Happy (very belated) Birthday, Amy!!! (August 26th)

We love you more than all those amusing round hickies on Mama L’s back!

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Kale Pesto

I was going to name this Amy Lee’s Kale Pesto, but since she didn’t share the recipe with me, I can only acknowledge her for the inspiration. If you have a buttload of curly kale from the garden, like I did, this is a wonderful addition to your menu. I had to do this in a couple of batches because there was so much kale. You can reproportion this to suit your taste.

I modeled this recipe after a similar experiment with broccoli. Traditional pesto is usually too hot (from all the basil) and too garlicky for me. So I swapped half the amount of basil for a whole head of steamed broccoli. The result was an amazingly creamy and light (and more nutritious) version of pesto.

I think you will like the kale version too. Because kale is more of a bitter green than broccoli, I would recommend adding the juice of a lemon to brighten it up a bit — but it’s not necessary. You could use this in a pasta dish, or as a marinade/rub for fish and chicken. It’s really delicious.

The following yields 4 cups of kale pesto. There was so much of it, I had to package them up and freeze them for later use.

Ingredients:

1 armful of kale, approximately 8 bunches if store bought.
1 really big bunch of basil
8 thumb-size cloves of garlic
1 cup of pine nuts (or walnuts)
1 cup grated parmesan (I used pecorino romano)
1/2 C. olive oil (this is about half the recommended)
1 lemon (juice)

Since I used pecorino romano, I did not add any salt, because it’s a saltier hard cheese. If you use parmessan, you might want to add a pinch.

Remove the stem (rib?) from kale and steam-cook them until soft. Remove stem from basil. Throw everything together in a food processor. Pulse and process for a couple of minutes until well blended. (Unless you have a really big food processor, I would recommend doing this in a couple of batches.)

Dear Baron Rousemüncher,

Today was a beautiful day with sunny skies and a mild breeze. The weather people said that we may have had a record — 73 degrees — and it’s still technically winter for a few more weeks! The Mamas don’t mind at all (and neither do we), although they both got sick from this change in weather.

Last week Mama L. came down with a two or three day flu. She was riding her bicycle home when she actually felt the bad winds entering her body, between the shoulder blades. She told Amy Lee this story and Amy said that she is living testament to ancient Chinese beliefs that bad winds enter one’s body through either side of T-2. Or the ankles. Mama told us that back when she was very young, her Grandma would do the coining to get rid of the bad wind. In Vietnamese it is called “cạo giὀ”, or literally, “scratch the wind”.

Now Mama M. is sick too. She has bronchitis, so completely different from what Mama L. had. But it is still wind-related. She had to go to urgent care tonight to get some medicine because she wouldn’t stop coughing. That was because Mama M. went to some gala event over the weekend and stayed out too late. And she wasn’t dressed adequately against the wind. Then she missed hiking with all of us the next day and Auntie Juni is still mad at her. We had a great time hiking though — this place might even be better than Redwood Regional Park because it is so wide open. Mama L. doesn’t know what it’s called, but it’s up in the hills overlooking San Leandro.

With the weather getting nicer, Mama L. has been wanting to spend more and more time outside. We don’t mind at all, because we get to keep her company and help out with the gardening even though she usually protests with our choice of activity. She’s been doing a lot of reading and research on small spaces, and has decided that this is the year that she is going to grow everything. And she’s going to grow them all in containers, not in the ground. She even decided that she would plant them according to favorable moon phases.

We thought Mama L. had gone off the deep end, when she exclaimed that you would have been proud to see this bountiful harvest as she carried a big armful of chard into the house! She had grown three varieties of Rainbow Chard from little seedlings. She had also grown some beets in the same planter, and the leaves are nearly as big as the chard. The picture shows a mixture of all the pretty greens. The chard just seems to keep producing greens, as long as she keeps harvesting the leaves every so often. And they seem to get bigger too! She had thought they were supposed to be replanted every season, but so far it has lasted through two.

This season, Mama L. gave up the idea of building more wooden planters out of the extra wood we had in the garage. That would have required too much work, she said, and she was getting antsy to get started. So Mama L. purchased several small galvanized tubs and punched holes in them for drainage. Then she lined the bottom of each tub with an inch of drain rock. Then came several layers of rich soil and coconut coir fiber. She read somewhere that this is actually even better than peat moss, rockwool, vermiculite, perlite or pumice. And it’s ecologically good as well. It is made from compressed coconut fiber, and has a very good balance of wetting and aeration and a resistance to bacteria and fungus growth. It holds 8-9 times its weight of water and has a high nutrient-absorption capacity. After she brought a huge bale of it home, she went crazy and started adding loosened chunks of it to all the containers. She said it’s probably the best admendment she’s ever added to the clayey soil we have. From the look of things, we will have lots of yummy veggies to eat soon.

Last weekend she planted cauliflower and broccoli and red cabbage and collard greens and peas and bunching onions. This past weekend, she planted have several varieties of lettuce, three different kinds of carrots with really great names (“Cosmic Purple”, “Chatenay”, “Solar Yellow”), two types of radishes including a “Japanese Long Scarlet”, and some more beets. Except for the lettuce, the carrots and the radishes were seed-sown. She’s a little nervous about those, because she’s not had much success with starting things from seeds. Maybe the coco coir fiber will help.

Here is a picture of the birds commenting on Mama’s gardening techniques.

 

Dear Diary,

Auntie Peggy’s panettone is almost gone and I really really want to try some. I had promised to write down all that had happened so that I can have just a little taste. But Mama L. has been so busy and she comes home tired every night. Tonight she told me she can help me with the post, but I have to keep it short. How am I going to do that? There is so much to tell! I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe I will do this backwards just in case I forget anything!

Amy Lee broke her elbow playing tag. Mama M. said she should have stuck to scrabble.

Auntie Juniper got a new job and she’s really looking forward to spending more time with us.

We spent this entire past weekend watching football. Mama L. said the Niners-Saints game was the best game she’d seen in a long time. And Mama M. said the same thing about the Ravens-Texans game. We don’t care that much about football, but I sure like snuggling up in bed. Then Madeleine and I got to go on a long hike in Redwood Regional Park where we got to run off-leash! It was awesome, and it was the best hike we’ve had in a long time. We met lots of other dogs too, including a handsome Catahoula Leopard Dog with blue eyes.

The Governor of California is shutting down Redevelopment Agencies in the State, and it’s making Mama L. mad coz she voted for him. Thousands of people are going to lose their jobs. Auntie Peggy, I’ll share all my dog treats with you, just so you know.

Mama L. had a couple of weeks off because of the City’s furlough days, and she got to do the one thing she’s been wanting to do for the past four years: clean out the garage. She’s still not done though on account of her running into rat poop. She got all grossed out and so it took a while longer than anticipated. She did all this research on how to get rid of rats holistically without trapping or killing them. One website said to clean out all the poop first and then scattering about some cotton balls soaked with pure peppermint oil. So far it seems to work and the garage smells terrific!

Then there were the Holidays with all the festivities. We got to go visit Mamas’ friends and then we had people over too! Even Grandpaw Dwight was here and they played poker all night. It was lots of fun and we were exhausted having to entertain everyone.

Oh, and Madeleine got a new outfit for Christmas!

I had my second birthday on December 9th. The Mamas got us birthday burgers and they were the best burgers ever! Keeper (Betty’s dog) stayed with us for three weeks and we had so much fun chasing each other around the house. He was there to celebrate my birthday too, so that was pretty special. Here’s a video of the Mamas singing me Happy Birthday!

And before all of that, Grandmaw and Grandpaw B. came out for a visit and stayed with us for a long time! This was especially great because we got to spend almost all the days with them and we got to go places that we don’t usually get to go to.

The same day that Grandmaw and Grandpaw B. arrived, we drove up to a town called Arnold, California. Mama M. had wanted them to see the foothills and gold country. It was one of several famous places that people used to flock to in the late 1800s because of all the gold they found! Boy, it was a really really long drive. Before the drive, the Mamas tricked us by giving us something called Dramamine by stuffing it in some Velveeta cheese. We love Velveeta! Madeleine is the one who usually gets carsick, not me. But I didn’t mind coz I LOVE cheese!

First it got dark and then it started to rain and we were getting nervous about finding the place. Mama M. was driving our new truck, The Beast, and she couldn’t see too well because they were on country roads and there wasn’t a whole of light.

We finally arrived at the cabin and wow, what a terrific place! It was huge! I chased Big Sis up and down and around and around. There were three different floors with lots of rooms to run in and out of. We had such a good time running around that we forgot we were scared. Then the Mamas and Grandmaw and Grandpaw unpacked and then we all had a great dinner!

The next morning, they had to get up really early. Because of all the rain the night before and the temperature drop, everything turned icy. Mama L. fell on her butt twice going down the steps as she was trying to get us out for our morning walk. I felt kinda bad for Mama L., but it was great fun sliding around like that.

They drove down to a town called Columbia to meet Miner John. Then they spent the next two hours digging and dumping the dirt into a screen in the river, and then panning it afterwards. Grandmaw and Grandpaw did the most work so they got the most gold. Mama L. showed us the vials with gold in them, and we squinted and squinted but it just didn’t seem like a whole lot for all that work. Mama L. told us that it took them over thirty buckets of dirt to get that much gold. I hope that’s a lot of dog food!

The best part of this trip was that it snowed the next day and everything was covered in white!  We had never seen snow before! Madeleine got all scared and started barking at everything. There were little white flakes floating down from the heavens above. I tried to catch them all before chasing Big Sis all over the place. It was really beautiful and fun and I wish everyday was snow day!

Then there was a flurry of activities. First, there was some show called Cirque du Soleil “Totem” that they all went to. Then there was Thanksgiving and Mama L. and Grandmaw B. spent an awful lot of time prepping and cooking. I got to taste a few items, but not as much as I would have liked. And then there was a really long hike through Redwood National Forest. The Mamas almost brought us, but it was probably a good thing they didn’t because it was a 5.54 mile hike and you know that Madeleine would have whined and complained the whole time. Sunday was football day and the Mamas and Grandmaw and Grandpaw all went to the game and had a good time. They had it was a really close game and the Raiders won over the Bears by only 5 points.

Grandmaw and Grandpaw B. left the next day to go back home, and we missed them immediately. It was so nice being spoiled. I even let Grandpaw B. pick me up and pet me, even though I was scared stiff and I was sure he was going to eat me. Grandmaw was great, and I really liked taking naps on her lap. I can’t wait till the next time I see her.

We barely had the house back to ourselves when Betty dropped off Keeper. Betty was going away for three weeks and she didn’t have anybody looking after him. Madeleine doesn’t like him much because he’s a boy and he has to pee over everything. The Mamas have been doing a lot of laundry. Mama L. has a theory that maybe he’s just scared of us girls and has to prove himself as the alpha dog. She also complained that our living room was turning into Occupy Manila Avenue.

Dear Diary,

Madeleine and I have gone to jail every day for the past couple of weeks now. The Mamas said it was for our own good and that it’s to protect us from ourselves. I didn’t know what that means until Big Sis told me it was because we ate Mama M’s shoes. I still wasn’t sure how the kennel would protect us, but Madeleine said that the Mamas told her that veterinaries often find the strangest stuff inside dog’s stomachs, like shoes, and that can make them sick or die even. I don’t mind jail that much, actually. I get to sleep in all day, and when I’m awake, there’s always a pizzle or a rawhide for me to chew.

We have lost a few neighbors in the past couple of weeks. Zeke is gone now; he was one of our favorite dogs! Mama L. was walking me that very morning when Zeke’s mom told her that it was going to be Zeke’s last day. Mama L. cried all the way home and she’s been sad ever since. And Fast Eddy and Mr. Ahab are gone, too, although I don’t miss them much at all — they were such mean old cats and they were always hissing at me! And now Annabelle is gone too. Big Sis was very fond of Annabelle. She told me a story about how when she was much younger she would share her treats with Annabelle.

Beatrice the Cat has been much nicer to me since then. I am not sure why, but she would purr and rub up against us. She even let me guard her and herd her around the house to make sure she’s safe. And instead of swatting at me like before, she’d just tap my head.

Mama L. has been depressed for the past few weeks, but I don’t think it’s just because of all the animals gone from our block! I think maybe it’s because of the stupid caterpillars eating her Asian vegetables. Mama L. had planted all these different kinds of vegetables like chard and lettuce and beets and the caterpillars didn’t bother any of them. But they devoured her bok choy and tatsoi and something else I can’t pronounce.

Or maybe it’s because she’s not sleeping well. She wakes every two hours at night and flings the bed cover off. And then she would shove me over and muttered something about us being a furnace. But since she was the one who threw the covers off, I have to put out more heat to keep warm. Big Sis said Mama L. is having hot flashes and that should go away after Amy Lee fixes her. She’s been taking herbs, although I’m not sure they’re all that helpful.

Maybe it’s Amy’s fault because Mama L. has lost every single scrabble game she has played with Amy. I don’t know how many games she has lost, but I think she should stop if she’s not winning. Why would you want to play if you can’t win?

Madeleine says it’s a combination of everything going on in the world right now. Grandma D. hasn’t been doing too well because she’s been sick and then one day she fell getting off the bus! She wasn’t too badly hurt, but Mama L. is worried coz Grandma is getting older and there’s that whole thing about old bones. On top of it all, the weather is getting colder and it’s getting dark sooner. There is something called seasonal affective disorder, and it spells SAD! And Mama L. is particular susceptible to it. I think we should all go on a vacation to some place sunny.

Anyway, I try my best to cheer the Mamas. When they come home, I fetch my favorite pizzle and throw it down at their feet to show them how much I love them! And Madeleine would roll over their dead socks to show how much she appreciates them too! I hope this will earn us our good service dogs kerchiefs like the one that Auntie Peggy was talking about.