Perfect Baked Potatoes


Perfectly Cooked Baked Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes or Yams with Soft Skins

To me, it’s important to buy organic produce, especially if I’m going to eat the skins.

Place your washed sweet potato, yam or white potato on a piece of foil large enough to wrap completely cover and seal the potato. Rub liberally with a good oil. I used a organic avocado oil. Salt and pepper the potato to taste. Seal the potato and bake until soft. Potatoes can be cooked along side of a variety of dishes that cook at different temperatures between about 300 to 450 degrees. Obviously the higher the temperature the quicker they cook. Hot potato so carefully remove the foil. It’s ready to eat or you can add butter, sour cream and chives. Salsa is delicious on potatoes or a scoop of chili with all the fixings!

Oil, salt and pepper the potatoes then wrap in tinfoil.

Oil, salt and pepper the potatoes then wrap in tinfoil.

Seal the potatoes in tin foil.

Seal the potatoes in tin foil.

Mushroom Soup - Quick + Earthy

I can make this soup in about 30 minutes. It’s rich and filling. It is a vegetarian recipe that is gluten free with vegan options.

I use organic whenever possible

I use organic whenever possible

It’s all about the mushrooms -

I use fresh frozen and dried and whatever I have on hand. Any combination always comes out delicious.

Frozen mushrooms don’t need to thaw.

Dried mushrooms - soak in water for about 15 minutes. I forage morel’s and dry them.

Fresh mushrooms - simply wipe any dirt off fresh mushrooms with a soft cloth. You don’t need to thaw frozen mushrooms.


You can use Better Than Bouillon Mushroom Base. It’s saltier than most box broths, so adjust salt to taste.

Vegan’s can add vegetable broth, omit the butter and use your favorite plain nut milk.

Add a little sherry to liven up the flavors

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, creme fraiche or chopped chives

Serve with a crisp green salad or grilled cheese sandwich.

My friend Lynn says “Every soup begins with leeks.” This soup starts with leeks and then I add celery

My friend Lynn says “Every soup begins with leeks.” This soup starts with leeks and then I add celery

Rich and Creamy Mushroom Soup


Mushrooms - 2 cups - any combination of fresh, frozen and/or dried - chopped
Celery -2-6 ribs - I like celery so go for 6 ribs and include some of the leaves - sliced
Leeks -  1-2 stalks - washed and chopped
Garlic - 3-6 cloves - peeled and minced
Thyme - 1 tsp dry fresh or 1 tbsp dried
Olive oil -1 tablespoon
Butter - 1 tablespoon (omit for vegan and add another tablespoon of olive oil)
Mushroom broth - 1 box
Heavy cream - 1 pint (omit for vegan or use your favorite unsweetened nut milk)
Salt and pepper to taste


Saute leeks, celery and garlic in oil and butter until translucent. Add thyme and mushrooms and cook until soft. Add mushroom broth and heavy cream. Heat and serve.

Beautiful mushroom soup!

Beautiful mushroom soup!

I add my herbs when sauteing. I thinks they infuse their flavors into the veggies.

I add my herbs when sauteing. I thinks they infuse their flavors into the veggies.


I stock up on mushroom broth, but you can substitute chicken or vegetable broth.

Milk: I rarely have fresh milk, but keep a supply of canned evaporated milk, boxed unsweetened nut or hemp milks. I even a boxed whipped cream. I use what works for the recipe and more importantly my taste.

Butter: I keep a back up pound of butter in my freezer.

Vegetables: I almost always have fresh carrots, celery, onions and garlic in the refrigerator. Add a minced carrot for color and sweet

Mushrooms: I forage morels that I dry and store in quart jars. I buy portabella and cremini when they are on sale and I know I'll have time to process them. Wipe the mushroom free of dirt, slice and place on parchment paper is a cool dry location. Turn every 12 hours (or so) until dry. Store in canning jars. Rehydrate in water or broth until soft and ready to use.  Or slice and freeze.

For more information on drying mushrooms the Mushroom Appreciation has several methods.

Re-hydrating Dried Mushrooms only takes 15 Minutes

Put dried mushroom in a bowl of water to rehydrate.

Put dried mushroom in a bowl of water to rehydrate.

Morels after about 15 minutes. Plump and ready to use.

Morels after about 15 minutes. Plump and ready to use.

Brenda Eastman - Artist - Vegan Breakfast Muffin


I first met Brenda Eastman in 2007 when she and Nickki Lee Hill were working on a project they called Wild Flowers of Weed. It was an arts presentation with images by Nickki and biographies by Brenda. The show was a powerful telling of the diverse community that is Weed, CA. Since then we have worked together on several projects. We have co-curated shows at Liberty Arts, a contemporary art gallery in Yreka and we collaborated with ceramic sculpture, Candace Miller on a show we called TriMorphic-three distinct perspectives on the human condition that traveled from Liberty Arts to the Siskiyou Arts Museum in Dunsmuir. I continue to admire Brenda’s art work and her commitment to the arts and arts scene in Siskiyou County and look forward to working with her on future projects.

Link here to Brenda’s Favorite Movie Scenes about Food.

Biker - Brenda Eastman 1991

Biker - Brenda Eastman 1991

Lauri: How long have you been an artist?
Brenda: I believe I've been an artist prior to any memory. Both parents are creative. There was always musical instruments around being played, something being build, crafted, or sewed. At any moment if any of us wanted to paint a watercolor for example, the materials to stretch the paper, easel, paint, brushes, and a place to do it was ready to go. Every part of my life felt creative from sewing an new garment to making tiny interiors for my Barbies. Throughout school years there were teachers along the way who recognized my direction and encouraged it or even employed it within the classroom.

Lauri: How do you keep the creative juices flowing?
Brenda: It feels like the creative juice is always there. My challenge is usually directing it towards just one projects rather than 5 at a time. I'm getting slightly better at this with age.

Old Glow 1993 Brenda Eastman

Old Glow 1993 Brenda Eastman

Lauri: Did you go to school to do what you do? What was the most valuable thing you learned?
Brenda: I did pursue art in college, although looking back I feel I did not have good direction of how I might use it in a career. The most valuable things I learned at COS were the various techniques I never would have been able to try on my own such as printmaking because of the access to large scale presses, and at UC Davis I worked mostly in large scale ceramics because of the huge walk-in sized kilns available. But I suppose the biggest lesson of all came after college as I tried in vain to find a job using my new art degree. Then something totally unexpected came about. An Interior design group took me in recognizing my creative skills. It was fun and a whole new set of creative knowledge I was happy to take in.

Lauri: You are a body worker doing deep tissue massage and most of your drawing are of the human form. I think it’s an interesting confluence. How does bodywork influence your artwork?
Brenda: There were a couple of major career changes that happened between 2000 and 2002. The first was an unexpected offer to do concept art for a game developer back up here in Northern California. This was a total dream job! I'd have creative meetings with the developer and then take the brainstorming to paper and bring his ideas of characters and creatures to life. At the end of '01 they lost funding and that's when I decided that in order to stay in this area I'd switch direction and get certified in Massage Therapy. It's something that had been in the back of my mind for a long time. This turned out to be a perfect marriage between my love of the figure in my art, and knowing and understanding the human machine from an anatomical perspective. Because of my hands-on understanding of muscle, bone, joints and even how the human moves, it's made me a much better figurative artist.

Chrysalis 2011 - pencil drawing by Brenda Eastman

Chrysalis 2011 - pencil drawing by Brenda Eastman

Lauri: What are you working on now?
Brenda: Next up, I'm finally swinging back to color and painting after many years working in black and white. I want to explore what it might look like as our human culture separates further from the natural world. I feel the more we humans detach from the part of ourselves that is animal and of this earth, the more we will loose ourselves.

Self Portrait, Brenda Eastman 2018

Self Portrait, Brenda Eastman 2018

Lauri: What is you favorite part of a dinner party?
Brenda: My favorite part of a dinner party is when the conversation, sharing, and comradery begins to flow, and everyone relaxes into the moment.


Vegan Breakfast Muffin

This is a nice easy recipe that can be tweaked super easy if you want to change out flour types or add goodies like nuts or dried fruit.


1 cup organic flour of choice ( I mix rice, amaranth, corn and millet flours)
1 cup organic oats
1 Tbs double acting baking powder (non-aluminum)
1 tsp Himalayan salt
1/3 cup local honey
1 smashed banana or applesauce
4 Tbs virgin coconut oil or oil of choice
2 Tbs ground flax seeds
1 cup organic coconut milk or milk of choice
As much or as little as you like: fun stuff like raisins  ans walnuts


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spoon into mini muffin pan (oiled and floured). Bake approx. 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Miso Soup - quick + healthy

Miso Soup - according to Japanese mythology, miso is a gift to mankind from the gods to assure health, longevity and happiness.

Miso Soup - according to Japanese mythology, miso is a gift to mankind from the gods to assure health, longevity and happiness.

Miso Soup - The basics

The only thing you really need to make miso soup is hot water and miso. Below are some suggestions and directions you can use to make a heartier soup.


Vegetables - Use what you have raw, cooked, or frozen. Cut raw veggies into bite size pieces. Cabbage, peas, mushrooms and green beans all work well with a quick Miso Soup.

Protein - Tofu is traditional, cut into small cubes. This is a good use for leftover chicken, just cut into bite side cubes.

Noodles - Udon (buckwheat noodles). Thai Rice noodles are good choices. They are available in the International aisle of most markets.

Miso - White miso is milder in flavor and is often served in the summer and for breakfast. Red miso has a stronger richer flavor that is welcome in the cooler months. Do not boil miso.

Garnish - Green onions, shredded raw carrots or chives.


Your goal is to have a bowlful of perfectly cooked vegetables, noodles in a pot of hot water. That’s when you add the miso, mix well, garnish and serve.

Cook raw vegetables in boiling water. Don’t add salt. Cook noodles and heat any tofu, left overs, etc. Add miso. You don’t want to miso to boil.

I put my miso in my serving bowl and ladle a tablespoon or two of hot water into the bowl and begin to dilute the miso. Then add it back into the hot water. It can take some stirring to melt the miso into the hot water. Do not boil the miso.

What is Miso?

There are days when I want something warm and healthy and I want it quickly. Miso soup is a go-to meal for me. it’s warming and makes me feel like I’ve done something healthy for myself.

Doing research on miso I came across a website that, “offers general information about soy and recipes with soy and explains how to make your own soy products. We search the market, mainly Belgium and the Netherlands, for newly launched soy products and provide reviews.” states that Miso “can be traced to China as far back as the 4th century BC. A seasoning, called Hisio, was a paste resulting from the fermenting a mixture of soybeans, wheat, alcohol and salt. The written word, miso, first appeared around 800.

In Japan, miso was introduced the 7th century by Buddhist monks. The process of making miso was furher refined and it became a necessary part of the samurai diet. With the widespread cultivation of rice, miso has become a staple food for Japanese people. Over the centuries, different types of miso were developed, often named after the province where it originated.”

Red and White Miso - I purchased these at Berryvale Grocery in Mount Shasta.

Red and White Miso - I purchased these at Berryvale Grocery in Mount Shasta.

There are many variations of miso, which are basically all made from koji mixed with either rice, barley or soy beans. The ingredients are fermented and aged in wooden kegs. Some of the lighter sweet miso is aged for only a few months, while the darker miso may be aged for up to 2 years.

Miso is paste made of fermented soy beans. The fermentation process turns soy beans into amino acids, fatty acids, and simple sugars. Miso can be made with other grains, but soy miso is the most readily available. I recommend trying different miso varieties…so far I haven’t found one I don’t like. White miso is milder in flavor with the dark reds being the strongest flavor.

Apple Chutney – spicy + sweet

Peeled tart green apples -

Peeled tart green apples -

Chutney is a spicy condiment made of fruits or vegetables with vinegar, spices, and sugar, originating in India. You can use this Indian condiment to add a spicy complex favor to many dishes. It can be made with fruits like apple, pear, mangoes, apricots and tomatoes.

I used the recipes from The Joy of Cooking and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest to make this batch, because right now I have apples. I adapted the recipes to my tastes. Additionally, there are many recipes are available on-line.

I received a copy of  The Joy of Cooking  from my Sister-in-Law Peggy in 1993 it’s decorated by my Niece Emily

I received a copy of The Joy of Cooking from my Sister-in-Law Peggy in 1993 it’s decorated by my Niece Emily


3 lbs, Apples peeled, cored and cut into a ½-inch dice
2 medium onions, chopped
1 cups Apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup raisins chopped - golden or currents will all work, too
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp Cloves powder
½ Red pepper flakes or to taste
½ teaspoon mustard powder


Chop the apples and onions so that they are about the same size. Put everything in a Crock Pot on high for 1 hour stirring occasionally. Then on low for about 4 hours. Ladle into jars and water bath 10 minutes or refrigerate.

Apple Chutney 2018 - An abundance of worm-free apples is helping store apple preserves like Chutney and  Apple Butter (my recipe here )

Apple Chutney 2018 - An abundance of worm-free apples is helping store apple preserves like Chutney and Apple Butter (my recipe here )

Delicious when serve with fish, pork or chicken. Add a teaspoon to any oil and vinegar salad dressing for tasty treat. Serve on a crudité or cheese platter. Chutney goes well with brie and crackers.

Kristin Allen - The Best Vegan Mom

Kirstin is also known as "The Blind Lady"

Kirstin is also known as "The Blind Lady"

Lauri: Tell me a little about growing up in Minnesota.
Kristin: I grew up in Glencoe, a farming community in Minnesota (dairy land!) a town where my grandparents lived, my parents grew up and raised us and now my sister and her family are still living. Needless to say, not many people move away. 

Growing up, my parents were always working on one home project or another. Before I was born, they built the house I grew up in from the ground up, not having much construction background.  My family's business was a Goodyear Tire shop called Sam's Tire (my maiden name was Samuelson, and Sam was my grandfather's nickname and later on became mine when I was in the Army Reserves and throughout college).  I believe since I grew up in that kind of home-renovation environment, it just became part of my DNA. 

During my senior year of high school, I joined the Army Reserves, mainly as a way to afford my college education.  Neither my parents, nor grandparents had gone to college and my family did not have the financial resources to pay for college.  After my initial military basic and job training, I started college at Minnesota State University. I originally started taking business classes and realized I needed something more creative.  I switched my minor to marketing and ended up graduating with a B.S. in Interior Design and Construction Management. 

Kirstin and her family having fun on the beach

Kirstin and her family having fun on the beach

Lauri: And now you live in Siskiyou County. How did that happen?
Kristin: After college I moved to San Diego, because I swore I would "never live in a small town or anywhere it snows ever again!"  (you can see how well that worked out, right?!). In San Diego I worked in Solana Beach for a custom furniture manufacturer and designed custom upholstered pieces, it was a very creative job and I loved working with people to design every aspect of a piece of furniture.  After a little while, I wanted a change, and went to work for a large model home design firm. They did high end model home design all over Southern California and throughout the United States. It was a great job as well, but while living in San Diego, I had my first daughter and was getting tired of the commute and busyness, so when an opportunity came up to move to Dunsmuir and buy a house, my husband at the time (now ex) and I moved. I started at Edgewood Custom Interiors in 2005, less than a week after moving to Siskiyou County.

Kristen working with the blinds

Kristen working with the blinds

Lauri: How did you get the nick name The Blind Lady?
Kristin: My role at Edgewood has changed as the business has changed throughout the years. Originally, I was hired to sell furniture and be the in-house interior designer. A little over a year of starting at Edgewood, I started helping people with Hunter Douglas window coverings and filling in at our Mt Shasta store, ECI Flooring, working with people on floor coverings as well. Today, we no longer sell furniture, but I am still very active in every other aspect. Every so often someone jokingly calls me the "blind lady" when they see me out and about (like I've never heard that one before!). 

Lauri: What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
Kristin: One of my favorite things is working with people in their homes and seeing their spaces. I find myself not only helping people with their window coverings, but giving them advice on paint colors and space planning. I love that a lot of my "clients" have become friends!  There is something to be said for living in a small knit community.  I know that if I would still be in San Diego, or another bigger city, I wouldn't create nearly as many connections as I do with people here in Siskiyou County. 

What the heck is that?

What the heck is that?

Lauri: How is California eating different from how you grew up?
Kristin: Ok, getting onto food:  Obviously, coming from MN, I grew up in a family that ate meat, potatoes and not much else!  I think I ate dairy with every single meal.  I was a cheese-aholic, loved the stuff!  To give you an example of how little vegetables we ate, our salads were iceberg lettuce with Hidden Valley ranch dressing.  Fruit was either canned peaches (on top of cottage cheese of course) or fruit cocktail.  I'll never forget when my mom came to visit me in California, and I made a breakfast scramble with avocado and she freaked out because I was using a "raw" avocado, "aren't you going to cook that?!"  Obviously, we never had avocado growing up!

How cute is this sign? Adorable!

How cute is this sign? Adorable!

Lauri: Now you've changed eating a plant-based or vegan diet?
Kristin: Yes, for me to change my diet about 4 years ago from a cheese-loving, meat-eating, not very vegetable-based way of eating, it was quite the change! I can't really say what facilitated the switch to a plant-based diet. I watched a few documentaries like Forks Over Knives and Vegucated.  Those were a big eye opener, and as I began to educate myself on what I was putting in my body the foods I was used to eating were sounding less and less appealing.  (I recommend What the Health and Cowspiracy as well!!!)

Lauri: What has been the hardest part about making this kind of change in what you eat?
Kristin: Cheese was the last big hold out for me, because I ate so much of it and it was such a big part of my diet. I mean, pizza, enchiladas, mac and cheese! But a funny thing happened and as I went without it for a couple weeks and then longer, I no longer craved it and I realized how much better I felt without eating it. A side effect of going vegan was the compassion for animals. I made the connection to what I was eating and realized that I can eat amazing foods without harming animals, and I haven't looked back.  I joke that I'm a cow-hugging, tree-loving, kale-eating herbivore!
Nowadays, I am eating mostly a whole food plant-based diet, which means no oils, or processed foods as well as no meat, dairy, eggs or animal products of any kind.  It is amazing what you can do with plants. I definitely do not deprive myself and this is not a "diet' for me as much as it is a lifestyle.  I don't limit myself and count calories/carbs/fats. I just eat plants! 



Lauri: I love your passion about 'just eating plants'. It sounds like you have figure it out for you and you family.
Kristin: I make a mean cashew-based cheese sauce and buffalo cauliflower poppers that would rival anything you'd find at a sports bar!  Really, it's been a learning experience and having to educate myself on a new way of cooking.  I have such a passion for this way of eating and I am looking to share it with others.  I'm not quite sure what direction I will take, whether it is helping people individually by teaching them how to cook plant-based meals or if it will be just creating nutritious foods for my family.  I did recently receive my Certification in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell's T. Colin Campbell's Center for Nutrition Studies.  

Lauri: I know there are options for eating out for vegetarians and vegans. What are your favorite local eatery?
Kristin: Eating out locally has been interesting. I have my few go to restaurants where I know I will be able to order something plant based. It really isn't that difficult, but the funny thing is - I don't like salads!!!  I tend to go for a heartier meal when I'm going out to eat, so I love The Wheelhouse in Dunsmuir. Link here to read The Bill Plate review of The Wheelhouse. They have a vegan BLT that is made with tempeh bacon that is out of this world!

Also, Mexican restaurants are usually easy for me to find something. Casa Ramos (Link here to read The Bill Plate review of Casa Ramos.) has their Enchilada Espinaca (spinach and mushroom enchilada), but I have to make a few tweaks, like no cheese or sour cream, also, no refried beans since theirs are made with lard, and cilantro rice instead of their Mexican rice (which uses chicken broth). My absolute favorite breakfast dish is Seven Suns Veggie burrito, substitute tofu for the eggs and nix the cheese.  And even though I said I don't like salads, I make an exception for the Signature Salad (again omit the blue cheese) at Jefferson's RoadHouse. It is absolutely amazing!!! Link here to read The Bill Plate Review of Jefferson's Roadhouse.

Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup

Comfort Food -  Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup  from Life is No Yoke

Comfort Food - Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup from Life is No Yoke

Lauri: What's one of your favorite comfort foods? One you are willing to share the recipe with our readers?
Kristin: Below is the recipe for one of my favorite dishes Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup. It isn't my recipe - it's from one of the many blogs I follow  Life Is No Yoke.  Growing up in Minnesota, Chicken Wild Rice Soup was a staple so I searched everywhere for a vegan plant-based version and this one is as good if not better than the original. Typically, Chicken Wild Rice Soup has (of course) chicken and chicken broth, but also heavy cream, butter and sometimes vegetable oil, all of which I don't eat anymore! So to find a recipe that actually tasted like what I had growing up, but a much healthier version was so difficult. The key to cooking without cream or milk when making cream based soups is soaked cashews and white beans! It sounds strange, but I've used it in cheese based sauces, alfredo pasta sauce and in this recipe and it is amazing! I did upgrade to a Vitamix Blender a couple of years ago because as you can imagine, blending cashews to a smooth and not gritty consistency is key if you want a creamy sauce.  It was definitely a splurge, but I highly recommend it for anyone transitioning to a plant based diet.  I'm a texture person and if I had to eat something that was grainy or had a gritty texture, I probably would have had a hard time with this way of eating. I typically serve this soup with a heated up loaf of sourdough bread and it is the ultimate comfort food.  Especially on cold fall or winter days, it is like a hug in a bowl!  I eat WAY more than one serving and sometimes even make a double batch so I have leftovers for lunches!

Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup


  • wild rice - 1 cup (160 g)

  • vegetable broth - 64 oz (2 L)

  • bay leaves - 2 whole

  • dried thyme* - to your taste (we use 1 Tbsp. (4.3 g))

  • salt - 2 tsp. (5.69 g) + more to taste

  • celery - 4 ribs chopped

  • carrots - 1 cup chopped (128 g)

  • onion - 1/2 whole chopped

  • garlic - 4-6 cloves chopped

  • mushrooms - 8 oz chopped (225 g)

  • cashews (raw/unsalted) - 1 cup soaked (125 g)

  • cannellini (white kidney) beans - 15 oz can (425 g)



  1. Soak cashews overnight if possible

  2. If not, soak in boiling water as soon as you see this, the longer the better


  1. Pour 1 cup (8 oz) of broth in a small bowl to the side

  2. Heat the rest of the vegetable broth in large pot on medium heat

  3. Rinse and drain your wild rice

  4. Add wild rice, thyme, bay leaves, and salt to your hot vegetable broth

  5. Place lid on pot and set a 30 min timer


  1. Chop celery, carrots, onion, and garlic

  2. Put in pot w/broth, replace lid

  3. Chop mushrooms, reserve on side


  1. Drain soaked cashews and the liquid from the cannellini beans

  2. Place cashews & beans in Vitamix container

  3. Add reserved cup of vegetable broth

  4. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes until smooth


  1. When your timer goes off, add the creamy Vitamix mixture to your pot

  2. Add the chopped mushrooms

  3. Replace lid

  4. Set timer for 15 more min

  5. When timer goes off, check if wild rice is done (should be a bit chewy)

  6. Remove bay leaves


Open a Can Chili + Quesadillas

Simple to make with ingredients you might have on hand. A hearty meal to feed a crowd.

Simple to make with ingredients you might have on hand. A hearty meal to feed a crowd.

I learned how to make this chili from Ike Edgmon. He shopped at "the dented can store" for chili, beans and where every he could save a dime to feed his family of five. One time when his wife Doris was out of town, my brother and I were visiting he fed us dinner. Ike went into the kitchen fried up some hamburger, opened a couple of dented cans and when everything was heated up we ate some of the best chili I've ever tasted.

Since that day I've learned this is a default meal for many families. Ike's chili would never come out the same because, he bought whatever was on sale. I know some Grandmothers who plan ahead and purchase the same ingredients every time. Either way it's a quick meal that will feed a crowd

Crock Pot Open a Can Chili family dinner with paper plates. A nice reward after a hard days work!

Crock Pot Open a Can Chili family dinner with paper plates. A nice reward after a hard days work!

Open a Can Chili  - The Basic Recipe


Ground meat or Beyond Meat, a veggie base protein vegetarian option
Onion - chopped
Garlic - 1-2 cloves chopped
Canned beans - whatever kind you have on stock. I used 1 can of pinto and 1 of cannellini   Canned Tomatoes - I usually have a can of diced tomatoes on hand, but you could use whole  tomatoes and cut them up or fresh is even better. You can use tomato sauce if that's all you have.
Canned green chiles
Chile powder or fresh chiles of your choice 1 to 2 tbsp
Mexican Oregano - 1 tsp to 1 tbsp to taste
Cumin - 1 tsp to 1 tbsp to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Ike's Secret - Add a can of chili. It give your chili all the seasoning needed so you don't need to.


Brown the meat with onions. If using Beyond Meat you only need to saute the onions until translucent. Put everything into a Crock Pot or slow cooker. Turn on high for about an hour then on low until you are ready to serve.

Toppings: Here are some suggestions for toppings. Use what you have on hand.

Sour cream
Pico de Gallo - link to my Pico de Gallo recipe
Chopped onions - green, purple or yellow
Fresh chopped jalapenos
Grated cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Hot sauce or Tabasco sauce

Garnish with my homemade  Pico de Gallo  and a little sour cream.

Garnish with my homemade Pico de Gallo and a little sour cream.

Serve with chips, tortillas or warm cheesy quesadillas

Quesadillas crisp up quickly on a griddle. Everyone was hungry after a day of moving furniture at Shelly's house so, I wanted to make a lot of them quickly.

Quesadillas crisp up quickly on a griddle. Everyone was hungry after a day of moving furniture at Shelly's house so, I wanted to make a lot of them quickly.

Quesadillas are super simple. Heat buttered flour tortillas filled with grated cheese until the cheese melts and the tortillas are warm and golden. I have a griddle, but you can use any frying pan. By adding lots of fresh veggies and salsas you can turn a quesadilla into a hearth meal. Tonight we kept it simple with just sharp cheddar cheese. 

My Family - Shelly, Grace, Caty, and Bellis

My Family - Shelly, Grace, Caty, and Bellis

Nikolas Allen Real Estate Agent - Soft-Shell Street Tacos

Nikolas Allen Real Estate Agent

Nikolas found the perfect home for Artist Mimi Bailey and her family.  read my interview with Mimi here

Nikolas found the perfect home for Artist Mimi Bailey and her family. read my interview with Mimi here

I first met Nikolas Allen in Mount Shasta about 10 years ago. He has always been one of my favorite people with his big personality and creative energy. He was a helpful volunteer in the arts scene helping me hang shows at the old Arts Council's gallery. He also was the graphic designer creating postcards for numerous shows. Nikolas and I mentored high school students interested in poetry. He was one of the presenters when we produced The Business of the Arts, conducting a workshop on Marketing for Artists. He and his partner Brenda Eastman performed music at a fundraiser for the Siskiyou Arts Museum, He continues to work as the emcee for the Liberty Arts Fashion Show and Butteville Art Auction. Nikolas is the author of several books; Death To The Starving Artist - Art Marketing Strategies for a Killer Creative Career, and  Heavyweight Marketing - Knockout Strategies for Building Champion Brands. and now he is using all of his creative talents selling homes in Siskiyou County.

Visit The Bill Plate's Movies, Books and Songs about Food to see Nikolas' favorites

Lauri: How did you get interested in the real estate business? 
Nikolas: I'm a Realtor with J. Harris & Associates of Mt. Shasta, CA. Prior to getting into real estate, I enjoyed a 22-year career in marketing and advertising design. 

In 2015, I purchased my first home after decades of renting, and fell in love with the experience of home ownership. I was feeling a bit burnt out on marketing, so I got my real estate license in order to help other first-time homebuyers experience the same thrill. 

It was also helpful that my mother, Jessie Zapffe, was a broker in the agency I started with. She's a very successful agent, and has been quite inspirational. I never thought I would become a Realtor, but now that I'm in it, I love what I do, and can't imagine doing anything else. 

Another successful sale and now the Turtles have a new home!

Another successful sale and now the Turtles have a new home!

Lauri: I know you from your artwork and writings.  Do you still make time for your creative work?
Nikolas: I’ve pursued various creative avenues throughout my life, including music, filmmaking, writing, and fine art. And I've never been the type to "dabble," so I would dive deep into each pursuit, until it was time to move on to the next. Lately, I have been bitten by the music bug again, and am writing, recording, and performing songs again for the first time in years. Check out music by Nikolas Allen on Soundcloud. 

One cool thing about having this extensive creative background is that I can put all of the skills to use as a Realtor. When marketing myself, and my clients' properties, my use of design, music, video, and writing really helps me stand out from the rest of the pack.

celebrating their new home everyone takes the American Gothic pose for the camera

celebrating their new home everyone takes the American Gothic pose for the camera

Lauri: Did you go to school to do what you do?
Nikolas: I chose to play in rock bands after graduating high school, so I skipped out on the traditional 4-year college route. Eventually, I got an Associates degree in Advertising Design through a 2-year course at Brown Institute, which got my marketing career started. I also took a few college courses in music theory, and filmmaking to learn more about those topics. For real estate, I took an online course from Allied Schools, which helped me prepare for the exam. After six months of study and tests, I went to Sacramento and successfully pass the exam to get my license. 

However, with real estate, getting your license is only the first step. Your education really begins out in the field…and it never ends! There is always something more to learn about yourself, your clients, and the market in general. And when you enjoy learning and growing as a person as much as I do, that’s a great thing.

Lauri: Where do you get the inspiration to do what you do? Since now it's selling homes I'd image the rewards are both monetary and inspiring seeing people find their home sweet home. That’s got to be both fun and challenging.
Nikolas: I love helping people through the complex process of buying and selling their homes. There are some people who are super fun to work with as we move towards achieving their real estate goals. There is plenty of hard work, uncertainty, and struggle with every deal. The thrill that buyers and sellers feel when the deal closes successfully makes it all worthwhile! 

Some clients are more challenging, but that’s okay, too, because it offers lessons on patience, compassion, and communication. Becoming a Realtor has been the most fun, challenging, and rewarding career, both personally and financially, that I have experienced to date.

For market updates and real estate tips, connect with Nikolas online: 

Nikolas Allen on Instagram

Nikolas Allen on Facebook

Nikolas celebrating at their 2018 Sizzlin' Summer backyard party

Nikolas celebrating at their 2018 Sizzlin' Summer backyard party

Lauri: Any special summertime plans?
Nikolas: Summertime is where the real estate selling season really picks up. The market has seen a slower buildup this year than it has in the last couple years due to changing tax laws, rising prices, and increasing mortgage interest rates. However, activity finally started to bubble up in June, and though it got a later start than usual, I’m certain the busy season will continue strong through summer, fall, and even into the holidays.

On a personal front, my partner, Brenda Eastman, and I are heading to England for a 10-day vacation this fall, and we’re very excited to explore London and its surrounding areas. We may even begin our search for that perfect retirement cottage in the English countryside.

Brenda and Nikolas at their 2018 Sizzlin 'summer Backyard party!

Brenda and Nikolas at their 2018 Sizzlin 'summer Backyard party!

Lauri: What is your favorite part about sharing a meal friends and family?
Nikolas: I love the conversation and connection that happens around the table with friends and family. Brenda and I try to have one small dinner party every quarter. And at least one house or yard party per year. Plus, we’ll hit restaurants with friends or clients every month or two. There’s nothing quite like talking, laughing, relaxing, and catching up with friends and family over a leisurely meal to make you feel connected to the people who matter in your life.

Cheers! Toasting to the good food and great friends!

Cheers! Toasting to the good food and great friends!

Lauri: What is your favorite meal at a local restaurant?
Nikolas: Up until two years ago, I had been a vegan for 15 years, so my meals were pretty much limited to salads, veggie burgers, and other not-very-exciting options. Since I became a carnivore again, I’m on the ultimate search for great burgers, such as the ones found at Yaks in Dunsmuir. I also love Thai food from Andaman in Mt. Shasta, and Natalie Thai in Yreka. Mike & Tonys in Mt. Shasta has a great Chicken Picatta. In short, I’m having fun discovering all sorts of dishes that I haven’t been able to enjoy over the past 15 years. Oh, and if they serve a good red wine, all the better!

Lauri: What is your favorite meal at your favorite destination restaurant or road trip eatery?
Nikolas: I recently discovered View 202 in Redding, and was very pleased with their service, ambiance, and food (I had the Fish Tacos). Brickroom in Ashland, OR, is pretty amazing. Denny Bar Co. in Etna is a real boon to the area. The vision and execution of that place is on a higher level than anything in the county. I love road trips in general, and discovering hidden gem eateries along the way, even if that turns out to be a little greasy spoon in the middle of nowhere.

Soft-Shell Street Tacos

Soft-shell Street tacos - A variety of ingredients make this a meal that everyone can enjoy!

Soft-shell Street tacos - A variety of ingredients make this a meal that everyone can enjoy!

Nikolas Allen's Soft-Shell Street Tacos

One of my favorite meals to prepare at home is soft-shell street tacos because they are small in size, with minimal ingredients . It’s a fresh, healthy, and gluten-free meal that is tasty and easy to prepare. You can add a veggie side such as steamed broccoli, Brussel sprouts, or corn on the cob. Chips and salsa are optional, but always a fun addition.

Ingredients:  These can vary depending on what you’re in the mood for, but ours often look something like this...

Organic white corn tortillas (choose corn tortillas and chips if you’re aiming for gluten-free)
Fresh cabbage or lettuce
Cilantro - We grow it in our garden
Black or green olives
Protein of choice (beef, chicken, fish)
Spicy mustard
Avocado Oil Mayo


Cook your protein on stove or grill. Dice lettuce, cabbage, cilantro and slice olives, and avocado. Heat tortillas on stove or in the oven. Add light dab of mayo and squirt of spicy mustard on warmed tortilla. Assemble ingredients and top with salsa - Enjoy! 

Farmers Market Meal 7-3-18 Rainbow Chard, Carrots with Soba Noodles

Rainbow Chard, Carrots and Garlic with Soba Noodles - Farmers Market Meal 7-3-18

Green and Orange Garlicky Dinner - A simple meal that's feels more exotic when eaten with chopsticks.

Green and Orange Garlicky Dinner - A simple meal that's feels more exotic when eaten with chopsticks.

Chard, Carrots and Soba Noodles


Garlic - peel and slice
Carrots - wash and slice
Chard - rainbow was fresh at the Mount Shasta Farmers Market- chop
Olive Oil for sauteing
Soba Noodles - cook as directed
Salt and Pepper to taste


Prep vegetables. Parboiled the carrots in a medium pot of boiling salted water.  In a frying pan saute the garlic in oil until soft, then add greens. Using a slotted spoon I scoop the carrots from the boiling water into pan with the greens. Cook the Soba noodles in the same water you cooked the carrots. Drain and toss into greens. Season to taste.

Tips and Substitutes:

Soba noodles are Japanese noodles that are made from buckwheat flour. The thickness of the noodles is easily comparable to that of spaghetti. They are available in most markets...check the international section.

This is just a 'put together meal' where you can use whatever you have on hand or looks good at the Farmers Market or vegetable section of your local grocery store. This would be good with onions, mushrooms and chicken.

For an Asian flavor substitute Thai Chili and Tamari or soy sauce for salt and pepper.

Thai Tom Kha Gai Soup




Thai Tom Kha Gai Soup

Easy to Make Yummy Soup

This has always been one of my favorite soups to order when I eat at Thai restaurants. My granddaughter had to have braces, that means we spent a lot of time in waiting and treatment rooms. Luckily for me her orthodontist had a good supply of magazines. I found this recipe in Family Circle February 2012.

My local grocery stores are limited in international ingredients, so I made a list and went right to a large grocery store that was next to the orthodontists office. I had to make another stop at an Asian market that was in the area. I came home and made it that night. It has been a go-to delicious soup ever since.

This soup is really easy to make. It's all about having the ingredients ready to cook. My daughter is a vegetarian so I simply substitute the chicken with firm tofu and use vegetable broth.

Tom Kha Gai Recipe

Serves 6

1 quart box chicken broth - low sodium
2 4” pieces of lemon grass - crushed
2” of ginger root - peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic -  minced
8 oz. Cremini  mushrooms - sliced
2 tsp Thai chili-garlic paste adjust to taste
1 lb. broccoli florets
½ lb. chicken breast or thigh cut into ¾” pieces
1 red bell pepper - cut into matchsticks
1 - 14 oz. can coconut milk
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce

4 green onions - sliced

In a large pot heat bring chicken broth to a simmer. Add  lemongrass and ginger simmer on medium high for 5 minutes to release the aromatics.  Reduce heat, simmer, add garlic, mushrooms and chili paste. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in broccoli, chicken, red peppers and coconut milk. Simmer 5 minutes until chicken is fully cooked. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice and fish sauce. Serve in bowls, garnish with scallions.  


  • Prep all ingredients before you begin cooking. Once you begin cooking it goes quickly. 15 minutes cook time.
  • To reduce calories substitute low fat coconut milk.
  • Substitute with chicken ingredients for vegetable broth and tofu for a delicious vegetarian soup.