Duke – The Best GSD Ever

DSC_0089I cannot reconcile myself of how to write this without sounding maudlin. Duke was the best German Shepherd Dog, and also the best dog period, um, ever.

Today is his birthday. And as much as that is so very important to me, it makes me sad because, even now, I still miss him so much. I want another German Shepherd Dog, but I go back and forth on the idea. There will never be another Duke, but the breed is so amazingly great. I guess, at some point in the future, I am just going to have to do it and promise the new GSD that I will not constantly compare him (always a him) to Duke. And do my best to keep that promise. Unfortunately, every dog we have had has always been compared to the Big Dog. I guess you just can not help it when you find your forever dog.

Yep, maudlin. Can not seem to help myself.

That said, here are some great stories about Duke and his totally goofy self.

We got Duke from a breeder in, of all places, Houma, Louisiana*. The breeder was a young guy that still lived with his mom and worked at the NOLA airport. Now, if you do not know the area, living in Houma and working at NOLA airport was better than living in NOLA and working at NOLA airport.  Houma was just closer. Either way, Jeff loved German Shepherd Dogs and we got a recommendation for him from here in town. He was just lovely and you could tell he cared about the dogs.

The litter was born on December 14, 2003 and we had to wait eight long weeks. We knew several dogs would be sold for confirmation, but there would be three males that would be available to be family dogs and that is what we wanted – a family dog. When we got there, after a very fun night in Houma … (see: Boudreau & Thibodeaus’s. A place we never would have gone without going to Houma. If you ever find yourself in Houma, just go, no really, just do it. There are many other little places in Louisiana we can suggest, but that is another post entirely.)

… [back to Duke] – we went on Saturday to see the pups. He wasn’t timid, but it took time for Duke to warm up. He was a black/tan which is what the MotH wanted and he was just so lovely. His mom, not so much. When she stood on her back legs, she was almost as tall as me. And she sure did not like having the Boy around. I thought about feeling bad for her, losing the pups and all, but then thought we might be doing Duke a favor. Rationalization, I know.

So we got him on a Saturday and drove home. The MotH held him, in a towel, all the way home from Houma. I was driving – through NOLA proper on I-10, not my best moments, especially since it was the MotH’s Jeep and I was not used to it.

There was this big bridge in NOLA on I-10 and I was not having a “happy” time driving on it, when I heard it: the little dog was puking on the towel. Poor thing. Poor MotH. Now, it’s funny, at the time, not so much. I also think we stopped at every rest stop on the way home, but he was only 8 weeks old.

*We heard this week that with the freaky winter weather that we had last week that Houma, Houma! of all places, got snow. Go figure.

More Duke stories to follow – and there are plenty of them.

Asparagus Mushroom Pasta w/Pecorino

I just keep modifying this recipe with the hopes of perfection, but to be honest since it includes two of my favorite vegetables, asparagus and mushrooms, along with some melty cheese and some salty cheese, it starts out pretty far ahead of the game.

D&D_1340_iPhoneThis is also great left over for lunch, but you must heat it very slowly in the microwave and stir very often or heat up the oven feature on the toasted oven and put it in there to reheat. Otherwise, the sauce breaks – it still tastes good, but it is not the same.

olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small-ish yellow onions
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced*

8 ozs penne pasta
1 pound asparagus,  trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ozs mascarpone
Parmesan, for serving
Lemons

Heat a pot of boiling water, and salt well. Add asparagus and cook until bright green and crisp tender – kind of the al dente of asparagus. Remove asparagus from water and set aside. Once the asparagus is finished, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

In a sauté pan, melt butter and add a little olive oil and then add garlic and cook over low heat while garlic softens and flavors the oil/butter. Add the sliced mushroom and sauté on medium until they’ve released their juices and most of that liquid evaporates.

Add the asparagus to the mushrooms. Turn the heat to low. then add the container of mascarpone cheese. Stir until it is melted and coats the vegetables. Add cooked pasta and mix together. Add the zest and juice of one lemon and then add a handful of freshly grated Pecorino cheese and stir again.D&D_2242

Serve with extra Pecorino and more lemon wedges for serving.

*Buy whole mushrooms and slice yourself. Pre-sliced mushrooms are an abomination.

When I know I am making this dish, or one similar, I usually cook the asparagus/pasta one day, typically when I’m cooking pasta for something else too. Then the bag of pasta/asparagus is ready when I’m ready for pasta. I drop in in a colander and run very hot water over it for a minute or two and let drain completely. D&D_1318

Modified several times based on a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis.

Army vs. Navy – a family tradition.

Fly Navy (like my husband did) and beat Army.  It is a difficult game to watch because you do not want any military team to lose. Navy lost last year, after 14 year of winning and that was hard, but at the same time I was glad some Army boys got to win.

This is a family tradition for us. Oh, and by the way, the spirit videos are too great, no matter which side you are on.

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This year, the Navy boys are saluting our Blue Angels – how amazing is that? Our “home town” flight crew. It is pretty amazing. Going to say it – outstanding.

We are going to the Sandbar and and meeting up with quite a few friends, but more Army people than I would like. But you know, Navy just seems to keep winning mostly (except last year) – for a very long time, Happily, I get to wear the MotH’s flight jacket this year, since it is super cold (okay, I get it, super cold, um, for us – our friends from the north would/will totally laugh, but to me, it is damn cold). The Boy will wear Steve’s leather jacket. I’d like to wear it, but it pretty much swallows me. The flight jacket is my favorite. But The Boy tried on the leather jacket tonight and he looked pretty amazing. Yep. Need pictures, indeed.

I do love a good family tradition – one that we have been doing for, lord I cannot remember how many years now. But the next post is about the FSU 1998 season that started out at the Army/Navy game and ended up with a drunk mess and a national championship in Tempe – oh, that is a post for another (long) night. Fun, but more work than I would care to think about.

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Muffins

I love a recipe where I pretty much have everything on hand and this is one of those kind of recipes. My chip stash (various forms of chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, white chocolate chips and probably some random crunch chips and toffee bits too) in the fridge and the freezer is, in my mind anyway, legendary. And then the chocolate bars too. I can not help myself, I buy when things are on sale and store them in the fridge or freezer. The same way I do when butter is on sale. It is just a thing.D&D_2386

I did chocolate inventory recently and if I had to divulge it in public, I think it might be slightly embarrassing.

This is a one bowl, easy-peasy no-brainer kind of dessert.

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine the egg, sour cream, butter and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.
Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes, turning half way through and then check with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Source: Taste of Home

1 December 2017 – made them after our work Christmas party. It was just that easy.

D&D_2390That said, I think this is a recipe that you could make many variations with the basic batter. So, next time no chocolate chips, but maybe some blueberries and lemon zest. Or just some lemon juice/zest and a lemon glaze. Or cinnamon, walnuts, and raisins with a cream cheese frosting. Just keep in mind that the batter, without the additions, is pretty simple and not too sweet. To my mind that makes it a pretty blank canvas to work with and I plan to work through my ideas as this holiday season fades into the icky part of winter. Baking always makes winter feel a little bit better. With the days so short, you need to have something to look forward to.

Making Baking Easier 

When most of your cooking / baking takes place on the weekends, which mine always do, anything you can do to make it easier goes a long way towards motivation. So this is something I learned from my mom. Ever Christmas my mom would make loaves and loaves of banana nut bread – it was like an assembly line. She was only slightly famous for her banana nut bread. Everyone wanted to be on the list. It wasn’t Christmas without her banana nut bread and I still make it every year since I finally got it right. Lord, that took a few years because the temperature has to change during the baking process, but I never had the timing or the temperature. Thanks mom. Can’t really blame her, I think this recipe was in her blood in a certain way. Once I figured it out, I would take it to Fred and he was happy. And it is just something I need at Christmas, but sometimes I make it in the summer because it has been six months since I’ve had it last. Guess that means it is time to make one this summer. DD_0206

Okay, back to making baking easier – my mom would always prep her dry ingredients ahead of time. Then all you had to do the day baking is get your butter and eggs out and it is super quick to mix everything up and boom! you are done.

So by Thursday night I like to have my plans for the weekend baking finalized and then measure out all my dry ingredients and put them in zip top bags to make the weekend baking easier. And once it is easier bake, it makes motivation happen. To be honest this also makes weeknight baking, when I’m in the mood, easier to just put something together to make me, The Boy, and the test kitchen happy.

I think my office and students would prefer to be called my test kitchen rather than my guinea pigs.  But I also want my friends to challenge me to try new things. 

So this is what I do on a Thursday night … get ready for my baking weekend. Yep.D&D_1950

It really works and makes life so much easier. Thanks mom!

Butter / Egg Usage – December 2016

December started out for me on the 16th. This does not a good month of cooking/baking make. I mean it is December after all, but sometimes after Thanksgiving, you just do the best that you can do. Sad, but true. That and my dishwasher died – serious impediment to doing anything in the kitchen. It is surprising how much so.

dd_1692

Southern Toffee

16 December 2016 – 12 Tbs / 2 eggs – Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars

18 December 2016 – 24 Tbs – Southern Toffee 

22 December 2016 – 2 eggs – M&M Cookies

26 December 2016 – 8 Tbs unsalted butter- Chex Mix

26 December 2016 – 16 Tbs / 2 eggs – Sugar Cookies

26 December 2016 – 4 Tbs – Real Macaroni and Cheese

27 December 2016 – 2 Tbs – Sautéed Apples

30 December 2016 – 12 Tbs – Pecan Chocolate Toffee Shortbread Cook’s Country

30 December 2016 – 5 1/3 Tbs – Sausage Cheddar Scallion Biscuit Bread
Eggs = 6

Butter = 83.3 Tbs = 10.4125 sticks – 41.65 ozs – 2.603 pounds.

Eggs = 2 +2 +2 +6 – math is involved. = 12 large eggs.

 

 




Get it Right – my favorite kitchen company.

Several years ago I saw a New York Times posting on great kitchen things to give for Christmas. The one that caught my eye was Get it Right spatulas. I had pretty much your every day crappy spatulas at the time – you know – too big, stained easily, couldn’t put in the dishwasher because of wood handles, etc. and so these were really intriguing. They were pharma grade silicon, all one piece (no wood handles), in pretty colors and I had finally found an ultimate spatula that fit my small hands.* So I ordered a couple. And then a couple more. And then a few more. Shipping was free if you spent a minimal amount – no brainer. I really do need to get the bacon spatula if no other reason than just to say I have a bacon-colored spatula. Someone has a sense of humor and I appreciate it.

When I am in a baking mood, I can really go through spatulas and the GIR spatulas were dish washer safe – hell – they were safe up to 464 degrees F. I bought colors to go with my kitchen and then with my mood – first it was lemon yellow, and lime green, and orange – all my favorite colors and my favorite citrus. Then when winter turned bleak I ordered grey and black. Finally when spring started to come around again, a robin’s egg blue.

Well, this past year Get it Right had a kickstarter for there newest venture – a ladle and a spoonula – a cross between spoon and spatula – so I signed up. I have never been disappointed in anything from them and once again, I went the citrus route – orange and green. This was my Christmas present to me. And I know I made a good deal of it and I do love supporting a company that I feel like I’ve been with from the beginning. To be a bit of a dorky food geek – this is my football team. dd_1743

The coolest thing is that I have recently seen America’s Test Kitchen endorse them and use their spatulas in there show – how about that.  Get It Right has lots of other things too, but these are just my favorites. Please check them out – you will be really happy you did.

*This was important for me. I really have small hands and some spatulas are just too difficult to work with.