Friday, January 30, 2009


Have I told you about my family's favorite salmon recipe? We all love salmon. And I have cooked it a lot of different ways. But at the end of the meal when I ask how everyone likes the new salmon recipe the response is, "it was good, but the lemon pepper salmon is the best." So, finally I stopped making new salmon recipes.

This recipe comes from a little restaurant in Lillehammer, Norway. Years ago, my cute Dad and I were traveling through Norway and we stayed two nights in Lillehammer. Both nights we ate at the same tiny restaurant filled with locals. The special of the night was lemon pepper salmon--you really can't go wrong ordering fresh Norwegian salmon so we knew it would be good. But it was amazingly good. We returned the second night and ordered the same meal, this time asking the chef to come to our table. He happily gave me the recipe and I couldn't believe it was so simple.

Also, the salmon was served on cobalt blue glass plates. I loved the combination of the pink salmon and the cobalt blue so when I returned home I bought 12 cobalt blue plates at IKEA, made in France, for $2 each! The salmon is always served on these plates.

Lemon Pepper Salmon
All you do is douse both sides of your salmon fillets with lemon pepper--and I really douse as you can see above. Then you pan fry it on both sides in a little bit of olive oil. That's it. And it is wonderful. It is my niece and nephew's favorite meal to request. If you are lucky enough to have any leftovers the next day it is great served cold on a bed of greens or just eaten straight out of the fridge for breakfast. Yum.

I served this recently with greens from the garden and acorn squash. That was simple, too.

Acorn Squash
acorn squash
brown sugar
maple syrup

Split the acorn squash, scoop out the seeds, put a little bit of butter, a little bit of brown sugar, and a drizzle of maple syrup in each squash. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour. I bake these in a small glass cooking dish with a little bit of water in the dish so that the squash stays moist. So, so good.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Last month, Jill and Hal from Sweet Life Gardens, built another garden box for us--this time for herbs. It is now filled with English thyme, cilantro, chives, Spanish lavender, French lavender, basil, dill, and oregano. And since I had a little bit of room left I added more spinach.

I have already used the cilantro (for more Mexican Tortilla Soup), chives (Buttermilk Salad Dressing), and thyme (for Ellie's chicken dish).

Planting by seed has been interesting. I think I should have started about two weeks earlier. We have enjoyed great salads with our lettuce varieties, spinach, napa cabbage, beet tops, and radishes. But still no broccoli, green onions, sugar snap beans, or carrots. And I have faithfully been applying fish emulsion to the soil! These must be some poky vegetables.

I have a pot of rosemary and love to pinch off a bit every time I walk by, the fragrance is beautiful. Considering the rosemary started off as three tiny twigs it is looking quite lush to me.

This past week we added three new fruit trees to our backyard. Two Anna apple espaliers and one Mid-Pride peach tree. Then I did something really scary. I (or actually Leslie) whacked off the top branches of our new peach tree. That is because Saturday morning Tammy, Leslie, and I attrended the Master Citrus Gardener clinic at Greenfield Citrus. One of the speakers, Terry Mikel from Maricopa Cooperative Extension, said an open center peach tree is the best for keeping the tree size under control. Since I was a chicken, Leslie bravely took the clippers and cut the top of the tree off--yikes!

There are no photos of our new young trees since everything in our backyard is a bit rough looking right now. But you get the idea of how the gardens (sounds rather grand, doesn't it?) and fruit trees are looking. And I can't forget about our two citrus trees--one Oro Blanco grapefruit and one Mineola tangelo--both planted three years ago. The grapefruit aren't ready yet but we did enjoy four really sweet tangelos, yea!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Don't you just love it when you find a delicious-looking recipe and realize you have everything in your pantry/fridge to make it? No running to the grocery store, no borrowing random ingredients from the neighbors. You can just jump in and start baking.

This recipe comes from a fun little cookbook (thank you Nancy!) representing wonderful Arizona lodges, inns, and hotels. Garland's Oak Creek Lodge has several recipes including these excellent muffins. Someday I hope to spend a weekend at Garland's. When I do, of course I'll report back.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups our cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together into a medium bowl and make a well in the center. Beat the egg and canola oil in a mixing bowl. Stir in the sour cream. Spoon into the well in the flour mixture and mix until the batter stick together and resembles biscuit dough. Do not overmix. Spoon into muffin cups sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

For Cranberry Sour Cream Muffins, plump 1 cup dried cranberries in orange juice and drain well. Fold in the cranberries, 1 teaspoon grated orange zest and 1 cup chopped walnuts.

Note: I toasted the walnuts before mixing them into the dough.

For Lemon Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins, fold in 1 cup blueberries and 1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Grapefruit is one of my favorite breakfast treats in the winter and spring. Almost every morning I have one as my dessert. I usually have hot oatmeal or toast and then finish off with a big, beautiful grapefruit. I love picking it off my sister's tree, piling it into the refridgerator bin, chilling it, taking it out and slicing through its thick skin, and then splitting it open to see that gorgeous pink juicy fruit. Sometimes I sprinkle a little sugar on top, often not. I take my little paring knife and slice it into wedges just big enough for a large spoon. After I finish eating the grapefruit I press my spoon into the bowl of the grapefruit and let the remaining juice flow into the spoon and slurp it up. After there is nothing left of the grapefruit I say to my other sister how sorry I am that she doesn't like grapefruit and is missing its joyful purpose.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


A good friend of mine, Lisa, is just starting to get to know a charming Brit named Lord Peter Wimsey. Lisa's husband gifted her with a few of the first of Dorothy Sayers' writings staring the amateur sleuth Wimsey. My friend is in for a treat.

Dorothy Sayers wrote these murder mysteries in the 1920's and 1930's. I haven't read the entire series but I have read those that include Harriet Vane, Wimsey's love interest.

Peter Wimsey is an heir to a fortune and therefore doesn't have to work. So he spends his time as a detective. He is aided at home by his valet, Bunter. This is not the same relationship as Wooster and Jeeves. Wimsey is smart and Wooster a loveable idiot. Bunter does make life easier for his lordship and I am jealous that I can't have a valet after reading all the ways Bunter takes care of Wimsey.

Harriet Vane is an Oxford educated writer who finds herself accused of murder when she first meets Wimsey in Strong Poison. Wimsey saves her from being hanged and the relationship continues through several more books, my favorite being Gaudy Night.

Good, crisp writing, strongly defined characters, and great British wit. My friend will enjoy.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


What a great trip! My sister, Tammy, and I went to Kauai for my New Year's Eve birthday. This is what my brother-in-law, Steve, termed the "Hawaii Five-O Project". Before this trip, everyone in my family had been to Hawaii except for me. I now understand why so many people love the island of Kauai. I have never been so relaxed and disconnected from everything as I have on Kauai. The picture above is the view from our lanai. Breakfast on the lanai every morning looking at that view!

That's our condo above--in the middle on the top floor. We could see the ocean from the couch. As soon as we walked in to our condo I knew it was the right place for us. We stayed at the Kiahuna Plantation on Poipu Beach and loved it. The South Shore is the place to stay in the winter--the water is usually more calm so snorkeling is great.

We had a favorite hike/walk that we found above the Maha'lupe Beach. Mid-morning was a great time to walk--the rains usually came at night and first thing in the morning.

These pictures show you why we loved this hike. The views are spectacular and we usually saw one or two people as we walked.

Lots of clouds but no rain. Whales spouting off in the distance.

The dirt in Kauai is a gorgeous red. Reminds me of Sedona.

We liked to sit here for a break. Wouldn't it be great to hike this trail every morning?

Hawaiian Shave Ice is a great treat on the island. We tested a few and decided JoJo's Shave Ice the best. This is not to be confused with a snow cone. You won't chip a tooth on this. It is finely shaved ice that is soft, not hard. You select a combination of three flavored syrups--I chose mango, pineapple, and passion fruit. And at the bottom of the cup is a scoop of macadamia ice cream--sounds odd but it is delicious.

Kiahuna Plantation has beautiful gardens. We walked through them almost daily.

Orchids seemingly grow without any effort. They are everywhere.

I had heard all about the roosters before I arrived. But I had no idea they are roaming all over the island and crow whenever! But they do add a bit of interest to the place.

Opaaka Falls flowed even more abundantly after heavy rains during the night.

Annini Beach on the North Shore. We loved this beach. The North Shore is gorgeous but not the place for snorkeling or swimming during the winter months--too rough. But I would love to stay there if I returned during the summer. If you head to the North Shore check out Hanalei Colony Resort--I would definitely stay there. Very low-key, understated Hawaiian style. The only resort on the beach at the North Shore.

Waimea Canyon as heavy clouds are lifting.

We spent a lot of time at Waimea Canyon. Lots of various lookouts along the road. Sometimes the clouds were so heavy you couldn't see 10 feet in front. So it was a gift when the clouds would lift and clear off.

Na Pali Coast from a lookout point. The best view of Na Pali is by boat or helicopter but the weather was too rough for either.

A most fun convertible. We drove with the top down every day even when it rained.

Sunset on our beach at Kiahuna.

Sunrise at Kiahuna Beach.
This trip was heaven. I loved every minute of it. From the moment we arrived at the small, Lihue airport I was relaxed. It didn't take a few days as it usually does to unwind. It happened right away.
The people are lovely, the scenery beautiful, and you don't have to plan much to have a really good day.
We had fresh fish daily. I read three books yet my nose wasn't always in a book. The rain was wonderfully refreshing. We would be walking along noticing blue skies when suddenly a sheet of rain came down for about 3 minutes. Night time would bring hard rains--so hard that it drowned out the noise of the waves hitting the beach.
Snorkeling was how you imagined swimming around in an aquarium would be. The fish looked as if they were hand-painted.
Kauai is a return destination for me and I would stay on either the South Shore or the North Shore depending upon time of year.
While sitting in the Lihue airport waiting to catch our flight home, a darling Hawaiian lady named Soli offered me and Tammy a Ti Leaf plant from her garden. She insisted we accept her gift which we did (after an inspection from the Agriculture department!) Soli and her husband have a home on Kauai and Honolulu. She had taken some clippings from her Ti Leaf plant at her Kauai home to plant outside her Honolulu home. She gave us a two-foot cutting that looks like feather duster. It is now in a large glass vase of water on our kitchen counter and we are waiting for it to sprout. We won't plant it outside since it is so dry here, but we are hoping we can keep it as an indoor plant to remind us of our perfect trip.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


This is a great treat-and it is not what you think. There is no ice cream--just over-ripe frozen bananas with milk, vanilla, and a little sugar. Instead of tossing out your over-ripe bananas, peel and freeze them. You can use them for baking and cold, frothy drinks.

Banana Milkshake
1 frozen ripe banana, cut into chunks
1 cup milk
1 - 2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top--yum!
Makes two servings
Recipe from Pinch My Salt.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise is the story of Ruth Reichl's time as the New York Times restaurant critic. This book is a great read. Ruth is a very good writer and has a great story to tell.

She is, of course, very descriptive of the food she critiques and the restaurants she visits. But when she is dressed-up in full disguise the story is fascinating. The specialized treatment she receives when the restaurant staff knows that it is Ruth the Critic versus the treatment she receives in some of her aliases is eye-opening. I don't know how much of that sort of thing happens in our local restaurants--I think in Mesa, Phoenix, and Scottsdale treatment of customers is pretty fair and decent. Especially now when they are just grateful you walk in the door.

But in New York City, Ruth the Critic is treated like royalty from the moment she walks in the door down to the larger raspberries they put on her dessert plate. She is credited with changing the way NY restaurants treat its patrons. She also focused more on fun little ethnic food joints. When she arrived at the NYTimes she started visiting these quirky little places instead of the 4 and 5 star french restaurants her predecessor was known for.

There are a few recipes sprinkled throughout the book. I missed those since I listened to her book on CD (Ruth is the narrator and her voice is great, too). So I've ordered a copy of the book from one of my favorite book sites, Abe Books. There is a recipe for classic New York Cheesecake that looks good. As soon as I bake it I will report back.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


This is the most delicious salad dressing. I tend to like sweet over savory salad dressings so this really hits the mark.

Jana's Raspberry Salad Dressing
1/2 c sugar
1 c salad oil
1/3 c red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
8 raspberries or 4-6 strawberries mashed (the more berries you add the thicker the dressing)



Our family loves spinach salad. The following are the variations we make depending on what we have available in the fridge.

Spinach (preferably baby organic)

Onions - either sliced red onion or green onions

Other veggies - either jicama, radishes, or grated beets

Fruit - strawberries, raspberries, granny smith apples, or mandarin oranges

Nuts - sliced almonds heated in a pan with sugar, praline pecans, toasted walnuts, or toasted pine nuts

Cheese - crumbled feta or goat cheese

Dressing - Raspberry dressing (see above) or Balsamic Vinaigrette

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Looking back it was a surprisingly good year of reading. And some of these books I've enjoyed on tape. Here is a list of last year's (can you believe 2008 is last year??) with comments. Titles with asterik* are highly recommended reading.

*American Lion - Enlightening
*Northanger Abbey - Excellent, comical (good to read at least one Jane Austen annually)
*Garlic and Sapphires - Very enjoyable
*The Clothes They Stood Up In - Quirky
Rise and Shine - Good
*Benjamin Franklin: An American Life - Very good
*The 5,000 Year Leap - Educational
*Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - Surprisingly good
*Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Loved it, better than the movie
Brunelleschi's Dome - Tedious
Bad Luck and Trouble - Entertaining
*Right Ho, Jeeves - Wooster and Jeeves are always great fun
*Luncheon of the Boating Party - Excellent
Julie and Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes- Sometimes good, sometimes horrid
Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came - Good, fun British Cozy
*Hamish MacBeth The Death of a Village - Good, fun
Twilight - dare I say just o.k.????
Buckingham Palace Gardens - Good
The Little Ice Age - Very interesting, sometimes felt like homework assignment
*Watership Down - Excellent
*Down the Garden Path - Very good, solid British writing, good humor
*Merry Hall - Good British humor
*Eleanor of Acquataine - Very good

Sunday, January 4, 2009


I love steel cut oats also known as Irish, Scottish, or Pinhead oats. There is more substance to these oats than regular oats, a more nuttier taste. Since these oats need to be cooked longer than regular oats, I cook a batch of oatmeal and put it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and dip into it for breakfast--this recipe makes 3-4 servings.

Boil four cups of water, add one cup of steel cut oats, stir and boil for around 10 minutes. Then let simmer for 10-20 minutes. If you like a nuttier texture you might want to reduce the total cooking time to 20 minutes. My friend Pam loves her oatmeal practically crunchy so she cooks hers for less time. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

To serve I put a scoopful in a bowl with around a tablespoon of water and heat for 30-45 seconds. Add sliced banana and a bit of brown sugar for a lovely treat on a cold morning.