We're two sisters who are craft book publishers and found ourselves in the midst of an avocado grove. We bought this house where we planned to conduct our publishing business and in the deal got 4 acres of avocado trees thrown in. Now we're not only publishers but ranchers as well! This blog is all about avocados and anything else that strikes my fancy.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How do you get rid of ants?

For two days now my kitchen has been covered with ants. This happens almost every summer about this time. The ants think my house is their own personal soup kitchen, 5 star hotel, drinking hole, their oasis. It drives me nuts. I've tried everything to get rid of them. I've gone on line to try to find the perfect solution.

I've tried cayenne pepper:

Whatever I read, said to pour the cayenne pepper wherever you see the ants entering the house. So I poured a bunch on the floor right at the spot where they were marching in. And guess what, they just kept on marching - right up and over the pile of pepper. It didn't phase them.

Then I tried black pepper:

Exactly the same result. The ants marched right through the black pepper. I didn't even hear a sneeze.

Some expert swore that Comet cleanser would do the trick:

Nope. They didn't budge. Just kept coming in.

By this time I had a big gooey mess of red, black and green powder all over the floor and it's not easy to clean up.  And if you breathe any of the two peppers in while you're doing it, forget it. You're in a lot worse shape than the ants.

I tried You tube to see if I could find a solution and what I found was this video of two sadistic teenagers trying to get rid of the problem with what looks like a shaving cream circle and some lysol. It didn't seem to work either. I'm not sure why they posted this unsuccessful attempt:

I wonder if this would really work. It's kind of long so if you don't want to watch it all go to the end where she's talking about using OrangeGuard:

Why hasn't this guy been arrested?

I hate to admit to the lady in video #2 that I finally ended up using good old ant spray. That really did do the trick. I wonder if I'm going to die. What do you use to get rid of ants? Please help. And don't tell me some combination of powders that I'm going to have a hard time cleaning up and that really don't kill the ants.  Maybe I'll try the OrangeGuard. Do you think that might work?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tequila Bottles for Collectors! - Who Knew?

On Tuesday we made a little day trip to San Diego and took advantage of the once-a-month free day to visit various museums in Balboa Park.

After fully enjoying the Toulouse Lautrec exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art, we went to the Mingei Museum which has fabulous collections of folk art from all over the world. I was particularly intrigued by an exhibit of tequila bottles (since margaritas made from tequila go hand in hand with guacamole made from avocados!). I had no idea that tequila was bottled in such fantastical ways.

Here's a few that caught my eye and my camera:

Then I got curious and was looking on line to see other tequila bottles. Wow! Amazing the variety. Here are just four that were particularly interesting:

I loved the Espolon Tequila bottles with the super cute skeletons which evoke the storied culture of the "real Mexico".

The blue bottle - Oro tequila, is hand blown glass decorated with gold, rubies, emeralds or diamonds. They only make 30 of these annually and the cost is a whopping $36,000 (depending on which gems you choose).

The Ocho Tequila in the diamond bottle is $1 million euros - it's the most expensive tequila bottle ever sold!

And then of course, there is Frida Kahlo tequila. These are a bargain and sell for from $50 to $90 depending on the age of the tequila.

Who knew that there were so many types and kinds of tequila bottles? I sure didn't. But then I don't often buy a bottle of tequila. I just say "I'll have a margarita". And that's exactly how we ended our day. We had margaritas and appetizers at the Prado restaurant.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Anthony Bourdain in Escondido!!

Yes, Anthony Bourdain spoke (entertained) in Escondido Saturday night at the California Center for the Arts. It was a sold out crowd, which really surprised me. I still can't believe there are that many foodies in this part of the world. Just goes to show.

We thoroughly enjoyed his talk. He's a very entertaining guy. The audience loved him - even shouted out questions and comments during his talk - they just couldn't wait for the Q & A at the end.

He started out talking or should I say bashing the Food Network and some of its stars - most notably Sandra Lee and Paula Deen.

He talked about Emeril's bad treatment from the network and thinks that the Food Network is trying to economize by hiring cooks instead of chefs which is probably true. He thinks Bobby Flay may be the next to go and lambasted his "Throwdown" show as if it had been thrust down Bobby Flay's throat to humiliate and degrade him, which also may be true. I wonder. He had kind words for Ina Garten, Giada, Alton Brown and Mario Batale.

Then he talked about his TV show and his travels which was also entertaining. He spoke a lot about the "ugly American" syndrome and advised how to travel. First of all, don't wear one of these pins!
You'll only be asking for trouble.

Don't go on a tour. If you're on a tour - run. Find a dark alley and find a restaurant where the "real" locals eat and go there even if it looks scary. Don't ask your concierge where the locals eat. They won't tell you. He thinks eating at the hotel buffet is more dangerous than stopping by a little street stand because the locals who cook at the hotel don't have their heart into cooking what the "Americans" would like. But the street stand person has put his whole heart and history into his cooking.

 should you eat here?

or here?

He also advised that tourists should dress appropriately to the area they're visiting, to do their research before going to see what local customs are, to respect the culture, etc. etc. These are things we all know, but we still see and hear lots of "ugly Americans" everywhere we go. Don't they read?

I shouldn't say "they" because I've been known to fall into the "ugly American" category from time to time. I've eaten at McDonalds in Hong Kong and gone to a Starbucks in Madrid. Yes, I'm guilty, I confess. But I've also eaten street food in Peru and China and Guatemala so I'm not all bad, am I?

Anyway, it was a great evening and worth every penny of the expensive tickets - $45.00 for the cheap seats! If you paid $95.00 you could meet and greet Anthony himself. But that was a little much. I enjoyed seeing him from our lofty balcony seats.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Oooey Gooey Avocado Frosting

I'm a day late for doing my Etsy Thursday blog. So today's post will be Etsy Friday.

I wanted to pass along a recipe for avocado frosting that I found on line. I thought if you have to make cupcakes that are somewhat healthy it would be best not to use pounds and pounds of butter for the frosting. Why not just use avocados instead? And besides, this is a blog about avocados, after all.

So I made these cupcakes using my absolute favorite cake mix:

Why? you might ask. Well first of all it's only .99. Can you imagine that? A big box just full of ingredients for less than a dollar!!  And using this for cupcakes - makes a really moist, tasty product. I've tried the more expensive mixes and this one is much, much better.

So here are the finished cupcakes with the avocado frosting:

The frosting does look a bit gooey, but tasted pretty good. You could actually taste the avocado and the hint of orange was quite nice. Here's the recipe:

Avocado Frosting

1 avocado
4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice (or lemon juice)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mash the avocado (do I have to tell you to cut it open and throw away the pit?) until very smooth with no lumps.
Add the sugar, orange juice and vanilla and mix using an electric mixer until the frosting is smooth, with no lumps.
Frost the cupcakes

Then, when you're finished you'll need to decorate them and that's where Etsy comes in. Look at all the really special toppers and wrappers you can add to your cupcakes. Believe it or not, this bird is completely edible. You'll have to check out Sugar Robot to see all of her creations. They're incredibly beautiful and so unique.

Halloween is just around the corner, so here's some fun holiday toppers for your upcoming parties. These are from AG Designs. They're elegant and spooky all at the same time.

Here's some more Halloween toppers from Hey Yo Yo. I love the simplicity and goofiness of these. 

Aren't these the cutest toppers ever? You can have them personalized with your own child's photo. Or wouldn't it be fun to have some made using all your friend's photos for a really special party? These can be special ordered from diana evans:

And if you want the ideal accessory for your avocado-topped cupcakes, here are wrappers that are perfectly color coordinated. They're from Thats A Wrap:

Can you name all of the seven dwarfs?? If so, you'll have to have these toppers from Sweet Estelle:

After you finish the cupcakes you can save these and put them in your front yard.

After seeing all of these cute toppers and wrappers I looked back at my totally naked cupcakes. Maybe they should be dressed up a little. So I found these toppers that were sent long ago from our friend Pat. I had almost forgotten about them and decided that this was the time to bring them out from their hiding place. Cute, huh?

Now they're ready for the party. Thanks Pat.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My First Time

O.K. It's not what you're thinking. What I'm really referring to is the first time I ever tasted an avocado. I've been going back in my memory, which is actually pretty fuzzy, and I really can't remember the very first time. I'm sure it was after we moved to California though. Avocados were not available much in Chicago back in the 40s and 50s. My mother was kind of an adventurous cook and I know she would have tried them if they were in her local A & P market.

(Photo courtesy of the California Avocado Commission)

This is my very first memory of how she prepared avocados. She sliced them thin, put them in a bowl and drizzled the slices with lemon juice and honey. That was it. And it was and still is delicious.

Then that got me to thinking about other firsts. Another thing my mother used to do was try international cooking. Kind of like Betty's international dinner on Madmen. But in those days there weren't the choices of ethnic ingredients like we have now. So for Mexican night we would have canned tamales. I never even knew that tamales really were made in corn husks. Ours always came wrapped in thin little pieces of paper!

When we were still living in Chicago my mother had traveled to California and came back home all excited about tacos. She had eaten them in New Mexico, probably at a stand on Route 66. So when she got home she was determined to make tacos for Mexican food night. But she couldn't find fresh tortillas anywhere. But she did actually find some canned tortillas! She was so frustrated that she couldn't fry them up to make an authentic taco. They just kind of fell apart. So much for canned tortillas. I wonder if they're still available. I couldn't find any on line.

My other remembrance is the first time trying artichokes. I bet everyone has an amusing story about their first time with that mysterious food item. It was at a wonderful little restaurant in L.A. called the Nine Muses. This was back in the 60s and it was kind of a gourmet, hippie type of place. The order of artichokes cost a whopping $1.50 back then. Pretty darn pricey. We had to ask our waiter how to eat this weird looking thing. It was steamed with herbs and had a little dipping bowl of melted butter. I thought it was the best thing I had ever eaten. I'm still a big fan of artichokes. My new favorite is a seafood stuffed artichoke from a Thai restaurant in Encinitas called Siamese Basil. Delicious.

 (photo from Pink of Perfection)

Can you remember your first time? Comment and let me know.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Under Pressure

I was cleaning out some drawers and tidying up over the weekend and came across some gems of cookbooks stuffed in a place where they shouldn't have been. I came across this one that was my mother's:

She was really into pressure cooking. I think it was a big trend in the 50s. I can still hear the sizzle and that little metal thing jiggling and see the steam coming out. It was kind of scary really. You knew that any minute it was going to explode. But it never did. And my mother served some pretty darn good dinners in no time at all. She was a real pressure cooking star.

You can see that she was mostly into stews and meat (notice this very well-stained page):

But this page is so pristine - not used at all. She definitely didn't use pressure to make desserts:

I wish I still had the original pressure cooker so I could try it just once. But when I read the instructions I was glad that the cooker had bitten the dust. Here's just a small sample of what you were supposed to do:

"When correct pressure is reached the control will jiggle and sputter, and a few drops of water may trickle from the control. Count cooking time from this moment. It should not jiggle constantly as this would evaporate too much moisture. However, the occasional jiggle, as well as the hissing sound is your assurance that correct pressure is maintained."

Whew!! jiggles, hissing, pressure. It would all be too much for me. I'll stick with regular pans and crock pots. Much easier.

I was searching You Tube to get some clarification about pressure cookers and found this one. And I want to make sure that just because her name is Nancy, it's not me. You don't have to watch the whole thing because it's way too long, but I love watching her rush her cooker out of the kitchen in a massive puff of steam.

This man seems a bit more precise and gives an interesting history of pressure cookers and also his recipe sounds really tasty:

The last page of the pressure cooker cookbook has an interesting list of supplies and parts you can order if yours break. Notice the prices. Unbelievable!

Can you imagine what the prices of these parts would be today?

That was a fun trip down memory lane. I can just smell the stew cooking now. I sure do miss my mom's cooking.

Do you have an experience with a pressure cooker? I'd love to know if anyone still uses one. Let me know.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Best Salad I Ever Made

When my daughter and I were on our mini vacation in Sonoma County we had dinner in a restaurant/inn in Guerneville (sorry, I don't remember the name). I had this really interesting salad. The rest of the dinner was not too memorable.

But when I got back home I decided to try to recreate the salad but did it a little differently and I came up with a new recipe that everyone loved. Mine wasn't as pretty as the one above but it sure tasted great. Here's the recipe:

Heirloom Tomato, Avocado, Watermelon Salad

1-2 heirloom tomatoes, cubed
1 ear of corn
1 avocado, cubed
1/2 cup watermelon, cubed
1/4 cup English cucumber, cubed
1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
1/4 cup chiffonade of fresh basil (or chopped)
Girard Champagne Salad Dressing

1. Boil ear of corn for 1 - 2 minutes, then place in an ice bath. Cut the corn off the cob and place in bowl.
2. Prepare the other vegetables and watermelon and add to the corn.
3. Drizzle with dressing and toss.

It really was delicious and perfect to complement a summer dinner.

Here's a couple more photos from the trip:

Bus stop in Guerneville

A very esoteric and tiny museum in Healdsburg

Seen on the way to Bodego Bay.

Monday, September 6, 2010

trip to sonoma county

hMy daughter, Megan, has a company called Hello Super 8 . She films weddings (among other things) using old super 8 cameras and super 8 film which gives the film a kind of 1950s retro look and feel. She lives in Brooklyn, but on a weekend in August, she had a wedding in Healdsburg which is in the northern California wine country. She invited me to go along so we could have a mini vacation. So we packed up the car and headed up highway 5 and had a super fun weekend.

Our first stop was a place I've always wanted to see - just a blip on the map, but a place with the cutest name in the world - Buttonwillow. However, it's not very cute - especially not the part that's just off the highway - just gas stations and fast food joints. But we noticed this place and knew we had eat here:

It just seemed so odd to have an Indian restaurant in this wasteland of fast food places. We entered the restaurant under a welcoming, yet ostentatious canopy:

Our lunch was spoiled by my bickering about the prices of the food which annoyed Megan no end. "Mom" she said, "not in front of the staff". God, mom's can be so irritating. But really, $9.95 for a tiny bowl of curry and then you had to pay extra for the rice!! Cmon.  But I learned to keep my mouth shut for the rest of the trip. The curry was just O.K. but the treat was the mango lassi. What a tasty drink.

Back on the road and next stop Guerneville where we would be staying at the very nice Boon Hotel and Spa. The refurbished loggers cabins were nestled amongst the giant redwoods. What a beautiful, peaceful spot. Our room was nice, very modern - all white with touches of orange.

After unpacking and settling in, we headed out to find a restaurant for dinner. The Boon has their own restaurant, not at the hotel but in the town. It was completely packed so we remembered a place that we had passed coming into town and headed there.  We got to the The Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant and noticed the sign outside said "Michelin". And I was worried about spending too much for the curry!!
Luckily the restaurant was open and we were in for a real treat. Fabulous food, fabulous service - worth every penny. I started with the trio of Heirloom Tomato soup which was so tasty and check out how arty it looks:

I then had the wild alaskan halibut which was done to perfection:

Megan had the corn ravioli. Good thing she wasn't very hungry because it was the tiniest amount of food you've ever seen. So tiny, I didn't even get a photo. But she said it was delicious and in the defense of the Inn, it was a starter. But to make up for the tiny serving, she had this for dessert, the Farmhouse rendition of S'mores. It was a lovely dinner and were sure glad we had found the Farmhouse. We would definitely return.

On Saturday we drove to Bodega Bay - where The Birds was filmed.

We were surprised that the town didn't capitalize on this. Not a bird store to be found, no bird souvenirs, not a mention of the film anywhere, until we spotted this sign. It's kind of hard to read (you can click on the photo to enlarge it) but it says that Tippi Hedren, star of The Birds will be appearing at The Inn at the Tides on Sept. 4. So there still must be interest in the movie in Bodega Bay.

We drove into Healdsburg to get our bearings and had lunch. What a cute town, loved it.

We had lunch at a French bakery with delicious sandwiches and then I dropped Megan off at the Madrona Manor where she would be spending the next few hours filming the wedding.

And went back into the town and was able to shop at all the great antique and gift shops.

I wanted to go the famous farmers market that's held every Saturday, but alas it closed at noon so I was a bit late and this was all that was left. But aren't these bowls gorgeous? They're from Architectural Ceramic Design in Cloverdale, Ca:

Megan finished shooting the wedding and we went back to the hotel all ready for a dip in the hot tub only to find that it was broken and the water was freezing cold. We were so disappointed. But what can you do?

Sunday was our day to explore so we headed to Sebastopol where we heard there was another farmer's market. This was a spectacular one.

We had read an article in the LA Times about Sonoma County being the current foodie getaway. And the article had recommended having tamales from the Yucatan Tamale truck. So that's what we did. Really, really delicious.  I couldn't find a website for them, but I know that they also sell at the Healdsburg Farmers market as well as the one in Sebastopol.

Sebastopol was a very interesting town. Lots of nice shops where we did some window shopping. We went to a winery just outside of town and did some serious wine tasting. We were welcomed by this big giant dog that seems to lord over the vineyard. It was the largest sculpture, almost Claes Oldenburg size. Megan bought a bottle of wine which she's cheerfully displaying in the beautiful gardens of the winery:

I have a few more photos that I will post on tomorrow's blog. Didn't want to get carried away with too much for you to read.  All in all it was a fabulous trip up north. Would love to do it again some time and spend a few more days. It's another world up there.