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January 18, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

inspiration from the farmers market…

pink lemons

Beautiful pink lemons from JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch, grown by farmer Laura Ramirez.

Gorgeous pink lemons found at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

These beautiful lemons are begging to be made into pink lemonade, but you can use these as you would any yellow Eureka (sour) lemon as well.

pink lemons

The pink hue of these lemons is natural, a genetic deviation in the standard Eureka (sour) lemon. The pink lemon was first discovered in Burbank, CA, in the 1930’s.

January 16, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

delicious resolutions…

We received this bag as a gift, part of a delicious holiday gift basket from Zabar’s deli in NYC.

market bag

I love the simplicity of this list, and felt it was worth sharing.  These are good suggestions to follow always, and as someone who enjoys to setting intentions for the new year, this bag serves as a cheerful reminder that our choices, however big or small, can really make a difference.  So as the year continues, we’re going to try our best to adhere to these principles and make a difference in our little corner of the world.

And I’m going to add my own number 7: savor always.

Cheers to a healthy & delicious 2014!

January 11, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

inspiration from the farmers market…

A beautifully arranged table of radicchio and frisee at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

A beautifully arranged table of radicchio and frisee at Maggie’s Farm stand.

Gorgeous greens found this week at the Santa Monica Farmers Market!

A beautifully arranged table of frisee and heirloom lettuce at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

A beautifully arranged table of frisee and red little gem lettuces, also at Maggie’s Farm.

January 10, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

orange is the new red & green…

Fresh mandarins piled in a pretty container help ring in the New Year in style.

Fresh mandarins piled in a pretty container help ring in the New Year in style.

When I was a kid, January felt like the most depressing month of the year. Christmas was over and with it, the endless parties, treats, and gifts. Our house felt barren and empty, the tree, lights, ornaments, and holiday decorations packed safely in their boxes and stored in the basement. With all of the glitz and glam packed away until next year, it was hard not to feel lonely for the recent past, or very distant future, of the holiday season. “Winter blues” was not a label I was familiar with as a kid but understand now as an adult. After a month spent in a frenzied state, the January routine is bound to feel like an abrupt reality check, and even more so when you’re a kid.

To kick off the new year, I’d like to share a piece I wrote last January for a writing class I had enrolled in. I’ve found a way to ring in the new year and embrace the “winter blues” with brilliant hues of orange, health, vitality, and sweetness. All it requires is a trip to your local farmers market (or grocery store), and an appreciation for the bounty of the changing season. It’s going to be my new year’s tradition, and I hope it becomes yours too.

Happy 2014, dear readers. It’s going to be one delicious year!

January is not my favorite month. In fact, January may be one of my least favorite times of the year, with promises of blustery winds and dry skin, shriveled tomatoes that have not known the warmth of summer for months, and bare tree branches no longer twinkling with the lights from the holidays. Coughs and sniffles interrupt conversations, and thwart dinner plans when they develop into full blown sickness. We’ve traded endless parties and holiday treats with resolutions that typically involve cutting back on sweets and exercising more, which more often leaves me feeling deprived, exhausted, uninspired, and sore.

And yet as I wandered through the farmers’ market last week, as I do each Wednesday, I was reminded once again why I live to eat, and why the winter growing season is no less beautiful, delicious, or incredible than summer, spring, or the bounty of autumn. The market was overflowing with oranges, almost every stand piled high with brightly-colored orbs, each one bursting more fresh, sweet juice than the next. My eyes feasted on the endless hues of orange, bright neon tones that veered toward the yellow end of the spectrum; others with deeper, more serious tones that bordered on red. Some of the oranges were even mottled with tiny red dots, hinting at what might lie inside.

I feel myself in an almost trance-like state, wandering from stand to stand, buying as many different oranges as I can, handing over the money without a second thought. Soon my bags become heavy, too heavy to continue wandering, and I am forced to abandon my weekly errand because my gluttonous habits from the holidays have gotten the best of me . As I walk back to my car, the heavy bags dig into my shoulders and are a painful reminder of my lack of self-control amidst all of this glowing fruit.

I arrive at home with my bounty of juicy, orange-hued treasures, hoping that all this beautiful fruit will bring a sense of life and health and wellness into our home. In early January, winter seems to infiltrate the house with its chill. The holiday decorations have been put back into the garage, the gorgeous pine tree has gone out to the curb, and all the lights have been stowed away until next year. Holiday cards no longer fill up our mailbox and family has returned to their homes and separate busy lives, leaving our house feeling barren and quiet.

Does something as simple as a seasonal fruit really have the power to transform the energy of a home? I like to think so, or at least hope for my own sake because I bought so many oranges! I bring in the bags and pile them on the kitchen counter. Then I begin my search for all the beautiful bowls that populate our cupboards. I begin to pile the navel oranges into the footed antique bowl that I hunted down at a local flea market, the swatch of rust on the bottom side of the bowl provides an interesting counterpoint to the freshness of the orange rind. The satsumas are next, their wrinkly skin and still-attached leaves are begging to be nestled into a shallow bowl where they can be plucked and eaten as a snack in front of the television, or grabbed as a sweet treat on the way out the door. The mandarins find their home in a bowl that was handmade in Italy, with a blue and yellow design that highlights their beautiful deep orange hue. Cara cara oranges are my next target with their lovely orange-pink skin, which hints at a similar but deeper pink-hued flesh. The cara caras get piled in my beloved wooden salad bowl, hand carved from a single piece of found wood and given to my husband and me as a wedding gift. It is one of my favorite treasures, and is a perfect resting place for the pink-hued fruits.

I continue unpacking the bounty of my morning excursion, and then strategically place the bowls all over the house; in the kitchen, on the buffet, resting on the coffee table. Immediately our house comes back to life, not with the decadent, celebratory energy of the holidays but with the hopeful, healthful energy of the new year. Orange has taken the place of red and green and gold, and brought a sense of life back into our home.

The pops of brightness catch my eye and beg for my attention, ready to be plucked from their bowl and peeled for an afternoon snack, squeezed into a glass of juice, or trimmed of their beautiful rind and plunked into a healthy fruit salad. The oranges are the perfect swap for the parade of cookies I indulged in each afternoon in December, their natural sweetness and brightness not competing with buttery, sugary holiday indulgence but a delicious reprise, juicy, spunky, and full of flavor. The health properties of oranges are no secret; they are full of vitamin C, antioxidants, and other compounds that fight off the common cold that is all too common at this time of year. Perfect, beautiful, life-giving health in the palm of my hand.

Can a simple piece of fruit transform a home, heal a body, and brighten the dark days of winter? I believe it just did. Sometimes life often gives us exactly what we need. And in this moment, what I need is a bright, juicy orange.

October 30, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

pumpkin sacrifice…

pumpkin sacrifice

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d sacrifice a pumpkin.

But this is no ordinary pumpkin. This is a “Porcelain Doll,” a variety of pumpkin that is as delicious as she is beautiful. What’s awesome about “Porcelain Doll” and other exotic edible pumpkins is that you can buy them (or grow them if you’re the owner of a green thumb!) and enjoy their beauty as decor, then bake them until soft and use the flesh in a number of delicious recipes.

You might even have one of these beauties at your house right now, and not even realize the endless possibilities that await.

After you’re finished using your “Porcelain Doll” or other edible pumpkin as decor, give it a bath. Seriously. It’s wise to scrub your pumpkin with some dish soap and an abrasive sponge, being sure to get into all the nooks and crannies, and then give it a good rinse with clean water. The goal is to remove any dirt from the pumpkin patch, or even dust that’s settled on her as she’s gracced your dining room table, entryway, or front porch. Once she’s been washed and dried, she’s ready for the chopping block; except that the chopping block is last place I feel you should take your pumpkin.

The above photo, produced for dramatic effect, perfectly illustrates what could happen if you approach a giant pumpkin (or hard winter squash) with a knife. In my experience, knife + squash = not awesome. And I don’t think I’m alone in this quandary. A good friend called me a couple of years ago to ask what she should do about her prized cleaver that was stuck in the side of a large, sweet pumpkin (heck, it might have been a “Porcelain Doll” for all I know). She had given the pumpkin a nice whack, in hopes of breaking it up use in a recipe, except that the knife had gotten stuck into the tough skin. I had no idea what to tell her, as it seemed a bit dangerous to encourage her to pull it out with all her might. Another way to break down your squash is by the “throwdown method,” as discussed hilariously in the “Spilled Milk” podcast. In one of their first podcasts (the second, to be exact), Molly and Matthew discuss winter squash, including ideas on how to break open a squash by dropping it from a ladder…maybe not the safest (or cleanest) way to separate a pumpkin’s delicious flesh from the tough skin.

pumpkin in oven

Why must pumpkins be so complicated? They’re actually not, as you can just stick the whole thing in the oven. Yep, it’s that easy: use your beautiful pumpkin as fall decor, give it a good wash and quick dry, and throw (actually, place) it in the oven. That’s it. Depending on the size, a larger pumpkin can bake for over an hour but during that time, you can do other things, like read a book and enjoy the sweet smell of pumpkin baking in your oven.

porcelain doll roasted on counter

Pretty awesome if you ask me.

You know it’s done when a knife inserts easily into the flesh (and doesn’t get stuck). After it comes out of the oven, it’s best to let it rest and cool on the counter for another couple of hours. Again, this step doesn’t require much effort on your part either, aside from a little patience. Once cooled, scoop out the flesh and separate from the skin and seeds. It’s smart to give the flesh a spin in your food processor to smooth it out. However, if you’re going to use the pumpkin, say, in a soup that gets pureed, you can skip this step.

And yes, the seeds are delicious when tossed with some olive oil and spices and roasted in the oven until toasty.

Next week I’ll share some ideas of what to do with all that gorgeous pumpkin puree. I hope you have a very happy Halloween!

top of pumpkin

October 30, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

a healthy & refreshing drink…

Aloe vera is a common natural remedy for burns and skin irritation.

But did you know that you can also eat it?

Until I worked on this video for Tastemade, I had never heard of eating aloe. Several hours of research later, I’m convinced that aloe is indeed as good for your insides as it is for your skin, with claims of better digestion, lowering of inflammation, and healing ulcers. I can’t say with certainty that all the claims made about aloe vera juice are true, but I can tell you that this recipe is delicious.

I think you’ll agree that this limeade is a yummy way to experience aloe vera, and then you can see for yourself what all the fuss is about. Aloe is also a great addition to your morning (or afternoon) smoothie, fading into the background so that you won’t even know it’s there. Just don’t forget the step where you rinse the resin from the jelly. Trust me, it won’t taste as good (the resin has a strange, weird taste) and might also cause an unexpected dash to the bathroom. Yikes!

October 17, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

have bowl? will travel!

Chopped salad out on the patio, served in my favorite salad bowl.  At the bungalow in Los Angeles, CA.

Chopped salad out on the patio, served in my favorite salad bowl. At the bungalow in Los Angeles, CA.

The Yellow Bungalow is spending some time in Vancouver, Canada. Each Thursday, I’ll be sharing a more personal account of my adventures there. Join me as I discover this delicious city!

After the scouting trip filled with donuts and pork ribs, I went back to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks to finish up some work and pack up the rest of our belongings (sweaters, puffers, and warm weather gear!) before coming back to Vancouver for the longer stretch of 3+ months.

Before leaving the bungalow and my tiny, well-loved kitchen, I took a good look around and asked myself: “What do I absolutely need to take with me to Vancouver?” I glanced around and my eyes landed on the wooden salad bowl that gets rotated around the house on the regular. It’s not uncommon to find the bowl filled with ripening bananas for smoothies and lying on the buffet, cradling a watermelon and a couple of cantaloupe until I’m ready for them, and most often wiped out and piled with market lettuces and brought straight to the dinner table, the most beautiful way to eat salad that I know of. The bowl was a wedding gift from a very special friend, hand carved from a single piece of wood by a local artisan. This is the kind of piece that shares a lifetime with you, a bowl that bears witness to life’s celebrations and milestones, and then gets passed on to the next generation. The bowl was coming with me indeed.

The bowl is packed, the dog has his Canadian papers (no quarantine, thank goodness!), and we’re ready to join James in beautiful, delicious Vancouver. He also came back to California with us but only briefly, so he was already settled in at our new place.

Date square from Tartine Bread & Pies.  Vancouver, BC.

Date square from Tartine Bread & Pies. Vancouver, BC.

Upon arrival in Canada, we dropped off the luggage (salad bowl and dog food!), then walked over to the local bakery, Tartine Bread & Pies, for a treat. Traveling makes me hungry and airport food does not do the trick. It’s very late in the afternoon and I need a snack but don’t want to ruin our dinner plans. I order a date square and a cup of coffee, then meet James and Marco at a little table outside. The sun is shining, the leaves are starting to change, and the air is crisp. The date square is exactly what I needed: buttery oat topping that crumbles when you bite into it, with a rich, complex caramel date center. I could certainly get used to this.

Date bar and coffee? Check. Husband and dog? Check. New city to discover? Check. I felt like life couldn’t get much better. And the truth was, it really couldn’t get much better.

Things were about to change…

October 17, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

when is a yam actually a sweet potato?

halved

Lately I’ve had a particularly stubborn craving for sweet potatoes, and things have gotten a little “yammy” in the kitchen, hehehe.

To call any of these guys a yam, or make a (bad) joke about yams, would actually be incorrect. In the photo above, there are no yams. All of these bakers are sweet potatoes.

What?????

I’ve often been confused by the difference between sweet potatoes and yams, and recently learned that I’m not alone in my confusion. Basically all of America has been confused, and for a good, long time. The USDA even allows for incorrect labeling of sweet potatoes as yams in order to differentiate between the different varieties of sweet potatoes. The basic thing you need to know is that unless you’ve gone to an international market, ie a Latin or Caribbean or African market and specifically purchased a yam, you’ve probably been fooled (like me) and have simply been eating different varieties of sweet potatoes your whole life.

If you’re curious, there is a lot of chatter out on the web regarding the difference between yams and sweet potatoes, including this extremely informative (albeit not the most visually stunning) video.

Let’s get back to how my sweet potato cravings and kitchen adventures might lead to more delicious cooking and eating in your kitchen….

I did some shopping, then some baking, and then I went on to eating. I’ve been eating all of these sweet potatoes and for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share a few recipes with you on how I used all of them. Sounds like a pretty good deal for both of us.

Last week, I featured one of my favorite autumn snacks: baked sweet potatoes with salty cinnamon butter. Today’s recipe is very similar in that it’s super easy: just bake a sweet potato and top it with something yummy. This week, however, I’m using a different variety of sweet potato that is lighter in color than the deep orange (often called yam) sweet potato I used last week. It’s still really sweet, soft and delicious.

Today’s recipe might take you a little by surprise, as it’s kind of unexpected. I topped this sweet potato with yogurt. Caramel yogurt.

liberte

Here in Canada, Liberte yogurt is king. My first introduction to Liberte came from my friend Amelia Winslow, one of my favorite eating buddies who also happens to write a really awesome blog. Until I met Amelia, my yogurt experiences were pretty limited. Sure, I ate yogurt for breakfast, liked tzatziki on my pitas, and was experimenting with Greek yogurt in my cooking. Amelia opened the doors to premium yogurt, and introduced me to brands like Stonyfield and the elusive Liberte, which is available in America but is a little harder to find.

After living here in Vancouver for the last few weeks, where I’ve been surrounded by delicious Liberte at every market and grocery store I walk into, I’ve admittedly become a little obsessed…so obsessed that I’m adding a dollop of yogurt to my baked sweet potato. Take a closer look and notice that it’s separated: there is actual caramel on the bottom of that container, and you have to stir it into the yogurt. Sticky-sweet caramel mixed with tangy, creamy yogurt…must I say more??!!

When I come back to California, I’m going to be on a serious mission to make Liberte and their numerous flavors more available in the good ‘ol United States. If you can’t find Liberte, tell your grocer that they should carry it! I’d recommend substituting Siggi’s coconut (maybe with a squeeze of lime!) or another high-end, higher fat (low fat and no fat do not apply in this case) yogurt like Strauss Creamery maple yogurt, which I often find in markets near the (original) bungalow in Los Angeles. And while I’m not a nutritionist like Amelia, I’m guessing that eating a vegetable as a snack, even if it’s topped with a little caramel yogurt, is still pretty good for you. At least that’s what I tell myself…

October 17, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

recipe: baked sweet potato with caramel yogurt

sweet potato with yogurt

Bake a sweet potato, any variety: wash it under running water, cover with foil, and bake until soft.

To serve, split in half, give it a nice sprinkle of salt, and add a dollop of caramel yogurt. You won’t be sorry.

liberte 2

October 15, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

healthy breakfast on the go…

Avena, or agua de avena, is best described as drinkable oatmeal, but to me, it’s so much more than just oatmeal.

Warm and satisfying, avena is a drink that warms you up from the inside out. It’s exactly what I’ve been craving up here in Vancouver, as the mornings can be really chilly and it rains – a lot – which is something this California girl has had a difficult time getting used to (I did grow up in the Midwest but I’ve lived in sunny SoCal for almost 10 years;).

Avena is perfect for breakfast on the go, and also makes a hearty afternoon snack on a cold day. My Tia Julia first introduced avena to me, and I’ve been making it ever since, although not quite as well I must note. Drinking avena, especially if you’re lucky enough to have someone make it for you, is not unlike a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup: it is unmistakably comforting. I might go as far as to call it a “hug for your soul,” which some may say is taking it a tad too far. It’s only oatmeal, after all, so how good can it be? The truth is that this incredibly simple, satisfying drink is comforting in a way that is hard to explain, not unlike feeling your sore throat disappear after a steaming bowl of homemade soup.

I’m happy to share this video I worked on for Tastemade, which beautifully illustrates how to make avena. I like to make up a big pot and keep it in the fridge, just as Julia did, and warm up a cup whenever I need a hug by way of my stomach. I encourage you to make it in your own kitchen, especially as the days get shorter, cooler, and perhaps even a little rainy. I hope you also find comfort in this deliciously satisfying drink.