Monday, May 31, 2010

Bobbing for Apples

Or balls, in my dogs' case.

We keep a bucket of water on the patio, for watering the plants (it usually takes a watering pitcher plus the water from the bucket, and more when it gets very hot in the summer). The dogs are obsessed with drinking from the bucket and race outside to it whenever we open the slider. For fun we throw a ball in there to retrieve.

Ayla delicately puts her long snout in the water and pulls out her orange ball.

Mac has no such luxury, and must shove his entire head into the bucket since the water offers so little resistance to get the ball far enough into his maw so he can pull it out of the water. Its impressive. And splashy.

Then he helps Chris water the plants.

He helps by getting right behind Chris and making him almost trip when he backs up. What a good dog.

And then we all head inside for dinner...

While the patio dries out again and its peaceful once more.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wild Hibiscus

This is so very cool...

I was reading through my Twitter stream a while ago and saw a link from @nandita (of Always Order Dessert) for a cocktail made with champagne and wild hibiscus flowers preserved in syrup. That immediately went on my list!

The flowers are from an Australian company called Wild Hibiscus, and I found them at BevMo. The company is dedicated to providing a quality product, but the price isn't too outrageous for such an interesting drink. A jar of 11 flowers cost me about $8, and I would gladly buy more. The flowers are edible, tasting like strawberries and rhubarb. And it comes with a small cocktail guide, including the champagne cocktail that initially drew me in. Easy, impressive, and oh so tasty!

Wild Hibiscus Royale
Wild Hibiscus Flower Garnish
¼ oz natural rose water
2/3 oz Wild Hibiscus Syrup

Muddle mint in the champagne flute & discard (squash some leaves around inside the glass). Place Wild Hibiscus Flower in bottom of glass & stand upright. Add rose water & some bruised torn mint pieces. Top with Champagne. Lastly, pour in the Hibiscus syrup which will graduate from crimson at the bottom to light pink at the top. Tip: pour syrup in first for a layered effect. The flower will sit in the bottom of the champagne flute and slowly open up over 3-4 minutes.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Dog Infirmary

Back from my short blog-break... We've been dealing with some doggy health issues lately. Mac has been sick since January, and I think he may be getting somewhat better now, but it has been a rollercoaster since then. The past two weeks have been pretty difficult too as we're weaning him off of a steroid medication he's been taking. And then Ayla does who-knows-what to injure her paw and loses the entire pad from one of her right front toes. That's pretty much over now an the toe isn't tender any longer. While her paw was hurt I put a dog bootie on that foot to protect everything, as you'll see below. Last week I was able to take her for a long walk after not being able to for a few weeks, and boy was she ready!

But first, pretty flowers from our walk. I think these are daisies.

A gorgeous, giant peach rose.

Closer up.

More roses, I believe.

And a bottle brush tree. I love these... so Seussian.

With wacky flowers.

Ayla and I got down to the park and I let her loose in the tennis court to run around a bit. Some nice person there before us left a tennis ball behind too.

Ayla loves to fetch, though she's not very good at giving the ball back unless I have treats to bribe her with.

She's pretty much always happy though.

Back at home, Mac lounged in the sun on the patio. 

 He's gotten a lot of his energy back now, though, and its rare that I can sit down without him coming over with his favorite glow ball, wanting me to throw it down the hall for him. He's still got quite a ways to go before he's better, poor guy. But my neighbor has invited him over for cocktails once he's well, so he has incentive.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More Muffins

I'm starting to think I might have a problem. A problem with pumpkin. And muffins. Combined. Seriously, whenever I think about making muffins the first thing I want to include is pumpkin. I think pumpkin helps make muffins super moist, but I don't have any science to back this up. But I also like the fiber and good stuff that pumpkin lends to a muffin, as well as the taste. Maybe this isn't quite a problem after all.

These muffins have a soft nutty flavor from the buckwheat flour, and are studded with juicy tart-sweet blueberries and melty, gooey chocolate chips.

Pumpkin Blueberry Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes 12 muffins
Heavily adapted from a generic muffin recipe

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. buckwheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. canned pumpkin
1/3 c. melted butter
2 large eggs
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. frozen blueberries
1 c. chocolate chips

Put oven in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan with muffin cups.

Whisk together pumpkin, butter, eggs, cinnamon, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flours and baking powder mixture until just combined.

Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full). Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature. I popped all of mine in the freezer, and nuke them real quick when the muffin-urge strikes me.

 I would like to walk down this pink muffin-scented hall

Related recipes:

Friday, May 7, 2010

365 Photo and Five Senses Fridays


Sun worship

Path edged by flowers


Cooling off in the grass

Patio view

* * * * *

Five Senses Friday is a nice way to reflect upon the previous week. Want more? Pay Abby Try Again a visit.
Hearing: Willie Nelson singing "Drinking Champagne"
Tasting: Cheese straws
Smelling: Freshly made spicy salsa
Seeing: Ayla smile as she faces into the wind and enjoys the smells around her
Feeling: Fluffy hand-knit blankets on cool nights

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cheese Straws

Oh man, are these good! These cheese straws are cheesy, a little spicy, and totally addictive. And they're easy to make too. Mix up a batch tout de suite and you will not be sorry!

Cheese Straws

 1 1/2 c. grated sharp Cheddar cheese
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. milk (I used half and half)

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (this took five pulses for me). Add the milk and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds (this took more like twenty seconds for me).

On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8- by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife (I used a pizza wheel, dipping it in flour), cut the dough into thin 8-inch strips, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide. Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving at least 1/4-inch between them.
Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool. Serve at room temperature. 

 We ate the entire batch at once!

Related recipes:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lucky Me

I've been the lucky winner of a couple of contests lately, and the lucky recipient of a couple of freebies as well. And I have been remiss in writing about them here, but I can fix that!

First up: I'm a member of the Pets Blogroll (see the widget in the right sidebar), a sister community of the Foodie Blogroll, in which I also participate. As a member, I get to participate in giveaways, and I actually won! I'm very excited to read One Good Dog by Susan Wilson (check out her Facebook fan page here and find out more about their promotion and how you and your good dog can participate). I'm a sucker for a good pet story, cried my eyes out when I read Marley and Me, and I know I'll love this one: 

"Fans of Marley and Me will find a new dog to cheer for in Wilson's (Beauty) insightful heart-tugger about Adam March, a Boston man recovering from the shame of a foolish crime, and Chance, a scrappy pit bull mix trying to escape the illegal dogfight circuit." 
From Publishers Weekly

I also won this fantastic potato masher from OXO. They are having a contest to celebrate their 20th anniversary, where they post a close-up shot of one product of the year every week. If you guess right, you might win that product. Get more information at A closer look at OXO. I really like OXO products and used this masher to make some delicious mashed sweet potatoes. I've been using my food processor for jobs like this for a while, but the masher really makes everything fluffy and light, not gluey and dense.

I love books! I signed up BookSneeze (also on my right sidebar), a site that sends bloggers free books to review. I chose A Century Turns by William J. Bennett, because I'm severely lacking in my knowledge of American history. This book covers America from 1988 through 2008, and I have greatly enjoyed reading it, though I've barely cracked the cover, since this is the time period that covers my childhood. I look forward to reading about more of our recent history; as Ronald Reagan is quoted as saying in the book: "... if we forget what we have done, we will cease to be who we are" (p.18). The book is very accessible and engaging, and I believe one of Bennett's earlier books has been used in history classes in schools.

I was also sent a package of dried mushroom samples from Marx Foods, as a promotion through the Foodie Blogroll. And boy were they generous! I have, clockwise from the top left: Chanterelles, Black Trumpet, Porcini, Morel, Matsutake, and Lobster mushrooms to try. They also sent me Szhecuan Buttons, but I didn't see the note on the pack that they had to be refrigerated and they spoiled. I'm bummed by this since I was really looking forward to trying these strange little things (sorry, Marx Foods!), but at least I still have my mushrooms. I've been putting some time into thinking about what I want to use this bounty in since I haven't worked with dried mushrooms before, and I'm foreseeing risotto, homemade ravioli, perhaps some sort of luscious boozy sauce... I'm hoping to start experimenting this weekend!

Lori, this one's for you. This guy always makes me feel like a winner. He's shoved his head between my knees while I'm sitting here, so he can put his favorite ball in my lap so that I'll throw it for him. I've got some wrinkles to smoosh now.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I took Mac and Ayla out to play a little fetch on Saturday, and enjoy the beautiful weather we're having now. Mac has been rather sick for a while, but he seems to finally be turning a corner and was up for the short walk down to the grass. Ayla was absolutely thrilled to have him with us too!

Mac wasn't up for much fetching, happier to lay in the grass and chew on his favorite glow-in-the-dark ball, soaking up the sunshine. Whenever I threw Ayla's orange ball for her, she run down, pick it up, and fetch it. But not to me, no! She'd barrel straight down on Mac, stopping right before him, and toss her ball on the ground before him. It was so cute, seeing her so happy to have her buddy outside playing with her.

Mac fetched a few very small tosses, but laying in the fresh air certainly seemed to be a balm to his spirits.

And after Ayla was tired from fetching we all relaxed for a while, before walking home again.