say CHEESE!

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Last year, I found the cutest red velveteen holiday collars for the girls.  They were adorable, dark red collars with tiny little bells attached.  Both Amore and Dolce loved ‘ em!  Didn’t want me to take them off in fact.  Amore and Dolce paraded around loving the little tinkle of the bells. They would fight over who got to put on the first collar I held out for them, nosing out the other for first dibs on getting the collar on.

They were so cute, I was bound and determined our Christmas picture card would be of our precious dogs with their collars on.  The perfect photo-op in mind, I envisioned pinons with snowy boughs in the background, our blue skies above and there in the forefront of our beautiful Southwest backdrop, would be Amore and Dolce sitting side by side with their matching collars on. It so didn’t happen!

misbehaving models

If Dolce was still, Amore was looking off somewhere besides the camera.  If Amore was behaving, Dolce had her eyes shut.   The girls just didn’t want to sit still and smile for the camera.  They didn’t want to sit side by side and they didn’t want to pose.  On top of my canine models not cooperating, we didn’t have any snow in the background, nor blue skies on the day we took the shoot. Malcolm, my dog wrangler for the day, laughed at the impossibility of my efforts. My christmas card was doomed from the get-go.

I promised myself this year would be different.  This year, our Christmas picture card would feature Amore and Dolce shoulder to shoulder, smiling for the camera with their beautiful red velveteen collars on.  And some snow!  Fate was on my side.  Our first snow drop arrived mid-November.  Malcolm and I took the girls for their photo shoot as soon as the roads were plowed.  Once the girls were tired out from their first of the season’s frolic in the snow, I started clicking.

Digital cameras are great.  Since we don’t have to pay for developing film like in the old days, the pictures are essentially free. It doesn’t matter how many bad shots you take, how many pic’s are deleted, somewhere in the day’s photo session there would be a good to great shot.  Between cropping and tint adjusting, I was sure I would have the perfect photo.

And I would have.  Had I remembered to find and bring the collars.

DAMN and Double Damn!  blogI had my perfect shoulder to shoulder, smiling dog photo sans the collar.  I had the snow sans the snow-capped Pinon trees and blue skies.  I went with it.  My models behaved just enough for me to get that one out fifty perfect photo.  The cards went out anyway.  Mailed to family and friends, posted on the website to my blogger buddies.

We were fortunate to see more snow flakes over the Christmas weekend.  I grabbed my sweet dog wrangler and the camera, loaded up the dogs and headed out for another photo shoot.  This time with the collars.

It’s not often I’m able to get Amore to sit still!

Dolce

Dolce

before the angle roll

before the angel roll

After creating the snow angel comes the snow shake

After creating the snow angel comes the snow shake

snow chumping

snow chomping

Dolce between photos poses

Dolce

Dolce

I’m all set for 2015!

 

 

selective hearing

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what dog hears

 

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

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

 

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

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!