green hills after rains

January 14, 2017
by Mimi Holtz

Avocado Ranch Anniversary After Winter Rains

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Avocado

When I first moved to Southern California in 1977 I felt guilty.  How would we deserve the beauty of springtime if we hadn’t endured the long hard winters of snow shoveling and difficult driving that I grew up with in Vermont?  I don’t worry about winter-guilt anymore because I’ve seen what winter weather can do in California!   If we don’t get rains,  we have drought.  If we do get rains,  we have flooding.   But after the rains,  we have those crisp, clear days  when a big bowl of soup topped with sliced Fuerte avocados is well deserved!  This week I made Chicken Tortilla Soup — perfect for avocado slices–and today the sun is shining so I took a walk outside. San Diego county turns green after rains

Take a good look at the gorgeous green fields!  After it rains,  everything grows and turns green in San Diego county. Up come the wild flower plants!  (The Farmer calls them ‘weeds’ but I call them wild flowers!)   Within a few weeks this area will be a mass of yellow and orange blooms!   The buds are already beginning to appear!  It’s fun to walk around and look for animal tracks after days of rainy weather.   Can you guess what animals made these tracks?

animal tracks after the rains on the avocado ranch

Thirty-five years ago The Farmer and I chose a January wedding date because of the rainy winter weather.  We had a pretty good idea that there wouldn’t be much work to do at that time of year, so we would be able to get away on a honeymoon trip.  The weather has changed though, and we can no longer count on rainy winters.  This year we had  lots of reason to celebrate because the rains have returned!  I even found a pretty lilac bloom on my little hybrid lilac bush on our anniversary this year.

35th Wedding anniversary and a lilac bloomed!

We had our first date at The Brigantine Restaurant in Escondido, CA  in 1980 when I was working in a piano and organ store in the shopping center nearby.  The next year The Farmer asked me to marry him at the same restaurant,  and we’re happy that the place is still there so we can celebrate often!   We miss the cozy decor of the old days,  but the remodeled restaurant still serves a wonderful menu.   It was fun to be there on a rainy day this week — as everyone had their rain gear on — and we even ran into some cousins who were also there that afternoon!   If you are ever in the Escondido area,  we highly recommend The Brigantine Restaurant for a meal –either in the dining room or in the bar/patio area.  There are other locations all over San Diego county too — well worth a visit!

celebration at The Brigantine in Escondido, CA

We love ordering small plates, especially on Wednesdays when bottle of wine are half price! Taco Tuesday is also a great time to go to The Brigantine!

Raw Manuka Honey from Wedderspoon

While we’re talking about our anniversary,  I want to mention this amazing Raw Manuka Honey from Wedderspoon.   The Farmer and I honeymooned in New Zealand all those years ago,  so it was natural that I would want to try this boldly flavored honey from New Zealand that smells like fresh rain and caramelized sugar.

“In addition to the bold flavor profile; world renowned Manuka honey has naturally occurring live enzymes and is taken daily by many consumers including nutritionists and athletes. Wedderspoon Manuka is raw, Non-GMO verified and every jar is sourced, packed and sealed in New Zealand for the ultimate in authentic quality.”  ~Wedderspoon

This jar was a gift from Wedderspoon — and I have to tell you that I never dreamed I would enjoy each spoonful of honey as much as I did.  I used it in my tea while I had a sore throat and bad cold — and it seemed to me that the cold just never got any worse.  I’m not a doctor and I’m not telling you that this honey is a cure-all for bad colds,  but this is the first time in a very long time that my cold just went away without morphing into something awful.   And now that I’m well,  I am craving this honey still!   Stay tuned – I plan to be using this honey more often in my kitchen!

avocado ranch after the rains

We are thrilled to have the rains this year,  and the gorgeous green hillsides!  I’m looking forward to a very special wild flower season and the avocado trees should be getting ready to bloom in a few months too.   Rain does more than just fill the reservoirs and help the weeds to grow —  we need the winter rains to leach the salts that have accumulated in the soil so that the trees can get nutrients without the damaging salts.   When you see brown tips on the leaves of the avocado trees,  it’s because the tree tried so hard to get water during the hottest weather that the salts also were taken up into the tree.  Now we can look forward to beautiful clean new growth on the trees.

But first — there is more rain on the way!  If we want avocados for our soup next week we need to pick a few today!

Note: If you would like to try some Fuerte avocados from our family farm,  check out our son’s website at 



Fuerte avocados with smoked salmon and eggs on an English muffin

January 4, 2017
by Mimi Holtz

Fuerte Avocados – Festive Holiday Slices

avocado with smoked salmon and scrambled egg

It’s that time of year when Fuerte avocados are perfectly ripe and full of flavor.  Pear-shaped with a thinner skin than Hass avocados,   Fuertes have a unique nutty flavor,  and if you have enjoyed a Fuerte avocado you are nodding your head right now. Continue Reading →

Beer and Maple Beans

December 10, 2016
by Mimi Holtz

Potluck Beans with Maple and Beer

Beer and Maple Beans

I’m sharing my latest activities in the kitchen today:   Potluck Beans with Maple and Beer!  We’re invited to a holiday get-together with family and friends tomorrow,  and I needed a side dish to go with barbecue tritip sandwiches.  During the holiday season I don’t have much time, so I used a recipe that calls for canned Cannellini beans (white kidney beans).   This recipe couldn’t be easier!

The Big Book of Sides

I was inspired by a recipe in Rick Rodgers’  The Big Book of Sides, a cookbook that I reviewed when it was first published.  I keep going back to this book when I need something special to go with a meal. The recipe in the book makes 10-12 servings,  and I needed to make a lot more for the party.  I tweaked the recipe a bit,  and the beans are crazy good!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Potluck Beans with Maple and Beer
Recipe type: side dish
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Make a pot of these beans for a holiday potluck or a summer barbecue!
  • 1 lb. bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ½ cup dijon mustard
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 bottles dark beer ( I used Red Bridge Gluten-Free Sorghum Beer)
  • Ten 15-ounce cans of Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup ham bits
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat, until the bacon is almost crisp. Using a slotten spoon, move the cooked bacon to a paper towel and leave the bacon fat in the pan.
  3. Over medium heat, cook the onions in the remaining bacon fat until they are golden brown.
  4. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute.
  5. Stir in the ketchup, mustard, maple syrup, and beer and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in the the beans, bacon, and ham.
  7. Cover the Dutch oven and bake for one hour.
  8. Uncover and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
  9. If you aren't serving the beans immediately, cool the beans and refrigerate overnight. Stir in 1 cup of water and reheat covered in 350 degree oven, stirring occasionally.

Last weekend was the annual Meals On Wheels benefit concert.  As a member of the Coastal Communities Concert Band since 1998, I look forward to this event every year. Our band has been helping to raise funds to support the important work of Meals On Wheels for 22 years.  Here are a few photos from the 2016 Holiday Concert at the Carlsbad Community Church, in Carlsbad, Ca.!

Holiday Concert to Benefit Meals On Wheels

As a music director and teacher,  I start preparing for holiday performances months in advance.  It’s a little strange to be working on Christmas music in the heat of August and September,  but it’s so rewarding when we have our music prepared in time to inspire our families and friends during the holiday season.   I’m especially glad to have time in December to spend in the kitchen between concerts and church events.

What are you cooking up for the holidays?  I’d love to know about your family specialties or new recipes you are trying out!


November 22, 2016
by Mimi Holtz

Cheaters’ Thanksgiving Casserole

Cheaters' Thanksgiving Casserole

When the weather cools off in November, I’m ready to start eating turkey and stuffing.  Anyone else get that craving for Thanksgiving goodies early? Try my Cheaters’ Thanksgiving Casserole!   Here’s an easy 0ne-pot meal that you can do in a slow cooker or in a covered dish in the oven, or even on top of the stove.  All the flavors of Thanksgiving are here for a comforting supper,  or a party with friends – and it’s budget-friendly too!

Continue Reading →

endive and arugula salad

November 17, 2016
by Mimi Holtz

A Fresh Fall Salad: Walnuts, Apples, Endive, Arugula

endive and arugula salad

Today I’m sharing an easy, refreshing salad that is perfect for a weekday meal or as part of  your Thanksgiving feast!  The colors are festive, and  the sweet nutty flavor of the greens pairs beautifully  with crunchy apple and walnuts in this fresh fall salad.  Optional gorgonzola is a creamy accent for blue cheese lovers.

After visiting the  California Endive Farm last summer, I’m using Belgian endive Continue Reading →

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