Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Brewery Tour

This is my first wordless wednesday!  We took a tour of Firestone Walker Brewery in Paso Robles a few months ago and here are the pictures.

If you are in the Paso Robles area and want to take a tour, go here for more information.
To see the rest of the links for wordless wdnesday check out Katie's blog Pinke Post.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

For Love of the Cloth Napkin

Cloth napkins are a great addition to any table.  They look nice.  They save paper towels and/or paper napkins.  They are durable.  They last a long time.  BUT, you have to wash them and iron them and fold them.  I am still drawn to them.  My grandma always had pretty napkins on her table . . . I wanted pretty napkins too. 

When we bought our house I decided that we were going to use cloth napkins.  Less waste in the landfill and less money spend on disposable things.  I bought a set or two on clearance (and with a coupon - that's how I roll) at Kohl's and I LOVED them.  So pretty and they felt good and looked good and worked so well.  Then I washed them and they were so wrinkly!  I do not like to iron (does anyone?) - I don't even own an iron!  So, they sat in a draw for a few months waiting to be ironed.  I borrowed my mom's iron (which I have yet to return) and finally iron them.  But, the same thing would happen every time they needed to be washed.  I then thought of cloth napkins as a chore.  I didn't really like them but I continued to use them because I had already invested in them (I use invested very lightly here because I got them for a few cents) and didn't want them to go to waste.

Then one day the boyfriend's mom handed me a bag and told me she knows how much I like napkins so she bought these from her friend's shop that had just opened.  I opened the bag and there were 8 green cloth napkins.  They were so nice that it took me a while to start using them but since the first time I washed and dried them I haven't looked back.  To my delight they come out of the dryer without needing to be ironed. 

I LOVE cloth napkins!

Now I have a few sets but by far the easiest to take care of and the best quality are the set the boyfriend's mom got me. 

This is the color I have - mint green.  Don't let the mint name fool you, these are a light green and not an obnoxious green.  They are more like an after dinner mint green than the inside of an Ande's Mint green.
I have been using my set every day for about a year.  I use them even when we have pizza and the grease washes right out!  I have NEVER had to iron them and they still look brand new.  They cover my entire lap and then some - which I love!

I can't decide between the mauve and the creamy tan - I would probably choose creamy tan just based on the name but both would get a ton of use in our house!

This color is amazing!  I would call this color a turquoise instead of a sea green but regardless of the name the color is beautiful!! 

I would probably not use these since they are so fancy, but I still really like them.  Maybe for a formal dining room?  Or a holiday?

The napkins made by the boyfriend's mom's friend - her name is Evelyn White and I am pretty sure she is related to the boyfriend but he is related to pretty much everyone, so that doesn't tell you much.  Her etsy store is called Fine Fabric Fancier and she has a large selection of cloth napkins to choose from and other items as well.  Her napkins are amazing and I will be buying more soon!  I love them so much because:
~ They are large (22" by 22").
~ They have a 2" mitered border (I am pretty sure this is why they come out of the dryer without wrinkles)
~ They are cotton and easy to wash.  I just throw them in the washer and they come out clean.  I do pre-treat when they have greasy spots. 
~ They are handmade.
~They are beautiful yet can be used every day.
~ I thought they were a little expensive (compared to my almost free Kohl's napkins) but since I use them every day and they don't look like they have aged at all - I would gladly spend the money for them.  They are $4 each and after a month of using them I am pretty sure I saved that much or more in paper towels!

Maybe someday I will make some of my own but until then I will continue to love my napkins that she made. 

* I did not ask Evelyn about posting this and I hope she doesn't mind (I have never met her) but I really think these are the best cloth napkins out there. *

Do you use cloth napkins?  If you do you have a favorite type?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vegetable Spotlight – Asparagus

I don’t know about you but I love to know where my food comes from and how it is grow.  Asparagus is a springtime gem and is something we look forward to eating our share of!  On a recent trip (ok, ok, it was 2 months ago and I am just now getting around to posting this) to the grocery store I noticed that the bunches of asparagus had nutrition labels on them.  We all know about nutrition labels but I had never seen a label on produce.  So, inspiration for this post (and hopefully a series of posts) was born!

A bunch of asparagus - via
Nutritional Information:
Asparagus is low in calories and very low in sodium.  It is also an excellent source of folic acid and is a fairly significant source of Vitamin C, Thiamin, and Vitamin B6. Asparagus contains no cholesterol and is an important source of potassium and many micronutrients.  Asparagus also contains antioxidants! For information about these nutrients please see the nutrition information fact sheet
Asparagus Nutrition Label - via
Harvest Season:
In California fresh asparagus is available from January – May (depending of course on the weather) and a small amount is also harvested in September and October.  Larger spears tend to be more plentiful early in the season while smaller spears tend to close the season.   

Production Areas:
In California asparagus is grown in the San Joaquin Delta, the central coast, the Southern California desert, and the central valley.  70-80 percent of the nation’s crop of asparagus comes from California with the remaining crop coming from Washington, Michigan, and Mid-Atlantic states. 

Growth and Harvest:
Asparagus is the stem of a perennial plant.  Perennial means that it comes back every year.  The root mass (it is called a crown) is planted and given the right temperature, nutrients, sunlight, and water the asparagus grows.  After 2 years (yes, two whole years!) the stems can be harvested for the first time.  The stem needs to be about nine inches long and it is cut about two inches below the soil. 
The asparagus is then placed in 1 pound bunches and rubbed banded then shipped for us all to enjoy! 
Meanwhile the plants keep growing and producing until the end of the season.  Plants can last up to 20 years – which means those first two years of patience pay off in the long run!
If you are looking to grow asparagus at home you can buy crowns that are two years old so you don’t have to wait. 

There are many ways to enjoy asparagus!  I always used to boil it in water and enjoy it with mayonnaise (some people use butter instead – a friend of mine adds garlic to her melted butter - YUM).  But, lately I have been putting it in a bag with a little olive oil and garlic salt, shaking it, and putting in the grill – SO GOOD!!  I prefer asparagus as a side dish because I like the distinct flavor and don’t want it to get masked by other flavors. 

If you want more information about asparagus please go to the following websites for more information.
California Asparagus Commission - lots of great information about asparagus.
Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board - more information about asparagus.
Meet a grower - a fun little information sheet about the largest grower of asparagus in California.
Ag in the Classroom asparagus fact sheet - I LOVE this organization and there fact sheet may be my favorite!  Lots of information about asparagus including history - very interesting.  There are also some activities for kids (or adults).
Asparagus planting at Dixon Farms - a quick post on how asparagus is planted at a farm in Canada - it is a short post but the root mass (the crown) is interesting to see.
How to grow and care for asparagus - some information for the at home garden on how to grow and care for asparagus. 
The Stockton Asparagus Festival - The lovely Durrer Family (from the blog Life on a Real California Dairy Farm) took a trip to the asparagus festival.  This post makes me feel like I was there - well, almost there!

Hope you enjoying the information about asparagus!  Please share with us your favorite way to cook (and eat) asparagus! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hunk of Meat Monday: Top Sirloin Roast

This hunk of meat Monday is brought to you by my lovely sister and brother in law.  We hung out at their house and they made us dinner (by they I mean my brother in law).  So, here goes:
Defrost.  This hunk of meat is a 5 pound top sirloin roast from a cow culled from their herd.  If you would like a post dedicated to the term culled please let me know as my sister gave me a long speech to tell consumer what culled means. 

The smoker/barrel.  This is a BBQ Grill built by a local high school student.  This type of cooking leads to a different flavor than a regualr BBQ grill.  Put the charcoal in and start it. 

Take the sirloin roast out of the package.

Get your seasoning of choice.  I know this picture is poor, but the Kelster (my brother in law) was so proud of this (I think he was just mocking me) I had to include this photo.

Sprinkle the seasoning on

and rub it in.  Do this on all sides (top bottom and sides).

Put it on the grill (inside the smoker/barrel).


Things I did while waiting for dinner:
- I found the pig in the cattle pen.
- I took pictures of one of the steers cuddling with the pig.
- I held my adorable brand new nephew.
- I took pictures of my adorable nephew sleeping with his mouth open.
- I went to CVS to buy more charcoal. 
- I ate oreos.

After about forever 3 hours it will be done.  Take it out and cut it up. 

And serve it.

Our meal: top sirloin roast, salad, and mashed potatoes.  YUM!!

It was very good - thanks to my sis, Kelster, and my baby nephew "Rolo"!

What hunk of meat are you eating today? 

Check out some other great posts at:

Hunk of Meat Mondays

Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Vegetarians ARE Healthier . . . right?

To answer this question, let me tell you a little story.

Growing up, my dad was the cook. He was “creative” in the kitchen. We ate frog legs (that he gigged the night before), cow tongue, pig’s feet, and other “creative” meat options. My neighbor was a hunter so we ate rabbit, deer, and whatever else he brought home. I am sure we ate “normal” meat also, but I only remember having to choke down the weird stuff.

When I was in 5th grade, I decided I didn’t like the taste of meat. One day I stopped eating meat.

My parents tried to force me – but I was stubborn. Then they tried the 'she’ll eat it when she gets hungry enough' approach. I guess I never got hungry enough. We always had a pretty balanced meal so I would just eat more of the side dishes.

I do need to mention that I am a very polite person (thanks mom) so I would never refuse to eat a meal that was made by a friend’s parents just because it contained meat. I would politely eat the entire meal and then tell them that is was very good.

I also need to add an important part of this whole not eating meat thing – during this time I supported animal agriculture (and still do). I raised meat birds in 4-H and market lambs in FFA. My brother raised market pigs and I watched a few get slaughtered. I was on the meat judging team in high school (because my sister was and she was my ride home). I did NOT stop eating meat because I believed animals were treated poorly – I knew animals were treated well by farmers.

Back to the story . . .

I think I was a healthy kid and teenager. I was a healthy weight. I was active and happy.

I went through college, got my credential, started my first teaching job, and started grad school. I was tired! I thought I was tired because I had a full time job, was doing extra work on top of that to clear my credential (BTSA), was going to grad school, and reading the research (on ag education at the elementary level and its place in the school system – which, by the way is not abundant) for my thesis. I would come home on days I didn’t have class and literally fall right asleep. I was not just tired; I was exhausted.

I finished BTSA, wrote my thesis, finished grad school, and survived my first year of teaching. I was still tired - still exhausted.

I began to think it was my diet. I was eating healthy – fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, grains – the only thing missing was meat. So, I started eating meat. My hunter boyfriend was excited and my cattle and pork-raising sister was exhilarated (which, might be a bit of an understatement).

I noticed a difference in my energy levels in less than a week. I wasn’t exhausted at the end of the day. I was still tired (after all teaching does take a lot out of you everyday) but not nearly as tired as I had been. I was less cranky at the end of the school day (nobody likes a cranky teacher) and was much more productive after school. I could come home and cook dinner instead of lay on the couch and try not to fall asleep. I started eating less because my meals made me fuller for longer. This sounds weird but I was happier too.

So, are vegetarians healthier? NO! Meat eaters are healthier. Now, this may not be the case for everyone but in my experience I am much healthier and happier than when I didn’t eat meat.

Would love to read your input on this!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hunk of Meat Monday: Filet Mignon

I have been meaning to cook this filet for some time now.  My sister has been bothering encouraging me to cook it for even longer!  I have never made or eaten filet mignon so I was nervous.  It is the best cut of meat on cattle and I was really worried that I was going to screw it up.  I searched online for days until I finally realized that if it really is such a great cut of meat then it should taste good no matter what I do to it. 

So, I finally got over my fear and started cooking:
I rinsed and patted the filets dry with a paper towel. 

I kept it simple so we could really taste the meat.  A little garlic salt and pepper sprinkled and rubbed into each side. 

As I was prepping the meat I heated the pan to sear the meat.  I think I let it get a little too hot, so I will have to adjust that next time.  I cooked the filet for 8 minutes on each side (my searching online said to cook it for 6 minutes on each side but I wanted it a little less rare).  I am not super happy with the way the first side looks - but, that's ok. 

After I seared both sides I covered it to keep the heat in and get it to cook a little more. 

The other side turned out much better.

Our meal.  Filet Mignon (from my sister's ranch), bread (baked fresh at the store - YUM), mashed red potatoes (with garlic - so good!), and an artichoke. 

I wanted asparagus but it was $3.97 a pound and too thick for our liking so I went with artichokes.  But, we can have an artichoke each as a meal, so that may not have been a fantastic idea.  The filet was WAY TOO rare - when we had finished eating and we full from the rest of our meal I cooked it for another 6 minutes on each side then put it in the fridge for later. 

So, that was my first experience cooking and eating filet mignon.  I ran into more problems than I usually do and when I asked the boyfriend how he liked it he said, "I don't like that fancy shit, but it is alright."  In all my googling I never heard anyone call filet mignon "fancy shit" but, now I have!  He is so funny!!  I think it turned out ok, but it would have been amazing if I had cooked it long enough!

Be sure to check out the other Hunk of Meat Monday meals at Beyer Beware!

Hunk of Meat Mondays