Wednesday, September 28, 2016

RIP My Boy Koda The Best Worst Dog

Two weeks ago my dog Koda was becoming increasingly more frail he was having issues standing, he had to be carried outside to do his business. He would come back into the house only to sleep most of the day away.  Koda was becoming disoriented and on the morning of September 14th, he couldn't stand up, he gave me the most  pitiful look I have ever seen.  My eyes filled with tears and my heart was aching, I knew what I had to do.  I called our veterinarian and told her everything that was going on with him, she agreed with me about needing to put him to sleep, a decision that wasn't taken lightly,  he was nearly 16-yrs old. Koda was the best worst dog if that makes any sense?  I bred his mother and delivered him along with his siblings, he was born breach and not breathing. I had to do CPR on him and luckily I was able to saved him.  A month after his birth I had noticed one of his back legs, wasn't growing properly it had a slight bend.  The vet gave him an examination and said his legs were fine and they could possibly straighten as he grows, if not, he will have a leg that is slightly bent and he could possibly get arthritis as he matures.  I decided to hold him back and keep him, my son Jarrett named him Koda, this was to be his dog because his sisters each had their own.

Koda was a gorgeous black and white American Bulldog, kind and loving in every way, he was smart as a whip, but he would do the most stupid and annoying things.  I'm not sure if it was by accident or design?  He had a mind of his own at times, a true to form American Bulldog trait. He grew to be the dog from hell. He would go outside to do his business, come back inside and still manage to pee or poop on something, the floor, the laundry basket, the kids' toys, shoes, everything was fair game when he squatted.  I thought he would eventually out grow this behavior, wrong!  He continued doing this well into his golden years and right up until his death. You have no idea how many times I cursed him and threatened to introduce him to God each time he had done this, along with all of his other destructive behaviors that he could dish out.  Koda would find the dirty clothes basket, knock it over and eat holes in the clothes. He was especially fond of my daughters' and my panties, a real pantie connoisseur of sorts. Shoes were also another thing that he found delectable, don't eat the older ones, eat the brand new ones, they taste even better my boy. Ughhhh!  He was a real Houdini, an escape artist.  We have a large quarter-acre of property with two large 12x12 chain link kennels.  Somehow he learned that if he jumped up, he could pop the latch with his front paws, which opened the kennel door and out he ran. We would look for him for hours and hours, we'd put in a call to the local Animal Control Officer letting them know that he was out gallivanting again, and to please pick him up or call us if they found him. Thankfully he always did make his way safely home. He would bring home the most unusual things with him. One time it was a turkey leg, no not one from the grocery store, a real honest to goodness turkey leg, feathers, feet and all. I have no idea where he found that. Another time he came home with a baby blanket, a soccer ball, someone's bathing suit, the list is long through the years.

I have had my own adventures where I would be walking him to the kennel on a leash and he would just bolt chasing after a squirrel, chipmunk or bird.  I would lose my footing and down I would go landing on my backside while being dragged behind by my 90-pound hound from hell, my legs out in front of me holding on for dear life. I actually found it amusing once I collected myself and wasn't upset with him anymore. I could never stay mad for long, he would always give me this goofy look, bounce around wagging his tail. Besides, who else but me could go grass ass skiing while being towed behind by a dog?   Through the years I just gave up on him ever being the model perfect dog. I came to the realization this is him, love him, hate him or otherwise.  Of course I loved him, it was his mischievous destructive behavior I could do without. I have Koda's sister Lily and they are total opposites.  She is non-destructive and quiet, but she also has a mind of her own and she would join her brother any chance she could on their houdini escapades for hours and hours.

I could go on for hours and hours, actually years and years about all of the stories I have about him.  I sit here fondly remembering him driving me mad and how much I miss the old bugger.  The day I took him to the vet's, I sat on the floor and he laid down on a large dog pillow that they had given him.  He put his head on my lap, I petted and hugged him, telling him what a good boy he was and how much I loved him. The tears just came like a flood, I couldn't stop crying, that's when he put his front paw onto my lap, in my mind it was him saying he will be okay and it's time to let him go.  I held him tightly as he closed his eyes and drew his last breath, that's when he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.  I was blessed to bring him into this world and blessed to see him leave.  Good bye to the best worst dog I have ever known, I will miss you.  xx

                            Koda on the left and his sister Lily, photos taken last year.

Eggplant Parmigiana

**Mine is healthier because I do not bread or fry the Eggplant, this makes a large batch which you can either halve the ingredients or freeze what you don't use.  Store in a Freezer safe container.*

What You Will Need:
Parchment Paper or Aluminum Foil Lined Baking Sheet
Measuring Spoons and Cup
Large Baking Pan 11x16 
Medium Size Bowl
Large Spoon
Large Plate or Platter
Sharp Knife
Cutting Board or Flat Surface
Olive Oil Spritzer-Dispenser or Pastry Brush
Oven Mitts

3-Medium Size Purple Eggplants 
1-32-Ounce Container of Ricotta Cheese
1-32-Ounce Bag Mozzarella Cheese Shredded 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt *I use Sea Salt*
Black Cracked Pepper
2-Eggs Large
2-Teaspoons Dried Parsley Flakes
90-Ounces of Spaghetti Sauce, about 3-Quarts *I have my home made recipe on here* Or you can use jar or canned

Preheat Oven 400-Degrees Fahrenheit 

First wash your Eggplants under cool water, pat dry with a clean cloth and set aside.
Place an Eggplant onto the cutting board or flat surface, remove the stem top.  Slice the Eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips. I leave the skins on you can peal them if you like.

Set the sliced Eggplants aside.  Take your Olive Oil Spritzer-Dispenser and lightly spray the Extra Virgin Olive Oil evenly all over the Aluminum Foil or Parchment Paper lined Baking Sheet. (Here's a photo of mine.)  If you don't have one, use a Pastry Brush dipped in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and lightly coat the Parchment Paper or Aluminum Foil. Now lay each slice of Eggplant lengthwise onto the baking sheet, lightly Salt and Pepper each slice, spritz the top slices with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Place the Baking Sheet into your oven and bake for 10-minutes.  When time is up, put on your Oven Mitts and carefully remove Baking Sheet and put onto a heat resistant flat surface. Now use your tongs to flip over the slices of Eggplant, do one at a time. Once flipped, spritz with more Extra Virgin Olive Oil, lightly Salt and Pepper, put the Baking Sheet back into your oven for another 10-minutes. When the time is up, remove the Baking Sheet again with Oven Mitts and place on the flat surface. Taking the tongs, pick up each slice of Eggplant and place it onto the large Platter or Plate, set aside. Now repeat these steps once again using the remaining Eggplant Strips until all of the Eggplant Strips have been baked.

In between the baking of the Eggplant Strips you can prepare your Cheese Filling.  Take your medium size bowl and break in the two large Eggs, make sure not to leave any shells. Whisk the eggs, once whisked, add in the Ricotta Cheese and Dried Parsley Flakes, blend well and set aside.

Remove and discard the used Parchment Paper or Aluminum Foil from your Baking Sheet. Re-line the Baking Sheet with whatever you were previously using and set aside. You are now going to start the layering process.  Taking your ladle, ladle out your Spaghetti Sauce covering the bottom of your Baking Pan. Now take your sliced Eggplant and lay it down on top of the Spaghetti Sauce lengthwise in the pan, continue doing this until the pan has a bottom layer of the Eggplant.  Now use your large Spoon and get a dollop, spoonful of the Cheese Mixture. Place the Cheese Mixture on each of the Eggplant slices.  When all of the Eggplant is covered, then sprinkle the Shredded Mozzarella Cheese all over the top. The Spaghetti Sauce now goes over top of the Mozzarella Cheese. Continue repeating these steps until all of the Eggplant, Cheese Mixture, Mozzarella, and sauce are used.

You should end with sprinkling the remaining amount of Mozzarella Cheese on top.  Carefully put the Baking Pan onto the lined Baking Sheet.  Now carefully place the Eggplant Parmigiana into your oven, this is heavy.  Bake for an hour.

When time is up, put on your Oven Mitts and carefully lift up and out of your oven.  Remember....this is extremely hot and it is very heavy. Place onto a heat resistant flat surface.  Let set for about 10-15 minutes before serving.  Serve with a mixed Greens Salad with Carrots, Tomatoes and Onions, topped with Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar for your dressing and Artisan Bread.  Delicious!

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Chicken Pot Pie With Sage Crust

What you will need:
Large Stock Pot
Medium Size Mixing Bowl
Tongs or Fork
Rolling Pin
Cutting Board
Pastry Cutter or 2-Knifes
Measuring Cup and Spoons
Large Baking Sheet lined with either Aluminum Foil or Parchment Paper
2-Casserole Baking Dishes 11x8.5 (2.5 Quart)
Platter or Plate Large
Oven Mitts
Hand Sifter or Large Spoon
Pastry Brush *If you have one*
Medium Size Frying Pan *Non-Stick Teflon works well*

Chicken Stock:
6-Chicken Breasts Bone-In
2-Teaspoons Salt

4-Large Carrots cut into coins *Remove tops and tips*
8-Cups of Home Made Chicken Stock or store bought low sodium is fine
1 16-Ounce Corn Kernels Frozen
1 14-Ounce Pearl Onions Frozen
1 14-Ounce Peas Green Sweet Frozen
1-Broccoli Head Fresh, Small Cut Into Florets
1-Teaspoon Chicken Bouillon Paste or Cube
1/2 Teaspoon Black Cracked Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Salt *I use Ground All-Purpose Sea Salt*
1 1/2 Teaspoons Parsley Dried

Pie Crust Ingredients:
1/2 Teaspoon Sage Dried
3-Cups of All Purpose Flour Unbleached
1/2 Cup Shortening
1-Stick of Butter Cold Cut Into Slices
1/2 - 2/3 Cup Ice Water
1 1/2-Teaspoons Salt
1-Teaspoon Baking Powder

Egg Wash:
1-Egg Small Beaten With 1-Tablespoon Water

Roux Ingredients:
3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour Unbleached
1 1/2 Butter Sticks Cold *12-Tablespoons*

Stock Directions:
Wash your Chicken Breast under cold water and pat dry with a clean cloth.  Put the chicken into a large Stock Pot, fill 3/4 of the way with water or until it just covers the chicken, add 2-Teaspoons Salt. Boil chicken for about 40-Minutes.  Check the chicken to make sure there is no pink inside, you can prick it with a fork and open up the meat.  If no pink, remove the chicken from the water with your tongs and set aside on a large platter - plate. Skim off the fat with the Hand Sifter or use large spoon. Discard the fat.

When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, discard bones and skins.  Now cut the chicken into medium sized chunks-cubes.  The cuts don't have to be exactly the same size.  When done set aside.

Keep 8-Cups of the Stock water, discard the rest.  If you don't want to do this you can use store bought Chicken Stock low sodium instead. Add in all of the Vegetables, Bouillon, Salt, Pepper and Parsley that are listed in the *Filling Ingredients* to the stock water.  Let the vegetables cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes or until the Carrots are tender but not falling apart.  Now add in your chicken chunks and stir well.  Drop the heat down to low and let simmer, now make the Pie Crusts.

Pie Crust Directions:
In your large bowl add all ingredients except for the water.  Flour, Salt, Pepper, Baking Powder, Sage, Shortening and Butter.  Take your Pastry Cutter or use two knives and cut in. blend until mixture forms little pieces that resemble little pebbles or peas. Add in the ice water a little at a time, continuing to use the pastry cutter.  Add in only enough ice water to make the dough come together, form.

Now sprinkle some flour onto a cutting board or a flat surface, take the dough out of the bowl and kneed it into a ball. Now cover completely with the Plastic Wrap and refrigerate for 30-minutes. Now make the Roux.

Preheat your oven to 350-Degrees Fahrenheit

Roux Directions:
On another burner use your medium size frying pan and set to medium heat.  Add in the Roux ingredients, first adding the butter, let it melt completely.  Drop the heat down to low, add in the flour and whisk well, this will form a paste.  Once the paste has been formed, slowly add in the Heavy Cream a little at a time while continuing to whisk.  Keep whisking until this thickens and becomes smooth.  Once this has thickened, stir it into your vegetables, chicken and stock until well incorporated.  Divide your Filling mixture in to the the two-Casserole Baking Dishes and set aside.

Egg Wash Directions:
In a small bowl crack open the egg and add the water, whisk well.

Taking your Pastry Brush, dip it into the egg wash and run it along the inside and outside edges of the Casserole Dishes and then set aside.  Take the dough out of the refrigerator, remove and discard Plastic Wrap, divide the dough ball in half.  Using your Rolling Pin, roll out each ball so it is big enough to fit over top of the Casserole Dishes leaving a little bit of over hang no more than a 1/2-inch or so.  Roll the flattened dough onto the rolling pin then place over the Casserole Dish. Roll the dough over top of each Casserole Dish, press the dough into the sides of the Casserole Dish and pinch all away around the sides.  Now take the rest of the Egg Wash and brush all over each pie. Using a knife, make 6-slits into the dough, 3-on each side, do this to both pies.

Place each of the Casserole Dishes onto the lined Baking Sheet and then place into your oven for an hour or until the crust is a nice golden brown color.  Once golden brown, carefully remove the pies from the oven while wearing Oven Mitts, place on to a heat resistant flat surface.  Let stand - cool for about 10-15 minutes, serve in bowls.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Soup

Hello everyone and thank you for following me and giving so much positive feedback, I appreciate it. I love Summer but Fall is when I really get into full swing with baking, cooking and canning. The weather is so much cooler and much more bearable.  I was trying to think of what to have for supper-dinner and thought why not make a Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Soup, so I did.  It's pretty simple to make and it's hearty and sticks to your ribs.

Here's a little tip for you, when you purchase cheese in blocks, put them in a zip lock freezer bag and put in the freezer.  When frozen, they are so much easier to grate.  Also, spray your box or hand grater with a spritz or two of Olive or Cooking Oil, it makes the cheese slide instead of stick when grating.

What you will need:
Large Size Pot with lid
Frying pan *I use my Cast Iron Skillet*
Immersion Blender or Regular Blender
Box Grater
Sharp Knife
Pot Holders

1-Large Yellow Onion peeled and chopped
5-Tablespoons Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3-Tablespoons of Butter. *I like Kerry Gold when I can find it, if you can't any brand will do.*
6-Cups Broccoli Cut up.  Washed and drained.
2-Cups of Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock
1-Cup Whole Milk
1-Cup Half and Half *If you don't have access to this, just add 1/2-Cup whole milk to 1/2-Cup Light Cream*
7-Ounces of Cheddar Cheese grated. *I used Kerry Gold* Plus a little extra for topping optional
1-Teaspoon of Sea Salt or Plain Salt will do
1/2-Teaspoon Crushed Black or Powdered Pepper
2-Garlic Cloves Pealed and minced
1/4-Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

Set your stove temperature to medium heat.  Place your frying pan onto the burner and add the butter let melt, add in the garlic and chopped onions, cook until the onions are translucent almost clear for about 5-6 minutes. Now add in the flour and whisk until well blended. While this is cooking, grate your cheese and set aside.

Add in the Half and Half and milk, one at a time while continuing to whisk.  Once all of these ingredients are well blended, slowly add in the stock continuing to whisk.  Add in the nutmeg, salt and pepper, continue whisking until all of these ingredients are well blended.


Put on your Pot Holders and slowly transfer this mixture into the large sized pot.  Be careful this is extremely hot. You can use your spatula to remove any excess mixture left in the frying pan.  Add the broccoli to this mixture and cover with the lid cooking for 20-30 minutes on medium heat until fork tender, not soggy or droopy.

Add in the grated cheddar cheese and mix well.  If you are using an Immersion Blender you can use it right inside of the pot.  If you are using a regular blender do half batches, meaning put half of the cheese mixture into the blender and puree.  I like to keep small broccoli pieces in tact so it's not completely smooth or liquefied giving the soup some texture.  Now do the second batch the same way. Transfer back into the original large pot and check to see if it needs more salt or pepper for your taste.

Ladle the hot soup into bowls and serve with bread or crackers, I served mine with warm Ciabatta Bread and butter.  Enjoy!

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