Papa’s Guacamole

I have a vivid memory of my Papa’s guacamole during a super bowl party when I was a kid. I don’t know who it was that I can actually credit for making it, but I credit my Papa because he brought people together. A friend of his caught eye of my young, captivated attention, directed into the bowl, and let me ask him questions. I’ve been trying to make guacamole that good ever since.

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It was 7pm and I was rustling together a few things to be sure I had the proper foraging gear, while finishing a soup with pickled rainbow carrots, making my Cousin a leather wrist cuff for her Birthday, and feeling like, “Am I really doing this?”

YES! I’m on a mission to find medicinal mushrooms!

Magically, a friend showed up at our door and agreed to stay and watch our cat. He helped me make soup for my Aunt, and ate the soup I had left over in the fridge. By 8pm, my son and I were on the road to San Mateo (about a 5 hour drive up North), leaving the house a bizarre looking mess. Between the biggest storm we just had, in which we had to bring in boxes of stuff from outside to the living room, and the ridiculous amount of mess it takes to create one big soup and a leather bracelet, it looks like a storm in my house.

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(Horse salad for some Topanga horses, from left over scraps making the soup.)

We arrived at 1:30am, fell asleep. My son made breakfast in the morning, as I anxiously waited for him to finish, so I could get on a trail and search for mushrooms in the forest. My body was so ready to move and explore after a long drive.

zanesbreakfastZanes breakfast. French toast logs with chocolate hazelnut spread filling. They were worth the wait.

My Aunt Caroline came with me, and did a really good job at pointing out little side areas off the trail, that I should go look. She exercised the trail, while I got deep in the redwoods. Which led me to finding a little bit of several different varieties, until I got lost, and eventually found her again.

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This is witches butter. It’s a squiggly yellow fungus, and feels slimy.

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When we got back, my friend Joseph, who was staying at our house, sent me a text. “Your food is magical….You make medicine soups.” He was enjoying my vegan borscht with chaga mushroom powder. It gave me some encouragement.

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Last minute, we asked my Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Paul to come over for dinner. My Aunt Caroline, who’s always kind and supportive, was happy to let me cook for everyone.

The Teenagers, my three Cousins, all had their own thing going on that night, so it was just us Adults and  my son,  Zane, who will almost be a teenager.

I quickly went to Draegers Market to pick up stuff for Tacos. On my way, my Aunt Caroline reminded me to make guacamole.

Doing my best to keep a big dinner at a reasonable cost, I wanted to buy only exactly what we needed, and not go over the top. I looked at the $50 a pound chanterelle, and morel mushrooms for a moment, wishing, and then grabbed some little $6 yellow ones.

I had my Papa’s guacamole in my mind while I shopped.

I was worried about not having enough tortillas, so I bought too many. I didn’t know who would want corn tortillas and who would want flour tortillas. When I brought everything to the kitchen counter, spread out, my Uncle Graham (who always walks in the room full of charisma and energy) came in the kitchen asking, “how’s it going?”.

“It’s ok, I think I bought too many tortillas though”, I said nervously. I didn’t know how any of this would turn out, only that I cared deeply that everyone enjoy the dinner, and no one left hungry.

While we ate tacos, Uncle Paul, who has a lot of cool things to say about foods he’s enjoyed; talked about a guacamole contest he went to. He said everyone agreed this one Woman who won, had the most insanely best guacamole. He described her as very shy, while everyone hovered over her guacamole, going nuts over it.

“What was in it?!”, we all wanted to know.

I know the secret ingredient now, I don’t want to share it yet. Actually, I want to have a Topanga town guacamole contest.

Although, there wasn’t a farmers market that day, and I was 6 hours away from my walk in fridge of produce, I found a few variety of vegetables that made me happy to work with.

I charred shishito peppers with olive oil, salt and topped it with a little truffle oil. Fried the mushrooms. Made skirt steak , shrimp with chili powder, mango salsa with orange heirloom tomatoes. Sliced watermelon radish, soaked in lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. A cabbage salad with sliced fennel, little bit of watermelon radish, lemon juice and oil. The guacamole was put together by my son, who was the best sous chef. He even cut the shrimp and the mango perfectly. We sliced some heirloom tomatoes and used torpedo onions in the guacamole, some lime juice and salt.

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My Aunt Caroline said, “green onions are healthier then regular onions”. I guess anything that’s green is healthier. She also told me that when cooking garlic, slice it and leave it out for 10-15 minutes and then cook it. For some reason, that’s how to do it when you want to keep it’s medicinal properties if you’re  cooking it. The book “Eating on the Wild Side” explains it in depth.

My Uncle Paul, seemed interested in what I was doing in the kitchen, which made me feel like I was doing something right. I didn’t know if they would like the shishito peppers, or the watermelon radish. He said they were some of his favorite things. My family knows good food.

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My Uncle Graham and Zane, talked numbers, and Zanes career plans, while my Aunt Gretchen and I talked about the importance of small farming. She said something like, “I’m old enough to have lived in a time, where it was the norm, everyone knew their farmer, and then farming became industrialized….” She has a wealth of information, and ability to clearly explain it all to me. I just said, “I wish I was recording this.”

After we ate, my Aunts and I were in the kitchen, and I told them I just learned yesterday, of a mushroom called, Laughing Mushroom, that makes people laugh uncontrollably. The night ended with my Aunt Caroline  saying, “that’s my favorite song!” While singing the Mary Poppins song, “I love to laugh”, as three ladies burst into laughter!

That’s medicine!

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We were on our way home at 10pm. I didn’t get hungry the whole ride.

Maybe the teenagers will join us next time,

if they don’t have something cooler going on. 🙂

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Topanga Chili Cook Off 2016

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I didn’t enter the chili cook off in 2015, because I knew how to make chili. I didn’t have some special chili recipe, or make it very often.

One day I pureed some cooked beets with fresh tomatoes, and then cooked mushrooms and various veggies in the puree with fresh chili peppers, and it was a beautiful pink color! So when the chili cook off came around, there was a vegetarian category, I thought, “That’s a good idea to help promote my veggie business”.

I was young and enthusiastic, and really into the vegetables.

“You’re not putting kale in that are you?” my friend Sean said, who put American cheese in his chili. It made me think of all the times I had been made fun of and it encouraged me to do something better. I lost that contest. It just wasn’t a chili; it was a spicy soup.

The next year, I won second place for making a bison and beef chili topped with fresh strawberries and habanero lime whip cream. It was a chili no one could forget. The kids especially loved it.

I also bent the rules a little and used a tactic where, I kept a couple kids around by feeding them strawberries. It turned out really well for me because they helped me taste test and balance flavors. We also had loads of fun together, which was the whole point anyway. The “chili” was like a habanero, chili curry covered strawberry lollipop with fluffy sour, spicy whip cream.

That year the contest categories were confusing. Although, most people thought I would win 1st place, I was put in the traditional category, when everyone else thought I should be in the non traditional category. I was too happy to care, I was having so much fun with my community.  At the end, a judge walked up to me and brightly exclaimed, “everyone agreed, you had the best chili! the best!” I said, “but he won first place.” and pointed at Trevor. She silently walked away. It was a peculiar, and very Topanga moment.

2016

They came up with a new description for the other non – traditional category. If you were doing something strange (me again), and using different meats other then beef you were in the Champion Chili category. I was placed in the right category!

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Here’s what I used.

~Grass fed beef stewing meat and ground meat, and pasture ground pork from Harvest Gathering Farms.

~My own pork bone broth. Roasted the bones, and simmered for 3 days with curry leaves, apples, onions, coriander seeds, and maldon smoked sea salt.

~Fresh pureed heirloom tomatoes

~Artichoke hearts (thanks to the kids helping me cut fresh ones and scooping out the hearts!)

~Pomegranate Molasses

~Dark Chocolate

~Vanilla

~Cherry bomb peppers, spicy lemon peppers from Erewhon in Calabasas. Habanero peppers and chili peppers from my garden…. It was surprisingly not too spicy.

~Volcano red Wine from Volcano Winery in Hawaii

~Onions

~I topped it with butter mixed with diced crispy garlic, and lime rind.

~I sliced SunChokes really thin, cooked them through and crispy around the edges, and put those in towards the top.

~The best part was adding finger lime pulp on top, also called lime caviar. The judges loved the little lime squirts in the mouth. I got those at the Topanga Farmers Market the day before.

I believe the reason I won 1st place this year, is that I get kids to hang around, who bring in some extra magic to the pot from just being awesome. I also worked exhaustingly hard at it, and go way out of my way to source every ingredient from farmers I know. I was also placed in the right category this year!

 

Sasha, with her second place ribbon for her delicious strawberry pie!

 

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The kids happily wrote some of my ingredients on my chalkboard.

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Chili goggles.

 

 

 

 

Little Chefs, Egg Salad and more Crepes!

With everything going and all the concern, something we can agree on is, sharing healthy food is a good idea. We have a lot of power together. This was our focus. Willa shared a story she read at school about sharing food.

It was an early day out of school so we got some extra time together. We painted some used wooden boards. Something to brighten and decorate our kids kitchen with, which is next to a garden.

 

The more good stuff we create together, the better.

We were scheduled to make egg salad yesterday, which is really simple, but today was more about working together, which we do really well together. We decided we should also make crepes. We almost went for meringues, but ran out of time. I promised we’ll do a meringue day with all kinds of flavors of meringues.

Not much different from our last class, but this time we had Willa’s master crepe skills. She showed us the way of perfect crepes.

 

 

We were so impressed with that little perfect circle! We made a fresh jelly, with pomegranate juice and kiwis for the crepes. Little Immy wanted her crepe with lemon and sugar. I told Willa, “I don’t have time to cook the lemon and sugar into a jelly.”

“Kali! You’re over thinking it! She just wants some lemon juice with sugar!” said Willa.

That was awesome, and she was right. Immy loved dipping her crepe into the juice.

In the end, we gathered together in the kiwi gazebo and celebrated our food.

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We made a couple containers of egg salad to share with teachers at school. They love getting our little treats.

Next week, we plan to make pomegranate molasses as well as apple sauce. We’re using fresh, local, organic, apples and pomegranates from Etheridge Farms. It’s a lot of work doing it from scratch, but we’ll do it together! The pomegranate molasses will be used for a later class when we make FesenJan with Heather Tehrani.

Little Chefs,Crepes and Deviled Eggs

The plan was to make crepes. I picked up a dozen eggs from Topanga friends with happy chickens. We realized we had plenty of eggs to also make deviled eggs, and were inspired to work on two things at the same time. Making sure to focus on not over boiling the eggs, while also working on crepe batter. Deviled eggs felt like a great way to make use of some of special Topanga eggs, and they were really delicious!

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For the crepes, we picked apples in the garden, diced them, and cooked them on low heat with a little coconut oil, cinnamon, and a little sugar. We used a simple crepe batter recipe and filled them with cooked apples.

Deviled Eggs

Put the eggs in a pot of cold water, turn on the heat and wait until the water comes to a rapid boil. Remove from the heat, put a lid on it, and let stand for 9 minutes. Quickly put the eggs in a bowl of ice water.

They patiently waited for the eggs to cool down and the shells peeled perfectly. Slice them in half and scoop the yolk into a bowl, add mayo and mustard, whip it. Add salt and paprika. Then scoop it into the egg whites. Sasha thought she used too much paprika, but it actually turned out super tasty, perfect amount of everything!

Can you find the little toy cows? It’s like “Where’s Waldo”, they place them in at least one picture every time.

Little Chefs, Dumpling Party!

We made two different doughs. Organic, white flour, and a gluten free dough. Aside from the challenges of wrapping gluten free dough, that easily tore, they turned out pretty tasty, and didn’t ooze out of the cracks much while cooking. We used rice flour and tapioca flour. It’s a nice texture.

We made two fillings. One with ground chicken, and the other with broccoli. We loved the chicken filling, but we weren’t really into the broccoli filling. This is a good start though. Learning how to roll and wrap the dough takes practice. We’ll be masters at it some day!

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It all happened so fast. Dough rolling is a lot of work. With flour all over the place, and sticky hands, I didn’t get many pictures. I love how they all look so different. There’s even one with a green onion string wrapped around it.

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Three sauces were made, different variations using sesame oil, tamari, and rice vinegar.

Once gobbled up, the kids played in the kiwi gazebo, and swept up more leaves while creating characters for improv. They’re really excited about getting the kiwi gazebo ready to serve food to Parents.

We talked about making a fruit crumble next week. We had some extra dough at the end, and Luella got creative. Maybe we’ll do mini fruit pies next week. We all agree (when we were making the butternut squash cake a few weeks ago) we don’t need sugar added with the fruit, fruit is sweet enough.

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We’re growing red roselle flowers in the garden. We started the plant from heirloom seed. It’s a tangy hibiscus like flower that’s used for teas, sauces, and pies. It will make the sauces red. If the flowers bloom next week, we’ll use the flowers in a fruit pie and make tea. This praying mantis is a good sign!

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Thank you Tallulah, Gracee, Sasha, Evita, and Luella. Our dumpling party was fun. You are all creative, inspiring, and each of you bring the best ideas to the table. Thank you for sweeping. We’re preparing and practicing as a team, which will lead to some lovely gatherings in the kiwi gazebo.

Dumpling Dough

This is a great short and easy video on how to make dumpling dough, and wrap them.

Gluten Free Dough

The description on how to make this dough, and roll it, is easy to follow.

~We pan fried the dumplings until they were brown on both sides, then added a little water, put the lid on and steamed for 6-8 minutes.

 

 

Little Chefs Cooking Class, Butternut Squash Cake!

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My 12 year old son, Zane, insisted that I bake a cake with the kids. I wasn’t sure about doing something sweet, but I liked the idea of showing them how we can put a vegetable in a cake and still make it taste awesome. It also reminds me a little of pound cake, but healthier.

Anyway, we ended up using half the sugar that the recipe called for in the batter. We all strongly agreed we didn’t need that much sugar! How sweet does it really need to be??

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I got everything ready on the table before they arrived. Plus celery snacks. The butternut squash, I boiled and pureed the day before.

I had an important baking question. How do I use the glass baking dishes instead of metal? I asked my friend Patrice, “The Angel in Your Kitchen”. She’s a master organic baker in town.

The oven needs to be preheated…

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Little Chefs~ Chicken Pot Pie

I look forward to our Wednesday class every week. We have so much fun, and I’m amazed by each of my kid friends.

We made a chicken pot pie, inspired by this recipe, by SkinnyGirlsandMayo.

I made the crust in advance because it needs to be refrigerated for at least an hour. Even with that preparation, our class went on a little longer then usual.

We used chicken thighs instead of breasts, and no peas or cheese. The veggies we used were, potatoes, white carrots, broccoli, and sunchokes. I gave them the option of using oyster mushrooms, but most kids have a tendency to say no to mushrooms!

Tallulah said she loved rosemary with chicken, and went out to the garden to pick rosemary. We also used thyme.

The kids wanted to look up music on youtube to play, which distracted them a little. So, I reminded them that there was magic happening in the kitchen, and we all need to stir the filling together and put happy thoughts in the pot. They came right in and made some magic in the kitchen.

When the filling was cooling down, we went down to the “kiwi gazebo”, as we call it, which is the bottom area of our yard. We did some improv skits, and talked about our plans to make lunch for the Parents down there. The kids even helped me sweep the leaves.

We put the filling in the crust a little early because we were short on time, but it worked out fine.

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Kayla and Louella, sealing the dough! Oceana stepped in to press a fork around the edges, she said it would seal it better and be pretty.

We did an egg wash for the top of the dough and put it in the oven at 4oo degrees. 25 degrees less then the recipe said because we used glass baking dishes.

While the pie was baking we stretched in a circle and talked about Halloween costumes, and stuff at school.

We were a little rushed when it came to seasoning the filling, and making sure there was enough salt. Our last class, we had more time for that, with our heirloom tomato soup.

The pie was ready in 35 minutes, and we only missed one hole in the dough! Time to clean the oven!

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Dough Recipe

This recipe was enough for one pie with a top crust layer. It made the crust nice and thin, I loved it. I pulled the dough into two even pieces and rolled them separately.

Pie Filling

We followed the steps in this recipe, and used some other vegetables.

I’m working on a playlist for them, with the list of songs I can see they looked up, so that there will be no more computer distractions.