several months ago, I started following The Wandering Gourmand, a blogger with a collective interest in foods and beverages (and perhaps dogs too!).  I appreciated his writing wit and quips, his reviews on foods, beers and wine, his notes from his travels.  I liked his style of writing, his pairing of words went well with his pairings of wines or beer.  The Wandering Gourmand blog would often question his loyal followers, “beer or wine” with BBQ? With chicken?  With steak?  Inevitably, my husband and I would grill for the weekend meal and test his theory of which was better paired with our steak, a complex red wine or a dark hearty stout?

I asked The Wandering Gourmand if he would recommend a beer or two for a few of my recipes in my cookbook, If it falls on the floor, it’s mine!  His replied “yes” brought a quick fist pump in the air and several recipes to his inbox. Below is the first of a three-part Beer n’ chili series .

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 point.  They had to be accessible. 

BEEF CHILI AND BEER  

Holy shit!!!  3 large jalapeno chilies with seeds, 7 tablespoons of chili powder, and 2 tablespoons of canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce!?!?!?!?  At first glance (meaning first ingredients), I was thinking something along the lines of an American Strong Ale.  Big malt and big hops to match a hearty chili made with bell peppers, beef, beans, and stout beer.  Then I read the heat and suggest a fire-hose of milk to extinguish the flames.  If you are more man than me, then I’d recommend Stone’s Arrogant Bastard.  But be careful, with the heat level and the high ABV of 7.2%, it might just be an early night for you.

Bryan, The Wandering Gourmand

beer and beer chili

beer and beer chili

BEEF CHILI AND BEER   use a stout or dark beer

One great thing about chili – you may add more or less of an ingredient throughout the cooking to customize the blend of flavors to your liking.  Just don’t give your husband free rein with the chili powder!

  •  1½ tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. ground coriander
  • 5 lbs. ground chuck (lean)
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 2½ lbs. onions, chopped
  • 1½ lbs. red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1½ lbs. green bell peppers, chopped  (make the spouse do the chopping!)
  • 3 cloves garlic (or more), minced
  • 2-3 large jalapeno chili with seeds, chopped
  • 7 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce (or more), minced
  • 2 – 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 2 – 15-oz. cans kidney beans
  • 2 bottles dark beer + one for yourself

Sauté ground beef in heavy, large pot until no longer pink, breaking up with a spoon. Heat oil in large skillet. Add onions, all the bell peppers, garlic and jalapeno and sauté until they begin to soften.   Add mixture to pot with beef. Mix well. Stir in spices, chili powder and chipotle chili. Add crushed tomatoes, beans and beer.

Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle chili into bowls. Serve with sour cream, chopped green onions and grated cheese.   In New Mexico, everything is served with a tortilla – cornbread or biscuits are equally good.  Okay to prepare ahead and freeze.

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

 

our paper boy

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I’m of the belief that dogs, especially those that belong to the Working Dog Group,  need to feel important.  They need to know they have a valuable function within the family dynamics, a job to perform  that is essential to their caretakers.  Dogs such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, were bred to pull small farm carts loaded down with heavy milk cans for the dairies.  Their deep barreled chest made them an ideal breed to work on a farm, driving goat herds to and from their pastures and drafting farm supplies from the villages.  While we don’t have a dairy for the girls to work on, I have tried to find appropriate chores for them to perform to feel useful.

On that note, I looked no further than our own paper box. newspaper-graphic-for-web

Tiamo was barely a year old when she started to fetch the daily newspaper.  At first she would just walk up the long drive with me to get the morning paper.  She would prance her way up the driveway, excitement shining in her eyes, hoping for a glimpse of a cottontail or a low flying bird she could chase.  I’d call her back, reprimanding her for leaving my side.  She’d hang her head, giving me her sorrowful look that was just shy of forgiveness and pretend to be good for the rest of the walk to the paper.   With the misbegotten belief that she was exonerated for misbehaving, Tiamo would try to play the “grab the paper and run” game on the return trip back to the house.  I had a habit of tucking the rolled up newspaper under my arm, leaving my hands free, usually in my coat pockets to keep warm.   Thinking of the paper as the golden prize to be had, Tiamo would jump high to nip at the paper under my arm, hoping to grab it and sprint her way to triumph.  She recognized my hands were otherwise occupied, staying warm beneath the folds of my jacket.  On the days Tiamo was able to lock onto the paper, she would run a victory lap around the house, many times dropping her precious load somewhere in the back forty, where I would have to go search for the paper under wet, dew soaked weeds  and stickers – not so much fun at six in the morning.  I knew I had to teach her respect for the printed word or we would have shredded bits of paper throughout as she tore into her prize.

And so our training began…..

Our paper usually arrived wrapped in a plastic sleeve to protect it from the elements, I figured the plastic would also shield the paper from Tiamo’s drool, if I could just teach her to carry the paper back to the house.  Using a leash to keep her close and her favorite treats to reward her, I trained Tiamo to carry our newspaper from the paper box at the end of  the drive, down to the house and drop it on the floor by the couch.  It took one week.  She had such a gentle mouth, she never tore the plastic protector, keeping the rolled paper pristine.  After a successful month of transporting our paper, I started unleashing her.  Tiamo never once strayed away from my side.  Fun and games was over, she knew she had a job to do.  A few more weeks of free range paper hauling and I taught her to reach into the bright yellow paper box, pulling out the newspaper herself.  I was no longer allowed to remove the paper from the plastic holder – that was Tiamo’s responsibility.  Doing so would result in a barking frenzy and a strong nose nudge under my arm to release the paper.  I was forever banned from getting the paper, nobody was going to do Tiamo’s job.  It didn’t take long before I didn’t even have to walk up the driveway with Tiamo.  I’d let Tiamo out the front gate and stay behind, keeping an eye on her as she ran up the drive, grabbed the newspaper from the box and jog back down to me, the paper gently clutched between her jaws, pride sparkling in her eyes.

Tiamo kept her job, even after her litter was born and Dolce and Amore became part of our household.  That was her task.  I never tried to teach the girls to fetch the paper – I always considered that Tiamo’s duty.  Besides,  I know for a fact, Dolce and Amore would have fought big time over who got to carry the newspaper.  With Tiamo’s passing, I walk the drive alone, grabbing the morning paper out of the now-weathered yellow paper box.  I’m back to tucking the roll up under my arm, my hands warm in my pockets.  Sweet memories of Tiamo attempting to snatch the paper out from my control often come to mind.  I miss our morning ritual – now a-days, the paper just doesn’t read the same.

Reading the newspaper with a strong cup of coffee seems to go hand in hand, and perhaps a slice of freshly baked coffee cake to sweeten the news.

RASPBERRY CREAM COFFEE CAKE
  • 2 1/4 cups All-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. Amaretto
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Cream Cheese Filling
  • 1 pkg. 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom of a pie pan or springform pan.

Mix all the cream cheese filling ingredients until smooth and set aside.  Mix flour and sugar in large bowl.  But in butter, using a pastry blender until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  Reserve 1 cup of the crumb mixture and set aside.  Stir the next six ingredients in with the crumb mixture.  Spoon batter over the greased bottom of the pan and up the sides 1-2 inches.  Pour cream cheese filling mixture over the batter.  Carefully spoon the raspberry jam over the filling.  Mix the reserved crumb mixture and the chopped macadamia nuts and sprinkle over the top.

Bake 50 minutes or so, or until filling is set and the crust is a deep golden brown.  Let cool 15 minutes and removed from the pan.  Serve warm or cool.  Keep in the refrigerator to store.

Enjoy your morning!

 

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

clean sheets

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Fall is always a busy time for me.  The just-starting-to-turn-nippy months on the back side of the calendar are penciled in with conferences, meetings and annual conventions.  All requiring travel. This past week I attended the CMLS Conference in Boise, Idaho – land of the potato and the famous blue field.  A State enriched in western history and culture, Idahoans have earned the right to boast about their beautiful state.  From the Snake River that weaves it way throughout Idaho, leaving rich, fertile farm lands in its wake, to the mountainous peaks in the pan-handle, Idaho is an enchanting parcel of land.

Away for a full week, it goes without saying that I missed my husband and our dogs while I was gone.  A lot.  A lot, a lot.

But not on the first day.  Day one was reserved for enjoying the huge king-sized bed all to myself – no dogs pinning me under the covers, no dog hair adhered to the down pillows, no cat stretched out along side of my back hotter than a furnace cranked on high in the middle of summer.  Nope, day one was spent luxuriating between clean 600 count Egyptian cotton sheets with my toes curling and flexing under the crisp freshness that comes with a four-diamond rated hotel.  Its pure bliss just to stretch out without being blocked by a dog.  Pure heaven to have a minimum of four down pillows to pick from.  Yep, on the first day, I didn’t miss one single dog hair.

And I didn’t really miss ‘back home’ too much on day two and three and sort of on day four.  These days were just extensions of the first day – Egyptian sheet heaven.  These were the days I kept busy with meetings, speakers and sessions, starting early and ending the day late.  By day three I realized I hadn’t once used the ‘dog-hair-lint-roller’ brush I always carry with me.  I’d been dog-hair free for three whole fantastic days.  My white sweaters were still white, my business dress pants were drool free.  I didn’t smell like dog.  I didn’t have to wipe my hand on my pants legs before I shook hands with an acquaintance.  And best of all, I had the king to myself.

On days five through seven, the scales started to tip.  My 600 count utopia was losing its charm.  I had stayed some extra days to enjoy Idaho with some old friends who summer in Boise.  I was missing Malcolm, laughing over silly things, commenting over the day’s events, kissing him good morning, his welcoming hug in the evening.  I was missing my girls, their sweet love, their tender nudges, their crazy antics. I was missing the dogs on the bed – on their backs, paws in the air as they sleep, gentle snores washing over them, their weight leaning against my legs.  Good gawd!  I was missing dog hair!

I flew home on day eight, asking Malcolm to bring the dogs when he came to pick me up at the airport.  I embraced the thought of knowing I’d be covered in dog hair in a nano second once I climbed in the car.  I knew I would have two dogs clamoring to hug me, paw me, lick me,  once I had my seat belt buckled.  And I couldn’t wait!  Crisp, fresh clean sheets were just a dim memory.  The love waiting for me in the car far out-weighed and out-counted my 600 thread count Egyptian Cotton sheets.

potato

In honor of my travels to Idaho….

The Best-Ever Mashed Potatoes

  • 5 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh chives (or green onions)
  • 1 1/2 cups cream cheese
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Fill a pot with water high enough to cover the potatoes and bring to a boil.  Add potatoes and cook until fork tender but still firm.  Drain the water and return pot to the stove over low heat to dry for 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Add butter, Parmesan cheese, Chives, cream cheese, buttermilk, garlic and salt and pepper to the potatoes.  Using a potato masher, mash the potato mixture until smooth.  Serves 12.

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.

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

the parking lot

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If your windows are rolled down, you can smell the spicy aroma blocks away as you wait at a stop light in your car.  Driving closer, you can actually hear the roar of the propane fueled fire as the flames nip at the lusciously curved, green and red fruit.  A peppery scent permeates the air as you pull your vehicle into the parking lot and step out on the black tarred pavement.  Your mouth has already started to water at the thought of eating freshly roasted chiles.  Hot off the grill and wrapped in a tortilla with butter and a little sprinkle of S & P, there is nothing better!

It’s August and every parking lot in New Mexico has a corner fenced off and reserved for an old, recycled 50 gallon metal drum cut in half and welded back together with additional hinges, vents, cranks, lids, and handles, standing next to stacks and stacks of large burlap bags stuffed with chiles – Hatch Chiles.  The absolutely best in the world!  For the next two months, vendors from the surrounding area work the chile roasters as locals flock to their favorite chile stand, waiting in line to buy 50 to 100 pound bags of roasted chiles – hoping to get enough for a year’s supply…. maybe.  In the mean time, family members are gathered back at home waiting in the kitchen for the return of the chiles, prepared to start the peeling and packaging process, usually, an all day family event.  In the Southwest, it is chile harvest time – the kickoff to Fall and football.

As Malcolm and I pull into the massive parking lot adjacent to our local grocery,  Dolce and Amore sense the excitement. They know this trip to the store is much different from the standard run to get more milk.  Their scent-sensitive snouts are poking out the half rolled-down car window, their noses wrinkling, sniffing at the fiery, piquant smells.  As we exit the car, I’m always reminded of the scene in the movie, Silverado, when the main characters walk into the local watering hole, the swinging saloon doors behind them, taking a deep and audible  breath at the entrance, ahhhhhh!  Breathing in the air of cigar smoke, alcohol and sweat, the tension leaves and the anticipation begins.  You know at that moment, they are at home.  That scene right there is the epitome of chile harvest – a deep breath, taking in all the fiery freshness of roasted green chiles, the anticipation of their spicy flavor, you’re at home.

Dolce and Amore get left in the car as we walk across the striped spaces to buy our chiles, the biggest decision we have to make is, do we buy one or two bags of peppers?  A mental checklist runs through my mind, do we have enough gloves at home to handle the peppers?  Did I buy plenty of Ziplock bags for the freezer?  Green or Red?  or Christmas? Do we have any Cerveza in the garage frig?  All important when peeling peppers.

Personally, I like green chiles for breakfast burritos and red for enchiladas.  Malcolm likes only green – period!  We get a bag of both.  Christmas!  The girls get neither!

WARNING:  Do not ever let your dogs eat chile peppers!

green_chile_roaster

Christmas!

CHILE CHEESE BAKE

For the tenderfoots, substitute green onions for the chiles!

  • 8 oz. roasted green chiles, diced
  • 1 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1 lb. Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. bacon, cooked, diced

Preheat oven to 325 F.  butter a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish.  combine green chiles and cheese in a large mixing bowl.  Place on the bottom of the baking dish.

Add flour and evaporated milk to the egg yolks.  Set aside.  Beat egg whites until stiff.  Fold in egg whites to the flour mixture.  Spread mixture over the cheese in baking dish.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and arrange the bacon pieces and tomato sliced on the top of the cheese mixture.  Continue baking for another 30 minutes.  Serve warm.

sunny side up

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Unfortunately, our dogs are conditioned to enjoy breakfast at the crack of dawn.  Most days, we will find a cold, wet nose sniffing for some activity, checking to see if we’re alive, usually on my still warm from sleep neck and usually when it is still dark outside.  And if there is one nose nudge, there soon will be two.  The down side is having a cold nose (or two) poking and prodding you while you still have ten minutes before the alarm goes off.  The up side is being greeted in the morning by two very happy dogs!  There is no way you can wake up grumpy with two in-your-face exuberant dogs impatient to start their day.  Always in good humor and with shiny bright eyes, Amore and Dolce embrace each morning like a Bridgestone on pavement, wanting the day to unfold like a stretch of road opening up wide from a tight curve, at full throttle, gaining traction as they hit the ground running. They have yet to learn the meaning of “sleeping-in”.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are the type of dog that wants to be with you – constantly.  Where you goeth, they want to goeth.  If they are ready to begin their day, they want to make certain you are there with them.  And once up, they  will follow me throughout my get-ready-for-work rituals just for the company.  They know when the hair dryer shuts off, it’s count-down to breakfast. And, once full from breakfast, they get to race up the drive to fetch the newspaper, always with the hope of a Cottontail crossing their path.

For Amore and Dolce, there is only one way to greet the morning and that is sunny side up!

 

Cheesy grits

Cheesy grits

Cheesy Grits with Ham and Eggs

  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 can low-sodium chicken broth (1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 3/4 cup quick grits
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1   –  1/2 ” thick ham steak approx.  1 1/2 lbs.
  • 2 tbsp. dark brown sugar

In a 2 – quart saucepan, combine milk, broth, cayenne, and thyme, bring to a boil over high heat.  Slowly whisk grits into liquid and reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 5 to 7 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally.  Remove saucepan from heat and stir in 1/4 cup green onions and cheese.

While the grits are on the stove cooking, heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat until hot.  Pat ham dry with paper towels and coat both sides with the brown sugar.  Add to skillet.  Cook ham 5 minutes or until heated through and glazed, turning once.  Remove ham and keep warm.

Leaving  the skillet on the stove , add the butter to the hot skillet and melt.  Coat the skillet with the butter, tipping the skillet until covered.  Add the eggs, keeping the whites from touching the each other.  Fry the eggs until cooked to the desired level.  Sunny side up

Cut ham into serving sizes and arrange on individual plates with a serving of grits.  Place a fried egg on top of the grits and garnish with remaining chopped green onions

 

cherry tomatoes

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Damm!  A whole carton of cherry tomatoes on the floor! One of those fangdangle bowl-shaped cartons with the snap-on-lid that holds a whole bunch of cherry tomatoes just came unsnapped, flinging its contents all over the kitchen.  Three red orbs land in the sink, a bunch hit the counter and the majority are rolling all over the brick floor.  Dolce and Amore perk up when they hear me cussing and immediately come running into the kitchen to investigate, muzzles to the ground, checking for spillage.  In Amore’s eagerness, she grabs a little red sphere before Dolce can, and quickly bites into it. Just as quickly, she drops it back on the floor, her jaw working furiously to remove the acidic taste from her mouth.  There’s not enough water in the toilet bowl for her to rinse out the flavor.  Apparently, Amore doesn’t like cherry tomatoes.

Now Dolce on the other hand, comprehends real quick that Amore has the lead in eating the lit’l delicacies.  She only sees Amore getting the drop on the tomatoes before she can.  Dolce immediately turns her focus to a pile of tomatoes nestled in the kitchen corner,  swiftly scoops up five tasty morsels into her mouth and promptly heads to her special pillow in the living room with her coveted stash.  In her rush to grab the most, she doesn’t see Amore heading to the bathroom to guzzle down some water, she only knows she grabbed more than her sibling.  Sensing victory, Dolce chomps down on the juicy lit’l guys,  squirting seeds and sticky tomato juice in all directions.   Faster than you can say the word “ta-mah-tau” the look of triumph that had entered into her eyes turned to horror as she realized she didn’t like what was in her mouth.  Hastily, she spit out the tomatoes.  UCK! Chunks of tomato carnage go flying through the air, landing on chairs, couches and pillows.

It seems Dolce doesn’t like tomatoes either.

Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

TOMATO & MOZZARELLA SALAD

A great summer salad and perfect for company!

Slice the tomatoes and then slice the mozzarella.  On a serving platter, alternate the tomato slices and the mozzarella.  Tuck in the basil leaves between the tomato and mozzarella.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill. In the blender, mix together the remaining ingredients until well blended.  Keep at room temperature.  Drizzle over the tomatoes and mozzarella when ready to serve.

it’s here! (almost)

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if it falls on the floor, it's mine!

COMING SOON! 

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.