Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ah, Puppy Breath - Parsley Pooch Pops

For anyone who has followed this blog over the last couple of years you probably have a pretty good insight into how my mind works and have been privy to my somewhat outspoken opinions on certain things.  (shout out to all my beeps out there - Sorry I have not been around in the forums that much)  Such concerns as nutrition and FDA labeling regulations, or lack there of, coupled with conflicting information regarding the health of certain foods.  Yes, I have lived through the scandal over the evils of the avocado, now they are touted as one of natures miracle foods. Oye Vey!   Or how the makers of NutraSweet finally admit that there are "side effects" from consumption (like seizures).  Or how Stevia had to be sold as a "supplement" instead of a sweetener due to NutraSweet lobbyists.  Blah Blah Blah... I could go on for hours, but I will stop there; at least where human food is concerned.

I wanna talk about your dog's food, of which the FDA regulations are pretty much nil.  Yeah, that's right.  The FDA allows for pretty much ANYTHING to be placed in dog food.  I can tell you horror stories, but there is enough of that all over the net.  And while some of the information is fanatical propaganda, sadly, most of it is true.  Then you have the constant recalls of this food or that food because some by-product shipment from China was contaminated with this or that. Top that off with the preservatives that are used which are deemed to dangerous for human consumption. It's a recipe for health disaster.

I lost my last companion to Diabetes due to a veterinarian prescribed special dog food, that upon closer inspection of the ingredients, was nothing but a steady diet of junk.

Brewers Rice, Corn Starch, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Dried Egg Product, Powdered Cellulose, Chicken Liver Flavor, Flaxseed, Potassium Citrate, Soybean Oil (preserved with BHA, propyl gallate and citric acid), Calcium Carbonate, L-Lysine, Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Dried Beet Pulp, L-Threonine, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), preserved with Mixed Tocopherols & Citric Acid, L-Tryptophan, L-Carnitine, Beta- Carotene, Rosemary Extract.

If you read this ingredient list, you will see that the only protein is this formulation is "dried egg product" and maybe the Chicken Liver "flavor", everything else is just carbs and fat...  Corn starch speaks for itself, but Brewer's rice?  It might as well say, converted white rice.  And the Soybean oil is preserved with BHA - a carcinogen.  A perfect recipe for diabetes in not only humans, but canines....  Which is what happened.

It only stands to rights that I am a little more sensitive to the nutritional needs of my new canine companion.  While I have done a ton of research and have finally found several "dog food" formulas that I am OK with.  I still refuse to buy any of the dog treats available at either the mega-mart or the pet-mart.  If you read the ingredients, they are still full of "junk"; even the ones that claim to be organic or holistic...

In my personal experience there are 3 big bad no no's in canine food and treats...  Gluten (from wheat), Corn (in any form) and Soy.  There are to many chances for intolerance.  Another is preservatives like BHA, BHT, TBHQ, propyl gallate (a xenoestrogen) and Ethoxyquin (which is a pesticide and a hardener used in synthetic rubber manufacturing) ... I figure, if I am not eating preservatives, then neither should canine pal.  Don't get me wrong, I am not going to jump on the BARF wagon or anything (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food).  Simply because part of the reason that Otto had Calcium Oxalate stones in his bladder to begin with was because he was getting TOO much protein, so I don't necessarily agree with that particular diet either.  It's all about balance and stopping the over exposure to harmful chemicals.

Thus I present my formulation for a healthy homemade dog treat that, as a bonus, will help freshen your pets breath as well as promote urinary tract health.  Parsley is a wonder herb.  I don't mean that curly stuff either, I mean good old Italian Flat leaf parsley. Barley, though a grain and technically a carb, is low in gluten.  Flax and Olive oil are good for the skin and coat (though I would not feed more that 1 or 2 a day as flax has other abilities in the "fiber-lax" department, if you catch my drift)  The egg white helps to bind the whole thing together without the extra fat from the yolk and the Applesauce, just makes it taste good.  LOL

Parsley Pooch Pops 

1/4 cup (7 g) (.25 oz) Fresh Italian Parsley leaves (try to keep the stems to a minimum)
1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz) Water
1 Egg White
2 TB Olive oil
1/4 cup (75 g) (2.5 oz) Applesauce, unsweetened
2 cups (250 g) (8.8 oz) Barley flour
1/2 cup (85 g) (3 oz) Golden Flax Seeds, ground (or Flax Meal)

Puree the Parsley with the water in the food processor.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white and olive oil together with a fork.

Add the applesauce and Parsley puree, stirring to combine.

In a large bowl, whisk together the Barley flour and ground Flax seed.

Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the Egg/Applesauce/Parsley mixture.

Stir with a fork until well combined. (Just like makin' pasta)

Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest at room temp for 30 minutes (this allows for even dispersion of the moisture in the dough)

Line a baking sheet with parchment and begin preheating the oven to 375 degrees.

Begin breaking down the dough into .5 oz (13 g) pieces.

Roll each piece into a ball and load them up on the baking sheet (cause they won't spread or anything)

Bake for 20 minutes.

Turn off the oven and let the "cookies" cool in the oven for 1 hour, if you want a softer center;

or you can let them sit in the oven for 2 hours to dry them all the way through.

And when your puppy is done defending the lawn from wayward leaves,

reward him/her for a job well done.

There is nothing quite like a smile on a dog.

Mangia!!  (after all, you can eat them too, if you want)  LOL

Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Nonsense Nosh with Nigella - Mushroom and Lemon Linguine Laced with Thyme

I have a secret love affair with Nigella Lawson. (I guess after that confession, it's not so secret anymore)   ;)

I just love watching her cook. I also love listening to the dulcet tones of her voice as she explains this or that. ("Blitzing" pea soup in the blender or food processor) But the thing that makes her absolutely adorable is when she is eating what she made.  (especially when she is raiding the refrigerator in her nightgown... LOL)

She always eats with such relish that one cannot help but feel the hunger pangs wishing for a big bite of whatever it was she just made. (like margarita ice cream)

I was watching her the other day and she made this delicious Mushroom and Lemon linguine dish, that required absolutely NO cooking whatsoever (other than boiling the pasta).  It sounded delicious, except for one thing.  I am normally not a warm mushroom person.  Oh, I like raw mushrooms in my salad, and I, of course, like them sautéed, puréed and even flambéed, but not really just warmed up by hot noodles.

Since it was obviously delicious, or at least she made me believe so, I decided to tweak it just a little.  Thus is was that instead of simply slicing mushrooms and dumping hot pasta over the top, I have chosen to saute the mushrooms first, in the Julia Child method.  "DON'T CROWD THE PAN" or they will simply give up their liquid and steam instead of sautéing.

Nigella's Mushroom and Lemon Linguine

8 oz Cremini Mushrooms; Sliced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for sauteing the mushrooms
2 tsp Kosher salt
Small clove garlic, Grated
1 Large Lemon, zested and juiced (or 1 1/2 medium or small lemons)
4 sprigs fresh thyme; leaves stripped off; about 3/4 tsp (I highly recommend Lemon Thyme)
16 oz Linguine
About 1/2 cup freshly chopped Italian Parsley
4 TB Parmigiano-Reggiano freshly grated
Freshly ground black pepper

Select mushrooms that do not have exposed gills, this means they are getting old. (well, unless you are buying "Portobellos")

Slice the mushrooms and begin heating olive oil in a skillet set over medium heat. (or you can skip the sautéing and do this Nigella's way)

Add the mushrooms to the hot oil, not quite covering the bottom of the pan (you will have to work in batches)

Allow each side to brown lightly using a pair of tongs to turn the mushrooms over. (yes, I know this will take awhile... Nigella's way was much faster)

Move each completed batch to a small bowl.

Season with Salt, Garlic, Lemon Zest, and Thyme leaves. (I just grated the Garlic on the lemon zester)

Drizzle with strained Lemon Juice.

Chop the Parsley.

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions and reserve 1/2 cup of the water.

Drain pasta and place in a warm bowl and pour the olive oil over then toss to coat.

Add the Mushroom mixture and toss.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss again.

Add the Parsley and toss 1 more time.

If the sauce seems thick, add the reserved pasta water and toss again.

 Serve immediately.

I must admit that I consumed this dish with great exuberance.  Very light and refreshingly delicious.  Like Summerthyme in a bowl.  YUM!

I noticed, about half way through cooking and snapping pictures, that I had an audience.  LOL


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Sleeping Leviathan

Since I have not had a puppy since 1998, I find myself a little taken aback by the amount of energy it takes to keep up with a 9 week old canine.  Going "out" every 3 hours, in between the feeding 4 times a day, and the playing, and the leash & crate training as well as the occasional car ride, and a visit to the Veterinarian for his "Puppy Wellness" checkup...  Whew!

Needless to say, I have not had a warm meal in over a week, nor have I been able to actually SIT down and concentrate on writing a post let alone edit any photos.  Thus it was that it took me so long to finally publish the post on my Nephew's Birthday cake.

But occasionally, "the Leviathan" sleeps......

And Sleeps....

And Sleeps....

Ah, a moment of quiet.  The calm before the storm....

Shhhhh   Don't wake him up  LOL

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's Your Move - Chocolate Mint Checker Board Cake

Back in the olden days of my youth, the only January birthdays in my family were myself and my younger brother (as opposed to my young-est brother)  Yep, I am the oldest of the three, and as of Tuesday last week, I just got older.  (sigh

We grew up, eventually, and my youngest brother (as opposed to young-er) married a January "baby".  Cool, one more January birthday in the middle of winter...  Then my younger brother (as opposed to young-est) had 2 kids, BOTH of which were born in January.  So now, all of the sudden,  we are celebrating birthdays from the ides of January onwards, being the 13, 18, 24, 25, 29.

But we have trimmed down on the Birthday cakes a little.  I had brownies, my younger brother wants Cherry Pie and my sister in-law wants Rolo-cookies.   LOL  But there is still one nephew left, and this was his cake.

Normally he's a chocolate and cherries kind of kid.  So I assumed that he was going to ask for a Black Forest Cake, like last year (The same as his older brother had in October).  But he surprised me by asking for a Chocolate and Mint cake (Evidently he has developed a taste for York Peppermint Patties)  So this is what I came up with, sort of a York Peppermint Patti in reverse, using the same "base cake" that I use for the Fleur de Sel Caramel cake that I found in the Bon Appètit magazine a couple years ago.

Chocolate Mint Checker Board Cake

2 cups (14 oz) Granulated Sugar
1 3/4 (8.5 oz) cups AP Flour
3/4 (2.5 oz) cup Natural Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 tsp Aluminum Free Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Kosher Salt
2 large Eggs
8 TB Unsalted Butter, melted
1 cup Hot Water
1 TB Espresso Powder
1 cup Whole Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Mint Italian Buttercrème
Mint Chocolate Buttercrème filling
1 box After 8 Mints
15-20 Hershey's Kisses (Milk Chocolate or Caramel filled)
15-20 Hershey's Kisses (White Chocolate ones)

The best way to go about this cake is to have everything in the ready, cause it all comes together REALLY quickly in the mixer, SO...... Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the bottom only, of two 9-inch square cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper then Butter and Flour the parchment; set aside.

So, sift Sugar, Flour, Cocoa Powder, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, and Salt into the bowl of your mixer.

Whisk the Eggs.

Melt the Butter.

Mix the Espresso Powder and Hot Water together.

And measure out the Milk and add the Vanilla...

 OK, Your ready to go. Let's Make Cake!

Start the mixer on Low speed (so you don't have a flour bomb going off in your face)

Add the milk first. 

Then, once everything is nice and damp, add the beaten eggs.

Once the eggs have been incorporated, add the melted butter mixing until just blended.

Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes; until it becomes slightly "fluffy" looking.

Lower the speed of the mixer and add the espresso/Hot water;

beating until blended (the batter will be really thin).

Divide the batter between the pans (about 3 1/4 cups in each pan).

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 30 - 35 minutes.

Cool cakes on a rack for 10 minutes, then cut around cakes with a knife or offset spatula and turn out onto racks, peeling off parchment to cool them completely.

Then wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator while you make Italian Buttercrème.

NOW it's time to assemble.....

Schmear a dollop of the buttercreme on a cake board.

Lay down the first layer and top with the Chocolate/Mint Buttercrème filling.

Place the second layer on top.

Then apply a thin crumb coat of the mint buttercrème to the entire cake.

 Chill for 1 hour to set the buttercrème (cover the remaining buttercrème with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature) before applying the final coat.

Spread the final layer of buttercrème over the cake, making sure the top is nice and flat.

Lay down the mints to form a Checker board pattern.

I am gonna take a moment here and talk about mints.
I figured that the Giradelli mints would work just fine.

I know they have the stamp on the one side, so I figured I would just flip them over.

Well, I guess not.

That is why I decided on After 8 Mints.

Once you have placed your mints, simply apply a the Kisses/Hugs in a chess or checker set up. (white on one side, and milk on the other)

And there you have it.  Any one fore a game of Chess?