Saturday, November 27, 2010
There's a lot in my life I am grateful for, but this Thanksgiving I am incredibly happy about one thing: having my irrepressible Freddie around.
Freddie almost died this past week. His health-- he will be 18 in December-- has been sinking steadily. He was an alert, agile, spry dog when he came to live with us at the age of 12, already a senior dog who thought he was a puppy. Freddie's heart suffered from a mitral valve prolapse and he was nearly blind with cataracts when his previous family dumped him at the shelter. Desi and I picked him up as a foster, and when no one chose to adopt him, he and we adopted each other.
Freddie's given us five-plus wonderful years of companionship, but within the past year he has slowed down. He has cancer -- a soft-tissue sarcoma that could have only been removed by amputating the limb it's growing on. But that was not an option given his heart problems and his advanced age and low physical reserves. In the last few months the tumor has grown and-- although initially painless-- it appears to now have advanced to the joint, making it difficult for him to walk and indicating pain.
When we took Freddie to the vet last Friday, she told us what we feared most: that he's in a great deal of pain and the next step, the kind one, would be to put him down. "It's cruel to let him suffer any more," she said. Hurting like never before but keen to do the right thing by our beloved baby, we numbly agreed to an appointment Tuesday for euthanasia.
Over the miserable weekend all we could talk and think about was Freddie. Were we doing the right thing? Would he forgive us if he knew? Would he know we were doing it for him?
We talked to other people-- friends and neighbors-- who had put down their sick pets, and everyone agreed, albeit each with tears in their eyes, that they believed they had done the right thing for their animal.
But something didn't feel right. Because through all this there was one guy who did not seem ready to give up: Freddie himself.
Freddie sleeps a lot and his mental reserves have diminished to the point of senility, just like with humans. But he still loves to eat-- always his most favorite thing to do. When Desi sometimes puts him in the kitchen, he'll smell his way to me and stand next to me, perhaps because it makes him feel safe. When one of us holds him in our arms, he'll first complain, then snuggle close, happy to be there.
Freddie has a tremendous instinct for life, and the night before he was to be put down he-- for one-- didn't seem to be saying he was ready to go. Well, we decided, if he isn't ready, we aren't either.
So we canceled the appointment and felt a cloud lift from our hearts. The vet prescribed some painkillers and although they make him even drowsier, they do seem to help with the pain because he's moving around more.
I know that one day, perhaps sooner than later, Freddie will pass on. I hope, like every parent of an aging, ailing pet does, that he will choose his own time and go in his sleep, safe and warm at home. But I know that may not be the case, and that things could come to a point where the only kind thing to do will be to let him go. But for now, at least, we feel incredibly lucky and thankful to have our little boy around.
On to my Thanksgiving meal, which I am really excited to share with you. I cooked up a super-delicious, silkily creamy Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Lasagna spiked with the smokiness of sage. It was incredibly good, especially when smothered in some of my Cranberry-Tangerine Coulis.
I also made some whipped, mashed potatoes. These are mashed potatoes that are then whipped up with a stand or hand mixer to a fluffy texture. It's like eating perfect mashed potatoes times ten. And to keep the theme of traditional-but-new, I made some cornbread stuffing alive with red, green and yellow peppers and once again woven through with the magic of perennial herbs.
So here are some of my Thanksgiving recipes. These are by no means limited to great holiday eating. I could have them any time of year!
Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Lasagna with Sage
1 15.5 ounce can of pumpkin puree
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/2 cm thin lengthwise
3 tbsp fresh sage (or a mix of sage and rosemary).
12 lasagna noodles, cooked to al dente texture according to package instructions
1 tub of vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti)
1 package of silken firm tofu
1/4 cup almond milk (or soy)
1-2 tsp ground black pepper
Salt to taste
More ground black pepper and dried rosemary for garnish (optional)
Place all the ingredients except the lasagna noodles and sweet potatoes in a food processor and blend until it's smooth and silky
In a greased, rectangular baking dish, spread a couple of ladlefuls of the pumpkin sauce. Then layer on four lasagna noodles, slightly overlapping.
Spread a third of the remaining pumpkin sauce and add a layer of sweet potatoes on top.
Place another layer of lasagna noodles and repeat.
On the third and final layer of lasagna noodles, layer the sweet potato slice and then pour over and spread the remaining pumpkin sauce.
Sprinkle some pepper and dried rosemary on top, cover with foil, and bake in a 350-degree preheated oven for 45 minutes.
Remove the foil and let the lasagna bake another 15 minutes until the top is slightly golden-brown.
Remove from the oven and allow it to cool slightly before serving.
Six ounces cranberries, washed and picked over
Juice of three tangerines (1 cup)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and allow it to cook about 15-20 minutes until the cranberries have broken down.
Place in a blender when slightly cooled and blend into a smooth puree.
Mashed, Whipped Potatoes
6 large Russett potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring it to a boil.
Cover and cook 10 minutes or until the potatoes are folk tender.
Drain the potatoes and place them back in the saucepan for another 10 minutes, covered with a kitchen towel that will absorb any excess moisture rising from the spuds.
Using a ricer or a potato masher, mash the potatoes in a large bowl.
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup soymilk or almond milk
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried rosemary, powdered
Using a hand mixer, or in a stand mixer, whip the potatoes for about 1 minute until they are cloudy and airy and light.
1 recipe Southern Cornbread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 green, 1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup coriander leaves (or parsley)
1 cup chopped celery stalks
1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tbsp vegan butter like Earth Balance
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable stock
Heat the oil and vegan butter.
Add the onion, celery and bell peppers and saute until they begin to soften, about five minutes.
Season with salt and pepper and add herbs. Turn off heat.
Add the cubed cornbread and mix well. Add the vegetable stock and mix well. The cornbread cubes will break up, or at least some of them, but that's okay.
Empty the stuffing into an oiled, rectangular baking dish and bake about 45-60 minutes or until the top is brown and crunchy.
Garnish with more fresh herbs, if you like.
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!