Cast Iron Lamb Loin Chops with Cognac Butter Sauce


Skill Level: Easy

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook time: 10 mins

Total time: 20 mins

Serves 2-4

  • 4 lamb loin chops
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup cognac or brandy
  1. Remove the chops from the fridge approx. 30 minutes prior to cooking.
  2. Heat a large cast iron skillet until hot. Season chops with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to skillet and wait for it to shimmer. Place the chops in the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes. Be patient and don’t move the lamb so that meat can sear properly in the skillet. Flip chops and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  3. Add butter, cognac, garlic, and fresh herbs to the skillet with the lamb and stir until fully melted. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, turning the loin chops several times in order to baste them with the cognac butter mixture. Lamb will be medium rare. If you would like the lamb cooked more, for each level of doneness cook for an additional minute.
  4. Remove skillet from heat and place lamb on plate. Drizzle with the remaining Cognac butter sauce.
  5. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve!

Brandied Pears with Thyme & Pecan Crumble





  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brandy
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Freshly ground black pepper (couple of turns)
  • 1 lemon peel
  • 1 orange peel
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 4 pears, preferably lightly ripe Doyenne du Comice (aka Royal Riviera) or Bosc


  • 2 whole graham crackers smashed into crumbs
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 8 candied pecan halves coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp fresh thyme leaves


Serves 4

In large saucepan combine all ingredients except the pears. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, stir, then reduce to a simmer.

Prepare pecan crumble by melting butter in saucepan, then adding thyme leaves to butter. Cook until aromatic. Remove from heat. Add chopped pecans and graham cracker crumbs, mix well. Set aside.

Wash and dry the pears. Peel and core from the bottom, keeping stem on, and pear intact.  Carefully place pears in the simmering liquid and cover. Turn up heat a bit and cook for 15 minutes. Pears should feel slightly soft but intact. If too firm, cook for 5–10 minutes more.

Remove pears from liquid carefully with a slotted spoon.  Increase the heat to medium-high and cook remaining liquid uncovered until slightly thickened and able to coat the back of a spoon (about 6–8 min).

If you are not planning on serving pears right away, place the pears upright in a bowl and pour the brandy sauce on top. Cover and refrigerate overnight to increase the intensity of the flavor. You can serve pears chilled or reheat them with the brandy sauce in the saucepan. Garnish with graham cracker crumble. For an extra treat, serve with crème fraîche or ice cream.

The Unmentionables – Dishes We Just Don’t Talk About.


Are you an adventurous eater? I’m not talking about Escargot, Blood Pudding or Uni. I mean really adventurous, eating the “unmentionables”, animals and parts thereof which most Western countries would cringe at the mere mention of.

If you’re curious about unique dishes and their origins, Unmentionable Cuisine by Calvin W. Schwabe is the book for you. I received a copy of this book in the late 90’s, although it was first published in 1979. Unmentionable Cuisine is filled with 460 pages of recipes, descriptions, as well as the history of some amazing dishes. It includes recipes such as Calf Udder Croquettes, Battered Sheep Trotters, and Calalou, which is not to be confused with the Caribbean Callaloo.  This type of Calalou is essentially a pot of opossum,raccoon, pigeon, chicken, duck, shrimp tails, crayfish, okra, onion, eggplant, and so on. Yum! I also don’t want to forget to mention Suzume Yaki, broiled sparrow from Japan. To make Suzume Yaki, broil birds slightly over charcoal; dip in a sauce of equal parts shoyu, sake, and mirin, and broil again. Repeat this dipping and broiling process several more times. When done, split open the sparrow and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.

Step out of your comfort zone, and try some new foods! This book is available online.


Crane Fly City!


It all started one evening about two weeks ago. Screaming voices from around the house. “Eeek! Yuck! Help!” I knew exactly what they were carrying on about, and tried to calm everyone down. It happens once a year. We were in the midst of a massive Crane fly invasion! I don’t particularly like these creatures either, I’m just not afraid of them anymore. As a child I despised them and would scream for my mother to remove them from my room. One night I was particularly frightened, and my fear seemed to induce some kind of speech paralysis. “Mom! Cawdyhawk!” What the hell is a Cawdyhawk? A Mosquito Hawk. The name stuck, and I call them that to this day. I even have people googling Cawdyhawk while I giggle about my made-up word.


This recent evening I danced around screeching “Cawdyhawk” as I proceeded to whack as many as I could reach with a dish towel to stun them, and then placed them outside. My wife reminded me I should probably close the door, because half an hour later I was making the Crane Fly removal rounds once again. I’m guessing we had close to 70 in the house that night. As the week progressed the nightly numbers became less, but I’m still finding a few here and there. The cats found many, and for a few days there it looked like a Crane Fly war zone, with legs and wings strewn about.


Outside has been a different story all together. They are out like gangbusters! I have a friendly little White-Crowned Sparrow who loves to help with Crane Fly removal, but as I walk through the taller grasses I realize just how many there are. They are emerging from everywhere! Some are mating, most are flying clumsily about with no destination, some have newly emerged and can’t even fly yet! All different shapes and sizes! There are over 15,000 types of Crane Flies to be found around the world, and I know I have observed about three types in the last day or two here on the farm. As I continue to watch the sparrow get fatter, and the Crane Flies dissipate… I’m looking forward to some warmer weather here on the Central Coast of California.


The 5th Annual National Heirloom Expo


September 6th-8th Santa Rosa, CA –  The 5th annual National Heirloom Expo is coming up in less than three weeks! This is the place to be if you want to learn everything there is to know about heirloom produce. Over 75 knowledgeable speakers from across the globe will be discussing heirlooms for three full days, with topics ranging from Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening to the Future of Heirloom Seeds.

Don’t miss these other opportunities at the Expo –

•Colossal Pumpkin Contest and Show

•Kid’s Heirloom Fetival

•Fruit Tastings

•Heritage Poultry Show


•Local Food Fair

•Folk Music Festival & National Fiddlers Contest


Grape Jelly 2.0 (and wine)


What to do with 80 pounds of delicious Concord grapes? Make jelly, naturally! Make wine, of course! After spending a good part of a day last week cooking down about 60 lbs of grapes to make juice for jelly, I decided to go out and harvest yet another 20 lbs to make some delicious native wine. Evidence shows, vitis labrusca (also known as fox grape), was growing wild in North America before Europeans arrived. A man by the name of Ephraim Bull from Concord, Massachusetts collected and planted seeds gathered from the native vitis labrusca, and 22,000 seedlings later found what he considered to be the perfect grape. The Concord grape!

The jelly is set, and the wine I will start this afternoon. There will be another blog post dedicated to wine making.


If you are interested in this delicious grape jelly, contact me for more information on how to obtain some!


Successful Seed Swap

The 8th annual Santa Barbara Seed Swap went off without a hitch yesterday, despite the crazy weather. Young and old gathered in the Faulkner Gallery at the Santa Barbara Public Library for another wonderful community event.


Seed companies such as Renee’s Garden Seeds and Botanical Interests, as well as local favorite Island Seed and Feed, donated a large amount of seed packets to add to the already plentiful amount provided by the attendees.


Not only were incredible seed varieties available, there was also an abundance of information to be shared. Knowledgeable people from the community such as Cerena Childress, Oscar Carmona, Wesley Roe, and many others, were available to answer questions and give short talks on what they are passionate about.

Children’s activities were running all day in one of the wings of the gallery. Sponsored by Trinity Gardens, kids were able to explore the world of seeds and participate in making seed packets, matching seeds to plants, reading books about seeds, and learning how to save seeds from their own gardens.

It was a wonderful day, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t attended this event to do so next year.

For more information, check out the Facebook group –  Santa Barbara Seed Swap


El Niño, Come Home!

What an exciting day yesterday! The forecast was accurate, and we received the much-needed rain we had hoped for. Between the heavy downpours, and strong winds, it was an unusual sight for our area. Then again, we are spoiled by what others would consider perfect weather for most of the year. The total was 1.05 inches here at the farm, which was enough to keep the ground wet, and keep the plants happy. We haven’t watered in weeks!


Santa Barbara has measured just over 6.5 inches of rain this year to date. Unfortunately, that is nowhere near what we actually need. The majority of that rain fell in a three day period at the beginning of the month. The streets were flooded and water was pouring into the grow beds on the sides of the property. The flood carried away more than half of the soil, and replaced it with sand. There will be some repair work in the coming weeks, and some brainstorming on what we can do to prevent this from happening in the future.

For more information on El Niño and the effects it is having on California, as well as accurate and scientific weather info pertaining specifically to our state and climate, check out meteorology’s new superstar, Daniel Swain. His blog can be found at  


My Top 5 Heirloom Seed Companies

seedcataloguevintageYes, I admit it! I have a seed addiction.  People often ask me where I like to purchase my seeds. Here are five of my favorite places to procure seeds.

1. Seed Savers Exchange

Seed Savers Exchange is a popular place to purchase seeds. Founded in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange is a registered non-profit and the reason why heirlooms are so popular today. Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa is the headquarters of this organization. Here you’ll find their seed collection, display gardens and walking trails. They carry seeds for herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers.

2. Seeds of Change

Seeds of Change offers 100 percent certified organic seeds and plants. They grow all their own seeds on their research farm or within their network of organic farmers. All of their offerings are open-pollinated, and they specialize in traditional and heirloom varieties.

3. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Baker Creek Seeds offers unique heirloom, non-genetically modified seeds. Baker Creek’s store in Petaluma’s historic Sonoma County National Bank building is a beacon for gardeners, foodies and tourists. If you’re ever in that part of California, have a look at the Baker Creek Seed Bank.

4. Territorial Seed

Territorial Seed was founded in 1979 by Steve Solomon. The company was later sold to Tom and Julie Johns in 1985. Since then, their main focus has been on making it possible for gardeners to improve their self-sufficiency and independence by enabling them to produce an abundance of good tasting, fresh from the garden food. Territorial Seed carries vegetable seeds and plants, along with garden supplies.

5. High Mowing Organic Seeds

Celebrating their 20th anniversary, High Mowing Organic Seeds started as a one-man operation, and  is now a thriving business. Over 600 heirloom, open-pollinated and hybrid varieties of vegetable, fruit, herb and flower seed are made available to home gardeners and commercial growers.


Time for Seeds

2016-01-27-10.01.45.jpg.jpegWith spring not too far away, it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to put in the ground this year. It is the time to try new seed varieties, and be adventurous in your garden planning!

This is always an exciting time for us here at Flora Vista Farms. This is the time where your input from the previous year comes to life. Many of you, over the years, have requested specialty seedlings. Most of you are especially interested in unique tomato varieties. This year we will carry more tomato seedling varieties than we ever have!  Keep an eye out for our upcoming posts, with updated lists of available items. We strive to bring you the best quality produce and goods here locally.