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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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September 30, 2014

Cooking With Local Produce from Safeway

"Buying Local" means different things to different people.  To me, it means anything that is grown in our sunny state of California.  Just recently, Safeway delivered a farm basket full of locally grown fruits and veggies as a gift.  It was like Christmas in September!  

A new survey by Harris Interactive found that only 30% of Americans incorporate local produce in their meals daily.  I'm a Safeway shopper, always have been and I like that Safeway makes it a little easier for us to support our local farmers.

Before I had a chance to bake the pear crisp I had in store for the gorgeous red pears grown at Scotts Valley Ranch in Lakeport, CA, my kids devoured them as an after school snack.  Not to worry, pear crisp recipe coming soon.  

The heirloom tomatoes were so beautiful and very sweet.  I bought some mozzarella, sliced it along with the tomatoes and arranged the slices on a plate as a light and fresh side for dinner one night.

After arranging the slices on a platter, I combined balsamic vinegar and olive oil, sea salt and pepper and drizzled it over the top.  Once drizzled, I dropped some baby basil leaves on top and ground some more fresh pepper over the dish and then drizzled more balsamic and olive oil dressing.

The tomatoes are from Capay Organics out of West Sacramento, CA.

According to Wikipedia, the eggplant fruit is botanically classified as a berry and contains numerous small, soft seeds which are edible, but have a bitter taste because they contain nicotinoid alkaloids (being a relative of tobacco).  Many recipes advise salting, rinsing and draining of the sliced fruit (known as "degorging"), to soften it and to reduce the amount of fat absorbed during cooking, but mainly to remove the bitterness.

Eggplants found at my local Safeway are from Valhalla Produce with the eggplant being grown in Kingsburg, CA.

I cubed the eggplant along with the green bell pepper to add to some cubed chicken for our Moroccan dinner of Spiced Lemon Chicken.

 I cubed the chicken, rolled it in Italian Style breadcrumbs and browned it in a skillet with olive oil.

I then added all the cubed eggplant and peppers and added a Moroccan Lemon Spiced pre-made simmer sauce, which I also found at Safeway and wanted to try.

Fruit, veggies and meat all in one dish. 

 My favorite type of dinner.  Easy and nutritious.

Click here to read about the Safeway Farm Field Trip I experienced last summer, where I met and learned all about the Perry family and their family farm who provides Safeway with the many seedless watermelons and pumpkins throughout the year.

Special thanks to Safeway for providing the basket of local fruits and vegetables and for also providing a $50 gift card to purchase additional ingredients to complete my meals above.  Though fruits and vegetables were provided complimentary, I was not monetarily compensated for this post or any other Safeway related post I've written.  All opinions above are my own.

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September 29, 2014

Happy National Coffee Day! Cafe con Tequila

You may have began your day, like I did, with a Pumpkin Spiced Latte for National Coffee Day and now you can end it with a Café con Tequila to warm your insides.  

What's your favorite coffee drink??

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September 18, 2014

The Very Swanky Kathryn Hall Release Party

Eleven years ago, last Saturday, September 13th, it was a scorching 104 degrees at Dominic's and my outdoor wedding.  Fast forward to 2014, it wasn't quite that hot, but the 90's and we enjoyed every minute of both days.  This past Saturday we happily spent the afternoon of our wedding anniversary at the Kathryn Hall Release Party at Hall Wines in St. Helena.

They certainly know how to throw a party.

From grape stomping... hanging out and sipping wine on these totally swanky inflatable love seats they had placed along the vast lawn area.

With the temperature being so warm, shade was a high priority.

Along with the wine and water, Colorescience powdered sunscreen was passed out to guests to help protect us from the UVA/UVB rays shining down on us.

Small bites were plentiful and these duck bites were a favorite of mine.... absolutely delicious...

We tasted more than a few bites in between sips...these tuna and cucumber rolls paired well with the Kathryn Hall Cab.

Mini pizzas are always a hit with me...

And then some refreshing chilled carrot soup hit the spot......

 ....before retreating to more shade.....

Before we headed out to our next destination we spent a little time in the barrel room within the circa 1895 barn.  Wonderfully refreshing and I SO want to host a party in this gorgeous barn! ....One day.

Thank you for the invitation, Hall Wines, to spend the afternoon sipping, tasting, eating and dancing with you!

Tickets can be purchased at EVENTBRITE for the 2015 party!!

To view some really fun party pics, check out the Hall Wines Flicker album!
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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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