Orange Nutmeg Date Scones

Click here to view recipe.

Tea Time!

Tea Time!

I’ve been on a cooking and baking bender of late – it’s been a culinary extravaganza in my kitchen and I don’t even really know why.  My husband is away for two weeks and I’ve been filling up the freezer with soups, moussaka, chicken thigh dishes, banana bread, and now scones.  My entire condominium smells all day and all night with whatever I am making at the time.  The other day one of my neighbors even traipsed upstairs, following the sweet, wafting smell of baked goods … wondering in particular if I was using nutmeg… So I handed her a few delicious scones and decided that, even though I’ve written about scones in the past (both cinnamon chip and oatmeal & fruit), these were worthy of a share.

This particular version began in my head when my husband returned from a quick trip to California; he brought me a huge bag of plump medjool dates – my favorite.  I ate many of these alone – too many, in fact. Thankfully I stopped myself when I realized how delicious they would be in scones . I started with a recipe from Rose Carrarini’s book  Breakfast, Lunch, Tea.  I changed it a bit and I switched out and added a few things as well: I added orange zest because I feel orange and date marry well; I used salted butter because that’s all I had on hand as well as dark brown sugar for the molassasy taste and I brushed the tops of these scones with milk rather than egg just to simplify, then sprinkled them with a tiny tiny bit of raw sugar for crunch.  Heaven forbid I should ever make a recipe per the instructions.

I pretend these are healthful — I mean, whole wheat flour, dates, very little sugar.  Uh huh.   I do like my changes and the spicy and not-too-sweet result – as did my neighbor. So I hope you make these.   Oh, and they freeze well too.  I have a couple batches socked away for summer guests. I’ll simply defrost, reheat slightly and serve these a little warmish with some fresh soft butter.

Fresh Out of the Oven

Fresh Out of the Oven

Orange Nutmeg Date Scones

Makes 9-10 smallish scones



  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour (slightly round the measuring cup)
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour* (I use King Arthur brand)
  • 2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg**
  • Zest of 1 medium orange (I do this on the microplane)
  • 2 heaping Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 5 Tbsp cold salted butter, diced
  • ½ cup pitted, chopped dates
  • ¾ whole milk (reserve 1 Tbsp of this to brush on top)
  • 2 tsp turbinado sugar (for the top)

* I realize that “white” whole wheat flour sounds like an oxymoron. An easy way to think of it is as a sort of albino wheat. The bran of white wheat is not only lighter in color but it’s also milder in flavor, making whole white wheat more appealing to many people accustomed to the taste of refined flour.  I always use this when a recipe calls for whole wheat flour.

** Note: I grate my fresh ball of nutmeg on my microplane grater – I don’t measure but I can eyeball what ¼ tsp looks like. Fresh nutmeg is SO MUCH better than previously ground. Trust me.


Preheat the oven to 400°F with the oven rack in the middle. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Prepare your dates. I oil my chef’s knife because the dates stick and the oil helps me wipe off the stuck dates while I am chopping.  I then toss the chopped pieces with about 1 tsp of flour to keep them from sticking back together.

In a large bowl, whisk  together both types of flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  Add the brown sugar, whisking again, and then add the butter. Using an old fashioned pastry cutter, or two forks, work the butter into the flour mixture until there the butter pieces are pea sized or smaller. Sprinkle in the dates. Add most of the milk, and using a rubber spatula, stir it into the ingredients in the bowl. If it seems too dry and there is flour that you cannot incorporate with the spatula, add more milk until it comes together but isn’t too sticky.

Once the dough comes together in one lump, complete making it into a ball with your hands, pressing it and turning it to incorporate all the flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work pastry cloth – I love my silicone one – and pat it into a 1-inch tall disk  Cut the dough like you would a pizza (use a knife dipped in flour) into 9 or 10 wedges.   Place the wedges on the parchment-lined cookie sheet and space them apart since they will spread out.  Brush the tops with a little milk (I do this with my hands) and sprinkle with a tiny bit of raw sugar.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden. Serve warm – or, if eating later, reheat gently before eating.

Posted in Breads | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Lazy Days Turkey Thighs

With turkey day right around the corner –I couldn’t help but re-post this delicious turkey wing recipe. A little something different to jazz up your bird. (Originally posted in March 2014)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Click here to view recipe.

Turkey Thighs - Fresh Out of the (Toaster) Oven

Turkey Thighs – Fresh Out of the (Toaster) Oven

On days when you are not inspired to be creative but want something delicious, filling and easy – consider turkey thighs! I’m especially fond of them because you can roast them in the toaster oven or in your standard oven – easy peasy.  And you know how pork belly and bacon are foods du jour?  I predict that turkey wings, turkey thighs and chicken fat will soon be on every menu!  You saw it here first, folks!

Succulent Turkey Thigh Meat

Succulent Turkey Thigh Meat

Lazy Day Turkey Thighs

Makes 3-4 servings


  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ red or yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large turkey thighs (~1 ¼ lb each)*
  • 4 tsp spice rub
  • ½ cup chicken broth (does not need to be homemade)

*Turkey thighs at my upscale supermarket cost $2.99/lb and each weighed about 1.25 lbs; $7 can easily feed four! You can easily double or triple this recipe as needed.


Preheat toaster oven or regular oven to 425.  Line rimmed baking tray for the toaster oven or regular oven  with heavy aluminum foil.  Place onion and pepper slices on the bottom of the tray.  Dry the turkey thighs with paper towels, trim any excess fat and place them skin side up on top of the vegetables. Rub the skin of the turkey with olive oil and pat in the spice rub to coat the top of the skin.

Roast uncovered 30 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 325 and continue baking another 40-45 minutes or until the meat is really soft and the skin is crisp and dark.    Remove the turkey thighs and let them rest at least 10 minutes before tearing the meat from the bone (I do this wearing disposable gloves, and I save the bones to make stock).  After removing turkey from the pan, set a skillet on the stovetop over medium heat.  Add whatever is remaining on the bottom of the bake sheet to the skillet along with the broth and simmer until slightly thickened.  Remove turkey skin (or not – in our house we eat the crispy skin) and carve turkey meat.  Spoon onions and sauce over the top and serve with mashed garnet yams and oven roasted green beans with walnuts.

Note: When I turn the oven down after the first 30 minutes, I add halved small carrots and halved brussels sprouts to the sheet, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper.  This is also great served with brown rice studded with dried cherries.


Posted in Poultry | Tagged | Leave a comment

Old School Carrot Cake

Click here to view recipe.

My Very Favorite Carrot Cake

My Very Favorite Carrot Cake

The other day I was in a cleaning frenzy and decided to tackle my cookbook shelves – arranging the books from large to small and determining if any of my very old cookbooks could be gifted, sold or donated.  I stumbled upon a cookbook my daughter’s class produced in her early elementary school – 30 plus years ago!  Actually, Rachel recently connected with a former classmate from this second grade class – both of them are now almost 38-years old, and the friend told Rachel she still makes the carrot cake published in this cookbook – my very own recipe with my handwriting and all! At this point, I have no recollection of who passed this recipe on to me – but I am eternally grateful.

The Sweetest Recipe Book Ever

The Sweetest Recipe Book Ever

My Chicken Scratch

My Chicken Scratch









Gazing at the worn spiral bound book, I realized it was a precursor of how Rachel would turn out as an adult.  She was an early adapter and defender of the recent Supreme Court Ruling – way before everyone put a rainbow background on their facebook profile page, she was coloring rainbows and hearts.  And it never occurred to me back then how talented and artistic my 7-year old daughter would become.

Here is a toast to old recipes, to not abandoning butter and sugar and flour and…to carrot cake.  This is still one of my favorites to put together and to eat.    It’s a great recipe to make with kids, too.  And here is a bigger toast to daughters who become mothers and who teach their mothers about creativity, and who always stay in touch with past friends.

I love this recipe – I changed it from what is in the book by toasting the walnuts and reducing the frosting by one half.  I mean, how much frosting is really necessary in one serving?   I love this cake so much that I never, ever order carrot cake at a restaurant.  I’ve tried it at various places and it always falls short of this old, tried and true recipe.  And what you see here, the rectangular sheet cake rather than a beautiful round layer cake, is the result of my need to freeze this for future family gatherings.  Yes, it freezes so beautifully.

My Carrot Cake



Cake Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups (yes one and one half!) cooking oil
  • 1 ¾ cups white granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp soda
  • 2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • ½ tsp table salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • ¾  cups chopped walnuts, toasted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 350.

Whisk together the first four ingredients, oil through vanilla.  Sift together all dry ingredients and incorporate this into the egg/oil mix.  Finally stir in the shredded carrots and toasted nuts.  Put everything into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan or two round 9-inch cake pans.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a rack and then frost with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with toasted nuts.  NOTE: I cut the frosting called for by half, so if you are into frosting  you might want to make double the recipe here!

Frosting Ingredients
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • ¼ pound powdered sugar (looks like a little over a cup)
  • To top the frosting if you’d like: ¼ cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
Frosting Instructions

Mix cream cheese and butter and vanilla until smooth, then slowly add powdered sugar and enough milk to make a thick but spreadable frosting.

Refrigerate or freeze the frosted cake and eat with a tall glass of milk.  This tastes great for up to a week, but it never stays around my kitchen that long.


Posted in Cakes & Pies | Tagged | Leave a comment

Jamaica – A Heavenly Hibiscus Beverage

Here’s a repost of a popular recipe … I make it ALL the time and so many friends ask for the recipe. So here it is again! (Originally posted in October 2013)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Click here to view recipe.

Beautiful Jamaica Beverage

Beautiful Jamaica Beverage

As one of my latest adventures … I’m trying to learn conversational Spanish!  I figure it’s good for my aging brain, and I’ve always regretted that I didn’t master another language during my early years.  High school French isn’t that useful to me, and frankly I can understand a lot of this beautiful language, but I’m not ale to say more than a few words.  Years and years of Hebrew school?  Priceless but useless for me.

Spanish, though, is a language I long to speak – especially during my frequent trips to Belize.  English is the country’s official language, but most construction workers and restaurant workers converse in Spanish.  So I bought a computer program and tried to learn that way.  For me, though, I perform best when I converse with native Spanish speakers.  I don’t mind trying and sounding less than fluent – as long as I can communicate.

A couple of months ago I found my teacher, Norma, who hails from Mexico City but lives close to me in Seattle.  Once a week we meet for an hour and speak (well, mostly she speaks) in Spanish.

It didn’t take that long for the topic of food and cooking to come up.  I brought her some of my homemade tomato sauce (she calls it “salsa”) and she gave me some dried Hibiscus flowers to make tea.  She told me how to do it, and now I am in love with Jamaica (pronounced “ha my ick a”).  This is one of the beverages found on the streets along with Horchata in Mexico City.

Norma thought I would only be able to find the Hibiscus flowers at a Mexican tienda in town but I actually found them at Pacific Food Importers where I often get spices, beans, and cheeses.  I now have a huge bag of dried flowers in my pantry and make this tea quite often.

Jamaica concentrate

Jamaica concentrate

Jamaica Hibiscus Beverage

Makes 6 large glasses


  • 1 quart water, half to start and half later
  • ¼ cup turbinado (raw) sugar
  • ½  cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • A few thin slices  of fresh ginger (about one tablespoon of unpeeled slices)
  • 1 dry star anise (omit if you aren’t a licorice fan and use one inch piece of cinnamon instead
  • Lime juice (optional – I don’t use it)
  • Orange or lime slices for garnish

Put two cups of the water and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Add star anise (or cinnamon) and ginger slices and heat until boiling and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in the dried hibiscus flowers.

Cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain into a pitcher and discard the used hibiscus flowers, ginger, and star anise (or cinnamon).

At this point you can store the concentrate in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the drink.

When ready to serve, reconstitute the concentrate half with this mix and half with  water or seltzer water, pour over ice and garnish with a fresh lime or orange slice. This makes good tea if you use hot water too!

Posted in Beverage | Tagged | Leave a comment

Marinated Tuna & Bean Salad

Click here to view recipe.

Tasty Tuna & Bean Salad

Tasty Tuna & Bean Salad

I could have titled this “I am sick and tired of winter and our lack of fresh vegetables” salad.   Don’t misunderstand … I’m a lover of all things vegetal, but by the end of winter I am ready for more choices than root vegetables.  I’ve eaten so many carrots and parsnips and multicolored baby potatoes that it’s not even funny.  I’m over kale salads on a daily basis but I’ll come back to them.  Warming lentils and barley … enough already.  I’m looking for something savory, crunchy and filling with an assertive flavor that can be made ahead.

Ta da!  I resurrected this zesty marinated tuna-bean-crouton creation.  I don’t even know where the original recipe came from … I have switched and swapped ingredients and quantities ad nauseum.  It’s kind of an amalgamation of a nicoise and a panzanella salad.  It’s pretty healthful – though definitely not gluten free … but I don’t worry about that.

For some reason this hits the spot in March when it’s still a bit cold and I don’t want another bowl of stew or soup.  I imagine I’ll continue making this in the summer too – adding different fresh herbs from the garden, perhaps incorporating halved garden cherry tomatoes or fresh crunchy radishes.  I was thinking a little crumbled feta would taste good as well.

But for now, this is perfect as is.  We had this along with a citrusy fruit combination of grapefruit, orange, blood orange and red  grapes.  Yum, yum!

Marinated Tuna & Bean Salad

Serves 4



Salad Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups freshly made croutons (see below)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, and sliced in ⅛ inch circles
  • ½ large yellow pepper, thinly sliced into bite size pieces – about ⅛ inch by 1 ½ inches
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into ⅛ inch pieces
  • ¼ cup finely minced cilantro (if you hate cilantro, use fresh Italian parsley)
  • 1 15-oz can white beans, rinsed and drained-shake off all the water
  • 1  6-oz can line caught, good quality albacore tuna or good quality salmon, drained and flaked.  I used smoked tuna and it was divine!
  • 4 compari tomatoes, diced ½ inch
  • 2 Tbsp rinsed and drained capers
Salad Dressing Ingredients
  • 2 tsp grainy mustard
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp finely minced shallot
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp dry basil
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar (found in most supermarkets)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

To make croutons (which I do in the toaster oven):  Cut leftover baguette or any other high quality bread into ½ inch cubes and toss with one tablespoon good olive oil.  Place on a foil-lined, rimmed cookie sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until brown… stirring halfway through.  Cool.  Note:  You can use whole grain sourdough or other whole grain breads too.

Bring one inch of water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the sliced carrots and cook without covering for two minutes.  Remove the carrots from the water and drain – let them cool off before adding to the salad. For some reason blanching the carrots still keeps them crunchy but rounds out the flavor of this salad so don’t skip this step.

Prepare the salad dressing: I just dump everything into a narrow container and blend it with my hand held blender.  You can also do this with elbow grease and a whisk.  Set aside

Once everything is cooled off, put all the salad ingredients together in a salad bowl along with the blanched carrots and the cooled croutons and dressing.   Stir well, cover and refrigerate for an hour before eating.

If you make this a few hours ahead, everything can be combined except the croutons – don’t put those in until the last hour of refrigeration.   Garnish with cilantro or parsley and serve.

I have to say that even two days later, the salad tastes so good.  Yes, the croutons are more mushy but I thoroughly enjoyed leftovers.



Posted in Salads & Dressings, Vegetables | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lentil & Squash Fall Salad

One of my fave fall salads … originally posted way back in the fall of 2013 … it was too good to keep hidden so here it is again!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Click here to view recipe.

Lovely Lentil & Squash Fall Salad

Lovely Lentil & Squash Fall Salad

I don’t know if I should really call this creation a “salad” – it’s  more of a vegetable medley.  All I know is that I began with an old recipe that called for asparagus and squash, started adding and subtracting and came up with not only a wonderfully filling but a visually appealing dish. The original recipe called for 400 grams of canned lentils.  Canned?  NOOOOOO. Not in my kitchen!

All the vegetables came from our weekly farmers market.  I might even try this another fall day with halved roasted brussels sprouts in place of green beans.  I made this with my friend while we cooked together on a recent Monday morning, and we made an entire one pound package of brown lentils, used half for this recipe and kept the other lentils for another day. (I served my lentils with sauteed leeks, carrots, yellow pepper, and fresh herbs.)

As an aside, I love to add lentils to soups, salads (just today I put ½ cup or so of plain lentils on top of my arugula salad) and just about anything else that isn’t too weird.  They are inexpensive, and they only take 20 minutes to cook.  Plus they are high in fiber, iron, protein and minerals!

Lentil & Squash Fall Salad

Serves 8


  • 2 ½ lb butternut squash-seeded and peeled and cut up
2 red onions, halved lengthwise, then cut in half again and, cut into ⅛ inch slices
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pound green beans, cut off ends and cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ lb  dry brown lentils, rinsed, drained and cooked according to package directions
  • Crumbled feta cheese to top the salad if you wish (I didn’t put cheese on mine)

Prepare squash by softening for about five minutes in the microwave (see Squash Ravioli description). Peel, seed and cut into ¾ inch squares.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line two rimmed baking trays with parchment paper.  Toss the squash and onions with the olive oil, garlic and cumin and place them on the lined tray. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and ground pepper. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  Your kitchen will smell great at this point!

Meanwhile, blanch the green beans in an uncovered pot of salted boiling water for a few minutes so they are still green and a bit “crunchy” – just two minutes or so.  Remove to a large bowl of ice water and when cooled completely, drain beans on a clean dish cloth.

When everything has cooled to room temperature, combine beans, squash, onions and lentils.  Store in refrigerator.  When ready to eat, bring this to room temperature and drizzle with a mixture of one tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 ½ tablespoons good olive oil and a pinch of dry mustard.  Alternately, try adding some thinned tehina sauce to the salad along with toasted sesame seeds to top – a totally different but equally delicious version.

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Click here to view recipe.

Creamy Coconut Curry Shrimp

Creamy Coconut Curry Shrimp

So here is an easy weeknight recipe that’s highly versatile!  It’s great for a hot day … somehow curry always tastes perfect when it is blistering hot, and the spiciness of this dish makes me thirsty which encourages me drink more water.  Not to mention, the ingredients are found in tropical climates too.  All good, and it is a perfect vehicle to top my rice and beans in Belize.  Ideally I find fresh papaya or pineapple for dessert.That being said, when it is chilly out – as it often is in Seattle – curry warms me right up.   No idea why, but served with hearty brown rice and a kale salad, nothing tastes better.

What I am really trying to say is this: try this recipe when it is hot, cold, summer or winter.  It is easy and useful in  that you could substitute the shrimp with any type of firm fish or even cubed chicken.  Leftovers taste as good as the the original day you make it.  Nothing complicated or difficult to find here people, so no excuses.  Put this in your “To Make” file this week.  (And yes, I do actually keep a file for those recipes that pass muster and I want to try).

Curry Coconut Shrimp with Brown Rice

Serves 4



  • 1 pound medium sized raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons organic coconut oil
  • 2 large cloves minced garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 cup orange or red sweet  pepper, diced (green pepper is OK if this is all you can find)
  • I large carrot, peeled and diced ½ inch
  • 1 cup diced tomato-no need to seed or peel
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp hot sauce (I use Marie Sharps)
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (Better than Bouillion will work in a pinch)
  • 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk (shake before opening)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro to garnish
  • 1 ½  cups brown rice-cook according to package directions

In a large 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the coconut oil. Add the garlic, ginger, onion, bell peppers, carrot and tomato. Cook until tender, about five minutes. Add the cardamom, curry powder, black pepper and hot pepper sauce and stir well. Add shrimp and saute for five minutes. Remove shrimp and set aside. Add stock and coconut milk to sautéed vegetables and reduce over medium heat for approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Return shrimp to the sauce, add chopped fresh cilantro and barely simmer until heated through.   Serve on a bed of freshly cooked brown rice or farro or any other whole grain.


Posted in Fish & Seafood, uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Granola – Wellington Style

I can’t help but re-post this one … I make it EVERY month. A few new twists to try: add 1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut and ½ cup sesame seeds before baking and then 1 cup dry cherries after it’s out of the oven. Delish! (Originally posted in October, 2011)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Greek yogurt, granola and chopped apples

New Zealand. New Zealand. The name rolls off my tongue because I have been there two times, so far. I’m going back for certain, hopefully sooner than later. Our first trip, which I call “New Zealand 101: The Introduction” took place in October 2006. As usual, when my husband and I take a long trip, we travel during the “off season” or low tourist time. Happily we were able to use our free mileage on this trip. Understand that I am willing to sit in “economy” seats – I’ll cram myself anywhere in an uncomfortable place for a long plane flight to explore the world. I even put my belongings in a small carry-on bag (never checked) for overseas flights. And you know from my previous post that I always bring my own food. Obviously, I’m quite a low maintenance traveler!

Seasons are flipped in New Zealand so fall in Seattle equals spring in New Zealand. As usual, we only made hotel reservations for the first two nights where our trip began – Auckland, the country’s largest city and its commercial core.

After touring this beautiful place and outlying areas, we claimed our rental car and decided we wanted to get a basic overview of this amazing country so we headed up North and then headed to the South section as well. Cars drive on the left side of the road, and the driver sits on the right side of the car – exactly opposite of how we drive in the U.S. Thankfully, my fearless, confident husband drove. He also managed most of the navigation because I am, admittedly, map-reading-challenged. I was excellent company, though!

Hanging out by a beautiful Kauri tree

Armed with two basic guide books and a decent map, we drove north through Kauri tree forests and took a ferry across to the sunny beach town of Nelson. We then drove back south, stopping at small wineries, restaurants and museums. Most of the places where we dined were actually attached to wineries, and the food everywhere was beyond wonderful. For most of our trip we primarily stayed in bed and breakfast establishments, deciding at the last minute where we would end our day and phoning ahead to see if there was space for us. The final destination for the North Island was Wellington, the national capital. The city has so many excellent museums, parks, and activities that we stayed two nights at my favorite B&B of the trip – Thorndon House. Located in a central part of Wellington, our room was spacious and über clean, and the owners knew so much about the city and where to go!

Hiking the hills above Nelson

Imagine waking up that first morning to the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, ambling down the curved stairway and sitting down at a small white kitchen table. Sun filled the modern kitchen, and we were presented with a huge array of eggs any style, hot and cold cereals, yogurts, homemade breads – a veritable feast. Part of my chosen meal included the most wonderful, toasted granola I had ever had, and Gabby, the charming proprietress of Thorndon House B & B, made a copy of her recipe for me.

My version of her granola formula always fills a container in my kitchen with back up in the freezer, and I have had numerous requests for the exact recipe. It is adopted from Gabby’s printed recipe. I reduced both the oil and honey from the original recipe and sometimes I change out the type of nuts I use. Lately I have been adding about a cup of  shredded coconut and ½ cup of sesame seeds to the “basic” recipe. This is a ubiquitous go-to snack and condiment in our family.

And, this is one of my favorite uses of parchment paper so there are no messy, sticky cookie sheets. This recipe makes a large quantity but I often freeze it and take out a few cups at a time. I top my morning oatmeal with a tablespoon or two of granola and chopped fresh fruit, or create an instant dessert with grilled or roasted pineapple or peaches, vanilla yogurt and a bit of this wonderful concoction. Just the other day I layered, plain thick Greek yogurt with this granola and chopped apples…YUM!

I know many people make their own, favorite granola, but I am telling you that this one is a basic, no nonsense, easy to make recipe that can be used as an accompaniment for many foods. It has a distinctive crunchy and chewy texture and, unlike many of the store bought versions, it’s not too sweet.

Be forewarned that you need to buy UNSALTED, UNROASTED pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds and nuts – this really makes a difference. Store nuts in the fridge or freezer, not on the shelf as they can become rancid.

My Global Granola (Never before published or revealed to anyone besides family)

(Makes about 20 cups)

  • ¾ cup grapeseed or canola oil (measure first so honey will come out when you measure it in the same liquid measuring cup)
  • ½ cup honey
  • 18 oz of regular (old fashioned) oatmeal or same weight kamut flakes or a mixture of oats and kamut
  • Heaping cup of raw pumpkin seeds (NOT salted or roasted)
  • Heaping cup of raw sunflower seeds
  • Heaping cup coarsely chopped raw almonds, pecans or walnuts
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 and put racks near the middle.

Mix the oil and honey in a saucepan over medium & gently heat it to combine for about 2 minutes; do not let it boil.

Mix the dry ingredients in a huge mixing bowl. Then add oil/honey mixture until everything is moist. I put on disposable gloves to thoroughly mix the honey/oil mixture into the dry ingredients. Do this for at least 3 minutes so everything is evenly coated.

Divide onto 2 cookie sheets (lined w/ parchment) and form into rectangles so mixture is the same thickness. Bake for about 25-35 minutes – rotating cookie sheets halfway through. The mixture should be golden, and the room will smell like heaven.

Granola cooling on a pan

Let it cool on the cookie sheets for about 1 hour (it might stick together but will come apart). Then dump it back into the large mixing bowl and break apart. (I wear disposable gloves for this part too)

Let granola cool another hour once broken up so it is 100% cooled off.

End Notes:
  • Pecans and walnuts are softer nuts and easier to chop than almonds, but I seem to end up using almonds most of the time
  • Freeze in zip locks or sealed containers for up to four months.
  • Doubling the recipe makes 3 cookie sheets worth…bake 25 minutes or until it looks finished.
  • I have a plastic bench scraper that is great for this recipe. It is rounded on one side (great for scraping dough out of a bowl) and straight on the other side (for evening up edges and cutting soft dough).
Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Vietnamese-Inspired Salad Bowl

Click here to view recipe.

Vibrant Vietnamese Salad Bowl

Vibrant Vietnamese Salad Bowl

“Wow, you hit this out of the park.”  Those were the exact words of my not-so-famous food critic/husband when he began eating this salad recently at lunch.  You shouldn’t lend too much credence to his review since he loves my cooking (and me!) and thinks almost everything I make is terrific.  And he is convinced no food ever compares to what I create.

But in this instance, he was spot on.   I have made various versions of this Vietnamese-inspired salad over the years and have changed and switched it around.  As it stands, it is more of a salad “meal” complete with protein, rice noodles, fresh herbs, peanuts, cabbage….and this is better than any salad you will eat in most Vietnamese restaurants.  

This also makes enough for 5-6 pretty substantial servings.  If you are like me, you’ll want to eat this day after day for a while. Or, if you’re feeling generous, I suppose you could invite some lucky friends for lunch and pull out all the stops!

The only tough part of this is taking the time to chop vegetables.  I was lazy and sliced the napa cabbage in the food processor, then used the machine to shred the carrots as well. When in Rome… This summer, while you still have lots of mint and basil and cilantro available, MAKE THIS.  

So much chopping! SO worth it!!

So much chopping! SO worth it!!

Vietnamese-Inspired Salad Bowl

Serves 5-6



Salad “Topping” Ingredients
  • 2 cups of leftover shredded chicken, leftover grilled fish, steak or tofu (any protein is fine)
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped roasted peanuts
  • 5-6 oz rice noodles
  • 1 spicy red or green chili pepper, finely diced if you like heat (OPTIONAL) I put this on the side so everyone can choose the amount of spice they desire.
Dressing Ingredients
  • ½ Tbsp fermented chile paste
 (most grocery stores have this)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
 (add more to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp seasoned rice-wine vinegar

  • ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3-4 limes)
  • Zest of one lime (I use my microplane grater)
  • ¼ cup Vietnamese fish sauce
 (I like Red Boat brand)
  • ⅓ cup peanut oil
 or canola oil or sunflower oil
Salad Ingredients
  • ½ large savoy cabbage
, core and inner leaves removed and sliced thin
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves or basil leaves or a combo, julienned
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, julienned
  • ½  small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Half of an English cucumber, seeded and cut into ¼-inch by 1 inch pieces (leave the peel on)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned into 1 inch x ¼ inch pieces
  • 1 cup snow peas, cut into 1-inch pieces (if available)

Cook rice noodles according to package.  Drain well and cool then toss with a smidge of oil. Set aside.

Whisk dressing ingredients together, taste and add more sugar if desired and pour into an empty salad dressing container.  The dressing is fairly thin which always is my choice with cabbage!

Thinly slice cabbage then shred carrots.  (Note: I slice the cabbage and then switch out the blade of my food processor to shred the carrots.  And I always shred extra carrots for making an additional salad or to have on sandwiches.)   Cut up herbs, cucumbers, peppers and snow peas.  Mix all of the salad stuff together.

To serve:  Get a large shallow bowl for each serving.  Layer the cooked rice noodles, then salad, then top with shredded chicken or other protein.  Sprinkle with peanuts and diced spicy pepper if desired .  Drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of dressing and mix, then add more dressing if needed.    Enjoy with some summer fruit!

I store the salad, the rice noodles, the peanuts, spicy diced pepper,  and the protein in individual containers so I can use them and they stay fresh for up to five days.


Posted in Salads & Dressings | Tagged | Leave a comment

Bubbie’s Chocolate Macaroons

In honor of my kids’ beloved Bubbie who passed away this July – I am re-posting this recipe for Chocolate Macaroons. (Originally posted in March 2013)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Click here to view recipe.

Marvelous Macaroons

Marvelous Macaroons

Monday night March 25 was the first Passover seder celebrated by Jews all over the world. I believe this holiday tradition is THE most observed even by secular Jews. My family convened in Iowa for a participatory ceremony and meal with our oldest child, her family and multiple friends. We ended up with 33 bodies attending the service dinner. In a small house. In very cold weather, so outdoor activities and seating didn’t happen.

Last Year's Seder Celebration

Last Year’s Seder Celebration

We made many of the usual dishes this year – but swapped out a new chicken dish for the lamb tagine. For the eight days of celebration, we are supposed to avoid leavening or flour (i.e. bread, pancakes, pasta to name a few). I’m not crazy about Passover desserts made with matzo meal or matzo cake flour. I’m over flourless chocolate cakes. For the past six years we have reverted to homemade chocolate macaroons with fresh fruit as dessert. If you are more observant than me, you’ll scoff at this recipe as many of the ingredients aren’t really OK for Passover (condensed milk, sweetened coconut). For me, as long as there isn’t flour or obvious leavening, I’m good with it.

The originator of this delicacy is my 87 year-old mother-in-law, also known as “Bubbie.” Her method is recorded here and I do add an extra square of chocolate to the original formula just because I’m a huge chocolate fan. I also started using toasted almonds to deepen the flavor. I have tried melting chocolate with the condensed milk in the microwave and the cookies didn’t turn out as well, darn it. I thought it would save cleaning another saucepan, but oh well.

Rachel's Macaroons

Rachel’s Macaroons

These are not good for you in any sense of the word, but I make them anyway and always look forward to having them for Passover in lieu of the canned, mass-produced macaroons. I bake them a couple of weeks prior to Passover and carefully freeze them. And because they are a cinch to make, they are one of my “go to” cookie recipes if I am called upon to bake cookies for family or friends.

Bubbie Weissman’s Macaroons

Yield: 3-4 dozen


  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 squares unsweetened chocolate-Bakers or Hersheys is fine
  • 1 package (2 2/3 cups) sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup finely chopped toasted almonds (with skins) – I toast these way ahead of time in the toaster oven
  • 1 tsp. pure Vanilla extract
  • ⅛ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt condensed milk and chocolate over low heat in a small saucepan until the chocolate is liquid, stirring often. Pour into a medium sized bowl then add remaining ingredients into the liquid chocolate/condensed milk with a rubber spatula.

Make heaping teaspoon-sized blobs on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, placing them two inches apart.

Bake for 14-15 minutes until barely brown. Put parchment and cookies on the counter for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

  • Once completely cooled, these can be easily frozen between layers of waxed paper.
  • This can be doubled or tripled since there isn’t leavening in them. That way you can enjoy them for a long time!
  • You can make these larger and bake them a bit longer.
  • I am going to play around with replacing half of the coconut with unsweetened shredded coconut – the texture will be less moist I imagine, but I will report my findings.
Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment