Saturday, August 18, 2012

Remembering Caesar & Celebrating Life

The last couple weeks have done a number on Dan & I emotionally.  We returned from a long weekend over at Sun Lakes (the annual Dembiczak family trip), and noticed Caesar was acting strangely and not eating or drinking.  We took him in to see Dr. Kung at Rainier Veterinary Hospital.  Dr. Kung (an amazing vet, if you need one) noted a few new issues that were presenting themselves, and that it was very likely that Caesar had either a stroke, or has a tumor that's grown large enough to impact his brain functioning.  He did some blood work to confirm it wasn't an electrolyte imbalance,  but the tests came back negative.  He recommended we see a veterinary neurologist, to confirm the diagnosis and learn about our options.  This Wednesday, we took Caesar in to see Dr. Kline at VCA, and she concluded the same thing - a traumatic brain event of some kind.  Our options were to put him through tests to determine which kind of event (stroke or tumor), but the bottom line was his quality of life would not get significantly better.   He'd been fighting IBD for the past year and a half, and was down to under 6 lbs - so we decided it would've been cruel to put him through the tests only to know what's wrong, when in the end he'll only suffer more

Friday night, Dr. Barry Rickman, VMD from Peaceful Companion came to our home, administered a strong anesthetic, took a paw print of Caesar for posterity, and then gave him a lethal injection.  Dan held him in his arms the whole time while I sat with them.  Before the final injection, Barry stepped out of the room for a minute so we could tell Caesar how much we love him, one last time.  It was possibly the hardest thing Dan or I has ever gone through, as he's been Dan's companion for 14 years, through good and bad times.

In addition, Tuesday Dan learned that his uncle Don lost his battle with leukemia and heart issues.  And I learned that my aunt Ellen has been diagnosed with lymphoma and would be going into surgery on Monday.  (Thankfully, it's been typed as a lymphoma that responds well to treatment and has a high recovery rate, as my uncle, Ellen's brother, passed away from the rare Burkitt's lymphoma.)  For those of you who know Ellen, you can follow her journey through recovery here.

With so many dark clouds circling, today, we had a few friends over to celebrate life.  We kinda needed to be with friends, after days of tears.  And, of course, there was plenty of food and drink.

Ruth came over with bookmarks she made of pictures of us and Caesar, and brought her famous St. Louis Deep Gooey bars and a pineapple.  Jason & Jayson came over with mimosa fixins, cinnamon rolls and strawberries.  And Anna, Jason and Otis came by with a whole mashed potato bar - complete with bacon bits and sauteed morel mushrooms.

I made a blackberry refrigerator cake using a recipe I saw on (based on a recipe from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion).  The cake used both vanilla and almond extract, and was fairly dense.  When combined with the marscapone/whipped cream frosting, the almond and texture lent a very 'wedding cake' taste to the whole thing - though it wasn't quite up to wedding cake standards, given it was lopsided and the frosting was a little sloppy and sparse in spots.

I also made some chorizo sliders with avocado, carmelized onions (from our garden) and Sriracha mayo.

I tried something new while making the sliders, and thought it was novel enough to share.

We always start with King's Hawaiian Rolls Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls 12 ct. ( 2 packs ) as our slider buns, which come in a 12 pack, attached to one another in a 3 by 4 roll grid.  Without breaking them apart, I sliced them in half, creating a sheet of top buns, and a sheet of bottom buns.

Next, I mixed about a pound of chorizo with a pound of ground pork, and then flattened and formed it into a rectangle, the same size and shape as the buns.  The Hawaiian rolls come in a waxed cardboard container that can be used to do this perfectly.  Then I scored the meat, pressing part way through to create a 3 by 4 grid, matching to the buns.

Keeping the meat as a single sheet, I set it on the hot grill pan on the stove, cooked them on both sides (flipping very carefully), and then pulled them off and set the whole sheet of meat on the sheet of bottom buns.

I loaded the buns up with toppings, popped on the top buns, and then put a 6-inch bamboo skewer through each one and served.  People just tore off a slider when they wanted one.  It was way easier than making 12 individual patties and balancing them on the buns.  I'm definitely using this trick the next time I make any type of sliders.


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