April Sunday

After devouring a yummy dinner – a bowl of Puppy Beef Stew (beef, potatoes, carrots and parsnips) – Pepper is peacefully sleeping on the couch next to me. She’s tired after a busy weekend! Yesterday we went scouting for new hiking trails in the San Rafael Hills.    scholl freroad fr leak fb

4.2 miles and a big bottle of water later, we had enjoyed panoramic views of the trails we usually hike from a couple of miles away, and discovered new scents, sights and sounds. Today we took some friends along on our morning hike to share our discovery: a fire road along the ridge of Glenoaks Canyon with great views of the LA basin, the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriels. Just a handful of people with their dogs were out and about early on this beautiful Sunday morning. And we all seemed to agree that off-leash dogs are the happiest trail dogs. We met Merry Christmas, the St. Bernard girl, and Ms. Nellie, the min pin who showed off her smooth I’ll-just-jump-into-daddy’s-arms move. Pepper tracked down some tennis balls, and added some extra mileage chasing them down the hills and carrying them back up. Morning walk? Check!

ag fly eatbarkhike

So what’s a girl with a dog to do on a warm Sunday afternoon? How about brushing up on our agility skills? After adding some new facilities, the local shelter is offering agility classes again.  Today they had an open house to promote the classes. Pepper had a blast, running over the A-frame, jumping through the tire, and, her personal favorite, charging through the tunnel! And did I mention the treats that were generously dispensed? What a great way to spend the afternoon! Doggie gym? Check!

With Pepper taking a nap, I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon cooking and baking.  Here in Southern California the citrus harvest is in full swing, and Meyer lemons (my favorite!) and regular lemons from my friends’ trees are piling up in my kitchen. There’s some extra cream cheese and sour cream in the fridge, too. A perfect excuse to adapt a vintage cream cheese-pumpkin pie recipe (Bon Appétit 1992) for citrus season. It probably won’t satisfy the purists among the bakers, but I used one of my store-bought pie shells to get rid of the chametz in the house before Passover. Admittedly I could have put the triple ginger cookies in the pantry to good use, too. But making my own pie crust seemed a bit too involved today. A little swirl of chocolate syrup to make the pie look pretty – et voilà! 15 min prep time plus 30 min baking time. It’s what I call a quick dessert. And it’s great for potlucks!

lemon choc pieLemon Cream Cheese Pie
8 oz whipped cream cheese
6 tbsp sour cream
juice from one Meyer lemon
zest from one lemon
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 large eggs
Chocolate syrup for decoration

Use a pie shell or prepare a gingersnap crust

Beat cream cheese and sour cream until smooth, add sugar and ginger. Add eggs one by one, beat briefly until mixed. Pour into pie shell. Swirl chocolate syrup over filling in decorative pattern.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 min until filling is firm in the middle. Let cool on rack, then chill for a couple of hours before serving.

While the pie was in the oven, I whipped up a quick turkey meatloaf for Pepper. I had no cooked quinoa and used oats instead. Both are rich in carbohydrates and soluble fiber. Popped it in the still-warm oven when the pie was done, baked it for about an hour, and doggie dinner for the next couple of days was ready in no time at all. Dinner and dessert? Check!

Time to send a text with a picture of the pie to some friends and invite them for dessert. The table is quickly set, and soon the hounds sample the meatloaf, and the humans enjoy the lemon-cream cheese pie. As one of them puts it, “I’m not big on cheese cake, but this is very yummy!” I suspect my guest appreciated the light, fluffy texture courtesy of my secret ingredient, a.ka. whipped cream cheese. I prefer it to regular cream cheese because it makes the end product less dense. It tastes lighter than regular cream cheese, but, alas, it’s not light on the calories. This being said, don’t even think about substituting with low-fat cream cheese or low-fat sour cream. Just limit yourself to one slice. And savor the rich flavor!


Laundry Day


Not much time for cooking or hiking – today was laundry day at our house. Sheets, down comforter, feather pillows, everything went into the washer. Freshly laundered sheets are among the simply joys of life! When combined with a a fluffy pillow and a clean duvet almost restored to its early days of blissful fluffiness, it’s hard to resist an instant nap. We’ll leave the nap to the hound whose unencumbered existence enables her to live in the moment, every moment. Usually she’s the first to inspect the bed and enjoy the clean linens. Today, however, the human in the house had different plans because clean bed linens call for a clean canine. So off Pepper went to her outdoor shower on the patio. In 75-degree weather one can take an outdoor bath, provided that the water is warm. A little puppy almond shampoo, a nice massage, two thorough rinses and then it was time for Ms. Pepper to assist with her oscillatory wet-dog shake.

Most of us are familiar with the effect of wet dogs shaking off seemingly disproportionate amounts of water. Just think loud shrieks of “Go away!” followed by thoroughly soaked pant legs. But what about the complicated mechanics behind the wet-dog shake that starts at the head and moves down to the tail in a twirling motion? Nature’s mechanism is much better suited to dry off a wet dog than any extra absorbent towel. A short spin around the block to let the sun help in the drying process, and Pepper was ready for a much deserved nap.

bedtime feb 7

latte & croissantfr wpWith the hound napping peacefully, the human still pondered the mechanics of Pepper’s coat shaking at a mind boggling rate of 4.6 skin oscillations per second. No earth-shattering conclusions were reached, but it seemed like the perfect time for a freshly brewed café au lait and a delicious pain au chocolat from the local Armenian bakery. La vie est belle!

Comfort Food for Human and Hound

loaf doneEven though this winter hasn’t been particularly wintry (read: cold and rainy), a holiday is a perfect day to cook some comfort food. Welcome to President’s Day at our house. Two pounds of ground turkey (1/2 dark meat, 1/2 white meat) waiting in the fridge, along with carrots, broccoli, parsley, eggs and some other veggies that’ll share oven time with Pepper’s meatloaf. loaf readyI adapted this recipe from Corbett Marshall and Jim Deskevich’s Eco Dog. Healthy Living for Your Pet. The best thing about cooking for your dog is that you’ll have an eager sous chef in your kitchen, watching your every move, and waiting patiently (or sometimes not so patiently) for dinner to be served. The first time I made this meatloaf, I didn’t have any parsley, so I used nori as a substitute. It worked out perfectly, adding a little bit of extra flavor, and with just a dash of salt and pepper, I had dinner for myself, too. Today I used parsley, and 1/2 carrot 1/2 parsnips for a slightly different flavor. And because I have a big oven, and am big on conserving energy, I roasted some red beets and sweet potatoes while baking the meatloaf for an hour at 350 degrees. And how do you kill an hour while waiting for your dinner to be ready? With taking the hound for a walk! Off we were for a quick spin around the ‘hood. And because it was a holiday, we ran into our resident greyhound, Kay. We love meeting our friends!

loaf gone

But now it’s time for dinner! Bon appétit!

resting Pep Jun 13bf

P.S. Looks like dinner was a success!

Pepper’s Turkey Meatloaf 
2 pounds of ground turkey 
1 cup of cooked quinoa 
2 large or 3 medium eggs 
3/4 cup of flaxseed meal 
1/2 cup of carrots (shredded)
1/2 cup of parsnips (shredded)
1 cup of broccoli (finely chopped)
1/2 cup of Italian parsley (coarsely chopped) 
1 clove of garlic (finely chopped) 

Mix all ingredients, transfer to 3×9 loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. 

Dinner for the Human

redbeetsI couldn’t resist the sweet potatoes and ate one of them with a little butter, salt and pepper. Ms Pepper enjoyed some bites and pieces of the peels. Meanwhile, the red beets were almost ready (they were big and needed an additional ten minutes in the oven), so I decided to put together a simple but nutritious salad with a lemon vinaigrette.

Red Beet and Quinoa Salad
1 handful of spinach
1 handful of mixed salad greens
1 red beet, diced
4 tb spoons of cooked quinoa (or more)
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 handful of walnuts, chopped
goat cheese (optional)

Lemon Vinaigrette
freshly squeezed lemon juice
olive oil (plus the beet-infused oil from roasting)
salt & pepper

The salad makes for a great meal by itself. Of course it’s hard not to add some of Pepper’s Turkey Meatloaf (along with some salt and pepper to satisfy the human taste buds.) Goat cheese blends nicely with the other ingredients for a meatless option and adds some extra protein. Pepper highly recommends the meatless version because she knows it means more meatloaf for her. Who can blame her?