"Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage."
C. S. Lewis

Why Italian Garlic?

28 November 2012

I had ordered some garlic from a wonderful company  Seeds From Italy. This is the second year I have planted the variety Rossa di Sulmona.  Rossa di Sulmona is a variety of garlic known for it's pungency. You can use half the amount called for in any recipe. There is no bitterness which is also a plus. I can attest to all the claims - this garlic is delicious. The flavor is richer and fuller than any other garlic I have used before.  Although I am getting a later than recommended start, I did plant my garlic last December and was able to harvest in May successfully.  I'm planting double the amount I planted last year so I don't have to fear running out of my stores.

I'm trying a new variety also, Bianco Francese - a soft neck variety which produces large white bulbs. I can't find out any other information on this variety - but I will keep you posted.

We are expecting our first rains for the next several days and I wanted to get this garlic in the ground. I enlisted the help of my wonderful hubby. We worked really hard to finish up preparing the beds.

We finished up by covering the beds with 3 to 4 inches of straw as recommended. In addition I had to cover the beds with wire to keep the chickens away.  

When we were finishing up our work hubby asked what type of garlic we were planting and I told him "Italian Garlic". What's wrong with "American Garlic",  he wanted to know.  I explained to him that when I'm using our "Italian Garlic" it takes me back to "La Bella Italia".  

I have so many memories of our trip to Italy this past May.  Most of those memories involve food. So many delicious, simple meals - created around delicious ingredients.  Olive oil, pasta, garlic, tomatoes, basil and parmesan - nothing we have can match the flavors I found there. 

La Bella Italia

Apple Season - Dries Farm

13 October 2012

I love where I live. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I live in California just 2 1/2 hours from downtown Los Angeles - yet miles away in culture, values and worldview. Most of the people that I meet have chosen to live here because they want the opportunity to live somewhere with clean air, little traffic and wide open spaces. I particularly love the four seasons we are priviledged to experience - Summer jumped from weeks of excessive heat to Winter (skipping Fall) necessitating a roaring fire in the fireplace all day yesterday - Yes! 

One of the things I tackled this summer was a small garden. I am surrounded by people with years of gardening experience and I realize how much I have to learn - but what a joy when you actually are able to harvest something and bring it to your table to enjoy or better than that - share it with someone else. With just a little bit of pride you show off your bounty and wait for the oohs and aahs!

Of course I can’t grow the variety of vegetables and fruit that we need as a family - so we must look for ways to supplement our food sources. One of those ways are from small family farms in our town.  I discovered Dries Farms this past week - It is apple season right now and  I heard that Dries had a u-pick orchard. We headed over there on a Saturday morning and walked through the different variety of trees and picked some apples. Margaret Dries also has pumpkins, raspberries, lavender. When she isn’t there she has an “honor” system to leave your payment. Being raised in a big city, I couldn’t imagine there 
were still places like this.

Spending the day picking apples with your family - priceless!

In Winter We Ate Pears

Monday, 20 August 2012

In Winter We Ate Pears, A Year of Hunger and Love by Deirdre Heeken
 A Book Review

This spring we had the pleasure of traveling to Italy - somewhere I've always wanted to see. I wasn't disappointed - in fact I fell in love, with the country, the people, the history, the music and the food - ok I was already in love the food before I got there. Since coming home, I have been watching movies, and reading anything I can get my hands on about Italy. The latest book, In Winter We Ate Pears by
Deirdre Heeken - is both memoir and cookbook. The author and her husband traveled to Italy on their
honeymoon and stayed for one year. They traveled, and learned all they could about the food and culture - they too fell in love with a country and it's people.

A Vespa - Red of Course!

 On returning to the states, they opened a bakery which evolved into a restaurant, Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock, Vermont. They wanted to bring the flavors and more importantly the experiences
of Italy to their home town.  This book truly was like reading a love story - I fell in love the with
villages and food as I read it. The recipes,  (as is the book) are described by the seasons - I haven't tried any of them yet - but just reading them reminded me of meals I enjoyed in sidewalk cafes - it brought the smells and sounds of a country that I can't wait to get back to. If you can't afford a ticket to Italy right now - I suggest you read this book - it is the next best thing.

Amore in St. Mark's Square

 Sunday, 19 August 2012

Heart Of Worship

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless Your heart
I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You,
It's all about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You,
It's all about You, Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve
Though I'm weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath
I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You,
It's all about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
And it's all about You,
It's all about You, Jesus

I'm coming back to the heart of worship,
And it's all about You,
It's all about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
And it's all about You,
It's all about You, Jesus

Michael W. Smith

Sights and Smells of Alcala

21 May 2012

Alcala de Henares

We are traveling in beautiful Spain with our friends and visiting our daughter. Absorbing the smells, sights and flavors of Spain once again brings back so many memories from our last visit here. The friendliness of the people, the language, architecture - there are so many things unique to this country.

Upon our arrival yesterday evening we had a light dinner of "boccadillo" which is a sandwich on a delicious bread similar to a french roll with meat and cheese. Simple but tasty. We were introduced to a typical dessert called "Costrada" which is from the city of Alcala de Henares where we are staying. It is similar to what we call a "Napoleon" - paper thin pastry filled with vanilla cream, dusted with powdered sugar and sprinkled with almonds. Every pastry shop has their version - delicious and not overly sweet.

Everything seems to taste better when shared with special friends and family - savoring the tastes and trying new foods.

The town of Alcala is one of the oldest in Spain. It is famous for the University founded in 1499. It is registered on Unesco's World Heritage sites - the location that Christopher Columbus met Queen Isabella and the seat of renaissance culture and education. Scholars at the University produced the first polyglot Bible in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and Latin.

The birthplace of Miguel Cervantes the creator of Don Quixote this town is about 20 miles from the capitol of Madrid.

Something you can't miss is the stork nests atop the high points of the city - they are everywhere and return to the same nests year after year.

There is so much history here and you feel, as you walk through the narrow streets that you have stepped back in time.

When traveling to Spain, Alcala de Henares shouldn't be missed. We actually stayed here and traveled to Madrid for sightseeing since it is much quieter than the hustle and bustle of Madrid.

The symbol of the treasured storks is everywhere to be seen on gates, in relief on buildings.

Apple Custard Meringue Pie

27 February 2012

Food as memory - A few months ago we invited our neighbors over for dinner. They offered to bring dessert. What a treat we had. Mike made a Apple Custard Meringue Pie. I had never heard of this pie and the combination of flavors was truly unique. I vowed to recreate it. After searching the internet, I found a link to a recipe. It took me some time to get my nerve up to tackle this recipe, but I am so glad I did.

Step 1 - Prepare basic pie crust

Step 2- Press pastry into pie pan.

Step 3 - Sprinkle with fresh breadcrumbs.

Step 4 - Add sliced apples.

Step 5 - Sprinkle with brown sugar and add butter pats.

Step 6 - Prepare custard with farm fresh egg yolks - thank you Mona!

Step 7 - Prepare meringue and bake!!!


Recipe link at http://decemberquinn.blogspot.com/2006/05/apple-custard-meringue-pie.html

Pear Tart

01 January 2012

This Christmas I made a recipe that I have made with success for over 25 years. This Pear Tart is based on a Pear Clafoutis - a traditional French dessert. This recipe is both delicious and has a beautiful presentation without too much effort.

Sweet Tart Dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt 1 large egg yolk
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon very cold
or frozen butter, cut in small pieces

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in - you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas Stir in the yolk, just to break it up and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in - process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy- handed, press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. (Baking From My Home To Yours, Dorie Greenspan)


1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons, sugar 6 Tablespoons flour
3 eggs 1 1/2 sticks butter
2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and
quartered lengthwise
( I use canned pears)

Combine sugar, flour and eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Melt butter in medium skillet over high heat until foamy and brown. Slowly add melted butter to sugar mixture. Set aside.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut pears crosswise into slices 1/8" thick. Gently open slice up into fan shape. Arrange pears in crust in flower petal pattern.

Pour melted butter mixture over pears.

Bake until crust and filling are brown - about one hour. Serve warm or at room temperature. Just before serving, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. (Gerri Gilliland, Caterer)