Category Archives: Pets

Friday Recipe Exchange: Hearty Tomato Soup and Awesome Grilled Cheese

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Photo by JeffreyW

I’m going to repeat some favorite soup recipes tonight. I’m working on a few new pumpkin recipes, but they are not ready for prime time this week. So you’ll have to make do with repeats.

When I’m busy, soup is the thing. I make big batches and they are quick and easy to reheat and add a sandwich or a piece of grilled chicken for a fast dinner or lunch. I could eat soup everyday during cold weather. JeffreyW is no slouch in the soup department either, so there are over 200 recipes on the blog of the soup variety.

For tonight, here are some soups worth repeating:

Cream of Chicken Soup, recipe here.

Two Broccoli Cheese Soup variations are here.

Tomato-Spinach is one of my favorite hearty winter soups, recipe here.

And combining two recent recipe exchanges, JeffreyW does Bean Soup in a Frybread Bowl, recipe and yummy photos here.

For the pet lovers, there is a Bixby diary this week. He’s four months old now and takes up most of my spare time. Which explains why I’m more often outside and not in the kitchen cooking. Also, I’m having great success with both dog and cat food dispenser/toys, that make them work for their food, story here, in case you are looking for a good way to entertain your pets.

What’s on your menu for this beautiful fall weekend? Do you have a favorite way to make grilled cheese? Do you grill any other types of sandwiches – either the grown-up panini style or something of the more guilty pleasure type, like grilled peanut butter and jelly?

Tonight’s feature recipe was one of the first menus I ever published…and also the first time I made my own tomato soup.

Hearty Tomato Soup

  • 28 oz canned tomatoes*
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 8 oz carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 green onions, including greens
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ¼ tsp oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour

2 quart saucepan

In a blender, mix tomatoes, garlic, carrots, celery & onions. Blend until liquid. In saucepan, combine tomato mixture with spices, heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let bubble (don’t let boil or use high heat, it will scorch) for 5 minutes. Add flour to cold milk, blend until smooth, add to soup. Let bubble again, reduce to low heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

* This is the time to use up any left over garden tomatoes, instead of canned. Blend until you have 4 cups of crushed tomatoes.

Totally Awesome Grilled Cheese

For each sandwich:

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (or favorite firm bread)
  • Enough favorite cheese (Velveeta, cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, etc.  to cover bread (about 3 slices)
  • Sliced Jalapeños (if you want some heat)
  • 1 large slice of tomato w/dash of salt
  • 1-2 tsp Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • Butter
  • Spray Oil

Spread salad dressing on both slices of bread and add ½ of the cheese to one slice of bread, place tomato & jalapenos on the cheese and top with remaining cheese and the other slice of bread, this keeps bread from getting soggy from the tomato. Lightly butter outside of both sides of the sandwich and grill in skillet sprayed with cooking spray or lightly oiled on medium heat until cheese is melted and bread is toasted. While it is grilling, press down hard with a spatula, “squishing” the sandwich. We don’t know why, but this makes them taste better.  :-)



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Fun Pet Food Dispensers


Kong Wobble Feeder

This arrived in time for Bixby’s lunch. It was a rousing success. It replaces me making them out of 2 liter soda bottles – which worked ok when I could reuse them for 3 or 4 meals. Now he destroys them in one meal.

He won’t be able to destroy this, that’s for sure. And if you spin it, food shoots out of it like a food sprinkler (I won’t do that again).

It easily holds two cups of his kibble and takes him a good half hour to eat. I kind of wished it had an adjustable size food hole, but since it’s so sturdy, I’m happy to give up that feature for durability. It’s weighted at the bottom (and it’s heavy) so that it wobbles to really engage him. He had a blast.

I will still give him the occasional soda bottle because he loves to destroy them. Something about smashing them down is fun for him and since he’s yet been able to tear into them, no small pieces to worry about him eating.


Petsafe Food Dispenser for Cats

I bought one of these for the cats last spring. It was an instant hit. When I ordered Bixby’s Kong, I got two more of these so they can all play. I use them for a mix of treats/food. That way they can chase them around when they need a nibble between meals. Very sturdy and you can adjust the holes for treat size. Definitely would not stand up to puppy mouth, so I have to keep an eye on where they land. I usually put them up on the cat tree when not in use.


The Bixby Diaries: I’m Four Months Old Now


Hi again. I turned four months old this past weekend and my person says I’m terribly smart for my age. I know the commands: sit, stay, shake, stop, walk, heel, up and off. I’m working on come, but that one is harder because most times I just want to race around and around before I listen to that one. (TaMara’s note: My favorite command for him is, “Is that yours?” and he drops whatever he’s picked up that he shouldn’t be chewing on. Lately, he’ll even bring me whatever it is and is so proud when he gives me it.)

I’ve grown so much, I can’t sleep in my favorite office chair when my person goes to the office.

I love my walks now. My person takes me around the neighborhood and we meet all the neighbors and she takes me around the ponds and we hang out by the waterfall. I love water. My person says I can’t go into the water yet, because it’s still contaminated from last year’s flood. I wouldn’t know about that because, well I wasn’t even an idea yet. But best play toy ever, LFern, says she knows a place where I can go and run in tall grass, my favorite thing to do, and also play in the stream. I can’t wait.

Tall as the deck now

My ears still do what they want. Someone told my person we look alike, I guess because my ears are always floppy and she has curly hair. I don’t see it. I mean, she doesn’t even have a tail. I get two frozen apples a day and a couple of frozen carrots a day and it really helps with my teething. I don’t even chew on my person anymore. Dr. Deb says I can have 6 cups of food a day now. Yay!

I’ve had some great play dates and I really like them. I hear I’m getting a new playmate next week and I can’t wait to meet her. I hope she likes me better than her brother does, because he never wants to play. But Auntie Larilyn thinks the new puppy will want to play with me, so I’m excited.


Had my last visit to Dr. Deb today. She says I look great. But, the shots she gave me have made me very tired, so this will be a short diary. I weigh 51 lbs now and stand 54 inches on my hind legs, which means I can reach up and kiss my person whenever I want. And I do that a lot. – Bixby

Paw print

I Used To Sleep In This Chair

Bixby's Chair1

Bixby came to a meeting today, it’s been a while. He seemed surprised he no longer fit in his chair.

My office assistant1

Here is his first week with me and his first day at the office. He fits nicely in the chair.

Bixby's Chair profile1

Look at that Great Dane profile. He’s my handsome, smart, sweet boy. I love him.

(Only had my cell phone with me, but the quality of the photos does not diminish his handsomeness. <3 )


Cat on a Hot Pepper Bush

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DSC_9141 (1600x1060)Just a reminder:  You can make a burrito out of nearly anything you can wrap a tortilla around.  We had chicken chili with white beans a few days ago and the little dab of leftovers worked great with the addition of Monterey jack.DSC00571 (1600x1060)I call this a “cuddle” of puppies.  I like how the little guy with the white on his muzzle is framed in this picture.DSC_9146 (1600x1060)Mrs J likes banana bread so much that she buys bananas and lets them ripen just so she can make it.  The one has raisins and pecans.  I found a jar of apple butter on the pantry shelf, applesauce works well as an accompaniment but apple butter just goes it one better.DSC_4902 (1600x1060)Notice the subtle segue from apples to snakes?  LOL  Here’s your random wildlife, a small snake in the grass beside the walk this morning.  I’m not sure what species it is but I would guess it’s a juvenile black rat snake.  The mottled look fades over time.DSC_9158 (1600x1060)We made the last batch of tomatoes into soup and canned 7 quarts.  I amazed myself with a practical application of arithmetic – I knew my canner would hold seven quart jars so I figured how many inches of juice I needed and let the tomatoes reduce at a simmer until it measured the correct depth.  I won’t burden you with the formula lest I make a foolish error but if I remember correctly 7 US quarts is a tad over 5 inches in my 10″ pot, I think I went five and a quarter-ish, making a mark on a wooden spoon.DSC00585 (1600x1060)I never said there wouldn’t be math!  I did say there would be kittehs, though.  They named this one Brock and he was adopted the next day after Mrs J posted this picture on the shelter’s facebook page.DSC_9157 (1600x1060)I’ll close out with a couple of sammiches, here’s a loaded chicken tenders sammy with some potato salad from the local Kroger deli.DSC_9163 (1600x1060)More sauerkraut than pastrami on this reuben.  There wasn’t much pastrami left so I compensated a tad.

The Bixby Diaries: I’m Three Months Old Now

Big and sleepy1

I’m back. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so I’ll just hit the highlights.

My weigh in last week was 36.4 lbs, 21” at my shoulders and 32” inches from my head to my butt. I went to the Vet today for my next round of shots and weighed in at 40 lbs even. I love them there, they give me liver treats and make a big fuss. Could have done without Dr. D taking my temperature. Rude.

Bixby 9 18 14

Everyone I meet says I have big feet. What do you think?

Dr. D says I’m going to start doing something called teething soon. I don’t know what that means, but I do know it means my person has apples and carrots in the freezer and they are yummy. My person says I’m growing like corn in summer. I had to get a new collar today and my person says pretty soon I’m not going to fit in the crate in the car anymore. (TaMara’s note: on Saturday, he fit ok in the crate, on Monday, his head hit the top of it, it was a bit of shock)

Uh-oh 1

Emma was caught sleeping with me. I didn’t want to mention it before but she does it a lot, I thought it was supposed to be a secret.


Fun with Friends

I had a great play date with my new big buddy Kodiak. He belongs to my favorite play toy, LFern. I love her.

I’ve been able to avoid morning walks, well until today, when my person said we’d have to start again, because I was a little too rambunctious in the morning. Whatever that means.

Speaking of mornings, found a great way to wake my person up. I leap up and then belly flop on her and give her wet kisses. Makes her laugh.


I like big slippers, I cannot lie, other big dogs might like sandals or boots, but I like the big fluffy treats. (Insert Sir Mix-a-Lot here) My person seems to find this unfortunate, so she decided to buy me another shower puff, which is great fun.

What Shower Puff

My person works too hard and I like to try and help her when I can. So now, in the mornings, I take the kitty litter bag to the trash. Makes me feel so proud to carry it down the stairs and out to the trash. It’s so much fun, I often don’t want to give it up right away, but eventually all fun games have to end. Or my person uses that voice.

I have a new crate that I like okay enough. When I’m in it, the cats come out a lot more and walk around and sniff at me. But this week, I think I spent a lot of time in it. My person says I’ve been “trouble” and it’s like I’m going through my “terrible twos” I’m not sure what that means, but she does say, “Bixby, why did you do that?” a lot.

What Shower Puff2

I’ll let you in on a little secret; I do it because it’s fun. See you next week. – Bixby

Paw print

Bixby Feet

Bixby 9 18 14


DSC_9071 (1600x1060)We took another stab at fried pies using the cherry filling-in-a-tube.  They work a lot better using Mrs J’s recipe for the crust instead of the pre rolled pie crusts we tried a while back.  There will be more pie:DSC_9125 (1600x1060)These are the tubes of fillings I mentioned:  From L to R,  Banana, Lemon, and Chocolate.  They’ll make a ton of fried pies.DSC_9118 (1600x1060)We thought chicken chili with white beans looked good when we saw a picture the other day.  A search through recipes online led me to this one by the Neelys on the Food network.  I looked for poblano peppers at the store this morning but they didn’t have any, I subbed a couple of my own Anaheims and a small can of chopped green chilies.  Turned out pretty good.  We used a can of Great Northerns and two cans of cannellini beans.DSC_9123 (1600x1060)Speaking of peppers, Mrs J brought in several nice green peppers from the garden this morning.  These are Giant Marconi peppers, I think, not the green bells that they look like.  I used the last batch with celery and onions to make a big batch of the Cajun Trinity, sealing it in several vacuum bags for the freezer.  We’re big fans of gumbo.  I’m not sure what these will be used for, I think I may stuff and bake a few…DSC00379 (1600x1200)Here’s a puppy!  The bone is nearly as big as he is.  I know nothing about this one.DSC_9114 (1600x1060)I dug a beef brisket out a few weeks ago and brined it per Alton Brown’s corned beef recipe.  I took it out and smoked it for several hours and then finished in the oven.  I sliced and sealed it into plastic bags in one pound portions, all save this bit I used to make pastrami hash yesterday.DSC_9093 (1600x1060)Mmm… tacos!  These are pork with guacamole, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, shredded lettuce, cheese, and a mole made from dried peppers that were simmered and then pureed with garlic and oregano.DSC00555 (1600x1200)I’ll close this out with a kitty lounging in one of Mrs J’s cat beds.  She buys a lot of the materials needed for these but there are more and more donations of fabrics and fillers now that word is out that she can turn them into nice things for the shelter pets.  I think the pad under the puppy with the bone is one of her creations, too.

The Truth Is Out

Uh-oh 1

This is Emma trying to escape before I can snap the photo of her and Bixby snuggled down together. That’s what I woke up to this morning. She was curled up next to his nose and he was resting his head on her bed. The truth is out, no going back now.

Paw print


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