Friday, December 19, 2008

persimmon muffins anyone? i finally understand the expression, "the best laid plans". i had every intention of blogging frequently throughout the holiday cookies, pies, jams, candies..all were on the schedule. and i did, in fact, make some of these items..but blogging about it..forget about it.  now, do not get me wrong. i love blogging. regular readers know that i love to blab on..telling stories and sharing my favorite recipes. but this holiday season..oh my!..crazy is the only word i can think of to describe the past few weeks.

many of you know that i started a company last summer. we are a "green", eco-friendly lifestyle brand selling handmade items for home, garden & accessories. everything is from "reused, recycled, reimagined and/or repurposed" materials. we also offer organic bath and body care, organic dog treats and are in the process of launching an organic food line (for people!).

this company is near and dear to my heart..and i love every aspect of owning & operating my own business...but what was i thinking? i launched in july...a second later we were in the midst of holiday prepping and planning...major time suck. in addition, my entire family,and by entire i mean parents, siblings, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins,their kids etc are coming to napa for christmas. they all live either in southern california or oregon...and will be in napa from the 22nd through the 27th. this is the first time in my life christmas has not been spent in southern california. i am really, really excited but..c'mon!  in southern cal everyone comes to a family member's house for a meal and then goes home. here, they are at my house for breakfast, lunch and i have been planning, prepping and organizing like a mad women for the past two weeks...trying to ensure i have not forgotten anything. i am so excited to host christmas...and know this will be a cherished memory for the rest of my life.
now, back to blogging...i miss it more than i can say...and thank you to all the wonderful readers who have emailed me asking where i was.  here is my promise to you guys...i will try and blog a couple of times between now and christmas...then i will spend a lot of time in january recapping the experience...and sharing the recipes from the month. i have been cooking or baking every chance i get and next week's menus include an italian food night, a mexican fiesta night, a traditional christmas menu...with a twist...and a seafood terrific desserts, appetizers and breakfast items. looking forward to sharing the dishes with you.
in the interim, i am currently staring at 5 massive bushels of persimmons picked last week from my tree. i have an extremely prolific tree and have spent the years since we moved to our farmhouse trying every possible recipe trying to use up the huge crop we get each year. i always make big batches of jam...this will be a january project. for christmas, i will be making persimmon cookies, bread, bars and persimmon muffins (recipe follows). the muffins are quick, easy and have become a family favorite so... christmas we come! enjoy, and please let me know if you try them...

persimmon muffins
1 1/2 c unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
2 large eggs
1 c persimmon puree
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1 c brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar
preheat oven to 350 degrees. line a muffing tin with paper liners. place first 8 ingredients in small bowl and whisk together. using an electric mixer, beat eggs for 30 seconds. add persimmon puree, e.v.o.o. and brown sugar to bowl and beat until thoroughly mixed. add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. pour into prepared muffin tins filling each cup 3/4 full. in a separate bowl, mix together the remaining cinnamon and brown sugar...and sprinkle mixture evenly over each muffin.
bake approximately 25 to 30 minutes..until a wooden skewer stuck in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
place pan on cooling rack until muffins are warm and then remove from pan.

enough about are your christmas or hanukkah plans coming? are you ready? let me know in the comments section of this post. and i am always on the hunt for new and different persimmon recipes..please share yours.
happy holidays!
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

vegan thanksgiving?

o.k...i lied...did not mean to...but in my last post, i wrote about my canadian thanksgiving experience in october and about my actual thanksgiving dinner on t-day...and promised to write the following day about my vegan thanksgiving day? 7 days later? i am.. so, to those of you that checked in daily..and emailed me...i apologize. this has been an absolutely crazy time. (memo to self...if you are going to launch your own small business, don't do it in july...xmas will be here before you know it...and you will be slammed with projects)

anyway, i am officially ending my thanksgiving memories series with a recap of one of my favorite experiences this year...vegan thanksgiving. ..but first...a bit of background...regular readers know that i added a line of handcrafted, organic dog treats to my product offering this past september. what you may not know is that in california, pet food manufacturing has the same requirements as human food. so i make my treats in a rental commercial kitchen here in napa. a massive benefit (in addition to the treats) is that i have met some really cool people who are also in the early stages of new food businesses. i have found everyone to be kind, helpful and generous with advice, tips and feedback. we work together to help all the businesses succeed. how cool is that? two of my favorite people have quickly become good friends...terry bradford and mary wilmer. terry is a brilliant musician (singer... won star search in 1990, sang on the lion king soundtrack, was celine dion's duet partner on tour and sang "beauty and the beast" with her, etc.) if you have not heard him...he is simply amazing..big powerful beautiful voice...check him out... and mary is his very smart business manager. they are close friends and both are longtime vegans so, in addition to the music business, they started a vegan food business called bountiful vegans. their food is delicious. so delicious in fact that even non-vegans love it... i will write an entire post about them soon because their story is really compelling.
one day in november, we were all working in the kitchen and i asked them what they were doing for thanksgiving. they are pretty new to napa, do not know a lot of people here yet and had to complete some work on the actual day of thanksgiving. i could not stand the thought of them forgoing the holiday this we hatched up a plan to create a new tradition,"vegan thanksgiving", to be held the next day.... the three of us love to cook (obviously) so i invited some friends/neighbors who are committed NON-vegans over for a tasting dinner. terry and mary brought over some of their products...and a ton of organic ingredients...and we spent the afternoon/evening making up recipes. we served each dish one at a time to our "guests" and asked for feedback. remember...this meal was 100% our surprise and delight everyone loved each dish. you could tell that they were not just being polite because a.) these are the type of friends who tell you what they holding back and b.) the dishes were gobbled up with requests to take the leftovers home! we even had a 14 yr old boy who loved it...he kept referring to the meal as "random food"... as we explained how items like "vegan bacon" were made.looking back, this night was one of my favorites of the amazing food with friends (testing, eating, laughing)...feeding friends food that they loved, laughing and answering their questions about how everything was made...and then just hanging out talking and laughing. (you notice how often i have written the word "laughing"..i think that is really what made the evening so was so much fun!)

so, one more thing that i am grateful for this year...the number of new people i have met...really great, terrific people...and to the ones that are fast becoming good and true friends...thank you!
by now you are probably asking..."what did you make for vegan thanksgiving?" i will be posting a number of the recipes during the next few months...and i am proud to say that i will be adding food from the bountiful vegan to my website...they make two items that i am addicted to..their carrotuna, and their tofeggy. the carrotuna looks a bit like a carrot salad..but it tastes like the lightest, freshest tuna salad you have ever eaten. the tofeggy is their eggless, egg me, you do not have to be vegan, or even vegetarian to love their food. (i will post when their items are on my webstore site)my favorite recipe from vegan thanksgiving is the simplest and easiest...carrotuna crostini...

carotuna crostini
1 sourdough or french baguette
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup olive tapenade
1 container carrotuna

slice baguette into 1/2 inch rounds..toast in oven at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. watch carefully to ensure they do not burn. (or grill. i use a panini press). remove crostini from heat source and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. spread each toast with a thin layer of tapenade. top each piece with 1 tbsp carotuna. serve immediately.

how easy was that? you can make your own tapenade...or purchase a good quality version if pressed for time.... this is my christmas day appetizer this year...and no one in my family is vegan or vegetarian...

i want to take a moment to once again thank all of my thanksgiving memories guest guys rock..and i thoroughly enjoyed the it is time to turn the blog themes to december holidays. i recently found out that my entire family is coming to napa for christmas...first time ever. i originally thought i would be hosting a group of 8...has ballooned to 25 and counting...and i could not be more excited..however, i will be spending the next 15 days planning, prepping and cooking...and will share the experience (along with a ton of recipes) in this blog. so please join in...comment...and share your tips for getting ready for the holidays because...THEY ARE HERE!

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

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Monday, December 1, 2008

three thanksgivings??

yes, i was fortunate enough to be able to celebrate thanksgiving three times this year. first, my friends richard and caitlin decided to throw a "canadian thanksgiving" bash on october 12th. then we had our traditional holiday on thanksgiving day. finally, we created a new tradition..."vegan" thanksgiving on some very good friends of mine are vegan and they kinda miss out during the traditional meal. happily, i have not concluded the thanksgiving memories series i was thrilled when caitlin sent me her write up of the canadian thanksgiving festivities...and i will share the vegan day tomorrow...

caitlin is a new friend..just met her this year...and feel very fortunate that this extremely kind, giving, intelligent and funny person has come into my life...she moved here from canada last year and was feeling a bit homesick, so she took charge of introducing one of her traditions to her new friends here in napa...i confess that i did not know much about this holiday...other than seeing the date posted each year on my franklin/covey day planner!! i learned that thanksgiving is similar to ours..a celebration of harvest albeit without the pilgrim/native american theme. the food is pretty much the same...and, although the official day is a monday, caitlin said that canadians hold their feast dinner sometime during that long weekend...ours was a sunday night...i could go on and on describing this magical evening...but caitlin did a lovely job of telling the story....introducing caitlin...

"Canadian Thanksgiving has always been just that. Red and orange maple leaves, hikes in brisk fresh air, crisp Macintosh Apples and of course turkey with all the trimmings and lots of laughter with friends and family.

Celebrating the early October Harvest has always marked the transition into the cold, harsh Canadian winter. This holiday has always been a favorite of mine and moving to California I was afraid I would lose my holiday roots. How wrong I was with the beautiful Canadian thanksgiving I was able to share with my American friends.

We truly celebrated with the culture and flare that makes the Napa Valley so special. A beautiful sunny day in the heart of the Carneros region of Napa was the backdrop for the truly remarkable day. An outdoor table for 25 was set with the amazing design skills of Richard Von Saal. His kindness, passion and eye for detail was beyond evident with a barn wood center piece, dichroic glass chandelier, an eclectic mix of vintage pieces, and of course many bottles of the delicious wine that makes the Napa Valley world famous.

The food was a beautiful potluck of classic Thanksgiving food complete with a rosemary white wine turkey from Martha Stewart Everyday Foods, freshly baked Asian pear pie, winter salad and the best (I’m not kidding), Persimmon and fig preserves from Napa Farm House 1885.
Aside from the successful wine industry, gourmet food revolution, a lifestyle focused on health and wellness, and an appreciation for the arts the people are what make the culture of the Napa Valley so special. How lucky was I to be thousands of miles away from my family and spend a celebrated holiday with 25 amazing people. Only in California will you find around one table such an interesting and diverse group of folks as we had. Artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, photographers, writers, environmental activists, an editor of a lesbian magazine, wine makers, gallery owners, a professional dirt biker, and designer who all shared lots of laughter and great stories.

My mom will be happy to know that our family tradition of expressing what we are grateful for was carried on around this amazing dinner table of new friends. What was I thankful for? Of course all my new American friends who came together in celebration of food, friendship, and laughter. I can hardly wait to do it all over again for the American Thanksgiving tradition!"

was your holiday traditional..or did you mix it up? please share your stories in the comments section of this post...and check back tomorrow for "vegan thanksgiving"!


napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

what is it like to spend thanksgiving in napa?

if you grew up here...or live here is probably a lot like thanksgiving anywhere in america. a wonderful day spent with family and friends eating amazing food. hopefully it is a day to give thanks for all that we have...and to celebrate everyone we love...

today's post by guest blogger, lisa adams walter, is her beautiful story of growing up in napa while her father was serving in the marines during the vietnam war....and of thanksgiving traditions formed during that time...and...happily...after he returned home. since i live in napa too, i thoroughly enjoyed imagining lisa's family shopping at all the places i know and love...brown's valley market...milk and butter from stornetta's dairy...and breakfast at the buttercream is a napa tradition...

lisa is a new twitter friend of mine...and i am enjoying getting to know her through her tweets...and learning about her pr/marketing firm adams walter through her website...lisa tells me she is in the process of starting a blog...i will let you know when it is up...until then, you can enjoy her story as part of the napa farmhouse 1885™ thanksgiving memories series....

Thanksgiving in Napa, Then and Now
By Lisa Adams Walter
twitter @LisaAdamsWalter

"The first Thanksgiving I can remember was in Napa. Back then, in the last year of the ‘60s, I was barely five years old and my dad was serving a tour of duty in Viet Nam. The holidays that year were less than perfect with a sense of uncertainty while Daddy was away. It wasn’t the same. That wasn’t to say that our family life was “perfect” by any stretch of the imagination (whose is?), but it wasn’t “normal” that shortly after the joy of the first man walking on the moon, my mom, baby sister and I traveled down to Oceanside, California to send my dad off to Viet Nam.

We spent his “going away” weekend on the beach, hanging out in what I can only barely remember as a ‘50s era coastal strip motel that had some sort of kitchenette. I don’t remember what we ate, but I do remember my baby sister Laura (just two years old) in her little navy blue with pink trim one-piece bathing suit sporting the worst sunburn of her life! Then we took him to wherever you take troops to depart into the unknown. He, once a Marine always a Marine, rather than handsome in his dress blues was dressed in full combat gear. Off he went. More than 30 years later, I still have a small collection of letters handwritten by my dad sent to me from that faraway place: Nam.

We drove back up to Napa (then filled with prune orchards, a few vineyards and lots of open space) to start the school year. My mom was a young teacher, I was just beginning Kindergarten.

My family has been in the Napa Valley since the 1930s, my mother born and raised in this simple place: Napa—it used to be a very small, intimate, working-class town. It was because of the uncertainty of the Viet Nam War that my mother (who is still wise to this day) decided (actually, I believe that with great conviction she demanded) that following military transfers to Maryland, Monterey and Okinawa, Japan that if her husband was heading off to war, she was heading home to Napa. My grandparents, a pastor and a teacher, were always waiting for us with open arms. They provided a solid foundation, and a soft place to land. Most of my Thanksgiving memories rest with them.
By this time, my grandparents had already been in Napa for more than three decades. Midwesterners of German descent, much of what we ate on holidays (and at every Sunday dinner) was homegrown, a gift from a parishioner, delivered from Stornetta’s Dairy or from Giovannoni’s Market. The bird was fresh, the mashed potatoes were hand-whipped with butter and fresh cream, we baked the pies from scratch and three generations of us would squeeze into the kitchen to each do our part. These traditions continue to this day.

It was always my job to set the table, make the gravy, bake pies and serve beverages. I can remember how the table looked, how my grandparent’s home smelled, and how we didn’t need anything more than each other for entertainment. Our traditional menu was always basically the same, but nothing was out of can or box or purchased prepared: anti-pasta selection, roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, sweet yams, salad, cranberry sauce, cranberry salad, Dutch crunch rolls (okay, those came from Buttercream Bakery), pumpkin pie, apple pie and persimmon pudding. If I close my eyes right now, I swear that I am right back there in the middle of what is now a very old part of Napa. The “event” itself was the collaboration and creation of the meal, all of us sitting down, collectively giving thanks and celebrating.
We continued our tradition for decades. And in one fashion or another it continues to this day (the turkey now comes from Browns Valley Market run by Giovannonis, the rolls still come from Buttercream Bakery). My grandparents have passed on. My sister and her husband live in Napa and I now have a husband, in-laws, a career and a sparkling seven-year-old daughter. Today I live, work and am immersed in one of the most famous wine regions in the world. The wines we select for holidays are often some of the finest that we enjoy all year. I’ve even hosted a few Thanksgiving dinners of my own, I love to cook. But more than that, I love what it is that Thanksgiving stands for: Giving Thanks. It’s the food, wine and close personal definition of “family” that takes the celebration to the next level.

While my dad was in Viet Nam, we’d shop the base commissary at either Travis Air Force Base or Mare Island and then send care packages of home-baked cookies, Tang and Carnation Instant Breakfast mix. Nothing like the home-grown fare we enjoyed daily. But I guess that’s how it is when you’re fighting a war.

I don’t think that it was until I was in my ‘30s that I realized what it was that my parents went through with the (pre- and post-) Viet Nam experience that dramatically impacted our family. Without constant communication, and the technology that provides an instant window into the world of today, without email and telephone access… it was all a vast, unknown void. Every night on the evening news, the “news” from Viet Nam wasn’t good. Today, with our international conflicts one thing remains the same: the craziness and warped impact of war. I give thanks for the troops that bravely protect our country today. Bring them home.

After his tour of duty, my dad returned to the states. It was in the middle of the night one evening that we received an unexpected phone call. It’s a blurry memory, but I do remember being bundled up with my sister and then with my mom, we sped down to SFO in our Toyota Corolla to pick up my dad. Thank God he came home safe. Still, things were never quite the same after then. It was a rocky road for our family, but through it all we hung together. My parents continue to live in Napa after all of these years. This year in particular, perhaps because I feel that nationally our country is on the brink of incredible positive change, I am thankful that we persevered. And I am also grateful to, and proud of, my mom and dad that they were able to personally give SO much during such an unsettled time (1969).

This year I also hope and pray for peace for all of the families whose loved ones are serving out in the “unknown” on behalf of the United States. Let’s all, as a country, do all that we can, so that they can return to celebrate an endless number of memorable and peace-filled Thanksgiving holidays. And to my dad: Semper Fi!"

lisa..thank you so much for sharing your thanksgiving memories with us...i knew it was the perfect story to post on thanksgiving eve. if you are like me, you are busy working in your kitchen tonight...baking, cooking, cleaning and prepping for tomorrow...lisa ensures we take a minute to reflect on the true meaning of the day...happy thanksgiving everyone... and..yes..the thanksgiving memories series continues with additional stories throughout the holiday weekend...enjoy your day tomorrow...


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

eggrolls for thanksgiving?

yes...if you are fortunate enough to spend thanksgiving with my twitter friends diane and todd, the creative force behind the wonderful blog white on rice couple. white on rice couple is one of my favorite sites because i learn something new every time i visit...they describe themselves this way..

"Carpe Diem! We're cooking instructors, food writers, avid gardeners, travelers and photographers. Trying to live life to the fullest, we never cease to explore new global sights, sounds, flavors and adventures."

todd was born in oregon, diane in vietnam...and they both now live in southern california...their recipes are an amazing fusion of their lives, histories, family traditions and travels...their photography is beautiful..their recipes clear and easy to of all for me...they make creating really good vietnamese food at home possible...i always thought it would be hard and their will be inspired to try their recommendations...

so, when they agreed to guest blog for my thanksgiving memories series i literally jumped for joy (o.k. by now you know i can be a bit of a drama queen...but i really was very, very happy)...diane took the lead on this post surprise...shares a delicious sounding recipe using turkey on thanksgiving but with a addition, she shares one of my favorite american traditions...merging cultures to create the true meaning of thanksgiving...i can't wait to give these eggrolls a the me on this..check out the white on rice couple's blog....and let me know what you think in the comments section of this post...

"The huge feast at my parents house on Thanksgiving has always reflected the multicultural influences inspired from each and every family member. One of the challenges, though, has always been how to make turkey interesting for my Vietnamese parents . Mom and Dad never grew up eating Turkey in Vietnam, so when they finally did have their first bite, turkey lacked the fat and flavor from their standard duck and chicken.
Basically, eating turkey was very unexciting for them, and on the verge of food torture.
But on the other hand, my siblings and I (all six of us) loved turkey, gravy and all the trimmings because it was a refreshing change from our daily intake of rice and noodles. It was the one day of year that we could indulge in everything that was Native American Indian and Pilgrim. So every year when Thanksgiving rolls around, it was always the tale of two feasts: one that was more Vietnamese inspired for my parents, and for the kids, one that was as close to possible to what the Pilgrims had near Plymouth Rock. History class taught us many culinary lessons.
To please every palate, tradition and generation gap, our Thanksgiving spread was a reflection of the Far East meets East Coast Pilgrim style. We have, to please the kids, a roast turkey, gravy, potatoes, rolls, corn and almost everything that could be duplicated from what us kids learned from school. For Mom and Dad, there was the noodles, Vietnamese herbs, and lots of fish sauce to dress the "dry, bland, flavorless" turkey. The kids had the giblet gravy, while Mom and Dad had the fish sauce style gravy, full of chiles, garlic and everything else that gave them the satisfying comfort of a Vietnamese home.
As time evolved and we all learned to cook beyond the traditional trimmings, we started to get creative with not just the turkey, but with other roasts and hams. The protein moved well beyond the turkey. Although we have added new sources of protein, creative vegetable dishes and desserts, the turkey always makes a star showing at the table. No matter what happens, all my brothers love their simple turkey and gravy. Take that away from them and you have a mutiny of four monstrous appetites. That's why we keep the turkey.
So to add to the energizing creativity of foods that has been coming out of the kitchen now that many of us cook, the evolution of the turkey as taken us to making eggrolls (fried springrolls). It has the meat to satisfy my hungry brothers, and the flavors of the traditional egg rolls that Mom and Dad love eating. Now everyone is happy crunching on these crispy, savory turkey rolls. It meets the best of both food worlds for all members of our expanding family. It's a tradition that will continue for many more generations to come.
Turkey eggrolls are easy and a delicious alternative to the Thanksgiving appetizer. Not only is it a great way to creatively use turkey meat, but the addition of traditional Asian flavors and spices make it a delicious finger food for all ages. Even for those turkey haters, these turkey eggrolls have been the ambassador to positive turkey eating. It's a great dish that will be making the Thanksgiving rounds for many more years .
The most important part of these turkey eggrolls is that they brings two different food cultures together harmoniously for a heartwarming Thanksgiving meal."

Turkey Eggrolls (with bacon)
To keep to the integrity of the healthy aspect of turkey, you can omit the bacon. We like adding bacon because of the extra fat ( we love our fat) and flavor. It's amazing what extra flavor the bacon adds to the turkey!

1 lb fresh ground turkey
5 slices bacon
1/2 cup chopped rehydrated glass noodles (about 1 small individual package). Optional, if available.
1/2 cup chopped rehydrated black fungus mushrooms (wood ear mushrooms) or chopped fresh mushrooms.
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped cabbage
1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 large cloves crushed garlic
1 pkg of about 25 springroll wrappers or rice paper wrappers.
Vegetable oil or Peanut oil for frying.
Fresh lettuce, sliced cucumber and mint, basil or available herbs.

1. Par-fry bacon till just slightly crisp, but still soft. Remove bacon from oil and chop bacon.

2. Rehydrate glass noodles and/or black fungus mushrooms in hot water, drain. Chop these, as well as green onions, cilantro and cabbage.

3. Mix all ingredients together in large bowl . Using your hands, dive into the bowl and mix everything together well. Mush it all between your fingers to ensure that all chopped ingredients are blended well.
4. If using rice paper wrappers, dip rice sheets in warm water for a few seconds. Place rice sheet on your work surface (cutting board or plate). Let rice sheet soften and become gelatinous for about 1 minute. Start on the wrapper edge closest to you, place about one full tablespoon of filling on edge of wrapper. Slowly roll and shape filling to a tubular shape. Roll about the first 1/3 of wrapper, then fold in both sides and continue the roll until it is completely finished.

-For flour based/pastry springroll wrappers, follow wrapping instructions as above. But use a bit of egg white to help seal all the edges and seams of the springroll wrappers. These type of wrappers do not need to be dipped in water. Use them straight from the package.

For more photographs on wrapping technique, visit Spring Rolling Techniques

5. In frying pan or deep fryer, place about 1 inch of vegetable oil. Let oil heat up slowly on medium heat. Gently place rolls in hot oil and fry on each side until golden brown.

6. Serve warm with fish dipping sauce, fresh lettuce, slices of cucumber and mint, basil or what ever herbs are available.

Makes about 25 rolls, but depending on how big your rolls are and how much filling you use, the recipe may only make about about 12-15 rolls.

so..from one diane to another..thank you so much for guest blogging on my site...let's do it again sometime soon...for everyone else...happy thanksgiving...


napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"

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Monday, November 24, 2008

is it thanksgiving without mashed potatoes?

not in my family...but not for the reason you might think. welcome to another thanksgiving memories post from napa farmhouse 1885™. today's guest blogger is my sister, kathi. i laughed hysterically when i first read her story...i asked both of my sisters to contribute...and they each wrote about the same incident. (it was my first thought too)... i guess when you say "thanksgiving memory" to anyone in my family the first thought is the tale kathi is about to tell...not a warm, loving, special family memory....but this mashed potatoes here goes...a "thanksgiving memory" from my family...

"I have been lucky and blessed to have celebrated Thanksgiving forty five times so far. I hope I will experience this wonderful holiday forty five more times. One Thanksgiving in particular stands out in my mind from all of the others. You are probably thinking that this one special Thanksgiving is the one in which I roasted my first turkey...or the one when I got engaged to my husband...or the one when it snowed and we were all in this fabulous cabin (I just made that up...I live in L.A.). Nope, none of those are the "stand out" Thanksgiving. When I think of this occasion, the first thing that pops into my head is the Thanksgiving when my great grandmother fell forward, face first, into her plate of mashed potatoes and turkey. And you know what? I'm actually laughing right now as I write this. I know, I have a sick mind but in my defense she did not hurt herself and she was not ill. A stiff cocktail, a heated room, a big dinner and being elderly can do that to you I guess. I was probably about six or seven when this happened. Everyone was at our house (20 people or so) and we were seated around a ping pong table. Our regular dining table was too small to seat everyone so my mom used a ping pong table instead. It was decorated and it looked very pretty. We were all eating and laughing and everything was normal. All of a sudden Mamee (that's what everyone called my great grandmother) went down. I swear to God it was just like in the movies. Well, needless to say, everyone just kind of sat and stared in shock for a moment. Then, after a minute, some of the adults got up to help her. She was cleaned up and then she went back to my sisters' room to rest. Honestly, she was fine. All of the other Thanksgivings that I have had since just don't compare-I will never forget that night. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!! Stay well, stay safe, stay thankful and for goodness sakes, stay upright in your chair!"Kathi
Los Angeles

o.k...maybe you had to be there....but looking back... as soon as everyone knew my great grandmother was physically really was funny...there she was...face planted in the mashed potatoes...and all the adults just looking at her....what a thanksgiving! (and no one in my family drank much so it really was an unexpected occurrence...anyway, i could not let that story pass without sharing a recipe for...what else?..mashed potatoes...or my version which is better known as "smashed" potatoes.i have always loved potato skins as much as the flesh...and therefore don't bother with peeling. i think the fiber and nutrients you get from eating the skins is a more healthful way to eat when something is easier and better for you...major score... i substitute extra virgin olive oil for the more commonly used butter...and add roasted these potatoes have loads of flavor and will stand up to the rest of the thanksgiving dinner menu items...

smashed potatoes
(serves 4)
1 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes ( cut in quarters) do not peel
1/2 cup milk (warmed either in pan on stove top or in microwave)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp roasted garlic paste (see below)
grey salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

add potatoes to a large pot of salted water. (salt the water like you would for pasta). bring to a boil and cook until fork tender (about 15-20 minutes). drain the potatoes and add back to the now empty pot. cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until potatoes and pot are dry (stir continuously to prevent potatoes from sticking). turn heat to low and add warm milk and olive oil to potatoes and mash using a potato masher. the potatoes will be lumpy due to the skins, so check to ensure milk and olive oil are thoroughly incorporated into potatoes. add garlic paste and salt/pepper to taste... additional milk may be added if potatoes are too dry. serve immediately.

roasted garlic paste
you can make this with as many heads of garlic as you wish...this no-recipe recipe is as follows:

with a sharp knife ,cut off the very top of each head of should just see the very tip of the garlic cloves after cutting. remove the first layer or two of papery garlic skin from the garlic head...not too much, you want the garlic cloves to remain attached. place the garlic root side down in a small ovenproof pan or baking want the garlic to fit tightly in the the pan size will depend on the number of garlic heads you are roasting (make more than you need...this paste will last a few days...and you will use it in everything!)...drizzle cut side of garlic with extra virgin olive oil. sprinkle with sea salt (i like grey salt) and freshly ground pepper. cover pan tightly with foil and roast in a 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. garlic should be very tender. remove foil, drizzle with additional olive oil and continue roasting for 10 minutes more.
at this point you can squeeze the garlic from the cloves directly onto toasted french or sourdough bread which is lovely...or you can squeeze all the garlic into a small bowl, mash with a wooden spoon and drizzle with additional extra virgin olive oil to create a smooth paste...taste and add additional salt/pepper if desired. garlic paste can be stirred into your smashed potatoes, added to toasted bread, added to roasted or steamed vegetables, stirred into sauces...etc...once you taste it you will be inspired to add it to almost everything!
i am always looking for terrific recipes for please add your favorites to the comments section of this post...or let me know how you liked the smashed potatoes from today's story... is 4 days till thanksgiving...and a number of my guest bloggers have let me know their stories are on their way...i will be adding at least a post a day...maybe two...including thanksgiving check back often... and, as always this month..happy thanksgiving!

napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

french apple pie anyone??

i am so enjoying our thanksgiving memories series...(can you say you are enjoying your own blog without sounding weird)?....i love the stories being told by my wonderful guest bloggers...and i love sharing the memories i have from my own family. all the posts focus on family, friends and good food being's story by sarah caron is a perfect example. she reminisces about preparing thanksgiving dinner as a child with the women in her family...and continuing that tradition with her own children. (she also shares a killer recipe for french apple pie!)

i very purposely titled this series thanksgiving memories...because, to me, telling your family's stories is a very important way to remember, to teach, to record, to question and to learn...don't wait...tell your stories to all the children in your family...inspire the next generation to keep the traditions going...

i am so grateful to sarah for taking the time to join the group of guest bloggers for this project. i "met" her via her "tweets"...and was surprised she could find the time to write for another blog..(she writes for 4 of her own). i am most familiar with her blog sarah's cucina bella as she shares a lot of the posts via links on twitter...but to give you a more complete picture..i decided to cut and paste her bio from the fit fare you go...

Sarah Caron (Editor of Fit Fare and Well Fed On The Town). As Managing Editor, Editorial, Sarah Caron helps to oversee the content on the Well Fed sites. Sarah developed a passion for writing in early childhood that has never waned. She is a writer, editor, mommy and wife, who is based in Connecticut and loves cooking for family and friends (and then taking photos of everything). When she’s not hard at work on Well Fed, Sarah works as an editor for a top educational publisher. She also writes a personal cooking blog, Sarah’s Cucina Bella, and is author of Families Eat Together, due out this year from Ladder Press. She has a bachelors degree in political science from Barnard College.

whew!! and the bio misses her blog the voice of mom and the website she knows ..... i thought writing for one blog was a lot of work. thank you again sarah..i love your story..AND...i love the pie recipe....i am going to try it out this weekend..just cannot wait for thanksgiving...

From Sarah Caron
"I wish I could capture the images, voices and conversations from my childhood and transfer them to a memory holder, like Dumbledore’s pensieve, so that I could revisit them in full clarity whenever I choose. I’d like to hold tight to the laughter, smiles and joy of the family of my childhood together.

We would gather in the kitchen on the eve of Thanksgiving, three generations of women in the family standing around the smooth stretch of tan-speckled Formica countertop that we ate dinner at nightly. But this wasn’t dinner time. It was time to prepare for Thanksgiving.
We’d gather cans of tender peaches and pears, and bunches of tart green grapes. A glass bowl, with smooth sides and curved edges would await the salad. The grapes would be halved. Then, we would carefully dig into each one, removing the tiny seeds. Then the grapes would be dropped into the bowl, with pears, peaches and fiery flashes of maraschino cherries. Someone older than I – my grandmother, perhaps – would stir the mixture with a large wooden spoon, making rhythmic circle motions around the perimeter. Then aluminum foil would seal the top, patted and crinkled to fit the lip of the bowl. Into the refrigerator overnight the fruit salad would go. At the last minute before serving, sliced bananas being tossed in to prevent them from browning.

To serve, the fruit salad would be spooned into diminutive footed glass bowls, one at each placesetting. Cups filled with cocktail sauce and rimmed with pink curves of jumbo shrimp would join the table. A relish platter, vegetables, turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and more. And cranberry sauce, sometimes made fresh, other times poured from the white can.
Then would come dessert, glorious dessert. Two or three pies would wait, apple, pumpkin, sometimes pecan or cherry. But I only had eyes for the pumpkin.
Thanksgiving was a day for simple indulgence, for giving thanks for the gifts we had – family, love, intelligence. The table would overflow with food prepared with but one objective: feeding a family. They say that preparing food with love makes it taste so much better. Whoever ‘they’ is, they are right.
These days, some of the faces gathering around the table are different. There is a new generation of family present and an older one passed. I’ve taken over the task of cooking Thanksgiving, making the meal more elaborate and extensive. It’s my style. Whereas my grandmother appreciated simplicity and clean, fuss-free tastes, I relish in creating new side dishes and appetizers that expand my family’s palates. Desserts still include pumpkin and apple pies, but now it’s my special French apple pie awaiting the overstuffed bellies. But the feeling and meaning are still the same.

Whatever it is that hits the table, I hope that 25 years from now, my children will look back on the Thanksgivings of their childhood and remember the three generations of family members crowding around our kitchen table, eating food that they helped prepare. It doesn’t matter the style or variety, just as long as they are a part of it, just like I was."
French Apple Pie
yields one pie

1 good quality deep dish pie crust (I like Oronoque Farms)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
dash of salt
8 cups peeled and sliced apples (about 1/4 inch thick)
1/2 tbsp vanilla

Crumb topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup firm butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in apples.
Pour apple combination into the pie crust, making them slightly higher in the center than on the sides. Sprinkle vanilla over the top of the pie.
Place pie in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and brown sugar for the crumb topping. Cut in the butter and mix until crumbly.
Remove pie from the oven and sprinkle crumb topping over the apples. Place pie back in the oven and cook for an additional 30-35 minutes.
Let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm…with vanilla bean ice cream.
(all photographs for this post courtesy sarah caron)

when you were a child did you help out in the kitchen preparing thanksgiving dinner? or other holiday meals? please share your stories in the comments section of this post...

and as i close, i am reminded that thanksgiving day is exactly one week from to plan the shopping lists....happy thanksgiving everyone!

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

do you have nephews?... part 2

yesterday, i wrote about the love i have for my twin nephews and posted a story by one of them...chris. today it is his brother shaun's turn. again, i did not edit or change a word of the post....chris wrote about the importance of appreciating family and loved ones on thanksgiving...shaun took a different, but equally important approach...he discussed food!! he also shares our family's new tradition...for the past few years, thanksgiving has been held at my sister and brother-in-law's home..this, after a lifetime of thanksgivings at my parent's house. both boys mentioned the importance of celebrating the holiday at their home...that is the tradition they will remember when they are here's to new traditions!...and to nephews!! (and nieces...and children in general...)

Thanksgiving Essay

"Thanksgiving is a holiday we celebrate. It is one of my favorite holidays. At Thanksgiving everybody brings a little bit of food. It is a very fun holiday. On Thanksgiving we eat a lot of things. We eat turkey and stuffing. We also have fruit and vetagblas too. Also we eat a lot of desert. We have apple pie and pumkin pie. We also have lemon cake. On Thanksgiving we have it at my house. We have my grandparents over. We also have our aunts and uncles. Also we have some friends too. This is how we celebrate Thanksgiving. Last year was my favorite Thanksgiving because we played tackle football at the beach with my mom and my auntie. My brother and my cousins played too. It was fun because we got to see my cousins and my auntie was cracking jokes a lot." by Shaun, age 12

oh..btw....the "cracking jokes auntie" shaun refers to is my sister susan...i am not the funny one in the family....

has your family changed their traditions for holidays? please share your stories in the comments section of this post...and, as always during our thanksgiving memories series..happy thanksgiving...

napafarmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"

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Monday, November 17, 2008

do you have nephews?

or nieces? did the magnitude of your love for them take you by surprise?

i do not have children of my own..nor does my sister susan. so 13 yrs ago last month (actually on halloween), when my sister kathi first announced she was pregnant, i was thrilled and knew i would love her child...then a month later (on thanksgiving no less), she announced it was twins!! ...and knowing there would be two babies was even more exciting. (my entire family held our collective breath at christmas waiting for another announcement since kathi seemed to love drama on holidays that triplets!!)

the twins (boys!) were preemies..a month early...and one (shaun) was so small he needed to be in an isolette for a while. so, when i first saw the boys, i saw chris first...he was being held by kathi..i took one look and fell deeply in love...never before knew that fiercely protective love you could have for a heart was full...didn't think it could hold anymore...then i saw his brother shaun...tiny in the isolette...and my heart, i know those last few sentences sound over the top dramatic...but if you have ever loved a child...your own or a know what i mean.

you could say i have no objectivity regarding the boys..probably true..but they really are the nicest, kindest, smartest, funniest, most entertaining people i know...i think family members should be over the top in their love for their makes me sad when this is not the case...i love just sitting and talking to the boys..they are now twelve..but they have been incredibly interesting from the start... in addition to loving them..i really like them...they are twins..but fraternal..not identical...and if you met them you would be struck by how different their personalities are...none of this "secret twins language" for them...they have their own interests, hobbies and talents...more like brothers without the twin connection.

for today's thanksgiving memories post, i asked the boys to be my guest bloggers... i am extremely thankful they are in my life and for the joy they have brought to my entire extended up first..chris, age twelve...note, i have not changed a word of his submission..this is exactly as he wrote it...tomorrow, you will hear from shaun.
oh..and one more thing..for privacy reasons..these pictures were taken a long time ago...nothing recent will be posted can never be too careful...
What is Thanksgiving?

"Thanksgiving is a special holiday. It is a day to spend time with your family and to give thanks. Food is a staple part of this holiday, but we should not forget the real meaning of Thanksgiving. Some people just scarf down their food and then watch TV. What's the point of celebrating a holiday like that? It brings nothing memorable to a day that should be one-of-a-kind.

Thanksgiving is a day to spend time with your family. Some people like to have a small celebration with their immediate family. Others, like my family, have a huge get together with 10 or more people. The occasion is very special for I am spending time with the people I love. It is also a day to give thanks (that's what the name is) to God and to everyone who has ever done something for you. On this day, you should really take time to think about anything someone has done for you and to let them know how important they are in your life. Give thanks to God as well. "Uncle Bob" may have helped you get your first job, but God willed him to do so. God controls everything.

Don't take Thanksgiving for granted, because it only happens once a year. Remember the true meaning of the holiday too. Give thanks and hang out with your family."

Chris, 12 years old

as family members, you try to teach your children the true meaning of holidays....i think chris "gets it"!!.....o.k. do you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins or other children in your life? do you have a great thanksgiving story about them to share? please tell me about it in the comments section of this post...and... as always this month...happy thanksgiving!


napafarmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

what scents remind you of the holidays?

for most people, the answer for thanksgiving scents would be food scents...pies baking, turkey roasting, gravy simmering...when i read today's post by guest blogger theresa loe, i realized that ..for me.. every holiday has a signature scent..and they are mostly food related. burgers and barbecue for the 4th of july...roast lamb for easter...cakes, cookies and pies for get the idea.

theresa takes the concept one step further...reminding us that it's not just the's the people celebrating the holiday with us that is most important..we know this..but sometimes a good reminder is just what we need...

i was thrilled when theresa agreed to guest blog for the napa farmhouse 1885™ thanksgiving memories series...we follow each other on twitter and..through that site...i discovered her beautiful blog garden fresh living...i urge you to check it out like to want to like to want to learn about organic farming, organic gardening, organic cooking, buying organic...see where i am going with this?... you should just check out her will be so happy you did...theresa's bio is listed at the end of her post...but...just so you know...she authors a very cool calendar...the 2009 herbal is a tip...get this calendar!!..for you or for a gift...

theresa..thank you so much for the post..i plan to share it with my mom....and thank her for everything she taught me about cooking and baking....thanks mom!

oh...regarding the cookie photo..i was reading this post while munching on some vegan ginger cookies made by my friends mary and terry...yes... mary and terry...the cookies are delicious...i describe them as cookies even a non vegan/non vegetarian would love. i thought their spicy ginger scent was really appropriate for this is posted...

Holiday Spices Evoke Thanksgiving Memories, By Theresa Loe

"They say that the sense of smell is closely tied to the memory portion of our brains. Various aromas can immediately take us back to recollections of our past. I’ve experienced the way a perfume will remind me of someone from long ago or how the aroma of certain foods reminds me of the kitchen from my childhood.

When I smell the spicy aroma of ginger, it immediately makes me think of holiday preparations as a little girl helping my mother make gingerbread. Growing up, our kitchen was a hustle and bustle of activity for weeks before Thanksgiving (and all the way through Christmas). The whole house was filled with the wonderful aromas of ginger, cinnamon and allspice.
My mom loves to bake and she passed that love on to me. As a little girl, I always had the important job of measuring these spices and stirring the ingredients when she was making something delicious. While other households only made pie, we were making gingerbread cake, gingerbread cookies, bread puddings and spicy pies with extra ginger and cinnamon.

During these baking sessions, I learned many important culinary trade secrets. But more importantly, I built a closeness with my mother that I don’t think we could have forged any other way. Baking gave us common ground for intimate mother/daughter talks and I soon realized that it was those moments in time I cherish the most. As a kid, you think you will grow up to remember the movies, toys, and games played with friends. But in reality, it is the unplanned moments with loved ones that touch our hearts and remain as snapshots in our memories. Having a strong fragrance like ground ginger associated with those snapshots creates an even stronger spot in our memory banks. For this reason, I do a lot of baking with my own children. I’m hoping to create new memory snapshots.

The close bonds my mother and I forged many years ago still exist between us today. No matter what differences we have had, we can always come together to share a recipe. It is no wonder that the smell of ginger reminds me of a warm, inviting kitchen filled with holiday sweets and my mother’s love!

Although most people only associate ground ginger with gingerbread, there are many other
wonderful ways to enjoy it during Thanksgiving. Below is a recipe for gingerbread cake that we like to make each year.

As we approach the hustle and bustle time of year, try to slow down and appreciate the fragrances and flavors of the holidays. Hopefully the spicy aromas will help you create some of your own wonderful fragrant memories this season."

Gingerbread Cake
This recipe is a spiced up version of traditional gingerbread cake. When you bake it, it fills your home with all the aromas of the holidays.

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
½ cup hard-packed dark brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 ½ cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground coriander
1 cup boiling water
Whipped cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar and molasses until creamy. Beat in the egg. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder baking soda and spices. Mix well. To the butter mixture, add the flour mixture alternately with the water, stirring well until combined. Pour into a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool ten minutes before removing cake from pan. Set on wire rack to cool completely. Serve with whipped cream.
About Theresa....Theresa Loe gardens and cooks with her husband and two young boys in Southern California. She is also a locally syndicated newspaper garden columnist, author (The 2009 Herbal Calendar, Tidemark Press) and freelance writer specializing in utilizing fresh-from-the-garden ingredients for food and decorations in the home. She blogs at which is a place to learn about organic gardening and fun ways to bring the freshness of the garden into our everyday lives.
so today's question is....what scents remind you of the holidays?...please share your answers in the comments section of this post....and... as always during this series..happy thanksgiving everyone!
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

would you get married during thanksgiving weekend?

i was so very happy to hear that vanessa from the website italy in san francisco had agreed to guest blog during our thanksgiving memories series. vanessa is one of my favorite twitter buddies..and her website is the go-to place for everything italian...she was born and raised in romagna, italy but moved to san francisco in 2001 to "pursue a career as a bridge engineer!!" wow...instead, she launched her site which she describes this way..."Italy in SF is the ultimate directory for everything Italian in the San Francisco Bay Area. Italy in SF is the insider’s guide to learn where Italians go to find the special and unique products, foods, and traditions they were accustomed to in Italy. visit this site..whether you plan to travel to italy...or san francisco....vanessa will ensure you have everything you need to "be" italian..if only for a visit...

so..about today's question..would you get married during thanksgiving weekend? vanessa her delightful post to get all the details of her first thanksgiving (and wedding rehearsal dinner!!??)

thanks again vanessa...
"We decided to get married in California. Considering both our families were in Italy, this was disconcerting to say the least for the Italian side of our loved ones. Then we decided to get married Thanksgiving weekend, so as to shock our American friends, too! To our advantage, a lot of venues weren’t booked, the prices were a lot cheaper, and since we planned our wedding in two months we had numerous choices and a lot of excitement. We decided to mix Italian traditions (the 12 course wedding meal!) with American ones (a rehearsal dinner planned for Thanksgiving night!) to maximize the experience for all of our guests. And we had a wonderful time pulling things together!
I am an only child, but I have a sister. I was an exchange student in high school for a year, and the American family that took me in for that year is very much family to me. Tasha is my sister in every way! So, my “sister” Tasha and her husband, Aaron, decided to give us the ultimate culinary wedding gift: cook Thanksgiving dinner for all of our guests as our very own rehearsal dinner! We had family and friends flying in from all over the place, and most of them made it for Thanksgiving, two days before the wedding. We planned a dinner for 20 people in our living room, renting tables and chairs to make a single, long table for everyone to partake in the experience.

Tasha and Aaron were set to make this dinner unforgettable, so they started cooking early in the day: at 8am they showed up with their own pots and pans, brought all the way from Washington DC!, to make sure the preparation went flawlessly. Dick and Penny, Tasha’s parents, were hired out as baby sitters for Tasha and Aaron’s 6 months old son, Xander, and off they went storming the kitchen and bossing everyone around to help out! In fact, since everyone who flew in had no better place to be, all our wedding guests gathered at our house for the cooking phase, so we put everyone to work.

The mild California weather made planning very easy: we set a potato peeling station on the deck of our house overlooking the Bay, and people were literally fighting each other to peel potatoes! We had a lot of mashed potatoes to make, not to mention sweet potatoes, and the turkey station, set out in the backyard inside our covered barbecue stand was another coveted spot. It might have something to do with the cold beers standing by and the low intensity of the job- just making sure enough steam was building up inside the BBQ, but not enough to blow the top off!

By the early afternoon we had green beans steaming, pumpkin pie baking, and gravy slowly boiling on the stove, with stuffing being made in the second oven (thank goodness for larger kitchens!). Cranberry sauce was ready, Brussels’ sprouts were boiled, and our dinner was well becoming a “first time” Thanksgiving for many of our guests flying in from Italy, and quite an unusual rehearsal dinner for everyone else!
However, my parents were dead set on leaving the Italian imprint on Turkey Day. They landed at SFO with what they officially named the “catering suitcase”. Inside, a 5 liter magnum bottle of Sangiovese and a 3 liter bottle of grappa. Our dinner was the lively affair you can expect of Italians, with the wonderful traditions you expect on Thanksgiving. A memorable Thanksgiving for sure!"

weddings, rehearsals..all the activities are hectic enough..can you imagine adding thanksgiving dinner to the mix?
however, this sounds like a wonderful..and very memorable..introduction to our thanksgiving holiday!...i love this story and will definitely ask vanessa to return as a guest blogger very always, please feel free to share your thanksgiving memories in the comments section of this post..and say hi to vanessa...(and to me)
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

do you like green bean casserole??

don't you wonder how some items like the green bean casserole with canned soup and packaged fried onions, or the cranberry gel-in-a-can became traditional foods in so many thanksgiving menus? i mean, at some point, loads of people tried it..decided they liked it..and then chose to serve it year after year... this year during our thanksgiving memories series, a number of guest bloggers have decided to share their secrets for upgrading and refining these holiday staples with fresh, quality ingredients and simple techniques. we have already had a couple of stories tackling the cranberry sauce's guest post from my twitter friend colleen levine takes on green bean casserole.
colleen's beautiful blog..foodie full of delicious sounding recipes..and lovely photographs...designed to share her quest for "the pursuit of fresh, local, seasonal and sustainable food for the whole family"...i loved reading about her thanksgiving memories...and her green bean recipe was an unexpected bonus...the addition of blue cheese is just brilliant..salty, tangy..but clean in flavor..a perfect compliment to the rest of a typical thanksgiving menu..this will be on my table this year...
i urge you all to check out the foodie tots will be very happy...

thanks colleen!

A Green (Bean) Thanksgiving Memory
I grew up in Oregon, while my extended family hailed from the East Coast and rarely traveled west to visit. My grandparents preferred to visit in the summer, and who could blame them when November was without fail cold, damp and rainy. I was always envious of classmates who had big holiday meals with all their relatives, and began learning to cook our own family Thanksgiving dinner at the age of eight. My mother was not a big fan of cooking, so I was determined to do it “properly.” I had a lot of help from the original Betty Crocker cookbook. The one dish I remember my mom always making was green beans with almonds, the nuts an added treat over everyday beans. To this day I never make Thanksgiving dinner without green beans.

Over the years, occasional invites to spend the holidays with friends meant new additions to our family traditions. My brother’s best friend’s family always had ambrosia, so now I make sure to include that whenever my brother is able to spend the holiday with us. There was the year I learned to make pierogies with the Polish friends I stayed with while my dad was having surgery. I have always been the only pumpkin lover in my family, so I have tried various alternatives to pie over the years, settling on a pumpkin cheesecake that my mom loves, and pumpkin-cranberry bread for my in-laws. My mom and aunt religiously made cranberry-orange relish, and I often make a batch along with my own maple cranberry sauce. And yet the requisite canned variety is always on our table as well, to appease my husband and father-in-law. (Really, one can never have too many cranberry sauces!)
When eating Thanksgiving dinner with other families, I always hated that ubiquitous green bean casserole with canned soup and onion straws on top. Sure, the onions were a novelty, but that green, slimy mush tasted nothing like the simple, fresh green beans we had at home. (Okay, so they were often frozen green beans, but that’s still fresher tasting than the canned that seemed to be required in the casserole.) Why mask such a beautiful, simple vegetable? When most traditional holiday dishes are loaded with fat or sugar, surely there’s room for one refreshingly healthy side dish. Of course, over the years I’ve added my own twists, so perhaps these zesty beans will make the obligatory green dish a little more able to hold its own next to your turkey and sweet potatoes.

This year, we are once again traveling to spend Thanksgiving with relatives, so I am resigning myself to not having everything I might include on the table for the sake of the big family meal I most wished for as a child. I just hope they have green beans.

Recipe: Zesty Green Beans Almondine
2 lbs green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter
zest of one lemon
2-4 oz. crumbled blue cheese (I used Bayley Hazen Blue of Jasper Hill Farms, VT)

Instructions: Bring pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat sauté pan over medium heat and toast almonds until just turning golden, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and reduce heat to low. Melt butter in pan, then add shallot and cook, stirring once or twice, until shallots are golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat. Add a pinch of salt to boiling water and blanch green beans for 4 minutes, then drain and add to pan with shallots. Add almonds and lemon zest and toss gently. Top with blue cheese and serve. If you make this ahead of time, reheat in oven just before serving, then top with blue cheese immediately upon removing from oven. Makes 8 servings. Enjoy!
By Colleen Levine, who writes about cooking fresh, local, seasonal and sustainable foods for the whole family at She is a farmers market junkie and cheese addict who resides with her husband, two-year-old son, dog and two cats in Alexandria, Virginia.

so..the thanksgiving series is officially back!!!... i have been off-line for a couple of, my high speed internet provider, had what they termed a "partial" power outage...meaning my cable t.v. worked... but internet did not....yikes! i run a home based, e-commerce is november prep....not the time to go off-line. i have been verrrry unhappy. give credit where credit is told me they would have a technician come to my house between 12-4 today...the guy showed up at 12:20!!!...diagnosed and fixed the problem with my modem (caused from the power outage) in about 20, i am giving thanks for competent people...and being back on line...not as soul-searching as some of my posts..but for me today...

best to all..and happy thanksgiving month!!

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

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