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Tangerine Sorbet

14 Aug

The summer of 2010 was full of micro-farming, friendly dinners and lunches, and delicious learning experiences thanks to my friends Eddie, Stephanie, and Iris. They are the founders of Cuatro Caminos Collective. They planted the seed to what is now a number of micro-farms, gardens, coops, and urban dinner gatherings. (Yes, yes, I know.)

That same summer, Atticus, Christopher, and I enjoyed the fruits of our labor (ba-dam-bam!) in the cozy little home in San Dimas, California. A bountiful pomegranate tree, a couple of varieties of summer squash vines,  a sun-ripened berry bush, gigantic Swiss chard plantings, and fragrant herb plants provided the food that graced our breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates.

One superstar that has since perished was the tangerine tree. Those were the absolute best tangerines I have tasted! My father-in-law, along a few other nit pickies, complained about the amount of seeds in these tangy, sweet treats. But, I grew up accustomed to seeds. In fact, I am completely freaked out that in the US we are hard pressed to find a single grape (organic or otherwise) that contains a single seed. It’s just doesn’t seem right.

This recipe is one that everyone with a fondness for citrus, even those folks who cannot stomach the idea of unwanted seeds touching your lips, will enjoy. To quote my pal Eddie about this one, “I felt like I was in that one movie, Ratatouille. But instead of food, I was chasing after an ice cream truck.”

Well, I have seen the flick, and I’ve enjoyed it, so I’ll take that as a compliment to the nature gods of tangerine fruit trees.

Be sure to always use the most fresh and tasty ingredients. It makes a world of difference.

Tangerine Sorbet


3/4 C sugar, organic, raw
3/4 C water
2 c tangerine juice, from about 16 tangerines, CHILLED
1 C liquid of choice* (milk, cream, rice water, Prosecco), CHILLED
*I used water in which rice had been soaking overnight, and I thought it was perfect.
1/4- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (make sure it’s pure … no added shtuff)

ice cream maker


Make-ahead Syrup
Stir water and sugar in a small saucepan.
Heat over medium heat until sugar is just dissolved (no more stirring).
Put in refrigerator in a small container.
Allow to chill completely.

Pour syrup, juice, chilled liquid of choice, and vanilla into the opening of the ice cream maker.
Turn machine on.
Allow 25-30 minutes to work into an icy goodness.
Pour into a freezer-safe container with lid and allow to set for 2 hours in freezer.
(I stirred it up after 30 minutes, so that the end-product was not too stiff or icy.)


Rosewater frosting

20 Jun

May came and went. But, it was not for lack of things to do, people to celebrate, or events to remember.

The fifth month of the year immediately follows my mother-in-law’s birthday (and mine), and then it actually consists of our wedding anniversary (sometimes coinciding with Mother’s day), Christopher’s birthday, Mother’s day (often coinciding with my brother-in-law’s birthday that also happens to fall on our anniversary), and my own brother’s birthday, which also happens to land on the same day as my sweet little niece’s birthday.  Whew. Is your head spinning? Because mine does ever since I’ve been married. And the spinning increases with the years.

So, of all these celebrations, efforts and hearts seems to naturally focus on one special little girl’s day. It was, after all, her very first birthday.  Sweet Juliet turned one on May 23rd, and I was fortunate enough to have a very willing mommy ready and (dare I write?) eager to listen to my silly, elaborate crafty ideas.

Perhaps my favorite thing of all was the cake. Melissa, the proud mommy, baked three layers of perfect chocolate cake, and I piped on the pink frosting with a 1M tip. SO easy! And, the result was truly a happy one.

Rosewater Cream Cheese Frosting


½ C butter (set at room temp about 10 minutes but still cool)
6 oz. cream cheese (directly from fridge)
4 C powdered sugar, organic
2-4 T rosewater
1 drop natural food coloring (I get mine at Whole Foods)


Place butter in a large mixing bowl and blend slightly.
Add cream cheese and blend until combined, about 30 seconds.
Add powdered sugar and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy.
Slowly add the rosewater, a little bit at a time until desired consistency is met. Don’t add too much if you want the frosting to stay in place when piped onto cake.
Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

Use at once or keep refrigerated. (This frosting will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, but you may need to re-beat it for the best texture.)

Happy frosting!

Pear and Blackberry Clafoutis

8 Jun

I find the human mind fascinating. The way a smell can trigger a memory has always seemed incredible. It’s really one of the reasons I like to cook and bake so much. Most of us know the comfort brought on by the aromas of our mothers’ chicken soup, tamales, or whatever favorite dishes might have graced our childhood home.

Music is another one of those triggers. Do you know The Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace tune?

Chantilly lace and a pretty face
And a pony tail hangin’ down
A wiggle in the walk and a giggle in the talk
Make the world go ’round.

While this song and especially the pronunciation of Chantilly have almost nothing to do with the small city town itself, it will forever remind me of the first time my lips touched the simple yet beautifully presented dessert known as clafoutis. my mother-in-law sang the silly song to Atticus the entire way to the Château de Chantilly and back to our Marriot rental in northern France.

At the end of our visit to the Chateau de Chantilly in 2010 (Chris, Atticus, Granddad, and Grammy)

I can also never forget the amazing creme Chantilly with which the subtly sweet clafoutis was served.

Creme Chantilly with strawberries. Yes, you really can eat this by the spoonful– it’s that delicious!

I’m convinced that the richness and heavenliness (I don’t even care if that’s not a real word) of the creme is directly related to the milk cows’ diet, and that I will never, ever be able to replicate it unless our little family moves to France. Sigh.

So, when I asked my co-worker Chrissy what she would like me to make for her birthday, she opted for something simple like a German pancake or a Dutch baby. I’ve like both, but I thought the clafoutis would fare better at room temperature for an in-office type of meal, plus the presentation would be a good one. And, actually it’s really easy. The most difficult, labor-intensive part is peeling and slicing the pears. Big deal!

Pear and Blackberry Clafoutis


1 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 C plus 1 T organic raw, granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
6 T all-purpose unbleached flour, organic
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 to 3 firm but ripe Bartlett pears
12-15 blackberries, or enough to place sparingly over the dish
1 T powdered sugar, for dusting
creme Chantilly, whipped cream, or creme fraiche (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter a 10 X 3 X 1 1⁄2-inch round baking dish and sprinkle the bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon of the raw, granulated sugar.
Beat the eggs and the 1⁄3 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
On low speed, mix in the flour, cream, extracts, zest, and salt. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel, quarter, core, and slice the pears. Arrange the slices in a single layer, slightly fanned out, in the baking dish.
Pour the batter over the pears.
Then, gingerly place the blackberries throughout the top of the dish.
Bake until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, 35 to 40 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and topped with whipped cream.*

* I strongly encourage anyone with a tested creme Chantilly recipe to fill me in on the secret!

Happy eating!

My Favorite Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

4 Jun

Christopher and I try to be healthy. We really do. In fact our latest health craze has gotten us into a big intake of fruits and leafy greens. Our own jumping onto a green smoothie revolution wagon– and we’re taking as many people as we can on that journey.

I eat this way, so that I can feel light and energetic and happy. I also eat this way because I want to be able to indulge in new and old favorites without the guilt.

So, the other evening, I revisited a chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe I had spotted several months back on the Apple a Day blog, and I gave the cookie my own little organic, slightly experimental twist.

I try to use as little refined sugar as possible in my desserts, and lately the only sweeteners I have had stashed in my cabinet of baking goods have been maple syrup, raw honey, and organic, raw sugar. The last two especially bring back memories of my childhood with my paternal grandmother– the smells, sounds, and tastes of early mornings and peaceful, star-filled nights at my Nina’s ranch in Baja, California. “Mi Nina” was a beekeeper, one of her many trades, and she readily used honey in the kitchen and to treat scrapes and cuts.

But, every evening, she would sit at her kitchen table, pour herself some coffee, and ask me to pass the sugar. Grainy, brown-ish sugar. When I became an adult, I started seeing the stuff advertised as Turbinado or raw sugar, but I had always thought of it as “Mi Nina’s sugar.” You know, the unrefined Mexican stuff that most of us gringos wouldn’t dare touch with a ten-foot pole.

A few years ago, I started using it as a substitute for white sugar, and for this recipe I’ve used it exclusively– even instead of brown sugar.  The crunch added to this chewy cookie makes me feel so giddy. I hope you enjoy it as much as Atticus, Christopher, and I do.

My Favorite Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

3/4 C unsalted organic butter, softened
1 C organic, raw sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 C organic unbleached flour, sifted
1/3 C organic whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 C organic semolina flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 C bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Sugar crystals will still be visible. Add egg and extracts and blend.
Mix in flours, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.
With a  tablespoon, drop dough onto a prepared, parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 7-8 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges.  (The tops will not brown, but do NOT bake longer than 9 minutes.)
Allow to cool 15-20 minutes on the baking sheet, then gently transport to cooling racks. Cookies will seem underdone, but they will be just perfect (at least for me) when completely cooled.
I would love to read about your favorite cookie recipes.
As always, happy eating!

Macaroon Nests

8 Apr

In 2010 a friend of mine asked me to prepare some baked goods for what she called a collaborative Mother’s Day boutique. It was an incredible amount of work; but, while the labor and the finances didn’t quite match up, I did end up with a very satisfying coconut macaroon recipe. At the time, I had scoured recipe upon recipe that I found on the internet and in my own collection of cookbooks, and here’s what I came up with:

Chocolate-dipped macaroons from 2010

I don’t like the idea of using anything artificial, and I continue to lean more and more to fresh, pesticide-free ingredients.
These almond-y mounds fit the bill and were a big hit with all us coconut freaks.

Earlier this month I decided that for Easter I would turn my macaroons into little nests, an idea that I had been toying with for over a year. It’s really a very logical next-step– I love all things bird-nest-like. Besides, coconut is the perfect edible nest ingredient.

I guess deep-down I knew that someone must have already thought of this, but I must admit that when I spotted the Coconut Macaroon Nutella Nests on the Two Peas & Their Pod blog, my heart sank ever-so-slightly.

Nutella nests. I secretly like mine better– no condensed milk! Also, the organic semi-sweet chocolate chips in my recipe solidify and make the job of transporting these cookies much less messy.

Luckily, I got over my heart break long enough to read the Two Peas & Their Pod recipe, decide I still preferred my original idea, and give this experiment a go, with 20 minutes to spare before our family Easter lunch.

Kosher Coconut Macaroon Nests

Place 3 chocolate chips in the center dimple of the nest before baking in a 350-degree oven until cookies are slightly golden. I like my macaroons to be tender.


4 egg whites, large
3/4 c sugar, raw
3 c shredded coconut, lightly packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

1/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips, enough to put 3 chips in each nest

1/3 c mini egg candies, I used Boston baked beans

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a cookie tray with parchment paper and light brushing (or spraying) of oil to prevent cookies from sticking.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites for 3 minutes, until stiff. Gradually add sugar and extracts. Continue to mix at low speed until raw sugar crystals are no longer obvious.
With a wooden spoon or spatula, blend the coconut with the egg white mixture. Use a tablespoon to create tightly packed mounds. Set mounds relatively close together on the cookie tray, about 1/2-inch apart. Remember, these cookies won’t spread in the oven.
Create dimples in the center of the mound with your index finger dipped in fresh water. Dip finger in water with each new dimple. (This should make your job less messy.)

Put 3 chocolate chips in the center, inside each ‘dimple.’
Bake for 7-12 minutes, until desired golden color.
Place tray on stove top and place 1-3 mini egg candies, using the melted chocolate chips as an adhesive.

Cool cookies completely in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Remove from freezer and allow cookies to sit at room temperature. Chocolate should be solidified at this point.

I am so happy with how these turned out. There’s no reason these nests should be confined to Easter use. I envision a spring or garden-themed birthday party and, of course, a baby shower.

Happy eating!

St. Patrick’s Day at home: Wholesome Thin Mints after Corned Beef

18 Mar

A stack of minty cookies

There’s something about the mention of a meaty meal and a classic American cookie in the same sentence that seems bizarre– even unappetizing, but I ask that you read on and suspend any ounce of doubt.
Ever since I started hanging out with the Ragers (back when I was simply ‘Pena’), I learned the true meaning of St. Patrick‘s day and the culinary contribution that the Irish have made to dreary, overcast days.

My turn to dish out a satisfying corned beef and cabbage meal came this year.
For years, I had also been meaning to try Heidi Swanson’s All-natural Thin Mint cookies. She published the recipe on her blog in 2006, but it was not until Chris bought me the Super Natural Cooking cookbook that Heidi’s mint chocolatey concoction settled itself into the recesses of my mind. I found everything I needed, including whole wheat pastry flour, at Whole Foods. And thanks to this hipster-targeting conglomerate, I was able to fulfill my wholesome thin mint fantasy on short notice (one evening before our lunch). No high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Victory!

I’m happy to report that both first-time attempts turned out better than I could have hoped. Paired with a couple of stouts and fun conversation, I can say that my belly and my heart are full.

Cheeses of the Irish variety

Kerrygold Dubliner with Stout

Corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes, and roasted carrots. Perfect for a rainy March afternoon.

All-natural, shamrock-shaped thin mints

Corned Beef, Cabbage, and Potatoes

1 4.5-lb flat round corned beef (already marinated)
2 one-pint cans Murphy’s or Guinness stout
4 C water
3 lbs Potatoes (I use red), quartered
1 head Cabbage, quartered
Himalayan Sea Salt, to taste

Place beef in a large stockpot. Pour beer and enough water to entirely cover the meat. (You will use some of the liquid later for the cabbage and potatoes.)
Cover and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low immediately after boiling and simmer for 3 hours.
Remove 4 C liquid from stockpot. (Be sure to leave enough liquid to cover the beef.) Simmer corned beef for an additional 30 minutes, while potatoes are boiled and carrots are roasted.
In another large pot, bring the  potatoes and broth to a rolling boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low for 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, add cabbage, sprinkle with salt to taste, and cover.
Meanwhile roast carrots as directed in a previous post about Pesto Roasted Vegetables.

Remove beef from the broth and slice, cutting against the grain. Serve immediately, submersed in the au jus to keep the beef piping hot and moist.

Remove potatoes and cabbages from broth and serve immediately.

Remove roasted carrots from baking tray and serve immediately.

Wholesome Thin Mints

Directly from Heidi Swanson’s All-Natural Thin Mint recipe.

Chocolate Wafers:
8 ounces organic butter, room temperature
1 C organic powdered sugar
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 C cocoa powder
3/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour

Chocolate Peppermint Coating:
1 lb good quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2-2 tsp natural peppermint oil (to taste)

I’ve included visuals that might help:

Organic chocolatey powder

Cream butter and sugar to the consistency of thick frosting.

Mix until dough is no longer dusty and still crumbly. Do not over mix.

At this point, I simply kneaded the dough in its bowl twice and formed a huge ball. I placed the dough in small trash bag and flattened the ball out to a 1-inch thick disk before placing it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Then it was ready to roll out to 1/16 of an inch thick.

Rolling out the dough still inside the big plastic bag

The fun part was next.

Auntie Lucille's cookie cutter

Shamrocks baking

Hold coated cookie up with a fork until no longer dripping. Try tapping the fork gently on side of pan.

Thin mints and ice cream

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and happy eating!

Brown Sugar Hot Fudge

26 Feb

Another winner from Christopher’s lovely mom.

“I got this recipe from Auntie Joan years and years ago. I had always used white sugar, but then I found out that Darlane used brown sugar in hers, so I switched.”

~Sharon Rager (neé Svendsen)

Thank goodness for Darlane, my mother-in-law’s best friend, and her brown sugar wisdom.

I’d choose brown sugar over the white, bleached stuff any day (just don’t tell my mother-in-law). I bake it into shortbread; I throw it into cake recipes for a super moist effect; and, now I will forever use brown sugar for this addicting hot fudge.  Only chocolate haters will shy away from this one.

I promised this recipe earlier, when I posted the Buttermilk Pound Cake recipe on Valentine’s Day; and, when I heard that I might have some University of La Verne visitors this weekend, I knew I had the perfect excuse to indulge.

Lucie, Phuong, and Walter are three of the most outstanding students I met while working at the University of La Verne. I was an international student advisor for just over a year at my alma mater, but I suppose the fact that these three wonderful people drove over bearing gifts of fizzies and food (Belgian beer and international food!) is telling of the some of the friendships forged.

These Vietnamese spring rolls came with a citrus-lemon grass sauce and a peanut sauce.

Lucie and Walter contributed Colombian empanadas from Sabor Latino Grill in Montclair, CA.

This could have been a perfect Academy Awards party– too bad our television doesn’t tune into ABC– yes, this is a true story, and, yes, this is as pathetic as it gets. But, at the very least, we were able to enjoy a satisfying lunch before my friends left to find a decent TV set.

Earlier, though, my little boy had been excited to help with the beloved hot fudge recipe from Grammy. So, while Chris grocery shopped, Atticus and I “slaved” over the stove.

Melt the unsweetened chocolate and butter over low heat.

Pour in the brown sugar-milk mixture. Keep on low heat.

Easy: Get a three-year old with a serious sweet tooth to help you stir, stir, stir. (The fudge is only warm at this point.)

Brown Sugar Hot Fudge


2 squares Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate
1/4 c Organic unsalted butter
1/2 c Evaporated milk
2 c Organic brown sugar
1/2 tsp Pure vanilla extract
pinch salt

In a mixing bowl, stir together sugar, milk, and salt. Set aside.

In medium a saucepan, over low heat, melt together chocolate squares and butter.

Slowly pour sugar mixture into saucepan. Simmer and stir constantly until fudge is no longer grainy.

Add vanilla.

Enjoy over your favorite ice cream.

Happy eating!