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recipe: grilled avocado.

Oh, where has this concept been all my life?

This: large, ripe Hass avocado, halved and pitted, cut-side down on a hot grill for about 5–7 minutes until a bit charred and caramelized. Take it off, let it cool, scoop out the flesh, mash with a fork. Turn it into guac, with a bit of onion, tomato, garlic and S&P, or—my favorite—mash it with the juice of half a lemon, slivered basil, S&P and schmear on toasted bread.


recipe: pizza with chard, goat cheese & egg.

I know. Pizza topped with egg. Sounds weird, but apparently in places that aren't Cincinnati, it's fairly trendy. But then I spotted in our hometown newspaper a recipe for pizza topped with veggies and finished with eggs. What caught my eye wasn't just the combination of toppings—sauteed onion and chard, goat cheese and prosciutto (oh, yeah)—but the idea that the egg, justbarelycookedtilitsniceandsoft, would create a rich, almost creamy sauce when you mashed your fork into it before taking a bite.

Which it did.

Pita bread is the ideal base for this (though my homemade pizza crust is good, too); the pita's cupped shape creates the ideal platform into which you crack the egg. Plus, individual pizzas are the way to go here—you want one egg per person. (Slicing an egg-topped pizza would get messy, methinks.)

pizza with chard, goat cheese & egg
(makes 2 individual pizzas)
2 8- or 9-inch pitas (whole wheat or plain), or 1/2 recipe pizza dough formed into 2 individual crusts
1/2 a grocery or market-sized bunch of swiss chard, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
2–3 slices prosciutto, chopped or torn into pieces
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If using fresh pizza dough, pre-bake crusts until lightly browned.

Saute onion, garlic, red pepper flakes; add chard and saute until wilted. Divide vegetables between pitas or crusts, spreading evenly. Top with prosciutto, crumble goat cheese over top. Bake for about 10 minutes until the cheese starts to soften. Remove from oven; crack an egg in the center of each pizza, then bake another 10–12 minutes until the egg whites are set but yolks are still runny.


recipe: blueberry muddle.

It's been awhile since I felt like posting; we're still mourning our hairy friend. I haven't yet grappled with a lengthy post about Wrigley, but I'm hoping to get back to writing about other topics. Like food.

Blueberries and I go way back, back to when I was perhaps 10 or 11 and Grandmother first showed me how to make a blueberry pie (it's Dad's favorite, and has since been a staple for Father's Day). I still reference the recipe card she helped me write out; though I prefer Grandma's pie crust recipe, I defer to Grandmother's technique for mixing frozen berries, flour, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice, then topping the fruit with pats of butter before sealing it with a top crust.

I never really ate blueberries out of hand ... I always enjoyed them in pie form. Until about 5 years ago, when I discovered the bliss of Trader Joe's frozen blueberries on cereal for breakfast. Their frozen goodness turns the milk ice-cold and adds the perfect pop of sweetness to a spoonful of Honey Nut Cheerios. I was on a daily blueberry kick for a good 18 months ... and then ... and then ...

Allergy. I developed a blueberry allergy, all bumpyrash on my face and neck. After swearing off blueberries for life, I visited a local allergist, who hooked me up with an alternative therapy that, in fact, cured the allergy.

Now, after several years of dismay at having to leave pint boxes of gorgeous local berries in their stalls at the farmer's market, I'm back on a blueberry kick. Last weekend, we picked up a box of thumb-sized berries from Thistlehair Farm (one of my favorite Findlay Market vendors), and I made up this recipe:

blueberry muddle
1 cup of fresh blueberries
1 Tbsp. of sugar, or more to taste depending on the sweetness of the berries
(I used Turbinado sugar for a deeper flavor)
Splash of Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Mash the blueberries in a deep bowl or 2 cup glass measuring container with a bar muddler or wooden spoon. Get 'em good and smashed up, breaking the skins and pureeing the flesh. Stir in the sugar, then the liqueur. Let sit for an hour or so. Serve over vanilla ice cream (we enjoyed bourbon vanilla gelato from Dojo Gelato). This would also be terrific with a bit of slivered mint added and served over peach or raspberry sorbet.


everybody loves wiggy.

After about two weeks of keeping mostly to ourselves, we ventured out per our normal Saturday routine and went to Findlay Market this morning. I was braced for all the "How's Wrigley?!" questions we'd get from folks who didn't know that we'd said goodbye to him. Sure enough, there were tears all around.

We picked up Wrigley's ashes, tucked neatly into a carved wooden box, from the vet yesterday. It felt inexplicably good to have him home. I know this makes no sense, but we truly feel like he's now home.


a chin on your knee.

As we work through the multiple layers of sadness this week and into the weeks and months to come, one thing that helps peel them away bitbybit is recalling all the fond memories we have of Wrigley—memories that we'll have forever. In keeping with one of my favorite childhood books, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, we've been keeping a list of things we love about Wrigley. Needless to say, we're way past 10.

I will post that list when the time feels right.

What I miss most, right now at least, is his physical presence. The pawing at the back door when I come home. The chin on my knee as I'm eating. The "pffft" in my face as he stood by my side of the bed to wake me. Twiddling his ear, scratching his throat or chest or flank. The simple nearness of him.

He's still very near, in my heart. It's just that it's hard to reach inside and give my heart a good scratch.

a round of golf

Our buddy Wrigley always loved golf. When I would pull out a golf club, he made a distinctive woof that we referred to as "the sports bark." He loved when I would chip golf balls in the yard and he'd go chase the balls down. Occasionally, he would actually bring them back. But it was more fun to chew on them and stash them someplace of his choosing.

Yesterday, I went out to play a round. We always talked about how fun it would be to take Wrigley out on the golf course, knowing full well that his golf etiquette wouldn't even qualify him for a muni! But yesterday was a good day to bring him along. He and I talked the whole way. We talked about the targets we would try to hit, reading the putts, and generally keeping our swing on line. When I made a good shot, he said "woof, woof - good shot guy!" When I hit it into the rough, he said "don't worry, I'll get it." When I missed a putt, he said "don't worry guy, we'll get it back." When I birdied 4 holes, he told all his buddies "that's my guy - he's a champ, woof!"

I shot an 81, which was my best score in a long, long time. Wrigley keeps on giving. Thanks buddy.



God called Wrigley to come about 9:00 last night, Sunday, April 18.

We are at peace for him, but filled with a deep, profound and engulfing grief for ourselves.


the boy.

These are tough days for The Boy Wig. A nasty fever, combined with weakness in his hind end, sent us to see Dr. Bev on Tuesday, and after a day of fluids and antibiotics failed to knock down the fever, she sent us packing to MedVets in Columbus. It was a late night for us, and we left the boy in their care overnight.

He looked pathetic: pink with fever, shaking, lethargic, lying on his side and not even lifting his head when we came to tell him goodnight and that we'd be back soon to take him home. The next day, an abdominal ultrasound turned up nothing, though the fever stayed high. They brought in a neurologist to consult, and discovered some dismaying signs that may indicate a stroke.

Friday, though, Wrigley staged a comeback, and rallied to a hearty appetite and a spark in his eyes. The doctor who spoke with Rob seemed a bit surprised at his turnaround. So Rob dropped what he was doing and sped up to Columbus to retrieve our friend. (We're planning a fundraising effort soon.)

The past few days have brought many, many tears on both our parts (and Mom's, too). I'm incredibly thankful that I'm going through this with both of them. Rob is a tremendous partner and comfort when things get rocky, and an amazing friend when life is good.

Wrigley spent today sleeping very deeply. He's gobbled up dog food, pita bread, whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter, boiled chicken, cracker, Jump & Sit Bits and lots of meds.

Tuesday, he is scheduled for an MRI, during which the doctor will look for signs of a stroke, or several, or perhaps tumors. The best case scenario, actually, would be a stroke -- dogs, we're told, typically recover nicely from a stroke. But we're not thinking of that now. We're giving him lots of snacks and scratches, relishing the mere fact of his company.


As of today, April 10, spring has sprung. In a big way.

Watching The Masters is a rite of springtime passage for Rob and me, and usually we watch the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, with its gorgeous azaleas and rhododendrons, and sigh longingly, knowing that our own spring bloom is another couple of weeks away.

Not this year.

After a brutally cold and snowy February and early March, Mother Nature decided that she, too, was sick of the cold and gray and threw the Spring Switch. Suddenly, almost overnight, we went from cloudy and 30 degrees to sunny and 70. We missed the usual stretch of 50–60 degree days ... sweatshirt-and-shorts weather. Instead, we blew full-on into early summer.

We opened the Side Porch Cafe weeks early, and had our first dinner al fresco last weekend. We spent today in the sunshine, spreading mulch (a job that's often done in cool temps).

Typically, spring brings a gradual awakening of the landscape: first, the weeping cherry blooms like a cheap prom dress, then the flowering crabapple, then the dogwoods come a week or two later. This year, the early magnolias and cherry trees are blooming right alongside the later dogwood and redbud. It's all happening at once. It's magnificent (and allergen-laden), but a bit disconcerting.

While I welcome the early patch of warm weather, it is compressing the spring growing season, and I fear that I'll blink and miss it.

I need to do a better job this spring of looking around and taking it all in.