Friday, April 29, 2011

Five Things

I enjoy writing these Five Things posts, and depending on the week, I either have 10 legitimate ideas or zero.  This week was a week where I had a lot I wanted to discuss, but that's mostly because I managed to have my camera out when I needed it.  For instance, moments before I devoured this burger I was able to get a picture.  Five Guys has finally come out to the Bay Area and now I have one less reason to visit the East Coast.  Sorry everyone!  

I've taken to getting all kinds of processed and fatty toppings on my frozen yogurt lately.  All the froyo shops seem to carry these toppings now, whereas they used to only have healthy fresh fruit.  These kinds of toppings bring me back to the TCBY days of my youth!  (TCBY seems to be mainly focused in rest stops and airports now, though - right?)  Forgo the raspberries and bring of the crushed Oreos!  At least when I eat it with these toppings I don't have to engage in the "this isn't that bad for me" conversation.  

I am 90% certain that I haven't mentioned this cookbook in a Five Things post yet, but if I have, then you know how much I love it!  Slow Cooker Revolution is the perfect slow cooker cookbook because it combines beautiful pictures with helpful hints (it is from America's Test Kitchen) and a wide range of recipes. I love this cookbook because it contains simple recipes that require mostly dumping in ingredients and complex recipes to fully utilize the slow cooker's potential.  I've made a chicken curry recipe and a chili recipe so far and they've both been great.  The chili recipe will hopefully be featured on here soon!

Strawberries are invading the Farmers Markets and John and I have been buying hoards of them.  Eating them with our Sunday lunches has been great, but what is even better is when John does the slicing and sets it out in a pretty bowl with our two forks to share.  I love that guy.

As a LaBarre woman, I decided our gal Harper needed some bling.  We got her an adorable ID tag from Etsy for $12.  Cheaper than any of my bling, that's for sure.    

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Caesar Salad

There are some recipes you love, but you know it isn't the be-all-and-end-all version of that wonderful food.  A great tomato sauce, but is it perfect?  A delicious chocolate cake, but is it The One?  Well, this is my Caesar salad recipe for life.  I won't be trying another Caesar recipe now or in 20 years.  This one is a lifer.

This is literally the recipe of the first Caesar salad I ever tasted.  I know that because this is my Uncle Bill's Caesar recipe, and he made it for the family when I was maybe eight years old and our families were renting a beach house together in Nags Head, North Carolina.  It wasn't until I typed that out that I realized how amazing it is that this Caesar salad remained in my memories all this time.  I can remember nothing else from that trip except my first taste of the divinity that is Caesar salad.

This isn't a creamy Caesar dressing that you might find at a chain restaurant, instead the dressing lightly coats the leaves of romaine lettuce so they are bursting with flavor and the grated Parmesan cheese clings to the lettuce fiercely.

I have made this salad many times now, and I can say with certainty that the hardest part is washing and drying the heads of romaine.  Well the washing part isn't hard, but it takes awhile.  The drying - oy.  If you have time, wash your lettuce as far in advance as possible because these leaves do not like to dry off, and wet leaves makes for a soggy and bland salad (trust me).  Now that I know how important it is to thoroughly dry the lettuce, I will use every kitchen towel in my cabinet to pat those suckers dry before I waste my delicious Caesar dressing on Soggytown USA.

I used to make this as a side dish for John and I, but I've since discovered how inane that is.  Why waste time making a second dish when all we really want to eat is this Caesar salad?  We had it for dinner last week and each had two gigantic bowls of this manna.  A head of lettuce each will fill you up, I promise!  (Note: the croutons and cheese don't hurt either.)

Caesar salad is one of my favorite foods but nine times out of ten I am disappointed when I order it at restaurants.  I'm not sure how they do it, but most places manage to turn something I love to something I hate.  I'm not an anchovy person, so that certainly doesn't help the fishy tasting ones.  I never have added anchovy to mine but I will include it in the recipe below in case you are interested.  I apologize if making this Caesar salad ruins restaurant versions for you, but it had to be done.

My uncle and two cousins can make this salad without glancing at the recipe like I need to do every five seconds.  Hopefully one day I'll be tossing everything into my big wooden bowl too, caution to the wind!  (Speaking of wooden bowls, you need a huge one for this recipe or you will need the split the lettuce into two bowls.)

Caesar Salad
A Hacker Family Recipe

2-6 garlic cloves, pressed
(1-2 oz. anchovies)(not something I add)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Dash Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
3-4 large eggs (or egg beaters)

2 large heads of Romaine, washed, dried, and torn into small pieces
6-8 oz. freshly grated Parmesan
1 box/packaged seasoned croutons (try Whole Foods Butter & Garlic or Pepperidge Farm Seasoned)

Easy dressing method: In order listed, add dressing ingredients to a large bowl and whisk together until combined.

Authentic dressing method:
Use garlic press and squeeze garlic into large wooden bowl.  Add anchovy oil, if using, and work with fork up, down, and around bowl until garlic is evenly distributed.  Add lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, mustard powder, pepper, and anchovies (if using anchovies).  Pour red wine vinegar around the top of the bowl.  Repeat with olive oil.  Break eggs into bowl and mix thoroughly.  Work the dressing around the sides of the bowl.

Add lettuce, cheese, and croutons to the bowl.  Toss with dressing and serve immediately (the croutons get soggy quickly).

This recipe contains raw eggs, so make sure you use fresh high quality eggs.  You can substitute eggs beaters if you wish or you can coddle the eggs by immersing them in boiling water for one minute.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

San Jose Doodle Romp

Sometimes I think I have two blogs - one about food and the other about dogs.  Sadly, I only have one blog and it gets muddled with posts about my two worlds - Foodiebia and Doggiebia.

For those of you who only read this blog for the food, please feel free to ignore the next 10 photos.

For those of you who like pictures of dogs, this is the post for you!

We had another Doodle Romp this past weekend, this time at Hellyer Dog Park in San Jose.  I love this dog's Alfalfa look.

Dogs are so cute when they greet each other politely like this...before they proceed to pummel the other dog to the ground.

We usually try to get group photos at these type of events, but you can imagine it isn't an easy feat.

There were more dogs than owners, so there had to be a few loose doodles in the picture.

No, that isn't Harper.  It is a 50 pound version of Harper though.

No, that isn't Harper either.  It was BeeBee, another chocolate Australian Labradoodle pup, this one brought by a local breeder.
This little sweetie was named Violet and she loved tennis balls something fierce.

Bunny ears are a "thing" this year, right?   Both John and I feel like we've seen an inordinate amount of them around.  I prefer them on babies and dogs best.

Theeeeeeere's Harper!  Chomping down on a 4 month-old lab puppy.

"I'm gonna get yooooou!"

 A taller, thinner looking version of Harper.

Look at Harper attracting trouble!

Here she is starting trouble by playing keep-away.  This is her new favorite thing to do.  Find a toy/stick/ball and flaunt it in front of another dog until they chase her.

This lab puppy was absolutely adorable.

Harper, Mochi, and Lucca were the last to leave.  All the dogs had an amazing time.  

Harper is crossing her paws we have a doodle romp again soon!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter 80s Style

Easter was always one of my favorite holidays growing up because it meant there would be bunnies everywhere.  Bunnies were my childhood obsession.  I had bunny everything.  Clothes, stuffed animals, towels, plates, socks, sheets - really anything you can think of.

Women dressed as the Easter Bunny - excited party of one!

Looks like someone likes their new bunny stuffed animal!  And looks like she just woke up 10 minutes ago.  I've never been a morning person.

Soccer pose with a special Easter basket!

This wasn't for Easter, but I believe it was my kindergarten picture.  The neon background is a classic.  As is my sweatshirt bunny dress.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Five Things

I ordered Bossypants by Tina Fey and devoured it within a week.  If you like 30 Rock and have two X chromosomes, you must read this book.  I am even more obsessed with her now than I was before.  I'm just sad I've finished it and don't have any more Tina Fey jokes to read.  At least it's time for the weekend and we have another doodle romp to go to!

Our sweet neighbors, Joyce and David, picked us up these cute cupcake containers (filled with cupcake cookies) from Sugar Factory in Las Vegas.  Now that I've eaten the cookies they are full of dog treats.  Harper and I are both happy!

John treated himself to a new Nespresso machine a few weeks back and his enthusiasm for it has not waned. In fact we have spent more time talking about the Nespresso machine than about current events.  Though that would also be true about most topics, including Alec Baldwin's acting skills, asparagus, Harper's bowel movements, and what a good job John did cleaning up after dinner. 

One of my favorite foods on earth are the Thin and Light Casa Sanchez tortilla chips.  I will do almost anything for an excuse to eat these chips - I make chili, guacamole, and salsa so I can go through an entire bag in a night.  Heaven on earth!

I've never been much of a honey eater, but I started putting local honey in my oatmeal when I began to suspect I'm having some pollen allergies out here in California.  Who knows if its the honey or the Claritin, but the allergies do seem in check lately.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Harper graduated from intermediate obedience class on Sunday.  Next up, advanced training!  She's a great puppy!

The puppies were allowed to play after every class and had a great time mauling each other in the way puppies do.

In this picture Oscar, the 40 pound Golden Retriever pup is being taken to task by little old Pierre.

Here are the four pups from class and also our wonderful trainer, Helena.  This class was great because all the owners practiced a lot with their dogs so there were no embarrassing moments of dogs who had no idea what they were doing.  John and I never let that happen because we feared the humiliation way too much.  Type A dog owners unite!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spicy Baked Ziti

"Don't take this the wrong way," he says, "but this tastes kind of like the Hamburger Helper I used to make."  "Oh okay," she says, taking it the wrong way.

Just a little snippet from my my life, folks.

Don't worry, I wouldn't post a recipe of something I thought tasted like Hamburger Helper.  Just something John thought tasted like Hamburger a good way.  (He and I are both in love with this dish and I have made it twice in two weeks.)

I will admit there is a je ne sais quoi quality to this recipe.  And it isn't that it tastes like Hamburger Helper.  It might be the eggs beaten into the sauce or the Worcestershire sauce tossed in, but there is something about this recipe that makes it taste more savory and delicious than the ingredients make it out to be.  There is no cheese at all in this recipe, yet it tastes so rich.  John's not a big cheese guy (though I didn't say he wasn't cheesy), so it works out to our benefit.

Two teaspoons of chipotle powder make this slightly spicy, but not so much that you are reaching for your big glass of water.  It just adds another depth of flavor to the dish that separates it from the more traditional baked pasta.  If you don't like spicy food, cut it down to about 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder.

In the time it takes to boil your ziti, you will have prepared a delicious meat sauce to toss with the pasta and bake.  It is simple enough to make the night you eat it, or you can make it and keep it in the fridge overnight before baking it.  Make sure you bring it close to room temperature before baking, or the je ne sais quoi in this ziti will be a lukewarm center.

Spicy Baked Ziti
From Not Your Mother's Casseroles

1 pound ziti
1 pound ground beef or pork
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
One 28-oz can tomato sauce (I recommend Muir Glen)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup quality dry bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease casserole dish with olive oil.  Cook a pound of ziti according the package directions until barely al dente.  Drain and toss with a drizzle of olive oil, return to pot.

In a large pot or skillet heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up until crispy and well browned.

Add the chopped onion and garlic to the browned meat and turn the heat to medium low.  Cook for 10 minutes or until the onion and garlic are softened.  Add tomato paste and chipotle and cook for another minute or two.

Stir is tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is slightly reduced.  Let the sauce cool for at least five minutes and season with sugar, salt, and pepper to taste.  When cooled slightly stir in the beaten eggs.  Spread the cooked pasta in the casserole dish and pour sauce over pasta.  Mix a little, but no need to combine thoroughly.

In a small skillet heat butter over medium heat and when melted add the bread crumbs.  Cook until bread crumbs have absorbed the butter and then spread evenly over pasta.  At this point the casserole can be refrigerated for 24 hours and brought to room temperature before cooking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, uncovered, until the bread crumbs are browned.  Let stand for a couple of minutes before  serving.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Point Isabel Doodle Romp

Saturday we went to a doodle romp at one of our favorite places, Point Isabel.  We met 20 or 30 wonderful doodles of all shapes and sizes.  

This picture of Harper is probably one of my favorites ever.  It really captures her crazy sprinting spirit.

Love the tongue.

Cody, the Golden Doodle we were dog sitting had a fabulous time.

Harper gave Cody quite a chase.

Even though Harper isn't in this shot you can assume she was either in front of or behind Cody.

Cody enticed Mochi to play!

Once exhausted, the dogs would plop on the ground to catch their breath.

Harper and Cody couldn't get enough of each other.

Cody is twice as tall as Harper but Harper held her own.

Get him!  Get her!

Isn't Whitney a cute little dood?

Mochi crawled under his mama, Joyce.  For shade?

Joyce loves Harper as much as me and John do.  Harper does wiggle her little fluffball self into your hearts.

Just like we love Cody.  A much bigger fluffball.

Black doodles aren't very common, and this one was especially adorable.

Even on the way out Cody was still trying to play.  We all had a great time!
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