The Nutcracker Sweet

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Since our last regular blog talked about my childhood pet rooster, Pecker, a post on nutcrackers seemed like a logical follow-up.  But I’m really more interested in the suite sweet part than I am in nutcrackers per se.  Oh, and nuts, too.  In fact, I have a slight nut addiction (I certainly am not insinuating anything about Andy).  Andy, meanwhile, is getting a little squirrelly about this blog idea.

Because of my addiction, I am happy to report that a little on-line research – done while I was sneaking pieces of the delicious “Swedish Almond Visiting Cake” – reveals some great facts about nuts.  Almonds provide Vitamin E and fiber (though the water demands of the almond tree make almonds a mixed bag: health vs environment); “Nut Consumption Reduces Risk of Death;” A Few Walnuts a Day May Help Boost Memory; nuts are one of  “Ten Foods to Boost Your Brain Power.” According to a recent article in U.S. News & World Report, nuts may help us

  • have a healthier heart
  • keep our minds sharp
  • prevent age-related weight gain (I’m on my way out the door to get even more nuts now!)
  • prevent and manage type 2 diabetes
  • ease our aching joints
  • side-step cancer (“side-step” – from the USN&WR writer – is an interesting choice of words)

(FAMILY SPOILER ALERT!!!!) So I’ve given up buying the family fancy presents this year and instead am wrapping little packages of nuts to put under our Christmas tree…of course, with a cautionary note that they are to be consumed gradually and over time.  Brazil nuts, filled with selenium, for the family’s men and boys.  Walnuts for those whose brains fuzz over now and then – which would be pretty much all of us.   Almonds, high in Vitamin E, for those concerned about complexions.  Hazelnuts to hasten healing after one or more of the family has been clawed (or bitten) by our sweet Siamese cats.  Pecans from Louisiana for everyone, just because.

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One of our sweet Siamese cats

A final note before going to the sweet part of this blog.  Researchers say that nuts are helpful in preventing a craving for sweets.  The irony here is great.

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A Toast to December

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If you want to feel very cosmopolitan (but don’t want a Cosmopolitan), try a Boulevardier  – especially if you’re tired of Negronis.  The cocktail – pronounced “boo-luh-var-dyay” – dates back to Paris and the 1920s. Its festive color makes the Boulevardier the perfect cocktail for the holiday season (please do note how artfully Andy has found greenery to accompany the red in the drink!) 🙂

The Boulevardier

  • Servings: 1
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For a slightly-less sweet drink, add a touch more bourbon or reduce the amount of Campari a bit.


  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz campari
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula is wonderful – and pricey – but it’s versatile; try it as an aperitif or in your Negroni)
  • a cherry (don’t use old-fashioned maraschinos.  Yuck.  Instead, use something like Tillen Farms Bada Bing Cherries)

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled mixing glass, stir well, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; drop in the cherry.  Or serve it over the rocks – 1 big ice cube is best – in an old-fashioned glass.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann

The Egg & I

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Yes, our eggs from our neighbors Sandy and Stacey are multi-colored, just like these.

While Andy is over-emoting about the cute “chicks” in the wire-fenced yard of our friends, Sandy and Stacey, telling me about how soft and sweet the hens “talk,” about how beautiful they are, about how funny they are, I can only think about my childhood pet rooster, Pecker.  Maybe I’m thinking about him because of all the news headlines of the last month.  Or maybe I just like roosters more than hens.

Pecker 2

Me, Pecker, and our old Chevy pickup

I suppose you’re wondering why I named him Pecker.  In the mind of a 10-year-old, if a chicken goes around pecking at things, Pecker seems pretty logical.  In the eyes of that 10-year-old’s mother, the perspective is different.   Suffice it to say, my mother – in a 1950’s parental approach –  could never bring herself to explain to me why that name might not be appropriate.  And the only inkling I ever had that it had something off about it was the night Pecker didn’t appear for his feeding and I loudly called – all over the only-slightly-rural neighborhood – “Pecker, Pecker, Pecker,” at which point my mother hushed me but still didn’t explain why.

But we’re talking about eggs here.

It’s 11:30 a.m.; Andy is bicycling; I am hungry.  We have no leftovers left.  Super Chicken Hen to the rescue.Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 8.10.43 AM

A 6″ frying pan, a little butter, one egg, a tortilla or some kind of bread, one or two add-ons, and you’ve got lunch – or brunch – or even dinner for one.  Add another egg and you can serve two.

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Scrambled Egg Tacos with Salsa Verde


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Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Goat Cheese and Pita (and Fuyu persimmons, if you’ve got them)


Egg prosciutto sandwish

Scrambled Egg Muffin Sandwich with Prosciutto, Cheese, and Arugula

Super Simple: The Egg & I

  • Servings: 1
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Scrambled Egg Tacos with Salsa Verde

  • 1 T butter
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 or 2 small tortillas
  • 2 tsp salsa verde (we like to make our own – but use jars of Herdez Salsa Verde as a back-up)
  • chopped cilantro to garnish (optional)

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat; add the butter; when the butter is almost melted – but not browned – add the egg and gently scramble, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the heat.  Heat the tortillas directly over the flame of a gas range – or on a hot cast iron (un-oiled) pan, turning several times, until they start to brown at the edges.  Place the eggs on the tortillas and add the salsa.  Eat and enjoy.

Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Pita Bread

  • 1 T butter
  • handful of chopped, fresh spinach (or frozen, quickly defrosted in the microwave)
  • 1 large egg
  • about 1 T of goat or feta cheese, cut or crumbled into small pieces
  • 1/2 of a large pita bread or one mini pita, toasted
  • a sprinkling of hot paprika
  • slices of peeled fuyu persimmon in the winter or tomato in the summer (optional)

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat; add the butter; when the butter is almost melted – but not browned – add the spinach and cook and stir until it’s wilted, then add the egg and goat cheese and gently scramble, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Add a sprinkling of hot paprika to the eggs and then serve them with or in the pita bread.

Scrambled Egg Muffin Sandwich with Prosciutto, Cheese, and Arugula

  • 1 English muffin
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 slice of prosciutto, diced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 T of grated cheese (Parmesan, Cheddar, Swiss, or Gruyere)
  • a bit of arugula and a slice of tomato, if tomatoes are in season
  • a few dashes of Tabasco Sauce (optional – but not for me)

Put the English muffin in the toaster to toast.  Heat a small frying pan to medium heat; add the butter and prosciutto and cook until the prosciutto is slightly browned and getting crispy.   Add the egg and gently scramble, adding salt and pepper to taste (remember that the prosciutto is salty).  Add the cheese just before the egg is totally scrambled and carefully mix it in. Butter the English muffin, both top and bottom;  put the egg and arugula on the bottom half of the muffin, add the top – and sit down, relax, and enjoy. [/recipe-ingredients]

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals and Andy and Ann



Sugarless Cornbread? Pumpkin Chiffon Pie?

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Just-baked cornbread (with a bit of sugar) – which we really needed to taste (topped with a lot of butter).  Let it dry for a few days before crumbling for the dressing

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Here’s the completed cornbread dressing; add gravy and you’ve got YUM!

A BigLittleMeals Lagniappe pre-Thanksgiving edition.  We’re passing along recipes.

First – a recipe from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Austin, Texas, a Best of the Besties Southern Cornbread Dressing, guaranteed to please.  It comes from Becky and her mom, Katie, our special Louisiana neighbors and special friends.

Little did I know that a dressing recipe could be controversial, but apparently it can be.  Sugar vs no sugar is one of the key factors in the debate. You’ll enjoy reading Kim Severson’s “How I Mastered the Art (and Politics) of Cornbread Dressing.

Our second recipe comes from my Colorado Cousin Bill; it’s a Best of the Besties Pumpkin Chiffon Pie recipe from our grandmother, Rachel, aka “Mom Hill,” which she in turn got from Mamie Eisenhower.  (Mamie is a cute name!  Why don’t we ever hear it used any more?)  The story goes that Mamie and Rachel, who knew each other in Washington, D.C., bonded because they both had Colorado roots.  Yea, Colorado! Go Rams! Go Buffs! Go Broncos! Go Rockies (sorry, Joe; you can still love the Dodgers)! Go Nuggets (nope, my heart is with the Warriors)! Go Avalanche! Go CC Tigers?

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I daresay women’s fashion and hairstyles have changed more than men’s over the last 60 years.  Following up on our last post –  the answer to “Where the Wild Things Are” may be “on Mamie’s shoulders”

So if you’re still working on your menu for Turkey Day, here’s Mamie’s recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie (which the Washington Post also declared delicious).  Mom Hill also passed along Pumpkin Pie O’Brien, a personal favorite.  For the main course we recommend Super Simple Sage-y Roasted Turkey Breast, and if you want to wow your guests with something unexpected, include the Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds (and Sumac).

Of course, a cocktail is in order too.  If you haven’t already read it, we recommend enjoying our Where the Wild Things Are blog – because we consider it our pièce de résistance.  Click on our link, Wild Turkey, for our recommended cocktail.

You need to bake the cornbread a day or so ahead so that it has time to dry out and get crumbly, so quit sitting at your computer and get going!!

Southern Cornbread Dressing


1 large (lasagna size – 9×13) pan of baked cornbread, any recipe, dried and then crumbled (note from Ann: there’s a super-simple cornbread recipe below).

Combine the crumbled cornbread with:
  • 1 cup each onions and celery, diced, and sautéed until softened in a little butter or olive oil
  • 1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-2 cups natural chicken or veggie broth as needed
  • herbs to taste– sage, parsley, thyme, pepper are suggested
  • Add salt if needed; it depends on how much is in your stock and cornbread
 The cornbread mixture should be very moist, so add a little more broth if it’s not.
 Bake until heated through and crusty on the top, about 25-30 minutes.

 Serve with lots of turkey gravy. Celery and onion are the key to the great taste 

from Ann: here’s a good cornbread recipe.  Note:  to have enough cornbread for Becky’s cornbread dressing recipe, I would recommend making a recipe and a half of this.  You can make it gluten free by using 2 c of cornmeal and omitting the flour.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white or yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 1 T butter

Heat oven to 400°F.

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl. Stir in buttermilk, 1/3 cup melted butter and eggs just until mixture is moistened.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy cast iron or oven-proof 10-inch skillet. Pour batter immediately into pan and place the pan in the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

I would do 1 1/2 recipe to fill a 9″x13″ pan. If you don’t need that much dressing, stick with the original cornbread recipe, and fix the dressing with 1 egg and 1 c broth and bake it in the skillet you used for the cornbread – or an 8″x 8″ pan.  Omit the sugar in the cornbread – if using it makes you uncomfortable – or put in 3 T – if it makes you happy.  I would use finely ground cornmeal, but that’s me. Brought to you by Katie and Becky and


Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are: The Movie

This video is a must watch.  Andy, the Sociologist/Entomologist/Photographer, has morphed into Andy the Film Producer.  And do turn your speakers up; Andy chose the perfect soundtrack for his video.  Now – bear with me – we’ll ultimately bring this around to recipes.  Meanwhile, enjoy Andy’s Corner. OMG – it never ends.

We love our teeny front yard – where the wild things are. Every evening without fail Andy dutifully arranges his trail camera to focus on our little path.  And every morning, usually in his bathrobe, he retrieves it, in hopes that he’s captured an image of yet another wild one….and didn’t capture some image of a wild AirBnB-er staying next door.

Another wild thing that frequents the Sonoma Valley, if not our front walk-way, is the turkey.  Think Thanksgiving.


A posse of Sonoma’s wild turkeys, on the prowl just up the hill from us

If you live near our wild turkeys, you may not be a real fan of them (though you may be a fan of Wild Turkey:).  One of our older and very feminine Glen Ellen neighbors has been known to take a few random shots at wild turkeys to get them off her home’s deck (she has also been known to shoot a few rattlesnakes).  While we’re not advocating taking down your own Thanksgiving turkey, we do have a simple recipe for roasting the breast of a domesticated turkey.  And we definitely recommend trying to find a heritage bird (here is why).

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From Andy the Photographer (not Andy the Sociologist or Andy the Entomologist) This Fly Amanita mushroom is definitely NOT edible.

The family’s interest in wild things goes beyond animals. Our grandson, Moss, who is now 12, always thinks a little outside the box (remember last week’s post?).  While our grandson, Silas, wants soccer shoes and jerseys for presents, Moss requests a class in foraging.  So that’s what he got a few years ago: foraging for mushrooms with Grandpa Andy on the Sonoma coast.  And we have the perfect recipe for those wild mushrooms (or everyday button or white mushrooms, if you’re not a forager at heart).  If you’re fixing Thanksgiving dinner and don’t want to do traditional stuffing, this is a great alternative.

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While Andy is stalking wild animals, I’m more interested in Stalking the Wild Asparagus.

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Does this bring back fond memories of the HippyTrippy 60’s?

During Andy’s graduate-school days at Colorado State U, we lived on a farm on South Shields outside Fort Collins.  And every spring along the fence line of that farm, we’d go hunting for an incredible delicacy – which we didn’t adequately appreciate at the time – wild asparagus.  Trust me, nothing store-bought can begin to compare to its flavor.  When spring arrives, seek out your most-locally-grown asparagus – or better yet – go wild asparagus hunting.  We’ve got a great pasta to fix with your fresh asparagus.Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 11.36.29 AM

The only other wild thing I’ve ever scavenged for is blackberries.  Wild blackberries grow in Baton Rouge and in the Sonoma Valley area, so Andy and I consider ourselves seasoned blackberry pickers. We have our favorite spots which we jealously guard, hoping no one else will discover them.  Ask me sometime about the poison ivy rash I had after one such adventure.

Though blackberries, especially combined with other fruits, make great desserts, jam with blackberries is my specialty.  Making jam together was one way my mother and I bonded during my teen years, and I still can’t make a batch without feeling like my mom is watching my every move….affectionately.

After forcing me to do 4-H “Home Ec” rather than just show livestock at the Larimer County Fair, I spent a summer perfecting my jams and jellies, all made without artificial pectin.  My mother was convinced I would get a blue ribbon, because mine would be so much more authentic than those contestants who made jam with pectin.

Of course, I didn’t win.

But I’ve had a lifetime of enjoyment from what I learned that summer.  And Andy’s a pretty lucky man to have an over-supply of homemade jams and jellies, if I do say so myself.

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