Bixby Update: Merry Christmas Eve

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I’m a horrible pet person. I don’t remember my pets birthdays or when they arrived. I don’t buy them Christmas presents or dress them in cute outfits. Occasionally I throw embarrassing reindeer antlers on the dogs. As you can see Bixby is not amused.

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This is where he spends his days – right next to my desk, snoozing. It’s hard to believe this is his second Christmas (even harder to believe it’s Zander’s third). I was looking at photos from last year and he was pretty big then, even though he was only  6 months old. But nothing like now. He’s almost 160 lbs, and 35″ at his shoulders. His head is pretty much as big as he was at 8 weeks when I picked him up.

He was standing next to me the other day and I reached my hand down to pet him and wondered why anyone would have a “regular” sized dog. I guess I’m just a Giant Breed kinda person.

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Between snow storms we had a nice play date at our friends’ property. It was bittersweet because they just lost their dog and Bixby would periodically go to the backdoor and look for him.

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Bixby is an awesome dog, but not an easy dog. He never eats cat food (even though it is easily accessible), never takes food off the counters, he’s been good about the chewing – other than a few pairs of flip-flops – and is pretty good  with boundaries. He LOVES people, he adores his cats and still cannot understand why they are indifferent to him (after all he is an AWESOME dog) and is pretty good with other dogs.

But Bixby is also a very alpha dog. Every day begins anew, I remind him he is the low rung on the ladder in the household and he gives me the “maybe” look. And many times during the day I must remind him that he is not in charge. I should have known within thirty minutes after I picked him up that he was going to be a challenge. He made it clear he was not one to be bossed, even then.

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It’s constant and sometimes exhausting, but I swear to you I would not have it any other way. He has such a big spirit, such joy. He makes me laugh, even when he’s turned his big body into granite so I can’t move him and he won’t listen to anything. He does test my patience when he decides to drag me down the street to see some new friend. But wait, there’s more! Click to read

Mushrooms Stuffed with Wild Rice

Stuffed Mushroom AppetizersStuffed Mushrooms ready to go into the oven just before company arrives – if I manage to get a photo after baking, before they’re snarfed up, I’ll update.

I wanted to try something different for an appetizer for tonight’s dinner. Stuffed mushrooms sounded like it would fit the bill. I searched around for recipes, but I had an idea that I wanted to use wild rice, so I just went from there. Who needs a recipe? I used large button mushrooms because they were appetizers, but I think it would work with portobello mushrooms for a main course or nice side.

Pop Quiz: Is wild rice actually rice? Answer: Nope, it’s a grass.

The best way to cook wild rice, is to bring a saucepan filled with water to a boil add salt and (well washed) wild rice, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 60 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. You’ll want it chewy, try not to overcook it, because then it just gets mushy. Drain as you would pasta, don’t rinse.

Wild Rice Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 12 large white mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup or more of cooked wild rice
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to .

Butter a shallow baking dish.

Snap stems off mushrooms and chop. Place the mushroom tops, bottom up, in the baking dish.

Melt butter in a medium size skillet. Add garlic and mushroom stems. Cook over medium heat, stirring, 3 minutes. Add rice and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese. Spoon wild rice mixture into the mushroom caps. Top each with two or three leaves of rosemary.

Bake in  in a 400°F oven for 10-15 minutes or until hot.  Serve warm.

You can put the mushrooms together ahead of time (I did it the night before), cover and refrigerate and bake just before company arrives.

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Spinach Lasagna: UPDATED

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UPDATE: JeffreyW took my original photo and played with it to tone down the gold and bring up the reds and it looks much better.  I ran it through Snapseed again to give it some flair and I think it’s better. You can compare it with the original below:
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If you click on any photo and then click on its title, you’ll get full size.

This was our Christmas eve main course. There was also garlic-cheese bread, a beautiful tossed salad and for dessert, a sundae bar with all kinds of toppings.

There were three of us playing with the camera, but no matter what, the pictures wanted to be golden.  Even with a white sheet for balance. So I finally went with it before the lasagna got cold.

It was good. The original recipe is here. I made the sauce on Friday. So on Monday all I had to do was put the lasagna together. I used Tinkyada rice noodles to keep it gluten free. I didn’t boil them first, so I cooked the lasagna at full temp for 45 minutes, then turned the oven down to 200 degrees and let it coast until the guests arrived (about 90 minutes). The noodles were perfect. Pulled it out and let it set while I toasted the garlic bread. Total prep time was about 30 minutes, including salad, bread and putting the lasagna together.

That’s what I call a stress-free dinner party.

Christmas Eve: Turkey Dinner with Traditional Side Dishes

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Bald Eagle from my hike the other day. Wish I had my camera, not just my cell phone

Would we still have turkey if it had become our national bird  instead of the Bald Eagle?

The menu is set for Saturday.  I’m doing an Orange Glazed Turkey.  The sides will be Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Oven Baked Stuffing, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Spinach-Raspberry-Walnut Salad and Homemade Cranberry Sauce.  Appetizers will be Tomato-Basil Crostini, Chips w/Dip and a Raw Vegetable tray.  Dessert will be a Dark Chocolate Torte with a Dark Chocolate Ganache (this recipe with a chocolate ganache* instead of confectioner’s sugar) and Fruit Pie Cookies.

I’m still trying to decide if  I’m going to mull cider or not.

I’ll add more recipes as I go along.

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*Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 oz dark chocolate
  • 6 oz heavy cream

Double boiler (I use a metal bowl over a saucepan with about an 1 inch of water)

Place chocolate and cream in top of boiler, bring water in bottom half to a boil, reduce heat to med-high and let chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. When completely melted, remove from heat and stir until cream and chocolate are completely mixed. Let cool and pour over cooled cake.

Christmas Eve Dinner

Fanuiel Hall

I think I have the menu set for Christmas Eve.  It’s probably way too much food, but that’s what I do.  The one thing I haven’t settled on is turkey or rib roast yet.  Turkey is easier, but rib roast means I’d make my spicy blueberry sauce to go with it.  Turkey would just get my cranberry sauce and I think I would do the orange glaze turkey I didn’t do at Thanksgiving.

Once I’ve decided on that I’ll be set.  I’ll be making the tomato-basil crostini as an appetizer,  no boil garlic mashed potatoes,  a green bean with bacon and onion dish,  dark chocolate torte with a dark chocolate ganache and cranberry upside-down cake.

There might be some stuffing and a spinach-raspberry salad in there, too.  It’s a tentative list…

There will be pictures (new camera finally arrived) and updates as we approach the day.  Until then…