Love Your Mother


She gives and gives and asks for very little in return. She nurtures, teaches, challenges, sustains, reprimands and gives all unconditionally. When you hurt her or all the life she loves, she cries and her heart breaks but she just keeps on giving anyway. Her name? Earth

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Paradise Found


I drove around National City this morning around 8 am trying to find the Olivewood Garden and Learning Center. I cursed Google Maps and used my spidey senses to find it, parked my car and then just sat staring.

The first thought that burst into my mind was that of my mother. I couldn’t help but wish she could have lived her life in a place this peaceful and full of the simple beauty and joy that so many of us crave. For you see, I was staring at a stately Victorian home surrounded by what seemed to be acres of every type of flower, fruit and vegetable known to man. It reminded me a perfect farm on Farmville.

Camera in hand and perma-grin spread across my face I began to wander the grounds without even checking in with anyone.  And to what to my wonderous eyes did appear? A flock of  not so tiny chickens peacefully doing their chicken  thing under the watchful eye of a very handsome rooster. I wandered around just never wanting to leave, admiring the veggies (Oh Jessica,you would love this!), feeling not envious but just overjoyed that such a philanthropic place exists.

But I was there to lend a hand to one of my newly found passions; helping others learn to make healthy food  choices. You see, this Garden is run by the International Community Foundation and just recently, thanks to the efforts of Chef Julie Darling , Michelle Duggan Cox and many others, is now hosting local school children at the garden to learn about cooking with the organic goods found at the garden. The program has now expanded to include guest chefs who volunteer to teach groups of children about food, health, choices and cooking.

As always, I met some wonderful people to include Chef Chad White and Chef Andrew Spurgin.  My good friend Chef Basil Hernandez was there and soul sister Michelle Duggan Cox, who runs the Learning Center at Olivewood.

The day started with Julie lending me one of her Chef coats! Man, I am such a sucker for that stuff. The coat was actually really comfy and I kept it on all day. I wonder if my niece, the future Chef Alex Ashforth ,likes her coat? I’m guessing yes!

yep, thats my elf ear. learn to love it!

Will this be my only chance to ever dress up like a chef? hmmmm.

Yes, there was some early goofing off and breakfast eating and of course I wanted to open the wine that was in the fridge, but cooler senses prevailed and we soon all got to work.

Several bunches of kids came in throughout the morning learning about and helping to make Chef Chad’s Grapefruit Soda. Each group would then rotate outside and work with the Master Gardener of the property, Martha and then stop by and crowd around a table set up by Chef Andrew that was set up with good and bad food choices and exotic fruits that were donated by Specialty Produce for the kids to try. I admire these people so much, very busy professional Chefs giving back in a way that really matters.

The very patient Chad White teaching the kids to squeeze a grapefruit

Chef Andrew want to know "what side of the table are YOU on?"

Chef Julie explains why we are making grapefruit soda

Soon after, a group of donors to the foundation came through and it was the main event. We were to serve lunch with the help of the kids and there was quite a whirlwind of activity although a lot of prep had been done beforehand. We set a nice area up near the pool and had the kids serve these philanthropically minded people the grapefruit soda. Meanwhile, the kitchen was a last minute frenzy as lunch came out and was carried down to the pool area to be served.

All in all the event came off nicely and the meal that Chefs Chad, Julie and Basil put together was beautiful. It was really fun to see how proud the kids were of the soda they helped make. I really hope it helped to encourage the donors to bug their friends for more donations.

menu, recipes and party favor of garden herbs

I just want to say thank you to Michelle,can you believe that she put down on the card that I’m a “Food Writer”? I love her! It was a thrill to see my name next to that dream job! Of course, I covered it up with rosemary in this picture, but who cares? I brought one of the cards home with me 🙂

I learned so much today and absolutely fell in love with Olivewood. As far as my chef friends go, how did I get so lucky to meet such wonderful people at this time in my life?

Luann Harris Gould

Food Writer

Don't worry, that chicken will never be dinner!

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Olivewood Garden and Learning Center


Well folks, I’m off this morning to a local food related volunteer event. I’ll be helping Chefs Julie and Basil with a group of school kids. The kids will help prepare a lunch for 23 of the donors of this non-profit, very Jamie Oliver-esque!
I am very excited for this opportunity.I have been wanting to visit this site ever since I heard about from Chef Julie at her Just Call Us Kitchen a couple months back and I am thrilled that she invited me to help out.
One of the coolest things about it? I get to wear a Chef’s jacket! how cool is that?
Pics later on today and the full run down.
ta ta for now!

Greens Gumbo for a Gray Day


My garden is absolutely exploding with greens right now. I’ve given them away to neighbors, friends and my daughter, I’ve incorporated them into every recipe I can and I am still swimming in them! My fear is they will be wasted when they bolt (go to seed) and I hate wasting food, so today Shawn and I are making a Greens Gumbo which will be a bastardized version of a Paul Prudhomme Gumbo recipe. To go with the soup, we are also making a really yummy Biscuit Muffin also from Chef Paul. I’m really hoping that we can use up a good mess of the Collards, Mustard, Rainbow Chard and Lacitano Kale in this tasty and rich soup.

Looking at that basket of produce, can you see why I haven’t ordered my FMB today? My garden is really paying off now! Shawn was able to use all the carrots and all but just a few of the greens in the soup today. I will admit that my only contribution was to go down and collect this basket of goodies for him, then he was on his own. Remember I said I’ve been distracted? Well, today I had a hair up my ass to work on sanding that deck. I probably could have finished the whole thing except for the forecast of rain made it not a good idea to paint or seal anything, but I did get alot done!

Shawn and I are both big proponents of using what you have on hand and not running to the store unless you absolutely have to. Gumbo usually calls for Gumbo File, Paprika,Okra, which helps to thicken it and Cajun cooking’s trinity calls for a red pepper. Of course we did not have any of this stuff. The paprika we had is the Spanish smoked variety.

Lo and behold, he still managed to make an absolutely delish Gumbo that was thick and seasoned beautifully. I will post the actual recipe for you soon. I’ll have to quiz him in detail to figure out everything he did. For certain, he started with a beautiful and rich Roux.

I ended up making the biscuit muffins, although we were so hungry the smell of them baking almost made me swoon!

They are super easy to make. These Southern Biscuit Muffins were easily modified using buttermilk instead of milk (which of course we were out of) and were perfect with the gumbo. I pigged out on about four of these bad boys.

The batter came out quite a bit thicker because of the buttermilk and they were not as pretty as the last time I made them, but oh so tasty! There is a little sugar in them which gives them a bit of a crystalized texture on the crust and the slight sweetness complimented the spicy Gumbo.

This is definitely the fullest I have been in days….mmmmmmm

Distraction!


My blog is suffering. I have been distracted by other projects I’ve become involved in. I’ve been working in my own garden lately and I have more than enough food right now that I have grown myself and haven’t ordered my FMB for a few weeks now for various reasons.

I have spent a little time volunteering with the awesome and wonderful Just Call Us Volunteers and am heading next week to Olivewood Learning Center to help teach a class of schoolkids some healthy recipes.

My garden is super important to me right now as an event is planned for June and I want it looking really good for that! Folks from San Diego Food not Lawns are hosting a “Farmer on the Block” open house at my garden and I am very excited about that! I will be able to sell my surplus veggies to my neighbors and the San Diego Food not Lawns people will be on hand to help people plan their own food-growing gardens. VERY COOL!

In addition to all that, I am renovating my shack-tastic porch( yes, the porch of Porchtime Pickles!) to make more of an outdoor room for summer.

Whew! sorry little blog….I’ll try harder!

Anytime Noodles


Hi Guys, thought I would share with you a quick and easy meal you can enjoy any time of day.

This particular dish is very customizable and you can literally use any veggies you have on hand. It is a wonderful pan fried noodle dish, crispy on the outside and really satisfying

For our “Anytime Noodles” this morning I used: Enoki mushrooms, mint,cilantro, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, ginger,garlic, green onion and Thai basil. For a little sauce and flavor I mixed up a little fish sauce (you could omit if you don’t want to use), hoisin and soy sauce and a little hot red pepper.

Simply mince up the garlic, ginger, green onion and stir fry with a little oil with the mushrooms. At first, I left the mushrooms whole, but then decided to cut them up and I just did it in the pan. Add the chopped up cilantro and basil and carrots, and cook until a lot of moisture has evaporated.

Then, I added the bean sprouts and mint, stirred for just a second then took it all out of the pan and set aside. Meanwhile my fresh Chinese noodles had finished cooking and I drained them well.

The only tricky part of this dish is to make sure your pan is hot and your oil cold. Add the drained noodles to the pan and just sort of spread them out. DON”T STIR. Just let them cook. You will end up turning the whole pile over and they should be a little brown and crispy. After you turn them over (after maybe 5 min) add the cooked veggie mixture to the top and then add your sauce. Continue to cook for about 5 min more until the under side is crispy as well. As with a lot of things I make, this dish is excellent with a Greek Fried Egg on top.

This is how the noodles should look once you turn them over

If the noodles stick to the pan, don’t worry. Just take them off the heat for a couple of minutes then scrape up with a metal spatula.

They should not stick if you get the pan hot, add cold oil, add noodles AND DON’T STIR. It’s always so tempting to mess with stuff when it’s cooking, but sometimes it’s best just to let it be.

I have made this dish also with chopped and sauteed greens from my garden and served with a side of marinated and baked tofu to my young adult nephews and their friends and got a huge “thumbs up”.

Anytime Noodles are definitely a family favorite.

Let me know if you make them!

We Thought They Were Chickens, but They Were Hens!


We bought beautiful organic mushrooms from the Asian market. My husband was excited because they were called “Hen of the Woods” or “Maitake”. He thought he was buying the hard to find “Chicken Mushroom” and hence the confusion!

We brought them home to make an old recipe that my husband has been wanting to make for years “Fried Chicken Mushrooms”, a dish that utilized the technique of frying chicken and a buttermilk dressing to dip the fried mushrooms in.

Well, upon beginning to write this post, I decided to do a little research on the Maitake mushroom and sure enough they are easily confused with Chicken mushrooms. Well, it turns out that these mushrooms are really quite cool and have some promising medicinal value and we are just going ahead and making them in the fried chicken style anyway.

The basic recipe needed alot of doctoring. There was virtually no seasoning and the recipe for the buttermilk dressing didn’t call for enough sour cream.

To begin with, Shawn made the dressing. Sour Cream, Buttemilk and herbs from our garden and plenty of black pepper. Meanwhile, I cleaned the mushrooms and set them to rest in salt and pepper, buttermilk and a sprinkling of cajun style seasonings. The recipe called just for salt and pepper. We decided to let them soak a little bit in the buttermilk knowing we could drain it off and reuse the buttermilk. That’s one of the beautiful things about cooking with vegetables. There is no blood contamination. I think that seasoned buttermilk would go great in buttermilk biscuits.

Next step is to dip the mushroom pieces in seasoned flour and fry. We simply stirred together about 1/2 cup each flour and cornstarch and the rest of our seasoning mix. Each piece was allowed to drain before dipping in the flour. My god. The smell coming out that wok was almost enough to make a vegetarian swoon! It smelled exactly like chicken fried steak or something and the mushrooms resembled fried boneless chicken thigh meat.

As soon as one came out of the oil, we just had to sample it! The crust was incredible and the mushroom hot and tender inside the very crispy, seasoned crust. Dipped in the home made buttermilk/herb dressing, this humble fried mushroom was absolutely superb. I would love to see something like this on a bar menu as they hold their heat and crispy-ness really well.  What a great Saturday night snack with a movie.  I think a squeeze of lemon would be great on this.

Looks like the Broccoli Fritters have competition!