Category Archives: cooking

Dear Tom, “It’s like doin’ a shot, a painful shot…”

How about a deadly shot? On the video below, scroll to 1 minute 59 seconds. You’ll see what happened to me yesterday when I made homemade chili paste from chilies grown from unknown plants sold to me by an anonymous person standing on a street corner. He didn’t speak any English. His daughter told me he’d bred them himself. They had no name. When I asked how hot, he said, “Muy caliente.” The understatement of the year…

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Beautiful but deadly.

This was me yesterday after taking a micro-taste of what I’d made. (I made the chili paste to give as Christmas presents. Now I must give them with a warning. Deadly~Eat at your own risk.) I’d already weaponized my kitchen so I was coughing and hiccuping and my eyes and nose were burning. Had to use my asthma inhaler last night. Even when I took a shower, the water running over my hands as I washed my hair burned my face. (That was after I’d washed my hands in milk like a million times!) I’ve eaten habaneros. Compared to these bad boys, habaneros are like an apple.

I have but one question- Why are Irish people eating chilies?

 

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Dear Tom, my son promised he wouldn’t weaponize the ghost peppers.

Ghost Peppers or Red Naga: Where the Ghost Pepper is From and Why It’s so Hot.

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The (dreaded) Red Naga.

My son made me grow them. He has plans. I did warn him there would be no weaponizing of the Ghost Peppers. Merely harvesting them was scary enough. For the time being they are safely ensconced in my freezer. Along with these chilies- bought the seedlings from a corner vendor:

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Chilies Diablo.

All he could say was~ “Chilies Diablo. Muy caliente.” So far I’ve harvested two quart bags and I’ve got at least another couple quarts still ripening on the plants. I too have plans!

Sambal Oelek!

I’ve very excited about this! Chrismukkah presents for all!

I’ve had a little time on my hands and a little produce left over from last year. Finally got around to dealing with it.

I added this year’s quince harvest to last year’s harvest (freezer) and made two pints of quince jam. The stuff is like gold! A gallon of quinces made a measly two pints.

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Quince Jam.

I also dried my drunken figs. Yes, drunken. They’ve been soaking in rum for a year, I’ll have you know! I dried them with my new food dehydrator.

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Dried Drunken Figs.

These are killer, man. Each one is like a shot of rum.

I thought I’d give a shout out to Jake- He treed a mountain lion last week. Dang! The thing was yowling at him like a kazoo! Jake went insane chasing the lion across the yard. It managed to scramble up into one of our redwoods. Seriously, the yowling sounded like a kazoo. My son said, “Mom, I don’t think there are any wild kazoos marauding around Napa.” Took me a long time to get the dog back in so the lion could be on his/her merry way. Hey, I don’t care about mountain lions. They snag the vicious marauding raccoons, so… (And yeah, it’s always me who has to go out and retrieve the dog. Oscar can sleep through an earthquake.)

Speaking of raccoons– Another shout out to my goldfish. Our little pond is a good example of survival of the fittest. This tough guy is two years old! He’s outlasted twelve other goldfish, all of whom have been eaten by raccoons and egrets. He’s super smart. Has a good hiding place. Only comes out for me even though I’ve never fed him. Occasionally I pull out some of the algae, otherwise the pond is a nice little ecosystem. Provides him with all the food he requires.

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The Goldfish.

His name is Fishy-Fishy. If anyone has a better suggestion I’m sure he won’t mind.

Still recovering. More on that at a later time.

That’s about it for now. Peace out.

Julia

 

Dear Tom, I’m a changed woman postop.

Texas Woman Wakes From Surgery With A British Accent

No, she’s not me. But I woke from surgery a different person.

I’m scared, Tom.

I no longer like chocolate. Can’t stand the sight of it nor the smell of it.

lindt

This is serious.

Do you understand what this means?

This means that after a life-long love affair with chocolate, as in chocolate has been the only sweet thing I like– I. Now. Hate. Chocolate.

You know what’s even scarier???

I’m craving vanilla ice cream. I’ve despised (yes, despised) ice cream in every way, shape or form, my entire life. I’ve refused to eat it. I’ve hated the taste, the texture, the creaminess, the sweetness…I was the only child I knew who hated ice cream. I’m the only adult I know who hates ice cream.

But that’s no longer true. Just this past week I ate my first ice cream sandwich – vanilla ice cream between two oatmeal cookies – and it was amazing! I mean, it was astounding.

I woke from surgery with a vision of an oatmeal cookie ice cream sandwich, a gourmet confection I’d once glimpsed in the freezer section at the neighborhood market. An ice cream sandwich that previously held zero interest for me. As soon as I got home I begged my husband to go buy one.

Bi rite ice cream sandwich

This is it.

Wait… here’s the conversation:

“Please please please go to the market and buy me an ice cream sandwich, the gourmet kind in a single-pack, wrapped in cellophane– vanilla ice cream between two oatmeal cookies.”

Oscar, staring at me: “You don’t eat ice cream.”

Me: “I know, but I want one.”

Oscar, still staring at me: “But you hate ice cream.”

Me: “I know but I really really really want one of these ice cream sandwiches.” I showed him the picture.

Oscar, skeptical: “Where does a store keep ice cream?”

Me, trying not to laugh: “Honey, think for a minute. Where would a store keep ice cream?”

Oscar: “Uh, where it’s cold?”
Me: “Yes. Now where would it be cold in a grocery store?”

Oscar: “I don’t know.”

Oh Tom… You have no idea what I’m dealing with here.

Me: “Honey, when you get to the store, ask someone.”

Oscar made a halfhearted attempt to find the ice cream sandwich I wanted but he failed because he refused to ask for help. Instead he bought a box of It’s-It which I couldn’t eat because It’s-It is covered in chocolate.

It's it

So I sent my best friend on a mission to seek out the perfect ice cream sandwich. She found one. And it was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I want more!!!

This is so bloody weird! Even weirder? My lactose intolerance seems to be a non-issue.

I’ve lived my entire life with lactose intolerance. Even as a baby I couldn’t tolerate dairy-based formula. My parents had to start me on solid food at three months of age because every formula that went in came back out within a minute or two. (My mom wasn’t the type to nurse a kid.)

Out of the blue I’m eating yogurt, ice cream, and drinking milk.

Holy crap, Tom! What in the world is going on???

Oh, and by the way~

Happy Independence Day! Yay America!

fireworks

For the first time in my life I’m eating ice cream on the Fourth of July! XOXO! Julia

 

Dear Tom, this morning’s harvest~

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Garlic. Purple potatoes. A couple leftover spring onions.

Yesterday I harvested asparagus, three bunches of celery, and a big bunch of broccoli. Now that the garlic is out of the ground I’ve got to get the clover-stuff out of the bed. Last year I purchased plants from a new nursery and unfortunately contaminated one entire bed with this yellow clover-ish weed. You can see some with the garlic.

My four baby robins fledged! Now a pair of mockingbirds have moved into the robin’s nest. They spend all their spare time begging for worms (making sounds like a puppy) and attacking Jake. Unlike the great horned owl, he can safely ignore them.

Yesterday we went to a beautiful beach. Jake had a wonderful time. He ran around like a maniac, then he and Oscar took a three mile hike. Unfortunately my climbing days are over until I’ve had surgery and rehabbed, so I walked along the shore and collected semi-precious stones. Then we drove over the Golden Gate into San Francisco to meet our youngest and her boyfriend for coffee. He lives at the very top of one of those hellacious hills and yes, I drove. Driving up the hills scares me to death. I always feel as if my car is going to flip upside down. Down doesn’t bother me. But believe me, I’d rather be driving than sitting in the passenger seat. I remember the first time I rode in the passenger seat up one of those hills – I was nineteen years old. I insisted the driver stop and let me out. I walked up the hill.

Last night we got lost in the mountains outside of Lafayette, looking for a retirement dinner. One of my husband’s managers is retiring after 40 years. The event was held in the middle of the wilderness (not kidding) at the end of a single-track road after we’d wound our way through a maze of country roads. Reminded me of the roads in Scotland but without the necessary turnouts. We had a hill on one side and a cliff on the other. We somehow managed to make it there without encountering another car (3 miles). The way home was another matter. All I can say is at least we were on the hill side, not the cliff side.

I only mention this retirement dinner because it made me sad. This woman has dedicated her life to her job. She’s married but has no children and only one sister. Her co-workers are both her family and her closest friends and now she’s leaving them.

There was a photo retrospective running on a loop on a big screen television.

Oscar’s co-worker is a happy healthy 70 year old woman. She radiates warmth and intelligence. But I experienced this weird disconnect as I watched the slide show. I’ve only known her for a couple years and I know little of her history. I was, to be frank, stunned. She was a glamorous young thing. She had model looks, kind of a combination of Bridgette Bardot and Twiggy. I had this completely inappropriate thought – If anyone ever makes one of these retrospectives of me I’ll come back from the grave and kill them. I think it’s kind of the same reason movie stars don’t watch their old movies. We’re young and then one day we get old. It ain’t always pretty.

Time does fly, doesn’t it?

XOXO! Julia

 

Dear Tom, I fed the piggies and I returned home to a mystery.

Went to Montana to visit my daughter and son-in-law. As you know they live an amazing life. Eight thousand acres at the foot of the Crazies.

in the shadow of the Crazies

Looking toward The Crazies from the back of the calving shed.

Six hundred head of cattle. It’s near the end of calving season– I always go during calving to help with the new yearling bulls and the bottle calves. This time I had four bottle calves to feed (one calf each from four sets of twins) and two piglets. The piglets are hilarious. You’ve never ever seen two animals so excited about food, not ever, not once in your entire life. They pretty much turn somersaults when someone shows up with the slop bucket. (They do have an automatic feeder in their enclosure.)

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Yummy food scraps!

Pity they’ll be bacon at the end of the season but in the meantime they lead a terrific life!

As do the cows. It’s a great life for a cow. A rancher lives and dies for his/her cattle. They come first- always. Plus what’s not to like about roaming eight thousand green grassy¬† acres? And if you are a cow, as in a girl, you are likely to live out your life on said eight thousand acres. And the occasional steer, like my sweet boy Hank of last year.

Hank

My little steer.

This year I got to teach a premie to nurse- sat her on my lap. She was the cutest thing ever! But it was challenging to feed four babies at once. They spend a whole lot of time butting each other. I could feed two at a time– brought the new cattle dog, Nip, into the calving shed with me to occupy the other two.

Plus it was my birthday. I got to Montana every birthday since the year before my daughter got married. She took time out of her insane calving schedule to bake me a luscious cake.

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Lemon cake with homemade lemon curd and raspberry jam filling and marscapone frosting.

But I returned home to a mystery. How did one of Jake’s old backyard toys end up in the lavender patch in the front yard? Remember, both our gates are padlocked and our fences are six feet high.

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The mysterious moving stuffed elephant.

Was it dropped by an owl? Did a bobcat decide it wanted to play with a stuffed elephant? Was it, oh, I don’t know… Bigfoot? A youthful Bigfoot?

Seriously– How did the elephant end up in a patch of lavender in the front yard? The elephant has been in the backyard since Jake was a puppy. He neither destroys nor loses his toys.

I have got to order that game camera. Oh, and Jake still smells skunky.

XOXO! Julia

Dear Tom, Spring has sprung!

You’ll appreciate the fact that I’m already using produce from my garden.

Asparagus – oh yes – for weeks now.

Last night I harvested arugula, cilantro, baby garlic, and my secret green – wild stinging nettle. Love stinging nettle!

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Stinging nettle. Great green, if you know how to use it.

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Cilantro, arugula and baby garlic.

I harvested and washed the young greens. (Always wear gloves when picking nettles. I just covered my hands with a dishtowel and tossed them directly into a glass bowl of hot water – nuked them in the microwave for 90 seconds and voila! No sting. Nettles are better than spinach. And they are super healthy. They have a delicate flavor. Always pick before they bloom.)

Then I chopped everything coarsely and stuffed it all into my food processor, along with maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of black pepper and 1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese. Because I wanted the pesto to be shiny, I added two raw egg yolks. (Just me. Feel free to leave out.)

I cooked up a box of pasta and opened a bag of frozen baby peas. Dumped the peas in a big mixing bowl, dumped the hot pasta plus three scoops of boiling pasta water on top of the peas and then stirred in the pesto.

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Later I’ll add some additional salt and Parmesan cheese to taste.

Yummy spring pesto pasta! Welcome to springtime in California!

XOXO! Julia