Posts tagged ‘bulldogs’
practice makes improvements – and sometimes that’s good enough
6 August 2010
few master a skill or craft at first attempt. undeniably, some are simply naturals, whether by gift or genetics or gosh-darn good luck. most of us need practice—and a lot of it—to refine and ultimately excel at whatever we choose to undertake. sometimes we never really get there. but with perseverance, we can prevail. well, we can, at least, improve.
like my buddy Elroy. following his surgery, he began a course of aqua therapy to strengthen and regain full use of his knee. i’ve heard people say that a bulldog manuevers in water as adeptly as a bowling ball. needless to say, i had some maternal reservations. but Elroy enthusiastically entered the therapy tank and happily padded along its treadmill. the first session (catch the Olympic hopeful in action) was short. we both left feeling drained (my role as cheerleader was likely a ridiculous sight) but exhilarated. the next session didn’t go quite as smoothly. boredom from the redundant task of keeping pace with the treadmill and from lapping up the chlorinated water slowed Elroy’s progress. but he admirably plugged through six sessions (enticed by a very large balance ball) and markedly increased his mobility. no, his middle name will never be grace, but for a lumbering bulldog, he’s rather spritely.
after quite some time away from the kitchen, i’ve been reacquainting myself with old favorites like chocolate-chunk oatmeal cookies with pecans and dried cherries, which i made three times just to make sure i had it down (yeah, right), and a batch of scones. i tossed together a peach pan dowdy, with a not-so-picture-perfect crust, and i smoked a few chickens with cherry wood. i also discovered a great recipe for the fudgiest brownies i’ve ever tasted. so, i’m sharing that with you here. it’s been great just to dive in and revel in the process.
what i’ve learned is this: you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the journey. whatever your passion, follow that true north. and, like Elroy and me, enjoy the ride.
a variation on a recipe from bonappetit
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces bittersweet, chopped
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
- set oven rack in lower middle position; preheat to 325 F.
- line an 10-inch square pan with non-stick aluminum foil; spray foil with nonstick spray. (i also make a batch and a half in a 13x9x2-inch pan, so the brownies have some height.)
- whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl.
- combine both chocolates and 10 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat; stir until melted and smooth, then remove from heat.
- whisk sugar and vanilla, then eggs into chocolate mixture until it’s glossy and smooth, about 1 minute.
- add dry ingredients, and whisk just to blend.
- pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 25 – 30 minutes.
- cool completely in pan on rack.
these brownies are densely rich and seriously chocolately. serve with some of your favorite ice cream on top. salted caramel sauce. or plain. they’re amazing either way.
my little dumpling
2 February 2010
sometimes good fortune comes your way when you least expect it. and in an equally unexpected form. no, i don’t mean like a winning lotto ticket or receiving an inheritance from a long-lost relative. i can’t deny those would be quite lovely, but i try, upon occasion, to be a realist. i mean something that elevates your spirit and quality of life. something—or should i say someone—like Elroy.
almost two years ago to the day, i found myself face to face with a snorting, chortling, droopy-tongued, wild-eyed English bulldog. toting a floppy toy in his broad jaw and panting heavily, he scurried frantically around his foster mom’s home, searching for a place to light. surrounded by two adult English mastiffs of mammoth proportions, a petite female English bulldog, a cat and several children, he seemed overwhelmed by this friendly, but bustling crew. yeah, one of the mastiffs was kicking back on the living room sofa, but so…
at this first encounter, i wasn’t certain Elroy and i were that match made in heaven. i had envisioned adopting a couch potato—a delightful creature of habit who wouldn’t raise an eyebrow until it was time to chow down. but once he settled into a more private, quiet space, Elroy became that laid-back dude i’d been yearning for. as i introduced myself, he cocked his head to one side and immediately stole my heart. apparently, i’m a sucker for big brown eyes, a single spotted ear and an extreme under bite.
in our quiet little life, Elroy hangs out with me as i work and happily pads after me, wherever i go. sure, he has a few previously acquired quirks, but who doesn’t? several weeks ago he spun a few cookies around the family room coffee table and blew his ACL. he’s recovering nicely (as shown in the photo above) from last week’s surgery. and i’m grateful every day for his presence.
Elroy may not be the consummate couch potato, but he’s my little dumpling. to celebrate our two-year anniversary together, i made the humans this extreme comfort food with Elroy’s leftover, post-surgical chicken. ideal for chilly winter weather, when all a bulldog wants to do is have a good meal, then fall into a peaceful slumber.
you can find out more about adopting and supporting swell dogs like Elroy through a variety of organizations, including the Humane Society, N.O.A.H. and Bulldog Club of America Rescue (if you live in the northwest, as i do, visit Bulldog Haven NW).
Chicken and Dumplings
a variation on a recipe from Tyler Florence and Food Network
as always, i invite you to take a look at the original recipe.
for chicken and stock
1 whole organic chicken ( 3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
10 Tellicherry peppercorns
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 cup organic all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter
2 carrots, diced
1/3 heaping cup organic all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock (this will come from the whole chicken you’ll cook)
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup fresh or frozen pearl onions
1/4 cup heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper
chopped chives, for garnish
- place the chicken and all stock ingredients in a large Dutch oven and cover with water.
- over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour until the chicken is tender.
- when the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and place on a cutting board.
- shred the chicken into bit-size pieces and set aside.
- strain the chicken stock and set aside, but keep the pot for the next step.
- in the Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
- add the carrots (and fresh pearl onions, if you’ve chosen to go fresh) and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
- stir in the flour to make a roux, and cook for 2 minutes.
- one cup at a time, slowly pour your reserved chicken stock into the pot, mixing well after each addition.
- add frozen peas (and frozen pearl onions, if you went in this direction).
- let the sauce simmer until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes.
- while the sauce is cooking, prepare the dumpling batter by sifting the dry ingredients together in a medium-size bowl.
- in a small bowl, whisk the eggs, chives and buttermilk together.
- pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, and gently fold until the dough comes together. (the batter should be thick, like biscuit dough.) set aside.
- when the sauce has thickened, add the heavy cream and freshly ground black pepper.
- fold the reserved shredded chicken to the sauce, and bring to a simmer.
- using two spoons, carefully drop heaping teaspoons of the dumpling batter into the sauce. (the dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching each other.)
- let the dumplings poach for about 15 minutes, until they’re puffy but firm.
- garnish with chives before serving in low soup bowls.