Thursday, August 11, 2011

new recipe for me, conditioning for the border collies

At both the Maple Ridge and Salem tournaments in July, Ezri was running a bit slower than I expected, more in the 4.0's instead of the 3.8's / 3.9's that she was putting down in May and June. I figure this is because of the crummy weather we've had most of the spring and early summer, which has limited my desire to actually exercise the dogs on a regular basis. So beginning the Monday after Maple Ridge, I started a conditioning program for miss Ezri consisting of exercise every day. After all, we're going all the way to Gridley, CA in September and this will be our one shot at trying to break 16, and darn it I won't let her be the weak link! I've been primarily running the dogs in the backyard, which for Ezri means a hard sprint across the yard, a leap over the dry water right-of-way, and a hard sprint up the hill to wait for her tennis ball. I keep her moving constantly, while throwing for the other three in between her runs, and after ten minutes I end up with flat melty dog, as seen at left. It's been almost three weeks of this workout program, and Ezri is definitely improving in the stamina department, so hopefully this will pay off in the way that I want next month! It's also helped keep the other dogs calm, as tired dogs are good dogs, and even Phoebe has been almost reasonable around the house the past two weeks.

Unfortunately, running in the yard is really our main option right now. The park nearby that has a creek is running strangely this summer and has no space for swimming, just a long run through about 6" of water that's no challenge at all. The park with actual swimming is a 20-minute drive away, so that's not an option for most evenings after work. I hope to take Ezri out this weekend for swimming, and next weekend I'm taking her to an agility fun match just to play on our own on the equipment.

On the flip side, I've picked up a new recipe for my repertoire - spoonbread. It falls in the same category as the frittata / egg pie recipe that I posted back in May, being that it can be a side dish or a main course depending on what you put into it. The original recipe that I have modified slightly to post below was originally posted on the King Arthur Flour blog a few weeks ago, and that's definitely worth a read as well.

Cornmeal Spoonbread Recipe
serves 4-6

Basic Ingredients
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups 2% milk
2 eggs
Splash of heavy cream or half-and-half
1 cup shredded cheese, plus extra for the top
Butter (for buttering the baking dish)

1) Preheat the oven to 400F, and heavily butter your baking dish or pan. The original recipe calls for a 9" square baking dish, but I've used an 8" square baking pan and a 10.5" x 7" baking dish, both with good results.
2) In a skillet/saucepan (I used a 12" nonstick skillet) over medium heat, combine the cornmeal, milk, and salt. Keep stirring the mixture as it cooks up in order to keep it from sticking or burning on the bottom, I find that a silicone spatula works really well for this.
3) When the cornmeal mush is cooked all the way through, which can be tested by moving the spatula around and seeing if the mixture fills back in the space left by the spatula, take the pan off the heat and let it rest for about five minutes.
4) While the mush is resting, beat your two eggs well with some heavy cream (or half and half, or milk, any would work fine), and measure out your shredded or chopped cheese. Prepare any additional add-ins at this time - chop up some bacon, shred some spinach, mix up some spices, and so on.
5) In the skillet with the cornmeal mush, combine the eggs, cheese, and additional add-ins and mix it up thoroughly with your spatula. Once the mixture is homogeneous, pour it into your buttered baking dish and smooth out the top. Sprinkle the top with additional shredded cheese if you prefer.
6) Bake at 400F for about 40 minutes, or until you can insert a knife into the spoonbread and pull it out again cleanly. It won't "set up" like baked cornbread, but it will cook up thoroughly.
7) Serve warm and enjoy! The spoonbread stays well in the fridge, and reheats nicely both in the microwave or in the oven at 250F.

Now, for my pictures of this process!!

First, I mixed blue cornmeal, milk, and salt in the skillet for cooking.

I keep the burner set to just below middle for this process. In this picture, the cornmeal is cooking along nicely but isn't quite done yet - you can see trails left by the spatula, but they are still filling in and the cooked mush is still very soft and squishy.

Completed mixture put into pan, and halfway covered with additional cheese. For this version, I used some chopped spinach and medium Tillamook cheddar (with a bit of leftover Tillamook mozzarella) for the mix-ins, and topped it off with the remainder of the sharp shredded Tillamook cheddar that I had on hand. I really like putting a bit of sharp cheddar on top of these sorts of dishes - it gives a nice crust and bite on top.

My new Le Crueset baking dish, in purple of course! I got this yesterday as a second choice to the covered 8" square baker that I originally wanted to buy, and this turned out really well for this purpose. I'm pleased. :)

And in closing for today, a picture of the new iPad sleeve that I'm making for myself to replace my first version made in March. It's going along pretty well, although I am getting some non-straight seams somehow (and no, the strips are not cut on the bias), so I may need to do some pinning to fix that. It looks pretty good, however, and it's reasonably non-obvious until you put a ruler onto the seams to check for linearity. I am especially pleased with the sashing I put in of purple and black stripes, set so the purple frames the grey/white fabric and the black frames the purple fabric. I'm hopefully going to finish the strip stitching on this tonight, and then I'll cut it down and assemble it tomorrow - with border collie fabric for the lining!

I have also finally finished the mini baby quilt that I was working on for a friend whose son was born in early June, and it's even labeled, washed, and ready to go! As soon as I've given that to my friend I will be posting pictures of it - I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!

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