The Monster Emerges
Well, so much for "better with dogs."
This week in dog class the Evil Monster tried such endearing tricks as snarling at lap dogs and attempting to pick a fight with a 120 lb mastiff/great dane mix.
In fact, as dog trainer Stephanie walked her around the room she snapped, snarled or was generally nasty to EVERY SINGLE DOG IN THE ROOM.
There were horrified gasps and terrified body-checking.
And then they heard how she was attacked in the shelter before we got her and all was forgiven.
she's not called Evil Evie for nothing ...
For years we've been keeping our pointy eared devil away from other dogs. We heard she wasn't good with dogs, a point she proved when she not-so-lovingly bit the face of a very sweet geriatric chocolate lab two years ago.
... and tried to eat Dotty before that. (Dotty was my parents' pathetic inbred, half blind, grossly obese Jack Russel mix. Her companion, Esparanza, was a giant fatty tumor my parents never had removed).
So basically, not good with dogs.
Well now that she's gotten old herself, we've decided maybe its time the Teufelhund was socialized. We've got a dog trainer named Stephanie who works with The Monster and several other dogs once a week at the Rec Center.
And she's improving. Less snappy snarly. Less bitey bitey.
And yesterday night she let a dog sniff her butt.
There may be hope yet.
der lawn! Eeet ees ded!
Yes. The lawn experiment has failed.
Mostly because I am an idiot and I thought watering it with a sub-grass system would be great.
Except I forgot how much lawns hate sogginess. And how in the winter that part of the yard gets about an hour of sunlight. Thus, leaving a soggy mess.
Plus the dog poo.
Thank you Evie, for your contribution!
So we're re-thinking the lawn. I've decided to go with serendipity rather than despair and I've planted a whole bunch of gladiolas right there in the middle of the lawn (the dead spots). And I've re-seeded over the top. And I've put the sprinklers back in (although I haven't finished that yet. And i've decided I'm not really going to mow it anymore, since come spring I'm going to have gigantic gladiolas coming up all over the place.
It will be quirky. It will be cute. IT WILL WORK, DAMNIT!
mesquite flour success! I think ...
So I finally made the mesquite flour today. I only used up less than half our pods and I got a giant zip lock bag full of flour.
The only problem was that the instructions said not to grind up the seeds because they were too hard, but my blender ground them up anyway. I tried to sift them out, but I can still see dark flecks in there.
Ah well. I'll cook with it and see what happens. If I don't get sick, this stuff is going into stockings come Christmas.
magical bubble ... and tomatoes
Lots of bad shit going down in the world these days. People getting hurt, people getting sick, people dieing. Taking tests ... getting bad scores on tests. studying to re-take tests. The house occasionally trying to kill us. Neighborhood children deciding it's OK to spend all day after school throwing rocks from the neighbor's front yard into my driveway.
I'm so thankful, though, that my garden is coming through for me at a time like this. My eggplants are stupendous. I have a few that are nearly ready to pick and they're HUGE! My Tower O Pots is full of radishes and carrots and lettuces and as I thin the seedlings, I'm really enjoying the microgreens. And my beloved jalapeno bush is going bananas (but with peppers).
But the best of all best cheeringmeup things is the discovery I've made re tomatoes. There's a lovely lady named Mrs. Doyle who is THE organic tomato expert in Las Vegas. I've been reading all her gardening advice in the Organic Gardening magazines that a co-worker gave me. And then when I went to try to order seedlings or plants for next year I made a wonderful discovery. Mrs. Doyle sells kits.
Entire tomato growing kits.
The guidebook to tomato growing in Vegas, the seeds for three proven tomato types, algea for fertilizing, and this stuff called silver plastic mulch that apparently saves your plants from the sun.
It's already been shipped so I'll be ready this spring.
So even though life is generally sucky right now, my garden is once again a little magical no thinking bubble.
Thank you garden.
The lawn saga
When we moved into this neighborhood we struggled with whether or not to allow the lawn in the backyard to regrow. We knew it could if we just watered it -- after all, it came roaring up every time I watered the bougainvillias. But what we couldn't help but think it was a monumental waste of water. I mean, we don't even have snotbots running around.
And then the Monster chimed in.
Her lawn obsession started with rolling on every neighbor's front lawn throughout the neighborhood on our regular walks -- especially if the lawn was wet.
This is not a dog that likes water, so I thought it just must have been too hot on the sidewalk for her feet. But no ... I touched the ground and it was cool and she started doing it on dry lawns too.
I was not getting the message.
So she ran away.
And she didn't just bolt and run amok with the adorable and sweet-laden neighborhood children or eat the neighbor's despised free range Chihuahua.
No ... she made a strategic and pointed advance nearly to the end of the street to the house with the biggest, loveliest, rosiest, lawniest front yard.
She hopped a 2 1/2 foot spiked wrought iron fence and two rose bushes in order to roll ... and I mean ROLL ... in this lovely elderly neighbor lady's yard.
She was still there, rolling, when I frantically pulled up in my pickup ten minutes later.
And this dog, my monster, just smiled at me as if to say "isn't this lovely."
Well... for the elderly neighbor lady, who's eyesight is failing and who also has a mid sized pointy eared black dog, it was not lovely.
As I reached into the yard to extricate my teufelhund, the nice neighbor lady creeped tentatively out of her front door. And said ...
OH MY GOD!
and then ...
I COULDN'T FIGURE OUT HOW MY DOG HAD GOT OUT AND THEN I THOUGHT YOU WERE STEALING HIM BUT NOW IT'S NOT MY DOG!
And clutched her chest.
Luckily, it was just a healthy shock.
So I started looking into lawns.
What was left of the root system of the previous lawn was extensive but the resulting lawn was hideous when trimmed closer than a foot to the ground.
We needed turf.
And after months of torturing the dog, I found exactly what I wanted: Zoyza grass. My desert gardening books all recommended it for those of us insane enough to try to grow turf in the desert. And it uses very little water.
I called the local nursery. No problemo. They'll have a bunch in a few weeks. Just make sure I call ahead and reserve it so the gardeners don't get it all.
So I spent a month prepping what Nevadans have decided passes as soil. I watered the brick-like earth. I attempted to use the mini roto tiller my father-in-law gave me. It broke down. Twice. My husband threw out his shoulder trying to get it fixed and re-started.
I watered. I shoveled. I watered. I shoveled. This went on for two weeks, before work and on weekends.
Finally, the soil appropriately leveled and loosened, I bought a pickup truck full of manure/compost combo at my local Ace hardware.
And I shoveled and watered and shoveled some more.
I spent Friday night Before Lawn installing subsurface drip line irrigation lines so that I wouldn't lose any water to evaporation -- it would all go straight to the roots! GENIUS!
And I ordered my zoyza grass.
And I got up at 6 a.m. Saturday to pick up my zoyza grass.
And I waited an hour to speak to a salesman about paying for my wonderous zoyza grass.
And then I picked up a pickup-load full of a fescue blue something or other mix. Because this particular nursery suddenly had never heard of zoyza grass and I was too fed up and tired and sore and frustrated to figure out where in the hell else someone in this godforsaken place could get zoyza grass in the next week before summer hit in May.
The fescu blend grows beautifully.
So beautifully, in fact, that we sometimes lose the dog in it. You see, we have no mower. Hubby dearest made an executive decision. He, apparently, hates push mowers. Having mowed an acre of lawn every third weekend as a child myself, I could relate. We would instead weed whack the lawn. We like it kind of long and wild looking, anyway, and hubby dearest assured me it was much easier than a push mower.
But he never whacked it. Not once.
And I have short arms that are not conducive to effective weed whacking. I have the scars and pock marks to prove it.
Last week, on my birthday, together we whacked back the two food high lawn to mere inches. It took two complete whackings.
It's half brown.
But we now own a push mower (a co-worker lost parts to one and was throwing it out -- it cost less than $2 to fix) and as soon as that bad boy is sharpened we're going to be fighting for a real lawn!
Bring on the compost! Bring on the mower!
I will win.
ah hell to the no!
I will tolerate many, many things about living in the desert.
But I do NOT do vermin.
Evie -- this is your one job. You keep the vermin away. And now there's a rat standing on my porchcouch.
Dog, if you cannot chase off or consume this rat, I will find a cat who will.
So get at it!
Farmer's market at UNLV!
Last night I attended the food and hunger panel at UNLV with Alice Waters, Raj Patel and my very favorite peach farmer, Mas Masumoto.
It was so great to listen to these guys hash out food issues, but also to see my fellow las Vegans get inspired about good, wholesome food! I may get a low income community garden off the ground in this town yet! (3 Square showed some interest).
Anyway, the event was all the better because they held a VIP farmers market before the panel and although I got there pretty late (the parking at UNLV is INSANE this week) I did get some amazing pesto and some beautiful squashes. Good thing I have a big purse!
This all went into a pasta as soon as I got home and it made an excellent light, late dinner.
picky eaters' penne al vodka
So we don't drink a heck of a lot of milk around here. Neither of us really like the taste and one of us gets sick. then the milk goes bad because we never us it all So we had been substituting in rice milk. Which was OK for cooking. It has about the consistency of 2% milk and I can't tell the difference in taste.
But then we weren't even using enough of that to keep it from going bad.
So last night I tried something new with my penne al vodka. I was already making two separate sauces because the only sausage in the house had bell peppers (I'm allergic) and B doesn't eat shrimp. And we were out of any type of milk. So I thought why no experiment with the penne al vodka using the powdered milk I keep on hand for baking.
And it worked great.
And only minor stomach discomfort!
And it was ooooh so tasty!
mesquite flour season!
Yay! It's that time of year -- time when the tomatoes die and I get all depressed because I only got two off the bush all summer.
So this year we're moving on to things that actually thrive in the desert. In this case, mesquite trees.
I love my mesquite tree. His name is Arthur and while I'm convinced the house hates us and is trying to kill us, I know Arthur appreciates all our hard work and everything we've done for him. We've pruned him at the appropriate time of year so he doesn't suffer and his branches no longer grow down to the ground. We've given him water every month or two. And we've planted a friend for him (so far unnamed) grown from seeds from a mesquite that was growing in a parking lot near the smog check place. He'll soon have another brother in arms when we plant the second seedling (now 5' tall) on the other side of the front yard or possibly in the side yard.
Anyway, Arthur doesn't just take our love. He gives back. We get lovely stray mesquite branches for B's barbecue and we get lots and lots of seeds.
This year those seeds aren't going to get raked up by the neighbor kid -- he moved :( But they are going to be put to good use. We're going to attempt to make mesquite flour. According to our good Internet foodie friends this is apparently a grand thing. And we just happen to have a f#$d up blender just ready for the job.
So this weekend we'll be collecting dried seed pods. If you get mesquite flour for Christmas, you'll have Arthur to thank.
on cheating asparagus
The thermostat finally dropped below a gazillion degrees a couple days ago so B barbecued up some chicken thighs. Meh, not our best work, so we're incorporating the leftovers into pasta tonight.
But in case it's also uninspiring I'm cooking up some asparagus. Only I'm also studying for the LSATs and my brain still hurts from chasing info on endangered but not listed butterflies at work all day.
So, instead of mixing up a lemony marinade and cooking them in a pan, as per yummy usual, I dumped them on a baking sheet, covered them in olive oil and shook lemon pepper over them. I put it on broil for 15 minutes at 400 and walked away.
And I'll be damned if it isn't BETTER than my regular (OK, it doesn't have the crunchy goodness of a good pan fry, but it was still damn good).
It was so good, in fact, that when I discovered, upon waking at 7 today, that there was one left on the rack in the toaster oven I ate it too. (Ew, I know. But I can't be blamed for what I do pre-coffee.) I'll be damned if it didn't still taste good. A bit mushy, but good. So if I don't get food poisoning, I'll call it a good breakfast, too.
Not posting much these days ... sorry -- LSATs.
But I do have a new quickie/yummie/lazy recipe in -- for asparagus. It's delish!
I got today and tomorrow off work, so I'm thinking that between getting the alignment fixed on the Tuc Truck, paying the bills, studying and doing the dishes I'm going to also try to get a new crock pot recipe going.
Ol' crocky is the only way to go when it's hot out here. It's a balmy 95 today but I'm still thinking it's way to damn hot to use the oven.
On to adventure! (er... studying and dishes)
playing with format
do we like having all the ingredients up front like a shopping list? Or sprinkled throughout the instructions?
penne al vodka
1/4 box wheat penne or 1/2 package gnoche.
1 C spaghetti sauce
1 C raw shrimp, pealed deveined and chopped.
1/2 C Sliced mushrooms
1/2 C frozen peas
1 Tbspn butter
2 Tbspn olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C vodka
1/4 C water
2 Tbspn powdered milk
cook the pasta
melt butter and heat oil in skillet.
throw in the shrimp and mushrooms, and sprinkle with salt and pepper -- cover and simmer until nearly cooked through.
throw in the peas and tomato sauce
Cook a couple more minutes
mix milk and water
Add the vodka and milk mix
Stir and continue cooking until it looks done.
serve over the pasta.
jalapeno spaghetti squash caserole
I get a crapload of jalapenos from my yard each fall -- it's one of exactly two food producing plants that seem to like it here (the other being the mesquites, bless their soils).
This is a fun way to use up some of the peppers before B steals them for chipotle powder.
1 spaghetti squash, abt 3 lbs
3/4 C rice milk
1 tspn arrow root (not necessary if you use cow milk)
2-3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
3 tbspn butter
2 tbspn flour
1 tbspn wheat germ
1 tsp salt
1 C shredded pepper jack or jack cheese
1/4 C sunflower seeds
Cut squash in half lengthwise. Poke with knife. microwave 10 minutes until soft and fort goes in smoothly. Let sit to cool.
in a small saucepan over medium heat, warm rice milk, arrow root and chopped jalapenos until it begins to simmer -- let simmer about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool down.
in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter then whisk in flour and wheat germ with a whisk. Whisk and cook about 3 minutes until darkened.
Pour milk mixture into butter pan, mixing until creamy.
scoop spaghetti squash into caserole dish. Add everything except the cheese and mix until combined. Add cheese to the top.
Bake on 375 for 30 -40 minutes until top starts to get all crispy.
split pea soup (from leftover pork ribs!)
This soup is best when made from the chopped up leftovers of a successful barbecue. There are few things in this world more delicious than B's barbecued pork ribs -- but this comes close. The barbecued ribs and veg add a great smokey layer!
- 2 leftover barbecued carrots, chopped
- 2 leftover barbecued stalks celery, chopped
- 3 cloves roasted garlic
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1-2 sprigs oregano
- 1 basil leaf (fresh if you can get it!)
- 1 Tbsp. whole pepper pods
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 cup dry split peas, rinsed and drained
- 5-6 pork ribs, meat shredded off the bone.
- 1 16-oz. pkg. frozen green peas
- 1/3 cup packed fresh parsley
1. In a medium pot combine roasted vegetables, 6 cups water, dry peas, pork meat, spices, and pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Stir frozen peas and parsley into soup. Cool about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer soup, half at a time, to food processor or blender. Cover; process or blend until nearly smooth. Return to Dutch oven. Stir in lemon juice.
Whiteside Borst Tavares Goulash
A standard of my mother and grandmother's cooking, each generation has altered it a bit, making it the ultimate cold-weather, lazy cook dish.
Defrost about 1 C of lowfat hamburger meat.
Put pot of water on to boil. Add 1 bag wheat penne and cook until it doesn't crunch when you bite into it. Drain.
In the meantime
Chop 4 large cloves garlic (at the very least!), 1/2 C mushrooms (optional) and 1/2 onion. Throw into large skillet with 1 tsp olive oil, and 1 tsp fresh rosemary. Cook until onions are translucent.
Add the beef and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until browned and thoroughly cooked, breaking apart clumps.
Drain any grease.
Pour in 1 can standard size tomato soup, pref. Trader Joes (if you can find it, it sells out quick) or Campbells.
Put cooked penne back in the pot. Add sauce to the penne.
Indecently Good Light Tuna Casserole
1/3 C olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 lb farfala/bowtie pasta
2 pasilla chiles (or 1 Bell Pepper if you're a communist)
1/2 C sliced carrots
1/4 C all purpose flour
3 Tbspn ground flax
2.5 C rice milk (or regular low fat milk)
2 cans tuna, drained
1/2 Can (7 oz) canned artichoke hearts, thickly sliced
1/2 C frozen or fresh peas
1/4 C grated parmesan
1/4 C flax seeds (optional)
pre heat oven to 400 F.
grease a 9" square baking pan
boil water and add the pasta.
cook until just before al dente. (you don't want soggy casserole)
meanwhile, put the olive oil in a saute pan until hot. Add sliced peppers, carrots.
cook about 5 minutes on medium until cooked through but not soggy.
add in the flour and ground flax a little at a time to make a roux.
mix in the rice milk a little at a time and mix up until creamy. Cook until simmering.
remove from heat.
put the noodles, sauce, tuna, peas and artichoke hearts in the pot and stir (no heat, just to mix).
pour into the baking pan.
Top with the parmesan and flax seeds
bake at 400 F for 20 to 30 minutes until crispy on top.
To Freeze: Prepare through final pre-bake step; cool to room temperature. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and freeze up to three months.
To Bake from Frozen: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake, covered with foil, until center is warm, about 2 hours. Uncover, and bake until top is browned, about 20 minutes more.
To Bake from Thawed: Thaw overnight in refrigerator. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake, covered with foil, until center is warm, about 30 minutes. Uncover, and bake until top is browned, about 20 minutes more.