Saturday, January 21, 2006

Take Time for Tea . . .

When there is need for a respite from our frenzied life, we make time to take tea.

As mentioned in a previous post, The Bungalow is a place to find ease and simplicity. We have become regulars, in that, the Barista, Ashley, acknowledges our entrance with a bright smile and a cheerful “Hi, Guys!” If Ander has not has his fill of coffee with the “morning mob” at the corner market, he will request an Americano tendered by Ashley’s proficient hands. As a creature of habit, I order, Earl Grey, hot. However, if the mood strikes me, I’ll try an exotic and unusual flavor, such as the fragrant Jasmine Pearls or the red blush of the Rooibus, fondly known as “Mother Nature’s Lullaby”.

Recently, there was a table set out with a variety of baked goods sold at 50% off regular price. We indulged a bit and found ourselves partaking in a cookie tasting. Our tasting included the tined set Peanut Butter Cookie, Russian Tea Cake, Mini-Chocolate Chip Cookie (the chips, not the cookie, were mini), Chocolate-White Chocolate Chunk Cookie, White Chocolate-Coconut Macaroon and last, but not least, the standard Sugar Cookie. Don’t worry our Glycemic Index is in check. We only nibbled and saved the remnants for the “girlie-girls”. Besides, being half off usually means they're at least a day old or two.

The following is a portion of an article posted on The Bungalow’s website and shared by the Tea Association of the USA, Inc.

How Tea Works In The Body

Tea contains flavonoids, naturally occurring compounds that are believed to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals, which scientists believe, over time, damage elements in the body, such as genetic material and lipids, and contribute to chronic disease.

Recent research has explored the potential health attributes of tea through studies in humans and animal models, and through in vitro laboratory research. For the most part, studies conducted on Green and Black Tea, which are both from the Camellia Sinensis plant, have yielded similar results. Recent research suggests that tea and tea flavonoids may play important roles in various areas of health and may operate through a number of different mechanisms still being explored. Recent findings include:

The antioxidant properties of tea flavonoids may play a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing lipid oxidation, reducing the instances of heart attacks and stroke and may beneficially impact blood vessel function, an important indicator of cardiovascular health.

Tea flavonoids may lower the risk of certain cancers by inhibiting the oxidative changes in DNA from free radicals and some carcinogens1. Tea may also promote programmed cell death, or apoptosis5, and inhibit the rate of cell division, thereby decreasing the growth of abnormal cells.

Tea-drinking has been associated with oral health and bone health.

Compounds in tea other than flavonoids have been shown to support the human immune system.

Portions of this article courtesy of the Tea Association of the USA, Inc.

Adapted from:

Bungalow Coffee and Tea
540 Larkfield Center
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
T: (707) 546-8223
F: (707) 546-8224

Friday, January 20, 2006

Is My Ship Slowing? Ahem, I mean, Is My Slip Showing? Blog Party#6: Retro Party!

Many thanks to Stephanie of "thehappysorceress" for the invitation and including me in all the fun!

Hors d'Oeuvres:

Blue Cheese - Stuffed Apricots
French Brie - Onion Marmalade Canapés
Pear Vichyssoise


Bellini - The classic Bellini was "invented" at Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy in 1931, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Harris and Orson Welles.

Bloody Mary - hails from Harry's New York Bar in Paris, and was first mixed by "Pete" Petoit. Pete brought it to New York City in the 1930's.
Bloody Mary, Quite Contrary - Non-Alcoholic version of the standard.

Shirley Temple – the classic children's cocktail invented in the late 1930's at Hollywood's Chasen's restaurant for the child star (b.1928).

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Adapted from:
J.J. Schnebel - Wonders

Few people realize that Vichyssoise, the cold potato leek soup with the French name, was invented, not in Paris or Lyons or even in Vichy, France, but in New York City at the beginning of the 20th Century.

It was 1917 and the fashionable Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Madison Avenue at 46th Street was about to open a new roof garden restaurant. The head chef was a Frenchman named Louis Diat (1885-1957). He often made a potato and leek soup from a recipe given him by his mother, Annette Alajoinine Diat, and he was preparing to serve it at a party celebrating the opening of the roof garden. Whether, according to legend, the soup, prepared in advance, wasn't re-heated in time to be served as a first course, or whether the day was warm and Chef-de-Cuisine Diat felt culinarily creative, he added cream to his mother's soup recipe and served it cold, sprinkled with chopped chives. He called it Creme Vichyssoise Glacee, or Chilled Cream Vichyssoise, in honor of the town where he was born.

The original Ritz-Carlton has long since been demolished but Vichyssoise lives on. The proper French pronunciation is "vee shee swahzz" and NOT "vee shee swah" because an "e" after the final "s" signals a "zzz" sound.

Here's an updated twist for your taste.

Pear Vichyssoise

• 1 large onion, peeled and diced
• 4 medium to large potatoes, peeled and diced
• 6 large leeks, whites only, washed well and sliced
• 2 medium ripe pears, peeled and diced
• 1 1/2 pint chicken or vegetable stock
• 1 cup milk or half & half
• 1 tablespoon of oil
• Salt and pepper to taste
Snips of Chive for garnish

1 Sweat the chopped onion over gentle heat in the oil until glazed.
2 Add leeks, potatoes, pears, stock and salt and pepper, to taste.
3 Simmer gently until soft.
4 Liquefy the soup.
5 Check seasoning for taste. Add mile or half & half. Let cool.

Pear Cream

• Pear Nectar
• Heavy Cream

Blend pear nectar and cream. Whip cream mixture, until lightly thickened. Garnish soup with a dollop of cream. Snip chives on top of cream.

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Blue Cheese - Stuffed Apricots

2-ounces Blue cheese - Maytag, Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola (to your taste)
12 dried Apricots
12 pecan halves, toasted
Cayenne pepper

1 In a small bowl, mix the cheese until creamy. You may need to add a few drops of milk if the cheese is crumbly. Set aside.
2 Place the apricots on a serving platter. Using a butter knife spread about 1 teaspoon of cheese on cut side of the apricot. Top with 1 pecan. Sprinkle the stuffed apricots with a dash of cayenne pepper and serve.

Makes 6 to 12 servings.

Tip: For a variation, use pitted dates or dried figs. Toasted almonds, cashews or walnut halves may be used in place of pecan halves.

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French Brie with Onion Marmalade Canapés

4 tablespoons butter, divided use
4 cups onions, peeled, quartered, evenly sliced
Coarse salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, stems removed
French Brie cheese, room temperature
Water Crackers or sliced baguette

Onion Marmalade

Place 3 tablespoons butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add onion, salt, and pepper. Sauté until golden brown for approximately15 minutes. Stir frequently. Add vinegar and thyme. Simmer until the vinegar coats the onions and is reduced almost completely. Add remaining tablespoon butter and stir to incorporate.

Serve with French Brie and water crackers or sliced baguette

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Spoon one and a half tablespoons into chilled glasses. Slowly top up with Procecco or dry, sparkling wine, stirring as you pour.
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Basic Bloody Mary

1 1/4 oz. Vodka, Dash of Lemon juice, Worcestershire, 2 or 3 drops Tabasco, Pepper, Salt & Celery salt, Tomato juice

Over ice in a tall glass, add spices, then Vodka, Fill with Tomato juice & Stir, Garnish with Celery stick & Lime wedge

Bloody Mary, Quite Contrary (Non-Alcoholic)

6 oz. Tomato juice, Dash each of Worsteschire, Tabasco, Lime juice, Salt, Pepper, Celery salt to taste

Mix all over ice, Garnish with a Celery stalk & Lime wedge

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Shirley Temple – Club soda (7-Up), grenadine, and a maraschino cherry. A slice of orange and a straw is suggested; the paper parasol is optional.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Button... Button... Who's Got the Button?

Theo is a self-proclaimed “Eccentric”. His full name, Theodore is pronounced THEE-a-dor. He proudly states, “It is of Greek origin, and its meaning is "God's gift.” - from Theodorus. “. He looked it up.

I recall nearly ten years ago seeing him turn the corner of the communal driveway of our little enclave. He was in his little brown Suburu. Ander, our friend, Ken and I were standing in front of the cottage we now live in. He was curious about these two new beings moving into the enclave. Once hearing of our intentions and desire to be part of the tiny community, he graciously welcomed us with great enthusiasm. He made such an amazing first impression, it inspired a short story. It was penned by Ken entitled, “Angel in a Suburu”.

Today, Theo generously gifted me with a bounty of buttons. I was thrilled to be a recipient of this glorious cache. It prompted squeals of wonder and joy with each discovery. There were delicate pieces made of “mother-of-pearl”, carved plastics and metal disks fashioned with embossed designs. The possibilities for their uses are endless. Many will result in the finishing touches of my nieces' doll clothes or the day gowns I plan to design for premature newborns. Others may just fall into the category of “object d'arte”.

A treasure trove . . .

A bevy of beauties . . .

A collection of closures . . .

Theo is a good neighbor. He’s become confidant, counselor and charismatic comrade. He willingly takes on the role of caregiver to our “girlie-girls” while we are out of town for more than a day. His lovely wife, Nancy, an epicurean and former restaurateur, often shares her coveted recipes with me. Here’s one I’ve added to my repertoire. By the way, Nancy collects birdhouses, therefore, apropo for the moment.

Hummingbird Cake

• 3 cups cake flour
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon soda
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 3 eggs, beaten
• 2 cups chopped bananas
• 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
• 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
• 2 cups chopped pecans, divided

Combine dry ingredients; add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not beat. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup chopped pecans, and bananas. Spoon batter into 3 well-greased and floured 9-inch pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove and cool completely. Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides. Sprinkle with 1 cup pecans.

Cream Cheese Frosting

• 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
• 1 cup butter, softened
• 1 (16 ounce) package confectioners sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine cream cheese and butter, beating until light and smooth. Add sugar and vanilla and blend well.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Pastry of the Nobles

Sfogliatelle della Nobilita

If only one good thing comes out of this friendship, it's the plethora of knowledge that is generously bestowed upon us by our dear friend, Phil. He’s been around the corner a few times and knows a lot. His presence demands your attention. His word is solid. Concrete. Earnest. His friendship is steadfast.

Ander and Phil walk together every morning. Rain or shine, except when it’s stormy weather and the trail gets flooded. After their walk, they meet at the corner market that has an area where you can sit and have a cup of coffee. The two bearded men are usually joined by other morning regulars to discuss current world affairs, local events, politics, art, home repair or spousal concerns.

Ander arrived home, a paper bag in his hand, and announced “I have ‘Sweet Adeles’, from Phil.” A laugh jumped out of me. I knew what he meant. I immediately put on my “ThUgg” boots (knockoff of Oprah's favorite "Ugg" boots) to head out to the Bungalow. The Bungalow is a coffee and tea house that offers a place for ease and simplicity. I will reserve details for a future post.

Ander and I request our Earl Grey hot. In anticipation of the first bite of these wonderful pastries, I take the requisite digital shots for this blog. That first bite was worth waiting for. As the evidence shows, the pastry was flaky and light. Not pretentious, in any way. The dough was tender and creamy, I suspect, due to the ricotta cheese. It was not too sweet, yet full of flavor. There was a gentle hint of citrus. No sign of heavy spices. The gentle sheath of powdered sugar was the pièce de résistance. Each morsel paired with a sip of the hot Earl Grey met every facet of my expectations. Don’t let these blonde bombshells deceive you. I would assert that Phil made these as low-sugar and low-fat as possible. He is thoughtful that way.

I could be compelled to have this pleasant pastry every morning. Ooh, the temptation of decadence and overindulgence comes over me as I envision an array of fruit preserves, lavender honey and clotted cream to accompany my next encounter with the Nobility. Forgive me. That’s a bit over the top. N'est pas? After all, I do claim to be a purist when it comes to certain foods. I’ll be content with the simple “Sweet Adeles” and a cuppa.

Of the immeasurable abilities that Phil possesses, it is in his baking that makes his presence significant. We are, without a doubt, fortunate to have this award-winning Baker among our friends.

Sfogliatelle, or little sheets, is a popular breakfast item in Italy according to the "Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink" by John Mariani.

Mary Ann Esposito, author of "Ciao Italia" says the Sfogliatelle Della Nobilita--Pastry of the Notables—“were originally made only for the noble families of the Renaissance and that is the reason why they are called sfogliatelle della nobilita, pastry of the nobles. Sfogliatelle means many folds or leaves, similar to the many layers created by puff pastry dough. These are flaky pastries that look like seashells when baked. They are filled with a mixture of sweetened ricotta cheese, semolina, and cinnamon. Sometimes citron pieces are also added. I have experimented with frozen puff pastry, and I like the results better.”


Sfogliatelle della Nobilita ~
Pronounced: Sfogliatelle (SFOH-l' yah-TEH-leh) della (deh-la) Nobilita (Noh-beh-LEE-teh)

Makes about 16

1 cup milk
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese, well drained
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 1-pound package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed, or 1 recipe Puff Pastry for Sfogliatelle
4 tablespoons lard or butter, melted
Confectioner's sugar

Parchment paper, optional

To make the filling, in a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the semolina flour in a thin steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring, until the mixture is thickened and smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add the cheese, egg, sugar, and lemon zest to the semolina mixture and beat well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, if available.

Roll 1 sheet of the puff pastry out to a 16-x-22-inch rectangle on a floured, and preferably cold, surface (I use a marble slab). Starting at a short edge, brush one third of the sheet with some of the melted lard or butter and begin rolling the pastry sheet up tightly like a jelly roll; brush the remaining two thirds of the sheet with lard or butter and roll up.

Cut the roll into 2-inch thick slices. Form each piece into a small seashell shape by pushing your thumbs against the center of the piece and spreading it out to a small cup shape.

Fill each shell with about 2 tablespoons of the semolina filling and place them 1 inch apart on the parchment-lined sheets or on ungreased cookie sheets. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling. Bake for 15 minutes or until nicely browned. Let cool slightly on the cookie sheets and then transfer to racks to cool completely.

To serve, sprinkle the sfogliatelle with confectioner's sugar and then sprinkle a line of cinnamon down the center of each one.

Note: These can be assembled ahead of time, placed on cookie sheets, wrapped in foil, and frozen for later baking. Bake them frozen, allowing about 10 to 12 minutes more baking time.


Makes 1 Pound 6 Ounces Pastry Dough

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup fine semolina or pastry flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lard, melted

In a bowl or food processor, combine the flours and salt and mix or process well to blend. Cut the butter into small pieces and work into the dough with a pastry blender or pulse in the food processor. Add the water gradually and mix or process until a ball of soft dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours before continuing with the recipe.

When ready to roll, divide the dough in half and work with one piece at a time. Roll each piece into a 16-x-22-inch rectangle on a floured and cold marble slab. Starting at the short end of each piece, brush one third of the sheet with some of the melted lard and roll up the pastry tightly, jelly-roll fashion. Brush the remaining two thirds of the sheet with lard and roll up.

Cut the roll into 2-inch-thick slices and proceed as for the recipe using the prepared puff pastry.

Adapted from:
Mary Ann Esposito, Host and Creator of
Ciao Italia

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I Have A Dream...

Happy Birthday, Dr. King!

Excerpt: I Have A Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. Source: Martin Luther King, Jr: The Peaceful Warrior, Pocket Books, NY 1968

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"



Saturday, January 14, 2006

That's Entertainment . . .

I enjoy a good film. Comedy, Romance, Foreign, Drama, Documentary, Period, Musicals, Fantasy, are among my favorite genres.

Queen Latifah’s “Last Holiday” debuted this weekend. I am a fan of Queen Latifah. Her last CD, under her real name, Dana Owens Album, offers Jazz and Pop vocal standards at its best. Now, she can put acting under her belt. Good acting, that is. Remember her in Chicago?

The film caused me to wipe away a few tears and sniffle a bit. A practice often goaded by the film’s story line. Check out the the film's official website at:

Not only was “Last Holiday” entertaining, but it also provided a feast for the eyes. Whether it was the beautiful surroundings or the preparation of the banquet, each scene brought forth pleasure. I laughed out loud so much, at one point, I snorted OUT my Coke, uh, Cola, through my nose. Ooh, carbonation hurts. Good thing no one was sitting in front of me. I found myself relating to some of Georgia’s , “possibilities” turning some into “realities”. Yes, I felt very fulfilled, content, and satisfied. Does anyone know if there’s a soundtrack?

The Grandhotel Pupp – pronounced “poop”, of all things, really exists! Makes me want to have another spa day with my awesome sisters. I see a “Girls’ Trip” coming, but perhaps not as far as the Czech Republic.

Go see the movie for yourself. It’s worth the price of the ticket. If you happened to save your “Large” popcorn bag from the last movie you saw, you might even be able to get a “FREE REFILL”. Ander loves the cost savings!


Friday, January 13, 2006

I Do Well...

Today is Friday, Jan. 13, the 13th day of 2006. There are 352 days left in the year.

I would be remiss if I did not mention - Paraskevidekatriaphobics - people afflicted with a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th.

I realize today people will be as superstitious as they have always been, but perhaps more conscientious about it. Don't open umbrellas indoors, don't walk under a ladder, throw spilled salt over your shoulder, avoid a black cat in your path, don't break a mirror, well, I think you have the idea.

Ander looks forward to the date. He makes a great effort to make sure I know it is coming. It’s his lucky date. The 13th, that is. Not always falling on a Friday. He was born on the 13th. He was accepted to art school on the 13th. He graduated art school on the 13th. He was married on the 13th. 13 is a dominant number in his life. He lived on 1313 Flanders. He paints in a series of 13. You get the idea.…

The other day, I bumped into this quote while surfing the net.

"The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and in a thousand things well." - Horace Walpole, Fourth Earl of Orford, English author (1717-1797).

I pondered this and thought, “Is that all there is?” If so, then, indeed, Ander and I have a good life.

©ander Ander is a talented and gifted artist. This is the one thing profoundly innate in him. I can bet the whole farm on this. One mere look of his art and you are taken in. Sure he did a stint in LA as a commercial artist. He did pretty well for himself. Art directors were going to Ander to get them out of deep s%#*. When the economy turned, ad agencies relied on in-house talent. Ander was always an independent contractor. When the commercial art projects became disappointingly scarce, he turned his focus to Fine Arts. His corporate art accounts grew. Hotels, grand cruise ships, banks, hospitals, etc. You get the idea.…

The Lily Garden, 18x18, Oil on Paper,©ander

The Lily Garden V, 18x18, Oil on Paper, ©ander

Riverbank - Calistoga, 18x22, Oil on Canvas,©ander

Riverbank - Middletown, 18x22, Oil on Canvas,©ander

When he is not painting landscapes of the world, he tends to the organic garden and his adored “girlie-girls”.

A strong flock of 16 laying hens (although they are not laying at this time due to the cold and wet season) roam free-range in the hen yard. We have several different breeds; Rhode Island Reds, Sexlinks, and Bardrocks. We also have the ever-coveted Aracaunas, the South American breed that lays green or blue eggs. With these eggs, I prepare a delectable “green eggs and ham" in my kitchen. When there is an abundance of eggs, we spoil our family, friends and neighbors with the golden bounty. The whites are firm and the yolks are a golden orange-yellow that sits up high. In the industry, they are considered Grade AAA or Grade AA. They make the best-baked goods. Pastry chefs call as early Spring approaches to place their orders for weekly subscription delivery. I've won several ribbons for my lemon curd and cream scones using these beautiful oval gems.

The "girlie-girls” are fed organic produce diligently collected by Ander from our corner neighborhood market. The produce guys hold the refuse bags for Ander, rather than dump them in the shredder. The “girlie-girls" are given only the best of grain or scratch purchased from the local feed store.

Since we don't have a rooster, (that rank is relinquished to Ander) the eggs are considered “unfertilized”, which are deemed, to some, as being “vegetarian" and “Kosher" in quality standards. And, NO (I know you're wondering), we do not dress them for the dining table. When they die, Ander lovingly buries them in a quiet and undisturbed part of the property.

The bounty of the organic garden finds their way being "put up" for the winter or to be shared among the lucky few. We preserve or pickle as much of the garden produce we don't consume during the summer months. Through the year, I scour yard sales, tag sales, estate sales, thrift stores, (okay, you get the idea) for canning jars, glass bottles or decorative materials that meet the criteria for use. Once home, they are cleaned and sanitized. They are then sterilized immediately before use. Sometimes I break tradition and order fancy European jars for my award-winning preserves. When it comes to food development, formulation, food safety, food processing and canning - I know profoundly.

Being Ander'’s wife and partner, I do well. Being a daughter, sister, friend, I do well. Being Auntie Anni to my nieces and nephews, I do well. Being with other children, I do well. Smart, I do well. Creativity, I do well. Business, I do well. Contract Negotiation, I do well. Catering, I do well. Sewing, I do well. Knitting, I do well. Photography, I do well. Classical Piano, I do well. Antiquing, I do well. Collecting, I do well. Shoes, I do well. Hats, I do well. Books, I do well. Flowers, I do well. Crafting, I do well. Parties, I do well. Gardening, I do well. Cooking, I do VERY well. Baking, I do well. Wine, I do well. Tea, I do well. Chocolate, I do well. Eating, I do well. Dancing, I do well. Singing, I do well. Music Trivia, I do well. Movies, I do well. CD's, I do well. Shopping, I do well. Laughing, I do well. Crying, I do well. Reading, I do well. Gift-wrapping, I do well. Meditation, I do well. Yoga, I do well. Sexy, I do well. Loving, I do well. Giving, I do well. Praying, I do well. Optimism, I do well. Peace, I do well. Calm, I do well. Listen, I do well. Comfort, I do well. Kindness, I do well. Faith, I do well. Trust, I do well. HOPE, I do well.

Well, you get the idea.…


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Chicken Soup for the Soul...

I was feeling a bit under the weather today.

Dammit all...I worked so hard to keep healthy through the start of the year. I was lucky not to catch anything that was going around. You see, I refuse to get the mandatory flu shot every year. The last time I was given the injection of bad cooties, I spent the morning with my head hovered over my trash bin, nestled between my legs, under my desk at work. I was so bad, my darling husband was called to fetch me home. I made the solemn vow, to avoid that scene from ever happening again. Through the holidays, my family had all caught that flu/cold bug and kept passing the virus among themselves. My Mom spent her European vacation with a baaaaad cold, in the baaaaad cold. She kept exclaiming how beautiful and white everything was. Zurich... Munich... Vienna... Salzburg...She was a trooper. After all, this trip was her dream come true.

Ander made his wonderful,


...soothing, and well-received in-house antibiotic for me.

Needless to say, I feel better now.

I'm going to sleep satisfied and content. Bonne Nuit!

Ander’s Chicken Soup

• 3 Tbl. Olive oil
• 4-8 cloves of garlic, crushed (depending on your taste. the more, the better)
• 2 large onions, diced
• 6 carrots, diced
• 4 ribs celery, diced
• 4 chicken thighs, skin on*, cut in half
• 3 chicken breasts, skin on, cut in quarters
• 4 chicken legs, skin on, cut in half
• 2 cups water
• 10 button mushrooms, cut in quarters
• 1 cup white wine (optional)
• 6 cups chicken broth
• salt and pepper, to taste
• ½ Lb. Rotelle pasta
• Minced parsley or cilantro (optional)

Over medium-high heat, place olive oil in bottom of a large stock pot. Sauté onions until soft. Add garlic, diced carrots and celery. Continue to sauté veggies. Place chicken pieces over sautéed veggies. Brown chicken with skin on. Pour enough water to cover 2 inches above chicken and veggies. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes or until water gets low. Add wine to pot. Stir, occasionally, to make sure chicken and veggies don’t burn. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Taste broth for salt and pepper. Add, if necessary. Add chicken broth to pot and bring to a boil. Add pasta and mushrooms to soup broth. Allow to simmer until pasta is done.

Ladle into large soup bowls. Garnish with minced parsley or cilantro. Enjoy!

* It is often thought that the rendered fat from the skin of the chicken (schmaltz) cooking in the soup, brings out the “antibiotic” qualities to the soothing broth.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Life Is An Incredible Adventure . . .

When is a meal not a meal, but rather, just a large afternoon snack? That’s what I learned as “merienda”. In the Spanish language, it means, “snack”. My Filipino family would have afternoon snacks that were more on the dessert side. Sweet more than savory. My Mom makes a killer “Sweet Bibinka”. Sometimes with hand-grated fresh coconut or with simple sweet rice cooked in coconut milk. She also makes the ever-so-present-on-every-banquet-table, Lumpia. Those of you unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine, they are the same as fried egg roll. Mom used to make her own wrappers with her perfected “crispy” recipe, but has in recent years, surrendered to the commercially prepared wrappers now available in most Asian supermarkets. Even selected Costco locations carry the convenient packages of pre-fried bundles. Naturally, there’s nothing like Mom’s own. Her grandkids know the difference. One bite from any Lumpia other than my Mom’s will prompt a confident “Grandma’s are better.”

This day, Ander and I decided to partake our “merienda” in honor of the 6th year anniversary of his beloved father’s passing. Heino Kase was loved and admired by many. He lived 82 full-of-adventure years before succumbing to inoperable brain tumors. He shared with us many tales of his rich and contented life. A native of the Baltic state of Estonia, he shared with us the story of being one of the last to leave the port of Tallinn as the Russians took over his homeland. His story inspired my award winning recipe “Estonian Bundles with Vodka Cream Sauce”. I’m sure the radio broadcast of KSRO’s Annual Listeners’ Recipe Contest is in the annals of their recorded sound bites. I was privileged to have cooked many family meals for him. His affinity to my cooking was often demonstrated by his modest request, “Is there more?” or “Oh, this is good. I like this. Why haven’t I tasted this before?” Every Wednesday was “Seafood” day at his company’s cafeteria. He made sure to allot time for a leisurely lunch so he could sample and relish in all that was offered. A stranger he had just met once described him as a “genius among us”. He was a kind, generous and loving father. When my own father, Rick, passed away, Heino caringly embraced me and declared, “Although your father is no longer with us, you will always have a Dad in me.” He was accepting of me from the beginning of my relationship with Ander. He believed in our marriage. He was proud and supported Ander’s career as a talented artist. He was able to communicate this to Ander before he died. Even at his end, he was still giving. We learn from his example and follow his lead. A quote he kept on his desktop read, “Life is an incredible adventure or nothing at all, if you do not participate.”

Our “merienda” consisted of Calamari Fritti, with the essential request “straight out of the fryer”, Hot Artichoke Dip with extra crostini, on the side, and two tall glasses of “Arnold Palmers”. For those of you unfamiliar with this thirst-quenching beverage, it is half iced-tea and half lemonade.

Calamari Fritti

Hot Artichoke Dip

In your honor, on this day, January 2, 2006, we toast to you. Cheers to Heino.

We miss you, Dad. We love you, Dad.

P A R T I C I P A T E ! ! !


Active time: 1 hr Start to finish: 1 1/2 hr

1 (9-oz) package frozen artichoke hearts
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 oz finely grated parmesan (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons minced drained pickled jalapeño chiles
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
3/4 lb jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over
Accompaniment: benne seed pita toasts

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cook artichoke hearts according to package instructions, then drain well and finely chop. Cook bell pepper in 1 tablespoon butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in artichokes and transfer mixture to a bowl.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in saucepan over moderately low heat, then add flour and cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes. Add half-and-half in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking, 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in artichoke mixture, scallions, 1/3 cup parmesan, lemon juice, jalapeños, salt, and celery salt. Gently stir in crab. Transfer to a buttered 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish and sprinkle with remaining parmesan.

Bake dip in middle of oven until bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Cooks' note:
• Dip can be prepared (but not baked) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Makes 8 servings.

Adapted from:
Gourmet Entertains
May 2003 © CondéNet, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Comfort

Pot-au Feu . . .

Lizzy just wanted a hot bowl of “Cocida”. It was raining on the 10th straight hour and we were cold and wet. We needed sustenance. We needed warmth. We needed comfort.

You could see the disappointment on Lizzy’s face when our server shook her head, with a flat, “No cocida, today.” Instead, Lizzy settled on a single “Chile Relleno”. Phil and Ander both chose “Machaca”, with carnitas. (This place does not include green bell peppers in the mix. Perhaps, because this is not a typical item offered at the ready.) I had a bowl of “Pozole” with the usual fixings that come with the caldo. To my dissatisfaction, nowhere in that huge bowl was a single morsel of “pata” in sight! Oh, well, we made the best of it. After all, food was only secondary. We were there to continue our visit with Lizzy and Phil. We love their company. We talk, eat, and share about food all the time.

They turned us onto a new butcher, Ron Martindale. Fresh meat! We walked into the place. It smelled clean. There’s nothing like the smell of rancid, rotting meat that can send a carnivore directly to the nearest salad bar. This place will cut your porterhouse to order (eg. 2 3/4 inch thick). The New York strips were beautiful. The filet mignon was luscious. The “Cowboy” Rib steak, bone in, was exceptional. The chateaubriand, ooh-la-la. (By the way, “Chateaubriand” is a recipe, not a cut of meat. But, the recipe was so popular that the cut of meat has become synonymous.)

I selected about 3 Lbs. of beef shanks to use in my last minute choice for our New Year’s meal.

Pot-au-Feu was the perfect choice. Growing up, my Filipino family simply knew it as “Bone Marrow Soup”. It would have the standard, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic (our household always added garlic in anything we cooked, if appropriate) and occasionally a sliced head of cabbage. The meat would be boiling on the back of the stove in a large stockpot filling the house with the aroma of the cooking broth. Once the meat was “fall-off-the-bone” tender, the last of the veggies would be added. A nice bowl of hot rice would finish off the dish.

Our New Year’s Eve meal was simple and comforting. We had no plans of ringing in the New Year being out in the cold rain. We hunkered ourselves in our cozy little cottage and welcomed the New Year while watching the venerable Dick Clark’s return on his “Rockin’ Eve” show. We got “Skyped” by our family, the Luckenbachs in Southern California, several minutes before the midnight hour. With the aid of handy microphones and decent speakers, we were able to virtually be together for the countdown. Fireworks rang out in both our neighborhoods. Woo-hoo! My Mom, youngest sister and her husband, were celebrating in Vienna this year. Happy 10th Anniversay, Meng and Buddy! (Hope they "waltzed" in the new year.)

Our meal included a fabulous loaf of artisan walnut bread to sop up the rich, savory broth. (Sopping is a mandatory practice with such fare.) The coveted marrow, the “pipe”, the Coeur-a-la-crème, was spread on top of a piece of the walnut bread which we took immense delight in with each rationed bite. The broth brought extreme contentment with every slurp off the soup spoon. Each bite of the veggies would obligate one to blow out the fraction of steam trapped within the mouthful. Ahhh, such comfort, indeed.

We uncorked a splendid Cabernet-Merlot blend from Rosemount Estate’s 1999 vintage. (A Christmas gift from friend, Carol Berry. I'm sure she paid a pretty penny. That's her nature.) Bottled at their South Eastern Australia estate, it garnered a Silver Medal in the Perth 1999 Class 32 tasting. It claims a style of being “Generous, full flavoured with soft berry fruit” and provides the palate with “Vibrant raspberry characters of Cabernet…finely balanced by the smooth, velvety finish of Merlot”. I admit it. I AM, somewhat, of a wine snob. I’m biased. When it comes to wine, I’m a purest. Blame it on my training under the guidance of an award winning, triple gold, winemaker. Hands guided by the best. Winemaking is truly a labor of love. I learned quality begins with the soil, the vine, the grape. Give me Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot; 100% varietal. The only blends I care for are the high end Bordeaux or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. All in all, it made for a great New Year’s meal.

May the New Year of 2006, the Year of the Dog, bring inspiration, creativity, triumph over tribulation, peace, joy, prosperity, simple abundance and most of all, banquets galore!

Happy New Year!

(Pronounced: puh-tuh-fuh) - AKA France’s National Dish

Serves 6 with leftovers.

• 1 large garlic bulb
• 3 large onions
• 1 Tablespoon olive oil
• Salt and Pepper; season to taste
• 3 lbs. meaty beef shanks (with marrow)
• bouquet garni: in a square of cheesecloth, tie together: 2 Tablespoons peppercorns, 3 bay leaves, 5-6 sprigs parsley
• 3 chicken breasts (cut in half) or 6 thighs
• 6 small red potatoes, cut in quarters
• 3 medium turnips, peeled & quartered
• 1/2 lb. small carrots, peeled & cut into 2 inch pieces
• 3 ribs celery, cut into 2 inch pieces
• 1 lb. green cabbage, halved & cored
• 6 Tablespoons dry red wine
• For accompaniments (optional): toasted baguette slices, cornichons, 2 cups grated Gruyère cheese; vinaigrette; aioli

Preheat oven to 450°F.

1. Remove papery skin from garlic and peel one of the onions.

2. Coat the both of them with some olive oil, place on a baking dish and roast for 1 hour.

3. Season beef shanks with salt and pepper.

4. Place the beef shanks in same baking dish and roast with garlic and onions for 1 hour.

5. Place chicken in stockpot and cover with cold water. Over medium heat bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes skimming off any scum that rises to the surface.

6. Add the roasted beef shank, roasted onion, roasted garlic and bouquet garni to the pot. Partially cover with enough water to come up at least three-fourths of the way up the sides of meat and chicken. Bring to a simmer.

7. Reduce heat, maintain the simmer and cook for about 1-1/2 hours.

8. Peel the remaining two onions, leave them whole and add to the pot, along with the potatoes, and turnips.

9. Simmer 30 minutes, adding water if necessary, to keep the vegetables covered.

10. When the potatoes and turnips are almost tender, add the carrots and celery. Cook an additional 10 minutes.
Season to taste. Bring to a boil.

11. Add the cabbage and cook until the cabbage is tender. Remove bouquet garni.

To Serve: Place one tablespoon of the red wine in each of 6 warmed soup bowls. Ladle the broth into each bowl. Place beef portions, chicken, vegetables in bowl. Float toasted baguette slices on side of bowl. Sprinkle cheese over soup.

Serve the meat and vegetables accompanied by more cheese, the cornichons, and if desired, the vinaigrette and aioli.

Martindale's Quality Meats and Deli
5280 Aero Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95403