Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt

I need to start this off my saying that I love David Rosenfelt.  I have read all of his books and his Andy Carpenter series is amazing.  When I worked at the Fincastle Library I used to pick an author each month that I thought was wonderful, but wasn't as popular as, say, Patterson or Grisham.  David Rosenfelt was so good and so funny that I went to his web page.  Then I discovered that the Tara Foundation he writes about in the Carpenter series is a real foundation that he and his wife started in California to rescue and adopt out Golden Retrievers...or basically any dog that he can fit in at the veterinary office he uses and his house.

After one of the California fires that almost burned his house and MANY dogs, and I grew up in California and know how devastating they can be, he and his wife decided to get out of the state and move to Maine.  We also left California to get to the east where people are friendly and less concerned with the superficial and to have seasons.  This winter has not made us rethink that decision...much.

When I featured Mr. Rosenfelt, I sent him an email.  I figured if he put an email address in his books, he must want people to write him.  I also assumed that I would get a form letter back thanking me for my interest, like I would get from a politician.  But, no.  I got a real email wanting to know where in the heck was Fincastle?  We were thrilled and told everyone who came in to read his books.  Sadly this won't help him pay for his dog food, being a library and all, but maybe the patrons will recommend the book or get impatient waiting on the list to get the new issue and go BUY one.  It could happen!

When he decided to move cross country with all the dogs they were keeping, the old, sick or unadoptable ( this included many they kept just because they loved them and couldn't bring themselves to let them go),  he asked for suggestions.  I suggested an all pet airline,  thinking they could fill a plane and just go from point A to point B, but this is not how it works and Mr. Rosenfelt thanked me for the idea and went on to decide to drive them all across country.

We had recently driven from California to Virginia with 2 cats and knew how hard that would be.  Each time you stop you have to put them back in a carrier and that is just to get gas or a meal.  Then you have to find a motel that will take pets and pay the extra cleaning fee...per pet.  Imagine that times many drivers and 25 dogs!   Remember these are mostly old or ill pets.  Don't forget the pills and feeding 25 dogs.  And the potty breaks.

When we lived in Orange County and walked our Golden Retriever we had to get used to carrying plastic bags to pick up after them.  Now we live on 57 acres and have no idea where our dog goes.  We also used to have 2 very large horses who processed a massive amount of grass and hay.  This filled two buckets a day, every day.  I imagine 25 dogs could do that, too.  But dogs don't eat hay and what they process has an olfactory issue that I am sure we can't imagine.  The Rosenfelts don't have to imagine anything.

I started reading the book that chronicles his journey called Dogtripping  25 rescues, 11 volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure.  I got to page 13 where he explains about their precious dog, Tara, the impetus of the Foundation.  I'm crying and write him another email.  I thought this book would be a funny account of his cross-country adventure and didn't want to read a SAD story.  The following is part of what I wrote:

Message Body:
Thanks a lot.  I just finished page 13 and I'm crying like a baby.  We have had
2 Goldens and each only lived until 10.  Ten years of complete love and devotion
to our family and amazing dogs for our children. 

I intend to finish this book, but I better not cry any more.

He unexpectedly wrote back within just a few hours.

On Sunday, February 23, 2014 2:54 PM, "davidrosenfelt@aol.com" wrote:
My goal is to bring misery into as many lives as possible.

(I don't think you'll find the rest of the book nearly as sad as the Tara part).
Hope you like it…)


Now do you see why I love this man?  He has an entire kennel living in his house and on his furniture in order to give them a few good years or even months.  He goes to the massive trouble of transporting them across country.  He only whines and moans just a little when he is required to take one to the vet or his wife goes "shopping" at a shelter and brings home 3 or 4 more old or sick dogs.  He's a prince.  And he writes BACK, something my own cousin rarely does.

I called another cousin to tell her to go out and get this book.  She is on her second Great Pyrenees rescue.  The most recent one is a Golden Retriever mix who sheds white and golden hair at a prodigious rate.   She also has a poodle mix from a puppy mill with a lot of digestive issues.  She will be able to relate.  I told her the book was guaranteed to give her sniffles and giggles. 

Interspersed with the trials and tribulations of their travels, the book details some of their most poignant or funny or just plain interesting rescue stories.  I highly recommend this book.  As I do all of Mr. Rosenfelt's books, particularly the Andy Carpenter series. 

And while I freely admit I love this man and his wife, based entirely on his writings, I do not want to come stay at his house for a visit or a meal.  I have a rescue dog and two rescue cats and entirely too much pet hair on my floor and furniture.  I don't need to have a good imagination to have an idea of the potential hairy abode from 25 mostly large dogs.

But I'm glad they are the kind of crazy nutjobs that enjoy this type of work.  I wish there were more like him (not next door).  Even more, I wish there was no need for this kind of work.  Makes me sad.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Tart

We have guests coming to stay in our B&B.  They are friends, so they will be with us for meals, but we can still practice on them.  I wanted to make a special dessert to show how happy we are that they took the time on their trip to stop in and see us.


Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Tart

1 pie crust
2 eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2 Tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons bourbon, divided use
1 4 oz. semi-sweet Ghirardelli Chocolate baking bar or 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped


Heat the oven to 350°.  Lightly spray a two piece tart pan with Pam.  Melt the butter and set aside to cool.



Gently place the pie crust ( I used store bought) in the tart pan and trim to fit. 



Combine the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, melted, but cooled butter, vanilla and one Tablespoon of the bourbon.  Whisk it all together.


Roughly chop the pecans.  I prefer this version to one in which you have to carefully lay the pecans on top of the tart.  It is too fussy for me and it is hard to cut the slices when serving. 


Whisk the chopped pecans in the egg mixture.


Chop the chocolate bar into pieces roughly the size of chocolate chips.  Or use chocolate chips.  I had the bar and used that. 

Spread them evenly in the bottom of the pie crust.  Pour the egg and nut mixture over the chocolate in the crust.  I placed the tart pan on a pizza pan because they are a little hard to handle. 


Bake for 55 minutes or until set.  Remove from the oven and pour the last Tablespoon of bourbon over the top. 

Let cool.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.  Or both.  Or bourbon whipped cream!

Bourbon whipped cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon bourbon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

This is easy.  Whip the cream and sugar in a stand mixer until soft peaks form.  Add the bourbon and the vanilla.  Whip some more. 


I made it ahead and kept it in the refrigerator until after dinner when we had the tart.  I had more than I needed for four servings and there was still enough for the next day.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Peanut Butter and Oat Cookies

I use my Kroger card when I shop there.  This gives me discounts and they send me coupons and recipes, from time to time.  A few weeks ago Kroger sent a cookie recipe and I set it aside.  It had peanut butter and oatmeal.  That's healthy right?  We have company coming today, so I fired up the oven and went to work.  Yay!  Cookies!

Peanut Butter and Oat Cookies

1 1/2 cups oatmeal, divided use
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup peanut butter The recipe called for creamy, I used crunchy and I STILL added the chopped peanuts
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

1 Tablespoon sugar


Heat the oven to 350°.  Line cookie sheets with parchment or Silpat baking sheets.  Set aside.


Place 1 cup of the oatmeal in a food processor.  Pulse for about 30 seconds to make oat flour.  Place the oat flour in a medium bowl and add the 1 cup of flour, baking soda and salt.  Stir it up with a whisk or fork and set aside.


Cream the butter and sugars for about 2 minutes on medium speed.  I use a stand mixer, Kitchen Aid, so I can do other things while it makes the butter and sugar fluffy.  I don't think this is doable by hand.  Scrape down once or twice.


Add the egg and the vanilla and mix.  Add the peanut butter and mix.


Carefully add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture.  Don't spill all over the counter like some people might do.  Mix slowly until the flour is incorporated and add the remaining 1/2 cup oats and the chopped peanuts.


Because I was using chunky peanut butter I used a tad more peanut butter and a tad less chopped peanuts.  I doubt it would have made a difference if I had done the exact amounts.  I just worried about setting off some unknown peanut butter to flour ratio.  At any rate, they turned out terrific.


Use a small cookie scoop to form balls and place about 2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets.  Press down the dough balls with a fork in a cross hatch pattern.  This dough is sticky, so place a Tablespoon or so of sugar on a small plate. 


Dip the fork in the sugar between each time you press on a cookie.  Sure, you could use a dish of flour to keep the fork from sticking, but would you rather have extra flour on top or extra sugar?  Yeah, me too!

Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.  It wouldn't hurt to rotate the pans halfway through .  I didn't and had some cookies darker than others. 


Cool for two minutes before transferring to a  wire rack. 


Offer three (or four or five) to your impatient husband and then hide the rest for the company.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Brochure Spot

Recently we bought a magazine holder to cover the electrical box protruding from a wall.  We cut a hole in the back and secured it to the wall.  Then we waited for inspiration.

We got some good suggestions on this blog and wandered the aisles at A.C.Moore looking for inspiration. Fill with rocks or shells?  Make a dried/silk flowers arrangement?  Or better, hire it done by a professional.  We went with using it a box for rack cards for local activities.  I am putting together a book of places to eat and things to see and do, but I also needed a place for a few rack cards.

I still need to fill the gaps around the electrical box and get some Plexiglas (or other material)  holders to keep things from sliding around.

We did find these letters at A.C.Moore.  I tried to put them on with a glue stick and tape to hold it until it dried.  Unsuccessfully.


I got out the glue gun and that worked.  I tried to slide one of the letters over a tiny bit IMMEDIATELY after pressing it to the box.  Nope.  Stuck like glue...(you and me baby, we're stuck like glue.)


So I decided to love it. It needs one more screw in the wall to straighten it a bit, and then I can get on to the next project.

The path to the door.  Move the flagstones.  Add gravel.  Wreck the back...again.  More physical therapy.  A girl has to have a plan.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Card From Julia

Shortly after getting a job at the Fincastle Library, I met a wonderful family.  They home school the kids so they are library regulars.  It wasn't until a few years later I discovered we were cousins.  Our great grandmother's were sisters.  My side of the family went to California from Des Moines, Iowa.  Her family left Iowa and moved to New York.

We both ended up in Botetourt County.  Can you imagine???  My father wrote a genealogy and would have been so fascinated. I wish he were here to meet them.


Julia, one of my young cousins, sent us a Valentine's Day card that she made herself. 


Isn't that the sweetest thing?


So, of course I had to make her one, too.


I love that she thought of us and sent us a card.  People who make cards to send understand the time and thought that goes into making one.  So I know she will appreciate the one I sent back.


I need to finish the quilt I have been working on in the craft room to make room for some serious card making.  If we start sending cards between the two families, this means I have to ramp up my card making.  Julia is one of 10 children!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Linzer Sandwich Cookies

I found some Wilton Linzer Cookie Cutters at A.C. Moore when I was looking for Valentine baking ideas.  We don't always give each other gifts that we buy.   Sometimes a dinner out or a fancy dessert prepared by moi suffices.  I made a cake for Lee, but he also had been mentioning a decided lack of baked goods available in our pantry, related to my low carb diet that he does not follow.    So I also baked some cookies.  I think this wins in the gift giving race and I am ahead by one!  Not eating carbs reduces his gift choices for me, but we may take a trip for our anniversary, so that bumps him up again.

Good thing I'm not keeping score.


The Linzer cookie recipe was on the packaging for the cutter.  It is a sandwich cookie.  You cut out one shape, in this case a heart.  Then you use one of the supplied smaller cutters inside the heart shape and cut out a heart with a tiny window in it.  Spread the whole heart with a topping and lay the heart with the cutout on top and you have a wee window to the topping of your choice.

I chose a heart within the heart.  The skull and cross bones didn't fit my Valentine's Day theme.  grin 
I also chose red raspberry jam, also in keeping with the theme.  Although I did make one with Nutella and another with the leftover Hazelnut Buttercream frosting I made for the cake.


Linzer Sandwich Cookies

2 cups flour
2/3 finely ground almonds  I use almond meal from Trader Joe's
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup (approx.) seedless red raspberry jam   I took the jar out for the picture.  Keep yours cold until ready to use.
powdered sugar for dusting


Combine the flour, almond meal, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl.  Stir with a fork to mix and set aside.


Use a stand mixer to beat the softened butter.  You want it light and fluffy and this takes muscle.  Let a Kitchen Aid do it for you!  Beat the butter for about 2 minutes.  Scrape it down and add the sugar.  Beat for two more minutes.


Add the egg and the vanilla and mix for about another 30 seconds.  Add about half of the flour and mix and then the rest of the flour and mix until combined.  Don't over mix.  You may need to stir by hand to get it all combined.


Divide the dough into two pieces. 


Shape into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap.  Chill for about 2 hours, or until firm enough to roll out.


Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a Silpat. 


On a floured surface, roll out half of one of the disks to 1/8 inch.  Keep the other disk in the refrigerator until you finish with this one.  I found these great bands that you put on the rolling pin to roll dough out to the proper thickness.  The whole disk was too big to use with them, so I just did half at a time.  It helped to knead the disk a bit to warm it just a tad.  You will need to flour the rolling pin frequently, also.


Make sure the dough isn't sticking to the surface before you start to cut.  Otherwise you will distort the shapes getting them up.  I used my pastry cutter to loosen any stuck bits.  Keep plenty of flour handy to dust things often.  Knead, reroll the scraps and cut as many shapes as you can.

Cut half with the insert of your choice and half without.  I kept count on a piece of floury paper to make sure they came out even.  You won't get the same number from each disk.  I had one bottom left over, but it found a home,  Lee or Tara, can't remember which.  I also baked a few of the wee hearts from the center cutouts.  I baked these with the bigger cookies, same time and temperature and they were so cute.  Lee popped about 6 before I could spread some of the jam in between two and make mini sandwich cookies!

Bake for 10 -12 minutes or until golden brown on the edges.  Mine took 11 minutes.  Cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to cooling racks.  Let cool completely.


I put paper towels under the cooling rack with all the top cookies, those with the cutout.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.


Now get the jam out of the refrigerator.  Turn over one of the bottom cookies (no cutout) and spread about a teaspoon of the jam.


Don't go all the way to the edge or it may ooze a bit and make a mess.  Place a powdered top on the cookie and set aside.  I placed mine in a large container with a lid.  


If you made some of the mini hearts, drop a small dollop of jam on one and top it with another, bottoms facing.  Cute little treat!

I am not ashamed to say I did try one.  One.  It was delicious.  I sent some home with Tara and the rest are for Lee. 

So far he has eaten them when I am not looking.  I think it is because he already has the dog's eyes  following his hand to his mouth and back to the plate during every meal he eats.  He doesn't need me eyeing his every bite, too.  Hey, at least I don't drool.  Much.