Monthly Archives: August 2011

Collaboration Kitchen With Mitch’s SeaFood

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Tommy Gomes, the Son of a Portuguese fishing family and a Fisherman himself from San Diego, started Collaboration Kitchen on a bet.  Someone bet him he could not do it…. Tenacious Tommy took the bet and we are all happy he did because once a month, local folks get to experience a tasty meal prepared by one of San Diego’s finest Chefs right in the warehouse floor of Catalina Offshore Products.

Ticket sales are sold out lickity split!  Monarch School for homeless and at risk kids are the beneficiaries from Collaboration Kitchen Fund Raiser.

Let me show you how it works, around 100 + people show up with their chilled wine and get to tour the giant refrigerated rooms and deep chest freezers, lobster and shrimp tanks, see oversized scallops and a huge packing and distribution facility for Sea Urchins.  Basically see the freshest seafood and learn all about it from one of the most knowledgeable sources I’ve ever met.

A Chef and his/her team is in the designated kitchen area, cutting, slicing, dicing and getting dinner prepped.    There are plenty of things going on behind the scenes a good hour or more before guest arrive.   Specialty Foods brings over lots of fresh local farm produce for the evening meal.  Video and camera crews are setting up to film the experience.

The Chef demonstration begins and everyone is ready with hearty appetites because you are going to get a 6-7-course meal.  When the Chef needs a little extra prep time, Tommy pulls out fresh fish and slices up sashimi and the line forms.

An interesting bit of information shared this evening was about Fish Pearls…

Sometimes used for jewelry ….

July featured Mitch’s Seafood, a local place Marty and I go to probably 3 times a week.  It is a simple little restaurant by Point Loma Seafood and we sit on the deck overlooking the fishing boats come in.   It’s dog friendly, so we often take our Dobie’s or meet other dogs there as well.

Also Veni Delights from Venissimo Cheese, which is one of Marty’s favorite stops.

On to the evening in July where Dan and Tommy entertain us with banter back and forth of informative dialogs about local sustainable food sources.   This is a show and tell evening…. There are no Teleprompters and its just good stuff!   Where ever the conversation goes… one of them will go to the freezer and pull out a demonstration with that particular fish, crab, sea urchin.  There is no lag time happening at this event.   You are eating no… you are grazing non-stop the entire evening… and you leave with a belly full of healthy foods.   Many times the recipes are shared as the Chef prepares the meals and answers questions so people can make this at home.    *all recipes in amounts suitable for 2-4 diners

About Mitch Conniff-Chef/Owner Mitch’s Seafood

 | Featured Chef

Mitch Conniff is the chef/owner of Mitch’s Seafood in Point Loma. Mitch’s is a casual, waterfront Seafood restaurant specializing in the freshest, locally caught seafood. The restaurant was opened under the premise that good local seafood should be available in a laid back environment, simply prepared, showcasing the bounty of our coastal waters.


Besides Mitch, the restaurant is owned by a duo of fisherman that supply much of the fish for the restaurant.  

Prior to opening Mitch’s Seafood, Mitch Conniff was the Sous Chef/Banquet Chef at JSix restaurant in downtown San Diego, one of the local leaders in the Slow Food movement. Prior to that he was the Executive Chef aboard the sportfishing vessel American Angler, departing from San Diego on long range fishing trips down the Baja Coast.


Mitch has been an avid fisherman since early childhood and his years cooking aboard the boat were spent catching and preparing a wide variety of fish and learning as much as possible about our local waters and fisheries. Before embarking on his adventures at sea Mitch honed his seafood skills at Steamer’s Grillhouse, a well known seafood restaurant in Los Gatos, CA.


Salmon and Summer Corn Chowder


  • Two pounds fresh wild or sustainable farmed Salmon cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 ears fresh summer corn shucked
  • 1 cup cooked white beans (any variety will work such as Navy, Cannellini or Gigante or try a fresh shelling bean like cranberry beans or fava found at Specialty Produce or Local Farmers Market
  • 2 Leaks diced
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or peeled canned tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 4 sprigs time
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A few drops hot sauce
  • Chopped parsley or chives for garnish
  • Olive Oil for Sautéing and a little to drizzle over the top of each bowl.


Sweat the leaks, onion, garlic and celery in large pot.  Add Corn, bay leaf and thyme and cook for a minute longer then add wine and bring to a boil and reduce by one third.  Add tomatoes and beans and simmer lightly for half hour to combine flavors.  Turn off heat and adjust salt and pepper to taste, add hot sauce.  Add salmon with heat turned off and cover the pot.  The salmon will gently cook in about 5 minutes.  Serve the stew with a little chive or parsley over the top and drizzle each bowl with a little high quality extra virgin olive oil.   * For a different take on this dish you could also substitute some or all of the salmon with smoked salmon giving the dish a taste like you added bacon or smoked sausage.

BBQ Oysters



Shuck oysters leaving as much brine in the Oyster as possible.  Spoon a small amount of Garlic/Smoked Paprika Butter into each oyster.  Arrange Oysters on grill so that none of the oyster liquor or butter drains out, using aluminum foil under the oysters if necessary.  Cook for about 3 minutes allowing the oysters to poach in the butter and pick up the smoky flavor.  Do not overcook the oysters or they will become shriveled up and chewy.

Asian Pear Marinated BBQ Yellowtail Collar


  • 2-3 Yellowtail collars cut into individual servings (each collar should provide 1-3 servings depending on how hungry you are and whether you are eating dish as an entrée or an appetizer.
  • Asian Pear Marinade (recipe follows)
  • Quick Pickled Sesame Cucumber (recipe follows)
  • 2-3 Green Onions thinly sliced for garnish


Marinate Yellowtail collars overnight, reserving about 2 cups of the marinade for basting. Prepare a barbecue for grilling over medium flame.  Remove collars from marinade and let sit at room temperature for about ½ hour before cooking (this allows the fish to come up to the temperature which allows more even cooking and it also allows the marinade to drain off a little which will reduce barbecue flare up which can scorch the fish).   Grill the fish over the medium flame turning after about 10 minutes and grill for 5 minutes more basting with the reserved marinade a few times to glaze the fish.  You are looking to get nice charred grill marks on the flesh, but not overly blacken or burn the fish.  Which can happen easily due to the high sugar content in the marinade.  Grilling yellowtail collars is unlike grilling or cooking just about any other part of the fish in that you can cook it for a longer period of time without it drying out.  It is akin to cooking a chicken thigh or drumstick due to the fact that you are cooking it on the bone and it’s higher fat content.  It also contains muscle like a chicken thigh or leg which requires a little more cooking time to breakdown, but due to it’s higher fat content it becomes tender and luscious as it cooks.  Once the fish is cooked brush it with some of the reserved marinade, sprinkle with the green onion and eat with the pickled cucumber and rice and a little hot sauce to taste. Dig in with your hands and eat the collars like a drumstick or ribs and leave the knife and fork for another meal.

Asian Pear Marinade


  • 2 twelve ounce cans Asian pear juice (available in the Asian department of supermarket or at Ranch 99)
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup Rice wine vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 tablespoons Ginger Grated
  • 2 tablespoon (or more if you like) of Sambal Oleck or Sriracha Hot sauce
  • 3 green onions thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons toasted Sesame oil.


Combine all ingredients thoroughly

Quick Pickled Sesame Cucumbers


  • 1 pound Japanese or English cucumbers (peeled if you prefer, but personally I do not) cut into ¼ inch thick rings
  • 4 cups rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons crushed red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil
  • ¼ picked Cilantro Leaves


Combine all the ingredients except the cucumbers and whisk together to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour the marinade over the cucumbers and toss together to ensure the cucumbers are evenly coated.  Let sit a minimum of four hours until the cucumbers are slightly softened pickled.

Fish Tacos    |     White Sea bass (or any fish you want)


  • 8 2-oz pieces of white seabass
  • 1 pound shredded green cabbage
  • 16 white corn tortillas
  • Salsa Fresca (combine diced tomato, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno pepper, lime juice and salt, let sit for ½ hour before serving
  • Mitch’s seafood garlic lime crema (recipe follows)
  • Paprika, salt and melted butter with lemon and garlic in it for grilling the fish


Prepare a grill or grill pan to medium hot and brush fish with seasoned melted butter and season with paprika and salt.  Grill fish basting with butter while it cooks.  Fish will only take a few minutes to cook depending on the size and thickness of the filets, so be careful not to overcook it.  Meanwhile heat the tortillas on the grill until soft.   Using two tortillas for each taco put a little cabbage in the tortillas, place the fish inside and spoon a little salsa and the crema over the top and enjoy with a squeeze of lime and your favorite hot sauce.

Mitch’s Seafood Garlic Lime Crema


  • 2 cups Mexican sour cream (available in pretty much every supermarket now, but you can also use regular sour cream)
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • Salt to taste


Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.


Venissimo Cheese was founded by Gina & Roger Freize in San Diego, California, in 2003. But it almost never opened! The owner of the retail space was not interested in splitting a larger space nor leasing a little wedgie to an unknown business in an unknown industry (who wants to buy just cheese)?  After spending months calling & faxing reasons to let Venissimo in, Gina overheard that the owner would be at the site on a certain day. So she snuck in with a cheese plate to let the product speak for itself. Needless to say, the owner was convinced & agreed to the deal the very next day!  Venissimo Mission Hills opened its doors on January 17, 2004.  Roughly three years later, Venissimo opened its second location in Del Mar.  It’s third shop in Belmont Shore opened in November 2008 & its newest location – complete with an Academy of Cheese (AoC) – just opened in downtown San Diego in September 2009! 

Bucherondin with Edible Micro Flowers

A classic French chevre (goat cheese), aged only two months, with mineral notes and chalky texture at the tip and tangy flavor with a silky texture near the edible rind.

Lamb Chopper with Dried Cherries

Organic sheep milk Gouda from cypress grove cheese in Northern California, silky smooth and rick in pure sheep milk flavor.

Gorgonzola Dolce with Honeycomb or Fruit Nut Crostini

A sweet (dolce) blue from Lombardy, Italy, creamy & dreamy, classically enjoyed as a dessert.

Collaboration Kitchen 7/10/11 – Mitch’s Seafood & Venissimo 

Mitch Conniff Chef/Owner Mitch’s Seafood in Point Loma“Sustainable Seafood and the Consumer”

Venissimo CheeseMission Hills 619.491.0708 | Del Mar 858.847.9616 | San Diego 619.358.9081

Sometimes, they even cut and package take home bags of fresh fish for sale at the end of the evening.

A great evening for a wonderful cause put together by good people.  Catalina Offshore donates all the seafood and all the produce donated by Specialty Products to support Monarch School.

100% of proceeds will go to San Diego charities through Fruit of the Soul!

A good thing and a wonderful time!   Enjoy! Comments welcome!  Nice one  of  course!

Julie & Robbie Frans | Environmental Chefs

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Julie & Robbie Frans | Environmental Chefs

I was photographing a Grand Opening Event for a local restaurant and in come many of the chefs I typically work with.  I was overjoyed to see familiar faces and by now the crowd was large and loud but I worked my way over to greet them with my camera in hand.  I was introduced to a new person,  Julie Frans.  We immediately hit it off and it was one of those occasions where you just bounce from one topic to another so quickly, while excited that you have so much to talk about to this person you just met.

We quickly discovered that we were both going to Hawaii in the next couple of weeks and it was shocking to realize we were going to the same Island of Oahu…. And the exact same dates… Get Out!  How can this be?   Well we immediately decided we would get together while we was there, they would prepare a meal, I’d photograph it along with family.   Oh and did I mention, Julie’s husband is a Chef too?

They have two adorable small kids, a boy John about 2 ½ and a little girl just a crawling age ….and her name is “Cassie”…

OMG, it just was amazing the things that continued to pop up in the conversation that made you think the universe sometimes does just bring people together for a reason, a season, or a lifetime…. We just never know.

Over the next few weeks, Julie and I corresponded to make sure we had all the information, dates and arrangements made before we left for our trip so it would go smoothly while we were all on vacation.   Early Thursday June morning, I left for the airport to catch a direct flight to Hawaii; my husband had gone earlier and was already on his way there.  I had dropped off the pups and now waiting patiently, relaxed with plenty of time to spare.  I hate travel, so feeling relaxed was a good thing, I was a bit worried about my gear cause I took lots since I had two working jobs there and the airlines are no longer the friendly skies of days gone by.   While I was rocking and playing with my ipad, I see a couple with two small kids … yep, it was Robbie & Julie with John and Cassie.   We were on the same flight.

Once in Hawaii, vacation started mixed in with some prior work commitments so while it’s a laid back tropical Island, we did keep a rather hectic pace.  I was out photographing early before sunrise each day and then I’d meet up with Marty for Breakfast somewhere.   Saturday was my photo shoot at the Frans home and we were going over for dinner and sunset.

It was a lovely drive to get there and on a part of the Island I had not yet been to.   They had such a lovely home with a fabulous view, Julie’s parents were there as well, along with other siblings, and it was a Wedding event that brought the whole family to the Island.

It was so fun to see two chefs work together while also managing little ones, a balancing act you could see they had managed to get under control quite well…of course the Grandparents were also there picking up any slack with the kids. Julie’s parents, Kathy & Jim were equally nice and fun to visit with.

I begin to learn more about how they met and backgrounds.  Robbie was super friendly, it was my first time meeting him and they were so hospitable.   Robbie was from Grand Rapids, Michigan and I had been to Mackinac Island and it was fun to chat about that cute place.   Robbie told us he went to school in Denver, Colorado… Well that’s where I had my USAF technical training, so we chatted about Denver, which I also dearly loved.

They made us drinks and we proceeded to get acquainted.  My senses were in overload!

There were views, beautiful family, adorable kids, and glorious foods being prepared…. And great stories being shared.  It was amazing!   We also learned we were at the Hawaii beautiful Farmers Market at exactly the same time that Sunday morning!

Robbie landed a job as a private Chef aboard a 110’ yacht for a US Ambassador.    He traveled all over the world with this family as well as studying foods throughout Europe, specializing in healthy, low fat but delicious tasting and gorgeous presentations.

He met Julie at the produce stand at Chino Farms.  He proposed to her with the diamond tied to a purple mustard green, if that doesn’t say “creative” wait till you see some of the foods!

Julie got her culinary education at UC Santa Barbara in 2000 and then worked as a private Chef traveling aboard private and charter yachts for several years.

She returned to San Diego, her hometown, in 2005 to realize her dream was providing luxury gourmet dining experience for people in their homes. She started her own business, Dining Details, a catering business that provides quality Chefs to homes and businesses throughout San Diego.

Clients can choose from Seasonal Menus and Dining Details provides the recipes so the guest can make their own meals later as well.    She also created newsletters and cooking clubs to teach the importance of organics, whole foods, healthy lifestyles and the business continues to grow and sprout up new services such as Chickpeas | Healthy Kid Food.

Chickpeas provides Mom Cooking classes, cooking for kids with allergies and baby food making to name a few.   Julie and Robbie work with local schools for school lunch catering and consulting services.   They have an on line ordering system so the parents can click and order special menus for each child.  They work with the parents for cooking demos for the kids and summer camp programs.     Julie has request for several book projects and so far she has not had the time to do them but has the ideas clicking in the back of her head.

With two small children and owning their own busy catering business, they rely heavily on family to help with the kids and juggle schedules.  Julie was back at work 4 days after Cassie was born.   She was telling me how sometimes it would break her heart to hear John cry and say “Mommy go work now” and they started to re-evaluate what they wanted and how they would go about getting that so that their new family life could become their priority and not take the back seat to the business daily demands.

Robbie will be returning to work as a private chef for a family in Miami that he worked for previously.   He will begin working with them late July early August and Julie will join him in October with the kids.  This will give them time to sell their home belonging, arrange for relocation housing in Miami and tidy up the business ends.   The 1750 square foot Dining Details rental kitchen in El Cajon, has been picked up by Chef Julie Darling of “Just Call Us – Catering, Volunteers and Kitchen Rentals”.   Julie Frans will continue to create recipes, write newsletters, develop her blog and start those books that she has so many requests for.

This change in their lifestyle will allow Julie to be Mommy first, continue in her school lunch programs and remain active in the food industry.  Since her family lives in San Diego, she will come back to visit frequently and keep the catering business and staff running thru their website on line business.  She can manage these activities from anywhere and she said little 2-year-old John said “Mommy stay home?… Yea!” and that brought such relief and a smile to her face to think she will have the opportunity to raise her own children, spending quality time with them while being able stay active and connected to her passion which is to participate in the local food movement and it’s impact on children.  She has many ideas on how she will follow that dream.

While I think this is such a wonderful thing and a very smart thing, I will surely miss my new friends.  We enjoyed them so very much and had a delightful visit in Hawaii.

I was fortunate and had both my parent with me on the farm 7×24, and I have fond memories when little knowing they were always there.  I guess I never really understood why have kids if  you just had someone else raise them and miss all those special moments? In a wink …then they are gone…  It really is the parent’s who are ultimately responsible for their own children I believe and the best way to do that is to spend quality time learning what it takes to be a parent to each little unique creatures you’ve created… Some say it’s the most prestegious job on the planet…a gift per se. I always admire people that cherish the position of parent,  teach them how to make and keep friends…but “Mom” “Dad” that’s a pretty special role if done right.. and it take wisdom, time, and unselfishness to sometimes be strong enough. Not an easy task but rewarding if early stages are firm and consistent… I always thought a good test to see if you could do it was raise a dog… with their short lifespan, you get to see the fruits of your labor.

I know on a much smaller scale with my Dobie’s, each one is so unique and different, I have to learn what works and what doesn’t with each personality and take the time and patience to develop the best qualities in them so they are pleasant to be around… so I think this is definitely “A Good Thing”!

I will miss you guys and will always remember fondly that beautiful Hawaii day.


Greek yogurt marinated lamb slowly roasted on the grill topped with an herbe salsa verde

Aloha! Enjoy and share a note.  Many Thanks  as I do my best to “capture the moments, freeze a little time…it’s what I do!”

Figs the Forbidden Fruit

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Figs have become a fascination with  me.  While l I don’t recall ever having them as a kid, my husband, who grew up in Southern CA, will get them when they are in season.   I remember as a kid having Fig Newton bars and then during the years when I bicycled a lot,  I’d get the whole wheat fig bars and have them for my quick energy snack.  But as a raw fruit, it’s a little bit new to me.   It’s not un-common to have a fig tree here in Southern CA.  So might as well figure out what to do with them I suppose.

I’ve come to realize that the fig is an ancient fruit, many believed forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  According to the California Fig Association, figs are an incredible versatile dish that can be made into chutney, jams, jellies, spreads, salsa, baking, appetizers or just slice ’em and dice ’em.  I guess I had no idea they went much beyond fig newtons… ha!  Got to love sometimes living a sheltered life on a farm.  You eat what you grow and we did not grow figs.  We didn’t buy much food from the store and Fig Newton were one of the things we did get store-bought.

I found several recipes that interest me while these magically little fruits are in season,  some of my favorites are the ones that blend salty taste with the sweet such as prosciutto or bacon  wrapped figs, another is in an Arugula Salad with a vinaigrette dressing.    Cheeses I found have a nice flavor with Figs.  I love cheese and it seems you can eat them cold with an appetizer plate of variety of cheese or melted and slightly baked with the figs and served hot.

My iStock image

My iStockPhoto image

A fruit and cheese platter with some herbs would pair well with white wines,  but then I enjoy a light refreshing white wine in the summertime.

My iStock image

My iStockPhoto image

Some red wines are good  choices such as zinfandel for these bold flavor combinations of blue cheese or stronger flavored cheese and figs.   I generally have a supply of  Raincoast Crisp crackers on hand and one of the flavors even has fig in it.

My iStock image

iStockPhoto image

Another thing I learned, is figs just don’t last long.  So what ever you plan to do with them,  better have all your ingredients and be ready to whip it up cause you only have a couple of days tops and that seems to be a stretch from what I’ve found, maybe I’m just busy and time slips away but seriously,  I need to get a platter ready to serve for a nice sunset.

This is just a short little teaser for things to come with figs while they are in supply here in Southern California,  I will be trying a couple of recipes … here is one that sounds like I will try soon:


  • 4 to 6 regular smoked bacon slices (2 1/4 to 3 1/2 ounces uncooked)
  • 12 small fresh ripe figs, such as white or Calimyrna, halved lengthwise
  • About 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) crumbled mild herbed goat cheese
Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a medium heavy skillet, place the bacon slices in a single layer and cook over low to medium-low heat, turning as needed until just beginning to brown. Transfer to a paper towel to drain. Cut each bacon slice into 4 or 6 pieces.
Arrange the figs on a baking sheet, cut sides up. Brush the cut surfaces with balsamic vinegar. Place a piece of bacon on each cut side. Top with a small crumble of cheese. Bake until the figs are warmed, about 8 minutes. The cheese will not melt but may toast a bit. Serve immediately.
Let me know if you try this before I get to it and tell me what you think!  Enjoy!

My iStockPhoto images 

Three Chef Delight at OliveWood Gardens

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I watched, camera posed as Chef Julie and her dog,  Camie (a gentle black lab) meet and greet the 3rd grade group, welcoming them into the OWG kitchen to participate in preparing a meal with three experienced chefs.

Chef Julie is telling the kids to ask for help in putting on their aprons as she hands out the aprons to this particular group of kids.   I remember hearing one little kid saying “I can put my apron on all by myself, I don’t need any help”  and Chef Julie replied,  “I know you can, but we need to learn how to ask for help as we go thru life so this is a little exercise in helping one another”.

I smiled to myself, thinking what a nice thing to teach these young kids cause I doubt any of us get thru life without asking for help at some point in time and also learning to give help to another is something that may be becoming a lost gift with our “me-centric” society.

So the kids come bouncing and laughing into the kitchen to meet the other chefs,  Chef Caron and Chef Tommy.

Brief intros are given by Chef Julie;  Chef Caron is a food writer for a variety of magazines and Chef Tommy is a life long fisherman who now sells fish commercially to local restaurants and business for healthy meals,

and me, a Photographer who loves capturing picture stories… it’s fun to watch the kids as they hear about each of us and I remember when I was a kid learning what someone did may spark ideas in my brain putting a journey into my head that just  might be something I wanted to grow up and be someday… it’s so cool  to see the little mind-wheels turning as the introductions are made and almost always someone has a question or two… they are listening, studying each of us and curious to understand or compare what they already knew,  one kid’s Dad was a fisherman… it’s so cute!

Each kid has to march by the sink to wash their hands and then around the counter to find a seat at the bar where they will be given the kitchen rules.   Once their hands are washed, they are not to continue petting Camie,  I remember one little girl being afraid of dogs and Camie is so sweet and gentle,  a trained therapy dog,  she obediently lays down once the kitchen work is started.

The little girl continued to watch Camie as if she was going to jump up from her sleep and attack her, she even asked Chef Julie if the dog would bite her and Chef Julie assured her that Camie would not.   By the end of the kitchen hour – she was hugging Camie and completely smitten by the gentleness a good dog brings to the atmosphere and attitude of the room.

The Pledge: I won’t get this exactly verbatim and I should as many times as I’ve heard it myself, but I’m busy capturing all the shinny little eager faces that I hear it in the background and haven’t committed it to my own memory… but it goes something like:   Raise your hand and repeat after me please: I solemnly  promise to raise my hand to speak and only one conversation will be going on at a time and I promise to take at least one bite of the food today before I say No Thank You I don’t like that, and I really really really mean it.. Today’s menu is fresh Garden Gazpacho and fresh shrimp.

All the kids repeat and giggle as they site the pledge….

and the kitchen work begins!  Chef Caron asked for help to chop garlic and gets the energy of the room going with enthusiasm, many of the kids had never used a chopper and Chef Caron demonstrated how you could really get rid of any anger or mad feelings by pounding on the garlic chopper,  the kids laughed and cheered as the volunteer made minced garlic pounding their tiny fist onto the chopper.

Next someone needs to shuck and cut the corn,  chop up tomatoes, peppers, onions, parsley and cilantros, squeeze limes….

one by one the ingredient was prepared by a volunteer child and they watched with wide-eyed amazement as a Garden Gazpacho came to life in minutes….

They had many questions or stories of their own to tell if they helped in their own home kitchen preparing meals.

Chef Tommy taught them how to peal and devein shrimp,  the difference between frozen and fresh,  how to smell the ocean and not fishy smell…

Thumbs up or down on the meal they prepared was amazingly positive and if someone was not so sure,  the Chefs added a squirt of lime or hot sauce and that usually did the trick.

Each group had a designated Compost Commander to help with putting the compost from today’s meal onto the OliveWood garden compost pile for use in the garden.

On this particular day,  it was the first visit to OWG from this school and the groups were divided into kitchen meal planning, garden identification of plant parts and a tour of the 116 year old Walton Home which is the OliveWood Garden House.

There were six (6) groups that would come thru the kitchen so by the end of the day, the chefs, tour guides, photographers and all general helpers were exhausted for sure.

The tour around the house was a favorite of many of the kids because the house is an old victorian style home with secret passages and stain glass windows, trees that reach beyond the upstairs windows to allow you to see the birds, flowers and the beauty of nature at it’s peak.

One of the new words they learned in the home tour was “symmetry” as the house was built with a sense of harmonious balance and proportionality, meaning that the house shape on one side or floor mirrors that of the other half or side.  The human eye naturally finds beauty and appeal in Architecture symmetry.

In addition to the design, they loved the old stairways, squeaky wooden floors,  old fireplaces in almost every room,  the old style toilets with the water tank on top and a chain pull.

Stories were told about the Walton family and how one of the sons had cancer and they grew all the fresh foods from the gardens and provided him with the healthiest of fresh foods and he is now 23 years old and living a life free of cancer.

They loved looking at the old paintings, many done by Mrs Walton and the rooms had artwork on the walls in the children’s room that displayed many of the things you would see around the house and farm.

They played the game of “I SPY” led by one of the older children, Cerise,  working at OWG for summer camp.   The younger kids were completely mesmerized by the stories of the house and Walton family.  (I used fisheye lens for interior and most of the images I left with the fisheye distortion)

Off in the gardens,  they have many new words to learn as they explore the grounds and find things they can eat from the garden.  They are taught to identify what part of the plant is edible into Roots, Stems, Leaves, Flowers, Fruits or Seeds.

As they do a sort of Easter Egg hunt for these Six elements of the plant parts they can run to a big chalk board and write the name on the board.

Lots of discussion is going on around all this and the kids are like little sponges…absorbing everything and sharing it back to their teacher and Miss Cass (me) or who ever is there at that instant.

I smiled to myself so frequently as I listened and watched.   I had a 300mm lens to get away from them and still capture moments because I found the kids are fascinated with my camera gear and want to be in the photos,  Model Releases are done in advance so they are fully aware that there may be TV crews and camera crews around and are all too eager to smile for the camera but sometimes it can create a little “ham” in the group and he/she is not paying attention. So, once I’m introduced and they know who I am,  I prefer to just become a fly on the wall and capture my moments in a more subdued or low key style, hopefully getting “real moments” as opposed to too many “overreactions or exaggerated” faces geared to the camera.

It was an EXCELLENT day and most all the kids were so interactive and eager to try everything, but there is always a few who are not as adventurous and a little bit of creative talent is needed from the Chefs and OWG volunteers.

I notice that these picky personalities are developed very early in years… we are already quite set in our ways at such an early stage of life… funny, how sometimes an experience like today can give them a new perspective and maybe change their lives in a positive way forever…. we may not always know how  we impact or influences others behavior… Role Models are very valuable!

This day was an experience I know ALL these kids will remember the rest of their lives,  it’s so unique, fun and educational and with a few little clever maneuvers the Chefs were able to develop a complete attitude adjustment turing a “no-way” into “can I have seconds” with healthy, yet yummy food experiences.

I’m so happy I grew up in the country and had all this every day but city children don’t get to see live chickens roaming around, gather eggs, pick tomatoes and eat them right then, pet a dog and dig in the dirt.

Combine that with some of the finest Chefs from San Diego that volunteer each week at OWG and you have a moment in time that Will Be Remembered the rest of their lives.. I guarantee it!

There are tons of images in the slide show (well 347) and I encourage you to watch it rather than your favorite TV show…. if it does not bring a smile to your face to see all these kids excited about learning where food comes from and how to prepare it… you are just having a bad day…

…but I bet it will still bring a chuckle or two.  Take a moment and enjoy these slices of life… it was small space and really low light and I wanted to fire for action, so I shot a very high ISO and sometimes the grain shows but just look beyond that for the beautiful moments.   it took me over 7 hours of post production just to get thru a 6 hour power shoot with dozens of kids  and many fun ones left in the folder but over all…..Priceless!

It would bring a big smile to my face if you left a nice note just letting me know if it maybe touched you in some way, or you enjoyed it….Thank you in advance!

Home Grown Tomato Sandwich

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Being from a farm in the south, I grew up on Peanut butter and banana sandwiches and sometimes Tomato Sandwiches…. well today seemed like a good day for a fresh Tomato Sandwich.

Marty has planted tomato plants 2 years now and we get these large beautiful vines and sometimes little yellow blooms but no tomatoes….this year I trimmed the vines back and we got a couple of tiny tiny little tomatoes that took about 3 weeks to ripen and did not taste much better than the ones from the CA grocery store.

He came home with some fresh tomatoes from Linda, his Admin, that her husband had grown in their yard and he was overflowing with tomatoes. We can only image that maybe the weather is not warm enough along the coast? Marty thinks we don’t get enough sunshine but we actually get full sun all day where the tomatoes were planted…. Nonetheless, we have a bowl full of pretty tomatoes that are tasty from Linda and I decided I’d make myself a tomato sandwich.

There is a number of things I’ve learned to add to this simple but delightful light lunch, sometimes I make a Tomato | Basil | Bacon, sometimes, a Tomato | Avocado | Cilantro, but today what I had on hand was Tomato | Sweet Onion | Cucumber | Basil with Tzatziki yogurt & cucumber dip. I added a little organic mustard from Trader Joes and toasted my Multi Grain bread and had a wonderful quick and light lunch!

Add my bubble water with some mint and cucumber in it and it was as refreshing a Popsicle

Thanks Linda for the Tomatoes!


Oh where were the dobies today?   Well Raleigh, now 18 months old… has graduated from his night time crate to a full size dog bed…. he’s doing great!  But the bed came today so both dogs are fascinated with it….

Quigley who already has her own bed,  had to be first on the pups new bed….just like kids!

Enjoy!  Got to run to an appt now!