Life is too short to eat bad food! Sharing great recipes, farm life, stories and photography from our Northern California dairy farm.

September 16, 2014

Sweet and Spicy Fig Jam!

One of my favorite appetizers to serve at any party is the very simple, nutty hard cheese, sliced baguette then topped with a fig compote.  The saltiness of the cheese combined with the sweet/spicy of the fig jam or compote is to die for.  I have never made the fig jam myself, but I think I will now....look how easy this would be!....

Paulding & Company, a full catering kitchen based in San Francisco founded by mother-daughter duo Tracy and Terry Paulding emailed their recipe and images for their Mission Fig Conserve.  Looks delicious and so easy to make!  These little jars would make fabulous homemade gifts as well.

Mission Fig Conserve

Yield: About one quart
▪ 2 lbs. Mission figs, stemmed and coarsely diced
▪ ¾ cup of honey
▪ ½ cup Port (She used a local Merlot Port)
▪ ¼ tsp. of salt or more to taste
▪ 1 small Meyer lemon, seeded and finely diced (skin and flesh), or the zest and juice of a regular lemon
▪ Dash of ground cinnamon-not more than 1/8 tsp, or it will overwhelm the flavors
▪ Dash of Sriracha sauce or your favorite hot sauce

Combine figs with remaining ingredients except hot sauce in a 2-quart pot. Bring to a simmer, and cook until thick, about 15-20 minutes, on medium heat. Stir frequently to be sure the mixture doesn’t stick. The finished product will be thick and syrupy. Test a bit by letting it cool on a spoon. It shouldn’t be runny.

Taste the mixture, and if it needs a bit more lemon juice or salt, add it in, then add the dash of Sriracha sauce at the end. Tracy and Terry use their homemade which is very hot from their home-grown peppers, but commercial should be fine too. 

This is a perfect condiment to give as a gift. If you don’t can the conserve, store it in the refrigerator. It should keep for about a month. There’s not as much sugar in it than in a jam, so it wont last forever.  
Use as a condiment with cheese, duck or paté.

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September 10, 2014

Gluten Free Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce

I love this time of year, the fall...or close enough to it.  All my favorite foods are plentiful and I am totally in the cooking mood.  Spaghetti Squash in a meat sauce is one of my favorites.  I can't get enough.  Lucky for me, one squash feeds a family of four and leaves plenty for lunch the next day.

Normally I make my meat sauce from scratch {like in the above photo}, but I cheated this time with Classico Italian Sausage pasta sauce and it was super good.  I will use that sauce again for a quickie.  You can use any of your favorite sauces to accommodate your gluten free diet, if you wish.

The thing about spaghetti squash is they are really difficult to slice through without almost stabbing yourself with the knife.  You may want to microwave the squash before slicing in half length-wise for about 10 minutes to soften it up to make life easier, and safer.

Once it's cut in half, scoop out the seeds and place both halves face down in a baking dish and add 3/4 cup of water to the dish.  Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Once it's baked and cool enough to handle, use a fork and begin raking the inside.  It shreds very easily...this is my favorite part, it's fun!  Kids like this part as well.

Once the squash is completely shredded, add it to the pasta sauce and I add quite a bit of shredded Parmesan cheese as well.  Oh so good!

Easy.  Healthy.  Delicious.

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September 4, 2014

Fall Garden Activities for Kids

Fall can be such a fun time in the garden and including your kids is these fun and fantastic projects can only put a smile on their sweet faces.  Parents Magazine came up with 15 fabulous ideas and these are my top six.

1.  Frame Your Fall
Framed Leaves

Photo credit:  Parents Magazine
Gather a few fall leaves from your garden and turn them into works of art. Press your leaves between a glass frame, and display them on your mantle all year 'round.

2.  Fall Preserves
Wax Leaves

Photo credit:  Andy Lyons
Your kids may love collecting leaves in the fall, but they won't last forever. Preserve a few leaves by dipping them into some liquid wax (you can use a melted candle or some melted beeswax). Hang your leaves to dry, and use them for home decorations through the year.

3.  Herbs and Spices
Pumpkin herb planter

Photo credit:  Marty Baldwin
Your mini pumpkins can be more than just decoration - hollow out the inside, fill with soil, and plant some herbs and spices. They'll look great on your windowsill, and they'll make your fall cooking even tastier.

4.  Veg Out!
Vegetable planters

Photo credit: Greg Scheidemann
Plant some fall veggies in mini pots and line them on your windowsill. To remember which pot holds your leeks, radishes, or turnips, stick a fork in each and slip the seed packet card between the prongs.

5.  Birdseed Feeder
 Pumpkin Birdseed Feeder

Photo credit:  Andre Baranowski
Turn your bird bath into a beautiful birdseed feeder by hollowing out a pumpkin and filling it with seeds

6.  Butterfly Feeder
Butterfly Feeder

Photo credit:  Peter Krumhardt
Butterflies can be a beautiful addition to your yard or garden. Fill a jar or tin can with some colorful flowers--the brighter the better because butterflies are attracted to color--and add a little sponge or cotton ball soaked in sugar water. Soon you'll see butterflies flitting all over your garden. Add an artificial butterfly to the can for the full effect!

If you would like to see the remaining 11 fall gardening ideas, click Parents Magazine!
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September 2, 2014

Mason Jar Salads!

Almost anything looks good in a Mason jar and I just LOVE this new book I had the chance to review, Mason Jar Salads and more by Julia Mirabella.  It has 50 layered lunches to grab and go and full of beautiful color photos to give your lunch time a layered update.  Great ideas and here are a couple of my favorites...

Corn and Blueberry Salad

Who knew that corn and blueberries would be so good together? Try this salad and see for yourself! This sweet and tangy combination takes only a little time to put together, and it’s easy to eat on the go. Bring it to work for lunch or to a friend’s picnic as a side dish. If you want to turn it into a green salad, use a quart-size Mason jar and add 2 cups of mixed greens or spinach on top.

Makes 1 serving

2 ears of corn, for about
3⁄4 cup kernels

1 1⁄2 tablespoons Lime Vinaigrette (below)
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

1⁄2 cup cucumber slices (half- or quarter-moons)

1 1⁄2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1⁄2 cup blueberries

1 pint-size Mason jar

Remove the husks and silks from the corn. Pour enough water into a pot to cover the corn and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the corn and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the corn from the water and let cool for a few minutes, then slice off the kernels.

Layer the salad ingredients in the Mason jar, starting with the vinaigrette, then the onion and the cucumber. Finish with layers of corn kernels, cilantro, and blueberries. Seal and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lime Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dash of hot sauce (optional)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk together the lime juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, and hot sauce (if using). Slowly add the olive oil, whisking, until the dressing thickens.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Nothing screams summer like watermelon. When it’s especially hot out, some cool, sweet watermelon will help you get through the afternoon. This salad adds a savory note with cherry tomatoes and feta, perfectly complementing the flavor of the watermelon without diminishing the cooling effect.

Makes 1 serving

2 to 3 tablespoons Sherry Vinaigrette
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

1⁄3 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

2 cups cubed seedless watermelon
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 pint-size Mason jar

Layer the salad ingredients in the Mason jar, starting with the vinaigrette dressing and continuing with the tomatoes, parsley, watermelon, and feta cheese, in that order. Seal the jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Sherry Vinaigrette
2 1⁄2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk together the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking, until the dressing thickens.

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August 25, 2014

Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online

Today is back to school day for many of us!  My kids are not yet teenagers but my almost 10 year old is constantly trying to negotiate time online while at home.   Back to school is always a good time to go over online safety with the kids, no matter the age and especially considering that 60% of teenagers, aged 13-17 years old have at least one online profile.  Receiving an email from Private Giant with some tips to help keep kids safe online has reminded me this would be a good time to talk to the kids about online safety.
Displaying photo.JPG

Here are tips to share with you...

Social Media Security Tips for Parents

1. Don’t allow your children to include any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in their account user names. Even something as simple as a first name and the city you reside in can be enough for a criminal to piece together a bigger picture of your life through your online presence. A photo of a school shirt, friend connections, a comment about weekend plans, can be collected in a process called Doxing and used to build an exact profile of a person. A stranger can easily gain intimate knowledge of your child’s entire life by trolling online profiles that are not properly safeguarded. Another level of protection can be added by having your child create unique user names for each account, never reusing the same log in information between sites.

2. Turn off any geo-tagging features. Allowing social media sites to have knowledge of your children’s location at any time of day can create a dangerous history that stalkers, cybercriminals and child predators can gain access to and exploit.

3. Monitor your children’s monthly download data usage. If you notice a spike in data usage, ask your children what they have been doing online and check for yourself to see what apps, videos or other files have been downloaded. A spike in data usage could indicate the presence of malware.

4. Create a guest account for your children on their computer instead of allowing them to use the computer as an administrator. Setting up the computer this way will give you more control over what your child can access and install.

5. Prepare ahead of time by joining social media. Before you allow your children to create a social media account, take the time to download the app or create an account of your own so you are familiar with how the program works.

6. Stay up to date on social media privacy settings. Privacy settings are constantly changing and if you are not checking them on a regular basis your children could be inadvertently sharing personal information with the world.

7. Check your child’s browser history weekly. If you come across a site that looks suspicious or you are not familiar with, check it out. Also keep a look out for any sites that seem like your child might have been shopping online.

8. Have open communication about the dangers of being online. Explain to your children how being online and freely sharing information or not having the proper safeguards in place could result in your family losing money, home, valuables and safety. Share real life examples with them to help them understand how vulnerable they truly are.

9. Schedule surprise check-ins.  Have your children log in to their accounts so you can browse them freely with them. Every few weeks, collect your children’s devices and have them show you their accounts. Make it an opportunity to get connected with their online social world, and to detect if any of their online actions are inappropriate or potentially dangerous.

10. Only allow your children to communicate with or “friend” people they have met in person. Set a house rule that your children are not allowed to communicate or connect with people online that they have not met face-to-face and enforce it by having them “friend” you on their social media accounts so you can check at will and stay connected to their feeds.

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August 14, 2014

Three Minute Coleslaw Salad

When I find something that's healthy, easy to throw together and very tasty, I eat it every day.  This versatile three minute coleslaw salad is my current addiction.  I buy the pre-shredded cabbage, or coleslaw mix that you can find bagged in the pre packaged salad section of the grocery store, pour on my favorite low-cal poppy seed dressing and mix in some rice wine vinegar for some kick.  That is all!

I've been eating this salad every day for lunch for a week straight.  I can't buy enough packaged coleslaw. I'll even mix in sliced leftover chicken breast from the previous night's dinner just to mix it up a little.

I am obsessed.

And because I can't get enough of it at lunch, I throw this tangy slaw on top of my shredded beef tacos for dinner.  Oh MY!  Heaven.

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August 4, 2014

The Powerhouse Kiwifruit

We're sliding in to my favorite time of year, Autumn.  The harvest of all sorts of favorites is beginning to happen, one being Kiwi fruit, which is available in stores from June through early autumn.  My kids love Kiwi, we just cut them in half and spoon out the vitamin packed, powerhouse fruit with a spoon.  Bryce can eat at least three in one sitting.  So when Zespri Kiwifruit sent me these delicious looking recipes, I wanted to share with you all.

All photos and recipes courtesy Zespri Kiwifruit

Black Rice Salad with Kiwifruit and Cashews

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups cooked and cooled black or brown rice
2 Zespri® SunGold Kiwifruit, peeled and cut up
1 cup quartered strawberries
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup salted cashew pieces

In small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, honey, mustard, salt, pepper and garlic. In large bowl, stir dressing into rice. Stir in remaining ingredients except cashews. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 hours before serving to allow flavors to blend. Stir in cashews just before serving.
6 (3/4-cup) servings
*1 cup uncooked black rice yields 2 1/2 cups cooked rice.
Recipe tip: A serrated peeler works best for peeling kiwifruit.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Start to Finish: 15 minutes.

Baked Brie with Spicy Kiwifruit Compote

1 (13.2 oz) Brie cheese round
2 tablespoons red pepper jelly
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Zespri® Organic Green Kiwifruit, peeled and diced
1 Zespri® SunGold Kiwifruit, peeled and diced
Assorted crackers

Heat oven to 350°F. Unwrap Brie; trim and discard rind from top. Place cheese on ovenproof baking dish or pie plate. Bake 15 minutes or until softened and beginning to melt.
Meanwhile, in microwavable bowl, stir together jelly, mustard and pepper. Fold in diced kiwifruit. Microwave on high power 1 1/2 minutes, stirring halfway through heating, until hot.
Transfer cheese to serving plate, if desired. Top with kiwifruit mixture. Serve with crackers.
16 servings
Recipe tip: A serrated peeler works best for peeling kiwifruit.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Makes: 16 servings

Sungold Kiwifruit - Raspberry Cobbler

1/4 cup butter-canola oil blend
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
4 Zespri® SunGold Kiwifruit, peeled and thickly sliced
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk

Heat butter-canola spread in 9-inch oven-proof skillet or 8-inch square baking dish in oven until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oven; set aside.
Heat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl, stir together sugar and cornstarch. Gently stir kiwifruit and raspberries in to sugar mixture to coat.
In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in buttermilk just until combined. Pour into pan over melted butter without stirring. Spoon kiwifruit mixture over batter.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until cobbler is golden brown and bubbly.
8 servings
Recipe tip: A serrated peeler works best for peeling kiwifruit.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Start to Finish: 1 hour

And lastly, I must include a cocktail recipe.  This one helps ring in the change of seasons with the spiced rum and brandy...

Southern Cross Golden Kiwifruit Cocktail

1 Zespri® SunGold Kiwifruit, peeled
1/2 ounce lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 ounce dark or spiced rum
1/2 ounce brandy
1/4 ounce triple sec
Lime wedge
Muddle kiwifruit, lime juice and sugar in cocktail shaker. Add rum, brandy, triple sec and ice. Shake 10 to 15 seconds or until very cold. Strain into old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with lime wedge.
1 serving
Recipe tip: A serrated peeler works best for peeling kiwifruit.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Start to Finish: 5 minutes
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