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Brewery Hopping in Santa Rosa

Brewery Hopping in Santa Rosa

So excited to find the time to sit and write. I finally have the house to myself and can concentrate on this next post. Today I will share the beer tasting experience that my son Andrew and I had last Friday. We explored Santa Rosa and made it to four breweries: Russian River Brewing Co, Wilibees Cellar Bar and Market, Third Street AleWorks, and FogBelt Brewing Company. The last blog I wrote was in July when my husband and I went to Freestone California for Bread and Cheese.

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Me and my son Andrew at Russian River Brewing Company

First stop was Russian River Brewing Company. What a joy to finally make it there. The vibe was fun and exciting. This is the brewery that makes Pliny the Elder and usually has a line wrapped around the building to get in. Andrew and I were lucky to find a place at the bar which is where I like to sit anyway. That’s where all the action is. 

Since I was the designated driver, I drank ½ a glass of the O.V.L Stout. It’s a dry Irish beer with notes of chocolate and roasted malts. It went very well with their salami, ricotta, mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes. It was huge, so I saved the other half to share with my husband Ken. 

Beer at Russian River Brewing Company
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Plenty of beer to choose from at Russian River Brewing

Andrew had a flight of something and a medium Mediterranean style pizza which he devoured.The service was excellent and our bartender was happy and helpful. We loved our experience so much that we bought 2 six packs of beer to go. The first six pack was a mix of their Intinction which is a Sauvignon Blanc wild Ale style beer, a Merlot one, a Pinot Noir one and a few others that our bartender suggested. They are sold in these cool glass bottles with special corks and are priced $17.85 plus tax! One was for Andrew’s best friend AJ and his wife Noelle, because they are having a one year wedding anniversary party next week at St Drake’s Barrel House in San Leandro. We bought him 6 bottles of Pliny the Elder and we think they will be very happy to receive this. We also splurged on two T shirts for both of my kids. It will be a nice memory of our day together in Santa Rosa.

Wilibees Wine and Spirits in Santa Rosa
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Beer flight at Wilibees. Only $10.00

 We didn’t even have to move our car for the next beer experience. We had spotted this place while making a U turn to park. It is called Wilibees and it was quite the place. Andrew was excited to see the variety of their hard liquor, especially the fancy Scotch and whiskey bottles. They sell all of the necessary  ingredients for the perfect cocktail as well as everything else you might find at a liquor store. Wilibees has a deli counter, and tap room where they offer a variety of IPA’s Ales, Ciders, Pilsners, and Hard Seltzer. Some of the Breweries are Hen House, Laughing Monk, Old Caz, Humboldt, Belching Beaver, Eel River, Sudwerk and Old Possum. They have happy hour every day from 4Pm until 6Pm where selected beers are only $4.00 each. 

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Andrew’s happy place at Wilibees in Santa Rosa

Andrew ordered a flight of beer which included Orange Creamsicle from Third Street Ale Works, a Cherry cider from Humboldt, and a couple others that the bartender recommended. We met the owner Vikram “Sonny” Badhan and had a nice conversation about his business. He mentioned he has another Wilibees location in Petaluma which we will have to check out on our next outing up North. I sampled the Cherry Cider as well and enjoyed our time hanging out together. I was surprised that it wasn’t busier since it was a Friday afternoon, but they said the day before was standing room only because the Giants were playing. This place was warm and inviting and we will be back.

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Third Street AleWorks in Santa Rosa. The oldest Brewery in Sonoma County

Walking distance, only a block away was Third Street Ale Works Brewery. We sat at the bar where we could enjoy the hustle and bustle of the restaurant. They also offered us the back patio, if we wanted to eat outside. I wasn’t hungry yet, but Andrew ordered another Orange Creamsicle beer and their Cubano sandwich. It had roasted pork, sliced ham, a pickle, pepperoncini, dijon aioli and jack cheese served on a soft French roll. Boy can he eat! We didn’t feel as comfortable here as the lady at the counter seemed rushed and discontent. She really tried to squeeze out a smile at some point, but it wasn’t authentic. The owner/manager Kerry Macleod was super friendly and had plenty of stories about his wife growing up in Petaluma. He knew the history of the breweries in the North Bay and wanted to share them with us. 

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The Cubano sandwich at Third Street Ale Works in Santa Rosa

Third Street Ale works also sold 4 pack cans of beer to go which has been popular since the pandemic. They offered Truffle Shuffle, Blarney Sisters, Throwing Darts West Coast IPA, Apricot Pastry Kettle Sour, Jacked Up West Coast IPA, Bodega head IPA, Annadel Pale Ale, Orange Creamsicle, Your Happy Place Hazy IPA, Fresh Perspective Hazy IPA, Mr. Mosaic Double IPA, Beer is Life Hazy IPA, and Believe a Hazy IPA. Aren’t these names fun?

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Beer options at FogBelt Brewing in Santa Rosa

Our last Brewery was Fog Belt Brewing Company and only a 10 minute drive to.This place was hopping! By then it was after 6PM or later when we arrived. We sat at the bar again and found the last two chairs available. We really weren’t that hungry or thirsty by then since we had been at it all day, but Andrew tasted two of their wet hops which are only available this time of year. We ordered the pretzel bites to go which came with a beer cheese dip and a beer mustard dip so I could have something to munch on during the ride home.We loved this brewery. It was small inside, but the atmosphere was exciting and hella busy. We bought canned beers to go since Andrew had his fill for the day and I wasn’t going to drink anymore either. Wet Hop Farm Fresh Pale Ale, Wet Hop Redwood Hill IPA, and their Wet Hoptober Oktoberfest Lager. The hops are from Blossom and Bine Farm in Santa Rosa. #localhopsforlocalbeer

All in all, I would say Andrew and I had the perfect day. It was fun to get out of town and check out the breweries in Sonoma County. I hadn’t been to Santa Rosa in years. My Dad’s sister, Aunt Harriet and cousins have lived there since I was a child. We would visit Harriet when my son Curtis attended Sonoma State, but that was many years ago. And Aunt Harriet died from pneumonia at least 10 years ago. 

I hope you can get out there and enjoy a new city in your area. There are so many places to explore and so many beers to try. I guess I will have to have a beer tasting party now that I’ve got a fridge full of beer. My favorite has always been a wheat beer with a slice of orange or grapefruit. I’m not a huge beer drinker, but I love learning about growing hops and would love to grow my own someday. 

Thanks for reading my blog and I hope to get on a roll here and post more often. All I can say is that having chickens and growing your own food has been a ton of work. I truly enjoy it and will make a point of sharing more of my travels again soon.

If you haven’t already, subscribe to my blog by leaving your email so you can receive my recipes and stories as I post them. I promise to leave a recipe here soon, but for now I need to spend time with my husband on this gorgeous Fall Sunday afternoon.

 

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Finding a Sleep Solution at Velvet

Finding a Sleep Solution at Velvet

I have been trying to get my computer to work for an hour and I’ve finally gotten in. It seems there are times when we need to let go and let the universe dictate our schedule. I called a friend Denise Clark and we enjoyed a long conversation and now I’m back to it.

So recently, my friend Donna told me about a new cannabis shop in Martinez, California. I’ve been wanting to sleep better, so I thought I would check out what gummies they had for sale. Back when I was in Portland, found Electric Lettuce and wrote about that experience in this blog. Here are all of the products that I found while walking through Velvet. Green Bee Botanicals sells massage oil, and face serums with CBD. They sold Heavy Hitters vape pens and cartridge batteries. OrangeAde by Citrus and Pine is a great hybrid to try.This is a sativa type dominant weed that leads to good mood and increased energy. 

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Just a few of the many CBD and THC Products sold at Velvet in Martinez California

Farmer and the Felon Cannabis Company makes SpyRock Sour, Runtz Cake, Cherry AK, Gelatti (an Indica Hybrid Strain), Smoking Sundae Driver, Blue Dream and more. Space Gem makes gummies and edibles that are infused with cannabis. Wunder is a drink made with THC and CBD. The flavors are grapefruit hibiscus, blood orange bitters, lemon ginger flavored sparkling beverage and they claim they are half the calories of beer or wine.

Ember Valley makes weed called zombie cookies, wedding pie, watermelon gelato, now and laters, northern fire, MAC, orange peels, riff OG, ice cream cake and more. Pure Beauty makes weed called Harlequin X GDP, Purple Rain, Terry T, Hybrid Babies, Lobo Loco, Zelda OG, Lemon Haze Flower Cigarettes, Labyrinth, Double Dragon, Secret Friend and many more varieties to choose from. 

Jetty Extracts are also sold at Velvet. These are unrefined live resins found in natural plant compounds. The flavors are Pina Colada, Sour Berry, Lemon Sour Diesel, Gelato, Vanilla Frosting, Peanut Butter Breath, and a  Pineapple Upside Down Cake flavor. You can purchase Wedding Crasher or Blueberry Muffin which are Live Sugar Concentrates. There is a Lemon Grass resin cartridge sold with oil dablicators. Am I getting this right? I think I need a class in cannabis products. 

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Plenty of hydrating CBD and THC Drinks sold at Velvet in Martinez California

There were many cannabis drinks to choose from also. I spotted Keef a cannabis infused lemonade or fruit punch, or you could buy Bubba Kush Root Beer, Original Cola, Orange Kush, or Pineapple which is 100 mg of THC. The Fizz is a strawberry cannabis infused sparkling water with 10 mg of THC, a brand called “Take Me to The Beach”, “Hold Me While You Dance”, and a ginger lemongrass drink. Another one was called Hi-Fi Hops made by Lagunitas which have blasts of THC, CBD or both. And you can buy them by the case!

A few last items I came across were Petra Cannabis Mints that came in flavors of Moroccan Mint, Tart Cherry, Citrus CBD, Saigon Cinnamon, Pineapple and Blackberry CBD Mints.These are sold as a way to microdose all day and are sugar free. Kiva Lost Farm makes blueberry chews and gummies in strawberry lemonade, and raspberry gummies. They also have a juicy peach and sour apple hybrid strain that help with stress, energy, creativity and mood. It is a women owned business which is always nice to hear. Kiva confections also makes Camino a cannabis infused gummy. These are available at Velvet in wild cherry, watermelon lemonade, wild berry, sparkling pear, and pineapple habanero flavors. Some are designed to uplift your spirit or make you chill and relax to help you sleep. Now that’s what I was looking for. 

All of the employees were happy to assist me and answer any questions that I had. It was a fun place to check out after picking up soil at MacCalvey’s for my Fall vegetable garden. In the end I picked up a few new goodies to try. Hoping they help me fall asleep and stay asleep.

Thanks for joining me on my adventure into Cannabis land in Martinez at Velvet. I’m looking forward to hearing about your cannabis journeys in the comments.

 

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Day Trip for Bread and Cheese in Freestone California

Day Trip for Bread and Cheese in Freestone California

Spent time up north a few weeks ago at my favorite bakery and cheese shops. I had been there once before with my girlfriend Marie, but this time Ken came with me. I love day trips, and this day out in the country about an hour and and 45 minutes away was perfect.

These are the cheeses I selected. Sooo gooood.
Many fantastic cheeses to choose from at Freestone Artisan Cheese

We headed North West and stumbled upon Valley Ford Creamery first. Ken was reluctant to stop, because it wasn’t our true destination. These are the excursions that I love the most, because you find new fun places to visit. I was excited to see they offered tuna melts, fried cheese curds, grilled cheese served with house pastrami and kimchi, crispy fried chicken and salads. There were beer, wine and cheese flights for sale which I have never heard of. And of course, I missed out on the ice cream cause I didn’t want to spoil our lunch. I ran around and purchased a salami sandwich on ciabatta and various cheeses to go as well as a bag of ice to keep everything cold. The atmosphere was fun and I will definitely go back. Oh. And I saw they sold chocolate and two kinds of biscotti- Dark chocolate and pecan, and almond anise biscotti. Here is my recipe for biscotti

It was delightful to stop at a tiny roadside stand called B-Side Farm. It’s the second time I have come across places to buy fresh flowers along a country road. If you want to buy something, you put the cash or check into a metal cash box and write what you took. Great idea. I grow flowers also, so I realize the skill and patience and love that goes into gardening and farming. Sometimes things don’t grow the way we want them to. I chose two flower arrangements, one for me and one for my mom. They were so beautiful and I was able to put the gorgeous flowers into our water bottles so they wouldn’t dry out.

Offerings at Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone California

Next up was Wild Flour Bread. This place is so popular that they have lines out the door. We were lucky to find they hadn’t yet run out of everything. We purchased their Gouda Flat Bread made with aged gouda, onion and herbs. We also bought Dragon Bread made with jalapeno oil, garlic, cornmeal and polenta. The cookies were all sold out, and they no longer make scones because they can’t find enough employees to make them. So sad. And you must know that they are open limited hours, so check before you make the drive. Of course, everything is sold as “take out” since we are still in the middle of the pandemic. Now the Delta variant is spreading to many parts of the United States, and even though we have been vaccinated, we may become infected. Enough about that.

Off we went to explore Freestone Artisan Cheese which is just around the corner. And yes, by this time we were starving. This place is everything. They have many cheeses for sale along with fancy olive oils from Capay Valley. I picked up the Point Reyes Toma Truffle, the 2019 Arbequina Olive Oil here. I was able to meet the owner Omar Mueller who gave me a map which directed me to many more foodie places to eat at the next time we visit. (I need to find that map!) I got a Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Juice for my husband and a bottle of their sparkling wine, a 2015 Blanc Des Blancs from the Santa Maria Valley in Northern California. It was much cooler there than the East Bay where we live and we were happy to be able to sit at the table behind the shop. We broke open the loaf with gouda, and ate the salami sandwich from Valley Ford Creamery and had a lovely time eating and enjoying the flower and herb garden around us .Isn’t life grand? We saved the cheese for later when I would make pizzas with the basil pesto curds. Curds are like mozzarella and go great with bread.  I made toast with the farmers cheese and served with my apricot jam on the Dragon jalapeno bread and fresh scrambled eggs from the chickens. So yummy.

Thank you for reading my blog and stopping by. I hope you are staying cool in this end of July heat. Until next time.

 

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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.

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Pecan Sticky Rolls

Brioche

Sponge= Pre dough

Ingredients:

2 ¼ t dry yeast

⅓ C warm Milk

1 egg

¼ C sourdough starter

1 C All Purpose Flour or Bread Flour

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a stand mixer and combine on medium to medium low speed until combined.

Sprinkle 1 Cup All purpose flour/ bread flour (I use ¼ C. Hard Red Wheat, ¾ C Bread flour over dough so it doesn’t dry out. Let rest and rise for 30-45 min.

The sponge adds flavor to the brioche and keeping quality.

Ingredients:

 ⅓ C Sugar

1 T Kosher Salt

Crack 4 eggs into a separate bowl (approx ¾ C.)

¾ -1 C softened butter

Directions:

Place sugar, salt, and eggs alternatively with 1 -1/12 C. more Flour into stand mixer.

Using the dough hook, slowly incorporate all these ingredients adding the softened butter a Tablespoon at a time at the end until all of it is added.

Mix on medium to med high speed for 7-9 minutes until you hear the slap sound when the dough hits the bowl.

Transfer to a clean buttered bowl. Cover and let sit until it doubles in volume about 1- 2 hours.

Deflate and redistribute the dough by gently lifting edges of dough a little from the bottom, turning the bowl as you lift the dough.

Place the dough into the refrigerator for 4-6 hours or overnight.

At this point you can divide the dough in half and keep the other ½ of the dough covered in the fridge.

Pecan Sticky Buns

Pecan Sticky Buns

Smack the dough with a rolling pin  on a lightly floured flat surface into a 11/14 square or rectangle. Touch as little as possible. Dot in 3 0z softened butter onto dough. Fold over itself. 1/2 up and 1/2 down.

Roll out again. Dot with 3 oz softened butter. Fold over itself again. 1/2 up. 1/2 down. Place on a sheet pan and place in fridge for 1/2 hour to chill.

Sprinkle counter with four. Roll out dough with a floured rolling pin to 11/14 rectangle using plenty of four so it doesn’t stick. Crack 1 whole egg into a dish and whisk it until combined. Using a pastry brush, brush on egg wash onto dough. Sprinkle 4 T sugar and 1 teas cinnamon onto dough evenly leaving an inch or two at the edge free of cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle 1/2 C toasted chopped pecans onto dough. Use more egg wash so it seals when you roll up. Roll up away from you, making sure to seal the edges. Set on a sheet pan and set in freezer for 45 min. so dough will slice easier.

Prepare a round baking dish with 1 stick of softened butter and sprinkle 1/2 C light brown sugar on top of butter.

Cut roll of dough into 1 1/2 ” slices or 7 pieces. Put 3 pecans on each slice and place pecan side down into prepared pan.. Place cinnamon rolls next to each other and let rise again for 1 -1 1/2 hours at room temperature. You can leave in fridge over night and place on counter for 1 hour before baking.

Bake in a 325 degree preheated convection oven or 350 degrees oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven invert onto a dish and cool.

Enjoy!

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

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.

Ohh. And I mentioned my girlfriend Tamara and her Jewelry. Here is the link in case you want to check it out.

Teri

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2021 in #Tamara'sJewelry, Beer, Delta Farmers Market

 

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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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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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