Sunday, December 27, 2015

Vanilla Maple Yams or Sweet Potatoes

Casserole Dish of Vanilla Maple Yams
Up-cycled Leftovers

Recipe adapted from Vegetable Recipes I Can’t Live Without

Leftover yams can be a problem. As delicious as they were when they came out of the oven, hot and plump and bursting with flavor, they’re typically deflated and soggy after refrigeration. This is another recipe by Molly Katzen, creator and chef of the Moosewood Restaurant, one of the first and most famous vegetarian restaurants in the US. Molly describes this recipe as subtle, but its slight vanilla flavor is pleasingly pervasive. Originally written for freshly cooked yams, I’ve adapted the recipe to include use with holiday leftovers. This dish would also serve well at winter dinners and potlucks, appealing to diners who enjoy yams but dislike wrestling with the skins.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cranberry Apple Crisp with Gluten Free Option

Plate of Cranberry Apple Crisp
With Optional Pecans and Cream

Recipe adapted from Simply in Season


Crisps are a perfect destination for not-perfect fruit. This year our tree produced many apples, as usual, but due to drought they were small, hard, dry, and a bit sour. Not pleasant for snacks, but cut up and mixed with traditional green baking apples and seasonal cranberries, they cooked up into a blog-worthy dessert. Crisps have three other benefits: they’re relatively healthy, they’re easily adaptable to accommodate gluten-free guests and on-hand topping ingredients, and they’re simple to make. Plus, everyone seems to love them.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Savory Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Bowl of garnished soup
With Green Onions and Yogurt

Recipe by Melinda

My friend and work colleague Melinda is a fabulous cook. Not that I’ve tasted anything that she’s prepared, but we do exchange recipes. After enjoying her amazing Moroccan Butternut Soup, I was excited to try her pumpkin soup. One key to its deliciousness is, like Zach’s Butternut Sage Soup, the squash (pumpkin) is roasted rather than boiled. Celery and onion provide classic aromatic flavors, and a touch of tomato paste zests up the soup in a unique way. Half and half adds creaminess. Finally, a touch of honey, salt, and pepper, to enhance the flavor of your particular pumpkin.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate

Plate of Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate abd Pumpkin Seeds
Bright and Beautiful, Plus Nutritious

Recipe Adapted from Vegetable Recipes I Can’t Live Without

Butternut squash is a popular autumn vegetable, yet most recipes are more or less the same. The squash roasted or steamed till soft, then combined with sweet and/or savory spices, or perhaps nuts or seeds. Or it’s made into soup. This recipe is completely unique because the butternut is cooked crisp-tender. This takes less than 10 minutes in the oven. The texture can surprise people, especially when served at room temperature. At a recent potluck, one person thought it was persimmon, and another marveled at this new use for cantaloupe. This easy side dish is an unusual addition to the Thanksgiving table. It’s colorful and gluten-, meat-, and dairy-free. Substitute another oil for walnut, and it’s also nut-free.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tomato Basil Catsup or Jam

Tomato Basil Catsup on Burger
The Ultimate Burger Condiment

Recipe Adapted from Vegetable Recipes I Can’t Live Without

At last it’s getting colder in Santa Cruz, after a couple of too-warm winters. Our garden tomato and basil crops are winding down, and there are only a few over- or under-ripe varieties left at the Farmers’ Markets. These tomatoes might not be flavorful enough for salads. But any sort of tomato, even green, can be preserved in a catsup-like jam, according to author and Moosewood restaurant chef Mollie Katzen. I tried it with both over-ripe paste tomatoes and old pithy heirlooms. I might try it again with my green tomatoes, if the frost comes before they ripen. The sweetness (or tartness) of the tomato variety will dictate the sweetness/tartness ratio of the end product. You can alter this somewhat by varying the amount of honey and cider vinegar added to the mix.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Butternut Sage Soup

Closeup of soup with hazelnuts and sage leaves
Closeup of Soup with Toppings

Recipe by Zach

Back in March, I attended a music workshop in chilly (to Californians) Whidbey Island. Not only did Ruzivo teach us 3 songs for 8-piece marimba ensembles in less than 48 hours, each band member was also responsible for feeding us a delicious meal. This warming soup hit the spot on a rainy afternoon. We pretty much insisted that Zach, who’s been playing marimba professionally since age 11, give us the recipe. He said that though the soup is supposed to be pureed, he pureed just half—creating an agreeable texture. Cooler weather, impending frost on the garden sage, and Farmers’ Market butternut inspired me to recreate this soup.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lemon Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Lemon Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Bacon Makes it Better

Recipe adapted from Jamie Deen

This month I’ve been on a Brussels sprouts kick. The autumn crop is still fresh, and they’re still available on the stalk—at Trader Joe’s as well as the farmers’ market. Whether purchased on or off the stalk, smaller sprouts are tender and can be served whole or halved, with mustard-, maple-, or balsamic-based sauces. The real challenge is how to make large, tough sprouts from the top of the stalk into something tender and delicious. Halving and thinly slicing these large toughies makes them amenable to any sort of cooking treatment you’d use for cabbage, including this lemony sauté seasoned with brown sugar and bacon.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Maple Mustard Brussels Sprouts

Plate of Maple Mustard Brussels Sprouts
Spicy, Sweet, and Healthy

Recipe Adapted from Vegetable Recipes I Can’t Live Without

Consider the humble yet bizarre Brussels sprout. The first time my friend claimed that a large field of turgid, leafy 4-foot stalks overlooking the Pacific Ocean was Brussels sprouts, I thought he was kidding. Like when he said that the Zinfandel that I’d bought for my parents was aged in chicken manure. But surprising ly, many Brussels sprouts were indeed clinging to the stalks. Although most sprouts are harvested by machines, those of us close to the central coast can pick up freshly harvested sprouts on the stalk this month at the Farmers’ Market. My gems are organic  sprouts from Rodoni Farms, lightly browned and steamed, then dressed with an easy 3-ingredient sauce that’s strong enough to stand up to Brussels sprouts yet not overpower them.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Honey Butternut Soup

Bowl of Honey Butternut Soup with Honey and Yogurt Garnish
Ringed with Honey and Dolloped with Yogurt

Recipe Adapted from the National Honey Board

What better way to honor autumn than by making butternut squash soup? But the endless variety of recipes had me befuddled about how to begin. Shall I add apples, savory veggies, or use just straight butternut? Do I add allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg, or not? How about cream or yogurt, yes or no? Then, since September is National Honey Month, a recipe from the very interesting bee book, “Letters from the Hive, an Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind,” caught my attention. After a bit of adaptation to reduce the fat and better quantify the ingredients, I had the perfect season-appropriate recipe. It’s both sweet and savory, with an earthy honey flavor.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dukkah Honey Crusted Fish Fillet

Dukkah Honey Crusted Fish served with Tomatoes, garnished with basil
 Fish with Honey, Nut, Seed, and Spice Crust

Recipe Inspired by The Recipe for Radiance

September is National Honey Month, so I’m on the lookout for unusual honey recipes. Dukkha (duqqa) is an Egyptian condiment of toasted nuts, spices, and herbs. This homemade version combines brilliantly with honey to make a unusual topping for fish that’s crunchy, sweet, spicy, and hearty. You can adjust the spices to your liking; in particular you could double the amount of red or black pepper if you’re going for a hot and sweet taste. The natural oils in hazelnuts, almonds, and sesame seeds benefit both heart and skin health. Plus, they make the topping exotically delicious.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Parmesan Crusted Zucchini

Closeup of Yum
Recipe from Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without

Is there ever a garden that suffers a shortage of zucchini in August? As the zukes roll in, and we’ve tried steamed squash, panfried squash, squash with herbed butter, stuffed squash, zucchini bread, and maybe even shrimp with zucchini, Swiss steak and ratatoille. Yet, we still crave something new, different, and above all, easy. This recipe by Mollie Katzen, author of the classic vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks, suits the bill—sautéed on one side, then finished in the broiler. With just garlic, a little olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and optional breadcrumbs, zucchini become delightfully crunchy on the top and succulent in the middle, reminiscent of deep-fried zucchini, but fresher and far more healthy.

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 entrée, 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.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Whipped Winter Squash

Serving Bowl of Whipped Butternut Squash
Simple Comfort Food

Recipe adapted from Recipes from the Root Cellar

I hope you have had as quiet and contemplative a month as I have. After lots of socializing and baking during the holiday season, I’ve been quite lazy. True that I started a weight-lifting program and have been reading a lot. But in the kitchen, less has been more. Hence this super-simple recipe for an elegant winter side dish that requires few ingredients and little effort. If you’re really lazy, like I am, you can spread the prep over two days by cooking the squash one night and whipping it up the next. Vary the ingredients as you like, and don’t even measure if you’re really lazy (fewer dishes to wash). A splash of this, a dollop of that will do the trick.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Turkey, Apple, and Basil Sausage Burgers

Sausage Burger with Green Beans
Basil, Apple, Sweet Onion and Spices Compliment Meat

Recipe adapted from Smart Cooking the Costco Way

Happy 2015! During the final weeks of 2014 we enjoyed unseasonably warm weather in California. Our garden basil continued to produce strongly flavored if somewhat peaked-looking leaves. Right before the first cold snap, I harvested the remaining leaves and wanted to use them in a seasonal recipe for an oddly warm December. I found this recipe for mini-burgers in a book left over from our library’s book sale, which I purchased for just a buck. Right now you can purchase this cookbook, which has a surprising number of intriguing recipes, for $.01 (ten times less than I paid) at Amazon. I didn’t need another cookbook, but finding this wonderfully unusual combination of basil and sweet apple in a deliciously spiced burger was well worth my impulse buy.