Blog Statement

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

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August 29, 2013

Plan Your Meals a Week Ahead

On a normal day, I am sent many, many email requests asking me to share with you all the latest and greatest {fill in the blank} .  Many I pass over, but when I do read something that's intriguing and I think might be helpful, not only in my life, but in yours as well, I like to share.

This morning I opened up an email from Cooking PlanIt, an app / website offering to help busy families with meal planning.  It's free, online.  It gives you everything you need from the grocery list, step by step instructions, to the equipment you'll need to create the dish.  They call it a "GPS for the kitchen" and by the looks of it, it is.

If you're like me, you rotate 8 or so meals throughout the week.  Those 8 meals are my "go-to" meals where I don't have to think about prep time, I have the ingredients on-hand at the house, always, and the family will enjoy it.  It's nice to gather other ideas when possible.  I plan on using Cooking PlanIt to help me out of the cooking rut  I'm in this busy back to school, soccer, fall ball, piano lesson schedule we're in.

Maybe beginning with this, Spaghetti in a Jiffy...

Do you plan your week's meals in advance, or do you just wing it day by day?

Photo credit: Cooking PlanIt.  
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August 27, 2013

10 New Ideas for Back to School Lunches

The back to school lunch menu....fresh ideas are always welcome, right?!  My kids aren't huge fans of sandwiches, so coming up with something healthy and full of protein to give them enough energy to get them through the afternoon is top on my list of things to search for.  Here's what I've come up with after searching online.......

#1 from Food Network.... Lemon Roasted Chicken Salad Wrap.  Full of flavor with chicken, Greek yogurt, cranberries, walnuts, Dijon, water chestnuts, tarragon and red onion.

#2, also from Food Network.... Cold Peanut Soba Noodles with Chicken with soba (buckwheat) noodles, edamame, green onion, cucumber, soy sauce, ginger, and rotisserie chicken, just to name a few of the ingredients.

#3 from Eating Well..... Strawberry Cream Cheese Sandwich.... quick and easy with just a few ingredients, honey included.

#4:  I have one child that's a "dipper", so when I saw this Zesty Bean Dip and Chips from Eating Well I thought it would a huge hit with lots of protein and it only takes 5 minutes to put together!

#5:  Pizza is another favorite in my house.  How pleasing does this look?!....  Pizza Roll-Up Bento Lunch by Eating Well.

#6:  BLT Pasta?!...YES Real Simple

#7:  What kid doesn't enjoy Classic Chicken Soup ?  Thank you for the reminder...Real Simple.

#8:  Place this comfort food in a Thermos and I think my kids would be happy.... Bean and Chicken Sausage Stew by Real Simple.

#9:  Spiced Mini Burgers with Couscous Salad by Real Simple.  Burgers are always a hit in my house.

#10:  Pasta Salad with Salami and Mozzarella also by Real Simple.  Tossed with some chopped spinach and grape tomatoes....mouth watering.

What's YOUR child's fave lunch box specialty??  I'm always looking for new ideas.

All photos by Food Network, Eating Well and Real Simple.
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August 26, 2013

Back on track after some Margarita Madness

Today was our kids' first day of school and I think I pretty much did a drive-by and shoved them out the car door this morning.....this was not my intent, originally, but on our short five minute ride to school, the two of them were at each other and it was then, that very moment, that I realized how ecstatic I was for the 1st day of school to be here.

Clearly, I was not the only one excited for the first day of school.  This is what I found when I opened the door to Paige's room, yesterday afternoon.....

Our summer went quickly and we all had loads of fun, but it feels SO good to get back on track with a regular schedule and routine.  Back to blogging more regularly, soccer practice, fall ball practice, gymnastics, CCD and hopefully some piano lessons filtered in somewhere.

The reason I've been MIA this past week and a half was due to party preparations.  We host a Margarita Madness party here on the ranch, at our house every year and this was the biggest yet.

Hours of prep time, decorating, etc. for this party.

Many friends helped out, thankfully.....stage & lighting set up, new artificial lawn (love), outdoor heat lamps borrowed, so much help....

Party time.....

This year we had the pleasure of having Philadelphia rockers, John Faye and Brittany Rotondo play for us at the party...SO fun!  If you haven't heard their music, it's a must hear, love, love them.......John and Brittany

I think we had almost more kids than adults at this party of 200 and they were diggin' the music as much as the adults, for sure.

After John and Brittany finished up their sets, the kids took over the stage for a rock show of their own....

It's my party and I'll sing if I want to......

And what better way to finish off the weekend but with chocolate birthday cake.....

It's good to be back online, I've missed you all!
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August 14, 2013

A Peek inside at a Safeway Watermelon Grower plus recipe

I had the pleasure of being invited by Safeway to take a field trip to one of the local farmers that provides Safeway with their seedless watermelon supply.  Living on a dairy farm, I never turn down the offer of touring other types of farms if I can help it.  I find it completely interesting to learn about how food, other than milk, is grown or produced.

The bloggers/writers met up at the Marina Safeway in San Francisco where we then loaded onto the shuttle bus and drove the hour and a half to the Tracy, CA Safeway to pick up the other half of the group, including Perry and Sons, the farming family, before driving the short distance to the farm.

On our drive over, we listened to Art Perry, sixty-something year old watermelon farmer, passionately share his family history, about how his grandfather came to this country in 1925 as an immigrant from the Azores Islands, Portugal and settled in Manteca, CA to live, grow their own food and operate a small dairy farm. The family made the transition from dairy producer to watermelon/pumpkin farmer in the early 1960's.

Art, in his senior year at Cal Poly, {he remembered my father-in-law, George, attending Cal Poly the same time}, changed his mind from becoming an Ag teacher...... he "was pulled back to the farm", something within him was drawing him back to the family farm, even though his father, wanting better for his son, encouraged him to choose a different career.

Shortly after Art's decision to come back to the family farm after graduating college, the farm partnered with Safeway, providing the grocery store with its supply of seedless watermelons.  They have been in partnership with Safeway for over 60 years.  Art feels the relationship with Safeway has lasted so long because they have the same beliefs in running a business, "quality and service" and "loyalty".

Upon arriving at one of Perry & Sons leased farmland crops, in Tracy, we learned that they only plants their watermelons on "virgin" land.  Land that has never grown watermelons previously, produces a better, healthier and more plentiful fruit.  Perry & Sons are constantly "hunting" for new land for their watermelon crops.  After a season of growing watermelons, the land can then be planted with other types of crops, such as corn.

Largely depending on climate and heat, a watermelon takes approximately four weeks to grow from the small melon in the photo below to the "ready to eat" stage.

At every stop along the various stages of crops we were shown, there were all sorts of goodies for us to try, all made with watermelon and various Safeway products.  This was my favorite....
Watermelon Black Bean Corn Salsa....

Paul Gnomes, farming partner, showed us how to check if a watermelon is ripe for the picking.  All watermelons are hand picked when harvested, placed on a conveyor belt and will be at Safeway, ready for the consumer within 24 hours.

More goodies.......

Bees play a very important role in mini watermelon production.  A "pollinator" plant is planted at approximately a 3:1 ratio with the fruit bearing plants.  The bees must collect pollen from the pollinator plant and pollinate the fruit bearing plant for it to produce fruit.

This little guy was busy at work....

Perry and Sons also farm pumpkins.  Here Art poses with Steve, the Produce Manager from Safeway in a field of pumpkins..

Dessert time.....

Pumpkin muffin with cream cheese frosting was another favorite of mine...

Towards the end of the farm tour, we had the pleasure of meeting Art's parents, George {94 years old}and Violet Perry.  Together they stand among the four generations of Perry & Sons farm.

Coming from a farm myself, it was not surprising  to hear how passionate Art is about farming and how close his family is to one another.  There's gotta be that passion from within and love of the land to farm seven days a week.

I was pleasantly surprised however, to learn Safeway buys from local produce farmers on a large scale.  I shop many places for the food that feeds my family, but predominately Safeway, and now knowing they buy from local produce farmers as much as they can and having the opportunity to meet one of the farming families, gives me a good feeling about shopping there.

Okay, I don't have the exact increments for the Watermelon recipe, but these were the ingredients and this is what I would do.....

Watermelon Black Bean Corn Salsa

3 cups Chopped watermelon
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can corn, rinsed
1 cup cilantro, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together and enjoy!
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August 8, 2013

The Gravenstein Apple Fair THIS Weekend!

If you missed it last year, this weekend's your chance to check out the Gravenstein Apple Fair held at Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastopol. This is not your typical county fair where animals are competitively shown through 4-H {although there were some 4-H animals there to interact with}, this a sweet little country fair with live music, wine tasting, plenty of food and apple tasting with more of a festival type atmosphere. 

I'm hoping to bring the kids up this weekend, the weather should be perfect!  These pics are from a past Gravenstein Apple Fair, to give you an idea of what it's all about....

First things first, gotta eat your apple a day!

Because after the apple, comes the apple fritter.


This was Paige's first experience with an apple fritter and she's in carb girl...

There were a couple of little rides, one being a mini canoe ride that the kids rode twice.

Back to healthy food.  Bryce wanted a fruit and veggi {and beef} boy....

The fair had two stages that bands played on throughout the day and a couple of demonstration and educational areas where there were cooking demonstrations and farm talks.......none of which I was able to listen to, but that's what happens when you take two active kids to the time to sit and listen.

There were animals to pet.

Angora sheep, thank you for the beautiful sweaters you provide us!

Angora sheep are beautiful.  It was a first for me to see one in person.

This guy kept head butting the mini pony next door......guess he needed some more personal space.

There was also a bee display which the kids and I loved as well.

The secret life of bees!

The kids got a kick out of being so close to bees and not being stung by one.

Then we got to sample some honey.

Our favorite was the raspberry honey.....really good!

We had birds to visit.

And lunch.  Typical fair food was served....garlic fries, gyros, corn dogs, tamales, pizza and of course hot dogs .....and much more.  They also had a wine and brew tasting at the "Sips & Suds" tent, which I did not venture over to......there's always next year.

I love antique tractors and they had quite a display of them.

They also had a ton of antique farm equipment such as this apple tree sprayer.

Every one of them in working order too.  It was really interesting for all of us to see the progression of farm equipment technology over the years.

Make your own rope demonstration.

And as promised, cotton candy to complete our day. 

I told them they could have some if they promised to behave on the 45 minute car ride home.....HA!

I'll let you use your own imagination on how that went.
All in all, I so loved this fair.  All the historical displays, celebrating the Gravenstein apple,  apple desserts, wine tasting, entertainment.....something for every age group.
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