This Morning’s Harvest…The Perfect Season to Be on a Plant-Based Diet

TFL morning harvest Stunning squash blossoms, ramps, and more

TFL morning harvest
Stunning squash blossoms, ramps, and more

 

Radishes, peppers, baby paddy pan squash, and more deliciousness

Radishes, peppers, baby paddy pan squash, and more deliciousness

IMG_6301Four weeks ago I moved to a plant-based only diet (aka vegan; however, it seems the word “vegan” has gone out of fashion for some).   “Whatever”, I say … because even though a bit of grated parmesan has topped a few of my salad plates the last few weeks, and I consumed my last bit of organic, whole milk with my morning cup of black tea (didn’t want to waste it :-).  I feel better…  and I have lost 5 pounds in a month (a big deal to my 5’2″ frame), and my arthritis has calmed down immensely…and I love the food I am cooking and discovering when eating out.  The big test will be what my numbers are in three weeks when I get my lab work done to see if I reversed my diabetes back into being GONE  gone gone…(keep your fingers crossed).

Here’s the neat thing too… I don’t weigh, measure, or count much of anything I choose to consume …as long as it is plant-based, usually a whole food (except for a bit of bread and crackers)…this has been easy and flavorful and fun to figure out what to make for each meal and what to order out…oh, and I have been considerate of reducing even the good fats.  I had a tendency to go a bit crazy with the EVOO, nuts, and avocados before this sojourn into veganism.

I don’t do shakes or soy protein, or texturized this or that which mocks a meat product either.  Quinoa has become my friend.  Seriously!  I must say going veggie, fruit and grain based in the summer was just a stunning idea.  The plethora of outstanding produce is the perfect platform from which to launch this effort… a recipe for success I’d say.  Go plant-based in the summer months.

O.K…. I will confess that the photos above are NOT from my puny little garden…we sprinted up to Napa and our favorite little town of Yountville a couple weeks ago to celebrate my darling husband’s birthday, just the two of us…and this stunning produce is from Thomas Keller’s gardens, across from The French Laundry and down the street from his Bouchon and Ad Hoc restaurants.  We got to enjoy some of his produce at Bouchon…the best tomato and compressed melon salad EVER…with a fresh basil puree (I had them hold the slice of Spanish ham (darn) …still AWESOME though… the photo doesn’t do it justice but here it is anyway.

Bouchon...Heirloom tomato, compressed melon, teeny onions, basil puree...awesome"ness" on a board...so much flavor

Bouchon…Heirloom tomato, compressed melon, teeny onions, basil puree…awesome”ness” on a board…so much flavor….o.k. see, there is just a teeny bit of grated parmesan on top (it’s o.k….it was from a good source 🙂

Will update you soon on my progress… below are photos of MY morning harvest, not quite so plush as Thomas Keller’s garden produce, but full of flavor and I know the source too 🙂   Local and trustworthy 🙂

My morning harvest...Japanese eggplant, heirloom tomatoes (tiny but truly full of flavor) nectarines (from our new tree, just juicy and delicious)...not the TFL but still good.

My morning harvest…Japanese eggplant, heirloom tomatoes (tiny but truly full of flavor) nectarines (from our new tree, just juicy and delicious)…not the TFL but still good.

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How Does Your Garden Grow? Our Hits & Misses…

new for us this season...tomatillos.  My husband loves salsa...these will go well with our jalapeños and tomatoes in a couple months...the interesting looking "paper like" exterior of this tomato like plant is gorgeous

New for us this season…tomatillos. My husband loves salsa…these will go well with our jalapeños and tomatoes in a couple months…the interesting looking “paper like” exterior of this plant is gorgeous

We’ve been working hard in the yard!!  This season’s garden has been particularly satisfying to get in and watch develop.  Our garden was on the San Juan Capistrano Garden Club tour in late April…thus we put a LOT of extra effort into sprucing up every nook and cranny of our backyard; planting more vegetables and new fruit trees…filling every blank corner with organic, beautiful, and hopefully bountiful crops.  The birds, bees, lizards, and butterflies seem thrilled with the plantings.  With our California drought condition, we updated our irrigation to ensure complete efficiency in water usage…this resulted in our achieving an award from our local water district (a little bonus, yay).  It’s been truly fulfilling to watch the literal “fruits” of our labor bloom….and thanks to my husband (who is in charge of the fruit trees (his favorite), and my sister and great friend (A.), we got everything installed in time for the tour.  Now, I’m ready to host a few tea lunches on the deck and enjoy the results …the “hits” early in the season are…Japanese eggplants (gorgeous leaves), heirloom tiger tomatoes, and from The French Laundry seeds I purchased on our last trip to Napa Valley (over a year ago), D’Avignon radishes, Chiogga beets, Nantes carrots.. all looking just gorgeous…my husband and I watch them grow, fawning over them like proud parents 🙂

2015 veggie crop...new this year, heirloom lemon cucumbers, from the French Laundry seeds - nantes carrots, chiogga beets, d'artangan radishes and our fave heirloom tiger striped tomatoes...and Japanese eggplants (which have the most beautiful leaves

2015 veggie crop…new this year, heirloom lemon cucumbers, from the French Laundry seeds – nantes carrots, chiogga beets, d’avignon radishes and our fave heirloom tiger striped tomatoes…and Japanese eggplants (which have the most beautiful leaves

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Our fruits trees are seemingly ecstatic with the new irrigation and deep mulch…fuji apples, nectarines, prolific pomegranate tree and our black mission fig and black jack fig trees are bursting with fruit

Fuji apples, Pomegranate fruit and blooms, and new for us, nectarines coming in

Fuji apples, Pomegranate fruit and blooms, and new for us, nectarines coming in

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Oops, and then there are the “misses”…hmmm, wonder what is gnawing on this nectarine…off to get some netting…and for me, a whole new allergy alleviation regime as my doctor said all my gardening was making me sick…next time, I’ll remember to wear a mask to minimize breathing in all that lovely organic matter 🙂

Whose been gnawing on my fruit .... ugh  This is where I start to get crazy...I don't mind sharing, but please wait until it gets a little ripe

Whose been gnawing on my fruit …. ugh
This is where I start to get crazy…I don’t mind sharing, but please wait until it gets a little ripe

Freshly Made Herbal Infusions…at The Kitchen in Sacramento, California

Well, that terrible cough / cold and flu virus finally made it around to our house.  I was not immune…was down and out for over 10 days…but my bright spot is that it hit me on the drive home from our relaxing, beautiful 10 day vacation.  One in which there were several delightful tea moments.

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento is a spectacular dining event – dinner is held in an open, appealing environment with a demonstration kitchen in the center of the room.  We experienced this destination point dinner last year and were wildly impressed and throughly enjoyed the entire scene. I will post about their seriously gorgeous foods later. The fresh, fragrant, flavorful, ingeniously combined, unique ingredients and preparations we were exposed to were stunning.  However, I missed ordering their fresh herbal infusion (as I am not usually an herbal tisane fan, I opted for their loose leaf teas).  Well, my darling husband decided I should try their freshly cut and prepared herbal tisanes…so he took me back there this year for our anniversary as a nice surprise.  Interestingly, the dining experience was as exciting as last year, the food even more inventive and delicious with their fine new chef, David Chavez and I left thinking we will surely get back to The Kitchen every year!  It is awesome! And they accommodate any dietary restriction, happily, and with creative, flavorful adjustments.   Below are photos of our  fresh herbal tisanes, infused table side…they were delicious and made me rethink what an herbal infusion can be.  I ordered the “soothing” with rosemary, mint, ginger, and orange zest…it was just as named…soothing. And it was an excellent way to end this incredible meal.  I plan to make my own fresh infusions as my herbs perk up a bit in my garden this spring.

Baskets of fresh herbs, cut to order, infused in iron tetsubin pots...just delicious

Baskets of fresh herbs, cut to order, infused in iron tetsubin pots…just delicious

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Drink Tea…and Tisanes (herbals)  It’s good for you!

Spring Gardening Leads To DIY Gifts

Betty's Garden Statue graciously and steadfastly adorns our herb & vegetable garden…this time with "volunteer" flowers popping up

Betty’s Garden Statue graciously and steadfastly adorns our herb & vegetable garden…”volunteer” flowers are popping up – newly planted heirloom tomatoes are in the back bed…red onions, blueberries, Italian parsley and a new petite Myer Lemon Tree are planted in the bed behind our lady with vessel statue.

The whole family comes to our yard for Easter…it’s been happening here for over 25 years.  Usually there is an egg hunt, then our traditional Easter dinner, starting and ending with family favorite Italian dishes.  Two to four weeks out, I begin getting the yard in shape for the onslaught of guests and egg hunters.  I lucked out with the weather last week and not only got my heirloom tomatoes (seven varieties) and herbs in, but also trimmed back several small trees, bushes, and generally spruced up the lily garden etc etc etc…I just love this time of year.  Below is a photo journal of my two days working in the backyard.

This weekend's herb planting...

This weekend’s herb planting…three French lavenders and a little Italian oregano and parsley to fill in as the lavender grows in pots on our courtyard patio…the fragrance is light and lovely  – Below are the beds with tomatoes and three basil plants…sweet basil, Italian basil, and a new one called blue basil (looks a lot like a small Thai basil leaf )…these various tomatoes and basils are staged for some incredible summer caprese salads…along w/ my gorgeous chives and thyme.

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As I was whacking away at my bay laurel tree (inherited from my Mom’s backyard over 13 years ago), I felt badly about throwing the cut branches into the refuse bin…there were a lot of wonderful bay leaves going to waste…so I decided to dry some and bottle them as gifts for family and friends…the kids may get candy; however, the adults will go home with dried laurel bay leaves 🙂    Excellent in flavoring your sauces, soups, and many braised dishes.

Pruned Bay Laurel Tree…hmmm, what to do with all the leaves and cut branches…clean them, dry them, and bottle them… (disclosure:  the correct wording should be "Bay Laurel (not Laurel Bay as I have on this one label)…My sister caught the error on the first one but I am a bit lazy today and didn't reshoot the photo… :-(  ) These will be gifts for our Easter guests as I had lots of leaves…I even got to use this raffia that my good friend Panini Girl gave me…thank you Panini Girl :-)

Pruned Bay Laurel Tree…hmmm, “what to do with all the leaves and cut branches”… I decided to clean them, dry them, and bottle them… (disclosure: the correct wording should be “Bay Laurel (not Laurel Bay as I have on this one label)…My sister caught the error on the first one but I am a bit lazy today and didn’t reshoot the photo… 🙁 )
These will be gifts for our Easter guests as I had lots of leaves…I used raffia that my good friend Panini Girl gave me…thank you Panini Girl 🙂

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This morning, I enjoyed my cup of tea while perusing the overnight plant growth.  I was dismayed to see a bit of chewed up leaves on my basil, the good news is that I planted plenty of basil…oh well, I don’t mind sharing a little bit.

 

Truly FRESH Herbal Infusions…Made Tableside Just For You!

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side -- to your liking ---

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side — to your liking —

 

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

IMG_0633One of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had was at The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento.  I’ll share more about the meal in a future post – Dinner was an “event” which included a unique tea service where we were offered a menu of special blends featuring a basket of fresh herbs.

As the chefs plated the dessert course, we ordered our hot beverages.   I’d never seen anything like this…fresh herbs, clipped to order and steeped at your place setting.

I opted for their green tea…but next time will go for the herbal infusion.

Tetsubin iron teapot service at The Kitchen...

Tetsubin iron teapot service at The Kitchen…

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The French Laundry’s Winter Garden…Radishes Anyone?

Food trends fascinate me.  A few years ago, the highly acclaimed baker, Nancy Silverton (and co-owner of the Pizzeria Mozza Restaurants) put Butterscotch Budino on her menu…she got rave reviews for this tasty pudding…and all of a sudden we started seeing budino’s and butterscotch on dessert menus everywhere we went.  Beets is another item that has made the rounds on menus –  various varieties,  colors, sizes, & cooking methods  are offered as the golden or red beet may be pickled, smoked, roasted, or served raw… along with their leaves too.

When in Napa Valley, I love to walk  to The French Laundry (TFL) gardens in Yountville…located directly across the street from Thomas Keller’s famed restaurant.  After visiting this winter…I predict the humble radish to be the food trend we see adorning plates everywhere…from bulb to leaf. The gorgeous TFL gardens were prolific with baby broccoli, chives, nantes carrots and more…but the radishes really caught my attention…while I was not familiar with most of these varieties, I can see why TFL likes them…they offer a crisp texture, pungent, peppery flavor and plenty of color lending themselves to be a valued addition to almost any plate.

The French Laundry Winter Garden…featuring…the radish…a cool season vegetable that is easy to grow.  Takes three weeks to harvest.

The French Laundry Restaurant…unassuming, easy to drive by and miss

The French Laundry Restaurant…unassuming, easy to drive by and miss

 

TFL Garden hothouse…radishes anyone?

A stunningly beautiful February morning at TFL Gardens and hothouse…radishes — baby carrots — baby lettuces — the veg is honored here

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Nutritional information about the radish … One cup is just 19 calories, 4 grams of carb., 29% of your recommended daily vitamin C and 7% fiber…there are also several minerals, including potassium.

So, what’s your radish?  My preference is to enjoy them thinly sliced or julienned over a fresh salad…my husband can sit and eat several whole ones as a snack.  However you choose, using them offers a little more depth to a dish…either in texture, crunch, color, and that bit of peppery flavor.

Three types of radishes…tender and peppery and crunchy

Three types of radishes…tender and peppery and crunchy