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Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie More Time On the Camino Plus a Fall Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie More Time On the Camino Plus a Fall Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Can’t believe we did it! My friends and I walked the Camino de Santiago two weeks ago for a total of about 100 miles. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I am happy to share my experience. Walking for miles every day with friends without a care in the world is something I would do again and again.

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Nancy from #OrindaTravel Jeanne, me and Jeanne inside the wodden heart at our first hotel in Sarria.

First off a huge thank you to Nancy Solomon at Orinda Travel for organizing the trip. She and 5 other friends from my hiking group took part of this amazing experience. Two of the women flew from San Francisco, California and began their excursion in Lisbon Portugal for a few days before meeting the rest of us in in Sarria, Spain. These ladies Marianne and Sharon decided to bike the camino instead of walking with us, yet they met up with us in the evenings at dinner and we stayed at the same hotel. I’ve known Sharon for about 20 years. She and I live in the same neighborhood, have kids similar ages and we have hiked together many Tuesday and Thursday mornings which have been organized by her. I have not known Marianne for very long, but she is a member of the hiking group as well and wonderful.

My son Andrew drove Nancy and I to the San Francisco Airport where we met up with Nancy’s good friend of 30 years, Beth. Our other hiking member and friend Jeanne met up with the three of us at the Frankfurt Germany Airport since she was enjoying a holiday with her husband in France. We shared a chocolate dipped croissant and a huge chocolate frosting filled vanilla cookie at Herberer’s Traditional Bakery. Totally hit the spot and I was already a happy girl, now even happier.

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Delicious pastries at Frankfurt Airport

The flight was long about 11.5 hours from San Francisco California USA to Frankfurt Germany. Then the four of us flew to the Santiago Airport in Spain. I read, listened to my book club book on my Kindle, watched movies and slept. I drank a lot of water to keep hydrated and had to use the restroom about seven times, having to climb over Beth from my window seat since she was passed out. It felt nice to get up a few times to move my body, and I wore long compression socks since I read somewhere they prevent blood clots on long flights. I’m always using preventative measures to stay healthy, but I may have gone a little over board here. Swiss Air provided plenty of food, but airplane food is nothing to rave about. I loved looking down at the clouds and the many cities and towns below.

 

After arriving in Santiago, we were transferred by car for an hour and a half to the Pension Serrano Hotel. We met our friends Sharon and Marianne outside where they were riding their bikes around town. They told me to check out the goats down the lane who happily greeted me. I’m a goat lover, I hate to admit. Goats are cute and funny and I happen to follow many farmers on Instagram. 

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All six of Nancy Solomon’s World Travel Camino de Santiago trip at our first pulperia in Sarria Spain. From left:Me, Jeanne, Sharon, Beth, Jeanne, and Marianne

We had planned on having dinner at a Cantina Pulperia Luis in Sarria, but I think our driver told us to go elsewhere. Not important, but I think the food took a while, Nancy didn’t get her beer that she ordered so I shared a bottle of red wine called Habla Del Silencio that I bought. The wine is not expensive in Spain. I may have only paid $15 euro for a bottle where in the San Francisco Bay Area, you might get a glass for that price.  Not many of us were drinking alcohol this trip, but Nancy and I made up for it and enjoyed the flavors of Spain. I wasn’t a huge fan of their wine since we are spoiled living near Napa Wine Country, but it all worked out and no one went thirsty. Jeanne was recovering from some nasty illness which she was hospitalized for in France, and ordered plain rice through Google Translate, which finally came at the end of the meal. Instead they brought her a fish dish thinking that would be best for her stomach. Beth, Sharon, and Marianne drank sparkling water and Jeanne asked for and was brought a refreshing ginger ale.

 

We went back to the hotel and slept in until 6 or 6:30Am which was early for me. We would try to eat and get on the trail by 7:30 or 8AM sometimes walking in the dark. Luckily I had my head lamp which everyone made fun of, but I was not a beauty queen by any means. Not liking to be cold, I would wear my bulky comphy jacket, plus two or three layers under that in case it got hot, hiking boots and two layers of socks: wool socks and silk liners which is the key to not getting blisters according to all the blogs out there. I always wore my Truckee Love hat that my sister Susan gave to me for my birthday, a scarf around my neck, my trustee ugly fanny pack, and my travel money belt under the LuLuLemon stretchy tight yoga pants that I’ve had for years. Yep. I was a sight to see, but I was prepared. Well, I thought so, but I didn’t bring my rain jacket and it rained on us a little on the trail the first day. 

The rest of the week, I always had my thin rain jacket strapped around my waist. Sports Basement provided me all my gear that I needed as well as a quick trip to Target for essentials. Nancy had given us a long list of things we would need to bring to be comfortable on the camino. This list even included a silk bag incase we wanted to be ready for bed bugs! Yikes. But it’s always good to be prepared. I did get in the silk bag one night, only to jump out an hour or two later cause it was too hot, confining and uncomfortable. The damn thing cost me $75.00! I’d risk the bed bugs after all. In the end, we all survived and didn’t take home any extra critters. Thank God.

It’s worth mentioning I had some anxiety around this entire trip, especially before I left. I would ask myself, do I have everything thing I’ll need for hiking 🥾 60 miles? Would I get enough sleep, since that can be an issue for me. Will the path be marked well enough, or could we get lost? ( This did happen to us in Pedrouzo. Will explain more later.) Is it safe in Spain? Will there be enough food along the trail? Of course, I had my trusty snacks, chips, mini Pay Day candy bars, teriaki beef jerky, nuts, and my homemade oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies which became a special treat. And I always carry dark chocolate. This treat can get me through the afternoon if I get tired. Would I have the stamina to hike all day, six days in a row? Would my feet hold up, after all I had toe surgery 6 months ago to clean out the arthritis in the joint. My podiatrist Dr. Edlinger at Kaiser gave me an injection in my toe the week before my trip to prevent me from having pain. (This toe did fine. It was my left toe nail that cracked and gave me problems,) 😳 So even though I prepared physically for our walk on the camino, there was an emotional aspect that I had to somehow prepare myself for.

I liken it to the Avon 3 day walk that I did with my friends Sherri and Heidi 20 years ago. That event inspired me to go back to school and finish my college degree. If I could walk 20 miles a day for 3 days, I could do anything. Except now I’m 20 years older, 55 in case this gives you a perspective. I was also going to be away from my husband Ken for two weeks. I would miss him and would he manage the house, the pets our two 15 year old cats and get by okay without me? Unless he is traveling with work, we are together. What would I do if there was a family’s emergency with one of my parents? It was all these anxiety provoking questions that I needed to prepare myself for before leaving home. I was happy to have my friends with me. We bonded in the process and became even closer. I laughed, cried and shared stories with them along the camino. It was a trip I will never forget.

Now, back to my story

 

The Camino Frances “The French Way” was where we started our trek. Many people walk from other areas and take longer routes. Our route was originally supposed to be 60 miles, but that didn’t include getting lost, walking to the cafe’s and to our hotels in town. We figured we walked about 100 miles total in 6 days. We encountered many cathedrals and churches on our walk and ventured into many to light a candle or pray for loved ones. It was a spiritual experience for me even though I didn’t walk alone quietly like many pilgrims do. 

 

The trail was beautiful. We would see herds of sheep running through town, loose horses escaping their stables, cows being milked in their barn near their baby calfs and plenty of chickens, kittens, dogs and cats. Lining the path were lots of wildflowers like foxgloves, dandelions, arugula, calendula, yarrow, alyssum, lavender, pansies, and flowering purple crocus bulbs. Fields of corn were everywhere as well as rows of apple trees, eucalyptus trees, bay laurel, chestnut trees and live oak trees with acorns, apples and chestnuts spilling all over the trail. Rows of kale, cabbage, lettuce and more filled quaint back yards for all of us to see. Beautiful hydrangeas of every color would greet us as well as some shacks with entrepreneurs selling fresh fruit like raspberries, the traditional almond cake and drinks of course. One gracious woman sold rosemary lotions, oils and herbal teas with tinctures told to be healthy and good for us. Big beautiful orange and tri color pumpkin patches were abundant which reminded us that Fall was upon us as we began our journey on October 4th 2019. Pumpkin Bread recipe here.  I would do this hike again in a heartbeat.

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Me and Jeanne posing along one of the many Camino signs which the pilgrims follow to get to Santiago

 

There are many more stories to share about my time on the Camino de Santiago, so I will save more for later. It was a memorable time and I cherish the women and people I met along the way. Please follow my blog to read more about my trips and travels and the food I encounter along the way. “Gimmie” more of walking the Camino any day of the week. Also check out What’sDavedoing.com an App about the Camino and his blog .

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for following my Camino journey. I will be sharing recipes and posting more in the coming days and weeks ahead. Here’s  Camino Part II in case you want to read more. And here is Part III. 

Buen Camino!

 

 

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Who Likes to Eat Pumpkin Bread In The Summertime?

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  Last month my family and I took a trip to Lake Tahoe Nevada to celebrate the 4th of July. My older sister’s girlfriend Lori bought a home near there in Truckee recently and invited my family up for a get away weekend. It was a generous offer and nearly all of us jumped at the chance to get out of town for a few days. My husband and one of my boys drove up with me not knowing that we were going to drive up the mountain in a huge thunderstorm. We saw incredible lightening piercing through the sky which is not something people from the Bay Area see very often.

Luckily we made it safely, just in time for a BBQ chicken dinner that my sister Susan had prepared for us before the storm. My younger sister Julie and her family were already settled in since they had driven up earlier in the day missing most of the commute traffic.

This vacation was filled with day hikes and bike rides where we enjoyed each other’s company outside while the weather allowed. Back at the cabin, we played with puzzles, read, watched the Women’s World Cup soccer final, and ate delicious meals.

We brought an enormous amount of food with us since I’m always afraid I’m going to go hungry. I must have post trauma stress disorder from my childhood because I constantly bring way too many groceries. I shopped for days before the trip planning three dinners for everyone and my husband Ken loaded it all up into our oversized Ford 500 trunk and then quickly unloaded it out into Lori’s perfect size kitchen.

One of the canned goods that I brought up with us was canned pumpkin. I love to have warm straight from the oven breads and desserts when out of town. You can imagine how excited everyone was to come home from the fireworks display and have a warm loaf of pumpkin bread waiting for them. It is the perfect offering when you are entertaining family and friends.

I hope you will try this recipe as well and treat your loved ones to this mouth watering treat.

Pumpkin Bread 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 C brown sugar, packed

½ C granulated sugar

1 C cooked pumpkin ( I used canned)

½ C Canola Oil

2 eggs

¼ C Almond Milk (or whatever milk you have)

2 C flour

1 t baking soda

½ t Kosher salt

1 t cinnamon

1 t ginger

½ t ground cloves

Combine sugars, pumpkin, oil and eggs. Beat well. Sift dry ingredients; add to pumpkin/egg mixture. Add milk. Mix well. Pour into a loaf pan lined w parchment paper.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until tooth pick comes out clean.

Enjoy! Please sign up to follow my blog so you will receive emails when I write a new post.

And don’t forget to share on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

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Inside Scoop of Where to Go Next in Napa and Chai Spice Ginger Men Shortbread Recipe

Inside Scoop of Where to Go Next in Napa and Chai Spice Ginger Men Shortbread Recipe

 Hey there. It’s been a minute since I’ve written. I’ve been all over New York, Napa, Healdsburg, and San Jose California. The weather has been glorious, so I’m loving these day trips and enjoying the time outside before the rains come. 

Me and my Mom Diane at Side
Board Restaurant in Lafayette

The last 24 hours I’ve been entertaining my Mom Diane. Her husband needed time with his grandson in Monterey, and my Mom doesn’t like to be alone. We stopped off at the closest Sloat Nursery where she found the most extravagant huge white poinsettia. I like to bring her flowers whenever she has her chemo/immuno treatments, and I haven’t been as regular about that lately. She has had cancer treatments every three weeks for the past nine or ten years, so It’s okay if I miss a week here or there. For dinner, I made grilled shrimp Caesar salad for dinner (her favorite), and we put together a cornmeal waffle batter from Tanya Holland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook that sat overnight waiting patiently for us to cook them off this morning. Mom read me the ingredients and I put everything together. It’s not often I have my Mom overnight, so it was kind of special. We watched Chef’s Table:Pizza on Netflix and the Great British Baking Show Christmas Special and ate popcorn before our eyes got too tired to watch anything else. 

Today, we explored Benicia after our waffle making effort.  I was hoping my favorite One House Bakery would be open because my Mother has never eaten there. Turns out, Mondays and Tuesdays most businesses are closed down on First Street. We found a cute shop called Pink Arrows where Mom found a comfy pair of Christmas Sweats. She was excited to get something new and I was happy to treat her. 

We walked through the town into a book store where she was inspired to buy a Christmas gift for her granddaughter Josie. Lucky us, we found a florist with cute wreaths, succulents and pretty fresh flowers to admire. A decision was made to head to Lafayette to have lunch and walk around Orchard Nursery. Unfortunately, it was also closed. Since Covid, lots of small businesses limit their hours and I always forget this is our new reality. Lunch was at Sideboard Cafe, but Mom wasn’t impressed even though she practically inhaled her pulled pork sandwich. 

I dropped her off at home with all of her goodies and here I am at my gym where I prefer to write. I can concentrate better here without the distractions and responsibilities at home.

The latest day trip was celebrating my younger son Andrew’s 30th birthday. My husband and I were excited Andrew had time in his schedule to go out with us. We called our other son Curtis, but he wasn’t up for a last minute day trip. Our original plans were to go to St. George’s Spirit in Alameda only to find out that they haven’t been open since Covid. What a bummer. I have been craving their pear brandy and I’ve been on the distillery tour where they explain how it’s made with my niece Michelle. There are huge crates and crates of fresh pears lined up ready for the process. We could have gone back to the fabulous Hansons of Sonoma’s Distillery, (a previous blog with an apricot ginger biscotti recipe), but I didn’t think of that at the time. So my next idea was to check out the distillery in Napa. 

Andrew loves Whole Spice in Oxbow Public Market. He loves to cook and make pickles with fancy exotic spices, so he chose several items from there. Next, I wanted to go to Model Bakery before they closed. I love their day-old pastries and we bought a ham and cheese baguette that was purchased at a reduced cost also. I love getting a deal and don’t mind the taste of a day old muffin or croissant. The Napa Distillery was disappointing. We waited for 15 minutes and the employees barely looked up at us while helping other customers. We also saw the sit down Napa Distillery in downtown Napa, but they were fully booked and not a chair in sight. Andrew was interested in their bitters, and they didn’t have any bottles in that location. Too bad, but not worth getting excited about.

Next door was The Fatted Calf Charcuterie shop. They have the best meats and cheeses to choose from. Andrew and I picked out two more sandwiches, a porchetta and a pastrami and we walked over to Fieldworks Brewery to enjoy our lunch. Andrew ordered the Sour and Dark flight for only $18.00 which included a Belgian Abbey Ale called Abigail, a Salted Raspberry called Gose, Cabana Republic a Tropical Sour Ale, Pioneers & Pirate Ship a Czech Dark Lager, the Nighttime Creatures a Pumpkin Milk Stout and a Plain ol dark Stout called Shtickless. My husband had a root beer and I had a glass of Dark Stout. The sandwiches and beer were a fun way to begin our celebration and their outdoor patio was relaxing and a fun atmosphere to hang out in.

My son Andrew, Me and husband Ken at Archer Hotel Napa

Already 3:45PM, we drove to downtown Napa and parked near the Archer Hotel. This fancy place has a happy hour cocktail menu downstairs at the Charlie Palmer Steak Lounge Bar. We were happy to arrive just before it opened and were graciously served by the nice bartenders. I love sitting at the bar and watching the circus of drinks being made. I watch with amazement at the herbs, potions and citrus they use to doctor up our libations. We weren’t hungry, since we had just eaten, but I enjoyed the Pineapple Express made with Milagro tequila, pineapple, lime and jalapeno. Andrew had the Far West Cider and we got the scoop about where else to eat in Napa. Before going to the next restaurant, we made our way up the elevator to the top floor Sky & Vine RoofTop Bar. The 360 degree view is outstanding and we got lucky to find the last three seats that were open at the bar. I had to try the margarita on tap and Andrew was treated to a beer from a stranger who heard it was his 30th birthday. What a nice guy. He left where we were sitting with his partner to get a seat next to the fire pits.

It wasn’t long before we were walking to our next foodie spot. We were hoping to find the restaurant Morimoto Napa where we had eaten before and just happened to see the grand opening of Morimoto Asia. Of course I had to go in and try to get a reservation. When I tell people I’m a food blogger, they seem to make special arrangements in their bookings for me. This time, we were able to get in at 7:45PM if we could come back. We were thrilled especially because Chef Masaharu Morimoto, a Michelin Star recipient was there in the restaurant and I’m a huge fan. He’s famous for being on The Iron Chef America, and got his start by working at the popular Nobu Restaurant.

I’m getting ahead of myself because I haven’t written about Los Agaves Napa. The bartender at the Charlie Palmer Steak Lounge recommended we order their Quesabirras (a braised beef mini quesadilla with a side of beef broth as a dipping sauce.) I also ordered their guacamole and chips and La Marilyn for $14.00 (Mescal, Malibu Rum, Domaine Di Canton and coconut.) Sooo yummy. Andrew was enticed to try the Mezcal Flight which was three one oz pours of Union Mezcal, Ojo De Tigre, and Madre Mezcal with pineapple and orange garnish for $26.00. I must say Los Agaves didn’t disappoint my taste buds. This place is FOR REAL. It’s the best Mexican cuisine that I’ve ever experienced. The mariachi band came to our table and sang to Andrew who immediately got up and began to dance. Maybe the alcohol kicking in helped to initiate this. Executive Chef Erick Lagunas also took the time to speak with us and he was excited about the upcoming several new locations in the works as well as the existing one in Santa Barbara. Our waiter Carlos brought out complimentary flan and churro with chocolate sauce desserts with fireworks shooting high in the air to surprise us. 

And don’t forget, we still had reservations at Chef Morimoto’s upscale second wine country restaurant Morimoto Asia within walking distance. The atmosphere was happening! You could feel the vibe of a restaurant’s opening night. The lighting was dim and the cuisine places more emphasis on Chinese flavors including dim sum, and sake flights.

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Andrew impressed by Chef Morimoto’s signed birthday napkin

The dedication to service was noticeable. We were spoiled all day and the night wasn’t even close to being over. I ordered the Saidoku cocktail made of Amaro, Montenegro, Cointreau and Yuzu. Obviously I didn’t need another drink, but I couldn’t help myself. It was Andrew’s birthday, and we had a designated driver Mr. Ken Smyth.He’s my everything.  Andrew decided upon a sake which they served on ice. We ordered the salt and pepper black cod, the sticky ribs with hoisin sweet chili glaze and the dim sum samplers. Lastly, they served Andrew a complimentary coconut sorbet and Chef Morimoto signed a napkin ceremoniously and wished him a happy birthday.

What a day. Not only did Andrew have a memorable time with us in Napa, we sampled tastes of the best restaurants in Northern California. If you want the inside scoop, keep subscribing to my blog and I will keep you entertained. Thanks again for reading and commenting below about your favorite Napa experiences.

Chai Spice Shortbread Ginger Men

Chai Spice Shortbread Ginger Men Cookies

Chai Spice Recipe

10 Cardamom Pods (or 1 t ground cardamom)

4 whole cloves or ½ teas ground cloves

1 T fennel seeds or fennel powder

½ t nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick crushed or 2 t ground cinnamon

1 star anise

2 t ground ginger

10 black peppercorns

Using a blender or spice grinder, place all ingredients inside and blend until finely ground. Spice mixture will keep for four months if kept in an airtight jar in a cool dark place. (Only need 1 ½ T for recipe)

Shortbread Cookie Ingredients

1 1/2 C. Unsalted Butter softened

¾ C Granulated sugar Plus ¼ divided for use w nuts

1 t Vanilla paste

1 C All Purpose Flour

1 C Pastry Flour (Can substitute All Purpose)

½ C Flax Meal

½ C Whole Wheat Flour

1 ½  T Chai Spice

1 t Maldon Salt

⅛ C Shelled Pistachios

⅛ C Cashews

⅛ C Toasted Almonds (Put almonds only into a preheated 350 degree oven on a sheet pan for 9 min. Cool)

3 4 0unce bars High quality white chocolate baking bar (Lindt or Ghirardelli preferably) You can use morsels, but they are harder to melt.

2 T heavy cream

3 T Dried chopped raspberries for decoration

Using a food processor, blend nuts together with ¼ C granulated sugar until it resembles a fine powder. Using the sugar prevents the nuts turning into butter. Or use a coffee grinder or chop them finely.

Chai Spice Shortbreadhttps://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Shortbread Directions:

In a stand mixer, beat butter, ¾ C sugar and vanilla paste until creamy on medium speed scraping bowl often.

In a large bowl, stir together flours, salt, chai spice, and finely chopped nuts (save a few Tablespoons for decoration). On low speed, add dry mixture gradually to sugar butter mixture just until well combined.

Divide dough in half, form into flat discs and refrigerate for an hour or longer. Tip: I use empty cereal bags that I cut and use to roll out dough. They can be cleaned and reused.

Line two sheet pans with parchment paper, or use sil pat mats.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

On a lightly floured surface, roll one of the discs out to ¼ inch thick, keeping the other half in the fridge until ready to use.

Use a gingerbread cutter dipped in flour and cut out ginger chai men. Alternatively, you can use any shape you desire.

Bake immediately using one pan at a time in the center of the preheated oven for about 15 min or until slightly brown.

Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes to let the cookie set. Remove from the hot pan onto a drying rack and cool completely.

In a ban marie, break up white chocolate bars into the bowl and add heavy cream. Stir until incorporated, not letting mixture get too hot or it will seize. (You can also use the microwave.)

Have a sheet pan with parchment ready. Dip each cookie into the melted chocolate mixture and sprinkle quickly with some reserved nuts and dried chopped raspberries before the chocolate dries.

Store cookies in the freezer, or in an airtight container for one week.

Cookies look best right after coated in chocolate, so keep cookie dough or baked cookies in the freezer for up to a month.

Recipe adapted from Mumbai Modern Cookbook and Amisha Gurbani also known on Instagram as @thejamlab

When serving a lot of people, make smaller shortbread cookies.http://www.letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Teri

 

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Health Scare and How I learned about the Covid19 Pandemic and a Multigrain Bread Recipe

Health Scare and How I learned about the Covid19 Pandemic and a Multigrain Bread Recipe

Today is the day. Today is the day I break my silence. I haven’t written for a few months. It’s been one thing after another that has gotten in the way of my writing. Let me explain. 

 

In mid December, my husband became ill with kidney stones and life changed. I spent sleepless nights worrying about him, driving him to ER rooms for xrays, pain medications,and fluids. Then they scheduled a surgery the same day to put in stents in his kidneys which led to his bladder shutting down the next day and another trip to the ER, this time in Oakland. The doctor immediately gave him a catheter which relieved the pressure from the blockage.

 

He needed a lithotripsy appointment which would blast the stone into smaller pieces so he could pass them. But that appointment couldn’t be scheduled because the office that does the procedure wasn’t open for two weeks during the Christmas holiday. My poor husband didn’t attend any holiday parties because he was embarrassed about having a catheter. You can’t blame him, but it made Christmas extra sad. Eventually after 5 days Ken removed the catheter himself after watching a YouTube video and from directions from his urologist. Ken could sleep better and had less pain after the catheter was removed.

 

More CT scans and a trip to Antioch Kaiser on a Sunday to get a sonogram on his kidney. This was our new life. Many phone appointments with his medical doctor, urologists but not his surgeon because he was off for the holiday break. Let me just say, don’t get sick during the holidays.

 

Finally, the Friday after the new year, the lithotripsy appointment was scheduled for January 8th at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland which is one of the few hospitals that provide this procedure in California. Later they got him an appointment sooner on January 7th since Ken had plans to travel for work in late January and we were begging his doctors.

 

A week later, Ken passed the stones at work while I was in Disneyland at a pre-planned trip with the family. A week or so later, he went back into the urologist to have the stents removed after more xrays to make sure the stones were passed. 

 

Let’s just say I have taken a new appreciation to having good health. We’ve always eaten well as I usually cook every night. Ken has had a family history with kidney problems and has had them in the past. We weren’t unfamiliar with this illness, but we never thought we would have to go through this.

 

As I said earlier, Ken had to travel to Texas in late January and was gone for most of February with the exception of two weekend visits. During this time, I spent a lot of time on Twitter following what was happening in Wuhan China. People were dying from the Covid 19 Global Pandemic in masses. Crematories were working 24/7 according to some. 

 

Around this same time, I found Macrovoices.com podcast on Twitter and began listening to Erik Townsend who would interview people about finance and macroeconomics. Listen to the January 30th, 962 Hot Topic #6: Covid Pandemic Update episode with Chris Martenson PHD from Peak Prosperity.com.

 

I learned about the asymptomatic transmission about people that can shed the virus without being detected which makes it hard to contain.These people test positive for the disease, but have no symptoms.

 

In any case, in the past few months I have been shopping and preparing for the worst. I bought a huge bag of flour (which is the way I usually buy flour), lots of eggs, extra milk, extra sugar, etc… I even bought dry milk, and dry eggs in case we can’t get these commodities.

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My seedlings getting thinned out and transplanted into larger cell packs. I’m growing tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkins, squash, beans, sweet peas, shallots, garlic, onions, and more

I’ve also spent hours and hours planting seeds for my vegetable garden knowing we could have a food shortage in the future. I listened to John Barry on Peakprosperity.com who wrote the book Author of “The Great Influenza.” He also writes a survival blog and that has inspired me to get prepared for the worst.

 

I bought a generator in case we lose our electricity so we can charge our cell phones and keep our food cold. I’ve been making bread to feed my family since it is something that I can do to keep my family healthy. I use bread flour, whole wheat flour, spelt, flax meal, rye flour, oats and sunflower seeds to make a loaf of bread and will share the recipe later.

 

The new normal is we are on lockdown here in the East Bay Area of California and we don’t know how long it will last. We don’t have a vaccination yet, and we do not have immunity to this disease. We don’t have pharmaceuticals that are effective in treatment. We are told to wear masks if we are out in public and to wash our hands often. Most restaurants and stores are closed. Only essential businesses are open like grocery stores and hardware stores. Most people are working from home and schools are closed. 

 

I have been scared that my parents will get sick since they are older and have compromised immune systems. My father lives in a skilled nursing facility which is at risk since these diseases spread easily there. We haven’t been able to visit him recently, but we can call him to check in.

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Here I am with my dad when I last saw him on Jan 18th.

 

My mother’s immune system has been compromised for 6 years because she was diagnosed with a rare blood disease. It’s scary for all of us since if my parents do get the Covid 19, we won’t be able to be with them at the hospital and they could die alone. 

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Here I am with my Mom in front of my favorite tulip tree in our yard. Photo taken several years ago.

So today is the day I’ve decided to speak out about my life these last few months. I’m grateful my husband is better and my kids are healthy.  I hope all of you stay safe. 

Here is my Multigrain Bread recipe for you. This recipe makes 2 loaves.

Multigrain Bread

Ingredients:

½ C Rolled Oats plus more for top of loaves

1 ⅓ C Cooked Wheat Berries

½ C Flax Meal

1 C Soaked Bulgar Wheat

2 ¾ C Whole Wheat Flour

2 ½ C Bread Flour or All Purpose Flour

1 C Rye Flour

2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt

 

2 pkg Active Dry Yeast

½ C warm water

2 teas honey

 

6 T Softened Butter

1 ¼ C plus 2 T Warm Water

3 T Honey

1 T Molasses

½ C Guinness Beer or beer of your choice room temperature

1 Egg white plus 1 teas water mixed to brush on loaves before baking

⅓ C Sunflower Seeds plus more for top of loaves

 

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Crumb of my multigrain loaf perfect with butter and apricot jam.

Instructions:

Measure out all dry ingredients (Oats, flax meal, whole wheat flour, Bread flour, Rye flour, and Kosher Salt) into an extra large mixing bowl. Set aside.

 

Cook Wheat berries as directed on package. Cool.

 

Soak Bulgar wheat in 1 Cup warm water (drain)

 

Mix ½ C warm water (NOT hot) with honey and 2 packages of Active Dry Yeast and mix until dissolved. Will get bubbly.

 

In a large measuring cup, measure out 1 ½ warm water, honey, and beer together.

 

Add cooked wheat berries, soaked Bulgar and yeast mixture to a large bowl with dry ingredients. Can use a large stand mixer with dough hook instead.

 

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients slowly adding softened butter in as well.Add sunflower seeds and knead or process on mixer for a few minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes. 

Continue to mix or knead for an additional 10 minutes adding extra All Purpose Flour if dough is too sticky.

Place dough into a large buttered bowl covered in plastic wrap and let rest for 1 ½ hours in a warm place. 

Cut dough in half, roll into two rectangles, then fold over and place into two buttered loaf pans.

 

Brush with egg white and water. Sprinkle oats and sunflower seeds on top of loaves.

 

Let rise again for 1 hour.

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake loaves in center of the oven for 45 minutes to one hour or until golden brown. 

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Multigrain Loaf

Serve warm with butter and apricot jam.

Enjoy!

 

 

Thanks for reading my blog. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or have something to share. 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas in Benicia and a Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

Christmas in Benicia and a Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

Spent most of the day yesterday exploring Benicia California with my hiking friends. We had the best time walking through the small businesses, looking at Christmas decorations and eating our way through town. Today’s blog will be all about our day and I will also share my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe with you.

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Gingerbread Christmas Cookies and a little bling

I am lucky enough to know Sharon who invited me into her hiking group at least 10 years ago. Here’s the travel blog about our hike in Spain on the Camino de Santiago. We originally met through the neighborhood swim team over 20 years ago. She also inspired me to put my son into piano lessons at FAME Music where her son Eric was taking music lessons. I’m grateful for all she has done for me and my family over the years. But hiking with her and these amazing women was the most fun of all.

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All six of Nancy Solomon’s World Travel Camino de Santiago trip at our first pulperia in Sarria Spain. From left:Me, Jeanne, Sharon, Beth, Jeanne, and Marianne

Sharon emails the group which has grown over the years, every Sunday evening about where we will be hiking every Tuesday and Thursday morning. She mixes it up every week, so we are never bored of the hiking trails in the East Bay. I haven’t been as good about attending the hikes recently, but I’m always in for a foodie adventure.

Marie organized and executed this exciting fun filled day in Benicia so we could all celebrate the holiday season together. Many of us walked through town first before eventually making our way to The Camellia Tea Room  for lunch. Wanting to warm our bellies with something hot, we sat outside Farm & Flour a cool new brunch place. I bought a loaf of their house made spelt grain bread which came in a cloth flour sack bag. And if I go back, I can get a dollar off my next loaf. Great marketing idea right there, and I will be back. In fact, I was there with my Aunt Teri a few months ago.

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My gingerbread men. Decorated with currants and raisins

Next we stopped in Romancing the Home store where we looked at adorable Christmas decorations sold at reasonable prices. I love getting craft ideas and seeing what other artists are making this time of year.

Juice house Company caught my eye and so I had to try some of their healthy juice samples. The owner who is pregnant, opened the shop a year ago with her sister and boy is it gooooood. My husband recently bought me a juicer and I love it. I make all kinds of concoctions with tumeric, beets, celery, grapefruit and tons of other fruits and vegetables. I fell in love with “Citrus Sea” made from grapefruit, orange, lemon, celery, cucumber,ginger and cilantro. So refreshing! But the coconut almond milk drink was equally delicious.

Can we talk about the cutest boutique on the planet? Pink Arrows Boutique is a little off the beaten path, but totally worth the visit. I didn’t catch the  owners name, but she was warm and answered all of our questions. This #boho style is infectious and I wanted one of everything. I limited myself to one cute red and black Bella Dahl flannel top, which she graciously gave me $10.00 off. I so appreciate it when businesses offer up discounts like these and I’m happy to make repeat purchases from them.

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The luncheon at the Camellia Tea Room was fabulous and everything you expect from a Tea house. The service was outstanding, our waitress even offering me an extra tea pot of hot water because I like my earl gray tea weak.The best bite of the day was the egg salad on a crispy and buttery focaccia bread. To die for! Good thing I got to eat two of them. Plenty of the other standards like a lemon tart with raspberry, a scone with currants, cucumber sandwich, oatmeal raisin coconut chocolate chip cookie, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and plenty of clotted cream and jelly (not homemade 😦 ) I didn’t care for the water. Tasted funny to me, but there was plenty of tea going around. 

Lastly, I heard I needed to check out One House Bakery just down the street. Everything there seemed outrageously edible, yet I had just eaten. I will definitely be going back with my mom Diane and her husband Tom very soon as this kind of place is right up their alley. And funny enough, my friend Nancy saw my Instagram post You Tube One House Bakery yesterday of this place and dropped off a chocolate raspberry roulade to me this morning. She got excited about all the sweets and breads and met a friend for breakfast there. You can’t imagine my surprise when she knocked at my door with the most decadent cake ever made. Yum! And I didn’t share. It was that good.

I continue to be grateful for these simple pleasures of day outs with friends. There’s nothing better than celebrating the holidays with the ones you love. If you need a fun get away, check out downtown Benicia. You will be glad you did.

And now for my gingerbread cookie recipe that I promised. This recipe is altered from my friend Julie Birnbaum’s recipe I received many years ago. Julie and I were in a knitting group together while our kids were in school. She made these for us one year and I fell in love with the recipe. I’ve been  making them ever since. I haven’t knitted in years, because I’d rather be baking or gardening instead.

And here’s a recent blog on my time entertaining with Lise from my hiking group and her husband in Genoa Nevada.

Please comment below on your favorite holiday cookie and where you got the recipe from. And feel free to follow my blog. I’d love to share more recipes with you.

Teri’s Cut Out Gingerbread Men Cookies

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#Christmas #Cookies #Gingerbread

Ingredients:

1 C Unsalted Butter (You can substitute shortening, but butter tastes better)

1 C Granulated Sugar

3/4 C Molasses

1 t cinnamon

1 t ginger

1 t cloves

1 t cardamom

1 t nutmeg

½ t Maldon salt or Kosher salt

2 whole eggs

1 t vinegar

4 1/2 C unbleached sifted all purpose flour separated (save 1/2 C for rolling out)

1 t Baking Soda

1/4 C dry currants

1/4 C dry raisins

Directions:

In a saucepan, melt sugar, butter, molasses, salt and spices and bring to a boil. Cool and move to a large mixing bowl.  Mix in 2 eggs and vinegar. Sift flour and baking soda. Add flour and baking soda until well blended.

Scoop out large portions onto parchment paper and place in fridge for 30 minutes or overnight.

Roll out on a floured surface until the dough is about 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick and cut men out with your favorite cookie cutters. Place on parchment paper 3/4 ” apart so they don’t stick together when baking. Use raisins and red hots for eyes, nose and mouth. Cinnamon candies are delicious in the cookies as well. Or leave plain and decorate with colored icing. Leave cookies on the counter to dry after icing and before you put in a cookie tin.

Preheat oven and bake at 350 degrees for approx 8-10 minutes, or longer depending on how thick your cookies are. Cool on rack. Decorate with royal icing or this cookie glaze recipe. Wrap remaining cookie dough in plastic and refrigerate for up to a week. 

Cookie Glaze Recipe

2 lbs powdered sugar

scant 1/2 C water or milk

2 tsp clear vanilla

1/2 C light corn syrup

white food coloring (found in Wilton baking section in a craft store) Not absolutely necessary.

Directions:

Place all ingredients, except water in a bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment. Slowly add water and mix until combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl and mix again for a couple of minutes. Don’t mix too long or you will get bubbles in icing. If you need thinner icing, add more water. Place frosting in a pastry bag with a tiny tip

Left over frosting can be kept in the pastry bag in an airtight container and left on the counter for a week.

Have fun! Wrap cookies in individual bags (also found at craft store), or put in metal tins with wax paper and give to a neighbor or loved one. You can also send these in the mail. They should taste good even a few days later. You can freeze the gingerbread cookies, but I find the chocolate decorations and sprinkles don’t fair well. You can freeze the cookies, then decorate later when defrosted.

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Bea Arthur breaking the rules while my husband was sleeping

Enjoy! Thanks for joining me today and reading my blog. Please leave your email in the space provided so you can receive my future blogs and recipes. I can also be found on Instagram   

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Happy Baking!

Teri

 

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Pumpkin Pie for Vegans, 28 years of Wedded Bliss, and a trip to Millennium

Pumpkin Pie for Vegans, 28 years of Wedded Bliss, and a trip to Millennium

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Okay. I know it isn’t Thanksgiving, but I grew a huge gorgeous pumpkin and a kabocha squash  in my vegetable garden and I need to make a dessert. And my husband and I celebrated 28 years of marriage last week! Whop! Whop! I’m really excited that I grew and harvested these. I mean, why is this pumpkin ripe already? I always thought they needed a few months to be sweet and ripe enough before we get to eat them, but I’ve never grown one before.

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Here it is hanging on a trellis in my front yard with my panty hose!

I’m sure I could make a pumpkin soup with a toasted pumpkin seed garnish on top a dollop of creme fraiche. Maybe I’ll make that too, but first let me get back to the PIE.

I asked my friend Cathy what her fav vegan recipe was and she shared this with me. She told me it is to die for and was happy to let me give it a try. The four of us met at Millennium  Restaurant a few weeks ago and I was blown away with their Vegan menu. We had already eaten dinner and just decided to take a drive over to this new place. I loved the bar and atmosphere and loved how things were presented. We opted to share the chocolate peanut pretzel torte. It was divine! The menu described it as having a peanut mousseline, a chocolate-caramel ganache, a chocolate peanut butter bark, salted caramel sauce, and served with a Brother Thelonious Ale Ice Cream (who ever that is…) Of course we had been drinking wine all night and normally I would have had a coffee with it to cut the sweetness. Thankfully, it wasn’t too sweet, just right and couldn’t believe it was a vegan recipe. Nothing bland or blah about it.

Millennium didn’t disappoint. I only wished we had started there in the first place. The food is special and the people are adorable too. Had to take a pic of this guy the pastry chef. Waaay too Berkeley if you ask me.

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Back to the pumpkin pie recipe. Well almost… My niece Keri who just recently graduated from USD and got a full time job (good for you Miss Keri) and is eating only Vegan recipes so she should appreciate it. Got to love her. She is one of a kind. Here we are picking her up from the airport a few weeks back. She’s sporting her new coral earrings and necklace we got her for graduation too.

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Here’s the pic of the gorgeous peanuty chocolaty caramely vegan dessert from Millennium. It reminds me of my elevated Rice Krispie Munchie Bar dessert that has peanut butter, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, Nutella and tons of butter. Def NOT vegan. I will have to share that recipe next!

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Here’s the pumpkin pie recipe as promised. I will also share more pics of it next time I make it.

Pumpkin filling

Ingredients:

3 C Cooked pumpkin or butternut squash

½ C Pure Maple Syrup or Agave Syrup

½ C Coconut Milk or use your favorite non dairy milk

4 tsp coconut oil (melted) or can use extra light olive oil

½ t Cinnamon

½ t Ground Ginger

1/4 t ground Cloves

¼ t ground Nutmeg or freshly grated

½ t Maldon Salt

2 T Arrowroot powder

1 t Agar powder

1 t good quality Vanilla

 

 

Pecan Topping

Ingredients:

2 C Chopped Pecans or Almonds

½ C Light Brown Sugar

1 T Cornstarch or Unbleached Flour

⅛ C Honey

1/2 t Maldon salt

Directions for Making the Topping:

Chop pecans/almonds coarsely. Put into a bowl and toss w brown sugar, cornstarch/flour, honey and salt. Set aside.

 

Pie Crust 

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, cool enough to be solid
  • 6-8 tablespoons of ice water

Directions: In a food processor add flour, salt and sugar. Cover and pulse once or twice. Add coconut oil in spoonfuls on top the flour, cover and pulse 7 or 8 times until well combined. Take cold water and pour into opening of processor while pulsing until moist.

Turn onto parchment paper or Saran Wrap, make a disc shape cover, and put in fridge to rest for at least 20 min.

After 20 min roll out pastry dough onto floured counter into a round shape a little bigger than your pie dish. Place crust into a deep dish pie dish (or whatever you have) and crimp edges with your thumb and pointer finger in a decorative manner.

Place crust into fridge while making filling.

Directions for Pumpkin Filling:

Cut Pumpkin in half and remove seeds. Cut pumpkin in large pieces and place on large baking sheet covered w foil flesh side down for 1 hour until knife inserted easily and pumpkin is cooked. Cool. Remove skin and puree cooled pumpkin in a food processor until smooth. Use left over for pumpkin soup or pumpkin bread. Previous blog recipe here Pumpkin bread 

Measure out 3 Cups and place in processor. Add maple syrup, coconut milk, coconut oil, , spices, salt, arrowroot powder and agar powder. Puree until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove crust from fridge and pour pumpkin filling into pie shell. Bake for 45 to 50 min. Remove pie from oven and top with pecan/almond mixture. Bake uncovered another 15-20 min until pecan/almond topping is browned and crumbly. Cool for at least a couple of hours before slicing. 

Serve with vegan ice cream or non dairy whipped cream. My husband was a happy camper eating this delicious pie on our anniversary.

Altered from recipe Cathy gave me. She found it here  recipe 

As always please leave a comment or two and don’t be shy about sharing my blog.

Enjoy!  

Teri:)

 

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The One Thing You Must Do When Traveling With Friends

The One Thing You Must Do When Traveling With Friends

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Great pic of President Obama and wife Michelle

Lots has happened since my last blog post. We now have a new president named Donald Trump. Long gone are the days with Obama. I don’t consider myself a political person, nor do I get involved in protests, etc. It seems one cannot get onto social media these days without hearing the latest updates about what is going on in politics.  The country is changing and people don’t like change. Even my book group ladies had different opinions about the presidential pick and his policies during our last adventure to So Cal.

 

 

In January, the five of us traveled to Los Angeles to see a member who moved back east 6 years ago, then more recently to Southern California. I’ve known these women for the past twelve years. We’ve gathered at each other’s homes monthly to discuss the latest and best books one can find. We’ve raised our kids, talked about our parents and genuinely cared for one another through good and bad. We haven’t always agreed on politics, or religion, but that has never mattered. We’ve respected each other’s views and could set aside our differences. A few of the women had definite opinions on Trumps behavior in the oval office. I deliberately choose to “wait and see” and not get worked up over women’s rights, and the rest of the drama that is going  on around us. It stimulates fear and hate and I like to live my life without chaos. Maybe I’m pulling the wool over my eyes and ignoring the news so I can live in harmony. I see what I need to see on Twitter and that’s enough.



We stayed in a cute house in Pasadena where our friend Rachel lives. Rachel took us on a fun 3 hour hike at Chantry Park http://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/sturtevant-falls-trail Hiking So Cal where we took the Gabrielino Trail to the beautiful Sturtevant waterfalls and reveled in the rolling green hills. 


We stayed out late and attended a small concert in Hollywood starring Kylie Rothfield from The Voice and drank wine at a famous Bar called White Horse Lounge. The food there was presented with flair. We especially liked the hummus with roasted shishito peppers and crispy flatbread. The calamari was served with a sweet and sour glaze and chipotle aioli. Not a bite was left on the platter.


We stopped for a look see at Pasadena City Hall after appetizers and enjoyed the majestic display of lights on the antique building. It was exquisite. On our last day, we leisurely ate breakfast outside at Urth Caffe’ https://urthcaffe.com/caffe/locations/urth-downtown-la. I had a spectacular veggie omelet which didn’t disappoint.



Normally, I would do the cooking on such a trip, but this visit was untraditional. We mostly ate out and made things easy. It was short and sweet and the perfect getaway vacation. I very much enjoyed spending time with the girls and look forward to our next vacation together. As time goes on, we will see how Trumps politics affect the country, hopefully in a positive way. I’m grateful for my life, my friends, my family and for the opportunity to live in the USA. Make sure when you travel with your friends that you respect their ideas political or otherwise. It makes for long and lasting relationships.

Here’s the pumpkin bread recipe that I brought with me and gave as a hostess gift. It was a hit.

Pumpkin Bread

3 Eggs

2 C Sugar

1 C Canola Oil

1 T Vanilla

2 C Flour

1 t Cinnamon

1 T Ginger

½ t Cloves

1 t Kosher Salt

¼ t Baking Powder

2 C roasted or canned Pumpkin Puree

¾ C Black or Golden Raisins

1 C chopped Walnuts

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs until frothy. Beat in sugar, oil, and vanilla until mixture is thick. Sift dry ingredients together. Alternately, starting with dry ingredients add ½ C at a time to egg mixture and blend. Then add pumpkin, dry, then pumpkin, ending with dry. Stir in nuts and raisins until incorporated.

Pour into loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto rack and cool completely removing parchment first. You can frost w cream cheese frosting (1 8 oz pkg of cream cheese, 1 stick unsalted butter, 1 t vanilla, 2 C powdered sugar and orange or lemon zest. Blend in mixer till smooth). Tastes great by itself. Very moist and delicious.

Enjoy!

Be sure to check out my earlier posts here.A Foodie’s best place to Shop and Beef Bourguignone

 

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Camino de Santiago Part Three and a Minestrone Soup Recipe

Camino de Santiago Part Three and a Minestrone Soup Recipe

This is the list Nancy provided for us to prepare for our adventure hiking the Camino in Spain. If you haven’t read part one and two you can find them in these links. I’m writing this blog three years later. I was cleaning out my drafts getting ready to write about my New York trip last week and came across these great photos. All I can say is that traveling with these women Nancy, Beth and Jeanie was easy, care free and drama free. We all got along magically. There wasn’t a conflict of any sort, which I can’t say was the case for the trip to New York. Here are a few more great photos of my time on the Camino. But first a photo of my son Curtis and his dog Hankster. If you read till the end you will hear about all of our pets at the Smyth house.

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My son Curtis with his dog Hankster

Packing  IMG_5415

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A local resting on bench in Arzua Spain. The Camino is something everyone should experience. We walked through towns and cobblestone streets. We saw stray horses, chickens, dogs and cats and even herds of sheep running through the countryside. The food was hit or miss. Most places along the trail had Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish Tortilla made with eggs and potatoes) which is a staple in this part of Spain. Octopus was offered at most of the fancier restaurants, yet I didn’t care for the way they prepared it. Seen below we are sharing a meal at Pazo de Santa Maria Hotel. They had the best food. We were having their butternut squash soup as a first course. I loved their breakfast offerings too with many home made dark breads with oats on top.

By far, my most favorite spot on the Camino de Santiago at Pazo Santa Maria

This is us from the left Marianne, Sharon, Canadian couple, Jeanie, Beth and me having dinner at Pazo Santa Maria with our friends who happened to be just about everywhere we were.

We were so happy to find this gem  Pazo de Santa Maria located in Arzua Spain while walking the Camino de Santiago. Of course Nancy Solomon makes all of our arrangements for travel. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to get to experience these trips with her.

After walking for hours, we entered the property to be greeted by a miniature schnauzer puppy who ran over a duck pond bridge to say hello. I am a huge fan of these dogs since I’ve had this breed of dog three times in my lifetime. The first miniature schnauzer I had was named Shnopsie. Shnopsie ran away on Easter Sunday and ended up getting picked up by another family who drove him up north several hours away. I remember my family, all six of us voting whether to drive up and get our dog, or to get another dog. I was out voted. I cried and cried to the song If from the Best of Bread Album which was very popular. This was the first time I felt a loss and I was maybe 11 years old. The next schnauzer was named Katy-Did. She was a sweet dog, but she had stomach problems and we had to puree her food in a blender. She threw up all over the house and us kids always yelled “I’m not cleaning it!” The last person to say it had to clean up the barf. At the end of Katy-Did’s life, she moved in with me at Diane Nobel’s house because my Mother sold the house on 1515 Grove Way after her divorce was final to my Dad, and moved into a condo in Orinda with my brother. I lived there and rented a room in Diane’s house in Pleasant Hill with my new born son Curtis and worked as a nanny taking care of a boy named Joel. Katy-Did had diabetes and needed shots every morning, so I took care of her until the end of her life.

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My son Curtis in his Mickey Mouse Bed with our cat Woody

My third schnauzer was gifted to me by my husband Ken who bought him a week after we got married in June of 1989. We named him “Coops” after the priest who married us at Queen of All Saints, Father Cooper. He was all black with one white spot on his collar. Coops was a great dog. He made our new family complete. We already had “Woody” our cat for a few years. We got him at an animal shelter for Christmas when we lived in the Northwood Apartments and surprised Curtis who was three at the time. Curtis loved the movie Oliver and would watch it over and over again. He wanted to name him “Catty” but we settled on Woody. Woody was the friendliest cat you ever met. He always wanted to be in your lap. And he was fierce. Once he ran through our family room glass window on Ida Drive when he was chased by my Mother’s Jack Russel Terrier “Corky.” We found him a few blocks away and brought him home. Corky didn’t last long with my mother either. She gave him to a farm in the country where he terrorized those animals as well. Woody lost an eye towards the end of his life, but he was a sweet and loving cat and my kids loved him.

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My husband Ken holding our dog Coops

Since I’m sharing about our pets, I can’t forget to include Baxter who was a cross between Carion Terrier and Daschund. He brought a lot of joy to our lives. Andrew and my niece Jasmine and I went to ARF during the Christmas Holiday break. They gave away free coffee and popcorn and I’m always in the mood for free snacks. We fell in love with Baxter right away. His name in the kennel was “Grand Master Flash” and he was being pursued by the Sparks family in our neighborhood. The rule of adoption is that all members of the family have to be present before they will release the pet. My husband Ken met us after work and we happily came home with our little bundle of fur.

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Me and Baxter

A year before Baxter, we welcomed two kittens Charlie and Charcoal to our home. These animals were found behind the bowling alley in Castro Valley. My sister in law Alyson was a vet tech at a nearby veterinarian hospital and brought them over to us. We only wanted one of them, but couldn’t decide and ended up taking them both. We recently lost Charlie who lived until he was 16 years old. Charcoal died a year before that during Covid.

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Our kittens Charlie and Charcoal

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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106 Degree Heat Wave, Filoli Gardens, French Dip and Ice Cream kind of Day

106 Degree Heat Wave, Filoli Gardens, French Dip and Ice Cream kind of Day

It’s been a hot few days here in Northern California. It is currently 111 degrees and it’s only the beginning of September. A month ago, my friend Marie and I decided to celebrate her birthday today. We were hoping to go towards the coast to avoid the hot weather. I chose to spend the day with her at Filoli Historic House and Garden in Woodside which is located 30 miles south of San Francisco, nestled on a slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains and have lunch after. Here’s a tip:It’s best to purchase tickets ahead of time online. I brought my Aunt Teri here a year ago when there was a  last minute change of plans because of a fire along the Highway and I had to buy the tickets in the parking lot on my phone.

Me and my friend Marie at Filoli in front of the Sunflower and Vegetable Garden

She left her house at 7:40 AM and didn’t arrive at my place until 9:00 AM. Since school has started, we’ve had to factor in more time to get places and Marie lives further inland. We were excited to spend the day together and didn’t mind getting an early start.

Marie and I at Filoli Gardens. This pool was built after the owner had a stroke to help him recover

We arrived at Filoli by 10:20 AM and practically had the whole place to ourselves. It wasn’t much cooler than the East Bay, but we were happy to see the statues, wrought iron gates and beautiful gardens. The property has a Georgian revival-style mansion and is considered to be one of the best remaining country estates of the 20th century. The gardens are from an English Renaissance era with stunning hydrangeas, rose of sharon (a hibiscus shrub), purple and red salvia, tiny cyclamen, pink amaryllis, roses, English lavender and a deep blue ‘Hidcote’ lavender in the summer, and camelias, orchids, magnolias and citrus blossoms in the winter just to name a few. The spring display features thousands of daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and blue violas.

I was excited to see the prolific newly renovated vegetable garden on display. They had everything you could think of. We walked down rows and rows of green beans, amaranth, squash, tomatoes, peppers, artichokes, herbs, Swiss chard and much much more. We barely got a glimpse of the cut flower garden that included massive sunflowers, bachelor buttons, zinnias, bright and tall yellow marigolds, echinacea “purple cone flower” in every color and waist high dahlias that were popping up everywhere. 

Eventually we needed a rest on a bench in the shade under a massive Oak tree where flying insects began swarming into our eyes and mouths. I swallowed a bug, basically inhaled it and Marie had to put her sunglasses back on to keep them out of her eyes. Obviously, we didn’t sit there long. There were massive Elm trees, Oak-Madrone Forests, Redwood Groves, Chaparral and Irish Yews (evergreen conifers) from Muckross, olive trees, heirloom apple orchards and hundreds of acres of natural lands situated on the 654 acres of ancestral lands of the Ramaytush Ohlone people. There are 5 distinct ecosystems there and a 1 mile Estate Trail that we had to miss because of the heat.

We stumbled upon the gift shop where we could find shade and cool air. There I purchased sunflower seeds for Marie and I to plant in the Spring, wildflower honey, and a cute white and pink ‘marshmallow’ fuchsia plant for a new planter box that Marie’s husband made for her. Marie loves sunflowers, so these were the perfect gifts.

Marie in front of the squash and sunflower patch

We didn’t walk around the gardens as long as we wanted to because it was very warm and we had lunch reservations a few blocks away. The Village Bakery Restaurant was a glorious next stop during our birthday celebration for Marie. We had developed an appetite and decided to sit inside even though both of us prefer to stay safe and eat outdoors if possible because of Covid. I had been there many years ago when my sister lived in Belmont. It is 10 times better now than it was years ago.

The waiter was quick to bring us cold water and offer us fancy libations like aperol spritz and various cocktails, but I was driving and Marie was happy with an iced tea with lemon.

Chilled Cucumber Gaspacho at The Village Bakery in Woodside California

We started with a chilled cucumber gazpacho served with a cherry tomato panzanella, extra virgin olive oil and mint. The waiter was kind enough to split it for us and give us individual servings. It was cool and refreshing with just the right amount of acid from the tomato and crunch from the crouton and the cucumber. Delicious! And since we were at a bakery, we had to order the Parker House Rolls with flaky Maldon sea salt and sweet butter. My favorite!

Grilled Chicken Caesar, French Dip, Cucumber Gaspacho at Village Bakery

Next Marie ordered the Caesar salad with grilled chicken which practically melted in your mouth and I had to have their French Dip (Prime Rib thinly sliced, caramelized onions, gruyere on a toasted baguette) with au jus. These were simply divine. The restaurant began to get busier and busier and both of us became a little uneasy, so we decided to skip the dessert. The waiter again thought of everything, and brought Marie a large chocolate chip cookie “to go”. It should be mentioned that there is a 20 percent service surcharge already added onto the bill to help pay the staff in support of the San Mateo County employer mandate. Many restaurants are establishing these rules and I’m happy people in the food industry are beginning to be paid what they deserve.

Lastly, we stopped in San Ramon at The Lot City Center Bishop Ranch for ice cream at Salt & Straw. This is a fairly new shopping center with many restaurants, shops and a theater. I ordered the Marionberry Coconut Sherbet in a waffle cone and Marie picked the Chocolate Gooey Brownie in a waffle cup. The $5.95 each scoops are enormous and the waffle cones are $1.50 extra, but who’s counting? Not me, certainly. Locations are popping up all over California including San Francisco, Palo Alto and Burlingame and many in Los Angeles if you want to give them a try. They have seasonal flavors no one else has like Spiced Goat Cheese Pumpkin Pie, Plum & Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread, Wild-Foraged Berry Slab Pie, Pinot Poached Pear Sherbet and Honey Lavender. These are so interesting that you want to taste all of them!

Me and Marie at Salt & Straw at THE LOT City Center Bishop Ranch in San Ramon California

I can’t imagine a more perfect day. Marie and I have been friends for over 43 years. (Tammie Berg -my bestie pal from high school. You have her beat with 44!)(Donna- It’s been 36 years!)(Denise -It’s been 20 plus years) (Kathi- It’s been 34 years) (Sherri- It’s been 27 years) But who is keeping track? Marie and I met in 1979 at Mr. Steak Restaurant while working as hostesses. We’ve been through a lot of years raising 5 boys and two husbands between us and keeping in touch regularly. I’m so happy we could take time away from our busy schedules to make it a special day. Here is our day together last year in Napa.

Thanks for following my blog and reading my stories. I will be sure to share a recipe here when the heat subsides. Until then, stay cool and enjoy life.

 

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Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Celebrating My Birthday

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Celebrating My Birthday

It’s been quite the birthday week. Day trips to Yountville, lunches at my favorite restaurants in Danville with friends, relaxing pedicures, a wine tasting experience in Livermore with a niece and sister, and a fun birthday celebration for a girlfriend which included an overnight stay at the Harkey House in Yuba City with my husband. I’m a lucky girl and I am grateful every day for the friends and family who are in my life. I can’t forget mentioning having my sons over for a home cooked meal. They brought me my favorite See’s Candy and pastries from an Asian bakery in Concord. Just wow.

My sister Sue and her daughter Marie in Livermore at Murietta’s Well

I’m not always running out for special dinners and wine tasting. Just yesterday, I unloaded a truckful of good soil from Macalveys Nursery in Martinez. I carefully dug up old annuals first and replaced them with the new soil. It’s too hot to plant anything new and we are on water rationing here in California because of the drought. Instead, I will toss some wildflower seeds into the beds and see what comes up in the fall after the rain. 

My garden has been an extra handful this year. I selected special seeds in March and began growing them under lights and on heat mats in the garage. I grew several varieties of tomatoes, watermelon, pumpkin, peppers, zinnias and more. After planting them in raised beds or in broadcloth cages (to protect them from gophers), many of them were eaten by the ground squirrels. We’ve never had a problem with these critters before even though we live next to open space. It’s been WAR. 

My husband Ken bought an airsoft gun after no success with the traps. I learned how to use it today, but still haven’t managed to shoot one. I know. It sounds horrible and I usually love squirrels, but when they eat all the leaves from my new Meyer lemon tree, the leaves from the new almond tree and many of my perennials, they’ve got to go. Many of the vegetables I’ve had to cover up with crates to keep them from being eaten. I don’t mind sharing, but this has been devastating seeing all of my crops and plants taken from me.If you have any ideas for me, I’m all ears. Thank goodness I don’t have to live off my land, or I would starve.

I was invited to go to lunch at Bistro don Giovani’s in Yountville with my friends and neighbors Luann and Sandra. I was blown away by Luann’s offer to take me out for my birthday, as we have gone wine tasting before, but never to celebrate our birthdays. They have expanded their outdoor patio and have added fans and heat lamps for the evenings. The meal was delightful and the service outstanding. We had the calamari with shrimp, fennel and green beans for an appetizer and I couldn’t have been happier. Luann ordered a bottle of sauvignon blanc which the three of us shared. Raviolis, focaccia, a peach, marcona almond, goat cheese salad and chocolate cake with vanilla gelato dessert were also shared by all of us.

Bistro Don Giovani in Yountville with Sandra and Luann

Just down the lane from the restaurant is Ashes and Diamonds Winery. The ladies weren’t ready to head back to the Bay Area yet, so we ordered another bottle of wine and sat under the umbrellas to chat. I should mention that they don’t sell just a glass of wine. Either you order the tasting menu, or a bottle of wine. The least expensive bottle was the 2019 Blanc which was $45.00. I paid for the wine and tip since my friends picked up the tab at the restaurant. How often do you get to hang out with girlfriends for hours? This was a treat. We got caught up, drank tons of water and had olives and crackers before Sandra drove us home. 

Me and my girlfriend Marie before our lunch date

Another very special day was spent with my friend Marie. She and I met 43 years ago while working at Mr. Steak. She took me for a pedicure at Bollinger Nails Salon in Danville. She was surprised to see how fidgety I get when someone touches my feet. I guess you either love it or tolerate it. I love the final look and being able to look presentable while wearing sandals.

Next we ate at my favorite restaurant Esin. The owner is a pastry chef and always has exquisite desserts to choose from. Their food is always excellent. We started with their marinated citrus olives and French bread with olive oil. I ordered their salmon tartare with avocado appetizer and chips and Marie had the Caesar salad with grilled chicken. We ended the meal sharing the lemon meringue pie with a toasted marshmallow whipped topping and raspberry sauce. This meal was perfect in every way and mostly because I had one on one time with my best friend. Priceless.

My husband Ken sitting on porch at Harkey House Bed and Breakfast

Staying at the Harkey House was delightful. We checked in at 4:30PM after spending the day with my friend Kathi at her 60th surprise birthday party in Lincoln California. I brought two cakes that I decorated the night before. There was a chocolate with candied orange, chocolate frosting and whipped cream with raspberries and a yellow cake with whipped cream, fresh strawberries and strawberry jam. My poor husband had to balance the white cake on his lap the entire way to the party. Kathi was surprised and even cried from all the excitement. It was a nice day, but we were happy to sneak in a quick nap at the B&B before going to dinner.

My friend Kathi’s 60th surprise birthday blowing out candles on the cakes I made

There weren’t many choices of places to eat by the time we woke up from our naps. We landed at Sutter Buttes Brewing in Yuba City just 10 minutes from the B&B. Yuba City was once a thriving bustling town. It’s not fancy by any means, but we were pleased with the Harkey House and the pub food and porter beer for dinner.

The weather there was very hot, almost 100 degrees, but we found the restaurant cool and inviting inside. The waitress was friendly and happy to help us and we didn’t feel rushed even though they stopped serving at 9PM.

We slept great at the Harkey House and were welcomed downstairs for an elaborate breakfast at 8:30AM. The owners Lee and Bob have been running the place for forty years. We sat out on the back patio with another younger couple from Santa Cruz who were lovely. It was a relaxing atmosphere and we sat around for at least two hours enjoying each other and eating until we were stuffed. They made us each mini individual herb quiches,tomato salsa, a jalapeno and egg omelet, Canadian bacon, corn souffle, Oregon grape jam with lavender scones, orange juice, watermelon, fresh strawberries and coffee. Lee would come out to check to see if we needed anything and share a story or two. She also gave me a few new suggestions of books to read for my book club. They were Visionary Women by Andrea Barnet, Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher, The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia and What Happened to You, by Bruce Perry,M.D. She let us take a huge Sutter Valley grown white peach home with us and we ate it in the car. What hospitality!

Satisfying breakfast plate served at Harkey House in Yuba City

On the way home we stopped at a fruit stand where I bought a berry jam, strawberry jam, green beans, jalapenos, tomatoes, and lemon cucumbers because I can’t go by one of those places without stopping. 

When I arrived home, I had exactly 30 minutes to bring treats to the chickens and get ready for a day with my niece Marie and sister Sue. The three of us ended up at Murrieta’s Well Winery. We enjoyed their exquisite tasting menu with a few olives, nuts and crackers. This place had live music, a shaded outdoor patio and great service. You are surrounded by rolling hills, oak trees and vineyards.

Reservations were needed at Range Life in Livermore just down a little ways from Murietta’s Well. Luckily my niece Marie knows all the fancy foodie places. It must run in the family. Again we sat on their small outdoor patio under a large oak tree. They had fans and plenty of shade to keep us cool since it was hot and possibly 90 degrees.

My Sister Sue, me and niece Marie at Range Life in Livermore

I’m trying to recall everything we ate. I think the tasting at the previous place might have skewed my memory. We started with the Monterey King Salmon Crudo with blackberries, nardello pepper and cipolla verde, the Melon and Shishito’s, and Caesar salad with gem lettuce and an amazing pangrattato, tiny bread crumbs with parmigiano. This place is Michelin Star rated and I totally see why. Of course we had to try the fritto of cucuzza squash blossoms stuffed with chanterelle aioli. It’s summer in California on a plate. Everything is served family style and it’s a good thing because the Klingeman Ham Chop with polenta, valley corn, cabbage and a nectarine relish was enormous. You just want to order everything. I brought a bottle of wine to help with the cost and it served its purpose. Drink and eat. Drink and eat. That’s my life. I can’t leave out the one serving of 72% Mababu Askinosie Chocolate Sorbet with cacao nibs which could possibly be the best bite of chocolate I’ve ever had. Immediately I’m looking up the bean to bar Missouri based chocolate company and following them on Instagram.Here’s another famous chocolate shop in Portland Oregon.

I’m pretty sure we didn’t need more dessert, but we still went to Lotties Creamery in Danville on the way home. If nothing else, it sobered us up a little before driving home. We each had the vanilla salted almond toffee ice cream on a waffle cone. So delish.

Ham Chop with polenta, cabbage and nectarines from Range Life in Livermore California

Can I just say that this has possibly been the best birthday month I’ve ever had. I believe Covid has made people take more time to be with the people we love. I haven’t stopped celebrating even though it’s already almost August. Next week my younger sister Julie is meeting me at San Damiano Retreat for our traditional “buddy lunch.” It’s our little secret spot up on a hill in Danville. We make eachother lunches and sit in the most peaceful and spiritual place where we chat and get caught up on sister talk. It’s the best.

And my hiking group friends are taking me to lunch at Round Hill in Alamo next week also. I tried to put off being the center of attention and wanted to wait until September when there will be two other birthdays. Why is it that I don’t like birthday attention? I guess I will take a closer look at that.

My best news is that a very close friend is finally home from the hospital after having a serious life saving surgery. I’m overjoyed she is okay and now home with her family to heal.

Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot. Off to the farmers market for fresh fruit and vegetables and to get greens for my chickens.

Thank you Luann and Sandra for the Birthday cake at Bistro Don Giovani
From the right. My niece Marie and her boyfriend Jeff’s sister Rachel sporting our new Smyth Family Farm logo t-shirts

I decided to add this delicious rice recipe that I love to make. I had a surprise visit from my niece and her almost sister-in-law Rachel last weekend. We made tamales, coconut rice, and a gluten free peach crumble. We never took any photos of the food unfortunately, but had tons of fun.

This rice recipe was shared from my neighbor Jen’s best friend. Jen and her husband have a Holiday party every year and their friend Vasuki Narayan

always brought this dish to go with the roasted turkey. I was blown away by the taste and spices that I had to ask for the recipe. You will love it too. You may have to take a quick trip to a specialty Indian store and have them help you find the ingredients. It’s the best rice I’ve ever had. We added it as a topping for the extra spicy chili that I made this week. It went well and cooled down the spices a lot. Why do I always add too much jalapeno grown in my garden to my recipes? Ugh.

  Coconut Rice

(Thengai Saadham)

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. Canola or Grapeseed Oil

1.2 tsp. Mustard seeds

1 tsp. Urad Dal

1 tsp. Channa Dal

1 Tbsp. Broken Cashews

4 green chilies (Thai or serrano)

5-6 Curry Leaves

1 C Shredded Fresh or frozen Coconut (Found at Indian stores)

½ tsp. Kosher Salt

1 tsp. Sugar

2 C. Cooked Rice (Jasmine is nice) Make ahead of time and cool

Directions:

In a heavy pan or wok, heat oil. Add mustard seeds.

When the seeds pop, add urad dal.channa dal, and cashews. Lightly fry until the cashews are golden brown.

Add green chilies and curry leaves. (I substituted red dried chilies and bay leaves). Fry lightly until the curry leaves are crisp, less than 1 minute.

Add grated coconut, salt, sugar and fry for 1 minute.

Fold in cooked rice slowly and mix thoroughly.

Remove from heat and serve immediately.

This is the chili dish with added cheese and blueberry corn muffins. The next time we ate the chili, I added the leftover coconut rice. It was divine.
 

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