My dog Freddie has a seeing-eye mom.
Yeah, you read that right. Freddie is 16 years old and almost completely blind. but he still has the energy of a puppy. When he hurtles around the house and on his walks, he sometimes bumps into things that get in the way. And he needs someone to guide him along.
When Freddie came to us as at the respectably senior age of 12, he was already beginning to lose his sight. Early on, he attached himself to me, unlike most of our other kids who for some reason I just cannot understand gravitate toward Desi as their First Human.
As Freddie’s sight deteriorated, he quite naturally adopted me as his seeing-eye dog (calling me that was Desi’s idea, of course).
He likes to follow me no matter where I’m going or what I’m doing, or no matter what time of day or night it is. When I work at the computer, he sits down next to me and sleeps for hours (he’s there right now). When I get up, he sits up, yawns, then sleepily and staggeringly walks behind me.
If it’s the bathroom, he waits until I’m done. If it’s the kitchen, he’s thrilled because there could be a treat in it for him. If I want to take a nap, guess who’s there to nap right beside me?
Still, there are times, especially at night, when he can’t quite tell where I am, and he dashes around in confusion.
At first, we tried to figure out a way to keep him close by putting him on a leash around my waist while I worked in the kitchen, say, but that just wasn’t comfortable for either of us.
Eventually things worked themselves out.
By now he has learned to navigate his way around the house quite well, and smells his way out of any potential obstacles. The rest of the time he follows my voice.
When I want him to follow me, I wave my hands vigorously — he does still seem to follow some movement — and keep up a constant chant of “Freddie, come.” It sometimes takes him a moment to figure out where I might be going, but he gets it soon enough. (He hates to be carried, in case you’re wondering, and wriggles out of my arms in a second.)
There are accidents, of course, usually outdoors, and despite the leash. Like the time one evening he ran into a neighbor’s makeshift fence around a tree made with short iron rods. It was dark and as he bounced around, Freddie bumped his head right right on top of one of them. He seemed to be okay, but the next morning, I found a huge clump of his hair had ripped off. He wasn’t bleeding anywhere, and he seemed his usual self, but I learned my lesson about keeping him closer.
So that’s what we do. Desi now knows that when he needs to find Freddie, there’s only one place he has to look. In fact, Freddie won’t even go for a walk with him unless I go too.
As for me, so used I am now to having him around me that if, for any reason, he’s wandered away somewhere, I feel as though I’m missing a tail.
And a really gorgeous one at that.
Now on to today’s recipe, an old favorite in vegan form, and trust me, the animal-free version tastes better.
Shortbread is perhaps the most decadent of all cookies, being as rich as it is in fats (read butter), but it is also one of the most delicious. Just a handful of ingredients go into making it, but the result is ultra luxe and luscious. And, I figured, what better way to celebrate the first day of Spring than with a shortbread scented with the fresh flavor of lemon.
My lemon shortbread is made with Earth Balance vegan butter and some transfat-free shortening, both of which are much lower in saturated fats than butter is. So in the end, they are not just good, they are better for you than their buttery peers.
I sprinkled the top with candied pecans, because I love their crunch on top of the melt-in-your-mouth shortbread, but you can leave out the topping if you’d rather have your shortbread plain. It’s super-delicious that way too.
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rice flour (this is lower in gluten and gives an incredibly great texture to the shortbread. You can substitute with cornstarch or all-purpose flour if you don’t have rice flour on hand)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp vegan butter (I used Earth Balance) at room temperature + 5 tbsp butter-flavored transfat-free vegetable shortening (can replace shortening with all vegan butter or margarine. Shortening gives an ultra-crumbly texture which is great in shortbread)
Zest of one large lemon, about 1 tbsp
1/2 tsp pure lemon extract (optional)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat together the butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Now add the extracts and the zest and mix for another minute.
Add the salt and slowly sift in the two flours, beating as you add it, until you have a crumbly dough. Do not overbeat. You don’t want to develop the gluten in the flour.
If the mixture doesn’t hold together, sprinkle some water and mix, but be careful not to make a sticky batter.
Put the dough into a 9-inch baking dish (I used a glass one) and press down the dough into a smooth and even layer.
With a fork, make holes in the dough in a decorative pattern.
Place in a 300-degree oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the shortbread is just slightly darker at the edges.
Place on a rack to cool. When still slightly warm, take a sharp knife and cut into squares, going almost all the way through the dough.
Allow the shortbread to continue cooling. When completely cooled, cut all the way through the shortbread to separate the pieces.
If adding the candied pecan topping (recipe below), take out of the oven about 10 minutes before it is done, sprinkle the topping over the shortbread, and continue baking for the remaining time.
The remaining steps are the same.
Candied Pecan Topping
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 tbsp vegan butter or margarine
1 tbsp sugar
Put the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar starts to bubble, cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.
Immediately pour over the shortbread and follow instructions for the cookie (above).