Sunday, September 8, 2013

Summer Hibernation

One of these years, I may just learn to lower my expectations of myself from mid-June through August.  Apparently, once the thermometer creeps over the 80-degree mark (that’s about 27 for you centigrade folks), I become allergic to the outdoors.  Oh, sure I may convince myself that an early-morning paddle or cloudy-evening hedge trimming is necessary, but in general I become a fat, lazy bear.  Polar bear, I guess.

I’d rather be a long, lazy cat.

McKenna 09

Has she really grown much in the past two months?

Yes, yes she has!

McKenna 07 (16)

Sometimes I’d swear she looks bigger at the end of the day than she did when I left for work that morning.  I look at her and think, “You’re a big cat now,” but I have to remind myself she’s got a lot of growing to do.  We may need to get a bigger couch.

It’s been a learning experience, having a permanent cat in the home.  She’s a great cat, very friendly and relatively responsive to our polite requests to please not jump on the kitchen table.  We recently invited three of our cat-owning friends over, and they all declared her exceptionally personable.  She’s not a scaredy-cat, hide-under-the-couch kind of girl.  She was quite happy to show off her playful charm.

No matter how user-friendly the cat, however, I have learned there are a few ground rules to be aware of:

1. Every new toy must be taken under the bed for closer examination.

2. If possible, wait until the litter box has been freshly cleaned before pooping in it.  This is best when it occurs right before bedtime.  (I should explain that the litter box is in our master bathroom).

3. Cat Olympics begin no later than 9:30 pm daily.  Warm ups may begin up to two hours prior.

4. Everything that moves is a toy.  Some things that don’t move may also be toys.  Test everything.

5. Dogs fall under Rule 4, but beware of the Growly Warning System.  This indicates imminent failure of the Docility Moderator, at which point it is important to vacate the premises immediately.

6. Flowing water must be carefully monitored, even if it is emanating from your human.

7. The more a human indicates a desire to remain motionless, the more active you must become.


I’m sure there will be more rules to learn.  It’s a mutual training experience.  On the other hand, McKenna and Rosie have pretty well established their relationship.  The cat uses Rosie as a moving target, and Rosie ignores her as best she can. As Rosie trots through the living room, it’s an amazing sight when McKenna leaps from behind a chair, rears up on her hind legs and plants her little white-gloved paws smack on the dog’s face.  Rosie pauses, shakes her off, and continues on her way.  One of these days I’ve got to get it on video. 

In the meantime, here’s my current favorite still photo of Little Miss Troublemaker.




Now, that gathering I mentioned earlier was a very casual make-your-own-pizza party we had over Labor Day weekend.  Miss Chef mixed up some pizza dough, and we prepped lots of ingredients: sautéed mushrooms, sweet red marinated peppers, caramelized onions, Italian sausage, goat cheese, arugula, tomatoes, pesto, garlic butter, grated parmesan… 

When our guests arrived, Miss Chef fired up the grill outside, put a pizza stone on the grate, and started rolling out mini-sized pizzas.

Pizza 09 (4)


We took turns creating our own combinations and sliding them onto the stone.  After 10 or 15 minutes, we pulled off the tastiest little gourmet creations you could ask for.

Pizza 09 (5)

This was my pesto-onion-pepper-goat cheese combo.  It tasted even better than it looked!  We finished off with some dessert pizzas, at which point Miss Chef accidentally invented Nutella-strawberry calzone.  Even her mistakes are delicious.

These days I’m especially happy for every bit of cooking Miss Chef does around the house, because her schedule this quarter sucks!  She’s teaching five days a week, with classes ranging from 8 am start times to midnight end times.  The cooking labs are five-hour classes, so a reasonable start time like 7:30 pm turns into a long, tiring night.  The worst is going from her midnight Thursday class to her 10 am Friday class.  During the week, I only see her Monday evening and late Tuesday; by the time she stumbles in at 8 pm on Friday, there’s only an hour or two of couch slouching together before bedtime.

So I’ve tried to be a little more proactive in the kitchen, but it’s a struggle.  I have long recognized my lack of creativity when it comes to figuring out what’s for dinner.  Lately, Miss Chef has resorted to pulling cookbooks off the shelf and leafing through them until something appeals to both of us.  My whole point to this paragraph is that I want to share with you an absolutely fantastic recipe I made from a book called Poulet by Cree LeFavour.  It’s called Ginger-Coriander Chicken and was so good Miss Chef and I both decided independently that it will be made again.

I don’t usually share recipes—frankly, we don’t use recipes much anymore, outside of baking—but this is too good to keep to myself.  I’ll give you the measurements from the book, but will try to summarize the steps.  If I leave anything out or you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.


  • 8 to 10 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • one 6-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (she calls for sliced, but unless you can get super-fresh ginger, this leaves you with nasty, tough disks you’ll be pulling off your plate)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • For garnish, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro and 1/2 cup chopped green onion (white and tender green parts only)



Preheat your oven to 450°F/230°C.  Rub the chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt, (I let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before starting, to bring it to room temperature).  Over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or high-sided oven-safe skillet, brown the chicken on both sides with a little oil.  Remove the chicken and pour off any excess fat.  Reduce heat to low and put in the ginger, garlic, bell pepper and seeds.  Stir them around for 2 or 3 minutes ( or “until the mustard seeds begin to pop,” which they didn’t do for me).  Pour in the stock, put the chicken back in, and bang the whole thing into the oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.  Put on some basmati rice while you’re waiting, and when it’s all ready, use the cooking liquid as a sauce.  It’s good without the cilantro-green onion garnish, but it’s even better with it.  Also, if you don’t want the seeds on your plate, you could tie them up in cheesecloth when you add them, but it didn’t bother me.

The most time-consuming part of this was prepping the ginger, mostly because the grocery-store stuff is pretty old and tough (tip: use a spoon or the back of a knife to peel it).  I’m sure you can buy pre-grated ginger if you don’t enjoy a good session with the cutting board—please, though, don’t use the dry stuff.

So that’s it—some cat pictures, some food pictures and a recipe.  Not bad for being in hibernation.  By October, I might even have some outdoor stories to share.  I’m going to have to do something to occupy myself, because Miss Chef’s fall quarter is looking similar to the current one.


  1. It looks like McKenna is training you well, which is exactly as it should be! Love the close-up photo - you need to frame that one!

    And thank you for the recipe - I am feeling particularly uninspired in the kitchen these days, and your recipe will help!

    1. Here's another idea Miss Chef came up with for this week: enchiladas (we made two or three dozen and froze a bunch). She made a filling with ground chicken & turkey, corn, black beans, red bell pepper, shredded cheese, and whatever herbs and seasonings seemed appropriate. We did buy premade enchilada sauce, which made it a lot quicker. Not sure if corn tortillas have gluten in them?

  2. When we are some time without a young cat, we forget how mischievous a young cat can be. And they explore everything and everywhere in the house. And before you know it, they are the boss of the house! Good luck with your beautiful cat.

    I am on a raisin cure presently, so your pizza and chicken recipe look really, really tempting!

    1. I haven't really lived with a growing kitten since I was 6 years old. And what did I know then? It's true she is the boss of the poor dog. She wouldn't get away with half of it if she weren't so charming!

  3. Those ingredients are SO well organised..... I LOVE IT

    1. Mise en place, my friend. The chef's best-kept secret.

  4. Speaking of big dogs and little kittens, I came across this video today and even though McKenna is growing up I thought you might be able to relate!

    I snorted my tea out my nose at about the 1:20 mark when the kitten came hopping down the hall...

  5. What a great picture of McKenna! I'm glad she and Rosie are getting along well. Well, from McKenna's point of view, anyway :)

    Miss Chef is so busy. You are very patient.

    P. S. Miriam's video recommendation is well worth a look!

    1. I finally got to watch it...yes, you're absolutely right!!

  6. The pizza looks yummy. We had friends that had us over for a dinner party years ago. It was a make your own pizza party. The crusts were premade which made it easier I suppose. It was fun.


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