Hi There

I’m not sure when I made a pet post last, so here is a brief update on the furry creatures of the house.

Arthas is two. He had a visit to the vet and he is healthy, he just needs to loose weight. So far all of our efforts have resulted in … him gaining weight. We switched him to weight loss food and cut back on calories again, but I’m not at the point where if he doesn’t loose weight next time he goes in, I’m just leaving it. He’s stocky and would be better at 45 pounds, but I also don’t have the heart to cut back his food intake any more. He is in good shape; he walks, he plays, he interacts with us and he is happy and healthy so that makes me happy.  He is also getting *slightly* better with other animals on our walks. He still growls if anyone moves towards him and gets too close and he gets ugly when another dog barks and moves towards him, but otherwise he is good. We can even walk past (grassy median between) a few neighborhood dogs without any nosies now.

Leia hasn’t been feeling well lately and she is definitely getting older (she turned 10 in August). Unlike the boys, she isn’t eating as much as I would like her to (she is more of a grazer, but you can’t leave wet food out with those two) but she is hanging in there. She needs some extra attention and care these days, but she is still the queen of the house and she really does run the place. We all seem to set our schedules to hers. Arthas tries to be careful around her when he is playing, and they have reached an accord, so that is good.

Tigger is also ten. I can’t believe it some days. I look at him and remember when he was smaller than his head and I could pick up him and Gracie with one hand. Not any more. Tigger is a big cat and I’m betting he is nearing 18 pounds. I know he needs to lose a little weight, and I’ve cut back what I give him a little since he tends to eat whatever Leia doesn’t, but he is just a big boy. He is also my alarm clock, although one that cannot be reset. He has mastered the art of crying for breakfast just out of petting range. He has figured out that if I can pet him, I won’t get out of bed, but if I have to move to reach him, he has a much better chance. He is adorable, and he is still my lap cat and he keeps me company when I’m working on school stuff. He is also in pretty perfect shape so I think we will have him around for a while.


Quinoa Burger

Lately I have felt like I’m in a food rut. I know I have experimented with a few things, but they felt the same as many other things I’ve made. Between work and school and the pets, I just haven’t felt it. But after a week off work, a weekend away and getting a bit ahead on school, I wanted to make something different. Something that I don’t ordinarily make, but I wasn’t sure what.

Earlier in the week I made quinoa tacos. I love quinoa tacos and think Dana at Minimalist Baker is pretty much a genius with vegetarian recipes. I have raved about the quinoa taco meat and stand by my belief that the quinoa taco is better than a regular meat taco. I made tacos earlier in the week, and I even experimented with the leftover taco meat and tried to make quinoa mole enchiladas. These were … edible. Not good. Just edible. I didn’t even save the leftovers. The sauce was good, the filling was good, it just seriously did not come together well. Even after the mole enchiladas I still had quinoa taco filling and I decided to try my hand at a veggie burger with it.

I looked at recipes before starting this, but none seemed like something I wanted. There was always an element that looked off to me, so I decided to wing it and invoked the experiment rule. (The experiment rule in our house is simple – the food is an experiment and if it isn’t good, we order pizza. No forcing ourselves to eat something that is terrible just because.) Bob was game.

Here is the thing about any veggie burger – they are not hamburgers and the goal is not to replicate the taste of a hamburger. You will never convince someone that it is a hamburger or that any grain/vegetable burger tastes “just like” a hamburger. They are different species. Tigger is never going to be mistaken for a lion or a tiger no matter how I cut his fur or dress him up like one. (Not that I would do that to the boy, but you get the idea.) A veggie burger isn’t about making something to mimic a hamburger, it’s about making something to replace the hamburger. I want flavor and texture, but not the same flavor and texture of a regular hamburger.

So … I started with a cup of the quinoa taco meat. I had increased the spice level a little – adding more garlic and chili powder when I made the enchiladas, but in general, it was just the quinoa taco meat. I took one can of while beans and mashed them with a fork in a bowl. I added the quinoa and some shallot and carrot, chopped. I decided a little binding would be helpful and used some panko bread crumbs and one egg. I mixed it all together, took 1/2 cup of the mixture and made patties. Since it was time to feed the pets, I stuck them in the freezer just to give me a little time and so Arthas would not try to steal them. (I will fully admit to being pretty excited that these looked like veggie burgers; there may have been a little squealing involved.)

To cook, I pressed each patty into a little bit of panko and then pan fried them in some light olive oil. I think the key to these was not touching them – no checking, no moving around the pan, just let them cook and flip only once. I got a nice crisp crunch on the outside and then inside was lighter than most veggie burgers I’ve tried. The flavors came through and I have to say – total success. I loved these and Bob did too. He said it was my best effort on a “burger” and we both devoured them. (For serving, I used an onion roll from the grocery store and topped the burger, after tasting it plain first, with a little BBQ sauce and served the whole thing with a cucumber tomato salad and potato chips. Never said this was a healthy meal, but it was good).

Recipe: (makes 5 burgers),

  • 1, 15oz can white beans
  • 1 cup quinoa taco meat
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (plus more for coating if desired)
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 shallot, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • oil for cooking
  • *salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder to taste

Drain and rinse the white beans and place in large bowl. With a fork, mash. You want them kind of smooth, but still chunky in places for texture. Add the quinoa taco meat and mix. Add in the shallot and carrot (and extra seasoning if using), mix again. Add bread crumbs and 1 egg and mix everything together.

Take 1/2 cup mixture and form into a patty. Press together. Press into panko bread crumbs, if you are doing this for the extra crunch. Heat oil in a pan and when hot, place patties in the pan. Don’t touch them! Let them cook for a few minutes (about 4-5) on each side, flipping only once.

*I added extra seasoning to the taco filling when I was making enchiladas, so I don’t know the exact ratios I used. I think I added another teaspoon of garlic power and chili powder to the mix, but I also made a double batch. I don’t think more spice will hurt these, and you could also consider some smoked paprika for the smoked/grilled taste, but I would be very careful with that.

** If you don’t have quinoa taco meat, you could probably do this with cooked quinoa, just make sure to adjust seasoning to give the burger enough flavor.


St. Augustine Beach

Sometimes you just need a break. A little time where you have no plans, no responsibilities and no need to do anything. After the last year, I very much needed this. I needed to sleep past 6, preferably without being woken up at 4 am by a cat. I needed to not schedule my activities around feeding the animals. Bob agreed that we should try to get away, so we started to think about what should we do, where should we go.

Our original thought was wait until I got home from work on the last day before spring break, and use the hotel’s tonight app, pick a place and just go. (Yes, I was willing to not plan something – you know I’m desperate to decompress when I’ll agree to that.) However, I began to think – and look. It’s high season here in Florida and it is spring break. Spring break in Florida. I forgot how many places fill up fast this time of year, so we went with a back up plan. One week prior, I began looking around at where to go. We looked at the upper keys, Ft. Myers and Naples, St. Pete Beach, Delray Beach and a few other places we could drive to. I also looked at St. Augustine, but was a little reluctant as I didn’t want to be tempted to do anything on this mini vacation. I just wanted to sit on the beach, or near the beach or someplace calming, and just do nothing. Then I looked at St. Augustine Beach. It’s a beach, it’s driving distance, it wasn’t was expensive as some places we looked and I found a super cute B&B that had an actual room available for the weekend. I looked a little more, then booked it.

wp-image-1875274554jpg.jpgThe House of Sea and Sun looks like it is nestled in the middle of no where. The views from the kitchen/dining area make you feel like there is nothing and no one around. But it is in the heart of St. Augustine Beach and very much in the middle of everything. Located on the beach (did I mention it was on the beach) it gave us exactly what we wanted. A quiet place to get away, walk on the beach, read books and rest. I even took a nap! The B&B is pet friendly and several other people had their dogs, but we didn’t bring Arthas.

We drove up after work Friday and spent the whole weekend. We didn’t make reservations for any restaurants, we didn’t go into St. Augustine proper. Except to walk to get dinner, or to walk along the beach, we didn’t leave the property. Patty (the owner) and Robin (her assistant) were fantastic and so welcoming. Happy hour each evening was fun and we got to interact a little with the other guests, but we didn’t feel pressured to do so. And I do have to say, I’m not a breakfast person, but breakfast every day was pretty amazing. Patty has run the House of Sea and Sun for twenty years. That is a very long time in the B&B world, but her experience shows.

Bob and I still talk about going to St. Augustine and seeing the city. He hasn’t been there is years and I have never been. There is also a state park not far from where we stayed, and I love state or national parks. St. Augustine is still on our list, but now I know where we are staying when we go back.


I know what I should be doing right now. I should be working on stuff for school – reading my school finance textbooks, writing my mini papers that are due each week. I could also be walking the dog or doing laundry or just playing with the cats and all of that would be productive. Instead, I’m procrastinating.

Tigger understands procrastination. He is a master of it unless it has to do with food – then he is definitely not in favor of procrastination.

I don’t know if Leia believes in procrastinating or not. She tends to find a comfortable spot and claim it. She isn’t fussy and if you think it is your spot and she happens to want that same spot, well, she will probably win because she is just that cute.

Does more need to be said? Arthas has this whole thing figured out. Lay on the couch and chill – it will all work work. … Unless there is food involved, then eat first, procrastinate after eating.


Mixed Drink

I’m not one for a mixed drink. I have a few issues with them, mostly the alcohol content tends to be high and I’m a lightweight when it comes to drinking. I like my wine and know how much I can have without issue. Mixed drinks can sneak up on you, especially if made really well.

So Bob and I went out to dinner in St. Pete the other weekend just to get out. We needed something a bit different and that worked. While out at dinner, Bob had a drink that was surprisingly good. So good we decided we needed to figure out how to make it at home.wp-image-883924789jpg.jpg We didn’t have any of the liqueurs at home, so the next time we went out looking for beer for Bob, we picked up the three that we needed. I’m a big fan of St. Germain, so this was not the hardest decision to make.

The question became – the ratios. Exactly how much of each should we use. I decided to try a basic 2-1-1 as a starter and surprisingly it worked.

So – our at home Menage a Trois or a French Twist as I like to call it.

  • 2 tablespoons orange vodka
  • 1 tablespoon St. Germain (or other elderflower liquor)
  • 1 tablespoon Chartreuse (green is what our store had, and it gave it the correct color, so I would not necessarily look for the white)

Pour ice into a shaker and add the three liquors. Shake really well and strain into a small glass over new ice. Sip and enjoy.

This is a sipping drink and not one that can be quickly consumed. I didn’t end up finishing mine as it was a little strong, but it is a nice change for a warm afternoon.


Sweet potato fajitas

The other day I thought about making sweet potato chili, then decided that I didn’t want to make that. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make, so I scoured the fridge and decided on sweet potato fajitas.

Usually I plan out meals very carefully. I buy only what I need for specific meals, and I try to make every one of those so food does not go to waste. Most of the time, I’m successful in this, but sometimes, I just really change my mind half way through the week. This was one of those times.

So  had limited ingredients on hand and no desire to go to the grocery. I made do with what I had, and cut and roasted the sweet potato while I fried up the onion and yellow pepper. I used a mix of chili powder and cumin as the main seasoning with some lime on the aromatics after they were done cooking. In the end, I thought the whole thing came together ok, but it needed a kick. I think adding some chili garlic sauce to the onions might help. Bob went with hot sauce and said it was just fine.

Sweet Potato Fajitas

  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper
  • flour tortillas
  • cheese mix (whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 lime
  • olive or other neutral oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and dice the sweet potato. I like small dice as it cooks faster, but larger is ok too. Slice onion and pepper thin. (If you are not crazy about peppers, peel the skin off of them – it helps with the strong taste.)

Toss potato with spices – chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper – and oil to coat. Roast for about 20 minutes in 400 degree oven. Careful – depending on how small they are diced, this may take as few as 15 and and many as 30 minutes. You want the potatoes soft, but not mushy.

While the potatoes roast, heat a little olive oil in a pan and add the onion and pepper when hot. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for about ten minutes. When the vegetables are softened, but still retain a crunch, remove from heat and season with some more salt and pepper. Squeeze 1/2 lime over the vegetables and mix. When the potatoes are done roasting, add to the pan and toss to combine.

Split mixture over 6 flour tortillas and top with grated cheese of your choice.




Myakka River State Park

After our last visit to the vet, Bob and I have been making a concerted effort to exercise Arthas more. We have also cut back on his food, but we are trying to get him out for a really good, long walk on the weekend to help him burn some extra energy and calories. I’m not certain how much good it is doing him, but we are having a blast.

We love taking him to the rowing park near us, but with summer coming (yes, in Florida, March means summer is coming so you have to start thinking about these things) I wanted an option that might provide a little more shade and just a different experience for the boy. Val has the dog beach, but we aren’t ready for off leash yet, so Myakka it was.


Myakka has a few hiking and nature trails, and it isn’t far, which is a bonus since Arthas is not crazy about being in the car. We can take him to the park as long as he is on a six foot leash; luckily he doesn’t pull nearly as much as Jessie did so he is pretty easy to walk. Most of the the trip was him sniffing and looking for things on the ground to eat, but it was a pretty walk. (I need to bring the good camera out there and take some pictures next time we go.)

Arthas definitely goes farther when he take him to the rowing park, but this was a nice change of pace. He got sniff a ton and we even encountered a few other dogs and didn’t have any issues. I credit this to watchfulness on our part and his interest in the smells on the ground, but I’ll take it. We are hoping that enough encounters where isn’t attacked might help him be ok with other dogs. (He is doing great with the cat, by the way – but I wouldn’t want to bring another animal into the house and upset the balance.)

Clearly, I didn’t get a lot of great shots of the puppy out and about, but that wasn’t the purpose of bringing him out there. He got a new place to sniff, some experience in the car longer than going to grandma and grandpa’s house (or the vet office) and some exercise. All in all, it was a good day.