Category Archives: In the Kitchen

Open Faced Tomato & Guyere Sandwich

open faced tomato & guyere sandwich
Though summer is officially over and autumn is being welcomed with wide open arms, we are still getting baskets of tomatoes coming into our kitchen. Over recent years I’ve noticed that summertime tomato sandwiches seem to become almost religion to some people. Everyone has their favorites. Summer is not complete without them. For our dinners, a BLT is pretty much a weekly constant during tomato season. However I wanted to show you my other favorite tomato sandwich.

I discovered this tomato sandwich years ago, probably when I was in my teens. I remember it was a hot summer day and I was bored in my room flipping through some beauty magazine and came upon this recipe. It called for white wine, dijon mustard and guyere cheese all of which seemed so very sophisticated to me at the time. Still, decades later it’s one of my favorite summer lunches.
Open Faced Tomato & Guyere Sandwich
1 slice toasted french bread
white wine
dijon mustard
tarragon (optional)
sliced tomato
sliced guyere cheese

On the toasted french bread lightly sprinkle white wine to moisten. Then spread with dijon mustard and sliced tarragon. Place your tomato on top followed by sliced guyere cheese. Stick under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Enjoy!

My summer days now are nothing like my teenage summers, lounging aimlessly and bored with a beauty magazine in hand. Keeping white wine in the fridge these days doesn’t seem all that sophisticated. Every time I make and eat this sandwich it does take me right back to when cooking with grown-up ingredients seemed so daring. And besides, it’s plain delicious. Hopefully tomato season is still in full swing where you live and you get to try this sandwich before the season ends.

What’s your favorite tomato sandwich?


Filed under Recipes

Putting up Plums

Ripe Santa Rosa Plums

Ripe Santa Rosa Plums

Just picked plums

Scoring Plums


Food Mill Plums
The Santa Rosa plums came ripe within the last two weeks. Looking into my canning notes, we hadn’t yet preserved anything this growing season(!), but the plums changed all that. We sat down the other Sunday to do our first batch of jam. I picked with gusto, I carried them into the house with gusto but as soon as I sat down to put the task to hand, all the wind was knocked out of my sails. Our plums are delicious but they are hidden behind a very bitter skin. I started peeling with a knife, but the knife was dull (a solveable problem, I know). Then I tried scoring the bottom, like tomatoes, and dunking them into hot water to let the skins separate from the meat of the fruit. It looked like it would work, but it didn’t. In fact it totally backfired. Not only did the skins not fully loosen, but by placing the bitter skinned plums in the boiling water, the bitterness soaked right through the fruit, making the whole batch bitter. Argh! Scott sharpened the knives and we sat down and hand peeled…for hours!

Then inspiration hit and for our second batch, we picked them, let them sit on the counter a few days to truly ripen and sent them through the food mill. Problem solved! Not only that, but after the fruit passes through the food mill, it’s smooth and thick enough that it only took a minute or two on the stove to let the sugar dissolve and then into trays to become handmade fruit roll ups. Hardly any hot cooking involved! Food mill, where have you been all of my life?

First entry into the 2014 Canning Log: 6-half pints of plum jam & 4 sheets of fruit rolls ups.


Filed under Fruit Trees, Preserving

Milking Sheep


A few weeks back my sheep tending neighbor and I were letting our children play around her farm. We started talking about the merits of raising goats versus sheep. Now that the wee one is getting older, the thought of adding in some animals to our property is seeming more possible. Still a far off hope, but still much more do-able, at least in my mind. Sensing my interest, Cindy asked if maybe I wouldn’t want to share in her East Friesian sheep-keeping by learning how to milk them. Sign us up!, I said and a few mornings later my middle son and I were riding our bikes down the street to learn how to milk sheep.

An enjoyable hour later, we rode back down the street with a gallon of sheep’s milk and a bit of chevre culture and rennant. Fresh sheep milk, if you are as curious as I was, tastes quite similar to cows milk. We all enjoyed the taste. It quickly however, thanks to this recipe, became fresh chévre. Delicious! What an incredible experience, and hopefully not our last.


Filed under In the Kitchen

Slowing down as we rush forward.


The dark days are here, aren’t they? October went by so very fast, that I made it a priority for November and December that we slow down a bit. I cancelled all after school activities for the two months which has given us all a great sigh of relief. With inspiration from Alicia, last year I bought a bunch of candles on timers and set them all up through out the house after the time changed. It’s so nice to walk down the dark hallway and have a little light waiting for me next to my bedside.

My parents took a brave step and watched all three kids for one night last week. We’ve never known such luxury! We were besides ourselves with free time. While Scott finished up with work, I rushed over to Petaluma to Knitterly and fell upon a few other fantastic little shops. I found Fog Linens at Good Gray along with a little dustpan and broom for little spills (that happen hourly in our kitchen). I’m thinking that the pink yarn will be made into an Ice Cream Sundae for the wee one and the Madeline Tosh is already being transformed into a Relax for me. ‘Relax’, that sounds perfect for me!

The chickens have been impressing me by still giving us plenty of eggs everyday. Dark days haven’t stopped their laying habits thankfully. Scott’s been on a roll with creative cooking lately. Handing me some homemade salmon caviar as a snack the other day and making avocado sandwiches for lunch. That sandwich was incredible, toasted, rubbed with garlic, sliced perfectly ripe avocado and a drizzle of oil & salt & pepper. It was perfect.

I hope you’re able to find some slow time and enjoyment as we rush forward into the holidays.


Filed under In the Kitchen, Life in Sonoma

Apple Pie Season


The wee one and I made an apple pie. Now, I’m not known for my apple pies. Scott is. He’s the prize winning apple pie maker. But the other week, Alicia blogged about ‘the grand duchess’ of apple pies made with sour cream and eggs and ever since I couldn’t get the idea of a creamy apple pie out of my mind. I had to try it.

You probably know this already, but when you bake with a small child you need to stop for a minute beforehand, close your eyes, take a deep breath and say to yourself, ‘this is going to be a royal mess’. If you do that, baking with a child becomes completely enjoyable. If you go into the situation in a time crunch or with the thought that you don’t want a messy kitchen it’s bound to be a disaster. And, it’s taken me nine years of mothering to figure this out, but if you give your child their own bowl and give them a spoon full of flour, or baking soda or, butter or what-have-you in their bowl as you measure out your own ingredients, you’ll both be much happier bakers. In this case, she made her own pie crust and rolled it out with her little mini rolling pin.

Back to the pie though. It turned out great. A nice alternative to our usual pie. We have a granny smith tree in back and those tart, crisp apples were really fabulous contrasted with the sour cream. The crumbly, sugar topping is so good. It’s a rich pie and you’ll know that after eating a slice, so call all your friends over for dinner when you bake this. After I baked it for the allotted time, I stuck it under the broiler for a few minutes to give it more of a carmelized top. While this doesn’t top Scott’s pie, it will certainly make it into my recipe box for repeating next year. The only thing I’d do differently is cut the apples thinner, like an eighth of an inch thick and layer them in like a gratin. They way I did it was cut them about a quarter inch thick and just dump them into the shell. That allowed for big ‘air’ pockets for the cream filling to go into. Scott pointed out that if you cut the apples thinner and layered them then the cream to apple ratio would be in equal portions for each bite, rather than big chunks of apple & cream. Make sense?

That’s the dispatch from this Sonoma kitchen. Take a deep breath, get yourself in the kitchen, make a royal mess and give this pie a try (recipe here). It’s fall, we need to make sure our ovens still work, we need to pair the sight of colorful falling leaves with apples on our cutting boards and we need cozy comfort desserts for our now cooler autumn evenings. Now get baking!


Filed under In the Kitchen, Recipes

Preserving Fish

The past couple of years Scott had really grown his passion for fishing. When salmon season starts, he takes a day off about once a month and wakes up at some ungodly hour to drive to a Sausalito dock to jump upon a fishing boat. Then out under the Golden Gate Bridge to take to the salty sea. On a good day he’ll bring back two 15-20lb salmon. We always eat well that night. Then some fillets go into the freezer and at least one fish a season will go to Angelos for smoking. Smoked salmon on a bagel with cream cheese and capers is well coveted in this house!
Last month when he came home with two fish, it was right on the heels of us smoking our second round of bacon when we thought, let’s give our own smoked salmon a try! Miracle upon miracles it worked! It is quite delicious and now we don’t have to pay for it to be smoked and we can control the amount of salt and know without a doubt that there aren’t nitrites in it.
Monday Scott went tuna fishing, as I mentioned that day, and came back with two 25lb bluefin tuna. Now unlike salmon fishing, where you stay near the coast, with tuna you need to go straight out into the ocean. Far out into the ocean. Far enough to make a wife nervous. He was gone from 2:30am until almost 9pm so we saved most of the butchering for the next day. He cut the tuna into steaks and we portioned them into dinner sized sections and vacuum sealed them.
Years ago we had a friend give us his home canned tuna. Now, canned fish does not look good in a glass jar at all. There is a reason the tuna you buy in the store is in a metal tin! However, it tasted absolutely delicious. Since we graduated into pressure canning world a few years ago, we decided to give it a try. The tuna went into clean jars packed with salt and olive oil and into the pressure canner for 100 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure.
12 meals worth of tuna steaks + 15 jars of tuna + 3 meals worth of fresh tuna last night and today = success

This might have been our most disappointing vegetable gardening year yet, but we won’t be swayed from stocking up our pantry full of summer’s bounty for the winter months.


Filed under Preserving

Baked Chiles Rellenos, Corn Harvest & Ponds


The baked chiles rellenos turned out great! We have chili rellenos a few times during the summer and they are without a doubt one of my favorite dinners. But they are a lot of work! This was a nice alternative and I could make it early in the day and pop it in the oven after soccer practice. It’s especially nice when your husband comes home early and makes a peach pie to bake with it! Anyway, recipe for baked chiles rellenos here.

We harvested all the corn this weekend. Five portions went into the freezer and the rest went into dinner.

The sunflower plant growing next to the corn just fell over. Much to bees dismay we cut off all the blooms and brought them inside.

Scott woke up yesterday and decided we needed a pond. A bunch of excited boys and a few hours later we have a pond. I’ll show you more pictures soon.

While the boys were out digging, the girl and I decided to finally, finally sew this little top I’ve had cut out for months. Instead of sleeves I made it sleeveless (this was supposed to be a summer shirt!), with bias bounding. It turned out cute and if luck is on our side it will fit next spring too. She grew five (!) inches in the last year, so she’d better get as much use out of it now.

Don’t forget, today is the last day of the $50 Pharmaca giveaway. Enter, enter, enter!

How was your weekend?


Filed under just picked, Preserving, Recipes

Making Lattes

A few weeks ago our stove top milk frother broke (It’s pictured above). I almost cried. For days I mourned it’s loss. It was a beautiful, old heavy metal, workhorse of a milk frother that cames from who knows where. The way it works is you pour water into the base, screw on the top and let it boil on the stove until enough pressure has built up, then you open the steam wand and you can froth away. It worked great. But the other morning the central screw became stripped without our knowing it and the top shot up off the frother blasting at full steam towards the ceiling and fell to the floor in the most dramatic fashion. Luckily no one was hurt, but we do have an impression of it on our ceiling so that we never forget.

As I mentioned I grieved the loss of it. I’ve become quite fond of our frequent homemade cappucinos and lattes. We are coffee people through and through. Good black coffee is hard to beat, but it’s such a treat to have a well made latte without the hassle of having to get dressed and get all the kids in the car and to a cafe. Luckily our town has an amazing drive thru cafe, but nothing beats not having to get out of your jammies!
Scott takes the ferry into San Francisco a few days a week for work and stopped by the gourmet cooking store in the Ferry Building. We didn’t want anything too big, or expensive, or anything that needed to be plugged in. They pointed him to this Frabosk Milk Frother. It’s Italian, so that was a good clue that it was going too be good. And it is! And so easy to use. It highly recommend it. You just heat the milk up, then take it off the heat, put on the top and pump that black handle up and down for about a minute and you have perfect foam. Seriously perfect foam.
We’re back in business!

Oh, tomorrow there will be a new giveaway!


Filed under In the Kitchen

Notes on another Sunday of Preserving


Fueled by ample amounts of espresso (more on our coffee drinking habits soon), we decided to spend this Sunday, again, tackling those things that needed putting by. (sheep’s milk soap in the background! shepard neighbors make for good friends! More on beauty products soon too. I have been getting so many orders for my e-booklet lately and I’m so very appreciative of each and every one!) First up were the peaches. Another few trees are coming ripe on the other side of the house, so into the freezer in quarters they went along with others to be made into fruit leather.

Next up was 8 pints of apple sauce. Turns out we were able to round up enough Gravensteins to make a batch! Oh, it’s so delicious!

Green beans were blanched and frozen in portion sized sections. Do you have a FoodSaver? We use it regularly, I’ll talk about it soon. My writing has been quiet on this blog lately, but it isn’t for lack of activity. I do have a lot to share when and if I do get some more time to write! Anyway, the FoodSaver sucks all the air out of the bag and you are able to keep your food fresher for much longer in the freezer, which will be perfect for our storage of green beans.

This is our first successful year at growing cabbages and today I found three more in the garden. Into the crock for sauerkraut they went. We use Sandor Katz’s method in Wild Fermentation along with a packet of Vegetable Starter Culture from Cultures for Health, just to insure that it will ferment correctly. If this batch turns out anything like the last, it will be delicious!

Lastly, we also canned seven jars of pears too. I don’t know. I’m suspicious of canned pears. I have very vivid memories of the rare times my parents let me buy school cafeteria lunches. They always had canned fruit cocktail as ‘dessert’. It was totally disgusting, but I do remember that if we took our red milk straws, we could poke the pears with them. They’d fill up with pear and then we could blow the other end of the straw and shoot pear bits at each other. That’s my best memory of canned pears. All the rest go downhill after that. So, we’ll see about these. If they don’t fair well with us over winter, it’s back into the cider press next year! They are pretty there, floating in the syrup! Having that recording log inside our kitchen cabinet has already proved itself priceless! I’m keeping notes on such things as how many jars a full pot yields, how much sugar was used, and all sorts of other misc. notes I knew I’d forget. Since I wrote it on binder paper, I plan on transferring it into a binder at the end of the season to keep for next year.

Tonight, we’re exhausted and really enjoying our gin and tonics. If I don’t have to quarter and peel another piece of fruit again this summer, it will be a-okay by me! Now to get ready for a certain someone’s ninth birthday tomorrow!!


Filed under In the Kitchen, Preserving

A Week of Preserving Peaches


If you haven’t heard from us in a while, blame the peaches. While this year (again) might not yield a single jar of apple sauce or apple cider, the fruit tree world is making up for it in spades in peaches. These ten (!) peach trees are very happy this year and as a result we’re swimming in them. It’s a little ridiculous. Canned peaches, peach jam, peach cobbler, peach fruit roll ups, peach chutney, frozen peach segments. They’ve all been made this week in our kitchen. If we could completely nourish ourselves during the winter only in peaches, we’d be set.

I’m finally starting to get a firm handle on canning myself. In the past it was typically Scott’s job to do the actual canning, but after 10 years of watching, I started canning on my own last year and this year, I’ve canned each one of our 30+ jars of jam. It’s quite a satisfying feeling and not nearly as intimidating a project as I once thought it to be. Last year when I was first attempting it, I had to have the kitchen quite orderly, the kids out of the room and my entire focus on the task at hand. This year, I caught myself fishing out lids out of boiling water with cluttered counter tops and a two year old swinging around my legs. Not at all safe for the wee-one, I realize, but I’ve come a long way in canning confidence. We’ll work on safety at a later date.Oh, this is a few years old now, but if you need some cute labels for the top of your jars (my canning pet peeve is labels on the face of the jars…so hard to get off!) I have some free downloadable canning labels you are welcome to.


Filed under In the Kitchen, Preserving