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.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Comfort Foods for a Rainy Day

"Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort." ~ Norman Kolpas

When it’s raining and not a good day to spend outside, I declare it a good day for watching movies and cooking. The dogs don’t like it much because it means no long romps at Blackie’s Pasture or hikes through the woods behind the house. Oh well, even a dog’s life is not always, well, a dog’s life.

This past Sunday - despite the crazy commotion with our creepy neighbor - I made homemade Mac and Cheese for lunch, baked until bubbly and delicious. I also made homemade herb bread with garlic, rosemary and dill, pistachio-crusted pork loin chops and roasted mini potatoes and brussel sprouts for dinner. I guess the rain really put me in the mood for comfort foods - something I try not to make too often because of the guilt - but worthy of indulging from time to time.

Check out my recipes for a rainy day (or any other day you need some comfort!)

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Asparagus and Green Onions
Ingredients and Preparation:
• 8 oz. macaroni (your choice of elbow, penne or farfalle)
• ½ teaspoon salt (for the boiling pasta water)
• 4 asparagus spears, chopped
• 4 green onions/scallions, chopped

Boil water in a medium sauce pan. Add salt when water comes to boil and then add pasta with chopped asparagus and scallions and boil for about 8 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Drain in colander and pour pasta and veggies back into the sauce pan.

Cheese Sauce
• 3 TBS Butter
• 2 TBS flour
• A few sprinkles of Ground Nutmeg, Tarragon, Garlic Powder and Black Pepper to taste
• Dash of Worcestershire Sauce (optional)
• 1 and ½ cups of milk
• ¼ cup of chicken stock
• 1-1/2 to 2 cups of shredded white (or yellow) sharp cheddar cheese and 2 oz. of cream cheese.

Cook butter in small saucepan on medium-low heat until melted
Add flour and make a roué
Stir until completed combined
Add nutmeg, tarragon, garlic powder and black pepper and stir
When bubbly, add milk and Worcestershire sauce
Add cheddar and cream cheese and stir in until melted
Sauce will thicken and become smooth and creamy
Add Chicken stock to thin the sauce (as it will thicken again when baking) and remove from heat
Pour cheese sauce over pasta in sauce pan and mix completely
Spray a small casserole dish with cooking spray and transfer mac and cheese to the casserole dish

Breadcrumb Topping
• 1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
• 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
• 3 tablespoons butter, melted

In small sauté pan, melt the butter on medium-low heat
Add breadcrumbs and stir for a few minutes until breadcrumbs absorb all the butter and are slightly toasted – do not burn! Set aside.
Spread breadcrumbs over mac and cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until bubbly and breadcrumbs are dark golden.
Let sit a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Homemade Garlic, Rosemary and Dill Herb Bread
• 2 tsps. active dry yeast
• 3 cups bread flour
• 1-1/2 tsp. salt
• 2 TBS sugar
• 2 TBS butter, softened
• 2 eggs
• ¾ cups of milk mixed with ¼ cup of warm water for a total of I cup liquid
• 2 large or 3 medium cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped
• 1 tsp. of chopped fresh rosemary
• 1 tsp. of chopped fresh dill
(You can use more fresh herbs if you like a stronger herb flavor – this amount makes a nice, subtle herb taste)

Make dough on white bread cycle in bread machine
When dough is done, split in half and press dough into 2 loaf pans sprayed with cooking spray
Let rise under a dry cloth for at least an hour
When doubled in size, bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, until top of bread is a nice golden brown


Pistachio-crusted pork loin chops (sorry - forgot to photograph it)
Mix about ½ cup of shelled, crushed pistachio nuts and ¼ cup of flour and ¼ cup of panko bread crumbs in a bowl
In another bowl, beat one egg, one teaspoon of honey and a ¼ cup of milk. Add a splash of soy sauce and a small squirt of mustard (about 1/8 teaspoon of each). Mix well.
Take 2 thick pork loin chops, pounded, and coat with egg mixture.
Dredge in pistachio/breadcrumb mixture, pressing nuts into the pork loin
Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and place coated pork chops on the cookie sheet
Spray top of pork chops with cooking spray
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until pork is cooked through. If pistachio topping starts to burn a little before chops are done, cover chops with aluminum foil for remainder of cooking.

Use these adorable mini-potatoes - they pop in your mouth and have a smooth, buttery flavor!

Roasted mini potatoes and brussel sprouts
Take as many potatoes and brussel sprouts-trimmed and cut in half as you need and place in a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt and a dash of black pepper
Then sprinkle about 1/8 teaspoon each of various dried herbs such as rosemary, basil, garlic, tarragon and thyme.
Drizzle potatoes and brussel sprouts with Olive Oil until all vegetables are coated with oil and mix them up with your hands until all the herbs are distributed over the vegetables
Dump the herbed potatoes and brussel sprouts (brussel sprouts with cut half side down) onto a baking pan or sheet and cook in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes until potatoes are tender and brussel sprouts are soft and browned on the bottoms.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

A Very Eventful Sunday Afternoon

You do not wake up one morning a bad person. It happens by a thousand tiny surrenders of self-respect to self-interest. ~Robert Brault

Well, there we were, having a peaceful, rainy Sunday afternoon indoors. We were enjoying a movie and I was baking homemade herb bread.

Brian took the dogs out front to go potty as we regularly do. He came in to tell me he had no bags to pick up their poop (truth is he really didn’t want to get all dressed and go out in the pouring rain). So, because I have rain gear always readily available, I told him I would do it. I put on my rain boots and hat, sloshed out to the front lawn, and began to scoop the poop.

Meanwhile, one of our neighbors (a guy who lives next door) is standing on the walkway behind me and when I turn around, he confronts me. He said: “I was wondering if someone was going to pick up the poop because I saw your dogs go and it has been about 5 minutes and no one came out to pick it up!" So, I said: Well, I guess you can stop wondering now because here I am and I am picking it up!

Now, here's a little history on this guy (and why I responded that way to him):

He lives alone in a studio apartment next door, always leaves his blinds open - day and night - and has a part-time dog named Dexter. He once told me he loves dogs but doesn't have time to have a full-time dog so his girlfriend’s dog stays with him from time to time. Dexter barks like hell at every dog that passes by. However, once Dexter is outside and able to socialize with Walter and Henry, he is quite sweet and friendly. I guess he just doesn't like being inside all the time looking out his sliding glass door windows and seeing Walter and Henry frolicking about. This neighbor has confronted us in the past about Walter or Henry getting “too close” to his apartment because he said he is “all windows” (that is what he said) and his part-time dog goes crazy when our dogs prance about outside. This is an apartment complex where all tenants have their own outside entrance and all units have big, sliding glass doors with blinds. As I mentioned, this guy never, ever closes his blinds. We all share the property so no one really has their own front or backyard. It is common space for anyone who wants to walk through it. I always try to steer Walter and Henry away from Dexter’s line of sight when we are out and about the property but it is not always possible. Dexter just likes to bark.

Then, some weeks later, this same guy approached me about the dog poop he sees on the ground and one late night, when I was taking the boys out for a potty run, he came outside and asked me if I knew I had to “bag the poop” after my dogs went potty. Hmmmm. I was standing there, with a handful of plastic bags in my hand, pondering that question. Did I know I had to do this? I smiled and said, yes, I’d heard about that rule. He told me he’d thought about putting up a sign in the yard - I guess just in case other dog owners were not aware that they were supposed to clean up after their dogs.

He confronted me several times after that night. It seems that he is always waiting, like a spider waits for fly to get caught in its web. Then he jumps out of his fish-bowl house - right on cue - to discuss doggie potty etiquette with me. This part-time-dog owner-have-never-seen-him-walk-Dexter-once guy is obviously an authority on cleaning up after one’s dog! And he feels the need to enlighten me at least once a week.

He actually stood there in front of me and pointed to some random poop on the ground and asked me if it belonged to my dogs. I tried to be as polite as possible (ah-hem) and told him that all the poops on the ground weren’t exactly labeled and I didn’t think it fair to assume that ALL the unscooped-poops belonged to Walter and Henry. There are tons of dogs going through our front walkway all day long. Besides, I picked up after them, remember? Was it possible a rogue poop was left by one of my boys without my knowledge? Yes, I suppose in the dark of the night, it was possible. So, I picked it up. No big deal. Not only do I always pick up after my dogs, I often pick up ODP (other doggie’s poo) if I come across it while cleaning up after Walter and Henry. I am always armed with lots of bags – every single jacket I own has plastic bags stuffed in the pockets. I am a very conscientious poop-picker-upper! So, needless to say, this guy was beginning to irritate me.

So, anyway, back to what happened today.

I asked him: Do you just sit and wait for me to take my dogs out so you can come out to discuss the pooping habits of my dogs with me every time they come out here? I then reminded him of our previous conversations on the matter and told him, once again, that I always pick up after my dogs and his scrutiny and accusations were getting insulting. It could be any number of dogs in our complex but he has obviously decided to blame my dogs. He pointed to yet another random poop close by his apartment and told me to look at it! Was this guy for real?! Next thing I knew, he was looming over me. And he is a big dude. He pointed his finger in my face and proceeded to yell at me, telling me he is trying to rent his apartment because he will be moving out soon and he was sick and tired of seeing dog poop on the ground! He wanted this place to be cleaned up at all times and just because I was slovenly – yes, he called me slovenly – that everyone else around us should not have to be subjected to it! I was dumbfounded. I told him he needed to calm down and chill out and that he was totally overreacting. Then I told him he needed to stay out of my face when he spoke to me. He stormed off through his sliding glass doors, yelling to me that he would report me to the property management. Huh. That was bizarre.

When I came back in the house, I told Brian about the confrontation. I had told Brian about this guy several times before but this time, he was angry. He wanted to defend my honor and said he was going to go over and tell this guy to stop intimidating me. I really did not want Brian to confront the guy and told him to forget it. If you know me, you know I can pretty much hold my own - but Brian decided to go over and talk to the guy anyway.

I walked out on the deck to look over at the neighbor’s house as I could immediately hear raised voices as the guy opened the door. It was as if the guy was somehow expecting to see Brian. Next thing I knew, there was yelling and then a fist fight broke out! Brian was soon on the ground with this guy, rolling in the wet, muddy lawn. I was so alarmed that I didn’t know whether I should call the police or go out and try and break it up. Being me, I did the latter. This guy was a lot bigger than Brian - and younger - and I was scared to death that Brian would be be badly injured. I started screaming to them to stop it and with adrenaline pumping, actually tried to come between them to pull them apart. I was shaking like a leaf.

Finally when they broke apart, Brian came up on the front steps. His shirt was ripped and he was all muddy and looked stunned. The neighbor guy was relentless – he still would not back off! He began yelling at me again and calling me names and he was still carrying on about the dog poop! I could not believe this was really happening.

I finally convinced Brian to go back inside. I tried to remain calm even though my heart was pounding so hard I thought it would jump out of my chest and hit this crazed neighbor in the face! I told the guy he was out of control over a little dog poop and yet he continued to yell. He was on fire. I told him to go home and he finally began to walk away, ranting all the way. I think I am still in shock that all of this even happened.

In the meantime, Walter got so scared by all the commotion that he ran across the street. Some really nice people who happened to be walking their dog, grabbed hold of his collar until I was able to get across the street to retrieve him. When I came back in the house, I saw that Brian's leg and arm had bruises and he complained that his ribs hurt. It was quite alarming to say the least.

A few minutes later there was a knock at our door and it was two cops. They asked us what happened and we explained the chain of events. I had not had the chance to call the police but apparently another concerned neighbor did and so here they were. After we told the police what transpired, they asked Brian if he wanted to press charges. Brian was inclined to do just that but I talked him out of it. This is why: I was afraid that if this crazy dog-poop-obsessed neighbor was handcuffed and hauled off to jail, he might cause further trouble for us or hurt our dogs once he was released. I was horrified that it had come to this! So, Brian agreed not to press charges. I just want this to be behind us and hopefully this guy will move out soon.

Later, I was very cautious when I took the dogs out front to go potty. I had them on the leash to be sure they would not wander over by his door. I did not need to see this guy again so soon.

All of this over a little dog poo? Seriously?

I guess one never knows what might happen on an otherwise ordinary, rainy Sunday afternoon in March. Seriously.