Henry’s Holiday Woes

Henry hasn’t been the same since he’s returned from his Thanksgiving week in the country. He slept through his first day back home. Not so much as a grain of his favorite dog food could persuade this Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to get out of his bed. I even pulled out his absolute favorite delicacy, salmon biscuits.

The parlor maid's ward frolics with Henry and Elwood--much to Henry's chagrin.

The parlor maid’s ward frolics with Henry and Elwood–much to Henry’s chagrin.

But, no. For a moment, he raised his head from its resting place. His lip quivered as his nose took in the scent of fish. But alas, he put his head back down, as if to say, “not interested.”

Every once in a while he’d roll over and sigh, and at least once I heard him softly moan, “Woe is me.”

On his second day home, he stirred.

“Henry, get up!” I cried. “There’s a world out there waiting for you to pee on. Whatever happened in the country couldn’t have been that bad. Besides, the parlor maid and the kids think you’re a good egg.”

Henry looked at me sheepishly and said, “Where do I begin to describe my week in the country? With the turkey and the promise of dining on the white meat?”

“So, did you?”

“Not a scrap. The parlor maid’s a vegetarian, of all things, and I would have none of her tofu-turkey. The outrage! I had to resort to fortifying myself with leftover doggie treats.”

“Well, at least you had time to rest, right?”

“I wouldn’t put it that way. There is the matter of he, who shall not be named.”

“He? Do you mean Lord Voldemort?”

“Don’t be absurd! I’m talking about Elwood, the new puppy. Apparently, he’s a Great Pyrenees who hails from France—and you know what we Brits think of the French and their penchant for snails.”

“So, what did he do to you?”

“It’s what he didn’t do. Showed me no respect, he did. Never bowed in my presence. Though, he did drool, slobber and attempted to jump me as if I was nothing more than a rapscallion.”

“How did you deal with it?”

“Let’s just say I held my own. But, frankly, I’ll never be the same again. Takes a lot of grit, sweat and determination to hold such wild beasts at bay. Luckily my royal blood is full of it.”

Full of it?”

“Yes, when we Cavaliers put our minds to it, there’s nothing we can’t overcome, including dogs determined to suck our souls right out of us. Where are my vapors?!”

“Henry, you don’t have any vapors. Anyway, I’m sure that’s not what Elwood was trying to do. He’s a puppy, for goodness sake. He just wanted to be friends with you.”

“Friends? I think not! Don’t be naive, Cook. The likes of Elwood want nothing more than to dethrone my breed, usurp our good standing, and take over the world. In other words, he was prepared to do anything to steal my doggie bed. Luckily he’s way too big for it. And I say, let sleeping dogs lie. And, by sleeping dogs, I mean, me!”

“Well did you at least take nice walks for your daily constitutional?”

“Not really. Have you seen how many hills there are in the country? After walking 50 feet, I’d refuse to budge until the little boy ward had no choice but to carry me home. I even slept in his bed at night, taking up as much room as I could, and he never complained. Good sport, that one.”

“Was there anything else that happened while you were there?”

“As a matter of fact, they had the nerve to allow a visitor, but not just any visitor.  This dog was an Australian cattle dog, with convict bloodlines to be certain.  I stared at her the whole time and it was completely exhausting because I was afraid she was going to steal my imported Alaskan salmon treats.”

“Oh, dear, you have had a go of it, haven’t you. Well, the next time you visit the country, I’m sure—.”

Next time, Cook? Oh no, not if I can help it! From now on you’re staying put. Hmmph! The very idea of a next time. No, ma’am!”

“Henry! What’s that I hear?” I exclaim, in my attempt to distract him. Sounds like a truck coming this way!”

“Good Lord,” Henry cries. “Must run to the window and bark like a banshee! We’ll finish this discussion next time, Cook! Pressing matters await!”

And with that, Henry flew off to ward off a possible attack from the passing truck.

So, how do your pets fare when you leave town?

Cakes with Panache

Just before my daughter headed back to school last month, we went shopping and, on our way to the department store, we passed a cookware store. It was bustling, and unusually thick with customers for an early Saturday morning. With our curiosity piqued, we ventured in. Turns out, an author was there, getting ready to sign her cookbook, Extraordinary Cakes.

Extraordinary Cakes?” I eagerly inquired at the counter. “Any connection to Extraordinary Desserts, the restaurant that serves sumptuous delights?”

And, lo and behold, there was a connection! For the author, Karen Krasne, is the genius behind the two Extraordinary Desserts restaurants in San Diego, as well as the creator of the fabulous confections they offer, including, of course, cakes. Her trademark—which is what makes these delicacies so breathtakingly beautiful and truly extraordinary—are the flowers and edible gold leaf she uses to adorn them.

So, we purchased a book and joined the cue, because if you know anything about my daughter, you know that she loves to bake–a win-win for our entire family. The cookbook is divided by seasons, and features photos and recipes for cakes boasting such evocative names as Passion Fruit Ricotta Cake, Lemon Praline Torte, Strawberry Poppy Seed Cake, Chocolate Nirvana, Versailles, and Love Is Chocolate.

The book signing we attended offered an array of Krasne's extraordinary cakes. We sampled them all!

Last week, I had the opportunity to chat with Ms. Krasne, about her cakes, her must-have ingredient, and her pursuit of a spiritual life.

MTW:  How long have you been baking and how did you discover your talent for creating and decorating extraordinary deserts?

KK:  I’m from a family of bakers. As early as 11, I’d cook with my mom, aunts, and grandma, who all loved to bake. Some of my first desserts included apple dumplings and caramel cheesecake.  It was fun for me and everyone loved my cooking. In college, while I was pursuing a degree in nutrition, I found a part-time job working for a bakery in Honolulu.  I enjoyed it so much, it led me to study pastry-making at the Cordon Bleu in France.

MTW: Please share something many may not know about you.

Photo taken during Krasne's recent trip to Bali.

KK: I’m shy, and I love to be alone. I also love quiet time, to be far away in the world, in a secluded locale. Two weeks of being anonymous, helps you get to the true essence of who you are. My husband understands my need to travel solo once a year, and is very supportive.

MTW: So, you travel by yourself? For women who might be more hesitant to do so, what’s your secret?

KK: Thanks to my parents, I am fearless about traveling on my own. I started when I was 14. At 15, I went to Mazatlan with  three other girls and we rented a condo. Dad would tell you I walked to a different rhythm, that I was an older soul. I wasn’t a saint, and I was somewhat reckless. But I was very intuitive about character, and my parents knew they could trust me. It’s an adrenalin rush to land in places like Cambodia or Morocco. These trips are filled with spiritual growth and can be so stimulating.

MTW: Aside from the basics (flour, baking soda, etc.), what is the one ingredient you must always have on hand?

KK: I highly recommend keeping on hand many different kinds of chocolate—milk, dark, extra dark, white, light milk, etc.

MTW:  Any trade secrets or helpful hints for baking?

KK:  My recipes can be complex, with many steps involved, so make sure you have all the ingredients measured and weighed out before you start cooking. Review the recipe a few times, so you don’t get lost. Map it out.

MTW: Is there any ingredient that you’ve been dying to try in a dessert or are curious to find out how it would taste in one of your confections?

KK: I’ve dabbled in many flavors. I don’t get too esoteric, trying weird things, like cheese and chocolate. That’s not what my clients want. I have played around with yuzu (about the size of a tangerine) from Asia; and matcha tea, a green tea from Japan. We do have a tremendous number of clientele that like this.

MTW:  Your cakes are like a work of art, as if they belong in a museum. If they were to be displayed, what collection do you think they’d most fit in and are there any painters’ who inspire your work?  

KK:   I decorate my desserts with flowers from the South Pacific, so I’d say Gauguin. Also, Monet and other artists inspired by the Giverny Gardens. Each year, I make sure, too, to visit San Diego’s Art Alive, a celebration of floral interpretations of great art. It’s very inspiring.

MTW:  In your estimation, what would be the perfect meal to go with one or any of your cakes?

KK:  I’m a strict vegetarian, and I like to eat healthy. Light picnics are one of my favorite meals. You don’t feel guilty about eating dessert afterwards. I serve food fresh, so I don’t use the oven much (except for cakes, etc.). I love tomatoes, cauliflower, salads with strawberries, steamed veggies, tofu, pesto, and brown rice.

Name three famous people, dead or alive, who you would love to invite over for cake and conversation. What would you serve?

KK:  (Comedian/actress) Sandra Bernhard; (renowned author and mind-body healing pioneer) Deepak Chopra; and my daughter, too, who is eight years old, as I’d want her to meet my heroes.  I’d serve a three-course dessert buffet. Best to add my husband. I can’t possibly leave him out!

MTW:  Where do you find your bliss?

KK:  When I’m walking along the ocean, or doing yoga. Also, a day off with my husband and daughter. Finding my spiritual moments. Now, that’s bliss.

MTW:  What book are you currently reading?

KK:  I’m reading two. The End of Illness by Dr. David Agus, which is all about preserving our health and happiness, and Living with Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life, by Angeles Arrien. This is a wonderful book; I’ve given several away as gifts. For each month of the year, it tells you what’s going on in the universe. I just read April, all about spring, greenery, and flowers. A great book, with sweet messages.

MTW: What do you hope people will take away from your desserts and your cookbook?

KK:  I hope my cookbook helps people learn something new. It’s easy to read and shows them how to make the actual cakes we sell in the restaurant, so there’s lot of enjoyment after all the hard work. At some level, I hope my desserts bring people pleasure that they haven’t had otherwise.