who’s in the kitchen

Summer in the suburbs and a dog’s life is easy


Summer is my favorite season and so far, I’ve been keeping busy. My daughter and son-in-law’s dog, Murphy kept us company for a week while they enjoyed their first anniversary on July 3rd, catching the Cubs, Reds and White Sox in action, along with a hot air balloon ride. 

As excited as I was for them, I was just as excited for Jerry and me. It’s always a treat or have Murphy or Penny, my son and daughter-in-law’s English Cocker Spaniel. At this point, everyone makes fun of me, and had my kids not decided to have dogs, I probably would have agreed that my behavior is a bit much. But now I can’t imagine not having those two adorable dogs coming over.

Before Murphy arrives, I try to do all my errands for the week. Yes, I know I could leave him home by himself, but when he gives me that look (and you dog owners know what I’m talking about) that says, “you’re not going out and leaving me here, are you? Do you really think I don’t see you sneaking out and leaving me here all by myself? And, yes, you did leave me a really good treat to occupy myself with while you’re not here, but I’m still going to remember this.”

True to my word I did all my errands beforehand — including getting a doggy mini swimming pool, two cooling pads (one for each dog), dozens of amazing treats (my fave is the chicken, beef and lamb shishkbob, which actually tempted me!) and lots of fresh salmon and chicken to cook for him.

We had fun from the get-go.

As when Penny vacationed with us, Murphy realized early on that he had me wrapped around his little paw. Soon as he woke we were outside walking around the neighborhood to his favorite places; somehow he knew exactly where the other dogs lived.

When we returned home, I let him out back, where he had free reign. He was flying around the backyard and In places that I didn’t know existed behind trees and bushes which is where he hid most of the treats I gave him. I would actually reason with him and say, “seriously, you don’t have to hide it -— since I’m giving it to you I’m obviously not going take it away from you. And you know that you will get another one later.”

Jerry had a dog in the past and would love to have one now. He always has a blast when either Penny or Murphy visit or stay over.

While out walking with Jerry, Murphy developed an adversarial relationship with every cat in the neighborhood. He spent every “walking” moment planning to ambush every cat, hiding in their most strategically placed hiding spots. Like a Trojan horse, he slowly crept into their perimeters, and scared them half to death, then he would proudly come out of the bush with a victorious march.

On Friday night, Jerry went out for a walk with Murphy at 11:30 pm and did not get home until 1:15 am. I started to panic. When  he finally walked in I asked where in the world he was and he said, “Don’t ask. I got lost.”

I said, “You got lost? Jerry, you’re living in Woodmere for 10 years now, how in the world did you get lost?” He responded, “Murphy was leading me on one of his nightly cat-hunting expeditions, and I let him lead, hoping he knew where he was going and would know how to get me back. Murphy played the role of Don Quixote and I proudly played the role of his loyal servant Sancho Panza.”

This was one of the few times I was speechless in response. Sigh.

And as fun as having one dog sleeping over it’s even more fun when Penny and Murphy visit together — the party seems to never end and the cousins are definitely in cahoots with each other. I can’t wait till the end of the summer when Penny comes to spend a week with us. I’m planning the menu already.

But until then I’ll have to keep busy entertaining humans. This past Sunday I hosted a BBQ and my friend Debbie Shafran brought an amazing dish of vegan spicy baked beans. They were delicious and a perfect addition to the barbecue. She was kind enough to share the recipe with me, and I’d love to share it with you.

You really have to try this, as they are out of this world. Just ask Eric Hack.

Best vegan BBQ beans

Chuck Underwood


3 cups dried great northern beans

2 cups bean liquid

2 cups vegetable broth, low sodium

1 tsp salt

1 onion, diced

1 bell pepper, green, diced

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 to 1/2 jalapeño pepper,  minced

6oz can tomato paste

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 Tbls yellow mustard

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 tsp ground pepper

1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder


1. Soak beans overnight in several inches water

2. Drain and rinse beans next morning

3. Add enough water to cover and bring to a boil

4. As soon as the beans begin to boil, remove from heat and cover

5. Let rest 30 minutes

6. Drain and rinse beans, reserving 2 cups bean juice

7. Add beans back into pot, with 2 cups bean juice

8. Add vegetable broth, onion, garlic, peppers, and salt

9. Bring to a boil again and simmer on low for 1 hr

10. Add mixture to crock pot

11. Add remaining ingredients and slow cook on low 4 to 6 hrs