Sunday, August 16, 2015

Natural Summer Skin Care Recipes

Selection of Masks and Creams with Rose Blossom
Ingredients so Pure, They're Edible

Recipes from The Recipe for Radiance


Something about summertime makes me nostalgic. I love remembering summertimes past. Reading on the porch swing, running around with friends, practicing needlework with my expert grandmother, jumping into the neighbors’ pool, going on excursions with my eccentric great aunt Sophie, the 80-year old baby of her generation. She would have loved the idea of making skin products from kitchen ingredients since she was crazy about unusual hands-on projects. We’d have made up the formulas in the morning, the only time her big sisters allowed her in the kitchen--after all they still considered her just a baby. We'd have applied them during a mini-spa afternoon, laughing about our goop-covered appendages. So with Aunt Sophie in mind, I gave a kitchen-based spa day a try.

Image shows, clockwise from center left, Cucumber Rose Cooling Mask, Baby Bottom Balm, Avocado Banana Hand, Face, and Foot Mask

Friday, July 31, 2015

Blueberry Clafoutis

Slice of Blueberry Clafoutis with Whipped Cream
Blueberry Heaven

Recipe adapted from Crumbles and Cobblers


Clafoutis! Who knew that such an impressive French dessert would be so fast and easy to make? Essentially, clafoutis is custard-like batter surrounding seasonal fruit. Cherries are typically used in this classic dish, but the British cookbook Crumbles and Cobblers inspired me to use the last of this season’s blueberries. Clafoutis can be served warm or at room temperature. In addition to dessert, some cooks serve clafoutis for brunch or luncheon. And I’ve noticed that refrigerated leftovers make a dandy breakfast.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sour Cream Blueberry Pancakes

Blueberry Pancakes garnished with blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream
Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue

Recipe Tweaked from Advertising Flyer


According to Ma in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, no great evil occurs without also bringing some bit of goodness. Thus, when one autumn I mail ordered frozen blueberries that arrived rotten and smashed, I was also graced with this recipe. Sort of. The recipe left out important ingredients and steps, but gave me the idea of adding yogurt or sour cream to pancakes. This makes the pancakes light and fluffy, and makes it easier to tell when to flip them. With the wonderful local blueberries that are available for the near future at the farmers’ market, plus a few seasonal strawberries, I whipped up a brunch that was fun, satisfying, and patriotic.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fresh Mushy Peas

Mushy peas garnished with chives
Try a Chive Blossom Garnish

Recipe adapted from Victoria Magazine


Mushy peas don’t sound like something that most Californians would like. But my husband and I were pleasantly surprised by this classic British side dish while visiting the Isles last year. The Brits reconstitute and cook dried peas with minced onion and plenty of butter. I wanted to  use fresh peas rather than dried, and Victoria Magazine had the same idea. Using their recipe as a starting point, I added extra herbs from the garden. It's lighter in color and texture than the dried pea version and highlights the sweet delicate flavor of fresh peas. This could become a springtime habit. Try it with the last of this year’s English pea harvest.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mom's Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Closeup of Pineapple, cherry, and pecan topping
Fabulously Retro Cake

Recipe from Mom’s Best Desserts


Among my earliest childhood memories are the wonderful desserts that my long-gone mother made.  It’s hard to find some of these recipes nowadays. How lucky I was to find Mom’s Best Desserts, a treasure trove of retro recipes, at the library. After bookmarking 30 pages, I realized that I knew the second author, Fran Raboff. A fantastic baker and chef, Fran used to bring me homemade treats years ago when she studied sculpture in the community college art department where I worked. “This is for you, not the students,” she would say. Knowing her dessert expertise, I immediately bought the book. This cake tastes just like my mom’s.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Salmon and Asparagus with Orzo

Bowlful of Salmon with Asparagus and Orzo
One Bowl Might Not Be Enough

Recipe adapted from Monday to Friday Cookbook


With new spring asparagus on sale and plenty of sustainable salmon on the market, this one-pot meal was inevitable. The first time I made it, our neighbor Matt dropped by. He loves salmon, but rarely eats it because his wife is a strict vegetarian. Since this recipe makes a large potful, I served him a bowlful, which he greatly appreciated. I encouraged him to have seconds if he liked. He assured me that one bowl was plenty—until he finished it and admitted that a little more would be even better. We agreed. Plan accordingly.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Parmesan Pine Nut Broccolini or Broccoli

Plate of Parmesan Pine Nut Broccolini
Broccolini Italian Style!

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light


Last month I became enamored of broccolini, a hybrid of broccoli and gai-lan. It's more slender and graceful than broccoli, pungent and tender as gai-lan, but sweeter. Starting in April, it’s available from local farms. So after my sesame lime success, I couldn’t resist adapting one more of Cooking Light’s suggestions. Just zest and juice a lemon, shave some Parmesan cheese, then toast the pine nuts while you steam the broccolini. Stir the dressing ingredients together, and toss the hot broccolini with the dressing, pine nuts, and Parmesan. Super-simple, but looks and tastes like gourmet fare.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sesame Lime Broccolini or Broccoli

Plate of Sesame Lime Broccolini Garnished with Lime
Broccolini: Kinda Like Broccoli

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light


Broccolini, also known as broccolette, is a cross between regular broccoli and gai-lan, so-called Chinese broccoli, which we find doused with oyster sauce at authentic dim sum restaurants. Broccolini resembles gai-lan; its long graceful stems are sleek and sexy when plated. It’s tender and pungent like gai-lan, but not as bitter, more sweet like broccoli. I’ve added a good amount of oyster sauce to this recipe. Fresh lime, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, a sprinkle of sugar, and crushed red pepper round out the easy-to-make sauce. This recipe can also be used with gai-lan or broccoli.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Plate with Maple Roasted Sprouts and Spring Mix
Serve with Spring Greens for Lightness

Adapted from Yoga Journal


It’s an odd time of year. It’s almost spring, but few things besides chard, kale, and cabbage are growing in most Santa Cruz gardens. The local Farmers’ Markets don’t start for another month or two. It’s nearly a new spring but with the same old winter veggies. So we’ll be stuck with root veggies, winter squash, chard, and cold-friendly crucifers for a while. On the bright side, it's the perfect time to try something new and different with the more-of-same old veggies—something more creative than just steaming or baking.  Let’s (re)introduce the Brussels sprout, with in-season maple syrup.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Citrus Salad with Honey and Rosewater

Platter and 2 plates of Citrus Salad
Winter Brightness

Recipe inspired by Lindsay


As readers know, I’ve been uninspired to cook or create lately. February can be like that. Dark and cold weather, winter illness, lack of local veggies; these things happen. And yet, our citrus possibilities will never be better than right now. In the midst of my doldrums, a magazine article reminded me of a luncheon that my friend Lindsay served years ago. Though I’ve forgotten the entrĂ©e, I’ll always remember the dessert, so simple and so elegant. All she did was open up and dish out a can of mandarin oranges, then sprinkled them with a bit of rosewater. What a flavor revelation! The large variety of citrus in the market right now inspired me to try a fresh variation of this dessert. I served it as a salad to accompany broiled swordfish. It would be equally bright and delicious at breakfast. Sunny colors, Vitamin C, and a bit of sweetness (not to mention easy prep) provided the perfect antidote to winter blues.