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Napa and Sonoma

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I think if there was one place that we would love to live, and that we loved visiting, it was California wine country. For me, the combination of agriculture, culture, climate and activities made it one of our favorite vacation spots.

It depresses me to see it burning out of control.

We spent 10 days there, a decade ago. Rented a house. Visited wineries. Cooked. Grilled. Strolled through amazing farmer’s markets. Ate at awesome restaurants.

Chateau St. Jean. In the news now for the damage to their property.

It was one of the first places we visited. Picnic in the gardens while enjoying a glass of wine.

We went to over two dozen wineries that trip. Some of them were known because of our wine dinners at Iron Bridge.

Like Corley.

Family owned. Transplants from Virginia. We still get wines from their wine club, and we hope they are doing OK. They are between the Silverado Trail and Highway 29, fairly far north in the valley.

We first met them at a wine dinner in 2005. Out there, they remembered my husband and were so nice to take us everywhere on the property.

We made other friends out there. One, St. Helena Olive Oil. I would order their oil on line to be delivered here. They lost part of their production facility, although Peggy posted that her house was spared.

The impact on all of us. The loss of produce and fruit. Sonoma was a humongous producer of vegetables and fruit, for the US market.

US olive oils. Hopefully, those old, heavy producing olive trees survived. Otherwise, it could be years before production comes back to normal.

Avocados. Nuts. Citrus. Berries. The melting pot in Sonoma.

Makes me nervous when Florida and California have losses in citrus. Between the hurricane and these wildfires.

Add to it all, the disruption in income when all these businesses can’t open. For them, and their workers.

It’s been a crummy year here in the US, hasn’t it?

Pilgrimage to Penzeys

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Ever heard of Penzeys. The spice place. Known to bakers, cooks, and those who love the freshest of ingredients. I went there today to find fresh whole spices for Indian cooking.

Because of this cookbook.

The October selection of our cookbook club. A cuisine that we both have loved ever since we first met. There are many excellent Indian restaurants in our area. Ananda comes to mind as a personal favorite. And, garam masala is a staple in my cooking.

But, this book is different. Home cooking, not restaurant meals. Simple, flavorful, and tempting me to create my own garam masala from scratch. And, to make simple dishes like the masala omelet.

I think I am set to continue my cooking, and to grind my own masala. Not pictured are the peppercorns. I do have cloves which are also called for in her recipe for garam masala.

Penzeys store is located in Rockville, even though their website says Penzeys Bethesda. Just south of MD 28 on Rockville Pike. Right now, if you go to their store and spend $50 (not hard to do with spices), you get two free jars.

Not going in my Indian cooking, but definitely a plus for some of my other recipes. Their prices are actually comparable to good sources of spice in specialty stores, but they are so fresh.

I also stocked up on a few staples, like these.

Yeah, I know, addicted to cooking. Just like my mom, who couldn’t pass up a yarn, knitting, craft store.

You can also buy online, if you don’t have a store close to you. What’s to keep you from having some awesome dinners?

 

 

San Francisco Bay

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Coffee.

If there was only one environmentally friendly packaged coffee out there, I hope it is this one. We have a Keurig for convenience, for those days we don’t want a whole pot. I do buy some Green Mountain coffees, but don’t like their wasteful packaging.

Way back when, I discovered this family business that packaged their coffees without all that extra plastic stuff.

Use it. Put it in the compost. Even their outer wrap for the 10 pod packages is made of compostable material. I made special trips to Wegmans to buy it.

Now, it’s gone. Probably because it doesn’t work in K-2 machines. It was a bargain. Less than 40 cents a pod.

But, you know, when you can’t find something, you can always turn to Amazon, can’t you? Yep, the 80 cup pack on line for less than what we paid at Wegmans. With Prime, and free shipping, 30 cents a cup.

And we wonder why brick and mortar stores are hurting.

By the way, this is an excellent dark roast coffee. Low in acid. High in flavor. The dark roasts are so much nicer for those of us who want to avoid acid.

A Record Year

On the garden yield. The 2017 tomato crop has blown away all my previous yields.

This was probably my heaviest harvest in August. Over 20 pounds. So far this year my grand total has exceeded 171 pounds, and the cherry tomatoes are still producing.

My previous personal best was 139 pounds the first year I moved to a community garden plot. I thought that was an immense amount and now I am dealing with another 30 some pounds. The freezer is full. I have been gifting a half dozen friends regularly. The food bank and the Wine in the Garden auction basket winner have benefitted from my harvest.

I keep extensive records. By variety. Number of tomatoes. Number of ounces. Every time I pick. I sort. I weigh. I process.

Doing this allows me to decide what to plant again. What to give up. This year? The last of the pineapple tomatoes. They disappointed me for the last time. I love how they look, and how they taste, but they are fickle and fragile.

My replacement for them. Striped German. In the top picture, they are the very large yellow tomatoes with the green stripes. Those were picked a bit early, just before a predicted rain. If I left them on too long, they would split.

In this picture, you can see what happens when the rains come and split the tomatoes. My other favorite from this year, the small cherries with the darkest color, are prone to splitting too. These, the black cherry heirlooms, and those Striped Germans were bought from Love Dove Farms. I bought a market pack of four Striped Germans, and two plants of the black cherries. They will most certainly be grown again next year. They were superior in taste and both produced well.

San Marzano and large cherry tomatoes also did well.

I had two San Marzano plants that produced more than 20 pounds of tomatoes. The red cherry and tomato berry plants also went crazy in late July.

My freezer has dozens of containers of oven roasted cherry tomatoes. All winter long, I will be enjoying them over pasta or mixed with couscous or rice. I freeze them in single dinner size. Enough for the two of us to share.

The plants this year were spectacular.

Ringed by rebar and string to keep them upright. Many reached over six feet high eventually. I put in 32 plants this year in two long double rows in the garden. I lost two of them early in the season. Thirty plants. Averaging almost six pounds per plant. Since eight of the plants were cherry varieties, that’s a healthy return on “investment”.

One other surprise. The purple bumblebee hybrid, which isn’t purple at all.

Do they look purple? Not to me. They do have a great taste. Next year, they will return with the black cherry, striped German, and the San Marzanos. I will probably also repeat the Brandywine and the Rutgers.

It may be the end of the season, but the planning never stops. And, let’s see if I can get to 175 pounds before the first frost.

Designer Kale

Kalettes. Ever heard of them. Neither did I until they showed up in my Community Supported Agriculture share last Tuesday.

They even have their own website.

They remind me of red Russian kale. They are a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale. Easier to digest. Nutty in flavor.

After seven years in our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh, I thought they couldn’t come up with much I hadn’t seen before. And, yep, they did.

I finally got around to using them yesterday. Some of them in soup. The rest. Today will become sautéed side dish for my shrimp and grits.

As for the soup, I am currently cooking from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. For the cookbook club. Refining my techniques. I made a variation of the Tuscan bean and kale soup for dinner.

Definitely a variation. What did I use for this soup? A quart of my homemade chicken stock. Scallions. Purple carrots. A small, cubed Beuregard sweet potato. A can of low sodium cannellini beans. A smoked ham hock. Some of my cherry tomatoes from the garden.

The only seasoning added was a bay leaf, pepper, and oregano. I like the kalettes. They are milder and easily wilt into the soup.

Now, to find them locally. That should be interesting. I wonder if Whole Foods has them?

 

 

 

Preparedness Bootcamp

Did you know that our county is having an emergency preparedness “bootcamp” on the Office of Emergency Management Facebook page?

Not a bad time for us to review what we need to do, to remain prepared for possible extreme weather. With Hurricane Irma out there, and maybe more behind it.

I can’t believe it has been five years since Sandy came through. I remember being a new blogger and writing quite a few posts about preparing for it, and how we coped.

We are much more prepared these days, making it simple to ramp up if we need to do it. Always have extra batteries. Have all sizes of containers around to stockpile water, if needed. We know where to get the largest bags of ice, and we have four coolers for food.

We hope that Irma will somehow miraculously take a hard turn and go out to sea, but if not, we are ready.

Around here, it’s that massive deluge of rain that worries all of us the most. As big as Irma is, it will be hard to avoid getting drenched somewhere along the East Coast.

For those interested in weather, and wanting to learn more about preparedness, check out the OEM page. And, be prepared.

Finally, one simple tip, and a recipe. Make sure you have a good hand can opener. Power outages, you know. For us, the simplest meal. Canned tuna in olive oil, canned chickpeas, a white onion, salt and pepper. Drain the chickpeas. Dice the onion. Mix tuna, chickpeas, onion and salt and pepper. Add a bit more olive oil if it needs it. Serve over lettuce.

Stay safe!

Hurricanes Past

I hate hurricanes. For us they are the largest and most frequent weather events that bring damage to our area. For us, looking at the remnants of Harvey, the hurricane that won’t go away, it is difficult.

Our hurricanes almost never drive us out of our homes. They just hang around, knock out power and dump copious amounts of rainwater that flood those in low lying areas.

A few days of inconvenience for most of us. A minimal number with tree damage to their homes. A handful of flooded basements. Annoying. Yes. Catastrophic. No.

We have many friends in Texas. One in Port Aransas. If he still has a home there. They are in our thoughts. That landing area. Where homes were leveled, and recovery will take years.

Not unlike what Ellicott City had to do, after the floods a year ago. Muck. Bacteria. Mold. Throwing everything away. Wearing respirators to clean up. Fighting with the Flood Insurance People. And more.

If you can, give money to help those who need it in Texas.