Holm Family Cookbook

Some eat to live, we live to eat!

Cowgirl's Foodie Blog

We love to eat, cook, travel, entertain, and drink adult beverages. Join us in our adventures as we do the things we love to do!

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Cauliflower Chowder

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on February 16, 2014 at 1:45 PM

With the gray cloudy weather recently, a nice hot bowl of soup has definitely been top-of-mind. We have a French bakery close to work, Casse Croute, and they make homemade soup every day, with 3 to 4 choices on the menu any given day. One of our recent favorites is their Cauliflower Chowder. The owner Lenore checks in with us for new ideas, and let’s us know when cauliflower is on the menu, usually Thursdays.

Lenore prepping the homemade soup
at Casse Croute Bakery in downtown Livermore

It's mid-winter, which means califlower is in season, just picked up two heads at the Farmers Market yesterday. This morning I was watching The Pioneer Woman on the Food Network, and she was making her Cauliflower Soup, cauliflower is certainly trending!

A few of us at work are foodies, so we often share our homemade fare, or cook together on Fry-days at the back loading dock. This week Rebecca brought in a batch of her Cauliflower Chowder, and I got to take a jar home with me, along with the recipe. It’s definitely worth the effort to make it from scratch!

Arthur and Rebecca dishing it up on Fry-day at work!


1 head of cauliflower, chopped

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Garlic salt and pepper to taste

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

1-quart milk

2 cups of water

2 bay leaves

1 dozen peppercorns

1-tablespoon parsley, chopped finely

2 celery stalks with inside ribs and leaves, diced

1/2-tablespoon chicken stock paste

1 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)

Toss cauliflower in olive oil, garlic salt and pepper and roast at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Sauté onion and garlic in butter. Add in flour, and lightly sauté with the vegetables. Add milk slowly, and then the water. Stir in herbs and spices, simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, and serve piping hot.

Cauliflower Chowder just waiting to be warmed up!

Soup's on!  Nancy


Mashed Potato Pancakes

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 2, 2013 at 9:35 AM


 Leftover Mashed Potato Pancakes

Yesterday I finally used up almost all of the leftovers from Thanksgiving. All that's left are two types of stuffing: the Brizee family recipe with sausage and the cornbread stuffing made by cousin Lisa.

I didn't host the dinner at my house, but I did make a turkey and transported it in an ice chest (without ice) to my cousin's house in Woodland. The turkey and the gravy I made were still piping hot when it was time to carve the turkey four hours later.  

My brother-in-law has been in charge of the mashed potatoes for our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for several years and earned the nickname "Spud." The people helping him peel are members of "Team Spud." This year our hosts had a spud station ready and waiting for team spud. As always, Spud's mashed potatoes were great. 

Team Spud, Ready for Some Peeling Action

The Spud Station


As with all of our family gatherings, there was enough food for twice the number of guests, therefore each family took home Ziplock bags full of leftovers. My bags of leftovers were hauled to our cousin Becky's house in Yuba City where we all stayed for a couple of days. The leftovers eventually made it to our house in Livermore, where I decided to use the last of our Ziplock bag of mashed potatoes to make potato pancakes. I must say these potato pancakes were the best I have ever made and probably the tastiest. 

The potato pancake recipe I used as the basis for my recipe was found in the USA Weekend magazine section of my Sunday newspaper and was created by Christy Jordon author of a cookbook titled, "Come Home to Supper." 

Here is my version of her recipe:

Potato Pancakes


2 cups cold leftover mashed potatoes*

1 large egg

1/4 cup all-purpose or self rising flour

2 tablespoons finely diced onion

2 shakes of cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil or vegetable oil

Leftover gravy or sour cream for topping


In a medium sized bowl, mix the egg and the mashed potato with a fork until well blended. Add the flour, onion, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper and mix well.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil into a skillet to coat the bottom and heat the skillet over medium heat. Line a plate with paper towels.

Working in batches, scoop the mixture out by a heaping tablespoon and drop it in the hot skillet. Dip the back of a spoon in oil to keep the mixture from sticking to the spoon and then use the spoon to flatten and shape the mixture to 1/4" inch pancakes. Continue adding spoonfuls of the mixture and shaping the pancakes until you have a pan full. Leave enough space between the pancakes to flatten them and flip them.

Fry the pancakes until they are lightly brown on the bottom, about 3 to 5 minutes. Flip them and lightly brown them on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the cakes to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Add oil to the skillet as needed while you continue to cook the rest of the mixture. Keep the pancakes in a warm oven while you continue cooking the rest of the mixture.

Serve warm topped with gravy or a dollop of sour cream.

*Be sure the mashed potatoes are cool or the raw egg will cook as you add it. 


Cranberry Salsa

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on November 24, 2013 at 10:40 PM

Cranberry Salsa has become a family favorite. Introduced to our family by Sandy Sports Holm, the recipe was given to her by a friend. Sandy brought it to Christmas as an appetizer, it looked so beautiful - bright cranberry with flecks of green upon white cream cheese!

Then the flavor, a sweet tartness, very refreshing. Cranberries, a fruit with a very short season, are harvested between the end of September and early November. Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries in the U.S., and I thought it was Massachusetts!  When I see them start to appear in the grocery stores, my mouth starts watering for this salsa recipe. Cranberries can be frozen for several years - which bodes well with me. Last year I had frozen some cranberries, and pulled them out in early September to make this recipe. I took it on a wine tasting excursion, all the guests loved it! The salsa tasted as delicious as when I used the fresh cranberries.

The recipe is simple, and can be frozen. It actually makes enough for two batches. Enjoy!

Cranberry Salsa

1 - 12 oz bag of cranberries, rinsed and drained (3 cups)
1/4 cup minced green onion
2 small jalapeño peppers, cored, seeded and minced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cilantro leaves minced (save some to garnish)
2 tbs finely grated fresh ginger
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
2 - 8 oz cream cheese

After rinsing the bag of cranberries, put in food processor and pulse until finely chopped, not mushy.

Place in bowl with onions, jalapeños, sugar, cilantro, ginger and lemon juice and stir.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours so the flavor develops. Serve over cream cheese with crackers or chips.

~ Cookin' Cowgirl Susie

Copper on the Floor!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 8, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Moscow Mule at the Happy Hour Bar on Hebgen Lake, Montana

A few years ago Oprah Winfrey visited Yosemite National Park on her TV show. During that episode, Oprah and her friend Gayle King were drinking Moscow Mules at their campsite and she even brought some to her neighbors at the campsite next to hers. When she named the ingredients, ginger beer, vodka, and lime juice, the drink did not sound all that appealing to me.

Fast forward to this past summer while I was in Montana with my cousin Becky and she mentioned that some of her friends told her that the Happy Hour bar down the road had this drink called a Moscow mule that we needed to try. Soooo, naturally we did. Our friend Theresa joined us. We tried one. And then another . . . .


Moscow Mules are served in copper mugs. There is something about the oxidation of the copper that gives the drink a special flavor. At first drink you don't taste it, but after a while it's there. And, it's good.


At the Happy Hour bar on the shores of Hebgen Lake in West Yellowstone, Montana where we had our first Mules, the Moscow Mule is a very popular drink. Apparently, the copper mugs, which are fairly expensive, would be taken home as souvenirs by the guests of the Happy Hour. In an effort to prevent the loss of mugs, each time a Moscow Mule is served, the bartender yells, "Copper on the floor!" and all of the customers yell it with her. If someone sitting at the bar orders one, she yells, "Copper on the bar!" and again, all of the customers in the bar yell it too. Everyone knows who has the copper mugs and it's a lot of fun to yell, especially when you have had more than one Moscow Mule.


When I got home from Montana I decided to buy some copper mugs, which I found is a tricky thing to do. As I mentioned before, the copper mugs are fairly expensive. I started looking for them in thrift stores, but had no luck. I did, however, find an Arthur Court serving tray for $2.95 at one thrift store. There are a lot of places on-line where you can buy them, but you need to be careful. One nationally known chain sells "Moscow Mule glasses" that have a copper finish on the outside, but are stainless steel inside, which defeats the purpose of the copper mug. Others are aluminum with a copper finish. The mugs I ended up purchasing were from the Butte Copper Company. Unfortunately, I discovered when the mugs arrived that there is an antique finish on the inside. I do plan to see if I can remove it with steel wool.

The ingredients for Moscow Mules

I have seen recipes for Moscow Mules with freshly squeezed lime juice and I have had them made with a sweetened lime juice, such as Rose's. So, yesterday when my sisters and some of my cousins were over canning pickles, I did a taste test with them. Hands down the Moscow Mules with the freshly squeezed lime juice was the favorite. So here is the recipe I used:

Place ice cubes in the bottom of a copper mug, add:

3/4 shot of freshly squeezed lime juice (or sweetened lime juice)

1 shot of vodka

2 shots of ginger beer

Squeeze a lime on top and drop the lime in the drink

Serve without stirring.


Copper on the floor!


Award Winning Salsa from our Cookin' Cowgirl!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 28, 2013 at 8:50 AM

I have been making salsa for quite a few years because of the overabundance of tomatoes and jalapenos in my husband’s garden (and I don't even like tomatoes!).  People had often complimented me on my salsa. This year I saw the contest details in Alden Lane Nursery’s e-newsletter for their 6th Annual Salsa Contest and decided to enter.

I needed to bring a quart of salsa to the nursery on the morning of September 14th. My mom and I went back later in the day to check out the competition, and there were 14 entries including mine. There was quite a variety of salsas - one had mint in it, there was a green one, a yellow one, some were sweet and some were REALLY hot. There was quite a crowd judging the salsas.

When I got back home Saturday afternoon I received a call from Alden Lane Nursery requesting more salsa for Sunday. I took another jar of salsa back on Sunday afternoon.  When I got back home on Sunday evening I saw that a message was left on my phone.  Boy, I was surprised when it was Alden Lane Nursery saying “Congratulations, you have won 1st place in the salsa contest!!”  I won the high honor of being “The Top Rojo with the Mojo”, along with an Alden Lane Gift card and my name on the Perpetual Salsa Trophy.

I think one of the reasons I won is because most of the ingredients were from my husband’s garden - fresh picked tomatoes and jalapenos, red onion and garlic.  This gave the salsa a really fresh flavor.

Below is the recipe for the salsa I made. I have added more jalapeno and garlic and the sugar to the original recipe I used. So keep in mind you can make it to your own taste by using more or less of the ingredients.


1 ½ cups diced fresh tomatoes

2 medium sized jalapeno peppers, diced, seeded & finely chopped

3 tablespoons finely diced red onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon sugar

Combine all ingredients. Let stand, covered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.

~ Wendy

Crane Melons

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 17, 2013 at 9:55 AM


The Crane Melon Barn in Santa Rosa, California

A couple of years ago while my sister and I were visiting my oldest daughter at Sonoma State University, we passed the Crane Melon Barn on our way to a sorority event in Santa Rosa. There was a Christmas boutique at the barn that day, so on our way back to Sonoma State we stopped to check it out. The barn was full of reasonably priced vintage and antique jewelry, Christmas items, new things and old, furniture, jams and jellies, and a lot of unique items made by Sonoma County artists and crafters. We walked out of there loaded with bags full of treasures that day!

Last week we were on our way to the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa and saw that the Crane Melon Barn was open and selling Crane melons. Never having seen a Crane melon, we thought we better stop and take a look. The melons were piled on the floor and while looking at them it appeared to me that no two melons look the same. Most of the melons are slightly torpedo shaped with a pointed tip on one end.  

A pile of Crane melons

On Wikipedia I found that the melons were developed in the early 1900's by Oliver Crane, who crossed several species of melons that included Japanese melon, Persian melon, ambrosia melon, and a white melon. 

The melons smell like a cross between a honeydew and a cantalope. The melon flesh is orange and is incredibly sweet and juicy. The Crane family says what makes their Crane melons so good is the terroir, a French term for the special combination of soil, climate and farming techniques.

Closeup view of a Crane melon

The inside of a Crane melon

The Crane melon is only in season and available during September and October and can only be purchased at the barn, so you still have a few weeks to give them a try. Besides the melons you can also purchase Crane yellow flesh watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, and Crane honey.

Heirloom tomatoes for sale at the Crane Melon Barn

The Crane melon barn was built in 1896 and when not being used for melon sales or the Christmas boutique, it is available to rent for weddings, family reunions, and birthday parties and such. There is a full kitchen setup in the barn. 

The Christmas boutique starts Thanksgiving weekend and runs until Christmas. We are already planning our trip to the boutique!


Ahoy! From a Houseboat on Lake Shasta

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on August 1, 2013 at 8:50 AM

Last year I won a silent auction lot at the Terry Patters Golf Tournament Benefiting Melanoma Research… a Houseboating Trip from Shasta Marina Resort! I had never been to Lake Shasta, or on a houseboat, so this was going to be a new adventure for me. Our cousin Lori won the houseboat trip the year prior, and her family claimed it was the best family vacation ever, so we were ready to give it a spin. My husband had fond memories of summers spent camping with his family of 9 on Lake Shasta, so for him, it was a return to the huge manzanita and squawking blue jays of his youth.


Fishing on the Backbone Arm of Lake Shasta

I wasn’t quite sure how you shop, pack and cook for a large group on a small boat in the middle of a lake, so I started doing some research online. I googled “houseboating tips” “houseboating Lake Shasta” etc. and found some helpful guidance, such as: “How many nights could I be locked in a hotel room with these people before I lose my mind?!” Lori also had some helpful hints such as air freshener for each bathroom, with a men’s and women’s designation. Planning the food would take some effort, so step one was working up a menu. I conferred with our friend Herb who was coming on the trip, he had cooked in the catering kitchen at Wente Vineyards for a number of years, so we got the ball rolling. We finalized our menu with:

Breakfast: 1) bacon, eggs, toast and home fries; 2) whole wheat sourdough French toast and sausage; 3) omelettest; 4) buttermilk and blueberry pancakes.

Lunch: 1) green salad, 2) fruit salad, 3) chicken salad or wraps. We were planning heavy breakfast and dinner so lunch would be light. Or better yet, skip the KP duties, hop in the boat and travel to a marina with a restaurant on the water for lunch and an ice-cold brew. Well, we found out that the restaurants were kind of on the water. With the water level down on the lake, each marina had a steep incline to reach the restaurant and store on dry land. There were shuttles, but we never seemed to catch the shuttle on the uphill trek, only the downhill, so we got our exercise there.


Silverthorn Pizza & Pub on Lake Shasta

Dinners: 1) spaghetti, green salad and garlic bread; 2) BBQ tri-tip, asparagus and corn; 3) buttermilk marinated BBQ chicken, grilled artichokes and beans (originally I was going to make pintos from scratch on board, but I just loaded two large cans of BBQ beans that were quite tasty); 3) Fajitas made with the left over tri-tip and chicken. Herb made the spaghetti sauce in advance and froze it, so that our first night on the boat we wouldn’t have to stress over dinner.


Originally my menu included fish, but being on a lake we were unfamiliar with, I crossed those off the list, which turned out to be a good thing. We ended up with only 2 bass, enough for Bob and I to grill for dinner when we returned home!


Fishing for Bass on Lake Shasta

After working up the menu, I started breaking down the items on a shopping list, which was gi-normous. How long were we staying, a month? We split the shopping list up between our four groups, and it actually worked out very well. There are small stores at all of the marinas, so if we were short on something, they had the basics. But if you don’t have a small boat in tow, gas is not cheap on a houseboat, don’t plan on making too many trips to the store, that dozen eggs could end up costing you $125 in gas!


When camping, I pack up a little carry case of spices and specialty items, so that served us well on this trip. Definitely bring 1 or 2 good knives; you’ll need them, along with some lightweight cutting boards. We always had 3 or 4 of us in the kitchen, so the spares came in handy. I filled up on the herbs and spices that I use regularly, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, basil, Cajun seasoning, cinnamon, vanilla (I found out on the lake that I accidentally brought almond extract instead of vanilla – the French toast came out fine), lots of kitchen towels, ziplocks, scissors, lighter, handsoap, etc. Next time I would bring some Tupperware too.


We arrived at Shasta Marina Resort, and the lake was down, so you drive about a mile down the canyon to reach the houseboats. They provide carts to empty all of your earthly belongings (that’s what it looked like, but our helper said our load looked “average” onto a pontoon boat. They deliver you around to your houseboat, which was very handy. I saw a couple of marinas where you were carting your goods for quite a distance to get to the houseboat. The crew gives you a 1-hour crash course in houseboating, and bon voyage! 

This boat was an absolute DE-luxe liner! Air conditioning, full size fridge (which we packed to the gills!), dishwasher, trash compactor, gas stove, microwave, blender, hot tub, slide, bar upstairs, BBQ, satellite T.V., this was not roughing it! They provide you in advance with a list of items you should bring, so we were set.



Volcanic views of Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen from the lake

Funny thing, we didn’t have any alcoholic beverages on our shopping list, but plenty showed up, and this didn’t include the ice chest full of beer.


The wet bar

Since this is a foodie blog I do need to include a couple of simple recipes; sorry, no measurements, this was casual cooking at its best. For our GRILLED ARTICHOKES, we cut the artichokes in half and boiled them for an hour with a dash of vinegar, salt and smashed garlic cloves (our Granny’s recipe). After draining, we poured olive oil lightly over the interior half, and sprinkled with salt, pepper, thyme, basil, oregano and some crushed garlic. Place these on the grill, interior half up, for about 5-7 minutes, flip and grill for another 5-7 minutes. No need for mayonnaise with these artichokes, they are full of flavor.


Grilled Artichokes

For ROASTED ASPARAGUS, we drizzled lightly with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and covered with a head of finely diced garlic, broiled for about 8-10 minutes, quick, easy, delicious.

The BUTTERMILK BBQ CHICKEN was so moist and tender, and oh so easy. We cut the chickens in half the night before, taking out the backbone, and filled ziplock bags with buttermilk and a couple of tablespoons of my favorite spice mix from New Orleans, Don’s Seafood Low Salt All Purpose Seasoning (any Cajun or Creole spice mix will do). The next morning be sure to mix the chicken and buttermilk so all sides are evenly covered, and reseal the ziplock. When you are ready to BBQ, drain off the buttermilk and sprinkle more seasoning on the chicken, and you can drizzle some olive oil over the chicken so it doesn’t stick to the grill, and BBQ low and slow for about 1 ¼, ‘til the juices run clear. This chicken was finger lickin’ good.


Bridgette at the helm with chicken fajitas

For the FAJITAS, I put salt, pepper and garlic powder on the tri-tips in the morning and let them marinade for the day. We BBQ’d the tri-tips to medium for our first meal, so reheating for the fajitas didn't dry the meat out. We cut the cooked tri-tips into ¼” slices against the grain, and those slices into strips, and we shredded the chicken. Our friends had brought a large flat electric griddle (perfect for large quantities of French toast, pancakes and fajitas), so we cooked the beef on the griddle and the chicken in a large frying pan.

We used the same ingredients for both versions. We sliced red and green bell peppers, pasilla (or poblano) peppers, yellow onions and sautéed them in olive oil with cumin and Mexican oregano until soft, adding diced garlic for the last few minutes. We added a small can of diced green chiles, a can of Rotel tomatoes with green chiles, salt and pepper to taste, and a little bit of chicken broth to moisten the mixture, and mixed in chopped fresh cilantro at the end.


Chicken & Beef Fajitas

We served the fajitas on whole wheat tortillas with fresh salsa that our friend Dede whipped up in the blender and GUACAMOLE that included diced avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, green and red onions, finely minced garlic, salt, pepper and garlic powder. To top them off we had fresh chopped cilantro, El Salvadoran sour cream (oh man, you better run down to Mi Pueblo and pick this up!) and some Tajin Classico seasoning (also from Mi Pueblo) that has a zip of lime flavor.

Guacamole, Salsa and Tajin

There is plenty to do in and around Lake Shasta, we found a great single track mountain bike trail at Bailey Cove on the McCloud Arm of the Lake.

Bailey Cove Trail

And we took a couple of hikes up the creeks and canyons that were absolutely gorgeous - huge ferns, acres of wild blackberries, some beautiful back country waiting to be discovered.


Creeks off the Backbone Arm of Shasta

On our last evening, as with any summer vacation, we had to break out the S’MORES! We were able to pull a campfire permit for free - we only needed a bucket and shovel (which were on the houseboat), and a responsible person (now that was questionable!).

I had watched an episode of The Pioneer Woman with some s’mores variations, so we picked up some Peppermint Patties at one of the marinas, sliced up some strawberries, and we used some light chocolate wafers called Hello Brownie Crisps from Costco and graham crackers for the outer sandwich. Bridgette was our campfire mistress and Lin whipped up the s’mores to order with a variety of combinations, it was a great ending to the weekend.


S'mores around the campfire


By the last morning, needless to say, we were toast; there would be no toast served for breakfast, or blueberry pancakes for that matter! We knew we had to pack and clean up, so nobody was in the mood to make a huge mess in the kitchen and have to clean it up. Our mass of leftover fajitas made for some killer breakfast burritos, on paper plates of course!


Fajita Breakfast Burritos

All in all, this was definitely a memorable vacation, and I would highly recommend it to any family or group of friends (just remember the “locked in the hotel room” when choosing cabin mates!). There’s something about literally being on the water 24/7, the break of the waves, the run of the creek, the splash of the fish, the cry of the hawk, you could call it Relaxation 101.


And just in case you are interested, Shasta Marina Resort has generously donated another 4-night stay on their 16-Sleeper Mirage for the 3rd Annual Terry Patters Golf Tournament, taking place August 5th at Poppy Ridge Golf Course in Livermore. Come for dinner or a round of golf and be there to win your next food and fun-filled summer excursion!


Ahoy! Nancy


The Knockout Martini and Infusing Spirits with Fruit & Herbs

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on July 28, 2013 at 12:20 AM

Our "classroom" for the infusing spirits class

Several weeks ago some friends and I went to an infusing spirits with fruit and herbs class at the restaurant at Wente Vineyards in Livermore. The class was interesting and the cocktail we got to drink after the class, a Knockout Martini, was simply incredible. 

Although I have not yet taken the time to try it on my own, infusing spirits with fruit appears to be very simple, as you use the amount of alcohol it takes to cover the fruit in the glass container you will be using to store the fruit and alcohol during the infusing process. I think infusing spirits with herbs may be a little trickier and may require some trial and error to get the flavor right.  A couple of important things that I took away from the class was that you should always use glass containers to infuse the spirits and that the staff at Wente store their infusing spirits in the refrigerator as a food safety precaution.

Below is a list of the types of spirits and the fruits and herbs that the Wente staff recommends for infusing.  

Vodka: Hot peppers, basil, citrus fruits, watermelon, ginger, rosemary, thyme, pumpkin, cucumber, sage, berries, green tea, pears

Rum: Pineapple, tropical fruits, mint, herbs, ginger, mango, kumquats, quince

Bourbon: Peaches, apricots, citrus fruits, mint, cranberries, cinnamon, spices

Gin: Lavender, citrus fruits, cucumber, mint, basil, roses, grapefruit, green tea, sage, elderflower

Tequila: Hot peppers, melon, cilantro, kiwi, pineapple, berries

In addition to Wente's ideas, here is a Danish website with instructions for making schnapps with fresh fruit:




The Knockout Martini


Knockout Infusion (to be used to make Knockout Martini)

1 liter Pinnacle Orange Vodka

1/3 liter Absolut Mandrin

1 pineapple

Cut the ends and the skin off of a whole pineapple. Slice away the core of the pineapple and then cut the remaining pineapple into one or two inch chunks. The chunks don't have to be perfect. Place the pineapple into a large glass container (a Mason jar would work very well for this). Do not use a plastic container as the plastic can adversely change the taste of your end product. Pour the vodka into the glass container over the pineapple. Place the pineapple in the glass container in the refigerator for approximatley five to seven days. After the five to seven days, strain the liquor into a large container. Place the pineapple pieces into a blender and puree. Use a strainer with fine holes to strain the pureed pinapple into the liquor (you may even want to use cheesecloth). Use a spatula to press all of the juice out of the pureed fruit. Once this process is complete, it is ready for mixing drinks.

Knockout Martini

To make the Knockout Martini, the staff poured a few ounces of the Knockout Infusion into a cocktail shaker with ice and added some simple syrup. After shaken well, the drink was poured into a glass with a sugared rim.

I think when I finally get around to making my own Knockout Infusion, I will hold back some of the infused pineapple to use as garnishes on the martini. 


A Delightful Meal in Lisbon

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on July 17, 2013 at 8:15 AM

Troy, my husband and past president of the Plymouth Foothill Rotary, and I thought the 104th Rotary International Convention in Lisbon, Portugal was an opportunity not to be missed. His love affair with the Portuguese culture and my heritage confirmed our desires to head out.  After our all night journey, we worked up quite an appetite! We set out by foot from the apartment where we were staying in the Chiado district of Lisbon, Portugal. We walked past a restaurant with specials on their chalkboard menu ... Little did we know the fine food we were going to experience.


BCN @ Lisbon Portugal

The chalkboard at BCN - Beber & Comer by Novamesa - is what drew us in. One side was in English, the other in Portuguese. What appealed to me on the board is actually what Troy ordered - the grilled Mackerel. Our waiter was excellent! Raised in Toronto, his English was much appreciated as he explained the details of the dishes.

Inside BCN

We started with "Para comecar ..." (to start) and chose a traditional Portuguese appetizer - Batata brava. These fried potato squares were covered with a delicious cream and paprika. We also ordered Chamucas de frango ou Legumes - inspired by the cuisine of India, a fried pocket adequately curried. This was served with a Thai style sweet and hot dipping sauce.


Batata brava (i.e. fried potato squares)

Chamucas de frango ou Legumes

Our next dishes were chosen from "Do Mar..." (sea) I chose another traditional dish - Brandade de bacalhau gratindo.  Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for cod and in a culinary context - dried and salted cod. The was cod blended with mashed potatoes and cheese, baked to perfection with a crispy top! The picture of the partially eaten dish does not do it justice. This was accompanied with greens, with a very light dressing. Troy ordered Cavala grelhada com tagliatelle de legumes e crisp de cebola - grilled Mackerel on a bed of lettuce. Some of the dishes were served on a dark piece of slate, providing a contrast, which accented the food.


Brandade de bacalhau gratindo

Cavala grelhada com tagliatelle de legumes e crisp de cebola

We hadn't planned on dessert, but the other foods were so delicious I had to order something. From the "Sobremesas" (desserts), our server recommended one of the baked goods as opposed to Gelado do dia. Knowledgeable advice! We chose Cheese cake Novamesa - inspired by the sister restaurant. Not being that fond of cheese cake, I ordered it anyway, knowing that Troy enjoys it. This cheese cake was deliciously dense, the crust thick, but not hardened. The berries on top added color and sweetness. I was not disappointed.


Sobremesas - Cheese cake Novames

The first restaurant we experienced in Lisbon was a delight. We did not have the opportunity to return ... so many restaurants, so little time. This restaurant was a wonderful introduction to Portugal's delicious foods, which inspired me to eat as much as I could!


Check tray... What to do with old keyboards!

Should you have the opportunity to eat a Portuguese meal, do it! If it's in Portugal, all the better.

Tchauzinho! Susie

The Tomato and Basil Pasta Recipe That Will Blow Your Mind!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on June 22, 2013 at 1:30 AM

The method for cooking this pasta will "blow your mind!"

While we were compiling the stories, recipes, and photos to go into our cookbook, my sisters, mother, aunt Patsy, and cousin Wendy would come over to my house on Saturdays and Sundays and we would spend hours going through photos and stories to match with the recipes. 

The first two times we got together we thought we'd be finished in a few hours and those few hours turned into several hours. We'd start working and all of a sudden we would discover we were famished. I would go into the kitchen and rifle through the cupboards and freezer to find ingredients to rustle up a quick and easy meal that would need to feed the six of us working on the cookbook, and my kids, husband, and father--basically a quick meal for 10 people.

It is times like that and the times my kids bring home a group of hungry friends that I am always on the look out for quick and easy recipes that can feed several people. Last night I saw a recipe posted on Facebook that is just perfect for those times. It was posted on the Getting Healthy & Staying Healthy Facebook page and it was called the "Blow Your Mind Tomato Basil Pasta." It is a pasta recipe that does not require you to boil and strain the pasta--you just dump the pasta and all of the other ingredients into a pot and cook it! I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand to make this recipe, so I made it for dinner. Only my husband and I were home to eat it and we both enjoyed it. And, I am sure we will enjoy the leftovers today as there are plenty!

All of the pasta ingredients in the pot

The cooked pasta

Below is my version of the recipe that will "blow your mind." 

The Tomato and Basil Pasta Recipe That Will Blow Your Mind!

Makes about 10 servings, when served with a salad

1 medium red onion, sliced into thin strips

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 17-oz. package of whole wheat spaghetti pasta

1 14.5-oz can Italian style stewed tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves

1 handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

3 14.5-oz cans low sodium vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large stockpot heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two.  Remove from heat. Add the pasta (I broke the spaghetti in half to make stirring easier), stewed tomatoes, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil. Pour the vegetable broth over the top and stir. Cover the pot and cook on high until the ingredients begin a rolling boil. Stir well and cover the pot. Reduce the cooking temperature to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir a few times while the pasta is simmering. The pasta should have an inch or two of liquid left for a nice sauce. If there is too much liquid, continue simmering with the cover off until the liquid is reduced. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Garnish with Parmesan cheese when served. 

I plan on adding more veggies the next time I make it. 


The Mad Hatter Tea

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on May 23, 2013 at 10:20 AM

The Cooking Cowgirls with cousin Kathie's friend Tina (in white)

Recently we had the opportunity to attend the Assistance League of Amador Valley's Annual Mad Hatter Tea. This tea is the major fundraiser for ALAV a chapter of the National Assistance League. Proceeds from the event benefit Operation School Bell, Caring About the Retired and Elderly, Assault Survivors Kit and Screening Eyes Early. Members and their guests enjoyed an afternoon of social fun, entertainment, delicious food and prizes at Castlewood Country Club, in Pleasanton, CA. Our cousin, Kathie George, is a member and invited us to attend.


Merry, Nancy and myself attended, looking forward to an afternoon with Kathie. Much to our dismay, Kathie was ill. We were able to carry on without Kathie, enjoying the suggested Bloody Mary as we picked up our Lucky Tea Cup Raffle, deposited our raffle tickets and bid on Silent Auction items. We did get to meet and visit with Kathie's friend Tina.

The tea attendees were encouraged to wear hats. The "I Love Your Hat" contest involved all attendees, either as a participant or a voter. Three women won prizes for their hats. Some of the hats were handmade, some classics. Winners were decided by the guests - the one I voted for was one of the winners with a Dorfman Pacific hat (headquarters are in Stockton)! We were accompanied by pianist Angela Mastrantonio.


The winners of the "I Love Your Hat" Contest

The tables were individually set by members, with a wide variety of  the member' personal beautiful table settings. We were seated with member Donna Westphalen. Her table was set using a beautiful bone china, with delicate shamrocks, given to her by her aunt. Donna was responsible for all the utensils and dishes, including the teapots. Once seated, raspberry and Earl Grey tea was delivered. Plates of sandwiches and scones were next, served by students of Amador and Granada High School. We forgot to take pictures of the wide variety of sandwiches! What I enjoyed were the open faced shrimp salad, egg salad with capers, toast with blue cheese and the scones with lemon curd. Next came an array of tarts, petit fours, and ample fresh strawberries.


The table setting

Sandwiches and scones with lemon curd

The desserts

The guest speaker was Penny Warner, teacher and author of a wide variety of books. She was very entertaining! As a child, she enjoyed Nancy Drew series. She has written over 50 books in several genres, appealing to moms, cozy mystery lovers and middle school mysteries. Her writings are based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her delightful sense of humor was enjoyable.


Author Penny Warner

The Mad Hatter Tea was attended by 300 women. Coordinator of the event, Nancy Carter, did a fantastic job of coordinating volunteers and activities. The variety of fund raising activities led to a fun and relaxing afternoon supporting local individuals in need. We are saving the date for next year, April 5, 2014 and hoping we get to spend the afternoon with Kathie!

~susie calhoun~

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

Pickling Party

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on May 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM

It's asparagus season here in Northern California, which means it’s time to pickle! Plus, I just finished off the final jar of asparagus from last year. Five of us gathered together for the task that lay ahead, we find that there’s strength in numbers! We were discussing our grandmothers who we had all helped out in the kitchen when we were young; they did their canning and pickling all by themselves, jars and jars of fruits and vegetables, well into their 70’s and 80’s. They were tough cookies. We find that it's more fun and motivating to pickle together, and doesn't take as long to clean up! Last year we pickled three lugs of asparagus, this year we moved up to four, you can find our asparagus recipe in our pickling blog from last year.

I'm a one click shopper with Amazon, which can be rather dangerous. In preparation for the pickling party, I got a bit carried away with new canning books. It doesn't help that my mother was a librarian, books seem to be in our genes! I ordered a variety to peruse in advance of the big day, and pulled a couple of recipes to use this year... Canning for a New Generation, The Art of Fermentation, Put 'em Up!, Pickled, and Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving.

If you haven't canned before, it's get to do some research in advance. Ball has a great website to get you started, www.freshpreserving.com, or any of the books listed above will give you the details on preparing the jars, lids, and all of the equipment you will need.

This year we planned in advance to make some giardiniera, last year we just threw it together with the vegetables we found in my fridge and freezer, using leftover spices from the asparagus. I also love pickled beets, so I picked up a couple dozen beets to experiment with. My sister and cousin despise beets, say they smell like dirt, it’s one of those love ‘em or hate ‘em vegetables. We also tested out putting asparagus in the jars raw compared to blanching the asparagus in advance, possibly saving us some time. We won't be able to give you the taste results for at least 6 weeks, so stay tuned!



2 pounds beets

1 cup distilled white vinegar

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

½ tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon cumin seed

¼ teaspoon whole cloves


Prep the beets by boiling or roasting them until nearly tender. Slice into ¼-inch slices (I used a mandolin).


Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a medium nonreactive saucepan, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt, and then remove from the heat.


Pack the beets into 3 clean, hot pint jars, arranging them snugly but with enough room for brine to circulate. Divide the cumin seed and cloves among the jars. Pour the hot brine over the beets to cover by ½ inch. Leave ½ inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid.


Use the boiling-water method. Process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Recipe came from Put ‘em up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton




We adapted this recipe from Paula’s mother's recipe, and a recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. You can use a variety of whatever vegetables your family prefers.



NOTE: The amount of spices listed below go Into EACH quart sized jar:

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon mustard seed

1 teaspoon dill seed

2 cloves garlic chopped or more (we used more because we love garlic!)

½ bay leaf

6 whole black peppercorns



Small cauliflower florets

Pearl onions

Carrots, cleaned or peeled and cut into ½ inch slices

Tri-color bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips

Small Brussel sprouts

String beans

Artichoke hearts, halved or quartered


Pickling Brine

4 cups white vinegar

2 cups water

2 cups granulated sugar

1 tbsp. Salt


Prepare canner, jars and lids.


In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt. We chose to put the spice in the jars as we do with the asparagus, because last year we just threw a bunch of vegetables in the extra jars the we had prepped for the asparagus and it turned out great. The Ball recipe calls for a spice bag to go in the brine.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 5 minutes. Add vegetables and return to a boil. Pack vegetables into hot jars within a generous ½ inch of top of jar. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover vegetables, leaving ½ headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.


Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.


Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry, Lauren Devine

 Nancy, Merry, Paula, Kim & Wendy, the Pickling Princesses


Chifrijo, Not Your Average Chicharron

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on April 17, 2013 at 9:10 AM

I recently journeyed with my buddy Patty to the Central American country of Costa Rica. We were visiting our friends Diane and Ernie who live in the small town of Grecia, busy in their missionary Bible education work. You may remember the blog from their going away party where we all cooked Costa Rican foods for the occasion, an all-day affair! Costa Rica was quite an adventure, a scenic country surrounded by the sea, a vast biodiversity of flora and fauna (and bugs!), friendly locals, delicious food, and best of all, coffee is one of their main crops. It’s going to take a couple of stories to cover this sojourn, so I’m going to start with our first home cooked meal with our Tica friend Karen.


Patty, Karen & Diane, on our trek to Los Chorros Waterfalls

A native Costa Rican, Karen volunteered to teach us how to make a local favorite, Chifrijo. It is a fried pork dish that you serve in a bowl over rice, beans, and topped with fresh pico. Chifrijo is described as “the king of Tico bar food,” and is served in la ferias  (farmers markets), by street vendors, and in sodas (small restaurants, not pop!). We began our escapade with Karen on a hike to the Los Chorros waterfalls near her home, an absolutely gorgeous setting found down a steep and narrow dirt road. We only passed one family on the hike (from Ohio!), it was gorgeous.

Los Chorros Waterfalls @ Grecia Costa Rica

On our way home we stopped at la feria for some fresh ingredients from the local farmers. Diane had already purchased some precooked Chicharrón - but hold your horses, this is not the deep fried pork rind you find in other Latin American countries - in Costa Rica Chicharrón are usually made from pork ribs or similar cuts.

Costa Rican Chicarron, fried at the butcher shop

The size of our party had grown, so we needed more pork (yay!), so we stopped at the butcher shop in the market and picked up some posta de cerdo. I can’t quite figure out what it means when translated, pork something, maybe ribs, but it looked like good, fresh pork shoulder cut into 2” cubes.

La Feria, fruiticultura las delicias!

We sorted through a vast array of local fruits and vegetables, and picked up some chayote, corn, avocado and culantro leaves. Culantro is a cousin to cilantro, an herb indigenous to continental Tropical America and the West Indies. It has long spiny, serrated leaves, and a similar flavor to cilantro, only stronger.


The fruits of Costa Rica

When we got back to the house I stepped into the sous-chef position, helping to chop ingredients for Karen’s chifrijo. I was taking notes and pictures throughout the evening on my iphone as Karen was cooking away on a full stove.

Preparing the chayote for the Guiso

I didn’t have time to measure anything, so the recipes below wouldn’t pass our cookbook editor’s requirements, but basic ingredients and directions are listed! I did find a chifrijo recipe from a Costa Rican mother and son on the Latin Street Food episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, an authentic recipe with correct measurements. Let’s get on with the preparations, Por favor deja comer!


Posta de cerdo, or pork, 2" cubes

Head of garlic, roughly diced



Add the diced garlic to meat and marinate for ½ hour to 2 hours.

Posta de cerda and Garlic, that means pork!

Fry the pork in a oil until lightly brown. Instead of just salting the meat, you add salt to maybe ½ to 1 cup water to dissolve, and add the salted water to the browned meat, and simmer.


Adding salt water to the fresh chicharron

Cut the Chicharrón into bite size pieces, 3/4" cubes. While the pork is cooking you can make the pico and rice. Beans were cooked in advance, black beans are a staple, but for this meal Diane had shelled and cooked up some fresh frijoles tiernos (large pinto beans) with oregano, garlic, Chicharrón meat and a bit of salt and pepper.

Not your average chicarron! Cubed and ready to serve

To serve the chifrijo, place a scoop of rice in the bottom of a bowl, a layer of beans, cover with chifrijo and top with fresh pico. Tuck some tortilla chips into the side of the bowl and serve with sliced avocado.









Dice the onion and tomato to a small chop, and marinate in lime juice. Add the jalapeno and culantro, salt to taste, and serve





Onion, diced

Garlic, diced

Sweet Pepper, diced

Crema Dulce (whipped cream)


Corn, chayote and crema dulce for guiso

Peel, cut out the inner seed and chop the chayote into 1/2" cubes. Be careful handling chayotes, they can cause an allergic reaction - tingling, numbness, rash and peeling of your hands. The safest bet is to wear plastic gloves. The chayote in Costa Rica didn't seem to have as prickly of skin as we find in America, we cleaned and peeled them under running water and didn't have any problems. Cut the corn off the cob. Sauté diced garlic, onion, pepper, corn, add chayote and saute. Add crema and bring to a boil. Add a bit of water to cover, simmer until chayote is soft, about 15 minutes. Salt to taste and enjoy!

Pura Vida baby! (i.e. plenty of life or this is living!)

In the Kitchen with Karen (sounds like a new Food Network Show to me!)

~ Nancita the hungry Gringita


Cool Things to See in San Francisco

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on April 5, 2013 at 11:35 PM
San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge as seen from a vista point on Lincoln Blvd.

My daughters and I love to go on day trips to San Francisco. We often don't have any destination in mind when we begin our trip and will just spend the day exploring the city.  Today I am sharing with you some of our favorite spots and some of the places we take our visitors.

The 16th Ave Tiled Steps in the Sunset area

One of our favorite spots in San Francisco are the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps. Not many people know about these steps. Each of the 163 steps has a unique and colorful mosaic and together the steps create a design that starts out as a swirling river filled with sea life and surrounded by plants, insects, and wildlife that runs into an ocean that leads to the moon and then the sun. At the bottom, on the sides of the steps is a well kept botanical garden. The steps are in a residential neighborhood, so parking is free and can be easy to find.

The view from the top of the steps includes the Pacific Ocean

A walk to the top of the steps is a must as the view is great. However, an even grander view is just a hundred or so more steps higher. If you walk to the top of the steps and take a right a right, there is a set of steps built into the retaining wall that lead to Noriega Street above. After climbing those steps there is another set of steps built into the side of a hill that lead up to Grand View Park. Just like the name, the view is grand from the park. From this vantage point, you can see the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Park, and downtown San Francisco.
One of the great views from Grand View Park           Map with Grand View Park

The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is one our favorite places. During the weekends finding a parking place can be very difficult unless you arrive in the morning. The tea gardens are serene and beautiful. And, tea and snacks are served in the tea house. Admission to the park is $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for youths, and $2.00 for children. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday admission is free if you enter BEFORE 10:00 am. 
The bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden and one of the pagodas

An egret in one of the koi ponds

Enjoying tea and snacks at the tea house

On a clear day, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge can provide you with some beautiful views of San Francisco and the bay.  There is limited parking on both sides of the bridge. If you want to take a hike to the bridge and then walk across the bridge, there is a vista point on Lincoln Blvd. (on the east side of the bridge) with the Battery East Trail passing by.  For a small fee you can park there and walk or unload your bike and ride. Check out this website for some important information about other means of getting to the bridge and paying the toll:  http://goldengatebridge.org/visitors/directions.php
Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge

If walking across the bridge is not for you, but you would like to get some good photos of the bridge, Baker Beach has a great view of the bridge. From this beach you might even see a whale making its way into the bay. On a sunny day, Baker Beach can be a great place to play on the beach or just sit and watch the boats go by.  If you have seen the movie Princess Diaries, the beach party that "Mia" attended was at Baker Beach.
Baker Beach

The Palace of Fine Arts was part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition which opened in 1915. From 1969 until January 2013 the Exploratorium discovery museum was located here, but has moved to Pier 15 at the Embarcadero. This old beauty is very photogenic and is just a great place to explore and take pictures. The Palace of Fine Arts is located on the edge of a residential neighborhood, so parking is free.

The Palace of Fine Arts

A stop in North Beach (an Italian neighborhood off of Columbus Ave.) for a cannoli and latte is always a must. If you are visiting in the late afternoon, be on alert for the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. My only sighting of these birds was right around the corner from Club Fugazi. The parrots were making quite a racket and they were easy to locate by following the noise they were making.
A non-fat latte and cannoli in the North Beach neighborhood

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Just a few blocks from North Beach in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, Coit Tower is perched on top of Telegraph Hill. You can take steps up to Coit Tower from the residential neighborhood below or you can also park in the free parking lot at the tower. Some of the stairs leading up to Coit Tower can be found at the end of Filbert Street. During the peak tourist season you may need some patience waiting for a parking place in the tower's parking lot.
Coit Tower

The tower opens at 10:00 am and it is free to walk around inside the lower level. Inside the lower level are some great murals that were painted in the 1930's. There are some great views of San Francisco from the top of Coit Tower. For a fee you can take an elevator ride to the top. The last time we were there the people running the elevator said it closes at 6:30 pm year round. The view is gorgeous after dusk, so the fall and winter months are the only months you would be able to see the view in the dark. One place you can get a great photo of the Bay Bridge and Ferry Building after dark is if you walk around the back of the tower. To get in back of the tower, you will need to walk up the steps in front of the tower and enter the gate on the left side.  There is a walkway that leads to a lawn area in the back. Once on the lawn area, walk to the back and at the left you will see an opening with some great views.
One of the murals inside Coit Tower

Another Coit Tower Mural

A view from Coit Tower at dusk

My daughters and I just visited the Ferry Building, which is located on the Embarcadero, for the first time a few months ago. We had made some earlier attempts, but we either could not find parking or the building had already closed during our previous attempts. The Ferry Building is home to several shops and a few restaurants. One of San Francisco's hottest new restaurants, The Slanted Door, is inside the Ferry Building. Most of the restaurants have outdoor dining and offer a great view of Treasure Island, the Bay Bridge, and the Bay.  On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays there is a farmers market in front of the Ferry Building.
The front of the Ferry Building

The inside of the Ferry Building

Outdoor dining at the Ferry Building

When I was a kid my parents would sometimes drive though "Haight Ashbury" when it was a haven for hippies from all over the world. We never, ever stopped. Today the Haight is an interesting area to explore and visit. In this neighborhood you can find some good restaurants, interesting boutiques, and vintage clothing shops. There are some eclectic buildings and some beautiful Victorian homes. There are some people here that you should not trust, so use caution if you visit this area.

Some of the sights in the Haight

Another thing we like to do is take our visitors to see places they might recognize from TV shows or movies. The house that starred in Mrs. Doubtfire can be found at 2640 Steiner Street, which was the actual address used in the movie. Nearly 1.25 miles south on Steiner Street are the "Painted Ladies" Victorian homes that were seen in the opening credits of the Full House TV series. They are located across the street from Alamo Square Park.
The house from Mrs. Doubtfire located at 2640 Steiner Street

The Painted Ladies at Alamo Square

If you are going to San Francisco, be sure to take a jacket. It can get cold and foggy there.

~merry carter~

A Day in Upcountry Amador County

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on March 21, 2013 at 1:10 AM

Upcountry in Amador County

It was a beautiful end of winter day and my long-time friend, Lou Ann, suggested going for a snowshoe. We ate a hearty brunch, headed up Highway 88 to Silver Lake, which is referred to as Upcountry in Amador County. The intention of eating a hearty brunch was so that we could head to the Volcano Union Inn on our way back down the mountain.

The snow conditions on the mountain were perfect. There had been some good snow a few days before. The sun was shining and not a soul was on the lake. I enjoyed the peace, the sunshine, and beauty of the pure white snow. When we decided to head back, I noticed my boot was coming apart. By the time we returned to the car, the boot had ripped apart all the way around!

My boot!

Of course during the snowshoe we worked up a thirst and an appetite! At the car we had some chilled Rich Mahogany and Ganja Juice Altamont Beer Works brews waiting for us. Some trail mix and apples and the brew curbed our appetite a bit until we could get to the Volcano Union Inn.

A growlette of Altamont Beer Works beer

I have been following Volcano Union Inn on Facebook for quite a while. Every Monday they have a special that is posted on Facebook – this week’s was Shrimp Louie, Salisbury Steak, mushrooms, horseradish mashed potatoes, and Strawberry Cobbler ala mode for $23! I was so pleased to arrive in time for dinner but we wanted to see the menu before ordering. The special was a fantastic deal – but Lou Ann and I saw other items we couldn’t wait to try! The wine and beer selection was diverse – we started with beer. I chose a Raging Bitch IPA--I'd had it in NY and loved it. The dishes we decided upon were a Mushroom Bruschetta, Beet Salad with golden balsamic vinaigrette, Fried Chicken with sides of smoked cheddar macaroni and cheese along with greens. Everything was delicious!!! So delicious we decided to order some Crispy Duck Wings to take home to my husband Troy. Unfortunately, they were sold out. Though we were full, the food had been so delectable that we just had to each order a dessert. I ordered the Meyer Lemon Crème Brulee with thyme shortbread. There were three small shortbreads, so we took one of those to Troy. Lou Ann ordered the Lava Cake with blood orange crème and candied blood orange along with a glass of Andis Barbera – a perfect pairing.

Mushroom Brushetta

Fried Chicken with smoked mac and cheese

Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee

Lava Cake

The service and ambiance was relaxing and comfortable. One of the servers I recognized from the community fundraiser, Chowda Chomp. I so enjoyed the chowder he and his teammate prepared. It was a halibut and salmon chowder – my favorite. They came in second place overall. I mentioned this to him and Lou Ann said she loved chowder, so he brought us out a taste of chowder!

Our clam chowder sample!

Volcano is off the beaten path; a very small, pleasant community. There is a post office, community hall, a general store, a hotel, a B & B, a bakery, a bar, a theater and a few other businesses I am not recalling. My friend, Jacquie Tarchala, has her Kneading Dough Bakery in the Jug and Rose Bakery, Monday through Wednesday. Should you be heading up to Daffodil Hill soon (it opened March 15, 2013) – the bakery would be a great place to visit. I highly recommend it!

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. – JRR Tolkien


San Francisco's Portuguese Cioppino

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on March 3, 2013 at 9:35 AM

One of my favorite shows on the Food Network is Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and now it comes on a few early mornings every week, so we watch it over coffee. A couple of weeks ago one of our favorite Northern California dishes was featured, Cioppino, and the competitor, Phil DiGirolamo, came from one of our favorite seafood restaurants, Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing. And best of all, Phil won the throwndown! So I’ve had Cioppino on my mind for a couple of weeks, and finally decided it was time.

 Phil's Fish Market & Eatery in Moss Landing

The story behind Cioppino started in the 1800’s with Portuguese and Italian fishermen, they would use the catch of the day from the docks in San Francisco bay to create a tomato and wine based seafood stew. Typically it would include Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish.

So following that tradition (I’m Portuguese after all!), I used whatever I had available to throw down a Cioppino! I looked up a few different Cioppino recipes, Bobby Flay’s, Giada de Laurentis' and bon appetit, and used the ingredients I had on hand, and the herbs that I preferred. It only takes about 40 minutes, and you’ve got a delicious bowl of seafood stew on your hands (and down your gullet!).

San Francisco Portuguese Cioppino

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large fennel bulb, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 shallots, chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes (or less, mine turned out almost too hot!)

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 bay leaves

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice

1 cup white wine

3 8-ounce bottles of clam juice

1 bay leaf

1 pound scallops

1 pound cod, cut to 1” squares, about the size of the scallops

1 pound uncooked large shrimp (I left the shell on for more flavor)

1 pound clams (I cheated and used frozen steamer clams from Trader Joes)



Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, salt and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and herbs, and sauté for a few minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and carmelize for a 3 – 5 minutes. Add the whole tomatoes with their juices and mash with a potato masher. Stir in the wine and clam juice, cover and simmer about 30 minutes to blend flavors.


Simmering Cioppino

Add the seafood by size, whichever will take longer to cook first. I started with the scallops for five minutes, then tossed in the fish and shrimp for about three more minutes, and the clams were already cooked, so threw them in for the last two minutes just to heat. Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and pepper. And, in the San Francisco tradition, I served it with some sourdough garlic toast.

Portuguese Cioppino and Sourdough Garlic Toast

Saúde! Nancy

"Are you ready for a throwdown?!"

It's All in the Name

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on February 10, 2013 at 2:55 AM

My daughters Laina and Whitney at a San Jose Sharks Hockey Game

On Saturday my sister Susie and I took my daughters to our annual San Jose Sharks game and I realized that Susie and I have been going to Sharks games for almost 18 years. I attended my first San Jose Sharks hockey game in 1995. I went to the game with my sisters and a busload of Wente Winery employees and their guests. The Sharks had been at the San Jose Arena for about two years and the arena was clean, modern, had gourmet food concessions and plenty of women's restroom facilities (which was really great because you didn't spend half of the sporting event waiting in line to use the restroom). And, because the Sharks play in the Silicon Valley, in those days it was a common sight to see Silicon Valley execs in suit and tie at the game and a few of the high profile CEOs and their possees cheering on the Sharks. 

That bus trip to the arena and the game were pretty wild. Beer and wine were flowing in the bus on the way to the game and the partying continued at the game--for everyone but me.  I happened to be nearly nine months pregnant when I attended that game. For weeks my husband and I had been trying to agree upon a name for our baby who would soon be making her debut. Finding a name that we would both like was constantly on my mind. That night as I watched the players swirling around on the ice, the name on the back of one player's jersey caught my eye. Whitney. Ray Whitney was playing for the Sharks at the time. I liked that name, Whitney.

On the bus ride back to Livermore my sister Susie asked me if I had considered the name Whitney for the baby. As a matter of fact, I said, I had thought of that name for the baby. When I got home I ran the name by my husband and he liked it too.  So, Whitney it was.

Whitney is seventeen years old now. She is very sweet, empathetic, considerate, and likes to attend San Jose Sharks Hockey games. She is polite to people when they ask if she was named after Whitney Houston.

A few months ago I was getting my hair cut and the gray "sparkles" removed when Whitney called and asked me when I was coming home. She said she was cooking something for me and she didn't want it to get cold before I got home.  What she made me was a honey cloud pancake. It was like a custard or flan, but also a bit like a soufflé. The honey cloud pancake was really very good. Just like the name, it was like eating a honey cloud. The recipe is below. 

The honey cloud pancake

Honey Cloud Pancake - 1 single serving pancake


1 large egg and 1 egg white

1/4 cup of warm milk

1/4 cup flour

1 pinch of salt

2 teaspoons of honey and more for drizzling

1 dash of vanilla extract

1 tablespoon of butter

Soft fruit, such as sliced strawberries, peaches pears, blue- or blackberries


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat a small 6" oven proof frying pan. In a small bowl whisk one egg white until it is white and peaky. In a medium bowl, mix the whole egg with flour, salt, honey, and vanilla then whisk in the warm milk.  Gently fold the whipped egg into the batter with a metal spoon. Melt one tablespoon of butter in the hot pan. Pour the batter in and cook on the stove for a few minutes until the pancake starts to set at the edge. Sprinkle some fruit on top. Place the pan in the hot oven for 7 minutes until puffed up and golden. Drizzle with honey. 


Granny's Recipe for Love and Spaghetti

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on January 19, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Granny with great-granddaughter Laina

Our grandmother, Ione Holm or "Granny" to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, was the inspiration for our cookbook. She was such a poignant person in my life that I would often hope I died before her because I didn't think I could go on living without her. Although she had nine grandchildren, each one of us felt her love as though we were her favorite grandchild. Extended family and friends felt that same love.


She rarely spoke about it to us, but Granny had a hard childhood. Her mother suffered from mental illness and eventually could not care for her four young children. The children had to move to Arkansas to live with an aunt. While living in Arkansas the children went with their aunt to someone else's home for a meal (I don't recall if it was a friend or family member--so I'm referring to that person as "someone else"). This someone else was not happy to have the children at her house and treated them that way. She would not allow them to sit with the others to eat the meal. The uncomfortable and dreadful feeling of being at a home where you were not welcome stayed with Granny for the rest of her life and she made sure that everyone who came to her house always felt welcomed and loved.

Granny would express her love through kind words, hugs, listening, food, and her generosity. Everyone was welcome in her house and at her table. Granny would have Sunday dinner at her house for anyone that wanted to come. I think the average was usually 25 people. I can't imagine cooking for 25 people every Sunday, but this is what Granny lived for. When my cousins, sisters, and I were in our twenties and living on our own, in addition to the Sunday dinners, Granny would cook supper on Thursday nights for anyone who wanted to come. And, ANYONE who happened to stop by her house any day of the week would be treated to lunch, dinner, or cookies with coffee.

Granny lived on the family ranch in the Livermore Hills, which is about a 20 minute drive to the nearest grocery store. In addition to the food she purchased on her weekly trip to town, she kept a well stocked pantry and a freezer stocked with food she preserved or that our grandfather had grown. During the summer she had our grandfather's large vegetable garden as a resource for fresh fruit and vegetables. She was like a magician in the way she could whip up a huge meal with little notice and without the use of a microwave oven to defrost or heat up food.

Granny passed away on February 12, 1998, just 11 days before her 92nd birthday. She passed from this earth in her sleep, in her beloved home overlooking Cedar Mountain with some of her family members nearby enjoying a meal and each other's company. She had lived a long life--her body had given out and her passing was a blessing.

The most important thing Granny left us with was the recipe for the love of friends and family. She also left us with many of her recipes for food. When I make her recipes I can remember the love I felt at her house with our siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Now when my sisters, cousins, and I have gatherings, it is doubtful anyone ever leaves feeling hungry or unwelcomed.

Below is the recipe for Granny's spaghetti sauce. Spaghetti was one of the meals she would serve for Sunday dinner with love.

Granny's great-granddaughter Laina with love all over her face

Granny’s Spaghetti Sauce -  Makes about 7 cups of sauce

Granny would make her spaghetti sauce in her pressure cooker. She stewed tomatoes she canned herself. Most of us are afraid of pressure cookers and don’t make the time to can our own tomatoes, so we have adjusted her recipe to work for us.


½ oz. dried porcini mushrooms (or your preference of mushrooms)

1 cup hot water

1 cup chopped onion

1 clove minced garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil or salad oil

2 pounds ground beef

2-14.5 oz. cans whole stewed tomatoes

2 6-ounce cans tomato paste

1 tablespoon sugar

1 ½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon crushed oregano

1 bay leaf


In a small bowl, pour the cup of hot water over the dried mushrooms to rehydrate. Set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, but not brown.  In the same skillet, brown the ground beef and drain fat.  Stir in the next 6 ingredients.  Remove mushrooms from the water and add the water to the sauce.  Slice the rehydrated mushrooms into thin slices and add to the sauce.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf. Continue simmering 30 minutes, removing the lid for the last 15 minutes.

Serve over 1 pound of cooked spaghetti noodles.


~merry carter~

Eating My Way Around the Globe

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on January 1, 2013 at 9:25 AM

I don’t have the opportunity to travel as much as I would like, so the next best thing for me is to step out the door of my office in downtown Livermore, head a couple of blocks in any direction, and pop into the nearest eatery … traveling the globe vicariously through the victuals of our local restaurants! The dining scene has done a 360 since our youth; the only worldly choice growing up was Chinese food at the Yin Yin, owned by the Chin Family (40 something of our family just congregated there last week!). What really reminded me of this change was my latest expedition to Afghanistan by means of the new De Afghanan Kabob House (which unfortunately replaced La Papusa House, where I would venture to El Salvador by means their papusas). I had never eaten Afghani food before, so Rebecca and Ed, two of my foody workmates joined me for lunch, and it was indeed a memorable sojourn. We ordered at least eight items, the wide variety of flavors was amazing, and very healthy too.


We started with Kado Borani, which translated means roasted butternut squash topped with garlic sour cream and dried mint, healthy and cooked to perfection.

Kado Borani, aka Butternut Squash

We tried a half order of both zucchini and leek Bolani, little pastries (well, not so little, it was actually quite large for a half order!) filled with sautéed zucchini and leek with great homemade cilantro chutney, and more yogurt.

Afghani Bolani and Chutney

Feeling adventurous, we opted for a third appetizer, the Mantu, pasta filled with ground beef, onions, garlic and spices topped with a vegetable sauce, garlic sour cream and dried mint. An order of Afghan bread comes with almost every dish, it was light as a hotel pillow, and more than we could ever finish.


Mantu and Afghan Bread

We split the Triple Kabob, Murge, Teka and Chaplee - aka -chicken, beef and a grilled ground sirloin patty mixed with scallions, crushed red pepper and plenty of spices. The meats are soaked in homemade, full-o-flavor marinade, and were moist, tender and delicious. At this point along the journey, I decided that I would like to be adopted by the Afghani family that owns the restaurant, I want to eat like this every day!


Triple Kabob, Murge, Teka and Chaplee

All of the Kabobs are served with Afghan rice or potato salad, we tried both of course! The brown Afghan rice was actually a white basmati seasoned with a variety of spices and onions, and the Shornakhod, or in English, Afghan Potato Salad, was not your average American mayonnaisy potato salad, but an uncommonly light, vinegary, fresh potato salad with garbanzo beans and chili flakes.


Shornakhod, i.e. Afghan Potato Salad

At this point, there was absolutely no room left for dessert, we had a big box of leftovers to go, but according to the 5-star yelp reviews, next time, I'm leaving room for the Sheer Yakh Jhala (i.e. ice cream) and Baklava!

Once you’ve tasted your way through Afghanistan, now it’s time to dig out your passport and cross the border into Mexico. You can find a Mexican restaurant on almost every block of downtown Livermore: Casa Orozco for Shrimp Cocktail Veracruz, Anita’s Veggie Burrito is my favorite choice on the menu at Anita’s Mexican Restaurant, in my opinion El Charro has the best Sope in town, feast on Tequila’s Taqueria’s huge Burrito de Camarones, drop in on Los Caporales for breakfast with Chorizo and Eggs or a hot bowl of Pozole, or for an “uptown” flavor of Guadalajara visit El Sacromonte for their housemade Sangrita Tequila chaser (along with a laundry list of tequilas) and “Comala” Stuffed Avocado.


Book your passage to the Mediterranean by way of Casbah Mediterranean Kitchen for Baba Ganuch (I just like to say that!) or Shawarama, plus, they have belly dancers! Or imagine the blue waters and islands of Greece while dining at Demitri’s Taverna, where they launch your trip with Skordalia, onto Moussaka, and end with the family's Baklava. Hop the gondola to Italy by way of Bruno’s Italian Cuisine with a plate of Linguini Frutti di Mare or their thin crust Pizza; or peddle over to the French Casse-Croûte Bakery for fresh baked crusty baguette or Croissants et Chocolatines, Merci beaucoup!


Since we can't have a home-cooked tiffin lunch delivered to our office by a dabbawala, add some Indian spice to your life by visiting Sansar’s lunch buffet for their Chicken Tikka Masala with a cold bottle of Taj Indian beer or enjoy India Clay Oven’s warm Naan, Parantha or Tandoori. Trek to “The Land of the Rising Sun” at Kawa Sushi for their soul warming Miso, Spicy Spider or Unagi; other stops along the Japanese coastline include Yamota Hibachi Express for tender Hibachi, or steaming Udon at Roppongi Sushi. You can then head east on the Indochina Peninsula to the Saigon Café and enjoy a steaming bowl of Shrimp Pho or crunchy Clay Pot; get your Bibim Bab fix at Korea BBQ & Tofu; feast on the fresh herbs and teas from the Kingdom of Thailand at Lemon Grass with their Pad Thai and Kao-Pad-Goong or up the block to the modern Star Anise for Roti Paratha, where they will treat you like the King of Siam! Travel the Silk Road into China for Chow Mein at the Yin Yin, Lo’s China Bistro for a Sizzling Platter or Uncle Yu’s for Classic Peking Duck with Bao.

Happy trails to you, and Bon Voyage!  Nancy

A Festive Gluten Free Cookie to Enjoy!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 16, 2012 at 3:15 PM

This recipe  has become one of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes. It's easy, there is no baking, the cookie can be made gluten free and it looks festive!

Festive Gluten Free Coconut Cookies

The surprising ingredients are deliciously combined and rolled into this cookie - aren't dates and nuts healthy?! The original recipe called for margarine, but I used butter, with no difference in the consistency of the cookie. The recipe also called for Rice Krispies, but I used the Gluten Free Rice Krispies, which worked out fine and did not compromise the flavor.

I often use the packaged chopped dates, rather than chopping them my self. This cookie also freezes well. Just make sure they are not crowding each other or stacked.


Skillet Coconut Cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

2 beaten eggs

3/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup chopped dates

1 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups Gluten Free Rice Krispies

3 cups (7 ounce bag was perfect) sweetened shredded coconut


Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. In a bowl, beat the eggs and then combine the sugar. Add to the melted butter in the skillet.

Add the salt and chopped dates, cook until thickened, 10 - 15 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture as it cooks and mash the dates to break them down.

When thickened, remove from the heat, stir in the nuts, vanilla, and Rice Krispies. Return to the heat and cook for just a few more minutes to help combine the ingredients.

Remove from the heat.

Gluten Free Cookies Ready to Roll

Using a teaspoon, form into walnut size balls and roll in shredded coconut. Makes 3 dozen.

I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I do - a fun addition to any cookie assortment.

~ Susie




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