Put a little, or a lot, of spice in your life

Cooking is like swimming. Everyone should know how to do it.

Whether you’re a beginner or consider yourself to be an excellent cook, there is always more to learn. Cooking classes are for everyone from kids to seniors, couples, groups, extroverts and they are particularly good for introverts.

I love taking cooking classes. Chef Tech’s cooking classes  in Long Beach CA, range from Kides cupcake baking parties to their intensive Culinary Arts Program. They also offer everything from Pro Baking to sushi making and a variety of special occasion, seasonal and cultural meals. The classes are fun, relaxed and yet intense in a laid-back sort of way. More importantly I learned more precise cooking methods, and convinced my non-detail oriented side, that in cooking, details are the key to excellent results. Students ranged from a 16-year-old chef-in-training to a 70-year-old gentlemen with a keen eye for culinary perfection, a newly married couple, beginning and skilled foodies of all flavors. They even have kids classes and summer camps!

 

Chef Teri’s energy and humor makes for an upbeat, social learning experience.

Chef Tech cooking school in Long Beach CA is a great place to take your first cooking class or to embrace a more in-depth culinary experience with their Pro classes for baking and their advanced series of culinary skills. I’ve enjoyed many cooking classes. My first cooking class was with Richard Ruben in his Manhattan, NY cooking.  The recipes were based on his Farmer’s Market Cookbook. The class began at Manhattan’s Union Square open-air Greenmarket. What I loved was his ease in getting his group of students immediately involved in choosing produce. He simply said, “if you see any vegetables or herbs that you aren’t familiar with, let me know. Chef Ruben bought whatever anyone pointed out and made up recipes on the fly at his Tribecca flat. My take awy, butternut squash soup I’ve cooked many dozens of times in dozens of ways and never been disappointed.

Fast forward to Abby’s Table, Portland Oregon’s darling of healthy, vegan, gluten free, social cooking classes and catering. Abby Fammartino’s healthy culinary classes have a relaxed, friendly atmosphere with a classy group meal following high-lighting the delicious healthy recipes we learned to cook that day.

The Farmer’s Market Cookbook

by Chef Richard Ruben

Abby’s Table Essential Sauces + Sides: Naturally gluten, dairy, and soy-free recipes to please every palate

By Chef Abby Fammartino

Mary’s Garden

What is it about tending a garden: growing your own flowers or vegetables, picking fresh herbs and feeding neighborhood birds, that feeds a person’s soul?

it transcends gender, color, nationality, age, even knowledge, ability and opportunity. Even in the smallest apartments in the busiest cities a plant or two patiently sits near a window, basking in the sun waiting for their weekly watering and hoping for a dash of plant food.

Mary_Garden_peas_pot_snail_PhotoMatix1330-1-1Simple garden pleasures: textures, colors, light

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Mary’s Guard Garden

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A charming birdhouse decorates Mary’s garden acting as a perch for birds waiting their turn at the bird feeder. Nestled in the flowering tree just behind the birdhouse, the feeder sports 6 tiny perches for finches and other small birds. The doves, robins, infrequent pigeons and visiting migrators partake at the shallow clay bowl sitting on the garden wall

Spring Greens!

Spring Greens @ Beyond Bok Choy Farm

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This is my favorite time of year in SoCal. The farmers’ markets are bursting with fresh greens! This year I found a new favorite farm located in Fresno. It’s family owned and operated and they bring in a wide variety of very generous bunches of leafy greens and many other herbs and veggetables at great prices. Right now, all greens and herbs are $2/bunch.

I found Beyond Bok Choy produce at the Sunday, Long Beach farmers’ market, but I think they are at various markets. Their offerings are so varied it’s like alphabet soup using nearly every letter starting at the beginning: beats, carrots and daikon with green tops ready for a quick sauté in avocado oil with a shy splash of sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds to finish it off. Try starting by tossing in some onions, garlic, very thin carrot sticks and a fist-full of cashews and fresh cilantro to top it off for a complete vegetarian, vegan meal. Yes, yes, get the delicious fresh baked, whole grain bread at the vendor across the way and toast it. Now you have a complete meal.

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Beyond Bok Choy offerings:

HERBS: lemon basil, pepper basil, thai basil, cilantro, dill, mint, lemon grass…and more

GREENS: bitter melon, bok choy, chili leaf, dandelion leaves, mustard greens, Okra leaf, Malabar spinach, ong choy = water spinach, Sweet potato leaf … I think I missed a few.

VEGGIES:  green beans, chard, Chinese broccoli, cabbage, carrots + tops, cucumber, daikon + tops (very large white radish), curly kale, Lecanto kale, onions, zuccini…and much more

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baby bok choy

Bok choy is great for stir-frying. Very subtle flavor. Toss in at the very end of sauteing.

 

 

 

Bzzzzz be kind to bees

One of the most disturbing crises in
the world is growing unnoticed

Some people might even be happy about it. If you have ever been stung by a bee, you’re probably cautious and shoo them away. If you have been stung many times, you may have little love for them. However, our existence depends on bees.

Africa 2013

Bees at Big Bear Lake California

For several years, the science world seemed stumped by this conundrum. There were studies and research and excellent documentaries filmed, yet all of the data seemed to have left researchers unable to solve the mystery of why bees kept dying out by the millions, great hive die-outs, beekeepers loosing entire bee businesses.

I watched bee documentaries as if I were watching horror movies

And so should you. Without enough bees, our fruit and vegetable industries will also die-out. One documentary focused on a pear orchard in China. The bees in the area vanished. Pear trees rely on bees pollinating their blossoms in order for them to turn in to a fruit. The decades old family pear business relied on hand pollinating the blossoms, not something the younger generation was interested in, nor could the venerable generation do it all alone. At 68.84 Chinese Yuan, $10 US per pear, it is easy to see how that would not be a sustainable family business. Now, multiply that by a worldwide crisis. It’s in progress.

For any meat eaters who don't care about vegetables or fruits

…what will the ranchers feed their cows, chickens and hogs?

We don’t often notice what’s not there, but think back to your childhood and how many bees tormented you while playing in your yard. How many have you seen in your yard and neighborhood lately? Pay attention. You won’t see many.

If you pay any attention at all to the food or flower industries, you can probably guess what’s killing millions of bees every day… (Take a moment to consider this), It’s obvious. Farming industries around the world depend on pesticides to kill insects from ruining their crops. Well, bees are insects. Millions of bees are delivered around the US in huge trucks to farms that don’t have enough bees for their crops. These farms use pesticides, which is one of the reasons why they don’t have their own bees. The portable bee keeper businesses have unwittingly delivered their little soldiers to their own deaths, then they scratch their head wondering: How did this happen? Isn’t it obvious?

What are we going to do about it?

Easy fix

Every farm from small family farms to huge commercial farms should be required to maintain their own bee hives onsite. This would require a pesticide-free and largely chemical-free farming process. Does this seem like too much to do to save the bees and the Earth…our existence? If this sounds dramatic to you, go ahead, do your own research then pass on what you’ve discovered.

 

 

 

fairy trails

Filters can be a fun way to use images for a variety of projects.

These are all very mediocre shots I probably wouldn’t have used for anything in particular as shot, but re-purposed as illustrations, they look great.

Blur: Today’s WP Writing Prompt

Blur indicates depth and movement and intrigue. Blur creates a more complex scene by drawing the eye in and around an image, taking the eye on a visual journey and hopefully provoking open ended questions and intrigue for the onlooker.

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background blur with a hint of foreground blur

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Mostly Blur:  Two degrees of blur. The darker leaves on the right are less blurred than the full background blur. Mostly and even completely blurred images are great for cards and stationery, making the text pop. Abstract wall art imbues a room with color and texture, perhaps highlighting unique furnishings or splashing large colorful focal points in an otherwise monochrome room.

Autumn Forest

Foreground blur creates depth and a partial frame.

Blur is a fundamental quality that changes a photograph from a snapshot to visual art. We often think about blur in a photograph as an undesirable quality and it often is if the blur doesn’t have a purpose. Blur is my favorite drive when photographing, especially macro or close-up objects, such as flowers, bugs and plants…as well as animals, landscapes, portraits, food…well, I guess I’m going to list just about everything. That’s how important blur is in photography.

Diaganol Focal Points

Big Sur – California


Creating a diagonal focal point and including the beautifully textured tree bark as well as the fence pulls the eye into and away from the photographer, keeping the eye moving around the image, to the hillside and to Big Sur’s frothy emerald water. The slight tree branch focused and hanging into the top right frame also brings the eye into the Big Sur basin.

Spirit Horse

Spirit Horse: A native American medicine man gave me this beautiful white horse. Unfortunately I have nowhere to keep a horse, so it is my horse in spirit.

Blur makes for complex and interesting photographs.

via Daily Prompt: Blur

Jurassic Park?

20141115_3067-jurassic-park-balboa-park20141115_3070_jurassic_park20141115_3072_jurassic_parkNot quite, but close!

Balboa Park, in San Diego California, not only has museums of art and photography, but they also have historic gardens with ancient and strange plants from many types of habitats from desert to tropical.

When you walk through this particular secluded forest, it looks and feels like you’ve been transported back to a Jurassic-like era.

http://www.dictionary.comdenoting, or formed in the second period of the Mesozoic era, between the Triassic and Cretaceous periods, lasting for 55 million years during which dinosaurs and ammonites flourished. noun. 2. the Jurassic, the Jurassic period or rock system. C19: from French jurassique, after the Jura (Mountains)

Falconry

falconry is not a lost hobby

Adam’s Falconry Service is a dynamic and complex service helping to control an over abundance of invasive species, such as rodents, in sensitive areas. Adam is not only a very likeable guy, his knowledge and experience is based on many decades of working professionally with falcons and other raptors. He’s fully licensed and his birds are obviously very well taken care of. Beautiful raptors worth seeing up close.

Just one of the many things to check out in San Juan Capistrano. He has scheduled public access for people to visit, become more educated, and even a chance to handle the birds.