California Eatin'

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Pickled Okra

Canning, Summer | September 6, 2017 | By

Pickled Okra homemade with love and a red pepper kick-Happy Birthday Babe!

Market Musings: The Grab Bag

Summer | August 5, 2017 | By

 Buying more squash when I grow squash…

Don’t underestimate the impulse buy at the farmers market also known as the Grab Bag.  It looks tempting enough to try, it’s easy, the price is right and it may push you to try something new.  So reach out and grab one!  Some of my recent best grabs have been dark red fleshed local plums, lemon cucumbers and gorgeous yellow green beans!  As for today’s grab I am not growing these squash and Patty Pans are delicious!

Living in the Country-Going to eat me a lot of Peaches…

Baby, Baby Foods, Summer | August 3, 2017 | By

Here in Northern California it is time for peaches!  We have them on our tree, our neighbors are sending more over, they are at the local farm stands and at the farmers market.  We are in the peaches and it is time to get in the kitchen.  I have a sweet summer dessert planed for some and baby food planed for others. 

Our sweet boy is 9 months old now and is continuing to explore some texture in his baby foods.  What I lovingly refer to as the chunky lumpy phase.  He makes great faces when he comes across those lumps…eyes wide open…his whole face wondering…What is this?  Then comes the exaggerated chewing using his tongue to smash the food against the roof of his mouth.  He has two bottom teeth, but those are for biting at foods not really for chewing them.  This months we will continue to explore texture and add in some spices.  Last week cinnamon peach blueberry was a big hit.  This week it will be chunky peach with curried carrot. 


The chunky peach is simply, peeled, diced and just simmered fresh peaches.  I like to cook the peaches a little to help deepen the sweet flavor and suppress the fresh tartness.  I pulse the cooked peaches with their liquid in the Vitamix until it gets to a slightly chunky texture.  You have to be careful to purée it long enough to cut through any potential stringy-ness.   I freeze them in little oxo containers and we are good to go.  Like making most baby food this one is a cinch.  

As for the sweet summer dessert, I made a family favorite Peach Blueberry Crisp.   The fun part about this crisp recipe is that is was adapted from a bar recipe so their is yummy crisp topping on the top and the bottom and we serve it with a spoon.   You can also use any summer fruit combination like peach/strawberry or strawberry/rhubarb-my family thinks peach with blueberry is the best!  I have adapted this recipe from the original and it has less fat, more whole grains with whole wheat flour and extra oats.  It is still delicious and still a treat!

Peach Blueberry Crisp
Crisp crust and topping
  1. 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  3. 1/2 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (6oz)
  8. 1 egg, whisked
  9. 1 cup roasted sliced almonds, walnuts or pecans
  10. 1 1/4 cup thick rolled oats
Fruit filling
  1. 3 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches
  2. 1 cup whole fresh blueberries
  3. 1/2 cup sugar (more or less-to taste)
  4. 4 tsp cornstarch
  5. 1/2 lemon juiced
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Prepare crisp crust/topping
  1. In medium bowl combine dry ingredients. Cut butter into small cubes and add to dry ingredients. Cut in with hands or pastry blender until butter is pea sized. Crisp mix should resemble coarse cornmeal in texture. With a fork carefully mix in whisked egg until mixture is moistened. Finish by folding in nuts and oats. Split the mixture in half and press half into a 13x9x2 baking pan. Reserve remaining mix for the topping.
Prepare fruit filling
  1. Combine peach slices, blueberries, sugar cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently fold to combine. When combined and cornstarch is dissolved add peach juice and all to the top of the prepared crisp crust. Spread in an even layer. Sprinkle on the remaining crisp topping.
  2. Bake for 40-45 minutes until filling is bubbling and the crisp topping has lightly browned.
  1. Seasonal fruit changes in sugar content, always taste fruit before sweetening it and adjust as needed.
  2. Additions: Can add flax seeds or wheat bran to the topping for more fiber goodness. I like to add some cinnamon to the fruit for extra warming and for more antioxidants!
  3. Serve with pure vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or Greek yogurt.
Adapted from The Nerds With Knives: Blueberry Oat and Almond Crumble Bars
California Eatin'

Market Musings

Summer | July 22, 2017 | By

It’s that time of year again-time for Summer Canning!  On the Menu Today:  Dilly Beans and Refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles.


The beans are from todays farmer’s market and we are growing pickling cucumbers this  year.

Peaches! Peaches! I just cant get enough peaches!

Summer | August 8, 2016 | By


I just love peaches, and its not only because they are ripe and ready to eat and growing in my own backyard.  It started when I was a kid in my family home.  My dear neighbor had an amazing white peach tree and he would give my family peaches every summer.  From those peaches we would make the most fabulous peach milk shakes.  A peach milk shake is peaches and vanilla ice cream and that is it.  The simplicity,  the flavor, the texture of the little bits of skin-It is just beyond amazing!


I have grown up a bit beyond the milk shakes and today would additionally like to share a recipe for a Peach Tomato Salad.  Peaches and tomatoes complement each other so well.  You will need to try them together this summer.  Combining them with Burrata cheese is just cheating, but also a must try.  Enjoy the season!

Peach and Tomato Salad with Burrata
  1. 2 cups baby arugula or spring mix
  2. 2 large heirloom or slicing tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  3. 2 large peaches (I prefer yellow for this recipe), sliced into wedges
  4. 1 round of Burrata cheese, drained
  5. Balsamic glaze*
  6. 1 sprig of basil
  7. Salt and Pepper
  1. Arrange arugula on a platter and top with alternating wedges of tomatoes and peaches. Pull apart the Burrata cheese carefully and nestle chunks in between the fruit. Drizzle with the balsamic glaze and finish with a sprinkle of torn basil leaves, salt and fresh ground pepper.
  1. If your not already a fan of Burrata cheese don't sub-in mozzarella find the real thing get it and use it. Burrata is a creamier mozzarella and well worth it.
  2. *I purchase my balsamic glaze from Trader Joes. It comes in a convenient squeeze bottle and is ready when you need it. Anyone who has reduced balsamic vinaigrette with all its pungent aroma s will embrace this product and not miss the lingering stink.
California Eatin'
Peach Milk Shake
  1. 1 Peach, sliced
  2. 2 large scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream
  1. Add peach slices to blender and mash with a wood spoon. Top with scoops of vanilla ice cream and again mash with the wood spoon. Blend until smooth and share with the one you love.
  1. The peaches supply all the liquid you need to blend these up. If you want a thicker shake drain off some of the peach juice and save for a cocktail before adding ice cream.
California Eatin'


BLT Love and Beyond!

Summer | July 12, 2016 | By

So It is officially summer and what that means in my kitchen are fresh no fuss meals and tomato season.  When you put those two together you get the BLT for lunch, dinner and really for whenever.  These days I might even eat one as a snack! 

Heirloom Tomato

I must admit that I am bit of traditionalist when it comes to the BLT.  I enjoy mine the best on lightly toasted sourdough bread. I start with my favorite sourdough battard sliced from Tin Roof Bakery here in Chico.  To it I add only real mayonnaise-let me make this clear-REAL MAYONAISE.  I don’t mess with this step.  You are making a bacon sandwich for crying out loud, but you are going to put non-fat mayo on it.  Mind blowing!  A crisp slice of romaine lettuce, the freshest preferably homegrown tomatoes, topped with a grind of pepper and pinch of salt.  To that add the perfectly crisp bacon and then the other slice of bread-in that order please.BLT

But for those of you who just cant help but try to take the BLT to the next level this list is for you: 

BLT and beyond…

  1. Lets start off easy for my sake.  HOMEMADE MAYO:  Mayo is made from whole eggs, vinegar, oil and seasonings.  It is a simple emulsion recipe-ya ok its a little food science and maybe some food safety so who better to learn from then Alton Brown. 
  2. FLAVORED MAYO:  I can really see this working.  My inspirations would be:  Feta Mayo, Basil Mayo, Dilled Mayo, Lemon Garlic Mayo, and Siriacha Mayo.  I would use fresh ingredients; herbs, cheese, chopped garlic and just mix and mash it into the mayo and add according to the classic recipe.
  3. ADD SHRIMP:  There is something very special about a shrimp sandwich.  It has a delicate sweet flavor and wonderful texture.  I might even pair it with the dilled mayo and really get into it.  Poached grilled or sautéed-just keep them fresh and add them to your BLT.
  4. This is almost a classic addition here in California, but go BLTA whenever possible.  The “A”  is for avocado of course.  As a nutrition minded person and a food lover it doesn’t get better than an avocado.  A few slices can really elevate the BLT, provide a hearty mouthfeel and some good fats.
  5. ADD MORE VEGGIES:  Of course I said that!  How about topping that basil mayo with thin slices of cucumbers and red onions.  Add bulk to the greens with any micro green or my favorite arugula.  With that we are getting really close to making this sandwich cover all the colors of the rainbow.  With the fabulous heirloom tomatoes out their we may indeed need to rename this to the  RAINBOW BLT.
  6. Lets make breakfast to go-ADD AN EGG.  I suggest a lovely over medium egg with some yolk to run over that bacon and down your chin.  Ok so put a napkin in your lap if your driving to work-but it will be worth it.  Egg has such an amazing texture and taste it really makes for a hearty, fresh and lasting breakfast sandwich.
  7. Add CHEESE…CHEESE?…Really?  Ok this is beginning to stretch my BLT boundaries big time.  The only cheese that may be soft mild and non competing enough to handle the marriage of flavors in a BLT would be a creamy mozzarella or burrata.  Careful they can come with a lot of moisture and ruin your sandwich.  So really we are draining it and spreading it on one side of the bread, then adding the tomato, bacon, lettuce and mayo on the opposing bread slice.  Ok I could do this.
Whatever you do this summer make sure and squeeze in a BLT while the tomatoes are full of flavor and delicious.  I hope to learn more about your BLT creations and maybe hear more from the purists as well.  Happy summer eating! 

Cherry Tomatoes

Stone Fruit Fun and a Skillet Plum Cake

Summer, Sweet | June 26, 2016 | By

Ok so its official the farmers market is full of just about everything you can imagine including the stone fruits.  My favorite thing this week are the plums.  So many varieties, the sweet and tart flavor are the perfect combination.   We also have a lot of pluots or plumcots.  They look like plums and are plum apricot crosses, but they are mostly plum.  They herald from Modesto California and they are delicious and not to be missed.  Read more about pluots and all the varieties you might see here.  This plum dessert was a little something special for my Italian sweetie as it had good bit of almond extract and went great with morning coffee.  I used Elephant heart plums which are larger, heart shaped, dark purple on the outside with dark red purple flesh-look for them they are amazing!  Read more about plum varieties descriptions from UC Davis here.

plum bowl

There is just something about baking anything in my cast iron pan that I just love.  This pan is such a work horse if you don’t have one get one and get to know them.  I will admit right out that I am not a baker, but I do bake.  As a cook, when I bake I follow a recipe to the “T” the first time and then tweak from then on out.  So this was not my first inspiration from the amazing Farm House Rules show recipes.  That Nancy Fuller is hilarious and grounded and the other day she made a rustic plum tart with ginger that looked amazing.  Her show calms me and soothes my hungry soul-not going to lie I am loving the super mom and grandma focus these days.   
One of the recent shows I caught talked about not catering menus to children every day.  Keeping birthdays special but exposing children to a variety of foods.  This is a hot topic and as a child nutritionist something I talk about everyday.  I like to call it food training and I speak of it as a job.  A job to transmit the joy and love of food-all foods to our children.  Creating the love of food starts at our own table.  So keep on keeping on with the great foods, sitting and connecting, and exploring the seasons and the markets together families!

Plum tart

This cake recipe actually came from a google image search and led me to Serious Eats and a recipe from Maria Del Mar Sacasa; 30-Minute Skillet Plum Cake.  This cake was a cinch to make, quick and delicious.  It is heavy on the almond extract but with plums that is really nice because they have a subtle taste.   This cake is perfect alone, but pairs nicely with a butter pecan or vanilla ice cream or yogurt.  Next time I will try it with peaches and vanilla extract-should be amazing!

A special thanks to “mother nature” my farm girl friend soon to be family for sharing her plums with me.  As a side note for the home orchardist, pluots are a great backyard orchard tree and you can read more about having them here.

Canner Lady: Dilly Beans and Dill Pickles

Summer | June 13, 2016 | By

Ball Jars 1
I am so sorry for the long absence, but I was busy riding out my first trimester of pregnancy.  I am going to be a mom in October!!  Never in my life have I disliked food or the subject of food more than during this time.  I could barely get through the grocery store-so unlike me.  I subsisted on mostly bland white foods; cold cereal, potatoes-all ways, and noodles.  I am so happy to be on the other side of that now and with more energy and food love.  Just in time for all the great foods of summer!
Pickle in CollanderLike many of you, I have been hitting the farmers market pretty much weekly.  I look forward to what is new and in season.  Lately, I have been crazy for apricots-just cant get enough and I know that one Saturday I am going to show up and they will be gone.  Gone the way of the cherries.  I gave up on cherries a few weeks ago one bland bag later and I knew it was time to say good bye.

I am thrilled to let you all know that I like to think of myself as a canner lady.  What this really means is that once or twice a year I haul out that big black calderon and my jars and pickle or put up some of the best of summer.

Today was one of those days!   Well before the Saturday market I had decided that if there were good looking green beans I would pickle some this weekend.  I not only found amazingly plump, firm and fresh green beans, but also pickling cukes or cucumbers and fresh dill.  It was a canner weekend home run.  So I decided to put up a little of both.  It really is important with canning to use the best and freshest ingredients and at the Saturday farmer’s market that was an easy order to fill.  I always hand pick every single bean.



Market Pickles

The recipe I use for green beans is the classic Dilly Beans.  The beans are trimmed and cold packed into hot jars, topped with a hot apple cider vinegar solution and processed.  For those of you who are also canners or long to be, I highly suggest a visit to the canning blog with an awesome recipe list.  She lists a dilly bean recipe but you can also find one in most other canning books. 
The pickle recipe is very similar to the bean recipe and this time I used the recipe for Garlic Dill Pickles for the proportions of the apple cider vinegar solution.



SpicesSo there are rules to canning and sanitation is very important.  It is advised to follow the processing rules for clean canning as far as sanitizing jars before you use them and processing foods long enough to be shelf stable. Canning is not quite like cooking especially for beginners or every now and then canner ladies like myself.  So I don’t mess with the vinegar/water/salt solution, however, I do play with the spices!  The fun in these recipes for me is the spice combinations.

My favorite thing to add to dilly beans is lemon zest and a really good pinch of red pepper flakes.   My beans come out with tang and a kick!  They are great alongside a sandwich or in a Bloody Mary!  I also really like to use fresh dill heads in my pickles and fresh dill weed in my dilly beans.  Other fun items to add to pickles include mustard seeds, dill seed, peppercorns, bay leaves, cinnamon stick pieces, whole allspice and peeled whole garlic. 
Pickle jars
Bean jars 1

Note:  Vinegar based pickling is safe to use on vegetables and there is little risk of bacterial contamination due to the high acid preparation (4-6pH) and when recipes are followed.  If you want to put up veggies sans vinegar, that is a different story and should involve a pressure cooker.  It is something that many people do but I have not explored that yet. 

This Canner Lady’s must have supplies:
The Cauldron:  Large porcelain enameled canning pot with rack
Magnetic lid lifterA hygienic helper for catching lids and rings in the hot water.
Wide mouth funnel:  I appreciate the help keeping my jar rims clean and ready to make good seals.
Wooden chopstick:  Or a plastic spatula for removing air bubbles.
Fun Labels:  Ok so this may not be a necessity, but I it makes everything more fun and beautiful!
Jars:  You will collect a variety but I love the 1 1/2 pint wide mouth jars.  They are super tall and perfect for beans or asparagus. 

Stay tuned for some summer stone fruit canning as I love to pull out a good jar of peach preservers and serve them over waffles on a cold winter morning.