Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Bee Keeping

After years of gardening and raising chickens the next step in the "home farm" is keeping bees. I have a friend that has had them for years and was became a mentor in how its done. Buying bees can only be done in the spring from a few sources and the timing was right when I preordered them because they are in a limited quantity and always sell out. They had a few varieties but I chose a local breed because they are better suited to our climate. They are sold by weight and the normal amount for a starter hive is three pounds and includes one queen. My friend gave me the bee boxes and the strong platform to keep it off the ground. A full mutilevel beehive can weigh hundreds of pounds, its almost soild honey. 

The location is important, in a quiet spot facing the morning sun. They become active when it warms up. The whole point of the honey production is to make food to eat during the winter when flowers are not blooming. You allow the bees to fill two boxes for there own food and add a third box to take the honey for yourself. When they are starting out a feeder is attached to the hive to give them a food source until they figure out where the local area flowers are. The feeder is a 50/50 sugar and water solution and they eat about a quart of it or more a day.

Two Level Hive with feeder

24 hours worth of food

After they fill these two boxes with their own personal honey a smaller box will go on top and thats the honey we take. They work all spring and summer to fill these boxes with enough honey to last them during the winter months when its cold and flower nector is scarce. 

I think there is a myth about bees attacking and stinging people. We have a full protective suit but will often change the food without any gear, they are not agressive if you dont give them a reason to be. One fact I didnt know is to wear a light colored shirt when around them or they might mistake you for a bear that wants to steal the honey.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Paella Northwest Style

Seattle Paella

Paella the national rice dish of Spain it has also become a favorite with family and friends. Its a easy one pan meal that can have a endless amount of varition in ingredients along with the rice. We have done it for large parties and guests like watching the cooking process and then being able to eat it. I like the classic paella Valencia that has chicken, sausage and seafood along with a few key vegetables. 

I was in Seattle recently and with its great seafood I had the idea to make a pan. The famous Pike place market is my go to place to get seafood where they have a huge selection at decent prices. 

One my seafood list was one pound each of Pacific Northwest clams and mussels. Half a pound each of U-8 jumbo prawns and scallops. U-8 refers to 8 each per pound. These were some big prawns and scallops! 

Next on the list was to buy bone in chicken thighs, the bones went into making the stock along with the prawn shells. Smoked sausage links. For the vegetables we went to the local farmers market in Ballard North Seattle for fresh peas, garlic, onions and artichokes. The rice we used is Spanish Bomba made just for paella.

The whole thing goes together quickly with ingredients added in the order of how long they cook. Chicken  and sausage first along with the vegetables then rice goes in along with the stock. Halfway through the shellfish goes in because it does not need alot of cooking time. For spices I used only smoked paprika but wished I had the traditional spice of saffron to use but none was available. It still turned out great and it was great to eat all that Northwest seafood.

Pike Seafood Vendor

Shopping the Ballard 
Sunday Farmers Market

Pacific Northwest Style

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Smoked Chicken and White Bean Soup

2 Smoked chicken legs
1 cup white beans, dry
3 Carrots, diced
3 Celery, diced
1 Onion, diced
4 Garlic clove, chopped
1 T Chipolte peppers, canned
2 Tomatoes, Diced
2 qt Water or stock

I came across precooked and smoked chicken legs. My first thought to use them were they would be good in a gumbo but I didnt have all the ingredients so a soup would be good since I had all the ingredients for it. I started by dicing all the vegetables and slowly cooking them in olive oil. Next I added the dry white beans and whole chicken legs. Filled pot with enough water so when then beans cook it would still have liquid. After simmering for a about hour I removed the chicken and shredded the meat which went back in the pot. It then simmered for another 2-3 hours till the beans were done. I added salt at the end because the chicken was salty to begin with.

It turned out great and spicy the way I like it. The chipolte can be left out if spicy is not desired. Other vegetables can be added too such as maybe kale, etc.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Mini breakfast pizzas


A different kind of breakfast meal using familiar ingredients, pizza with pancetta and eggs.

These were made with store bought mini pizza rounds which makes it easy to throw together at the last moment. A little tomato sauce followed by shredded mozzarella cheese then parcooked pancetta. Eggs are fried then placed on top all to get into oven till hot and bubbly. I had some pea sprouts to place ontop as a garnish.

Note: Pancetta is a Italian style unsmoked bacon, but any kind of bacon can work in its place. Sliced bread can be used if pizza rounds are not available.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Tacos, street style

 Street Style Pork Tacos 

The common taco found everywhere in Mexico is often cooked and served from little push carts lining the streets. Pork is a very common meat and its slow cooked till falling apart tender then fried often in its own fat till crispy, carnitas! Warm corn tortillas are small in size and double stacked before being filled with the crispy salty pork then its topped with a dash of diced white onion and chopped cilantro. If you are lucky maybe a dollop of avocado on top then a drizzle of salsa. We used to eat these by the dozens along with a few cold beers at these road side taco stands. One of my favorite snacks.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Shelter cooking from home.

Its the middle of April and the daily lives of everyone in the world has stopped operating normally.
We are all trying our best to stay healthy as a killer virus makes its rounds. Something that I could never have imagined possible is going on with people staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus. Most work and travel have been put on hold and we are trying to make the best of it. With the prospect of a long time being isolated at home I came up with the idea to connect people with food. A facebook group called Shelter in place cooking that will allow the sharing of foods cooked, ideas, questions and resources. I did not think much whether people would take part in it but it would give me something to focus on since we all have to still cook and eat.

It started growing slowly then it took off and reached 2000 members in less then two weeks. I was then contacted by the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper and did a phone interview about the group.
After a few days the story was published online and people flooded the group with requests to join, 1300 new members over night! As of today we are up to over 6000 members who are posting photos and descriptions of what they are cooking and eating. People like the group because they share a common bond with everyone else in the form of food and its one of the last things we all have that is still somewhat normal.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Home beer making

What is known now as craft beer is actually small batch beer brewing which allows for better flavors and quality. Brewing at home was not always legal but in 1978 congress passed a bill repealing federal restrictions which President Jimmy Carter signed it into law. This made it legal for people to brew there own beer which has led to a big boom in home beer making.

Beer making kits and supplies can available in specialty beer stores and on the internet which makes it easy to get the ingredients. They will often sell everything needed to brew your first batch. Its really easy and you should get good results your first time. The most important step is making sure everything is very clean.

I have done a few batches in the past years and have had good success. I prefer to make lighter non hoppy ales because they are easy to make and drink. The whole process takes around three weeks before you taste your first brew.

A basic kit of flavoring hops and malt.

Beer during the one hour brewing phase.

The actual brewing will take about a hour, different ingredients and flavoring will go in at different times during this process.

The beer cooling system.
When its done brewing it will need to be cooled down before the yeast is added, normally around 80 degrees, too hot and the yeast will die. This systems runs cold water through copper tubing to rapidly cool the liquid. The liquid will go into a glass 5.5 gallon carboy fitted with a airlock. This will ferment for close to a week, converting sugars to alcohol. The newly brewed beer will taste sweet before fermenting, hops which are bitter will balance the sweetness too. After a week hidden in a dark spot the fermentation was complete then time to bottle. The beer is siphoned into a plastic bucket where a small amount of cane sugar is added, this will ferment in the bottle and produce carbonation. The beer is siphoned into bottles and capped using a bottle capper. The beer now needs to sit for close to two weeks to condition and allow the carbonation to happen. Any sediment will sink to the bottom and the beer will be clear and ready to chill and taste.

Finished product, clear and tasty

Thursday, December 05, 2019

A bucket list adventure

The summer of 2019 I was able to cross off a major bucket list item, a long distance sailboat ocean passage. I was invited to crew aboard a sailboat in the world famous transpacific race from Long Beach to Honolulu Hawaii. One year of preparation for the boat and crew then one month away from home delivering boat to LA from San Francisco. Then the race to Hawaii took 2 weeks for a total of three weeks at sea.

With my cooking experience I took on the food aspect of the trip and was in charge of planning the meals to take on board. There were two parts, first the delivery to LA which was going to take about 3-4 days then Hawaii which we planned on 14 plus days. The main meal of the day would be fully cooked and frozen in bags for easy reheating. We had a freezer on board so it would stay frozen no problem. I made lots of wet foods like Thai and Indian curries, stews and chilis. We had five people on board so there was one freezer bag per day which was enough to feed everyone. The rest of the foods were non refrigerated like fruits, vegetables, eggs, etc. The idea was also to catch a lot of fish to eat as well, we ended up catching five Mahi. Part of the rules of the race was to have enough food and water for about three weeks in case we had a problem with the boat and it would take longer to reach land. Water was one gallon of water per person per day. We also had more emergency water jugs stored in bubble wrap to protect it from breaking open. (a race requirement)

Since all the food for the trip was cooked in San Francisco it would need to be frozen for well over a month during the trip to LA and waiting a week before the race would start. During a pre-race party 
I talked to the chef of a sponsor restaurant Gladstone's in Long Beach and asked if I could use his freezer to keep our food frozen solid. He said no problem but don't tell any of the other 100+ boats because he didn't have that much room. This worked out great for us during the race.

A normal 24 hour day was coffee with UHT milk (non refrigerated) in the morning or for who ever was on watch. Breakfast was eggs, cereal and toast. lunch was normally sandwiches with cold cuts, cheese, lettuce and tomato until they ran out. Dinner was one of the frozen bags of something reheated with a side of rice. We had a three burner propane stove that worked great for cooking anything we wanted. There was plenty of snack foods to munch on during the day. For drinking we had 150 gallons of drinking water in three separate tanks which was plenty but not enough for any kind of shower. Dirty dishes were also washed in sea water to save the fresh only for drinking. The head (marine term for toilet) was sea water too.

The watch system was a way of dividing the crew in the 24 hour period so there was always two people on watch driving the boat and doing what ever was needed at the time like changing sails, etc. A watch was four hours long with the first and forth hour driving the boat then five hours off to sleep or do whatever we wanted. then another 4 hours on. This schedule lasted the whole two weeks of the race. The the driver can not see where he is going but spends the whole time looking at and steering the compass course. Closer to Hawaii it gets harder because of the following waves that come from behind and push us surfing fast down the face. I got the boat record for highest speed of 18.9 knots during one night, totally steering blind but keeping the boat steady so we would not wipe out. Fun but a little scary.

As far as alcohol most professional racing boats don't allow it but our owner/captain did allow a beer a day because after all we wanted to have a good time during the race. When we reached 1125 miles the halfway point of the race, we celebrated with a cocktail of aged rum, pineapple juice and real ICE! I was driving the boat at sunset when we hit that half way point, I declined my drink because I was busy surfing the boat down waves until the captain said "You are going to have your drink right now" we all raised our glasses and toasted the adventure. One of my favorite times was finishing a night watch at maybe 2 or 3 in the morning and relaxing with my daily beer while looking at the millions of stars in the sky, unreal.

When we caught a fish it was cleaned and portioned right away, some sliced thin and served raw with soy sauce and wasbi. The rest was cooked, the way we liked it best was sautéed with olive oil, garlic, capers and a squeeze of lemon juice at the end. A real crew pleaser.

The favorite chili and rice simmering on the propane stove while at sea.
Sailing South by Southwest a thousand miles from land.

Just caught Mahi served fresh in the cockpit with wasbi and soy sauce.

Sunsets were always a highlight.

The sailing yacht Highlander and crew at the finish.
Can't beat a rum in the islands, a toast to the adventure.

Quick Fried Egg and Toast

Fresh eggs from the girls
My quick go to breakfast every morning is good quality local bread toasted in a hot cast iron pan with EVO then a egg is fried in the same hot pan, maybe wilted arugula or spinach added too. A dash of my own hot sauce completes it or maybe some cheese like I used today.

Note: The photo of the eggs shows how different in size they can be on the farm, eggs that you will buy in the store will always be graded to the same size.

One pan cooking makes for easy clean up.
My fried egg on toast with arugula and parmesan cheese

Saturday, November 23, 2019

New additions to the coop

One of the most important things about keeping chickens other then the normal care and feeding is insuring their safety. Its very common that people will lose them to predators over time because animals like foxes, raccoons, etc will work very hard at figuring out how to get them. We lost a few to the local foxes this year because of a flaw in the coop, it is now fixed and they are totally safe and protected while inside.

When its time to get new chickens we like the idea of getting chickens that other people don't want anymore and we will take them and give them a lifetime home. We found just that this week, three chickens and moved them here with the others. There is a pecking order which means that one chicken will take charge of all the others, this was seen right away with the new hens. Lola didn't like the new birds in her territory and had to show them who's boss and keep them in line, it took about a week for them all to figure out there place and now they get along with each other just fine.

"Queen Lola"

The new additions, Buttercup, Bella and Iris.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Panama Trip

The house lake side bar and dock

Secluded Lake on property

Main and guest houses

Downtown Panama City

Panama City Skyline

 The huge capital city with high rise buildings everywhere. Sadly I found it not too much of a food city or even country, it seems like most of the people just want to eat and they don't care too much about what it is, it seemed like half the food was some form of burger or fried chicken. Small road side markets are mostly owned by Asian families and there was always a display of hot pork buns, pot stickers and other dim sum.

Dim sum in every market

The local beer, always welcome on a hot day.

Housemade restaurant hot sauce, really good with the fried fish.

Side of the road produce market. Great for stocking up on fresh produce.
The big markets don't have much of a produce section.

Coffee beans drying in the sun, coffee is big business up in the mountains.

Coffee beans roasting.
Known as "Tipico" the small road side meals that are served by families. Stewed pork, rice, beets and  plantains.

In the small towns and along the highway the restaurant scene is normally small and family run. The menu will have a couple of choices, chicken, pork or maybe locally caught fish. Its always served with rice and plantains. Really good and the price is cheap, anywhere from $5 on up. locals will get a cheaper price.

Small open street cafe

Our water taxi on a secluded beach

Island paradise

Boca Chica region of western Panama is a vacation spot for travelers and locals. The many islands are accessible by boat only and water taxis are easy to get. We had a hired a private boat to take us from island to island to visit restaurants and beach side bars.
Local moonshine rum

Rum is the drink......

My drink is rum, dark and aged on the rocks with fresh pineapple juice.
We of course went through a lot of this while sitting on the deck at night looking at the millions of stars. We also had access to really good Cuban rum as well.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Fresh eggs from the girls

The girls "Lola, Cookie and Lucky"
Barking Crow Farms
We give these away to our lucky friends and family
Not all eggs are created equal 

We got these local hens from a family that were no longer able to keep them because of summer vacation plans, their loss our gain. We had a new chicken coop that was just built and waiting for a opportunity like this. They quickly moved in and adapted to their new home, much bigger and with lots of room to explore during the day. They produce on average a egg a day during the summer and will slow down during the darker colder winter months. They are fed organic grains and ground oyster shells (for calcium) They hungry birds eat any other food that is given to them and they love to peck at corn on the Cobb and watermelon.

Long time away

I took a long break from this blog but now with more free time I will start back sharing what I see and do.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Meyer Lemon, a Bay Area Favorite

Meyer Lemon

Of the many varieties of lemons the most common in the Bay Area is the Meyer lemon, known for its soft thin skin and slightly sweet juice. Perfect in all recipes requiring cut lemon, zest or juice. Available year round but winter is abundant.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Molinari Italian Delicatessen

Great Sandwich with a Great View

Lots of Choices

The Aroma of Cured Meats and Cheese is Amazing
Made and Sliced to Order

New York might have Katz deli but here in San Francisco we have Molinari, the famous North Beach store selling all things Italian, wines, meats, pasta, etc. I always go for one of the made to order sandwiches on a fresh crusty roll. Today I went with the Molinari Special combining Roasted marinated sweet peppers, fresh mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes with plenty of good olive oil, that's it and all I needed, perfect.

Molinari Delicatessen
373 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, Ca