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


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!

Finding A Way: frugal ideas for the beginner’s kitchen

I’m really getting interested in finding ways to help new and beginner cooks. I was thinking that one of the first obstacles a person might face in a new quest to cook and eat at home is having a properly supplied kitchen and how expensive that might seem to a novice cook.

My first suggestion to someone who has very little to no kitchen equipment is to let friends and relatives know what you are looking for. Free is awesome! Many people love to buy new stuff and then give away their old stuff. Me? I rarely buy anything new. If I look around my kitchen, most of it was gifts, freebies from friends or stuff I found at the thrift store.

Maybe you may not think of the thrift store (or flea market, swap meet,garage sales etc.) for kitchen essentials, but it is definitely worth a peek now and then and is my new favorite way to find things that I “need”. Look over items carefully before buying for chips or cracks. Check the label on the bottom because sometimes you may see that the item is for “decorative purposes only” or “not for use with food”, yikes!  I always try to find quality items, which really is not as hard as you may think. Sometimes, you may have to go to more than one store and a few different times to find everything you need. Thrift store prices vary greatly, so shop around and look before you buy.

Recently, my husband and I had really gotten into Asian soups. The only problem was the bowls we had totally did not work for sipping broth out of. We checked Target first. A simple bowl was over 6 bucks! To me, that is way too much. We then decided to go check out the awesome Amvet’s Thrift Store (very near Specialty Produce!). Within minutes, I had a little basket full of matching bowls at a whopping 65 cents apiece. Plus, I found a wonderful lidded rice server (3 dollars, made in Japan) and a pretty Japanese serving dish for around 1 dollar. Took it all home, ran through the dishwasher and ta-da! Fully stocked on bowls for slightly more than it would have cost me for just ONE bowl at a giant, big box retailer. Plus, I stuck to my ideals about reducing, reusing and recycling.

If you can’t find what you need either for free or at the thrift store, try checking Ross. Take it one step further though, and look for the clearance items. Usually they are buried in the back of the shelves. Takes a little time, but is definitely worth it.

To successfully feed yourself at home, at least in the beginning, really takes pretty simple equipment. As far as pots and pans go, stay away from dangerous, environmentally un-friendly non-stick cookware. Also, I recommend not purchasing cheap, light weight aluminum either. Here is my list for a starter kitchen which assumes most people already have a few forks, bowls and plates on hand:

  • Large heavy soup pot, preferably with a lid
  • Small saucepan with lid (to  hold about 2 cups or a little more)
  • Large Cast Iron frying pan ( I will post a tutorial on “seasoning” and using this pan. You will love it once you really use it!)
  • Small skillet
  • A medium size pyrex or corning type baking dish
  • A cookie sheet
  • Stainless steel spatula (or plastic in a pinch, try to stay away from plastic if you can)
  • Wood or Bamboo large spoon for stirring
  • Bowl scraper
  • Large mixing bowl
  • a couple of smaller ones
  • a measuring cup set and measuring spoon set
  • A decent chopping knife. (no, I do not own any really nice knives. I’m using an old Ginsu brand that I’ve had forever. By decent, I mean one that is sharp, is comfortable for you and has a wide flat blade.)
  • A cutting board
  • A  fine mesh strainer
  • A colander
  • Food storage equipment such as lidded bowls (I save containers and wash them to use over and over again)
  • Hot Pad

Gosh, I think that may be it! Of course, there is a ga-gillion different products out there and tons of different gadgets, but for basic cooking, that is really all you need.

That’s it for now, folks! Please let me know if this was useful for anyone.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

One More Reason to Love the FMB!

Ah, the beauty of a simple, customer satisfaction based service!

I’m not getting a bag this week, and no I didn’t forget this time. Truth is, I’ll be out of town Wednesday and Thursday and then I’m Baby Sitting my little (actually, BIG) Grandbaby Dog, Stella for a couple of days. Seemed like a good time to take a one week break from ordering my bag and clean out my fridge. So, I didn’t order my bag….and it’s no problem! That is one of the huge differences between the CSA offered through Specialty Produce and the typical ones you can sign up for at local farmer’s markets.  Order when you like and pay as go, perfect for someone on a tight budget like me.

My fridge is a bit heavy with baby Leeks, Green Garlic and few left over root vegetables and I still have some lettuce left from last week. I will be doing a post a little later on about ways to use up your veggies that may not be so perfect anymore besides the obvious use of turning them into broth. I’m looking forward to completely emptying the fridge and getting rid of that bad breath it gets from having Chinese Chives in the drawer (pee-yew!).

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening this week and finally have the 30 baby cucumber plants for future pickles for the Porchtime Pickle Project in the ground and well as the dill started and about 20 or so Pepper seeds planted in the ground.
I love looking down at the newly planted pickle and pepper patch from my porch and imagining all beautiful jars of pickles I’m going to create. I think that next week I better get started on experimenting with the recipes.

Until next time, Thank you for reading and commenting!

Why the Bag

As a subscriber, you are demonstrating respect for the earth by taking responsibility for sustainable farming practices, energy efficient production and distribution while paying farmers decent fair wages, and elevating environmental consciousness.”-

I read this today while on the Specialty Produce website. I couldn’t have said it better myself. To me, it is wonderful to be offered an affordable and delish way to participate in the community in a way that is really for the greater good. It is always heartening for me to run across businesses and people that are like-minded with my own philosophies.

Community and environmental consciousness may not be something that you think about too often when you think about food, but just by doing something as simple as ordering this produce bag (or any other similar CSA program) is one way to contribute without really even trying! How cool is that?

Besides, it’s just plain fun and yummy. And can’t we all use a little fun and yummy-ness in our lives?

Go forth, little grasshoppers! Find some fun and yummy-ness!

Next time: picking up this week’s bag and deciding what to make.

thank you for reading so far!