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2023 Brings Covid, Quarantine, a Salamander to Smyth Family Farm and a Dutch Apple Pie Recipe

2023 Brings Covid, Quarantine, a Salamander to Smyth Family Farm and a Dutch Apple Pie Recipe

I’m sitting in bed writing because I am still in quarantine. I finally tested positive for Covid 19 for the first time in almost three years. I have been feeling crummy. Scratchy throat, fever, night sweats, achy all over, deep horrible sounding cough are all the symptoms I’ve had since Monday last week. I was able to get a prescription of Paxlovid after thoroughly working rigorously through the Kaiser system for two days. In other words, I don’t give up. I don’t like the words, “you don’t meet the criteria.” It’s true. I don’t have any of the comorbidities that qualify a patient for Paxlovid. Yet, I am well read on Sars Covid-19 and listen to podcasts from virologists who “study the science” and know the treatments. I was more eager to take Paxlovid when I heard patients are more likely to NOT get Long Covid if they take Paxlovid. I really don’t want Long Covid.

So as of last night, I have been taking Paxlovid (which works by stopping the virus from replicating in the body and limiting its spread) and I seem to feel better already. My lungs feel less heavy, I am not feverish and definitely feel less achy. I really don’t want my husband to get sick, so he has been spending more time away from me and the house than usual. I’m sleeping like a champ and hope to be better soon so I can get out and about again.

There are side effects that come along with any drug, and Paxlovid is no different. I have had a metallic taste called “dysgeusia” in my mouth since starting the drug. I’ve been sucking on Mentos candies and candy canes to help. Another symptom I’m having occasionally is dysentery, which in itself is never fun. So I’m imagining the Covid leaving my body and that helps. It can increase blood pressure, but I don’t have any issues with that. Anyone who suffers from liver problems shouldn’t take Paxlovid either.

According to the CDC, roughly 6,500 people in United States hospitals have tested positive for Covid-19, more than double the number from one month ago. More than 10,000 people have died from Covid in the last month, which is the highest four week total since the summer. The world Health Organization claims the new Covid variant XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible subvariant yet. It may be more contagious and it is evading immunity more than other omicron variants. I’ve been vaccinated and twice boosted and still got sick. At least the vaccinations can reduce my risk of serious illness, hospitalization or even death.

In other news, California has been experiencing a #BombCyclone #AtmosphericRiver weather pattern the past week and it will continue until mid January. These storms have caused significant impact to travel and infrastructure due to the heavy rain, heavy mountain snow and damaging gusts of high winds. We need the rain, so we aren’t complaining. The rains are filling our reservoirs, thank goodness, yet they have been causing catastrophic flooding, power outages and mudslides. It’s a very good time to be inside reading a book or doing a puzzle.

My chickens seem to be managing the rain, mud and cold weather okay. I keep them busy with frozen corn, whole pumpkins, greens, rice straw and worms from the compost. When it’s a sunny day, I let them roam free in the entire garden to eat bugs and explore. They love it. Only Mary Kate has been laying eggs the past two months. The other three girls are freeloading and holding back this winter. It’s a full time job keeping them safe from predators and I spend plenty of time worrying about them. I haven’t been handling them since I’ve been sick. Goodness knows, I wouldn’t want them to get what I have. In February, it will have been a year since I lost four of them to a bobcat. I’d love to get more, but it’s a huge time commitment, so we will see. I have to resort to buying eggs for the first time in months and the prices have gotten outrageous. 

I’m thankful to my older sister Sue who brought me her famous chicken soup yesterday. My friend Lise blessed us by bringing over two containers of  soup and a fresh pizza to bake. A few other friends and neighbors have offered to drop off food and or pick up groceries for us. It’s been wonderful to have people being thoughtful and stepping up when I’m under the weather. I won’t bother to share where i may have contracted the virus. It doesn’t matter and I don’t like placing blame and shaming anyone either.

I’m not up to sharing any recent excursions, although there have been plenty. I hope to be inspired soon and will send you a recipe or two as well. Here is my recipe for Dutch Apple Crumb Pie. I fell in love with this crumbly topping while having dessert at Esin Restaurant in Danville California. The owner is a pastry chef and makes incredible desserts. This crumble topping is similar to Esin’s crumb topping. I add whole wheat flour and flax meal to add more fiber and make it healthier. The almonds make it crunchy and irresistible. It was my niece Marie who pointed out to me the name of this pie. I had always referred to it as an apple crumble pie. She learned how to make pies from her Italian grandmother Doris since she spent Thanksgiving with her every year in Boston. Here is my take for the best pie ever.

Dutch Apple Pie

Single pie Crust Recipe From my Strawberry Pie Recipe

Apple Pie filling

Ingredients:

6-8 Large Granny Smith Apples (Gravenstein are good also. A combination of 3 different apples works well)

1 large bowl of acidulated water (2 Juiced Lemons in large bowl of water) For keeping apples from turning brown

3/4 C Granulated Sugar Plus 3 T extra for bottom of pie crust

1 t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

¼ C tapioca flour (Can substitute AP flour)

4 T cold Unsalted Butter cut into chunks

Crumb Topping:

 Ingredients:

3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour

¼ C Flax Meal

¼ C Whole Wheat Flour

½ C Oats

1 ½ C Raw Sliced Almonds

½ C Cold Unsalted Butter cut into chunks

1 C Light Brown Sugar

1 t Cinnamon

1 t ground Ginger

1 t Maldon Salt

Instructions:

Preheat the oven 350 degrees.

Prepare pie crust dough, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge while preparing crumb topping.

Using a Cuisinart Robot Coupe Food Processor, place all topping ingredients (except the almonds )inside the bowl and blend until combined. Remove mixture from food processor and place on a parchment covered sheet pan and toss with sliced almonds.  You can use a pastry cutter to blend the dry ingredients into the butter if you don’t have a food processor.

Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes. Take out and stir and place back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes until brown and crumbly. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Crumb Topping used for Dutch Apple Crumb Pie

Change the oven to 400 degrees F.

Take out pie crust dough from the fridge. Roll out pie crust into a circle. Place crust into a 9 inch Emile Henry deep pie dish. I prefer my quiche pie dish that is larger than the glass Pyrex dishes because we like pie leftovers in our house. Crimp the edges and set aside or place back in the fridge to keep cold.

Mix dry ingredients: tapioca flour, ¾ C granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside 

Peel and slice apples and place into the acidulated lemon water until ready to slice. Cut apples into equal size pieces about ¼ inch thick and make sure to remove seeds and stems. 

Toss sliced apples into dry ingredients. Take the pastry out of the fridge and sprinkle the remaining 3 T of sugar on the bottom of the crust. This helps the pastry stay sealed and keeps the crust from being soggy. Add spiced and sugared apples to the sugar coated pie crust. Dot with 4 T of butter pieces. 

Apple Pie ready for crumb topping

Sprinkle baked crumble topping onto apples covering the entire surface. Place pie onto a sheet pan and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour and 15 minutes taking care to cover the pie with foil if the topping is getting too brown. Apple pie mixture should be bubbly before removing from the oven.

Baked Dutch Apple Crumb Pie at Smyth Family Farm

In case you are interested in learning more about viruses check out Vincent Rancaniello on You Tube. I especially like TWIV because the hosts Vincent Rancaniello, Dickson Despommier, Alan Dove, Rich Condit, and Brianne Barker are fun to listen to.

Might be time to get out the Scrabble game again. It’s not as much fun to play by myself, but fun nevertheless.

Ohh! And see what I found at Smyth Family Farm today in the compost pile? It’s a salamander. He was busy keeping all the slugs, mosquito larvae, spiders and worms out of my compost bin. I didn’t put him back there because one of my chickens might eat him. He was safely relocated on his cardboard box home to a damp area next to the peach tree where my old compost pile was.

Happy New Year. Stay warm, dry and enjoy what we have left of winter weather. See you again soon.

Here’s an update on my health after taking Paxlovid. I’m better, but not completely. I still sound like I have a cold and it’s been two weeks since I came down with Covid symptoms. I have a tiny cough, but it’s barely noticeable. I have plenty of energy, but I am sleeping more every night. I’m not sure I can recommend Paxlovid, unless you really think you are sick. The side effects are horrible. I didn’t like feeling nauseous, nor did I like the metallic taste in my mouth. It was gross and I would continue to eat to try to make it taste better. I’m hoping I don’t end up with long covid and that by taking the Paxlovid, it might help my case. I will let you know if I get any worse or if the heaviness in my chest doesn’t go away.

Thanks for reading and go make a pie!

Teri

 

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Camino de Santiago Part Three and a Minestrone Soup Recipe

Camino de Santiago Part Three and a Minestrone Soup Recipe

This is the list Nancy provided for us to prepare for our adventure hiking the Camino in Spain. If you haven’t read part one and two you can find them in these links. I’m writing this blog three years later. I was cleaning out my drafts getting ready to write about my New York trip last week and came across these great photos. All I can say is that traveling with these women Nancy, Beth and Jeanie was easy, care free and drama free. We all got along magically. There wasn’t a conflict of any sort, which I can’t say was the case for the trip to New York. Here are a few more great photos of my time on the Camino. But first a photo of my son Curtis and his dog Hankster. If you read till the end you will hear about all of our pets at the Smyth house.

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My son Curtis with his dog Hankster

Packing  IMG_5415

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A local resting on bench in Arzua Spain. The Camino is something everyone should experience. We walked through towns and cobblestone streets. We saw stray horses, chickens, dogs and cats and even herds of sheep running through the countryside. The food was hit or miss. Most places along the trail had Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish Tortilla made with eggs and potatoes) which is a staple in this part of Spain. Octopus was offered at most of the fancier restaurants, yet I didn’t care for the way they prepared it. Seen below we are sharing a meal at Pazo de Santa Maria Hotel. They had the best food. We were having their butternut squash soup as a first course. I loved their breakfast offerings too with many home made dark breads with oats on top.

By far, my most favorite spot on the Camino de Santiago at Pazo Santa Maria

This is us from the left Marianne, Sharon, Canadian couple, Jeanie, Beth and me having dinner at Pazo Santa Maria with our friends who happened to be just about everywhere we were.

We were so happy to find this gem  Pazo de Santa Maria located in Arzua Spain while walking the Camino de Santiago. Of course Nancy Solomon makes all of our arrangements for travel. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to get to experience these trips with her.

After walking for hours, we entered the property to be greeted by a miniature schnauzer puppy who ran over a duck pond bridge to say hello. I am a huge fan of these dogs since I’ve had this breed of dog three times in my lifetime. The first miniature schnauzer I had was named Shnopsie. Shnopsie ran away on Easter Sunday and ended up getting picked up by another family who drove him up north several hours away. I remember my family, all six of us voting whether to drive up and get our dog, or to get another dog. I was out voted. I cried and cried to the song If from the Best of Bread Album which was very popular. This was the first time I felt a loss and I was maybe 11 years old. The next schnauzer was named Katy-Did. She was a sweet dog, but she had stomach problems and we had to puree her food in a blender. She threw up all over the house and us kids always yelled “I’m not cleaning it!” The last person to say it had to clean up the barf. At the end of Katy-Did’s life, she moved in with me at Diane Nobel’s house because my Mother sold the house on 1515 Grove Way after her divorce was final to my Dad, and moved into a condo in Orinda with my brother. I lived there and rented a room in Diane’s house in Pleasant Hill with my new born son Curtis and worked as a nanny taking care of a boy named Joel. Katy-Did had diabetes and needed shots every morning, so I took care of her until the end of her life.

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My son Curtis in his Mickey Mouse Bed with our cat Woody

My third schnauzer was gifted to me by my husband Ken who bought him a week after we got married in June of 1989. We named him “Coops” after the priest who married us at Queen of All Saints, Father Cooper. He was all black with one white spot on his collar. Coops was a great dog. He made our new family complete. We already had “Woody” our cat for a few years. We got him at an animal shelter for Christmas when we lived in the Northwood Apartments and surprised Curtis who was three at the time. Curtis loved the movie Oliver and would watch it over and over again. He wanted to name him “Catty” but we settled on Woody. Woody was the friendliest cat you ever met. He always wanted to be in your lap. And he was fierce. Once he ran through our family room glass window on Ida Drive when he was chased by my Mother’s Jack Russel Terrier “Corky.” We found him a few blocks away and brought him home. Corky didn’t last long with my mother either. She gave him to a farm in the country where he terrorized those animals as well. Woody lost an eye towards the end of his life, but he was a sweet and loving cat and my kids loved him.

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My husband Ken holding our dog Coops

Since I’m sharing about our pets, I can’t forget to include Baxter who was a cross between Carion Terrier and Daschund. He brought a lot of joy to our lives. Andrew and my niece Jasmine and I went to ARF during the Christmas Holiday break. They gave away free coffee and popcorn and I’m always in the mood for free snacks. We fell in love with Baxter right away. His name in the kennel was “Grand Master Flash” and he was being pursued by the Sparks family in our neighborhood. The rule of adoption is that all members of the family have to be present before they will release the pet. My husband Ken met us after work and we happily came home with our little bundle of fur.

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Me and Baxter

A year before Baxter, we welcomed two kittens Charlie and Charcoal to our home. These animals were found behind the bowling alley in Castro Valley. My sister in law Alyson was a vet tech at a nearby veterinarian hospital and brought them over to us. We only wanted one of them, but couldn’t decide and ended up taking them both. We recently lost Charlie who lived until he was 16 years old. Charcoal died a year before that during Covid.

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Our kittens Charlie and Charcoal

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