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A Day in the life of a Food Blogger in Calistoga

A Day in the life of a Food Blogger in Calistoga

Being a food blogger and travel writer is fun and rewarding, but it also comes with a great responsibility. I feel obligated to share all the places I’ve explored, so you the reader, can feel like you have been there. I like to “shout out” the businesses that treat me well, because not everybody is treated with respect. I will share last Friday’s excursion to the wine country, and hopefully give you the inspiration to make a trip there yourself.

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Bar necessities at Solage Resort in Calistoga

Last week my friends Luann and Sandra came along with me to see the sights and visit the businesses along the Silverado Trail. We left around 10AM after I picked up my friends in the neighborhood. I always give options to stop at bakeries and coffee shops along the way. These girls wanted to go straight for the Napa Wine. 

Luann and Sandra in front of Silverado Resorts Market and Bakery

I ventured off HWY 29 and took the Napa/Lake Berryessa  exit, so we could begin our adventure along the Silverado Trail. In case you aren’t familiar with this area, it is an oasis of wineries splashed through everywhere you look. You can’t close your eyes and sneeze, or you might miss one. Lucky us, I saw a sign for Silverado Resort and I went directly there. What a piece of paradise we stumbled upon! They had a spa, (which I could have really taken advantage of), a golf course, tennis courts, a grill, an outdoor patio next to a cute market called Silverado Market and Bakery that sold fresh sandwiches, pastries, coffees, cold drinks, wine and beer. I never leave the house when I visit the wine country without a cold bottle in an ice bucket of pinot grigio, glasses, tablecloth and napkins. Always ready for a picnic if the opportunity arises. 

So I purchased a sesame seed bagel filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese and chose a passion fruit mousse pastry with mango and kiwi for us to share. I walked back to the care for the wine, glasses and napkins and we set up a nice little brunch to get our day started. It was perfect. Of course, we could have chosen a hot pizza from their outdoor pizza oven, or even gone to their grill which would have been okay as well. We relaxed, got caught up on great conversation, and had a delicious snack.

Next we encountered William Hill Estate and Winery. We walked up to their grounds and were immediately greeted and offered a splash of their prize winning white chardonnay. I gave my taste to Luann and Sandra since I was driving. They didn’t have time to seat us, or show us around, but we were told we could walk the grounds and look around. This place is so pretty, you feel like you are in heaven. There are flowers everywhere, lounge chairs looking over the fields of grapes, fields of yellow mustard, cool barrel rooms loaded with precious wine, a gorgeous conference room for private tastings and more. 

After taking a few photos at the last place we came across Reynolds Family Winery. Cameron Reynolds showed us around and offered to give us a tasting for $70.00 where we could lounge in their covered patio overlooking the pond. We decided against the outrageous prices, but walked around and enjoyed the art inside, drooled over their lavender bushes, took in the vibe of the cool leather couches, fresh flowers and jazz music,  and spied on the gorgeous spring bouquets of fresh flowers that were awaiting the next day’s members only grand opening outside. These laces are really a site to see. Sandra purchased a candle, and we were off to the next destination.

Sandra and Luann at Black Stallion Winery in Napa
Beautiful extraordinary succulents adorning an outdoor bar
Indoors at Black Stallion Winery. Limited hours because of Covid

Black Stallion Estate Winery was HUGE, with a large statue of a black horse on a water feature in the circular driveway. There were arches covered in white wisteria, cool water fountains and gardens of their Cabernet Sauvignon nearby. Sally Holmes roses were blooming and their granite rock studded fireplace adorned with a vase of pussy willows inside was spectacular. The staff wasn’t overly friendly and they weren’t open to the public yet for tastings, but I was able to purchase a cold bottle of their 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley to share with my friends at lunch.

Black Stallion Winery

We had about an hour before our lunch reservation, so we took a side road and drove into Bann Inn at Oak Knoll. This place was something to take note of if you want to stay in the Napa Valley. They were providing lunch to guests in the gardens, but stopped to show us around a little. We didn’t stay long, only long enough to get a few photos and business cards so we can go back. Their fresh flowers of white roses, pink and white lilies, and blue hydrangeas placed carefully in gold lined dishes were stunning. I think I need to steal that idea. It’s style is that of San Francisco Chef Lalita Souksamlane. The décor of Traditional Design and shows off how luxurious Thailand can be.  Quite the show stopper of a Bed and Breakfast.

Next up, yes, there’s more, we ventured into Clos du Val which happened to be my favorite place so far. This winery was spectacular through and through. Everything about it said “classy”. The young man offered my friends a taste of their Gran Val Carneros, Napa Valley 2018 Estate Chardonnay. He had on a dragon shirt which reminded me of when my 8th grade son Curtis had to have a dragon shirt to wear to a dance. I think someone bought a bottle of wine and we said goodbye to the swarming swallows which had nested in their vine covered buildings. The insides were just as pretty all decked out in wood and grey planks, more leather pillows and benches, phenomenal art ,large stands of trailing succulents, round marble tables and colorful pillows made with tapestry. I didn’t even taste the wine, but I want to be there right now. 

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Clos Du Val Winery comfy couch and table
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Another spectacular view inside Clos Du Val Winery in Napa
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The Italian guy w the Dragon shirt posing with my girlfriends at Clos du Val Winery in Napa

I made reservations for lunch at Solbar Resort which I’ve always wanted to visit. We didn’t get there until 2:30PM, and we were told that they didn’t offer the lunch menu at that time. That was NOT what I wanted to hear since we were starving and I had looked at their lunch menu the night before and was dying for one of their salads. But at that point, we were tired and needed food, so their bar menu would have to suffice. Did I mention I’ve always wanted to go to this place? I’ve passed it dozens of times while taking my Dad to Twin Pines Casino. It is his favorite place, and I would joke that if we won at the casino, we would stay overnight at this Solage Resort. 

Lunch consisted of an avocado dip, with goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, a spicy oil, fresh mint, greens and chia seeds served with tortilla chips. We also ordered the sweet chili sauced chicken drumsticks and wings,  and spicy gulf shrimp lettuce wraps with glass noodles, pickled carrots, avocado, and nampla sauce. I brought my cold bottle of Sauvignon Blanc that I had bought earlier and the waiter graciously let us open it and serve ourselves. Honestly, it was the best setting, sitting out on their outside patio furniture, next to the pool, relaxing, eating pistachios that I had brought (never leave home without food), and sipping wine. We stayed there for at least 2.5 hours, ordered a butterscotch pudding with caramel sauce, Macallan whiskey,  toffee pearls, and whipped Chantilly, and a lemon cake with whipped mascarpone cheese and vanilla poached strawberries dessert to share. I could have ordered a coffee, but the girls were treating me to lunch, so I didn’t dare.

Their cheese plate of artisanal cheese, honeycomb, fruit compote, sea salt crackers, marcona almonds, mustards and charcuterie which walked by our table looked incredible. A must have next visit.

I can’t even believe I didn’t know about their spa amenities. I overheard the girls saying they thought they were in heaven after walking through the white walled, tall ceilings, white couches, white pillows and silver side tables waiting area. Of course, you better wait to schedule your treatment here because Covid has restricted the amount of people who can enter the outside bar/pool/mineral spa area. The cold ice water display toted it contained calcium, potassium, sodium, silica and trace elements. Also added to it was a ton of ice cubes, orange slices, strawberries and mint. There are signs everywhere saying it’s a “digital detox in progress” area and to “please be quiet.” Couldn’t we all use that in our lives?

And on our way back to the car, we couldn’t believe the display of colorful pink roses and purple lavender lining the Silverado Trail facing the parking lot. Just heavenly! Have I used the word heaven enough in today’s blog? I think so.

So I hope I’ve inspired you to take a day trip and explore Calistoga, and the wineries along the Silverado Trail. It’s a piece of paradise you won’t want to miss. And bring along a couple of really good friends that you haven’t seen in a while. You not only have made their day, but they have made yours.

Thanks for reading and stopping by. I hope you ask me a question or two or leave a comment below. Is anyone else in need of a body treatment? Who wants to go with me next time? 

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My version of Solage’s butterscotch pudding with caramel sauce and chocolate candy pearls from Kollar Chocolates

Here is my butterscotch pudding recipe that I think you can’t live without. I don’t think I can compete with Solage’s pastry chef, but I gave it a try yesterday and it turned out pretty tasty. It could have used a dollop of whipping cream to lighten it up, but I gave most of my heavy cream to my son Andrew. He was celebrating his 6 month anniversary of dating his girlfriend Shannon yesterday, so how fun for them to have extra cream in the fridge. Lol. Andrew loves to cook, so I bet he made her something amazing. In any case, here’s the recipe:

 Boosey Butterscotch Pudding

Ingredients:

1 C Dark Brown Sugar (Or if using light brown sugar add 1 teaspoon of molasses)

6 T Water

1 teas Maldon salt

2 C Heavy Cream

2 C Whole Milk (I used Macadamia milk and added 1 T powdered Milk cause I was out of milk)

6 T Corn Starch

7 large Egg yolks

6 T Unsalted butter softened, cut into chunks

2 teas Alexander Murray Scotch Whiskey 18 yr old (Can substitute w rum extract or more vanilla)

1 teas vanilla paste

1 vanilla bean sliced down the middle

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Ingredients for my butterscotch pudding. Used fresh egg yolks from my chickens

Directions:

Melt the brown sugar, salt and water in a large pot over medium/medium low heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, NOT stirring and not letting it burn. You can turn the heat down if necessary. Set aside to cool.

In a separate small bowl, mix the cornstarch with a little of the milk and stir until combined. Add the egg yolks and mix until smooth.

Add the cornstarch mixture to the rest of the milk, add the cream and whisk until combined. 

Return the brown sugar pan back to the heat. Add the milk/cream mixture and vanilla bean to the partially cooled brown sugar whisking constantly. It may seize up, but keep stirring and it will come together as you cook and whisk it. Bring it to a boil over medium low heat and cook until thickened. Keep scraping the sides and bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula.

Once the pudding is thick enough, take it off the heat, and put it through a fine mesh strainer. 

Add the room temperature butter, vanilla paste and whiskey to the pudding and stir until combined. Pour into a large bowl or into individual sized serving dishes and refrigerate until cool.

Next make the sea salt caramel sauce. Follow the recipe from this previous  blog.

Top the cooled caramel into the cooled butterscotch pudding dishes. Top with chocolate or toffee pearls from Kollar Chocolates or your favorite confectionery. Serve a dollop of whipped cream on the top of the pudding. It seriously needs this or it’s too sweet.

This recipe makes enough for 13 individual sized servings.

 

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Year in Review and Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Recipe

Year in Review and Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Recipe

Here’s the latest on what’s going on in my life lately, and I will share a delicious Millionaire Shortbread Bar recipe. My husband is still working from home. It has been a year and a month since the pandemic hit and the world changed. I will attempt to describe how things have been during this challenging time and how life has changed, maybe for the better.

Here are my girlfriends waiting for me to come say hi.

First of all, I have chickens. They are five months old now and quite a handful. I’ve enjoyed spending mornings and evenings with them just hanging out with them in their chicken run. They like to be cuddled and love it when I’m around bringing them treats. They have been my saving grace while stuck at home.

Last week’s hike up Bollinger Canyon “Devils Hole” Part of Las Trampas Regional Wilderness in California

As far as the community goes, I hike occasionally with friends, and love every minute of it. In fact, I should be out there on Las Trampas with them now, but decided to hang back and write a blog instead. We don’t entertain as much, but when we do, we really love having people over. I love to cook and bake, so sharing meals has been a passion and a gift I love to give to others. 

Some people are more careful than others as far as Covid 19 goes. One friend wouldn’t hike until she was fully vaccinated, yet others are more comfortable getting together in groups. When my hiking friends celebrate birthdays, we meet at a park, bring our own food and visit. It is lovely to interact and see people more. 

Yesterday, I met two hiking friends in Benicia for lunch. Suzette initiated it and also invited Marianne to join us. We ate inside in a large dining room and I felt fairly comfortable. Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since my second Pfizer vaccination. My husband gets his second Moderna vaccination today. Lunch at Ciao Bella was lovely and I’m grateful for days spent outside my house. 

Mostly, I’ve been working in my garden the last year. I experimented with growing corn, composting, vermiculture, and growing seeds and cover crops.  I chose not to hike today because I have about 20 more tomato and vegetable plants that I need to get into the raised beds. It stresses me out to have them waiting for me. I know. It sounds crazy, but these plants are like my babies. My hikes can wait.

After lunch yesterday, I drove to REI to buy new hiking shoes. I have so many holes in my current ones, that I have no choice but to get new ones. The whole experience was anxiety provoking. First, you are met at the door and asked to use hand sanitizer. Then there are arrows on the floor showing where you are allowed to walk. The nice greeter told me the shoes were located up the stairs, so I headed in that direction. Instead of picking up a shoe and choosing which one I wanted to try on, the whole area was roped off. An employee was guarding the shoes and asked me qualifying questions to see what kind of shoe I was looking for. 

Seriously, this guy was trying to visit with me and ask me personal questions while I was trying on shoes. So awkward. I just wanted to get the damn shoes and get out of there. It was strange to have this guy watching me try on every shoe. I kind of wanted a little privacy, you know? Maybe that’s weird. But anyway, I have bad feet and having the correct shoe is important, so it’s a serious matter for me. And I really didn’t want to tell the guy my kids ages. It always freaks people out when I tell them that I have a 36 year old son and a 28 year old son. Then I feel old because they are grown men now. Ugh. In any case, of course they never have my size, blah blah blah. Eventually, the two of them, yes now there was another salesman, brought me a pair that fit. Of course, they tried to get me to sign up for the club, so I could get a 10% discount and be able to return my shoes if there is a problem. No thank you. I hate sharing my email, so they can send me spam.

Of course, I had to check to see if Krispy Kreme Donuts drive through had any warm out of the fryer yummies. Nope. So I passed on that. 

So maybe it wasn’t that unusual of a shoe buying experience, but it feels weird getting out and leaving the house. Other than shopping for food, and getting my hair done, I rarely go anywhere. My husband Ken and I like to hike or go on bike rides into Danville. Sometimes we get food to go, but I usually cook. Last night, I heated up leftover beef pot roast, roasted carrots and potatoes for dinner. We watched a little TV and called it a night.

This morning, I will get the rest of the tomato plants into the ground before it gets too hot. It’s only mid April, but Northern California weather can change quickly and become hot and dry. In case you wondered where I buy my plants from, I go to the Contra Costa Master Gardeners website and buy from The Great Tomato Sale. Each plant is $4.00 each and they have a wide variety of peppers, herbs, squash and tomatoes. I always get extra, since they don’t all survive. I bought 17 tomato plants, lemon cucumber, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, basil, 3 types of kale, two types of lettuce, 6 pepper plants. We have critters that eat everything around here. My husband routinely traps moles, gophers, rats and mice. The owls and frogs sing to us at night. It truly is a magical place. Here’s a post about a farm in Tuscany

Here is one of my favorite treats that you can make ahead. They are rich and decadent and you only need a small piece to satisfy your sweet tooth. This recipe makes a lot, so you can share with neighbors and friends.

Millionaire Caramel Shortbread Bars

Shortbread Ingredients:

1C. Cold Unsalted Butter cut into chunks

¼ C (32g) Cornstarch

1 ¾ C (219g) All Purpose Unbleached Flour (could substitute rice flour to make gluten free)

1/3C (73g) Granulated Sugar 

⅓ C Light Brown Sugar

1 Lg egg yolk

¾ t vanilla extract

½ t Maldon Salt

Caramel Ingredients:

2 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated)

14T (198g) Unsalted butter cut into chunks

1 C (200g) Light Brown Sugar (Packed)

⅓ C (80ml) Light Corn Syrup

1 t vanilla extract

¼ t Maldon Salt

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:

2 C (340g) SemiSweet Chocolate Chips

½ C Heavy Cream

1 t Vanilla extract

½ t Sea Salt (to sprinkle over bars)

Shortbread Crust Directions:

Preheat Oven to 350 degreesF (180degreesC).

Line a 17X11.5 Pampered Chef Bar Pan or Sheet pan with parchment paper. Can use a square baking pan. Bars will be thicker.

In a Cuisinart or large bowl Mix sugar, flour,cornstarch, butter, egg yolk, vanilla and salt until combined.

Press into the pan until even. 

Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes or until light brown.

Set aside to cool.

Caramel Directions:

In a medium size heavy pot, place 2 cans sweetened condensed milk, butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and whisk continuously on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes until caramel reaches 230 degrees with a candy thermometer. This process takes time. Don’t walk away or stop stirring. Add vanilla and salt and pour onto the shortbread crust. Spread evenly. Place in the fridge or let cool a bit before topping with ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

Heat heavy cream in a heavy small to medium size pot until almost boiling. Add chocolate and vanilla and stir until melted.

Pour onto caramel shortbread and spread evenly. Sprinkle with sea salt and cool in the fridge.

Cut the bars into squares and serve. This recipe can be made ahead and the bars will freeze for up to 3 months, but they won’t last that long. 

Enjoy!

Thanks for reading and I appreciate your feedback. How has this last year been for you? Have you had a similar shopping experience that you want to share? 

Teri

 

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Eating our way through Napa and smudging herbs

Eating our way through Napa and smudging herbs

    Hey everyone! It’s great to be writing again. I’ve had quite a few distractions since I‘ve last written. My son Curtis introduced me to Club House, a new app on my phone. It’s super interesting and worth looking into. I’ve also started listening to The Bible in a Year Podcast with Father Mike Schmitz. I was raised Catholic, but have never read the bible. It has been interesting so far. I’m also raising chickens, baking bread from scratch, making nutritious meals and entertaining occasionally. I spend a lot of time in the garden composting, weeding, seed sowing, planting vegetables and bulbs. The garden is popping right now with paperwhites, daffodils, snow drops, anemones, calendulas, rosemary, borage, lemon balm, mint, and much much more. I hike with friends, my sister or my husband regularly. It’s a passion. I love working on puzzles when I find the time to sit. There is always so much to do around the house. And don’t forget cookie baking. I also made a yummy gluten free crispy ginger cookies recipe this week. I can share that recipe too.

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Did I mention my trip to Napa with my girlfriend Marie? We started at the Model Bakery where we purchased scones, wheat bread, focaccia, and apple pies. Next to it was The Fatted Calf, and if we weren’t going to be gone all day, I would have gotten something to barbeque for dinner. They had every kind of meat, pork, duck, sausage, bacon, salami you could think of. Back to the bakery. Marie got an oatmeal raisin cookie too, and saved it for her husband Ron. We had them slice the bread and divide them up so we could both bring some home to our families. I’ve since made a grilled cheese with tuna salad on the wheat bread. Soooo gooood. Next we walked through Ox Bow Market. If you haven’t been there, it’s a must see. Of course we had to stop at the Napa Valley Distillery, Anette’s Chocolates and Hudson Greens and Goods. You can find Ritual Coffee, Napa BookMine, The Olive Press and our favorite Whole Spice. We then walked to town and had lunch at the Archer Hotel Roof Top where we enjoyed olives, crostini, beet salad and good wine. It was a glorious day and I’m thankful for a day with my friend Marie.

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Bakery Items at Model Bakery. Decided to go after seeing a post from a friend about their English Muffins

Today I planted seeds of dill, Thai basil, Genovese basil, sweet peas, snow peas, and microgreens. I attended a class on Smudging on Club House today and learned which herbal plants can be used to make these potent dried bundles. They can be used for practical reasons, or spiritual or ceremonial purposes. Antimicrobial Sages, yarrow, calendula, mullein, mugwort, cedar, juniper, English lavender, rosemary, sweet grass, palo santo, thyme, bayberry, oregano, frankincense, myrrh, peppermint, basil, lemon grass, clove, cinnamon,blue spruce, dill, bay leaves, and eucalyptus are many of the herbs used in making the smudges.I’m still learning about the health benefits of burning these herbs. Many tribes from the ancient ways and traditions believe these herbs are sacred, have special healing effects and cleansing essence. They can help low vibration energies.

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Blueberry scone from Model Bakery

I bake with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom whenever I make oatmeal cookies or gingerbread cake. These are my favorite warm spices. I wrote a blog and shared a gingerbread cupcake recipe. My son and his girlfriend Shannon made it together yesterday. It tasted terrific, but the cupcakes didn’t rise correctly, so I have to go back and make the recipe again myself. We still ate the moist crumbles with a white chocolate buttercream frosting. They were delicious.

It’s after 5PM already, and I have to bring in the chickens and make dinner for my husband. I’m planning on preparing a white fish with a pineapple mango salsa for dinner. It’s so yummy. I might have to share the recipe with you.

Thanks for joining me here. I appreciate your comments and feedback if you have questions about my recipes or the smudging. 

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Great friends in front of Napa’s fine art sculptures. I love hearts

Teri

 

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Wintertime Magic at Smyth Family Farm

It’s winter in Northern California, but the weather has been sunny, warm and magical. I was inspired to write this post since visiting Delta’s Farmers Market yesterday. They have a HUGE selection of beer. If you like beer, I highly recommend you check this place out in Rio Vista. They sell fresh produce, (not as good as Andy’s Orchard) fancy jams and local honey, wine, ciders, fancy caramel chocolates, pies, chocolate dipped coconut macaroons, my favorite and much much more. I learned they have live concerts on Friday nights. Whohoo!

Besides stopping at farmers markets, my sister and I went bird watching at Cosumnes River Preserve. We had a great time. We saw sandhill cranes from afar which are only around from October until March. We learned how to identify waterfowl and ducks from other visitors. We saw blue-winged teal ducks and several cinnamon teal species. It was a gorgeous sunny day to be relaxing out in nature. 

Here are my chicks still in the box they were delivered in only 2 days old

In my last post, I promised my next blog would be about my chickens. I’ve been having fun feeding and taking care of nine chickens since October 2020. They are about 12 weeks old now. I have five varieties: 2 Red Stars (brown eggs), 2 Ameraucanas (blue eggs), 2 Anconas (white eggs), and 2 whiting True Blue’s and they sent one extra chicken for free. McMurray’s Hatchery in Iowa helped me decide which breeds to order and sent them as baby chicks. I was so excited to find them on my front porch delivered by my postman. According to Concord Feed where I get my chicken feed, the girls should start laying eggs in April.

It has been wonderful to have the chickens to look after. Since March of 2020 there have been lots of deaths from the Covid 19 pandemic, and anxiety around constant news cycle of President Trump’s drama, the presidential election, and the recent insurgence on Jan 6th 2021 on our state capitol. It has been a tumultuous time in America. But, not for long.

Last Wednesday January 20th, Joe Biden became our new President. Kamala Harris is the very first female African American and Asian American Vice President elected official to hold office. Many of us can breathe a sigh of relief now with this new administration. And happy birthday to my oldest son Curtis, who turned 36 this week.

The chickens have been my therapy. We have named them! I have Bertha (named by my niece Michelle), Mabel (named by my sister Sue and after Ken’s Aunt), Babe (named by my Mom), Arthur (named by my niece Keri-who by the way hasn’t met her yet), Dolly (named by my niece Laura)or Snowy (named by Terra), Mary Kate (named by my husband Ken), Caramel Corn (named by my niece’s daughter Tamra), Scooby (named by my son Curtis), and Bee Bee (named by my son Andrew). Each chicken has her own unique personality. Some are friendlier than others.

Every day, I have been making a mush for them and adding their chicken feed to it to keep them healthy. I have a Mockmill which grinds the grain up into flour. I purchased it when there was a flour shortage because being a baker, I cannot be without flour.

Some of the ingredients I add to their mush are: Malted barley (from a friend who brews his own beer), pearled barley (given by my son’s girlfriend Shannon for Christmas), chia seeds, quinoa, oatmeal, farina, brown rice, Korean rice, millet, sorghum, lentils, black beans, green peas, buckwheat, and much more that I can’t recall. 

Here are all of my girls enjoying their mush for breakfast

The girls love greens. I give them Napa cabbage from Windmill Farms, cilantro, parsley, dandelion greens, kale, beet tops, carrot tops, leftovers, chicken bones, broken up egg shells, weeds, grass, and kitchen scraps. They love blueberries, cranberries, pumpkin (which I grew myself), and so much more. They will really eat practically anything except onions and citrus.

I need to get up the hill and feed them now, and put them in their coop before dark. Hope to share many more stories with you in the near future. 2021 looks a little brighter. I am filled with hope for peace and I know America will come together in the days to come. Hoping for another road trip in the near future. It is fun to find special farmers markets along country roads.

I promise to write up my coconut macaroon recipe in the coming days. They are yummy and make wintertime magical on #Smythfamilyfarm.

Thanks for reading my blog. Please follow me and subscribe or leave a comment below. Have you ever had chickens? Did you grow up on a farm? Should I get a goat some day? Have a good weekend.

Teri

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2021 in Beer, Delta Farmers Market

 

Sharing Family Recipes And Remembering our Loved Ones During the Holidays

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Nilda and her Uncle Howard when they were young

We are coming to the end of 2020, and I’m not sorry it’s almost over. What a year it has been. My husband and I have survived Covid19 so far, but not all of us have been so lucky. This was our first year celebrating Christmas without Ken’s Mother.

In November, I found a pasta sauce recipe and quickly rescued it from a pile of papers that were being discarded when going through my mother in law’s things. This recipe could have been lost forever. She would call her Uncle Howard weekly, so it was a gift to find this scribbled down recipe. We lost her in late October. She fell in August and broke her ankle. Things went downhill after that. She never got Covid19, but was isolated and alone in an acute care facility where visitors weren’t allowed. We could stand at a window and wave to her, but she couldn’t hear us. It was heart breaking to not be close to her. We were lucky to have three days with her at her home where many of her family members could be by her side and say goodbye before she passed. Nilda died a week before she turned 90. Here’s a tribute to Nilda that my husband Ken made for her memorial.

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Sweet Uncle Howard posing with my adorable Mother in Law Nilda

330,000 American’s have lost their lives to the Corona Virus in the last ten months. Uncle Howard was one of them. He died of Covid19 in November at the age of 95 after contracting the virus at his retirement home. Sadly, his two son’s Robbie and Johnny never got to be with him when he took his last breath. 

Many of my friends are in grief over placing their ailing parents with Alzheimer’s in elder care homes. I am always on edge, waiting for a call from a nurse or social worker at the Veterans Home where my Father lives. My parents have been blessed thus far, still healthy, and I feel grateful every day they are alive and well. And can we applaud the first responders, the nurses, the doctors who work tirelessly to nurture the sick back to health? Even my Mom is doing okay. She has survived cancer for the last seven years, so she has to be extra careful and stay home.

I’m thankful for these family recipes that will be passed down from generation to generation, especially Howard’s Pasta Sauce recipe. Howard was an excellent cook. Hoping you too will go to great lengths like my mother in law Nilda did, and write down these precious recipes so you can share them with your friends loved ones.

Early Thanksgiving Seamon family reunion November 2018

This week I will be driving an hour South to visit my 88 year old Uncle Joe (the man in the red sweater above) who also has Covid. My cousin David (who also contracted the virus, but is ok, and is in the center with a black shirt) has been caring for him at home. The least I can do is bring them some of our leftover lasagna made from Uncle Howard’s sauce. My husband made the pasta dough by hand and together we made 2 huge pans of lasagna. I will also bring them some homemade chicken broth to help Joe regain his strength. Luckily, I rolled and baked the last of the gingerbread dough yesterday and can send them a plate of cookies for them to enjoy as well. Here’s a tour of me in my kitchen talking about gingerbread cookies.

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My nine baby chicks hatched Oct 26 2020. Sent from Mc Murray Hatchery in Iowa

I haven’t been active writing my blog for several months. Instead, in October I acquired nine baby chicks. It’s been a great distraction to all the pain and worry we’ve all been experiencing in 2020. 

I will write about the chickens in my next post. Until then, stay safe friends. Let’s put 2020 behind us, get the vaccination when it’s available and make time for family and friends when it’s safe.

Feel free to leave me any questions or comments in the space below. How has Covid affected you and your family? How are you coping during the pandemic? What wonderful things have happened this year because of the lockdown?

Thanks for joining in today and reading my blog. It means a lot. Follow along for more recipes and stories. I needed to get this sauce recipe written out because Michael Schenone’s daughter Sarah, Howard’s great niece wanted it. In the coming days I can write out our lasagna noodle recipe for your pleasure.

Uncle Howard’s Sauce

Ingredients:

2 lbs Ground Beef

Olive Oil

1 lb Mild Italian Sausage

1 large or 2 Medium Onions

6 cloves of Garlic

2  Large Cans (29 oz ea) of Hunts Tomato Sauce

Add water (doesn’t say how much) My guess is @ 4 Cups using the cans from the tomatoes

1 lb fresh mushrooms sliced

Salt

Pepper

Dash Dried Ground Oregano

Italian Seasoning

3 T dried Basil (Could be fresh. Doesn’t specify)

1 T dried Rosemary

2 Bay Leaves

Directions:

Fry ground beef in olive oil in a heavy skillet in small batches until cooked.

Boil the Italian Sausage for 20 min to remove the fat, then chop into bite sized pieces.

Fry chopped onions and minced garlic on med high heat for 10 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.

Put all ingredients into a large stock pot and simmer for 4-5 hours. Taste to adjust seasoning.

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Uncle Howard’s Sauce Recipe written in my Mother in Law’s handwriting. So precious
 
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Posted by on December 29, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Heart Full of Love and Gratitude in Mendocino and Cheese Zombie Recipe

Heart Full of Love and Gratitude in Mendocino and Cheese Zombie Recipe

Stole my husband away from the Bay Area a few weeks ago to celebrate his birthday. Ken has been working from home since the March lockdown and hasn’t had a vacation since our trip to Tuscany last July. So you can imagine how excited he was to learn of my escape plan to  The Albion River Inn close to Mendocino, our favorite place. Today’s blog will be about our adventure, exploring the town and local businesses. I will also share my cheese zombie recipe that my friends keep asking for.

Ken and I masking it up in Mendocino

Mendocino is special because it is where my husband and I spent our honeymoon 31 years ago. We hadn’t been back to the Albion River Inn for many years and we wanted to escape the poor air quality in Walnut Creek. California has had the worst fire season ever. Even Oregon and Washington are struggling to contain wildfires also, causing smoke all across the West Coast. Yesterday, we had our first clear blue sky in many weeks. It was so bad that no one could go outside for fear having the effect of smoking 20 cigarettes. Ugh. We escaped to Yountville in August to get away as well.

After a restful night at our bed and breakfast, we drove to Mendocino. The Albion River Inn provided hot coffee, homemade granola, fresh fruit and yogurt, and freshly squeezed orange juice brought directly to our room and left on the doorstep of our little cottage. We slept like angels listening to the ocean and breathing fresh salty air all night long.

Pandemic herbal recipehttps://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Not much of the town was open, but there were a few quaint places to check out. The streets and stores were adorned with the most beautiful wildflowers. We found a natural food store  Corner of the Mouth Co op. I bought local whole wheat flours, buckwheat, teff, cracked freekeh, and organic barley so I can bake healthy breads and pizzas. They even had an herbal section where they sold a pandemic tea for $49.00 a pound. Let’s hope we never need it. I spotted dried organic hop flowers, horehound, holy basil, hibiscus flowers, lobelia, linden leaf, maca root powder, marshmallow root, green teas from India, China, Japan, Nepal, Argentina, Ecuador, South Africa, USA, Poland, Cameroon, Hungary and more. Wild yam root, yarrow, turmeric, white willow bark, wild cherry bark, wormwood, valerian root and much much more. I saw many kinds of dried mushrooms including reishi which has healing powers. These herbs and mushrooms fascinate me since they have been used as medicine for many years.

The herbal book section at The Corners of the Mouth Store in Mendocino

We stumbled upon a small family owned business called Garden Bakery where we had fresh chicken tacos and empanadas, and a blueberry cream cheese pastry for lunch. I saw an Oreo cookie baked inside a chocolate chip cookie too! They only took cash, so we had to go back to the car. We hardly carry cash anymore. Totally worth it.

The Mendocino Garden Shop had plenty of seeds for me to buy. Have you noticed the seed shortage? More people are planting gardens since the pandemic, so it can be hard to find seeds. I also bought cover crops like crimson clover, rye grass, and fava beans to add to my soil. These fix nitrogen that have been depleted from our summer vegetable gardens.Other cover crops that I didn’t buy were Red Fescue, Daikon Radish, Bell Beans, Common Vetch, Red Oats, Journey Peas, Blue Wild Rye Grass, Meadow Barley, White Dutch Clover. If you are interested in learning more about cover crops, you can listen to John Kempf and this YouTube video. It is so interesting. Some other soil diversity experts are Chris Nichols, Jeremy Wilson, David Johnson, Grant Simms, Joel Williams, Russell Hedrick from North Carolina and Andrew Man from Alberta. If you want to grow great crops, listen to these experts.

The flowers in Mendocino are outstanding! I loved seeing the hollyhocks, sunflowers, naked pink ladies (belladonna lily), and more in bloom. It is enchanting and romantic to be where we began our marriage.

Another thrill was finding the Highlight Gallery where we enjoyed seeing exceptional fine art, watercolors and oil paintings. Erin Dertner is one of the local artists who provided us with gorgeous watercolors that adorned our walls for many years. We met Phil Chomak who happened to overhear me speaking to the sales lady at the gallery. He is one of Erin’s good friends and was able to tell us how she recently relocated to Santa Rosa. We were given her biography which revealed her philosophy, “There is no better life than to study the world with paintbrush in hand and a heart full of love and gratitude.” We love art galleries. Here is the one of the artsy blogs I wrote when we went to see my friend Margery Ammond’s art in Caramel a few years back.

Me and Ken at the Albion River Inn Restaurant
Our table view of the fog coming in

Getting to run away with my husband to Mendocino was one of the best vacations we have ever had. The time away and clean ocean air was just what we needed to get rejuvenated and reconnected. I highly recommend eating at the Albion River Inn Restaurant too. We were spoiled with free champagne, an incredible Caesar salad with grilled shrimp and anchovies, meatballs and mac, and a seafood chowder with crispy croutons. The table was set outside with the most beautiful view of the sea and coastline. Charming lights were lit and strung above us and whimsical heat lamps were nearby to keep us warm. It will be an evening I will always remember.

Our romantic setting at the Albion river Inn’s Restaurant

Thanks for spending time with me today. I hope I’ve inspired you to bake, garden, or vacation with a loved one. I’m grateful for the time you have shared with me here and outside these homebound walls.

While rifling through my recipes, I encountered this family favorite. Cheese Zombies! I first experienced tasting one of these in high school in 1978. They were sold at brunch and provided by the cafeteria ladies. I’ve since learned my girlfriend Kim Johnson’s Russian grandmother Helen Ballock who worked for the Mount Diablo School District in the 1960’s came up with this recipe and it was inspired by her husband’s Piroshkis. The government had a cheese surplus, so she invented the Cheese Zombie. Kim’s grandfather immigrated from Russia to the United States in 1926.  I may have to make Piroshki’s next since Kim shared her family’s traditional recipe with me. 

These delicious warm balls of cheesy dough make the perfect snack. I hope you will give them a try.

Cheese Zombie with chili

MOUNT DIABLO SCHOOL DISTRICT ZOMBIE RECIPE

This recipe makes 2 ½ pounds of dough or 15 large filled zombies or 24 smaller zombies

2 C warm water

2 T Active Yeast

6 C Bread Flour

¼ C Sugar plus 1 T for activating the yeast

½ C room temperature unsalted butter

1 ½ t Kosher salt

⅛ C Poppy seeds or White or Black Sesame seeds

1 whole egg whisked

1 t black Hawaiin Sea Salt or whatever special salt you have

Whichever filling you desire:Cheese, sausage, etc… I used canned chili and cheese.

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and 1 T granulated sugar. Stir and let bubble up for about 5 or 10 minutes.

Using a dough hook, slowly begin adding some of the flour (about 2 cups) a bit at a time, incorporating the sugar and salt also while the mixer is on low. Add the room temperature butter to the dough in stages to make sure all butter is incorporated equally.

Let dough rest for 5 minutes, before adding more bread flour until most of the flour has been added. The dough should be mixed on medium high for about 10 minutes or until it is soft and pliable to the touch.  Set dough aside to rest for about another 5 or 10 minutes.

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Cheese Zombies filled with Nicasio Cheddar and sprinkled with sesame seeds and black sea salt

Divide the dough into 1pound portions and roll into long logs. Cut each log into 5 equal pieces.

Roll out each piece with a rolling pin, using extra flour as needed to keep from sticking and place your favorite filling in the center of the dough, being careful to pull dough up from the sides to cover filling. Pinch to close carefully, so the filling can’t escape while baking. Place zombies pinched side down on a well greased or use parchment paper on a sheet pan. Brush with one whole egg.Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds and Hawaiin Sea Salt. Let rise until doubled in size.

Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Fillings:

Use 1 ½-2 oz of cheese per zombie. 

Traditionally, Velveta Cheese was used, but I prefer a sharp white cheddar.

Other filling suggestions are:

Pepperoni, pizza sauce and cheese, ham and cheese, green chilies, ground beef, sausage, roasted vegetables, or scrambled eggs.

Cheese Zombies http://www.letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

I’m told these zombies were inspired by the Russian Piroshikis. My friend Kim Johnson told me her grandmother worked for the Mount Diablo School District in the 1960’s. The government had a cheese surplus, so she invented the zombies to use up the cheese. Kim’s grandfather would fill his dough with meat. Great history lesson there.

I’m a huge fan of these lunchtime or anytime treats. It’s comfort food during these hard times.

Ken and me on the balcony at the Albion River Inn near Mendocino
 

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The French Laundry Part 2 and a Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe You Will Come Back To Every Time

The French Laundry Part 2 and a Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe You Will Come Back To Every Time

The famous blue door to The French Laundry. We dined right next to it

I’m stuck sitting in my house all day because the smoke and ash from the West Coast wildfires are making the air unhealthy to breathe.The fires have charred over 2.5 million acres and it’s only mid September. I can’t imagine anything else that could go wrong in 2020. America and the world have been dealing with the Covid pandemic. We have missed weddings, funerals, concerts, and everything about our previous lifestyle and all this began a little more than six months ago. But August 23, 2020 will go down in history as being one of my favorite experiences ever, dining at The French Laundry in Yountville, California.

I’ve been following Thomas Keller (ChefThomasKeller)  and the Three Star Michelin Restaurant The French Laundry (tfl) on Instagram for years. I’ve walked through the gardens across the street from the restaurant every time I visit my dad at the Veteran’s Home in Yountville. I’m inspired by the organic produce they grow and look to see what flowers I can identify by name. Not only have I worked as a pastry chef, I’ve also been an avid gardener for over 30 years. So getting the chance to dine at one of the world’s 50 best restaurants, was a dream come true.

In January, my sister Sue booked a reservation in May for four to celebrate her daughter Marie’s 30th birthday. Marie takes after her auntie and is one of the biggest foodies there is. She knows her wine too, especially after working for Wente Winery for a few years.There is a great story of our day together in a previous blog if you want to check that out. When Covid hit in March, the restaurant had to close and pivot to outdoor dining reopening on July 8th. Our reservation was rescheduled for August 23rd, which happened to be my sister’s birthday. Perfect right? I was excited to be included in this fancy affair and couldn’t wait for August to come fast enough. 

When the day finally arrived, we started it off the right way by having brunch at my house first. Here’s the beginning of the story tfl Part 1. I didn’t want to go wine tasting at Robert Biale on an empty stomach, so I whipped up a few dishes to keep our tummies full.

The Bees home in the tfl gardens
Saying hello to my chicken friends

Before our reservation, we had to get coffee and hot chocolate and buy something at Bouchon, the famous French Bakery also owned by Thomas Keller. We then took a walk through the gardens, said hello to the chickens and the bees and took photos like we were having the best day of our lives. And we were. We even touched up our makeup and hair in the car so we would be ready for what was to come.

The time had come. It was 5:15PM, so my husband Ken dropped us off (a designated driver is always a good idea), took a few photographs and we walked up to the back entrance. We were greeted and welcomed with a smile. We gave our name and were escorted to our table. Just so you know, I don’t get to eat at places like this every day. I appreciate restaurants and bars and how they make us feel and that’s why I write about them. 

My niece Marie, Sister Sue and friend Sue Baker waiting for our experience https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Our waiter was handsome and had an English accent. Very charming. We were smitten with him. My niece is single so of course I wanted to see if he was available since I am a matchmaker. I bet you didn’t know that about me. Well, he was taken, so that was that.

 Marie brought a Del Dotto Rose sparkling wine and I brought a Red wine to avoid extra costs. Our waiter was nice enough to decanter the Italian Amarone Della Valpolicella Terre Molin red wine and open the sparkling wine to start. It was delightful. Light and plenty of bubbles. The perfect way to start the evening.

Then the tastings started coming. There was an amuse bouche of a cheese ball served in a cone dipped in white and black sesame seeds, chia seeds and flax seeds I think. We were also given hand made, perfectly cut out, flower shaped crackers filled with special cheeses that  came from the cheese maker Soyoung Scanlan at Andante Farm in Petaluma California. 

And lucky me, Chef Keller graced our table. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. Chef’s are like rock stars to me. I had to give him my business card with my blog on it and share that I almost applied to a job to be his assistant 8 months ago, before I chickened out. Maybe I will get the courage to apply there someday. He was warm and professional and everything I had hoped for. He is an author of three cookbooks: Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc At Home, and the latest one Under Pressure Cooking Sous Vide, none of which I have. Hint. Hint. He also launched a magazine called Finesse in Dec 2010 that featured different themes of importance to Chef Keller such Design, Community, Preservation and Evolution. I must check these out. For $15.00 a month you can register for his Online Masterclass and learn how to poach perfect eggs, make pasta by hand and confit vegetables. Pretty cool.

Birthday Menu

I should have taken better notes because I’m trying to decipher the menu and compare it to the photos I took of the dishes. I can recall a special pastry that we were served along with their extraordinary butter made by Diane St. Claire, found only in Vermont by a dairy called Animal Farm. Chef Keller even had a cow named after him. I bet the pastry was made from heirloom grains provided by Glenn Roberts owner of Anson Mills in Columbia, South Carolina. The miller also grows Japanese buckwheat, French oats, Italian farro, legumes and antebellum corn. I’ve been experimenting with these grains and making bread by grinding grains with a Mocksmill that I purchased when there was a flour shortage. 

This dining experience is special because of the close relationship the chef has with the farmers like Sadie Kendall at Kendall Farms in Atascadero who makes creme fraiche, seafood purveyors like Island Creek Oysters in Massachusetts,or Ingrid Bengis Seafood for her lobster,  scallops and crab. Chef Keller buys only the best ingredients for culinary excellence and discriminating appetites such as special spices and olive oils from  Le Sanctuaire in San Francisco. You get the idea.

I won’t go into every bite with you here, but I will include the menu so you can look it over yourself. It’s totally worth every penny to have an experience like we had.

Dessert table at tfl

In my opinion, the best part of the meal was the dessert. We were presented with a birthday cake “Gateau Marjolaine” a hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate ganache and praline buttercream for the birthday girls that had fireworks coming out of it. No joke. Incredible. My niece was blown away and so were the rest of us. 

Did I mention Sue Baker, my sister’s best friend paid for Marie to have a special glass of wine selected from the wine cellar to celebrate her and to make her experience even better? How sweet was that? I can’t forget to address that my sister Sue paid for all four of us to dine at The French Laundry. It’s seriously unbelievable and added to the excitement of the day. Thank you Sue. So generous.

Our waiter and the box of chocolates
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Back to the desserts, because of course these were my favorite treats and the most indulgent part of the evening. They kept coming and coming. There were caramels, and a strawberry flavored one too. We tried a peach French macaron (My recipe here) and chocolate covered macadamia nuts. I ate a white sesame cake with yuzu glazed strawberries, served with cream and cosmos flower petals.

Our service was undeniably the best I’ve ever had and our waiters had the precise attention to detail, skill and expertise that you would expect from a three star restaurant. They anticipated our every desire. Only better. I’m pretty sure someone stood near our table the whole evening just in case there was something we needed.

I wish I had taken better notes because I can’t begin to describe what was served in a tiny coffee cup. I also couldn’t stop eating the fluffy white dessert with chocolate crumbles. You realize we had been eating for four hours at least nine or ten decadent servings of everything a person could ever want and yet, I couldn’t stop myself from eating every single bite. Then they brought out the chocolates and we could try as many as we wanted. OMG. To die for. Don’t tell anyone. I took a few home in my purse so I could save them for later. Delicious. Works of art. 

To make the day even better, the staff guided us through the kitchen for a tour. The kitchen is spotless and shiny like no other. Copper pots lining the walls, bins of tiny white and red onions probably coming straight from their garden across the street. 

tfl kitchen
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We laughed and giggled all the way back to the East Bay telling Ken all about the upcharge option of wagyu beef, and the stunningly, impeccably cared for grounds and the gently lighted ambiance when the sun went down.

Dining at the French Laundry has been the most relaxing and memorable foodie experience ever. We were treated like royalty by the most courteous staff. It was truly remarkable.

I hope you enjoyed my blog on The French Laundry. Meeting Chef Thomas Keller made my evening, but dining with my family and loved ones will be something I will always cherish. Thanks for stopping by.

The four of us at the end of our tour at tfl
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Follow my blog for more stories and recipes. 

CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM

Ingredients:

50g or ½ C. Cocoa Powder

40g or ⅓ C. Powdered Milk

150g or ¾ C. Granulated Sugar

10g or 2 T Instant Coffee powder Or Espresso

½ T Kosher Salt

100g or about 5 large Egg Yolks (Yolks ONLY)

360ml or 1½ C. Whole Milk

2 T Rum

480ml or 2 C. Heavy Cream

1 tsp Tahitian Vanilla Extract

Directions:

In a medium size heavy saucepan, place the cocoa powder, the powdered milk, granulated sugar, instant coffee, rum, salt and stir with a wire whisk. Stir in the egg yolks. Pour the cream, milk and vanilla extract into the pan. Whisk ingredients and cook over low to medium heat until the thermometer reaches 158 degrees F or 70 degrees C.

Mixing the egg yolks into dry ingredients
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For the next 25 minutes (set your timer), move the pan off and on over the heat keeping the temperature between 158-162 degrees F or 70-72 degrees C and constantly stirring. Stay with your ice cream base the entire 25 minutes.

Cooked chocolate custard
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Remove the pan off the heat, once the 25 minutes is up. Strain the custard through a wire mesh into a large bowl to remove any clumps.Cover with plastic wrap touching the custard directly onto the plastic to prevent a skin from forming on your custard.

Put the chocolate ice cream base into the refrigerator overnight or for at least four or 5 hours to chill. Pre chill the 2 quart bowl preferably overnight. (I leave mine in the freezer all year long, always returning to the freezer after my ice cream is made.) When ready to churn, take the frozen ice cream container out, add the chocolate ice cream base and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions approximately 15-20 minutes or until doubled in volume. Remove it from the ice cream machine and place in a container with a lid and freeze until firm. 

This is my latest favorite dessert. It is fairly easy to make and keeps well in the freezer. Never lasts long in my house… Here is a video of me making the chocolate custard that is uploaded from my Instagram page.


 

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The French Laundry (tfl) Part I

The French Laundry (tfl) Part I
n the garden at The French Laundry

Spent last Sunday in Napa and Yountville celebrating my niece Marie’s 30th birthday and my sister Sue’s birthday. We were joined by Sue’s best friend Susan Baker, her college roommate from 40 years ago. Today’s blog is all about our day together having brunch at my house, tastings at Biale Winery and dinner at the world famous three Star Michelin restaurant The French Laundry.

I was concerned about drinking on an empty stomach, so I decided to whip up a few things to keep our tummies happy. The day before, I prepared an organic milled spelt, bulgur, heritage grain Olan wheat flour by Capay Mills, sun dried tomato and salami bread and kept it in the refrigerator to ferment overnight. Baked it fresh that morning, so it would have time to cool before cutting into it. I served this wonderful high protein bread with two cheeses: havarti dill, and Nicasio Reserve from Marin County California and my homemade Blenheim apricot preserves. We splurged and opened a bottle of sparkling wine and made bellinis with my canned peaches from my garden and garnished with lemon verbena from the garden.

I also served a potato Spanish tortilla and a peach crumble with vanilla ice cream and homemade caramel sauce. So yummy. I probably over did it. But this was going to be a special day and I wanted to start it out right.

We left for the winery later than expected with full bellies and smiling masked faces all piled into my Lexus. My husband Ken agreed to drive us, so we could enjoy the day. 

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My niece Marie and sister Sue at the French Laundry Gardens

We had a nice experience tasting wines at Robert Biale Vineyards. Since Susan has a membership, we were spoiled with impeccable service and attention. We relaxed looking at the vineyard, chatting and sipping some of the best Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, and Biale’s rare blends some of the best in the Napa Valley. We happened to be the only people there because of the wildfires and smoke permeating the area. We were lucky there was a breeze and the air quality didn’t bother us. It was much worse in the Bay Area where we traveled from. We sat for hours admiring the planters filled with prolific fuchsia pink and yellow perennials lantana, pink dianthus and red and yellow dahlias. Just gorgeous.

My niece Marie, my sister Sue and me at The French Laundry Garden

We were blessed to be able to get a reservation at The French Laundry 6 months ago for a May celebration. Covid closed down many restaurants in March, April and May, but we were fortunate enough to claim one for August so we could acknowledge Marie’s 30th birthday. Her dream came true that day, and I was ohh soo grateful to be included in her special day. I can’t forget to mention the quick stop at Bouchon Bakery where we indulged in hot chocolate, espresso, fresh French bread and pastries, not wanting to spoil our appetites for what was to come. Bouchon sells Paris-Brest, Macarons, fresh fruit tarts, chocolate eclairs, cupcakes, pain aux raisins, yuzu citrus croissants, chocolate almond croissants, cream cheese Danish, french baguettes filled with ham and cheese, smoked salmon sandwiches on seeded rolls,tomato and brie sandwiches, cookies, chocolates and candies like almond toffee.

It’s hard to know where to begin on describing my experience at the French Laundry. The four of us began by walking through the gardens across the street from the restaurant. They are incredible. They keep bees hives, tiny new starts of herbs in a tunnel, rows of lettuce, peppers, squash, onions, tomatoes and more. We visited the chickens who seem happy eating their fill of discarded squash. I’m curious about owning chickens and am ready to try keeping them in my home garden.

My husband took photos of us perfecting our makeup, like we were getting ready to get married or something. We were so excited and had waited so long to have this day finally happen. It had been cancelled a few times because of Covid and we were worried it would be cancelled again because of the fires and smoke in Napa County. The tables would be set up outside because no one is allowed to eat indoors for fear Covid could spread. We were fortunate to have the money and resources to afford the $350.00 per person fine dining experience. My sister Sue treated us by scheduling the date and paying many months ago. How incredibly lucky I was to be included in this special day, since originally my sister had another person in mind for the ticket.

More photos were taken at the entrance, then my husband drove off to find his own dinner nearby. Kind of sad we couldn’t include him in the event, but he wouldn’t have wanted to participate nor have wanted to spend the money on this extravagant meal.

I’m going to end here and write my next blog about the remainder of the day. I hate to see my blogs getting too long. Look forward to my next write up continuing on about our French Laundry experience part II.

First I will share my Peach Crumble and Sea Salt Caramel Recipe.

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Peach crumble made with fresh Alberta peaches from the garden. Used buckwheat, oatmeal, almonds, brown sugar, butter, baking powder and salt. Served with ice cream and home made caramel sauce

Peach Crumble with Sea Salt Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

4 or 5 medium to large size peaches peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick

2/3 C Brown Sugar

⅓ C Granulated Sugar ( Plus 2 T more sugar for peaches

2 T Tapioca Flour or arrowroot to add to peach mixture later)

½ C. Buckwheat flour

¼ C All Purpose Flour

¼ C Oats

½ C Unsalted Butter room temperature or cold cut into chunks Plus 1 T extra to coat pie dish

½ t Kosher Salt

½ t ground cinnamon

½ t ground ginger

¼ t ground cloves

1 Baking pie dish or use several individual oven safe serving size bowls 

1 Cuisinart Food Processor or Kitchenaid Mixer 

Instructions:

Crumble Topping

In a Cuisinart food processor, Kitchenaid Mixer or large bowl combine all dry ingredients: Brown Sugar, White Sugar, Buckwheat Flour, All Purpose Flour, Oats, Salt and spices: Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves.

Pulse 5 times to mix thoroughly. Add butter pieces and pulse again until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

Peel peaches by boiling first and placing in an ice bath to loosen skins. Dry and cut peaches, remove pits and cut into ¼ inch thick slices and place in a medium size bowl. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of sugar mixed with 2 T tapioca flour onto peaches. 

In a buttered pie dish, place cut pieces of peaches that are covered with sugar and tapioca flour. Add crumble topping on top of peaches. Set the pie dish on a sheet pan and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35-50 minutes or until dessert is hot and bubbly.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Dessert can be refrigerated at this time and reheated and served later.

Serve alongside vanilla ice cream and sea salt caramel sauce.

Sea Salt Caramel

Ingredients and Instructions

320g or 11 oz Heavy Cream

200g or 7 oz Light Corn Syrup

60g or 3 oz Granulated Sugar (Plus an additional100g or 3.5 oz for later)

Heat these ingredients together in a medium size pot and set aside keeping it hot.

In another medium size pot, on medium low heat sprinkle 100g or 3.5 oz of granulated sugar little by little melting and cooking sugar slowly NOT stirring, until caramel turns amber color. 

Slowly add hot cream mixture to amber caramel stirring and cooking until temp reaches 105 degrees C or 220 degrees F. The longer you boil, the thicker the caramel.

Add 4g Sea Salt, Maldon, or Fleur de Sel and cool. Caramel will thicken as it cools. 

Recipe credit to Pastry Chef and author Dominique Ansel

I’ve used buckwheat flour to add complexity to the recipe and to make it healthier. You can substitute your favorite flour or use flax meal or almond flour.

Enjoy!

Thanks for joining me today. Leave me questions or comments below.

 

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Using Our Victory Garden to Deal With Sadness During Covid and an Ahi Tuna Poke Recipe

Using Our Victory Garden to Deal With Sadness During Covid and an Ahi Tuna Poke Recipe

Spent the morning planting herbs. Last week, I went to Sloat Nursery and bought basil, parsley, cilantro, marjoram and kale. My girlfriend Marie gave me a generous gift card for my birthday. I also bought seeds for my Fall vegetable garden. Tending my garden helps me cope with the challenging times Covid brings. Also sharing my favorite Sesame Ahi Tuna Poke

I’ve really taken the Victory Garden thing seriously this year. Because of Covid and the possibility of a food shortage, I planted seeds in March. I am growing 3 types of zucchini, 3 types of pumpkins, strawberries, lettuce, kale, peas, beans, chard, several tomato plants, several corn varieties, cucumber, sunflowers, fennel, cantaloupe, butternut squash, acorn squash, and more. It brings me joy to share these organic crops with the neighbors and our family.

 

I’m harvesting peaches now. I should be canning them instead of writing, but I’ve put my blog on hold for way too long. Last month we picked loads of Santa Rosa plums from our backyard tree. Besides sharing with neighbors, I was baking crisps, jams and we ate plenty of fresh ripe plums and now peaches with our yogurt in the morning.

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Me, my Dad Ron and my sister Sue taken over 25 years ago

This has been a tough week. Thank goodness for my garden. I feel peace there and can work in the soil and feel my stress dissolve away. The first set of bad news came a week ago last Sunday. I received a call from the Veterans Home where my Father lives. He had a seizure and was taken to the emergency room at a hospital in Napa for tests. It was the worst day ever waiting for some kind of news. I wasn’t able to visit him because of Covid. All of the hospitals have strict visitation rules about keeping loved ones away. It is sad and hard knowing I couldn’t be with my Dad.

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Great day visiting my Dad Ron at the Veteran’s Home 8 years ago

Luckily, the cat scan was negative and his blood tests were normal. They released him back to the Veterans Home, but since he was away for more than 6 hours, they had to quarantine him. So he has been in the hospital across the street from his home all by himself. I talk to him regularly and he has had a fairly good attitude about his situation. He is feeling okay, but misses his home in memory care. He should be released back there this weekend if his Covid test comes back negative. Thank Goodness.

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Great time hanging out with my Dad Ron in the patio at the Veteran’s Home in Yountville 8 years ago

All in all, my Dad is well. He is a fall risk, so that is scary, but hopefully he will get stronger and regain his strength.

I cried talking to him today. This happens often, but today I was especially sad. He said I almost made him cry, and he never says that. I miss him and wish this pandemic would go away so we can go back to our normal lives and be with our aging parents.

 

The next bad news came last Sunday, a few days ago. Ken’s Mother Nilda fell and broke her ankle. She was visiting Ken’s brother Dan and fell going up a step. She has horrible knees and doesn’t get around very well. She is 89 years old and we are very concerned about her.

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Beautiful Mother in law Nilda at her aunts wedding

She had surgery on her ankle and will get a cast when the swelling goes down. She is still in the hospital at John Muir and we are not able to visit her. The family doesn’t want her put in a nursing home because people are dying in these homes from Covid. It’s a horrible time to need care. 

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My mother Nilda and her daughter Terri Ann visiting with us in her home in Rossmoor

So there is a plan to put a hospital bed in her family room when she is released and she will be cared for in her own home by Ken’s sister Terri Ann, his brother Dan and his wife Nancy who will temporarily live there with her. It’s a crazy idea and no one knows if things will work out. 

 

There are obvious things to worry about like blood clots, and pneumonia from being in bed too long, etc… It is a tough time. You can never prepare for losing a parent.

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Great day celebrating my son Curtis’ graduation at Monte Vista High School with my ex husband Eric, and his grand parents Elena and Robert 17 years ago

The last bit of sad news was hearing that my son Curtis’ grandfather Robert passed away last Friday. He was my ex Father in law. We are so sad to hear this and had heard he had a stroke a few weeks ago. My son wasn’t able to see him either before he died. It is hard to process these times. How can you grieve the pain? I work in my garden. I see the beauty in the plants and flowers. I pray for my family. I talk with my friends and I write. It’s times like these we need each other even more. We hold our spouse a little closer. We take one day at a time. We stay away from the news. We love those around us more than ever before.

 

There is more to do. I will be preparing food and helping out however I can. I hope life is treating you well.  For now, I will put the computer away and sit with my 16 year old kitty. My husband is done with his work for the day so we can hang out . Maybe we will play Scrabble and eat popcorn. Maybe we will start a puzzle. In any event, it is a good day and I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. Ahi Tuna Recipe. 

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Enjoyed a Sesame Ahi Tuna Poke appetizer at Jessup Winery in Yountville California last Friday with friends

Sesame Ahi Tuna with Avocado

1 lb fresh Ahi tuna
1/2 jalapeno , 3 cloves garlic, 1 green onion, 2 shishito peppers, sauteed in canola oil
1 T soy sauce
1 T chopped fresh ginger
2 T Sesame oil
2 avocados cut in small chunks
Juice and zest 1/2 pink grapefruit
Juice 1 lime
Bunch of cilantro
1/2 t sesame chili oil
1/4 t kosher Salt
1/4 t Lemon pepper
White and black Sesame seeds to garnish
2/3 C Canola oil
1/2 package Won Ton wrappers fried in canola oil.
1 t finishing salt. Sea Salt, Himalayan salt or Fleur de sel
Cut 1 lb of fresh Ahi Tuna into bite sized chunks. Set aside.
In a blender add all other ingredients except avocado and mix until combined.
Pour dressing over raw tuna.
Heat up a frying pan with canola oil. Fry each won ton until crispy turning over after 1 minute. Place on a sheet pan lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle with sea salt while hot.
Cut up 2 large avocados into bite sized pieces and fold into tuna mixture. Alternatively, you can put the avocado on the bottom and the tuna on top if desired.
Serve into individual bowls and sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds.

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Heaven on a plate. Sesame Ahi Tuna Poke with crispy won ton wrappers and a chicken pot pie for a mid day lunch in our backyard

Feel free to follow me if you aren’t already. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and I hope to see you again very soon.

 

 

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Get a Taste of the Arts During Covid and a French Macaron Recipe

Get a Taste of the Arts During Covid and a French Macaron Recipe

It’s been almost a year since my neighbor Caroline came over to teach me how to make French Macarons. Caroline is a student and dancer at Loyola Marymount University in Southern California. She is quite an artsy person and I love her parents. She was on her summer break when she and I met to have baking lessons in my kitchen. I taught her how to make apricot jam and in return she taught me how to make macarons.

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Here’s Caroline showing off her macaron’s on the sil pat

I feel badly for all the college kids that have to return home because of Covid 19. It’s such a bummer how our lives have changed since March 2020 when California went on lock down. My kids have since graduated and moved on, but I can’t imagine how hard it is to not get the “college experience” of being on campus with your friends.

I have also been affected by this virus. I’m not allowed to visit my 83 year old father who lives in a skilled nursing facility in Yountville. He has COPD a lung disorder, diabetes and many other preexisting conditions that would make him vulnerable if he got the virus. I fell badly that he is alone without his family. We can drop off goodies and they will bring them to him. We can Face Time him and talk on the phone, but it isn’t the same as a personal visit. He has a good attitude about it all and is hanging in there.

 I haven’t been able to have outings with my mother who is also immunocompromised. We can talk over the phone also and visit at a distance from her front porch, but it is difficult. She has her husband Tom to keep her company and they are very happy.

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Me and my mom on her wedding day 7 years ago

We haven’t had any large family gatherings and that is unusual for us. We have seen our son’s who live nearby and neighbors when we walk in the evenings, but that’s about it. We are only going out for groceries and essentials to keep our exposure to a minimum.

A few of our family members have enjoyed a dinner or two at a distance in our backyard, but even that makes us a little uncomfortable.

Before the Corona Virus, I would go to my gym and exercise and write my blog. It was my happy place, but I’ve decided not to rejoin and find ways to exercise on my own. I’ve missed my hiking on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings with my friends. I can hike, but prefer to go with only one other person, usually my husband.

 I’ve spent my days keeping abreast of the news (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Late night shows, You Tube, the SF Chronicle) and talking to friends. I listen to podcasts like Macrovoices.com, The Sourdough Podcast, Rise Up, Unlocking Us By Brene Brown, Oprah Super Soul Conversations, The Southern Fork, and Hidden Brain. I have two books I’m listening to on Audible. I’m definitely informed and up to date on the latest shenanigans of President Trump. I’ve even started reading “Why Are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria,” by Beverly Daniel Tatum PhD.  Our family started a book club to raise awareness about racism since George Floyd’s outrageous death by a police officer. And don’t forget Netflix.

 

I’ve spent most of my days gardening and growing vegetables in five raised planting beds. This is the first time I grew most of the plants from seed. It has been fun picking zucchini, tomatoes, beans, peas, peppers, and cucumbers. The pumpkins are cute and getting bigger and more orange every day. 

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ravioli’s made with semolina flour, parsley, Parmesan ricotta and spinach

 I’ve been making pasta from scratch, finding ways to fill raviolis and lasagna and serve them to my husband. I’ve learned how to make sourdough bread and brioche with my own sour dough starter, experimenting with rye, buckwheat, kamut, quinoa, beans, and millet. I learned how to make a starter with cherry pits and also one with organic red grapes. I now know how to properly score the loaves by following lots of bakers on Instagram and You Tube. It is so much fun and tasty too.

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Brioche rolls sprinkled with sesame seeds and poppy seeds

I’m cooking more since my husband is working from home. I had to cancel my cleaning people since I didn’t want to bring the virus into my home. Now I’m cleaning more than I ever have, even the dusty floor under the bed yesterday. Yuck!

One of my latest endeavors, was growing poppies. Fancy ones. I grew varieties like “Fruit Punch” Papaver, a raspberry Breadseed papaver somniferum, “CupCake”, “Swansdown” and a Papaver Atlanticum called “Flore Pleno”. I’ve let the pods dry and carefully collected the seeds so I can grow them again next year. They are beautiful and extra special additions to my garden.

Dahlia’s were my latest obsession last year and I bought more tubers a few months ago from the Dahlia Society. The first one has bloomed and I’m quite excited. 

 I dusted off the sewing machine too and started making masks for the family. I was hoping to try a new pattern today, but got involved in writing my blog instead. There is always tomorrow to start sewing more masks.

 So after almost one year, I’ve finally posted the recipe of these amazing macarons. I hope you will try them too. I don’t have the filling recipes up here yet, but I hope to get to that by next week. Thank you Caroline for the great recipe and the fun time.

 Thanks for stopping by my blog. I’m grateful for my family and friends who follow me and read my posts. Hoping all of you stay safe and healthy and we can get back to our happy places whether it be a college campus or the gym. 

Hope I’ve inspired you to try something new in your kitchen or garden. Make ART.

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 French Macarons

 

 

Ingredients:

150g Confectioners Sugar

150g Almond Flour

150g Granulated Sugar

150g Egg Whites

38g water (for sugar syrup)

55g liquefied Egg Whites (Eggs that have been in the fridge for a week outside of shell  (for sugar syrup)

1.5 teaspoon Vanilla or whatever flavoring you like

Candy thermometer

Pastry bag and medium size plain tip

Sheet pans

Parchment Paper or Silicone mats

Directions:

Using a Cuisinart Food Processor, combine Almond Flour and Confectioners Sugar pulsing until combined. If you don’t have a food processor you may sift almond flour and sugar together a few times until there are no more lumps in the mixture.

In a separate large clean bowl, pour 55g of egg whites to the flour and sugar mixture and stir with a spatula until it forms a paste. Set aside after covering with plastic wrap.

Sugar syrup:

Put the 38 grams of water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan on medium heat. Use a pastry brush to keep the sides of the pot clean by brushing the sides with a small amount of water. Bring to a boil and cook syrup until 116C/ or 240 degrees F using a candy thermometer.

Start mixing the egg whites in a clean bowl of a mixer with a whip attachment when sugar syrup is almost ready at 115C or 235degrees F. Simultaneously, whip eggs on medium high until the eggs are frothy. Pour sugar syrup in the mixer slowly incorporating the sugar into the eggs. Keep mixing until the meringue is white and fluffy and can hold a stiff peak about 6 minutes. Add the vanilla and any food coloring you might like. Continue to whip meringue for another 4 to 5 minutes until it has cooled to 50C and is thick and glossy.

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Meringue ready to mix into almond flour and confectioners sugar for our macarons

Mix a scoop of the meringue and fold into the almond flour/confectioners mixture. Little by little being careful not to deflate the egg whites, folding together with a large wire whisk or spatula. Keep folding meringue into dry ingredients until it gets to the ribbon stage where the batter falls off the whisk into the bowl like a ribbon. 

Scoop the batter into the pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip. You will have to fill it a few times.

Get out a flat sheet pan.Place the parchment paper on top. Draw small 3cm to 3.5cm circles (1 inch diameter) onto your parchment paper about 2-3 cm apart with a pencil or use a sil pat silicone baking mat. Place a tiny amount of batter onto the sheet pan on the corners under the parchment paper to keep the paper from moving while baking. Tap the tray onto your counter to get out any tiny air bubbles. Leave tray stand on the counter for at least 30 to 60 minutes to harden the shells and form a skin on the cookie.

Preheat oven to 160C or 320 degrees F. Bake macarons for 12 minutes in the center of the oven one tray at a time, turning the sheet pan around half way during the bake. Cool completely.

Finish the macarons by filling with your favorite curd, chocolate ganache, or Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting or Italian Buttercream.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

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Passion fruit Macarons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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