• Herbs,  Recipes,  Vegan,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian

    Sauteed Fennel


    Sautéed fennel alongside squash bread pudding.  The bread pudding recipe I have to work on, but not the fennel!  It was so easy and so fantastic!
    Sautéed fennel alongside squash bread pudding. The bread pudding recipe I have to work on, but not the fennel! It was so easy and so fantastic!

    Fennel is a sweet-tasting bulb with a satisfying crunch. This recipe is quick and easy, and absolutely delicious. I don’t have a good photo of it because, frankly, we ate it before I could make the light better.

    Fennel apparently doesn’t have any companion plants according to every source I’ve checked.  I grew a couple of bulbs in a polyculture bed without any problem, but to be on the safe side give it a spot by itself.  Allow some to go to flower and you’ll attract lots of pollinators, and also have a host plant for swallowtail and other butterflies.

    This recipe serves two as a side dish; feel free to up the number of bulbs.  Enjoy!


    Sauteed Fennel
    Recipe type: Side dish
    Cuisine: American
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 2
    A simple, quick and utterly delicious vegetable side dish.
    • One fennel bulb
    • ⅛th cup olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Squeeze of lemon or lime
    1. Cut the top and bottom from the fennel bulb, then slice the fennel into small strips, about ¼ inch thick or so.
    2. Heat oil in a large frying pan and adjust heat to medium.
    3. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally to evenly brown, about ten minutes or until fennel is tender. Fennel should be slightly carmelized.
    4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Serve with a squeeze of lemon or lime, if desired.

  • Beverages,  Breakfast,  Fruit,  Permaculture and Edible Forest Gardening Adventures,  Recipes,  Vegetarian

    The Passion of the Fruit: Homemade Juices

    Hi there. It’s Miranda the Guestblogger again, and today I want to talk to you about juice. You know, The Big Drip – Drosophilid Milk, Agua Fresca, Drupe’s Tears, Essence of Mesocarp: JUICE.

    Here at Finch Frolic Garden, we like a nice fresh juice.  As I am officially the FFG Harvester (a.k.a. Fruit Maven), I also take on the mantle of One Who Figures Out What To Do With Some Of The Stuff That’s Been Harvested – and let me tell you, that’s not a title to take lightly.

    In the summer, it’s hard to keep up with all the produce and we hate to waste anything, even though spoilt food just goes back into the soil via compost here.  We really like to get our produce into our mouths, though. Therefore, a lot of our fruit bounty gets juiced and frozen to keep. I want to walk you through some of our juiceplorations.

    Finch Frolic Redoubtable Fruit of Almost Every Month in the Year: the Purple Passionfruit. These exotic and fragrant fruits are dropped by the bushel-load from our vigorous vines almost continuously, but overwhelmingly in midsummer. I pick them off the ground under the vines and wait for their smooth purple shells to wrinkle over in ripeness. Then the process begins.

    I sit down for this and usually bring up a show on my laptop, because it takes a while. I have the bag or bowl of fruit on my right and a plastic bag looped over the back of a chair on the other side for the empty shells.

    A fruit is picked up, dipped in a bowl of water, then wiped quickly on a paper towel and deposited on a cutting board that has a little rim on it to catch juice.

    With a sharp knife, I halve the fruits and use a spoon to scoop the many little packets of bright gold-orange juice and hard black seeds into a bowl.
    With a sharp knife, I halve the fruits and use a spoon to scoop the many little packets of bright gold-orange juice and hard black seeds into a bowl.

    Those packets have to be broken to get the juice.

    I used to press the pulp into the mesh of a sieve with a spoon, but that’s hard on the hands and on the sieve. Now, I throw it in our Vita-Mix and turn it up to 3, tops – you want to spin all the juice off the seeds, but you don’t want to chop up the seeds.  I judge whirl completeness by whether or not the little black seeds are free-floating as they sit in the mixture.

    Then I run it through a sieve to separate out the juice.


    To get the most juice out of it, you swirl a spoon through the pulp as it sits in the sieve.
    To get the most juice out of it, you swirl a spoon through the pulp as it sits in the sieve.
    All juiced out.
    All juiced out.

    This sounds very labour-intensive – and it is – but it’s worth it to us to use our fruit. We don’t eat passionfruit straight – the seeds are a little too gross. We do, however, use the juice in anything we can make an excuse to, and it keeps frozen into cubes for a long time. And the leftover seeds make a fun treat for our hens.

    Glowing, beautiful, tangy fresh passionfruit juice!
    Glowing, beautiful, tangy, fresh passionfruit juice!


    In the fall, we’re overwhelmed with lovely big pomegranates from our one big pomegranate tree. This year, we’ve had more than ever and we didn’t want to waste any.

    Once harvested, though, the poms need to be processed. Diane and I camped out every evening for a couple weeks cutting poms in half and hand-picking the arils. Recently, after a friend let us try out her juicer, we acquired one for ourselves, eliminating the need for the rest of the process with poms, but it is the same process I still use for grapes, apples and melons, so I’m going to tell you about it anyway.

    I put the arils in the Vita-mix all the way up to completely blend the seeds.
    I put the arils in the Vita-Mix and turn all the way up to completely blend the seeds.

    The blended pom also gets strained, but because the particles are finer than the passionfruit pulp, a mesh sieve isn’t sufficient. No, what you need is a sock.

    A nice clean women’s nylon sock is perfect.
    A nice clean women’s nylon sock is perfect.
    Hanging allows pure juice to come through.
    Hanging allows pure juice to come through.

    To get all the juice out, though, squeezing is necessary, and that puts a little more must in the juice, like fine fruit silt.

    8-3-13 065

    It’s also very taxing on the hands, because the sock must be hand squeezed, but it helps get the most juice from the fruit. This second straining produces interesting dry, crumbly must that comes out of the sock like purple Play-Doh.

    Also a salutiferous treat for the hens!
    Also a salutiferous treat for the hens!

    Like the passionfruit, we use the pom juice as much as we can. For instance, we reduced the juice and I experimented with some pomegranate ice-creams:

    Chocolate makes an excellent palate cleanser, if you ask us.
    Chocolate makes an excellent palate cleanser, if you ask us.

    I also diluted the concentrate with water to make a lovely breakfast juice. We even poached pears with the juice for Christmas dinner – a lovely rose colour and delicate fruity flavor.

    The fun never ends with fruit!

    So, that’s a little peek at the juiceinations that go on here at Finch Frolic. Happy juicing to you!


    Miranda the Fruit Maven

  • Recipes,  Vegan,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian

    Thai Coconut Soup with Tofu and Mushrooms

    A comfort food without the high caloric price tag.
    A comfort food without the high caloric price tag.

    This is a soup recipe that has been requested by friends, and is so good that I crave it.  So I share it with you.  Wonderful even during the summer, it also is fantastic comfort food when sick or on a cold day.  You can tweak this dish with lite coconut milk, lime zest instead of lemongrass, or if you have access to Thai ingredients use kaffir lime and Thai basil.

    Lemongrass is easy to grow and to use.  Just the base of the peeled stalk is used as a flavoring.  Cut it only in half so the pieces are easily found in the soup and put aside.
    Lemongrass is easy to grow and to use. Just the base of the peeled stalk is used as a flavoring. Cut it only in half so the pieces are easily found in the soup and put aside.

    I’ve had it without tofu, and without mushrooms, and it is still wonderful. Put the lime in the coconut, and drink it all up! Don’t put too many extra veggies in it; it is a simple soup.

    Thai Coconut Soup with Tofu and Mushrooms
    Recipe type: Soup
    Cuisine: Thai
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 4
    A simple, delicious vegetarian Tom Kha soup. The lemongrass isn't meant to be eaten because its too tough. The kaffir lime leaf may be eaten only if you use a young one and slice very thinly before adding it.
    • 1 can (1 ½ cups) unsweetened coconut milk
    • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
    • 1 fresh lemongrass stalk, peeled and halved (or 2 tsp. dried, or 1 tsp. lime zest)
    • 1 bruised fresh or dried kaffir lime leaf, (if young can be sliced very thinly(or ½ tsp. lime juice)
    • Two - three Thai basil leaves (optional)
    • 3 cups mild vegetable stock
    • ½ to 2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste, or Thai coconut curry paste, or curry powder (depending on hotness desired)
    • 1 package (12 – 14 oz) extra firm tofu (not silken)drained and cut into small cubes
    • 15 oz canned straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed, or half-cup sliced button mushrooms
    • 2 tsp. sugar or other tasteless sweetener
    • 2 Tablespoons light soy sauce (I use Bragg’s Amino Acids instead)
    • Salt to taste (opt.)
    • Fresh lime juice to taste (opt.)
    1. Combine lemongrass, ginger, kaffir leaf, Thai basil leaves, and coconut milk with broth in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
    2. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes.
    3. Add the curry paste a half-teaspoon at a time, stirring well and tasting for desired hotness.
    4. Stir in the tofu, mushrooms, sugar, and soy sauce.
    5. Simmer for about 10 minutes more.
    6. Taste before adding additional optional salt.
    7. Serve as is or over hot rice.
    8. Offer fresh lime to squeeze on top as desired (it makes the flavors pop).


  • Animals,  Chickens,  Cob,  Compost,  Composting toilet,  Fruit,  Gardening adventures,  Giving,  Grains,  Health,  Herbs,  Houses,  Hugelkultur,  Humor,  Living structures,  Natives,  Natural cleaners,  Permaculture and Edible Forest Gardening Adventures,  Ponds,  Rain Catching,  Recipes,  Seeds,  Soil,  Vegan,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian,  Worms

    San Diego Permaculture Convergence, Nov. 9 – 10, 2013

    There is a fantastic, information-packed permaculture convergence coming up at the beautiful Sky Mountain Institute in Escondido. Converge_Flyer_1_It will be two days packed with great information for a very reasonable price; in fact, scholarships are available.  Check out the website at convergence@sdpermies.com. On that Sunday I’ll be teaching a workshop about why its so important to plant native plants, how to plant them in guilds using fishscale swales and mini-hugelkulturs.  Come to the convergence and be inspired!

  • Gardening adventures,  Permaculture and Edible Forest Gardening Adventures,  Recipes,  Vegan,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian

    Dinner with the Pandas: Harvesting Your Own Bamboo


    Before you cry, “Imposter!”, let me assure you that I have authorization to be here. Mostly. I happen to be Diane’s daughter Miranda, guestblogging and wordsmithing for you today. You might recognize my powdery feet or recollect me when keeping company with chickens (or from diverse other adventures). As much as I enjoying rolling in dust and home decorating with hens, today I’m here to talk about an unusual topic for Vegetariat – food.

    The handy rhyme isn’t the only reason I’m sometimes known as Miranda the Panda – I also have a great partiality for a bit of bamboo, much like the vegetarian carnivore from whom I draw my catchy moniker. Luckily, we happen to have a fair bit of the stuff around Finch Frolic these days (bamboo, not pandas). Bamboo shoots are a common – and delicious! – component of Asian cuisines, and bamboo has been used for many culinary purposes, such as flavoring rice, wherever it grows. During this past summer, I was overcome with the need to find more things to eat on the property and began a foray into harvesting our own bamboo shoots.

    Our giant species of bamboo arches over many of our paths -- perfect for building material and any shoots that venture into the soil of the paths are prime targets... :)
    Our giant species of bamboo arches over many of our paths — perfect for building material, and any shoots that venture into the soil of the paths are prime targets… 🙂

    Before I stepped outdoors and started gnawing on the nearest clump, I had to be sure that our bamboo is an edible variety, and hopefully a tasty edible variety. You need the scientific name of your bamboo for that, but once we ferreted out ours (Bambusa beecheyana), it was easy to find notation of its edibility and delectability online. One helpful and extensive listing is on Guadua Bamboo. Happily, there is a large number of edible and tasty bamboo species.

    Proof of mange-ability in hand, the next obstacle was divining the best way to get bamboo shoots from the ground to my mouth. Harvesting can be more or less of a challenge, depending on what variety of bamboo one has and how it’s established (e.g., moisture and soil conditions, obstacles like stones around it). To harvest shoots, it’s best to pick fat green ones poking no more than a foot above the ground. You want to catch them before they get too woody, but old enough to have a bit of meat on them, so to speak. The shoot is mostly leaf (tightly layered sheaths), so bulkier shoots are more rewarding.

    Removing our bamboo from the ground and its parent plant turned out to be on the more side of challenging.

    Miranda and Diane bust out the Finch Frolic arsenal on the recalcitrant shoot.

    First, the inimitable spade is set to the task.
    First, the inimitable spade is set to the task.
    Legs weary and spade abandoned, the small sickle saw is recruited, to little effect.
    Legs weary and spade abandoned, the small sickle saw is recruited, to little effect.

    Diane had just returned home and gleefully plunged into the fray, skirt, white sandals and all.

    Finally, Diane wades into battle with the winning implement.
    Finally, Diane wades into battle with the winning implement.
    The shoot, freed from the earth and it's parent plant.
    The shoot, freed from the earth and its parent plant.

    Once we finally achieved success, processing could begin! It is somewhat tiresome to strip a shoot down to the edible white core, because the leaves cling so tightly and are fibrous. It’s like shucking the most stubborn ear of corn in the world. It’s good to slit the tougher outer leaves with a very sharp knife and peel them away.

    Slitting the fibrous outer leaves with a filet knife.
    Slitting the fibrous outer leaves with a filet knife.

    The inner leaves come away more easily – rather like the layers of canned hearts-of-palm – as you get closer to the heart of the bamboo shoot. The innermost leaves are basically fetal, and so are edible because they haven’t gotten tough yet. They make the tip of your shoot look hairy.

    Many layers of increasingly tender leaves.
    Many layers of increasingly tender leaves.
    The edible shoot.
    The edible shoot.

    A peeled bamboo shoot can be cut up in whatever way the chef desires. The shoot grows more fibrous towards the base, where there is probably some inedible hard material. My current rule of thumbs-carefully-tucked-away is if a sharp knife can pretty easily get through it, it’ll be fine to eat.

    A shoot cut in three different ways. The material behind the knife (upper left) is too fibrous to eat.
    A shoot cut in three different ways. The material behind the knife (upper left) is too fibrous to eat.

    You just have to boil your slices before cooking and consumption because they contain a mild toxin that dissipates with boiling. The first time, we tried boiling in lightly salted water for only 30 minutes, and while the shoots were tender and not really bitter, they left a teeny tingling sensation in our mouths, like stir-fried Pop Rocks. The last time I cooked them, I boiled them for a whole 50 min. to much more satisfactory, un-tingly results.

    Boiling to remove toxins.
    Boiling to remove toxins.

    Bamboo is delicious and a lot of fun (in a somewhat laborious way) to harvest. The beauty of harvesting your own bamboo shoots is that you are saving yourself a trip to specialty markets and controlling your bamboo’s growth at the same time!

    Frying up -- yummy!
    Frying up — yummy!

    So that’s another thing going on here at FFG. Thanks for wandering the bamboo lane with me.


    Miranda (the Panda), B.S.

  • Recipes,  Spices,  Vegan,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian

    Celery Soup

    Celery soup, served hot or cold, is delicious and great for you!
    Celery soup, served hot or cold, is delicious and great for you!

    I thought I had posted this wonderful soup but apparently I hadn’t. Celery is a remarkable food for helping combat mental aging, among other attributes.  This year we grew our own celery which is strong, fiberous and slightly bitter.  We use it diced in stir-fry and many dishes including Celery Soup.   This soup can be served hot or chilled, and you can either use cream at the end to finish it or just rely on the included potato for the thickener.  Add a little cayenne to spice it up and increase its medicinal value.  This is a blended soup that doesn’t freeze well (the flavor changes), so eat it all up!  This is a lovely light green soup… great for Halloween!  For another green soup, try my Zucchini and Rosemary Soup, too.

    Celery Soup
    Recipe type: Main Dish
    Cuisine: American
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 6 - 8
    This easy, delicious low-fat soup can be served hot or chilled, or dressed up with cream.
    • ½ cup butter or butter substitute
    • 10 ribs of celery (3½ cups) coarsely chopped (no leaves)
    • ⅓ cup coarsely chopped shallots, or sliced leeks
    • 1 small baking potato (russet-type) (6 oz), peeled and cubed
    • Salt
    • Pinch celery seed, ground (if using organic, stronger-flavored celery you may omit)
    • ⅛th teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
    • 6 cups vegetable broth
    • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
    • ¼ cup heavy cream, or to taste (optional)
    1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
    2. Add celery, shallots or leeks, potato, celery seed and cayenne (if using), and a pinch of salt.
    3. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionall,y until vegetables are soft but not browned, about 15 minutes.
    4. Add stock and bring to a simmer.
    5. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 30 minutes.
    6. Stir in nutmeg.
    7. Allow to cool enough to be comfortable for you to puree in blender or food processor, in batches until completely smooth.
    8. If necessary pour through a fine sieve into a large bowl, pressing with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. If you have a Vitamix, just blend it on high and don't sieve.
    9. Return soup to pot, reheat slowly and adjust seasonings. (If serving cold, just adjust seasonings and chill.)
    10. Stir in cream (if using) and serve, garnished with celery leaves or croutons.


  • Breakfast,  Dessert,  Fruit,  Recipes,  Vegetarian

    Plum Clafoutis!

    Plum clafouti.  Yum.
    Plum clafouti. Yum.

    OMG!  How could I not have told you about clafoutis yet?  If you have ripe plums, peaches, apricots… any stonefruit… and you need something to do with them, this is it!  Clafoutis (clow-FOO-tee) is a baked dessert (or breakfast!) that is simple to make and absolutely yummy.  Ripe fruit, especially those that are a little too ripe to eat fresh because of the texture, is topped with a flour and custard batter and baked.

    Serve plum clafouti warm or at room temperature.  So yum.
    Serve plum clafouti warm or at room temperature. So yum.

    The result is firm enough to not gross out those who don’t like the texture of custard (like my daughter), not too sweet, and makes the flavor of the fruit bloom in your mouth.  This is different than Plummy Skillet Cake, which is also wonderful.  Of course clafoutis

    Because of its simple ingredients and low sugar, clafouti is wonderful for breakfast, shown here along with asparagus and soy sausage.
    Because of its simple ingredients and low sugar, clafouti is wonderful for breakfast. Peach clafouti is shown here along with asparagus and soy sausage.

    is good with ice cream, but just powdered sugar on top for decoration or plain is fine.  You can make it with liquid egg substitute and non-dairy milk substitutes; I used our hen’s eggs and organic soy milk.  Plums are absolutely delicious in a clafoutis, but we’ve used peaches and apricots as well with great results.

    Plum Clafoutis
    Recipe type: Dessert or Breakfast
    Cuisine: French
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 6
    A simple and delicious baked fruit dessert.
    • (You can halve the ingredients and bake in a square pan instead)
    • ¼ cup butter (or veg oil or coconut butter)
    • Pitted plums cut into thin wedges (think what size you like to bite into) (five cups)(you can use a mixture of stonefruit, too)
    • ½ cup granulated sugar, divided (you can eliminate or reduce this amount if you like a tart dessert, if your fruit is very sweet, or use a sugar substitute)
    • 4 eggs or equivalent liquid egg substitute
    • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (or a mix of other flours)
    • ½ teaspoon salt (opt)
    • 1 cup milk or milk substitute
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • ½ teaspoon almond extract
    • Confectioner's sugar for dusting
    1. Move oven rack to the middle and heat to 400F.
    2. Place butter in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and put in oven to melt butter.
    3. In a medium bowl, toss the plums with ¼ cup sugar.
    4. With oven mitts, remove hot dish from oven and swirl melted butter to coat bottom and partially up the sides.
    5. Spread plums evenly on bottom of baking dish.
    6. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until blended.
    7. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining ¼ cup sugar with the flour and salt.
    8. Whisk the sugar and flour mixture into the eggs.
    9. Whisk in the milk, vanilla and almond extracts.
    10. Pour the batter evenly over the plums.
    11. Bake 40 - 45 minutes until the clafoutis is lightly browned and the center has puffed up.
    12. Cool on a wire rack.
    13. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve warm, plain or with ice cream. Or hard sauce. Or whatever you like. Use a French accent when announcing dessert.
    14. Eat within a couple of days or it becomes soggy.
    15. Store covered at room temperature.


  • Dessert,  Fruit,  Recipes

    Melon Pie!?!


    Melon. Pie. Nom.
    Melon. Pie. Nom.

    It is melon time in the garden.  Fresh green melons served with a little lime juice, or fresh orange melons served with a little lemon juice, are just heaven.  When you have too many melons, it is time to look for things to do with them.

    Last year we froze melon slices in a mild sugar syrup.  This worked well when using the melons in something; the texture was too goopy for eating fresh with any pleasure.

    This year I found a recipe in my Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog for melon pie.  Melon pie?  I did a little Googling on the subject and found a lot of melon pie, cake and bread recipes.  Who knew?  Well, not me anyway.

    This recipe works for any melon, the more fragrant the better.  It was written for Mother Mary’s Pie Melon, an heirloom that we grew this year. It is small and fragrant, and just makes the right amount of melon the recipe.  The version of the recipe in the catalog – which is also in their book The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook – is vegan. I’ve changed it to vegetarian and you can do what you want with it.  The cookie-like crust paired with the creamy yet firm filling is wonderful.  Top it with a little whipped cream!  They suggest topping with toasted coconut, but I’m not that much of a coconut fan.  However I could really see this topped with merangue, like a lemon merangue pie.  Yep.

    Melon Pie
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Cuisine: American
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 8
    A fragrant, yummy pie with a perfumy melon flavor and crisp cookie crust.
    • Crust:
    • ½ cup butter or vegan alternative
    • ¼ cup packed brown sugar (or white)
    • 1¼ cups unbleached flour (organic if possible)
    • Filling:
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch (organic if possible)
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1½ cups cubed melon, liquified in blender (makes 1½ cups)
    • ¼ cup water
    • 3 Tablespoons butter or vegan alternative
    • 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
    1. Prepare crust: beat butter and sugar in mixer until fluffy.
    2. Add flour and mix thoroughly.
    3. Press into bottom and sides of a 9" pie pan.
    4. Bake crust at 375F for 10 - 12 minutes until lightly browned.
    5. Meanwhile, stir sugar and cornstarch together in medium saucepan and set aside.
    6. Blend egg, melon and water together until smooth.
    7. Over medium heat, gradually stir melon mixture into cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and begins to boil, about ten minutes. Don't rush!
    8. Reduce heat and cook 1 minute more.
    9. Remove from heat and stir in 3 T butter and lemon juice.
    10. Pour into pie shell, cool and then refrigerate at least an hour before serving.
    11. Serve with whipped cream... or not.


  • Dessert,  Fruit,  Health,  Herbs,  Recipes,  Vegan,  Vegetarian

    Black Plum and Basil Granita

    Basil plum granita 008This is an interesting and delicious way to use some of those plums that ripen overnight.  Basil is also in season, and combining it with the heavenly, winey flavor of ripe black plums is amazing.  If you grow other types of basil such as lime basil or cinnamon basil, use those instead, reducing the lime juice to 1 tablespoon.

    Granita is juice that is partially frozen, forked around a little, then refrozen.  You don’t need an ice cream maker.  Easy, quick and nutritious, too!

    Black Plum and Basil Granita
    Recipe type: Desert
    Cuisine: American
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 8½ cup servings
    Basil and allspice give a wonderful depth of flavor to winey black plums in this frozen treat.
    • 1 cup water
    • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
    • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
    • ⅛ teaspoon salt
    • 6 whole allspice (if you don't have allspice berries, use a small piece of cinnamon stick)
    • 1½ pounds black plums, pitted and quartered
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    • ¾ cup basil leaves (not packed)
    1. In a large saucepan combine water, sugar, vanilla, salt, allspice and prepared plums and bring to a boil.
    2. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the plums begin to fall apart.
    3. Pour into a small bowl set in ice water in a larger bowl and cool completely.
    4. Fish out and discard the six allspice.
    5. In a blender or VitaMix process plum mixture, basil and lime juice until well blended.
    6. Press the plum mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl and discard solids. If you have a VitaMix you may not have any residual solids; the granita will be cloudier but will be more nutritious. Don't worry about it.
    7. Pour the mixture into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.
    8. Cover and freeze until partially frozen, about 2 hours.
    9. Scrape with a fork, crushing any lumps, and smooth down again.
    10. Freeze for 3 more hours, scraping with a fork every hour so that it doesn't freeze as a cube, until completely frozen.
    11. Serve in small scoops; really nice paired with little vanilla cookies.


  • Breads,  Cake,  Dessert,  Recipes,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian

    Spicy Chocolate Squash Bread


    Cocoa + squash + habinero = YUM.
    Cocoa + squash + habinero = YUM.

    My collegiate daughter needed a recipe to use up leftover frozen kabocha squash.  She found a chocolate kabocha bread recipe, adapted it for ingredients she had on hand, and sent me the recipe.  I’m such a proud foodie mom: this is the first recipe she’s sent to me.  She had substituted yogurt for the oil, and only had cinnamon as a spice, but really liked the results.  She said that it was kind of like hot chocolate in bread form; not too sweet and not too plain.  Hot chocolate in bread form?  I’m so there.

    Today has been cold and a little rainy. My shoes and socks were wet from standing in wet grass trying to coerce my 100-lb tortoise back inside his heated room before he became too cold to move.  I had some thawed pink banana squash puree leftover from making pumpkin scones for my son last weekend.  It was so squash bread time.

    I had all the spices, but I changed them up a little.  I added some freshly ground nutmeg in place of some of the cinnamon.  Due to conversations with others in my exercise class about eating fresh homegrown fruit with chili pepper and other warming spices sprinkled on them (spring fantasies!) I thought I’d heat up this recipe, too.  Before Christmas I purchased some habinero powder at Old Town Spice Merchants in Temecula, and fell in love with their habinero sugar which they sprinkled over samples of dark chocolate brownies.  I added some habinero powder to this recipe and it is fantastic.

    The loaf took an hour and five minutes to bake.  It was slightly crispy on the crust and dense, moist and dark on the inside.  Yet it wasn’t cloyingly heavy or too wet.  The cocoa flavor was satisfying; too often cocoa recipes taste as if the chocolate was just a coloring rather than a flavoring. This was good.  The spices were just enough and not overpowering.  The habinero powder was just right, making just a little heat in the mouth that really accented the chocolate flavor and warmed me up from the inside.  I am freezing the rest of it, just so I don’t eat any more today.  It was really wonderful, and it had vegetable in it, too!  Thanks, daughter of mine!

    I’m sure you could eat this with cream cheese, marscapone cheese, or dust it with powedered sugar, but it doesn’t need anything.  Not even, apparently in my case, a fork or plate.  So much for dieting today.

    Spicy Chocolate Squash Bread
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Like spicy hot chocolate in bread form.
    • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
    • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
    • ⅛ teaspoon habinero powder (or ¼ teaspoon if you like it spicier. It will be a slow warm heat in your mouth)
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1⅓ cups sugar
    • ⅓ cup vegetable oil or plain yogurt
    • 1 cup squash or pumpkin puree (or plain canned pumpkin)
    • 1 large egg
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Grease and lightly flour an 8½ x 4½ inch loafpan.
    3. In a medium bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients.
    4. In a large bowl combine the oil, puree and egg until well combined. Beat in dry ingredients until well blended. (If using electric mixer, beat on low speed. You don't want a lot of air in the batter).
    5. Pour batter into prepared pan.
    6. Bake 350 degrees F for 1 hour and five minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.
    7. Cool on a wire rack for fifteen minutes then cut around loaf and turn out onto a plate or wire rack.
    8. Serve warm, or any way you'd like to!
    9. (Options: serve with cream cheese, marscapone cheese, or dust with powdered sugar. It is also great drizzled with chocolate frosting (what isn't?) or with chocolate ganache. Both recipes can be found on my blogpost on Buttermilk Chocolate Ganache Cake).