Your Guide to Reading Between the Tines

Archive for December, 2008

Meet Bix

I recently got turned on to Fanatic Cook, written by Bix.  Bix provides interesting tidbits of news on food safety, politics, policy, and nutrition, along with thoughtful commentary.  It’s a good read; if you haven’t yet stumbled onto Bix, you should hie yourself over there and check out the site.  Of particular interest to me is this recent post on what Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services might mean for the FDA.

Happy reading, everyone!

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Hippo and the Blue Plate Special

Mr Hippo has now been crashing at our pad for a full week.  I think he’s getting used to his new digs.  He is out sunning himself on the stoop right now, which is his favorite things to do on sunny Phoenix afternoons.  Plus, he’s pretty content because he just gorged his skinny self on his first homemade doggie meal.  I need to do some reading to figure out the proper ratios of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates he’ll need for long term health, but this was just an experimental dish to see how it would go.  And to see how it would, you know, go through him.  I know a lot of doggies get stomach issues when their diets are changed, but this guy has been very regular despite a couple different kinds of canned food donated from the neighbors, some veggie and fruit snacks, and a previous diet that seemed to alternate between both dry and canned food, according to the neighbor who knew his family.  Here’s hoping Hippo’s unstable past has given him a stomach able to cope with pretty much anything.  Surely, surely, his neglected little stomach will love dishes like these?

Looks good enough to eat, right?

That’s kind of the point, after all.

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About that Muhammara Recipe…

At long last, the moment you’ve been waiting for…or at least the one I’ve been promising you for the last several days.

But, really, this one is worth the wait.  Try it.  You’ll see.

First, what is muhammara? It’s a rich and tangy spread from the Middle East that complements pita triangles, roasted vegetable kabobs, and raw, crunchy vegetables beautifully. I bet it would even go fabulously with a chunk of meat if that’s your thing, but it’s so flavorful that I think the the warm chewiness of fresh pita and clean taste of vegetables are the perfect canvas for it.

The spread is tangy, sweet, rich, and bright, though you can add different notes to it with fiery peppers or smoked paprika if that’s more to your liking. In any case, it’s amazing. Make up a batch for a New Year’s party as a healthier alternative to creamy, heavy dips.  Your guests will love the color and unique hints of pomegranate.

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Hippo Watch: Tuesday

That muhammara post is coming later today; sorry, but I have been swamped with classwork, coupled with taking Hippo to the vet twice in the last two days.  The animal control vet wanted him examined in a full-facility clinic to check for Valley Fever and glaucoma, so we took him to a wonderful new vet today.  The doctor gave him a clean bill of health, with the stipulation that he needs to eat more to put on some weight and chew some bones to clean up his teeth.  Not a bad check-up!  It turns out the redness in his left eye isn’t an infection, but rather a fairly common phenomenon called “cherry eye” where the tear duct on a dog’s third eyelid pops out a little bit from where it’s supposed to be.  We’re going to try massaging it back into place later today.  If that doesn’t work, we’ll look into other options and decide what we want to do.

You will note that in the picture above, Mr Hippo is wearing a very stylish and becoming personalized scarf to help keep him warm in the daytime.  He got an exciting gift box from Grandmasaurus yesterday, and this was tucked inside. I think he wears it well.

Being completely responsible for the health and welfare of a dog, even if it is only temporary, has been an interesting experience.  I am used to dogs, as I grew up with them (as in, my family had some, not as in “I was raised by wolves”), but I have never been the primary caregiver.  One of the things I’ve found very overwhelming in the last couple days is trying to sort out what exactly to feed him.  Since this is, after all, a blog about making strong food choices, I thought I should take advantage of Hippo Watch and talk about something a little better suited to the usual content here.

So, what does one feed a dog?

Duh.  Dog food, right?

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Hippo Watch: Sunday

And here he is, Dr. Wrinkle-Head himself.  This is his “You talkin’ to me?” face.  I was, in fact, talking to him.

Time since last accident: 31 hours and 5 minutes

Surprising hidden talent: Self-restraint; specifically, the ability to not gobble a pile of kabobs at snout-level when I turn my back for two minutes. Also, he does sing a nice back-up to Tori Amos’ “Little Earthquakes.”

Today’s Very Big Deal: We went on a walk to a nearby park crawling with people, shouting kids, and bicycles zooming past.  He quivered and quaked, but he also met five very nice people and one very enthusiastic floofy white dog in an owl sweater. All in all, not too bad, but I think Hippo was a wee bit jealous of that owl sweater.

On the To-Do List: Get Hippo to sleep through the night.  Being serenaded at midnight, 2, 5, and 7a.m. is not our idea of fun.  Also, the vet is supposed to be back in her office tomorrow, so we shall be making Mr Hippo an appointment to get checked over and hopefully get some medicine for his little eyeball.  Huzzah!

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Dark Days Challenge Recipe: Sweet and Savory Kabobs

Early this morning, awakened by the dulcet tones of one Mr Hippo singing to the sunrise, I got up, got dressed, and headed to the farmers’ market to see what I could scavenge for our Dark Days Challenge meal.  The fridge was a little bare, since our CSA pick-up last week was canceled due to the holiday.  However, the Unicyclist and I had an inkling of what we wanted: kabobs.  Rich and savory kabobs to slather with the leftover muhammara from our Christmas Eve shindig.  Last night over dinner, just as we’d decided this, the Unicyclist was struck with a bolt of inspiration.

“What about dessert kabobs?”

Brilliant.  And timely.  As everyone knows, nothing makes a party like food on a stick, so consider these recipes my belated Christmas gift to you.  Both the savory and the sweet kabobs we made would be a wonderful, healthful addition to any New Year’s Eve fiestas.

Let’s get into it.  First: the ingredients.

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Hippo Watch: Saturday

So sorry this has nothing to do with food…but I can’t help myself. Look at that face!

Time since last accident: 7 hours and 40 minutes (but he was some 50 hours strong before that, I swear)

New favorite foods: Orange slices and garbanzo beans.  He likes to chase and scarf the beans when I toss them.  I’m hoping he can work up to something impressive and playful like catching them in mid-air, but so far he just lets the little beans bonk his noggin or roll on the ground next to him.  Even so, he really, really seems to enjoy the bean game.

Best event of today from Hippo’s point of view: Meeting (and very extensively sniffing) Chica from next door.  She’s a big and boisterous dog who rolled over on her back and let tiny Hippo lick her from her teeth (yes, really, her actual teeth) to her—well, you know—for some 10 full minutes.

Best event of today from Laurel and the Unicyclist’s point of view: Two anxiety-free Hippo poops in the out-of-doors.  (Hippo has been neurotic about doing business in front of us on his walks; I think he’s worried we’ll hit him, so he spins and cries horribly when he has to go.)  Here’s hoping we get a third one in before calling it a night.

On the To-Do List: Get Hippo a sweater.  Watching this lightly-furred Chihuahua mix quake in the 40-degree weather finally helps me understand why some people dress up their dogs in clothes.  I don’t care if all the other dogs do make fun of you, honey, we’re getting you a sweater.  Maybe something in a nice argyle.

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Chihuly Glass, Conservation, and Desert Landscapes

Hippo and I have been hanging out in the living room this evening, me reading a philosophy text on the fundamentals of logic, and Hippo snoozing nearby.  Every now and then, one of us will jump in surprise as another Baja fairy duster seed pod bursts on the bookshelf and sends seeds skittering across the floor.  It’s true—I have a seed habit.  I have been gathering native seed pods of late in hopes of going guerrilla gardening in the winter rainy season.  In particular, I have picked up a fair few Baja fairy duster pods for the project, which happen to be exploding seed pods.  For those of you unfamiliar with the wide variety of plant fruit formation and seed distribution, I’m not pulling your leg.  Exploding seed pods do exist, and they include pomegranates, Baja fairy dusters, and okra.  Leave them on the plant long enough, and they’ll pop.  Put them on your bookshelf in the dry warmth, and eventually, they’ll pop there as well. Based on the number of seeds that have popped tonight, we seem to have hit some major milestone in the drying process. It’s been exciting, to say the least.

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I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas

Christmas at our place was rich with stuffed squash, soup, pies, ambrosia, and fresh bread; all the usual suspects.

Unlike past Christmases, however, this one also contained something more out of the ordinary. Specifically, we had ourselves a hippo this Christmas. No, not on the table.  In our living room.  He’s pretty cute, actually.  This hippo is likely to eat up quite a bit of my time in the coming weeks, which is why I’m breaking from my usual postings about food and policy to tell you about him. If postings are sparser than usual, I can guarantee you that his skinny shoulders carry a good part of the blame. So, who is this hippo? Well, he’s a bit unusual, as hippos go.  First, this hippo is not especially fond of water.  Second, he’s neither as corpulent nor as leathery as you might expect.  This hippo—rather, this Hippo—is a tiny, terrified little creature who accidentally found his way into our lives, and who now has a spot in our home.

All evidence thus far suggests that he’s okay with that.  Here you can see our Hippo exploring the basil in the garden.

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Christmas is Coming…

And things are hopping in the kitchen!  Today, I made a pomegranate and hibiscus juice blend for our Christmas Eve celebration, plus a batch of whole grain cookies with dark chocolate chunks, toasted walnuts, and dried cranberries and tart cherries.  The house is smelling pretty good right about now.

We’re doing a potluck on Wednesday with the Unicyclist’s family, starring my creamy mushroom soup and some stuffed carnival squash, plus all the tasty treats his family will be bringing.  Also making an appearance?  My final attempt at the perfect pecan pie.  It’s been a long and dirty road, folks.  The Unicyclist is gearing up to make pie crust tomorrow, and I have loads of Arizona pecans to shell for the event.  Here’s hoping it turns out fabulously!

I have so much to do before Christmas, but I’m really looking forward to it!  For those of you who do Christmas, what’s cooking in your kitchens for the big event?  And what do you most want for Christmas this year?

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