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!

The Vegetable Broth Tutorial


Brace yourselves, people. Today’s post may be a bit lengthy:

  1. I have a cold, so I plan on sitting on my keaster all day
  2. I’m just heating up the last of my freezer broth so I need to make more
  3. I enjoy making broth, so it’s easy to write about

If you have read my post “Yay for FMB Day” then you already know a little bit about my broth making. Upon reading it, you might say”The girl’s got skills!” , or “man what a cheapo!” or “waaay too much time on her hands”, but in my opinion it’s just healthy and smart to use up vegetable trim to make nutritious and handy stock.

Up until a few years ago, before the vegetarian /flexitarian urge took over, I used to make stock from chicken carcasses or beef bones. My husband had learned years ago about browning the bones first and them simmering for several hours. We almost always used up leftover meat and bones for stock. Since then, it’s all changed.

I only started making veggie stock about a year ago, when we moved from Little Italy to Mission Hills. Living in Little Italy, we went out to eat quite a bit and my husband did most of the home cooking. Since taking up home vegetable gardening here in San Diego’s most perfect gardening habitat, I have begun to branch out into the endless possibilities of Vegetable Broth.

Remember that giant rainstorm a couple months back? Silly question, sorry! Well, that’s when I really got creative with broth and started playing around with flavor profiles. The house we live in has no heat and is pretty drafty, (and I wouldn’t trade it!) so making broth helped warm up the house and us so I experimented quite a bit. Since then, I almost always have several quarts in the freezer and a container of fresh on hand. I do like to have a seasoned, rich broth version and a light, basic version handy.

I started out following a basic broth recipe from one of my favorite books “The Culinary Institute of America: Vegetables”, and then expanded and really totally changed how I was making broth.

There can be a lot of waste when you are prepping veggies, and I have learned to keep my “Trim Bowl” handy on the counter when I prep. Here is just a sampling of trim I’ve used:

  • Carrot peel, ends and trim
  • Green onion root ends, tops
  • Bell pepper stems and seeds
  • Leftover/getting wilty herbs such as Cilantro, Dill and Flat Leaf Parsley
  • Leafy parts of the center of a Celery bunch, and trim
  • Trim from Chard/Collards/Mustard Greens
  • Beet Tops (very little)
  • Ginger trim
  • Lemongrass tops
  • Artichoke stem peel
  • Lettuce trim
  • Mushroom stems
  • Cauliflower trim (very little)
  • Turnip greens and trim
  • Leek tops
  • Kohlrabi greens
  • Green Garlic trim

The only hard part about this method is getting your partner to keep trim for the bowl! I hate looking in the garbage and seeing great trim I could have used. Ideally, of course, we would be composting veggie trim and even the cooked vegetables from making broth. It’s on my to-do list, I promise!

For my most basic, unseasoned broth I put whatever trim I have, usually about 3 to 4 cups in all,  and a quartered up onion with a little peel left on in my soup pot and cover generously with water.  I bring it up to a good steady simmer and let it cook for about an hour, more or less.  I then strain the broth thought a mesh sieve and allow to cool. If we aren’t using it right away, I may freeze in ice cube trays or other containers. This basic broth is great to have on hand if you need liquid without too much competing flavor to add to a recipe or use as a base for another soup. You can use it instead of water for making rice to add nutrients or to thin a cooked soup that has thickened too much.

Here’s an example of broth with a whole lot of Chinese Celery in it, Green Onion trim, Leek trim, Pepper trim and the top of an onion.

For a basic, lightly seasoned broth I follow the steps above adding bay leaf, peppercorns, a garlic clove or two and various herbs to the broth.  This makes a great base for pasta sauces, gravy, and Rissoto.  Of course you can use for making rice as well. You can also use this as a base for making Miso soup. Heat your strained broth until simmering, add a pinch of Bonito flake, 3 or 4 pieces of seaweed, and a very finely sliced green onion or green garlic and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add a tablespoon or so of Miso. Stir with a wire whisk to make sure the Miso dissolves completely and serve. You can add some finely cubed Tofu if you like. Never cook the Miso, however. It kills the beneficial, live cultures in Miso.

For a richer broth, add another step. After straining your cooked vegetables out of the broth , return the broth to the stove and simmer until the volume is reduced by about 1/3 to 1/2. Then cool and store. This version is great to use in dishes that call for chicken broth .

Now for a fun one! I love to make a vegetarian version of a favorite Vietnamese Soup called “Pho” (fuh) which is usually made with a very rich beef broth. It is handy to make this one when you have plenty of Asian type vegetable trim around. I use lemongrass, ginger root, Chinese chives and bok choy trim etc.  For seasoning, you need an extra onion (over and above whatever trim onion you have) 5 or 6 whole Star Anise, 10 or so Sichuan Peppecorns,  A cinnamon stick, about a tablespoon of sugar and a splash of Fish Sauce. Strain and then simmer again over low heat until the broth is very rich, about another hour. Salt to taste if using right away and serve with cooked rice vermicelli noodles, Thai basil, fresh bean sprouts, lime juice and a little Hoisin sauce.  This version is soothing and tasty just to sip plain as well.

I could go on and on about this topic, but I think that is enough for now. Just remember that there is no right or wrong way to make broth and experimenting with it can be fun. And, it is so much quicker to make than a meat broth. If you don’t have stock on hand, you can easily start a batch while you are preparing something else. It will be done before you know it and be ready to use.  If you don’t have enough trim, just break up a couple of carrots, celery and quarter an onion and there you go!

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Pretty Pictures of Things we Ate


Slow down everyone
You’re moving too fast
Frames can’t catch you when
You’re moving like that”-Jack Johnson

Since starting this endeavor, taking pictures of the pretty (and not so pretty!)

Alien!!! no, just a Celery Root from the FMB. gotta wash it real good!

Alien!!! no, just a Celery Root from the FMB. gotta wash it real good!

things we eat has become almost a habit. Taking the time to take a few pictures really does make you slow down, notice the details and live more in the moment with the food. We have put in all the effort and thought to cook amazing food for ourselves and our friends and family, yet have we really appreciated it? The photo gives the food an extension of being long after it has been devoured.

Organic onions and jalapenos for our Grilled Cheese

Organic onions and jalapenos for our Grilled Cheese

Grilled Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Bread with Comte Cheese/Grilled Onions/Jalapeno

Grilled Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Bread from this week’s FMB with Comte Cheese/Grilled Onions/Jalapeno

Food is deeply embedded in the fabric of my life. For me, it brings joy, comfort, memories, nutrition, sometimes regret, reflection, the induction of the “food coma” on occasion and a creative outlet.Taking pictures of it and writing about it is coming really easily for me. Video, not so much. Still having technical difficulties. Wah.

Lately, I have noticed a distinct pattern in my food and life focus. I am more and more linking in to “Slow Food”. Previously in my life, everything I did was accomplished at a frantic pace. I tended to have no time for anyone or anything. I was so wrapped up in what I call the “Treadmill” of life. Running and running. Where was I trying to go? It all made sense at the time, but looking back I can now see (of course!) where I could have slowed the pace down.


Without even thinking about it, I have recently accomplished three things that I never thought I was capable of doing:

  • Baked (means I actually had to MEASURE stuff)
  • Made Risotto (god, that stirring!)
  • Blow dried my own ridiculously curly hair straight (took all freakin’ morning)

The common denominator? Patience, my friend. A quality I have been lacking for a long time. My mother always said “Patience is a virtue”. I never even thought about it as I blazed my path of life.

I am grateful that now that I am taking the time to be patient, to enjoy the process of cooking and eating amazing food, being available to friends and family in times of need, gardening, writing, reflecting, and sitting on my porch. My passion for food made with care and thought with amazing ingredients has been a catalyst of some sort for change in my life. Today, I celebrate that change.

Now, what’s for breakfast?

Veggie-Tastic Eggs "Benedict" ala lulu

Veggie-Tastic Eggs "Benedict" ala lulu

I am making my version of an eggs benedict. I’m using my own home-grown Swiss Chard, heirloom tomatoes, the rest of the Jalapeno/Cheddar bread, and Asparagus (all from the FMB), Jumbo Organic Vegetarian Fed Cage Free eggs from Trader Joe’s and some amazingly good dressing that we have been making for years called “Sculpture Garden Cafe Dressing”. We have the recipe from the old restaurant that used be in the Sculpture Garden in Balboa Park. I will be posting that recipe for you!

Oh Yeah. Sunday brunch on the porch!

Oh Yeah. Sunday brunch on the porch!

This dish was very easy to make since I had made the dressing yesterday. I wanted to make a Dilled Hollandaise Sauce because this week’s Farmer’s Market Bag included a beautiful bunch of fresh dill, but we had no butter in the house. We really don’t use much butter and this dish actually worked out really well because it was not nearly as heavy as traditional Eggs Benedict.

I toasted the bread, topped it with the Chard which I sauteed with garlic and olive oil, slid the poached eggs on top and dressed all, including the asparagus, with my dressing. The dish was garnished with the tomatoes and served with a glass of cheap-ass white wine. I love Sundays!

Next time, I promise to keep more to my format and talk about ordering/picking up and planning with my FMB bag. This week got kinda funky because I opted to spend a couple of days with my sisters and I am just winging it with my ingredients. (actually, I wing it a lot!) Oh, well. I hope you enjoy my posts!

Peace, Love and Happy Sunday y’all!