animal refuge league, bake sale, charitable giving

Petable Obsession: Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland

This is Mr. Jose Jones. Lover of dehydrated smoked chicken livers, maple syrup and french chevre. He came to live with us in the summer of 2005 after I harassed the Missus into getting another cat, a companion for Sophie.

It was a complete ploy to use her because it was really about me having another cat. Sophie was a good sport, though. She taught him to play tag until he refused to stop playing tag every waking moment…and, well, she put an end to his chasing pretty quickly. Now he chases sunlight and dust in our kitchen.

Admittedly, Jose isn’t the brightest of cats, but he sure is pretty. Yup..he’s our pretty, pretty boy who we wouldn’t have if not for the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland in Westbrook, where he was adopted. He is, over the course of their 100 years in operation, just one of tens of thousands of kittens they’ve taken in with hopes of finding them a permanent home.

Like many shelters and refuge leagues, the ARLGP relies on the generosity of our community for financial and product donations, as well as the time of volunteers, to be able to feed, house, treat and care for the endless stream of animals that pass through their doors. They’re an invaluable resource in our community and could always use more help as the need to care for these animals never disappears. This Sunday, May 22nd, they’re hosting their Spring Fling Open House and Fundraiser.

Part of this fundraiser is a bake sale to help raise money for the shelter. I’m going to be whipping up a batch of sugary goodness and am asking my fellow bloggers (many of whom are pet owners) and readers to join me in donating a baked good to the sale.

If you’re interested in participating, this is the info that I received from Lynne of the ARL:

You could drop the items off Saturday afternoon at the shelter, or Sunday morning after 9 but before 10:30. If you could list ingredients that would help with people who have allergy concerns.

They’re also having a plant sale, to raise money to care for their older residents whose medical expenses are a little greater. If you’ve got a green thumb and want to help out:

If you’re unable to make something, they’re also, specifically, looking for items on their kitten wishlist (their Kitty Care-A-Van):

  • KMR – Kitten Milk Replacer – Canned or Powdered
  • Science Diet Dry Feline Growth Formula Food
  • Gerber Baby Food: Chicken, Lamb or Beef
    (or any brand that does not contain onion powder)
  • Snuggle Safe Microwaveable Heating Disks
    Soft Baby Blankets/Fleece for the Kittens
  • Cat Playpen/Kitty Condo (item # 9B7063)
  • Kitten-Safe Toys to Send with Foster Families
  • Scratching Posts and Scratching Boards
  • Paper Cat Litter

All donations can be brought directly to the shelter, which is located at:

449 Stroudwater Street
Westbrook, Maine

But, whether you can help this time around or not, you should still stop by this Sunday and see the amazing work they’re doing at the shelter. And, you never know, you might just find yourself bringing home one of their adorable residents. Rumor has it, they just accepted 50 puppies from Alabama and will have more than a dozen ready for adoption by Sunday.

bbq, grilling, perfect ribs, smoking at home, smoking meats

Up in Smoke–Just the Photos

There was to be a long post and grand celebration of the Missus buying a grill. Four of the past seven days have produced meals grilled outside. Just this week I’ve grilled more times than I’ve had the chance to in the past 10 years.

I’m in love with cooking outside, being able to use the fruit wood chips that I purchased for Charcutepalooza’s smoking adventure(even though I’ve basically ditched the May project for a few reasons) and learning a completely different skill set for this cooking medium. I’m smitten and smokey.

And I can thank the “Barbeque Whisperer” for the recipe for these 6 hour smoked ribs.

burger-o-rama, burgers, cheese stuffed, cooking for the missus, mozarella

Burger-O-Rama pt4: Dream Burger

I dream about food quite a bit. One recent dream had me in an Old Port establishment while the chef came out of the kitchen and was berated by a customer over the quality of the meatloaf (Don’t read Yelp before bed is the lesson to take from this). I have also dreamed about sitting with the Missus and enjoying a seemingly endless plate of Foie Bon Bons at Bresca (This was a few days before we were going to celebrate New Years there). There was also the dream I had of cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen in an Italian country home (Damn you Lidia Bastianich for invading my dreams!). But, I cannot recall ever dreaming about a hamburger. Ever.

So, When A. told us our last round of O-Rama would keep us at home, crafting our ‘Dream Burger,’ I realized I didn’t have one. I don’t have one as burgers just aren’t something I spend a lot of time thinking about. Though, I agree with Kate and her assessment that these rounds of O-Rama have gotten some of us(me) thinking about burgers more than ever.

But, while we were left to the endless bounds of our imaginations, I seemed lost in mine. I couldn’t come up with anything that I would define as a “Dream” or even “Perfect” burger. Honestly, if it’s not overcooked and the meat is of somewhat passable quality(ie, better than the Golden Arches), I’m going to find it pretty enjoyable. So, when I finally gave in to the fact that I couldn’t construct a burger in my minds eye, I deferred to the Missus and asked her to call this round.

She surprised me with her response. I thought it would be a decadent burger with fancy cheese, truffle oil and possibly foie and it was so ridiculously far from it that it was… well, it was ridiculous. Her response to me was:

I liked the one you made that was stuffed with Mozzarella. That was a good one.

That was a complete off the cuff one, kids. I think I made it 2 or 3 years ago. I have the nagging feeling in the back of my brain that Rachel Ray was somehow behind it, though I think I used the Mozzarella because it was the only cheese on hand. I hardly remember it but, apparently, it stuck with the Missus and a small part of me couldn’t help but feel flattered by the fact that she remembered it.

I, of course, did have to put my spin on it and I decided to, rather than cheaping out and buying a bag of rolls, that I would make some homemade Brioche buns for the burgers. I made two batches and they weren’t exactly what I had hoped they would be. I’m mostly convinced that their failure had more to do with loose instructions given in the recipe than anything else. And the Missus also complained that they were too rich because they lacked the airiness that most brioche rolls have. She was right, they were far too dense and would have been better used to sop up a french onion soup or beef stew. So, I went with the old reliable source: King Arthur Flour and used their “Beautiful Burger Buns.

  1. 3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 1 large egg
  4. 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  5. 1/4 cup sugar
  6. 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  7. 1 tablespoon instant yeast


  1. 3 tablespoons melted butter


  1. Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.
  2. Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.
  3. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball; flatten to about 3″ across. Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.
  4. Brush the buns with about half of the melted butter.
  5. Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden. Remove them from the oven, and brush with the remaining melted butter. This will give the buns a satiny, buttery crust.
  6. Cool the buns on a rack.

The buns had more thought than the ingredients that went into the burger:

  • 85% lean ground chuck
  • Bosario seasoned salt
  • Ciliengine Mozzarella

Her choice of toppings were simple:

  • Caramelized onions (for me)
  • Backyard Farms tomato (for her)
  • Something Green
  • Pickles (the other something green)
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise

The method was simple:

  • Form 4 4oz patties
  • Top two with some shredded Mozz
  • Combine it with another 4oz patty and form them together into one giant uberburger.
  • Add a bit of seasoning to the top
  • Cook in a searing hot pan on top of the stove.

Butter and toast buns in a separate pan.

The burgers were cooked to a medium temperature–perhaps a bit overdone for me but the juiciness and grease saved the burger from ever having a dry texture. They were served with pickles on the side and a helping of TJ’s Tater Tots.
The Missus took her first bite and, before even wiping away the juice that was collecting on her chin, she turned and said:

This is really, really good honey.

And that’s all that mattered to me. Dream burger or not, I made the Missus happy.

Want to read about some other dream burgers, visit the O-Rama gang and their reviews here, here, here and here.

baking with booze, cupcakes, Easter, irish car bomb

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

My oldest sibling once told me that I was a bad Irishwoman. He had, around the age of 20, given me my first sip of Guinness and I hated it.
And, despite my better efforts over the past 14 years to find a beer that’s somewhat tolerable to me, that experience still stands as one of the most awful tasting beverages I’ve come across (smoked beers, I believe, take that prize).

I have found, though, that I can tolerate even the beeriest of beers when they are cooked, whether it be a tempura batter or the braising liquid for sauerkraut. Last month, sitting around the table during Easter Brunch, the Missus’ wonderful cousin, Miss D., introduced me to my favorite form of Guinness to date: the cupcake.

She kept calling them ‘Irish Car Bomb’ cupcakes, though they seem to be an alcoholic ingredient short of their potent namesake. But, I honestly didn’t know what was exactly in an Irish Car Bomb drink until I looked it up, so we’ll go with her name. It’s also just more fun to say.

Out of the 12 variations of pork, 4 salads, 5 cheeses and 5 desserts that we grazed on that afternoon, this was the only bit of food that made the 2 hour trek home with us. And it didn’t last long once it was here.

The cake base itself has a gorgeous, dense crumb to it and lacks any bitter bite from the Guinness. Paired with the wonderfully boozy frosting(the variation I made this week was extremely boozy according to the Missus), I was quite surprised how much I enjoyed it. In fact, I’d say I was a bit blissed out from the cakes(or drunk on frosting, which is entirely possible considering my embarrassing tolerance).

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes Recipe
Makes: 24 cupcakes
By Dave Lieberman


  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness stout
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream **I used Creme Fraiche
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, plus more for garnish
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

For the frosting:

  • 1 pt of heavy cream
  • 1/2C sugar
  • 1 (4oz) pkg instant French vanilla pudding **Used 16oz of Mascarpone instead, see notes below
  • 1/4-1/2C of Bailey’s Irish Cream **Used Jameson’s Whiskey instead


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • In large mixing bowl, combine the Guinness, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet Guinness mixture.
  • Butter 24 muffin tins and divide the batter among the muffin tins.
  • Bake 25 minutes, until risen and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out of the tins.


  • In a large bowl, beat heavy cream until it starts to thicken.
  • Slowly add sugar.
  • (Add instant pudding).**Here I veered off, whipping the Mascarpone in a separate bowl.
  • Slowly add Bailey’s to taste.**I added the Jameson’s to the whipped cream that was made in the 1st step.
  • **Gentley fold whipped cream into Mascarpone.**
  • Frost cake or cupcakes and enjoy

food to lose your shit over, over foraging, ramp backlash, ramps

Pickled Ramps

If you’ve just let out a dramatic exhale at seeing the word ‘ramps,’ then this is not the post for you. May I point you here, here or here.

If you’ve just squealed with delight and are running down to Whole Foods now in your pajamas, without paying any mind to the fact that you still have eye crusties and morning breath–well, then… you’re gross. But seriously, after you’ve showered and made yourself fit for human contact THEN get yourself to Whole Foods, Rosemont or Royal River(where I image they also are right now) and snatch up a handful of them. Or not. Whether your pro or anti-ramp seems to be a very personal statement these days.

Why? Well, somehow ramps, over the past few years, have become the lightening rod of foods that symbolize everything that the anti-foodie hates about the foodie. Backlash, whether real or perceived, against the fervor the wild leek causes has already started and will go on for another few weeks. At the same time, menus will be inundated with ramps(and soon, fiddleheads–the ramps younger, bastard foodie loved brother) in every form from compound butters to cocktails. Then, around mid-May, they’ll quietly disappear. The foodies and chefs who were so quick to clamor for their bunches will hardly blink an eye. Until next April when the circus starts anew.

For me, I see the yearly ramp season as something to be celebrated–though not something to lose your shit over. It symbolizes the true start of spring and their appearance at the markets, to me, are much more welcomed than micro lettuces and sprouts. I quietly buy my bunch–this year it was about a half pound–cook them up and move on. This year, though, I did decide to enjoy them a wee bit longer and went for a pickled version.


  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon red peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 pounds ramps, cleaned and trimmed
  • Kosher salt for blanching
  • 1 tablespoon salt for the pickling liquid

  1. Trim the ends off of the ramps and cut down the leaves leaving about 1/4 inch of green, saving the green ends for another purpose. Wash the ramps under cool, running water.

  2. Blanch the ramps quickly (30 seconds) by dropping them in a large pot of salted, boiling water, and then shock them in ice water. Drain the ramps well and place them in a mason jar.

  3. Combine the vinegar, salt, sugar, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf, mustard seeds, coriander, pink and white peppercorns, and fennel seeds.

  4. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the ramps in the mason jar and let cool, sealing tight and transferring to the refrigerator.

  5. In the refrigerator these pickled ramps will last a few weeks to a couple of months. If you follow traditional, safe canning techniques, these will last for a few months, or until you eat them all, which ever comes first.

Pickled Ramps on Punk Domestics