Pizza in Chico 

This week we are visiting our daughter in the Northern California city of Chico! Chico is a college town that is chock full of trendy eateries, bars and beautiful parks. After a great Mexican food lunch today, we visited Bidwell Park.. 3600 acres of towering trees, green grass and lots of water! Three things that we don’t see a lot of in the Mojave Desert…Big Chico creek runs through the area and on the lower half of the park an ingenious public swimming pool, constructed in 1920, is built on top of the creek. By controlling the outflow of the creek below the pool above can be filled (or drained!) 

Below the pool spillway I noticed a large group of trout hanging out, waiting for something tasty to float by. 

I assume that fishing isn’t allowed in this area of I’m sure there would be a lot of fishermen here! I’d love to come back and explore the other 3,595 acres that I didn’t see…

One of the things that I wanted to do while I am here is teach my daughter the new pizza recipes / techniques that I learned from my review of the book “The Elements of Pizza”.  I had packed up a couple slabs of granite (great pizza stones) headed to a farmers market for some fresh toppings and we had a family pizza party! 

I really like this new recipe… just the right crispness on the bottom of the crust, but light and airy above.  I’ll have to post the recipe soon.

Here’s some nice Thai peppers that I picked up at the farmers market…

 The next thing on our list of things to do on our trip was to visit a place called Bumpass’s Hell in Lassen Volcanic National Park, which we did today. We had a blast, but I realize that I’m going to have to save this for my next post so come back and check it out! 

I had no idea there was such an active Volcanic area in California! 


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Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast


Another book review? Yes, I just can’t help myself it seems! When I see these interesting books become available for review- I just have to check them out! One interesting thing that I noticed last week was how many books I own are from Ten Speed Press! They seem to publish a lot of books that are interesting to me!  Bruce Aidell’s Complete Sausage Book  was the book that inspired me to start making sausage years ago! Recently, I reviewed The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish. This book really changed the way I view and make pizza! Olympia Provisions by Elias Castro… another gem. At this point, I probably own a dozen titles from Ten Speed Press and I am sure that I will add to that number soon!

Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast

As the subtitle states, this has to be the most comprehensive guide to the fungi of Coastal Nothern California I have ever read! At nearly 600 pages, this book chronicles literally hundreds of well known to obscure fungi with top notch photography, individual species descriptions, ecology and edibility (from “unknown” edible, toxic, hallucinogenic to downright deadly!)  Each variety also has additional comments with important information on identification, collection etc.

This is an indispensable reference book for casual to veteran mushroom hunters alike, and is well worth the purchase price… especially if you are foraging for a gourmet meal!  The book weighs over 3.5 lbs, so I probably wouldn’t carry it into the field.

FTC disclaimer:  The opinions that I have stated in my review are entirely my own, and were not influenced by any third party. I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.




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Pocket Bidding?

Today I have a quick cautionary blog tale for you!

Yesterday, as we were waiting for some friends to arrive for a BBQ- I took a minute and checked my phone for messages and any good news that might be happening in this world. (Once again, only bad news…)  the doorbell rings, I jam my phone in my pocket and go to let our guests in. As I was walking to the door I could hear my phone  make an occasional dinging noise, but I didn’t think much about it!

After a half an hour or so I decided to check the phone again, (as we all do these days!) and was shocked to see this on the screen!!!


I  have heard of pocket dialing someone, but never pocket bidding! Somehow my eBay app opened on my phone and apparently was poised to bid $785,777 on 5 pounds of green coffee beans from Cameroon that I had been looking at earlier in the day!!! I was real careful to not hit the “confirm bid” button and set the phone down. The next logical step was to take a picture of the  screen so I could share this on the blog!  For now on, I will be a bit more careful and lock the screen before I put my phone down.

While I am mentioning coffee, I have to tell you..   On Friday, I used the last of my roasted coffee and made a mental note to roast some more beans when I got home. When I got home from work I found that my son (Castiron Zack) saw that we were out of coffee, grabbed my coffee roaster and roasted up a batch of coffee solo! He did an excellent job and I am proud to see that DIY spirit in him! Maybe I’ll set him loose on some coffee from Camaroon if I can purchase some at a slightly lower price!!




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A New Tool For The Garden

Last week on a local gardening page on facebook someone mentioned that they were using a uv black light flashlight to find tomato horn worms in their garden. I have heard in the past that you could use a black light to locate scorpions, but I had no idea that you could purchase a black light flashlight to spot tomato worms! I decided that I had to try it- after a quick search on Amazon , I purchased this model for a whopping $11.99!


The body is made out of aluminum like a mag light and it feels solid! Here’s a //“>link if you wish to check it out!

Two days later- the flash light is here! It’s only sunset, but I have to see if this thing works!


I found one right away, but it didn’t light up like I imagined that it would… I’ll try it after dark!


Much better! This is going to be great to keep the tomato worms in check!!  The funny part about this is I handed the flashlight to my wife to let her find a worm too… she looked behind me about 2 feet and there was a scorpion!


The scorpion was maybe 1.5 inches long.  It was the first one that I’ve seen here in quite a while, although I shouldn’t be surprised… I do live in the Mojave Desert. The next time that I go out to the garden I will make sure to put shoes on!

While I am writing about the garden, I will add an update and some pictures.

Since I have a koi pond  which needs to have a portion of it’s water changed weekly, I do a lot of the watering of the garden directly from the pond. The garden seems to like the extra nutrients (especially the tomatoes!)

I have two varieties of tomatoes this year- I guess they both could be described as large cherry tomatoes (1′ to 1.5″) With the addition of the pond water these plants have completely overgrown the area I planted them in, but they don’t seem to mind (as it is so intensely sunny here, it may actually help them!)


“blue berries”


“purple bumblebee” not quite purple yet!


“Madhu Ras” Honey melon from India


Ali Baba Watermelon


Toothache plant

This plant I planted on a whim and then forgot about it until I saw the flowers! It is also called  “Electric Daisy” Chewing on a flower of this plant will make your mouth go numb, while it almost feels like electrical shocks on your tongue while you chew it. It will also make you drool like a hound dog at a barbecue!  I did try this once… probably won’t again!



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The Elements of Pizza

I’ve always enjoyed making things myself. Whether I am roasting coffee, curing bacon or making a pizza, if you learn to do it yourself it is going to be fresher and (hopefully) just the way you like it! Plus there is that feeling of satisfaction that you get when you realize that you can make this! I like that feeling and I don’t think that I will never change, but I’m also always looking to improve on what I’ve  learned.     When I first noticed the book “The Elements of Pizza” available  – I knew right away that I wanted to review it! My pizza making skills are not bad, we make pizza quite a bit, but what I feel needs improving  is my crusts. They are all ok, but I want a more flavorful,  lighter and crisper crust. Looks like I picked a good book to read!

Book Review
The Elements of Pizza
Ken Forkish


In reading this book, I hoped to improve my dough making skills and pick up some new techniques… from the first dough ball I made using this book, my pizza crust has really improved!  My crusts now have better taste, and are lighter and have a better texture. I have always used a stand mixer to mix my dough,  but I have learned how easy it is to mix by hand – which surprisingly takes very little time actually mixing / kneading.  Without mentioning to my children that I was using a different recipe, both commented to me that the crust on our pizza was really great and please make this again!
This book was an easy read, with great pictures that are printed on nicely weighted paper.

Besides dough, there are other sections on sauces,  toppings, entire specialty pizzas, and cooking, (Especially using a peel and stone!)
If you are looking to improve  your pizza skills, I highly recommend this  book!

FTC disclaimer:  The opinions that I have stated in my review are entirely my own, and were not influenced by any third party. I received this book from Blogging For Books In exchange for an honest review.

If you are a fellow blogger  that likes to read, I highly suggest checking out their website

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It’s so hot today that I’m smoking…

…Bacon, that is!  Here in Apple Valley we are under an excessive heat warning until Wednesday of this week. Tomorrow’s highs are supposed to be between 103 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit! The temperature today so far is 100f.

I have been curing bacon this week and today is smoking day, so I will just sit in the shade by the pond and take it easy!


I am still working on my pond filter/waterfall… it may take me all summer to get the waterfall done, but the filter is up and running in the water is now very clear! Unfortunately, any visiting egrets will be able to see their lunch a lot easier now!
My small garden seems to be really doing well with this heat – especially the squash.


I picked 6 zucchini  yesterday for the barbeque today and this morning there are six more ready to pick!
I also spotted my first watermelon growing this morning… it’s about the size of a quarter.


One more thing that I planted this year that’s doing well is Thai Red Roselle.



This variety of hibiscus  has citrus scented flowers, which is what you use to make Jamaica tea. The way this plant is growing-   should be able to harvest the spent flowers soon!


Mexican Day lily

So this week is going to be very hot but I’m going to enjoy it because there’s very little humidity! Next week I’m flying to Kansas.The weather forecast there is about 100 degrees but very high humidity… It will be interesting!
The reason I am willing to go and sweat in the Midwest next week is because my father is going in on Monday for open heart surgery. This is going to be a difficult week  for all and any prayers will be appreciated!

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Memorial Day Cookout

I am at my brother’s house (Castiron Don!) for Memorial Day today. I have to say that he makes awesome baby back ribs! They are off the hook… smoky, sweet and tender…I need him to do a guest post!

For dessert, my good friend Ralph made homemade vanilla ice cream topped with fresh strawberries! It was the best I’ve had in years!


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Sage Chicken


Part 2 of my Cleveland Sage post!

So now that my sage plant is planted (and doing well in a sunny, but protected spot) It is time to make one of my family’s favorite dishes. Sage Chicken. I am sure I could come up with a clever name for this chicken dish, but we have called this “Sage Chicken” for so long that it wouldn’t seem right to call it anything else!

This is not a complicated recipe and there is no real reason to be precise with the toppings… in fact, you could triple the amount of garlic and sage and it would even be better!


  • 6 pc chicken breast
  • fresh grated parmesan cheese (or Romano)
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 30 fresh Cleveland sage leaves (2″ to 3″ long)
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Pan fry chicken breast in a touch of olive oil until golden brown. Set aside on platter.


Top each piece of chicken with a healthy amount of fresh grated parmesan cheese. I suggest using a microplane…. (affiliate link)


Slice garlic and chop sage coarsely and saute with 4 tablespoons butter. As soon as garlic starts to brown, remove from heat and ladle the garlic, sage and butter over the chicken – which will melt the cheese.



I hope you enjoy this as much as we do. One variation that I have not tried, but I bet would be good would be to substitute fresh basil leaves for the sage. Maybe next time!


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Cleveland Sage!


For the last few weeks I have been spending any free time that I have in the garden or around the pond. I’ve been building a new filtration system / waterfall that I will write a post about when (if) I finish! Over the past year I been losing a battle with algae which has turned the pond water green, and I can’t see my koi unless they are right on the surface. That kind of takes the fun out of having a pond, so I hope to have this project done soon!

The other day,while I was at the local hardware store (Lowe’s) picking up more pvc pipe and valves, I went through the garden section to see what else I can spend money on! I found one of my favorite garden herbs – Cleveland Sage! We had one of these in our backyard years ago, but it eventually died and I was never able to find a replacement! The leaves of this sage are really aromatic – just a light brush against the plant produces an intense sage aroma (perfect for cooking!) I grabbed the 2.5 gal container of sage and headed for the checkout. I only wish now that I would have purchased two! Driving home, the cab of my truck smelled like I had a sage scented air freshener hanging from my rear view mirror..

The next day I planted my prize and promptly pruned about 30 leaves that were 2″ to 3″ long and made one of my family’s long time favorite dishes…Sage Chicken.

My next post will be the recipe- which is really good, yet simple to make!



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Chocolate Salami and A Book Review!

“Chocolate Salami? umm… that sounds different”. My wife knows that I have been reading a new Charcuterie book and I could tell that she sounded a bit apprehensive. It’s basically chocolate ganache with nuts and spices… no meat! Well ok then, lets do this!


This particular version included chocolate (70%), Pumpkin Seeds, Hazelnuts, Almonds, Candied Ginger, Orange Peel, Wine etc… It tasted great-but as you can see, my chocolate rolling skills could use some improvement! I will have to make this again and hone in on my technique.

So, the new charcuterie book that I have been reading is titled “Olympia Provisions” by Elias Cairo and Meredith Erickson. Cairo is a co-owner of two very successful restaurants in Portland Oregon which have their own meat department where you can order his products via Mail Order… including their chocolate salami! If you have the time- check out the Olympia Provisions website.


This book is full of charcuterie recipes from Olympia Provisions meat department. Each recipe is very detailed- with step by step instructions and features great pictures for each item! I have been wanting to make dry cured salami for quite a while now, but I have never found such detailed instructions that make me feel comfortable enough to make it, however, with this book I know that I can succeed!

Other recipes include:

  • Capicola
  • Parsley Pecorino Sausage
  • Bratwurst
  • Mortadella
  • Frankfurters
  • Bacon
  • Sweetheart Ham
  • Pancetta
  • OP Pepperettes (pepperoni)
  • Salami Etna
  • many more

Also included is a section explaining Nitrates and Nitrites, the difference between curing salt #1 and curing salt #2 and some very interesting facts as well.

The middle section (intermission) of the book tells of the Authors years spent in the Swiss Alps which is very interesting and has excellent photos of the locale.

The second half of this book is loaded with recipes from the two Olympia Provisions restaurants in Portland. Baked Eggs Peperonata, Bratwurst Gravy, Hand Pies, Short Ribs, and of course Chocolate Salami! It is great looking fare that I can’t wait to try! The next time that I am driving through Portland I will have to visit!

One last thing about the quality of the book itself. The pages have a nice weight to them … there were a few times that I actually thought that I had skipped a page! I wish that more books had this nice of a feel!

FTC disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review. If you think that you might be interested in reviewing books for free also (who doesn’t like free?) check out the link above… Dan


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