Reality Bytes: It Ain’t Easy Being Green

**Recipes from this episode below, photos taken by the lovely Anais Dervaes**

In the last episode Chef Brian & I went to Pasadena to cook for the awe inspiring Dervaes family at their Path To Freedom Urban Homestead. Usually for each episode I lug around all my heavy Le Creuset cast iron pots, my knives, a food processor, my stand mixer… seriously a crapload of things. SO when Chef Brian & I were told by Tom we didn’t need to bring anything other than our knives the family had everything we needed available there… other than not being able to bring my Le Creuset I thought SAWEEEEEET!!! We were emailed the family has a garden in the backyard & we were making a  meal showcasing the family’s produce (no meat) & we can use EVERYTHING they had available so I was like wait… I don’t have to shop & schlep all the food either?!?!?  Even SAWEEEETER! This was all I thought of prior to going there up until I walked up to their front gate, I didn’t at all realize the magnitude of what I was about to experience & what would potentially change my life & how I cook.

It rained that day, pretty much rained during every episode I shot so I was starting to feel like I had bad luck but I knew I was walking through a “garden”, I had cute houndstooth rain boots… FAB! Calling this shangri la a “garden” was truly an understatement. I was GOBSMACKED when we walked in. On 1/10th of an acre this family of FOUR manage to produce 6,000 POUNDS of fresh produce a YEAR! There were these amazingly cool exotic chickens & ducks, I got to pick my own eggs…. yeah I touched some duck poo in the process & wailed like a 4 year old but still clapped like a feral seal because I was so happy to be there. The goats were so strong & healthy. I tried to milk one of them but alas she was fresh out of milk because at the time we shot she had already supplied all the milk she could for the day. I’m telling you having a Haitian girl that close to a goat & I couldn’t eat them I felt these guys had some amazing karma especially because they ended up living their goat lives in such a beautiful place. OH & the family also raised bees & make their OWN honey & had one of thee most intricate irrigation systems I have ever seen.

Bri & I are walking around, I’m having a blast & skipping & thinking how proud First Lady Michelle Obama will be of me (yeah, because she watches the show…. nuh doiffy!) & then I realize after seeing the  bicycle blender (how genius is a blender on a BIKE?!?!?)…

 the clay & solar ovens… HOLY SMOKES there’s no power at this place & I have NONE of what I called “crap” with me because I didn’t have to lug anything around. I think I pee’d myself a bit. I told this family I’m going to bake muffins & not only do I not have my stand mixer (I don’t care I’m a bit boujie when it comes to my favourite kitchen tools to make my creating easier… SUE ME!) but it rained that day & I have to BAKE in a “solar oven”. I’m a perfectionist. SO it’s one thing when I cook to showcase my skills, but this incredible family invited Chef Brian & I into their home to showcase their products that they have lovingly nurtured & sweated over AND it’s to help them take their business to the NEXT level because we are cooking for buyers from Whole Foods, Bristol Farms,  Happy Market & HELLO the incomparable Evan Kleiman from KCRW’s Good Food & I have to BAKE in a solar oven that never reached over 140 degrees?!?!?!? Kill me NOW!

If you know anything about baking it’s an exact science. You have to use exact measurements & temperatures or risk not achieving what you want it to taste & look like. The muffins should have taken 18… 20 minutes tops to bake… these took almost 2 HOURS to bake, I just remember running up & down those stairs every 5 minutes to check on how they were doing, even though I saw them rise they were just schvitzing & looked batter like the entire time…. STRESSED! I didn’t give up but about 30 minutes before the dinner guests arrived I couldn’t take the pressure anymore & I REALLY did not want to let this family down I gave up… without even trying them. I did a toothpick test but the pick felt wet, there was a very slight bounce to the cupcakes but without even tasting them I couldn’t deal & I 86’d them.

Chef Brian was keen enough to try them, I couldn’t even accept they could be fine & what do you know they tasted FANTASTIC! I LOVE working with him. The most moist (ugh that word really is awful) muffins I have EVER made, actually the most moist thing I have ever baked. Ev-ER-y flavor from the Dervaes Homestead just shined. The Meyer lemons, which I swear were thee smoothest, silkiest, sweetest lemons I have ever tasted & I felt at one point while I was zesting them I thought “wait a minute this can’t be the lemons” … HA! The rosemary was subtle, firm & fragrant but I’m telling you something about that solar oven & the way it cooks made their already ethereal products SPECTACULAR! The best part was I served the muffins with Anais’ beautiful preserves. The buyers were blown away with what this family has done. You really could, pardon the cliche…. “taste the love”.

All in all I wish the family & what they have done was shown more in the segment, but I guess it’s hard to understand the scope of what they do there in a a full episode let alone in just a 12 minute segment. I was extremely PROUD to be invited there. I think with the economic state of our country, our ability to be so wasteful & unappreciative this family is a shining example of the potential we all have to change & not only take better care of ourselves by what we put into our bodies but how to take better care of the world we live in now & for many generations to come. You can purchase produce & products like the bike blender & solar ovens from their website .

I am SO happy to have had this experience. I will definitely be telling my grand children about this one & oh on a side note…. SO happy I did my own lips in the interview part…. MY GOODNESS! I do my OWN makeup in the cooking segments & when I meet with the clients… NO lipstick on my teeth but FN gets me a makeup artist for the interviews & in every God BLESSED episode there’s dang lipstick ON my teeth! Dagnabbit…. Murphy’s Law, DAMN YOU HD… *snort* HA!  Oh well, what can you do? It’s a show about food not America’s Next Top Model so I’ll let it slide this time… but TRUST we get picked up for another season, I’m doing my OWN lips…. kisses  ♥

Click here for my Meyer Lemon & Rosemary Muffins with Candied Pansies Recipe on

Click here for my  Cuban Black Beans & Fail proof Baked Brown Rice Recipe  on


By Lidia Seebeck on May 10th, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Hi Chef M. (sorry I don’t want to mis-spell a beautiful and lovely name!)– I watched the show because I’m a fan of Path to Freedom, I’ve never watched the show before… you did great!
About the lemons. I use the lemons on my organic tree here in Riverside. The difference you felt in the Meyer lemons you used is this. Partially it’s that they are tree-ripened. The complexity of flavors that come out in ripening (which commercial citrus never sees) is obviously going to be a boon to the flavor. The other factor is that the Dervaes have a very ambitious composting program (as do I) because for the trees to be gourmet quality, they themselves have to eat gourmet, and compost is the way to do that (I use alfalfa pellets on mine as well). Now that I’ve had homegrown citrus, I can hardly touch the bitter commercial stuff. I’ve become a citrus snob! Yikes!
So glad you got to see a different side to cooking and how to grow food, even in the city!
Lidia Seebeck, Path to Freedom fan and (aspiring) urban farmer (I’m no where near as good as the Dervaes family is!!)

By Manouschka on May 10th, 2010 at 10:09 pm

WOW Lidia… thanks so much for such a GREAT explanation. The feel, smell & taste of it well… actually of EVERYTHING there was completely out of this world but really those Meyer Lemons were superb! Your explanation makes total sense. I always either buy organic, from the local farmers at the Farmer’s Market & have had “hothouse” (greenhouse) Meyer Lemons they pale in comparison to these. How long have you been urban farming? Because you mentioned needing “gourmet quality” compost is this method expensive or time consuming? I ask because I don’t understand why more farmers don’t do this, excuse my ignorance if I worded the question wrong. I think the problem with this Country to take the initiative to eat better or invest into growing their own food is that let’s face it… the dollar menu is cheaper & easier. I would LOVE to hear more of your thoughts.

Oh I also forgot to mention I made a Meyer Lemonade with frozen Strawberries, Pomegranates & Lemon Verbena, it was a show stopper I barely used any of the raw turbinado sugar.
They are such an inspiration. I don’t think whatever I can write or say can do them justice. It’s really a place a perosn HAS to go & experience for themselves. Nothing they do is arbitrary. I love how they deliver their products in old clothes instead of pricey & earth unfriendly packing materials. EVERYTHING they do is green & I felt things I could do myself too, but on a smaller scale. I applaud everyone that grows their own fruit & vegetables at their home so KUDOS to you & thank you so much for the information ♥

By Lidia Seebeck on May 12th, 2010 at 8:07 am

Well I have to admit I’m not quite so green as they are… I do have a normal kitchen, if with quite a few gadgets that are perhaps not so normal, like my Excalibur dehydrator. (I love that thing to pieces!) But I would so totally love to see their gardens and pick their brain on some of my garden fiascoes (I am far from perfect). So I don’t know how to use a solar oven, for example.
“Gourmet” compost. I too may have spoken badly. By this I mean, good compost IS gourmet plant food. Too often now, farmers buy into the idea that to get the highest yield, you have to use vast amounts of chemical NPK fertilizer. (I’m an agronomist by education, so I could literally talk your ear off for hours,,, no days…) but the reality is that plants still have to mine the remaining micronutrients from the soil, as well as the organic acids (humic acid, and many others) they need to help them take up nutrients a lot better. Eventually you get visible deficiencies but before then you get plants that lack flavor and yield just a bit less. Kinda like eating at Denny’s or McDonald’s.
People like the Dervaes spend a lot of effort (but not money) composting because they know that well made compost will have all the nutrients that the plants need, and will have plenty of the organic acids. In short, good compost is a good solid, well made meal.
Now you *can* be on some acreage and still do things right– I have dear friends in Colorado who live on a homestead that’s over a century old and have 14 acres, and they do everything biodynamically– but it would probably be quite difficult to make that effort for a 5000 acre operation.
I’ve been farming here in Riverside CA for 6 years, did an additional 5 seasons at my previous property in Colorado, helped my mom garden on 3/4 of an acre in Colorado, so in one sense I’ve been doing this all my life. It gets in your blood. Taste rat-tail radishes or tetragonia, and well, you’re just never the same again. (But I’d not so much as touched a live citrus tree until six years ago, and then had to jump straight into the harvest season of SIX citrus trees here! It was a wee bit of a learning curve!!)
Gah. sorry for the small novella here. Someday I’d love to have you try my heirloom Washington navels (I have it on good authority that my trees were left from the citrus grove that used to be here when the house was built).
PS so sorry I totally forgot to check back on the blog until just now. It’s been a long week already and I got a little freaked out tonight reading about S510 in Congress. Scary stuff.


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