Apple, Ham & Kohlrabi Chopped Salad


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Apple, Ham & Kohlrabi Chopped Salad

 I bought a living Christmas tree this year.  Our tree is a dwarf variety from the local plant nursery, easily grown in a container in full to partial sun.  During the month of December, our tree will soak up the sun streaming in our front windows, and, for the remainder of the year, sit on our side patio.  I love it.  I love that it is alive and will continue to live.  I love that it is easily moved from outside to inside and back again.  Christmas chores just got a little easier.  Hallelujah. Now, let’s make a chopped salad.

Apple, Ham & Kohlrabi Chopped Salad + Honey Mustard Dressing

Chop the following and throw into a salad bowl:

3 Green Apples

1 Kohlrabi bulb

12 raw Brussel Sprouts

6 slices Ham

1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese

1/2 cup Walnuts

Honey Mustard Dressing

1 minced onion or shallot

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

1 tablespoon honey

1/3 cup olive oil

salt + pepper to taste

Recipe inspired by Cooking with the New York Times

Our Living Christmas Tree


Bosc & D’Anjou Caramelized Pear Pie


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Bosc & D’Anjou Caramelized Pear Pie

Bosc & D’Anjou Caramelized Pear Pie

Served on our Thanksgiving table this year, I was told, after serving dessert with a heapful of vanilla ice cream, that this pie recipe should be added to the annual menu.  Rustic, juicy, & flavorful, it has a new dimension, thanks to the pears caramelized in pomegranate molassas.  This year, & every year, I am grateful for family, grateful for friends, & grateful for the bounty of fresh food available for us all.

Caramelized Pear Pie

4 Bosc pears 

4 Anjou pears 

6 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (recipe below)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

3 tablespoons cornstarch

¾ cup light brown sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

pie crust (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Quarter 6 pears. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, bring 3 tablespoons molasses to a boil. Let simmer about 2 minutes, until molasses thickens. Arrange half the quartered pears in a single layer in skillet.

Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over pears. Cook, turning occasionally, until pears are well caramelized on all sides (but not cooked through), about 5 minutes.

Scrape pears and molasses into a bowl. Add cornstarch and toss to combine.

Repeat cooking process with remaining molasses, butter and quartered pears. Add second batch of pears to bowl; combine.

Thinly slice remaining pears and add to bowl. Stir in sugar and salt.

Scrape pear filling into pie crust.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until crust is dark golden and pears are tender when pricked with a fork, about 45 minutes more.

Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

Recipe adapted from Cooking with the New York Times.

Pomegranate Molasses

Pomegranate Molasses

“Place the pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice in a 4-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the mixture has reduced to 1 cup, approximately 70 minutes. It should be the consistency of thick syrup. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the saucepan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a glass jar and allow to cool completely before covering and storing in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.”  The Food Network.

Painting by Gianna Vargas.

Pie Crust

Combine 4 c flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 ½ c butter

Work butter in to flour with hands to resemble coarse meal

Gradually pour ½ c cold milk or cream

This will make enough for two pie crusts, or one pie (top & bottom).

Pre-bake the crust in an oven preheated to 375 until the crust starts to brown slightly and remove from oven to cool before filling.

Thanksgiving Tables

Pizza at Home


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Chicken Pizza on Seeded Garlic Crust

I hope I am well past the soggy pizza crust stage, because when this comes out right, it is very freeing to know a fresh pizza can be made at home.    I, often, use a cookie sheet to make a big, rectangular pizza to cut into squares. They are easy to wrap individually in foil and freeze.  I pull one out the night before for a lunchbox, and it is defrosted by lunchtime the next day.  Alternatively, they are re-heated in the toaster oven for a “fast-food” lunch or dinner at home.

A few key things to share with you are the pre-baked pan, pre-baked crust, and making sure the yeast becomes active.  First, pre-baking the pan and then the crust, seem to be essential for a nice, crisp crust under juicy sauce and vegetable toppings.  Baking on a pizza stone, and in a wood-fired oven would probably elevate the pizza even more, but I am not quite there, yet.   Do I consider these for my Christmas list?   Secondly, I started using my husband’s home-brew thermometer to make sure the warm water is in the ideal range for making the yeast active (proofing the yeast). The side of the yeast package lists the temperature range, and following it carefully has made a big difference in getting the yeast to consistently rise properly.  Like any homemade food, once you make it a few times, its process becomes less of a mystery, and the rewards are great for you and for those you feed.  Cheers!

Pizza Crust

1 3/4 cup warm water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 packet dried yeast

6 cups white flour (2 cups may be replaced with whole grain flours & seeds.)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon salt

Optional: 2 cloves minced garlic

Proof the yeast by warming the water and adding the yeast + sugar.  Let it sit until the yeast starts to bubble, about five minutes.  Add one cup of flour, oil, salt, and optional minced garlic.  Mix with a spoon as you add an whole grain or seeds, then more and more flour until you can no longer stir it.

Ditch any rings you are wearing and use your hands to knead the dough until you have added all of the flour and you have a nice, smooth ball of dough.

Place this in a greased bowl, cover with a clean cotton kitchen towel, and let it sit somewhere where there are no drafts.  Let it rise until the ball is double in size.  The timing will depend on the warmth of the ambient air, but usually takes an hour or so.

Once you have risen dough, flour a flat surface and roll out the dough until it is the size of your pizza pan.

Preheat the pizza pan in a 450 degree oven for about ten minutes.  Pull the dough up and stretch it to carefully place the dough on the hot pan.  Randomly, poke a few holes in the crust, and put back in the oven to pre-bake until it barely starts to brown.

Remove from the oven, spread pizza sauce (recipe below) and load with toppings of your choice.  Return your pizza to the oven until the toppings are warmed and the cheese melted.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour Cookbook


Tomato Basil Pizza

Pizza Sauce

Use 28 oz of canned tomatoes with liquid, 5 garlic cloves, and a few splashes of olive oil.  Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour.  Transfer to a blender and puree.

Recipe inspired by Gweneth Paltrow My Father’s Daughter


Two types of basil growing by the front door.

Mexican Chocolate Cake


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Mexican Chocolate Cake

Sarah, Summerland Kitchen, made this cake for her son’s third birthday earlier this month, and it was divine.  The cinnamon gives it a hint of rich spice and the pecans, a perfect texture.  The cake has a brownie-like feel and leaves one fully satisfied that today’s chocolate quota has been filled.

Mexican Chocolate Cake

12 cup Bundt Pan

2 sticks unsalted butter

1/2 cup raw cocoa

3/4 cup water

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt


2 cups chopped pecans

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup half and half

5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao) finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Make the Cake

Move a rack to the center of the oven.  Preheat oven to 350.  Butter the cakepan well and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Melt butter in a saucepan over moderately low heat.

Whisk in cocoa, add water, and whick until smooth.

Remove from the heat and whisk in sugar, then eggs, then buttermilk, and vanilla.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Then sift again into cocoa mixture amd whisk until just combined.  (Some lumps are okay.)

Pour batter into cake pan.

Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs attached. 45-55 minutes.  Cool cake in pan on a rack for 20 minutes.

Run a thin knife around the pan and invert to remove the cake on a plate.

Make the Glaze

Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and roast until fragrant and a shade darker, 6-8 minutes.  Cool slightly on a rack about 5 minutes.

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir in half and half and powdered sugar.  Add chocolate and cook, stirring, until smooth.

Remive from heat and stir in pecans and salt.  Cool glaze until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Spoon glaze over too and sides of cake and spread.

Recipe from Chef Rebecca Rather, Rather Sweet Cafe in Fredericksburg, Texas.

He comes out this time of year.  We call him “Bones.”

Carrot Picnic Salad + Garlic Vinaigrette


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Carrot Picnic Salad + Garlic Vinaigrette

Carrot Picnic Salad + Garlic Vinaigrette

In the bottom of a bowl, sized for how much you want to make, mix the following ingredients to make Garlic Vinaigrette.

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 minced garlic clove

1/4 cup olive oil

Grate carrots into the dressing and toss as you go.  Add until they are saturated by the dressing to your liking.

Inspired by “Picnic!  Recipes and Menus for Outdoor Enjoyment”

Halloween-themed birthday party at Toro Canyon Park. Carpinteria, California.

Pumpkin Bread + Cream Cheese Frosting


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Pumpkin Bread + Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Bread + Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup white flour

1 cup wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup cooked pumpkin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Frosting ingredients:  one package of cream cheese, a bag of powdered sugar, small box of milk or cream, splash of vanilla

Pumpkin Bread

Mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate mixing bowl beat oil, sugar, & eggs.  Blend in vanilla and pumpkin puree.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir only enough to just blend it.  The batter will be very wet.

Pour into a greased, square cake pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until the top of the loaf springs back when you touch it and a toothpick comes out clean from the center.  Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before slicing and removing from the pan.

Cream Cheese Frosting

I do this frosting by “feel.”  Put a package of cream cheese into a mixer and get it started, allowing the cream cheese to soften and become smooth.  Shake a cup or so of powdered sugar into the mixing bowl and a generous splash of milk or cream.  Drop about a teaspoon of vanilla into the mixture and let it blend.  After a few minutes, check the flavor and consistency of the frosting.  Add powdered sugar if it is too runny, milk or cream if it is too stiff, and vanilla to your liking.

I sliced each pumpkin bread piece so I could “sandwich” them.  I wanted them to be easier to handle at a bake sale, but the frosting can easily be spread on top, like a cake, if you prefer.

Pumpkin Bread Recipe from The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook. The Cream Cheese Frosting is the standard frosting that  I put in on most birthday cakes.

Old California Kitchen at Olivas Adobe

Turkey Meatball Soup


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Turkey Meatball Soup

Turkey Meatball Soup

Cut the crusts off 2 thick slices of day-old bread.  Cut the slices into cubes until you have about one cup.  Put them in a bowl and cover them with room temperature water.

In a separate large mixing bowl, put 1 pound ground turkey, 1 tsp salt, 1 tablespoon red wine, ground pepper, 1 egg, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Drain the bread and squeeze the water out of the cubes.  Crumble it into the bowl with all of the other ingredients.  With open fingers, gently mix all of the ingredients together until they are well combined.  Roll into meatballs and drop into 3 cups of chicken stock.  Let meatballs boil until they are cooked all the way through, about 10 minutes.  Salt or season the soup, as desired.

Adapted from Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Food II.”

Fall Saddle Club Riding Lesson at a California Ranch

Cheesecake Lunchbox Bars


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Cheesecake Lunchbox Bars

Bars, bars, bars, gimme bars. We eat constantly around here.  Between Charlotte’s growth spurts and my fast metabolism, we are perpetually searching for snacks.   Often on the grocery store “protein bar” train, we are ready to find time to make baked snacks at home for after school snacks, school lunches, as road trip food, & whenever the “gimme a bar” words are muttered.

Cheesecake Lunchbox Bars

Mix the following ingredients in a food processor (or a large bowl and use your hands) until it makes a fine crumble.

3/4 cup white flour

3/4 cup wheat flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup almonds

1 stick butter

Reserve a cupful for the topping later.  Press the remainder into a square greased pan.

Next, put into food processor (or mixer) the following ingredients and blend until smooth.

16 oz. cream cheese

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Spread over hot crust and bake another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and spread jam over the cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle the reserved crust as a top layer.

If you plan to eat the batch within a couple of days, you may add a layer of fresh fruit (berries, sliced peaches) coated in flour between the jam layer and the top crust layer.

These bars can be frozen individually in foil and used in school lunches. I took them from the freezer the night before and they defrosted by lunch the next day. Alternatively, we ate them straight from the freezer as an (even better) frozen treat.

Recipe inspired by “Grammy’s Kitchen; The Russell Orchards Fruit Cookbook.”


Grape Whole Wheat Scones



Grape Whole Wheat Scones

Been meaning to post this recipe, too.  I am a fan of easy-to-whip-up baked goods that include whole wheat flour and seasonal fruits.  I’m, also, into using yogurt in baked goods, instead of milk.  Yogurt gives the food a dense attribute and I, somehow, feel that I am filling Charlotte’s tummy for longer with these ingredients.  She burns through food so fast, these things occupy my mind.  I plan to experiment with other whole grains, too, like spelt and rye.  I will report back.  For now, love these….

Grape Whole Wheat Scones

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup white flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter

1 cup grapes, sliced in half

3/4 cup plain, full fat yogurt

In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder, sugar, salt.

Slice butter into small pieces and work into the flour with the tips of your fingers until the mixture feels like it is full of small pellets.

Stir in the grapes.

Gently stir in the yogurt until the dry ingredients are wet, being careful not to over-stir.

Pat into circles using just your hands or a round pastry cutter.  Cut in half to make half-circles, or leave as large circles about 3 inches wide for bigger, but fewer, scones.

Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Bake in an oven pre-heated to 425 degrees until the edges are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Recipe inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones Recipe.

After School Playdate