Udder Fun: 10 Excuses to Visit a Goat 

IMG_5371(1)Before spring begins its do-si-do with summer, I wanted to herd my family up to a goat farm to witness baby goat (kid) goodness and participate in a farm tour. I singled out Redwood Hill Farm in Sebastopol – producers of some of my favorite goat cheeses.

What was only supposed to be an hour car ride doubled, as my inner GPS and sheer stubbornness made several wrong turns. Thanks to a ‘book on CD’, a patient husband, and entertaining child theatrics, we arrived in good form.

The unexpected happened. This excursion topped the charts as one of the most memorable and enjoyable family adventures we’ve had to date. I kid you not.

10 Excuses to Visit Redwood Hill Farm

1. No excuses needed, really. Baby goats. Outdoors. Community. Cheese. What’s not to love!? It’s an udderly fun country-mouse excursion for any city-mouse family.

2. Essence of barnyard! We all need a whiff for the soul from time to time.

3. An opportunity to picnic in the shade of an apple tree and delight in a much needed down-shift with family, not to mention an opportunity to sample one of the many delectable Redwood Hill Farm cheeses. We inhaled the California Crottin, enjoyed with just picked cherries from a local farm stand.

4. Spring on display in all its gorgeous glory: blossoming apple orchards, a kaleidoscope of colorful wildflowers, and new birth in countless forms.

5. A chance to let your ‘kids’ milk a goat with their own city-bred hands.

6. A live bluegrass performance in an apple orchard.

7. Design your own wildflower ensconced fairy wand at the craft table.

8. Watch a goat milking demonstration; an opportune time to ask questions about farm life from one of the founding farm family members.

9. Grin from ear-to-ear while surrounded by baby goats. Kids are extremely personable, energetic, entertaining, and they come in an assortment of unique personalities. Diva. Picky eater. Snuggle-bug. Social butterfly…

10. Hug a goat. Brush a goat. Have your hair nibbled on by a goat. Just don’t attempt to leave the property with a goat. They catch you (ahem).

Herd on over to Redwood Hill or a local visitor-friendly farm for a tour. You’re bound to have a goat time! Kidding! So cheesy!

Tour details.

10 Fun Facts About Goat Kids from Redwood Hill Farm.

Kitchen Siblings

There was a time when cooking with Caleb and Sadie was, simply put, delicious. Caleb would climb up on the chair I had placed by the stove and assist me by stirring something good to eat. I would kiss him on the head and commend him, in exchange for a sweet look of contentment and satisfaction. After entertaining us with a pots n’ pans drum solo, Sadie would run up to my legs – sometimes dressed, sometimes not – asking what she could do to help. What the hell happened!?

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It’s been quite some time since we’ve taken on a Cooking with Caleb (and Sadie!) worthy project, conducting a Jackson Pollock-esque food experiment in our kitchen. Batter splattered walls, tables, face, and hair. My definition of fun on a foggy day.

Missing these shared adventures, I made a cooking date with the kiddos on Monday. I presented them with two recipes which were well received: Cherry Clafoutis and Chicken Pot Pie. I then set the stage for a fairly seamless cooking adventure, anticipating delicious bonding over time together in the kitchen. Insert record scratch [here]. Before long, bad attitudes came out to play (including my own), battles over equity erupted, time-outs were being assigned, and my patience was tested to its limits. After a few temperament re-sets (including my own), we finally hit our stride about half-way through the project and our experience went uphill from there.

I can’t pretend that this was an idyllic experiment. Caleb and Sadie were playing out their sibling rivalry, afternoon blood-sugar dips, and various other issues on the kitchen stage. How could I expect otherwise? Fortunately, we came away unscathed with two boast-worthy dishes, which we enjoyed peacefully together around the family table.

Gone are the days of All-Clad drum solos, little hands pulling on my apron strings, and pint-sized assistant chefs, but we continue on a journey of discovery together in new and changing forms, just as Caleb and Sadie are growing and changing. Comfort me with comfort food and two amazing children. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Recipes:

Cherry Clafoutis (Epicurious)

Chicken Pot Pie | Cooks Illustrated

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

Pie Dough

  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1/4 pound), chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled

Chicken Pot Pie

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 can low-sodium chicken broth, with water added to equal 2 cups (or use 2 cups homemade chicken broth)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 small ribs celery, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • ¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

For Pie Dough:

  1. Mix flour and salt in work bowl of food processor fitted with the steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with a little of the flour. Cut butter into flour with five one-second pulses. Add shortening; continue cutting in until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, keeping some butter bits the size of small peas, about four more one-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice-cold water over the mixture. Using rubber spatula, fold water into flour mixture. Then press down on dough mixture with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more cold water if dough will not come together. Shape dough into ball, then flatten into 4-inch-wide disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes while preparing pie filling.

For Pie Filling:

  1. Adjust oven rack to low-center position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Put chicken and broth in small Dutch oven or soup kettle over medium heat. Cover, bring to simmer; simmer until chicken is just done, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer meat to large bowl, reserving broth in measuring cup.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high; heat oil in now-empty pan. Add onions, carrots, and celery; sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. While vegetables are sautéing, shred meat into bite-sized pieces. Transfer cooked vegetables to bowl with chicken; set aside.
  3. Heat butter over medium heat in again-empty skillet. When foaming subsides, add flour; cook about 1 minute. Whisk in chicken broth, milk, any accumulated chicken juices, and thyme. Bring to simmer, then continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in sherry.
  4. Pour sauce over chicken mixture; stir to combine. Stir in peas and parsley. Adjust seasonings. (Can be covered and refrigerated overnight; reheat before topping with pastry.)

To Assemble:

  1. Roll dough on floured surface to approximate 15-by-11-inch rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick. If making individual pies, roll dough 1/8-inch thick and cut 6 dough rounds about 1 inch larger than pan circumference.
  2. Pour chicken mixture into 13-by-9-inch pan or any shallow baking dish of similar size. Lay dough over pot pie filling, trimming dough to 1/2 inch of pan lip. Tuck overhanging dough back under itself so folded edge is flush with lip. Flute edges all around. Or don’t trim dough and simply tuck overhanging dough into pan side. Cut at least four 1-inch vent holes in large pot pie or one 1-inch vent hole in smaller pies.
  3. Bake until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 30 minutes for large pies and 20 to 25 minutes for smaller pies. Serve hot.

Inhaling India

Ordinarily, I don’t shy away easily from ethnic home cooking, but there is something about a long list of Indian spices, the need for a special spice grinder, exotic ingredient procurement and preparation – inevitably involving a trip to Vik’s Market in Berkeley – that stops me in my tracks when pondering a home-cooked Indian feast.

Enter Simran and Stacey of A Little Yumminess fame – both friends, fellow bloggers, passionate home chefs, and kindred spirits.

On Sunday afternoon, I participated in their Flavors of India class at one of my favorite destinations in San Francisco for breaking bread with community, 18 Reasons. My hope was that these gals would demystify Indian home cooking for me. They took on no small task in teaching this class. The lengthy list of recipes included: Channa Dhal, Homemade Madras Curry Powder, Shrimp “Curry in a Hurry,” Indian-Spiced Creamed Spinach, Spiced-Roasted Cauliflower, Turkey Chappali Kebabs, Carrot Raita, Coriander Chutney, Parantha, and Chai Masala.

In close quarters with fellow enthusiasts from all walks of life, we were walked through each recipe with patience, passion, and humor. Simran described each spice that we would soon be cooking with, then passed fragrant jars around for inspection. I stood there inhaling India.

The class soon divided into smaller groups and in the adjacent kitchen, we began to cook. With Stacey and Simran at our side, assisting and tasting with their trained palates, we swiftly and successfully prepared a lavish Indian feast. Before long the veil of mystery had been lifted.

I can envision recreating many of these dishes at home with Caleb and Sadie, the most memorable included the Carrot Raita, Turkey Chappali (in place of lamb for availability) simmered in a spicy cream sauce, and the Shrimp “Curry in a Hurry.” Truth to tell, every recipe was outstanding and tasted better than most dishes I’ve ordered at Indian restaurants. Demystification accomplished.

A Cheese Making Class for Kids? Moooo!

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One point has been established repeatedly on this blog…I love cheese…I’m a cheese luva…I frequently obsess about the next piece of cheese to savor. If I’m going to be considered any kind of enabler in this lifetime, I’m down with ‘cheese pusher’ and my children are easy prey as they love almost any variety of cheese I put in their path. I don’t think you need any further convincing.

Last weekend, I brought Caleb and Sadie into the City for a workshop called Cheesemaking for Kids at 18 Reasons in the Mission District. I have participated in many cheese making classes, but this is the first one I had seen that was geared toward children. I wasted no time and registered both kiddos and I volunteered to photograph the class, simply to get a contact high off the experience.

DSC_0339Louella Hill, known as the Milk Maid and owner of her eponymous business, teaches adults and children how to make a variety of cheese, including fresh chevre, burrata, mozzarella, ricotta to name a few. The class, which was made up of a very diverse group of pint-sized city dwellers, started out with a rather sophisticated cheese tasting. Caleb especially did not shy away from even the most pungent of offerings. I kvelled a little. Before long, Louella was instructing the students on how to make crème fraiche, basic cheese, and mozzarella.

All of the children, including several parents who hung around, asked great questions and were genuinely excited to learn about the science of cheese making. Louella, a skilled instructor, did a fabulous job packing a ton of great lessons in a short period of time adding an equal dose of levity and fun for good measure. Caleb and Sadie came away with a few samples of cheese they had actually made in class and they were proud of their accomplishments. I am just thrilled that they both seem equally primed to follow in my cheese-addicted footsteps. There are worse fates to wish upon your children.

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18 Reasons

Images of Autumn

imageA happy accident landed me in Calistoga for the weekend. A Saturday morning stroll led me to the Calistoga Farmers Market. Markers of my most beloved season abound.

Nuns hawking baked goods, rustic bread, artisanal sausage, gorgeous seasonal produce. Locals greeting one another with warm embraces and the latest news. Just-made exotic food scents wafting down the aisles. A live bluegrass  soundtrack. This is something special. This is autumn…
 
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Dear French Laundry

cookingwithcaleb:

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, one of my favorite posts…

Originally posted on Cooking with Caleb (and Sadie!):

It began with a good-natured letter to the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville.

Mateo and I had just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and we made every attempt to honor our special occasion by dining at the French Laundry. Despite following the reservation protocol of booking two months in advance (only to get on the waitlist for several days), calling almost daily, even showing up on the day of with my hand-written sign hoping that we would come off the wait-list, we were unsuccessful in getting in.

We still had a fabulous and memorable anniversary celebration in the wine country. Once home, I sent a letter to the restaurant with a clip from my last blog-posting. Some expected that I would receive a call back from the renowned ‘temple of all things delicious’, but I wasn’t sure. Several days after putting my letter in the mail, however, I received…

View original 460 more words

A Delicious Beta Test

Cheese boardBy now, you have likely noticed that I’ve almost completely hijacked what was to be a charming blog about cooking with my children and turned it into a big old flaming cheese themed me-fest! Well, hang in there…Caleb and Sadie will soon return. In the meantime, allow me to tell you about a delicious experiment.

Several weeks ago, I held a small event in my home and called it an Artisan Cheese Pop-In. I invited a handful of cheese-loving guinea pigs to help beta test an idea I’ve been incubating for far too long. For years, I have dreamed about starting a small business that offers food-themed workshops (not specific to cheese), both hands-on and informational, creating an inviting and inclusive environment around a family table of sorts.

Intimidated by business plans, loans, and lease agreements (not to mention big, scary leaps of faith and potential bankruptcy), I’ve kept my idea safely on the back-burner, until recently when I decided to just hold a gathering and launch the concept in the comfort of my home. What the heck.

So, I asked my guests to ‘bring to the table’ a selection of artisan cheese that they could tell us about, and a story or two about food memories from childhood. Culture Magazine was kind enough to donate a stack of recent issues and I had some of my favorite cheese books on display for good measure. Jesse Rogala, a talented local photographer and founder of Left Shore Photography, was onsite to capture the event. And capture it he did with just the right energy and mood.

My friends not only contributed a delicious and distinctive selection of cheese, but also came equipped with personal food stories that when told, brought us all a little closer. I supplied some of my favorites: Fourme d’ Ambert, Le Secret de Compostelle, and Epoisses, and accompaniments such as acacia honey, figs from our tree, olives, apricots, and plum preserves. Oh, and wine of course.

For me, this was not intended to be a cheese party – a two hour slot to eat cheese, sip wine, talk, then move onto the next event. It was an attempt at putting my ideas out there to see what it feels like and how they would be received. I feel successful and proud for having taken this first step, and I am grateful to those who took part. If you weren’t invited to this one, I am confident that there will be others!

Photographs by Left Shore Photography (Jesse Rogala)

A Paris Memory: Bacon and Egg Pizza

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Who doesn’t love a satisfying breakfast of bacon and eggs? Then, why not fall in love with bacon and egg pizza like I did on my recent solo trip to Paris?

On my second night staying in le Marais neighborhood in the 4th Arrondissement, and after a fulfilling day of walking my ass off through one of the most breath-takingly beautiful cities I’ve ever visited, I ducked into what appeared to be a very popular Italian restaurant. After looking around at the individual wood oven-baked pizzas sitting in front of the guests at the neighboring table, I quickly surmised that I should order the pizza. The waiter came to take my order, and with my very limited French, I promptly ordered something far different from what I had in mind.

What arrived after my glass of vin rouge, was the happiest of accidents: an ambrosial and heavenly looking pancetta (bacon) flecked pizza with a large egg, sunny-side up in the middle. Not a big fan of farm egg on everything – still a craze on restaurant menus ranging from farm-to-table to Asian eateries – I pulled a c’est la vie and expectantly dove in. I quickly observed that what set me apart from the Parisian diners (apart from the fact that I wasn’t looking tres chic or planting kisses on the cheeks of friends at my lonely table), was that I impatiently sliced my pie into quarters, scooped the slice up in my hands, then hungrily stuffed it in my mouth. Other, more well-mannered patrons, had fork and knife in hand and were politely slicing bite-sized pieces – feeding their hunger slowly and with intention. Whatever! My pizza – a delicious dance of flavors including smoky, salty bacon, four cheeses, and a rich egg atop – was absolutely mind-blowing! I had left my camera back in my room and had no one to witness my perfect moment of blissful food transcendence, with a little egg dripping down my chin.

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Funny, that one of the best eating experiences I had in France was at a trendy Italian pizzeria. Once I returned home, I vowed to re-create this pizza in my kitchen. On a recent trip to TJ’s, I picked up pre-made pizza dough, shredded quattro formaggi, and diced pancetta – the organic eggs were waiting for me at home.

Last night, after a full day at work, I rolled up my sleeves, kicked everyone out of the kitchen, and summoned my inner pizzaiolo. Taking the advice of Phyllis Grant, a fellow blogger and skilled baker of sweet and savory, I made a round trough with my fingers in the center of each pizza, to eventually crack the eggs into. I then pre-heated the oven to 500F, assembled a larger pie for Mateo and I, and smaller pies for Caleb and Sadie. Once in the oven for 8-10 minutes (light golden topping), I pulled the racks out and gently slipped one raw egg in the middle of each pie, then let them bake for an additional 4-5 minutes.

I can say with confidence that I nailed it, having created the closest version of what I had enjoyed in Paris and was very pleased with myself as I bit into the first hot, salty, cheesy, and egg-oozy slice. Mateo quickly exclaimed that he has absolutely loved everything I have been cooking since my return, and Caleb ran over to me with a Dino hug and kiss. If you have any questions about how to make this at home, just ask. I hope you try…it was that good!!

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