Sunday, November 28, 2010


It's not the best kept secret that I love my two big Labradors, and will go to great lengths to keep them safe, healthy and happy. While it has cost me a lot sometimes to do so (financially, of course, but also emotionally), they have given me back orders of magnitude more in companionship, laughter and steadfast love. They're older dogs (9 and almost 11), and they've had their share of medical challenges. They are both, however, bright, shiny, bouncy dogs who eat like Hoovers (well, they are Labs), fling tennis balls for themselves if I'm otherwise engaged, act like a walk around the neighborhood is a trip to Disney, and curl up on the bed with me at night. Grey around the muzzles, yes, but robust and healthy.

On a routine check up, their vet recently found a mass in Cara's left eye. A big one, that had not been there six months earlier, so growing relatively rapidly and causing secondary inflammation. He mentioned enucleation (to be blunt, removal of the eye itself), and I broke down in tears. Referred to a canine opthamalogist, I heard the same thing from her. There just aren't a lot of options when it comes to things growing in the eye, and all things considered, it's not a BIG surgery. No tissue is really cut, pain is minimal and well controlled, and dogs adapt quite readily to being one eyed. I understand all these things, and realize that yes, this is the correct thing to do for this dog I love.

The closer I get to her surgery date (later this coming week), the more my heart breaks over it. I am (justifiably) afraid of what the mass actually IS, which we won't know until the pathology report comes in, and what that could mean for her overall health and future. And I'm worried that she'll be disoriented and confused. But what brings me to tears every time I look at her is knowing that those big brown eyes I've looked into every day for almost 11 years will not both be there. Her beautiful, expressive face will be changed forever, and I cannot really articulate how devastating I find that.

Spare a kind thought for all of us this week, if you can. Cara is sure to be uncomfortable and agitated. And I am going to be afraid that I'm taking apart the dog I love.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Granola (no patchouli or socks and sandals required)

One thing my current insane schedule is forcing upon me is uber-organization. When you have only teensy windows of time in which to, say, wash your underpants, you are going to use that time to do just that, instead of catching up on the critical developments on Real Housewives of Atlanta. (Since I'm wildly behind on that, I'm assuming they're still being psychotic and bitchy and yanking on each other's weaves. Feel free to inform me if this is not the case.)

Lately, I am a machine of efficiency. This is in many ways wildly satisfying for those of us who are overachievers to our very list-making cores, but I'm pretty sure at some point I'm going to have a psychotic breakdown or something. Not yet, though, and that's what counts!

An ongoing challenge for me in the daily busy-ness is breakfast. I am so very much NOT a morning person, and the idea of eating something immediately upon awaking is pretty stomach churning. While on days that I don't go to the gym this isn't a big problem, when I am faced with an ass-crack of dawn workout, I have got to eat SOMETHING before joining the alarmingly cheery ranks of exercise freaks on treadmills at 5:30 am. (By the way...who ARE these people? They are fucking CHEERY and BUBBLY and CHATTY. Before sunrise. When exercising. Thankfully, I just slap my iPod on and tune them out, but seriously...they're freaks of nature.) Anyway... Needless to say, I am most definitely not going to be cooking eggs or making toast at that hour, even if I could stomach the idea, and I draw a firm line at breakfast "foods" like Pop-Tarts and Eggos.

It finally dawned on me what the solution to my early morning calorie needs might be....granola. And not the boxed stuff at the grocery store, which I really dislike (why is it always full of raisins? Raisins are awful.), but homemade stuff, full of only things I actually like to eat. I've made it before a couple of times to pretty good success, so yesterday I cranked out a batch. It had been a while since I'd made any, and I'd forgotten how brainlessly easy it is. For very little effort, you're rewarded quite highly, which is one of my favorite ratios in culinary undertakings. It's pretty cheap to make, and you can vary the basic recipe to meet whatever your whimsy of the moment may be. Also, it makes great gifts for people, as it keeps for ever in a sealed bag in the fridge. The only "trick" is that once you put it in the oven, you really have to keep an eagle eye on it, and stir it frequently. The honey in the mixture means it can burn and/or stick pretty easily, and that is a quick way to go from granola to baking sheet full of burned oats and stuff. Also, every oven is different, so the times that worked well for me may be a little more or less for you, so just keep an eye on it. And keep your nose open, can really smell when it starts to approach doneness, and that's when you need to be ready to haul it out.

While this makes a truly delicious breakfast with milk or yogurt (I love it with Greek vanilla or honey thick and creamy!), it also makes a pretty good late night snack with ice cream, too. Tweak this however you like...leave out the coconut, add or subtract different nuts and fruit, or add chocolate chunks...even add raisins, if you must. Amounts of fruit are merely suggestions...this isn't baking, so ratios don't matter. It's just a matter of personal preference.

So without further ado....

Homemade Granola

(adapted from Ina Garten)


2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

1 cup sliced almonds

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey

3/3 cup dried apricots, diced

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup dried banana chips, crumbled

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  • Toss the oats, coconut, and almonds together in a large bowl. Whisk together the oil and honey in a small bowl. Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and stir well until all the oats and nuts are well coated. Pour onto a large baking sheet. Bake, stirring often, until the mixture turns a nice, even golden brown, about 30 minutes. (If you decide to double the quantity, it will take a few minutes longer.)

  • Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring often. Add the dried fruit and whatever else you've chosen to tart it up with. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container. In a sealed bag in the fridge, it keeps pretty much forever.

Makes about 6 cups

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Once again, no recipe. This is a terrible food blog.

Ok, so I've been a deeply negligent blogger as of late. Adjusting to a new schedule (I'm switching from hamster-like nocturnal to, sleep at all) has me all katywhompus, and my brain is so awash in new job information that by the end of the day I consider it a win if I don't put facial cleanser on my toothbrush. I've also had little to no cooking time, which sucks, and leaves me with hardly any fodder, recipe-wise, for a fresh post. Unless you'd like to know how to microwave popcorn and eat it in bed? Because I have that down PAT.

While I haven't had the chance to stand over my stove much, I've had the time to think really, really hard about priorities. Of course, when I got the new job offer, I was (and still am) euphoric about what it meant for me, personally. Mostly financially. Not that it's going to enable me to finally buy diamond-encrusted underwear or anything, but I should eventually be able to be comfortable and secure. And then, of course, came the onset of greed. The "oooh...what I'll be able to buy" thinking. I'm not the biggest commercial whore in the world by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a tiny fetish for bath products, pajamas and other distinctly non-essential items. Like excellent food and wine.

And then came my daily wake up call, courtesy of my new job. I am now confronted daily with people who have, literally, nothing. No home. No transportation. No food. Certainly no health care or iPod or selection of fancy cheeses. So I started to ask myself how the hell could I even THINK about luxury items or posh dinners when I know for a fact that every day, in my town, this is reality for a lot of people. (Far more than most people are comfortable with knowing about, quite frankly.) And I don't know what the answer is. I love fabulous restaurants. But how do you rationalize dropping $100 or more on one meal, when you've just given someone a $30 voucher and told them that the local government expects them to feed themselves on that for 5 days?

These aren't questions I have to answer now, necessarily (I'm not suddenly staring at wads of cash, for crying out loud), but they strike me as important ones. And since I desperately want to do this job well, and provide people with not just aid, but some dignity, too, it makes me want to think long and hard about the kind of person I am. And not just on work hours. I NEED to remain profoundly grateful for this turn of events. Because I was about 2 weeks away from being on the other side of that desk, asking for help, and I do not ever, ever, want to forget that, and that it could easily be that way again. I had luck, fortuitous timing, and support. Those all saved my ass. Plenty of people have none of those things. And while I don't want to become preachy or overly sanctimonious, I also don't want to become cynical or isolated, just me and my caviar. whole poached foie gras recipes forthcoming from me. And if I don't figure out how to manage my time better, you may end up with my secret recipe for cereal with over ripe bananas. Yum.