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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It is a Small World After All

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 11, 2012 at 10:15 AM

Hachiya Persimmon Tree

Tis the season to see Hachiya persimmon trees around northern California looking like their bare branches have purposely been decorated with bright orange ornaments. People often move into homes with persimmon trees growing in the yards and have no idea what to do with the fruit. This happened to our cousin Wendy when she bought our grandparent's house several years ago. Last year she received a great recipe for a persimmon trifle. Settle in as I tell you the story about how she received the recipe.

My sister Susie attended San Jose State University in the 1970s. While living in the dorms there, she had a roommate named Candace who later in life moved to Chicago.

Fast forward to the early 2000s. Susie was staying with her friends, LouAnne and Lowell, who were living in the caretaker's cabin on our family's ranch in the Livermore Hills. One morning Susie walked down the long dirt lane to get the newspaper that was delivered at the bottom of the lane. While she was down there, a car driving by stopped. A young woman got out of the car to introduce herself as Melody, the new neighbor who had recently bought the ranch next to our family's ranch.

Susie was quite surprised to recognize Melody as someone she had once met in Chicago while visiting Candace. Needless to say, they were both quite surprised to meet again, so far from Chicago, and in such a rural location! Proving once again, that it is a small world. Since that day Melody and her husband, Steve, have attended many of our events at the party barn.

Our cousin Wendy lives about 1/8 of a mile from Melody and Wendy often shares the persimmons that grow at her house with Melody.  For years Wendy has been at a loss as what to do with the persimmons, so Melody shared a persimmon praline trifle recipe with her. Wendy made the trifle for our annual New Year's Day party and again recently when our cousins from Denmark were visiting. The first time she made it the pralines cooked a bit too long, however, they made a crunchy candy that Wendy chopped up and put into the trifle. I, personally thought the crunchy praline was fabulous in the trifle. Whether the pralines are crunchy or not, the persimmon trifle is very, very good.

Persimmon Trifle

Persimmon Praline Trifle

Ingredients for pralines

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup pecan halves

Ingredients for trifle

8 ounces mascarpone

1 pint heavy cream

1/3 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons dark rum

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

6 medium wild Hachiya persimmons, very ripe

2 cups cubed pound cake (1/2 inch cubes)

To make the pralines:

Spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine the sugars and half-and-half in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the butter, vanilla, and salt and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 260 degree F on a candy thermometer. Working quickly, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the pecans, then pout out the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading it as thin as possible. The mixture will start to harden quickly. Let the pralines cool completely, then chop into 1/4 inch pieces.

For the trifle:

Place the mascarpone, cream, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the rum, and salt into a mixing bowl. Mix on low and increase the speed to medium high. Whip the mixture just until it holds a firm, creamy peak.

Place a medium-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Remove the stem ends from the persimmons. Squeeze the pulp out of the skins. Using a rubber spatula, press the pulp through the strainer. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of puree.

Place one-third of the mascarpone cream in the bottom of the dish, spreading it out to the sides. Top with one-third of the persimmon puree. Sprinkle with half the cake cubes. Brush the cake cubes with 2 tablespoons of the rum. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the praline. Repeat the layers, ending with the mascarpone cream on top, a final drizzle of persimmon puree, and a sprinkling of pralines. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.


The Best Bloody Mary Mix on the Planet!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 2, 2012 at 5:25 PM

There seems to be a renaissance in pickling these days, even amongst our family. This year we pickled 45 quarts of asparagus, resurrected our Grandmother’s Danish Pickle recipe after 20 some odd years of slumber, and also whipped up some Dills, Bread and Butter Pickles and Pickled Okra. And boy oh boy, were they good, it was well worth the effort.

Our pickled aspargus under construction

You can find a wide variety of tangy pickled products on the shelves of sustainable grocers in the bay area from Studebaker Pickles, and you can also visit the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley where they are whipping up Kim Chee, Sauerkraut and Kombucha, who knew?!

On a recent trip to Portland, we were in need of an adult beverage, so we headed to one of the state liquor stores (unlike California, you can’t buy liquor in the grocery store), and as I was perusing the shelves, low and behold, I saw a McClure’s Pickle label; but it wasn’t pickles, it was Bloody Mary Mix. I felt like I had hit the jackpot! I have seen McClure’s products in specialty grocery stores here in the bay area and had picked up a few jars here and there, but I had never seen this concoction! Joe, Bob and the McClure family use their great grandmother's recipes for the Brooklyn pickles they produce by hand.

When you picked up the bottle and shook it around, you could see that there was some love and attention given to this bottle of tomato juice. Flecks of hot chili flakes and black pepper, chunks of vegetables, this was a must have. And sitting next to it was a welcome addition to any Bloody Mary, pickled asparagus. So I loaded up my cart with a lemon, celery, some potato vodka and we headed back to the hotel. My friends had never had Bloody Mary's with pickled asparagus, and we certainly had never sipped on McClure's mix, this was a real winner, a unanimous vote for Best Bloody Mary Mix on the Planet!!

Bloody Marys concocted in our Portland hotel room

Our family's favorite Bloody Mary was found at The Point, a restaurant on the banks of the Sacramento River in the San Joaquin Delta. They have been voted Best Bloody Mary on the Delta numerous years running, and that's where I learned about adding pickled asparagus, because of course, we're near the asparagus capitol of the world! Unfortunately, they are closing this December. We were planning our next family reunion in February at The Point, so if you have any recommendations for a new restaurant serving killer Bloody Mary’s on the Delta, please post it on the Holm Family Cookbook facebook page!

Bottom's Up! Nancy

Almost Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on November 26, 2012 at 9:45 AM

My daughter, Laina, has been making the pumpkin pies for our extended family's Thanksgiving dinner for the last three years. She started making them when she was 16-years old.  The tricky part about her pie making is that she doesn't open a can of pumpkin puree to make them; she actually cooks the pumpkins and purees them herself. She does take a shortcut and uses frozen pie crust.

A pie pumpkin used to make pumpkin pies

Laina uses pie pumpkins to make her pies. You can usually find these pumpkins in the produce section of the grocery store before Halloween and until after Christmas. The pie pumpkins are smaller than the pumpkins used for jack-o-lanterns. The pie pumpkins are also sweeter and the texture is not as grainy as the larger pumpkins.

Baked pie pumpkins

To make the puree, she bakes the pumpkins, scrapes out the seeds, and purees the cooked pumpkin--she does not use the shell.  It is not as complicated or time consuming as one might think.  And, the results are so much tastier than store bought pies and puree.

One of Laina's pumpkin pies

Laina uses the frozen pie crusts from Trader Joe's, which taste and look homemade. So, Laina's pies are almost homemade . . . .

Pumpkin Pie - Makes one pie


One pie pumpkin

1/2 can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 can evaporated milk

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 tsp. ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pie crust


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Wash and dry the pumpkin. Cut pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds and strings.  Place the pumpkins cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Allow pumpkin to cool and then scrape the cooked pumpkin out of the shell.

Place the cooked pumpkin into a blender and puree until smooth. Laina likes to put the evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk with the cooked pumpkin in the blender on the liquefy setting to make the texture smoother. Pour the pureed pumpkin into a bowl and mix in the eggs, then the salt, sugar, vanilla, and the spices. Mix well to make sure there are no spice clumps.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a 9" pie plate with a pie crust and crimp the edges. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pie crust. 

Bake the pie in the 425 F oven for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Bake 40 more minutes or until the pie is no longer jiggly in the center.

Cool the pie before serving.  We store our pumpkin pies in the refrigerator.

~merry carter~


We must have pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.

- David Mamet


Feasting at the Party Barn

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on November 18, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Tom and Vibeke visting from Denmark

Yesterday our "cousins" Tom and Vibeke Hvilsted from Denmark came to the Party Barn for a visit. We wanted to treat them to a taste of fresh American food, and the family rallied! Merry made guacamole, a green salad with pears, candied pecans, and blue cheese along with her Dutch oven beer bread. Sandy Holm made her spicy Cranberry Salsa with fresh ginger and jalapenos (we'll post this family favorite in a future blog!), Whitney made a fruit salad with Fuyu Persimmons, grapes, pomegranate, pears and apple, and Troy, aka "Spud," mashed the 10 pounds of potatoes. Nancy with the help of cousin Kenny Calhoun and Alton Brown grilled a turkey using Ken Calhoun's Turkey Marinade, Wendy made her persimmon trifle and I made my aunt Vivian Brizee Calhoun's stuffing.

My sister Nancy manning the BBQ (rain and all)


The spread and Wendy's persimmon trifle

Aunt Vivian's stuffing has been a staple at the Calhoun Thanksgiving for many years. We always thought it was Uncle Ken's recipe! I enjoy it because it has celery, mushrooms and spinach in it. We had a lot of stuffing left over and my father plans to test a recipe he saw on "The Chew," stuffed bell peppers!

We had a wonderful visit with Tom and Vibeke, they shared many stories and snippets of our Danish family history. Also visiting were four deer and a covey of quail. The much needed rain did not dampen our spirits! We also used this opportunity to try the long awaited Danish pickles that my family made during the summer. The pickles passed the test! They tasted just like the pickles that our Granny used to make and the Danes said they taste just like the pickles you buy in Denmark.


Vivian's stuffing with sausage

Vivian Brizee Calhoun's Turkey Stuffing - Serves 10

I doubled this recipe for the 14 guests and there were PLENTY of leftovers.


1 pound ground sausage (I used the Jimmy Dean Reduced Fat Sausage)

2 large onions

5 stalks of celery

3/4 pound fresh mushrooms

1 package of frozen spinach

1 package of cubed bread

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon salt, or less

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon sage

2-3 tablespoons butter


Brown and drain the sausage. Chop the onions, celery and mushrooms then sautee in about 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook the package of frozen spinach according to directions on package and then drain. Combine all above with 1 package of cubed bread, stir it gently in a large bowl.

Add the dry mustard, salt, poultry seasoning, pepper, and sage. Add enough hot water (plus some melted butter) to moisten the dressing. I used about 1 cup of water and melted the butter right in it using the microwave. Stir gently.

We did not stuff the bird, but cooked it in a covered dish at 300 degrees F for about 1 hour. Add a little more moisture when cooking in a covered dish. I added about 1/2 cup chicken stock with about a tablespoon of butter melted in it.




The Best Strawberry Ice Cream Ever

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on November 4, 2012 at 10:15 AM

We were invited to participate in the Sunol Pioneer Folk Festival that was held yesterday at the Sunol Regional Wilderness Park in Sunol.  Our Great, Great Grandmother Caroline Arnett's family moved from Missouri to Sunol and she lived there until her marriage to Daniel Teeter in 1870. Unfortunately, Caroline died twelve years later at the age of 33.

Here is a copy of Daniel Teeter and Caroline Arnett's wedding certificate. I have transcribed what is written on the certificate below. Apparently spelling was not a strength of the person that did the writing.

THIS CERTIFIES THAT The RITE of holy Matrimony WAS CELEBRATED between Daniel M. Teeter of Pleasanton Almeda, Co. Cal and Caroline E Arnett of Sunole off the Same Co. on the 27 day off June at Sanleandro Almeda Co. Cal by Gor. Smith Justis off the pese in the year off our lord 1870

We had a great time at the festival and have been invited back again next year. It appeared the other people at the festival had a great time too. The setting for the festival was just beautiful and the weather was just perfect. There were craft booths where at no charge people got to make stick horses, clothes pin dolls, stamped leather accessories, and they got to plant seeds to take home in a pot.  Cousin Wendy and my sister Nancy happily went home with stick horses and clothes pin dolls. There were food booths, again at no charge, where the attendees could make their own lemonade, taste horehound candy, apple fritters and biscuits made in a Dutch oven, and hand cranked ice cream.

Nancy cranking the ice cream maker at the Sunol Pioneer Festival

We manned the hand cranked ice cream booth. The ice cream was a hit.  Men, women, and children were excited to take turns cranking the handle of the ice cream maker.  Many of the people came back for seconds and some came back for thirds and fourths. Several of the people said the strawberry ice cream was the best strawberry ice cream they had ever had (however, some of the people had just hiked five miles, so anything cool would have tasted great).

A few people from India stopped by and told us about making hand cranked ice cream in India where there is either no electricity or electricty for only three hours a day. The ice cream flavors some of them made was mango, cardamom, or saffron. Other people visiting from India that had not seen or made hand cranked ice cream were very interested in how it was made and where they could buy the makers to take back to India.

Some of the leftover hand cranked strawberry ice cream

We used our grandmother's recipe that we have posted in our blog before, but this time we made some changes. The recipe below reflects those changes.  You can use this recipe with other fruit, such as peach, which is one of my favorites.

Granny’s Pumped Up Strawberry Ice Cream - Makes 5 quarts

Ice Cream Ingredients

6 pints ripe strawberries, cleaned and hulled

2 pints heavy whipping cream

1 pint half-and-half

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

Needed for the ice cream maker


Rock salt


Mash the strawberries until smooth. In a large bowl, combine the fruit with the cream, half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the freezer canister and insert the dasher into the canister. Place the lid on the canister and put the canister into the bucket.

Pack the area between the canister and the bucket with ice and rock salt. Add a 3- or 4-inch layer of ice and then pour a layer of salt, at least a few handfuls. Repeat the layering until the ice is about an inch or two below the cannister lid. Don't go above the lid and take care not to get the salt into the canister.

It will take about 1/2 hour to an hour for the ice cream to thicken in the hand crank maker.  The ice cream thickens in about 15 to 20 minutes in an electric maker. With the electric maker, be sure to turn the maker off as soon as the ice cream is thick or the motor can burn out.


In our family homemade ice cream was a tradition at birthday parties and summer events. Why not make it one of yours?


Broadway Pea Salad for the Brew Angels

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 23, 2012 at 9:35 AM

Recently the Brew Angels, the home brew club my husband Troy and I belong to, had a BBQ potluck meeting. Knowing there was sausage and ribs on the menu, my mind wandered to vegetables and then to the pea salad I had at Skates on the Bay many years ago. I went online looking for recipes. Someone had blogged about the Broadway Pea Salad at Skates, but the recipe that was posted by the blogger wasn't my favorite. I looked further and found a recipe from Clinkerdagger's in Spokane. This was the one I chose to modify a bit. I am always a bit hesitant about taking anything with mayonnaise in it to a potluck, but I kept it in the ice chest right until the meat was served.


Mind you, peas have never been my favorite. In fact, at the Thanksgiving kid's table, they were a chosen form of ammunition! There was just something about this salad that I liked. Maybe because the peas weren't thoroughly cooked, or was it the bacon? Here is the final recipe below that I ended up making, it paired well with the ribs and beer!


But wait, most important of all, what was on tap at the BBQ?? Bohemian lager, Cocoa Porter (chick beer), Chocolately and creamy, APA - American Pale Ale, IPA - India Pale ale, Bourbon, Barrel ESB - Extra Strong Bitters, American Strong Ale , Black IPA, American Brown, English IPA. And don't forget the 21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat in cans!


Broadway Pea Salad - 8 servings
(Modified from Clinkerdagger's Broadway Pea Salad)


1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream 

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon salt

(I made the whole amount of dressing, but only used half)


Water chestnuts, bacon, and red onion really add flavor to this recipe

Salad Ingredients

3.5 pounds frozen baby peas, thawed but not cooked (see note)

5 ounces water chestnuts, sliced and cut in half

8 ounces bacon, some fat trimmed off, cooked crisp and broken into pieces

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

Blend together mayonnaise, sour cream, pepper and salt. Combine baby peas, water chestnuts, bacon and red onions with dressing until ingredients are well coated.



Refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving. Stir twice each day to redistribute dressing.


Slowly thaw the peas at room temperature


Note: Peas must be naturally thawed. Slow thawing under refrigeration is best. Room temperature is acceptable, but do not place in water. Place the thawed peas on paper-towel lined pans and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to purge the remaining excess moisture from the peas. If peas are not thoroughly thawed or have been thawed in water and not properly drained, they will dilute the dressing.


Susie Calhoun, a Brew Angel

More Mini Desserts

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on October 17, 2012 at 9:40 AM


The assortment of mini desserts I served at Bunco

After Christmas dinner last year I served a tray of assorted mini desserts to my guests and they loved them (click here to read about them). What my guests loved about the minis was that they could say "I'll try one of each" and they would only be consuming the calories of one regular sized dessert, that they could eat one mini dessert and not feel too guilty about eating a dessert, and they loved having an assortment to choose from.

Recently it was my turn to host Bunco at my house. In my Bunco group the hostess is expected to serve dessert after the game. It was really hot that week, so I thought some refreshing minis would be the way to go.  I'd wanted to make lemon mousse for a long time, so I used this opportunity to make it.  Along with the mini lemon mousses, I made mini raspberry trifles using this recipe (click here) and I assembled the mini trifles in champagne glasses. I also served Trader Joe's mango ice cream in some mini dessert glasses that I bought at Pier 1 Imports. I topped the mini ice cream desserts with a dollop of whipped cream and a Trader Joe's coconut cookie.

Mini raspberry trifles made in small champagne glasses

Mango ice cream served in mini dessert glasses

Well, the Bunco group enjoyed the desserts, but they gave me some grief about setting the bar too high for the next Bunco hostess. No worries, she was happy to serve pies from Shari's.

There are so many desserts that you can make as a minis. I recently had a mini tiramisu at a luncheon and mini tarts are always fun and easy to make.

Lemon mousse in mini dessert glasses

Below is the recipe I used to make the lemon mousse. If you make this recipe, you will actually be making lemon curd first and then will make whipping cream to fold into the curd to make the mousse. For the best flavor, be sure to use fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Lemon Mousse - Makes 6 regular sized servings or 12 mini servings

Ingredients for the lemon curd

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

Zest of 4 lemons (zest the lemons before you juice)

1/2 cup lemon juice (approximately five or six lemons)

Pinch of salt

2 sticks (8 oz) butter, cut up into small pieces

Ingredients for whipped cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar


To make the curd, you are going to use a double boiler improvised by using a medium pot filled with a few inches of water and a large glass bowl. Bring the water in the medium pot to a boil.  Do not place the glass bowl on it yet.

Pour the three eggs and three egg yolks into the large glass bowl. Add the 1/2 cup of sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt to the eggs and whisk.

Set the bowl over the pot with the boiling water.  Fast and furiously whisk the contents of the bowl. Keep the mixture moving or it will turn into scrambled eggs.  The mixture will become frothy and then creamy. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens. It will take about 10 or 11 minutes to get to this point.

Remove the bowl from the boiling water.  Start adding handfuls of the small pieces of butter to the thickened lemon mixture.  Keep adding the butter until it has all been mixed in.  If any lumps remain, put the bowl back on the pot with the boiling water until melted.

Push the curd though a fine mesh sieve to remove the stray bits of scrambled egg that may have formed.

Put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cool.

To make the whipped cream, beat the cream and sugar together in a medium bowl until soft peaks are formed. Gently fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the curd at a time. Take care that you don't completely deflate the cream, so the mousse is somewhat fluffy when served.

To fill small dessert glasses, fill a corner of a gallon Ziplock bag with the mousse. Cut the tip off of the corner of the bag and pipe the mousse into the glasses.

Garnish with raspberries and thin strips of lemon peel.

Have fun with it. Your guests will love them!


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

The Beach House at Pajaro Dunes

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 25, 2012 at 10:40 AM

One of the spectacular sunsets at Pajaro Dunes

A couple of weekends ago I stayed at a beach house in the gated community of Pajaro Dunes on the Monterey Bay coastline in California with a group of friends from high school. We had the time of our lives there!

The inside of the beach house was light and cheery. The color scheme inside was white, yellow, and light blue, and there were windows everywhere. A whimsical set of bare toes was designed into the hearth of the stone fireplace.

The front entrance to the beach house

The backside of the beach house looked out onto Monterey Bay

The cheery yellow, white, and light blue color scheme in the beach house

Can you see the bare toes on the hearth of the fireplace?

Pajaro Dunes is on the edge of Watsonville, a farming community where most of the artichokes, raspberries, strawberries, lettuce, and cabbage that we consume in the San Francisco Bay Area is grown. Even if you don't live in the Bay Area, if you have any fruit or veggies in the house, it's a good chance some of it was grown in Watsonville. For me, driving through the Pajaro Valley to get to the beach house was like taking a step back in time. There were miles upon miles of row crops and old trucks loaded with packaged berries leaving the farms to deliver fresh berries. In my younger days, the San Francisco South Bay and East Bay areas used to be large farming communities and most of that fertile ground is now covered with housing tracts, and the high tech businesses that make up the Silicon Valley. 


Miles of artichokes, lettuce, strawberries, cauliflower and other row crops line the bottom of the Pajaro Valley

Acres of raspberries are covered with tents

Sorry for the digression. The beach house was built on a small cliff above the beach. There were Adirondack chairs placed around a fire pit and that looked out onto the bay.  This is where we spent hours visiting, listening to the waves, and watching pods of dolphins and sea lions swim by. I was excited to see the dolphins as I have never seen them off the coast of California. I'll tell you, there is nothing like an early morning of enjoying a great cup of coffee while watching dolphins swimming and frolicking in the surf.

I sat here and watched pods of dolphins and sea lions swim by

At night we made a bonfire in the fire pit and sat around the fire telling stories and laughing until we ran out of wood. We found sand dollars during our walks along the beach in the morning.  We ventured away from the beach house once to go up the coast to Capitola for lunch and to visit some of the little shops there.

There are condos and beach houses (including the one where we stayed) in Pajaro Dunes for rent.  Here is a link to the website where this particular beach house can be rented:  House 6 - At the Dunes Rentals


What a wonderful way to spend a weekend and to get a much needed attitude adjustment. And, only about an hour and a half from home!


The Vieux Girls

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 21, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Glamour Gal Martini

My sister Susie and I have been friends with Brenda and Melanie Vieux for several years, and we've have had a lot of fun times with the Vieux girls, such as trips to Mexico, "sibling" dinners in San Francisco, trips to the beach, and just hanging out. Urban legend has it that their father Don Vieux, a well respected rancher in Alameda County, would make deliveries to our grandparent's ranch in the Livermore Hills and would spend time chatting with our grandmother Ione. Our grandmother was one of the kindest people you could ever meet and Don assumed the rest of the family followed suit, so he encouraged Brenda and Melanie to forge a friendship with us. Boy, did we have him fooled! :)

The Vieux family has lived and ranched in the hills high above Fremont since Brenda and Melanie's great grandfather Octavien Vieux immigrated to the United States from France in the late 1800s. Brenda and Melanie grew up in the house their grandfather built on the ranch that overlooks the San Francisco Bay and cities of Fremont, Newark, and Union City. Evenings at the Vieux ranch offers a view of beautiful sunsets and the twinkling lights of the cities below. 

Susie and I have been fortunate to attend many events and dinners at the Vieux's house. The meals are usually prepared by Brenda and Melanie's mom, Ralene, and complemented with salad, dessert, or cocktails made by Brenda and Melanie. Unfortunately, life has a way of complicating things, so we don't get together as often as we used to. We recently, however, made plans to get together for a potluck. Those plans then morphed into a dinner that was prepared by Ralene and complemented with dishes and cocktails made by Brenda and Melanie. As usual, the food and company was outstanding.

Melanie made some beautiful cocktails that night and if not metered, they can knock your socks off. I still can't find the socks I wore that night.  The recipe is below.

Glamour Gal Martini


2 oz vodka

½ oz fresh lemon juice

½ oz fresh lime juice

½ oz simple syrup or 1 tsp sugar

Drop of crème de cassis


Rim a martini glass with crème de cassis and sugar.* Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into the martini glass. Finish the cocktail with a drop of crème de cassis on top.

*To rim the martini glass, first dip rim of glass in a shallow dish filled with crème de cassis and immediately place rim in another shallow dish with sugar, rotating the glass to ensure the whole rim is covered.


Note to the Vieux's:  I'm still working on my thank you card.


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!


Danish Pickles (Asier)

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 4, 2012 at 9:05 AM

A Tilli Holm Calhoun painting of some of the Danish pickles served by our Grandmother

When we were growing up our grandmother, Ione Holm or Granny to us, would almost always set out a dish of her sweet and tangy Danish pickles at special family events. The pickles were not green like the dills or sweet pickles, but they looked like the white part of a watermelon rind cut into strips.

Making the Danish pickles took Granny a few days. First she had to round up all of the ingredients. The cucumbers that she used were much larger than the cucumbers used for other pickles. Local friend and farmer Augie Hagemann would leave the cucumbers on the vine until they were large enough (approximately 4 inches in diameter) and would pick them when Granny was ready to pickle. After picking up the cucumbers from Augie, she would visit another farm to get fresh dill. One of the farms she would buy the dill from was on Vineyard Avenue in Pleasanton. Although not much dill is used for the Danish pickles, she would use the rest of the fresh dill for dill pickles. Sugar, vinegar, and pickling spices would be the last on her list to pick up before she made her way back up to her home in the Livermore Hills.

The next day Granny would peel all of the cucumbers, cut them in half length-wise and scrape out the seeds. She would then lay all of the scraped and hollowed cucumber "boats" out on pans and sprinkle them with salt. The cucumbers would sit over night while the salt would draw the excess liquid out of the cucumbers. The following day would be pickling day. I can still remember the aroma of the cucumbers and pickling syrup that filled her house on those pickling days.

Salting the cucumber "boats"

The salted cucumbers the following day

The last time any of us had Danish pickles was probably about 20 years ago when Granny was in her 80's. For the last few years we've talked about making them, but were at a loss as to where we were going to get the cucumbers since Augie moved to Oakdale and no longer grows cucumbers. My sister Nancy started doing some research and talked to some of the farmers at our local farmer markets and found that Farmer Sean from Terra Belly Family Farm in Pleasanton (where she gets her weekly CSA) thought he had some cucumbers that might work, he could leave the cucumbers on the vine to get them to the size needed.

Nancy made arrangements with the farmer to pick up the cucumbers on a Saturday afternoon and that evening we gathered with some of our cousins and aunt Patsy to peel and scrape the seeds out of the cucumbers. Our 95-year old cousin Phyllis had made the pickles many times with Granny and was on hand to help out and provide guidance. Most of us had made the pickles with Granny at least once. The following day we cut up the cucumbers, packed them in jars with spices, and completed the pickling process. During the pickling day every time someone went outside and came back into the house they would say, "It smells just like Granny's house!"  It's great that some smells can bring back such wonderful memories.

Peeling the cucumbers


Drying off the cucumbers

Nancy was a pickling fool that day and in addition to the Danish pickles, we made dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, and pickled okra with her. Those recipes I will share in future blog posts.

After we were done pickling, Cousin Phyllis said that she was always told, "We make the pickles now and they will be ready to eat at Christmas time."  So now we wait for at least six weeks to try the pickles and see how close they are to Granny's.


I'm waiting . . . . albeit impatiently, but I'm waiting . . . . .

The Danish pickle pickling syrup being added to the jars stuffed with pickling spice and the prepared cucumbers

Danish Pickles (Asier)

8 pint canning jars, rings, and lids

4 very large cucumbers, 10 to 12 inches long

2 to 3 tablespoons noniodized salt

2 cups distilled white vinegar

16 sprigs fresh dill

Pickling syrup (makes 1 1/2 quarts)

3 cups distilled white vinegar

3 cups sugar

2 teaspoons pickling spice

Day 1:  Peel the cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Place the cukes in a nonreactive pot, salt heavily, and let them sit overnight.

Day 2: Sterilize the canning jars and lids. Wipe the cukes dry and cut into 1-inch slices. In a nonreactive pot, bring the vinegar to a boil. Slowly pour the boiling vinegar over the cucumbers. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

To make the pickling syrup, combine the vinegar, sugar, and pickling spices in a large, nonreactive pot and bring to a boil. Place the cucumbers in the boiling syrup. As soon as the boiling resumes, remove the cucumbers. Place a couple sprigs of fresh dill in each jar, fill the jars halfway with syrup, and pack the jars with the cucumbers. Top off each jar with the remaining syrup, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Seal the jars with the lids. Place the jars in a hot-water bath, cover, bring to a boil, and process for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and allow them to cool. Make sure all the lids have sealed. Store for 6 to 8 weeks in a cool, dark place before serving.

Still waiting . . .


Teresa's Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 3, 2012 at 10:35 AM


Some of the neighboring cabins at Hebgen Lake

When my daughters and I went to Montana in July we stayed at the log cabin my uncle Ken and his wife Vivian built about 20 years ago at Hebgen Lake near West Yellowstone. There are other cabins nearby and the cabin owners have become good friends that watch out for each other and entertain one another.

The "N" family that owns the cabin nearest to my aunt and uncle's cabin is from Kansas and they have become very close friends with my cousin Becky and her family.  We've had a lot of fun times with the N family--our kids have gone ziplining together, us moms went antiquing together, and sometimes we'd just meet in West Yellowstone and hang out.


Our kids clowning around and ziplining together

Theresa N has quite a talent for recycling and repurposing furniture and other items giving them a new life. She also has a great talent for putting them all together with existing decor for herself and others. It is great fun to go antiquing with her to see the things that catch her eye and to hear what she would do with them.  Her cabin showcases her talents.


The N Family cabin showcases Teresa N's talents

One night the N family had us all over for dinner and Teresa N, with the help of her husband, made us some great Cuban pork loin served with black rice and beans. The vegetable side Teresa served was a roasted Brussels sprouts dish that was delicious. My daughters love Brussels sprouts and they were in heaven. Teresa has been kind enough to provide us with the directions for making her Brussels sprouts. I can't wait to try them at home!


Cuban pork tenderloin and black rice and beans

Teresa's roasted Brussels sprouts

Teresa's Roasted Brussels Sprouts


Brussels sprouts

Olive oil

Apricot preserves


Blue cheese

Coarse salt and pepper to taste

Chopped garlic to taste


Parboil the Brussels sprouts, drain, allow to cool enough for handling. When the sprouts are cool enough to handle, split them in half and toss with melted apricot preserves and olive oil.  Lay the sprouts on a cookie sheet or broiler pan. Scatter walnuts and blue cheese over the top and then sprinkle with coarse pepper, salt, and garlic. Roast at 450 degrees F until Brussels sprouts are slightly browned.

Always take the time to enjoy and celebrate family, friends, and life.


The Coffee Pot in Gallatin Gateway

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on August 16, 2012 at 10:05 AM

If you see this truck on Highway 191 in Montana, be sure to stop by for some eats

Last month my daughters and I took a spur of the moment trip to Montana to stay with my cousin Becky and her daughter at their family's cabin in West Yellowstone, Montana. One of the day trips we took was to Bozeman. As we were cruising along Highway 191 to Bozeman we stopped for coffee at the Coffee Pot in Gallatin Gateway, which is an all in one bakery, cafe, and pottery shop.

The Coffee Pot is in a quaint log cottage with a front porch equipped with rocking chairs. Outside an old rock chimney and colorful flowers add even more charm to the place.  Inside to the left is a small dining area staged around a rock fireplace. To the right is Mountain Arts handmade pottery displayed for sale on antique cabinets.

Some of my favorite flowers, hollyhocks, grow in the yard

The dining area

Mountain Arts Pottery displayed for sale

The cafe and bakery is in the middle of the cottage. The food and coffee is served in the beautiful handmade pottery.

The cafe menus

Check out the cinnamon roll in the bottom shelf!

Big surprise, we ended up ordering more than just coffee once we got inside the Coffee Pot. It was, however, nearly lunchtime so we had lunch. The sandwiches we ordered in the cafe were made with soft rolls baked in the bakery. Besides the sandwiches, Laina and I had to try some of the blueberry crumble pie. I think I just drooled on my arm thinking about that piece of pie that I split with Laina.

Instead of potato chips, I had grilled zucchini chips with my sandwich

Egg salad sandwich and tomato and basil soup

Pulled pork sandwich and vegetable soup

Iced tea served in handmade pottery

This wasn't our only stop at the Coffee Pot during our vacation in Montana. Whenever we were in the area we stopped by for refreshments. Online reviews about the Coffee Pot indicate they make the best cinnamon rolls around. I didn't try one, but they sure did look good.

Sitting here wishing I had a piece of that blueberry crumble pie right now,


I'm Hooked on Pinterest

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on July 27, 2012 at 9:30 PM

I'm Hooked!

I used to subscribe to a lot of magazines. They would often pile up and to reduce the piles I would take a stack of them with me on a business trip to read on the plane, I'd take the months-old magazines to read on vacation, or I'd spend a weekend flipping through them. Sometimes I would see an interesting story or article, a recipe, or a picture that I wanted to save, so I would rip the page out of the magazine and file it away. I have a few binders and a few drawers full of the pages I ripped out, but I never look at them. I don't even remember what the recipes, pictures, or stories are about, but I keep thinking someday I'll need them for something (did the word "hoarder" just come to mind?!?).  If I had bulletin boards all over the walls of my house, I could have categorized the bulletin boards and tacked the pages to the appropriately categorized bulletin boards and look at the pages whenever I wanted. Ahh, but that would be unsightly.


This is what my coffee table used to look like . . . .

For a couple of years I'd been seeing Pinterest posts showing up on Facebook and heard people talking about Pinterest. Several months ago I quickly scanned the Pinterest site, but did catch on to what the hype was all about. Just recently, however, I finally took the time to really take a look at Pinterest to comprehend how useful it really is and now I'm hooked. With Pinterest I don't need to spend money on magazines or spend hours flipping through them to find something of interest. I don't need to tear out the pages and file them away--I now have bulletin boards out in cyberspace and I have access to millions of photos, recipes, stories, and ideas to pin onto my boards!


After I was granted my Pinterest account I created cyber bulletin boards categorized according to my interests that I could assign a name and category to (nudity and porn are not permitted, so don't get any funny ideas). On each of my categorized bulletin boards I have a collection of photos. If I need a recipe for a potluck, an idea for a gift, or I wonder what I can do with an old rake or a canning jar, I go to my Pinterest boards. When I see an article, picture, or recipe on-line that I want to save, I can "pin" it to the appropriate bulletin board. If I don't already have a board set up for a pin, I can create a new board on the fly to pin it to.  Once pinned, I can later click on the pin to go back to website where I found the pin to see the full article, recipe, story about the photo, etc.


Samples of some of my Pinterest Boards

I have made some excellent dishes from recipes I found on Pinterest. A few weeks ago my sister Nancy was on vacation and had me pick up her CSA box, which among a lot of other fruits and veggies included a head of cabbage and a lemon. I had no brilliant ideas as to what to do with the cabbage, so I quickly found a recipe on Pinterest and my family and I enjoyed a delicious cooked cabbage about an hour later. I've included the recipe at the end of this post.

Brides to be and people planning parties frequently use Pinterest to compile ideas for their events. There's a plethora of great ideas at their fingertips. I could also see it used by someone planning on remodeling or redecorating their home and by someone trying to update their wardrobe. I often see pins with great looking outfits, including shoes and accessories. 

If pinning on Pinterest sounds like something you might be interested in, here are some ways to build up your boards:

- Add the "Pin It" button to your browser so you can pin images from any website. You will find this under "Add" on the Pinterest site.

- Follow your friends or other people's boards and repin their pins.  To follow my boards, go to this website and click "Follow": http://pinterest.com/merrycarter1/

- There is a public place where you can see what other people are pinning and pin from there to your bulletin boards. On your Pinterest site, click on "Everything" to see what people are pinning or "Categories" to narrow down the types of pins you would like to see.

- When you pin from the public places (e.g., "Everything") you can see and follow the boards that belong to the people who's pins you have pinned.

- You can also search for specific pins by using the search function and pinning pins found onto your boards.

- You can upload your own photos onto your bulletin boards by clicking on "Add" and then "Upload a Pin."

If you don't have a Pinterest account now, you will need to request an invite. You can ask a friend already on Pinterest to invite you or you can request an invite from the Pinterest site. It can take a few days to receive an email letting you know that you have an account.  Pinterest requires invites to keep the site running quickly and smoothly. The by-invitation-only method allows Pinterest to control the volume of new users, so that their servers are not overwhelmed by spikes in traffic.

I think the by-invitation-only method also helps cut down on spammers and the spread of malware. You should, however, still be careful. On a few occasions when I thought I was going to a website to see a recipe or a story, I was redirected to another site that had nothing to do with the pin I clicked on. If this should happen to you, do not click anything on that site. Close that tab and don't go back to that site.

As I mentioned earlier, here is the cabbage recipe that my family and I enjoyed.

Grilled / Baked Cabbage


1 head of cabbage, cleaned and cut into quarters

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons real bacon bits

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


Preheat oven or grill to 425 degrees F. Place each cabbage quarter on a piece of foil large enough to wrap it in. In a small bowl, mix all other ingredients together to make a marinade.  Spoon about two tablespoons of the marinade over each cabbage quarter. Make sure you get the marinade into the nooks and crannies.  Wrap each cabbage quarter with the foil taking care to keep the marinade on the cabbage and in the foil wrap. Bake or grill for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cabbage has softened to the way you like it. The original website for this recipe has step-by-step photos in case you need them:  http://greenlitebites.com/2010/06/28/roasted-grilled-cabbage/

Happy pinning!


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

Uncle Frank's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on July 8, 2012 at 11:35 AM

Uncle Frank and his pastry blender

Our mother’s twin brother, Frank Holm, was born four minutes after she was. Although she never let him forget she was the oldest twin, therefore the boss, he continued to make her chocolate chip cookies often during her final years. Chocolate Drop, Toll House, Chocolate Chip, our mom loved all of these cookies!  These cookies were welcomed, cheered and devoured rather quickly upon receiving them. We even made sure they were served at her memorial reception. I knew this was a recipe we needed to save and share.


I recently visited Frank and his wife Joan, while there I asked for the recipe. Frank modestly said, “It’s just the Crisco recipe.” After getting a copy and hearing the story, it isn’t just the Crisco recipe. Frank put his own twist on the cookies to make them Uncle Frank’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. He added cinnamon, nuts and extra chips to make them his own. The last batch he made for the family, Frank used pecans instead of walnuts. He also uses a pastry blender and not an electric mixer. While talking about the recipe we discussed using real butter instead of the Crisco Shortening. I would prefer butter and will need to do some experimenting, but here is Uncle Frank’s recipe. They are delicious!


Uncle Frank’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies


1 1/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4  stick Crisco Baking Sticks Butter Flavor - all vegetable shortening

2  tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 3/4  all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3/4  teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon of cinnamon, heaping

1 whole bag of chocolate chips

1  cup of chopped nuts, he prefers walnuts, but the pecans were very tasty!


Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine brown sugar, shortening, milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat egg into creamed mixture. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Using the pastry blender, mix into creamed mixture until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough 3 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies (his are usually chewy!) or 11 to 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

 ~Susie Calhoun~

Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap. ~Barbara Jordan


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

Pickling Asparagus

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on June 13, 2012 at 1:50 AM

Pickled asparagus

During May a small group of friends and relatives reserved a Saturday to pickle asparagus. My sister Nancy's sister-in-law bought three cases of asparagus from Victoria Island Farms near Stockton and shared her knowledge and family recipe with us.

The cases of asparagus to be canned

We canned the asparagus at Nancy's house in the Livermore Hills. The first lesson we learned that day was to make sure you read the recipe correctly during the planning stages.  Apparently, a person who will remain nameless, saw the amount of spices that goes into one jar and thought that was the amount for one batch. Lesson number two was to make sure you have all of the ingredients on hand the day before you start the canning process--this is especially important when you have a 40+ minute round trip to drive into town to the grocery store. I ended up having to drive into town to purchase more of the spices when we were well into the canning process. During my trip into town and back up to the hills I got stuck behind mini vans driving 20 to 25 mph in a 50 mph zone, which made my trip longer and excruciating.

Nancy's backyard

The third lesson learned on asparagus canning day was before you make that trip into town, be sure you know exactly what you are supposed to purchase. I had a list that said "dill" on it. I grabbed dill weed and the recipe called for dill seed.  So we improvised and used the dill weed. The pickled asparagus turned out just fine. Excellent in fact. Every time I have served the pickled asparagus, I have received a lot of compliments about how great it is and how we could sell it and make millions of $$. 

Spices needed for pickling asparagus: mustard seed, dill SEED (not weed!), crushed peppers, garlic, bay leaves, salt

We packed the asparagus so tightly in the jars that we had a few jars prepared with spices and extra brine left over.  Nancy decided to try to make giardiniera (pickled vegetables) with the leftovers. She raided the veggie drawer in her refrigerator and her freezer for fresh and frozen veggies and found enough to put up 4 or 5 quart jars. Just like the asparagus, we blanched 'em, iced 'em, and drained 'em. I've not yet tried my jar of giardiniera, but Nancy said the veggies turned out great. 

The giardiniera we made with extra jars and brine

We ended up making 48 quarts of pickled asparagus out of the three cases of asparagus.  Below is the recipe we used. Under the recipe are pictures that show the steps taken to pickle the asparagus. Note that the recipe includes crushed red pepper and garlic, which gives the pickled asparagus a bit of a zip. It's not spicy hot, but has some zip. Some people just don't like zip, so you might want to keep this in mind if you do make this recipe and when serving the finished product.

Pickled Asparagus


Fresh asparagus


NOTE: The amount of spices listed below go Into EACH pint sized jar (double measurements for quart jars):

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon mustard seed

1/2 teaspoon dill seed

1 clove garlic or more (we used more because we love garlic!)

1/4 bay leaf


5 cups white vinegar

5 cups water

1/2 cup salt


Using the appropriate method for canning, wash and sterilize jars and lids.

Cut the asparagus* to the appropriate length for the size of jar you are using.  Blanch asparagus 1 1/2 to 2 minutes and then plunge the asparagus into an ice water bath. When cool, remove from the ice water and drain. Place the asparagus on trays until you are ready to pack them into jars.

Start the water bath and brine. Place the spices in the bottom of the jars and then tightly pack the asparagus in the jars. Bring the brine to a boil. Pour boiling hot brine into jars and then seal the jars. Process jars for 10 minutes in the water bath.

Allow the asparagus to sit at least a couple of weeks before eating. 


*TIP:  You might want to consider saving the bottoms you cut off to use in soups during the winter.  To prepare the bottoms for freezing, blanch, drain, and put them into freezer bags. Store them in the freezer until ready to use.  

Cut the bottoms off of the asparagus

Blanch the asparagus

Put the asparagus in an ice bath

Drain the asparagus

Measure the ingredients into the canning jars

Tightly pack the asparagus in the jars

Bring the brine and the water to process the asparagus in to a boil

The jars tightly packed with asparagus

Pour the brine into the jars packed with asparagus

Removing the jar lids from the sterilizing bath

Place the lided jars into boiling water to process

Process the jars for 10 minutes in boiling water

Remove jars from processing pot

Allow jars to cool and lids to seal

We all need some zip in our lives.



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