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Category Archives: Herbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here is the Pineapple Pepper Jelly recipe:

 

Ingredients:

4 cups Pineapple finely chopped

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

¼ c serrano peppers (seeded and finely chopped)

1 c white vinegar

5 C granulated sugar (divided)

6 oz (2 packages) Sure Jell

¼ C fresh lime juice

1 T lime zest

¼ c fresh finely chopped fresh ginger

1 T lemon verbena chopped

½ t butter

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Instructions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teri

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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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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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