Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Visitor for Matthew

This weekend, Matthew was very excited to have a little friend over for a sleepover.

Meet Skittles, a cute little Pekingese we were entrusted with for the weekend while her owners were out of town.  Matthew squealed with delight when we welcomed this little 10-pound ball of fluff into our home.  And she loved Matthew.  She followed him around wherever he went (to her detriment on a few occasions when he would suddenly decide to jump backward, crushing one of her tiny little paws).

Most of all, Matthew enjoyed having someone he could boss around.  Matthew loved playing tug-of-war with Skittles, waving her little pink rope in front of her face while instructing her to "bite! bite! bite!"  He also would follow her around with her food bowl telling her authoritatively:  "Eat, Puppy!  EAT!"  He would also "shepherd" Skittles from one room to the other, by opening his arms up wide and forcefully pushing her in the direction he wanted her to go.  One time, he shoved her back in her cage and closed the door:  "Shhhh...SLEEP!"

The whole weekend was puppy themed for Matthew's enjoyment.  Not only did we play with the puppy all day long, but Saturday night we planned a special family movie night.  We popped popcorn, made Kool-Aid and cuddled together on the couch while watching Homeward Bound.  I think we might have found Matthew's new favorite movie.  He was in heaven and could not tear his eyes away from watching the adventures of Shadow, Chance, and Sassy.  Plus, he had his very own puppy sleeping by his side on the couch.  We tucked a very happy little boy into bed that night.

When we took Skittles out for a walk around the neighborhood, she did quite well, despite being at an extreme disadvantage with her stubby little legs.  However, her enthusiasm for the leaping besides us waned as we approached the half-mile mark.  Eventually, the little ball of fluff just decided she had had enough and collapsed on the side of road.  We could not get that dog to move for anything.  So...she ended up hitching a ride with Matthew.  Lazy dog.

Eventually, she decided the basket of the stroller was beneath her.  Matthew readily welcomed her into his arms for the rest of our journey home.  This move definitely made us the best parents ever in his eyes. 

We were all sad to see Skittles go home, but promised Matthew that she would come visit again soon.  He gave her a kiss when she was ready to leave, and she licked his face in return.  "EWWWWW!  YUCK!" Matthew cried, as he began spitting phlegm out of his mouth in disgust.  At least he has some standards.

The recipe I want to share with you is a strata we made for dinner this weekend.  We actually had a lot of French bread leftover from Easter and it staled so quickly that I immediately pulled this recipe up to make with it.  I also had the rosemary and plenty of potatoes so this was a nice way to use up some of those items as well.  This was incredibly delicious and a nice meatless meal.

Breakfast Strata with Potatoes and Rosemary
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

7 ounces day-old French or Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus a little more for greasing the pan
12 ounces Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh Rosemary
1/2 cup dry white wine (I just used some white cooking wine)
6 ounces Colby Jack cheese, shredded
1 3/4 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Grease a 8x8 glass dish with butter.  Set aside.

Bring a saucepan filled with 1 quart of water to a boil.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt and boil just until the potatoes are tender and can be pierced with a paring knife, about 4 minutes.  Drain.

Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the potatoes and cook until they are just starting to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the onions and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until they are translucent.  Add the garlic and rosemary and cook/stir until fragrant, about 1 minute more.  Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Return the skillet to the heat.  Increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the wine.  Stir to deglaze the pan and continue to cook until the wine is reduced to 1/4 cup.  Remove skillet from the heat and set aside to cool.

Whisk together the milk, eggs, parsley, 1 teaspoon of salt, and some pepper to taste.  Whisk in the reduced wine mixture.

Layer 1/2 the bread cubes in the bottom of the prepared pan.  Sprinkle with half the potato mixture and then with 1/2 cup of cheese.  Add the remaining bread cubes.  Sprinkle with the remaining potatoes and cheese.  Gently pour the egg mixture evenly over everything.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place a couple canned vegetables or beans over the top to weigh down the strata.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Remove the casserole from the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.  Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes, or until the edges and center have puffed and the edges are starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving.

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