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

 

Simply irresistible!

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

IMG_7091

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.

kitchen clatter

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ahhh, we didn't eat that much!

ahhh, we didn’t eat that much!

With the of loud swoosh of the refrigerator door opening,  Amore and Dolce are immediately on the alert to kitchen activity.  The clink of condiment jars rattling against each other as the door swings open, informs them of a possible treat or nibble of something good.  The crinkling of plastic is blatant advertising of cheese or maybe carrots.  The un-snapping of a plastic lid translates to yogurt or sour cream.  From the living room, the girls can decipher if the clanking noise is Malcolm reaching in to grab his Ice Tea pitcher or if the crackling sound is some cheddar cheese being placed on the kitchen counter for slicing or grating.

They can verify the difference between the opening of the frig door and the freezer, between the lifting of the treat jar lid and the spare change cover, between the squeak of the cupboard and the drawer.  Their ears can define a broccoli chop vs. an onion cut, a carrot slice vs. celery stick.  The sound of the knife against the chopping block as it cuts through the veggie announces how quickly the girls will start sniffing around the kitchen.  They love broccoli and carrots, can’t have onions, and are so-so with celery.

Amore immediately runs in to investigate.   Nose to the floor, sniffing out the latest crumb, Amore is determined to gobble it up before Dolce has a chance to.  Dolce, on the other hand,  waits on the couch, head tilted, eyebrows cocked, her little mind working to interpret the sound coming from the kitchen.  Dolce is more discerning.  She wants to know the clatter is worth the effort of movement.  An apple wedge, a cheese cube or a carrot stick will haul her off the couch and into the kitchen in three seconds.  Or, if she hears Amore chomping, she can be there in two.  The jangle of the silverware drawer doesn’t even merit a head lift from her soft pillow.

I would have to say cheese is their absolute favorite.  Even Bleu Cheese.

MAC N’ CHEESE N’ CHEESE

  • 3 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 12 bacon slices, chopped
  • 3 cups fresh, coarse breadcrumbs (may use Ritz cracker crumbs as a substitute)
  • 1 cup finely grated Asiago Cheese
  • 1/2 chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 cup  Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 3 cups grated Fontina Cheese
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tbsp. coarse-grain mustard

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter a 13x9x2 inch casserole dish.  Cook macaroni pasta in boiling water per package directions, until just tender but still firm to bite.  Drain, rinse and drain again.

Cook chopped bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp.  Transfer bacon and 1/4 cup bacon drippings to large bowl.  Add breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup Asiago cheese, and 1/4 cup parsley with bacon and toss until blended.

Add minced garlic and jalapeno to remaining pan drippings in skillet and saute over medium heat until fragrant.  Add flour and whisk 3 minutes.  Gradually add in whole milk, then add egg yolks, cayenne, dry mustard, salt and pepper.  Cook until mixture thickens, whisking constantly.  Add 2 cups of the Fontina Cheese, Cheddar cheese, remaining Asiago cheese and stir until cheeses melt.  Remove from heat.  Mix in macaroni, coarse-grain mustard, remaining parsley and the last of the Fontina Cheese.  Transfer macaroni mixture to prepared dish.

Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over macaroni .  Bake just until topping is golden about 15-20 minutes.

(Can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to bake)

If a little is good, then, a lot is better.  Trust me.  Always add a little more butter and a lot more cheese!