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Category Archives: Education

Forks and Corks at Chez Panisse and Strawberry Pie Recipe

Forks and Corks at Chez Panisse and Strawberry Pie Recipe
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Me and my son Andrew at Chez Panisse in Berkeley

Had the best lunch today with my son Andrew in Berkeley. We ate at the #ChezPanisse Café, Alice Waters’ farm to table restaurant, open since 1980. It’s commonly referred as one of the best restaurants in the country. We visited The Local Butcher Shop which is where many of local chefs like Alice purchase their protein. Then we went to see the inspiring organic and sustainable Edible Schoolyard garden located at King Middle School a few blocks from the famous Chez Panisse Restaurant. At the end of this post you will find my strawberry pie recipe if you hang around long enough.

I was fortunate that my son had time to have a leisurely lunch with me. I decided to treat us both and give him (and me) the 5 star dining experience. Sometimes it’s nice to have one on one time to really appreciate your loved one. Andrew appreciates good healthy food more than most and today’s lunch was exceptional.

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Spring Flowers to brighten your day from my garden

I had been to Chez Panisse twice before when celebrating special occasions. The first visit was a dinner with my Mom Diane and my Step Dad Tom. They took my husband and I out for my birthday. The second time, I spoiled my friend Marie for her birthday and took her there for lunch. The attention to detail on every level is top notch. I’m speaking about the professional staff who greet you at the top of the stairs and graciously seat you. Of course, it’s best to have a reservation since it is very popular. Andrew and I were fortunate enough to get a table calling the day before. The atmosphere was delightful, people imbibing in a glass of wine (in my case) or beer (for Andrew) to go along with lunch to enhance the experience. Because you never feel pressured to eat quickly here and why not relax a little?

 

The menu is packed with seasonal fresh produce from local farms, fruit from orchards, ranches and the best fisheries that practice principles of sustainability. Chef Nathan Alderson is the Cafe’s culinary artist. Here is the menu we were presented when perfectly seated.

 

It’s actually a dream of mine to work at Chez Panisse. Still recovering from toe surgery, so I’m taking it easy these days. Easter is coming up and everyone is asking if I will host again. I’m not feeling 100% and I’m of the opinion that it’s okay to let others carry the burden of the holiday party once in a while. After all, I’ve been entertaining ever since Ken and I got married almost 30 years ago.

 

My Mother hosted Easter when the weather was good. For several years she had chickens and a bunny which the grandkids loved. And she has a picture perfect garden with a pond, big trees and a nice brick patio. But my mom hasn’t been well for about 5 or 6 years now and it’s not an option. I don’t like feeling pressured to host even though I love to cook and bake. I’m ready for the younger generation to step up and “take the reigns.’ After all, they have the young ones who like to hunt for eggs and like waiting for the Easter bunny. Luckily, my brother Rick and his wife Aly graciously offered to have Easter at their home. Hopefully, we can all be together this year.

 

So, enough of my ranting. Chez Panisse is a great Berkeley destination if you like good food. We were greeted at the top of the stairs with a beautiful flower arrangement with ranunculus, jasmine, and quince branches with gorgeous pink blossoms.

 

The lunch menu was full of seasonal vegetables like fennel, cauliflower, beets, carrots, parsnips and garden lettuces. We started with their fennel and citrus salad,  plate of rosemary olives, Spanish anchovies and parsnip-carrot soup with crème’ fraiche and chives. Delish.

 

Then I ordered the halibut with snap peas, spinach and Meyer lemon beurre blanc, and Andrew ordered the pork loin. After a bit, the waiter explained that they needed to substitute the pork with a roasted chicken breast, which was served with  roasted asparagus and shoestring potatoes. Andrew absolutely loved it. He said he could cry after taking the first bite. He said it was his second best meal of his life, the first being in Europe.

 

Later, the waiter brought us the coconut panna cotta with tangerine-passion fruit coulis and a cardamom cake with blood orange caramel and Chantilly cream on the house. Our generous waiter also gave me Mary Jo’s email who is the pastry chef at Chez Panisse. Of course I tried to look her up on Instagram immediately to follow her. And I will definitely be reaching out to her to see if she needs an assistant.

 

 

With full satisfied bellies, we walked into The Local Butcher shop and bought a pork chop so my son could finally get the pork he was looking forward to. This place had everything you could think of from chicken, sausages, deli meats, bacon, smoked ham hocks, hot dogs, pates, duck, turkey, rabbit, quail, varieties of lard, stocks and bone broth.

 

This butcher shop focuses on providing local proteins: Such as Wolfe Ranch in Vacaville, Devils Gulch in Marin County, Paine Farm in Sonoma, Farmer Joy in Petaluma, Tomales Bay Pastures in Marshall and many more. They offer sausage making classes, a poultry butcher class, a stock making class, duck confit classes and much more. I would check out their website for more information on dates and classes.

Next, Andrew and I we on to the Edible Schoolyard at King Middle School which I’ve heard so much about, a few blocks from Chez Panisse. Kids learn about gardening, cooking, composting, edible education programs, and the program is committed to forging a just, sustainable food system. We saw rows of organic kale, arugula, leeks, borage and much more.

 

 

“To spend time in an Edible Schoolyard is to realize how much more is going on here than teaching kids how to garden or cook. Kids begin to learn about food in all its dimensions – as an edible medium of culture, science, ecology, and even social justice. The Edible Schoolyard is an eloquent and practical answer to some of the most pressing questions facing us as a society.”

MICHAEL POLLAN Journalist and Author

Here the children learn about fungi, bacteria, and how food scraps become rich organic compost in six weeks. Andrew and I saw cuttings of fruit trees that had been grafted and placed into pots. Last year, I took a class last year on grafting trees and learned a lot. Unfortunately, my apple tree didn’t survive, but plenty of Alice Waters’ students trees were thriving. There was even a greenhouse with new plantings that the students grew from seeds.

 

I was impressed by the curriculum of pressing cider, learning about global warming, making kale pesto, the study of bees and pollinators, and the process of orienting kids into a kitchen and what happens there.

 

We even came across a friendly neighborhood cat who looked content supervising our visit. It was even more exciting to walk by a plant share kiosk in front of someone’s house. People leave extra plants that they don’t need and share them. I could place one of these stations in front of my house since I have many plants that reseed everywhere. They call it the “give and take garden” and I’m in love with the concept. After all, I started out gardening when my friends gave me cuttings of perennials from their gardens.

 

Overall, it was a fabulous day spending time with my son and exploring Berkeley. We loved Chez Panisse, The Local Butcher Shop, and The Edible Schoolyard. I hope you and your loved ones are getting out and trying something new. It’s exciting to be inspired by what’s going on in the community.

 

Are you inspired to cook when you see fresh produce at your market? What dish are you looking forward to making this Easter? I saw an adorable cake on Instagram by TheTipsyCakery that I could try making with my four year old niece Josie.

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Isn’t this the cutest cake by thetipsycakery? Found on Instagram

Please subscribe to my blog to get the latest posts. And thank you for reading. It means a lot. Happy Easter!

Here’s my recipe for Strawberry Pie

 

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My Autistic Super Hero and a Crunchy Granola Recipe

My Autistic Super Hero and a Crunchy Granola Recipe
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Ken and Andrew at Speaker Meeting for the Serra Center

Today I’m inspired to write about our families struggles with #Autism. Last week, my husband Ken and son Andrew spoke at the City of Fremont’s Youth and Family Services Bldg to support the Serra Center a non profit located in Union City. Ken’s cousin Leslie Mc Gary asked if they would speak to the community to bring #AutismAwareness since March is #IntellectualDisabilityMonth.

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Curtis and Andrew sitting together during special night out at Mua Restaurant celebrating Curtis’ 34th birthday

Let me start by saying that both my boys Curtis and Andrew are my everything. I’m very proud of the men they have become. This blog is about Andrew’s disability even though Curtis struggles with ADHD. They are both remarkable and have achieved a lot.

Andrew is particular has achieved unbelieveable feats in his 26 years and he’s like my super hero. He is a 4th degree Master of Taekwondo and currently teaches part time. He’s an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America which says a lot about his leadership skills. Andrew recently earned a Performing Arts Degree in music from St. Mary’s College in Moraga California, and occasionally sings as a Tenor at Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco.  But there are still struggles that get in his way on a daily basis, even though he has overcome a lot. He accepts himself and who he is and isn’t afraid to share his message about autism. He’s passionate about giving back and educating what he has learned throughout his life.

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Levels of Severity for Autism Spectrum Disorder

 

Here’s a little bit of back history to our story. When Andrew was three and a half he was diagnosed with Autism. At his check up he began swinging his socks in front of his face (called stemming). Dr. Randall Bergen his doctor suggested he might have pervasive development disorder, but because Andrew’s language was good he didn’t think so. Then two weeks later, I began to worry that Andrew had a hearing problem because he didn’t respond to my questions. It was that day that I decided to take him back to Kaiser and have him seen again. Our pediatrician referred us to a neurologist Dr. Candida Brown and to an audiologist. Dr. Brown did a variety of tests and Ken and I had to fill out  questionnaires. Andrew’s hearing was fine. He passed the test with flying colors.

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Levels describing Autism Disorder

 

We learned that Andrew barely fit the criteria for autism, his symptoms were mild and were more similar to Asperger’s but the doctor would give us the autism diagnosis so we could qualify for services. Eventually, we moved to the San Ramon Valley School District since Concord schools didn’t offer the services we needed. Andrew would need speech, since he repeated sayings over and over again (called echolalia). He would need to go to preschool that had teachers that were equipped to deal with kids on the autistic spectrum. At three and a half, he got on a little yellow bus every weekday morning to San Ramon where he attended Twin Creeks Elementary. It was so hard to see my little guy get on a bus and leave his mama. But I knew that Alyse his teacher and also a speech pathologist would help Andrew communicate better, and I got a well deserved break.

 

Andrew also had behavioral therapy services paid through the Regional Center which helped him with potty training and outbursts. You see, he had a difficult time transitioning from one activity to another and would have meltdowns. At four Andrew would go poop in his diaper/pants after walking up the tree in the backyard on the hill. The behaviorist taught him to go poop in the toilet, which helped tremendously. Regional Center also paid for a babysitter so Ken and I could get a night out. We were lucky that Andrew’s grandma Nilda wanted to watch him on Friday night’s and that money that we would have spent on a caregiver went into a special account for Andrew. For this we are eternally grateful because it saved our marriage.

 

Of course there is so much more to this story and you can access that if you want to read Ken’s book that he self published “Andrewtism- a Personal Transformation While Parenting an Autistic Child”. Ken wrote this when Andrew was fourteen, hoping to help other parents raise their kids on the spectrum. Or you could read my previous blog from a few years back.

During the talk last Tuesday Andrew sang Louie Armstrong’s “What a wonderful world” which surprised us all. He described his autism journey and how music influenced him. “He found his voice” he said and even wrote about his journey in his essay when applying to St. Mary’s College. Many of the guests that attended the meeting thanked Andrew and Ken for sharing their story. Ken spoke about how raising a son with autism changed him, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Andrew told stories about the bullies that he encountered, how he was mistakenly left at a swimming pool for hours unattended at the age of 8 by a neighbor, and how he survived his 1st degree black belt testing. He answered questions eloquently trying to stick to the hour allowed for the meeting.

Over the years Andrew has collected Superman memorabilia, I think because it resonates with him. He has Superman posters, coffee mugs (although he only likes hot water), slippers and more. He and his old girlfriend Mary even dressed up like Clark Kent and Lois Lane one Halloween.

Leslie continues to share the thank you emails that she has received from many of the parents who related to and were inspired by our story.

An attendee named Renee commented “I am so intrigued by that young man, and he left me with so much positivity and information to help two of my nephews who also are on the autism spectrum.”

Here’s a YouTube Video of Andrew Smyth of one of Andrew’s vocal performances at St. Mary’s College a few years ago. And here is his singing the Star Spangled Banner at his Taekwondo studio where he works.

Side note: Andrew asked his long time friend Josh who is also afflicted with autism about his thoughts about living with Autism.  Here is what Josh eloquently wrote:

“I guess, if it comes down to it, the most important thing I had to learn when dealing with being on the Spectrum is how to accept that I am still OK as person. I had to learn, and had to become confident, in that fact that I am who I am, and that if anyone should be happy with who I am, it should be myself. Autism (especially high functioning autism) is not a weakness, it is just an aspect of who I am. I am the one who decides how people define me, not my diagnosis.”
– Josh Downes

I guess I’m still trying to help Andrew in any way I can. I communicate with buisnesses like SAP on Linked In and Twitter that hire individuals with intellectual disabilities (or abilities) and I’m hoping he will get noticed. Maybe someone out there is interested in hearing us speak again. Ultimately, I know things will work out in the long run for Andrew and our family. Maybe it’s time for him to put on his super hero cape!

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Andrew Smyth and me his Mom after he obtained his 4th Degree Master’s Belt in Taekwondo

Thank you for reading my blog. It means the world to me. Commenting helps Google believe this is an actual legitimate site, so if you feel inclined, I would be ever so grateful.

Here is my recipe for Maple Nut Granola that my niece Keri has been asking for which you won’t want to live without. Serve with your favorite organic yogurt and berries. And if you like coffee, I wrote a blog on Kanen Coffee in Berkeley who so graciously repaired my espresso machine.

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Teri’s Maple Nut Granola: The most delicious granola you’ve ever eaten

Teri’s Maple Nut Granola

Ingredients:

3 Cups Organic Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 C Shredded or Flaked Bakers Coconut

½ C Grapeseed, Canola or Avocado Oil

⅛ C Unprocessed Raw Honey

¼ C Maple Syrup

3 T Light Brown Sugar

1/2 C Raw Pumpkin Seeds (Shelled)

1/4 C Chopped Raw Walnuts

½ C Whole Toasted Almonds

1/2 t Penzey’s Ground Cinnamon

1/2 t Penzey’s Ground Ginger

1/2 t Penzey’s Ground Clovestir

1 t Kosher Salt

 

½ C Dried Cherries

½ C Dried chopped Apricot

1/4 C Dried Cranberries

1/4C Candied Ginger Chopped

1/8 C Chia Seeds

Instructions:

Preheat Oven to 250 degrees and place rack from oven in middle of oven. In a large mixing bowl put everything from the above list in the bowl, except dried fruit. Mix thoroughly.

 

Spread mixture onto two sheet pans lined with parchment paper or silpat baking mats. Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes or more depending on your oven. Remove pans from oven and cool. Mix in dried fruit and chia seeds. Place in airtight container for 1 month or freeze. Makes  9 1/2 Cups

 

 

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