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Category Archives: Foodie

Things To Do During Covid19 Crisis and a Chef’s Salad Recipe

Things To Do During Covid19 Crisis and a Chef’s Salad Recipe

Sitting here in my backyard watching my husband take a quick break to have lunch with me is a new reality. It’s nice to have a lunch buddy even if only for a short time. We have been in lock down for 6 or 7 weeks now since the Covid 19 breakout. My husband has been working from home in the spare bedroom taking conference calls from early in the morning until at least 5 or 6 Pm every weekday. I’m sure he has gained a bit of weight since I’m making him healthy lunches and dinners daily. We’ve only ordered out a few times: Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chipotle and Round Table Pizza were the few restaurants we chose to indulge in. 

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My husband Ken and our Kitty while working from home

Normally I would write my blog at the club I belong to so I can focus and not be interrupted. But that luxury has been taken away since the quarantine. Instead I get to look at my beautiful garden, the squirrels that munch on the  birdseed and the scrub jay that snacks on the peanuts I provide. They are constant company and happy little friends who are grateful for my presence and heavy hand with the snacks.

 

The days begin and end in much the same way as before, except I read and watch more news to keep informed on the latest on the virus. I haven’t worn make up much or gotten dressed up since we aren’t going anywhere. I really should do something about that.  We’ve been social distancing by staying home, not entertaining and only going out for walks or bike rides, and an occasional trip to the market. 

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Side view of back yard currently.

I have been spending time weeding, planting seeds and playing tug of war with the gophers. They made their way into my backyard raised bed a few weeks ago and my husband and I had to dig everything up, transplant all of my vegetables into temporary buckets, containers and my front raised bed. As soon as we accomplished this enormous task, the f@%^&*$king gophers got into my front yard raised bed! Now I’m hurrying to save those plants until the bed can be gopher proofed. It’s a huge chore and not easy, but I’ve been making the best of it.

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Raised garden bed in back that has had to be replanted because of gopher damage.

This year I’m growing lettuce, kale, collards, spinach, sweet peas, green beans, parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, onions, tomatoes, Swiss chard, rainbow chard, cucumber, pumpkins and squash. I love walking into my garden and  gathering fresh greens to make salads with.

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Lettuce and kale picked fresh from our home garden

Today I made a chef’s salad with leftover ham from Easter. My husband loves ranch dressing, so I made a fresh batch of that to dress our salad. Here’s the recipe in case you want to have a yummy healthy salad.

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Chefs Salad for two with fresh greens and herbs from the garden

Teri’s Chef’s Salad

 

Ingredients:

¾ head of Lettuce washed then torn to pieces

¼ C fresh organic Kale washed and sliced thin

2 pieces of bacon cooked crispy

2 hard boiled eggs

1 whole tomato seeded and cut up into bite sized pieces

2 slices of cheddar cheese cut into small chunks

2 slices of Monterey Jack cheese cut into small chunks

1 green onion sliced thin

1 T fresh Italian parsley chopped finely

Avocado (If you have one. We didn’t)

 

¼ C sour cream

¼ C mayonnaise

3 T Milk

1 T Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix

 

Instructions:

In a large bowl, tear washed lettuce into bite size pieces. Add thinly sliced washed kale. Add chopped parsley and green onion. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix sour cream, mayonnaise, milk and ranch dip mix. 

Pour dressing into the sides of the bowl around lettuce. Toss with your hands and divide between two pasta size bowls. Add ham, cheeses, sliced avocado, hard boiled eggs cut in half and seasoned with salt and pepper, tomato and a touch more salt and pepper.  Serve immediately. 

I’ve also started sewing again. It seems masks are essential and short of supply, so yesterday I took to making them myself. Here’s the pattern I found on YouTube. My first attempt didn’t turn out all that great since I misjudged the pattern and they came out way too small. It’s okay because I was able to share them with a family that has little ones. My girlfriend Marie is using this pattern

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Pediatric size masks hand made with love for some little ones

I will adapt the pattern and make it larger so these masks will fit adults.

Earth day was three days ago. Late to acknowledge but wanted to give a link to a recent post about cannabis when in Santa Cruz last year.

As you can see I’m keeping busy sewing, gardening and cooking for the ones I love. I’m in total awe of the nurses, doctors and first responders that are sacrificing their own lives to help the sick. I’m grateful for all the I have including my good health and hope everyone stays well.

Thank you for reading my blog and follow me if you aren’t already. Especially grateful for my WordPress family of readers and writers. What have you been doing while staying home? Would love to hear in the comment section below. Stay safe everyone.

 

 

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Don’t Panic, It’s Organic Ginger Chai Cupcakes

Don’t Panic, It’s Organic Ginger Chai Cupcakes

It’s that time of year again for baking. It’s December and you know what people do in December? They bake! I was talking to my friend Marie who also loves to bring holiday cheer to her neighbors every year by bringing them a plate full of treats. I randomly will bring my neighbors cookies and sweets, but not necessarily at Christmas time because I believe they feel pressure to bring me sweets also. I’m kind of picky and really only eat certain cookies and candies this time of year. So, I hate for anything to go to waste, especially since my husband doesn’t eat too many sweets. This is why I had to make my favorite dessert: An organic Ginger Chai Cake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with toasted coconut. This recipe will blow you away and you will crave it every year and not just during the holidays.

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I had a recipe for ginger cake with a dark stout beer and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I know I had it sitting on the counter last week because I wanted to make it. This is why I like to put my special recipes on my blog because I always know where to find them. If your recipes are anything like mine, you don’t want to take the time to look in every folder, and recipe file to find something. This can take forever! In my case I spent the whole morning looking through all of my recipes from Andronicos Cooking classes, Draeger’s Cooking classes and various clippings that I have saved over the years from all the magazines that I have read.

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#Calderas Toasted Coconut Chocolate Porter Beer and Molasses used for Ginger Chai Cake

Instead, I went to the trusty internet and quickly downloaded David Lebovitz’s Ginger cake recipe which he credited Claudia Fleming’s recipe for Stout Gingerbread Cake. I can never follow a recipe exactly. I follow both of them on Instagram and am constantly inspired to bake. I have to be a rule breaker and add or remove ingredients, just because. It’s fun to see how flavors mix and add ingredients that you are fond of. So I omitted the cardamon and added the Chai Tea, Chocolate, Coconut Chocolate Porter Beer, Maldon Salt, Vanilla pod, Cocoa Powder and used a different technique to incorporate the ingredients. I’m boiling the oil, beer, molasses and spices together like my friend’s Gingerbread recipe which I blogged about last year. By boiling the spices with the oil or butter, the flavor is more intense in the recipe. 

 

I’ve recently been inspired by chai flavors. My niece Beverly told me to go to Bouchon Bakery and order their Chai Tea, because she is a HUGE fan. I also love Bouchon Bakery in Yountville and will frequent there if I get the chance. I usually walk out with their Hot Chocolate and a pastry of some sort.  So this recipe is inspired by Beverly, Bouchon and the Caldera Toasted Coconut Chocolate Porter that I purchased from Whole Foods. The guy restocking the beer fridge talked me into this chocolate beer since he thought it would go perfect in my ginger cake. He was right! It turned out delicious and I’m excited to share the recipe with you so you can also have a ginger chai cake recipe anytime you  wish.

 

But first, a shout out to One House Bakery in Benicia where I get to meet a friend for lunch on Friday. This place is incredible. I was there last week after attending a Tea with my hiking friends. I bought a loaf of their sourdough bread and used it to make a stuffing for a baked turkey. Who doesn’t love stuffing? I cut up the loaf in pieces and dried them before adding chicken stock, sauteed onion, celery and garlic along with a lot of fresh parsley and poultry seasoning. So yummy.

 

As I promised, here is the recipe for Ginger Chai Cake.

 

Ginger Chai Cake

Ingredients for Cake:

1 Cup (180ml) Canola Oil (Or Bland tasting oil like Vegetable or Grapeseed)

1 Cup (250ml) Molasses

1 Cup (250ml) Dark Beer (I used Caldera’s Toasted Coconut Chocolate Porter)

½ C (100mg) Granulated Sugar

½ Cup (90g)  Brown Sugar

1.5 Tablespoons ground Ginger

1.5 Tablespoons ground Cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground Cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg

½ teaspoon Maldon Salt

¼ C chopped Candied Ginger or fresh peeled and grated (i make my own by boiling in equal parts sugar and water until soft) Trader Joe’s carries this ingredient.

½ Tablespoon Baking Soda (Added after mixture has come to a boil)

2 Chai Tea bags (I used Mighty Leaf Organic Coconut Assam)

 

3 large whole eggs, room temperature

1 vanilla pod, scraped

 

1 C. Sweetened Coconut. Bake on a sheet pan for 8-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven until brown. (Use to top cupcakes after spreading cream cheese frosting over cooled cupcakes or loaf.)

2 C. (280g) All Purpose Unbleached Flour

1.5 teaspoons Baking Powder

¼ C Dick Taylor’s Bulk Shredded Chocolate (Or your favorite cocoa powder. Chopped Dark chocolate would work as well.)

¼ C additional cocoa powder to coat muffin dish after smothering with butter flavored Crisco or spray with Non Stick Spray

1 T Butter Flavored Crisco to coat muffin pan (or use cupcake liners)

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#GingerChaiCupcakes with Vanilla Pod Cream Cheese Frosting

 

1 recipe Vanilla Pod Cream Cheese Frosting 

 

Instructions for Cake:

 

  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees C). Use a loaf pan lined with parchment paper or sprayed with non stick spray and another baking pan or  cupcake pan with paper baking cups or liners. Makes quite a bit of batter.

 

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat beer, oil, molasses, granulated sugar, brown sugar, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground Cloves, ground nutmeg, salt, and chopped candied ginger until boiling. Take off heat and Steep 2 pouches of Mighty Leaf Organic Coconut Assam Chai Tea for 10 minutes. Remove Tea Bags. Add Baking Soda and stir. Mixture will bubble. Set aside and cool.

 

  1. Measure and mix Flour and Baking Powder in a separate bowl until combined.

 

  1. Crack 3 large eggs into a bowl and add vanilla seeds.

 

  1. When molasses mixture is cool, add it to dry flour mixture with eggs and vanilla and stir until combined. 

 

  1. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, muffin pan, or cupcake liners filling ¾ full. 

 

  1. Bake until toothpick comes out clean about 18-22 minutes. Or for 45 min to an hour if using a loaf pan. Cool. Remove from pan and frost with Vanilla Pod Cream Cheese Frosting.

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Vanilla Pod Cream Cheese Frosting

 

Ingredients:

1.5 C Cream Cheese softened

½ C. Unsalted Butter softened

2 C. Confectioners Sugar

1 Vanilla pod scraped (Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out vanilla seeds) Or use 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 T Heavy Cream

½ teaspoon Maldon Salt

 

Directions for Cream Cheese Frosting:

 

Place softened cream cheese and butter in stand mixer and blend until combined. While Mixer is off add confectioners sugar a little at a time and mix until blended. (you can sift it first, but I never do). Add vanilla, salt and heavy cream until the frosting is a nice consistency. After cake or cupcakes are cool, put frosting in a decorator bag with a large tip and pipe onto cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut for decoration. Option: chop more candied ginger and decorate top of frosted cake or cupcake.

 

Enjoy!

 

If you make the Don’t panic, it’s organic #GingerChaiCake, please leave a comment below and let me know how you like them. Share the recipe with your friends and loved ones. They will love you forever.

 

 

 

 

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Praise the Lard. An Evening With Tamales

Praise the Lard. An Evening With Tamales

Ready to try making home made tamales? In today’s blog I will give you ingredients and instructions for making the best mole sauce for the best tamales you’ve ever tasted. I worked up the courage to make these a few weeks ago for my family. My husband had been traveling, so I knew having a nice home made meal would appeal to him. My mother introduced me to Cardenas the new Mexican specialty store and I was inspired. Here are my recipes for home made tamales with pork and mole sauce.

Mole Sauce for Tamales

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All this Mole goodness made in my blender

Ingredients:

1 Bag Dried Pasilla peppers (about 6) Or whichever dried pepper you prefer

1 Bag Dried Ancho peppers (about 6)

Place these peppers in a dry Le Creuset pot to heat and release oils. Then soak in 2 Cups hot water for 15-30 minutes. Then add to blender with remaining ingredients.

¼ C Sesame seeds

¼ C Almonds

1 Plantain cut into chunks.

Heat these three above ingredients in a pot on the stove until caramelized. Then add to blender.

 

6 Prunes

1 Allspice

2 Cinnamon sticks

¼ C Peanuts

1 Tablespoon White vinegar

1 Tablespoon Dried oregano

½ C Beef broth, veggie broth or chicken broth

½ C brown sugar

4 ounces Mexican chocolate melted in microwave

1.5 C Herette Chocolate Hazelnut Porter or Guinness Beer. 

Add above ingredients to blender.

 

Take 6 tomatillos, 1 white onion, 4 garlic cloves, 

2 whole tomatoes, 1 green ancho chile and roast on a sheet pan for 20 minutes.

Put all ingredients into the blender and puree until smooth. Let mole cook in a Medium size pot on the stove for 1 hour or longer until flavors are combined. Set aside.

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My Mole Negro made from scratch

Tamale filling :

Take pork leg or turkey and cook until done. I seared pork cutlets, then boiled them slowly with fresh chopped herbs oregano, thyme and parsley, a white onion, 1 celery stalk and 1 carrot covered in water until cooked through, about 1.5 hours. Remove from water and cool. Fry in peanut oil until the pork is caramelized. Set aside.

Buy a pre made tamale puree at a Mexican specialty store. I went to Cardenas in Concord California. Make sure it isn’t (pina) pineapple flavor! First big mistake.

Didn’t realize I had made pineapple flavor tamale until I tasted it for breakfast the next day with a couple of scrambled eggs. Just horrible! Too sweet and I had to throw the entire batch in the garbage. What a waste!

Tamale recipe:

2 Cups Manseca or masa harina

1 Cup Chicken or Vegetable Broth

1 teaspoon baking powder

⅔ c  Fat Works Leaf Lard melted

 

Instructions:

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until combined.

 

8 Oz dried corn Husks (soak overnight in warm water)

 

Next, make sure if you make your own tamales, you check the expiration date on the masa. It’s called Maseca and my friend picked some up for me at the store since she had a few things to pick up. After I had made and assembled more tamales,and steamed them, I tasted them. The masa tasted weird. Now I am not a tamale expert, but these had a funky taste to them. After checking the expiration, I realized my friend had gotten an expired bag of Maseca. Sad face.

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Here’s my Masa mixture for my Tamales.

In any case, my first try at this complicated meal ended twice in disaster. I’m not afraid to take the task again head on and make them again. 

If you fail, try again. Right? That is how we learn.

To assemble:

Take the soaked and dried corn husk and lay it on a cutting board or plate. Smear about 1/4 C masa mixture onto the husk which has the wider side on the bottom. Coat fried pork with mole sauce being generous. Take a tablespoon or two and drop onto masa mixture. Roll up carefully, being sure the sides of the masa meet to ensure they cook properly and they stay together while steaming. Fold larger end together and lay in a basket of boiling water making sure the water doesn’t cover the tamales. Fill basket and steam for one hour and 15 minutes on simmer making sure to refill pot of water as needed. Tamales are ready to be served!

Thank you to my Mexican friends Juanita and Silvia for giving me the courage to make these. I will give them a go again in the near future. Until then, go make something new. Give yourself time to research these Oaxacan customs and traditions and make tamales and mole for yourself and your family for the holidays. It is totally work the time and effort when you can present these yummy creations to your loved ones.

 

And thanks for letting me share my stories with you. 

 

Check out more of my previous blogs here. I’m going to make these shortbread cookies next with my apricot jam.

 

 

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Wine Down After Walking the Camino and a Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

Wine Down After Walking the Camino and a Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

Part II of my hike through Spain. Here’s a link to Part I, in case you missed it. 

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Sylvia.Peregrina and me at a cafe in Spain

Where do I begin? Well, I have to give a few shout outs to Silvia Peregrina who I watched from afar for a few days before approaching her. You see she happened to be walking the Camino at the same time as our group. Turns out, she is a tour guide and had a big group with her. My friend Nancy and I noticed her one morning as she walked beside us singing an American tune by Bruce Springsteen with her ear buds on. She wore a cowboy hat and stood out among the others on the trail. She was happy and had a lot of energy. When we finally met, I asked her if I could take a photo of her and write about her. She said I could, and also was very helpful in giving us good places to stop and eat along the way.

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Us at dinner in Portomarin. And Wine!  from left:Jeanne, Marianne, Sharon, Me, Beth(Nancy taking the photo)

 We were excited to find a special bocadillo restaurant that served humongous sandwiches. Sylvia also recommended A Paso De Formiga Restaurant which was all about Ants. We ate at Restaurante O Mirador    on the first night of our hike walking from Sarria to Portomarin. A few of us shared a bottle of Albarino white wine, blistered padron peppers, fish entrees and pizza. I think we were just getting in the groove and relaxing a bit. After all, I basically got off a plane one night and began walking the Camino the very next morning. And we got up EARLY. 

 

It’s hard to really describe what’s it’s like to get up and walk for 6 or 7 hours every day for 6 days straight. There is something about Walking the Camino that you just can’t understand until you do it yourself. We read books, watched movies and read blogs trying to prepare for what this experience would be like. The best part was sharing the many hours chatting with my friends Nancy, Jeanne and Beth and getting to know them better. We had nothing else to do while walking through the Spanish countryside. Of course, the farm animals kept us guessing. We saw herds of sheep running through the streets of Sarria while stopping at a cafe to use the ladies room and grab an espresso. Next thing you know, we would come across a local farmers market getting set up for the day with cages of chickens, bunnies, sausages, bacon, and seasonal vegetables.

 

We were entertained by the roosters who would crow early in the morning to greet us and enjoyed listening to the variety of bird calls. There were many dogs in backyards who would run to the fence to say hello. I was amazed when I saw an older kitten drinking from his mother on the side of the road. He looked about the same size as the momma cat and I wondered about that. It was funny to see a chicken running around near a cat and a dog, like they were just another member of the family. There were herds of cattle grazing on fields of bright green as far as the eye could see. The people were friendly and hospitable to us and it was fun to see the locals, many of them little old men walking to town.  Spain is incredibly beautiful.

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Me and Nancy walking along the Camino de Santiago in Spain

I haven’t mentioned the cathedrals and churches we encountered on our walk, but there were many. I am Catholic, yet I don’t consider myself as devout as most. I’m religious, but don’t consider myself as faithful as some friends of mine. This trip, I was the only person who was interested in going into these beautiful buildings. I would light candles and say prayers for my friends and family that are in need. I’m grateful for my faith that my parents gave me, especially my mother who was raised Catholic. My Dad never fully converted from being Lutheran, but always went to Mass with us when I was young. All that went away when my father stepped out on us and left when I was 14 years old. My Mother never felt accepted because she divorced my dad and the church frowned on that. We grew up going to Catholic School in the 1970’s when divorce wasn’t popular. 

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Different Routes getting to Santiago

 

I digress… I enjoyed seeing these ancient cathedrals. After a long, hard second day, we came upon Iglesia San Tirso that we hoped to get a stamp from (We had books that we stamped to prove we walked the camino), but the doors were locked. As we walked down the stairs a man with a guitar case approached us with keys in his hand. We were so grateful to have made it in time to see this beautiful place in Palais de Rei. I was surprised to find my friend crying as we walked out. I immediately began to cry too, thinking I should be feeling her feelings as well. It was moments like these that made our trip. We looked out for each other. When Nancy needed a band aid for a cut, I always had one. When someone needed Advil to relieve a headache or sore feet, one of us would share our stash. I always had extra food to share in case any one got hungry. It was brief moments like these that helped us women stay strong throughout our journey.

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One of the many older gentlemen we passed by who would be sitting along the road in Spain

I will put this away for now. I’m writing from a Casino in the wine country while my father is sleeping in the room next to me and I’m waiting for my older sister to come to bed. We are making new memories here at Twin Pines as much as I can’t stand these places. Good night and hope to share more stories and pictures very soon.

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Fashionistas at the airport heading to Milan and Bergamo for a bike ride

But first I’d like to share our family recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole which we serve at every holiday. It’s perfectly sweet and oh so good!

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Sweet Potato Casserole. Our families favorite side dish

Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients

3 C.  Roasted or boiled mashed Sweet Potatoes .See article to choose your favorite variety

⅓ C Brown Sugar

⅓ C Skim Milk

2 T Unsalted Butter or Margarine melted (plus more for buttering dish)

1 t Vanilla

½ T Kosher Salt

1 t. Ground Cinnamon

1 t. Ground Ginger

½ t Ground Cloves

 

2 Egg whites whipped in a separate bowl

1 t lemon juice

 

Topping:

⅓ C Packed Brown Sugar

¼ C Unbleached all purpose Flour

2 T Unsalted Butter chilled and cut into pieces

½ C Chopped Pecans

1 t Ground Cinnamon

1 t Ground Ginger

1 t ground Cloves

 

Directions:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Roast 3 large sweet potatoes I like garnet or jewel variety. Or peel and boil them until soft. Cool.

In a stand mixer place cooked cooled sweet potatoes and mix on low. This will help them cool down a bit.  Add Milk, brown sugar, melted butter, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt and mix until combined. 

 

In a separate bowl, whip up egg whites and a teaspoon of lemon to soft peaks. It’s best to have the bowl super clean with no residue of oil residue which would inhibit the eggs from getting to their fullest volume. 

 

Fold egg whites into sweet potato spice mixture until combined. Place mixture into a buttered 13X9 casserole dish. Set aside. This dish will serve 6 -8 people.

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Pictured her unbaked Sweet Potato Casserole. A well loved dish

 

Topping Instructions:

 If you have a Cuisinart Food Processor this step is very easy. Place all topping ingredients brown sugar, flour, chilled butter, chopped pecans and spices into food processor. If you don’t have one, place all topping ingredients except pecans into a medium sized bowl and cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter until topping is well combined and butter is the size of small peas. Add chopped pecans and sprinkle topping over sweet potato mixture.

 

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes until casserole is golden and bubbly. Your house will smell amazing and your family will ask you year after year to make this delightful dish. It is especially good served with roasted turkey or roasted chicken.

Side note: I usually double this recipe and use two 13 X 9 pans because we have about 25 people that come to our holiday parties. And we never mind having left overs if there happens to be any left. I should mention I first learned of this dish through my sister Julie’s sister in law Maryann Weigant who made this special recipe for us many years ago. I added more spices because I love to spice things up!
Thanks again for spending time with me and reading my blog. Feel free to sign up to receive and read more blogs and recipes. Every time I write a new one, it will arrive in your in box for you to enjoy at your convenience.

 

 

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Fanatical about Pecorino in Tuscany and Candied Ginger Biscotti Recipe

Fanatical about Pecorino in Tuscany and Candied Ginger Biscotti Recipe
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Incredible cheese platter served at Podere il Casale in Tuscany

 

I’ve been researching all the cool places my husband and I went to while in Tuscany last month. It’s been fun revisiting these photos and reading my diary of our time in a villa in Castiglione di Fiorentino with Famiglia Buccelletti 

We couldn’t have had a better experience. Weeks before our visit we communicated via email with Renee who perfectly planned excursions along with our travel agent and friend Nancy Solomon with #OrindaTravel. Worth mentioning is Ristorante Da Muzzi where we shared an enormous steak cooked over a fire. My husband also loved his pasta shaped like a snail which was served with a tomato cream sauce. The waiter was a little annoyed when I asked for the bill, but I can ignore those moments after tasting their Brunello di montalcino Castello Banfi 2013. It went perfectly with the medium rare steak which they cut off the big hunk of meat before grilling. Awesome. 

 

Besides our amazing Villa, we were directed to Podere il Casale where we had a tour of their farms meeting the many sheep, donkeys, chickens and pigs. Then they took us on a tour of their dairy and shared how they make their sheep and goat’s milk cheeses, specializing in pecorino. I’ve never tasted a bite of cheese better than this in my life. The pecorino was sweet and salty and chewy and hit the taste buds in your tongue in ways I can’t begin to describe. Just go and experience it for yourself. 

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Here are our new friends Julia and Tanna adoring the gorgeous view at Podere il Casale in Tuscany

We met two adorable young professional women Julia and Tana who had joined us on the farm tour for the day. We ate, drank great wine, laughed and shared stories of our time in Tuscany. This farm was their last stop before heading to the airport and flying home, so they were making the most of this experience. 

 

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eggplant parmesean at Podere il casale in Tuscany

 

We ordered one of everything practically, including the eggplant parmigiana appetizer served on toast with ricotta cheese and anchovies. Delish! And our poor waiter could barely understand our order. Eventually, he brought the cheese platter which he didn’t realize our friends had ordered and that was my favorite. It was presented spectacularly with flowers like lavender and herbs, marmalades and fresh organic honey. This restaurant at Podere il Casale is an experience to remember. I highly recommend it. It’s a must see when traveling to Tuscany. Here is a glimpse of their cheese making process.

 

We had to order all three desserts. They served a goat milk pudding with caramel sauce, an apple cake with ginger and vanilla sauce, and homemade biscotti to die for. Just scrumptious! Here’s my biscotti recipe.

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Here I am with the goats at Podere il Casale in Tuscany

The view is stunning, the setting picturesque and the story of their farm is similar to and reminded me of Apricot Farms on Instagram and “The Biggest Little Farm” Movie. They sell olive oil, wine, cheese, pasta, sugo, pesto and spreads and much much more. You feel like a queen sitting in an outdoor patio drinking wine and relaxing with new friends. Of course, I’ve invited these ladies back to California to stay with us in case they want to go wine tasting in Napa. Since Julia lives in Chicago and Tana lives in Vegas, I’m not sure how soon they will organize a trip. My single son’s Curtis and Andrew can show them around town and we hope they will come.

 

Every day was different because we drove to new towns such as Montalcino, Montepulciano, Siena, and Florence. We ate absolutely everything (the scale doesn’t lie) and walked through piazzas, bottegas (shops), and drank to our hearts content.

 

I’m still learning how to upload movies and photos from Googe Drive. It’s a process writing these blogs. After all , I took over 2000 photos and videos in the two weeks we were in Italy.

Thanks for stopping by and please follow me. I’m honored that so many friends ask me for recommendations on places to stay in Italy, including my doctor at Kaiser Permanente who is going to Tuscany next month. Thank you Dr Young for taking great care of me.

Next time I can share more of our trip, or write about my recent day at Wente Vineyards and restaurant with my niece Marie. We walked through the organic gardens which were chock full of fresh vegetables like green beans, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes. Plus we saw a rattlesnake! It was a sight to see and he wasn’t happy about being put into a large Rubbermaid garbage can to be relocated over the hills in Livermore California. Poor guy.

Enjoy time with loved ones. I’m on my way to my book club which will be held in my friend  Bonnies’ lovely garden patio. It’s truly right out of Sunset Gardens Magazine. Can’t wait. We read Ruth Reichl’s Save me the Plums and I absolutely loved it. Until next time…

 

Teri:)

 

 

 

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From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California and Ricotta Poppyseed Pancakes Recipe

From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California and Ricotta Poppyseed Pancakes Recipe
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Gorgeous grapes at Rubino in Livermore

 

Rounded up a friend last Wednesday to go wine tasting in Livermore. Maggie and I have talked about doing this for over a year and had it planned on the calendar for at least two months. She and I visited Steven Kent, Ruby Hill and Rubino and didn’t leave town until 1PM because I had a previously scheduled lunch date with neighbors.

 I have the nicest neighbors! Cindy, Joan and Nancy treated me to California Pizza Kitchen. It was the perfect lunch. I had half turkey club sandwich and a salad. My girlfriends even brought me gifts! A hand made knit scarf and cute blank stationary cards made by Joan, an adorable house plant from Nancy and pasta making tools and copies of favorite family recipes from Cindy and her Italian mother in law. It was already the best day possible and I have gratitude for these women in my life.

 

Back to the day in Livermore… Maggie and I met over 6 years ago at our neighborhood garden club. Again, how lucky I am to live in this great neighborhood!  You could say we bonded over garden walks, compost and Portlands’ chocolate tastings meeting. She and her husband have also lived in the neighborhood for 20 plus years. She is a red wine lover and wanted to take a day trip with me since she follows me on Instagram and sees the adventures I take.

 

She had called the day before to make appointments, but didn’t have much luck. I explained how I will usually “wing it” and drive around until I find an interesting location or side street that looks inviting. That system works in Napa, St. Helena and Healdsburg, but not so much in Livermore. We learned that they have 55 wineries there, and only 10 are open on Wednesdays. I guess my poor planning bit me in the bum that day, but we made the best of it. After all, how many wines can one taste anyway?

 

Maggie happened to have two free tastings at Steven Kent from a dinner auction item, so we started there. Instead of a flight, I asked for a pour of their 2016 SVS Cabernet Sauvignon from their Casa de Vinas Vineyard. Instead, our attendant would only pour me a little at a time. I thought this was a little strange, but I went along with it. Maggie wasn’t interested in the white varieties and only asked for the red varietals.

 

We learned Steven Kent Mirassou is a sixth generation member of America’s oldest winemaking family. Starting Steven Kent Winery in 1996, he specialized in Bordeaux grapes crafting small lot vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

The tasting room was dark, small and empty except for us and one other couple. We weren’t exactly welcomed with warm open arms either. We didn’t stay long hoping we would find a better experience elsewhere.

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Me and Maggie tasting wine at Ruby Hills Winery in Livermore

 

Maggie had done some research and knew that Ruby Hills Winery was open. Neither of us had tasted there before. I had been to the club years ago when my niece Jasmine and I attended a National Charity League Senior Presents program there. It was a special place, so I was excited to check out their winery. 

 

We weren’t disappointed although our Google Maps took us up over the hill in the middle of nowhere before we realized we were going in the wrong direction. I don’t think the WiFi was working, so we got a little lost. That isn’t an uncommon thing for me, unfortunately. The Ruby Hill building is enormous and grand with many country decorations inside adorning the walls. They sold jewelry, dark chocolate caramels from Something Sweet Chocolates, Rubino Estates Winery Orange Blossom and Wild Thistle Honey and of course wine. They also had a nice deli counter with many types of cheese, hummus, prosciutto, salami crackers and chips. I appreciate this gesture so people can enjoy their wine with food in case they are hungry.

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Hand made dark chocolate caramels with sea salt sold at Ruby Hills Winery

 

We were treated with the utmost care and respect at Rubino and I would highly recommend it. Our sommelier was friendly, helpful and easy going. She allowed Maggie to taste the reds of her choice from both the Estate Flight at $15 per person and the Jewel Flight at $20.00 per person. And she took off the tasting fee since she purchased two bottles of the 2014 Intesa for $34.00. Maggie really knows her wine and spits after she tastes. I tried a splash of just the 2015 Jewel Zinfandel which received 92 points from Wine Enthusiast and that was enough for me. 

 

We read about the Mello Cielo Vineyard Experience for groups which includes a tasting, then two hour tour on their vintage wine bus. Then a visit to Ruby Hill’s modern on-site production facility where one can see the winemaking process from vine to bottle. Our garden club members may take advantage of this opportunity. A few wanted to join us on our Livermore day out, but I only learned about it the day before. The private tour will require a minimum of eight people and a maximum of 14. There are two tours available daily, 11:15AM and 2:15PM and reservations should be made a week in advance. The price is $35.00 for non-members. Club members are only $30.00 and are allowed to bring one guest. Looks like a good time.

 

Mia took care of us at Rubino Estates Winery open since March of 2013, and is conveniently located around the corner from Ruby Hills, open since 2007. Both Wineries are owned by the Callahan’s, the Lloyd’s and the Brown’s.  They call this the Cal-Ital Winery only an hour South of Napa Valley. They feature exciting Italian varietals such as Barbera, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo as well as the classic Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Mia’s family is from Sicily, so we had a nice time chatting about my recent time in Tuscany.

 

Maggie enjoyed Rubino’s wine tasting experience and we agreed to each bring home a bottle so that her tasting was free. I refrained from drinking, since I was the designated driver.

 

Rubino sells cheese at their deli counter with flavors such as Black pepper, Tennessee Whiskey, Basil Asiago, Espresso, Balsamic, Raspberry, Rosemary Olive Oil, and Chipotle that pair with each wine. Fantastic! The tasting room is 8,000 square feet and it’s nestled in between 150 acres of vineyards. Bocce ball courts are open Monday through Friday first come first serve. 

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Maggie and I didn’t take advantage of the food or bocce entertainment this time since we wanted to get back before the Bay Area commute traffic took hold on Highway 680. But we did stop off at a nursery to check out the flowers which seemed appropriate being that we are garden lovers.  I bought a small lemon verbena because the one I had last year died in the frost. It’s a beautiful fragrant leaf and nice in iced tea or lemonade.

My day with Maggie was delightful and adventurous. Maybe next time we will bring the rest of the garden club clan with us to experience the great wines of the Livermore Valley.

Here’s my recipe for Orange Poppyseed Pancakes with Ricotta. It’s perfect for a Sunday Brunch with family and friends.

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Orange poppyseed pancakes with ricotta.

Orange Poppyseed Pancakes with Ricotta

Serves 4 people

Ingredients:

1 C unbleached All PurposeFlour

½ C Almond Flour

¼ C Granulated Sugar

1 t Kosher Salt

1 t baking powder

 

½ C plus 2 T Ricotta Cheese

3 whole eggs separated

1 ½ C Milk 

½ C Heavy Whipping Cream

1 t Rum Extract

1 t Orange Extract

1 T Orange Zest

⅛ C Poppy seeds

Unsalted butter used for skillet

Confectioners sugar for dusting 

Pure maple syrup

 

Directions:

In a blender, place 3 egg yolks (whites to go in a stand mixer), milk, cream, ricotta, extracts. Blend on low until combined. 

In a small bowl mix all purpose flour, almond flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Pour into blender and mix with wet ingredients on low and batter is smooth.

In the stand mixer, using a wire whisk, mix the room temperature egg whites and a tiny pinch of salt until small peaks form. 

Add the whipped egg whites to blender in three increments mixing well, but not for too long.

Using your large nonstick skillet, melt 1 Tablespoon of unsalted butter on medium heat. Pour or ladel about 1/2 C of the batter onto the hot skillet and sprinkle with about ½ t poppy seeds and cook for about 2 minutes or until edges are golden. Flip carefully and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes more until pancake is cooked thoroughly. No one likes a wet on the inside pancake.

I fold mine like a crepe, folding it onto itself twice like an omelette. Eat right away or keep in a low oven in a baking dish. Serve with fresh fruit peaches, strawberries or blueberries or whatever is in season and pure maple syrup. Mine were perfect all by themselves and didn’t need adorning other than a shake of confectioners sugar.

Enjoy!

Thank you for reading and sharing my blog. Hope I’ve inspired you to take get away day and enjoy a glass of wine or two. And here’s a glimpse of what Venice Italy was like.

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The best part of visiting #Venice is riding on a gondola

 

 

 

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Sparkling Wine Summertime Fling in Yountville and Pastries at Bouchon

Sparkling Wine Summertime Fling in Yountville and Pastries at Bouchon
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My Dad Ron, niece Marie, me and Sister Susan at Ad Hoc’s Sunday Brunch

I’m struggling about what to write about since I have loads of ideas and travel, foodie experiences still to share. My husband and I went to Italy 3 weeks ago and I’ve got so many stories, it’s hard to know exactly where to begin.  I will make it easy and write about my experience in Yountville last weekend with my dad Ron, older sister Susan and niece Marie. It had been some time since I had visited my dad at the Veterans home, at least six weeks and I was missing him. My sister organized the day and went along for the fun day at Ad Hoc Restaurant, Domaine Chandon and Bouchon Bakery.

 

We began our journey to the wine country at 10AM last Sunday. We didn’t have reservations anywhere, yet we weren’t too concerned as there are so many great choices when you brunch or dine in #Yountville. It was a hot summer day and my dad can’t tolerate the heat, so we were thankful we found a lunch spot indoors.

 

We had heard about Ad Hoc and Addendum which serves crispy fried chicken on picnic tables out behind Ad Hoc Thomas Keller’s famous restaurant. I’ve eaten at several places in the area, but had never experienced eating at one of the most famous chef’s restaurants in the world. So you can imagine my excitement when the hostess offered us a table outside.

 

After seeing my Dad stumble in, the hostess offered us a table available inside, because my father would not have handled the 85 degree August day well. The hostess had explained to me that the menu was limited and that they offered a brunch tasting menu that was served family style for $40.00 per person. I was excited to eat there and would have agreed to anything. I should also admit that I said I was a food blogger. Maybe that information helped us get a table because the place was packed. 

 

My Dad was giving me the stink eye after reading the menu. You see, his favorite restaurant is Sizzler so he can order steak and lobster. The rest of us family members loathes that food and ambiance since we want the best farm to table experience in Napa Valley, not a tough, hard to chew steak.

 

And not to mention, he doesn’t eat with his teeth! He has dentures and takes them out when dining so he can taste his food. Most of the time we are sitting across from him watching him like a hawk so he doesn’t choke. Poor guy is 81 years old and should be able to eat wherever he wants.

 

So you could see how this brunch tasting menu Spinach Salad, Chorizo Hash and K + M Peruvian Chocolate Tart wasn’t anything to get excited about. We decided to order the fried chicken which was $26.00 extra and only 4 small pieces, but it kept my dad satisfied since he wouldn’t touch the salad or the hash. We also ordered a bottle of Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour, Brut Rose’ from their extensive wine list for $72.00, since ordering four glasses of sparkling wine is more economical and usually equal to that price.

 

The waiter was generous and brought us bread from Bouchon Bakery with olive oil and balsamic vinegar after I asked. The service was top notch, yet the food was blah. I hate to write a bad review of Thomas Keller’s restaurant Ad Hoc, but we weren’t blown away by their overpriced food. My dad hates bell peppers, so the waiter took that into consideration and provided him hash with red bliss potatoes, mushrooms and onion confit. The dish had a tomatillo sauce on the side which probably is why dad ignored all of it. Back when we were growing up, my mother would sneak bell peppers into his meals and that could have contributed to the demise of their marriage. We expected orchard figs in spinach salad, and not one of us got even one1 There was toasted pecans, garden watermelon radishes which came from the gardens across from The French Laundry which thrilled me, and it was tossed with honey vinaigrette. The fried chicken was worth every bite, even though two of the peices were wings. We learned Addendum has limited hours, so be sure to checkout their website if you plans include mouth-watering fried chicken.

 

Don’t get me wrong, we were ecstatic that they could accommodate us and happy to have experienced this fine restaurant. I didn’t get to check out the rest of their menu, but saw that they did offer steak for $60.00. Looking back, we should have ordered Dad the steak, and everyone would have been happy. After all, how can one complain when you are in wine country on a sunny Sunday, summer day?

 

Our waiter spoke highly of the K + M Chocolate Tart with peanut butter mousse and chocolate pearls. It looked pretty, and tasted fine. I’m not a peanut butter lover, so I swiftly scooped off the peanut butter buttercream and dove in with my fork. Dark chocolate is my favorite, so I took a bite, but this tart didn’t meet my expectations. I bet if I had ordered an espresso I would have enjoyed it more.

 

$400.00 later, and much poorer, we took Dad back to his room at the Veteran’s Home. He was ready for his nap yet my sister, niece and I weren’t ready to call it a day. Domaine Chandon was right next door to my Dad’s place, so it seemed the best choice for our next tasting.

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My Sister Susan and her daughter Marie chilling with Domaine Chandon in Yountville California

 

Marie works for Wente Vineyards and was able to score a professional discount on Chandon’s Reserve Pinot Noir Rose’. We spotted great seats on chairs in the lawn area overlooking the mountains in the distance. We sat for hours chatting about the food in Italy and my niece’s pasta making adventure with her relatives near Bologna. We exchanged stories, recipes and good times while sipping on our cold sparkling wine. 

 

Next up was Bouchon Bakery where we bought hot chocolate, French bread, French macarons, chocolate chip cookies and a single currant scone for my breakfast the next day. If you haven’t been there yet, it’s a must see, must taste extravaganza. They sell everything from baguettes to shortbread,  caramel popcorn, or try their chocolate almond toffee. Here’s my recipe for English Toffee. (They also sell French Macarons which I learned how to make yesterday with my neighbor’s daughter Caroline. I will share the recipe some time soon.) We were happy with our loot and were ready to have my sister drive us the hour back to the Bay Area with our goodies.

 

All in all, a good day was had by everyone. Brunching in Yountville with my family has always lifted my mood and filled my heart. I’m lucky to share these experiences with my loved ones and glad we live fairly close. I guess I will have to share more about my Italy trip on my next blog.

 

When was your last brunch date? Have you participated in any Italian cooking classes? Please share in the comment section below and follow along by signing up to recieve my future blogs.

 

Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope I’ve inspired you in some way to step out and take a foodie trip. And here’s proof that I can make focaccia Pizza

Have you ever had last minute company on a warm summer evening? We invited our friends Noelle and her husband Mark to dinner last night. We were planning on going to a local Rolling Stones Concert in Broadway Plaza, but decided to stay close to home instead. Sure enough, our good friends John and Karen tusting texted me asked if they could stop by with a gift for me. I said, “Sure!” I was excited when John and Karen brought me Alice Waters’ cookbook Chez Panisse Vegetables. This was a cherished cook book by John’s “foodie” uncle, but he had since passed and they didn’t have a use for it.

Lucky me. I met Alice many years ago when working a a sous chef at Draeger’s Cooking School in Blackhawk California. She was signing books for “The Art of Simple Food” cook book. I have been to her Berkeley Restaurant Chez Panisse a few times since and am in love with her and her food. I had the best salad of my life while eating there and it was the best organic greens, lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper. That’s it! But it was fabulous.

And not only did we have Noelle and Mark for dinner, but Johnny and Karen decided to join us. They picked our ripe peaches, grilled them and helped assemble the salads. Mark brought the tortellini and we served it with my Bolognese sauce and Parmesean cheese. We also had a bacon, lettuce, cheese and tomato salad with another home made vinaigrette. I probably made too much food, but no one leaves hungry when they come to our house. I served vanilla meringues with vanilla ice cream, passion fruit curd, lemon curd and white chocolate for a light dessert. Sent them all on their way at the end of the night with bags of peaches and left over meringues. The perfect evening.

Here is my recipe for the perfect summer salad dressing.

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#Strawberry Balsamic Summer Salad Dressing

 

Strawberry Balsamic Dressing 

Makes 4 Cups

Ingredients:

⅓ C. White Balsamic Modena Vinegar (Trader Joes) or Champagne Vinegar

2 T. Dijon Mustard (Grey Poupon)

⅔ C. Grape Seed Oil (or a mild flavored oil like canola) plus 1 T divided to cook onions, shallots and garlic.

1 small shallot minced (2 T)

2-3 garlic cloves minced (1-2 T)

White onion minced (2 T)

1 T Raw Honey

2 T Plum Jam (John Tusting’s is the best- but any kind will          do)

1 container of fresh washed and stemmed organic strawberries (about 1 ½ Cups)

2 whole peeled Pink Grapefruit 

¼ C fresh lemon juice

¼ t Paprika

Pinch Sea Salt

½ t Black Pepper

 

Instructions:

In a small pot on medium heat add 1 T grape seed oil, minced garlic, shallot, onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat. Add Raw honey to pot until melted. Cool.

 

In a large blender add vinegar, oil, mustard, hulled strawberries, plum jam, pink grapefruit, lemon juice,  paprika, salt, pepper, cooked garlic, shallots, onions and honey and blend until combined. Refrigerate.

 

This dressing can be used in a variety of salads. 

We used it on top of mixed greens, candied sliced almonds, burrata cheese and grilled organic peaches from our tree. 

 

Enjoy!

 

Teri:)

 

 

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