Holm Family Cookbook

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Cowgirl's Foodie Blog

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!


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

A Worthwhile Trip to the Googleplex

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 12, 2012 at 9:50 AM

I was invited to a "Think Performance" session at the Googleplex yesterday (Google’s corporate headquarters), and almost didn’t go…what a mistake that would have been! What a campus they have, it was amazing to say the least.

But what really got me out of the house at 6:30am was the offer to receive Google's Nexus 7 Tablet just for attending, yowza! But why, you may ask, would I be talking about Google on a foodie blog? Because of their lunch of course!

After the 3 hour session pitching Google ads (very effective by the way, I’m in), like cattle to a trough, we all headed to lunch and lined up for what we thought was a buffet, but in actuality, was just the fruit and cheese display. Soon, the service staff began rolling in with small passed trays of lunch items, first, an oyster shooter in a small Asian spoon with a jalapeno mignonette, bang, what a way to start! My hands were full when the first round of Cheddar Burger Bites passed by (animal style with thousand island and grilled onions!), then a small triangle of grilled cheese with an old fashioned tomato soup shot. On this cloudy autumn day that really hit the spot.

Most of us were milling about, so my hands were full again when the roasted beet kabob passed by the first and second round, but I was able to grab one on the third pass, absolutely delicious, red and golden beets on a skewer. I spotted a meatball tray, but heard the word lamb, spicy lamb with cucumber raita to be exact, and chickened out - if you’re familiar with our blog, you know that most of my generation of the Holm family is averse to lamb, we raised them for 4-H and can’t quite stomach it.

Then another vegetarian choice rounded the curve, a mini falafel on a pita triangle with a great tzatziki sauce. And they just kept rolling in, I spotted a chicken skewer coming by, it was tandori with a yogurt sauce, yum.

Everything was so tasty and beautifully plated, I had to go thank the chefs for this unexpected lunch that was way beyond expectation, as was the entire morning. This was Google’s onsite catering team, there is another kitchen that serves their cafeteria. Bravo team Google!

Then, for the pièce de résistance, they had hired Harvey, who specializes in mini donuts, oh my goodness, they were lighter than air. I prefer simple desserts and chose the sugar cinnamon version, but there were plenty of choices, especially for you chocolate lovers.

I grabbed his card, I want Harvey’s Gourmet Mini Donuts to come to an event in Livermore!

Thanks for an incredible morning Google, well worth the horrible 2 hour commute! Nancy

Local Roots Food Tours in Murphys, California

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 12, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Holm Family Cookbook recipe testers and Susie Calhoun all set for a food and history tour of Murphys, California

This past weekend, some of our cookbook recipe testers and I, gathered in Murphys, California "Queen of the Sierra" to experience a food and history tour. A tour was booked with LocalRoots Food Tours. We met Lara, our tour guide, at the gazebo in the Murphys Community Park. Tours usually accommodate ten people. Ours actually had seven, five friends and a fun foodie couple from Sacramento. The couple have been to various cooking classes internationally and shared some of their travels with us as we walked through Murphys.

Melanie, chef & co-owner of Newsome-Harlow (standing) and our tour guide Lara (sitting)

The first historical stop was the Murphys Pokey, where Lara shared the early history of Murphys. Off we walked to the Newsome-Harlow tasting room, one of my favorites in Murphys. Melanie Klann, chef and co-owner, is known for her use of local produce. She had prepared a butter roll, with fig jam, Swiss cheese and bacon; paired with Newsome-Harlow 2010, Calaveras County Zin. The tasting room would be both the beginning and the end of our tour.


Butter roll, with fig jam, Swiss cheese and bacon at Newsome-Harlow

Next stop was the Aria Bakery. FRESH and delicious would best describe their products. The bakery is very small, but full of delicacies. Here we picked up our potato onion thyme focaccia and then moved to the patio of the Marisolio Tasting Bar, a tasting bar of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The variety of oils and vinegars was extensive and flavorful. They provide the opportunity to taste all the oils and vinegars and once you make a selection of oil or vinegar to buy, they will bottle your selection.


Aria Bakery (left) and the Marisolio Tasting Bar

At the historic Murphys Hotel, we learned about all the dignitaries who stayed at the hotel on their way to Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Next stop was the E Clampus Vitas Wall of Comparative Ovations. For those of you who have not heard of the “Clampers” or seen one of the ECV plaques, I suggest you check out this website for a bit of history: http://www.yerbabuena1.com/history.htm.  I have been to Murphys many times and known many Clampers, but had never seen this wall – it's an outside museum!


The E Clampus Vitas Wall of Comparative Ovations

Off we walked to the far end of Murphys to Val du Vino Winery. The winery is owned by Jonathan and Jeannine, a well traveled and diverse couple. Both were behind the wine bar, but Jonathan was our host and winemaker. We tasted five wines, concluding with the 2009 Spanish Dragon. The multi award winning Spanish Dragon is a Tempranillo with a touch of Grenache. It was definitely my favorite. On Fridays during the summer Val du Vino is host to a Farmers Market, and on this day, was host to a wedding.


Johnathan our host and winemaker at the Val du Vino Winery

Upon leaving Val du Vino, we walked back into town via a back street to The Spice Tin. This shop is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Murphys and had a tunnel that led to the bar of the Murphys Hotel. The walls were lined with fresh spices and some local food products. Of particular interest to me was the Himalayan salt. These slabs can be used for cooking and chilling. For tasting was Dukkah, an Egyptian inspired blend of nuts; which is great for coating over fish, fowl or veggies. I loved the toasty flavor, which was intensified with the olive oil it was served with.


The Spice Tin shop (left) and the Himalayan salt display

As we traveled back down the main street, we walked down an alley on the way to V Restaurant Bar and Bistro at the Victoria Inn. Known for their fine dining; Dan Murray the chef, buys the best and changes the menu weekly. We were seated at the quaint bar and served a delightful plate. Presented on a picturesque plate was a petite Caprese salad on a skewer, a succulent BBQ pork rib resting on a mixed potato salad, and a Devil on Horseback (blue cheese stuffed date, wrapped in bacon and deep fried) – a personal favorite! Fabulous!


The delightful plate served at the V Restaurant Bar and Bistro at the Victoria Inn

On our way to Alchemy we stopped in at Nelson's Candies.This is owned by the same people who have Nelson’s Candy Kitchen in Columbia.The candies looked delightful, but this group was saving ourselves for the Cupcake Wars winner!


Lara guided us down to the Alchemy Restaurant and Market at the opposite end of Murphys. Alchemy Chef, Jason Wright served us black mussels, fries with scallion aioli. This traditional Belgian fare was paired with a De Proefrouwerij Flanders Fred--a Belgian beer. This unique beer was a collaborative effort of two breweries using a wild fermented sour lambic and wood aged Hair of the Dog. I loved that we were served food paired with beer!


Black mussels and fries paired with a De Proefrouwerij Flanders Fred

Our last food stop was at Lila & Sage. Waiting for us was the award winning Honey and Lavendar cupcake. Owner Karen Henderson’s creation helped Murphys see a surge in business when Cupcake Wars brought the Food Network to Murphys!


Lila & Sage, home of the Food Network's Cupcake Wars' winning cupcake

After three and a half hours of touring, feasting and enjoying history; our tour ended with a more extensive tasting at Newsome-Harlow. I purchased Train Wreck, a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine I enjoy drinking and sharing with friends. It is here we said good bye to Lara and thanked her for generous hospitality and knowledge.


My friends, former colleagues, and I retired to one’s home in Saddle Creek to watch the sunset. Here we reminisced about the tour and the wonderful time we had on the Local Roots Food Tour. Based in Auburn, Local Roots gives tours in Sacramento, Murphys, and soon Nevada City.


The sunset in Saddle Creek


What a fun and filling way to spend a day!


Flying with the Brew Angels at the Amador County Fair

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on July 15, 2012 at 5:20 PM

My husband, Troy Bowers and I, we have a passion for fairs. I just finished my summer job at the Alameda County Fair and Troy is gearing up as the CEO of the Amador County Fair. As the fair approaches, the contests are all a happenin'. I was happy to help with the Homebrew Competition, co-hosted by our club, the Brew Angels and the Beer Appreciation Society of Sacramento (BASS).

Bill and Jackie Tarchala, coordinate the competition and food. David Teckham, a Grand Master Judge and brew educator, is responsible for the judges. Roger and Samie Watson take charge of the cellar, stewards and score keeping.

Judging the Best of Show at the Homebrew Competition

Rick and Marilyn Reineman assume the responsibilities of paperwork and over the top desserts. Many of the Brew Angels help by judging, stewarding, bringing food, setting up and cleanup.


This year there were 97 homebrew entries. 43 commercial craft brews were judged, entered by 7 breweries. The 48 judges and stewards spent all day Saturday judging the beers. It is a tradition of this competition to have a large variety of DELICIOUS foods.


Bill always prepares the meat. This year he barbecued chicken and grilled gourmet hamburgers. Jackie, of Kneading Dough Bakery made hamburger buns.

There was a variety of appetizers. I brought the dates wrapped in bacon (see my post from December), seems anything wrapped in bacon is popular!  I also prepared Vivian's Garlic Dip from our cookbook and have included the recipe below.

David Teckham, Marilyn Reineman, Roger Watson setting up appetizers

There were a variety of salads and desserts. Marilyn Reineman made several desserts. I found the dark fudgesickles my favorite.

Dark Fudgesickle, yum!

She also made a cherry and blueberry ice cream cake – red, white and blue - in the shape of the United States.


Women have always been involved in brewing, but I have noticed more this year than ever. Among the judges, Craig Zangari, is organizer of the Queen of Beer 2012 competition. Lisa Agoitia, tasting room manager at American River Brewing Company, was one of several female judges.


After a long day of judging it was determined that the brewing team of Ryan Truax and Constance Marshall from Los Angeles had the Homebrew with their Light Hybrid Blonde Ale Best of Show.  Best of Show Commercial Brew was High Water, Anniversary Dupplesticke. High Water Brewing, brewed by Steve Altamari and John Anthony in San Leandro at Drake's Brewing Company.


The Amador County Fair, host of this event, opens on Thursday, July 15, 2012. This year they will be offering Micro Brew tastings from 11:00 – 4:00 on both Saturday and Sunday, July 27th  and 28th. The Fair's theme this year is "Barn in the USA." As you travel to Plymouth, be sure to enjoy all the different barns in Amador County!

Enjoy the dip and see you at the fair!

Vivian’s Garlic Dip

Makes 1 cup

Serve it with crackers or raw vegetables. We also ate it on some of Jackie’s toasted bread, mmm good! It is also good as a sandwich spread. If you have basil in your garden, this is a great way to use it up. Try to make this 2 to 3 days ahead of time. The longer it sits, the better it gets!


1 (8.5-ounce) jar oil-packed sun-dried

tomatoes, cut into small pieces

(reserve the oil)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream


In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, and thereserved oil from the sundried tomatoes, and toss lightly. Let marinate for up to 3 days.

Drain the excess oil from the tomato mixture and discard the oil. Place the tomato mixture in a mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, and blend together. Add enough yogurt to get the desired consistency.


Thanks to Becky Calhoun Foster for submitting her mom's recipe for our cookbook!

~ Susie


A Layover in Dallas Worth Planning For

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on July 15, 2012 at 8:50 AM

Next time you have a layover in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport , tack on a couple of hours and find your way over to the Hard Eight BBQ in Coppell, Texas. Do whatever it takes – rent a car, hail a taxi, call a cousin – whatever…the brisket, and the experience, is worth the effort!

On our flight back from New Orleans, we had a layover in Dallas. Fortunately, our cousin Lori lives close by, so we arranged a 4-hour layover (any longer than 4 hours and you pay a fortune in air miles) to sneak in some Texas BBQ and see her Texas home. Like we didn’t eat enough in New Orleans, but that’s a whole other story to be told later!

Lori picked us up from the airport and had her daughters Jamie and Jessica and their families that live close by meet us at Hard Eight Pit Bar-B-Q in Coppell, a 10-15 minute drive from the airport (depending on construction!). With 5 little grandsons, this is definitely the place where you feel comfortable bringing the kids. Hard Eight is amazing, from the moment you open your car door in the parking lot, the smoke from the Texas mesquite BBQ pits puts you in its spell!! You start outside under the huge barn roof covering multiple smoking pits, and the line snakes around until you reach the pit master, where pulls the meat off the pit and slices it to order on the spot.

The pit master wields his weapon

This is the real deal, mesquite smoked Texas-style barbecue, cooked low and slow over open (and closed) pits - a cooking method the German settlers brought to the Texas Hill Country over a century ago. These pits are smokin’ 24 hours a day. I’m not sure if it was the humidity from New Orleans and Dallas, the heat, or the smoke, but all of the photos on my iPhone came out in a haze!

At the beginning of the line is a small grill where you can order up a rib eye or sirloin steak, but we were waiting for the meat by the pound! There’s no china or white tablecloths in this establishment, they slice and serve up your meat from the pit to your paper-covered tray!

Mesquite smoked meats cooked low and slow at the Hard Eight

They tried to warn us ahead of time to not ask for too much meat because you really do want to try everything: brisket (gotta have that, we’re in Texas for crying out loud!), “fall-off-tha-bone” ribs, chicken, turkey, sausage that’s mild or HOT, pork chops, and these delectable little chicken nugget popper things that have jalapeno and cheese in the middle and bacon wrapped around the outside, yowza! You can also get corn on the cob and baked potatoes right off the pit. They have two barbecue sauces to choose from, sweet and spicy, and oh yeah, they were good (not that the brisket needs it!).

The long awaited brisked sliced to order

After moving through the line in the 90+ Texas heat, along with the fires from the pits and the smoke, you enter the swinging wooden doors and find the family style air-conditioned dining hall, whew. Great log cabin, cowboy themed setting (we learned that Hard Eight can be defined as the eight seconds of a bull ride), I knew I was back in Texas. Your next lineup is the “fixins” where you can start with sliced white bread to soak up any stray juices, potato salad, jalapeno sweet corn (my favorite), coleslaw of course, roasted cornbread salad or Mac-n-cheese.

And then there’s the dessert lineup, pecan pie, cobblers, “slap-yo’-gran’ma-good” banana puddin’ and more. At the end of the line, they put your tray on the scale and check you out. But that’s not really the end…they have a station with great tasting all-you-can-eat pinto beans with jalapenos and bacon (very dangerous for me, especially when heading back onto an airplane!). Where does a girl begin? I felt like I was on an episode from the Food Network!

The tray is full, and I will be soon

The family style dining is great, you can spread out on the table, spin a yarn with your friendly Texan neighbors (this isn’t uptight California dining!), the kids can run around and be loud (and so could I), it’s not just dinner, it’s an adventure!

We summarily devoured all that we could eat (yes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, Lori had leftovers), the food was far beyond expectation, and my yelp score would definitely be 5 Stars!!


Don’t Mess with Texas! Especially their brisket!

- Nancy

I checked one off the bucket list!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on June 23, 2012 at 12:25 AM

Cathy, Kyan, Sheri, and Merry with Chef John Ash

I have a bucket list that's about a mile long and it's not often that I get to check something off the list. OK, maybe I should shorten the list and make it a bit realistic, but it's good to have unobtainable dreams. Gives you character.

A couple of weekends ago I actually got to check "Learn to cook with a chef from the Food Network" off my bucket list. This adventure started when my friend Sheri asked me if I was interested in taking a cooking class at River Myst Haven in the Healdsburg area. At the time my mother was not well and my sisters and I were spending a lot of time either at the hospital or at our parent's house helping out on the weekends. When I found out that Chef John Ash was teaching the class, I made it clear to my sisters that I would not be available on that Saturday to help out.  So, I guiltily told Sheri, Yes! (Unfortunately, our mother passed away shortly before the class.)

Chef John Ash was a host of two TV shows on the Food Network. He now travels the world teaching cooking classes and is an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the Napa Valley. He is known as the “Father of Wine Country Cuisine." In 1980 he opened a restaurant John Ash & Company in Santa Rosa, which was the first restaurant in the Northern California wine country to make dishes from the local, seasonal ingredients that complemented the wines made in the region. He has published three cookbooks and his fourth, Culinary Birds, will be released in the fall of 2013. 

Chef John Ash's "Culinary Birds" cookbook to be released in the fall of 2013

River Myst Haven is a small event facility in the hills of the Russian River Valley outside of Healdsburg, which is in the Sonoma County wine region. It's about a two and a half hour drive from Pleasanton, where my friend Cathy and I picked up Sheri and her next door neighbor Kyan.  We were a bit early when we arrived at River Myst so we did a bit of exploring outside where we ran into Percy the peacock and some wild turkeys that just happened to be cruising by.

River Myst Haven

The view from River Myst Haven

Percy the Peacock

One of several wild turkeys cruising by

The day of our class there were thirteen students and five dishes to cook. All of the dishes were made with chicken and the recipes were from the Culinary Birds cookbook. The chicken that we used in our dishes was produced at Pepper Ranch Poultry in Petaluma. The chickens raised at Pepper Ranch are heritage meat chickens that are smaller and slower growing than the chicken we buy in the grocery store. The Pepper Ranch follows humane practices where the chickens are on pasture and are free to go in and out of chicken houses.

Pepper Ranch Poultry in Petaluma (photo borrowed from PRP's Facebook site)

In addition to Chef John Ash, there were a couple of other culinary experts on hand that day to help answer questions and teach cooking methods. Mei Ibach a chef and culinary instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College was one of the helpers. Another creative women, whose name I did not catch, beautifully arranged the veggies that we would be using that day.

The fresh veggies, herbs, and spices we used in our dishes

When it was time to start preparing the food, the chef split us into groups with people we did not know. My group was responsible for making grilled chicken kebabs with tzatziki sauce and flatbread. The chicken kebabs were seasoned with a marinade made with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, rosemary, kosher salt, and pepper.  The chef made the dough earlier for the grilled flatbread and it was my group's responsibility to roll out the dough and grill it. These kebabs were the best kebabs I have eaten. I have since made them at home and my family loved them as well.

Grilling tip from the chef:  Before placing food on the grill, the grill should be oiled. The chef said that he uses a rolled up towel to evenly oil the grill and to prevent the grill from becoming over oiled. When a grill is over oiled it can cause fire flare-ups that will burn the food.

The chicken kabobs ready for grilling

The flatbread on the grill

The plated kabobs being prepped for serving

The finished chicken kebabs with tzatziki and grilled pita bread

When we were done prepping our dishes, we got to enjoy a glass of wine. Once everyone was done prepping, we all sat at a nicely set table and one by one each group got up to finish cooking their dish and serve it to the class. All of the food was incredible and it was almost thrilling to know that I have the ability to make all of these dishes myself.

Sheri's group made a chicken and shrimp meatball soup with cellophane noodles.  Just before serving, fresh lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro was added, which really finished off the soup with a fresh flavor.

Chicken and shrimp meatballs

The chicken and shrimp meatball soup

Kyan's group made 5 spice chicken in rice paper and with a dipping sauce. Her group actually made the 5 spice powder themselves by using a coffee grinder to grind the spices. Kyan passed around the freshly prepared 5 spice powder along with an older bottled version of five spice powder so that we could smell the difference. The freshly prepared five spice was much more fragrant than the older bottled powder, which makes me more inclined to want to grind my own 5 spice just prior to using it.

FRYING TIPs:  A couple of good tips we learned from the chef when he talked about making this dish was that the range for frying foods is 350 - 375 degrees F.  If food is fried below 350 F, the food will absorb the oil and become oily or mushy.  Also, food should be cold before put into the hot oil. The cold will help create a barrier that will prevent the food from absorbing the oil.  You should however, monitor the temperature of the oil when adding the cold food to the hot oil to ensure that it does not drop below 350 F.

Chef John Ash demonstrating how to roll the chicken filling in rice paper

The prepared chicken rolls prior to frying

5 spice chicken in rice paper

Cathy's group made Vietnamese salad with grilled chicken. This salad was great. It was especially nice eating this salad freshly made. In the past when I have ordered this salad in restaurants the salads were not freshly made, so the vegetables were not crisp and the flavors had fused in an undesirable way.

After Cathy's group softened the rice noodles the noodles sat for some time before the salad was served. We expected the noodles to be stuck together and served in clumps, but they were all easily separated.

Cathy chopping the ingredients for the Vietnamese salad with chicken

The freshly sliced and julienned veggies

The grilled chicken thighs used in the salad

The Vietnamese salad with chicken

The last dish that was served was a chicken slider with watercress and caramelized onion jam. This too was very good. Ginger poached chicken was used to make the sandwich.

Chicken slider made with ginger poached chicken and dressed with watercress and caramelized onion jam

The class participants enjoying the dishes made during the class.

River Myst will be hosting a cooking class with Chef John Ash in September and October (go here to see the schedule: http://www.rivermysthaven.com/food_wine_education.html). I highly recommend signing up for one of the classes. Opportunities for a hands-on cooking class with a chef of his caliber don't come often!


A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness. ~Elsa Schiaparelli

The Chili Shooters Stampede!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on June 4, 2012 at 9:55 PM

Saturday was the Third Annual Chili Shooter's Stampede that kicked off rodeo week in Livermore. We made and served chili at the first annual stampede, but have been attendees the last two years. This year, in addition to tasting chili at the stampede, we got to taste beer too!  My sister Nancy, cousin Wendy, Nancy's friend Deanna, and I went to the event and had a blast or as per Nancy, "a rootin' tootin' good time."

A wagon pulled by draft horses carried us from one end of First Street to another

Eleven restaurants and one group of firemen were serving chili and twelve retail stores were pouring beer samples. The chili was served in a commemorative shot glass.  The winners of this year's chili competition have not yet been announced, but we sure know which ones were our favorites.

This year's Chili Shooters Stampede commemorative shot glass

The First Street Ale House

The First Street Ale House was serving a very tasty chili made with rib eye steak and tri-tip. Next door a band was playing in front of Savvy Seconds.

The band in front of Savvy Seconds

Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department's chili booth

At the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department's booth a traditional chili much like grandma used to make was being served.

Last year's first place chili winner was Demitri's Taverna with a Mediterranean chili made with lamb. Unfortunately, none of us are lamb eaters so it was quite a surprise for us to find it in the chili. Nancy, Wendy, and I used to raise those smelly little ovine and for some reason we just don't like the taste. This year our hopes soared when the young lady serving the chili at Demitri's said she didn't think it was lamb. One bite and ugh, we knew this wasn't our favorite chili. Sorry Demitri, we love the rest of your food.

The unsuspecting Nancy being served lamb chili

The Winemakers Pourhouse that is just a few doors down from Demitri's was serving a great turkey chili topped with blue cheese crumbles. The person serving the chili said that she makes it there daily.  I plan to drop in for a bowl of turkey chili soon.

The Winemaker's Pourhouse was serving a great turkey chili

Even Wienerschnitzel got into the action and were serving their award winning chili with fries.  We loved them.

Wienerschnitzel's chili cheese fries

We ran into several old time Livermore residents that day.  One of the "Fletcher Boys" (that's what our parents call Rob and his brother) was playing his banjo in front of the Woopsiedaisy Toy Store. We were so busy chatting with Rob and his wife Tish that we forget to go into Woopsiedaisy to try the beer they were serving.

We made it into Baughman's Western Wear for some Sierra Nevada Old Chico beer and saw our cousin Robin selling tickets for the Livermore Rodeo.  We also saw some boots that we'd love to come home with.

Our cousin Robin (in the middle) selling tickets for the Livermore Rodeo


Sierra Nevada Old Chico Beer and some really kickin boots at Baughmans

The hottest chili was served by El Sacromonte, the new upscale Mexican restaurant. It was called a "macho ceviche" made with Serrano chilies and halibut. Apparently I wasn't macho enough to eat it. It was so hot I had tears running down my face and it took about fifteen minutes to cool down and get all of the Serrano chili seeds out of my mouth. Mucho caliente pescado for the gringo.

Just looking at this picture makes me break out in a sweat!

My favorite chili was served at Milano Joes, which is a fairly new Italian restaurant.  It was made with Italian sausage.

Milano Joe's Italian sausage chili

Dawn Shubert, my favorite photographer in Livermore, was pouring beer in her new downtown studio next to the Independent building. By the way, there is a French bakery under construction just two doors down from Dawn's studio. While in Dawn's studio we were surprised to see a picture of my daughter Laina in the window that Dawn had taken of her a few years ago.

Dawn Shubert on the left

A beautiful photo of my daughter Laina in Dawn Shubert's window

Over at the Beer Baron aka Livermore Salon, beer from Altamont Beer Works was being poured. Stephen Sartori and Greg Robles (Greg's mother was one of the recipe testers for our cookbook) are in the process of opening Altamont Beer Works off of Vasco Road in the business park behind the Occaisio Winery tasting room. It will be Livermore's first brewery since prohibition. The excitement is mounting for its completion and opening.

Samples of Altamont Beer Works beer were being served at the Beer Baron

Besides enjoying the beer, chili, and the fellowship of the other tasters, another advantage of this event was that we went into a few stores we have not been in before. There is an Art Glass Studio on the corner of Second and L Streets that offers classes making art with glass. They also have already made items for sale, which included a stained glass sunflower and another sunflower made of small glass tiles that I would just love to have.


Some of the glass art at the Art Glass Studio

One of my favorite stores, Main Street Design, had some great Livermore tea towels for sale.

"It's wine o'clock in Livermore" tea towels and beer pouring station in Main Street Design

We did stop by one store that was not participating in the stampede. There was a photo in the window of the Way Up Art and Frame that our mother was in from when she used to model for Livermore Rodeo advertisements in the 1940s. Another photo with our mom in it was hanging inside the store. There was a lot of glare in the window, but if you look closely at the photo below, you can see her on the bottom left holding up a pistol.

A photo of with our mother in the window of Way Up Art and Frame

OK, back to the chili. Casbah Cafe served a Mediterranean vegetarian chili which we enjoyed that was made with split peas and eggplant and was seasoned with tumeric. Harry's Carvery served a chili that was chock full of ground beef and a Mexican flavor--also very tasty. The Swirl on the Square wine bar was serving "chili gone wild," which was a vegetarian chili made with beans and lentils and it had a kick at the end.

Speaking of a kick at the end, we ended our day at Sauced, Livermore's newest and finest swine bar.  Yes, I said swine bar. This has become one of our favorite restaurants in Livermore. The decor is tastefully done in redneck chic, they have whisky on tap, and the food is fantastic. After trying their chili with brown sugar and a big BBQ flavor that was served with cornbread croutons, we sat out on their patio and enjoyed some salads. What a day!

Nancy and Wendy getting Sauced



Posted by holmfamilycookbook on May 28, 2012 at 8:55 AM

My husband and I met Dave the Butcher at a hog butchery class in Berkeley, and he happened to mention a happy hour that involves pork, held every Wednesday night at The Fatted Calf Charcuterie in San Francisco.

Second take…a “Butcher’s Happy Hour,” featuring a whole hog?? Say what?! My ears perked up, I’m in! Pork has always been my flesh of choice, we grew up on my grandmother’s huge pork butt roasts (it’s really from the shoulder) that melted in your mouth and fed the entire family at our large Sunday lunches. But where do you find a date for a porcine happy hour?? Not the faint of heart…no vegetarians…wait, my sister-in-law Paula, the perfect choice! She raises a pair of organic Berkshire hogs every year for home consumption, and she learned how to slaughter and dress a turkey last year, she would be game for this hoggish adventure!

So we’re off to Hayes Valley in San Francisco, I’ve never been to this neck of the woods in the city, a cool foodie Mecca tucked away just off Market. Outdoor cafes, pubs, coffee shops, ice cream stand, food trucks, and much, much more. I’ll be back to this neighborhood when I have more time, and am not weighed down with a bag full of piggy products.

We were welcomed by butchers Matt and Gus, with half of a hog laid out on the butcher block,


Butcher Matt working away on the hind quarter

and the rest hanging from the rack. Again, this is not an event for everyone!

It’s a very casual affair; there are pork snacks to nosh on, along with complimentary tastes of local brews to wash down the appetizers, my favorite was the Denogginizer from Drakes Brewing.

Where have I been? Who knew there was an urban brewery in San Leandro? Well, my sister Susie did, so much to learn at the Butcher’s Happy Hour!

We met other lovers of the other white meat, Chris and Paul. We shared some freshly marinated cauliflower and pickled beets while talking pig, and Paula and I split a hearty meatloaf sandwich from their deli as we watched the butchers wield the weapons.

Paul, Paula and Chris - look how happy they are at happy hour!

While Matt was taking the half-a-hog down to the cuts we are more familiar with, like pork chops, Gus the butcher was working on the Porchetta (doesn’t that just sound delicious?!), an Italian style marinated rolled pork roast, it was a work of art! 

The roast is about 2 feet long,

and then they cut it to order, so I was able to bring home about an eight inch roast,

along with a bag full o’ goodies. The Fatted Calf also carries a wide variety of local organic products, Paula and I both came home with a small crock of butter from McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma. We keep our butter soft and out of the fridge, just like Granny did, so the little crock will come in handy, and the butter is delicious.

With the industrialization of meat processing and beef now being sold even at Walmart, over the past 3 to 4 decades came the demise of the local butcher. Fortunately, there seems to be a renaissance in the making with the corner butcher, charcuterie and boucherie.


Behind the scenes at The Fatted

Along with The Fatted Calf Charcuterie, these artisans of meat are popping up across the landscape in the bay area, The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley, Barons Meats in Alameda, Olivier’s Butcher in San Francisco, el Salchichero Handcrafted Charcuterie in Santa Cruz and Main Street Meat & Fish in Pleasanton. Focusing mainly on local, sustainably raised meats, organics like SunFed Organics (family member Pat Byrne was one of our cookbook recipe testers!),

SunFed Organic New York Strip

and some on the whole animal. There’s even a butcher shop on wheels, Avedano’s Meat Wagon can be found, where else but Hayes Valley, Thursdays through Sundays! So get out and support your local butcher, who supports your local rancher, who supports your local economy and your scenic views! And don't forget the Happy Hour!


3-5 pound boned pork shoulder roast, fat and skin on

Fresh garlic, pounded with a mortar and pestle

Lemon zest

Salt and pepper

Toasted ground fennel seed

Chopped Rosemary

Lay the roast flat on a cutting board, skin side down. Sprinkle the interior generously with the herbs and spices. Roll up the pork and tie tightly with butcher's twine. Sprinkle the outside with more fennel seed.

Marinate the porchetta for up to 4 days.

Rub the roast with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt prior to roasting. Cook at 375 to 400 degrees until the outside is browned to a golden hue, then, lower the temperature to 300-325 for 3-4 hours. Let the roast rest for 15 minutes, remove the string and slice into spirals to serve.

We cooked up a batch of homemade applesauce with cinnamon and brown sugar to serve with the porchetta, it’s a must! Along with some red cabbage and roasted potatoes.

~ Yum, Nancy

Tamales - Costa Rican Style

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on May 2, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Our friends Ernie and Diane were heading to Costa Rica for 4 months to help out a congregation in the small town of Sarchi; so of course, any excuse for a party! We decided to try out some Costa Rican recipes to prepare their bellies for the adventure ahead. There aren’t many cookbooks featuring Costa Rican cuisine available, so I found a few recipes online and sent them to the guests for a potluck. After our ravioli-making day, we planned to have a tamale-making day, so on this occasion we made the standard pork tamales and Costa Rican tamales. What sets the Costa Rican tamale apart is the addition of potatoes and rice to the filling, they are wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks, and are boiled instead of steamed.

Arroz con leche, Costa Rican tamales and pork tamales fill the stovetop!

We searched high and low for banana leaves, an ingredient not often used by us Californian’s, and Diane finally found them in the freezer section at Ranch 99 Market.

A staple on the Costa Rican’s menu is Gallo Pinto (beans and rice). A couple who spent a number of years in Central America and the Caribbean brought a pot of these herbed black beans and rice, something they had eaten plenty of during their stay in the tropics. Another friend brought a delicious Ensalada Palmito, a light fresh salad of hearts of palm with a homemade mayonnaise dressing.


Ensalada Palmito with homemade mayonnaise

Also on the menu was Ensalada Rusa, a hearty salad of potato, beet and carrot (turned bright pink from the freshly roasted beets!), along with Tico Rice and for dessert Arroz con Leche, a sweet rice pudding. I made a batch of Picadillo, a vegetable chorizo mélange.


Picadillo with chorizo and chayote

This was the first time I had ever purchased a chayote, and couldn’t figure out why each chayote came in a little plastic bag. Good thing I looked it up on google, as you can have an allergic reaction to the skin, it’s best to wear gloves to peel.

We all shared in making the tamales, an all-afternoon affair, plus some preparation in advance. A number of us cooked huge pork butts (actually shoulders) the day before, low and slow, along with the Tico Rice and potatoes for Costa Rican tamales. Chef Bruce (you met Bruce previously in Nonni’s Ravioli blog!) taught us all how to make the masa using lard, homemade broth and cumin.


Spreading the masa in traditional tamales

We used the same masa for both varieties of tamales, making batch after batch after batch throughout the afternoon, as dozens of tamales were assembled and rolled!


Tanner and Bruce on the tamale line

Costa Rican Tamale Recipe

3 lbs pork shoulder roast

2 tbsp olive oil

coriander leaves (cilantro), salt, black pepper, cumin, oregano, achiote (I didn’t have this ingredient on the hill!)

8 cloves of garlic, peeled

½ lb sweet or hot peppers to taste

1 large onion

32 ounces chicken broth

2 ¼ lbs potatoes

2 lbs instant corn masa mix

2/3 lb lard

5 cups cooked Tico style rice

2 ¼ lbs banana leaves (corn husks can be substituted, or if desperate aluminum foil)

Rub the pork roast with olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon black pepper. In a deep roasting pan add the peppers, onion, garlic and chicken broth. Roast at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes until the skin browns, then lower the temperature to 300 degrees and roast until very tender, 3-4 hours. Reserve the broth. When the meat is cool shred or chop finely.

Chopping the roasted pork

While the meat is simmering prepare the potatoes and rice.

Peel the potatoes chop into ½ inch cubes. Boil with salt, cilantro, and oregano to taste until soft, about 10 – 15 minutes.


Rice Tico style

3-5 sprigs cilantro

1 small or half a medium onion

½ small red or yellow sweet pepper

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cups white rice

3 cups chicken broth or water

½ teaspoon salt

Chop cilantro, onion, and sweet pepper very fine. Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large pan and sauté the dry rice for 2 minutes over medium high flame then add the chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro and sauté another 2 minutes. Add water or chicken broth and salt, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer until rice is tender, 20-25 minutes.


Tamale fillings ready to roll: roasted pork, potatoes and tico rice


To prepare the masa, allow the meat broth to cool until it is just warm. To the dry masa add 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and and mix dry. Then add the lard, mixing with hands or machine, while adding the warm broth. It should take about 2 1/2 cups to make a paste the consistency of mashed potatoes. Mix and add slowly, and if you over shoot on the broth and get it too thin, add a little more masa.

Wash the banana leaves then cut them into 15 inch squares. Spread 2 tablespoons of masa paste in the center, add 1 tablespoon each of potatoes, rice and meat.


Costa Rican tamale ingredients ready to wrap

Fold as shown and tie with cotton string, or strips of corn husks.

Little wrapped packages ready for the pot!

Cook the tamales in gently boiling water for about one hour. If you substitute corn husks, you will need to make slightly smaller tamales, pack the pot full and steam them rather than boiling them, because the husks won't hold together.

A plate packed with our Costa Rican cuisine!


They made it! Diane & Ernie in Grecia's central park, Diane and Linda shopping at the market in Sarchi Costa Rica!

Pura Vida!   Nancita the hungry gringita

The Cowgirl Luncheon

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on April 11, 2012 at 8:50 PM

Yesterday my friend Kim Bonde and I attended the 11th Annual Cowgirl luncheon in Oakdale, which was a fundraiser for the Oakdale Cowboy Museum and one of the events kicking off rodeo week in Oakdale. Tickets for this event went on sale February 15th and the 460+ seat event sold out in less than four hours. Kim drove the hour drive to Oakdale the day the tickets went on sale to get our tickets. The luncheon was held at the Oakdale Community Center.

Oakdale is also known as the "Cowboy Capital of the World," which is a title the town claimed long before its rodeo cowboys won 24 world championships. The small Texas town of Stephenville also claims to be the cowboy capital and says it has more cowboys per square foot than any place in the world. Hmmm. Wouldn't want to be the referee in that battle.

The Cowgirl Luncheon was held at the Oakdale Community Center

This was the first time Kim and I attended the luncheon--or even heard of it for that matter--and we wondered if we would know many people. When we got in the line in front of the community center, we stood behind Bobbie Telles, who we have known for many years. Bobbie told us she stood in line for two hours to buy her tickets for the luncheon. Throughout the day we saw at least 25 people we that we knew and hadn't seen in a long time, so we had a great time chatting with everyone. We even saw my cousin Stacie Holm Brown.

We saw my cousin Stacie Holm Brown at the luncheon

As we walked into the event, we were served champagne by some of the local cowboys and they continued to pour champagne for us throughout the luncheon. When it was time for lunch to be served, the cowboys lined up and began serving lunch to the female guests. The lunch was catered by Steve Medlen's House of Beef in Oakdale. This was one of the best catered lunches I have ever had.  If the lunch the House of Beef catered for nearly 500 people was so good, I'll bet the restaurant is great.

The cowboys lining up to serve lunch

Lunch consisted of grilled steak with peppercorn sauce, garlic red potatoes, and salad

Bottles of Cowgirl Sisterhood wine were on each table

A few of the cowboys serving lunch were world champion cowboys while I was in high school. I have to admit it was a bit of a thrill to see these folks that we looked up to when we were kids.  One of the servers sat at our table to eat his lunch when he was done serving. He was Daniel Green, who was a world champion roper around 2008-2010 (many years after I graduated high school). Daniel told us his daughters' year-round softball games and his son's sporting activities currently keep him from competing nationally. Good man, that Daniel--making his children a high priority!

World Champion Roper Jerold Camarillo filling my glass with champagne

Ace Berry, champion roper and bronc rider

Champion roper Daniel Green

For the last few years a woman involved in rodeo has been honored by the Cowboy Museum at the luncheon. This year the honoree was Emma "Pee Wee" Burge Ott.  Emma was born in 1919 in Giswil, Switzerland and immigrated with her family to the United States when she was 9 years old. After passing through Ellis Island, her parents found work on a dairy farm in the Imperial Valley of California. Emma became proficient in riding dairy calves and at the age of 17 was hired to ride steers in an exhibition.  Three years later she was roping competitively.  She was taught to ride saddle broncs and it was the thrill of her life. She was only 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds, which earned her the nick name of  “Pee Wee”.  She took up trick riding, bronc riding, and relay and flat races for six years--riding at some major rodeos, which included the Pendleton Round Up.  She retired from her career in rodeo at the age of 27.  Pee Wee married a dairyman, Joe Ott, and they had four daughters. At the age of 50, she went to college and became a licensed vocational nurse. Pee Wee died last year at the age of 92. Her daughters and granddaughters were at the Cowgirl Luncheon to accept her award. What a story and what a gal that Pee Wee must have been!

Saddle bronc riding Emma "Pee Wee" Burge Ott. Photo borrowed from Oakdale Cowboy Museum's Farewell Facebook Page.

Kim and I sure had a great time at the Cowgirl Luncheon and have plans to attend again next year. On our way home we encountered some bad weather, including passing through extreme rain, hail, and winds that had accompanied a tornado in the area! 

Funnel cloud seen in the area we were driving through on the way home

Besides the Cowgirl luncheon and the Oakdale Rodeo, which by the way is this weekend, Oakdale is also the home of the Testicle Festival. The American Cowboy Magazine lists the festival as one of the top 101 events to attend in the west.


West Coast Crab Feeds

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on February 12, 2012 at 12:15 AM

Dungeness crab

During the fall and winter months in the San Francisco Bay Area and other communities along the west coast, many organizations hold crab feeds as their major yearly fundraiser. The crab feeds are typically held at an event center that can hold 200 - 300 people. The crab being served at the crab feeds are Dungeness crabs. Good, fresh Dungeness crab meat is sweet, tender and tastes great. The Dungeness crabs have hard shells and the crabs have usually been cleaned and cracked, but are still in the shell. Occasionally I hear about crabs feeds where the crabs are served already shelled, but it is really a lot of fun sitting around shelling and eating crab with your friends while wearing bibs. 

The Shrine Event Center in Livermore is a venue for several crab feeds every year

The menu at nearly all of the crab feeds that I have attended included all you can eat crab, salad, pasta, and garlic bread. Several crab feeds in the Bay Area also include all you can eat shrimp.  I would imagine that if someone were to attend several crab feeds during the crab feed season, they could easily pack on 25 pounds.

There is a group of friends and family members that I usually attend at least one crab feed with every year. Last Saturday night we attended the Livermore Rotary's crab feed. When we attend a crab feed, we don't just show up and eat. There are things to bring and some planning involved. Our friend Kim brings butter warmers, butter, and hand wipes. Although there is seafood sauce on the tables, my aunt Patsy brings her crab dressing, which I prefer over the seafood sauce. I bring light appetizers, such as crudités. Everyone brings tools to help make extracting the crab from the shell a bit easier.

One of Kim's butter warmers

Aunt Patsy's crab dressing

The tools we use to extract the crab from the shell

The salad

The pasta

A bowl of the all you can eat crab at the Livermore Rotary's crab feed

This was the first time we attended the Livermore Rotary's crab feed and fortunately, the Rotarians and their guests were well behaved. The event was much more low key than crab feed we attended a couple of years ago where there were "chick fights," dirty dancing, and wardrobe malfunctions (all performed by mom's that had way too many cocktails at this church affiliated crab feed).  The emcee for the Rotary's crab feed was Juliette Goodrich from CBS 5 news. It was a lot of fun seeing many old friends and coworkers at the event--even more so seeing them wearing bibs.

Emmy award winning reporter Juliette Goodrich emceed the event

It was a lot of fun seeing many old friends, like Jacob, at the Rotary Crab Feed

Aunt Patsy's Crab Dressing


1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup ketchup

1 teaspoon Worcestershire


In a mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, and blend well.


So, the West Coast has crab feeds, what kind of feeds do you have in your part of the country?

The Cookie Exchange: Year Three

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 12, 2011 at 9:40 AM

A sample of the wide variety of cookies and candies from this year's exchange: chocolate crinkles, double orange, snickerdoodle biscotti, shortbread, English toffee, lemon drops, chocolate balls

Three years ago I blogged about a Christmas cookie exchange 11 of my coworkers and I started that year at work. At the first exchange we were wowed by the French chocolate bark our coworker Louella brought for the exchange. She neatly packed the bark into twelve small green glass bread pans. The wife of another coworker brought chocolate Christmas mice, which were also a hit.  Click here to read about the first exchange

That year I brought the spritz cookies that my family and I make at a yearly spritz cookie making party. To read about the cookie making party and see the recipe, click here. 

Last year, I was not into making cookies for the exchange, so I made homemade peanut brittle. Believe it or not, peanut brittle is quicker and easier to make than cookies. Click here to learn how to make it and get the recipe.

I spent some time this past weekend prepping for the third annual cookie exchange. I made muddy buddies, a snack mix, instead of cookies. And, as I am writing this blog, it is 6:30 a.m. and I have potatoes baking in the oven for the luncheon we have in conjunction with the cookie exchange. The first year we had a taco and taco salad bar at the luncheon.  I made easy picante chicken in a crockpot for the tacos and salad. Click here for the recipe.  Last year we had a baked potato bar. When the call went out this year for ideas for the luncheon some people wanted tacos again, others wanted baked potatoes. There were no suggestions for anything new, so we are having a taco and baked potato bar.

It's now 9:30 p.m. and I'm feeling a bit queasy from all of the decadent sweets that I ate today. The variety of cookies and candy that my coworkers made for today's cookie exchange was incredible. There were snickerdoodle biscotti, lemon drop cookies, shortbread, English toffee, oatmeal raisin cookies, double orange cookies, chocolate mint chip cookies, and chocolate crinkles. Louella wowed us again this year with some chocolate balls made from an Ina Garten recipe. Besides the wide assortment of cookies and candies, there was also a variety of packages that the cookies were packed in.

A sample of the cookie packagings

Muddy buddies

Muddy Buddies


9 cups Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Wheat Chex, or Chocolate Chex cereal (or combination)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar


Measure the cereal into a large bowl and set aside. In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on high for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 20 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture over the cereal, stirring until evenly coated, and taking care to not break the cereal. Pour into a 2-gallon resealable food-storage (Ziploc) plastic bag. Add powdered sugar. Seal the bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator.

NOTE: If you don't have a 2-gallon resealable Ziploc bag, use two 1-gallon bags. Put 1/2 of the cereal mixture and powdered sugar into each bag. Rotate shaking the bags.


Christmas cookies and happy hearts, this is how the holiday starts.

Fish, Fish, Fishin'

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 7, 2011 at 8:30 AM

Over Labor Day weekend we headed out for the annual Mueller family camping trip on the Tuolumne River and Turlock Lake in Stanislaus County. This was a banner year with over 30 campers and boaters, ages 2 to 79.

The Tuolumne River in Stanislaus County

A fleet of boats are towed along, one of which is a bass boat, so there’s usually some fishin' going on. In the past, we haven’t cooked fish that often, the river is catch and release for trout, and nobody has ever been too excited about cleaning and cooking those critters at the end of the day. This year we took things a little more seriously, and I came prepared with my “tool box” for camp cooking.

I visited Green Leaf BBQ, our local specialty BBQ shop ahead of time to look into buying a 16-18” cast iron frying pan, after seeing the behemoth in use on our last camping trip. I left the store without the frying pan (it’s a specialty order) but came out with “The Brothers” Tangy Original BBQ Sauce and “John Henry’s” Wild Cherry Chipotle dry rub, upon recommendation from the owner. I was also packing a salt, pepper and garlic house spice mix that I had picked up at the Lockeford Sausage Company.

The river was flowing fast and furious into the lake and along the campsite, and fishing was good. The Mueller and Miller boys brought in a full stringer of rainbow trout, the assembly line of fish cleaning got rollin’ and the BBQ was sparked. I brought along an arsenal of ideas…


Nephew Matt and the Sangervasi cousins with the "catch of the day"!

I started by sprinkling every fish, inside and out, with the salt and pepper mix, and we tried the trout four ways:

1) I soaked two of the fish in buttermilk that I had brought up for pancakes, then dipped the fish in some flour and spice mix and fried it up on the camp stove the good old fashioned way. It came out crispy and delicious - heads began to turn.

2) We threw one trout directly on the grill, about 5 minutes on one side, flipped it, poured on “The Brothers” sauce inside and out, flipped it again after 5 minutes, brushed the other side with the sauce, cooked a few more minutes and served. At this point we won over another 3 nay-saying fish haters!

3) I laid a pair of fish individually on heavy duty tin foil, rubbed olive oil inside and out and sprinkled with a little more spice mix, stuffed the fish with sliced red bell pepper, garlic and shallots, laid a bit of the veg mix alongside the fish, wrapped them loosely and threw them on the grill, about 10 - 12 minutes each side. Now we were cooking! Another success, and another couple of skeptics were brought to the other side.

4) We rubbed the last fish with olive oil and heavily sprinkled it with John Henry’s Wild Cherry Chipotle dry rub inside and out, threw it on the grill, 5 minutes each side, and boy oh boy, this was the winner in my eyes, it was absolutely delicious! One of the 11 year-olds came over from the darkside at this point, we had the whole team eatin’ fish, and actually enjoying it.

At this point we were wondering if “fish” had another name, maybe kids would be more tolerant, and move beyond the average fish stick! Mission accomplished, my fly-fishin’ dad would be proud!

~ Nancy Calhoun Mueller

Dinner and an Outdoor Movie

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on July 3, 2011 at 11:09 AM

Wente Vineyards in Livermore has the most picturesque property of any of the wineries in Livermore. During the summer months Wente takes advantage of the their beautiful grounds to hold large concerts, small concerts, and movie nights. At about 6:30 last Thursday night I was cleaning out my email box and came across an email from Wente advertising their movie nights. The Wizard of Oz just happened to be playing that night and the gates opened at 6:30. On the spur of the moment, my daughter Laina and I decided to go. We threw some chairs, jackets, and blankets in the car and headed out.

The entrance to Wente Vineyards

The movie nights are free. Wente has food and beverages available for purchase in their Reel Cafe. On this evening the Reel Cafe menu included pulled pork, grilled vegetable, and mesquite grilled sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs. They also had nuts, popcorn, caramel corn, cookies, and wicked witch cupcakes. Wine, beer, and ruby slippers (cosmopolitans) were available as well. Laina and I decided on the mesquite chicken sandwich and caramel corn. Oh yeah, I had a ruby slipper too.

The Reel Cafe

The Reel Cafe menu

The mesquite grilled chicken sandwich

The ruby slipper cosmo

The Wicked Witch cupcake

The weather was beautiful that night. Lots of families showed up to socialize with their friends. There were games and face painting for the kids and shortly before the movie started a costume contest was held for the kids that showed up in costume. The Wente staff handed out witch hats and tin man funnel hats to some of the kids that didn't wear costumes. After the movie started, three little girls that were wearing the tin man funnel hats entertained us by running and hiding behind planters, walls, and garbage cans and  we would see the three little funnels pop up randomly throughout the night. They sure looked like they were having a great time.

The screen before the movie started

The moviegoers socializing before the movie

The costume contest

Young Frankenstein and Dirty Dancing are the other movies that will be shown this summer at Wente. Check the Wente Vineyards website for the July and August dates: http://www.wentevineyards.com/news/events/the_cinema_at_wente_vineyards/. If you don't like outdoor dining or prefer fine dining, you might want to try eating at their award winning restaurant before coming outside for the movie. One important thing to remember when going to any of Wente's outdoor evening events is to bring jackets or sweatshirts and a blanket. It can get very cold out there at night--even during the summer.

And now I am off to see the Wizard . . . .


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