Celtic Farms

Food & Photography


Food conferences are fun!

I just returned from the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) in Seattle Washington. It was more much then expected. The event was run by friendly and accessible people, all ready to answer a question or solve a problem. They made the whole event look seamless. The vendors and sponsors were so generous (please check out the IFBC sponsors.). In addition to the gifts they gave us we had breakfast, snacks, and two nights of food and wine tasting that turned into full meals. The venue, the Sheraton Hotel, was a great choice. The staff, from housekeeping to the front desk, were also friendly and helpful. The conference cost and the hotel rates IFBC negotiated were so reasonable. IFBC is doing a good job at making this conference accessible for even beginning and hopeful food bloggers and/or photographers. It was just so much fun! The attendees were open and supportive, we all exchanged cards and were excited for each others work and success. What field do you see that? And friendships were forged. I’ve attended many professional conferences from my first career on child abuse, trauma, mental illness, and none were near this much fun. Yes, I do see the nature of those trainings – all the more important to add fun and laughter! I finally realized what they were missing – wine!  ;)  Another thing I noticed is that after decades in my old field I wasn’t learning much at conferences anymore, but the IFBC was all new information and a good challenge for me. From the presentations to all the bloggers I am inspired to combine and pursue three of my passions, food, writing and photography.

Even though I’ve posted a few recipes on this blog, it’s only been about once a year. A slow start. The IFBC was the jump start I needed to get things rolling. The conference provided me the vision needed to organize my passions into stories, recipes, and photographs people would enjoy. That, and retiring soon has me so excited for my new career (‘career’ – that thing that occupies most of your time, and provides satisfaction and compensation). I’m not retired yet, however, so for a few months I’ll be writing about other people, places, and events vs my own recipes. Now that I have time I want to travel more, mostly around food, of course. That will fit the theme so you can expect some musings and pictures from my Italy trip in October.  This will be a wonderful exercise for me to just start writing, and it will keep the momentum going. This blog has yet to take shape. There will be glitches, the majority will probably be a misplaced comma until I get an editor on board. Someone might advise, “Don’t risk posting mistakes, wait until you find that editor.”. That makes sense. But the thing is much of my life I’ve been waiting until the “right moment”, the “right people”, the “right tools”, and never took a step forward. I’ve spent so much of my life waiting. This is all new to me, and I’ll make mistakes with writing (being a little dyslexic can add humor to it), and post some less then great photos, but I’m pushing 60, and do not have time to wait around for anything anymore.  What I can promise is that I will improve, and if you stick with me you’ll be part of this new adventure. My goals are lofty, typical of me. Others in the food blogging world started not that long ago and are well received and making an honest, albeit humble living. One of the other great benefits from attending the IFBC event is now I have some knowledgeable and supportive mentors. Let’s face it, this was one big love fest for me. :)

The first presentation at the IFBC, Introduction to Blogging, was presented by Dr. Jean Layton. Jean covered a lot of material and made it easy to understand. She painted a clear picture of the essence of blogging and the practical application. While we’re all sharing recipes and beautiful pictures, reviews and travel logs, more then that we’re sharing our story. No one has asked me to share ‘my’ story before. My blog was going to be recipes and pictures. I might have said a thing or two to introduce the recipe but that would be all. Over 30 years as a therapist I have been listening to other people’s stories, and now I get to share mine?

OK, not counseling type stories, of course – everyone has their own! A great quote form the movie Hope Floats is this: A grandchild asks, “Gandma, mom says childhood is the best time of your life”. Grandmother responds, “Oh bull shit, childhood is something that happens to you, you spend the rest of your life trying to get over.”

And one way to help heal our hearts and souls is to find the joy in the foods we grow, prepare, and eat, and joy in the people we meet and break bread. Since the dawn of time people share food. It is a universal symbol of accepting and nurturing.

As I said, the next many posts will be about the conference, Seattle, and Italy as I get organized on line, and my day job hours decrease. So, please be patient as I practice a little here, and get my proverbial feet wet. Let us see how much improvement there will be and how far I can take this new adventure. ….. and thanks for your support. <3

Here we go ….

The Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant in Seattle was one of the generous vendors at this year’s IFBC. The “Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant, features freshly prepared, authentic cuisine that spans the Pacific Rim from China to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.” (taken from their FB page)

I don’t know if Executive Chef: Jacky Lo and Cuisine Chef: Nathan Uy created this soup for this event, but either way I’m so glad they brought this delight to us hungry food bloggers.

Wild Ginger Soup

Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant & Satay Bar

When I think of ginger I think of a sharp flavor drowning out the ingredients, it’s suppose to enhance. In truth I don’t think everyone knows how to use ginger well, and since I don’t care for it all that much, I also don’t care to learn … but wait, this soup has changed my mind.

Wild Ginger Soup

Wild Ginger Soup

It is a balanced blend of flavors, all floating together in this perfect broth of coconut milk, waiting for you.

Wild Ginger Soup

Wild Ginger Soup from the Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant & Satay Bar in Seattle Washington.


Here I go ….

It is official, I’m retiring from my position as Executive Clinical Director at REACH Counseling (Grass Valley, CA) in the spring 2016, if not sooner. I founded REACH and our sister non-profit, N.C.A.T. 14 years ago. It’s been a huge challenge and great work, and now it’s time to change venues. In my 30+ year career I’ve worked with thousands of kids and plenty of adults, as individuals, couples, and families. I’ve heard incredible stories from the darkest to the lightest. and  I’ve learned so much about human nature, worked hard, helped plenty, and I learned about myself.

Now I want “to be” a food blogger and photographer. The competition is stiff, especially since everyone has a blog. And so many are really great and the photos these folks are taking are impressive. There will be a learning curve on just about everything involved. Good.

For years I fooled around with this blog but never spent much time because of my day job. As said that is changing. To push myself across the way into being serious  I’m going to the 2015 International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle. I’m very excited. There will be a wealth of information to learn, new contacts to meet, and most of all inspiration. So off I go to a new chapter in my life filled with food, beautiful images, creative design, travel, and one of my favorite things of all, writing.



Cabernet Sauce for Meet & Poultry

This is a dark, rich sauce that could be used with any game bird, like duck, Cornish hens, and more. It would go well with chicken or beef, too.
Any hearty red wine will do.

1 c. Red wine
1 c. Broth
1 Small shallot
Tbsp. Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
½ c. orange juice (or other sweet juice. Or a pinch of sugar.)
Thickening agent. I used corn starch.

Finely chop the shallot and sauté in olive oil until translucent.
Add the other ingredients and simmer to cut by 1/3. Taste it as you go, as it can be a bit too tangy for some.

Use what ever you like to thicken things, like cornstarch or arrowroot. Use just a bit to give the sauce more body, not to make it thick. To skip this step continue reducing the liquid until thick.

Serve hot over a roasted bird.


Grilled Lebanese Summer Squash with Goat Cheese

Lebanese Squash is a lovely summer squash I like far more than Zucchini. It’s firm, with a sweet, nutty flavor. It also goes by, Mid-East or Cousa squashes. Lebanese types are bulbous-shaped light green to cream colored, with white speckles.

This is a great squash for sauteing, grilling, stuffing and baking, used in any recipe for eggplant or added to soups an stews. It holds up better then the other summer quashes. and is often used in Middle Easter cooking.Lebanese Squash

The plant grows in vines on the grown, and fruit matures at 50 days.

Open-pollinated. Also called Mid-East or Cousa squashes, Lebanese types are bulbous-shaped light green with white speckles. Robust crawly bushes are amazing croppers; yielded 15 fruits per plant in our trial plot. Pick fruits when they are young and tender or allow them to fatten for stuffing. If you grow it, be gentle harvesting and handling. It bruises and scratches easily.

IMG_0808_2Slice the squash cross wise, about 2 inches thick and grill until tender. Crumble goat cheese over the hot squash and serve. Salt and pepper, if you like.




Gazpacho is a tomato based, cold soup. It hails from Southern Spain, and Portugal. Rumor has it, the Moors brought it over to Spain and Portugal. That the Arabs used stale bread, garlic, and olive oil. Or, that the Romans introduced the soup, with the addition of vinegar.   There are many variations of it now. I first learned about Gazpacho when I worked at Chico Cheese and Charcuterie, in Chico, CA, 1983(ish). (I was attending Chico State, where I received my BA in Psychology.) Bill Wallace was the chef, and he and Tom Taylor were the owners. They were wonderful people, and I learned so much. We made our own tomato juice for the soup back then, but. these days I use V-8 juice.

Use 5-6 medium Tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 1 bell pepper, 1 onion, 8 or more garlic cloves, 2-3 jalapeño, sprigs oregano, and a little mint. Peel the cucumber, seed everything. Dice all the veggies to about the same size, 1/4 in. Chop the herbs, mince the jalapeño and garlic.

Put everything in a big mixing bowl, add about 2 cups of tomato or V-8 juice to cover. Add about 1 cup of vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to taste (about 1 cup), salt and pepper. These are estimates. You want enough liquid making it a soup, and not salsa. Though that’s very good, too. Chill before serving.

IMG_6253No need to garnish, but if you like add some cubed avocado, salad shrimp, a couple grilled prawns, chives, a dollop of sour cream, or whatever you think would be good. Cold, fresh, delicious! So good for you.IMG_6264




References: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/when-moors-ruled-europe/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajoblanco


1 Comment

Pork & Orange French Onion Soup

This i_MG_5696s a variation of the classic French Onion Soup which, of course, is traditionally made with a deep, dark beef stock, and topped with Gruyere cheese.  In this delightful variation, I use pork stock and a touch of orange juice, plus Jarlsberg cheese, which has the same nutty, sweet flavor but is a bit more mild.Beautiful

You’ll need:

  • a soup pot
  • oven worthy soup bowls
  • 1 quart Pork broth (home made – fresh or previously frozen)
  • 3 sweet yellow onions
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • bread slices for the crouton (It should be a hearty bread.)
  • Jarlsberg cheese (This is a mild cows milk cheese from Norway. It has a sweet nutty flavor. You can find it at most grocery stores.)
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons of butter (or equivalent)
  • Salt & pepper
  • a sprig of Rosemary and/or a little Herbs de Provence (optional)

Heat the pork broth to boiling, turn down to a simmer to keep warm.
Peel the onions. Cut into quarters, then slice to the thickness you like. I make the slices about 1/4 in. or smaller. Saute in a pan with the olive oil and butter (personally I use Heart Balance – no they don’t give me anything for the mention. I wish!) until the onions are caramelized. Make them good and dark, but not too burnt.   

Scrape the onions into the hot broth. Add the orange juice, salt and pepper. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until the onions are tender and the flavors all married together.

Toast the bread – dark. Let cool. You can cut the bread to fit the soup bowl you’ll be using, or you can cut it into little squares (like 1 in. x 1 in). Lightly butter the bread (make sure its cold and dry), sprinkle the Herbs de Provence over the bread and set aside. You can use any herb you favor, or none at all.  Grate enough cheese to fill the top of each soup bowl.

When you‘re ready, spoon the soup into your bowls, place the croutons on top, and cover with the cheese. Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes. Watch this carefully! You want to make sure the cheese is bubbly and browning.  Add the Rosemary sprig to each bowl. People can stir the sprig around to flavor the soup with a hint of Rosemary (or you can skip it, too.) Serve with a nice, warm, crusty bread.

Leave a comment

Pork Broth

Except in Asian and Mexican cuisine, pork stock or broth is just not as commonly used as the others, but its just as good. I make it a broth from the start, vs a stock, because I use pork broth to flavor stir fry, noodles, and other dishes. Making and freezing your own pork broth might be the only way you’ll have it. Knorr makes a pork bullion cube, but they aren’t easy to find. (I don’t receive anything from Knorr.)

You’ll need:

  • A stock pot or slow cooker.
  • Bones and scraps from a pork shoulder, butt, or pork ribs.
  • 2 carrots
, 2 celery stalks
  • 1 to 2 onions
  • bay leaf (its ok if you don’t have this)
  • pepper corns or ground pepper
  • salt

Broth made with the bones and scraps from a pork shoulder or butt is dark, and rich. I use this broth to make a variation of Pork/Orange French Onion Soup, but its also great for pork stew, chili, using to cook rice, or as a cup of broth all by itself. After your done with a roast, place the scraps and bones in a roasting pan.

The same technique for making any meet or bone stock is used for pork. Brown the meet and bones well, about 25 to 45 minutes in a 425 degree oven. Or, you can broil the bones, a few minutes on all sides should do it. Keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t burn, and you don’t have a fire from grease splatter.Roasted pork shoulder


Transfer the roasted bones and scrapes to a stock pot or slow cooker. De glaze the roasting pan and pour into the pot. Add the onion, carrots and celery stalks. Add enough water to cover the bones and veggies, at least one quart. I use half water and half chicken stock. Throw in the pepper corns, bay leaf, and salt. Cook from one to 3 hours, make sure it boils at least five minutes, and keep it at a hard simmer the rest of the cook time. If using a slow cooker, cook the broth all day, or over night. Skim off foam as it develops.
Strain into a gravy fat separator, and place in the refrigerator to let the fat rise to the top. Check on it in 15 to 30 minutes. When the fat rises, you can pour the broth into ice-cube trays to freeze, or into what ever container you’d like. If you don’t have the gravy fat separator, keep the broth in the refrigerator until the fat has hardened enough to spoon off. If you don’t freeze it, place it in a tightly seal container in the refrigerator. Broth keeps about a week, always boil broth and stock for a minimum of 5 minutes before using.

Beautiful  And now I turn this into a great “Pork broth and Orange French Onion Soup”.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 107 other followers