Monday, December 8, 2014

We don't always go to the emergency vet, but when we do, it's always on a holiday weekend.

That's a true story.  The only other time we've had a veterinary emergency was when Boris ate the ibuprofen and nearly died.  And that was over a Memorial Day weekend.  This time, it was Helo's turn, and it was on Thanksgiving.  We spent all day at my in-laws' place prepping food, eating, merrymaking, etc.  When we got home around 6:30, I fed the dogs the front legs of the deer that Craig shot, and noticed that Helo's seemed particularly bloody.  His bed(he takes his food over to his bed to eat it) had gotten splotches of blood on it, but that's not too out of the ordinary, some pieces of the deer that ended up earmarked for the dogs tended to contain a bit more blood than others, so I didn't think twice.  But when I went into the bedroom to change the sheets, I noticed that there were some new bits of blood on the dog bed that Helo had just laid down on (sans deer leg), and investigated further.

His dew claw was bleeding, quite a bit.  He wouldn't let Craig and I touch it, but otherwise it didn't seem to be bothering him too much.  But the bleeding also wasn't slowing down, and since we couldn't get in there to do any first aid, it became clear that we probably needed to pay someone to manage his toe.  So after 20 minutes on hold with the 24 hour vet clinic, they finally gave us the "yeah, you should probably just bring him in."  So we did.  And poor Boris.  We had been gone for 8+ hours, came home for 45 minutes, and then promptly left, with his only buddy in tow.  He melted the heck down. But unfortunately, Helo needed to get handled.  So we loaded him into the car and went on our merry way to the clinic.  And then we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  After Helo had bled all over the floor of their lobby, they showed us into a private exam room to wait some more.

And I got bored and took photos to post on facebook.  If you look in the photo above, you can see Helo's dew claw bent out at a 90 degree angle to the rest of his leg.  Not a great look.  We eventually were able to get a close up photo of the dew claw and zoom in to determine that he'd torn the nail off of the quick (that's the nerve bundle that bleeds if you cut too far on your dogs' toenails), but that it was still kind of hanging on.  They eventually came in and brought Helo to the back to get him some painkiller, and hopefully sedate him enough to get him to let them manage the toe.  And they eventually got him drugged up enough that they could hold him down and deal with it.  Helo is surprisingly strong and capable of escaping your arms when he puts his mind to it.  They got the toenail removed, and then had a heck of a time stopping the bleeding, but with the aid of some clotting agent, a compression bandage, and some time, it eventually slowed to the point that they let us take him home.  At 1am.  The added bonus was that our bill was surprisingly inexpensive, just $250.  Beats the pants off the $1800 that Boris cost us a few years ago!

The next morning, Helo was pretty high.  Based on the paperwork from the vet, they gave him a pretty high dosage of the doggy version of dilaudid, which I can attest to being a pretty awesome painkiller.  So the entire next day, Helo laid on his bed, making this exact face.  I deep cleaned the floor that day, so I eventually had to make him get up on the sofa or into the bedroom, but if he didn't have to move, he didn't.  He just sat there, not blinking, with his tongue partway out of his mouth.  It was ridiculous.

And a couple days later, I took off the bandage, and his toe looks... OK!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Craig got me sick, so the pets came to the rescue

Craig had this cold/cough combination that was pretty rough on him for a while.  Just as he began recovering, it knocked me on my ass.  Fever, chills, exhaustion, phlegm, coughing, decreased appetite (this part was a net positive), aches, etc put me down.  I made a nest on the sofa and only got up to make more tea or get more tissues/cough syrup/sudafed.  Boris and Perry took advantage of my incapacitated nature and enjoyed my nest as well.  They did an excellent job of keeping me cozy and preventing me from getting up and doing too much.  I burned through a season of Top Chef and got a healthy start on The Amazing Race as well. I also passed the time by taking photos, and I would be derelict in my blogger duties if I didn't at least share the photos.

I just want to show you how awesome my apple pie was for Thanksgiving.

In case you were wondering, I am a sucker for slightly fussy things.  Not fussy like little paper wrappers on the ends of bones, but more fussy like process-intensive ways of cooking things for the ultimate in reliable and great end result. As such, I use the Serious Eats apple pie recipe.  The trademark of this recipe, besides using the right kind of apples, is parcooking the filling to set the apple's pectin, resulting in a firmer and more robust filling.  It works.  Their base recipe calls for pouring boiling water over the apples to bring them to 160 degrees, but I've never been much for adding water to my pie fillings, and I have the equipment to hold the apples at a steady 155 for an hour, so I vacuum packed my apple slices with a little apple cider, and sous vide cooked them for an hour at 155.  After draining the extraneous cider off of them, I mixed in the other filling ingredients (I made 2 pies worth, I hate going to all of the effort and mess of making pies only to make one, so I made a second one for the freezer), and filled the crust, baked off the pie, and we ate it for Thanksgiving the next day.  As you can see, the filling did not shrink, I don't have a big gap between my top crust and the filling, and the apples are firm, appley, and bright.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Butternut & Apple Stuffed Endive Spears

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.  Something to do with gathering together with family for the first time in months, telling stories, eating, drinking, and laughing just feels so perfectly cozy and autumnal.  In my family, Thanksgiving is an all-day event.  We always get to my in-laws early to help cook, and snacking starts shortly thereafter.  The problem is that many of the snacks are so filling and heavy, that by the time dinner comes around, I'm too full to eat my favorite Turkey-Day foods!  You don't have to only put out heavy items like full-on cheese boards, I much prefer a simple, bright, and flavorful appetizer that can be prepped days ahead of time, and then quickly and effortless assembled in a few minutes when your guests arrive.  Bonus points for it being gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo, low fat, and relatively low carb. The chevre can be entirely omitted for vegan guests. That means that all of your guests will be able to enjoy these gorgeous spears that are filled with little gems of autumnal vegetables.  

Butternut & Apple Stuffed Endive Spears

3 tablespoons healthy cooking oil (I prefer olive or avocado oil)
1 large yellow onion
1 granny smith apple, peeled and cubed
3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 clove grated garlic
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds(pepitas)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
4-6 heads endive
2 oz chevre (goat cheese)
Butternut & Apple Stuffed Endive Spears

*Caramelize your onion - Cut onion in half and then into thin slices.  Place in a skillet that's been preheated over low (2/10) heat with 1 tablespoon of cooking oil.  Break up onion with a wooden spoon, and sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt over the top. Pour 1/4 cup of water into skillet and allow to cook, stirring and adding splashes of water occasionally, until onion has turned a shade of golden brown. Remove from heat.
*Prep your squash and apple mixture - Peel & core your apple.  Cut into approximately 1/4" cubes. (Approx. 1.5 cups)
*Cut the stem end off of your butternut squash. Using a sharp peeler, first peel off the rind, then the green veins, if they are present. Cut approximately 3 cups of squash into 1/4" cubes.
*Preheat a large skillet over medium-low heat (4/10) and drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of cooking oil.  Add your butternut squash and saute, stirring occasionally for approximately 5 minutes.
*Add apple and a pinch of kosher salt, and continue cooking for 2 more minutes.
*Peel and grate ginger and garlic using a rasp-style grater, like a microplane, then add to squash and apple mixture.
*Add 1/4 cup water, and stir to combine.  Continue cooking for an additional 2-5 minutes.  When squash and apple appear to be softening, grab a spoon and taste them.  If they are tender, remove from heat and allow to cool.  If not, continue cooking until they are.  Adjust salt if necessary.
*Toast your pumpkin seeds - in a small skillet over low (2/10) heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds.  Stir or shake to coat, and add garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and a healthy pinch of salt.  Stand over seeds and stir regularly to keep them from burning.  Once they've crisped a little and begun browning, remove from heat and pour out onto a paper towel to absorb any errant oil.
*At this point, your onion and squash mixture can be put into airtight containers and refrigerated for up to 4 days.  The pumpkin seeds can be store in an airtight container at room temp for 2+ weeks(they never last that long in my house).
*Assemble - Cut the bottom ends off the endive, and lay them out on a plate.  On a square plate, I like to alternate top to bottom, on a round plate, they look great arranged like the petals of a flower.  
*Spoon a couple tablespoons of your squash mixture into each leaf, favoring the greenish tip end.  Add a few strands of caramelized onion and then crumble just a little chevre over the top and sprinkle a few pepitas over the top.  These stay good at room temperature for hours, but they won't last that long!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato

This was delicious.  But first, let's talk a little about grass fed beef, and how it differs from conventional beef.

Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato

 Conventionally fed cows are born and live on/in fields until they are weaned and old enough to be moved to a feedlot, where they generally live in pretty deplorable conditions and are fed a grain mixture designed to help the steers put on weight fast.  And they do.  Feedlot beef are generally slaughtered between 12-18 months of age.  And they have to be.  The grain mixture that feedlot beef are fed is not what their digestive tract has evolved to handle, and the grains begin fermenting in their gut, and acidify things far more than they're capable of handling. The grains actually slowly poison cows by making it so the lining of their digestive tract allows bacteria through into the rest of their system, and they get blood infections.  As a result, feedlots generally feed prophylactic antibiotics to keep the cows from dying of sepsis prior to being slaughtered. So the steer are generally far less healthy overall.  Add in to that the type of fat that they put on while eating a high grain diet is Omega 6 fats, which are not great for you, and feedlot beef is overall a really pretty awful option.

Grass fed cows are born and live on/in fields until they are ready to be slaughtered.  Since they're not being fed a mixture of grains designed to fatten them up(strange how cows have a tendency to get fat when they eat lots of grains, just like humans), it takes them much longer to get up to the desired weight. As a result, they live 2-4 years, and generally end up tougher, you know, because they are able to move around and use their muscles.  The grass-based diet allows the cows to gain weight slowly, and the fat ratio (O6:O3) is much healthier, both for the cow and for the people who eat it.  Anyway, how this affects the end product is fairly simple... the meat is tougher, leaner, a little gamier (think a combo of conventional beef and lamb) and the fat that it does have tends to be healthier.

When cooking a grassfed steak to medium-rare, it can be difficult to get a truly tender end-result.  Grassfed beef is great for long, low and slow cooking, but a quick and rare preparation will give you a tough shoe leather-esque meal, not good eats.  An effective way to still get a tender result with a perfect medium rare is to cook it in a water bath, sous vide. You can hold it at 135 degrees for 6 hours, during which time, enzymes in the meat begin to break it down and it tenderizes, giving you a result quite similar to a conventionally raised steak, without any of the terrible feedlot baggage.

Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato (serves 4)

1-1.5lbs grassfed steak
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 strips bacon, chopped and cooked until level of desired crispiness is achieved.
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1 green onion, green part, chopped
sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
prepared horseradish

*Liberally season steak with pepper (not salt) and vacuum seal (you could also add thyme, rosemary, etc to this if you wanted to get fancy.
*About 6 hours before you want to eat, place in a water bath set to 135 degrees, and let it hang.
*About an hour before you want to eat, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, scrub your sweet potatoes, half, and place cut side down on a lightly greased baking sheet (I used some avocado oil)
*Bake your sweet potatoes until tender, this took mine 45 minutes.
*Prep your toppings and enjoy a glass of wine or an apertif in the mean time.
*When the sweet potatoes are tender, turn over and cut a line down the middle of them.  Split as much as possible and sprinkle inside with your crumbled bleu cheese. Return to oven until cheese has begun melting.
*Preheat a pan you don't mind getting very hot over high heat.  I like using cast iron, but a stainless or carbon steel pan would probably work like a champ as well.
*Remove your bag from the water bath, remove the steaks, and dry off using paper towels.  Do not salt.
*Sear the steaks by placing in the (literally) smoking hot cast iron pan without any oil.  Leave be for 30 seconds or so. When the steaks are seared enough, they should release from the pan and be easy to pick up. When this has happened, flip, and allow to sear on the second side.  Remove to your cutting board.  No need to let them rest, the juice is already distributed where it should be.  Slice and salt liberally(remember, your beef hasn't seen a bit of salt yet).
*To plate, place your potato half on a plate, top with remaining ingredients. Place your portion of steak on your plate, salt again (this is a great time to use finishing salt), add a bit of horseradish, and enjoy!

Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato