Author Archives: TaMara

Friday Recipe Exchange: Not Just For Mardi Gras

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We are prepping for the big storm (ok, not New England BIG, but looking at 8-16 inches of big wet flakes) and I almost forgot it was Friday. Since it was Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras this week, that always puts me in the mood for some Louisiana-style recipes and a trip to Lucille’s restaurant for their beans and rice (and boy am I going to miss living within walking distance when I finally move – and I am so tired of house hunting).

When I can’t get there, I make my own Washday Beans and Rice, recipe and full dinner menu here.

A trip to New Orleans a few years ago gave me my first taste of authentic Beignets at Cafe Du Monde and Po’boys at Johnny’s, I liked the sandwiches so much, I hunted down some recipes, (click here).

Looking for something fancier? How about Trout Amandine with Creole Meuniere Sauce (recipe here).

What’s on your menu for the weekend? I’ll be scanning travel sites looking for somewhere warm to vacation!

Tonight’s featured recipe (pictured above) is from JeffreyW:

Shrimp and Andouille in a Creole Mustard Sauce

  • 1 pound uncooked peeled deveined large shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, cut crosswise on diagonal into 3/4-inch-thick pieces
  • 1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 5 tablespoons Creole mustard
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Toss shrimp with Creole seasoning in medium bowl to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add sausage pieces, cut side down. Cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer sausage to bowl. Add shrimp to skillet; cook until browned and just opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl with sausage. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, onion, bell pepper, and thyme to skillet. Sauté until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add broth, mustard, and vinegar. Stir until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Return sausage and shrimp to skillet. Simmer until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Creole Seasoning

  • 1/3 Cup Paprika
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Garlic
  • 4 Tbsp Onion Powder
  • 1/3 Cup Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp White Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Dried Thyme
  • 2 Tbsp Dried Basil
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Oregano

Combine all ingredients and place in an airtight container.

Makes about 10 oz.

Bixby hit 115 lbs this week and I’m thinking that raising a Great Dane puppy should be considered an Olympic sport. He exhausts me and then is so damn cute, I’m ready for another day of puppyhood. I’ll see if I can get him to do a diary update later this weekend. That’s it for this week.  Stay warm – TaMara


Bixby Diaries: 8 Months Old

Bixby and the Girls1

Bixby is 8 months old today and he’s been here for six months. He’s about 110 lbs, stands about 31.5″ at his shoulders and when he puts his paws on my shoulders, he can put his head on top of my head. I’m 5′ 6″. He’s become a charming young pup. He has his commands down pat, he walks well on his leash – stops at corners and waits for my command to cross the street – heels well, sits for bicycles, runners and most walkers.

Big Boy 8 months

We are still working on NOT dragging me when he wants to meet someone or another dog. He’s good about 50% of the time, the remainder I’m wrestling him to the ground. He’ll get, I have no doubt. It’s all about making new friends, not aggression. But he has definite ideas, he’s very smart and not sure he is all that impressed with my intelligence. ;-)

Big Boy 8 months 2

He is maturing so quickly, his “puppy moments” take me by surprise. You know, those moments when he can’t help himself, he has to misbehave or run around in fast and furious circles with abandon. So he still has to be crated when I’m not around to circumvent puppy bad behavior.

He’s doing the cutest thing these days, which makes me feel both proud and a little guilty. He crates himself when he does something bad. It started with my stuffed flamingo – he has one of his own, but he can’t help himself, he has to steal mine (and it’s up pretty high, so he has to make an effort). He steals it, must feel guilty, brings it to me and then puts himself in his crate. He’s also been crating himself when I use “that” voice – a sharp, deep, Bixby! – when I catch him doing something he shouldn’t.  I always have to try not to laugh.

Bixby Bench1He’s standing a park bench here. If you remember, when he was little, I’d stand him on park benches (aawww, this was his first week) and picnic tables so I could get a good photo. Now, whenever he sees a park bench  or picnic table, he has to climb it, then looks at me like, “hey, where’s the camera?” Today I remembered to bring the camera.

Bixby and the Girls 2

There are a lot of sculptures around town. I have to convince him they are not real people. 

Somewhere in the last month, Bixby and I have clicked. Don’t get me wrong, I was in love the moment I met him, but there have been times over the last 6 months when I wondered what the heck I was doing with a puppy. Adult dogs are so much easier, and all four of my other Danes and my Greyhound came to me pretty much full grown. I didn’t really know what to expect with a puppy and it has been a ton of work. But there came a moment last month when it all clicked, we get each other’s body language, there’s an understanding, a sense of connection – it’s still a lot of work, but it’s different. I can see the dog he is going to be and it’s pretty amazing. I’m seriously thinking of certifying him as a therapy dog for a kid’s reading program or nursing home residents. He just has a sense about people. He has an ease around wheelchairs, canes and kids.


This is what it looks like when the cats fight at my house. Emma, being a Calico, makes an ear-piercing sound when cornered (usually by Jake). This morning it totally freaked Bixby out. I had to peel him off me. Life with a Great Dane – world’s biggest scaredy-pup.

That’s the latest update on raising a Great Dane. Adorable, exhausting, well worth it. – TaMara

Paw print

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Blueberry Coffee CakeDid a little cleaning and cooking today. Recipe is here.

Should have a Bixby update today or tomorrow.


Friday Recipe Exchange: Valentine’s Sweets

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I am not anti-Valentine’s Day, just don’t like all the expectations around it. In my mind, the best thing you can do is spend time in the kitchen together, followed by a movie or favorite show marathon. I’ve been wooed with the whole restaurant (crowded, rushed staff), flowers (overpriced), and chocolates (oh, who am I kidding, chocolate is never bad) and it was never as much fun as staying home and cooking something delicious.

Now don’t get me wrong – take me out for a hot air balloon ride, helicopter over the beach, or an impromptu night away, and I’m not going to complain and say, hey, let’s stay home instead. But most of the time, I’m good with some chocolate covered strawberries and a good grilled steak.

With that in mind, I’ve picked out some favorite sweet treats you can make and share:

JeffreyW and Mrs. J made an awesome batch of Chocolate Éclairs (pictured above), complete with slideshow (here) and video (here).

I love a good Molten Chocolate Cake, recipe here.

Quick, easy and cute, Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies are always a hit, recipe here.

I have a complete Valentine’s Dinner here, if you need ideas.

What’s on your plate for the weekend? How about Valentine’s Day, it’s a week off, but got any plans?

Tonight’s featured recipe is a foolproof and yummy cake that’s quick and easy – the perfect way to end a nice Valentine’s dinner:

Mocha Cake

This is a pudding cake – which is basically an extra-large lava cake.  And to make it even tastier, I substitute coffee for the boiling water.   It doesn’t get any simpler than this.

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup very hot coffee**
  • 8×8 inch baking dish, lightly oiled

Preheat oven to 350°

This is a pudding style cake, so you don’t want to over bake it. You’ll serve it warm and directly from the pan. When you cut into it, a thick, gooey chocolate center will be revealed.

From the top list: combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder & salt. Combine milk, oil, & vanilla, mix well and add to flour mixture. Stir well. Pour batter into baking dish.

From the bottom list: combine sugar & cocoa and sprinkle over batter. Pour hot coffee over batter – DO NOT stir. Bake for 30 minutes or until center springs back when touched, do not over bake.

** for a stronger coffee flavor, double the ground coffee to water ratio when brewing, or use espresso.

That’s it for this week. I won’t be around next weekend, so no recipe exchange, so have a Happy Valentine’s Day. I’ll try and get a Bixby update over the weekend, he’s a little pill, really coming into his own strong personality. Did I mention, strong?  – TaMara




Friday Recipe Exchange: Super Bowl Sunday Snacks

JeffreyW's Awesome Nachos

JeffreyW’s Awesome Nachos

I am still fighting this cold, I’m chasing after a 105 lb willful puppy,  I’m buried by mortgage paperwork, and suddenly it’s time for the Super Bowl and the recipe exchange. So I had no choice but to pull out a classic recipe exchange, my favorite snacks, tortilla pinwheels. From 2012:

It’s that time again.  Super Bowl Sunday, when you sit down to stuff your face with favorite snack foods, drink beer and watch the Super Bowl Commercials.  I think there is some football in there somewhere.

You can’t go wrong with nachos – easy and easy to pile high with your favorites ingredients.

Here’s rather healthy (?) version: Black Bean and Corn Nachos, recipe here.

JeffreyW gets a little more creative with his pizzas, here , herehere  and if you want to see them all, here (the man does love a good pizza).

And I think Chili is always a crowd-pleaser, so a variety can be found here.

And for the animal lovers, Bixby puts down his tug ball long enough to update on his life to date.

I’ll never turn down nachos, or pizza for that matter, but when I was thinking about favorite party foods, tortilla pinwheels came up pretty quickly.  So many things you can do with them. Four variations follow.

Now it’s your turn, what are you planning on making this Sunday and more importantly what beer are you serving?  Who has the best recipe for hot wings, a football must have food?

Tonight’s featured recipes, a variety of flavors, but don’t let that limit you:

Basic Tortilla Pinwheels

  • 1 (8 ounce) package whipped cream cheese
  • 10 (10 inch) flour tortillas
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup black olives, chopped (optional)
  • 3/4 cup chopped ham slices

You spread the ingredients on the tortillas, roll them up and slice them into 1 inch pinwheels. Couldn’t get much easier.

So how do we add some dazzle? Flavored tortillas and a variety of fillings.

Here are some ideas I had:

Jalapeño & Cilantro Tortillas and Black Bean Tortillas

  • Cream Cheese
  • Pickled jalapenos
  • Sliced green chilies
  • Turkey
  • Salsa
  • Black olives
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Roasted Red Pepper Tortillas and Sun-dried Tomato & Basil Tortillas

  • Cream cheese mixed with crushed roasted garlic
  • Spinach
  • Pepperoni
  • Grated parmesan

Plain Tortillas and Whole Wheat Tortillas

  • Cream cheese
  • All-fruit style strawberry preserves
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

The list is endless, limited only by your creativity.

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll try and put something together for Valentine’s Day. – TaMara


Bixby Diaries: Too Big

Wanna play tug1

Wanna play tug?

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written, but it takes a lot of energy to grow. And there is so much to learn. Like this week, I learned how to unscrew my food “dish” and get the food out faster. My person doesn’t seem as excited about this as I am.


She’s been muttering about having to find some other way to feed me. I don’t know why, this is working for me. (TaMara’s note: Little beast. Now instead of taking 15 minutes to eat, he gobbles it all down. I’m heading to the farm store today to see if I can find something, probably horse related)

Office mate

My office mate.

My days are pretty routine: get up, jump on my person and wake her up, carry the cat litter to the trash, wait for the cats to eat so I can have my breakfast, good game of tug, nap, bug my person while she works, lunch, nice long walk, nap some more, then it’s time for dinner. By 8 pm, I’m pretty much done.

Action Shot1

Action shot!

My only complaint these days is that all I ever hear is, “Bixby, you’re too big…” usually followed by something I used to be able to do. Sit in laps, take naps with my person on the couch, sit with company on the couch, jump around and tackle my person, run full out when I’m on my leash. Even last week, I found a new friend, a puppy like me, and we were playing and having a great time, then her person said, “I think he’s too big for her” and she left with her. I was a little sad, but then my person threw a stick for me to chase and the world was sunny again.

We did have some excitement last week. Men did the weirdest thing, they climbed up on TOP of the house. People are not suppose to be on top of a house. I was freaked at first, but then my person took me in the bathroom while she showered and I totally forgot about the men on the roof. Because, did you know that water comes out of the wall?? I climbed in the tub with my person (she yelled, but I just ignored her) and put my head under the water. It was the funnest thing ever.

How do I turn this on

How do you turn this thing on?

And then after that, my person said, “well you’re all wet, might as well give you a bath.” Which was even more fun. Then we went outside and all the roofers came down and petted me, so I was fine with them being on the roof. Them being new friends and all. (TaMara’s note: nicest guys and so grateful they took time to meet Bixby, because after that he was completely fine with the whole process, except he was afraid to go outside  when the compressor was running, so potty breaks were a challenge)

Where's my tug toy lady

TaMara’s Note: Above is the face he makes when I take away his tug ball and say “wait” while I snap a photo. He is NOT amused.


Missy would prefer he not get so close

That’s pretty much my life to date. It’s pretty ok, even Emma seems to like me more, but I still can’t win over Missy. I try every morning, though. I don’t give up easily. See you next time. – Bixby

Paw print

Friday Recipe Exchange: Feed a Cold


I have been fighting a cold this week and all I want is orange juice and homemade soup. So, of course, that’s the theme for tonight’s recipe exchange. Soups. And there are plenty on the blog, because both JeffreyW and I love soup. Just search on soups and you’ll come up with almost 300 entries.

Here are few selections:

Cream of Chicken Soup, click here.

From Joshua D (Yutsano), Cauliflower Beer Cheese Soup, click here.

From JeffreyW, three soups:

     Vegetable Beef Soup, picture above and recipe here

     Moroccan Spicy Lamb Soup, recipe here

     Parmesan Potato Soup, with Bacon, click here

What’s cookin’ in your kitchen this weekend? What must have recipe gets you through cold season?


Tonight’s featured recipe takes very little effort, so you can have quick and easy homemade soup for a weeknight dinner or when feeling under the weather.

Tortellini Soup

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 8 oz sliced carrots
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes (or equivalent fresh)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, rough chopped
  • 20 oz pkg frozen tortellini
  • 4 oz grated Parmesan

large saucepan

Add all ingredients to saucepan, except spinach, tortellini & Parmesan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat & let simmer for 15 minutes. Add tortellini and bring to boil again, reduce heat, let simmer 10 minutes, add spinach and let simmer additional 5 minutes, until tortellini is tender. Serve with Parmesan garnish.

That’s it for this week. I’ll try and have a Bixby update later…he’s been sleeping a lot the last two days, so I’m thinking, growth spurt.  – TaMara


Bixby Diaries: Seven Months Old

Office Mate1

My office mate. This is my view while I work most days.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Bixby is 7 months old this past week. He’s 101 lbs, 31″ at his shoulders and 40″ from snout to butt. And he’s a big snuggler. He seems to be going through a crisis of size. He gets very upset when he no longer fits places he fit before – on the couch napping with me – there is just not room for two, but he tries and often ends up sleeping ON me. He wants to sit in my lap, even though no matter how he moves and adjusts, he just doesn’t fit. He usually sighs and ends up just putting his head in my lap. But you know what big puppies are great at? Hugs. He’s at the size that when I’m sitting, he can come up and put his head on my shoulder and hug me. Tail wagging the entire time.

Bixby toy box

This is his toy box. He’s sure his bone is at the bottom.

Size is also playing a role in some difficult walks. He has been throwing his weight around and just dares me to try and stop him. This means he ends up walking at ‘heel’ a lot, walking at the full length of the leash is only for puppies who don’t misbehave.

Bixby  Long's Peak

Hard to believe my puppy is so big. He’s handsome, isn’t he?

Though he is not a food motivated dog, apples being the exception, treats are helping with issues on walks. Dried apples, dried beef liver and small dog bones keep him from jumping on strangers or trying to play with every dog we meet. But once he hits his limit for being well behaved, about twenty minutes on a walk, treats have little effect.

For seven months old, though, he has amazing memory and control. And I find I have to remind myself he is ONLY seven months old when the puppy takes hold and he can’t behave. But at 101 lbs, I have little patience for behaviors that can be dangerous – pulling on ice, jumping up when he meets people, and throwing his weight around when he decides he wants to be in control. Changing those are my focus these days.

How do you slow down a rambunctious 7 month old when you want to get some photos? You tie his lead to a fence. I snapped a few nice ones. Click here to view the album.

Bixby Who me

That’s it for this edition. It’s 10 am and 60 degrees right now, so I’m off to play some tug with the puppy. He still lets me win. – TaMara

Paw print

How To Snap a Wild Puppy

Love his ears

Love his ears

How do you slow down a rambunctious 7 month old puppy when you want to get some photos? You tie his lead to a fence in a field of tall grass. It took him a few minutes of bouncing around and then he settled enough for me to get a few good shots. Luckily I have a burst function – I found a few out of the 75 I snapped. Hover on any photo for captions or click on any photo below to start the slideshow.


Friday Recipe Exchange: California Dreamin’

Mmm, Dinner Final

I was on the run all week, so I didn’t even have time to make you hot cocoa, which was my original plan for the recipe exchange.  Instead, I went looking through the archives and found my LA diary and thought, perfect for this dreary day.

This time last year I was planning my March trip to Los Angeles, dreaming of driving up the coast and getting ready to cook up a storm.


Since I’ve been wishing all month that I was making the trip again, I thought the least I could do was repeat the recipes from a night of cooking I did while I was out there. Nothing new here, but favorite, easy recipes – all at the request of my hosts. The menu for that evening was:

Chicken Piccata (recipe below).

Buttered Potato Pie (recipe here)

Sides and dessert

Tossed Salad with Cranberry Gorgonzola Dressing

Chocolate Walnut Flourless Cookies (one of my most requested desserts, recipe here)

Gluten Free cookies

This was the view for the evening:


Dinner was basically a cooking lesson in an awesome, if underused kitchen. It fun helping others find their innner chef. What’s going on in your kitchen this weekend? Besides California Dreamin’, what are you planning to help get through the mid-winter blues?

Tonight’s featured recipe:

Chicken Piccata prep

Chicken Piccata with Herb Noodles:

Chicken Piccata

  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded flat
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon, sliced into very thin slices*
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tbsp fresh snipped parsley
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice

bowl, skillet

Combine breadcrumbs, basil, zest, and pepper in bowl. Mix ½ tbsp oil and garlic together. Coat both sides of chicken with oil/garlic and dredge in breadcrumbs. Over medium-high heat 1 tbsp ea. of butter and oil in skillet, add chicken and cook 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken – keep warm – add lemon slices to pan, sauté 30 seconds, add water, parsley and juice, boil for 1 minute, spoon over chicken.

*Scrub well before slicing.

Herb Noodles

  • 12 oz egg noodles
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp basil, crushed
  • ½ tsp oregano, crushed
  • ½ tsp rosemary, finely crushed
  • ¼ tsp crushed garlic
  • Sesame seeds, opt

saucepan, serving dish

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain well. Melt butter in saucepan, add spices, mixing well. Toss with noodles. For an extra touch you can add 1 tbsp of sesame seeds.

That’s it for this week. I’ll try and get a Bixby update up tomorrow. He’s 7 months old and weighs 101 lbs now, as you can imagine any spare time I have is devoted to training and entertaining him. See you next week – TaMara

Zuma 2


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