Pimai It’s Thai – Hollywood, California

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Pimai.  It’s Thai!!  That name cracks me up.  It is hard for me to ever venture into any Thai restaurant other than my luhvah – Torung – but Torung doesn’t open until 5pm & I wanted lunch so I went to the Thai place nearest to where I live – Pimai It’s Thai.  I have eaten here before & have enjoyed it a great deal.  Their brown rice is actually a shade of purple & has a nuttiness that is really nice.  I forgot to ask for that rice yesterday – and maybe the lunch special doesn’t even offer that but the food we got yesterday was pretty great.  I had the Basil & Chili Shrimp Stir Fry (pictured above) & Miles had the same but with beef.

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I actually ordered scallops – but they were out.  The specials at lunch are $6.50 for veggie or tofu items, $7.50 for chicken or beef & $8.50 for shrimp or scallops.  The special includes rice, a little salad with a honey mustard dressing, a bowl of a consomme-like soup with spinach & some mystery (but tasty) bits in it:

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and a fried dumpling that I did not try because Miles believed it was pork-filled.   Both of us were impressed with how clean and how genuinely spicy the dishes were.  And the perfect amount of food for a good lunch.

There is outdoor seating – which is nice – and bizarrely uncommon in city that has nice weather 99% of the year.  Boston & NY offer far more outdoor dining options, I find.  Perhaps because everyone wants to enjoy the far less frequent fair weather there while they can.

Anyway – we sat outside & I neglected to photograph the interior.  Sorry.  HERE is their website, though, so take a peek.

And for your amusement – here are a few images of the ever Mercurial Miles B. Miller, my beer-drinking BF – and a picture of his frosty beer!

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And here are some pretty flowers that were nearby.

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Pimai It’s Thai (please ALWAYS use the full name when referring to this establishment) is located across from the Gelson’s on Franklin in the same strip mall with my new morning haunt – Tang Donuts.  I happen to be the FourSquare mayor of Tang Donuts – FYI – as I am (and will now likely always be) mayor of my now defunkt donut spot – Alex Donut.  At any rate – the strip mall isn’t especially appealing but the food at Pimai It’s Thai is & I highly recommend their exceedingly affordable lunch special.  Here is our bill:

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Much like at Sushi Stop – it is the inclusion of cocktails that ratchets the bill up.  If you have a handle on your day drinking – you can do much better than Miles & I do. At keeping the bill down, that is.  Without alcohol – we could have gotten out of there for about $20, including tip.

So – yeah.  Give Pimai It’s Thai a chance.  I don’t think you will regret it.

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NO CARB Cauliflower Risotto with Caramelized Carrots, Saffron & Toasted Anchovy Bread Crumbs

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Let me apologize up front for the scant photography with this recipe.  My phone completely died early in the process of making this & I had no way to document the various steps.  Sorry!

Also – let me say that this dish could be made the traditional way – with Arborio rice – or the no carb way, using just grated cauliflower or it can be made the way I did it here – with about 2/3 of the recipe comprised of cauliflower but with a cup of Arborio for added texture.  I would have skipped the rice entirely but my boyfriend is a finicky eater & textures, in particular, can put him completely off things.  Having never tried a cauliflower-based risotto, I was unsure of the sturdiness of the final result, so, I added the cup of risotto rice.  As it turned out, I could have skipped it because 1) I think the cauliflower holds up well and 2) he wouldn’t eat it anyway.

In the future, I will experiment with an all cauliflower risotto & I will better document the process.  Do not be alarmed by the lack of photos here and, therefore, intimidated to try this.  It is a very easy & delicious dish!  The anchovy bread crumbs are very optional but add a nice hint of salty flavor the the sweetness of the carrots.  I used some leftover homemade artisan bread but any bread crumbs would likely work.  I just liked how chunky the homemade breadcrumbs were.

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NO CARB Cauliflower Risotto with Caramelized Carrots, Saffron & Toasted Anchovy Bread Crumbs

INGREDIENTS
1 large head cauliflower (2 heads if not using Arborio rice in the dish)

1 lb carrots

3 TBS olive oil – divided

3 TBS butter – divided

1 small onion – diced

1 cup Arborio rice (optional)

1/2 cup dry vermouth (or other dry white wine)

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

5+ cups vegetable (or other) stock

1 tsp saffron threads

1/2 tsp white pepper

Salt to taste

1 tsp sugar

1 large tomato – diced for garnish

Fresh parsley – chopped for garnish

Parmesan (or other hard cheese) – grated for garnish

For the Toasted Anchovy Bread Crumbs

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 TBS olive oil

1 TBS butter

1 TBS anchovy paste (or minced anchovies)

DIRECTIONS

For the toasted anchovy breadcrumbs

If using stale bread – pulse the cubed bread in a food processor until crumbly.

Heat 1 TBS each of olive oil & butter & dissolve the anchovy in it.  Add the breadcrumbs & stir until they begin to get browned & toasty.  I drained mine on paper towels to remove excess oil & set aside.

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For the Cauliflower Risotto with Caramelized Carrots & Saffron

Heat the stock to boiling & then reduce heat to low & simmer – covered.

Meanwhile, with the grating blade of your food processor, grate the cauliflower into rice-like shards.  Set aside.

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With the regular blade in your food processor, pulse the carrots into a near puree.

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In a large stock pot, heat 1 TBS each of olive oil & butter on medium heat & add the minced carrots.  Coat the carrots with the oil & butter then add 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 tsp salt & the sugar.  Cook, covered, for about five minutes.  Uncover and cook, stirring constantly (adding a tiny bit more olive oil if it gets too dry) until the carrots begin to brown.  Remove from heat.  Puree half of the browned carrots in a blender with 1 cup warm water.  Set both carrot elements aside.

Using the same pot you cooked the carrots in, add 2 TBS each butter & olive oil & cook the onion until translucent.  Add Arborio rice (if using) & cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute.   Whether or not you are using Arborio, add the cauliflower now and, stirring constantly, add the cup of wine & let the alcohol cooks off over high heat.  Add the carrot puree (not the browned carrot – but the puree with water added) and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens a bit – maybe a minute.

Add 1/2 cup of hot vegetable stock and stir it often – until the liquid is absorbed.  Repeat this process until all but about 1 cup of broth is incorporated.

Mix in the remaining browned carrots (reserving a small amount for garnish – if desired), the saffron threads, white pepper, the Parmesan & the heavy cream.  Add small amounts of the remaining broth to thin the risotto to the consistency you like.

Serve immediately topped with the remaining carrots (if you reserved some), diced tomatoes, fresh parsley & more grated cheese & the toasted anchovy breadcrumbs.

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Sushi Stop in Hollywood, California

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Apparently, there are five locations for this restaurant – the one in Hollywood, 2 on Sawtelle on the west side, one on Santa Monica & one in Encino.  I ate at the Hollywood location twice in the last week & happened upon one of the Sawtelle ones yesterday while in a driving NIGHTMARE FROM HELL trying to get back east from an aborted lunch attempt on Washington by the pier.

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I dragged my boyfriend Miles out there as we had to drop a friend off at a car rental place at Pico & Centinela anyway & the beach seemed too close to ignore.  My thinking was that 1) I live in LA & see the ocean less than once a year which is retarded and 2) Miles has come to see me 5 times in 8 months & he has not been taken west of LaBrea in all that time.  Seriously.  I think the Roosevelt hotel is as far as we have ever ventured.

So – I thought, “Hey – it’s a random Tuesday in March. How bad could it be out there?”  The answer, as it turned out, was BAD.  Fucking giant families of marauding tourists maneuvering poorly on oversized beach cruisers & dumpy people without shame wearing far less clothing than the 65 degree day demanded.  I have a tolerance level below zero for beach bars that have those plastic beer advertising banners flapping outside & way too loud music inside & thatched anything.   If there is a sign outside outlining a dress code that says “No baggy clothes, no bandanas, no harassing patrons about sports team favorites, no screaming” etc etc – I know I need to move on.  We attempted to get a seat on the upper deck at The Whaler here (stock photo)

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but timed our arrival EXACTLY wrong resulting in a half dozen people arriving after us getting choice people-watching seats facing out to the ocean while we sat inside the bar with blaring horrible music & no service.  I was made inconsolably infuriated by this injustice – I mean really really stupid mad – and just could not shake it off.  I apologized to Miles but just couldn’t stop throwing hate looks over my shoulder at these late arriving interlopers & I couldn’t stop saying, “I am so sorry.  I know this is dumb but I am inexplicably & disproportionately enraged by our situation here.”  Despite my embarrassment at my own reaction, I just couldn’t recover.  “Do you just wanna leave,” Miles asked, completely over my pouty complaints.  And I did so we did & it was a smart decision.

Here’s Miles.  See?  He always LOOKS cranky but seldom is.

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At any rate – we got the Hell outta Dodge & spent three days trying to navigate our way back east – absolutely curing Miles of EVER agreeing to go west of Hollywood proper again.  It took three days, just to explain, because I made the mistake of also trying to stop into Wertz Brothers on Santa Monica & shop for a new kitchen table.  They had nothing so we left there & the next thing you know – I found myself in that web of streets over there including Motor & Federal & whateverthefuck – all of which are on a skewed grid heading in directions my car calls SE or NW.  To make it worse – I was trying to find entry ramps for the 10 right at the point that it intersects with the 405 – which is a clusterfuck and my stupid car navigation thing decided to be completely unable to understand the fucking questions I asked her – namely – get me HOME!   “Please say street address including the address number and city.”   I did – four times & finally turned it off before my rage overwhelmed me & I just drove us into a fiery death by intentional high speed crash into a construction zone.

Anyway – three days later – we got off the 101, safely back in Hollywood.  And we went to Sushi Stop – for our second visit.

The door at Sushi Stop has a box painted on it that says $2.75 in it – and the explanation for that is that most two-piece sushi dishes are $2.75.  Insanely cheap.  Look at the menu:

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Four-piece rolls are $4.  And Miles ordered the “Mini Teriyaki Bowl” (which was a full-sized bowl in my opinion) of chicken & rice – enough for a lunch meal all by itself – and that was only $2.75.

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The fact is – I can’t afford NOT to eat here!  Here is the rest of the menu:

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Miles’ initial fears that the sushi would suck ($2.75 does seem too good to be true) were quickly dispelled by our first visit.  I noticed that, on Yelp, there is a fair amount of complaining about this place but I find it delightful.  I’m not sure what people expect at this price point & some folks don’t seem to realize that a person doesn’t have to LOVE every Goddamn thing on a menu to make the restaurant a good one.  For example – Miles didn’t like the seared albacore & crispy onions for $8 (pictured at the top) but I did.   And look at this crazy tower of raw tuna ($5):

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On our second visit – I intentionally ordered a few things that seemed the most risky – namely the baked green mussels ($2.75)

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which Miles seemed to love (and he is very, very finicky) but I found the mayo on it a tad sweet.  Plus hot mayo is kind of icky.  But for $2.75 – fuck it.

I also ordered a spicy scallop roll ($2.75) seen here with some seared albacore sushi ($2.75):

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The scallops were really fresh & and did not have too much mayonnaise.  Yellowtail sushi is $4 but great:

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We also tried the $2.75 stuffed jalapeno

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which was good but the spicy tuna inside gets cooked when they fry the jalapeno & it comes out looking more like ground pork or chicken.  It actually freaked me out when I took the first bite & had to review the menu to make sure I hadn’t overlooked a meat ingredient.   I also ordered & enjoyed the Crispy Rice appetizer ($2.75) but neglected to photograph it.  Sorry!

Here is the spicy albacore tartare ($4)

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which I loved.  And here is the room:

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And here is the bill from one of our visits – including two glasses of wine & a beer:

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Without alcohol – we could have stuffed ourselves for $20.  I don’t know how you can really gripe about that, unless you end up with food poisoning – which we did not.  Either time.

So – I say, ignore the haters.  If you want the option of trying a bunch of stuff with very little financial risk or if, like me, you like to give the finger to the aesthetic of culinary decency & stuff yourself sick with sushi like a competitive eater – horrifying chefs & staff alike – Sushi Stop is the place for you.  The fact that there are TWO (at 2222 & 2053) on Sawtelle (in the cutest little hidden corridor of Asian restaurants) says a bit about its popularity.  So – cast caution to the wind, wear loose pants & grab your nearly maxed out credit card & run to Sushi Stop.  And definitely try that Spicy Tuna Tartare for $5.  It is the deal of the century!

Carrot & Celery Root Soup with Lavender & Herbs de Provence

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This soup isn’t enormously different from my Carrot & Pumpkin Lavender Soup except that it uses celery root rather than pumpkin.   The celery root adds a creaminess to the soup that makes the cup of heavy cream I included very optional – without which (the cream) this soup is vegan & very light!   The culinary lavender I included is also probably optional but I do recommend buying some & experimenting with it.  It adds an olfactory sensation that is as soothing as the warm soup itself is.

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Carrot & Celery Root Soup with Lavender & Herbs de Provence

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs carrots – sliced

2 celery roots – peeled & cubed

1 large onion – diced

1 leek – sliced (white part only)

4 garlic cloves – chopped

5 TBS lavender

3 TBS olive oil

2 TBS herbs de Provence

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream (optional)

2 TBS butter (or vegan option)

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp dry ginger

4 TBS sugar

Creme fraiche (as garnish) – optional

S&P to taste

Cheesecloth or other fine straining device

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DIRECTIONS

Boil 4 cups of water & add the lavender.  Remove from heat & allow to steep for at least 10 minutes.  Using cheesecloth – strain the lavender out & reserve the water.

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Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot.  Saute the garlic, onion, leek & herbs de Provence a few minutes or until the onion is translucent.  Try not to brown them.  Add the white wine & bring to a boil.  Add the carrots & celery root & the lavender water.  Bring to a boil & reduce heat to medium & simmer until the carrots & celery root are soft (20 minutes or so – depending on the size of the cubes) – adding water if needed to keep the vegetables covered.  Add butter (if using) and the nutmeg, ginger & sugar.  Stir to dissolve the sugar & distribute the spices.

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The soup is ready to be pureed.  You might want to let it cool a bit to avoid scalding yourself.   You can use an immersion blender or a traditional blender & puree the soup in batches.  Once it is creamy, return it to heat & add heavy cream (if using) and salt & pepper to taste.  Garnish with fresh cracked pepper or a dollop of creme fraiche.  Serve!

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Decadent No Carb Shirataki Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus & Lemon

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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These friggin’ shirataki noodles are the greatest.  These ones here have 80 calories – and that is for a huge bowl of pasta (two packages being one serving) – then the calories of whatever you add to them.

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As I stated before in other posts about these noodles, there actually is a measurable amount of carbohydrates in these but it is so negligible as to not be worth mentioning.  With noodles this light & guilt-free, you can add anything on top of them & still have a much lighter meal than you would with real pasta.  These noodles do not mimic the texture of pasta as well as they do the visual but the texture isn’t off-putting & you get used to it quickly.  In case this is your first time trying them, do not get freaked out by the fishy smell they have when you open the package.  Just boil them or zap them in some fresh water in the microwave & the smell goes away completely.  There is nothing funky about their taste.  They are a very neutral base for whatever you use to top them.

My boyfriend likes fettuccine alfredo a lot.  I have always found it too rich and, until yesterday, never made it myself.   Yesterday, I decided to spoil him & make him a decadent, cheesy sauce.  This recipe makes enough sauce to feed six easily.  I made one serving with the shirataki & 6 servings with a homemade pepper penne.   I did not photograph the penne version but I added some fresh, diced tomato to it & it broke up the monochrome of the dish nicely.  I recommend you try that, too.

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Decadent No Carb Shirataki Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus & Lemon

INGREDIENTS

Pasta of your choice (shirataki or homemade or boxed)

1 bunch asparagus

2 tomatoes – diced

8 TBS butter

4 cloves garlic – sliced thin

3 cups heavy cream

2 cups grated Parmesan

1 cup Pecorino Romano

3 oz cream cheese

zest of one lemon

Parsley – chopped for garnish

S&P to taste

Extra Parmesan or Pecorino Romano or grating

DIRECTIONS

Trim the ends of the asparagus as outlined HERE.  Basically, you grasp the spear on each end & bend it until it breaks.  The bottom part will be the tough, inedible part.  Then, cut into 1 inch pieces.  Wrap in a wet paper town & zap in a microwave for a minute or two.  (Alternatively – you could add the raw asparagus to your boiling pasta for the final four minutes.)

Melt the butter in a large pan.  Saute the garlic being careful not to brown it.  Add the heavy cream, 3 cheeses & the lemon zest & heat through until all the cheeses melt & the sauce is creamy.  Add salt & pepper.

Cook your pasta & drain it.  Add the asparagus to the sauce & warm it through.  Add the pasta to the sauce or mix them in a large serving bowl.  Garnish with diced tomatoes, parsley & lemon wedges & extra cheese for grating.

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Nick’s Cafe – Downtown Los Angeles

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Nick’s Cafe is as close to a real diner as anything else Los Angeles has to offer since the tragic demise of Phil’s Diner.  For my money, to call yourself a diner, you have to be an actual train dining car, otherwise, you are a coffee shop or, as Nick’s refers to themselves – a cafe.   Still, there are a few joynts around that get that diner vibe down while still being a brick & mortar facility – like Millie’s, for example.  Nick’s is another.  Located on the north side of downtown (north of Chinatown) & east of Elysian Park, it is in an area that feels sorta desolate & industrial.

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It is really easy to miss so definitely have the address in hand when you go to find it.  There is a small parking lot in the rear & a huge, dirt lot across the street.  Nick’s is only open for breakfast & lunch and accepts cash only.  HERE is a peek at the menu.

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Nick’s is patronized primarily by cops so, despite the sketchy neighborhood, this is one safe place to dine.  There is outdoor seating but the setting out there is pretty unimpressive so I recommend eating at the counter.

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Those are my parents sitting to the right of the woman in the orange.   While the interior is pretty standard cafe fare, if you sit there, you have the opportunity to interact with Nick’s feisty hostess.  Look at her practically photo bombing my efforts to document the interior:

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Again, those are my parents behind her.  She is awesome but let me give you one word of warning – do not ask her for hot sauce!  At least, do not ask for it if you have not yet sampled their house-made salsa that is on the counter in large carafes.

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She will tirelessly bust your balls if she sees you using any other hot sauce and, in fairness, their salsa is damned good!

And the food?  Great diner fare.  I haven’t tried too many things on the menu but what I have tried – I enjoyed.  Like this tuna melt:

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And the Scrambled SoCal:

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And here is a peek at a bacon cheeseburger:

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And while I haven’t had these Chilaquiles – but they looked so good – I am definitely getting them next time!

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I love this place.  Solid food, obscure location, great look, a hostess that makes you feel welcome while giving you a hard time (and it isn’t that bullshit kitschy schtick some restaurants have their waitresses employ) & great prices!   You should definitely check Nick’s Cafe out!

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Vegan Pumpkin, Peanut Butter & Rolled Oats Dog Treats

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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These are easy.  The only thing is that the dough can be really sticky.  I only used as much flour as I need to make the dough manageable without using so much it lost all tackiness.  I didn’t want flour to overwhelm the other ingredients.

These were not initially as popular as the ones I made HERE

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that used egg & chicken hot dogs – but they all got devoured eventually. These ones in this recipe have a rougher, more rustic appearance than the smoother & more professional looking ones using egg – mainly because of the rolled oats.  Either way – dogs eat these things up & you can feel good about what you are feeding them.

Here are the three babies I cook these for:

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Vegan Pumpkin, Peanut Butter & Rolled Oats Dog Treats

INGREDIENTS

1 cup rice flour

2 cups rolled oats

1 heaping cup peanut butter

2 cups canned pure pumpkin

1/4 – 1/2 cup water

2 cups flour

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DIRECTIONS

Blend the ingredients until you have a dough that is workable – adding water or flour as needed.  Roll it out to a desired thickness – I go about 1/3 – 1/2 inch thick & cut it up into treats.  You can cut with a knife or cookie cutter.  Bake them on a greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes on each side.

Cool & serve to lucky doggies!  If you don’t – your dogs might look at you like THIS!

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