Two-Tip Tuesday!

Tip One: Do It Yourself!

I’m not much of a DIY kind of person and unfortunately neither is my husband. We have a great handyman whom I call far too regularly for really embarrassingly silly little things. But after having recently called him–yet again–to fix our garden fountain, I thought I’d try to fix our dishwasher myself. (You see, fabulous José doesn’t charge us for pulling pine needles out of a fountain pump or for tightening, once again, a loose door knob and I don’t want to take advantage of his kindness.)

So, I did some research an came upon Tip Number One: It’s an incredible site (though a little hard to navigate) that offers videos and forums about fixing all sorts of appliances. I typed in my dishwasher model and watched the how-to video. Then I ran out to buy  my tools:

My tools! Torx screwdriver set and needle-nose pliers.

I got into my dishwasher and did what the voice in my video told me to do. I took off the grill and scooped out and sopped up the water that had been collecting in the basin. I removed the filter and popped out some other piece. I removed stuff.

Inside my dishwasher.

Then, instead of hand-washing dishes until José or a repair person could arrive, I loaded them:

No hand-washing for me!

And this brings me to Tip Number Two for the day:

Don’t believe those people who say you don’t need to give your plates even a quick rinse before loading them into your dishwasher. Pay particular attention to lemon seeds! They should never be washed.

And an added tip: Ask your significant other if he or she might already have the tools you need. We now have two sets of torx screwdrivers. (And I have a new word in my vocabulary!)

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It’s Two-Tip Tuesday!

Here are some end-of-summer tips for you today.

Tip One:

Make a peach pie! It’s hard to improve on a perfect summer peach, whether it’s sweet and white inside or tart and yellow. In fact, I don’t think you can improve on a peach. But you can make it different (and equally delicious) by baking it into a pie. And presenting a homemade pie to friends or family says “I love you” more than just handing them a piece of fruit. So, before the summer fruit is gone, make a pie!

Peach pie image from the internet. Mine are never as perfect looking.

Half tip: Don’t let the daunting idea of making your own crust prevent you from doing so. In reality, making pie dough is really, really easy. Especially if you have a food processor.

Try this recipe for dough. And here’s a recipe for a filling. I make sure to bake at least one peach pie every summer, changing up the filling a bit each time.

Tip Two:

If you don’t have a food processor, get one now! It will open everything up to you in the kitchen and make life so much easier. Here’s my Cuisinart, which I love. It’s maybe a bit over-the-top, but I think it’s good to splurge on something like this. (If you have a birthday coming up, this could make a nice gift to hint at.) It does everything, but making dough is one of its biggest draws. (It also comes in particularly handy when making French onion soup. I love FOS and know for a fact that I would not slice up all those onions by hand to satisfy my craving.)

Half tip: While you’re at it, add a mini Cuisinart to your shopping cart (or go to Costco to get one for less). I use my little one for making marinades, small amounts of pesto and for chopping up old green beans and carrots for my chickens. You’ll use it all the time.

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I’m back!

I was away for much of the summer in idyllic Dorset, England. I seem to gravitate toward France when I have a chance, in big part, of course, for the food. But after devouring a couple seasons worth of Downton Abbey, the English countryside beckoned. The food in Dorset, it turns out, is fabulous.

We nibbled on amazing local cheeses and hams at fabulous pubs like the Queen’s Arms,


ate fish and chips at the Hive Beach Café on the seashore,


and sipped on local ciders and pearies.


When we weren’t eating and drinking, we were walking:


Over rolling hills…


Over stiles…


Along the coast…


On public footpaths…


In National Trust gardens. This is Stourhead.

But we’re back now. And here’s what was waiting for us:


Tomatoes from the garden!

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Two Tip Tuesday!

Tip One: Gifts from California

I was recently asked if I had any ideas for made-in-California gifts for food lovers. My response was easy: Meyer lemon olive oil from O Olive Oil. You can find it in some specialty grocery stores, but I usually order online and have the company ship it out. The Petaluma-based company makes other flavored oils (blood orange, Tahitian lime, ruby grapefruit, clementine and jalepeño-lime) and vinegars (citrus Champagne is delicious!) and they put together nice-looking gifts. When I send off a package, I feel like I’m sending a good dose of California sunshine.

O Olive Oil’s meyer lemon variety is as fragrant as these meyer lemon blossoms. Very California!

Another great gift idea is a bottle (or a case!?) of wine from Moraga Vineyards, the only winery in Bel Air, California. It’s not just a novelty; the wine is fabulous. (It was–and may still be–on the list at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée in Paris.)

A friend recently invited me to the winery’s annual wine-tasting party and I was amazed not just by what I sampled but also by what I saw. I’d long been intrigued by the vineyards I’d spied on the hills across the 405 freeway while riding the Getty tram up to the museum but I was completely in awe when I stepped foot at the base of the property. The 16 acres seem to roll on forever.

We strolled around the grape vines, peered into the deluxe chicken coop and chatted with the other lucky people who were there. We tasted all the wines (the dessert wine was spectacular!) and nibbled on cheese and crackers. The owners, Tom and Ruth Jones, were there greeting guests and encouraged everyone to enjoy their personal garden, which encircles their home on the property and was designed by Nancy Goslee Power. It is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen–and reason enough to wrangle an invitation to the party. My pictures of the place (taken with my phone) are awful, but Nancy’s website has a couple of shots.

Terrible picture but you get the idea. Sort of.

And this brings us to part two (a little bonus) of our first tip of the day:

If you want to join the party, taste the latest vintages and see that amazing garden, buy a case of Moraga wine (for yourself as well as for gifts for out-of-town friends) and you, too, will be invited to their annual party! It’s expensive, hard to find and sells out quickly, but it’s delicious and a walk through that garden is worth it. Wally’s carries it and you can also order some, or get on the wait list, from the Moraga website.

Tip Two:

If you like foie gras and live in California, eat some now. Starting July 1st, it will be banned. It will be illegal to produce or sell it, but not to eat it, so you can stock up on a few tins.

I’m looking at this whole situation (which, believe me, it is) in a rosy light: It will make trips to France even more special!

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In the garden…

Here’s what’s going on:

Zucchini flowers!

Jalapeños are starting:

Apples, Anna and Dorset Goldens:

Dorset Goldens.

Meyer lemons and fraises des bois:

Santa Rose plums are a’comin’:


Two new chickens, Snowball, a black Cochin, and Miss Piggy, a black Australorp:

That’s Miss Piggy. Snowball is hiding behind her.

The last of the kumquats:

I also caught a rat overnight. I did not take a photo of it. But I don’t want to leave on that note, so here are some pretty non-edibles:


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It’s mulberry season!

My daughter’s mulberry tree, a gift for her sixth birthday, is filled with fruit!

Delicate, little mulberries.

The first leaf buds on the deciduous tree’s bones are always exciting, then we thrill to the formation of the first little, white berries. And now we pick the ripe, deep-purple treats on our way out of the house and when we come back in. The berries, and their flavor, are delicate, making them difficult to transport to market. They’re kind of like the sweet peas of fruit. Best to grow your own.

Our tree, a weeping variety, is a little funny looking:

Sigmund the Sea Monster.

(Now imagine the back half of an adult’s kneeling body poking out from under the branches, bum in the air, as she reaches for fallen berries. Yes, the dropped berries are a treat for the chickens.)

Stained fingers!

Poppy devoured them!

Poppy eats a mulberry.

Even broody Ginger came out of hiding to eat her share!

Ginger checks out the mulberries.

I used some mulberries to make ice cream with, saving plenty for my daughter to pick when she comes home at the end of the day.

Here’s the result:

Mulberry ice cream.

Garden Update: Our apricot season came and went. Unfortunately for me, my husband and daughter like their apricots on the firmer side and they left but one to ripen up enough for me. (It wasn’t a huge crop. And I guess that’s what one gets if one is going to spend a week in Paris during apricot season!) I got a picture of it, though:

My apricot.

The Santa Rosa plums are up next…

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Excellent new cookbook!

I am loving Seamus Mullen’s new Spanish cookbook, “Hero Food”! He’s the greatest, most generous guy (I’ve had the immense pleasure of meeting him) and a fabulous cook. When you’re in New York, make sure to visit his restaurant, Tertulia. For more about his book, read my review on ZezterDaily here.

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