Those Dog Days of Summer

Dogs in the garden

Is that a squirrel? In this heat??

Ah the dog days of summer. That stretch of sultry, humid weather that brings anything remotely strenuous to a standstill. Ask most people where the term comes from and you might get something about it being too hot for even a dog to move.  There’s a lot of truth to that, as my dogs can attest.

Dogs eating watermelonOutdoor time these days consists of short trots instead of runs, followed by a rest in the shade under the squash plants before finishing up with a plate of watermelon on the deck.

Yeah… I know, it’s a hard life.

It turns out the phrase “dog days of summer” has some interesting history. Ancient celestial observers noted that Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, appeared in the Eastern skies just before dawn during late summer. Mythology has it that those observers attributed the star’s appearance, rising right before the burning August sun, as responsible for the undue heat and humidity that occurs with this time of year. Since Sirius is about 7000 degrees hotter than our own sun, there might be some truth to the myth!

If you’re interested in seeing Sirius, you won’t have any Canis Majorproblem finding it. Go outside just before dawn on a clear early morning and look to the East for the brightest star in the sky at that time.  It might be bright white tinged with blue or flicker with colors, either way, you’ll know it when you see it.Orion If you know your constellations and want a truly spectacular show, find Orion’s belt (the three bright stars close together in the middle) and draw a straight line outward and down to Sirius.

 

On a more serious note, it IS hot out there. Be extra careful if you work outside and keep your animal’s comfort in mind as well.  Dogs get sunburned, heat stroke and suffer from exposure, just like you. Never leave a dog or a child in a car, even with the windows down. It only takes minutes for an irreversible tragedy to take place.

Alternatives to leaving your pet in the car

Image courtesy of PetFinder

When life hands you eggs…

….And I mean LOTS of eggs, you have to do two things: Get creative and go big.Eggs

The thing about farming on any scale, is not only do you know what the phrase “Season of Plenty” means, you live it.

For those who don’t, it means most of whatever you’re growing is procreating like Nature tripped the “End of Days” switch. Weird things start happening.  Your neighbors, friends and co-workers seem to disappear when you come around, usually after you start bringing in zucchini resembling a prototype for a new Louisville slugger. Anything you planted from the squash family is outrunning kudzu for most distance grown by a vine in 15 minutes. Even the chickens have turned into fluffy, single minded little laying machines.

When the count gets up to four dozen eggs in the fridge and even the guy down the street who always takes your excess zucchini (but only after you’ve turned it into bread) refuses to answer the door, you have to come up with meal ideas that chew, no pun intended, through the bounty quickly. That’s where recipes like this one come in.

So with that in mind, I’m offering up my first blog recipe. Many versions of this idea are floating around, it’s hardly anything new. What makes this worth writing about is how easy it is to pull together, how flexible the ingredients can be, and the fact you can turn leftovers into a very tasty dish just about everyone will like.

So without further ado, I give you: Baked Egg Casserole

4 cups shredded cheese (I used mozzarella, gruyere, cheddar and swiss in varying amounts)
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons of
1 thin sliced onions
1 thin slice yellow and 1 thin sliced red bell pepper
1 pound meat (I used ground pork sausage)
8 eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Baked Egg Casserole

Ready to go into the oven

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Combine cheeses in a bowl, mix well; place 3 cups cheese mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish.
3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; cook onions and peppers until tender. Gently fold vegetables into meat and sauce, then spread vegi/meat mix over cheese in the pan.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese evenly over the top.
4. Beat eggs in a bowl; mix in milk, flour, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour egg mixture into baking dish.
5. Bake in preheated oven until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting so the dish can firm up.

I love to experiment with food so I whipped up a mix of some sriracha mayonnaise I had on hand with a more or less equal amount of peach preserves into a sweet/spicy sauce that I folded into the meat. Not much, just enough to bring an amazing depth of flavor to the meat. The peaches cooled any undue heat to a gentle warmth and even the less culinary adventuresome in my house gave the dish two thumbs up. For other vegetables you could use sliced greens (Kale, Swiss Chard), thin sliced carrots (slightly precooked), pretty much anything you have on hand. Just think color, the more you bring to the dish the healthier it becomes.

Enjoy!

 

 

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