Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Best Kind of Ginger

Dear friends- this post is not about cooking but about hope- There is something very special about having a companion. We had one of the best. Ginger was our Golden Retriever. We had trained her to be a Therapy Dog but maybe she had trained us. It has just been a week since she found her way to doggie heaven. She had a heart condition we were hoping she would grow out of. On Tuesday I was away filming a cooking spot, the kids were at school and Sherwood was at work. When we got home that evening we found that she had somehow gotten into the pantry and had eaten, among other things, a 24oz bag of dark chocolate. She certainly had good taste. After a call to the vet we realized that it was too late to get it out of her system but were advised to watch and see- that she would probably be fine. As it turns out she had a peaceful night's sleep. The following day she had crazy behavior and her heart was racing a mile a minute. She was restless and dramatically unsettled- behavior like this I had never seen in her. Later that afternoon she ran down the stairs, turned around and collapsed. I tried to revive her, called Sherwood and raced her to the vet. When we arrived she was already gone. They confirmed that her little heart just couldn't take the toxins of the chocolate.
I have never in my life felt such a loss.
The reason I write about this here is to offer a caution to all the dog lovers out there. Ginger was a constant presence in our lives. Amazingly expressive with her ears and eyebrows she always had a tail wag to offer and a hug to share. I hope that by telling this story we will help others to avoid the pain we have been through. Chocolate is poison to dogs.
Our sweet Ginger had an extraordinary affect on everyone she met. People were drawn to her to both give and receive a little love. She was pure of heart and wanted to please whomever was near. When we found this little golden ball of fur she would ride in my arms like a baby, falling asleep on my shoulder. She knew when you were sad and made every effort to love you through it. Our Ginger went everywhere with us. As a service dog she would come out to dinner, lay under the table and only move when we told her it was time to go. It was great to have other restaurant patrons exclaim that they didn't know a dog was there. She was the perfect combination of mischief and patience, playfulness and calm. We could bring her with us anywhere. When she was in her "uniform" she was working. When she was home or on a fun walk she would romp and explore. Whenever you got home- even if you'd only been gone for five minutes- she jumped to her feet and ran to the door as if to say- YAY!! You're Here! I missed you! You're Here! Let's Play!
What a Blessing it was to have her in our lives. If you have your own dog, please give them an extra pat and snuggle. They are so important to our well being. Someday we'll get another puppy. A Golden Retriever probably. Let us know if you find one. There's such an empty space here. We miss her so.
In Memory of Ginger

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Liquid Cinnamon Chocolate with Brown Sugar Espresso Cream

Not too sweet chantilly-esque whipped cream tops this warm chocolate soup. Delicious!

Liquid Cinnamon Chocolate with Brown Sugar Espresso Cream
Cinnamon and espresso enhance the flavor of chocolate in this warm, luscious soup.
Serves 4

2 c milk
2 c light cream
2 3- to 4-inch cinnamon sticks, broken in half
4 T instant espresso powder
6 T dark brown sugar, packed
1⁄2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c chopped milk chocolate
nutmeg and additional cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Simmer milk, cream, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan over low heat until bubbles form around the edges of the pan.
Whisk in the espresso powder, brown sugar, and cocoa. Add the milk chocolate and whisk until it melts and the soup is smooth. Discard the cinnamon sticks.
Ladle into four heat-proof bowls. Top with Brown Sugar Espresso Cream and sprinkle with nutmeg. Garnish with additional cinnamon sticks, if desired.

Brown Sugar Espresso Cream
Yield: about 1 cup

1⁄2 c heavy cream, chilled
4 t light brown sugar, packed
2 t instant espresso powder
1⁄2 t pure vanilla extract

Whisk the cream in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the brown sugar, espresso powder, and vanilla. Whisk until stiff. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Savor, Linger, Enjoy!