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Category Archives: Gardening

A Whole Lotta Love, Herbs at SHED and Mojitos at Young & Yonder Healdsburg

A Whole Lotta Love, Herbs at SHED and Mojitos at Young & Yonder Healdsburg

Spent last Saturday in the North Bay touring the foodie scene in Healdsburg California. My husband Ken and I had the best day exploring the SHED Market, Costeaux French Bakery, and Young &Yonder Distillery. On the way home we stopped off at The Urban Tree Farm Nursery, Sift Bakery and at Aunt Molly’s house in Cotati.

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If you’ve never been to Healdsburg, then just go. It’s a vibrant town bursting with restaurants, wine tasting, and breweries like Healdsburg Beer Company, and Bear Republic Brewing Company. We settled for a more “spirit”ual day by having cocktails at Young and Yonder Distillery.

But first, we had to spend time at the coolest place around the SHED. This place is a foodie and gardeners dream offering a market, a cafe’, and a community gathering space. Not only do they offer workshops such as the one coming up from Apiarist Michael Thiele on honeybees, or a cheese tasting class by expert Janet Fletcher, but they offer so much more.

I could walk around there for hours reading cookbooks like “The Art of Fermentation”, by Sandor Ellix Katz, “The Baker’s Appendix” by Jessica Reed, “Small-Scale Grain Raising” by Gene Logsdon and numerous others. It would be awesome to grind my own organic flour someday so I don’t have to worry about the current state of toxic farming in the US.

 

The SHED sells beautiful pottery to serve your elegant gourmet dishes on, rose geranium, lavender oatmeal and coffee mint scented soaps that would be the perfect hostess gift. Luckily, I have my apricot jam to gift when we go to dinner at friends’.

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In addition to all these fine goods, Saturday brunch was happening, so we got a few snapshots of their menu items. We would have stayed, but there was so much more to see and do before heading off the tree farm  before it closed. I was impressed with their fresh herbs like lemon balm, purslane, dill, parsley, squash blossoms, sunflower greens, nasturtium, borage, and marigold most of which I grow in my own garden. Here’s a glimpse of my edible flower cocktail class that I taught to my garden club back in May of last year.

 

I could go on for hours about the SHED’S cheese and charcuterie selection, their juice bar, coffee bar, fresh country bread, fresh cut dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, and fragrant roses for all of us to be tempted by. I’m sure I’m leaving out plenty, but make a day of it and check it out for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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Lucky for us, we happened upon Young & Yonder Spirits where I had to sample owners Joshua and Sarah Opatz’ Absinthe Mojito. The absinthe is distilled with non-GMO corn, russian river water, anise seed, star anise, fennel, wormwood, coriander, ginger, lemon peel, tarragon, peppermint, lemongrass and eucalyptus.  They add fresh lime, fresh mint, simple syrup and ice to the absinthe and it was super refreshing. I’m loving serving mojitos to my guests when I entertain these days since I now have mint from the garden and lots of fresh citrus from Costco or if I’m lucky, my son Curtis’ backyard tree.

 

Joshua let me peek around the corner and photograph his dried herb and spice collection at Young and Yonder. He had shelves of glass jars full of botanicals like angelica root, sarsaparilla, dried pluots, cedar berries, dried bing cherries and figs, holy basil, honeysuckle flowers, California poppy seeds, lemon balm, rose hips, calendula and more. This week I’ve listened to a podcast on herbs called Remedy the Secret Science. It’s fascinating getting educated on how herbs can help you with sleep, stress and anxiety, healing your immune system, how to sharpen memory, curing lyme disease, solving cardiovascular disease  and depression and reversing cancer.

 

Many of the herbs that  I listed above were featured in the podcast, so purchasing a couple of bottles of their aromatic spirits was a no brainer. Besides, these herbaceus gins, vodkas, and bourbons would make great gifts.

 

Of course, I had to get a few bakery items at Costeaux Bakery for us to nibble on in the car on the way home. I bought a baguette w ham and cheese, a palmier cookie, and a coconut macaroon for us to share since we didn’t have time to sit down and eat. My husband was excited to purchase two new trees from the Urban Tree Farm in Windsor and we had limited time before they closed.

 

Lastly, we picked up some cupcakes and macaroons at Sift Bake Shop in Cotati before dropping in on Aunt Molly. We learned that Molly had just come home from the hospital after having heart rhythm complications. She  and her son Michael were happy to see us especially because we came bearing a “lemony snicket” a vanilla cake lemon curd filling w lemon buttercream frosting cupcake, and “Ooh la la” the classic red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting cupcake, and a few macarons. Molly shared  stories about Ken’s Mom and Dad’s wedding day and we enjoyed the visit very much. Taking the time to visit our relatives is something my husband and I take pride in. Especially since we lost one of my aunts recently.

 

 

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So if you find yourself looking for something fun to do, and your not too far from the California wine country, go hang out in Healdsburg. We barely scratched the surface and had so much more territory to explore. If you need more proof, check out my last trip to Healdsburg with my niece Michelle. It was a barrel of a good time drinking and eating our way through town.

Since you’ve read till the end, I will treat you with a tour of my Mom’s garden.

If you would like to receive more of my blogs on travel and food please sign up. You will get an email notifying you when I post next. I will also be sharing many of my recipes with you.  Thanks for stopping by.

Teri

 

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Explore the Epicenter of Food and Wine at Cia Copia Napa

Explore the Epicenter of Food and Wine at Cia Copia Napa

I’m always looking for an excuse to take a day trip to the heart of downtown Napa, and yesterday was no exception. Many days I will drive aimlessly through the towns I want to blog about just hoping to find a hidden gem. Finding the Culinary Institute of America at Copia was just that. Today’s blog will be about what they are all about and my experience there.

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The Culinary Institute of America at Copia is a food lovers dream come true. The gorgeous 8000 ft modern campus has cooking classes, wine tasting classes,opportunities to host private events and much more. Classes include introducing you to the many different spices, teaching easy entertaining tips or throwing an upscale cocktail party just to name a few.
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The Store at Copia didn’t disappoint. Shop everything culinary from pairing knives to a wide selection of fancy vinegars. Their selection of cookbooks was outstanding  and I wanted one of each. They also had a cookbook display of the chefs that graduated from the Institute which was very cool. Celebrities like Cat Cora from Iron Chef, Amanda Freitag from Chopped were two of them that I can recall.

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I wanted to try something from their bakery cafe, but needed something more substantial since I skipped lunch. I didn’t sit down at the restaurant, but it looked warm and inviting. To be honest, the grounds were mostly deserted. I was surprised. Their gardens were plentiful consisting of fresh herbs like basil, sage, parsley, which they use in their farm to table dishes.

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They also offer an outdoor Jackson Family Wines Amphitheater in case you need a wedding venue. Or if you prefer, they have a garden balcony that overlooks their lovely Copia gardens. The property was originally developed by Julia Child and Robert Mondavi.Their community conversational events look enticing too, You’ll hear from local chef’s such as Tanya Holland from Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, or Alice Waters from Berkeley’s Chez Panisse.

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But pretty much no one needs a reminder of what Alice is known for. The Edible Schoolyard Project is what Alice’s mission is all about. Her hope is to help every child by having a sustainable national edible curriculum from prekindergarten through high school. An honorable concept.

 

Have you thought of taking a  class at CIA California Campus? Could you see yourself taking a hands on cooking or baking class? Or how about learn how to make jam and jellies? Here’s my blog on how I make my blenheim apricot jam. It’s truly the best served on a cheese platter w marcona almonds, various cheeses and crostini. Also make sure to check out my next blog on the Chuck Williams Exhibit at Cia Copia opening soon.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my write up on my few hours in Napa California. If you want a great foodie experience it should be on your bucket list for sure. I can’t wait to take advantage of the 20% off class coupon that I found at nearby Oxbow Public Market.The cheese making class looks intriguing…

 

Feel free to share this or follow me so you get my future blog posts and recipes. Cheers to your August 2018. Hope you make it special.

 

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It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere in Yountville, [but go early for a foodie day]

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere in Yountville,  [but go early for a foodie day]

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Enjoyed a getaway vacation last week with my girlfriend Cathy. I decided it was time to show her around the Napa Valley. Today’s blog will be all about our adventures wine tasting and eating our way through the vineyards. It truly is my “happy place.”
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What a day it was. Cathy and I started out touring her own vegetable garden in Alamo. I was impressed by her ability to make every space a pleasure to look at. Cathy is an interior decorator by trade. She had her own successful business for many years in the Bay Area. Her and her husband raised their kids in Alamo and we met while our boys were in Junior High at Stone Valley Middle School. And she is a chef and foodie like me, so it is awesome that we’ve stayed in touch over the years.

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Back to the adventure…First we stumbled upon Saintsbury located in the Carneros Valley. We learned that the tasting fee was $35.00 each and would take an hour. We had big plans for the day and couldn’t spare the time, so onward we went.

Around the corner was Etude Winery. They are also a bit on the snobby side trying to charge us for the one person tasting fee even though Cathy was purchasing two bottles of their 2016 Chardonnay. After I explained that I was a food blogger, our pourer graciously took off the $25.00 fee. It was a beautiful day and we were very surprised to see a huge spread of salads, various cheeses, bread, and an enormous meat platter for very hungry Backroads bicyclists. These people come from all over the world to experience what the wine country has to offer. Great fun!


After tasting at Etude (I had a couple of sips cause I was the designated driver), and seeing their glorious wild poppy garden and listening to the swallows nesting in their mud houses, we stopped off at Bistro Don Giovnanni. There we imbibed in glasses of pinot grigio from luna vineyards in Napa, and their Fritto Misto w calamari, rock shrimp, fennel, onions green beans w a spicy aioli. We had a big day planned, so we opted to save our appetite for later. Cathy had never been to this restaurant and she was delighted by our Italian server and their generous hospitality. They even offered us coupons for tastings at the new winery nextdoor!


After our luxurious break, we went on ahead to the cute town of Yountville. After parking in the shade, we walked along the main street where we talked to the women at the information center. They had lots of ideas for us of wineries to drive to, but I was content to show Cathy what Yountville had to offer. First we checked out The Spa at the Estate Villagio Inn where we were offered a tour of the spa. It was fun smelling their lotions and seeing what spa packages they had to offer. We learned they are currently under renovations to upgrade their accommodations.

Next we stepped into the extraordinary JCB Tasting Salon . Jean-Charles Boisset’s tasting experience was over the top. They offered us a Gala Brut Champagne and the No 50 Brut Blanc de Blanc, Burgundy and a $200 bottle of wine tasting since it was already open. Fabulous! We were spoiled rotten by Daniela who also took us on a private tour of the luxury JCB Salon Prive’ located next door. It has an opulence about it that the decorator in Cathy adored.

Onward to Bardessono Hotel and Lucy Restaurant . It’s normally a $50.00 charge to open a bottle of wine from home, but our generous waiter erased that fee and allowed me to bring in a picnic. The wine, cheese, nuts and fruit were just what we needed to relax in the outdoor patio. Cathy was ready for their cosmopolitan cocktail to make a splash and bring on the warm Yountville evening. She liked it so much, she ordered a second!

A walk through the gardens at The French Laundry was our last stop. Here we spotted a few butterflies, artichoke plants, strawberry plants and rows and rows of glorious organic greens. I would love to enjoy a meal there someday since Thomas Keller the owner and Executive chef of tfl is my idol.

 

It was a day to remember for sure, and I can’t wait to experience Napa and St Helena again soon. You should too. Is there a secret get away place you want to tell me about? I want to hear all about it in the comments below. Sign up for my blog by including your email, and I promise to never leave you out of my upcoming food and travel blogs. Here’s my latest on Carmel California.

 

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How we [ate and drank]our way through the Food and Wine Festival in Disneyland

How we [ate and drank]our way through the Food and Wine Festival in Disneyland

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Had a wonderful time vacationing with several family members two weeks ago in Disneyland and Universal Studios in Southern California. The Disney trip is an annual trip that my sister in law Kathleen organizes (there’s 4 nieces, two sister in law’s and my brother in law) and we were all lucky enough to eat, drink and play our way through the California Adventure Food and Wine Festival together. My boys and husband never want to go. I think they are crazy to miss out on all the fun.

Of course I took tons of pics of the food, the kiosks and what they offered and I was able to sneak a photo with Daniella Malfitano who was getting ready for a cooking demonstration. We tried just about everything from Fried Artichoke Carbonara to their Popcorn Lemonade Cocktail made with Agave Silver Tequila. The Mac and Cheese dish was a big hit and I thoroughly enjoyed the Roasted Asparagus Caesar with crunchy buttery croutons.

My niece Jamie was excited to see her College town Chico written up as where the first American Pale Ale was created in 1980. Both of my sisters and another niece Marie also graduated from Chico state so I’m a huge fan. I didn’t know that Sonoma California had the first microbrewery in 1977 made from old dairy tanks. And as of 2018, there are over 900 craft breweries operating in my home town state of California.That’s a lot of BEER. In case you want to see a previous post on the local brewery Calicraft Check out a previous blog.

 

Plenty of Mimosa Flights were enjoyed by my niece’s Laura and Michelle and they especially loved the Pineapple Juice and Chandon Brut Sparkling Wine.We indulged in the cheese from the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company , Vella Cheese Company located in Sonoma, and the FisCALini Cheese Company located in Modesto because who doesn’t love cheese.  In fact, I hope to serve a cheese platter on Easter which is this weekend! Maybe I can pick up a few varieties and serve them with my Blenheim apricot jam, candied walnuts, dried fruit and some garlic and olive oil baked sourdough toast. 

This Festival presented by CA Grown had Beverage Seminars, family friendly demonstrations and programs with Jr Chef competitions daily. There’s truly something for everyone at the Disney California Food and Wine Festival.

We were so excited to learn about the upcoming Pixar Pier featuring an high speed Incredicoaster and a Paint the NIght Parade with characters Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack. I can’t wait. Coming to theaters in June is the latest Incredibles 2. I will definitely be making plans to see that movie.

Well these are just a few of the highlights from my trip. I promise to focus my next blog on our adventures at Universal Studios. I hope you enjoy the fun and entertaining food blog and that I’ve inspired you to bake and cook for your family and friends.

Also- In case you like to garden there is a huge Tomato plant sale coming up in April. Details below.

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And here are the many varieties of tomatoes being offered. Get there early because this is a popular event that you won’t want to miss!

http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/files/279701.pdf

I get my vegetable plants there every year. And here is a previous blog on composting.  Maybe I will see you there!

 

Teri

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin filling

Ingredients:

3 C Cooked pumpkin or butternut squash

½ C Pure Maple Syrup or Agave Syrup

½ C Coconut Milk or use your favorite non dairy milk

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

½ t Cinnamon

½ t Ground Ginger

1/4 t ground Cloves

¼ t ground Nutmeg or freshly grated

½ t Maldon Salt

2 T Arrowroot powder

1 t Agar powder

1 t good quality Vanilla

 

 

Pecan Topping

Ingredients:

2 C Chopped Pecans or Almonds

½ C Light Brown Sugar

1 T Cornstarch or Unbleached Flour

⅛ C Honey

1/2 t Maldon salt

Directions for Making the Topping:

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

 

Pie Crust 

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

Place crust into fridge while making filling.

Directions for Pumpkin Filling:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!  

Teri:)

 

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A Foodies dream: Edible Flowers and Delicious Cocktails

A Foodies dream: Edible Flowers and Delicious Cocktails

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Recently I hosted a garden club meeting at my house. The theme was “cocktails with edible flowers”. This garden club is fairly chill. All of the women live in our neighborhood and have a passion for gardening. We meet monthly and we have garden topics of all kinds: composting, rose pruning, seeds and front yard vegetables, growing citrus, drought tolerant plants, wildflowers, and this month we are learning about Exotic Invasive Pests and Traps. Many of the meetings begin with tours of the garden. It’s fun to see what people are growing and what does well in Northern California.

I can’t remember what inspired me to have a cocktail class. I think i was inspired from being in Hawaii recently and drinking all the fancy drinks with coconut, fresh pineapple and lilikoi (Passion fruit). I had never tasted this delicious puree before and I was excited to try it in a cheesecake recipe. It was refreshing and delicious and not something you eat every day. I learned you can purchase this fruit concentrate at a company named Perfect Purees in Napa https://www.perfectpuree.com/ I’ve put my order in so I can make a lilikoi cheese cake for my son’s graduation party. They have all kinds of flavors like blackberry, key lime, ginger, blood orange and caramelized pineapple. I can’t wait to try them in a sorbet recipe which they have several of on their site.

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For the cocktail class, I had my kitchen set up in different stations. I had a champagne area with a ginger simple syrup and a hibiscus rose syrup. Recipe here: http://www.cookingwithbooks.net/2014/12/rose-hibiscus-cocktail.html

I had a rum, coconut cream, coconut water, and fresh pineapple drink area with the blender and cold ice cubes.

https://www.dominicancooking.com/925-pina-colada-rum-pineapple-and-coconut-cocktail.html

I had a ginger beer section for the beer lovers. I planned on having exact recipes for everyone, but decided to “wing it” and have my computer near by in case we wanted to look up a recipe. Of course my friends could choose which edible flower they wanted to put in their drink. I had skewers, and umbrellas and all sorts of ice cubes frozen with flowers to add flair to their drinks.

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All of these drinks were topped with various edible flowers such as nasturtium, violas, lilac, rose petals, pansy, lavender, dianthus, camelia, sweet pea, borage, violets, strawberry blossoms, carnations, calendula, begonia, daisy, clover, fava, jasmine, citrus blossom, rosemary dandelion and arugula blossoms. The best part was I was able to pick most of these varieties from my garden.

Since I love to bake, I also served a dark chocolate coconut rum cake. It is a family favorite and my go to dessert when I need a chocolate fix. Inspired by my trip to Iceland, I served a homemade licorice ice cream doused with sambuca (an Italian licorice liquor). The ice cream would have also tasted good served with Kahlua.

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Everyone stayed a while and chatted until almost 11PM. It was nice to get to know a few of my neighbors better.  Many learned new cocktail flavors, and can now tell which flowers are edible and can be grown in their own gardens.

Isn’t it time you hosted a cocktail party? Maybe you are excited to grow a new edible plant that you can add to a salad or dress up a white cake. If I can, you can too.

Please write me in the comments below and share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.

Bonus Extra recipe here:

 
 

Simple Tips to Compost in Your Garden and Make the Best Fennel and Goat Cheese Tart for Mother’s Day

Simple Tips to Compost in Your Garden and Make the Best Fennel and Goat Cheese Tart for Mother’s Day

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Today I took a class on composting in the home garden. Luckily for me, The UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/OurGarden/ offer weekly free classes at Our Garden on Wiget Lane and Shadelands Drive in Walnut Creek, California. This place was started in 2009 to grow food for the hungry and also to teach sustainable gardening practices to people like me. I go to learn new techniques on how to grow organically, how to compost efficiently, and to learn the secrets to growing my own vegetables and herbs.

In early April, I bought over 25 varieties of tomatoes, egg plant, tomatillos, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, and herbs like cilantro, dill and tarragon. Last season’s compost was ready to move into my raised planter box and I planted these beautiful plants into the organic soil. It’s being able to go out and pick fresh herbs that makes my dishes come out delicious, I believe.

Composting is nature’s way to turn fruit, vegetable and yard trimmings into a dark, crumbly soil amendment. I’m all for that. I’ve been composting for several years, not really knowing what I’m doing. The class taught me I should be chopping the leaves, fruit peels, greenery, etc into smaller pieces before adding to the pile. Compost is made by the breakdown of organic material primarily microorganisms like bacteria and fungi and macro organisms like worms, insects, and their relatives. The pile heats up because the bacteria decomposes the organic matter.

The compost process requires three components: organic matter, air and water. To begin composting you need brown items that include carbon like dry leaves, egg shells, straw, coffee filters, wood shavings, pine needles, shredded paper, and chopped woody prunings. You also need green items which include nitrogen such as grass clippings, well composted herbivore manures, flowers, coffee grounds, green leaves, tea leaves/bags, sod, and fruit and vegetable waste. Food scraps should be buried in the center of the pile 6-12 inches deep. Roughly 1 volume of greens to 2 volumes of browns are the starting proportions for building a compost pile.

You need a bin made out of chicken wire, welded wire fencing, or one that is purchased at a local garden supply. Geo Bin https://www.amazon.com/Compost-Bin-by-GEOBIN/dp/B0085O6NXQ came highly recommended. The optimal size bin is between 3X3 ft or 5X5X5 ft. The bin requires air holes for good circulation and someone needs to turn the pile daily/weekly to speed the compost process. Water is needed for the pile and should be kept as damp as a wrung out sponge.

I learned that compost piles are hottest in the center and can sometimes reach above 160 degrees. The ideal temperature for the best decomposer bacteria is between 122 and 131 degrees. Turning the pile brings fresh materials (food) to the bacteria and maintains the heat in the pile. Keep the pile watered and the compost should be ready in 6 to 8 weeks if the pile stays hot enough. If it’s not turned or watered enough it could take 3 to 8 months.

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Growing your own vegetables and herbs is very rewarding. Here is a pic of my raised garden in my front yard. There is nothing better than walking our to your organic garden and picking fresh herbs to add to your recipes. I’m inspired to use my composting techniques and build a healthier soil which in turn will grow healthier plants. I hope I’ve inspired you to try it in your back yard garden. You’ll be glad you did. Secrets to getting more vegies into your diet. 

Maybe you will bake this savory fennel and goat cheese tart for your friends and family this Mother’s Day. I made it recently for my garden club and they loved it. Here is the recipe:

 

Fennel, Goat Cheese and Tarragon Tart

 

Pastry Dough Recipe

1 ½ C Unbleached Flour

¾ Stick (6T) cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

¼ t Kosher salt

4 to 5 T Ice Cold H20

 

For Tart Filling

2 large fennel bulbs @ 2 ½ lbs

1 large leek

8 green cardamom pods (or 1 t cardamom spice powder)

¼ C white wine or champagne

¼ C H20

¼ C Olive Oil

1 t Kosher salt

½ t black pepper

2 T unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 large egg yolk

½ C heavy cream

½ C whole milk

¼ C goat cheese

3 Oz (½ C) Taleggio Cheese cut into extra small cubes

1 T chopped fresh Tarragon from the garden

 

Make pastry dough for tart:

 

In a food processor, blend flour, salt and butter until blended. Or use pastry cutter or fingers just until most of  resembles coarse meal. Add cold water and blend until combined. Do not over mix or pastry will be tough.

Gather dough onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and make into a ball and flatten. Cover completely and let it rest in fridge to chill.

 

Directions for filling:

Cut off and discard fennel stalks and fronds. Cut out core and cut up fennel into ¼ in thick slices. Wash and cut leek into ¼ in slices using white parts only. Flatten cardamom pods with side of large heavy knife, then remove black seeds and discard pods. Crush seeds with side of knife and chop finely. Or sprinkle cardamom spice powder onto leeks and fennel in a 12 inch heavy skillet. Add wine, water, butter, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer, covered over moderately low heat stirring occasionally until tender about 20 to 25 min. Cool.

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure rack is in center of oven.

 

Roll out dough into a 15 in round tart pan. I use plastic wrap to  prevent dough from sticking to rolling pin. Trim dough so that it is flush with rim of pan. Lightly prick dough with a fork, then chill for 30 min. Line shell with foil (I spray with Pam first)and fill with dry kidney beans, rice or pie weights.Bake on a large baking sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights and bake 10 -15 min longer or until tart shell is golden brown. Remove from oven.

 

Whisk together eggs, yolk, until foamy and add milk, cream, goat cheese, chopped tarragon, salt and pepper. Transfer fennel and leek mixture into pastry shell spreading evenly, and dot with taleggio cheese. Pour custard into shell and bake until set about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Serves 6-8 people

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about composting and making delicious tarts. Please follow my blog and feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.

Touring and Eating My Way Through Iceland

 

 

 

 

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