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.

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.

blue-angels-football-2-1800

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.

Sweet Potato Casserole – required for Thanksgiving

This is such a family tradition that I am sure I have posted about this to the point that everyone might just be sick of it. That said, I just cannot help myself. It is not Thanksgiving without it. Or Christmas either, for that matter.

D&D_2344The recipe is from my brother’s wife. It was a tradition in her family and when she brought it to our family – well, let’s just say that was it. One of us, usually me, always made it for Thanksgiving and now I have been making it for our family, including the MotH’s family that I just cannot get out of it – not that I would want to. It is just dumbly good. It is just expected on Thanksgiving and Christmas too. Never hurts that this is when sweet potatoes are really cheap either.
How cool is it that one family’s recipe becomes another’s and then another’s. I guess that is the value of tradition – that, and excellent food.

3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes – lately, I prefer roasting them ahead of time
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut flakes or more
1 cup chopped pecans – or more if you prefer, which I do*
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix potatoes, sugar, milk, 1/3 cup melted butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Put sweet potato mixture into glass casserole dish**.

In another bowl, blend coconut, pecans, brown sugar, flour and 1/2 cup melted butter. Top potato mixture with coconut/nut mixture – use your fingers, it is easier that way. Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until brown on top and slightly bubbly around the edges.

D&D_2306*I also usually use a mix of pecans and walnuts and always use more than 1 cup because that is what you should do.

**You can use a 9 x 13″ glass casserole or a 11 x 13″ glass casserole (which I think is a better ratio – thinner sweet potato layer and more crunchy bits on top).

22 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

Carrot & Raisin Salad

I have never made this for Thanksgiving, ever. I made it this because I love it even though I know neither the Boy nor the MotH likes it at all – their loss, more for me. So I made it because there would be other family members at Thanksgiving in case someone other than me might like it too. I do think that worked.

D&D_2329These are random thoughts:

I eat carrot/raisin salad for breakfast – just a couple of days in the fridge and this really is excellent. It keeps so much better than cole slaw. Cole slaw need to be made the day you are eating it and then just toss it out. That is not to say you cannot use the cole slaw mix for days and days, you just have to dress it the day you are going to eat it. This works really well, especially when serving bbq pork or sloppy joes.

Oh, and yes, breakfast because apparently I have to eat meals now. Ugh.

I have no recipe for carrot & raisin salad* – same as with cole slaw.  Let me try to explain. I peel and grate a 1 pound bag of carrots on the large holes of a box grater. Put that in a bowl. Add golden raisins – sultanas, and decided if I need more raisins. Then get out the Duke’s mayonnaise. This is where you must be careful. Too much mayo will make just a hot mess. So add the Duke’s judiciously. A little at a time – a little kosher salt now would be a good thing. Then let the whole damn mess sit refrigerated overnight and decide if you need to add something more. In my case, a couple of days later the salad needed a little more (very little) mayonnaise. Made the difference in my breakfast this week. Indeed.

Carrot Raisin Salad is always for my brother’s birthday. That’s saying a lot. I’ve said this before, probably lots, but for our birthdays growing up you got your favorite meal for your birthday. My brother’s favorite was roast beef with rice and gravy and carrot & raisin salad. Maybe it was the roast beef I made the week before Thanksgiving that made this happen, but no matter what this was a really good treat for me and the others that recognized this** on the Thanksgiving buffet.

Who writes about carrot & raisin salad? No body but me.

*Why is it called a salad – it’s like a carrot slaw with sultanas. Oh, and pineapple-ly things will never, ever, be involved in carrot/raisin salad. Ugh – just so wrong. Yes, I have very strong opinions about food. I think we all do. Well, even if we all don’t, I still do.

**Yes, it was all of us old-ish people, but they enjoyed it. Me, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law’s mother, and I think my brother-in-law too. Yes, I was looking at plates. Based on what I saw, I think they liked it.

Either way, a great breakfast for a few days at the office.

Pecorino Chicken with white wine, & lemon butter sauce 

I have been making this for so many years.  It was in a David Rosengarten newsletter, I can’t believe I have never posted it. Dear lord, this has been so many years. I have altered it over time to reduce steps and streamline, but the flavor remains one of my favorites. Honestly, as much as I love the whole recipe I would be just as happy with the jasmine rice and the pan sauce. That way I have my favorite part and leave the chicken to the boys and a lot of the time, I do just that. It makes a great lunch with a little more finely grated pecorino and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Lots of fresh lemon. No, I am not kidding. This is a thing you must do. Yes. do. D&D_2052

My version:
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino
1 cup dry white wine or one of those cute little individual bottles – that is just what I do.
1 1/2 cup vegetable or no salt chicken stock
2 lemons, sliced, seeds removed (duh)

Cut each chicken breast in half or in three pieces or so if that works better and place between two pieces of waxed paper. Pound with kitchen mallet until about 1/2″ thick, or at least until they are all even thickness.

So spread out another piece of waxed paper for the prepared chicken.  Place the flour on another piece of waxed paper and and some black pepper.  In a medium bowl, whisk an egg until combined and then on another piece of waxed paper spread the finely grated Pecorino.  Dip the chicken pieces in flour, then in the egg, and then press into the Pecorino.  Let sit on the additional piece of waxed paper until ready to saute in a bit of olive oil. Letting this sit is a good thing.

In a non-stick saute pan, add a bit of olive oil and let it simmer a bit – you want it hot, but not crazy. Add each piece of coated chicken and saute until each side is medium brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. At this point, add stock and simmer for a bit  – really reduce it until it is almost gone. Then turn the heat up and then add the wine. Now, add the lemon slices and let them simmer. Squish the lemon rounds and then remove them.

Add the chicken pieces again and let them simmer, but don’t turn them because you want part of the chicken to be a bit crunchy. Turning would defeat that purpose.

While this is going on make at least a couple of cups of jasmine rice. Because it will be the best part, at least to me, of the dinner.

Let the chicken simmer for a bit and then check to make sure it is cooked through. Then serve.  ~~~ A bit of rice, a piece of Pecorino chicken and a good bit of pan sauce.

You can see why I love the rice and pan sauce bit – well, if you cannot, I can. Amazing. Oh, and a little extra lemon is never a bad thing. Neither is a bit of extra finely grated Pecorino.  Sigh.

Original Recipe:
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 heaping tablespoons of finely grated Pecorino cheese
4 tablespoons very finely chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten well
Flour for dredging
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
6 thin, round slices of lemon, seeds removed
2 tablespoons butter

Cut the chicken breasts into 6 pieces of roughly equal size. Place the pieces between sheets of waxed paper, and pound with a mallet until they’re thin. Season with salt and pepper. Place cheese and parsley in a wide, shallow bowl. Slowly add the beaten egg, whisking until it’s smoothly incorporated. Place the flour on a wide plate. Dip the pounded chicken in the egg mixture. Remove, letting excess egg drip off. Place each cutlet in the flour, and coat lightly. Remove from flour and hold them in a single layer.
Add the olive oil to a saute pan large enough to hold the 6 cutlets in a single layer. Place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cutlets. Saute, turning once, until the cutlets are golden on the outside, just cooked on the inside (about 2 minutes per side). Remove the cutlets, and hold them in a single layer.
Spill the oil out of the saute pan. Return the pan to high heat. Add the white wine, and reduce it to 2 tablespoons. Add the chicken stock and the lemon slices. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove the lemon slices. Keep boiling the sauce until it’s reduced to 1/2 cup. Turn heat to very low. Swirl in the butter until the sauce is thickened. Add the reserved chicken, turning them until they are coated in sauce. Divide cutlets among 2 plates, pour remaining sauce over them, sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, and serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of David Rosengarten

Chocolate Guinness Cake – Nigella

I cannot help myself, but I really like Nigella. I know people get weird about the “domestic goddess” thing, but she has always seemed like my kind of cook – do not take it too seriously and have a good time, and that is what I really try to do.

I have her cookbooks “How to Eat,” and “How to be a domestic goddess.” Oh, and “Nigella Summer.” I would love to have such a cool name. When you have a name that many people have – my name, it is kind of annoying. Thankfully my mom was ahead of the curve. There were no other Jennifers in my classes, but lord help you if you were a few years younger than me, there were Jennifers aplenty. Sometimes it helps to be in the forefront of a popular name. And then it is still kind of a thing that I would like a unique name. I guess that is why Jj works for me.

D&D_1945I am always looking for the ultimate version of a Guinness cake, so let’s see how this one stacks up to the other I made last year. I know it is not strictly the Guinness time of year (March), but I don’t really care. It’s what I want to make so it is what shall be made.

Butter for pan
1 cup Guinness stout
10 Tbs unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 Tbs vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9″ springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place on wire rack and cool completely in pan.

Break up any lumps in confectioners’ sugar – I sift. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add heavy cream, and mix until smooth and spreadable.

Remove cake from pan and place on platter. Ice top of cake only to resemble a pint of Guinness. Because that is just really cool.

Andouille in a Blanket … w/ mustard chutney

I just had to make this because I and the MotH love andouille. I mean, honestly, who does not love it? I guess, well, no one. Andouille, originally a French sausage, is best know in the US as its Louisiana cousin. The best andouille, in my opinion, is from the area in and around Lafayette Louisiana. That is also where the best boudin comes from, but that is a whole other post.

This is like the grown up version of pigs in a blanket. And can we just gild the lily with a chutney mustard sauce. So … I shall say it again … stupidly good. This made a great dinner for us one Saturday night as we had had a late lunch and only needed a little snack, but it was a damn tasty snack. D&D_1979

7 ounces all-butter puff pastry, thawed and cut into four 5-inch squares
1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
4 andouille sausages (3 ounces each)
1/4 cup Major Grey’s chutney*
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

Preheat the oven to 375° and position a rack in the center. Arrange the puff pastry squares on a work surface and brush the top edges with the egg wash. Place the sausages on the bottom edges and roll up the pastry, pressing the edges to seal. Freeze the logs for 10 minutes, or until firm.

Cut the logs into 1/2-inch slices and place them cut side up in 3 mini muffin pans. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden and sizzling. Turn out onto a paper towel-lined rack to cool.

Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, pulse the chutney and mustard just until the chutney is chopped. Spoon a dollop of the chutney mustard on each slice and serve.

MAKE AHEAD: The unbaked sliced rounds can be frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw before baking.

* really looked into making chutney for this, but honest to the lord there are just too many pieces parts to make for something that would just be easier to purchase. Yes, this is woosing out, but sometimes it just makes more sense to buy versus make. In this case, this was a win – all the way around.