Big Changes.

I’m not sure how to start this since I just typed a whole bunch and it all went away mysteriously.

Here we go.

The last post was from just over a year ago. I’ve taken a break from the blog to focus on more important things. Most important, our little daughter, Grace.

I wont bore you (whoever you are), with the boring details of the last year, however I will summarize it all with a couple descriptive words: 33 weeks, NICU, moving, moving again, MRI, baby spinal surgery, Stanford, breathe.

We are here now, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Paul accepted a job at Los Alamos National Lab, and off we went.

I cannot say I am taken with this city, however, I have not spent much time here. The culture that literally envelopes the city and its people is intriguing to say the least. The Native American culture is everywhere and could not be more opposite from the Monterey, California that I am used to. I’m welcoming the change with wide eyes and open arms, not sure what to expect.

With the move there have been unexpected changes. I craved moving out of Monterey so badly that the only perspective I had was my own. Others did little to offer more than a minor comment here or there about why a move might not be necessary, but nothing stuck. Now that I am here, removed from my homeland of California, I am seeing the new value in family and friends. Although I feel I have never taken them for granted, I may have taken their proximity to me for granted. In most other cultures, when people have babies they move closer to their family, not further away. I am seeing now just how valuable these relationships are, and am unsure of my decision to move.

In the meantime, I am focusing on finding the best food, most beautiful landscape, and am stacking my days with fun for the baby.

Staying productive, focusing on the future, and moving forward is what’s on my calendar.

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Life.

It seems as though every time I post on this blog, it starts with an excuse about why I HAVEN’T been posting. 

Not wanting to break tradition, but having a better excuse than usual, I’ll start with exactly that: my excuse/reason. 

Paul and I are happy to announce that we are expecting a little girl at the end of September!!! We are MORE than excited and so incredibly happy to start this part of our lives. 

ImageThis is her at 13 weeks, already adorable. 

Soooo we are gearing up for our little arrival and I wanted to have a place to share with friends and family. I then quickly realized I already HAVE a place to do that, I just need to utilize it. So, this blog of mine will now include updates about the bun in my oven! 

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This is her at 18 weeks sucking her thumb… she’s perfect. 

We are anxiously awaiting our next doctors appointment and hoping that we get another peak at our little one. The ultrasounds are fun, getting to see her wiggle and kick… there really is nothing better. Speaking of kicking, not only am I feeling her, but Paul can now feel her too with his hand on my belly. The look on his face when he first felt her was nothing less than priceless. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to feel this much affection for someone who we haven’t even met yet. 

According to the calendar, only 18 weeks and 2 days left! 

 

Thankful.

It’s funny how things work themselves out sometimes.

While I am not the religious type, I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. Even though that reason may not immediately be clear, things come to fruition one way or another.

I have found myself surrounded and blessed with people who are not only mentors in one way or another, but who have also become and will be, life-long friends. I am learning new things from different people every day and am pinching myself constantly to ensure that this all isn’t some very, very, very weird dream.

Things have certainly not turned out the way that I “planned” them, but they are turning out none-the-less. One of the amazing and jaw-dropping experiences I have been fortunate enough to partake in happened recently: A dinner for 12 guests in Big Sur, at what has got to be one of the most spectacular houses I have even been to.

The view from the deck.

The view from the deck.

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With views like that and food like this, there is plenty to be thankful for this holiday season.

Passed Appetizers: Brioche Crouton with Whipped Creme Fraiche, Soft-boiled Quail Egg, and Caviar; Black Rice Cracker with Wild Steelhead Trout Tartar; Sunchoke Chip with Herb Goat Cheese

Passed Appetizers: Brioche Crouton with Whipped Creme Fraiche, Soft-boiled Quail Egg, and Caviar; Black Rice Cracker with Wild Steelhead Trout Tartar; Sunchoke Chip with Herb Goat Cheese

View from the kitchen.

View from the kitchen.

With the holiday season fast approaching and plenty of cooking coming my way, I’m spending ample time reviewing recipes and ideas for a Holiday Dinner Party. A chance to show and share appreciation for the people in my life who have stood by me, put up with me in so many different ways, and who have shown me nothing but patience and a belief that I can cook. It might not always be the best food in the world, but it is always made with a love and passion for the ingredients at hand.

Edible Lanterns.

Edible Lanterns.

Piping Whipped Chocolate Cheesecake.

Piping Whipped Chocolate Cheesecake.


Dessert.

Dessert.

I anticipate a great deal of change coming in the remaining last two months of this year, and welcome the waves of energy, excitement, and anticipation that are sure to come with it. Using the energy I am finding in every-day adventures and the culinary challenges coming to me from all over, I welcome the changes and am learning more and more to simply go with the flow.

A note about the photos: These photos were taken in terrible light by my friend Laura Nicola. It was more about the food than the photos 🙂

here i am.

It’s comical how similar this post feels like it may be to my last one… Or seemingly so.

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Where have I been? What have I been doing? Why haven’t I been actively blogging?

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I have no real excuse for any of it, except that it took a back-burner in the last couple of months, as it did in the months prior to my last post.

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Although busy is not an excuse, it is a reason, at least in my mind.

The last Lilify Pop-up Dinner could not have gone better. The food, team, and guests were nothing less than amazing, and we are all looking forward to doing it again.

Lilify Summer 2013 Flyer

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My position at Sierra Mar ended with a job offer from another restaurant that turned out to not be to true or real. They hired me for a position that didn’t exist, but left me jobless, having quit my previous job to work for and with them. The lack of understanding and sympathy from them, and the position I now find myself in, has left me shaken and looking for something reliable and trustworthy. For those of you in the Culinary Industry, you know as well as I do that this will be hard to find.

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I am looking on the bright side of the situation though: My Husband and I will get to celebrate the holidays with family and friends without having to juggle a restaurant schedule; I can focus on my health and getting back into shape without having to worry about snacking in a commercial kitchen (ugh); I get to work on little things around the house and projects I have put off, etc.. It’s not much, but right now, it’s something.

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One of the things I am most excited about with my newly-found freedom is my chance to cook and experiment in my own kitchen. The Monterey Bay has an ample supply of fresh, local ingredients just waiting to be concocted into something delicious. I now have an opportunity to get my hands dirty and explore the depths of what the sea and fields have to offer in my area.

This will be the focus of the posts for the next bit. Documenting, learning, and creating healthy and sustainable meals from what’s just out my door.

Photography: Eileen Roche

Where have I been?

Work.

 

Distracted. Busy. Life. Working my butt off.

All of the above.

I know I have not posted anything in quiet some time. Truth be told, it’s been nice to not have ONE MORE THING on my plate. The last couple months have been a blur. I moved and had my car vandalized in the same week. I got promoted and Paul and I both got raises in the same week. My hours changed at work, so I’m having the insane luxury of seeing the Big Sur sunrise every morning on my drive from Monterey down Highway 1 to work at Sierra Mar.

Sunrise

I had a Lunch Special at work, and, to me, it was a big deal. Most likely not to others, but to me, it was “special”, and very tasty.

Scallop Special

Pan Seared Scallops with Snap Peas and Fried Trumped Mushrooms, served table-side with a Ginger-Lime Miso Soup.

I was going on foraging adventures gathering local edible flowers to garnish our amazing food at Sierra Mar with.

foraged flowers

I did a dinner at Joseph Phelps Vineyards in Napa. It was an amazing experience and the setting was nothing less than spectacular.

phelps

 

So. I’ve been busy. Spending limited time on my computer and concentrating on work and eating and sleeping. I know it’s not an excuse for not blogging, and I will try and be better at it in the future, documenting my adventures instead of letting them collect and then dumping all of them on you at once. Although I am sharing some of them with you now, this is only a small amount of the things I have been up to. I will begin documenting them more responsibly from now on 🙂

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For instance, I have another Pop-up dinner coming up in June, and you will all be getting a first hand account of how it goes and what I will be serving.

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That’s all for now though.

A visit to Prevedelli Farm.

One of the many things I love about my new job is the opportunity it has given me to do things like visit an apple farm on my day off.

While this post may be a bit late in getting posted, I could not pass up the opportunity to share with you how grateful I am and how privileged I feel to have been able to visit the Prevedelli Farm in Watsonville.

Turning off of Highway 1 and into the farm country of the Watsonville hills is a sight in itself, but if you keep going, turning here and there, delving deeper and deeper through raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry fields, past apple orchards and pear orchards, you begin to feel yourself unwind a bit.

Prevedelli Farms is no exception. Following one of these meandering roads, I turned off and made my way past an old farm house, arriving at the farms. I was welcomed warmly by Nick, who I buy weekly from at the Monterey Farmers’ Market for Sierra Mar.

We began our little walk-about through his family’s orchards, all the while Nick grabbing numerous varieties of apples off trees here and there, insisting that I take them, or eat them as we walked. I obliged happily, walking, eating and listening.

“This one is super sweet and perfect for cooking with”.

“This apple is tart and one of my favorite varieties”.

Phrases enthusiastically cast from my hosts’  mouth as we chatted and I learned about apples in the cold, misty air of the morning.

In addition to the incredible amount of different varieties of apples on the farm, the Prevedelli’s also have an abundance of other tasty treats. Blackberries the size of my thumb litter the property, along with sections of pears, including my favorite, Asian Pears, which, on this farm, happen to be giant.

While I can’t remember (try as I might) all the varieties of apples that we discussed, I CAN remember what an amazing treat it was to get to tour this incredible farm, and how generous our hosts were. It was a reminder of why we at Sierra Mar buy from people like Nick and his family, and it makes us proud and happy to support local farmers such as the Prevedellis.

Thank you to Nick and everyone at Prevedelli Farms.

 

 

Sunday Shinanigans.

Yesterday was fun.

We invited my Mom and her husband Aaron over for lunch. The fog cleared just in time for us to sit outside under the plum tree in our backyard/garden, sipping champagne and eating this, that, and the other thing.

Gift bucket for Mom and Aaron. Zucchini, plums, garlic, purple sage, and green beans all freshly picked from our garden.

We started off the meal with Roasted Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Herb cheese dip. Not normally something I would make, but, it was the weekend, so… we were allowed to break a couple rules, right?

The dip was followed by Bi-color corn with Cilantro-basil and lime cream sauce. The corn was so sweet Aaron thought I put sugar in the water (I didn’t).

After the corn, we moved onto the “main course”. Atlantic Salmon filets with Roasted Garlic and Basil, then wrapped in Prosciutto, served with Asparagus. It could not have tasted better. So so so good.

The Salmon was followed by a dessert of Tart Plums with crisped Angel Food Cake and whipped cream.

Delicious food and great company made for a great weekend.

 

 

I’ve got an idea.

I’ve been thinking for quite a while that I would like a farm.

There is a joke(somewhat) in my family, and we all casually call it “The Ranch”… “Once we get the ranch we can get some pigs Pops”… “Well the ranch will be covered in aspens, so we can see them change on our own property”… “Ugh. I guess I’ll try planting this once we get the ranch”, you get the picture.

Such sayings are a commonality within conversations on a weekly basis.

For those of you who have been to my house, you know that we aren’t THAT far-off from having something close to a ranch. Well, as close as you can get in the middle of Santa Cruz, being a quarter mile from Trader Joe’s and the MASSIVE new Target that is opening. Still though, there is a HUGE garden, many small little gardens, fruit trees everywhere, a chicken coop (the coyotes ate them), and a wide field to throw the frisbee for the dog (when she visits) in. It’s as close to a ranch as we are going to get at this moment in time (ya work with what ya got, right?).

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We are surrounded by fig and olive trees, two different varieties of plums, peaches, kiwis, persimmons, lemons (we call it the cocktail tree), and an ample supply of fresh herbs, not to mention the seasonal vegetables. I’m pretty sure there’s a zucchini the size of a baseball bat in the yard right now.

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While all of this is fine and dandy, and we really do love our place (except for the guy who we share a fence with who plays terrible classic rock on the weekends and makes it impossible to enjoy being in our own backyard), I’m feeling a change coming on.

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Something, bigger, better, and that allows dogs. No. Wait. Scratch that. WANTS dogs; and not just one, like, three, so they can be buddies, ya know?

During our road trip we drove through the Doloras River Valley in Colorado and absolutely head-over-heels fell in love with it. I think somewhere down the line, I want to live somewhere like that. Raise and grow all my own food, and just plain ol’ take it easy. No traffic, to sirens in the background while you’re sitting on your deck trying to enjoy the day. No stupid Harley riders with their insanely loud engines (yay for THAT SouthPark episode), Just peace and quiet.

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After The Kill

Not a bad day to roast a pig Hawaiian style in the sand on the beaches of Carmel, California.

This is just what we did. Although, I can’t take credit for the arduous process of creating the coals (and enough of them), digging the hole, and burying the pig. I CAN however take credit for pig-sitting duty with my dear friend Maya and drinking wine out of my Klean Kanteen while our little friend slow-cooked in the ground.

Wrapped in leaves, stuffed with things like pumpkin, pineapple, and potatoes, we unearthed the piggy after roughly 8-9 hours in the ground.

After we took it out, the butchering began. It was an interesting process because the pig was already cooked and ready to eat. So, cut or break of a limb or a piece of something, and eat it.

I’m a pig… but, I already know that so… nothing new! Maya seems to enjoy it though 😉

I can say with confidence that this whole process has been/is one of, the better experiences of my life. Not only is it food-related (already scoring points), but watching and partaking in the process of killing something you are going to eat, literally from farm to table (or paper plate in our case), is something that I value tremendously. I hope that I will have more opportunities like this one, and encourage anyone who has the chance to participate in something so tasty, to do so.

 

Kill, eat, enjoy, repeat

 

WARNING: This post is not for the faint hearted.

A couple of months ago, a Chef friend of mine told me about an adventure he was going on. It wasn’t a far-from-home adventure, but an adventure none-the-less, and he asked if I would be interested in coming along.

I agreed readily, always ready to see something new and interesting. As the conversation continued, the destination, and the ideas behind it, were revealed. We were going to a pig farm.

He is a contributing author/photographer for a local food magazine, and wanted to create a story out of killing, cleaning, and butchering pigs, straight from the farm. For this, he thought, and I agreed, a blonde girl in pigtails wearing pink would be a fun spin and would add a bit of playfulness/quirkiness to the story. Enter me.

So. One foggy and cold day, a group of us head out to a ranch just south of Carmel Valley Village. When we arrive we are greeted by the scent of the farm and chickens in the driveway. Pulling around towards the back the pigs come into view, and I start my mental preparations for what I know is coming.

We do a walk-around of the pig-pens, all along discussing the different varieties, their different attributes, and, most importantly, their different tastes.

Chef walks around, pointing, rubbing his chin in a thinking fashion, before picking out three.

We round ’em up and the process begins.

 

 

 

 

 

First, the pig is shot in the head with a very tiny bullet. This stuns the nerves system and prevents the pig from feeling anything in the next step.

Which just so happens to be stabbing them in the throat. So, you send in a baconlover with a knife.

You get 4 seconds before sensation comes back to the pigs and your kill gets a whole heck of a lot messier. So. “BANG”, hop the fence, grab a leg, make the stab, then step on it to help bleed it out. Lovely.

Once all three of our pigs were done and bled out best we could get them, we begin the cleaning long process of cleaning them.

There’s removing the hair (which takes forever), then gutting (which is about as glamorous as you think), and then, well, eating them (yum).

To remove the hair, we poured very hot water over the bodies of the pigs and shaved them with our knives. The process is a slow one, but, then again, who wants pig hair with their pork? The answer of course is NO ONE.

Once the shaving process has come to an end, gutting begins.

This part of the process was not something I partook in. Looking back on this experience, I wish I would have. It was gross, but, eh, so what? ya know? It’s gotta happen to get that tasty end result. Next time I’ll do it. Next time.

Part Two coming soon.

Some photo credits to my friend John Cox 😉