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Archive for June, 2012

Anybody who has ever been owned-by and loved a cat knows of the challenges encountered when introducing any kind of change for them. This video is one of my all-time favorite commercials, and while I can never remember what was being advertised, I go on YouTube from time-to-time just to watch it. Cats rarely evoke feelings of apathy in people. You either love them or hate them, but for me, they are the perfect companion. Independent, funny, intelligent and quirky, and very affectionate, our cats enrich our lives in so many ways.

After having lost our last two girls – Meggie (Nutmeg) and Ginger, both to diabetes eight years ago, I was horrified to learn that their diet was mostly to blame. They both died around twelve, which is relatively young for indoor cats. At the time, I was feeding them a very well respected and expensive dry cat food, one recommended by our vet and one loaded with grains. Without going into the details of the challenges we and they went through, suffice to say that I did lots of research about food when I got our current feline “owners” Leo and Cielo.

Since that time, I have learned more and more about the dietary needs of cats. First of all, domesticated cats are true carnivores. Their natural diet is mice and birds and they supplement by eating grasses to get the chlorophyll that they need for trace minerals. Secondly, in the wild, cats get most of the moisture that they need from their food. Thirdly, grains are simply a deadly combination for these animals. Grains promote insulin resistance resulting in Type II diabetes and acidic urine the primary cause of Feline urologic syndrome. Since most dry food relies on grains to stabilize the proteins, I decided that dry food based on grains was out for Leo and Cielo.

After reading all the labels on the dry foods at the local health food store, I settled on one that used sweet potatoes as the stabilizing starch and venison and salmon as the protein source. Leo and Cielo loved it – and Leo loved it a little too much. As the years went by, I noticed that his middle was coming closer and closer to the ground and his waist had all but disappeared. At a veterinary check-up a few years ago, his doctor said it was time for a diet…Okay, good luck with that. First I searched for a dry food that was lower in calories – Leo just ate more of it, then I went to wet food, with a little supplementation of dry – Leo whined and fussed all the time. And when he wasn’t doing that, he walked on our heads all night. All the time, getting heavier. And the problem with Leo is that he’s so smart, he can open doors throughout our house. We can’t keep him out of the bedroom because if we put him and Cielo out and close the door, pretty soon, we’ll hear a clunk and both cats stroll down the hall looking somewhat annoyed.

A few months ago, my friend Crystal Nuding, told me about a new diet she’s been giving her dachshund, Oliver. She cooks for him! She said that Oliver loves the stew she makes him. He’s lost weight and his energy is amazing for an older dog. Crystal is a web consultant and Divine Openings Giver and one of her web clients Alecia Evans had been raving about a book that she feels is the answer to many pet owners prayers about natural pet food. Entitled “The Whole Pet Diet – Eight Weeks To Great Health For Dogs and Cats,” author Andi Brown outlines the science and a specific healing diet for companion animals that makes sense. She has a variety of healing stew recipes as well as treats and ideas for cleaning teeth.

I got the book, read it and decided to “go for it.” I went shopping for all the ingredients for the chicken stew. Spent a couple of hours working on it, kept a few containers out and froze the rest – the recipe makes about two weeks worth of food for two cats – so really not bad for the time  and energy spent. On that first day, I put a dish of the stew out for the cats. They sniffed it and wouldn’t even taste it. Hence, the herding cats thing. Peter and I just weren’t going to give up. So we decided to start slowly. We put a teaspoon of stew in each dish with a half-can of their favorite processed food. After sniffing it for awhile and realizing that this was all we were serving, they did eat it. Literally, over the course of two months, now, we have gradually added more stew and less canned food until two weeks ago we were at one half cup of stew and a teaspoon of the canned food. And they were eating it.

It was finally time to try the stew solo…we were getting ready to go out to dinner, so Peter fed them early and came into the bedroom to get dressed. Even with the tiny amount of canned food in the stew, both boys could tell something was missing. As Peter walked in the bedroom, Leo and Cielo both followed, sat down on the bed and stared at him, as if to say, we know what you did! After a few minutes, he relented, went back and added the teaspoon of canned food! The evil eye treatment was just too much. Yes, herding humans is easier that herding cats! But, in another week, we were able to eliminate the canned food and they are now cleaning their dishes – every last morsel.

Leo helping me write this post…

In six weeks, Leo has lost about a pound! He now has a waist – and he’s not begging for food at all. This stew seems to satisfy his appetite and he looks great. It’s easy to make, it’s less expensive than processed food by about half and in my opinion, a whole lot healthier! After all, I don’t eat processed food so why would I want to feed it to my cats?

So my suggestion? Check out The Whole Pet Diet. It’s a great, informative book with practical ideas for healthy food for dogs and cats. And while I doubt, I’ll ever be able to herd the boys, I did succeed this time in convincing them to eat my homemade stew!

Cathy

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Squirrel

Just a little humor today!

 

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Smoked salmon/ potato cake/ onion/ creme fraiche/ fried capers at Next Door Food and Drink

This lovely restaurant is rapidly becoming my favorite spot for dinner. Specializing in Spanish tapas and small plates, Next Door offers a creative menu as well as an interesting bar selection.

Last night, Peter and I shared several small plates. We love dining at a relaxed pace and we learned how much we liked this kind of eating when we went to Barcelona a few years ago. Tapas, I think were originally offered as little snacks in bars and the classic is the “Tortilla,” which in Spain is more like a frittata or omelette than the corn or wheat flatbread to which we have become accustomed in North America. While Next Door does not offer a “Tortilla Espanola,” they do offer several items that take me right back to Barcelona and the eating style I love so well.

While Next Door’s menu offerings are not exactly “classic” in the Barcelona style, they capture the feeling of the tapas experience. Two of the more common Spanish tapas dishes show up here and I was delighted to be able to enjoy them in Loveland, Colorado! Padron peppers (called the Spanish Roulette on Next Door’s menu) are small, green, slightly spicy peppers, usually grilled or sautéed in olive oil and served with a little salt. Next Door does this, but kicks it up by adding a little dish of sesame seeds and salt as well as a piquillo (pimento) aioli. And, this dish is only $4! Peter and I love these so much that we get two orders so we don’t have to fight over them.

Patatas Bravas – which can be found on any tapas menu in Spain – sounds a little scary (Brave Potatoes?) but is, in fact a delicious and simple dish that I simply cannot pass up, when I can get it. Crispy roasted or fried potatoes with a smoky paprika and piquillo sauce, these babies disappear quickly. And, again, Next Door raises the bar with two more sauces, a Sri Ra Cha mayonnaise and a piquillo caper sauce in addition to the Bravas sauce.

For our next round, we enjoyed fried calamari with a savory tomato sauce and a lemon-basil remoulade along with a beautiful plate of burrata cheese with baby arugula greens and crispy roasted tomatoes. Finally, we decided to do a “raw surf and turf” round by finishing our savory options with smoked salmon rolls on potato cakes with onions and fried capers and a beef carpaccio plate. In keeping with their creative flair, Next Door serves thin slivers of raw beef over the most delicate schmeer of mustard mayo, then topped with manchego cheese, fava beans (just a few) and a lovely julienne of radishes.

Dessert? Yes, we had to…Apple Empanadas. Fortunately they were small, encrusted in cinnamon sugar with a tiny dollop of whipped mascarpone and a small quenelle of cinnamon ice cream. And, no we weren’t done even then. We had to try their house made blood orange cello (like Limoncello, only a lot better).

In closing, I’d like to give you a few tips to optimize your experience. The way to eat small plates, or tapas, is to order them in ones or twos, instead of all at once. You don’t want these delectable treats to get cold or to feel overwhelmed. Peter and I keep a menu on the table and choose our next round as we finish our current one. This way we can decide to order more or quit when we’re full. The only challenge here is that the menu is so interesting, it really is hard to pick. Fortunately, with small plate dining, we take advantage of the chance to sample their many offerings and leave comfortably stuffed!

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He’s been sitting in the shade by the front door all afternoon…

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This is what I found when I woke up this morning! I’ve had this plant in my breakfast room for about two years. I got it at a close-out sale at a local nursery for three bucks and have taken care of it since then. Here’s how it rewarded me today:

 

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Peter and I went to a party yesterday afternoon. It’s a long-time group of friends that we see several times a year and all of them are great cooks. So this time, the host house grilled wonderful grass-fed, free range beef burgers and everyone attending brought a side dish or appetizer. I spent most of the weekend gardening, so I decided to plan something easy for my contribution.

One of my favorite “pot luck” dishes is a Chile Relleno Casserole. I don’t usually bring casseroles to these gatherings, but I decided to make it as usual and then cut it into small portions as an appetizer. It’s always delicious and lasts about 10 minutes.

Chile Relleno Casserole

2 – 7 oz cans whole roasted and peeled mild green chiles, drained

1 lb. Shredded cheese – either Cheddar, Monterrey Jack or both (I like to mix them

3 eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 All-purpose flour

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. And butter a 10-inch square baking dish

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, then add milk, flour, salt and pepper and whisk.

Split whole chiles down one side so they can lie flat and place one layer in bottom of dish.

Next, layer 1/2 cup of shredded cheese over chiles.

Continue layering until you have three layers ending with cheese.

Pour batter over casserole and add last 1/2 cup of cheese.

Bake for 50 minutes.

You can cut into larger pieces for 6 generous entree portions or small 2-3 bite portions, as I did here,for appetizers.

Some people like to top with sliced scallions or serve it with fresh salsa on the side.

As usual, I got lots of requests for the recipe. The mild aromatic chiles in combination with cheese and custard, makes this a hit every time. And I must admit that I’m almost embarrassed to give out the recipe because it’s so easy!

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Love,

Cathy

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With the arrival of quarts of fresh berries from my little strawberry patch, I had to decide what to do with the precious jewels. There’s something so special about harvesting my own berries and honoring them…so I made a Dutch Baby pancake.

The backstory of this little package of scrumptiousness comes from my childhood and my mother. When my sister, Becky and I were kids, Becky wouldn’t eat eggs. Mom found this recipe in the paper and thought it would be a great way to get eggs and some protein in my little sister, so she would make this pancake for us most mornings before school. A few years ago, I came across the same recipe online realized that it must have been the same one my mother used.

So here it is along with my own commentary:

Dutch Baby Pancake

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a 12 inch seasoned cast iron skillet in the oven when you turn it on

Ingredients:

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup all purpose flour (I like to use King Arthur”s White Whole Wheat flour – it adds a little nuttiness to the flavor)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the milk. Add flour and whisk, then cinnamon and vanilla. There may be some small lumps of flour, don’t worry about these.

When the oven reaches temperature, remove the skillet, add butter and olive oil. Swirl the pan to melt and disperse the butter.

When butter is melted, pour in the batter and return to the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and enjoy.

I often top with my favorite marmalade or preserves but I decided to use my precious strawberries and a little sweetened sour cream.

This recipe makes a generous two servings. You can double the recipe and use a 16 inch skillet for a family of four. I usually serve this recipe for breakfast, but I’ve often thought it would make an elegant dessert as well – maybe baked in small individual pans.

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