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The Final Wag

We lost our good girl this week. Our dear sweet CoCo passed away Wednesday night after living a happy and healthy 9 years. Certainly a nice long life for a bullmastiff, but entirely too short for me. The house has been eerily quiet these past few days. I keep expecting to hear the “thump, thump, thump” of her big strong tail wagging, but no such luck. A friend of mine pointed out that CoCo’s thumping tail was our “alarm clock” for 9 years so it’s going to take awhile to adjust to the silence.

CoCo was my cooking companion which is no surprise to anyone. Forget about turning out a gourmet meal. That dog would happily devour any scrap, crumb or morsel that would come her way, no matter the size, seasoning, temperature or texture. She hung out with me in the kitchen every day and wanted to be where the food and the action was. How is it that a dog can distinguish between the “ripping open” sound of tortilla chips and a package of paper towels? Somehow CoCo knew the difference and would happily remain lounging if paper products were being opened, but miraculously launched her 105 lb body off the floor for the sound of crackling snack food bags.

Although food was a top priority for her, CoCo also loved her people. While most dogs start yapping when a doorbell rings, “ding dong” was the happy sound for CoCo. Never a barker, she was the ever faithful greeter who would run toward the front door, tail wagging and big jowls smiling. Everybody loved CoCo, the gentle giant, and really, who could resist that big fat head, bouncy tail, and wrinkly face?

 

Although she was often quick to greet, she also had a terrible lazy streak and spent a large portion of her day sunbathing in our driveway. She was SO lazy in fact, that she charmed the UPS man into HAND FEEDING her dog biscuits while she remained sprawled out, without lifting her head even an inch. I guess he had HER number, but JEEZ, really, how spoiled can you be?! As endearing as that quality was, we always wondered if we’d return home someday to find CoCo happily gnawing on a hunk of prime rib while our house had been looted & robbed.

Our kids were 7 and 10 years old when CoCo came into the family and it was love at first sight. She accompanied us to soccer, softball & baseball, the beach, the snow, bar-b-ques, parties and vacation. Everybody fell in love with CoCo, BUT, let’s not gloss over anything here ~ there were a few bad habits and periodic “incidents”. For starters, the puppy years of chewing on the remote control, the phones, Julianna’s feather boa, and the complete annihilation of several shoes. Then there was the sneaking on the coach in dead of night (or day—who are we kidding?), rolling in the oily, dirty driveway, and occasional drooling. In her later years, I caught her devouring an entire stick of butter that she had stolen the from the dining table as well as numerous bagel snatchings. Keep in mind, she was a big girl and could easily grab high objects. My brother-in-law and his wife spoiled her rotten at their house by allowing her on the couch and in their bed. I think they finally kicked her out after awakening them with her high volume log sawing.

It’s amazing how much our dogs add to our lives. They share in our every day routines, our social gatherings and special occasions. They are full fledged members of our families that add joy, comfort, humor, companionship, and warmth to our existence. This past year, I’ve noticed that many of our friends are going through the same thing. We all got our dogs when our kids were younger, and now, here we all are, losing our pets and sending our kids off to college. Talk about a one-two punch. I guess there is nothing new here in the scope of life. It’s just one more passage, one more transition that you go through when you get a few years under your belt. As my oldest sister said to me, “Welcome to Middle Age.” I’m still adjusting to that term which is an entirely different subject for another day!

In the meantime, we are mourning the loss of our CoCo, but are grateful for the time we had with her. She lived a good dog’s life and gave us many wonderful family memories. I’ll miss her begging in the kitchen, her jingling collar, her big droopy face, and most of all, that wonderful “thump, thump, thump.” Keep on waggin’, CoCo, and say “hi” to Cosmo, Max & Rocky…they’re all waiting for you.

Dear Darlings ~ a Quick Note

My Darlings,
Hope this finds you well. It’s a whirlwind here in the kitchen and in all other parts of my life. I have a long list of “to do’s, “honey do’s”, and “won’t somebody else do this for me” do’s. How about you?
These last few months have been a time of change, reinvention, crazy chaos, exciting new adventures, big highs and deep lows. Seems like a lot of people I know are going through transitions of one kind or another. I think it’s LIFE full throttle and I’m running with it.

I’m digging deep and going out of my comfort zone this year. You’ll see some of that happening here on the blog. I’m really excited to launch my newsletter, Nancy’s Dish in November. Don’t forget to sign up for it here on the page (over to the right). You’ll get exclusive “dish”, recipes, and other fun tips that I won’t be sharing anywhere else.

For the next few days, my dear friend Jane Asher will hanging out with you over on my Facebook page while I zero in on some of those “to do’s”. Luckily, I’m also getting some good family time in as well. My son is home from college for the weekend and we all intend to get busy with some serious cooking. Hint: The girls went apple picking yesterday and we’ll be perfecting some sort of apple pie, cobbler, crisp recipe for the newsletter :)

I’ll check in with you after the weekend. In the meantime, please give Jane some love and feel free to share your thoughts, finds, recipes, etc on Facebook or right here on my blog.

With Gratitude,
Nancy

Welcome to the World Wide Web of Foodies!

I’ve been around long enough to remember what life was like before the internet. When you actually had to go the the library to research facts and check out books. If you wanted to buy merchandise that wasn’t available locally, you ordered it from the Sears catalog or called the store and ordered it from a real person. My husband and I were discussing this with our teenagers who could NOT grasp this concept no matter how hard they tried. We felt like Ma & Pa Kettle sittin’ on the porch swing rambling on about the good ole days. It’s funny, as crazy and sped up as the world has become, I LOVE living in these times. The internet still seems magical to me. Press a button and you’re talking with someone on the other side of the planet or you’ve just purchased a new set of mixing bowls on QVC. Hey, that IS pretty cool!  Back in the day, you had to travel to foreign lands to meet people and experience other cultures…or at least have a pen pal. When I was in high school, our family was very involved in AFS (American Field Service) where we had the opportunity to host an array of international exchange students. I remember our annual fundraiser:  “The Foreign Food Fair”.  Booths were set up in the high school cafeteria with flags and foods of different countries.  I still remember Mrs. Antoniades’ baklava representing Greece ~ pure sticky honey heaven! This was a great way for us to celebrate cultures of far away lands. Nowadays, all those countries seem a little bit closer…in fact, just a click away. I’m finding this out BIG time.

During the last 15 months, I’ve noted that people from more that 24countries are following Back to the Kitchen. Just this past week, folks from Nigeria, the Philippines, Pakistan, Chile, & Malaysia have all come on board ~ THAT blows my mind!  Our top 5 countries thus far, in order, are: The United States, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, & India.  It’s very exciting to have a world wide community in the kitchen, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. You’ve heard of the international language of love? Well, I’m thinking the love of food may conquer all.

35 Pantry “Must-Haves”

I was recently asked what I have stocked in my pantry. Truth be told, I’ve paired things down quite a bit after downsizing to my current kitchen. I only have a couple of shelves and drawers to store things in, so I rotate items more often than I used to. That being said, I’ve put together a list of my 35 favorite Pantry “Must-haves” so that I’m well-stocked with the staples.

Pantry Must Haves:

olive oil

coconut oil

vinegar

Stock/broth

soy sauce or gluten free tamari

dijon mustard

coconut milk

canned tomatoes

pasta sauce (read the labels)

garlic

olives

rice

pasta or rice pasta

dry beans & lentils

dried onions
tuna/clams

nuts and nut butters

ketchup

cinnamon

cumin

oregano

turmeric

peppercorns

coarse sea salt

oats
All purpose flour

sugar

cocoa

baking soda

baking powder

corn starch

vanilla

honey

coffee

tea

Of course, if you want to go over 35 items, there are plenty of other things we could add to the list, especially when you get in the realm of herbs and spices. Be in touch -let me know if you have anything to add to the list–I’d love to hear from you.

Grilling with CoCo

Our bull mastiff CoCo is always on hand to help test out my new recipes. Check out these kabobs that I plan to feature in my new E-book…yeah, a cookbook! I’m putting together the best of the best of Back to the Kitchen and a few new surprises. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, listen for the SIZZLE!

Dairy Free Fudgsicles

Dairy Free Fudgsicles
yield: 6

Ingredients:
2 cups coconut milk

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla

¼ cup honey or maple syrup

 

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a blender for about 1-2 minutes, until fully blended. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight.

**Recipe Note: You may use almond milk instead of coconut milk, but your fudgsicle will be more icy in texture as opposed to creamy. For a creamier fudgsicle, use full fat coconut milk.

AND…if you like to change things up, try these Fudgsicles with a Twist~

1) Coffee Mocha: use ½ cup cooled brewed coffee & 1 ½ cups coconut milk.

2) Mint Chocolate: add 1 tsp peppermint extract or ¼ tsp peppermint oil

3) Strawberry Chocolate: slice 6 large strawberries and place in mold before pouring in liquid. Use a chopstick to arrange if need be.