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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

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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

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The End of Summer Brings Inspiration in the Kitchen and Sadness in our Hearts

The End of Summer Brings Inspiration in the Kitchen and Sadness in our Hearts

Summer is coming to an end and so is my vegetable garden. I have been picking tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and herbs. It’s also an end of an era,  losing a member of our family. We had a very sad day yesterday saying goodbye to our family pet dog Baxter. Last week while my dog was pacing around my kitchen, I was inspired to make a pineapple pepper jelly so my peppers would not go to waste. Little did I know, our puppy wouldn’t be with us a week later. My heart is breaking writing this post, yet writing is cathartic and expressing myself is healthy. 

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This is my beautiful dog Baxter who lived with our family for twelve years and I will miss him dearly

I will never forget the day twelve years ago when my son Andrew and my niece Jasmine took a day trip to the Tony La Russa”s Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek. It was Christmas break and the kids were off from school, so we were looking for a fun adventure. And back then, they had free coffee and free popcorn to munch on while looking at the animals. Arf was the perfect kind of field trip even if we weren’t looking to adopt a pet.

I remember seeing “Grand Master Flash which is what they called him” Baxter for the first time. He was cute, spunky and full of life. We asked to bring him in the larger room and he bounded around jumping on our laps and making the kids who were 12 and 13 years old at the time giggle. We had no idea we were going to fall in love immediately with this sweet little guy. I had to call my husband at work and make him come right over so we could adopt him, since the rules were that both of us had to sign the consent forms.

The kids were thrilled and couldn’t wait to buy him a leash, dog treats, a kennel and new dog toys. After all, we believed him to be about 4 years old already. Baxter adapted to our home quickly, even getting along with our two, 1 year old cats Charlie and Charcoal. He loved taking walks in the evenings smelling all the neighbors plants and lawns.

In his later years, he had back problems and couldn’t jump off the beds anymore so we bought him poufs and littered the house with them. Most recently, he suffered from doggie dementia and his hearing was compromised. He would yelp at night and we couldn’t tell if he was hurting or just scared, so we started leaving the lights on for him.

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Many days we would barely be able to walk and we would carry him outside to do his business. He even let me hold him in my arms for extended periods of time which was nice. For the past several months he has needed a special diet of seared steak, roasted chicken and cooked ground beef since he wouldn’t eat his dog food. That was fine since he was usually happy having whatever we were eating.

Today, we grieve. Tomorrow is a new day and hopefully my heart will feel less empty as time goes on. Until then, we have our memories.

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Here is the Pineapple Pepper Jelly recipe:

 

Ingredients:

4 cups Pineapple finely chopped

2 cups sweet mini red, yellow and orange peppers finely chopped

¼ c serrano peppers (seeded and finely chopped)

1 c white vinegar

5 C granulated sugar (divided)

6 oz (2 packages) Sure Jell

¼ C fresh lime juice

1 T lime zest

¼ c fresh finely chopped fresh ginger

1 T lemon verbena chopped

½ t butter

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Instructions:

I basically followed the Sure Jell directions for making quick and easy freezer jelly.

1 Prepare containers: rinse and clean jars and lids with boiling water and dry thoroughly by placing upside down on a cooling rack.

2 Prepare Pectin Mixture: gradually add 2 pkgs Sure-Jell and 1 cup sugar to fruit and pepper mixture. Stir in vinegar, lime juice, zest, lemon verbena and ginger.

3 Bring to a rolling boil over med to med high heat.Then add remaining sugar and bring to another boil. When at a high boil, put timer on for 2.5 minutes continuing to stir. Add butter at the end to help avoid foam.

4 Carefully pour jelly into clean sterilized jars. Wipe edges clean with paper towel and seal with warm lids. Let set on counter until cool. Freeze for up to 6 months.

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This jelly is served with cream cheese and crackers for an appetizer. It is also delicious served alongside a cheese platter and crisp baguette toasts. I’ve also made salad dressing with this delicious and beautiful jelly.

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Hope you find the inspiration to make jelly of your own. It’s really a fun project and my friends will benefit from something sweet when I stop by with some of this edible treat. And we grew many of these peppers.

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Pineapple pepper jelly recipe

Thanks for reading this and I hope you will follow my blog for more fun recipes and entertaining blog posts.

And here is my latest Persimmon Bar recipe.

Teri

 

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Have a Little Art, Wine and Plenty of Pastries in Carmel California

Have a Little Art, Wine and Plenty of Pastries in Carmel California
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This is my artist friend Margery and mutual friend Heidi who owns Hippievibetribe.com a bohemian clothing an accessory online store

 My husband and I took  a day trip to Carmel last weekend to see a dear friends’ art show at Anthony “Tony” Vanderploeg’s  Amsterdam. Margery Ammond and I have been friends for many years. She and I met at the neighborhood book club. We spent many hours together pouring over books, as Margery has always been an avid reader. Turns out, Margery is also a fabulous artist.

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Margery Ammon with the owner of the Gallerie Amsterdam Tony Vanderploeg

But that wasn’t a surprise to me. About 15 years ago, my siblings and I purchased a beautiful painting of Margery’s that was a scene from the Senanque abbey near Gordes France. This portrait oil painting has a huge field of lavender flowers with an abbey in the background. Simply exquisite! My Mother keeps the colorful mural over her fireplace, since lavender flowers are her favorite.

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This is Margery’s painting. Such a beautiful piece of art

As you can see Margery’s new pieces are just as gorgeous. This time she paints pictures of butterflies along with gorgeous flowers from her garden. Outstanding work. In the past, she has focused on paintings of vineyards in Napa, and Healdsburg, scenes of Mount Diablo, gorgeous landscapes of Lake Tahoe and also earlier pieces of still lifes of fruit and silver.

I have a huge appreciation for people with these amazing creative skills as I can’t draw a stick figure. But that’s okay, we all have our strengths. Mine happen to be more culinary oriented. And I can’t forget when Margery generously donated her quality pots and pans to me since she bought a new stove which required a whole new set of cookware. So thoughtful of her!

Margery also displays her art in Truckee California at Art Obsessions, in Canada, and in Europe as well. I’m sure you will fall in love with her art like I have. She enjoys painting as a hobby and works very hard on her craft 4 days a week. She loves what she does and it shows. She paints for the joy of seeing vibrant colors on a blank canvas. We met for lunch today to get caught up since she doesn’t attend the book club meetings anymore. She’s too busy painting! Margery‘s smile radiates through the room and she brings joy to everyone around her. How lucky I am to have met her and to have gotten the chance to see her latest art show.  

If you make a trip to Carmel, be sure to check out the Carmel Bakery. Ken and I stumbled into this special place along our walk through the streets in that cute little town. Since my husband and I had to cut our visit short, we grabbed an ice cream cone and few pastries for the car ride home. This bakery was EVERYTHING! I practically bought one everything that I laid my eyes on. The cherry turnover was delish, as well as the raspberry strudel pastry that my husband devoured before I could get a bite. Of course, I had to taste their gingerbread cookie too. A little disappointing actually. Not as gingery as I would have liked plus it was somewhat dry. The hot chocolate didn’t blow me away,  but it was good and chocolatey nonetheless. I bought my hubby the cheesy pretzel since he loves bread and he gobbled it up right away.

You won’t want to miss out on a day trip to Caramel where you can enjoy lots of art galleries (65 total), get in a winery or two, or grab a coffee from the local bakery before heading out of town. It’s a happening place and worth the two hour drive down the coast.We didn’t make time to visit a winery, but walked by Albatross Ridge and I was sooo tempted.If I didn’t need to help with the driving, I would have been all in.

We even took my son’s dog Hank for a walk on the beach.Caramel is a  dog friendly town, it seems everyone has a puppy. Hank was hoping I would drop my ice cream cone, so he could have a lick or two. That wasn’t going to happen because I’m a mocha almond fudge freak. I’m obsessed.And I didn’t even have to share because my husband doesn’t like chocolate! Score. More for me!

Leave me a comment below about your favorite artist, ice cream flavor or recent adventure. I’d love to hear all about it. Get out there and make it a great day!

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Blackberry Turnovers and My Secret Get Away Spot

Blackberry Turnovers and My Secret Get Away Spot

A little known fact about me that most people don’t know is that I write my blog at my gym. I belong to  Club Sport one of the nicest gyms in the Bay Area. It’s located about 20 minutes from my home and I like to come here to decompress. I know. Most people go to their gym so they can work out and get a good sweat on. Not me. I like taking an occasional spin class, yoga class or weight class here, but most of all I like to sneak away from home and write my blog.

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No one interrupts me here. At home, I have to contend with my animals, kids and husband. I’ll be honest, my pets are high maintenance. As soon as I walk in the door, the dog and cats are dying to be fed. We have a doggie door that they use to come in and out of all day long. They have plenty of dry food to eat, but they demand canned food the instant I walk in the door. And it doesn’t stop there. My two cats are 12 years old. They will meow when they want to come in your room even if it is 6 AM. We could leave the bedroom door open, but my 14 year old dog has a doggie dementia and he walks around the house tapping his little paws all over the wood floors and it wakes me up.

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This is why I am sitting in a comfortable chair at my gym near the hotel entrance where I’m not taking up a chair at the bar or cafe. It’s fairly quiet and I’m able to focus on the task at hand, writing my next blog.

 

People ask me why I post pictures of my food and write a blog. I guess at  some point I would like to own a bed and breakfast place. Maybe I will work in a professional kitchen again or teach cooking classes again. I’m not sure what’s in my future. For now, I love to bake and cook and share recipes.

 

Currently and for the past 7 months I have been working as a nanny. The job kind of fell in my lap. I wasn’t looking for an opportunity like this but it came along and I went for it. The baby is super cute and we are buddies. She loves spending time with me and I can’t wait to see her read her my newest children’s book. She’s the best baby, sleeping through the night for many months now and her parents are really cool animators at Pixar. They are wonderful people and I am lucky to share in taking care of their little one.

 

Many mornings last July I would walk the baby and pick wild blackberries from the running trail and make blackberry hand pies. These turnovers were to die for especially warm from the oven.

 

Who knows how long they will need me or if they will have more children. At least I have a job for now and am enjoying every minute I get to spend with the little one. Babies are a ton of fun and this one in particular has my heart. I’m finally able to cook for her some meals which makes me happy.

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Here is my recipe for Blackberry Turnovers.

 

Pastry

3 C. Flour

3 T granulated Sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (1 stick)

¼ C. Shortening

3 Tbsp  H2O

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tsp white distilled vinegar

 

Directions for making Pastry

  1.   In a  large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blended and working quickly to prevent butter from melting into flour, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (or put mixture in food processor and pulse until combined) Another pie recipe here:Strawberry pie
  2.  In a small bowl combine water, egg, and vinegar. Stir to mix. With a fork, mix egg mixture into flour just until dough clumps together and moist enough to pat together. If dough is dry and crumbly, add more water 1 Tbsp at a time. Dough should not be wet or sticky. (I use the food processor and pulse until combined.)
  3.  Wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  4.  Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll with pin to flatten

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Blackberry Filling:

Pick two or three cups of blackberries (or purchase 2 fresh packages/ or buy a package of frozen blackberries and defrost and drain). You can substitute blueberries, apricots or peaches. Use whatever is in season.

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Sprinkle 1/2 C granulated sugar (more if not as sweet), 1/8 C tapicoa flour, ½ t Maldon or Kosher Salt, 1 T lemon zest, and 1/2t nutmeg in a bowl of washed blackberries. Place about 1 t unsalted butter on each pastry before sealing w egg wash  (1 egg whipped in a small bowl. You can add 1 tsp water or milk if you wish. I don’t)

 

After rolling out pastry, cut into large circles or squares. Separate them by placing on parchment paper or tin foil on a baking pan leaving a little room (about an inch) in between. Scoop about ½ C onto each pastry and dot with 1 t butter. Fold over, seal, crimp with your fingers of with a fork before slashing with a knife in two places, brushing with egg wash and sprinkling them with a little turbinado sugar. Pop into a 400 degree preheated oven for about 14 min or until brown and bubbly.

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Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or a cold glass of milk. These are great after school snacks or a quick breakfast on the go. They never make it till breakfast in my house.

Or make a blackberry pie!

Do you have a secret place you like to sneak off to? Leave your comments below and thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I really appreciate my readers who inspire me every day. It means a lot.

Teri:)

 

 

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