Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 Seasonal Eating Posts 2013

Bacon and Caramelized Onion Pizza
Bacon + Onion + Pizza = Yum

The Blogging Year in Review


Although popularity is only one criterion for greatness, number of clicks is an easy-to-assess indicator of topics that interest readers most. Several of my favorite recipes showed up in the top 10, along with some rather surprising non-recipe posts. So, without further ado, here are Seasonal Eating’s top hits for 2013.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hot Cocktails: the Snuggle and the Thaw

Two Thaw Cocktails with Hazelnut Chocolates and Liqueurs
Double Thaw with Extra Hazelnuts

Recipes by Robin and Penelope


Recently my friend Penelope took the opportunity presented by unseasonably cold weather to create a new hot coffee cocktail. I never drink real coffee (it makes me crazier), but the Thaw—with Godiva chocolate liqueur, Kahlua, and Bailey’s Irish cream sounded too good to pass up. So I bought a handful of decaf beans, ground them, and had hubby Bruce instruct me on the use of his French press. But while I was getting my coffee act together, I couldn’t resist experimenting with the brand new bottle of Godiva chocolate liqueur—a spirit that I’d never encountered before.  Having a bit of experience with hot cocoa toddy-making, chocolate seemed like the perfect foil for more chocolate—laced with a bit of alcohol.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hot Red Cabbage Slaw

Plate of Hot Cabbage Slaw
Bright Winter Hot Slaw

Recipe adapted from Midwest Gardener’s Cookbook


It’s the shortest day of the year, so time is precious. Are you ready for the fastest, simplest, recipe ever blogged at Seasonal Eating? How about a delicious side dish that’s bright purple-red and requires just a microwave and about 20 minutes to prepare? A recipe that’s cheap and uses few ingredients, yet provides vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, and possible protection from cancer? That requires only a knife and cutting board plus two bowls, one of which can be used for serving? Yes, friends, this recipe is almost too good to be true. And did I mention that it’s delicious?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Holiday Potluck and Recipe Ideas

Branch full of Rosehips
My Neighbors' Rosehips

Suggestions by Robin


Here in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice arrives this Saturday. Christmas will be here in a week, followed by the last week of the year and New Year’s. It’s a magical time of year, when days are short and hearts are bright. It’s a time to share food and fun with friends and family, a time when charity towards others is easy—ideally speaking. But what if we’re stressed, overwhelmed, and can’t balance our obligations? What if we’re estranged from our families? And OMG, what if we’re working retail? How can we best enjoy the holiday season as it builds inexorably to its conclusion?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Vegan Couvres: Portuguese Kale Soup with Fresh Beans

Closeup of Soup
Portuguese Kale Soup with a Difference (Soyrizo)

Recipe by Robin


Hot soup is the perfect cold weather food, warming up both body and spirit as we slide towards the shortest day of the year. With plenty of winter kale and potatoes around, I was inspired by a recipe for couvres, a type of Portuguese kale soup, from the 1972 community cookbook Cooking and Traveling the Cape Cod Way. Instead of the standard Portuguese sausage chourizo, I chose to use vegan Soyrizo, which acts quite differently than sausage in soup.  Luckily, this difference helps reduce the cooking time from almost 3 hours to less than 1. Using fresh cannellini beans (or precooked or canned ones) also helps trim the time.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Top Ten Cookbooks for Seasonal Chefs

Cones on Fir Tree
Holiday Season in the Woods

Ideas by Robin and Friends


'Tis the gift-giving season, and cookbooks make fun and practical prezzies for seasoned chefs as well as folks just starting out on their own. I still have the rather bedraggled copy of Joy of Cooking given to me by an employer circa 1982. I had wrapped up a copy for my then-boyfriend (who liked cooking) with a sigh, “it’s the best cookbook ever!” My employer overheard me and made me a happy camper by surprising me with the same gift. Of course, it’s a bit more risky to pick out a book for someone with an established cookbook collection. If you can’t check their bookshelves personally, and haven’t heard a hint about a book they’d like, try giving a bookstore gift certificate tied to an apron, silicone spatula set, metal BBQ spatula, or other kitchen gadget.

Top Ten Seasonal Cookbooks


Here are 10 cookbooks that I like to use, several of which are also recommended by my Facebook friends and fans.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Green Tomato Pie

Piece of Green Tomato Pie
Slice of American History

Recipe from The Vegetable Gardener’s Cookbook


Back in the day—a century or two ago—most gardeners extended their growing season and harvest by baking with unripened fruits. Resourceful gardeners would often put still-green long-season fruits into pies, a special treat in days of few desserts. Too-early fallen apples and late-season green tomatoes and green pumpkins were good candidates—all technically fruits because they contain seeds. This recipe was published in the tiny 1979 Vegetable Gardener’s Cookbook, “conceived and created by the Community Gardens of Santa Cruz County.” Unlike more recent recipes, this green tomato pie has a retro flair with molasses, brown sugar, and spices. Its old-fashioned flavor reminds us of pies that our grandmas made for us, like their grandmas and great grandmas enjoyed.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Spiced Squash Pudding or Pumpkin Pudding

Bowl of Squash Pudding with Whipped Cream
Beautifully Butternutted

Recipe adapted from Yankee Magazine


Love pumpkin pie, but hate the calories? Unsatisfied with commercial piecrusts, but don’t have time and/or skills to prepare them yourself? Is preparing pumpkin too time-consuming and messy, yet you eschew the can? Looking for a new twist on old-fashioned flavor with easy preparation? I have good news for you. This recipe adds an unusual spiciness to an easy-prep butternut squash pudding. Although Yankee magazine fashioned this pudding to stand on its own, adding a pastry or crumb crust isn’t out of the question, nor is substituting fresh or canned pumpkin for the squash.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower with Hazelnuts and Pomegranate

Individual Plate of Cauliflower
Perfect Combo of Veggies, Fruit, Herbs, and Nuts

Recipe adapted from Live Earth Farm


Only a master chef could conceive of putting cauliflower together with smoky hazelnuts, crunchy greens, bright pomegranate, vinegar, and sweet spices. This particular master chef, Rebecca Mastoris, is also a caterer, Bauman College cooking instructor, and popular speaker with over 40 years of culinary experience. As if that weren’t enough, she also writes recipes for our CSA Live Earth Farm. Her unusual cauliflower dish features both well-balanced flavor and a colorful, festive appearance that adds eye-appeal to the table. In addition, it’s served at room temperature, so no need to stress about keeping it hot or cold. Try it at a holiday potluck, and you’ll likely see it disappear quickly, as I did last week. And get ready for some compliments!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Mini Winter Squash from my Garden

Giving Thanks and Menu Ideas


Regardless of how you feel about the upcoming holidays, giving thanks can inspire you to be happier. If you’re eagerly anticipating spending time with loved ones indulging in holiday rituals, appreciating this makes you feel even more blessed. If you’re feeling stressed about getting things done and how guests will get along, taking some time to appreciate the good aspects of your life and your to-do list will help you feel more relaxed and level-headed. In fact, you just might decide to trim down those obligations—or your guest list. Get a jump on Thanksgiving by giving some thanks now.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chicken Soup for the Body and Soul

Chicken Soup Being Ladled from Pot
Ladle Full of Love and Comfort

Recipe inspired by Mom


If it’s a cold, rainy night in Santa Cruz, or if your husband is recovering from gum surgery, or if you feel a bit under the weather yourself, a big pot of chicken soup is a good bet. If all three of those circumstances occur at once—welcome to my week—it’s almost inevitable. Unlike vegetarian soups, which typically require pre-sautéing of vegetables to bring out flavor, chicken makes plenty of yummy juice when simply thrown into a pot with some water and a few seasonings. This simple preparation is a boon to the ailing cook, and even the Mayo Clinic agrees that chicken soup can help a body with cold symptoms feel better quicker.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Maple Pumpkin or Butternut Oat Muffins

A Dozen Muffins Cooling on Rack
Muffins Almost Ready to Eat

Recipe adapted from Slim and Scrumptious


In my quest to eat lighter foods to prepare for the inevitable holiday indulgences, I perused Joy Bauer’s Slim and Scrumptious, a collection of easy and healthful family meals. You might know Joy from her TV show Good Food, Good Deeds, where she teams up with Florence Henderson to create healthy meals for seniors. Joy’s recipe calls for canned pumpkin, but I substituted leftover butternut squash. Butternut won the pumpkin vs. squash pie smackdown last year, and it performed just as beautifully in the muffins, adding just a touch of extra sweetness to this low sugar recipe.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Balsamic Beets with Beet Greens

Serving Bowl of Balsamic Beets with Greens
Simple and Delish

Recipe by Irene


When I asked my Facebook fans recently what they like to do with beets, my friend Irene described this simple recipe as her latest beet idea. I love recipes that combine the sweetness of beets (known as beetroots in the UK) with the earthiness of beet greens. The recipe requires only a few ingredients. It employs the microwave oven to make short work of cooking the beets. While the microwave does its thing, the cook sautés up the stems and leaves. Then beets and greens are combined with a bit of good balsamic. It’s quicker to prepare than most raw beet recipes that require grating, so what’s not to like?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pan Grilled Tilapia or Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

Closeup of Salsa on Fish
Colorful and Healthful

Recipe adapted from Health.com


As we look towards the treat- and comfort food-laden holidays, it’s good calorie economics to eat more lightly in the meantime. And so I offer this recipe with light, inexpensive, and sustainably farmed tilapia. The original recipe, no longer available at Health.com, called for salmon, higher in calories but filled with healthful omega 3 oils. It’s the tail end of salmon season in the Bay Area, so I’ve included a salmon cooking variation at the end. With its higher oil content, salmon browns more readily, but tilapia browns up just as deliciously using a method I derived from my dad.  Atlantic or Pacific cod, lingcod (plentiful right now), and line-caught black rockfish are sustainable white fish that can be prepared like tilapia.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Buckwheat Kasha Stuffed Zucchini

Piece of stuffed zucchini on plate
Topped with Last of the Garden Basil for 2013

Recipe inspired by Mom & Old House Farm


At this time of year, as we approach Day of the Dead, the veil between the worlds gets thinner as we remember loved ones who have passed. Before my mom died, 10 years ago now, she reminded me of a stuffed zucchini I’d made for her way back when with buckwheat. I’d completely forgotten. During those early days I threw together whatever ingredients I had without much thought—or many ingredients. So this recipe is an approximation of the dish that Mom liked, and can be improvised upon freely.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Garden Swiss Steak

With Wholewheat Pasta: Nontraditional and Yummy

Recipe adapted from Meals for One or Two


Swiss steak was all the rage in the 1950s. Our moms and grandmas made it, but today it’s distinctly out of fashion. And yet moist-cooking an inexpensive steak to tenderness is economical. The rich juices can be served over potatoes or noodles, making it a classic comfort food.  Slowly simmering Swiss Steak creates a voluptuous smell that permeates the senses long before dinner. And did I mention that it’s delicious? I’ve never blogged a beef recipe before, but Swiss Steak is worth celebrating. This recipe, from Mom’s cookbook, features the unusual addition of garden carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Applesauce Multigrain or Oatmeal Muffins

Plate of Muffins
Fragrant, Crunchy Breakfast Treat

Recipe adapted from Trader Joe’s


Muffins are simple to make, because you just throw the ingredients together, scoop them into the pans, and bake, right? Yes and no. Making good muffins is easy if you practice three things: mix the wet ingredients thoroughly, mix the dry ingredients thoroughly, but then mix together wet and dry ingredients only until barely moistened. Follow this method, and your muffins will be light, evenly textured, and moist on the inside and crispy on the top. Overmix wet and dry ingredients, and your muffins can be tough, gluey, and/or dense. They will resist rising and look sad compared with what they might have been. Take heed and learn from my mistakes!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Apple Raisin Pecan Stuffed Delicata Squash

Closeup of piece of stuffed delicata squash
Fabulous Fruit and Nut Stuffing

Gluten Free Recipe by Robin


Two years ago I had no idea what delicata squash were, although I received them in my CSA farm share during fall deliveries. Delicatas are delightfully light-textured and sweet oblong-shaped winter squash. The skin is edible, but some people (my husband for example) don't want to eat it. So it's best to cook delicata so that the skin can be removed should someone choose to.  My maple glazed delicata squash rings were a big hit around Thanksgiving last year. This year baskets of apples overflowing onto kitchen counters gave me sudden inspiration to slice the delicatas in the opposite direction and stuff them with something akin to apple pie filling.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Garlic Ginger Green Bean Pods with Peanuts

Garlic Ginger Bean Pods on Plate Sprinkled with Peanuts
Scarlet Runner Beans from the Garden

Recipe adapted from Pacific Light Cooking


Like most schoolchildren, I experimented with growing beans and ended up with a vine that covered Mom’s kitchen window. This led to the conclusion that beans are easy to grow. So, in our square foot garden we planted “provider” bush beans, tricolor pole beans, and scarlet runner beans. Turns out that beans are not always that easy. Only the scarlet runners came up. We tried another planting, with the same result.  Scarlet runner pods are technically edible, but they are mostly grown as dried beans, many of which are used by schoolchildren to show how easy beans are to grow. Nonetheless, I harvested a few pods before they dried as an experiment.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October Veggies and Recipes

Pumpkin in Store Window with Blessings and Books
Look for Blessings & You'll Find Them

Warm Days, Cool Nights


October is the quintessential transitional month as temperatures fluctuate from balmy to chilly. The beauty of a warm sunny day is all the more precious as we contemplate the imminent dark and cold. Let us take time for revelry, both in the garden and in the kitchen. Enjoy the last of the tomatoes, peppers, and beans, while welcoming wintry squashes and pumpkins. Try a different assortment of apples or pears from the Farmers’ Market. Take advantage of cooler weather to set small chard and kale plants out below the fading zucchini leaves. Check out the glorious October sunsets.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Santa Cruz Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes Santa Cruz Style: with Peels & Herbs

Recipe by Robin


Usually I’m all for the change of seasons. When fall and winter edge out summer, I’m a cheerleader for change, relentlessly annoying to friends who prefer warm weather. But this year, after an unexpected career ending and sudden hard drive death, shorter days and cooler temps will take some getting used to. In the meantime, while recovering bits and pieces of the old hard drive, I came across some mashed potato recipes I’d written almost a decade ago and completely forgotten about. Nothing works faster than warm comfort food to make the darker time of year seem brighter. Well, almost nothing.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Autumn Minestrone

Bowl of Autumn Minestrone
Autumn Colors and Flavors

Recipe Inspired by The Art of Simple Food


One of my favorite things about autumn is a steady supply of fresh butternut squash. Complimenting both savory and sweet dishes, often used in “pumpkin” pies, a sweet treat simply steamed with a touch of butter, it’s the quintessential fall vegetable. So when Alice Waters suggested, in her classic book The Art of Simple Food, to try butternut in place of zucchini to make a summery minestrone into a fall dish, I had to give it a whirl. Indeed, the soup is a delightfully autumn-like orange, and as full of chunky goodies as its warmer weather brethren.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gazpacho with Basil and Parsley

Bowl of Gazpacho Garnished with Parsley
Refreshing and Healthful

Recipe by Robin


After the delicious results of preparing cousin Sheila’s Mexican-style Gazpacho, I wanted to find a more traditional Spanish recipe. However, the original gazpacho turns out to be an entirely different soup, dating back to Greek and Roman civilizations. Its main components were bread, olive oil, water, vinegar, and garlic. Or perhaps the Moors brought a similar gazpacho, sans vinegar, to Andalucia. In any case, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers weren’t added until they arrived from the New World in the 16th century. Given the bounty of these veggies at my house, sticking with the ancient tradition was not an option. As usual in the gardener’s kitchen, necessity was the mother of invention.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Turkey Stuffed Peppers

6 Stuffed Peppers in Baking Dish
Ready to Bake

Recipe adapted from Mom’s


As of last week it’s been 10 years since my mom died. Cooking was her passion, and it was indeed sad when she had to give it up due to disability in her latter years. Still, she remained interested in food and its preparation till the end, watching cooking show on TV and perusing menus from local restaurants. Even when she was barely able to feed herself, she enjoyed a rich variety of foods and knew which menu items were tastiest. Like many of Mom’s recipes that I’ve blogged, stuffed peppers were made without a written recipe.  Throughout the years I’ve made many attempts to recreate this classic Polish recipe.  Finally, I’ve gotten pretty darn close.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Parmesan Crusted Broiled Sole

Large plate of fish with Salsa, Avocado, Lime, and Cilantro in background
Perfectly Browned Fish with Garnishes

Recipe adapted from Let's Cook


Correct me if I’m wrong, but broiled fish doesn’t sound very exciting. Especially in a class called “Succulent Seafood,” where it shares billing with bouillabaisse, seared scallops with beurre blanc, and grilled salmon with lime butter. And yet, when all was said, done, cooked, and tasted, the simplest recipe turned out to be my favorite. Instructor Eric Carter, who directs the best culinary arts program around, at Cabrillo College in Aptos, shared a surprising ingredient to make crusted broiled fish extra-crispy: Parmesan cheese! What’s not to like?


Friday, September 13, 2013

Spicy Salsa with Lime, Home Canned

Four pints of homemade salsa
Salsa Stash for Winter

Recipe adapted from National Center for Home Food Preservation


I inadvertently made one of the best cooked salsas I’ve ever tasted last week. In trying to use up enormous quantities of u-pick tomatoes and peppers, I discovered the National Center of Home Food Production at University of Georgia. NCHFP is a treasure trove of safe recipes for home canners. Their Choice Salsa ingredients allow the cook plenty of creativity in proportion and types of peppers and onions used. High acidity is their key to staying safe, as in all canning. In this recipe, acidity is accomplished deliciously with lime juice, lemon juice, or a combination. Try my decidedly lime-flavored scaled-down recipe (4 pints), or check out NCHFP’s recipe and make up your own variations.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Veggies and Recipes

Red and Green Dogwood Leaves
September Dogwood

Change is in the Air


The golden light of a September day is a delight to all, especially gardeners. As we approach the equinox, we see both the culmination of our summer harvest and the approaching winter. There is plenty to appreciate, plenty to harvest, plenty to preserve. It’s an ideal time to freeze, can, and dry the bounty from farm and garden. Tomatoes can be dried, cut in half and frozen, or made into tomato sauce and frozen. I’ll be posting this month about my first adventures in tomato canning. A little effort now will perk up meals during darker days.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mexican Style Gazpacho: Chilled Veggie Soup

Bowl of Gazpacho with Avocado and Yogurt Garnish
Colorful, Seasonal, and Yummy

Recipe by Sheila


My cousin Sheila and I met at a party, and it seemed like we’d known each other forever. Technically, we weren’t cousins yet, since she married into the Horn family years before I did. We shared thoughts on gardening, homesteading, and cooking. I was intrigued that she was fixing up an old farmhouse in Idaho, where she grew and preserved crops. We began emailing recipes to each other, and she sent me this gazpacho recipe back in 2002. When I visited shortly thereafter, Sheila made us a garden-based dinner of vegetarian goodies. She assigned preparation of the gazpacho to my hubby’s sister and me, while she prepared more complicated dishes like chili relleno. Gazpacho results were fresh and savory, even though Lisa and I forgot to add the salsa.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Salsa Fresca: Fresh Tomato Salsa

Bowl of Salsa with Tomatoes, Lime, Sliced Avocado, Cilantro
Serve with Other Classic Mexican Garnishes

Recipe by Robin


I have a confession to make. I’ve never actually made salsa fresca before. It seems like a no-brainer recipe for a gardener in these days of abundant tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro, but I thought that there must be some tricks to salsa besides fresh veggies. And indeed there are: a couple of aromatics, a bit of acidic flavoring, and some salt. That’s it. The other reason I’ve not made salsa is the mystery of what to eat with it. I don’t want to encourage myself to eat lots of tortilla chips. And being spoiled by the variety of authentic Mexican food available in the neighborhood, I’ve not been motivated to develop my Mexican cooking skills. But tonight I’m making Parmesan-breadcrumb encrusted broiled sole, a recipe from a cooking class way back in May. Fresh salsa will perk up the visual appeal of this fish as well as complimenting its flavor.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Simply Braised Greens

Plate of Greens over Rice with Slices of Turkey
Braised Greens with Rice and Turkey

Recipe by Robin


As readers who follow my Recipe Links by Month posts know, I’ve been trying to come up with a recipe for simple braised greens all summer. Flavoring the greens without overpowering them, while keeping the recipe simple, has been my goal. The secret, I knew, was a zippy braising liquid with a balanced combination of sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty flavors. I’d been off on unsatisfying broth-and-lemon and ginger-and-raspberry-vinegar tangents for some time. Then sweet red peppers began ripening at the same time that our CSA provided a bunch of green onions—plus loads of assorted greens. The sweetness of the peppers contrasting with the bitter pungency of green onions is key to this dish—along with a significant amount of garlic.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Plum Cobber AKA Plum Crisp

Plum Crisp with Scoop of Ice Cream
Late Season Black Plum Crisp

Recipe by Mary


Two things that many Americans remember from their childhoods are family friends and fruit cobblers. Our parents’ friends become our own friends as we share experiences that become treasured memories of our childhood. We might not see these friends frequently as we age, but they are forever in our hearts. When we do talk, it seems as if no time has passed. Like old friends who are always there for us, so are fruit cobblers: easy to be with, reassuring, and nostalgic. Old friends and cobblers remind us of our youth, of summers gone by. And a cobbler made by an old friend gives us a double dose of comfort.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Greek Salad

Individual Plate of Greek Salad
Greek Classic

Recipe from The Art of Simple Food


As a savvy Facebook follower pointed out, my last recipe for Spanish Basque tossed salad is quite like Greek salad. Unlike Basque salads, whose ingredients vary quite a bit, Greek salads typically contain the same ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, black olives, and feta cheese, topped with a light vinaigrette dressing. Classic recipes call for classic sources, like The Art of Simple Food by longtime culinary wizard and seasonal chef Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse (AKA Alice’s Restaurant).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Basque Tossed Salad

Large Platter of Basque Salad
Basque Salad: Beautiful and Delicious

Recipe adapted from Cuba Cocina!


This recipe comes from a 1994 Cuban inspired cookbook written by Joyce LaFray, an American who lived for many years in Miami, then traveled to Cuba to gather recipes. According to the cookbook, this recipe was brought to Cuba by Spanish-Basque ancestors. A quick web search shows that, unlike Greek salad, “Basque salad” has no standard ingredients, likely due to the complexity and diversity of Basque culture. This Spanish Basque salad combines produce grown in the fertile Ebro Valley with traditional Spanish olives and capers. Lighter than many Basque salads, it makes a colorful and elegant presentation for luncheon or late night sustenance.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Carrot Soup with Cilantro (or Basil) Pesto

Carrot Soup with Dollop of Pesto and Scattered and Crossed Chives
Garnished with Cilantro Pesto and Chives

Recipe adapted from Sunset Magazine, April 2012


In these days of abundant and perishable tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and kale, summer carrots sometimes get sidelined from the menu. CSA subscribers might have the sudden realization, usually due to lack of refrigerator space, that they are storing 4 or more lbs. of carrots from several weeks of produce deliveries. Add to that the herb bunch blues—the challenge of using up the whole Farmers’ Market herb bunch, when most recipes call for significantly less. Enter SunsetMagazine’s unique recipe for Carrot Soup with Carrot Top Pesto, a quick substitution of available herbs for the unavailable carrot tops, a fast doubling of the recipe—and the carrot stash is reduced by half, deliciously.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Beet Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios

Arugula Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios
Arugula Beet Balancing Act

Recipe Adapted from Points Plus Cookbook


Arugula is a misunderstood vegetable, at least at my house. A favorite of farmers and home gardeners because it grows like crazy and reseeds itself, its taste is distinctively sharp if not downright harsh. Throughout the summer its taste gets stronger, until some otherwise easygoing family member might shout, “No more arugula in salads! It tastes like dirt.” While that statement might not be entirely accurate (at least from the dirt I’ve tasted), I can appreciate the sentiment. Arugula’s strong flavor and tough texture need to be balanced with other equally strong flavors and textures. Enter beets, goat cheese, orange and vinegar.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

August Veggies and Recipes

Honeybee on Mint Flowers
Welcome Visitor on Naturalized Mint

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer


August is a time of plentiful harvests. Time spent watering, fertilizing, and weeding in the garden is paying off bigtime. Just keeping up with the harvest, especially if you’re growing zucchini, can be challenging. Here in the Santa Cruz mountains, the garden wants even more water, nourishment, and attention to continue producing during hot, dry days. And yet, August’s hot weather beckons us to relaxation, vacation, and breaks from our usual work routines. Some of us think of when we were youngsters, spending blissful unstructured summer days swimming, biking, and playing with friends, or reading a book under a tree.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Italian Vegetable Melange

Red dried tomatoes in skillet with Green kale
Dried Tomatoes From Last Year's Harvest

Recipe by Robin


In the Santa Cruz area we’re harvesting the first of our tomatoes. Sweet and hot peppers, on the other hand, have been coming in since last month, along with zucchini and large amounts of kale. Have I mentioned that my husband isn’t crazy about kale? During these days of few tomatoes and much kale, I put together some classic Italian veggies and herbs (including plenty of kale) along with canned tomatoes and last year’s dried tomatoes. In a couple of weeks we’ll have more tomatoes to dry, so it’s a good time to use up last year’s stash. As you know, not all such cooking experiments work out well, but hubby Bruce put his stamp of approval on this one. Mainly that there’s enough flavor going on to balance the strong flavor of the kale.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Plum Upside Down Cake

Piece of Cake on Plate with Whipped Cream
Plum Upside Down Cake: Top with Cream, or Not

Recipe by Bruce’s Mom


Collecting and preserving family recipes was one of my motivations in creating Seasonal Eating. Rarely are these recipes written down in step-by-step format. Often they are written as quick reminders to a cook who has made the recipe many times and doesn’t need details. And when this cook passes away, we inherit the notes, make the recipe, and it doesn’t taste quite the same. Yet with each experiment we fine-tune the process and sometimes the ingredients, until our results match our memories. My husband Bruce says that this cake is very close to his Mom’s Satsuma Plum Upside-down Cake, even with the substitution of yellow plums.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bacon and Bean Soup with Kale

Two bowls of bacon and bean soup with kale
Last Two Serving of Soup

Recipe by Robin


Kale is just not something that my husband favors. In recent weeks of giant kale bunches we’ve explored Garlic Ginger Kale, Green Garlic Kale with Leeks, and our classic Hot Kale Salad with Balsamic & Hot Chili Oil. He’s tired of all of them, and tired of any side dish that is essentially just plain kale with seasonings. We had the same issue last year with large amounts of hefty escarole. Finally I drowned the escarole in a soup with beans and bacon, two well-known man-pleasers. This takeoff on Escarole, White Bean, and Bacon Soup suits this window of time while we still waiting on tomato harvests, but have plenty of mild and spicy peppers. Quite a bit of kale can be submerged in this recipe, and its hearty flavor compliments the bacon, peppers, and beans.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Stuffed Turkey Swiss Burgers

Vintage Take on Cheeseburgers

Recipe by Robin


There’s something about warm weather that inspires me to remember summers past. Long-ago skinny-dips in a few choice lakes, sun and fun at the beach, picnics with family members who have now passed on. Along with memories of celebrations and excursions, I remember the day-to-day summertime of my childhood. When I was on break from school, my mom designated me as assistant cook. While still at work, Mom would call me and instruct me on how to begin preparation of the family evening meal. She completed the cooking tasks when she got home. Sometimes I’d come up with an idea on my own and cook the entire meal myself. So this recipe is one of my adolescent ideas. Surprisingly, it passed the blogability test when I made it recently after more decades than I’ll admit to.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Smushberry Sandwiches

Thick and Succulent Smushberry (blackberry) sandwich
The Time is Right for Berry Smushing

Recipe by Satya


When my friend Satya told me about her smushberry sandwich summer tradition, I thought that it was perfect fare for the Teddy Bears’ Picnic, but more novel than delicious for most humans. When put to the test though, the delight of smushberry sandwiches was not just in the smushing, but in the flavor and texture of the sandwich: light, fruity, moist, with a bit of crunch. What are smushberries? “Blackberries, silly!” says Satya. It turns out that raspberries are equally smushable, and can be used in combination with the blackberries if you like.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Scalloped Potatoes

Aerial View of Scalloped Potatoes on Plate
Just Like Mom's, but with Green Onions & Gold Potatoes

Recipe inspired by Mom


My mom’s delicious cooking is one of my earliest and most persistent memories. When I was very young, she made the most tantalizing delights on her old electric stove, teaching me the various methods of preparation by osmosis: baking, broiling, boiling, and frying. This was before anyone in New England had heard of stir-frying or steaming (except for suet puddings), and before anyone I knew had an electric frying pan, if they were even invented yet. One of Mom’s old time recipes, often served with ham or beef, was scalloped potatoes. Although they weren’t my favorite back then, recent work stress brought on a craving for this classic comfort food. So I put together a recipe like hers…kind of.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Confessions of a Compulsive Jam Maker

Bowl of Jam and Plate of Toast spread with Jam, garnished with strawberries
Strawberry Pineapple Jam

by Robin


Do you see your plum tree loaded with fruit and think, “Looks like time to make jam.”  Do you have a friend with persimmon trees who gives you fruit for jam every year? Is your supply of homemade jam stacked high in a cabinet, or overflowing onto random bookshelves? If you saw an overloaded peach tree in a parking lot, would you gather enough peaches to make jam even if they weren’t quite ripe yet? Do bulk prices on raspberries put you in a jam-making frame of mind? Do you frequent blackberry thickets that most people don’t know about, with jam making in mind? Minutes after finishing a batch of wild plum jam, would you buy a half-price flat of strawberries at the Farmers’ Market so that you could make some jam? Have you ever arrived at a U-pick farm super-early so that you could pick as much fruit as possible, then go home and make jam? Congratulations! Like me, you are a compulsive jam maker.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Preserving American Plums in Honey Sauce

Two jars of canned plums, one open and dished out
Serve Now or in Winter

Happy Girl Kitchen


As recently as last week I’d never heard of an American plum, also known as a wild plum. But according to locals, we have one in our yard. “Prunus americana is over these (Santa Cruz) mountains!” said an old timer at the nursery. In the few years we’ve been here, fruit has been tiny, red, and not edible-looking, and the tree’s identity mystified even our arborist friend. This year, after pruning by said arborist, branches are heavy with small, yellow, tangy plums. Because of its placement, right beside a fence post and snuggled up too close to a parking spot, hubby Bruce suspects the tree is a volunteer. According to folks at the nursery, the American plum volunteers readily throughout the central and eastern US as well in these coastal mountains. What could be better than a fruit-producing volunteer, even if we need to move a parking spot?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pasta with Onion, Green Garlic, Sundried Tomato, and Basil

Plate of Pasta with Onion, Green Garlic, dried tomato, and basil
Top with Parmesan Cheese, or Not

Recipe by Robin


Most great cooks love improvising from written recipes with inspired and/or wacky ideas. Not only does improvising tickle the cook’s creative bones, it’s also a practical way to deal with an overly enthusiastic garden and odd bits of leftovers in the kitchen. As case in point, I’ve just reinvented my classic “cheap fare” recipe, Pasta a l’Olio.  I incorporated a backlog of onions and green garlic from our CSA, a bounty of CSA basil from this week, and dried tomatoes from our last year’s garden harvest. Soon this year’s tomatoes will be ripe for drying, so I used a rather large amount from last year along with some tomato paste. You could reduce the quantity of dried tomatoes, and/or add some fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce. We’re improvising here, eh?

Monday, July 8, 2013

July Menus and Recipes

Gladiolas and Zinnias near Fence
In Neighbor's Yard

“Hot July Brings Cooling Showers, Apricots & Gillyflowers”*


I must admit that I’m a stress-eater. I started this pattern during the frequent rocky times in my early adolescence, and continued it through most of my life. The pattern resurged most recently during my downsizing by management and my consequent departure from my day job, as I labored over the choice between reliable income and taking care of myself. Scientists have shown that eating carbohydrates stimulates serotonin production in the brain, which reduces depression, normalizes sleep patterns, and generally makes one feel better. I’ve never met a carb I didn’t like (either starch or sugar), and during the recent past have relied heavily on them at the expense of eating more healthful, fiber-filled foods (although oddly enough I also consumed a lot of kale, which I also craved!) And yes, I did gain weight, and so did my husband. He never spies a carb he doesn’t like, especially if his wife is eating it. This month, we’ve agreed to plan menus with lighter, more veggie-oriented foods. With our garden and CSA both providing fruit and veggie bounty, this decision is “seasonally correct.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Raspberry Mini Trifle Parfait

Two Raspberry Mini Trifle Parfaits
"Everybody Likes Parfait" --Donkey in Shrek

Recipe by Robin


According to Donkey in the first Shrek movie, “Parfait's gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!” With the hot summer upon us, I’ve been remembering childhood trips to the ice cream store for parfaits. The classic French parfait is a flavored frozen custard of cream, eggs, and sugar. Because of its fat content, French parfait can be made without an ice cream maker, as long as the cook stirs it several times during the freezing process. In the US, parfait is typically soft ice cream layered with fruit, fruit sauce, or even jello, and usually topped with whipped cream. In recent years puddings, custard, nuts, and even tapioca have found their way into parfaits. Inspired by my recent Trifle experiment, I made this parfait with crushed almond biscuits, berries, Bird’s custard and a splash of Grand Marnier or orange juice.