Friday, December 19, 2008

persimmon muffins anyone? i finally understand the expression, "the best laid plans". i had every intention of blogging frequently throughout the holiday cookies, pies, jams, candies..all were on the schedule. and i did, in fact, make some of these items..but blogging about it..forget about it.  now, do not get me wrong. i love blogging. regular readers know that i love to blab on..telling stories and sharing my favorite recipes. but this holiday season..oh my!..crazy is the only word i can think of to describe the past few weeks.

many of you know that i started a company last summer. we are a "green", eco-friendly lifestyle brand selling handmade items for home, garden & accessories. everything is from "reused, recycled, reimagined and/or repurposed" materials. we also offer organic bath and body care, organic dog treats and are in the process of launching an organic food line (for people!).

this company is near and dear to my heart..and i love every aspect of owning & operating my own business...but what was i thinking? i launched in july...a second later we were in the midst of holiday prepping and planning...major time suck. in addition, my entire family,and by entire i mean parents, siblings, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins,their kids etc are coming to napa for christmas. they all live either in southern california or oregon...and will be in napa from the 22nd through the 27th. this is the first time in my life christmas has not been spent in southern california. i am really, really excited but..c'mon!  in southern cal everyone comes to a family member's house for a meal and then goes home. here, they are at my house for breakfast, lunch and i have been planning, prepping and organizing like a mad women for the past two weeks...trying to ensure i have not forgotten anything. i am so excited to host christmas...and know this will be a cherished memory for the rest of my life.
now, back to blogging...i miss it more than i can say...and thank you to all the wonderful readers who have emailed me asking where i was.  here is my promise to you guys...i will try and blog a couple of times between now and christmas...then i will spend a lot of time in january recapping the experience...and sharing the recipes from the month. i have been cooking or baking every chance i get and next week's menus include an italian food night, a mexican fiesta night, a traditional christmas menu...with a twist...and a seafood terrific desserts, appetizers and breakfast items. looking forward to sharing the dishes with you.
in the interim, i am currently staring at 5 massive bushels of persimmons picked last week from my tree. i have an extremely prolific tree and have spent the years since we moved to our farmhouse trying every possible recipe trying to use up the huge crop we get each year. i always make big batches of jam...this will be a january project. for christmas, i will be making persimmon cookies, bread, bars and persimmon muffins (recipe follows). the muffins are quick, easy and have become a family favorite so... christmas we come! enjoy, and please let me know if you try them...

persimmon muffins
1 1/2 c unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
2 large eggs
1 c persimmon puree
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1 c brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar
preheat oven to 350 degrees. line a muffing tin with paper liners. place first 8 ingredients in small bowl and whisk together. using an electric mixer, beat eggs for 30 seconds. add persimmon puree, e.v.o.o. and brown sugar to bowl and beat until thoroughly mixed. add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. pour into prepared muffin tins filling each cup 3/4 full. in a separate bowl, mix together the remaining cinnamon and brown sugar...and sprinkle mixture evenly over each muffin.
bake approximately 25 to 30 minutes..until a wooden skewer stuck in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
place pan on cooling rack until muffins are warm and then remove from pan.

enough about are your christmas or hanukkah plans coming? are you ready? let me know in the comments section of this post. and i am always on the hunt for new and different persimmon recipes..please share yours.
happy holidays!
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

vegan thanksgiving?

o.k...i lied...did not mean to...but in my last post, i wrote about my canadian thanksgiving experience in october and about my actual thanksgiving dinner on t-day...and promised to write the following day about my vegan thanksgiving day? 7 days later? i am.. so, to those of you that checked in daily..and emailed me...i apologize. this has been an absolutely crazy time. (memo to self...if you are going to launch your own small business, don't do it in july...xmas will be here before you know it...and you will be slammed with projects)

anyway, i am officially ending my thanksgiving memories series with a recap of one of my favorite experiences this year...vegan thanksgiving. ..but first...a bit of background...regular readers know that i added a line of handcrafted, organic dog treats to my product offering this past september. what you may not know is that in california, pet food manufacturing has the same requirements as human food. so i make my treats in a rental commercial kitchen here in napa. a massive benefit (in addition to the treats) is that i have met some really cool people who are also in the early stages of new food businesses. i have found everyone to be kind, helpful and generous with advice, tips and feedback. we work together to help all the businesses succeed. how cool is that? two of my favorite people have quickly become good friends...terry bradford and mary wilmer. terry is a brilliant musician (singer... won star search in 1990, sang on the lion king soundtrack, was celine dion's duet partner on tour and sang "beauty and the beast" with her, etc.) if you have not heard him...he is simply amazing..big powerful beautiful voice...check him out... and mary is his very smart business manager. they are close friends and both are longtime vegans so, in addition to the music business, they started a vegan food business called bountiful vegans. their food is delicious. so delicious in fact that even non-vegans love it... i will write an entire post about them soon because their story is really compelling.
one day in november, we were all working in the kitchen and i asked them what they were doing for thanksgiving. they are pretty new to napa, do not know a lot of people here yet and had to complete some work on the actual day of thanksgiving. i could not stand the thought of them forgoing the holiday this we hatched up a plan to create a new tradition,"vegan thanksgiving", to be held the next day.... the three of us love to cook (obviously) so i invited some friends/neighbors who are committed NON-vegans over for a tasting dinner. terry and mary brought over some of their products...and a ton of organic ingredients...and we spent the afternoon/evening making up recipes. we served each dish one at a time to our "guests" and asked for feedback. remember...this meal was 100% our surprise and delight everyone loved each dish. you could tell that they were not just being polite because a.) these are the type of friends who tell you what they holding back and b.) the dishes were gobbled up with requests to take the leftovers home! we even had a 14 yr old boy who loved it...he kept referring to the meal as "random food"... as we explained how items like "vegan bacon" were made.looking back, this night was one of my favorites of the amazing food with friends (testing, eating, laughing)...feeding friends food that they loved, laughing and answering their questions about how everything was made...and then just hanging out talking and laughing. (you notice how often i have written the word "laughing"..i think that is really what made the evening so was so much fun!)

so, one more thing that i am grateful for this year...the number of new people i have met...really great, terrific people...and to the ones that are fast becoming good and true friends...thank you!
by now you are probably asking..."what did you make for vegan thanksgiving?" i will be posting a number of the recipes during the next few months...and i am proud to say that i will be adding food from the bountiful vegan to my website...they make two items that i am addicted to..their carrotuna, and their tofeggy. the carrotuna looks a bit like a carrot salad..but it tastes like the lightest, freshest tuna salad you have ever eaten. the tofeggy is their eggless, egg me, you do not have to be vegan, or even vegetarian to love their food. (i will post when their items are on my webstore site)my favorite recipe from vegan thanksgiving is the simplest and easiest...carrotuna crostini...

carotuna crostini
1 sourdough or french baguette
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup olive tapenade
1 container carrotuna

slice baguette into 1/2 inch rounds..toast in oven at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. watch carefully to ensure they do not burn. (or grill. i use a panini press). remove crostini from heat source and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. spread each toast with a thin layer of tapenade. top each piece with 1 tbsp carotuna. serve immediately.

how easy was that? you can make your own tapenade...or purchase a good quality version if pressed for time.... this is my christmas day appetizer this year...and no one in my family is vegan or vegetarian...

i want to take a moment to once again thank all of my thanksgiving memories guest guys rock..and i thoroughly enjoyed the it is time to turn the blog themes to december holidays. i recently found out that my entire family is coming to napa for christmas...first time ever. i originally thought i would be hosting a group of 8...has ballooned to 25 and counting...and i could not be more excited..however, i will be spending the next 15 days planning, prepping and cooking...and will share the experience (along with a ton of recipes) in this blog. so please join in...comment...and share your tips for getting ready for the holidays because...THEY ARE HERE!

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

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Monday, December 1, 2008

three thanksgivings??

yes, i was fortunate enough to be able to celebrate thanksgiving three times this year. first, my friends richard and caitlin decided to throw a "canadian thanksgiving" bash on october 12th. then we had our traditional holiday on thanksgiving day. finally, we created a new tradition..."vegan" thanksgiving on some very good friends of mine are vegan and they kinda miss out during the traditional meal. happily, i have not concluded the thanksgiving memories series i was thrilled when caitlin sent me her write up of the canadian thanksgiving festivities...and i will share the vegan day tomorrow...

caitlin is a new friend..just met her this year...and feel very fortunate that this extremely kind, giving, intelligent and funny person has come into my life...she moved here from canada last year and was feeling a bit homesick, so she took charge of introducing one of her traditions to her new friends here in napa...i confess that i did not know much about this holiday...other than seeing the date posted each year on my franklin/covey day planner!! i learned that thanksgiving is similar to ours..a celebration of harvest albeit without the pilgrim/native american theme. the food is pretty much the same...and, although the official day is a monday, caitlin said that canadians hold their feast dinner sometime during that long weekend...ours was a sunday night...i could go on and on describing this magical evening...but caitlin did a lovely job of telling the story....introducing caitlin...

"Canadian Thanksgiving has always been just that. Red and orange maple leaves, hikes in brisk fresh air, crisp Macintosh Apples and of course turkey with all the trimmings and lots of laughter with friends and family.

Celebrating the early October Harvest has always marked the transition into the cold, harsh Canadian winter. This holiday has always been a favorite of mine and moving to California I was afraid I would lose my holiday roots. How wrong I was with the beautiful Canadian thanksgiving I was able to share with my American friends.

We truly celebrated with the culture and flare that makes the Napa Valley so special. A beautiful sunny day in the heart of the Carneros region of Napa was the backdrop for the truly remarkable day. An outdoor table for 25 was set with the amazing design skills of Richard Von Saal. His kindness, passion and eye for detail was beyond evident with a barn wood center piece, dichroic glass chandelier, an eclectic mix of vintage pieces, and of course many bottles of the delicious wine that makes the Napa Valley world famous.

The food was a beautiful potluck of classic Thanksgiving food complete with a rosemary white wine turkey from Martha Stewart Everyday Foods, freshly baked Asian pear pie, winter salad and the best (I’m not kidding), Persimmon and fig preserves from Napa Farm House 1885.
Aside from the successful wine industry, gourmet food revolution, a lifestyle focused on health and wellness, and an appreciation for the arts the people are what make the culture of the Napa Valley so special. How lucky was I to be thousands of miles away from my family and spend a celebrated holiday with 25 amazing people. Only in California will you find around one table such an interesting and diverse group of folks as we had. Artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, photographers, writers, environmental activists, an editor of a lesbian magazine, wine makers, gallery owners, a professional dirt biker, and designer who all shared lots of laughter and great stories.

My mom will be happy to know that our family tradition of expressing what we are grateful for was carried on around this amazing dinner table of new friends. What was I thankful for? Of course all my new American friends who came together in celebration of food, friendship, and laughter. I can hardly wait to do it all over again for the American Thanksgiving tradition!"

was your holiday traditional..or did you mix it up? please share your stories in the comments section of this post...and check back tomorrow for "vegan thanksgiving"!


napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

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