Mimi Avocado http://mimiavocado.com Sharing stories, recipes and my favorite new discoveries... Fri, 19 May 2017 15:54:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 29256921 How Do Avocados Grow? http://mimiavocado.com/2017/05/how-do-avocados-grow/ http://mimiavocado.com/2017/05/how-do-avocados-grow/#comments Fri, 19 May 2017 15:52:13 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8329 Continue reading ]]> avocados

Here are the freshest avocados you’ll ever see!  Just picked from our trees!  They were flowers just one year ago, and took all year to get to this size and maturity so we could harvest them for you!   They are rock hard and won’t soften at all until they leave the tree.

buds on an avocado tree before bloom

I took this photo in March,  before the trees were in full bloom.  These are the buds that appear on the trees.  Don’t they look a little bit like cauliflower?  It’s amazing how these buds unfold and eventully become flowers on long spikey stems, and later turn into tiny avocados.   In fact, it’s amazing how avocados grow!  Today I’m sharing photos and a spectacular video that was filmed right here on our ranch!

avocado trees blooming

When the trees are in full bloom,  they look from a distance like they are covered with yellow froth.  The new reddish  leaves begin to grow so they can cover the new baby avocados that appear after pollination.

baby avocados

I never get tired of looking for the tiny baby avocados that begin to grow where the flowers used to be.

flowers and babies fall

Dried flowers that have fallen from the trees are carpeting the ground,  and a few of the baby avocados are there too.  The trees usually set many more baby fruits than can actually grow throughout the season.  Some will fall when they are tiny, and others fall when they get bigger.  The avocados that remain on the tree and grow to maturity are survivors!

too many avocados

The tree just cannot sustain this many baby avocados.  Some of them must fall off so the tree can support the fruit that will grow for the next year until it is ready to harvest.

photographing avocado trees

My friend Kim Miller Kelly came out for a visit last week to photograph the baby avocados.  This time of year is one of my favorites,  with all the fruit trees blooming,  including the pomegranates!  Such fun to see the flowers become fruit right before your eyes!

pomegranate flowers

One of the most exciting things to happen lately was a visit from Nicole and Mark Jolly,  the creators of TRUE FOOD: How Does It Grow?    They spent a whole day on the ranch,  filming the trees, the flowers, the fruit and learned firsthand how to harvest avocados!   I was just recovering from knee surgery,  so I couldn’t do much hiking that day,  but it was lots of fun to ride around in the back of the pickup truck!

You’re going to love the video that Nicole and Mark created about how avocados grow!  Learn a little history,  inside tips about ripening and serving avocados,  and find out how to pick avocados yourself!  Check it out right here!




http://mimiavocado.com/2017/05/how-do-avocados-grow/feed/ 2 8329
Avocado Blooms and Wildflowers: Super Blooms! http://mimiavocado.com/2017/04/blooms-avocados-wilflowers/ http://mimiavocado.com/2017/04/blooms-avocados-wilflowers/#comments Fri, 21 Apr 2017 18:09:54 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8303 Continue reading ]]> falling avocado flowers
I love this photo.  A brown, dead leaf that has fallen from the tree is wedged among the blossoms.   Some of the spent flowers have fallen on top of the dead leaf…as if resting in a cradle among the blooms that will soon become new fruit.  Avocado trees drop their leaves all year long, but during bloom season lots of leaves fall as the flowers come out.   Then the flowers begin to fall too,  covering the ground with tiny dried flowers.   Then the baby avocados begin to appear!

tiny avocado newborn

Tiny newborn avocado forms where the flower was pollinated.

And here is a newborn baby avocado!   The tiny fruits begin to grow right where the little flower used to be … after the bees and bugs have come to pollinate the flowers.

blooming avocado trees

So many flowers on each avocado tree!   It’s amazing that the flowers come out on spindly stalks … and the tree seems to explode with blooms.   From a distance the blooming trees look like they have yellow foam on them…. and then the new growth begins to appear….reddish new leaves that will provide shade for the fruit and eventually turn a deep dark green color.

avocado trees blooming

I have received several notes from avocado tree owners who are concerned that their trees might be dying.   The leaves do fall off the tree when the tree begins to bloom,  and some of the trees can even look like they’re naked exept for the flowers.   The new leaves begin to grow during the bloom period and eventually the trees will be full of foliage once more.

new growth on avocado trees

The new leaves are so colorful!   When the sun comes up in the morning,  there is a reddish hue … fresh and shiny!  These are the leaves that will help sustain the tree and protect the fruit as it grows during the coming year.

cactus blooming

And look what else is blooming!    I bought this cactus last year at Lowe’s … haven’t even taken it out of the pot yet!   I wanted to find a place where it would be happy, and hoped it would bloom again.  Well this year it has even more flowers than last year!    Best to admire it from a distance…those needles are sharp!

California poppies

It has been a glorious year here on the ranch after all the rains!   Wild flowers have been spectacular right here at home and all over California.

wildflower on the ranch

It’s amazing that the seeds are waiting  for years, but nothing grew because we were in a drought.  Once the rains begin,  everything grows and blooms!

succulents blooming

Succulents are blooming!

flowers from seeds I bought

These came from wildflower seed mixtures that I sprinkled before the rains.

colorful wildflowers near avocado groves

So much color this year!

Lizard in the sun

Our days are getting warmer now. The lizards are out sunning themselves and we have to watch out for snakes too.   We’ve started harvesting the largest avocados so that the trees can direct their energy to the baby avocados that are beginning to grow.   It is a glorious time of year!

Have you seen California avocados in your produce markets yet?  We’re shipping fresh California avocados from our family farm every week now!  Earlier this year we were comparing three varieties:  Fuerte, Bacon, and Hass avocados.   Now the California Hass avocados are in season and they are extra special now! Check out our website at California Avocados Direct.

Calfornia avocados sent direct from the farm

Celebrating Earth Day 2017 by sharing sunset from our family farm!


http://mimiavocado.com/2017/04/blooms-avocados-wilflowers/feed/ 3 8303
Avocado Ranch Anniversary After Winter Rains http://mimiavocado.com/2017/01/avocado-ranch-winter-rains-anniversary/ http://mimiavocado.com/2017/01/avocado-ranch-winter-rains-anniversary/#comments Sat, 14 Jan 2017 22:45:39 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8276 Continue reading ]]> 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 CaliforniaAvocadosDirect.com 



http://mimiavocado.com/2017/01/avocado-ranch-winter-rains-anniversary/feed/ 7 8276
Fuerte Avocados – Festive Holiday Slices http://mimiavocado.com/2017/01/fuerte-avocados-recipes/ http://mimiavocado.com/2017/01/fuerte-avocados-recipes/#comments Thu, 05 Jan 2017 00:06:43 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8253 Continue reading ]]> 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.

peeling a Fuerte avocadoWhen a Fuerte is perfectly ripe,  you can peel the skin off of the flesh, leaving a perfect naked avocado that is ready for slicing.   I rarely make guacamole from Fuerte avocados because then are just so special all by themselves.

Fuerte avocados and smoked salmon

My cousin sent us some amazing smoked salmon for Christmas,  so I paired it  with Fuerte avocado and scrambled eggs for a special brunch.
So easy to do:  top an English muffin with some fluffy scrambled egg,  add some thinly sliced smoked salmon,  chopped scallions, and sliced avocado.  Just a little salt and pepper on top.  If you run out of eggs and muffins,  just take a bite of salmon with a bite of avocado!  Heaven!

Fuerte avocado

Fuerte avocado gift box

California Avocados Direct gift box of Fuerte avocados can be shipped anywhere in the USA

Fuerte is sometimes called the original California avocado because it was one of the most common avocado trees grown in California.   Many people who grew up in Southern California have memories of an avocado tree in the backyard, and often they are remembering Fuerte avocados.  Because Fuertes have thinner skins and are only available for the winter months  they are rarely found in grocery stores because they do not ship well.  The best way to find Fuerte avocados is at Farmers’ Markets or order direct from a farmer like California Avocados Direct,  the mail order service that ships the avocados we grow on our ranch.

Every year I make a Mixed Bean Soup around New Year’s time. There’s nothing better than a few slices of Fuerte avocado on top of a hearty bowl of soup!

Fuerte avocado on soup

Fuertes have  such a beautiful curved shape – use your creativity on salads, sandwiches,  omelets, and yes — avocado toast!

Mimi Avocado Christmas

Waiting patiently for my grandson to visit on New Year’s Eve!

The holiday season is winding down,  and as you probably know,  December is always a busy time for me as I am the music director for a church as well as a community chorus.

Glenaires and St. Tim's Choir

The Glenaires Chorale of La Costa Glen Retirement Community in Encinitas, CA. and St. Timothy’s Choir of Escondido, CA.

In between concerts I baked cookies and did a little decorating,  but the highlight of this year’s holiday season were the visits from our 7 month old grandson.   As our children have moved forward in their lives, we have learned to be flexible in  our family holiday traditions each year.  Now that we have a new generation in the family,  we want  begin making a family ornament each year when the family gets together.

2016 family homemade ornament

We sewed and stuffed little felt pillows, then decorated them with buttons and charms.

Things didn’t go exactly as we planned this year,  so I helped our youngest daughter Rachel make  2016 ornaments.   We hope that in future years this will become an activity the family can do together. Our ornament this year reminds us of the fascination that our baby grandson has with buttons on Grandpa’s shirt,  and the love that is the center of our extended family.

Wishing all of you a Happy New Year full of health and happy times!  And plenty of tasty avocados!


http://mimiavocado.com/2017/01/fuerte-avocados-recipes/feed/ 4 8253
Potluck Beans with Maple and Beer http://mimiavocado.com/2016/12/potluck-beans-maple-beer/ http://mimiavocado.com/2016/12/potluck-beans-maple-beer/#comments Sun, 11 Dec 2016 02:27:33 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8243 Continue reading ]]> 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!

http://mimiavocado.com/2016/12/potluck-beans-maple-beer/feed/ 3 8243
Cheaters’ Thanksgiving Casserole http://mimiavocado.com/2016/11/cheaters-thanksgiving-casserole/ http://mimiavocado.com/2016/11/cheaters-thanksgiving-casserole/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 18:59:40 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8230 Continue reading ]]> 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!

The idea for this casserole came to me as I was traveling to Vermont a few weeks ago to visit my mother and daughter.   Mom is 95+ years old now, and holding her own with the help of our daughter, who lives with her to allow her to stay in her own home.   I was hoping to make an early Thanksgiving dinner  so we could celebrate together while I was there,  so I bought a bag of our favorite Pepperidge Farm Herb Dressing,  some sweet onions,  carrots and celery.   My daughter had asked me to use some chicken thighs that were in the freezer, so I didn’t need to  buy a turkey.

Cheaters' Thanksgiving Casserole in a clay cooker

Mom has this vintage Bennington pottery clay cooker,  so I put the partially thawed chicken thighs into the pot,  and piled chopped onions, celery and carrots on top.  I stirred in some thyme, rosemary, and sage.  After about 2 hours in a 350 degree oven, the chicken was falling apart and there were lots of juices.  Actually, with the onions/celery/carrots in the pot,  those juices had already become chicken stock!   I opened the bag of stuffing mix and poured in just enough to soak up all the liquid,  then returned the pot to the oven for about 20 minutes.

On a cold evening in Vermont,  there is nothing better than to have the house smell like Thanksgiving!  We feasted on that hot casserole, and marveled that it could taste just like a turkey dinner without all the work.   I put some into a freezer container so my mom and daughter could have it again after I had travelled back to California.

Cheaters' Thanksgiving Casserole ingredients

As soon as I got back to the ranch,  I needed to fix a good meal for The Farmer, so I bought all the ingredients for my new favorite casserole.  I realized that I could serve 8-10 people for about $15 or less!   Now that’s a pretty budget-friendly “tastes-like-Thanksgiving”  meal!   I wondered what The Farmer would think of my creation.

His comment?  “This is tasty!  Make this one again!”   (I just love it when he says that!)

As I was making my Cheaters’ Thanksgiving Casserole once more to write this post,  I received a text from Annette,  the wonderful nurse who comes to take care of my mom so that our daughter can get out of the house.   She wanted to know how to make the casserole too!   So while I was making my new batch here in California,  she was cooking hers in Vermont.  She used a slow cooker, and it came out just great!

Here are the steps to make your house smell like Thanksgiving with just one pot:

numbered steps for Cheaters' Thanksgiving Casserole

Serve with a salad and some cranberry sauce,  or just fill up a bowl and heat in the microwave.  Perfect for a last minute family supper,  or an afternoon of football!   (Need cranberry sauce?  Put 1 cup water with 1/2 honey in a saucepan, bring to a boil,  add fresh cranberries and cook until the berries pop.  Chill and serve!)

Just put the chicken into the pot and top with all the rest of the ingredients – then relax while the amazing aroma of Thanksgiving dinner fills your kitchen!   No need to add any salt because the stuffing has plenty of seasoning already.  It’s not even necessary  to call this Cheaters’ Thanksgiving Casserole – all the ingredients are fresh! What’s cheating about that?

Cheaters' Thanksgiving Casserole before cooking


Cheaters' Thanksgiving Casserole
Recipe type: Casserole
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This easy casserole can be done in a clay cooker, slow cooker, or a covered baking dish. The chicken falls apart and makes its' own stock. Let the stuffing soak up the juices, and serve a crowd with this budget-friendly meal that tastes like Thanksgiving!
  • 10-12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4-5 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4-5 carrots, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 3 teaspoons dried sage
  • 1 package stuffing mix ( I used Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing)
  1. Use a slow cooker or clay cooker or covered baking dish that will hold at least 5.5 quarts.
  2. Place the skinless, boneless chicken thighs into the pot, and layer the onion, celery, carrot and seasonings on top.
  3. Cover and cook at 350 degrees (oven) or on high (slow cooker) for 1.5 -2 hours until the chicken is falling apart.
  4. Using a spatula, break up the chicken pieces until shredded.
  5. Sprinkle stuffing mix into the cooked chicken, pressing down with a spatula, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. (You may not need the whole bag of stuffing mix to do this.)
  6. Bake for another 15-20 minutes.
  7. Serve with a salad or vegetable, and fresh cranberry sauce.

Cheaters' Thanksgiving casserole with cranberries

http://mimiavocado.com/2016/11/cheaters-thanksgiving-casserole/feed/ 2 8230
A Fresh Fall Salad: Walnuts, Apples, Endive, Arugula http://mimiavocado.com/2016/11/fresh-fall-salad-apples-endive-arugula/ http://mimiavocado.com/2016/11/fresh-fall-salad-apples-endive-arugula/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2016 05:26:13 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8216 Continue reading ]]> 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 in salads  as an alternative to lettuce more often.  (If you missed reading about that adventure,  check out “How Do You Pronounce “Endive”?)   I discovered that Trader Joe’s has a cute little package with three endives:   two green and a red,  the perfect portion when serving two or three people.  Each little compact head can be thinly sliced and added to a salad.  The light green and red endive are so pretty with the dark green arugula!

Add some thinly sliced apple or pear for crunchy sweetness,  and some chopped California walnuts.  Use  candied walnuts if you want to be fancy!  (Trader Joe’s has a small bag of candied walnuts,  or you can make your own.)  The dresssing?   Make your own simple vinaigrette  or buy  Trader Joe’s Champagne Pear Vinaigrette (with gorgonzola).

Speaking of walnuts,  I haven’t yet written about my recent trip to northern California with the California Farm Water Coalition to learn about agriculture in  the region just north of Sacramento.  I’ll be posting more about the trip, but for now I’ll introduce you to Stan Lester of Lester Farms in Winters, Ca.  He took a few hours out of his day to talk about his love of agriculture and show us how walnuts are harvested.

walnut farm with CFWC

When Stan Lester was growing up on his parents’ farm in Santa Clara,  the family grew peaches,  cherries and apricots.   Even though the soil, climate, and growing conditions were among the best in the world for agriculture,  farmers were forced out of the area as Silicon Valley businesses took over the land.   The family moved to an area north of Sacramento,  and transitioned to growing walnuts and prunes.

Stan Lester farms walnuts

Stan Lester discusses his life as a walnut farmer

Stan explained that trees are just like people.  They need water, nutrients, and vitamins.  Using technology,  farmers are able to monitor and analyze the trees’ need for water by using water sensors that send data directly to their phones or tablets.  Soil and leaf analysis allow the farmer to keep track of the nutritional needs of the trees.  Farmers also monitor for diseases and insects that can damage the crops.

walnut trees

Weather is one of the biggest challenges to farming.  As much as farmers hope for rain,  storms can interfere with harvesting and make it necessary to work long days during the short period when their crops are ready.  After investing a whole year of work,  care, and financial commitment into a crop,  farmers have one chance to  ‘collect the pay check’  by delivering their crops to market.  Sometimes this requires working  10-12 hour days and 7 days a week to bring in the harvest.

I’ll be sharing more  about our trip very soon,  but right now I’d better give you this tasty salad recipe!

5.0 from 2 reviews
A Fresh Fall Salad: Apples, Endive, Arugula
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Belgian Endive pairs perfectly with arugula, apples and California walnuts for this sweet and nutty salad, dressed with Campagne Pear Vinaigrette.
  • 3 heads of Belgian endive, a combination of green and red
  • 1½ cups arugula
  • I fresh apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped California walnuts or candied walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons Trader Joe's Champagne Pear Vinaigrette or vinaigrette dressing of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled gorgonzola (optional)
  1. Wash and slice the Begian endive into a medium salad bowl.
  2. Add the arugula and stir gently to distribute evenly.
  3. Core the apple and cut into thin slices, arranging them on top of the greens.
  4. Sprinkle the walnut pieces on top of the apples.
  5. Add the dressing and toss the salad.
  6. Sprinkle the gorgonzola on top. (optional)


http://mimiavocado.com/2016/11/fresh-fall-salad-apples-endive-arugula/feed/ 4 8216
Chop Chop Magazine and Cabot Cheese Giveaway! http://mimiavocado.com/2016/10/chop-chop-magazine-cabot-cheese-giveaway/ http://mimiavocado.com/2016/10/chop-chop-magazine-cabot-cheese-giveaway/#comments Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:39:51 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8207 Continue reading ]]> Cabot cheese gift box

Today I have an exciting giveaway for my readers!   A gift box of Cabot Cheese worth $25!   Along with the cheese you’ll get a subscription to Chop Chop magazine too!   I remember learning to make grilled cheese sandwiches with Cabot cheddar cheese when I was growing up in Vermont.  I know we would have loved to receive a magazine with easy recipes and good ideas for healthy foods we could make ourselves.


Chop Chop magazine is published quarterly for families who are interested in nutritious, tasty, ethnically diverse and inexpensive recipes that the whole family can make.  There are games and puzzles for kids,  fun food facts, and interviews with healthy heroes like kid chefs, pro athletes and White House chefs.  You can send the magazine to your nieces, nephews,  grandchildren or keep it in your own home to inspire great memories in your kitchen!  Chop Chop is the winner of the prestigious 2013 James Beard Foundation Award for Publication of the Year,

Enter the Giveaway for Cabot Cheese and Chop Chop Magazine!

All you have to do is leave a comment about cooking with children  on this blog post and you’ll be entered to win! Do you have memories of cooking when you were a child?  How do you involve your children or grandchildren in preparing healthy foods? What was one of the first things you learned to cook?

If you are the winner you will get a subscription to Chop Chop and a gift box of Cabot Cheese valued at $25.  You must be a resident of the USA and over 18 years of age to be eligible to win. Enter before midnight on October 29, 2016  and I’ll contact the winner on October 30, 2016. Winner will be chosen in a random drawing using random.org. Void where prohibited. If I don’t hear from the winner in 24 hours I’ll choose another winner. All prizes will be awarded. Prizes are provided by Cabot Creamery Cooperative  and Chop Chop magazine.

The current issue of Chop Chop is all about Breakfast for Dinner!  Lots of  fun ideas for making toast into a special meal!  I hope you’ll enter to win!

Chop Chop magazine



http://mimiavocado.com/2016/10/chop-chop-magazine-cabot-cheese-giveaway/feed/ 22 8207
Kale in Comfort Food http://mimiavocado.com/2016/10/kale-comfort-food/ http://mimiavocado.com/2016/10/kale-comfort-food/#comments Wed, 05 Oct 2016 09:27:00 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8191 Continue reading ]]> A "Bou-Kale" from San Miguel Produce

National Kale Day

If you didn’t know that today is National Kale Day,  you know now!  I have to admit that I wasn’t aware of it either, until I received this gorgeous “Bou-Kale” from San Miguel Produce of Oxnard, California.  They’ve been planning for this special day for a long time!   In fact, if you happen to be in the Ventura area on Oct. 5, 2016 you could receive some free kale!   At various sites in Ventura county and in Malibu  in Los Angeles county,  people will be handing out bunches of kale to celebrate  the day.

San Miguel Produce has been growing and processing  kale for 20 years, and selling under their “Cut ‘n Clean Greens”  brand.

“When we first started growing kale, no one wanted to eat it. It was used as decoration on the salad bar or for your pets. It’s exciting to see how kale has grown in popularity and now have a day dedicated to celebrating its health benefits and versatility,” Jan Berk, chief operating officer of San Miguel Produce, said in a news release. “San Miguel Produce hopes their campaign will help get kale into more homes and onto the plates of Americans both young and old.”

I remember seeing fields of greens on road trips when I was a child in Vermont and asking my dad what was growing.  He would say, “That’s kale!  They feed it to cows!”   If he were alive today he would appreciate how many people enjoy eating kale.  He used to pick dandelion greens every spring and ask my mother to cook them for dinner.   “Eat your greens!”   We didn’t get fresh greens all year long then,  as most of our vegetables came from our garden or the neighbor’s farm stand.

Kale Is Related to Cabbage

Kale has been cultivated for over 2000 years, and since it is resistent to frost it has been a preferred green leafy vegetable through the ages.  In fact, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are all the same species of plant.

ready to eat kale

I was thrilled to receive several bags of ready-to-eat Kale from Cut ‘n Clean Greens too!   Each bag is a different variety and has suggestions for serving on the bag.  The kale is triple washed and already cup up to be used in salads or recipes.  In fact, these special bags of kale can even be frozen and used without thawing.

adding kale to meat sauce

 Kale in the Lasagna

I happened to be making lasagna on the day the kale arrived, so I just put some into the meat sauce for the lasagna.   Just mix it right into the sauce and let it cook for a few minutes.

lasagna with kaleThen build the lasagna as you normally would.  It’s a great way to get some green leafy vegetables into the meal,  and makes the lasagna into a one-pot healthy supper.

Chicken with Kale and White Beans

Chicken with Kale and White Beans

Tonight I’m cooking chicken thighs with kale and white beans.  I used boneless skinless chicken thighs and cooked them with onions, garlic, fresh thyme and a little chicken stock and white wine.  When the chicken was tender,  I chopped it up and added fresh ready-to-eat Lacinato Kate from Cut ‘N Clean Greens and a can of white beans.  Seasoned it with salt and pepper,  optional red pepper flakes.   I added some fresh lemon zest and grated parmesan cheese just before serving.

Chicken with Kale and White Beans

Disclosure:   I received a gift box of ready-to-eat kale and a “Bou-Kale” from San Miguel Produce.  I was not required to write a blog post and I was not compensated.   All opinions and experiences are mine. 

Do you eat kale in salads or cook with it?  I’d love to know how you use kale in your family meals!

http://mimiavocado.com/2016/10/kale-comfort-food/feed/ 4 8191
Easy Cheesy Bread: Fool Proof No-Knead Recipe http://mimiavocado.com/2016/10/cheesy-bread-fool-proof-no-knead-recipe/ http://mimiavocado.com/2016/10/cheesy-bread-fool-proof-no-knead-recipe/#comments Tue, 04 Oct 2016 17:39:57 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8174 Continue reading ]]> Cheesy No-Knead Bread

Bake Easy Cheesy Bread!

Want to be the world’s most popular mom and wife?  Cheesy Bread!   Want to have your grown kids flocking to your house,   hanging out in the kitchen with you,  and spending extra time at your kitchen table?  Cheesy Bread!   Those of us who are are empty-nest moms  never stop missing those days when our kitchen was filled with kids and food.

This week I discovered a new way to make  memories in my kitchen with my family.   Make fresh homemade bread!  The grown-up kids and their father will smell that fresh baked bread before they even get past the front door!   You’ll hear “oohs” and “ahs”  and “wow, Mom, this is so good!” again!

But wait — before you stop reading because you think baking bread is too much work,  or you think you need to buy a bread machine —  THIS IS SO EASY!   A fool proof recipe that requires no kneading!  In fact,  I would say that this Cheesy Bread is as easy as a batch of cookies!   Just mix up the dough,  let it rise for 2 hours,  then stow it away in the fridge until you’re ready to bake — and the dough lasts up to 7 days!


King Arthur flour

King Arthur’s Recipe

I can’t take credit for the recipe — it was sent to me in a gift box from King Arthur Flour and Cabot Cooperative Creamery as part of the Cabot Cheese Blogger Board program.  A cute cheese knife with cutting board,  four flavors of Cabot cheddar cheese,  a bag of King Arthur All-Purpose Flour,  a plastic dough container, and a dough scraper — plus the RECIPE for this amazing bread.  King Arthur and Cabot were hoping the blogger board members would try the bread and share on social media with the #CheesyBread hashtag — if you want to see what other bloggers did with it,  just look on Instagram or Twitter for that hashtag.   No-Knead Crusty White Bread is King Arthur’s Recipe of the Year for 2016 – and it’s no wonder that this recipe was honored!

mixing the dough for cheesy bread


Just place the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together — I put 3 cups lukewarm water and 1 1/2 tablespoons active yeast in the bowl  first,  then added 6 1/2 cups of  flour and 1 tablespoon  salt.   I should have used a bigger bowl, or moved the dough to a bigger bowl after mixing it.

mixing the dough

This is what happened when I let the dough rise in the KitchenAid mixing bowl!  Oops!  Not big enough!  Later I moved the dough to a large plastic bowl with a tight-fitting lid, and kept it in the fridge.  Worked much better!

fallen dough

The dough falls after it rises,  so it wasn’t that big of a problem.  Still,  the next time I’ll move the dough to the large bowl before I let it rise.

Cabot cheddar cheeses

Add Cabot Cheddar Cheeses

Cabot sent four different cheeses to try.  I started with the Everything Bagel Cheddar,  and grated half the bar  for my first loaf of bread.   When I was ready to bake,  I greased my hands, pulled off about 1/3 of the dough and placed it on a floured board.  Then I rolled the dough around enough to get the cheese incorporated into the dough.   Nothing fancy — just get the cheese into that dough one way or another.  (later on I found it was easier to do this step in a medium sized mixing bowl — the cheese doesn’t fly all over the place that way)

Form the dough into the shape you want,  making it flatter or rounder if you like.  Place it onto a piece of parchment paper on a baking stone or only a lightly greased baking sheet. Sift a little flour over the top to keep it moist.   Let it sit there for one to two hours,  coming to room temperature and rising just a bit.   Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place your baking stone (if you are using one) on the middle rack, and put a shallow metal pan on the rack below it — you’ll need a cup of hot water to pour into that shallow pan when the bread goes into the oven.

bread baking

When you are ready to bake the bread,  use a sharp knife to slash the top of the bread 2 or 3 times — in an “X” pattern or any design you like — just be sure you cut 1/2 inch deep.

Place the bread into the oven,  and carefully pour 1 cup of hot water into the shallow pan on the lower rack.   Close the oven door quickly to keep the heat and steam in.  Bakc the bread for 25-35 minutes (depending on how thick your bread loaf is) until it is a deep golden brown color.

Remove from the oven when it’s done, and cool on a metal rack.

Pimento Cheesy Bread loaf

Now stand back — because your kids and your husband will be running into the kitchen mometarily — and that bread will be gone in just a few minutes.  If  you need to keep any leftover bread,  wrap it securely and store at room temperature for a few days.   (But realistically it will be eaten before the second day.)

Pimento Cheesy Bread

You can add almost anything you want to the dough along with the cheese.  I used 1/2 jar of drained chopped pimentos with the Everything Bagel Cheddar for this Pimento Cheesy Bread.   Try carmelized onions,  sliced ripe olives,  fresh herbs,  dried tomatoes.   Get creative!

cheesy bread with short ribs

Bake a loaf of Cheesy Bread to dress up some leftovers!  We had our Pimento Cheesy Bread with leftover Braised Short Ribs.


Chipotle Cheddar Olive Cheesy BreadI was able to bake 3 loaves of bread from the one batch of dough.  For the third loaf I added  Cabot Chipotle Cheddar Cheese and sliced ripe olives to the dough before baking.  Perfect snack to serve for Sunday afternoon football!

One of my son’s wants to make the bread himself at his house — and I promised to share the recipe with him.   Still,  I think I’ll keep some dough in my fridge — it’s so easy to heat up the oven,  mix in the cheese,  and bake a fresh loaf!   I’m looking forward to many happy family memories in my kitchen — and one day my baby grandson will be able to help GraMimi make bread too!

Disclosure:   Many thanks to King Arthur Flour and Cabot Cooperative Creamery for the gift box of products and the recipe for the Cheesy No-Knead Crusy White Bread.  You can find the recipe on King Arthur’s site here.   All opinions and experiences are mine. 

       What kinds of cheese and add-ins will you be baking into your Easy Cheesy Bread? 

http://mimiavocado.com/2016/10/cheesy-bread-fool-proof-no-knead-recipe/feed/ 6 8174
Book Review: The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection by Robyn Webb http://mimiavocado.com/2016/09/the-perfect-diabetes-comfort-food-collection-by-robyn-webb/ http://mimiavocado.com/2016/09/the-perfect-diabetes-comfort-food-collection-by-robyn-webb/#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2016 20:02:44 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8145 Continue reading ]]> The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection

I’m thrilled to be able to introduce you to a new cookbook that will be coming out this month: The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection by Robyn Webb.   Although it is written to help people with diabetes,  the recipes are appealing for anyone who wants to prepare foods with great flavor,  serve healthy meals, and simplify the process of meal planning.

The concept of the book is brilliant.   Just choose one  of the  nine basic recipes: stir fry, lasagna, meatloaf, burgers, tacos, chicken, soups, main dish salads, and pasta.  Follow the simple instructions to learn each technique. Then try a few of Robyn’s variations on the basic techniques.  In no time you’ll be using each of the basic recipes as a springboard for creative and healthy meals in your own kitchen.   Side dishes are included with each recipe to complete a balanced meal.

Robyn Webb has created a cookbook that offers essential instructions for those nine basic cooking techniques as a starting point, including expert knowledge in nutrition.   The information that is relevant for people with diabetes is also relevant for healthy eating in general.  Robyn offers advice for stocking the pantry so that meal planning and  preparation can  become an exciting creative activity,  not just an exercise in following instructions with the frustrations of missing ingredients. Use this book to set up your pantry, stock your kitchen with Robyn’s recommended basic equipment,  and say hello to an easier life with tasty, healthy meals to please the whole family.

What I love most about this book is the potential for creative cooking! Learn to make a perfect burger, then try out Robyn’s recipe for Juicy Lamb Burgers or Chickpea Patties with Mango Chutney! Love lasagna? Try the No Noodle Cauliflower Lasagna or Lasagna Cupcakes ! How about Corn Tortilla Lasagna? Ever tried Walnut Garlic Sauce on pasta? This book is full of exciting recipes but more than that, it’s full of creative ideas for expanding the repertoire of healthy meals. We all get stuck eating the same dishes in rotation. The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection will open up new horizons for family meals. Instead of feeling trapped by a restrictive diet or lack of ideas, use this book to launch new adventures in eating at home in your very own kitchen!

The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection is available at ShopDiabetes.org, in bookstores nationwide, or by calling 1-800-232-6733.   Buy it on Amazon here. 

A Recipe from the Book and What I Learned

The publisher is allowing me to  share an example from Robyn’s book with you today.  Since receiving an advance copy of  The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection I have already made  Apple Cider Chicken twice!  My family loves it, and no one would ever guess that the recipe was designed for a special diet.  Comfort Food is the perfect title for this book!

Robyn covers three methods of preparing chicken in the book:  searing, poaching, and grilling.  For Apple Cider Chicken I needed to begin with seared chicken. I thought I knew how to sear chicken,  but after reading through the instructions in the book  I realized that I’ve been using a skillet that cannot sear properly.  Nonstick cookware just won’t do the job!   Robyn recommends aluminum or cast iron for searing.   When I switched to cast iron, my chicken browned up nicely and there were plenty of bits in the pan to add flavor to the sauce.

Apple Cider Chicken by Robyn Webb

photos from my experience of making Apple Cider Chicken.

Recipe for Apple Cider Chicken and Sides from The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection

Here is the recipe for  Apple Cider Chicken  from The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection,  printed for you with permission from the publisher.  Included are side dishes to make a complete meal.


Serves: 4 | Serving size: 1 breast or thigh

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 10–12 minutes + time to prepare Master Chicken Sear

This is a great dish to prepare in the fall and around the holidays. When you tire of turkey, change to this chicken recipe chock full of tart Granny Smith apples. If you can’t find fresh cider, substitute unsweetened, unfiltered apple juice.

Master Chicken Sear (see page 37)

1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced

1/4 cup minced shallots

2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme

1/2 cup apple cider

1/2 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley


  1. Sear chicken as in Master Recipe (page 37) using chicken breasts or thighs, boneless or bone-in.


  1. Add the oil to the pan on medium heat. Add the apples, shallots, and thyme to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add the apple cider and broth and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 minutes.


  1. Return the chicken and juices to the skillet and reduce to low. Simmer for 4 minutes. Add in the sour cream and parsley and serve.




TOTAL FAT 12.0 g




SODIUM 150 mg









1/2 Fruit; 3 Protein, lean; 1 1/2 Fat





Serves: 8 | Serving size: 1 cup

Prep time: 7 minutes | Cook time: 4 minutes


3/4 cup walnuts

2 tablespoons sugar



1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon coarse Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey or sugar

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



5 cups mixed greens

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

2 large carrots, peeled and grated

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced


  1. In a small sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat, toss the walnuts with the sugar for 3 to 4 minutes or until the sugar melts and caramelizes. Make sure the nuts do not burn. Remove the nuts from the pan and let cool.


  1. In a large bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk well.


  1. Add the salad ingredients to the dressing and quickly toss together. Serve on individual plates. Top with the nuts.



1/2 Carbohydrate; 1 Nonstarchy Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat


Calories 160; Calories from Fat 120; Total Fat 13.0 g; Saturated Fat 1.4 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 105 mg; Potassium 250 mg; Total Carbohydrate 11 g; Dietary Fiber 2 g; Sugars 7 g; Protein 3 g; Phosphorus 65 mg



Serves: 1 | Serving size: 1/2 cup


1/2 cup steamed broccoli or broccolini


  1. Steam broccoli or broccolini for 4–5 minutes until crisp and tender, and serve alongside Apple Cider Chicken and the salad.



1 Nonstarchy Vegetable


Calories 25; Calories from Fat 5; Total Fat 0.5 g; Saturated Fat 0.1 g; Trans Fat 0.0 g; Cholesterol

0 mg; Sodium 30 mg; Potassium 230 mg; Total Carbohydrate 6 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Sugars 1 g;

Protein 2 g; Phosphorus 50 mg

Reprinted from The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection by Robyn Webb, MS, published by American Diabetes Association/October 2016

Buy this book: 

The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection is available at ShopDiabetes.org, in bookstores nationwide, or by calling 1-800-232-6733.

Buy it on Amazon here.   

Disclosure:  I was asked to write a review of The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection by Robyn Webb and will be receiving a signed copy of the book.  Robyn is actually a friend who I met when I attended Eat Write Retreat, both in Chicago and in Los Angeles.  

 All opinions are mine.  I wouldn’t recommend a book that I didn’t like!

apple cider chicken

http://mimiavocado.com/2016/09/the-perfect-diabetes-comfort-food-collection-by-robyn-webb/feed/ 1 8145
Roasted Corn Salad http://mimiavocado.com/2016/09/roasted-corn-salad/ http://mimiavocado.com/2016/09/roasted-corn-salad/#comments Mon, 05 Sep 2016 23:04:41 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8138 Continue reading ]]> Roasted Corn Salad

On Labor Day I’m sharing this easy roasted corn salad!  It’s sweet and refreshing with just a little kick!

We celebrated our son’s 30th birthday today with a simple family lunch outside on the patio.  Yesterday I made a big pot of pulled pork,  and this salad was the perfect side dish, along with some fresh local green beans and California cantaloupe.   Use corn tortillas to make pulled pork tacos and add this salad on top like a salsa!

Avocados would be a perfect addition on top of this salad — I have to admit that we had no avocados today!   California avocado season is almost done.  We have picked all of our avocados and are waiting for the new crop of Fuertes and Hass to be ready in December.  We’re irrigating and fertilizing the trees right now to prepare for the bloom in the spring,  and to help the new crop size up.  The hottest California weather is ahead of us — usually September and October are our hottest months.

This year we have had a gorgeous Labor Day weekend with mild temperatures — perfect for our outdoor family celebration.

Happy Labor Day to all of you!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Roasted Corn Salad
Recipe type: salad
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
This salad is quick and easy to prepare, perfect for a barbecue or a picnic!
  • Dressing:
  • ⅓ cup fresh lime juice (I juiced 2 limes)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • Salad:
  • 1 16 oz. bag frozen roasted corn (I used Trader Joe's brand)
  • 2 cans (15 oz) of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (I used Gourmet Garden lightly dried cilantro)
  • chopped avocado (optional)
  1. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.
  2. In a salad bowl stir together the corn, pinto beans, bell pepper, green onions, and cilantro.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir together until the salad is coated with dressing.
  4. Add chopped avocado on top. (optional)
  5. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Have you tried my Homemade Carnitas?  Here’s a recipe for melt-in-your mouth pork!  


http://mimiavocado.com/2016/09/roasted-corn-salad/feed/ 4 8138
Downtown Sacramento: Walking Distance Restaurants at IFBC http://mimiavocado.com/2016/08/downtown-sacramento-restaurants/ http://mimiavocado.com/2016/08/downtown-sacramento-restaurants/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 23:03:56 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8107 Continue reading ]]> capital of California

Disclosure:  I attended the International Food Bloggers Conference in downtown Sacramento, CA  in July 2016 at a reduced rate for “citizen bloggers and social media experts” who would write three posts about their experience at the conference.  This is my third post in a series,  which highlights the the eateries I visitied during the weekend, within walking distance of the state capital building and the Hyatt Regency Hotel.  All opinions are mine. 

When I found out that the  2016 International Food Bloggers Conference would be held in Sacramento, CA,  I registered immediately.   Even though I had never spent any time in Sacramento,  I knew that the organizers were planning tours and sessions highlighting California’s agriculture and America’s Farm to Fork Capital.  And best of all, I’d have a chance to see old friends, make new ones, and explore some of the eateries in downtown Sacramento.

landing in Sacramento

I had a wonderful experience and flight with Southwest Airlines, arriving early at San Diego’s Lindberg Field and enjoying a relaxed lunch at Craft Brews on 30th Street near the departure gate.  (I just love how the restaurants and shops at the San Diego airport are locally based.  If you fly in or  out of San Diego often, you can get coupons and special offers for dining here.)

It was a gorgeous clear day, and from my window seat I experienced a tour of the southern coast,  the central valleys,  foothills, and farmlands of California.   The Sacramento airport was easy to navigate, and Super Shuttle whisked me to my hotel after a very short wait for the van to arrive.  The desk clerk at Hyatt Regency let me check in early and gave me a list of restaurants near the hotel.

Sacramento view

view from our room: Cathedral and city

The biggest challenge of the weekend was the heat!  Sacramento can be really hot,  and believe me, it was hot the entire weekend we were there.   We learned that the best time of the day to get out was early in the morning as the temperatures were tolerable throughout the morning.  After noontime it’s best to be indoors,  and don’t expect the evening to cool off much either.  Everyone wore cool, casual clothing for the bus tours on the first days of the conference,  and smart casual outfits for the indoor events and sessions.  I carried a little sweater in my bag for the indoor sessions and events — hotel air conditioning can get chilly.

Mayahuel restaurant

Art, Music, Drinks and Dinner:  Mayahuel

Since I flew in on Wednesday evening, not many people had arrived yet for the conference, but I noticed via Facebook that a fellow food blogger from San Diego was already in the hotel.   I texted her to see if she wanted to join me for dinner,  and we chose a place that was right around the corner from the hotel.  Neither of us wanted to walk very far in that blistering heat!

Mayahuel restaurant Sacramento

We had a wonderful time at Mayahuel,  sipping our watermelon margaritas,  savoring the PIPIAN VERDE CON CHULETA DE PUERCO (“A ‘mole verde’ made from sesame seed served with a juicy cut of pork, cilantro rice”)  and sharing the spectacular IMPOSIBLE (‘Half flan, half chocolate. Translated ‘impossible’, this dessert is flan atop a chocolate cake bottom”).   Honestly, the evening couldn’t have been nicer – from the wonderful company and converation with Ani Arambula of Confessions of a Foodie to the fun interactions with our waiter, Vince.

I enjoyed Mayahuel so much that I went back the next evening with a different group of friends.  This time I ordered the ENSALADA TROPICAL (“Spring lettuce mix, mango, jícama, and pineapple, topped with dry-roasted almonds and a raspberry vinaigrette”) with grilled salmon.  And a watermelon margarita, of course.   I forgot to tell them to omit the chili powder on the rim of the cocktail as I had the evening before,  but I enjoyed their  margarita  with the slightly spicy accented rim just as much.

Ambrosia Cafe in Sacramento

Our Morning Coffee

Downtown Sacramento is home to a number of wonderful coffee houses and fresh bakeries.  One blogger I know  actually planned her coffee shop and craft beer visits throughout the weekend,  graciously sharing her carefully researched findings with those of us who were eager to try the best. To my delight, this blogger happened to be my roommate.

  On my first morning  (before my roommate arrived) I took a walk and used Google Maps to see where the nearby breakfast places were.   Ambrosia Cafe  on a corner of K Street had fresh baked pastries and really good coffee.  I was glad to be there early (7:30 am) because by 8:30 am there was a huge line out the front door!

Lori Rice of Fake Food Free

Lori Rice, photographer and writer

Temple Coffee and Tea

I was thrilled to share the hotel room with a food blogger I met a few years ago during the largest international produce trade show in Anaheim, Ca.   Lori Rice of  Fake Food Free is a connoisseur of quality,  a skilled photographer,  writer and recipe developer,  and a discerning seeker of excellent coffee, great food, and superb craft beers.  I knew that anywhere she chose to go for coffee would be impressive, and Temple Coffee and Tea certainly was impressive.

Temple Coffee Sacramento

After our first visit, I went back the next day just to try a different muffin,  and I discovered the VERY BEST latte I have ever had the privilege to enjoy.   Temple offers classes about coffee,  ships their beans direct, and even shares  free coffee education videos on their website.  Temple Latte

Farm to Fork Dinner

One of the highlights of the International Food Bloggers Conference was our Farm to Fork Dinner.   The evening magically cooled off as we enjoyed a magnificent meal with 350 of our closest friends on the lawn next to the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Farm To Fork Dinner

Mimi Avocado, Nancy Buchanan, Ani Arambula

Farm To Fork Dinner Mimi Avocado and Lori Rice

Lori Rice and Mimi Avocado

Next year’s International Food Blogger’s Conference will be held in Sacramento again!  This time it will be held during Sacramento’s  Farm To Fork Week,  Sept. 29- Oct. 1st.

IFBC 2017

Brunch at Firestone Public House

My last meal in Sacramento was Sunday brunch.   Ani Arambula (Confessions of a Foodie) and I walked just a few blocks to the Firestone Public House,  known for their brunches and happy hours,  with a creative American-inspired menu and over 60 beers on tap.  We both ordered the Firestone Open Face Sandwich:   French toast, Black Forest ham, fried eggs, gruyere cheese, chipotle hollandaise with breakfast potatoes.   Oh my.  You just have to go try it for yourself.

Firestone Public House

I loved my weekend stay at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Sacramento and look forward to trying more of the great eateries in the area during next year’s conference.   If you missed my posts about our tours to California Endive and Stillwater Pears or  our American Lamb Tour,  check them out here:

 How Do You Pronounce “Endive?

growing Belgian Endive

American Lamb Tour — Lamb Sliders with Spinach: Seasoned with Hatch Chiles

cutting up a lamb


http://mimiavocado.com/2016/08/downtown-sacramento-restaurants/feed/ 1 8107
How Do You Pronounce “Endive”? http://mimiavocado.com/2016/08/how-do-you-pronounce-endive/ http://mimiavocado.com/2016/08/how-do-you-pronounce-endive/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2016 15:58:22 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8088 Continue reading ]]> endive growing

Belgian Endive (pronounced “Ahn-Deev” is grown inside in complete darkness, unlike endive (pronounced N-Dive) which is grown in a field like lettuce.

You say tomato and I say “to-mah-to”, but both pronunciations of the word mean the same thing, right?  Not so with “endive”!   Whether you say “N-Dive” or “Ahn-Deev” makes a big difference!  Although they are both members of the chickory family,  they are completely different.

Endive and Belgian Endive

Belgian Endive (pronounced Ahn-Deev) on top and Curly Endive (pronounced N-Dive) at the bottom

If you say “N-Dive” you are talking about a curly edged green that is grown outside. It can be called curly endive, and other plants that are related to it are escarole and frisee.   If you say “Ahn -Deev” you are describing Belgian endive, with tightly packed leaves and an elongated shape that is grown indoors in complete darkness.

food bloggers

Food Bloggers touring California Endive Farm (from left) Sara from My Imperfect Kitchen, Mimi Avocado, and Nancy from A Communal Table

During the International Food Bloggers Conference in Sacramento, Ca. I was thrilled to visit California Endive Farms as part of a pre-conference tour.  Our host was Rich Collins, the founder of the only Belgian endive farm in the United States.  He told us about how he happened to get into the business of farming endive (without any background in agriculture) as we rode a bus to the farm in Rio Vista, Ca.   Only a few months earlier he had officially retired from running the business,  but obviously he is still passionate about educating food enthusiasts about Belgian Endive.

Belgian Endive

As you can see, the Begian Endive grows like a bud from one end of a root of the chickory plant. Seeds from specially selected chickory varieties are planted in fields in the late spring,  with foliage growing over 5 months to be knee-high.  In the fall, the foliage is mowed and the roots are harvested from the field with the cut green bud still intact. It is important that the root have this bud, because from this bud the Belgian Endive will grow!

We were invited to step inside a large and very cold building where the chickory roots are kept in an almost-frozen state.  In this dark, cold environment the roots are kept from growing — it’s like winter in there.  There are bins of roots stacked upon each other in the quiet windowless space, frigid and dark.  The chickory roots can be kept in this state indefinitely until the farmer is ready to grow the Belgian endive.

When the farmer is ready to grow Belgian Endive, the roots are taken out of that spaced, and each one  is placed into a tray. The trays are  moved to another dark building that is warmer and quite humid,  and stacked on shelves from floor to ceiling.   Now the roots begin to wake up – for them it’s springtime!   A beautiful Belgian endive grows from the bud of  each root, taking about four weeks until it is ready to harvest.

growing Belgian Endive

Since no sunshine reaches the buds, they grow to be white in color, or a very pale yellowish green.  Red endive also grows in the dark.

Endive Salad

Later in the day we were treated to lunch, including a very tasty Belgian Endive salad!   In Europe the per capita consumption of Belgain Endive is 8 heads per year,  but here in the USA we consume only 4 leaves per person per year!   Our host hopes that those numbers will improve as more people learn about Belgian Endive as a healthful, nutritious vegetable.   Here is nutrition information about Belgian Endive.

Have you ever tried Belgian Endive?  I made this  Endive, Pear, and Gorgonzola Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette  during the holidays (its red and green!) but it is delicious any time of year!

Endive, Pear, and Gorgonzola Salad

We also visited a pear orchard to see pears being harvested,   and to meet the family who owns the orchards and packing operation. We were treated to a wonderful lunch under a sycamore tree that is over 100 years old!

old sycamore tree

See those gorgeous tables?  They were actually built by Rich Collins of the California Endive Farms!  We had  a beautiful lunch including Pear Crumble for dessert!

Pear Crumble

I had never visited a pear orchard before, and it was fun to notice  that they use ladders, picking bags, and plastic fruit bins just like the ones we have on our avocado ranch.   The trees aren’t as tall as avocado trees, so they don’t have to use picking poles — the harvesters can reach the fruit from the ladders.

pear orchard collage

I really enjoyed the tours that were offered before the International Food Bloggers Conference this year.  Next year the conference will once again be held in Sacramento, Ca.  They are talking about offering a tour on the day that the conference closes as well.  There is so much to see in the area around Sacramento – any food blogger that is interested in how food is grown and where it comes from should consider coming!   Sacramento is promoting itself as the “Farm to Fork” capital of the world.  Don’t skip the tours – they were my favorite part!

The conference is held at Hyatt Regency Hotel right across the street from California’s State Capital.  There is lots do downtown, many exciting eateries,  and public transportation is nearby.   This was my first year attending IFBC, and I am looking forward to next year’s conference.

California state capital

Disclosure:   I attended International Food Bloggers Conference at a discounted rate with the understanding that I would write three posts about the conference.  This is the second of those posts. 

http://mimiavocado.com/2016/08/how-do-you-pronounce-endive/feed/ 2 8088
Quick and Easy Lamb Sliders on Foccacia Squares http://mimiavocado.com/2016/08/easy-lamb-foccacia/ http://mimiavocado.com/2016/08/easy-lamb-foccacia/#respond Wed, 10 Aug 2016 22:21:27 +0000 http://mimiavocado.com/?p=8078 Continue reading ]]> Lamb Sliders    This morning I stopped at Major Market where I bought the ground lamb last week for the Lamb Sliders seasoned with Hatch Chile,  and they had no ground lamb in their meat case.  I rarely do this, but I actually went to the meat cutter and asked for ground lamb!   He told me to wait about 20 mintues, and when I came back there were several packages of ground lamb plus a beautiful lamb sirloin roast!   (Of course I bought that roast too!  Turns out the ground lamb was made from another piece of that same leg of lamb.)

Next I headed over to Trader Joe’s for more of those cute little Mini Hamburger Buns  with the sesame seeds on top.  Alas, they were out of them!  Not to worry,  I glanced at a nearby display and found a large square of Tomato and Olive Foccacia Bread.  In my minds eye I could see that large square cut up into smaller squares, just the right size for Lamb Sliders!

lamb patties

With 1 lb. of ground lamb, I formed five nice sized patties with my hands, and put them into a skillet to brown.  I didn’t mix anything into the meat this time, but seasoned them with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

grilled foccacia squares

I sliced off a piece of the Tomato and Olive Foccacia bread about 4 inches wide, and then cut the piece into squares.   I sliced each piece through the middle to to make a slider bun, and placed the cut side down on a griddle with a little butter for browning.

lamb patty

While the sliders were still juicy but cooked through,  I placed one on the bottom half of a foccacia “bun”, and spread just a little mayonnaise on the top half of the bun.
lamb in foccacia buns

We had some leftover cooked green beans in the fridge so I sprinkled those beans with seasoned rice vinegar for a quick Green Bean Salad.  Fresh ripe Bartlett pears from my IFBC tour to a pear orchard were chilled in the fridge, and topped off a tasty lunch for The Farmer and me!  (Stay tuned — I”ll be telling you about that tour to see pears and endive soon!)

http://mimiavocado.com/2016/08/easy-lamb-foccacia/feed/ 0 8078