Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Oakley, our Colorado-born-and-bred Aussie, turned twelve this Halloween. We credit one-year-old Wynn, our rambunctious but lovable Washington-born-and-bred Cardigan Corgi, for keeping Oakley young.

Neither dog looks particularly young (or even alive) in this photo. I think the elephant is wearing them out.

Wynn has learned a lot from Oakley…how to drink from the toilet (we keep it flushed), how to bark crazily when someone knocks on the front door, how to react when raccoons are on our roof at 3 in the morning. See today’s Andy’s Corner for more entertaining looks at Oakley’s teaching method.

But it’s worked the opposite way too. Oakley has learned from Wynn. About bully sticks.

Wynn is clearly a very astute and concerned teacher.

Bully sticks entered our lives after Apollo, a vivacious Aussiedoodle, visited us last Thanksgiving. Apollo’s “parents” brought along bully sticks. And Wynn fell in love. Not with Apollo but with bully sticks. Now keeping a supply of them is jeopardizing our children’s inheritance (and we’re not kidding).

After observing Oakley learn about bully sticks, we realized that we too might learn new tricks – even at our age. Though I haven’t taken the time to really understand “mindfulness” – which seems to appear on every news site I read these days, we decided that being more focused on the good things in our life – on a daily basis – would be…yes, good. So now each day in the late afternoon Andy pours us wine or a homemade shrub and we spend a few minutes talking about three good things each of us recalls from the day. It hasn’t always been easy. It’s actually a little tricky. In fact, I have enlisted my neighbor Deb – who is way more of a positive thinker than I am – to send me a cheat sheet!

ANDY: I’m happy that on my bike ride outside of Healdsburg I got to witness amazingly beautiful cloud banks over the fall-colored vineyards.

ANN: I’m happy that I cleaned out a kitchen cupboard and decided to give away 16 of our 51 dinner plates.

ANDY: I’m happy that a dog park friend told me that my Andy’s Corner made her grin.

ANN: I’m happy that I just ordered 8 new Marrimeko dinner plates.

ANDY: I’m happy that I watched a UPS delivery guy pause to get our maniacally barking and jumping dogs to “sit” while he gave each a treat through the fence.

Ann: I’m happy that we’re still harvesting tomatillos from our huge, lovely, healthy tomatillo plant. And the bees are still loving it up. And it’s November and everything else in the garden is totally done for (pleeeeez, can I get credit for 3 “I’m happy that” responses for this?).

Tomatillos growing and thriving in our garden – in late October

If you decide to try this (and we do recommend it), feel free to substitute “grateful,” “thankful,” “pleased about” or whatever expression suits you. We had a wee discussion as to whether each response had to be serious, and our decision was no – we could use whatever came to mind, serious, frivolous, funny, whatever, though we do encourage a little introspection on both of our parts

After some of that introspection we both came to the conclusion that cooking and sharing recipes for dishes that we really like are some of our happier moments.  The recipe we are including in today’s blog falls in that happy zone. And (SURPRISE!) it’s got tomatillos in it. AND it can help use up your leftover Thanksgiving turkey in a delicious and different way.

Mole Verde with sautéed mushrooms and rice. Vegetarian. Delicious.

Mole Verde

The recipe can be made with leftover turkey or chicken – or made vegetarian with mushrooms. This is not a Oaxacan-style Mole but more Central Mexico. It may also be referred to as Pipian Verde.

  • 1 c roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1/3 c roasted sesame seeds 
  • 3 c chicken broth (divided) – or use vegetable broth if you’re making it vegetarian
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced  
  • 3/4 lb (12 oz) tomatillos, peeled and cut in half, if they’re large
  • 1-2 jalapenos, stemmed and deseeded and cut in half (be cautious if you want to keep the spice level low; I add just a little at a time and taste)
  • 3 T peanut or canola oil 
  • 2 c fresh spinach leaves or 5 leaves romaine lettuce chopped or 5 Swiss chard leaves, chopped (or make it more authentic by using hoja santa leaves and epazote)
  • 1/2 c cilantro, packed
  • 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano 
  • 3-4 c leftover cooked chicken or turkey, shredded (or make it vegetarian by adding 4 c chopped, sautéed mushrooms)
  • 2-3 tsp Diamond kosher salt – to taste
  • roasted pumpkin or sesame seeds, thinly sliced onion, or chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Put pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds (note: grind the seeds in a spice grinder before adding, if you want a really smooth sauce), 1 c of the broth, onion, garlic, tomatillos, and jalapenos in a blender (preferred) or food processor. Blend until smooth.

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add oil. When oil shimmers, add the tomatillo/seed puree. Cook, stirring often, until mixture reduces and becomes thickened and most of the liquid has evaporated – about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add to the blender another cup of chicken broth, the spinach (or greens of choice), cilantro, and oregano. Blend until smooth.

Transfer the spinach puree to the pot with the tomatillo puree. Return the heat to medium. Add remaining cup of broth, shredded chicken/turkey (or mushrooms) and salt and bring to a simmer, stirring from time to time for 20 minutes.

Enjoy with white rice. Or beans. Or as a filling for enchiladas. Or, do as Rick Bayless does and add roasted chayote – or even green beans.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.


  1. tricia53 says:

    I’m going to need a tour of your dish cupboard! I have a lot of dishes, too, even after downsizing at least three sets when we moved. Of course, I have my Grandma’s china — 24 place settings, if you can imagine! And a few other sets. . . .


  2. Robert Carleton says:

    Thankful? My Sami ancestors were religious in their indigenous way. They saw life and purpose in everything. Their life centered around “thankfulness” and “gratitude”, as in thanking the ground for providing a home for the growth of food plants, thanking the river water for supporting the fish, thanking the bear for growing so large and healthy and for allowing them to harvest it to nurture and equip their people. They have been characterized as “a peaceable people”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: