Dear Diary,

Mama L. has been playing this old music all week. I can tell it’s really old because nobody listens to it any more. There was a lot of wailing and screaming and hollering. She said it was called “opera” and apparently they used to play it a lot in front of audiences. It’s like watching TV, but with real people who scream a lot. There was this one song she kept playing over and over again, because the Mamas had “date night” and they were going to see some butterfly lady. Then Mama L. told me the story about this butterfly lady (who was Japanese!) who fell in love with some American sea captain and married him and had a son, but he left her to go marry some American wife instead. Personally, I don’t blame him one bit. I would have left her too if she wailed and hollered at me like that all day long.

Well, actually, I couldn’t because I’m a dog, and we’re loyal like that.

I liked it so much better when Mama L. played the harmonica. Even if she could play only one bar from some famous Beatles’ song called Love Me Do. It sounds so much happier than opera!


Dear Grandma B.,

Mama L. was scampering around the house putting this away and wrapping that up and corralling us — we thought we finally get to go to the Dog Park. But no! She whisked us off to All About the DOGue again — or the Spa, as she calls it.  Gingersnap! is quite accustomed to being pampered, but Madeleine still have issues with people trimming her paws and swabbing her ears and poking around in unmentionable places. The good news is that Madeleine turns out to be the sweetest, most well-behaved dog after a Spa Day. We think it’s because our fur coats are so soft and we smell so good that the Mamas snuffle their noses in our necks and tell us what pretty girls we are!

Then the people at the Spa put these bandannas on us, because it was Howl-O-Weenie week, to pay tribute to the Great Pumpkin. (We love pumpkin!)  Despite Gingersnap!’s aversion to wearing clothes, she put up with the bandanna just fine, and was even racing the house in an attempt to show off to Mama M.  Madeleine loves wearing doggie clothes, of any kind, because she thinks she gets more attention from everybody. But she’s a big flirt like that.

But the best news is that we hear you and Grandpa B. are coming out for a visit! Mama M. told us last night that you’ll be here for Thanksgiving! Mama L. explained what Thanksgiving was all about, but we’re mostly interested in hearing about the food. Then Mama M. said that you’ll be roasting the turkey, so now we have two things to look forward to:  you coming out, and lots of food!

Oh, Madeleine mentioned that she heard somewhere that Lapp dogs are some of the finest dogs in the world, and that she must be a Lapp dog because she is just as fine. The Mamas laughed and said that if anything, she’s more of a lap dog than a Lapp dog. Gingersnap! had a good giggle after that, but Madeleine was sulking around just a little. Then the Mamas showed her a picture of a Lapphund in ten feet of snow, and that was the end of that.

Love, Gingersnap! and Madeleine

Kaisou Salad


Nori, geröstete Blätter aus Algen, die vor all...

Image via Wikipedia


Kaisou (or sanko) is a mix of sea vegetables (“kelp”, “seaweed”). There are many varieties of sea vegetables on the market, but some of the most well-known are nori, wakame and kombu.

Nori is the most familiar sea vegetable in the U.S.   Nori usually comes in sheets that are paper-thin, and is often used to wrap sushi rolls. Nori starts as small, soft, algae spores that attach themselves to netting on the surface of shallow bays. These spores gradually grow into wavy leaves and are harvested. On shore, the nori is washed, chopped, pressed into thin sheets between mats on wooden frames, and left to dry.  Like all sea vegetables, nori is high in minerals. It also has the highest vitamin A content of all the sea vegetables, but one of the lowest sodium content.

Wakame is a long, dark green, fern-like sea vegetable that grows on the ocean floor. After it is cut and floats to the surface, it is raked together and brought ashore, where it is washed and hung on ropes to dry. Wakame is high in dietary fiber, calcium, iodine, and alginic acid, among other vitamins and minerals. The alginic acid in wakame is said to bond with heavy metals, make them insoluble, and remove them from the body. (I’ve read somewhere that after the Nagasaki bombing, people who ate a strict diet of brown rice and miso soup with sea vegetables did not suffer from radiation poisoning.) Wakame works as a blood-thinning agent, so people taking anti-coagulating medications should avoid it. Wakame is used mainly in soups and salads. You can find wakame salad on the menu at most Japanese restaurants.

Kombu is a ribbon-like, dark green, leafy plant that grows to around three feet high on the ocean floor in shallow water. After the leaves are cut and brought ashore, they are folded and dried in the sun. Dried kombu is used in simmered dishes and soup stock, although I’ve seen kombu candy sold in Asian food markets. Kombu is high in alginic acid, dietary fiber, iodine, and calcium. It is also high in glutamic acid, the ingredient that researchers found to be kombu’s natural flavor enhancer (from which the synthetic form of monosodium glutamate was developed).

These three sea vegetables have been used in Japan and Korea for centuries to lower cholesterol levels, stabilize blood pressure, cleanse the blood, and treat hypothyroid conditions. Because of their extremely high mineral content, they can be consumed in small quantities, usually as a side dish or as a supplemental ingredient in the main dish.

I stumbled upon this package of kansou salad (the only English I could find on the package was on the “Nutrition Facts” sticker). The ingredients were “dried seaweed, snow fungus, and agar agar”. I grew up eating agar agar in various, often pretty, gelatinous treats. Interestingly, the sticker listed 0% of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron. It also listed sodium at 20% though…yipes.

That did not stop me from trying to make a very delicious kansou salad. I looked up recipes for wakame salad, but opted to leave out the sugar (1 teaspoon if you wanted to add it.)

First, soak a handful of the dried sea vegetable in a bowl of warm water for about 7 minutes.

Then, shake vigorously in a jar:

3 Tablespoon seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds (I toasted them first)
1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes

After draining the kansou, I removed excess water by patting the seaweed down on a couple of sheets of paper towel. (I also cut them up into smaller strips because the kombu and wakame were pretty big). Then I tossed in the vinegar mixture and mixed it up  well. It was a delicious and nutritious treat to make in a very short amount of time!

Dear Diary,

It rained today and I think Mama L. got a little restless with autumn. She tried several different outfits on me, even though she knows I hate wearing clothes. Apparently we’re going over to Auntie Juniper’s for Howl-O-Weenie and we have to have some sort of a costume. Mama L. decided that I’m going as a frog. Why can’t I just go as myself? Madeleine has to put up with it too. She said Mama L. already has an outfit for her, and it’s a pumpkin! I guess being a frog is slightly better than a pumpkin –– at least it’s an animal.

This morning, I saw Fast Eddy and Ahab square it off. They were putting on quite a show too, backs arching, hissing and spitting. Rex was sitting in the middle of the street, paws tucked in, enjoying the show. Even the squirrel (whom I haven’t met yet) was cackling on the branches up above. Occasionally he would throw something at them, most likely a pine cone. We all sat there and watched the show for a while. Ahab decided to back down, though, and that was the end of that. Cats are so strange. I would have voted for Ahab any day. Fast Eddy has it in for me and I’m not sure why.


Roasted Chili-Citrus Chicken (Thighs) with Mixed Olives and Potatoes

I don’t usually follow too many recipes — mostly because I don’t want to have to remember the ingredients. But Michelle found this recipe in the October 2010 Bon Appétit, and we followed the instructions to the letter. Well, actually, I doubled the amount of citrus and doubled the amount of cilantro and parsley, and substituted sweet potatoes (yams) for the Yukon Gold.  And it was insanely good!!! So good, in fact, that I’m including it on the blog. Here is the recipe in its entirety:

Prep 40 minutes. Total 1 hour 40 minutes. 4 servings. Save some of the brine that the olives are packed in — adding a dash or two at the end of cooking is a quick and easy way to bump up flavor.

Calories 562. Fat 30g. Fiber 7g.

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch-wide wedges
8 large skinless chicken thighs with bones
2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lime juice, divided
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1 teaspoon ground cumin1/2 teaspon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh parsley
50 olives (preferably mixed colors and sizes)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook potatoes in large saucepan of lightly salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, place chicken thighs on large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle chicken generously with salt; drizzle with 1 tablespoon lime juice and set aside. Whisk 1 tablespoon lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, both paprikas, grated orange peel, ground cumin, dried oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in small bowl. Rub chili mixture all over chicken. Arrange potato wedges on baking sheet, nestling around chicken. Drizzle olive oil over chicken and potatoes. Bake chicken and potatoes 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425°F. Turn chicken and potato wedges; spoon juices over. Bake 10 minutes longer. Add chicken broth, 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, and chopped parsley, stirring to scrape up any chili bits at bottom of baking sheet. Turn chicken over. Bake until chicken is cooked through and beginning to brown in spots, about 10 minutes longer.

Carefully transfer chicken and potatoes to platter, keeping potatoes intact. Place baking sheet over 2 stovetop burners. Boil sauce until reduced to 1 cup, about 3 minutes. Mix in olives. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper and additional lime juice, if desired. (This is when I added the juice of another whole lime). Pour sauce over chicken and potatoes; top with remaining tablespoon cilantro and serve.

BTW, I used a whole cut chicken (skinned), not just thighs. Even the breasts, which I usually hate (because it’s always dry and chewy), turned out really moist and tender and good. I would imagine the thighs would be best in a recipe like this, but if you are super conscious about white meat, this is a good recipe for it. The picture does not do it justice.

Also, because of all the juice, I would recommend serving it with couscous or rice or something to soak up all that tasty goodness. And, just so you are aware, the paprika adds quite a bit of heat. 🙂