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April 13, 2017

Fryman Canyon Hike

Caitie in Fryman Canyon
I've hesitated to post hikes around LA on my blog, because I wanted to stick to crafts and food that most anyone could do and enjoy.  A lot of my readers are family members in other states.  Plus, the hikes I've done aren't rare hidden finds that no one knows about; because I have asthma, I tend to stick to beginner or level-ground hikes that are fairly straightforward and popular. 


I have posted free events on the blog before though, and hiking is definitely a great way to enjoy the outdoors while improving your health.  I've enjoyed some spectacular views lately.  Decidedly, any positive reinforcement that comes from sharing my fun can only encourage me to stick with my new activity level.  I'm going to stick with regular exercise this time, and I know this because I'm willing to talk about it publicly.

 
View toward the San Fernando Valley mid-hike
So one of my favorite hikes of late has been Fryman Canyon.  The base of the trail is off Laurel Blvd.  There's decent parking, the path is wide, and dogs are expected to be on-leash.  I took my five pound chihuahua mix, and Caitie loved it.  I was having to keep up with her.  The round-trip hike took about two hours and had a total elevation of perhaps five hundred feet, so for me this was fairly challenging.  I stuck to the main trail, though for more experienced people there are paths which branch off in several areas.   Always take your water bottle in LA, even on a cool day.  Good shoes are a must, but this is a groomed trail so basic footwear will do.  Be aware of snakes off-trail; another good reason to keep a dog tethered to you. 

  
I just celebrated the third adoption anniversary of my puppy, Caitie, and I took her on this hike for a little one-on-one time as a celebration.  It was a great way to enjoy a spring day!  If you come out to visit me, I'll add this to our tour.  

Caitie, Claire, and I on Caitie's third adoption anniversary



April 12, 2017

Feasting at King Solomon's Table with Joan Nathan and Melissa's Produce

Joan Nathan demonstrating Preserved Lemons
A bountiful feast was held at Melissa's Produce to introduce the legendary Joan Nathan's new cookbook, King Solomon's Table.  It's a tome not only meant to be cooked from, but one meant to be read, with thoroughly researched history and anecdotes introducing each recipe.  The event to celebrate Joan was a wonderful opportunity to see my blogger friends.  

Photo courtesy Sara De Leeuw
This beautiful book will be referred to time and again for Jewish holidays and everyday cooking.  Melissa's sampled dishes from the book and introduced Joan Nathan herself to speak about it.  She graciously signed copies for the attendees. 

The menu from Melissa's event and bio of Joan Nathan
The Quinoa Salad served at the event is on pg 98 of the cookbook
My favorite dish served at the event was a Quinoa Salad with butternut squash, feta and pecans.  It was light and healthy.  The squash was a surprising, flavorful ingredient. 

Herbert Samuel's Tomato Salad on pg. 102
The other wonderful offering at Melissa's buffet was the tomato salad inspired by Herbert Samuel.  Of course the tomatos were in perfect season, but I loved the balance of greens and other ingredients.  It's so fun to think of summer's coming and salads coming back into season!  There's nothing prettier on a plate than fresh cut cherry or grape tomatoes.


Harira, Spiced Moroccan Vegetable Soup, pg 122
The spiced Moroccan Vegetable soup known as Harira was a little too hot for me, but that should not come as a surprise, since I like everything mild.  I'm sure it hits just the right note to others, and I like the idea of a chickpea-lemon based soup. 


Sapphire Grapes
Sapphire variety Grapes are sweet and delicious.  Their long fingers are delicate, juicy, and seedless.  I've never seen them anywhere else.  I will horde them when I do!

Pizza Ebraica, pg. 319
Pizza Ebraica, an elaborate dessert with a scone-like texture, was studded with pine nuts and dried fruit soaked in wine.  Its light sweetness goes well with coffee.  I can picture my mornings beginning with this treat.  

Shtritzlach, Toronto Blueberry Buns, pg. 35
Shtritzlach is a 1950's Canadian recipe for a dessert bun studded with blueberry pie filling.  Its sweetness contrasted with the savory flavor of the Pizza Ebraica. 



I couldn't wait to dig into the buffet at the event.  The textures of the dishes were even more inviting when they were next to each other on the plate.  The produce was perfectly ripened. 

The entrance to the warehouse/office where the demonstration kitchen is located


The demonstration kitchen at Melissa's is decorated with shadowboxes of memorabilia from Julia Child's kitchen, and photos of extraordinary chefs at events with Melissa's staff.  It's fun to imagine all the stars that have come through their kitchen. 

Utensils from Julia Child's Kitchen
Signing my copy!


In Joan's presentation, she demonstrated her technique for making preserved lemons (see the first photo).  I'll absolutely be testing her method this summer, so I'll leave the step-by-step directions for another post.  Having known little about Jewish cooking before this event, I was so absorbed with all of Joan's stories.  She impressed me with the way she put the history of Jewish food in context not only across time, but across the continents.  The recipes in this book come from France, Italy, El Salvador, Canada, and beyond. 



I came away from the event with a box packed full of wonderful Melissa's products.  I'll be cooking for the next month with the ingredients I brought home - ginger, dried cherries, pine nuts, chestnuts, fresh tomatoes, potatoes, lemons, butternut squash, lentils, all organic and all delicious.  I'll be sure to photograph my box after the next event.  For this first time, I was so excited I couldn't wait to use it all!  The first thing I made was an egg white quiche with Melissa's organic Butternut Squash, basil pesto, and Jarlsburg cheese.  It was the perfect touch of comfort for a Sunday at home, and the leftovers are tiding me through the week. 

My Butternut Squash, pesto and Jarlsburg Quiche

March 29, 2017

Matcha Latte and Baking


Japanese Matcha, finely powdered green tea leaf, is known for its extraordinary antioxidant properties and calming effects.  By consuming not just a steeped liquid but the full leaf in the form of the stone-ground powder, the nutritional profile is heightened.  Amino acids like theanine are elevated in Matcha leaves by covering the plant in shade for the last three weeks of growth before harvest.  Matcha bars are popping up around town, as devotees have coalesced into a following.  A highlight of my weekend was visiting Shuhari Matcha Cafe in Venice with a group from Food Bloggers Los Angeles. 

Traditional Matcha Tea Ceremony
The Shuhari staff demonstrated a traditional tea ceremony and taught us how to make Matcha.  The most important element to their ceremony was the tea water, controlled at a careful 85 degrees F.   We sampled cold mochi ice cream and delicious pound cake.  


Pound Cake in Chocolate, Matcha, and Traditional Vanilla
We enjoyed the private garden at Shuhari where our organizer talked about the history of Japanese tea ceremonies and the Samuri warriors who originated matcha.

Matcha Sparkler
Matcha Macaron
I had heard of and had drunk matcha before our tour, but I didn't know much about the history, and certainly hadn't used it in baking.  Turns out there are a hundred ways to use the fragrant powder.  One of our members posted a round up of tasty matcha treats in Los Angeles published by Eater.  I'm thinking of starting to bake with matcha with a simple pound cake like this one from Food & Wine magazine.  If you're looking for idea inspiration, here are a couple of round ups that were fun to browse:  from Food & Wine and from Cooking Light.

What's your favorite out-of-the-mainstream ingredient to use in baking, or another non-traditional mode? 

March 23, 2017

Crockpot Vegan Butternut Mac N Cheese


I was intrigued by a food blogger's recipe post for a mac and cheese that was not only vegan, but made in a crockpot, and featured butternut squash.  I couldn't wait to try it - but of course added my own twists, so I'm publishing my own recipe here, with a nod of thanks to the original by Kathy Hester at Healthy Slow Cooking.  

Like Kathy, I cooked my mac in my low-tech, standard size crock pot, which I believe holds 2.5 quarts.  It's a manual version and cost me $12 when I finally had to replace it this year, after my decade-old one was wrecked in an unfortunate dog-food incident.  The bigger crock pots may affect this recipe negatively, as the lower volume will make it hard for the sauce to properly coat and cook the pasta.  My recipe differs from hers in that I did my measuring in my shopping - I used whole cans and bags of prepped veggies, so most ingredients didn't have to be measured out.  This convenience shopping may not be economical, but if it gets me to eat my veggies, there's an objective in mind.  Also, I encourage anyone to add veggies your family loves - peas, mushrooms, cut up cauliflower florets.  I'm partial to mushrooms, and I added the basil as well. 

Please leave me a comment with your favorite vegan or crock pot meals.  I'd love to hear what you're cooking!

Crockpot Vegan Mac N Cheese

1 large (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
2 (2 lb) bags Trader Joe's cubed butternut squash
1 (4 in) sprig rosemary
1/4 -1/2 tsp minced garlic

Add all above to crock pot bag and heat, covered, on low for 6-8 hours.  Be sure to include the liquid from the can of tomatoes in the crock pot as well.  

In the evening, add nutritional yeast and soymilk to the crockpot and blend with immersion blender.  

1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 cups soymilk
1 box whole wheat elbow pasta
(optional) 1 bag Trader Joe's Mushroom Medley (seasoned with olive oil, garlic, and parsley), roasted
(optional) 1 cube frozen minced basil

In the evening, add nutritional yeast and soymilk to the crockpot and blend with immersion blender.  Once pureed, mix in the pasta, mushrooms, and basil and cover on low heat.  After 20 minutes, stir and test the pasta.  If sauce is too thick, add a bit more liquid (milk or water).  If the pasta is not yet al dente, continue to cook, checking every ten minutes until done. 

March 21, 2017

Hasselback Potatoes


I gave in today.  I experimented with the latest food trend, Hasselback Potatoes, which is just a baked potato, fan cut and roasted with seasonings.  And for all my pooh-on-trends attitude, it is oh-so-good.  Simple and easy, even a first time novice like me can get it right.


The key is to slice the potato as thinly as you can cut, leaving just a thin strip of the bottom still connected.  Envision potato chips; go for 1/16 inch slices, and you'll probably achieve an eighth of an inch, which will work just fine.  A tip is to set the potato in the cup of a wooden spoon.  The spoon will prevent you from cutting all the way through the potato, while leaving an even depth of cut to fan the potato.  Once sliced, fan it out and drizzle with just a bit of olive oil.  Shake Smoked Paprika and garlic salt, and stuff every other ridge or so with sliced sharp cheddar.  

Bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes or until potato is tender.  I covered the potato with tin foil after about 20 minutes of baking so as to prevent the cheese from burning, but if you like your skin extra crispy, you might not need to do that.  

Serve with sour cream, scallions, or any other favorite potato topping.  I served mine with classic Onion Soup Dip for extra zest.




March 20, 2017

How I Came to Care about Health.....Mine and Yours



Recently, I achieved my first level of accomplishment in Toastmasters, the "CC" or Competent Communicator, which signals that I have completed ten speeches and the first manual of study.  It took about two and a half years for this achievement.  My first speech in Toastmasters was an "icebreaker" intended to tell a little bit about myself.  I set out to explain how I came to care about health, mine and yours. 

I was raised in the midwest on bubble gum and soda pop....literally. My grandpa owned a Pepsi distributing company in Southern Illinois, and his brother owned the distributorship in the next county over.  I spent my vacations and summers playing with bottlecaps in the Plant, using stamps meant for labeling bottles as toys. 

my Grandpa's Plant

Grandpa "Rosie" Rosentreter in his office at the plant

My grandfather and my brother riding the forklift

My grandpa and his brother, Harold, grew up on a dairy farm, where they first added an orange drink to their line.  In the 1930s-50s that became their own soda line.  Then they became Pepsi bottlers when one mixed syrup and actually bottled the drink, then distributors when it was commercially/centrally made.  The plant was sold in 1986 when my grandfather got cancer and  passed away. 
 
My grandpa's brother, Harold, riding his team in a parade
Our family bottling label from the 30s-50s
I moved around several times growing up, first from Illinois to Utah.  I had a systemic allergic reaction to Salt Lake City when I was in high school, and fought allergies, asthma, and chronic bronchitis as a teen.  I had to figure out how to activate my immune system.  I hated steroid inhalers that make me shaky.  The first step to stopping an asthma attack is to keep myself from getting so anxious it snowballs. 

In my twenties I moved to southern California to work in entertainment as a freelancer.  As a union Assistant Director, I keep film and television productions on schedule and on budget, coordinating between all departments and physically running the set as part of a team.  It's a physically demanding job with long hours, steadily 14-16 per day when I'm working.  When I'm not on a show, looking for work is a full time job.  And I have to stay positive.  

Myself with Betty White
I started blogging for fun, to share my love of crafting, cooking and baking. I made my logo from the still life at my house, and turned to my collection of cookbooks to explore, while chronicling local events.  Setting out to write about one positive thing each day kept me optimistic as I began my union career, and gave people in the union a way to get to know me, as I was businesslike and too busy to chat much on set. 

Squirrel at my birdfeeder used for my blog logo
A pie competition
To keep some inter-generational contact in my life while living states away from family, I started volunteering with kids as a 4-H leader.  I grew up in 4-H and understood the impact it had in my own life.  Being a leader at summer camp was great fun.  Volunteering gave me roots in the community I had chosen.


As a kid, I grew up ice skating and playing softball.  I have to admit as an adult I'd become fairly sedentary, apart from work.  



One of the biggest health influences in my life has been watching my dad struggle with weight, diabetes, and subsequent joint issues.  I've seen him struggle emotionally and observed how his health struggles have hindered him physically over the years.   While I had a great metabolism growing up, I realized a pattern of slowed metabolism in the late thirties, and knew without good habits, I would be woefully unprepared. 


around 2001 at Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga
around 2014
I tried to take proactive steps as an adult to find exercise habits that worked for me.  I'm not perfect.  I'll never be a marathon runner or gym rat.  While the process of establishing healthy habits is ongoing, I know I have to be original and yet true to myself to make them stick.  I got a dog in part to encourage myself to walk, and took group classes in hula hooping.  I made friends, and had a ton of fun hanging in a park on weekends to hoop.  I explored gardening for pleasure at my small guesthouse backyard and experimented with vegetarian cooking.   Renewing my commitment to being healthy is something I have to do over and over again.  But it's important to me, so I come back. 






All these life passions came together when I decided to obtain my Health Coaching certification through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and slowly build my own coaching business, Golden Hour Health Coaching.  By helping others explore their motivations, set and obtain health goals, I am finding my own passion for living well. 






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