• 22Feb

    Many of us have or suspect we have food sensitivites. Many of the symptoms we experience do not seem to be related to ingestion of a particular food. For instance, a rash or eczema, joint pain, headaches, foggy brain… And then the symptoms that we may associate with something we have eaten: nausea, intestinal distress. In my case, I suspect egg protein is causing a small patch of eczema. I’ll eliminate egg from my diet for a month or so and see if the patch clears.

    Wanting a little sweet – I decided to make a gluten free and egg free cookie and here is what I came up with (I made the almond version):

    Peanut Butter or Almond Cookies
    48 cookies

    1/2 cup butter, unsalted
    8 ounces peanut butter — or almond butter
    2/3 cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup flax seed — ground
    2 tablespoons milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla — or almond extract if making almond cookies
    1 cup brown rice flour
    1/3 cup glutinous rice flour
    1/4 cup almond meal
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1/3 cup sesame seeds — to roll; optional

    Cream butter and sugar. Add milk, extract and flax seed. Mix together rest of ingredients and add to butter mixture. Form into 1″ diameter balls. Roll in sesame seeds. Bake 375 for 8-10 minutes

    Per Cookie: 84 Calories; 5g Fat (56.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 6mg Cholesterol; 89mg Sodium.

    If you want to make these dairy free you can substitute the butter with coconut oil and the milk with water.


  • 24Aug

    Ever wonder what to do with lots of zucchini? Check out Planet Veggie Garden for some zucchini recipes:


  • 19Jul

    My dear client loves her soup. She is quite fond of carrot and ginger but is always game for variations on a theme. In this case the theme is orange :)! Well, really it’s the beta carotene we are after. I spied some little organic butternut squashes at Berkeley Bowl the other day. That along with a recent visit to the Berkeley Thai Temple for some cheap eats inspired this soup:

    Thai Squash and Coconut Soup

    Amount Measure Ingredient — Preparation Method
    ——– ———— ——————————–
    1 1/4 – 1/2 pound butternut squash
    1 tablespoon coconut oil — or vegetable oil
    1 small carrot — thinly sliced (no need to peel – lots of vitamins in that skin)
    1/2 medium onion — thinly sliced
    1/2 stalk celery — thinly sliced
    1 medium jalapeno chile pepper — thinly sliced
    2 inch lemon grass — smashed
    2 slices ginger — minced very fine
    1 clove garlic — smashed
    1 teaspoon sea salt (Try Redmond)
    1/2 cup coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen Organic)
    2 cups water or vegetable stock — more if needed
    1 tablespoon lime juice

    Cut butternut squash in half, put in baking dish cut side down with about a 1/2 c water. Bake at 350F until soft – about 30 – 40 minutes. Cool and scoop out squash from shell.

    Heat oil in a 6 quart pot. Over medium heat, saute carrot, onion, celery, jalapeno, lemon grass, ginger and garlic with sea salt until soft – about 15 minutes. Add coconut milk, water, lime juice and squash. Simmer another 20-30 minutes, stir every so often to make sure the squash doesn’t stick to bottom of the pot.

    Blend soup until smooth and creamy. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or if you can’t do this be sure to remove the lemon grass before blending, otherwise you will be picking the fibers out of your teeth. Season to taste with salt and more lime juice as needed. This soup can be served hot or cold. A nice garnish would be pumpkin seeds toasted in a little coconut oil with chopped garlic and parsley or a simple sprig of cilantro will do as well.

    Bonus: A little gardening tip today. To grow your own lemon grass, take a few stalks (choose ones that have not had their bottoms trimmed too far up) and cut off the tops so you have about 6-8″. Put this in a jar of water and in a about 1-2 weeks you will see roots. Plant in a large pot (these guys will spread and spread so I like the control of a pot) and water often. Soon the stalks will start multiplying. Set out in a sunny spot. In a few months you will have a nice supply. Be aware that the leaves are sharp as razors and will give you paper cut like slices – ouch! So wear some gloves.

    The next garden related post will be an update on the…yes…no…yes…oh, no…the gooseberries …they’re back…

  • 03Apr

    a leek, that is…

    it’s been a cold and wet one…I keep trying to figure out if I should get the garden ready for planting or build an ark. Well, we’ve been working on the garden between rain storms – weeds took over through the winter so the spring ritual is to pull them all out. Things are taking shape – our backs and knees can atest to the progress. We’re about half way there so I’m contemplating what we want to be nibbling on this summer. Here’s the list so far: green beans, sugar snap peas, pak choy, chard, kale, tomatoes, zucchini, basil, cilantro, lemon cucumbers, beets, strawberries and a few peppers. Looks like I’ll need to replant the herbs too so in will go some tarragon, oregano and thyme. And, we can’t forget Mochi (she’s nudging me now to tell you with her chin resting on my lap), she loves carrots freshly yanked out of the ground (which she has learned to do herself.) I know this sounds like a lot of vegetables but believe me the snails will get their fair share 😉

    In the meantime, we got our first Terra Firma CSA box last wednesday. What a lovely assortment of carrots, potatoes, leeks, green garlic, asparagus, mineola tangerines, ruby red grapefruit, lemons, beets, kale and spinach. Whew, that was a lot of veggies to eat up! We still have a few potatoes, carrots and citrus left – here’s what I did with the veggies this week…

    I roasted the beets (325F for 30 minutes or til tender) in a covered casserole with a splash of water. Cooled then peeled them and tossed with grapefruit segments, olive oil, feta and salt and pepper. This would be equally yummy with the mineola’s.

    Lightly sauteed the beet tops with the kale in olive oil and a clove of garlic.

    Made a ‘hash’ with sauteed leek and a couple of the potatoes.

    Most of the veggies went to the once a month (more or less) lentil soup. Every few weeks I make a big batch of lentil soup and freeze in portions for those busy week days when I don’t have much time to cook. This week’s soup: 2 cups of lentils soaked overnight with 2 T of lemon juice. Chopped up a bunch of veggies (include if you can onion, carrot and celery – the remaining veg can be whatever is in your crisper and in season. I used green garlic, leek & not in season peppers) to make about 6 cups. Sauteed these veggies with a few teaspoons of salt in olive oil with a couple of bay leaves. Tossed in a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained lentils, 1/2 cup of quinoa and 8 cups of water (you can use vegetable broth or chicken stock.) Simmered for 30-40 minutes. At this point you can add a few diced potatoes or winter squash. Simmer til just tender. Then I add some chopped greens (I used the spinach). Stir until just wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can season this soup any way you like. This time I added some lemon zest and lemon juice. I just wanted something simple this time around. I then portioned out the soup into 1/2 quart portions to freeze.

    Some times I make it Indian style, or maybe French with some herbs de provence or South of the Border with some chili powder – any of these flavorings you would add during the vegetable saute step if you want the whole batch flavored in that way -Or – you can just flavor each portion as you heat to serve. Oh, and fresh herbs are also great. Add the herbs towards the end of the big batch to keep those flavors fresh or add to the smaller portions when heating to serve.

    Now we just pray for sunshine…

  • 06Jul

    Who would have known that on that fateful day four years ago throwing down a few cape gooseberry seeds would mean a battle of epic weedy proportions. Yes, that first year a plant or two came up. I thought it would be oh so novel to be the first on my block to have a cape gooseberry plant. Cape Gooseberries seemed so rare (not to be confused with just plain ol’gooseberries) – especially when as the forager for a restaurant in San Francisco I was given the task to come up with pounds of it each week for a very delicious dessert the chef came up with. I scoured every farmer’s market until I finally found the one farmer in Northern California who had them. Victory. Never mind that this was years ago and I no longer worked at said restaurant. Somehow, like a poor easily imprintable pup or I suppose more like a brainwashed glassy eyed Stepford wife I had to have them. Hey, it was a stressful job!
    So in other words, I didn’t have a plan for all the cape gooseberries that would soon grow into my possession.
    Well, that first year I had bags upon bags of gooseberries… stored in my freezer. I even tracked down the chef and gave her bags of frozen gooseberries for which she didn’t really have a use for anymore. I finally found a use for them and incorporated them into 12 quarts of gooseberry barbeque sauce which I gave away as holiday gifts. To which I got a curious “What kind of Barbeque Sauce?”
    Ok, so I was over it – it was cheap therapy! I realized I was a victim of my own eccentricity and maybe a bit of post traumatic stress. I got it out of my system. I didn’t need to have these obscure berries that no one knows what to do with anymore. I happily ripped out the gi-normous plant. However, no one told me that within each berry there were thousands of tiny seeds.
    The next spring there were millions of cape gooseberry seedlings popping up all over the garden. In hindsight it wasn’t such a good idea to play fetch with the dog whilst tossing the gooseberries all about. Anyway, I resigned to my fate and pulled them out handfuls at a time. Finally after a few years I figured I had a handle on the seedlings and slowed down on my vigilance .
    2004. Tomatillos – now that was a nice crop to have for chile verde sauce and green salsa. I didn’t bother to pull it out last fall and it seemed to do fine through the winter. More salsa this year.
    This Spring I was walking through the garden and noticed the distinct aroma of Cape Gooseberries! Agh! I looked carefully at the tomatillo plant and it had morphed into a Cape Gooseberry plant. They happen to be in the same plant family and look identical. Ugh, outsmarted by a damn berry! Well, too busy to do anything about it – the plant grew and grew and gooseberry after gooseberry was produced.
    One day a month or so ago my brother’s visiting Korean in law was out in the garden picking the gooseberries. Wow, maybe there is some wonderful Korean recipe! Excitedly, I asked her what she did with them and she said “Oh, I don’t know but as kids we would make whistles out of the husks.  Bummer.
    Then last weekend, the SO decided to pick a grocery bag of them. The aroma filled the kitchen. SO said, “What’s good to do with them?” I said “Uh, I don’t know. They’re high in pectin and vitamin C, how about putting them in your smoothies?”
    I’d been feeling adventurous lately so decided to surf the web for Cape Gooseberry recipes and turned up with only two! only two in the whole wide world! Well, besides my famous Gooseberry Barbecue Sauce.
    So tonight I made Almond and Cape Gooseberry Torte. The batter was very stiff and I had my doubts but SO declared “I like it” and proceeded to have another slice. Now my brain is working overtime…hmmm, how about Cape Gooseberry Scones? or Cape Gooseberry Pancakes? Or Pan Roasted Duck with Cape Gooseberry and Orange Sauce? Strawberry Shortcake with Cape Gooseberry Sauce…I could go on and on but will spare you the Forest Gump.
    Anyway, that’s how I became the Gooseberry Fool…

  • 05Sep

    I love fall…the longer shadows, the sunlight has a bit warmer cast and here in the Bay Area we get Indian Summer. Besides all that, the figs on the neighborhood trees begin to swell up into sweet ripe purple orbs…or green if you’re spying a calimyrna or a kadota. A few weeks ago, you could catch me on a daily basis peering over the fence assessing whether it was worth dragging the ladder over to pick the bounty. A few times I even jumped the fence to take a closer look…don’t worry the neighbors know of my fig love. Finally, one very hot afternoon I declared it was time. The household gathered round and we trekked over to pick a few bags full.  

    I’ve loved figs since I was a kid. Figs were popular in my family whether in the form of fig newtons in our lunch boxes or fresh off my mom’s fig tree in our backyard. For the rest of human kind, figs have been enjoyed for over 5000 years. Figs have been found in Egyptian tombs as a healthy snack in the afterworld. The Greeks and Romans used figs fresh, roasted, dried and as a sweetener before sugar was discovered. It was the Romans who were instrumental in introducing figs to other parts of Europe. In turn, during the late 1700’s the Spanish missionaries introduced figs to California. Today, you will find fig trees growing all over the state.  Nutritionally, ounce for ounce figs have more fiber than prunes, more potassium than bananas, and more calcium than milk. And oh so much of that ‘good and good for you’ fiber.  

    Figs, a soft super sweet fruit with numerous edible blossoms and seeds encased in a thin edible skin, are a member of the Mulberry family and has two fruiting seasons. A short one in the spring and a longer more abundant one mid to late summer. Some common varieties you will find are the green ‘kadota’ and ‘calimyrna’, the brown ‘brown turkey’, and the purple ‘black mission.’ I pretty much love all varieties but the green ones rank up there. The purple ones are great for extra the antioxidants. 

    When shopping for figs, pick soft ripe fruit free of bruises, mold or nicks in the skin. A few small natural cracks are fine. Figs do not ripen off the tree so avoid firm unripe fruit. Key to this point is going to your neighborhood Farmer’s Market. You’ll rarely see a truly ripe fig at a grocery store. My favorite farmer is Rick Knoll – his figs are just oozing with ripe syrupy fig goodness. Do not wash until just before you are about to eat or prepare the fruit and if necessary, you can refrigerate for 1 or 2 days. If you’re picking fresh from a tree, grasp the stem between your fingers and twist. It’s a little tricky at first because you have to try not to squish the soft fruit at the same time. So what do I do with the bags and bags of figs? I eat them fresh – yum yum. Or dry them to use in baking and compotes. Or as I did last night, marinate them in balsamic, olive oil, honey and mint for a hour and then grill them (broiling will work too.) I served them on little grilled toasts with a dollop of ricotta that had been spiked with mint, honey and a squeeze of lemon. But don’t stop there! Search the internet and you’ll find loads of recipes for figs and proscuitto, fig tarts, fig jam….

  • 13Jul

    I’m taking some time off during the next few weeks and am finally getting to spend some time out in the garden. So far the pruning shears have had quite the work out. The lemon tree looks like it had a nice flat top hair cut (sorry to the pro’s – I’m sure my pruning job would generate more than a few grimaces). A few planting beds are getting reworked for fresh plantings of beans, lettuce and beets.  

    On the harvesting front, so far we’ve had a few meals of pole beans, salads with cucumbers and the first of the glorious home grown tomatoes, and the one of many zucchini’s to come.

  • 01Jul

    Got to spend a bit of time in my slightly neglected garden this afternoon. I must say the plants love it that I am not out there hacking away at them – they have a chance to stretch and grow any which way the wind and sun coaxes them.   

    I suppose a wild garden can have its charm…not really. Ah, but that’s nature – always tumbling towards chaos while we mere mortals try to bring some sense of order to it. Well, that’s my excuse for my over grown garden and I’m sticking to it. 

    After cleaning up a few wildly overgrown plants I discovered that I will soon be up to my eye balls in lemon cucumbers. So called, not because they taste like lemons but because they look like lemons. They are so delicious and crisp but you have to wear thick gloves to pick them because they have prickly thorns all over them. Contrary to popular belief, gardening can be a dangerous thing…it’s not for the delicate. Gardeners need to have a thick skin and strong backs yet I think all gardeners have soft hearts.   Luckily we love pickles, so I’ll be making a few batches of Chinese Style Refrigerator Pickles with said cucumbers, along with carrots, daikon radish and ginger. Here’s my favorite recipe:   1 c water
    1 c white vinegar (or you can use cider vinegar)
    2 c sugar
    1/4 teaspoon tumeric (optional for color)
    4 carrots, peeled and sliced
    1 lb daikon radish, peeled and sliced
    1 lb cucumbers, peeled and sliced
    4 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
    3 Tablespoon salt
    pinch or two of chili flakes (optional)   

    Combine first four ingredients in a non-reactive pot (stainless, enamel coated, or glass). Heat to a boil, stirring from time to time to dissolve the sugar. Cool to room temperature.   Put the veggies in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Let sit for 20 minutes to draw out the water. This will ensure that your pickles are crisp. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Squeeze the veggies to get rid of the remaining water and place in a clean jar or jars. Pour brine over the veggies, cover and put in the refrigerator. They taste best if you let them sit for at least 2 days but I usually can’t wait and start munching after a few hours.   

    These pickles are great as a side with sandwiches or my favorite is in veggie sushi rolls. Yum!   

    see ya!