Sunday, December 21, 2014

Flourless Chocolate Cloud Cake

Slices of Chocolate Cloud Cake
Leftover Cake, But Not for Long

Recipe from Classic Home Desserts


As the year winds down to the solstice, dark days and long nights are upon us. What better time to bake a deep, dark, dense, chocolaty cake? And to keep the light alive during this annual time of darkness, how about adding a thick layer of whipped cream on top? If only this cake had lasted longer at a recent potluck, I could have gotten better photographs of it. But the combination of dark chocolate and light cream is irresistible. The cake itself is lighter in texture than some flourless cakes; the eggs make it rise and stay moist inside, and form a thin chewy (and chocolaty) crust on top. It’s no wonder that Richard Sax features this cake on the cover of his Classic Home Desserts: A Treasury of Heirloom and Contemporary Recipes, the best-ever dessert cookbook.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Persimmon Walnut Bars with Browned Butter Frosting

Plate of Frosted Persimmon Date Bars
Perfect for Holiday Sharing
Recipe adapted from old magazine clipping


When it comes to desserts, old school is often the best. At least that’s what I hear whenever I bring an old fashioned treat somewhere to share. This recipe came from Bruce’s parents’ recipe collection. Back in the 70s, most cooks kept a small metal box full of index cards with recipes written or glued onto them. This recipe came from just such a box. Although not terribly practical—since these boxes are small, most contain folded-up recipes that didn’t fit—these little boxes give us a glimpse back into the past, especially when they’re filled with tried and true family recipes. This recipe is more like a moist spice cake than a chewy bar cookie. The browned butter frosting has gone out of fashion, but its exquisite yet simple flavor makes it a delicious and unexpected addition to modern holiday baking.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Moroccan Butternut Squash Soup

Bowl of Garnished Moroccan Soup
Swirled with Spicy Oil, Topped with Raisins and Cilantro

Recipe by Melinda’s friend


I love everything about my new job, even the fact that it cuts down on the amount of time that I have for blogging. What better job for a writer than library aide: juggling books, lifting, shelving, pushing carts, reaching, bending and generally getting off one’s duff and away from the screen? Also, there’s constant exposure to great (and not so great) literature for inspiration. Even better, Melinda, my new coworker, is cheerful, smart, and an amazing cook. Her version of butternut soup has a spicy kick to it, along with chunky interest provided by chickpeas, bell peppers, and not-pulverized butternut. The spicy olive oil and golden raisins garnishes add yet more flavor. Since my husband is ho-hum about any super-smooth, creamy, bland soup, this kicked-up, texture-rich squash soup became an instant family favorite at my house.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Turkey and Veggie Meatloaf

Carrots, Celery, Onion, Green Onion, Garlic, Red Bell Pepper
Turkey Loaf Requires a Variety of Fall Veggies

Recipe adapted from The Cooking Decade


It’s that turkey time of year here in the US, and the colder weather makes me crave more comfort foods. Yet, it would be smartest not to gain weight before December’s usual slide into decadence. This spinoff from classic beef-and-onion meatloaf is chock full of healthful veggies and lower-fat ground turkey. My sister clipped this recipe from an unknown source many years ago. She presented it to me in a binder of family favorite recipes a few years back. She claimed to be starting her second “non-cooking decade,” and since I was just starting to cook family recipes, she dubbed this binder “The Cooking Decade.” Her kids loved eating this turkey loaf while they were growing up, and so will yours. Turkey Veggie Loaf is perfect for this time of year because it's hearty enough to stand up to cold weather and also takes advantage of the last of this  year's red pepper harvest. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Eve’s Pudding

Eve's  Pudding
Eve's Pudding: Apples and Victoria Sponge

Recipe Adapted from Mrs. Beeton’s Cookbook


My traveler friends warned me about this. After spending a month in the UK, American foods just don’t seem right. I miss the crispy sausage rolls sold on London streets, the soothing Lancashire hotpots served by my cousin, the fresh scones with real clotted cream, and the many delicious puddings (desserts). Inspired to create, I searched a very old edition of Mrs. Beeton’s Family Cookbook and discovered Eve’s Pudding. It’s a light Victoria sponge cake baked atop gently seasoned stewed apples. The “Eve” moniker is apparently a reference to temptation by apple.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vegetarian Pepperpot

Bowl of Vegetarian Pepperpot
Colorful and Comforting

Recipe Adapted from Live Earth Farm


After a month in the UK, I’ve returned to California, where it’s suddenly autumn. Shorter days, yellow leaves, and pumpkins in the market are sure signs. Though I seriously miss the delicious UK foods, I’m jumping back into US cuisine with the compellingly named Pepperpot soup. Traditionally, Amish folk prepared Pepperpot with tripe. I’ve never prepared tripe, and most likely never will. Luckily, our CSA recipe maven Rebecca Mastoris sent us a vegan option in a recent newsletter. I’ve doubled the amount of veggies to make a thicker, heartier soup (and to use more of our CSA share veggies), and have adjusted the spicing. The result is a warming, well-spiced bowl filled with early fall veggies. What a delightful American way to welcome the new season!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seasonal Greetings from the UK

newgate market sign
Newgate Market on Wednesday
I've been visiting England and Wales this month; hence the scarcity of recent posts. While in York the other day, my husband and I enjoyed perusing Newgate Market. All sorts of handcrafted goodies are available at the Market along with fresh veggies, eggs, fish, flowers, and baked goods. Readers might like to join us on a visual journey by viewing a few market highlights. I've been gathering cuisine and recipe ideas in England as well, to be subjects for future posts. Summer has turned to fall, and signs of autumn are everywhere, including the market. Enjoy the change and the newly ripe fall produce.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer Squash with Lemon Herb Butter

Two kind of summer squash, basil, parsley, capers, and shallot
Simple Summery Ingredients

Recipe inspired by Vicky and Live Earth Farm


If I had to pick only one vegetable to enjoy for the rest of my life, I’d choose summer squash. Of course, that’s cheating because with the near-infinite varieties of summer squash available, that’s hardly just one veggie. Summer squash colors, from palest yellow through golden through spring green to deepest emerald, delight the eye, particularly when prepared in combination. I’m a big fan of plain steamed squash, but recently rediscovered herb butters when my friend Vicky graced me with her back issues of Herb Companion magazine (now sadly defunct). Then a quick look through our CSA’s recipe index revealed a recipe for Lemon Caper Squash, which gets a flavor boost from herb butter. Now is the perfect time to harvest both squash and herbs from your garden, or find them at your local Farmers’ Market. The season for both will soon be past, so let’s revel in them while we can.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Classic Caprese Salad

Circular Salad Viewed from Overhead
Caprese Eye-Candy

Recipe by Robin


Few salads are as attractive as Caprese salad when compared with the amount of work needed for their creation. Caprese’s bold colors, reminiscent of the Italian flag, appeal to the eye as the simple combination of basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella appeals to the tastebuds. Though home chefs will be hard pressed to match the restaurant version with cheese and tomato slices exactly matching in diameter and thickness and perfect tiny basil leaves, the home-based result is plenty appealing when carefully arranged. Garden basil prepared chiffonade-style and sprinkled over the top fools the eye into thinking that the tomato and cheese slices match more perfectly.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Strawberry Apricot Pizza or Pizzettes

Pizza with Mozzarella, Ricotta, Strawberries, and Apricots
Fabulous Fruit Pizza

Recipe adapted from Rebecca Mastoris


With the ancient grain festival of Lammas (Lughnasadh) just past us on August 1, traditionalists are thinking of homemade breads. And yet, traditional breads require long preparation time and extended use of a hot oven—not really the thing for August. Enter the pizza, America’s near-favorite bread (just behind hamburger buns, go figure). And what more seasonal way to celebrate grains than pairing the pizza crust with plentiful summer fruits and young cheeses? This recipe will make two 12-inch pizzas or 6-8 small “pizzettes.” Throw an informal pizzette party by inviting family or friends to roll their own dough, then arrange the apricots, strawberries, cheeses, and garnishes on their food creation. Pop them into the oven for about 10 minutes and enjoy for a mid-afternoon treat, or for a fun lunch or dinner.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Plum Galette

Slice of Plum Galette with Whipped Cream
Sunny Summertime Fare

Recipe by Robin


As readers know, I’m not a piecrust expert, but summertime fruit is an excellent motivator for experimenting with pie-making. Galettes, also known as one-roll pies, have crust edges turned up to cradle fresh fruit and are made on baking sheets. Their informal appearance is perfect on for summer. Treat yourself to a galette after a hot day by preparing and chilling the piecrust during the day. In the evening when it’s cooler, roll out the crust, fill the pie, and bake for just 20 – 30 minutes. Cool slightly, slide onto a serving platter, and enjoy!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Honey Ginger Plum Sauce

Pot of Plum Sauce before Cooking
Sweet Plum Sauce Before Cooking

Recipe by Robin


Inspired by my successful Spicy Plum Sauce, I wanted to try making a sweeter, milder plum sauce. Like the spicy sauce, this sauce contains garlic, ginger, and Chinese Five Spice. Adding honey and sugar and leaving out the crushed chilies makes the difference. Note that ginger still adds a noticeable kick, and you can adjust the amount to anywhere between strictly sweet to downright zingy. Since commercial plum sauce is made with salted plums, you can stock a trio of salty-spicy-sweet plum sauces in the pantry to prepare for any culinary occasion or mood.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Conserve Water in the Garden

Scarlet Runner Beans in Garden
Established Beans Don't Need Much Water

Compiled by Robin


In these days of water restrictions and drought throughout California, conserving water is more important than ever. Knowing the needs of each plant in your garden will help you water efficiently for maximum harvest and minimum water waste. I’ve gathered together some general watering tips as well as specific advice on how to water 15 of Santa Cruz county’s most popular home garden crops. Even during years of plentiful water and in areas of adequate rain, gardeners might consider the unpredictability of the weather and possible climate changes. Careful water use protects our future resources as well as lowering our financial commitment to the garden.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Low Sugar Mirabelle Plum Jam

Plum Jam Being Spread on an English Muffin from a Pot
After a Jam Session

Recipe by Robin


Yellow plums and apricots seem similar, but they’re nothing alike to the food preservationist. True, they both belong to the Prunus genus and can be hybridized into such oddities as apriplums, plumcots, pluots, and apriums. But plums have more sour flavor components, thicker skin, and lots more water than apricots. Many plums also have less pectin than apricots. So tweaking my apricot jam recipe to preserve our Mirabelle plum tree’s bountiful harvest has been challenging. At last, after 3 years of experimentation including large batches that did not gel, batches that gelled too much, and over-sweetened batches, here is the perfected low sugar plum jam recipe.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Spicy Plum Sauce

Cooking pot with plums, onion, garlic, and ginger
Savory Ingredients with the Sweet

Recipe from Jon


Because our Mirabelle plum is an overachiever, producing huge amounts of sweet-tart yellow plums every year, I’ve wanted to make plum sauce for a long time. This year my new friend Jon, a master of sauces, dips, and all things Asian, graced me with a recipe. This plum sauce has the characteristic sweet-sour-pungent flavor interplay, plus quite a kick from the red chili flakes and large amount of ginger. In truth, I didn’t quite use the recommended chili dosage, choosing instead a heat zone with moderate and pleasant afterburn. The key is to taste the mixture at various points as you prepare it. Jon points out that tasting is also important to achieve your ideal level of Chinese Five Spice. Different batches of Five Spice and red chili flakes vary in strength, so feel free to fine-tune this recipe to your own tastes and ingredients.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Spring Broccoli Salad with Radishes and Lime

Colander of broccolini, peas, asparagus, and peas
Drain Veggies before Dressing

Recipe adapted from LoveRadish.co.uk


My husband and I will be traveling in England soon, so we hosted a Brit Night to hear stories and look at books and photos provided by our Anglophile friends. Of course, the menu needed to match the theme. My first attempt at Beef Wellington was a given, but being Californian at heart, I wanted to add a salad. “Traditional British salad” sounded like an oxymoron until I discovered LoveRadish.co.uk. This UK-based radish appreciation website contains scores of recipes for unusual salads as well as sandwiches, slaws, and snacks. Radishes are England’s first spring crop, and the harvest continues into mid-autumn. This salad pairs radishes with the early season harvests of purple sprouting broccoli, asparagus, and spring peas. Though we’re just past spring, I pushed the season by substituting frozen peas, with tasty results.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Zucchini Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

Frosted Zucchini Cake Floating on White Plate
Squash Never Looked So Good

Recipe by Leslie and Robin


Anyone who has grown zucchini knows the agony and the ecstasy of a bountiful harvest. Even when planted near other squash or in a square foot garden, zucchini tends to entangle the entire area. It crowds out all other plants. Tiny zucchini hide beneath large leaves and become huge monsters in no time. That’s why this recipe was written. My beloved ex-roommate Leslie perfected it throughout two growing seasons—a number of decades ago—when our garden zukes were going crazy. I’ve enhanced the honey flavor by adding a bit of salt and sugar. The cake is extremely moist, without using a lot of oil. Maxing out the zucchini content does the moisture magic.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Quick Marinated Beets

Bowl of Marinated Beets Garnished with Parsley
Colorful Addition to Meals

Recipe by Robin


Long before I started Seasonal Eating, I loved making up recipes. Most of the time I just cooked them, but sometimes I wrote them down. I was not an organizer by nature, and had recipes scattered throughout my hard drive and on miscellaneous odd sheets of paper here and there. Often the notes were cryptic, scrawled so that I couldn’t read, much less interpret, my own writing. I lucked out on this recipe though. Hidden as it was in the depths of an old hard drive, it recently surfaced after a major crash and restoration. Perhaps the only reason I suffered the hard drive crash was to lead me back to this simple beet recipe. Maybe.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Parsley New Potatoes

5 Potatoes on Plate Topped with Parsley
Just Like Mom Used to Make

Recipe Inspired by Mom


My mom had a thing for parsley potatoes, especially parsley new potatoes. Back when I was growing up, most New Englanders simply boiled their potatoes, but Mom insisted that parsley improved both flavor and eye-appeal. At the time I didn’t appreciate her obsession, but now have grown nostalgic for those days and for my long-departed Mom. And she was right, parsley is the perfect enhancement for young potatoes. The flavor and aroma of this dish take me back in time. Or perhaps it brings Mom forward, since I can feel her looking over my shoulder as I work, and imagine her eyes widen with delight when the dish is completed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Live Earth Farm Solstice Celebration

Farm Workder Displaying Flat of Strawberries
Organically Grown Strawberries are Farm Worker Friendly

Watsonville Farm Specializes in Community Outreach


Any frequent visitor to Santa Cruz county Farmers’ Markets knows about Live Earth Farm—if not by name, then by berries. Look for a booth with a large tiered table full of organic strawberries and raspberries in front—that’s Live Earth Farm. They’re the best berries ever—try the samples and you’ll see. This weekend we’ll have a chance to visit the source of these berries, and to “U-pick” as many as we like at the Live Earth Farm Solstice Celebration on Saturday, June 21. This event features activities and fun for the whole family, starting at noon. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spring Chopped Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

Serving of Chopped Salad with Dressing
Dressed for Dinner

Recipe Inspired by Salad for Dinner


Chopped salads are frequently found on Los Angeles menus, and I can see why. Consisting of hardy fresh vegetables topped with assorted cheeses, meats, and condiments, these wilt-proof salads are perfect in hot weather. As temps top the high 80s in the Santa Cruz mountains—and we get lots of fennel and cabbage in our CSA share—it’s time to get chopping. The idea of chopped salad is that a variety of veggies are cut into a similar size and shape, then goodies like chicken, capers, olives, onion, and cheese are added. A quasi-Mediterranean invention, this salad is usually dressed with an herby vinaigrette. Sturdy ingredients make leftovers stay fresh and crunchy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Spring Peas with Mint

Basket of Peas and Mint
Fresh Green Spring Ingredients

Recipe Adapted from The Secret Garden Cookbook


Peas are the quintessential springtime crop. One of the earliest harvests of the year, springtime peas are particularly favored in snowy climates. Where few fresh veggies are available in winter, people particularly appreciate signs of spring. In Victorian England, before large-scale transportation of foods, peas were even more popular to grow and eat. According to The Secret Garden Cookbook, the pea plant was dubbed “prince of the vegetable garden,” and Victorian recipes called for up to 4 cups of peas per serving.  This delightful recipe pairs peas with perky mint, another favorite springtime flavor from the garden.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Two bowls of cobbler with cream and two spoons
Treats for Two

Recipe Inspired by Field of Greens


The short rhubarb season is here! When I was young, my parents cultivated a rhubarb patch. Just about anytime, I could go outside and grab a few stalks, remove the poisonous leaves, and eat the raw stems. Dunking the wet stem into a small pile of sugar before every bite made for a fresh, juicy, sweet-and-sour treat. These days it’s more popular to combine strawberries with rhubarb and bake it into a pie. Since piecrusts are not yet my forte, and the laziness of a late spring Friday is upon me, the simpler idea of making a cobbler came to mind.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Asian Kale Salad with Strawberries and Apricots

Plated Kale Fruit Salad
Fiesta of Color and Flavor

Recipe by Robin


Kale is trending, plus we get some every week in our CSA share lately. I must confess it is not our favorite vegetable. We’ve tried all the usual recipes: ginger garlic kale, Portuguese soup, bean & bacon soup, Italian braised kale, and massaged kale salad.  We’ve created some more unusual dishes: shrimp braised with kale and carrot, mushroom, and kale stir-fry. With kale’s popularity these days, I asked myself, what have I never seen done with it? Kale with fruit came immediately to mind, possibly inspired by early ripe apricots on my counter. And so, I was off to explore the non-intuitive combination of tough, cruciferous kale with sweet, squishy fruits.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Polish Shredded Beets: Buraki

Plate of Buraki and Greens Garnished with Lemon
Buraki with Greens

Recipe adapted from Polish Cooking


Once again I’ve become obsessed with exploring my Polish cooking heritage, largely as a result of my new cookbook, Polish Cooking, which jogged memories of family feasts from my childhood. Plus we received beets from our CSA this week. What could be more Polish than beets? Not the most popular vegetable in its simply boiled state, the beet can be modified in simple ways to look and taste more appealing—as it is in this simple recipe.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Italian Style Braised Kale

Plate of Italian Style Braised Kale
Colorful and Flavorful Fun

Recipe by Robin


Versatile home cooks know that spinoffs are not just for sitcoms. Recipe spinoffs, aka tweaks, allow us to substitute on-hand ingredients while adding variety to our favorite dishes. This kale recipe is a spinoff from Simply Braised Greens, a summer recipe of mizuna, bok choy, and spinach flavored with garlic, onion, red bell pepper, and thyme. The spinoff employs springtime kale, green garlic, and leeks, dried tomatoes from last year’s garden, and oregano. These few ingredient switcheroos create a new dish: same method, but new and different flavor and texture.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Polish Egg Salad: Salatka z Jaj

Plate full of Polish egg salad on Leaf Lettuce
Egg Salad, Polish Style

Recipe Adapted from Polish Cooking


Growing up in a Polish family in a small New England town full of other Poles, I took Polish cuisine for granted. My grandmother and her sisters working together for days to make hundreds of pierogies or scores of nut rolls and poppyseed rolls, my mom whipping up galumkis (stuffed cabbage), my Bopcha’s freshly-made chrusciki (angel wings), potluck tables laden with egg, potato, and beet dishes; these were my world. How soon after we moved away recipes and traditions were forgotten as the cooks aged and died. But memories live on, as I seek to recreate and record these recipes from the past. A new thrift store cookbook and a surplus of Easter eggs inspired me to delve into my Polish cooking heritage.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fava Bean, Green Garlic, and Parsley Pesto

Fava Pesto on Leaf Lettuce, Grape Tomatoes, and Hard Cooked Eggs
Fava Pesto Over Salad

Adapted from Unknown Source


Every spring I have the same challenge: finding new recipes with fava beans that my husband will like. Our CSA provides plenty of favas every year. For the farmer they are an early and prolific crop that also enriches the soil with usable nitrogen. Favas’ strong and distinct flavor requires equally strong flavors for balance and compliment. Tomatoes and paprika, cumin, yogurt, and cayenne, and radishes, mustard, and vinegar with favas are past combinations that work well. I hadn’t much hope for the pesto idea, since cheese flavor has a similar tang to favas. Yet with the green garlic, lemon, and parsley, the flavors balance out. Bonus: unlike basil pesto, fava bean pesto stays bright green for days without any fussing to exclude air.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Popover Pancake with Strawberry Sauce

Slice of Pancake on Plate with Strawberries and Maple Syrup
Easy to Make and Fun to Serve

Recipes by Philippa and Mom


As the years go by, I appreciate my cousins more and more. Most are far away but remain close to my heart. A few years back, after a 30-year hiatus, I visited my cousin/godfather Dick, and Philippa, his wife of nearly 50 years, in Pennsylvania. Both had inspired my early study of music by their interest and by their own musicianship. Amongst the catching up, Philippa whipped up the most amazing meals, including a light and airy popover pancake for breakfast one morning. She assured me that it was easy to make. It didn’t seem possible that its puffy, soufflé like proportions could be easily duplicated. But surprisingly this impressive dish takes little time and effort and uses few ingredients.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Asparagus, Bacon, Roasted Pepper, and Sausage Strata

Slice of Strata on Plate
"Loaded" Strata

Recipe by Robin


Ten or more years ago I was served strata at an Easter brunch. It was so beautiful and yummy that I’ve wanted to make one ever since. The process of preparing all of the strata layers, assembling them in order, and pouring the egg mixture in was appealing. But the idea of refrigerating it for 10 hours to allow the bread to soak up the eggs and milk—that means planning—seemed daunting. But spring inspires new activities, especially when I see tender young asparagus on sale. I might get used to eating brunch at home weekends instead of going out…maybe.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Roast Chicken with Wild Rice Stuffing & Orange-Wine Sauce

Plate of Chicken with Wild Rice Stuffing
Early Spring Comfort Food

Recipe by Robin


Stuffed chickens are extremely out of fashion and I’d like to reverse that trend, particularly at this time of year. Though technically spring, many days still tend towards damp and chilly, evenings are nippy, and my East Coast friends are looking at snow from yet another storm. We’re craving something warm and comforting. An oven-roasted bird with stuffing reminds us of celebratory feasts from seasons past and orange-wine sauce provides a lighter take on gravy. Why limit our enjoyment of stuffed birds to winter occasions?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Coq au Vin

Plate of Coq Au Vin with Parsley garnish
Classic Coq Au Vin

Recipe Adapted from French: Delicious Classic Cuisine Made Easy


My mom used to make chicken with wine, and for years I’ve wondered how similar her recipe was to the classic French coq au vin. I’d never felt brave enough to venture into the French cooking world until my friend Lynn graced me with French: Delicious Classic Cuisine Made Easy last Christmas. Even with the simplification, this dish is much more complicated than Mom’s chicken, and it tastes quite different. After a frenzy of cooking activities, a slow simmer adds the real magic. Slow cooking is key to the chicken’s melt-in-the-mouth tenderness as well as its wine and mushroom flavor permeation. This is the richest “simply braised chicken” imaginable.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Citrus Pomegranate Fruit Salad

Individual Serving of Salad
Spring Colors with Last Harvest Fruits

Recipe adapted from Best of Sunset


Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. As Seasonal Eating readers know, I’m crazy about retro cookbooks. The latest addition to my collection was published ‘way back in 1992. The Best of Sunset is a compilation of winning recipes from Sunset magazine’s not-so-distant past. Yet since Sunset has been serving up menu ideas since 1898, I suspect that this fruit salad recipe was first published earlier—around 1980 or a bit before. It’s from the years when honey-Dijon dressings suddenly appeared on menus everywhere, but we hadn’t learned to specify which “salad oil” they were made with. This salad is lightly dressed and even my friend Rox (not a big fan of mustard) rated it thumbs up.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Massaged Kale Salad with Sunflower Seeds

Pouring Dressing onto Salad
A Little Dressing & a Lot of Kale

Recipe by Robin


Raw kale is a nutritional powerhouse, but its sharp taste and unyielding texture make eating it a more healthful than delicious experience. However, the commercial solution of drowning the kale in an oily dressing to tone it down can reduce flavor and texture to a bland, soppy mess. Luckily, home cooks can achieve better results by massaging the kale by hand. Fear not, you won’t need extraordinary upper body strength! Most of the work is done chemically by lemon juice while you squeeze for just 2 minutes. Further mellowing of the kale is accomplished by marinating in an easy dressing.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Making Seed Bombs

Two California Poppy Blossoms
Easy Care Native CA Poppies

Inspired by Demo at the Maker Faire


Now that it’s raining again in California, and weather will become balmy throughout most of the US during the next few weeks, it’s time to think about bombing our landscape—with wildflowers. These bombs, made with recycled newspaper, will absorb water, break down, and with a little luck provide substrate to nurture the seeds inside as they develop. Making seed bombs is kid-friendly provided that an adult supervises or operates the blender. Whip up a batch and toss a few by your fence or in a weedy area, and see what happens.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Delicata Squash Burgers

Closeup of Burger on Bun with Tomato, Lettuce, and Parsley
Delicata Squash Makes Golden Burgers

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes


In case you haven’t heard, the world’s largest online foodie community, Allrecipes.com, now publishes a bi-monthly print edition. Recently an article in Allrecipes about in-season winter squash featured this recipe by Kphanie, who says that it makes wonderful ravioli stuffing as well as burgers. Delicata squash has a light flavor and just enough texture to hold a burger together. Though these burgers aren’t “meaty,” they’re agreeably flavored and textured, with sundried tomatoes, shallots, garlic, and Parmesan cheese adding to the delicate squash flavor. An excellent use of my last home-grown squash from 2013’s harvest, especially since my husband isn’t crazy about delicatas as-is.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pineapple Rum Tortuga Cake

Piece of Pineapple Tortuga Cake showing Almond Topping
Moist & Rich Cake with Ground Almond Topping

Recipe Adapted from Various Sources


This year Pirates Kidnapped the Luau (party), so my usual Aloha-style Ginger Frosted Pineapple Cake—from Cooking By Moonlight—needed some Caribbean-ization. King Arthur’s Flour’s blog and Wuvie from Instructables helped me create a pineapple variation of a Tortuga Rum Cake. The most important detail of this recipe is that it must be made a day or two in advance to allow the rum glaze to mellow and permeate the cake. It’s best when left overnight in the pan before flipping onto the serving plate and enjoying. The flavor and texture are worth the wait!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Persimmon Ginger Sauce for Pancakes

Rolled up Pancakes with persimmon sauce, extra sauce in cruet
Persimmons in (and on) Blankets

Recipe by Robin


Anyone with a persimmon tree will tell you that there is such a thing as too many persimmons, especially Hachiya persimmons, the kind that get squishy as they ripen. Leaving them to the birds and raccoons is an option, unless the trees are near your house or walkway, in which case Mother Nature can create a slippery yet sticky mess. And so it was that my friend Bill gifted me with a large box of persimmons in December, once again. I froze many of these, but had an inspired idea for them last week when the persimmony taste in a persimmon pancake recipe was too subtle. Thus was born a sweet, delicate, spiced sauce to be served with the pancakes that takes 5 minutes or less to prepare.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Persimmon Pancakes with Almonds (or Without)

Stack of Almond Persimmon Pancakes
Great with Maple Syrup or Butter

Recipe adapted from the Missouri Botanical Garden


I love visiting botanical gardens. As members of the UC Botanical Gardens at Berkeley, my family members are graced with free admission to hundreds of botanical gardens throughout the US. This means walking in nature just about anywhere that we travel domestically, including large cities. St. Louis’ Missouri Botanical Garden, which we have not yet explored, provided this recipe in its fascinating Foodology blog. Research specialist (and foodie) Andrew Townesmith created this recipe when he found some wild American persimmons during a late fall camping trip.  Townesmith has tasted over 450 edible wild plants in conjunction with his work at the garden’s William L. Brown Center, which explores the relationship between human cultures and food plants. Nice work if you can get it!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Whole Orange Cake

Closeup of Whole Orange Cake Slice
Sunny Side of Winter

Recipe by Sunset Magazine & Orange County Fair Centennial Cookbook”


There’s something compelling about the idea of a whole orange cake. Ever since a reader suggested it a year ago (last orange season), I’ve wanted to make one. But a complex and rich cake like this, with twice the amount of butter than I typically use required a special occasion. When our first mahjong gathering of the Year of the Horse converged with our first and much-needed rainy days of 2014 last weekend, a whole orange cake was born. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Persimmon Pudding (Bread) with Lemon Sauce

Dala Horse with Persimmon Pudding with Lemon Sauce
Celebrating Year of the Wood Horse with Pudding

Recipe from "Orange County Fair Centennial Cookbook" and Dave Wilson Nursery


Gung Hay Fat Choy! Let’s welcome the Chinese Year of the Wood Horse. According to Bay Area astrologer and feng shui consultant Susan Levitt, we can expect fast victories, unexpected adventure, surprising romance, and success in travel off-the-beaten path this year.  Since China produces almost 75% of the persimmons in the world—and because I still have a goodly amount from my friend and super-realtor Bill, I’m celebrating the new year with an award-winning persimmon pudding recipe from the 1920s, topped with in-season lemon sauce from a longtime California-based fruit grower.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Slow Cooked Chicken Two Ways

Tortilla loaded with chicken, cabbage, avocado, sour cream, etc.
DIY Taco in the Works

Recipes for Tacos and Chicken with Pasta


Slow cookers. Gotta love a device that cooks dinner for you. It’s even better when it cooks two dinners at once, and they’re both comfort foods. With my friend Jenn’s help, a couple years back I multiplexed my slow cooking with a Turkey Chili and Soup idea. Tacos (Jenn’s original idea) and chicken with pasta are this year’s double dinners. Like the super-simple originals, just a few ingredients go into the slow cooker, and other dinner preparation is minimal. This leaves plenty of time for other fun activities on cold winter nights.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hot Asian Slaw AKA Crack Slaw

Bowl of Hot Asian Slaw
Delicious and Nutritious

Recipe by Robin


The words “Crack Slaw” conjure up two vivid images in my mind, neither of which is appetizing. The term officially refers to the street drug crack and its addictive qualities, doubtlessly coined by someone who’s never seen the dark, vacant look in an addict’s eyes.  I’d like to reinvent this slaw as something sexy, something that we can choose to eat rather than mindlessly wolfing down, with a name that we can utter to our grandma or pastor without having to elaborate. Wouldn’t you really rather eat a Hot Asian Slaw?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chunky Gingered Pumpkin Soup

Bowl of soup garnished with chives and dollop of yogurt
Pumpkin Soup with a Difference

Recipe by Robin


There are tons of recipes for smooth and creamy pumpkin soups, and my husband is bored by all of them. “What could you put in there to make some texture?” he asks. Interestingly enough, pumpkin naturally has a stringy texture, which most recipes puree into submission. At this time of year pumpkins are largely dehydrated, and when cut into chunks the strings make an agreeable bumpiness, not unlike chunks of spuds in potato salad. Add some ginger and turmeric, and voila, a unique pumpkin soup with an earthy heartiness that even a hefty he-man can love.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pennsylvania Dutch German Hot Potato Salad

Plate of potato salad
Hot And Hearty Fare

Recipe adapted from Midwest Gardeners Cookbook


Back in the day, my longtime deceased aunties were cooks at a Pennsylvania convent. They liked making tasty foods on a budget. When the Mother Superior (nun in charge) declared that God had sent them, one quickly replied, “He didn’t have to work very hard to get us here.” Luckily, that Mother Superior could appreciate my aunt’s sense of humor, and good food. A favorite in the convent, and at home, was "German Potato Salad," made with vinegar and bacon and served hot.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Currant Scones or Fat Rascals

Plate with currant scone and condiments
Classic Scone with Jam & Clotted Cream

Recipe adapted from The Secret Garden Cookbook


As of January 6, the holiday season is concluded and we enter a more quiet and contemplative time of year. Looking back on the joy of the holidays and the blessings we’ve received during 2013 helps us pre-pave the way for a happy 2014. No need to remember what’s less than pleasant; it’s a brand new year now. Even tiny successes make rewarding recollections—like how I learned a secret to making scones on Christmas morning.