Our Anniversary Getaway and a Pot of Chicken Soup

lemon curry chicken soup

There’s no better time to make a big pot of soup than a rainy Sunday morning here on the avocado ranch! Just chop up some onions, celery, and carrots…and take a look in the pantry to see what might be good with the chicken!

rain-in-avocado-trees

We’re so happy to have a day of rain … every drop helps us with the challenging drought here in California.  The other reason we love rain is that we can take some time away from the farm,  since the trees won’t need to be irrigated while the rain is falling!

This weekend we are celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary.  It’s hard to believe it has been such a long time since our wedding day!  Where did the time go?   Our children were born in the first 6 years,  and then we were busy doing the things that all busy families do.  Even when our children were young, we would try to get away by ourselves for a few hours or overnight to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  This year we decided at the last minute to drive up to  Huntington Beach,  only about an hour away.

Hilton Huntington Beach

About an hour before we were ready to leave on Thursday, I called the Hilton Waterfront Resort Continue reading

Mimi Avocado’s Cheddar Cauliflower Mac ‘n Cheese Adventure

Cheddar Mac 'n Cheese with Cauliflower

I have been obsessed with Cauliflower Mac ‘n Cheese for the last two weeks.   It started with an appetizer at The Elephant Bar restaurant.  We were on our way to sing Handel’s Messiah at the annual La Jolla Symphony Chorus’  Sing-a-along Messiah,  and stopped for a bite to eat.  I never let myself order Mac ‘n Cheese, because it’s just not a good choice for those of us who want to watch the calories…all that pasta and cheese.   But on this particular day we agreed to share one order of the creamy deliciousness,  and it was …  unforgettable.  So I looked up the recipe online…just to see what The Elephant Bar does to make it THAT GOOD.   Surprisingly,  I discovered that they use cauliflower!

This led to a new hobby…reading recipes for cauliflower mac ‘n cheese.   As you might have predicted,  this led to a new adventure:  making Cauliflower Mac ‘n Cheese myself!   I knew I wanted to use our family’s  traditional favorite, Cabot cheddar cheese from Vermont,  which is (thankfully) available at Costco here in California.

Cabot-Cheddar-Cheese

Anything that says “Classic Vermont” has a place in my heart…and our refrigerator!

So I did something I almost never do:   bought elbow macaroni and all the fixings for mac ‘n cheese.  Plus a huge head of cauliflower.   The Farmer used to grow cauliflower in Orange County,  before he moved to San Diego to grow avocados.   We have an appreciation for a good head of cauliflower in this house!

The recipe I decided to use came from Rachel Ray’s website… click through on this link to find her original recipe.   I followed it pretty closely,  but used twice the amount of  grated Cheddar cheese  (I had no Gruyere cheese on hand),   and instead of whole milk,  I used half-and-half because we normally use 2% milk…and the recipe called for whole milk.  I just happened to have some half and half on hand for Christmas. I  used dried sage and ground nutmeg instead of the fresh ones listed in Rachel Ray’s recipe.     For the Dijon mustard,  I chose this one from Roland Foods.  The little mustard seeds  were pretty and tasty too!

 

Roland Dijon Mustard

This Roland Dijon mustard was perfect in the mac ‘n cheese! Wonderful flavor and texture!

The best thing about this dish was the fact that I could make it ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator.   Don’t you just love having the mess already cleaned up and the casserole ready to pop in the oven?  This recipe made enough for two casseroles…one to serve now, and another for later in the week!

cauliflower mac and cheese

Cheddar Mac ‘n Cheese with Cauliflower…all ready!

I topped our  Mac ‘n Cheese with grated parmesan cheese.  The Elephant Bar recipe uses muenster cheese on top instead.

The whole family enjoyed our Christmas lunch…simple and delicious…and casual.   And the best part is the leftovers!

Christmas lunch

Cheddar Mac ‘n Cheese with cauliflower, served with roasted green beans and ham.

Christmas decoration

It’s a cozy time of year…colder than usual… and we’re always hoping for more rain!   That Cheddar Mac ‘n Cheese with Cauliflower was the perfect dish to serve for our family Christmas gathering.  Healthy cauliflower made all the difference!   I might have added some slices of fresh avocado on top if there had been some ripe ones in the kitchen.   Next time!

 

Coconut Chicken Quinoa Salad with Grilled Artichokes, California Avocado and Sundried Tomatoes

Coconut Chicken Quinoa Salad

Ever since Camp Blogaway I have been trying to find those delicious mini grilled artichoke hearts that we tasted on the first day of camp.  They’re marinated in sunflower oil and spices,  packed in a “fresh pack” from  Roland Foods.     These yummy little treats have a mild  smoky flavor and are much lighter than the marinated artichoke hearts I’ve had before.    These tasty little grilled artichoke hearts are perfect on a toothpick as an appetizer,  and  they are delicious  in a salad.    Especially in this Coconut Chicken Quinoa Salad!

Roland Foods Grilled Artichoke Hearts

Grilled Artichoke Hearts from Roland Foods

Coconut chicken?  Yep.  It was a happy accident.  Our daughter made a super special  coconut cake for Father’s Day.   Later in the week  I found a partial can of coconut milk still sitting in the fridge.   I don’t usually cook with coconut milk,  but that particular day I was stewing   some chicken thighs in a pot with some garlic,  so  I added that coconut milk and let it all simmer until that coconut milk had carmelized on the chicken.  I wish I had taken a photo, but that chicken tasted so good that The Farmer enjoyed it  with some avocado for a late supper.   My new coconut chicken disappeared before I could do anything else with it!

A few days later,  I decided to try again.  This time I had chicken tenders from the freezer and cooked them the same way.    I prepared  2 cups of Bob’s Red Mill quinoa and added it to the chicken, then cut up the first yellow  squash of the season  from my garden and added it to the pot.  The heat from the quinoa and chicken was just enough to cook the squash after I turned off the heat and covered the skillet.   Before serving, I added a package of Roland Grilled Artichoke Hearts and some Bella Sun Luci sun dried tomatoes from Mooney Farms.   And it was good!

Coconut Chicken Quinoa Salad

The first incarnation of this salad included a yellow squash from the garden, grilled artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes.

The Farmer happened to mention that our mechanic was coming the next day to work on some ranch vehicles.  Our mobile mechanic is very near and dear to our hearts, so we plan a nice lunch for him when he’s  working  here for the day.   He  has nicknamed himself  “The Atttitude”,  and  enjoys spending some time visiting in the kitchen during the lunch break.   He has successfully dropped some weight  in the last several months, so I didn’t  want to serve a lunch that would  set him back.  The chicken quinoa salad would be perfect!   So I went back to the garden and found two more squash and cooked them with a sweet onion in some more coconut milk.

 

adding coconut milk to the squash and onion

Adding coconut milk to the squash and sweet onion

When the squash was just beginning  to be  tender, I  added it to the  leftover  chicken quinoa salad, along with another package of Roland  grilled artichoke hearts.  When the men came in for lunch,  they dished up  the salad, still  warm, and topped it  with chunks of delicious ripe avocado.

avocado on top of quinoa chicken salad

Topped with creamy California avocados!

Success!  Both The Farmer and The Attitude loved the salad! The coconut milk smells wonderful while the chicken is cooking, and adds just a touch of sweetness.   Those grilled artichoke hearts were a hit too.  I love them so much that I ‘ve signed up for a subscription through Amazon.com.    Now I can get recurring shipments of those delicious artichoke hearts just like others receive their avocados from our farm every month through California Avocados Direct!

Here’s the recipe for my Coconut Chicken Quinoa Salad!  (P. S.  You may want to try your favorite seasonings…one friend added cayenne pepper and a dash of cinnamon to their portion.)

Coconut Chicken Quinoa Salad with Grilled Artichokes, Avocado and Sundried Tomatoes

This healthy quinoa salad features chicken and vegetables cooked in coconut milk and can be served chilled or warm.
Servings 8
Author Mimi Holtz (Mimi Avocado)

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2-3 small zucchini or yellow squash
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 can Trader Joe's coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp. garlic powder or two cloves minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cooked Bob's Red Mill quinoa
  • 1 or 2 packages Roland grilled artichoke hearts
  • 3/4 cup Bella Sun Luci Julienne Cut Sun Dried Tomatoes
  • several ripe California avocados

Instructions

  1. Brown the chicken in a large skillet. Add the garlic powder and 1/2 can coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the chicken is very tender and the coconut milked has reduced. Chop the chicken into bitesize pieces.
  2. While the chicken is cooking, rinse and cook 2 cups of quinoa according to the directions on the package. When the chicken is done, fold the cooked quinoa into the chicken.
  3. Thinly slice the squash and onion and sautee in the olive oil. Add the remaining 1/2 can of coconut milk and cook until the squash is al dente.
  4. Fold the squash and onion mixture into the quinoa and chicken.
  5. Add the grilled artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or chilled. Top with chunks of ripe avocado.

Join Dine & Dish and Cookin’ Canuck for the California Avocado 4th of July Blast, sponsored by the California Avocado Commission.

 

Mimi Avocado Goes to Camp Blogaway!

Mimi Avocado Goes to Camp Blogaway

Mimi Avocado is ready for Camp Blogaway!

If you missed my last post,  Camp Blogaway or Bust! go back and catch up on the story.   Did I make it to Camp Blogaway?  YES!  Did I make it back to church to direct the choir on Saturday? YES!  Was it as great as I thought it would be?  EVEN GREATER!

CampBlogaway entrance

I made it! Camp Blogway!

After a beautiful drive up into the San Bernardino National Forest,  I finally arrived at Camp Blogaway!   I didn’t want to miss a minute of the fun, so I left early Friday morning to arrive in time to help with the set-up.   We filled 110 giant swag bags, set up tables,  put on table cloths and did whatever needed doing…all the while introducing ourselves and chatting. By the time the rest of the campers began to arrive, the party was in full swing!  Nobody was left out … everyone was eager to meet and greet!  Old friends as well as newbies!

Camp Blogaway '12 begins

Tables full of Goodie Bags! Notebooks full of information!

The setting was magnificent…the beautiful Camp de Bennevile Pines in the Barton Flats area of the San Bernadino National Forest.   Meetings were held in the lodge and everyone slept in cabins with multiple bedrooms and baths.  At first it was a challenge walk up the hills to the cabins due to the altitude, but we all drank plenty of water and soon forgot we were more than 6,000 ft. above sea level!

Camp de Bennevile Pines

Camp Blogaway is held at Camp de Benneville Pines in the San Bernardino National Forest

The speakers and presentations were top-notch.   On-site sponsors provided food and wine, gifts to use in our kitchens, informative speakers and opportunities to learn about products, knives, fresh fruits and vegetables,  herbs from Australia,  as well as butter and cheeses from Ireland!  I won’t list them all here, but be prepared to hear  about many of the products in future posts!

breakfast fruit

Wish someone would fix this for me every day!

 

 

healthy meals at Camp Blogaway

Healthy and delicious meals to enjoy!

 

 

Roland Peppers

Roland Foods presented a wonderful array of products to try!

Kerrygold Cheese

Kerrygold led us in a cheese-tasting!

 

Wente Wineparty

Wente Vineyards hosted a wine party!

Wente Vineyards

One of the more popular sponsors: Wente Vineyards!

 

Idaho potatoes

We each received a Cutco knife and cutting board to slice Idaho potatoes for dinner!

Speakers presented valuable information and guidance on blogging issues and offered thought-provoking insights that  will influence many of us for months to come.  In this relatively intimate setting,  campers had plenty of opportunity to interact with the speakers, the sponsors and with each other.   Everyone was open and friendly…no cliques at this blogging conference!

Kalyn  Denny  and Benjamin Rhau

Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen and Benjamin Rhau of You Fed a Baby Chili? talked about how blogging changed their lives

 

Rachael Hutchings and Dara Michalski

Dara Michalski of Cookin' Canuck and Rachael Hutchings of La Fuji Mama spoke about revamping a blog

I left camp at noon on Saturday and drove back to Escondido to direct my church choir for an important church event that evening. Even though  I missed some wonderful sessions,  fellow campers  were tweeting photos from those sessions, so I was able to follow along on my IPhone.   I decided to sleep at home that night and get up at 4:15 am to drive back to camp.   Watching the sun rise and the Super Moon set as  Debussy’s  “Claire de Lune” played on the radio was a highlight of my drive!  I never would have seen the early morning light on the drive back up the mountain if I hadn’t needed to leave camp.   What I thought would be a severe inconvenience became a precious gift.   The choir’s singing was over-the-top,  and the drive on deserted roads in the wee hours of the morning allowed me to glimpse  scenes of the beautiful California countryside not seen at other times of the day.

One of the highlights of camp was the Networking Table, where bloggers could display products and samples from sponsors,  business cards, recipes,  promotions…a creative mix of information, contests,  give-aways as diverse as the bloggers who brought them!  Here are a few photos of the table, which stretched across the front of the room between the speakers’ platforms.  I brought avocados from our family farm,  and  avocado cutters from the California Avocado Commission.  If you come to Camp Blogaway next year, you’ll want to bring something for this table!  There’s a prize for the display voted most effective.  This year’s prize was won by Miso Hungry Podcast!

Miso Hungry display Camp Blogaway

Miso Hungry display by Allison Day and Rachael Hutchings

networking table at Camp Blogaway

Just a few examples of the Networking Table displays

Our Fearless Leader and camp founder, Patti Londre is well experienced in organizing wonderful events, having been a PR professional for years.  She had thought of EVERYTHING and offered nuggets of advice throughout the weekend. Her inclusive hospitality and fun-loving spirit was   seasoned with her eagle-eyed attention to detail and  sprinkled with a delightful wit.

Patti even painted this terrific photo board so that every camper could be the Best Blogger in the World!

Patti Londre

Patti Londre, Camp Blogaway Fearless Leader

 

By the end of the weekend,  I was even more certain that coming to Camp Blogaway was exactly the right thing for me to do!  When we all walked down to the flagpole to have our group photo taken, I felt so grateful to be part of the weekend.   I completely understand now why my friend Rachael (La Fuji Mama) encouraged me to do whatever it took to make it happen…as she put it,  “There are so many wonderful people who you need to meet and who need to meet you!”   I didn’t understand when she said it, but I do now.

Camp Blogaway Attendees

A Happy Group of Campers! Yay Camp Blogaway!

During the entire weekend, Patti reminded us about “The Golden Pine Cone Award”,  which she bestows on a blogger who, in her observation, best exemplifies the spirit of Camp Blogaway.  Imagine my utter surprise when I realized that she was talking about ME!   Honestly, I can’t remember feeling more honored and less deserving!  In a room full of amazing creative bloggers with enormous talent and savvy,  I accepted this unique and priceless trophy.

Golden PIne Cone Award Camp Blogaway

The coveted Golden Pine Cone Award! (Photo by Dosa Salvatori)

If you are a food blogger,  or want to be a food blogger,  consider coming to Camp Blogaway next year!  Add your name to the e-mail list to get updates on camp news and advance notice of the opening of registration.   Be ready to sign up on the date in January when registration opens, because this incredible weekend sells out quickly!  Mark your calendar now…you’ll meet some fabulous people,  learn lots of exciting information,  try some amazing products, eat delicious food, breathe sweet mountain air,  …  and go home full of inspiration for creating more recipes,  forging new relationships,  taking terrific photos and writing lots of new posts!  Just one word of warning:  clean out a room before you go…you’ll need space for all the swag  you’ll be bringing home !

 

Save 2013 date for Camp Blogaway

Mark your calendar now! Be ready to register in January!

 

Other Posts about Camp Blogaway:

Camp Blogaway…the Extended Version by BetsyLife

Created By Diane: Potato Chip Cookies (and Camp Blogaway)

Camp Blogaway 2012 by I Wash You Dry

Camp Blogaway and Chicken Inspiration by She’s Cookin

Camp Blogaway Inspires by Fresh Food In a Flash

Creamy Asparagus Soup Recipe with Lemon & Thyme (Dairy-Free) and Camp Blogaway by Cookin Canuck

Foodness Gracious: Mango Cumin Macarons and Camp Blogaway…

Greek Girl Survives Camp Blogaway!

Honey Ginger Lemon Tea and Camp Blogaway 2012 by La Fuji Mama

I Have Arrived and Camp Blogaway by Joy’s Misadventures

Israeli Couscous Tabbouleh and a Trip to Camp Blogaway by The Devil Wears Parsley

Mango Avocado Salad by Worth the Whisk  (Camp Blogaway’s Fearless Leader)

Mango Chipotle Margaritas and Camp Blogaway by All Day I Dream About Food

My Weekend at Camp Blogaway by Budget Gourmet Mom

Off To Camp I Went…And Came Back Inspired  by Barbara Cooks

Top Five Things A Food Blogger Can Learn at Camp Blogaway by The Glutster

 

 

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