Monday, May 30, 2011

How My Garden Grows

 I love my garden. The paths meander through all the corners making patrol rounds very relaxing. Here's what is in bloom in this long, cool spring.

The pasque flowers gone to seed
look like Dr. Seuss lorax trees.

If I see a lorax in my garden,
I am going to catch it
and make it go squeakie-squeakie.
I'll bet they are pretty slow...
Star of Bethlehem flowers are
the only religious thing in our garden.
Needless to say, no one around here
was expecting big changes
last week for the Rapture. 

Susan likes weird creatures in the garden
that are no fun to chase.
That maidenhair fern behind the snail
is looking good this year.

Siberian irises are always pleasing.
I help out by gnawing out all
the crab grass from the clumps.

The bleeding hearts are huge bushes this year! 

The best part about gardening is that Susan takes care of all the work while I sleep in the sun and play with bumblebees.

Bees are easy to catch.
They sort of stick to your tongue
as they fly by.

Bumblebees are so adorable in their little polarfleece coats. They are very pokey fliers. I can snatch them out of the air with my lightening fast reflexes. I like how they buzz when I body slam them on the grass.

This is wrong. 
This is actually a rather cute bee.
But I don't think it could fly very well.

The other day while I was tossing a bee around the yard, I got this terrible pain in my foot. No idea what that was about... I thought I was going to die. But it went away so I went back to bumblebee hunting today.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ginger Sage Pasta with Red Lentils, Spinach and Carrots

Don't be put off by the lentils or the spinach. This is a delicious, rich pasta that everyone in my family likes -- meat-eaters and vegie-heads alike. My Susan knows that eating high on the food chain is bad business for the planet (blah blah blah) so she tries to cook vegetarian most of the time. I will admit, great food like this makes it easy to be an herbivore. OK, the amount butter means you aren't just eating herbs... but the butter is a big part of what makes this dish lusciously divine.

Vegetarian PlanetNote: picky eaters like Boy#2 can sort out the spinach easily enough, as the dark green stands out very nicely.

This recipe is adapted from Didi Emmons' fabulous Vegetarian Planet which is the best darn vegetarian cookbook we have on our shelves. Didi calls it Pasta with Baby Red Lentils and Ginger and it is delicious just as it is -- with a full 8 tablespoons of butter. But Susan's mom instincts make her crank up the vegetables and dial back the butter (sigh). I say make it full-fat and head to the dog park. You decide...

Ginger Sage Pasta with Red Lentils, Spinach and Carrots

1 pound pasta (penne, farfalle, campanelle...)
4 Tablespoon butter (originally 8T... you also could add back some fat as olive oil, for a silkier dish)
3-5 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 to 2-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into thin julienne strips
3/4 tsp. dried sage or 1 T minced fresh sage 
1 cup red lentils, rinsed well
1 1/4 cup water (you may have to add more, depending on evaporation)
3 cups fresh baby spinach, firmly packed
1/2 cup or more carrots, cut into thin julienne strips
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste

Red lentils are tasty and not too mealy like some lentils ones can be. Be sure that you rinse them well. Put them in a strainer  and keep submerging them in a large bowl of water until the water is clear, removing any floating debris. Susan says that when you cook red lentils, they will change color to a more yellow-tan color (red is not a color I have an opinion about, being a dog).

Boil water for pasta. Follow pasta's cooking directions. After you drain the pasta, you can add a splash of olive oil and toss together to keep it from sticking together while you finish the rest of the recipe.

While pasta cooks, melt butter in a large sauce pan or skillet over medium heat. When butter turns golden brown, add the garlic, ginger and carrots. Cook for one minute, stirring. Add sage, lentils, and water. Bring to a boil, cover pan and reduce to low heat.

Let the lentils simmer for 10 minutes or until tender but still chewy (they will turn to mush if you cook them too long). If larger lentils are used, you may need more time and more water.

Stir the spinach and salt into the lentils, and increase the heat. Stir gently until the spinach wilts (about a minute). Add cooked pasta and pepper to taste. Heat the mixture as needed.

Serve with crispy, green salad -- the kind rabbits like -- to contrast the richness of the pasta.

For easy, eco-friendly clean-up, let the dog help you with those pans.

Lemon Cardamom Cheesecake with Lemon Sauce

This cheesecake appears only when we have company. Susan says this is because it is too dangerous to have a whole, delectable cheesecake around for everyday consumption. I am not sure what the big deal is... I am happy to help out.

Cardamom is a very underused spice here in middle America. It is common in Indian cooking but probably first made it to Minnesota in the breads of Nordic bakers. Cardamom is a member of the ginger family and very aromatic. Lemon and cardamom are a match made in heaven.

Susan couldn't find a good recipe for Lemon Cardamom Cheesecake so she adapted a plain lemon cheesecake recipe from Theresa Millang's I Love Cheesecake cookbook. Cheesecake is very easy to make. I think I could make this if my family was more open-minded about canine cooks.

Lemon Cardamom Cheesecake with Lemon Sauce

1 1/4 cup graham crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

2 1/2 eight ounce packages cream cheese, softened (you can substitute up to 1/2 neufchatel, for less fat)
1 cup white sugar (scant, if you like it a little less sweet)
3 eggs
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (depending on how much you love cardamom)
1-2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon peel
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 to 1 1/2 lemons)
1 egg yolk beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix CRUST ingredients together in a bowl. Press into bottom of 9" springform pan. Bake 5 minutes.

Reduce oven to 300 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in remaining FILLING ingredients until just blended. Pour mixture into crust. Bake about an hour or until center is set. (Baking time really varies by oven). Cool to room temperature, then chill in fridge.

For the SAUCE: In small saucepan, mix together sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water until smooth. Add lemon and egg yolk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and butter.

Pour warm sauce over each cheesecake piece.

Refrigerate leftovers right away.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shar Pei Chair

I came across this divine chair in Sunday's paper.

Grinza armchair by Campana Brothers for Edra
I am sure these Campana Brothers had Shar Peis in mind when they thought up this design.

Shar Pei puppies                                              credit

Shar Peis are fighting dogs. They have all that wrinkly skin so they can wriggle out of their opponents' jaws. I'm not really sure why a chair would need this feature. But if I was a Shar Pei and my family bought this chair, they would NEVER SEE ME when I snuck up to take a nap! 

However, I am not sure I could stand listening to them looking for lost remotes...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Busy as Bees

I realize that I haven't been very productive with blog posts this spring. We've been pretty busy. Maybe not as busy as the three families of birds nesting on our garage (the chickadees did indeed join the robins and blue jays so it is pretty high density living in our backyard). But spring business seems to really take my Susan away from the keyboard.

I can't say that every activity is dog-centered. 

The Easter eggs weren't for eating. And why the heck not when some creepy bunny hides them all over the house at night? They said no eating the bunny either...sigh. And they didn't seem to need much help hunting for their Easter baskets. I could have found them with my sniffer in thirty seconds- who needs all those silly clues?

Boy#2 turned twelve! But he didn't share his ice cream cake with moi!


The whole family was away a lot volunteering at some Plant Sale. All those plants look like they need to be peed on...

Susan did bring home a bunch of stuff I can pee on when the weather warms up enough for her to put them in the garden. I do like gardening because I get to roam my estate on squirrel patrol (I am up to SIX, as of Sunday). Gardening makes Susan happy. She stays home, gives me bones to chew on, and rubs my belly whenever I ask. Gardening rocks.

Susan and Boy#2 have also been doing a lot of deck repair, replacing rotten boards. I help by testing out the boards. These seem sound. But I should test them more just to be sure.

And then there is the business of sitting in the sun. That takes a lot of time. 

I think the bees have us beat.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Squirrel Slides

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street