Category Archives: Food

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, 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

Dear Tom, I am loving my birdies!

I get so much pleasure from watching and feeding my birds, hours and hours – despite the occasional hawk. But of course I love hawks as well and want to be one in my next life- not anywhere near a wind farm though. Wind farms are deadly to raptors.

Here’s the list of birds in my backyard:

Towhees.

Spotted Towhees.

Mockingbirds.

White Crowned Sparrows.

Golden Crowned Sparrows.

Savannah Sparrows.

Fox Sparrows.

Hooded Junkos.

Dark-eyed Junkos.

Western Scrub Jays.

Blue Birds.

Robins.

Cassin’s Finches.

House Finches.

White-breasted Nuthatches.

Goldfinches.

Bewick’s Wrens.

Cedar Waxwings.

Olive-sided Flycatchers.

Red-eyed Vireos.

Warbling Vireos.

Mourning Doves.

Bullock’s Orioles.

Anna’s Hummingbirds.

Black Phoebes.

Oak Titmouses (Titmice?).

Evening Grosbeak.

Mountain Chickadees.

Chestnut-backed Chickadees.

It’s so much fun because they know me and they know Jake and we are both allowed to get very close to them. In fact, they love having Jake about because the redtail hawk won’t bother them when he’s outside.

Things are a bit better. As I await surgery to repair my hip– gotta get that repaired before I can get the knee surgery– I joined a health club, and I’ve been swimming and rowing every day. I’ve had to decrease my hiking to two miles a day, four days a week. That’s about as much as I can do and I’m still pretty slow. Tomorrow I hope to visit a sports medicine physical therapist. If there is a way to avoid hip surgery I’d just as soon find it, but a torn labrum does not heal. It can only be sort of fixed. Regardless, I did get two batches of lemon curd made yesterday. Yay! Already gave most of it away. And I’ve frozen the juice for two more batches. Of course the tree is still loaded with lemons. Want to come help me harvest? 🙂

Perhaps I’ll get around to photos one of these days.

Needless to say, 2016 isn’t looking quite as bleak as it was just a week ago. Of course don’t ask the poor hubby – he’s the one responsible for insane Jake’s exercise now! He might have a different opinion of 2016, especially since his team, the Minnesota Vikings, lost today. He’s a Minnesota native.

(I’ll whisper this secret down a deep well at midnight- While I found Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to be marginally entertaining, I also found it to be pretty much a disappointment. My son and I had a long discussion about it today. Sometimes a discussion can make a less interesting movie more interesting. He liked the movie, but then he’s been a big Star Wars fan since he was a baby. Me? I expected better, although when one considers the three horrendous prequels, The Force Awakens was genius.)

Oh! The PBR is back! Gotta love those bulls! I’ll give you a little taste. I know most of you aren’t as blood thirsty as I am. (Big Airtime fan here):

Love you, Tom. Miss you! XOXO! Julia

 

 

Dear Tom, I don’t see the point…

2015 has been exhausting, both for me, personally, and for our nation and our world. I’m plumb tuckered out.

I’m tired of blogging – an exercise which I suspect means little these days.

I’m tired of the publishing wars. Legacy publishing versus indie publishing versus far too many authors I know who are now poor as church mice, homeless even- authors who once upon a time, as in three or four years ago, made bundles of money.

Now me, I’ve never made bundles so I’ve never spent bundles. As they say– don’t give up the day job. Oh, a couple years ago, 2010-1013, the world was a much different (and more hopeful) place. I made a bunch. I sold lots of books. The life of writing was good and I felt inspired to write more and more and more.

These days, not so much. In fact, I find myself less and less interested in engaging the market, i.e., readers, and I have little interest in promotion. To be honest, I find it hard to muster the energy. Attempts to engage, attempts to promote, don’t sell books anyway. So engagement, just like blogging, is another exercise in futility.

But what about that pot of gold, you ask? What about that lightening strike? The newly discovered land? Well, I ain’t holding my breath. Never have.

You know, I’ve read those books – the strike it rich quick books – those books that have caught fire, those six-figure signings, and except for the very first book in the Hunger Games series, those six-figure books bored me to tears. Whatever it was about those books that caught fire did not ignite the fires within me. Couldn’t even make it through the first five pages of a couple of them.

BORING…

More and more I find myself buying nonfiction and re-reading my old favorites in the fiction genre.

But do I plan to quit altogether? Quit writing? Huh. Good question. Maybe. I’m working on a short story as we speak. I have a re-release scheduled for February or March. I have a number of books in the queue. Maybe I’ll finish them, maybe I won’t.

Regardless, I am convinced I’ll be appreciated after I’m dead. My stuff is good. Someday someone will realize it.

In the meantime:

I’m busy with family and friends. I’m traveling. I’ve got bushels and bushels of lemons to juice for lemon curd. I have to figure out how to halter break my steer, Hank. All in all, while my appreciation and affection for the beauty in life continues to grow, my attachment to the publishing world diminishes.

And I’m okay with that.

I miss you. 2015 was a sucky year for you and your family. They lost you. I lost you, my dear dear friend.

I look forward to 2016. The number fifteen has always bothered me in any case. I think it’s a bad luck number. 2015 has been proof of that for so many people.

Anyway, I’m tired– was up the entire night with a sick dog. No, not a kid although I did have a couple kids home– a sick dog. When I say the entire night I mean exactly that, the entire night. Oscar slept through the whole thing. But then that’s typical for Oscar. He sleeps the sleep of the dead. I wake if a neighbor three doors down drops a pin. Onto plush carpet.

The best blog around? The one worth reading? Marylin’s – Things I Want to Tell My Mother. Her recent post is frame-worthy: The Gift of Words. Go read it, you’ll love it.

All right, Tom, maybe I’ll re-watch the genius Big Bang episode (The Opening Night Excitation) and go to bed!

I love you, Tom. Here’s to the approaching New Year.

XOXO! Julia