Sunday, January 15, 2017

Vegan Smoothies: Green Drink & Pink Drink

Green Smoothie in Three Pint Sized Mason Jars with Lids

Recipes inspired by Laurie


It’s the post-holiday season and a new year. Many of us have overindulged during the past weeks, consuming more than usual quantities of rich and caloric foods. We might have gained a few pounds, or just feel a bit sluggish after too many delicious but not-too-nutritious treats. New year = new start. Protein and veggie or fruit-based smoothies make satisfying breakfasts, lunches, or snacks. They’re delicious and vitamin- and mineral-rich, yet don’t cost too many calories.  My friend Laurie, an expert on liquid meals, shared her list of high-nutrition smoothie ingredients with me, and I came up with these basic go-to recipes. I invite you to add or substitute ingredients as you like.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

Platter of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Perfect for Potlucks

Recipe from Melinda


My colleague Melinda brings the most exquisite treats to share with us at the library. Her recent muffins disappeared in record time, being an unusual combination of seasonal pumpkin, spices, and chocolate. I scaled her recipe down to mini muffins, which were a big hit at game night. Their small size works well for holiday potlucks and parties for the same reason—when there’s ample food, just a small muffin (or two) will suffice. Also, the small size makes them easy finger foods for cocktail parties, crowded events, and gaming tables. These muffins are not too sweet, so chocolate and spice take center stage.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sausage and Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash

Autumnal Fare

Recipe adapted from Casalegno Family Farm


One of my favorite things about Farmers’ Markets is meeting the people behind the food. It’s especially rewarding to meet a vendor who owns and operates a farm while raising two children and working a day job. Marissa Casalegno and her husband Matt, are the fifth Casalegno Farm generation. They work day and night to expand their farm and preserve heirloom veggies. Marissa gave me this recipe, featuring Casalegno Family Farm’s fantastic winter squash and green apples. Sausage and spices compliment sweet squash and sour apples beautifully.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Minestrone with Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel)

Minestrone with Tangerine Kick

Recipe from Chinese Herbal Cookbook


As my friend Jon says, “One of the reasons I love food so much is that it’s an adventure if you go for new things...exotic spices, cuisines from around the world and ingredients that make you go 'hmmmm'. My most memorable meals are a symphony of textures and flavors. It's the magic of one flavor picking up where the last left, harmoniously and at the same time an experience all its own.” Inspired by Jon, I offer this long-forgotten recipe: Italian style minestrone with Chinese chen pi, or dried tangerine peel. Tangerine permeates the dish in a subtle but game-changing way.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Fresh Corn and Tomato Soup

Closeup of Fresh Corn and Tomato Soup topped with Basil
Summer into Fall Soup

Recipe adapted from Undated Photocopy


As we slide from late summer to autumn next week, we’re enjoying the end of surprisingly long corn season here in Santa Cruz county. Though corn isn’t easy to grow near the coast, Happy Boy Farms has supplied us with an enormous amount of organic ears at farmers’ markets this season. Combined with Happy Boy’s bargain-priced heirloom tomatoes, corn makes a colorful, delicious, and healthful soup. Bonus: easy prep and few other ingredients needed. Simply add corn and tomatoes to sautéed aromatics, add a little water and seasoning, and cook down. What’s not to like?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Motel Room Cooking: Lobster Rolls

Plate with two lobster rolls and six large shrimp
Total Decadence: Add Shrimp Appetizer

Recipe by Robin


Spending a week or two at the beach in summer can run into high accommodations costs, but you can keep food costs down. Find a place to stay with a 2-burner stovetop, fridge, and microwave, and eat like locals. Or camp and pack your ice chest and cook stove. Fruit and veggies from farm stands or farmers’ markets, along with fresh fish and shellfish from local sources can be prepared into 5-star cuisine for a fraction of what you’d pay at a restaurant. It helps to have these supplies: a sharp knife; a medium skillet; medium and large covered pots, a colander or large strainer, and a large bowl or two.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Grilled Tuna Salad

Closeup of Grilled Tuna Salad

Recipe Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa at Home


When I think of tuna salad, I think of the soggy mayo-rich sandwiches of my youth: canned tuna on spongy white bread. Nothing wrong with them, especially with crunchy celery and spicy chives added, but summer inspires a fresher menu. Ina Garten, TV’s Barefoot Contessa to the rescue, with a tuna salad that features two summertime favorites: cool veggie salads and charcoal broiled steaks—in this case, tuna steaks—with a dab of Asian inspired dressing. Vive la difference!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Peach Melba

Recipe by Robin


Two of my favorite things about summer are peaches and raspberries. For years I’ve had the idea of combining them into peach melba, a dessert of poached peaches, ice cream, and raspberry sauce. Originally created for the Victorian opera star Nellie Melba by legendary French chef and restaurateur Auguste Escoffier, the recipe, though it sounds fancy, is surprisingly simple (especially after eliminating Escoffier’s hand-carved ice swan presentation).  I cut down the amount of sugar significantly, both in the peaches and the sauce, allowing the full flavor of the ripe fruit to shine through.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri

Two Frozen Strawberry Daiquiris with Whipped Cream
Double Your Pleasure

Recipe Inspired by Cuba Cocina!


It’s Memorial Day weekend, time for parades, picnics, and potables, preferably alcoholic. Remembering my failed yet fun attempt to make frozen daiquiris with fresh strawberries last Labor Day, I decided to give it another shot. Using frozen strawberries instead of fresh strawberries and ice gives the daiquiris a more concentrated strawberry hit, intensifying both flavor and texture. I reduced the amount of rum per drink to 2 - 2.5 oz. rather than 3, since all of my photos from Labor Day were too blurry to use after just a few sips. Use your own judgment, or lack thereof.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Mom’s Crab Salad with Dungeness Crab

Crab Salad on English Muffin with side salad
Like Mom Used to Make

Recipe by Mom


At last it’s Dungeness crab season in Santa Cruz, after a nasty algal bloom that nixed the usual winter celebrations with our favorite crustaceans. Although it’s not cheap and the season seems off, let’s support our local crab fishermen, who’ve had some tough times this year. After filling my family with steamed crab, I made Mom’s “crabmeat salad,” which she prepared with canned crab back in the 1960s. Canned crab isn’t what it used to be—now it’s a shredded mess that tastes metallic. Fresh local crab is the ticket.  Mom’s recipe is extremely simple, and contains no ingredients that might overshadow crab’s subtle flavor.