Thursday, February 28, 2013

Violence may be everywhere but that doesn't make it less shocking when it happens in your own backyard

When I think of Santa Cruz I think about the Boardwalk, the redwood forests I drive through on HWY 17 to get there, the Penny Ice Creamery, and the downtown shopping promenade on Pacific Avenue. I also think of sea lions, pelicans, surfers, sunsets and all of my friends who live in or near this idyllic city.

What I don't think about when I think of Santa Cruz is violence. . .

Click image to view on the Santa Cruz Sentinel Website

Or SWAT teams . . .

Click image to view on the Santa Cruz Sentinel Website

Massive emergency response from the Police, Sheriff's department, CHP, FBI, or multiple agencies from around the county.

Click image to view on the Santa Cruz Sentinel Website

And I've never before thought of officers walking around city streets with guns drawn.

But now I will and so will many of the residents of Santa Cruz because two days ago tragedy struck when for the first time in the history of the police force, 150 years to be exact, an officer was killed in the line of duty. And not just one, but two officers lost their lives. Officers who were taken from their families, children, and loved ones. It breaks my heart.

Sergeant Loran "Butch" Baker (a 28 year veteran) and Detective Elizabeth Butler (a 10 year veteran) were shot and killed by a deranged/desperate/evil man. Apparently officers Baker and Butler didn't realize they were in immanent danger when they went to interview the suspect. They were there to question him about a sexual assault complaint but didn't know that by at least one account (his own father's) he had sworn he would never go back to jail.  He had spent time in jail for voyeurism in 2008, was brought up on a weapons charge/attempted murder related to that event that the jury acquitted him of, served his time, and had been released.

The alleged shooter who had three guns (two belonged to the slain officers) left the scene and was killed approximately 30 minutes later in a hail of gunfire after opening fire when cornered by police.

I'm all for giving people second chances but sadly we know some people are not deserving of them. It's a fine line and one that I try very hard to not become cynical of when things like this happen because it's not fair to those who have learned from their mistakes and won't ever reoffend.

I guess the question is what can family members or friends do when they know in their heart someone is, as this suspect was, an inevitable "ticking time bomb." Is there a way for their names to be put on some kind of list so that officers responding to complaints involving them will know they need to be more careful than usual? Would such a list be legal? At the very least communities can start reporting crimes when they know something. We all know people being unwilling to become involved in reporting crimes is a national problem.

And where does this leave Santa Cruz? With a recent chain of violent crimes including a fatal, downtown, drive by shooting, a young woman surviving being robbed and shot in the head while waiting for a bus, and a home invasion robbery, the city's reputation as a fun in the sun surf town has been shaken to its core.

I'm not a betting woman but I'm betting that the city and its people will take action and work very hard to restore the idyllic reputation of this wonderful place. I simply can't imagine the citizens of Santa Cruz sitting back and accepting this surge in violence as their new status quo. They love their city too much and must feel completely bewildered by these recent events.

I, like everyone else, simply wish what will surely be a large push towards making the city safer and raising community awareness hadn't had to come at such a terrible cost to all of the victims.

For now, all I feel I can do is to offer my most heartfelt condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of Officers Baker and Butler and refuse to let these random crimes stop me from visiting Santa Cruz whenever, wherever, and for however Iong I want to visit.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An easy DIY pickled and sauteed beet greens recipe

One of the best things about living in California is our year round access to fresh produce at the Farmers Markets that seem to be in almost every community Bay Area wide.

Happy Boy Farms is one of my favorite vendors at the Campbell Farmers Market. They've been growing organic produce in California's Central Coast region (near Watsonville) for the past 20 years.

These Happy Boy Farms beets only cost $2.00!

I buy beets not because I love beets, I love their greens. I discovered last year they are delicious pickled with salt the Japanese way.

I trim the leaves from the beets and rinse them repeatedly in cold water discarding any that are damaged or discolored.

I use my fingers to pinch/trim the stalks from the leaves, saving them for a soup pot or salad.

After loosely chiffonading the greens I put them in a flat'ish bottomed bowl and sprikle liberally with salt. The salt helps to draw the moisture out of the leaves.

The traditional way of making salt pickled vegetables, a type of tsukemono (audio pronunciation here), is to use cabbage (recipe here). Because of this recipes online will tell you how much salt to add relative to how much cabbage you're using. With the beet greens the amount of greens isn't exact so I liberally sprinkle salt over them and toss them.

Once salted you need to press the moisture out of the leaves. You can use a tsukemono press, or place the veggies in a bowl, put a plate on top of them, then weigh the plate down with a clean, heavy object. But not all plates are flat across the bottom and because I was using smaller than normal quantities of greens I discovered, especially for small batches, two tupperware containers and a weight are the best solution.

I place the salted veggies in a tupperware, nest another container on top of them, then add a heavy object into the second/top container.

In cool or warm weather I leave the container on the counter overnight and it's ready to eat the next day. In hot weather it goes right into the fridge. I save any leftovers (still salted) in the refrigerator.

After one night you can see how much water has been pressed out of the beet greens. Be sure to rinse them with cold water or they'll be too salty. Also wring them out a bit to remove any excess water after rinsing.

Traditionally a small portion of tsukemono is served as an appetizer but my family always enjoyed it with hot rice as a side dish with dinner. I love it with my breakfast brown rice porridge (the recipe is in this post).

Beet Green Okayu tsukemono with freshly ground flax seeds.

I chopped and added the stems to the rice as I reheated it with extra water allowing it to simmer on the stove top for 20 minutes. Cooking them released the yellow hue to the water.

In Japan a dry condiment added to dishes is called gomashio (pronounced go-ma-she-o), which is ground sesame seeds mixed with a bit of salt. I replaced the sesame with flax seeds for the added nutritional benefit, which as it turned out, didn't offer a lot of flavor. Next time I think I'll use a bit of both.

As I mentioned earlier, tsukemono is traditionally made with Napa cabbage but I've found that not everyone appreciates the smell of cabbage whether it's tsukemono, kimchi, or sauerkraut. So less odiferous greens are an option to consider. This year I'm going to try all kinds of greens from carrot tops to collards. I'll let you know which ones are the tastiest.

My most recent trip to the Farmers Market is another example of how, despite perception, junk food is not always cheaper than healthy food. With $10.00 in my pocket I purchased from four different vendors and was surprised to still have $1.50 left over after purchasing certified organic golden beets, carrots, cauliflower, a fava bean plant and three swiss chard plants in a tiny pot.

All I would need would be to spend that last 1.50 on some rice, pasta, or lentils, add some seasonings, and I could turn these veggies into several healthful, inexpensive, and delicious meals.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Childhood memories of Deer Lake, Dick's Hamburgers, and cherry chip cupcakes

Last year, just for laughs, I took my parents to the lake they took me to when I was a little kid. It was just for one night. Can you see how much fun they were having in the picture of all of us below? They could hardly contain themselves. LOL

Spokane, Washington is located in eastern Washington not far (15 miles) from the Idaho border. And because news anchors never pronounce it correctly it's Spoh-kan like a soda can, not Spoh-cane like a walking stick.

We arrived at the lake on a partly cloudy summer day. I couldn't remember the name of the place we stayed at decades earlier so I booked a cabin at the Deer Lake Resort.

We were assigned to the Buttercup Prairie Cabin. It had a double bunk bed, kitchenette, and 3/4 bathroom with shower. At first my dad called the top bunk but then he decided he and my mom would sleep on the lower one. LOL.

The funny thing was that it didn't dawn on me there wouldn't be sheets, pillows, blankets, or towels. We brought everything but pillows because my mom suspected it would be that way so I made them each pillows out of folded clothes tucked into jackets and sweatshirts. We were really roughing it.

Some of you may recall my mom hates having her picture taken so she always covers her face with her hand. My dad is much more agreeable and will pose for pictures if you ask him to. There were a few more pictures I wanted to post of her but she hadn't covered her face so I had to do it for her with Photoshop. You'll see what I mean. . .

The pictures of my mom are slightly edited to meet her approval. LOL

There were several activities we could have done while we were there including dock fishing, boating, and paddle boating. They wanted none of it. Instead my mom was on her iPhone and iPad the entire time pinning stuff on Pinterest. And my dad was picking weeds along the shore.

That night my mom and I picked up dinner to-go from Luke's BBQ and took it back to the cabin. To pass the time after dinner we went through a huge box of old photos we'd drug along. Some were of her and my dad from before I was born. It was really fun and something I'd like to do again.

The next morning I headed out to the water because I'd noticed some birds on the lake when I peeked out the window of our cabin.

They were Red Necked Grebes.

 They were very pretty floating and diving around the docks.

I threatened my folks if they didn't start having fun I'd bring them back and instead of renting a cabin I'd rent a covered wagon. It doesn't even have electricity or beds inside, just space to roll out a sleeping bag. LOL

On our way out we stopped at a nearby resort which turned out to be the one I'd stayed at as a child. Those were the days. I can remember feeling so carefree when I'd last been there around four decades ago. I was really glad we had the opportunity to visit the lake and hope we will again in the future.

Before hitting the highway home we stopped at Luke's BBQ for breakfast. Mom was on top of her game with her classic hand-over-the-face-block move so I didn't have to add her hand in. Ha ha ha :D

When we got back to town we made a day of it and visited several more places that made me reminiscent of my childhood. The first was the White Elephant toy and sporting goods store located on the North Hill. When I was a kid I loved visiting the White Elephant because they had the largest selection in town of Breyer model horses. My herd was my pride and joy. When we got back to their house I dug them out of the basement and photographed them. I already blogged about our visit to the White Elephant in this post.

We also stopped by the Japanese Tea Garden on the South Hill just in time to see several large koi goldfish being released into the pond by members of the Koi Society. Several years ago the park lost all 50 of their koi, some had been there for 34 years, due to someone releasing sick pet fish they no longer wanted into the pond. The thing is, fish sick with the Koi Herpees Virus can look healthy but be carriers of the disease so please never release pet fish into city ponds. The consequences can be devastating.

On a happier note we stopped by downtown to visit Riverfront Park so I could photograph my favorite, lucky horse on the Looff Carousel. I already blogged about the night I caught the "gold ring" three times! I can still recall what it felt like to see the people on the horses ahead of me miss the rings over and over and how I planted my right foot in the stir up and leaned waaaaaaaaay out. Each time my finger slid into and hooked the gold ring it was so exciting.

And a trip home wouldn't be the same without visiting some of my local favorite food stops.

Dicks Hamburgers is, imo, the most nostalgic place in town. When I was a kid my dad called it Panda's because of the sign. We didn't go often because my mom usually made home cooked, wholesome dinners. So Dick's was a real treat when we got to have it.

It's a classic drive-in. You park, walk up to the counter, and place your order. The amazing thing is the order takers never write your order down. They would all, always memorize and call the order back to the cooks. And they almost never made mistakes.

There were benches at all four corners of the building but we'd usually sit and eat in the car or get food to go.

My favorite thing at Dicks was their Fishwich sandwiches, an order of fresh cut fries, and lots of their tarter sauce.

One of the best parts of the trip was I got to meet up with my friend Kira, who no longer lives in Spokane but happened to be passing through town. What a great coincidence! We met for breakfast to catch up. We chatted about old times and what we'd been up to lately.

Speaking of old times, we used to go to Dick's together back in college. As I recall we always ordered Whammy hamburgers. Back in those days everyone ordered the Whammy.

Another restaurant I've missed since moving to the Bay Area is Taco Time. It's not authentic Mexican food, it's Mexican fast food and I love it. There are none in the Bay Area. I keep hoping and hoping someone will open one someday. I did look online and discovered there are many along I-80 so I can have plenty of Taco Time when I drive to Michigan to pick up my trailer :D

They are one of the few restaurants with tater tots on the menu. They call them Mexi-fries and they have a yummy seasoning on them. My other favorite was their Crisp Meat Burrito. Now, I order the Crisp Bean Burrito when I'm in town.

When I first moved to California I couldn't find a crisp burrito to save my life. It took about 15 years to discover that Andale Taqueria in Los Gatos offers Flautas. They are similar to the crisp burritos from my childhood, but they aren't the same. And Armadillo Willy's BBQ now has tater tots on their menu as a French fry alternative. So that's as close as I can get here in CA.

And then my  mom took me to Sweet Frostings, a new bakery that had recently opened.

When I was a kid I got to pick the flavor of my Birthday cake each year. I'd be willing to guess nine times out of ten I chose Cherry Chip. It was a boxed flavor made by Duncan Hines and I LOVED it.

So mom had to take me because Sweet Frostings sells Cherry Chip Cupcakes with a Maraschino Cream Cheese Frosting. OMC (Oh My Cupcake)! They were divine!

Even before I tasted it I was head-over-heals in love with the shop. It was just too cute! One bite and I was hooked. I can't wait to go back. Next time I think I need to go to Sweet Frostings each day for a Cherry Chip cupcake fix. It wasn't just like the ones from my childhood, it was even better!

And with that I think this is the perfect place for a sweet ending to this post. To visit the businesses mentioned here's how you can find them:

Deer Lake Resort - website
3906 W. Canyon Springs Way
Deer Lake, WA 99148
(509) 233-2081

Sweet Frostings - on Facebook
15 South Washington
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 242-3845

Dick's Hamburgers - website
10 East 3rd Avenue
Spokane, WA 99202
(509) 747-2481

Taco Time
Locations in: Washington State
Locations in: The rest of the U.S. and Canada

Monday, February 25, 2013

How to plan a green St. Patrick's Day Dinner

Each year my friend Carl plans a green dinner to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. He would spend all day in the kitchen and from the napkins, to the hors d'oeuvres toothpicks, to his apron, and every morsel of food, EVERYTHING is always green. For inspiration CLICK HERE to see all of the pictures from last year's St. Patrick's Day Green Dinner.

Carl Mindling's 2012 St. Patrick's Day Green Potluck Dinner

Last year he tried a new twist. Instead of slaving in the kitchen all day he threw his first Green Dinner Potluck. It was a lot of fun. Each guest signed up to bring an entree, side dish, or dessert. We had so much fun. The dinner was delicious and, inadvertently vegetarian. The thing was, we didn't even realize until the following day there had been no meat in any of the dishes so I guess it wasn't that big of a deal.

Carl's 2011 Green Dinner with guest chef Andy Mark

So now is the time to start putting together a guest list and throwing your very own green dinner for St. Patrick's Day 2013. Use Evite, that way if you're having a potluck guests can sign up for a dish in the comments. It makes it easier for people to see which dishes are covered and those that still need to be signed up for.

If you throw a Green Dinner send me a picture and I'll add it to this post.

The holiday is a great excuse to have friends over and celebrate with more than just green beer.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Merci Mademoiselle Petyt for your fantastic book The Paris Wedding

For years before I met hubby I thought if I ever got married (again) it would be in the most romantic place I'd ever been to. I would:
  1. Meet Mr. Right
  2. Date
  3. Get engaged
  4. Purchase four tickets to Paris (2 for us and 2 for our videography team)
  5. Fly to Paris
  6. Get married
  7. Come back to the U.S. and invite all of our loved ones to a party where we would show the video of our marriage filmed in Paris at our surprise wedding reception
I had a dream. It didn't turn out that way (we got married in Cupertino, CA) but it's still a really neat idea. And if we had done it we absolutely would have needed to hire Kimberly Petyt from Parisian Events to help us plan every detail, book every professional, and obtain the needed permits. Now not only is she an accomplished English speaking wedding planner who's been coordinating events in Paris for the past seven years, she's also a fantastic blogger, and a soon to be published book author!

The Paris Wedding is a book any American getting married in Paris will be thankful for. Hence the post title "Mercie Mademoiselle Petyt" for helping to steer couples to the path of less stress when planning a wedding abroad.

"Written by an American wedding planner in Paris, Kimberley Petyt, The Paris Wedding is a must-have for the best wedding inspiration and resources in Paris. Not just a resource of practical information for those planning a wedding in Paris, but The Paris Wedding is also a stand-alone handbook full of stylish tips and glamorous photography to help add that Parisian je ne sais quoi to any celebration."

Photo by Ian Holmes

"Brides-to-be can find helpful advice on anything from planning a green, eco-friendly wedding to Paris wedding hairstyles and French wedding flower traditions. Kimberley Petyt also shares stories of real Paris weddings and some of her own personal experiences, paying particular attention to the differences between French and American weddings."

Photo by Laudree

If you're planning to wed in Paris or want a Parisian styled wedding in the United States, or any other country, The Paris Wedding will introduce you to French wedding style and the ins and outs of actually getting married in France when you're not a resident and don't speak the language.

Congratulations to Kimberly for bringing her dream to fruition!

Photo by Ian Holmes

The book will be available soon (March 2013) but you can pre-order it on Amazon right now.

It's just after midnight as I post this so I bid you bonsoir and à tout à l'heure!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rolling down the road... Learning Spanish

I could't resist making an animated GIF of my tiny trailer, with my car, to scale. Well, to scale relative to each other, not to scale in real life. In real life it's going to be small but not this small. This is the new color I want to paint my car so that it matches the trailer. Not sure how hubby will feel about it but it sure looks cute :)

Annnnnnnd my friend Loretta asked if she could come on my road trip adventure with me to pick up the trailer in Michigan when it's ready. I said absolutely, I would be very happy to have company.

Since the trailer is designed for one person we'll be staying at hotels and maybe some KOA campgrounds during our trip. I enjoyed that cute little cabin I stayed at last year so much I'd like to visit a few more.

She was asking what kind of music I like and I said almost everything. Then I mentioned it would be fun to learn a foreign language using an audio tutorial. She said "Oh, like the guys in the car commercial?" I replied "What commercial?" I had no idea what she was talking about. In any case, she thought it was a good idea so we've decided to learn Spanish! By the time we get back we'll be just like these dudes (in the commercial she was talking about). LOL

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sauerkraut isn't just for hot dogs, it's for breakfast too

When I attended the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco a few weeks ago it was the first time I sampled the Raw Sauerkraut from Sonoma Brinery.

One bite and it reminded me of the salt pickled cabbage my grandma used to make when I was a kid. When I mentioned this to the man at the booth he immediately said, and much to my surprise, "Oh, you mean tsukemono" (pronounced sue-kay-mo-no with a slight "t" sound blended with the "sue" as in "tsu" and the emphasis placed on the "ts" sound rather than the "u"). Of course. He was obviously not Japanese but being a pickling expert I shouldn't have been surprised he was familiar with a wide range of pickled products.

A new variation of my favorite brown rice porridge for breakfast

Immediately I knew it would be good as a side dish, particulary with the okayu (pronounced oh-kī-u) brown rice porridge I'm so fond of. Here's how I had it for breakfest with a piece of canned salmon, a minced umeboshi plum, and some powdered wakame seaweed that I ground up using a mortar and pestle.

And not only does it taste good, it's good for you. Because the sauerkaraut is raw, not pasteurized, it's crisp and contains healthy, naturally occurring probiotics that aid your digestive system.

I found Sonoma Brinery's Raw Sauerkraut in a refrigerated aisle at Whole Foods. The expiration date was three months from now so I got two. I'll be having it for breakfast several times a week from now on.

To make okayu just add water to rice at a ratio of three to one. So one cup of rice to three cups of water. It's easiest to simply make a batch of rice, simmer out almost all of the extra water, and put it in the fridge. Each morning I scoop some out, add it and more water to a saucepan, and let it simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the water has simmered away.

Also in my basket were Alexandre Kids Eggs. They're local, organic, and pasture raised. Pasture and free range raised is important to me because it gives the chickens a more humane quality of life.

The bottom pic is of Alaxandre Family Farms pasture raised chickens.

The pictures of the battery and cage free hens are what I wonder consider typical for these production methods. There are lots of pictures online of situations that are far worse (cages that are dirtier, more overcrowded, and filled with sick and injured hens). The battery cages are the worst. The cages are so small and crowded the birds can't even spread their wings.

The images illustrate why I'm willing to pay more for pasture raised eggs. And in the big scheme of things more really isn't all that much. An extra $3-$6 per dozen is what it costs to support the best production option of the three. Considering It takes me at least two weeks to go through a dozen eggs, it's not that bad at all.

Photos by Alaxandre Kids

The Alaxandre Kids chickens have their own movable chicken coop, flock guard, sunshine, clean air, green grass to forage on, and dirt for dust baths. Though their lives won't be long and happy the way a pet animal's life would be they are, at the very least, allowed to live in a more humane manner which is something all living creatures deserve.