Orange and strawberry muffins

I’ve never felt that Spring was my favorite season, given the colder climates I’ve lived in most of my life.  Spring used to be about wildly varying weather patterns (snow in May!), clumps of dirty, grey, melting snow, sand and dirt on the roads.  But this year it’s different.  Spring in Northern California is pretty spectacular!  After a wet winter, everything is green and color abounds in the landscape.  We are discovering that some of our trees and shrubs have brilliant and showy flowers at this time of the year, and the fruit tree blossoms have a heavenly fragrance.  And the roses…

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Chez Panisse

The beautiful card pictured above contains the March 4th menu from the downstairs restaurant at Chez Panisse, in Berkeley California.  It’s where I spent a magical evening, on my birthday, soaking in every detail of a dining experience I’d been anticipating for a very long time.  This iconic place, the product of Alice Water’s vision for a neighborhood bistro, has been in the same spot for forty-five years!  It was everything I hoped it would be. read more

Banana Buckwheat Loaf

How many times have you heard that familiar refrain, “This is the best ever recipe for chocolate chip cookies, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, chocolate cake, apple pie?”  I could go on and on…Everybody has a version of a classic favorite.  Banana bread qualifies as an example of an old-fashioned recipe that is open to many variations and re-interpretations, and this is my latest effort. read more

Rice Pudding

A while back I decided that my cooking needed to include more whole grains.  I searched the internet and kept coming back to a site that I’d heard a lot about:  Anson Mills.  Anson Mills is a purveyor of heirloom and organic grains.  Based in Columbia, South Carolina, they specialize in all manner of whole grains, from wheat, corn and rice, to farro and buckwheat.  There are specialty flours for baking and whole grains for both savory and sweet applications. read more

Anadama Bread

Isn’t it amazing how quickly one can adapt to a new climate?  After months of high California heat I’m finding temperatures in the 70’s a little chilly.  And those 50’s at night?  Wow, get out the sweaters and hot beverages right now!  Last weekend’s Farmer’s Market yielded the usual perfect seasonal bounty and I was off on a soup and bread-making spree. read more

Pumpkin Chiffon Cake

At last!  Cooler weather and the chance to enjoy fall flavors and oven-baked goodies has come to Northern California.  And, some rain has refreshed our parched earth, to the extent that our roses are blooming.  There is not the usual change of color to the foliage, but it is there, to a lesser degree.

Pumpkin Chiffon Cake

Pumpkin Chiffon Cake

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Mushroom Bread Pudding

I have been baking up a storm here this past week, breaking in my new oven and all.  There has been an abundance of sweet treats, like apple and pear pie, pumpkin gooey butter cake, and plum- topped coffee cake.  And now I am in the mood for savory autumn flavors.  Is stuffing as popular a savory side dish in your family as it is in ours?  If so, then this version, a savory bread pudding, is simply stuffing, kicked up a notch (or two). read more

Challah

The high heat of Northern California and a finicky oven have put me in a state of “baking withdrawal”.  So when the heat abated at the beginning of this week, I got busy in the kitchen.  What a great feeling to get my hands on some yeast dough again!  I love the process of mixing, kneading, and proofing dough. read more

Fig Muffins

Do you love to collect cookbooks as much as I do?  Are you the kind of person who waits patiently for that special book, the one from a popular restaurant with a menu you would desperately love to recreate in your own home?  One day Amazon sends you a kindly reminder:  that book on your wishlist is available.  You hastily place the order, without carefully scrutinizing the reviews (after all, a prominent Food Network star gushed about this book).  And then, you get in the kitchen to try a recipe… read more