Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sausage Fest

There is a sausage fest going on at my house. The wieners now outnumber the humans. Wiener dogs, that is.

After Sissy passed away in December, our house was very quiet. Ace, our remaining dachshund, stopped eating, reverted to some poor bathroom habits, and clung to me when I was home. Sissy's lively personality had been our spark. We were lonely and grieving.

In January, I decided that it might help Ace to find another companion and contacted an area rescue organization, Dakota Dachshund Rescue. I perused the (unfortunately) long list of pups available for adoption and sent a rambling email that described Ace's more stoic personality and the habits of our lifestyle. The reply came quickly with a request that I complete the adoption application and asking if my Hubs and I could attend the monthly Meet and Greet to get to know some of the adoptable dachshunds.

Dakota Dachshund Rescue is a private, all volunteer, non-profit organization. The very small group of volunteers really love wiener dogs. They work together to rescue abandoned, abused, and unwanted dachshunds, including those that need rehoming because their owners just can't keep them anymore.

Without a facility to house the dogs, all dachshunds with Dakota Dachshund Rescue are in foster homes. Once monthly, the organization hosts a Meet and Greet at an area pet store to ease potential adoptions. With our references checked and adoption application approved, Hubs, Ace and I set off to meet some loveable doxies.

Tabby and Jenn seemed to know we were the ones before we were even really in the door. Jenn curled up in Hubs' arms and fell asleep, and Tabby yipped at me every time I walked away to look at another dog. Ace, meanwhile, took it all in stride and lounged at Hubs' feet inside a pen at the back of the store. The mother and daughter doxies had never been apart, and it was required that they be adopted together. It looked like we were going to be a three dog family.

A few personal issues put off the official adoption for a few weeks, and during that time, I think that I drove the Rescue volunteers crazy with my never ending emails. The girls already had me wrapped around their little paws as I purchased new kennels, harnesses, and food dishes to be ready for their arrival. Everyone was anxious for the girls to come home.

The day that I picked up the girls, Jenn jumped into my lap and kissed me incessantly. Their foster mother and I hugged and teared up as I prepared to leave. (My hat goes off to those volunteers. They open their homes and hearts to the pups with the hope that they will one day have to let them go, even if it aches to do so.) In the car during the drive home, Tabby nervously let me know that she needed a pit stop and after a brisk walk on the leashes, curled up in the carrier and went to sleep with her tiny daughter. I cried again.

Arriving home, I had arranged for Ace and Hubs to meet us in the backyard. When I opened the gate and let the girls run in, Ace danced around them with joy. All three pups explored the backyard and sniffed for squirrels together. Just moments later inside the house, all found their spots to settle in and cuddle with Hubs in his chair and watch a little football.

Jenn, age 2; Ace, age 11; Tabby, age 4
The girls have now been with us just shy of two weeks and it is as if they have always been here. Their smart, inquisitive minds learned the ins and outs of the puppy door immediately. Tabby isn't thrilled with Ace's love of playing ball, but has learned that boys will always be boys. Jenn took a few days to really begin eating and even now the little cuddle bug would prefer to be held instead of have a treat, but has no problem letting us know that dinner smells good and she would like a bite. Ace has shared his home, his bed, his toys, his food, and his heart with both girls. Every morning begins with a sweet round of kisses and butt sniffs among the pups. When I try to work from the sofa with my laptop, it is necessary for me to make room for everyone. It is, indeed, a sausage fest.

How do you celebrate the adoption of 2 beautiful, dappled dachshunds? I think Sausage Burgers topped with Garlic Spinach seem appropriate. Three smaller, slider-sized burgers lined up on a plate just like our three bugs in a rug. All sausage is already seasoned, and you may be happy leaving it as is, but I jazzed ours up a little with some additional herbs. The slight sweetness of the Tomato Basil Jam canned from my garden tomatoes really paired will with these burgers, but your favorite ketchup would work, too. The sauteed spinach topping the burgers is a homey and comforting way to add a few more greens to your diet. Tabby and Jenn would agree that Sausage Burgers topped with Garlic Spinach are the perfect sausage fest for coming to their forever home.

(adapted from Food and Wine)

1 pound mild Italian sausages, casings removed
1 egg
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted and crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
6 slices provolone cheese
6 small hard rolls or ciabatta rolls, split and toasted

Combine sausage, egg, bread crumbs, oregano, garlic powder, basil, and fennel seeds in a large bowl.
Form sausage mixture into 6 patties.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. 
Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.
Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and stir just until coated.
Cook briefly until wilted.
Meanwhile, heat a grill pan to moderate heat.
Grill burgers until browned on bottom, about 5 minutes.
Flip burgers, and heat until cooked through, about 5 more minutes.
Top each burger with a slice of cheese to melt.
Serve on hard rolls spread with your favorite tomato jam or ketchup and topped with wilted garlic spinach. (Makes 6 burgers.)

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