Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Zipper, My Precious Baby Dog

April 18, 1997 - November 29, 2013

I know, I know.  This is a food blog.  You don't come here to read about dogs.  The thing is, this post isn't about just any old dog.  This is about a foodie dog and one of the best dogs who has ever graced this planet with his presence - and my oh my, did he have a presence!

Rest in peace, baby dog.  Those 16 & 1/2 years between those 2 dates were a great "dash" of a life.  Thanks for living up to your name and making that dash between your date of birth and the day you had to go so "zippy" and wonderful.  You didn't just dash through it - you always “Zipped” right through!  16 & 1/2 years is an incredibly great, long run, especially for a miniature Yorkshire Terrier.  You were simply the best there ever was, and that doesn't even begin to capture who you were to everyone.  You made every day around you a pleasure for everyone you ever met, and I am incredibly grateful for your existence in my world for just over half my lifetime.  We have all been incredibly lucky to have you in our lives, and I'm very thankful my parents took such good care of you.  The fact that you were super sweet in giving kisses from the moment I met you until your last waking moment speaks volumes about who you were.

You were a fighter through and through, my little mighty dog, and so much more. 

A best little buddy. 
An always-available petting recipient. 
A consistently cheerful, playful, and loyal companion. 
A believer in living life to the fullest.
A fierce and fearless six-pound home defender. 
An always-ready, champion fetcher. 
A unabashed smiler, miraculously managed even without lips. 
An intuitive therapist. 
A bedside nurse. 
A masterfully active and animated dreamer.
An overflowing container of so much personality.
A genetic hybrid comprised of an unexplained concoction between pure cane sugar and dog DNA that managed to melt even the coldest of hearts. 
A seemingly endless, though diminishing with age, ball of energy.
A bath disloyalist. 
A post-bath shampoo-smell remover. 
A chewer of hair dryer air. 
An electric hair trimmer antagonist. 
A shameless ham for attention. 
A converter of dog-haters. 
A converter of the dog-fearing. 
A converter of an "I don't want an indoor dog" father. 
An ever-ready travel companion. 
A highly upset announcer when you saw your “mom” bleed.
A dancer in exchange for treats or attention. 
A ball-substitute that happily ran between people for attention when they lost the fetching ball.
A highly successful beggar of food morsels. 
A stealthy, compulsive and shameless kisser.
A flawless finder of all the good spots to mark during walks. 
A sniffer of only the good leaves.
A lantana leaf junkie.
An avid fan of the great outdoors.
A one-litter father.
A sneaky chocolate thief and a subsequent hydrogen-peroxide-induced-chocolate-removal survivor. 
A survivor of a Great Dane attack. 
A survivor of rat poisoning. 
A fearless yard defender from giant, Texas-size opossums and other non-fluffy tailed creatures. 
A vet's office protester. 
A hunger protester who only accepted hand-fed morsels from favorite, worthiness-self-assessed-people when overly excited or upset. 
A fierce women-of-the-house defender. 
A perverted, non-believer in bathroom privacy and a believer in a highly probable statistics of getting attention from a captive throne-sitter.
A connoisseur of sunspots. 
A beggar of corncobs. 
A mad-dash out of kennel morning-potty runner.
A post-morning potty-run torturer of teenage daughters and sleepover victims who refused to get out of bed.
A vehicle engine noise-recognizing greeter. 
An insistent and incredibly dashing sweater model. 
A sniffer of anything butt-like. 
An eager-to-please trick show-off. 
An equal opportunity game player with cats and dogs alike.
A little dude with a complete inability to hide naughty ideas with body language.
A greeter and fetch player, even over the phone. 
A stunningly comprehensive canine student of the English language. 
An unapologetic food snob who only ate Cheerios soaked with milk upon gaining the knowledge that they could be soaked in milk. 
A cheerful part of returning home each and every day. 
A sweet welcomed-guest-greeter and an intimidating unwelcomed-guest-greeter with the remarkable ability to always know the difference between the two with absolute, 100% accuracy. 
A stunner of veterinarians with your age, personality, and vigor for life. 
The gift that truly kept on giving.
An unrepentant thief of hearts. 
A beautiful dog, inside and out. 

Thanks for making everyone love you SO much, little dude.  You are sorely missed, and will always be remembered for everything you were to all of us.  Clearly, it was a LOT.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pre-PAX Sky High Tabletop Play Benefitting Food Lifeline

Hello, readers!  I am co-hosting a charity dinner later this month, and thought some of you might be interested in attending.  100% of the proceeds go to a great charity, Food Lifeline.  Food Lifeline is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending hunger in Western Washington.  Food Lifeline makes every penny count, and 95% of the food they receive from local, state and national contributors is donated.  Event details are below.

Who: Hopefully you, along with 249 of your closest friends or soon-to-be friends
What: Pre-PAX gaming party. A night of tabletop gaming, drinking, socializing, and general merriment from the absolute most scenic location in the entire West coast and the swankiest spot in Seattle, with 100% of all proceeds going to Food Lifeline.
When: Thursday, August 29th, 7:30 pm - 2:00 am
Where: Columbia Tower Club, 76th floor, downtown Seattle. Google map directions are available here.
Why: Because you're like us - you like to game. Because you want to kick off PAX in style. Because you'd like a tasty alcoholic beverage and a supplied meal whilst you play your games. Because you're bringing an S/O whom you would like to dazzle with the most stunning views imaginable (or to at least distract them long enough for you to play). Because you're traveling and want to go someplace special. And, most importantly, because you'd like to do all of this whilst supporting a fantastic charity - and getting a tax write-off in the process. That's a lot of wins in one package.

What's included in all ticket levels:
Up to 249 other people to game with
A game library that you can borrow from (feel free to BYOG, as well)
Full (cash) bar access
Guaranteed seating! We will have more than enough seats for everyone attending, so no waiting to play games.
A pop-up game store to make acquisitions, if you so choose
A ticket-based drawing, with prizes including gift cards to many of Seattle's best restaurants, tabletop games - and, oh yes, PAX badges in case you struck out and want to go.
As all monies spent are going to Food Lifeline, all monies spent are 100% tax deductible
(Pending final acknowledgement) Representation from the Cookie Brigade, who will be giving away their delectable treats to raise funds for Child's Play

VIP ticket levels also get:
A swankier plated dinner
Drink vouchers
Free drawing tickets
Private-access gaming rooms, if you so desire
A bigger tax deduction

For more information, and to link up to buy tickets: www.dawgsledevents.com (big link at the top that reads "tickets on sale now" that will take you to the ticketing agent).
Direct link to ticket site: shindigg.com/Event/PZFMEiVs

Map of the event in relation to the PAX location:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Homemade Gnocchi

Before I get into my next post, I figure I should explain my absence.  I have been focusing on school lately, so I have been neglecting my blog.  Sorry, folks!  Don't worry, I've still been out and about and enjoying food as it should be enjoyed!  I just haven't had a whole lot of time to spend on writing things that aren't school assignments.  I figure for every hour I spend on my blog, that's one hour I am taking away from school time.  I'm allowing myself this one reprieve since this one won't take a whole lot of time to churn out.

Since a certain someone recently had some dental work done, he needs some soft foods for the next few weeks.  I offered to make one of my favorite dishes: homemade gnocchi!
The finished product

Some of my readers might remember me posting a link to Salumi's gnocchi recipe.  The original recipe can be found here:  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549147  Salumi's also has printed copies of their gnocchi recipe available near the cash register in their store (you can just nicely ask for a copy).  The previous recipe was posted in honor of their famous gnocchi maker, Aunt Izzy, who passed away in 2008.  These days, Mario Batali's mother makes it almost every Tuesday.  She's a really sweet lady.  You should stop and say hello sometime!  If you are more of a "visual learner" (like I am) and you have trouble following the recipe below, you could always stop by Salumi's on gnocchi day, and watch Mario's mother roll, cut, and strike the gnocchi from the storefront window!

Do you know the great thing about gnocchi?  It's very simple to make, and it's super cheap to make!  All you need is potatoes, eggs, flour, salt, cornmeal, your favorite sauce, and some of your favorite cheese (bread is optional).  That's it!  All together, this recipe takes ~1.5 hours to make, and about half of that time is spent waiting for the potatoes to boil.  All in all, it's very easy to make, and it's delicious! It does not keep very well in leftovers since the gnocchi will just turn into mush.  So if you were planning to make the whole recipe and only cook half of it, I have to strongly advise against that.  The dough will turn grey, and the gnocchi will be very mushy.  When you strike it the next day, the ridges will not hold very well.  If you decide to make all of it and eat the leftovers the next day, I don't recommend that either.  Let's put it this way: Salumi's will  not serve their gnocchi even to go, let alone leftover from the day before!  The texture gets mushy, and they simply will not compromise the quality of their gnocchi!

Special notes: 

This recipe can be halved, and I listed the halved ingredients below.  When halved, it will serve a generous portion for 2 or a regular sized portion for 3.  The instructions are mostly the same for doing a full batch vs. a half batch.  The only real difference is it takes less time with the halved recipe since you are cutting less gnocchi pieces!  

I also strongly recommend using a kitchen scale that can measure in grams. I also recommend purchasing a gnocchi board (they're ~$5), a pastry scraper or cutter, and a potato ricer.  If using the ricer I recommend, I suggest using the "fine" setting.  Through the Amazon link below, there's a very helpful instructional video for the ricer in the Amazon reviews.  If you do not have a ricer, you can use a large-hole cheese grater to break down the cooked potato into tiny bits.  Remember, you don't want big chunks in your gnocchi dough, so it does need to be broken down as best as it can be.  Kneading the dough also helps break down the potato chunks.   I have included a link for all of the recommended tools through the Amazon widget at the bottom of this post.  

Homemade Gnocchi

Ingredients - full size / half size

500 grams potatoes (approximately 1 lb) / 250 grams potatoes (approximately 1/2 lb) (Yukon Gold is recommended, though Russets or most other types of "starchy" potato can work too)
300 grams flour / 150 grams flour
2 eggs / 1 egg
2 tsp salt / 1 tsp salt

Salt for gnocchi boiling pot
~3 tbsp  + ~3 tbsp cornmeal / ~2 tbsp + ~1.5 tbsp cornmeal

Your favorite sauce (some form of marinara, spaghetti sauce, or meat sauce is recommended)
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or any other favorite cheese), grated

Optional: Small loaf of Italian bread or French baguette (for dipping and soaking up the leftover sauce) - 


  1. Scrub but do not peel the potatoes.  Place the potatoes in a large pot of unsalted water, and bring it to a boil.  Cook until they are tender - approximately 30-40 minutes.  Cool and peel the potatoes while they are still warm.  Be sure to cut off any dark spots from the potatoes as well.  If you are short on time, you can peel the potatoes, cut them into large chunks, and then boil them for about 10-15 minutes.  However, I recommend boiling the potatoes whole since they will stay together easier, and you will "lose" less potato!
  2. Put a separate large pot of salted water onto boil while you prepare the gnocchi dough.  Alternatively, you can use the water from the potatoes you previously cooked, and you can just add salt to it.  If you are going to use the potato water, it is recommended to thoroughly scrub and then boil the potatoes whole, otherwise you will have too many little chunks of potato and dirt floating in your water.  Personally, I recommend just using a new pot of salted water.
  3. Put some flour down on your kneading surface, and press the potatoes through a ricer onto your floured surface.  Add the measured flour and salt so it makes a nice round mound, and make a hole in the middle of the mound - kind of like a small bird's next.  Crack the eggs into the hole.   
  4. With your fingers, break apart the egg yolk and mix it a little bit with the egg white.  Start to stir the dough mixture with your fingers, mixing the potatoes, salt, flour, and eggs together.  Once  you have mixed everything together and it's soft, knead the dough until it is smooth.  Set it aside for 5-15 minutes to let the gluten expand.
    These are all 4 stages of gnocchi dough. Starting from the upper left corner, going clockwise: the unformed dough, the dough after it's been formed and cut, the gnocchi after it has been "struck", and the dough after it is rolled out but before it is cut.  My gnocchi board and pastry cutter are also pictured.
  5. Flatten the ball to about a 1/2 inch thick rectangle shape, and cut the flattened side into 6 strips or so strips.
  6. Add more flour to your kneading surface if needed.  Roll one of the strips like a snake until it gets about as big around as your thumb.  You might have to break the piece in half or in three pieces as it gets longer.
  7. Take a butter knife or a pastry cutter and cut the "snakes" into pieces about as big as the length of the last knuckle of your index finger - a little more than half an inch.  The flour on the table should help keep the gnocchi from sticking together, but do not use too much.  Once you have cut all the gnocchi pieces, you can lightly roll them in the leftover flour.  This can also help prevent them from sticking to each other.  Remember, you want to keep the gnocchi relatively the same size since bigger gnocchi will have a longer cooking time.
  8. Roll the gnocchi on a fork or on a gnocchi board to "strike" the gnocchi and make ridges.  The ridges on the gnocchi helps the sauce stick to the gnocchi better.  Basically you roll it with the side of your thumb to make the impression on one side of the dough.  It will look a little bit like a bigger version of  "Velveeta shells and cheese."  It can take some practice.
  9. Take first measurement of cornmeal and spread it on a cookie sheet.  Place the "struck" pieces of gnocchi on the cookie sheet.  Since you don't want the gnocchi to stick to each other, try not to place the gnocchi on top of each other as best as you can.  Once the cookie sheet is full, spread the remaining cornmeal on top of the gnocchi and gently shake the cookie sheet to help roll the gnocchi in the cornmeal.  This will also help prevent the gnocchi from sticking together.
    This is the result from the half-recipe
  10. When the water is boiling, gently place half the gnocchi in the pot.  I typically use a fine mesh strainer spoon to place the gnocchi in the pot.  A "spider" wok tool will work too, as will a large slotted spoon.  I just like using as wide of a tool as possible so I can get as much gnocchi into the pot as possible at the same time, and I prefer to not just toss all the cornmeal into the pot and I don't want to run the risk of having "gnocchi mush" if the gnocchi gets stuck to each other while sliding off the cookie sheet.
  11. At first, the gnocchi will sink to the bottom.  After a minute or two, the gnocchi will float to the top.  Once it has floated to the top, cook it for one more minute.  (Hint: this is why you want to try to get all the gnocchi to be the same size and put it in the boiling water at the same time).  Once it has been cooking at the top of the water for one minute, scoop the gnocchi out and put it in a colander to drain.  Repeat for the remaining gnocchi.
  12. Serve the gnocchi in warm bowls with a couple spoonfuls of sauce, and grate some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on top.  I typically serve it with some meat sauce, and I use some of my meatball meat I always keep in the freezer.  I will post another post with my meatball meat recipe in the near future!
  13. Enjoy!

For the nutritional values of this recipe, you can log it through the My Fitness Pal application.  Just search for "Salumi's Gnocchi (without sauce)"  Disclaimer: this nutritional value calculation is just an estimation, and it is based off 6 servings.