Nope, the post title is not a hidden message about the baby’s sex – we won’t know that for a few more weeks yet.  For now, it’s just an “it”, a little one, a baby.  In the meantime, to keep my mind occupied, I’ve been on a baking kick.

I’ve become one of those infuriating people who makes fattening things but doesn’t eat them herself (I’m looking at you, Mom), since sweets haven’t been calling to me these days.  That hasn’t stopped me from running to the kitchen at 8pm because I just have to make chocolate chip cookies.

It’s been nice to have excuses to bake – it is the Christmas season, after all – and my friend Lynelle’s birthday was just such an occasion.  I had a glut of sweet potatoes from our farm share, and a need for something wintery and delicious.  This recipe fit the bill – sweet, spicy, moist and comforting – perfect.

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Brown Sugar Icing – from Epicurious


2 cups cooked and mashed red-skinned sweet potatoes – I prefer to roast them in foil until they’re mush, but they can also be microwaved

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray. Mix together wet ingredients (sweet potatoes, sugar, oil) and beat until smooth.  Add eggs 2 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt); beat just until blended. Beat in vanilla. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Using small knife, cut around sides of pan and center tube to loosen cake. Turn out onto rack; cool completely.

For icing:
Sift powdered sugar into medium bowl. Stir brown sugar, whipping cream and butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Boil 3 minutes, occasionally stirring and swirling pan. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour brown sugar mixture over powdered sugar. Whisk icing until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Cool icing until lukewarm and icing falls in heavy ribbon from spoon, whisking often, about 15 minutes. Spoon icing thickly over top of cake, allowing icing to drip down sides of cake. Let stand until icing is firm, at least 1 hour. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature.)

I can see this cake being perfect without the icing as a special brunch coffee cake, but as a sweet after-dinner treat, it can’t be beat.

Of course, we’re always far too impatient to take a picture before digging in, but I was fortunate enough to snag these shots before it disappeared completely!


Two Thousand Words

I had just found out, then realized that I hadn’t yet turned the page on the calendar.  So I did.


Here’s what I look like now – the belly has just started, but the top – good god!  Two bra sizes up already, for crying out loud.


It has been so long since I’ve visited my oft-neglected site.  I’ve been just bursting to share the news, that I’ve had to completely abandon blog land – way too tempting to blurt it out…


Holy crap, I can hardly believe it – we’ve got a little seedling on the way!  So far it’s been a bit of a tough road of nausea and lethargy, but I’ve felt it lessen over the past week or so.  I’m starting to branch out from my steady diet of saltine crackers and apple juice, and am actually eating big people food now!  Perhaps I’ll even cook something, maybe even post it on the site – now that would be amazing.

Rancho La Puerta

Oh my.  Where in the heck have I been?  Yikes.  Well, I’m back.  Again.

Waaaay back at the end of June, I was graciously invited along with a group of San Diego food/gardening enthusiasts to visit Rancho La Puerta in Tetate, Mexico.  It was a true getaway, the kind of one-day trip that feels like a full vacation.  The lovely folks at Rancho La Puerta were promoting their new Saturdays at the Ranch program, where San Diegans can be whisked away for a one day mini-ranch experience.

We were picked up in Old Town and driven to the Tecate border – the ranch itself is very close to the border, but once within its gates I felt like I was in another world.  Lush native landscaping, beautiful architecture and sensual sculptures dot the property (3,000 acres if you’re counting), and each winding path leads to something special.  I had a spa treatment (first things first!), then took a cool shower and set out to explore the property.  If you stroll in almost any direction you’ll hit one of the spa’s numerous pools or gyms, all dotted with extraordinary sculptures – just a beautiful landscape:

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After searching for a while to try to find the running track, I realized that I was standing right in it – an oval-shaped vineyard!  I took a few laps, then went straight back to relax-mode.

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After I searched for a hide-out spot where I could stow away (Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler-style), I met up with the rest of the group for a trip to La Cocina Que Canta, the cooking school and organic garden.

The school is located off the main grounds (there went my whole stow-away plan – foiled again), about a 5-minute drive away.  We explored the gardens with Chef Michel Stroot and I geeked out in my head, naming all the vegetables by their foliage.  After collecting some of our dinner ingredients, we headed back into the kitchen to prepare and enjoy a lovely meal.  Before long, our day had come to an end, and we climbed back in the bus to America.  Sigh.

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Chris came to pick me up at the Old Town Transit Stop, and as I jumped to see him and rush back into project mode, I was left with one hope – that I’d take some of this bliss back with me, that I could return to this magical feeling often.  I still think of this statue on the ranch grounds when I’m having a particularly stressful day – brings me right back.

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Such a fun getaway – big thanks to my generous hosts for this fabulous day!


The first big harvest at our new house (how long can I keep saying that it’s our new house?  A year?  Good, I’ve still got time) happened the other day.  We’ve of course been picking here and there all along – I’ll grab a handful of cherry tomatoes on my way to work, or gather a bunch of beans and brussels for a quick greens fix in the evenings.  There’s something about a big batch harvesting that feels different – when I end up with the cream of the crop, I’m inspired to cook in a different way.  I am lead by the source, not by my stomach.


Yikes – somebody needs to paint the porch.  Moving on…

Y’all have already seen where the first potato harvest ended up, but one cannot live on potato salad alone, no matter how delicious.  On the second full day of ‘Tater Fest, where we’d eaten potato salad for lunch and dinner (ahem, and sometimes breakfast), I wanted to come up with something new to accompany it.  I am starting the process of pulling out the brussels sprout plants, so had a bunch of baby brussels that never quite grew past the size of a quarter.  I also pulled some assorted sweet and hot peppers, so the two seemed like the perfect pair.  I was a little tired of roasted brussels (recipe: toss in olive oil and salt, roast at 425° until delicious), so wanted to try something new with them.  Here’s my solution:

Summer Harvest Veggie Melange

1 Tbsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp butter
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
2 cups small brussels sprouts, whole – if you only have bigger ones, cut them in half or quarters
1/2 lemon
3 sweet peppers, julienned
3 cups chard, stems removed and leaves cut into bite-sized pieces
Leftover BBQ chicken, optional – would also be great with a fried egg on top!

Boil the brussels sprouts in a pot of salted water until slightly softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Drain completely.  In a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over med-high heat until the butter starts to brown.  Add the garlic, then the brussels sprouts.  Try not to stir them around so that they get some nice browning action.  A couple of times during cooking, squirt the sprouts with lemon juice.  When you see that the brussels have browned on the bottom, add peppers and saute until the peppers have softened.  Add chard and let cook until softened.  Remove from heat and toss with chicken.

Add salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste and serve immediately.

The chicken was a last-minute addition, so I had to run back and grab the camera again – dinner is quite  the production in our house sometimes!  This turned out to be the best meal I’ve had in a long time – I was so thankful for the harvest.


Tater Hater

The most exciting crop I planted this year is potatoes – it certainly doesn’t sound sexy or fascinating, but the taters have surprised me!  Because they are hidden throughout their growth process, I had some serious doubts that anything at all was happening.  Sure, plants began to sprout out of the baby reds that I dropped in the ground, and eventually they flowered and died off.  I still had no expectations of finding what I did.  As I dug under and around each beautiful stalk, ruby red jewels popped up – the perfect potatoes straight out of the ground.  I actually yelped the first time I found one, and called for Chris to grab the camera (like they were going to run away).  I actually grew some potatoes!

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I ran back to the bed and dug up some more, and ended up with a big bowl of dirty, beautiful potatoes – now what to do?  I wanted to be able to taste the potatoes in all their homegrown glory, but wasn’t in the mood for a purely plain potato dish.  Since it’s been so warm here, it seemed like potato salad would be a good choice.  The problem with that choice?  Neither of us really like potato salad.  The traditional salad with heavy mayo and overcooked spuds is pretty unappetizing to me, so I had to do something different.  I also had an extra batch of garden green beans, just itching to be used, so this delicious tater salad alternative was the perfect solution.  From one of the Moosewood cookbooks:

Potato Bean Salad with Curried Mango Yogurt Dressing

3 C cubed potatoes
¼ red onion, thinly sliced (about ½ C)
3 C cut green beans (2” pieces)
2 C cooked chickpeas (16 oz. can, drained)
dressing ingredients:
1 C plain yogurt
3 tbsp. prepared mango chutney
1 ½ tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. finely minced red onion
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice

In a saucepan, bring potatoes and enough cool salted water to cover to a boil on high heat. Lower heat and simmer 15 minutes, adding green beans for last 7 minutes of cooking time so they are al dente together. Drain, place in a large bowl and immediately stir in sliced red onions. Stir in drained chickpeas and set aside to cool. Combine all dressing ingredients, and when veggies are cool, stir in dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste, and either serve immediately or store, covered, in the refrigerator.  My recommendation is to let the flavors combine and relax in the fridge overnight – this salad is better the second day.

Chris is even more of a tater hater than I am when it comes to potato salads, and he gave this one rave reviews, so it must be good, right?


Best enjoyed on a front porch, overlooking the source.  More to come on the greens dish later – possibly even better than the taters!

Phil’s Phavorites

I turned 30 this year – that’s right, the Dirty Thirty is upon us.  I’ve never been too concerned with age, with birthdays, so this wasn’t a tough one for me.  It helped that my husband whisked me away to Catalina to celebrate – ahh…


I have such fond memories of summer days spent in Catalina with my grandparents, who would take us away for the week in their boat.  We’d gorge ourselves on salt water taffy, dive off the boat with Grandpa, and explore the island by golf cart.  Total paradise.  I was a little concerned that going back as an adult would ruin all of my idyllic images of this place, but luckily it has held up over time.  We spent three days there, kayaking and camping down the coast (hence the dry bag stuffed full of clothes and the lack of pictures since I had to leave my camera at home).  It was heavenly – crystal clear waters, seals leaping in front of our kayaks, spending the night on our own private beach – our very own Blue Lagoon.

Of course, I packed provisions, and Phil’s Phavorite cookies were at the top of the list.  I started tinkering with this recipe years ago, and knew I had a winner when I gave some to Phil to try.  A good friend (now in Boston with his fabulous girlfriend), Phil is one of those rare critics who will tell you the truth about your dishes, and he raved about these.  I’ve made some changes to them since he’s last tried them, so we’ll have to have a re-taste to see how I’ve done.


They may not have photographed well, but believe  me – they taste way better than they look.

Chris and I paddled up to our island paradise and started to set up camp.  We were rushing through so we could fill our empty bellies with these cookies.  Unfortunately for us, the seagulls had the same idea.  We turned our backs for just a few minutes, and the cookies and the plastic bags they came in were strewn all over the beach.  It’s no wonder I hate birds.

We’d had a little early taste test the night before, so I’m confident in saying that this was the best-yet incarnation of Phil’s Phavorites.  Something about those yogurt-covered pretzel pieces.

Got your attention now, right?  Would you believe they’re (relatively) healthy?

Phil’s Phavorite Cookies

2 medium sized bananas
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups oats
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped raw almonds (or any other nut or seed you happen to have on hand)
1/4 cup chopped yogurt covered pretzels (the salt is delicious on these, so even plain pretzels would be great – this is a good recipe to get rid of those pantry odds-and-ends)

Mix bananas, molasses, honey, corn starch, applesauce, water, and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients, leaving the add-ins until the end.  Form dough into balls and bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookie holds together.  I make about 30 cookies with this recipe, but you can play with the sizes to make as many as you want.  Or you can make one big cookie.  And send it to me.