Category Archives: Cucina

Pruning Time

The olive trees need maintenance, just like everything else. This is the time of the year we have to prune all those trees. Their silvery leaves that are billowing in the wind need some trimming. Sometimes, it is a little difficult to find people to do the running since this is also the season to prune for the vines. The climate in this are is perfect for Mediterranean food and faire. It is warm and dry during the day in the summer, and then up to 50 degrees cooler in the evening. Our overall temperatures are very close to southern France. When the averages are compared with the cool nights, our area is a little cooler.

Now, we have had so much rain, and it will impact the flavors of the olives and the grapes. The water from all the rain hasn’t yet soaked into the earth, it’s like a sponge that can’t pick up any more water. The water is just running off, and not being absorbed. This week, we are going to have warm, sunny days, which will allow the some drying before more rains come back to our area. No one is complaining about all the rain, since we really need it to completely recover from our four years of drought. I am so excited to taste the differences in the fruits this year! I’m sure they are ripe with possibilities!

So, what does our olive grove look like now? Here is a photo before the trimming of our Italian variety olive trees.

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The Groves on 41

I met Jennifer when I first came down here to SLO county. She is one of the warmest most genuine people you will ever meet. Being around her, you just feel like you may be family. She and I have been telling each other how we were going to get together. In fact, we had to make plans a month in advance. We are business owners, and our days are filled with making our businesses stronger.

She and I finally got together. I went to the Groves on 41, and she showed me the property. The last time I was there, I was there for a party, and did not get a private tour. Jennifer took me around to the their vacation rental, wedding venue, and into the groves.

Being out in the groves was fun. It was super muddy that day, and she and I were talking as we were walking. She was educating me about olive trees, and things to look for in the grove. As she talked, and we walked, we also were picking off the fruit that was still on the trees. I felt as though I left with a whole new understanding about olive groves. We also agreed to carry their line in the tasting room.

Here are some of the photos from the day…

Hidden Hills

When we were in our “dream building” phase, one of the things we wanted was an olive grove, and we finally found it. Hidden Hills gave us everything we wanted in an olive grove, we have olives, and a vacation rental. The olive trees are now being taken care of, and lovingly be watched, pruned, watered, and then in November…they will be harvested.

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The property has a wonderful history too. The place was built as a bed and breakfast. There was a keeper of the house that grew a garden, and the beds are still on the property. There is a gentleman’s orchard with apple, pear, plum, and nectarine trees. There is a green house, and it was once was filled with the fragrance of basil, vanilla, and flowers. The attendant of the house used to put fresh flowers in each of the rooms, and the cottage. There is a chicken run with hen houses. The attendant would gather eggs from the hens each day.  He made fresh dishes that were made from the food that was gathered from “Hidden Hills“. These are all aspects I love.

The goals for the place…get the olives in great shape for the fall so we can go back to having “Hidden Hills” as a label. We will then be able to sell the olive oil in the tasting room. Fix the barn, and have an intern trade housing for maintaining the gardens, greenhouse, and chickens. Gathering the fresh items to give to each of the vacation rentals. Each of the baskets would include olive oil, wine, fresh herbs, chamomile, lavender, homemade soap, homemade lotion, honey, eggs, and bouquet of flowers. Maybe even a postcard of the property.

There is also a pool, spa, and outdoor kitchen at the property. If you would like to stay at the property, make sure you go to Paso Robles Vacation Rental.

Honey Healing

One of the first weekends we were living in the country, this happened…

I was taking both of the dogs (Cane Corso females) for a walk. Since we were new to the country I did not want to trust to just let them out in the yard. Now, our yard is 42 acres. There are coyotes and other animals around here. I was gazing at the stars when all the sudden Sadie pulled really hard, and I did not let go. I was pulled across the rocks like I was a rag doll. I screamed, and Sheba stopped. Sheba stayed right by my side, and Sadie was running after what ever it was that was near our house. I limped back into the house with Sheba.

I went upstairs and washed my legs with soap and water. I had to take a wash cloth to get all the debris that was embedded in my legs. My left leg looked a lot worse than my right leg. It burned like hell…it was really painful. I took some honey, and put it all over the wounds, and took another wash cloth that was damp and kept it over the wound.

I kept the wound clean every day, and also added honey to it every day. By the third day it was really looking so much better. By two weeks it was healed. I believe I was in less pain, and it healed faster with the honey.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Nutella

Over Valentines Day weekend I was in charge of Red Velvet Cupcakes for the Pleasant Valley wine Trail, since we are a part of the trail. Everyone had something they made and then paired with a wine. We paired our cupcakes with our Late Harvest Zinfandel. I heard nothing but good things, so I was very happy that it was warmly received.

I made 100 cupcakes on Friday night, and then another 100 on Saturday night. I used the recipe that was passed down from my Great Aunt Nelle. She was a great cook, and it was said in the family that she asked about the recipe one time when she was visited the Waldorf Hotel. I later learned that many southern women told the story about asking for the recipe from the Waldorf. She was a traveler, and was a fantastic cool. I never questioned the story!

My Great Aunt used to make Red Velvet Cake for my dad every year on his birthday. It was his favorite cake. She also would make a mayonnaise cake that was so delicious. Although, I remember that she didn’t like to say the name around me, it made me sick to think of mayonnaise being used to bake a cake. When we would love something that she made, she would give an index card with the recipe to my mom. We would cherish those recipe cards. There was a special wooded box that we kept them.

Never the less, here is the recipe for the cake…

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ pounds canned beets, drained and pureed
  • 1 tablespoon red food color
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (I make my own by adding vinegar, and waiting for 10 minutes, 
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Start preheating your oven to 375, drain and puree your beets. If you don’t have buttermilk in your fridge, I never do…Add one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to your cup of milk.

Meanwhile, add your dry ingredients together, add you eggs, beets, food coloring, vanilla, vinegar, olive oil and finally, the buttermilk. Mix until all the ingredients are wet.

Add the paper cupcake holders to the cupcake pans, fill up the cupcake papers about 1/2 full. This will make about 18 cupcakes. They will take about 25 minutes to bake.

While your cupcakes are baking, you can make the frosting…

8 ounces of cream cheese (softened)

1 Stick of butter (softened)

4 cups of powdered sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Blend your ingredients together to make the frosting. I used a pastry bag for the first time last week when I made these for Valentines day. I had to end up asking my husband to take the pastry bag away from me, since mine didn’t look good. His looked lovely!

Now, if you want to add the Nutella, it does taste delicious, but it is time consuming. We took a melon baller, and scooped out the center. After each one was done, we then added the frosting. Like I mentioned earlier, my frosting job was a little frightening, so I had my husband make them look pretty.

 

 

 

Homemade Play Dough

After my husband and I were married we decided that when we had children that I would stay home with the children. I obtained my Montessori Certification, and we had preschool homeschool. At least once a week we made homemade play dough. I thought maybe there would be some people out there that would like the recipe.

My kids loved this project. Cooking and doing fun crafts should be a part of every childhood.

Here is the recipe…

1 cup of all purpose flour

2 teaspoons of cream of tartar (find it in the spice section of a local grocery store)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of water

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of vanilla, lavender, peppermint, or any essence oil you like

Add about 20 drops of food color. Count out loud as adding. We used to do one color a week. We would do one week red, next week blue, then the next week make purple. It’s neat to add the color with the fragrance. Purple as lavender, green and add apple scent, etc.

Cook all the ingredients in a 2 quart pot. Stir over the heat until it becomes a ball.

Remove from the heat, and cut in half…let it sit because it is very hot!!!  I used to roll it on the granite, since it will cool very nicely.  It will keep for more than a week in a freezer bag.

Make sure the kids don’t eat it!

Growing Up…

My baby is a senior in high school. I went to the first of many parent/student functions, and I didn’t cry. Usually, I am the mom that is crying. Oh, it is so emotional for me. UGH! Just a few weeks ago, I had to put together the senior page for my son. After I wrote the paragraph, and really, they only give you room for a paragraph! I was a blubbering mess.

How can it already be time for him to graduate? Remembering how he was such a great baby. The kid slept through the night. We had a little ritual, I fed him his bottle, and my husband gave him a bath. Then, as I got him all dressed for bed, my husband would get him little womb bear ready, and use a special heating pad to get his little crib warm. We had the lights down low, and would sing him a little song. He would sleep from 11 until 6 am.

He was helpful to other kids that felt alone. When we would go to the park, he would always gravitate to the kid that was playing alone. I would meet other moms that also did not have their children enrolled in preschool. We would meet at various parks throughout  the SF Bay Area. He didn’t attend preschool, instead we did Montessori at home. There were days that we went to the park, usually on Thursday, and every Friday we attended the zoo. We would work on a different letter of the week, and make a dish of food that began with the letter, work on the words in sign language that began with the letter, and study an animal that began with the letter.  We not only made food together, gardened, crafts, but also our own homemade play dough. I love every minute that I had with them at home. I was so grateful that that time was our time to share.

He was always so brilliant at talking to me while I was cooking. He would talk to me about how much love went into my food, and ask what exactly I put into the dish I was making. He would tell me about his day at school, all while standing on a chair as I was stirring or cutting, or doing some prep work. I would remember that he was supposed to be doing homework. He would go back to doing his homework, and in no time he was back over by me making conversation. Oh, the explaining I had to do to teachers throughout the years. LOL! He just had me beat….

We always did everything as a family. We did not leave our children with other people. When I needed some time and space. My husband would even tell me…go do something with your friends. I would go see a movie or go to dinner, just a few hours away was like a min vacation. I also had my writing. My husband and I had long conversations about how we wanted to raise our children, and we followed though with that plan. We believe that our family is tighter because of it. We never forced them to play any sport they didn’t want to play. Our son tried so many things, he loved fencing, like karate, thought soccer was ok. Attended art camp, science camp, horse camp, residential camp and soccer camp. I believe  he had a rich experience, and I hope he believes he did.

Once we moved from the Bay Area to the Central Coast, he really got to spread his wings. he got an internship, learned some great things, met some wonderful people. He has loved high school, and has already passed his real estate exam, notary exam, and is the public relations director for the chamber of commerce. My baby wants to change the world, and I believe he can. If he believes he can do it, no one can stop him!

I couldn’t ask for a better son! I am eternally grateful for being allowed to be his mom, and I will continue to be humble and grateful to be given such a treasure to help mold before he  is on his own. What a gift to have been given for so many years to have in my presence everyday. It’s going to be hard not to see his face everyday, and hear his laugh, but I know he will be doing something to make the lives of other people better. What more could I ask of him? img_8738