Why Dogs and Food?

Why Dogs and Food?

It's simple. Write about what you love. And what is better than dogs and food? If you are anything like me - and millions of other people - you will relate to and understand the unwavering love I have for my dogs and my passion for cooking - and eating - great food. I hope you will enjoy reading about my day to day experiences with good food and a couple of very special dogs.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Southern Author, Southern Cook

The North think it knows how to make corn bread, but this is a gross superstition. Perhaps no bread in the world is quite as good as Southern corn bread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite as bad as the Northern imitation of it. - Mark Twain

Pat Conroy is one of my favorite American writers. Not only is he a talented and eloquent writer - the author of The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides and other fabulous books - he has also authored a cookbook filled with stories of his passion for cooking and good food and wonderful Southern recipes.

Brian and I love really good barbecue. We don't eat it often but when we are in the mood, we seek out good barbecue joints where the ribs are so tender that the meat falls off the bone and there are a variety of regional barbecue sauces.

I now make the barbecue. One of our favorites is slow-roasted pulled pork that I season with a sweet and spicy rub and cook on a low-heat grille over wood chips for about 5-6 hours - and finished with a homemade vinegar-based barbecue sauce.

And what goes better with barbecued pork than homemade cornbread?

I do not have my own recipe for cornbread (I am a Northerner, after all) and have tried numerous recipes. Although they have all been acceptable, I have not made one that can compare to Pat Conroy's Cornbread. I have cooked this in both the oven and on the gas grille outside and it comes out great either way! So, if you like REAL cornbread, check out the recipe.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Welcome to the BAM and POOP Hotel!

We give dogs love we can spare, time we can spare and room we can spare. In return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made. - Mary Focklam

This story is dedicated to my friend Minja as I know she will love it.

It was Valentine's Day weekend in 2003. Walter, our new Golden Retriever was not even a year old. My husband Brian surprised me with a romantic weekend getaway at the famous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. And to our delight, the hotel was pet-friendly so we could bring Walter with us! It was a typical crisp February day and the skies were bright blue and the trees were laced with snow. So, we packed up the Jeep, put the seats down in the back, loaded up Walter and began the beautiful drive from Evergreen to the home of The Shining.

Walter threw up about 5 times on the way to the hotel. We had to keep stopping to clean it up. Good thing we had blankets down in the back. We figured this was probably his longest car trip and he just had a little car-sickness.

In hindsight, it should have been our first clue.

When we arrived, we were offered a room in the Manor House which is adjacent to the Main Hotel. Walter, the 8-month old white Golden Retriever puppy was a big hit as we checked in at the main lobby desk. It was like being with a movie star - everyone stopped to pet him and ooh and ahh over how adorable he was. Our room was rather small but we didn't care - it was comfortable and it was fun to be in a hotel where The Shining plays 24/7 on every TV in every room. Besides, we planned to be outside hiking and enjoying the beauty of this special Rocky Mountain paradise. Despite the marathon vomiting on the way up, so far so good.

We had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant the first night and the evening was uneventful. Until we went to bed.

Now, the Stanley hotel was built in 1907 and opened in 1908. I think the radiators in the rooms were that old because when we went to bed we could hear the steam heat building up, hissing and ticking until the radiator would ultimately go "BAM!"

Well, Walter being the nervous little puppy that he was would jump up and dive into the bed between Brian and me, burying his face in the pillows every time that radiator reached the BAM! part of its routine. This went on for hours. Brian kept putting Walter back down on the floor and each time the radiator went BAM! Walter would jump back up and dive between us. Finally, we just let him stay in the bed with us and we all drifted off to sleep despite the hissing and ticking and BAMMING.

The next morning we inquired at the front desk if it was possible to move to a different room because of the radiator issue. The Stanley Hotel was extremely accommodating. Not only did they move us to a new room, they upgraded us to a very large suite-like room with a beautiful view. We were thrilled.

We headed out for the day, visited Brian's dad's grave sight which was surrounded by a gorgeous Aspen grove. We hiked around and Walter had a blast running through the woods and playing in the snow. We stopped for lunch at Nicky's, a cool little lodge, and headed back to The Stanley. It was a great day. Upon getting out of the car, Walter got spooked by something and jumped out of the back of the Jeep and took off running - retractable leash in tow - bouncing on the concrete behind him. I was horrified because I thought he was going to dart toward the highway. I called after him and he kept running like a crazy dog! And finally, he just came to a stop and sat down. I finally caught up to him, calmed him down and walked him back to the hotel.

As we were walking up the elegant center staircase to our "suite" a man was calling behind me to tell me that he thought that my dog was bleeding. I looked down to see bloody little paw prints leading from the front door all the way up the stairs and down the hall to our room. Uh-oh! I quickly pulled Walter into the room and checked his paws and yes, indeed, he had cut one of his pads - probably from his leap from the Jeep. Poor Walter - terrorized the night before from the BAMMING radiator and now a bloody foot. What next?

We decided to stay in the room with Walter for dinner that night and ordered a fantastic steak dinner a la room service. Since we had the suite, we relaxed on the sofa with a nice bottle of wine. Walter seemed content and pretty peaceful. Until we went to bed.

We were probably asleep for a couple of hours when something made me wake up. Maybe it was the sound or the smell - I can't remember which. In any case, it was enough to wake me up. Brian still slept.

I got up to a panting Walter, pacing the room nervously. The smell was overwhelming so I turned on the light to see what it was and lo and behold there were EIGHT diarrhea pies strategically placed on the Stanley Hotel room's carpet! I stood there in horror thinking to myself: "They say this hotel is haunted and all I know is that this is scarier than watching The Shining or running into one of their ghosts in the hallway! What the heck was I gonna do?

Well, I did the only thing I could at 1:30 in the morning in a very sleepy panic. I took all the WHITE hotel towels I had and started wiping up the poo. It was extremely ineffective. And I ran out of towels. Can you imagine this? Overwhelming can not even describe it. I was nearly in tears.

You are probably wondering how the heck Brian was sleeping through this but believe me, I was grateful because Brian is a man who simply cannot and will not deal with poo.

Then he woke up.

"What is that horrible smell?" he asked, only half-awake. And I knew this was only going to get worse. And it did. He sat up in the bed, took one look at the huge brown blobs on the carpet and began to gag. He then proceeded to jump out of the bed and try and make it to the bathroom but, alas, he did not. He projectile-vomited all over the floor leaving a trail along the way on his unsuccessful journey to the bathroom. Had we been in the smaller room, he may have had a good chance of making it! As if the massive quantities of dog poo was not enough to scare the living daylights out of anyone, I now had human vomit to deal with.

As I stood there in even more horror than before all I could think was - how can this be happening and how much is this going to cost us?!! We have just totally wrecked one of the nicer rooms in the Stanley Hotel!

Well, after composing himself, Brian actually stepped up to the plate and went down the hall and found one of those housekeeper rooms and came back with more towels and some cleaning liquid. I scrubbed and I cleaned and I rinsed out the towels the best I could but there were now eight big brown circles embedded in the hotel room carpet. But at least the poo was gone. We opened all the windows despite the cold February air and fell into bed, exhausted from the events of the night and managed to drift off to sleep.

With only a few hours of sleep behind me, I got up at 7:00 am to take Walter out to pee. (I hoped he was all pooped-out. ha ha) As I was hurriedly pulling on my clothes in the bathroom, trying not to wake Brian, I turned around only to see Walter squatting behind me on the bathroom floor peeing like there was no tomorrow! I could not believe what I was seeing. I had no towels left so all I could so was take the shower hose, pull it out and spray the floor with water. I was awake on a beautiful Winter morning with the sun shining on the glistening snow but the nightmare had not ended!

I took Walter down for a walk anyway just to get out of that room and get some fresh air. When we returned to the room, Brian was awake, sitting in a chair, drinking a cup of coffee with a very strange look on his face. I asked him if something was wrong (ha ha) and he just nodded toward the wall and told me to take a closer look. And then I saw it. Little brown spots splattered across the walls and mirrors. Despite all of his bowel problems the night before, Walty must have wagged his tail!

Well, there was nothing we could do at this point but go down, eat breakfast and fess up to the hotel front desk that our dog pretty much wrecked the Manor House with his bloody paw prints on the main staircase and the diarrhea-fest in our room. Brian did the honors.

They told us they would assess the damage and call us at home to tell us the cost of hiring professional cleaners. And so we checked out of what we now fondly refer to as the BAM and POOP Hotel.

Walter threw up about 6 more times in the car on the way home. Needless to say, it was the most memorable Valentine's Day weekend I have ever experienced. When we received the call from the Stanley Hotel, the bill for the clean-up was not as bad as we had anticipated. They were so gracious about all our troubles that they even invited us to return on another weekend at a discounted rate but told us that it might be a good idea to leave Walter at home next time.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Some fellow asked me the other day, “Paula, do you make any low calorie dishes?” I turned to him and said “Honey, I’m not your nurse – I’m your cook!” ~ Paula Deen

Then for good measure, she added some more butter!

C'mon, y'all, who doesn't like the taste of real butter? Buttered bread, buttered popcorn, buttery cookies and cakes and scrumptious, buttery French sauces. Oh, my! In this politically correct world where we are told what we should and should not eat, thank Goodness for the French and Paula Deen!

Oh, I've tried margarines and Smart Balance and I Can't Believe it's not Butter - but believe me, it is NOT butter!

So, for the not-so-faint-of-hearted, check out my recipe for Macademia-Crusted Halibut.

And as Linda Richman says: "it's like budduh."

Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all. ~ Harriet Van Horne

I think I first discovered my love for cooking when I was about 7 years old. I would take Play-Doh and shape it into tiny little make-believe hamburgers and french fries and cookies and coerce my father into actually taking a bite. Seriously. I did that. I loved my Easy-Bake Oven, too, but was constantly burning myself on that light-bulb cooking device.

Well, now I cook in a grown-up oven using real food and real fire. Sadly, I still burn myself on the oven and stove. I do it so often that I don't even feel it anymore so I guess you could say I am kind of like a super-hero in the kitchen.

A few weeks ago, I actually lit myself on fire - I kid you not.

You see, when the front and back doors are open at the same time in our house it provides for this lovely cross-breeze that moves from the back deck doors through the kitchen and into the living room. Because of this,we almost ALWAYS have the front and back doors open.

This one fine evening I happened to be cooking some delicious Filet Mignon steaks in a grill pan on a high-heat gas burner when that lovely breeze I mentioned before whooshed in through the back door with such finesse it grabbed hold of that flame under my steaks and attached it to the sleeve of my sweatshirt!

Now I am not a screamer, so I made a couple of ooh and ahh sounds which I guess were enough to alert Brian that something was wrong in the kitchen. He asked what was going on and I answered somewhat nonchalantly, "I lit myself on fire".

The next thing I knew, Brian was throwing a small blanket over me to extinguish the flames. He is MY super-hero! But the only thing going through my mind at the time was "Oh, crap, the blanket is going to burst into flames and this is going to suck big time!"

Well, like some love stories this one had a happy ending. Miraculously, the flames went out and I escaped unscathed save for a very charred special, fire-proof shirt I happened to have on underneath my sweatshirt. Good thing I keep that fire extinguisher handy next to the stove for situations like this! Ha ha.

Now, that is what I call cooking with abandon!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive. ~ Gilda Radner

How great is it that when I come home every single day I am met at the front door with the same enthusiastic, tail-wagging, I-love-you-more-than-anything-in-the-world greeting from my beloved canine companions? I’ll tell you: It’s enough to melt away every single negative feeling in my mind and body – even for just a moment.

No matter what annoying or bad thing has happened during my day, my boys can turn my hectic and complicated world into bliss with just a look from their big brown eyes or a wag of their flag-like tails. It’s simply magic.

My husband Brian once said to me: “You love those dogs more than you love me! How come you kiss them first when you walk in the door?”

And I replied: Well, honey, if you come to the front door to greet me every night when I come home, wag your whole body like there’s no tomorrow and lick my face - I promise I will kiss you first!

Never underestimate the power of unconditional love. It can turn any sorrow into joy in a heartbeat.

Why Dogs and Food?

It's simple. Write about what you love. And what is better than dogs and food? Right?

Well, maybe not for everyone.

So, for those of you who have never felt the glorious connection with our four-legged friends or have never been excited about a perfectly prepared piece of fish or pasta, this blog will probably not be your thing.

But if you are anything like me - and millions of other people - you will relate to and understand the unwavering love I have for my dogs and my passion for cooking - and eating - great food.

I have my own "recipes" as I do a lot of cooking but the problem is, I usually wing it. I don't write anything down. So, I must ask for your patience as I try to pay attention to what I actually do when I create a fabulous meal so I can not only share my favorite food experiences but share some of my own creations as well.

As for my dogs - Walter and Henry - I have tons of wonderful stories that live in the vast terrain that is my mind. I also have a gift for recall (and maybe a little embellishment as time goes on) so I will dig into my mind's archives and share some of the ordinary and extraordinary adventures I have had the immense pleasure to experience with these white golden angels.

I hope all of you connoisseurs of canines and cuisine will enjoy these anecdotes of my personal encounters with good food and a couple of very special dogs. And perhaps I'll even convert some non-believers in the process.

Woof and Bon Appétit!