Avocado Pasta…So Easy!

This one is so easy! Creamy and delicious too. Just cook the pasta of your choice, drain, put into a bowl and squish an avocado into the pasta bowl. Season to taste. Serve. (It’s not even that bad for WW. A 1/4 section of a Haas avo is only 2 points.)

* I like to add chopped basil, or arugula for a green pasta bowl. A little garlic is nice too.

(Pix coming soon.)

~ C

Vegan Pad Thai Recipe

Here’s my version of Tofu Pad Thai.

1 block (12-14 oz.) extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
3 Tablespoons fish sauce*, or 2 teaspoons kelp powder*
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 Cup fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon Thai chili and garlic sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 12 oz package “Pad Thai” brown rice noodles
Hot water
2-3 Tablespoons canola, or peanut oil
1 Onion, chopped coarsely
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 Red bell pepper, chopped coarsely
1/2 crown of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 carrot, sliced thinly
1/4 Cup scallions, chopped medium-fine
1 Cup mushrooms, chopped coarsely
2 Cups mung bean sprouts
1/2 Cup chopped peanuts, plain, unsalted
1/4 Cup cilantro, chopped
soy sauce and pepper to taste

In a medium-size bowl, combine fish sauce*, or kelp powder*, soy sauce, fresh lime juice, sugar, and Thai chili and garlic sauce. Stir with a whisk until blended. Cut the drained tofu into 1/2″ cubes and add to the bowl. Lightly toss tofu to coat with the sauce. Set aside to marinate for about 10 minutes, then drain well, reserving the marinade sauce. Heat up 1 Tablespoon of oil in a wok, or skillet until sizzling. Carefully add tofu only, (do not add sauce at this point) to the hot oil and saute over high heat until tofu cubes are lightly browned and have developed a skin. Remove tofu from oil, drain on a towel and set aside.

Place the rice noodles in a separate bowl and cover with hot water. Allow to soak for at least 10 minutes, until soft and pliable. Drain and set aside.

In a large wok, or skillet, heat up remaining oil over high heat until it sizzles when a drop of water is added. Add onions and stir fry until soft, add garlic and ginger and cook for another 10 seconds. Stir in the sauce from the tofu marinade, bell pepper, broccoli, carrot, scallions and mushrooms. Cook over high heat until vegetables are just starting to get soft. Add browned tofu cubes and bean sprouts and stir lightly. Add rice noodles and toss. Season to taste. Remove from heat and put in a large serving dish. Garnish with peanuts and cilantro. (Sriracha is always nice on it to if you like things spicy.)

* Fish sauce is not always to everyone’s liking, nor is it always easy to find. However, it does give that authentic taste. If you want fish sauce in your Pad Thai and can’t find it in your local store, try ordering it online. I’m sure Amazon would carry it.

If you are vegan, or vegetarian, you may not want to go with fish sauce. I recently found ground kelp powder in my local food co-op It has a similar, “oceany,” taste, which I really like. I’ve never seen kelp powder anywhere else. If you are interested in it, again, try online, or you could probably grind up a sheet of nori, or kombu for that unique flavor. If you do try this option, please let me know how that works for you.

(Pix coming soon!)

~ C

Freshly Made Corn Tortillas – Ole!

We got tired of eating stale corn tortillas from the grocery store, so one year, one of my family members gave me a tortilla press and we started making our own, delicious, fresh tortillas. I still buy them on occasion, but I don’t know why.  These are so easy to make.  By making your own, you can also add other ingredients such as, chili powder, cilantro, other herbs, etc.  I use an old fashioned, cast iron frying pan to cook them on.  Make sure that you get the pan nice and hot before you start cooking them.

There are several brands of masa harina out there.  Please, do not try to substitute regular corn meal for the masa harina s it is not the same.  The corn kernels used to make masa harina flour have been alkalized before they were ground into flour.  If you can’t find masa harina in your local grocery store, try ordering online.  A bag will last you a long time and masa harina is also a main ingredient for making tamales, if you’re so inclined.

This basic recipe has been adapted from a recipe on epicurious.com.  It’s really very simple.

Corn Tortillas

Makes 2 dozen small tortillas

2 cups masa harina

1/2 teaspoon regular salt

1 1/2 Cups water

parchment, or wax paper

Vegetable oil (for brushing)

Set the ball of dough in the center of the press, cover with a second piece of paper, then press down on the handle.  Carefully lift the top piece of paper off of the freshly pressed tortilla, making sure not to tear it. Lightly brush the pan with a very small amount of oil.  Take the lower piece of paper with the tortilla on it and flip it over on to the hot pan.  Carefully remove the paper. 
Cook about two minutes, flip and cook another minute, or two on the other side.  (You should see some dark brown spots on the tortilla, but not deeply charred burn marks.  (Turn down your heat just a little if necessary.)  Remove the tortilla with a spatula, transfer to an open cloth and cover with the cloth to keep warm.  The tortilla will be stiff, even crispy at first, but will soften when it sits under the cloth. Repeat the process until all of the dough is used up.
 
*I have also used the griddle on my stove to cook the tortillas.  It works well and allows me to make several tortillas at once.
 

** Note:  If you don’t have a tortilla press, you can also roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment, or wax paper.  Try to get it as even as possible, without any high and low spots.  It can be tricky to get it smooth and even, so my might want to go for making thicker tortillas using this method.

~ C
 

 

 
 
 

Happy New Year…Here’s To Good Health!

It’s a brand, new year and boy, do I need to set the reset button, so there’s no better time than now.  I’ve had some health issues that need to be addressed such as aching joints, lack of energy; the typical old age complaints.  But, I’m not going to let age take over.  It’s back to healthier eating and getting out in the gardens more.  I’ve also joined Weight Watchers (again) to help keep me honest and for a little inspiration from the other members.  The group there is always so supportive.

I’m definitely going back to a more serious vegan lifestyle.  I was always, “mostly vegan,” but I was making too many exceptions and my weight was creeping up.  Now, I’m about 98% vegan and so is the hubby.  He’s happy about that.  (We still have to make concessions when we go out, or eat with others and that’s OK.)

I thought that I’d take this week to share with you some of my favorite, healthful, vegan meals and recipes.  Here’s the first one, Whole Wheat Tortillas.  They cost a fraction to make compared to store-bought ones and they taste so much fresher.  I use them for salad wraps, tacos, breakfast burritos, you name it.  This is for a batch of 4, medium-size tortillas.  Just double the recipe, if you need more.  They only take a few minutes to make, so there’s no need to make a huge batch.  I think that the olive oil also adds a healthful touch, since many of the store-bought ones use trans fats in their recipes.

Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas

1 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup water
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
 
-Preheat a large, cast iron skillet , or griddle to medium-high to cook the tortillas on.
-Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and knead for a minute, or two, with your hands until dough is smooth and elastic.  (Add small amounts of water, slowly, if the dough feels too dry.)
-Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and roll each part into a ball with your hands.
-On a floured surface, roll out a ball, with a floured, rolling pin, into a flat, round tortilla, about 6-8 inches in diameter.
-Toss the uncooked tortilla on the pan, or griddle and cook for about 30 seconds, or until you start to see the bubbles in the dough puff up.
-Flip and cook for about another 30 seconds.  You should see some light brown, toasted spots on the tortilla.  If the spots are black, then turn down the heat a little.
-When done on both sides, remove from heat, put on a plate and cover with a clean cloth.  (Tortilla will soften after a few minutes under the cloth.)
-Repeat this process with the other 3 balls.  You may have to wipe out the pan from time to time, because the residual flour left in the pan will burn and get on to your tortillas while cooking.
 
I also make awesome, corn tortillas.  I’ll post that recipe tomorrow.
~ C

 

Cranberries, Dressings & Pies…The Holidays are Here!

I went to the grocery store the other day and they had already prepared big time for the upcoming holidays.  The shelves were piled high with four, sugar, cranberries, sweet potatoes and onions and turkeys were wrapped and waiting at the meat counter…all of the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner just waiting to be sold.  At the check out counter, the magazines all called out for attention, claiming that they had a new way of making every traditional dish that you could possibly think of.  As for our family, Thanksgiving is one holiday that is hard to fool around with.  Now Christmas is a whole other story, but we’re old-fashioned stalwarts on Turkey day.  Everyone has their favorite dish and it has to be made, “just so.”  There’s just no getting around it.

I thought that this would be a good time to share some of our favorite, family recipes with my readers.  Nothing fancy or fussy, but it’s all good.

The cranberries are the first dish that we make.  They can be made a couple of days ahead of time and I think that they actually get a little better with age.  Our recipe for cranberry relish is simple and easy to prepare.

No Fuss Cranberry Relish

1 pound package of fresh cranberries

3 Cups of sugar

2 Cups of water

1 Tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate

1 small lime

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

dash of cloves

Wash the cranberries and remove any debris.  Pour the cranberries, sugar and water into a medium size pan and bring to a boil.  The berries will start to burst and pop as they are heated.  Cook the mixture for about 3 minutes more after the popping starts, stirring constantly, then remove from heat.  Add the tablespoon of orange juice concentrate and the juice from the lime.  Season with the cinnamon and cloves.  Cool completely, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When I first started doing the Thanksgiving dinner I made my dressing/stuffing using Mrs. Cubbisons boxed dressing off of the supermarket shelf.  It wasn’t bad and it was certainly a breeze to whip up.  But now, I go to the extra effort of making my own sourdough bread for the stuffing.  I bake it about a week ahead of time, rip it up into bite size pieces, then put it into the freezer until Turkey day.  Other than the bread and the usual chopped parsley, onions and celery, we have two other special ingredients for our dressing: cooked country sausage and chopped water chestnuts.  We also like to throw in some chopped mushrooms occasionally, but that’s not mandatory.  Here’s the recipe for the dressing.  I won’t go into the bread baking part.  You can either make your own bread, or buy some at the store.

Traditional Dressing with Sausage and Water Chestnuts

1 Pound of country seasoned, bulk, ground pork sausage

1 Cup chopped onion

2 Cups chopped celery

1/2 Cup butter, melted

12 Cups of white bread, preferably sourdough, torn into pieces

2 teaspoons of salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon ground sage, or 1 Tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 Tablespoon chopped parsley

1 can of sliced water chestnuts, drained and roughly chopped

1 Cup Chicken, Turkey, or Vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Break up the sausage into bite-sized pieces and cook in a skillet until browned.  Remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a cloth.  Add the butter, onions, celery, and seasonings to the pan.  Cook the mixture until onions and celery are soft.  Remove from heat.  Place the torn pieces of bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees until they start to brown.  Allow to cool.  Place bread in a large mixing bowl and add the onion/celery/butter mixture to the bread.  Stir in the sausage and water chestnuts.  Pour in the broth and lightly toss mixture just until the bread is moistened.  Pour mixture into a large casserole dish, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the top is very lightly browned. Serve warm.

We always make two kinds of pies on this holiday, apple and pumpkin.  Sometimes we’ll mess around with the standard recipes for these, but we always use the same pie crust recipe.

Perfect Pie Crust

 This recipe makes a very light and flaky crust. It was passed down to me by my grandmother and I’ve never found a better method. This recipe is supposed to be enough to make a double crust pie, but I think that pie pans were smaller back then, so I usually double the recipe and then have leftovers for a morning tart, or turnovers.

2 Cups all purpose white flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 Cup Crisco Vegetable shortening
4-6 Tablespoons ice water

Sift the flour with salt in a large bowl. Measure the shortening using a large measuring cup filled with one cup of water. Add the shortening to the measuring cup until the water reaches the 1 3/4 mark. (Make sure that the shortening is completely submerged in the water.) Remove the shortening from the water and add it to the bowl. Cut the shortening into the flour using two knives, one in each hand, cutting them against each other like scissors. You can also use a pastry cutter, but whatever you do, DON’T use a food processor for this step. A food processor will quickly over process the dough and make it like cardboard.  Cut the dough mixture until it is made up of mostly, very, small pieces. A few pea-sized pieces are OK. Add the ice water to the bowl, one tablespoon at a time, while tossing the dough with the knives. Stop adding water when the dough just barely holds its shape. Try hard not to overwork the dough. The dough will still look pretty crumbly. (Not like those stiff slabs of dough you see on the TV cooking shows.  Yuck!) Too much water will also make the dough tough, so be careful with this part and don’t add too much.

Dump the dough out on to a large piece of plastic wrap. Wrap it up tightly are refrigerate for at least an hour. When you are ready to roll it out, lay out a piece of parchment paper, or plastic wrap on your rolling surface and dust it with flour. Have another piece of paper, or wrap ready to place on top of the dough. Place half the dough on the paper, dust with a little more flour and put the other piece of paper on top of the dough. (Put the other half of the dough back in the refrigerator to keep chilled.) Roll out the dough to desired thickness, using a light touch. Again, you want to be careful not to overwork the dough. The should be somewhat delicate, fragile and probably be a little difficult to work with, but that’s OK. Carefully remove the top piece of paper and flip the dough into a pie pan. Remove the bottom piece of paper from the dough. Fill with whatever filling you’re using. Repeat the roll out steps for the top crust. You don’t have to brush the top with anything, but my grandmother always brushed hers with a little milk and sprinkled it with sugar.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

~ C

 

Northern California Fire Victims…Gifts of the Heart

I have many other writings that are in line and need to be posted here, but instead, I bypassed them today to send out my sincere condolences for all of the people that were affected by the recent, devastating fires in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties.  The stories have been heartbreaking and I know that down the road houses may be rebuilt and some emotional wounds will heal, while others will not.

It has been a few weeks since the fires broke out, but still, I cannot go into town without hearing people talking about it.  “Were you affected by the fire?”  “Is everything OK at your place?”  People want to know and they want to show that they care.

Sadly, I know several people who’ve lost their homes and others who were severely injured, or have lost family members.  Of course, I immediately sent in money to the appropriate relief agencies, but I needed to do more, so I started making quilts for some of the victims that I know.  They’re not huge, just small throws made from colorful scraps of fabric…cheerful and bright.  I’m not out to decorate their new home for them, just give them a gift that shows that I care.

Now that those quilts are done, I wanted to continue with my quilt giving, so I searched online and found an organization that is accepting quilts and kid’s, homemade pillow cases to distribute to fire victims.  I thought that I would pass the word along to my readers…just in case there are other sewers and quilters out there.  Here is the information from them:

————————————————————————————

Happiness Is A Warm Quilt

Contact: Meredith Johnson

We are working to partner with organizations in the fire zones for quilt distribution.  We are working to develop a master list of recipients and their needs for quilts.  Potential organizations for distribution include the local quilt guilds, shops, churches, and other non-profit agencies.  We will also be working with the local schools to distribute pillowcases.

Our website is being developed, but in the meantime, please register by e-mail at happinessisawarmquilt@gmail.com, and post on our facebook group page if you wish https://www.facebook.com/groups/happinesswarmquilt/

Our goal is to keep the flow of donations moving to recipients without overwhelming the local organizations –  we want to support our local guilds, shops, and other non-profits who are working so hard to fulfill so many needs at this time.

Help the victims of the Santa Rosa and Napa fires who have lost their homes.  Many victims have only the clothes they are wearing.  We would like to warm their future homes with a bed quilt made with love.  We are seeking donations of bed-sized quilts only.  Please no throw and crib-sized quilts.  Donations of children’s pillowcases also requested.


 

So, if you belong to a quilting guild,  or are a lone quilter that wants to contribute, or maybe you just want to help out in some other way, please contact Meredith at the email address provided.  Please note that they are not a 501c charity.  If individuals need donation receipts the hope is that their local guild will accept their donations and then send them on to HIAWQ.

 

Peace and Love,

C

 

Hidden Gardens

I recently took a trip to Great Britain, where I visited the Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens, which is nestled in a hidden valley on the Isle of Anglesey, in Northern Wales.  It was absolutely gorgeous and we spent a long, relaxing afternoon touring the grounds.  The gardens are nestled in a canyon and hidden from public view.  It’s only after you drive through some woods and around a few sheep dotted hills do you realize that such a beautiful garden exists.

We visited several other English and Welsh gardens on our trip, but this one completely inspired me.  After I came home, I started thinking about designing my own hidden garden, on a much smaller scale, of course.  I’m thinking of an area on the steep, wooded hillside, with a path that leads down to the creek.  There would be a hidden garden gate to mark the entrance.  In the center of the garden would be a treehouse with screened rooms, so that once we got down there, we could enjoy the surroundings without the mosquitos eating us alive.  There would also be a giant soaking tub with a small waterfall to fill it.  The garden would be filled with shade plants…giant ferns, hydrangeas, hostas, and paths meandering down to the rushing creek.  A pretty foot bridge across the water would be nice too.  Oh…It would be a wonderous place.  I can see it now.

Ahh…but what is in my mind and what I can do physically, are probably two, vastly different things.  Building the paths is going to take some serious muscle and the fact that it is all going down a steep hill, (some would call it a cliff,) only makes it all the more difficult.  It would also have to be fenced in to keep the deer and pigs out.  Large, earth moving equipment would be helpful, but I doubt that would be in the budget.  Still, it’s fun to design it in my mind.  Perhaps one day it will be created.

~C

 

First Pups, Now Kittens!

As I mentioned a few months ago, we were greeted with a mamma dog and her three pups.  We have since kept the mamma, “Honey Girl,” and one of the pups, “Buster.”  We found wonderful homes for the other two pups.

No sooner did we get settled in with the new crew, we discovered a family of kittens on our “in town” property.  They are living under the shed.  More strays in need of some help.  How do they find us?

We’ve been leaving food and water out for them and they have grown.  There’s the mamma, a pale calico, with patches of apricot, soft grey and white, two identical grey tabbies and one pumkin orange tabby.  The kittens are about half grown now.  They’re getting a little more friendly, but they’re still pretty scared of humans for the most part.  I really need to get a trap set for them and get them to the mobil vet clinic for spay and neutering.  I know, they’ll probably never trust me after that ordeal, but at least they won’t be having more litters of homless kitties.

I’ve been meaning to post pix, but these guys are pretty camera shy.  I’ll try to catch shots of them at mealtime and add them to this blog entry as soon as possible

~ C

Lizbby’s is Z Place to Go For Mexican Food in Boonville

Libby’s is now lizbby’s

For those of you who make regular treks to Philo, in hopes of eating those tasty enchiladas and chile rellenos at Libby’s, I have some sad news.  Libby and her gang recently hung up their aprons and closed the restaurant.  Good news is that they sold their place to a hard working family, who moved the establishment up the road to the old Boonville Saloon building and across from the Boonville post office.  They’ve changed the name slightly, to, “Lizbby’s,” but fear not, it is the very same menu and recipes as the old place.

As a rite of pilgrimage, our family dined at “Lizbby’s” the first night it opened and we have gone there several times since.  I can attest that the quality of the food is the just as good, if not better and the family members that run it are warm and welcoming.  The atmosphere, while different than the old, Philo place, is certainly friendly, homey and clean.  Their carnitas are still so tasty that they lure me out of my vegan habits and into that old omnivore world.

The Lizbby space is also bigger, with an attractive barroom…a cozy place to grab a cold, Negra Modelo.  It feels a little empty in the tavern area right now, but that’s only because the patrons have not yet discovered it.  It could make for a fabulous gathering spot for celebrations.

Take out is also available.  There have been a couple of times when I had been shopping and running errands in, “Big Town,” all day and was worn out.  So, instead of cooking dinner at home,  I stopped into Lizbby’s for some Burritos to go.  Quick, yummy, inexpensive and filling…the perfect ticket!

Stop by and grab a bite there.  They’re closed on Sundays, but open the rest of the week.

~ C

 

Mendo Pups are Getting Big! UPDATE

I just wanted to give you all a quick update on the Mendo Pups, who are now about 4 and a half months old.  The crew at Mendocino Shelter Pet Rescue have been so helpful and have already placed Aurora in her new home.  They could not have made a better choice for an adopter.  Aurora is doing great with Jackie.  Pup and “Mom” make the perfect team and they’ve already started her in puppy obedience classes.

Buster, the brutally handsome mendo pup

Buster, one of the Mendo Pups
Buster, you handsome devil, you!

Buster has been winning our hearts over and he may just have to stay and live with us.  :::sigh:::.  I’ll let him go, but only if we can find him an amazing home.  Until then, he’s living the life at the ranch.  He knows so many obedience commands now…”sit,” “stay,” “down,” “come.”  “Heel,” is not his favorite yet, nor is, “outside,” but he’s catching on quick.

Midge, the mendo pup that knows how to get the job done

Midge, working dog
Midge, looking like a true, working girl!

Midge has been the super shy pup of the group. We love her too, but we just can’t keep them all.  She really needs to find a forever home soon, so that she can adjust and get socialized with humans.  She’s very, very sweet with NO biting or aggression issues.  But, I think that someone may not have been so kind to her in the past, so she’s a little bit wary of strangers.  However, she’s coming out of her shell and is now starting to look like the serious, working dog that she is.  I know that we will find her just the right adopter that will appreciate her traits and give her the extra TLC that she needs.  Besides, who can say no to a face like that?

These pups are special…really special.  From the serendipitous arrival on my porch steps, to their incredible outlooks on both, humans and mother nature, they definitely deserve to find a unique home and humans that will both, care for them and understand where they are coming from.  These are not the kind of dogs that will be designated to someone’s small backyard, while the owners are at work all day.  They just wouldn’t make it in that environment.  They need lots and lots of outdoor space and one-on-one attention from a real, “dog person,” that will love and appreciate them.  If you know of someone who fits the bill, please contact me or the Mendocino Shelter Pets Rescue.

Thanks, (and the Mendo Pups thank you too.)

~ C