Follow Me on Pinterest

Thursday, February 23, 2012

An Orange By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

The calendar may say February, but the garden is saying Spring.  A few weeks ago I stepped into my yard and an amazing fragrance swept over me.  Looking around I saw the white/pale-yellow blooms of the mock orange trees that grow right outside my kitchen door.  Their pretty flowers give off the most wonderful, intense aroma that stops you in your tracks.  It's heavenly, meaning if heaven smells as good as it should then it smells like this.  For more info on mock orange trees (or shrubs) beyond pretty and fragrant go to

While the mock orange tree produces no real orange fruit, many, many other trees, especially here in Southern California do.  Right now is the season for oranges of various varieties plus multiple other types of citrus.  Here's a picture that includes some oranges, grapefruits and tangerines from Melissa's, and you can learn more about what the best citrus varieties available are right now at  The Cara Cara oranges are especially juicy and sweet - almost heavenly.

For those of you who like recipes, and in case you missed my post last year about making candied citrus peel, dipped in white chocolate, and sprinkled with seeds, herbs, etc., it's not too late to check it out:  Mr. Citrus will be happy to see you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Can Bake with a Little Help from my Friends

My Red Velvet Creations circa 2009
My lame, straight to cake-wrecks yesterday at baking red velvet cupcakes for Valentine's Day convinced me once and for all that I am not a baker. Not a scratch baker, that is, because I'm incapable of following a baking recipe exactly as it needs to be followed.  However, thanks to baking mixes and the talented teachers at Kake Kreations, (please see photo at right) I'm actually pretty good at putting together something delicious and beautiful. Thank you too Betty and Duncan.
A very important part of baking and decorating success are the tools and decorations that are available from Wilton, who have hundreds and hundreds of pans, molds, papers, cutters, embellishments, and more - something for everyone who bakes, from scratch or not.  Recently I found this vintage 1960's Wilton ideas book at a flea market, full of wonderful retro images, that I'm going to send to my friends Nancy and Gretchen at Wilton.  Maybe I'll see it when I make a pilgrimage to their headquarters outside of Chicago.

Not to show off, but here are a few more of my cake creations with the help from Kake Kreations and Wilton: 
1st Class Cake

Brush Embroidery Technique

Pretty Good, Huh?

And in the afterglow of Valentine's Day, here's a little hand-painted, decoupaged, and embellished heart-shaped box I made for a show at Zinnia's in South Pasadena.  The show is on until the end of the month so do stop by if you have a chance.  P.S.  There's a pretty little pink glass heart necklace in the box too - very sweet I think.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It's All Good

Shop Goodwill First!
I love drinking tea all day long, and I love fresh ginger, so recently I had a peanut-butter-meets-chocolate ah ha moment.  No matter what flavor of tea I'm drinking, and I am partial to green teas especially Jasmine,  I add a chunk of fresh ginger and good tea becomes great tea.  Because I drink tea all day long, I picked up this great thermos pitcher at Goodwill for just a few dollars and it holds two big cups - one teapot of water makes 3 cups, so I get one right away with 2 more hot and ready waiting for me.  

Ginger is also a fantastic ingredient to cook with and my newest cooking/recipe plan is to see what's on hand,  maybe recreate a favorite recipe (a la egg foo young from my last post), or go through the bizillions of recipes I've cut out of magazines, or downloaded, or picked up somewhere and thought "I want to make this" and then make it. Today's recipe actually fits every criteria - it's another Chinese restaurant favorite,  I had an easy recipe that I downloaded 2 years ago, and of course I had fresh ginger. 

Did I mention I also happened to have a large bag of fresh green beans and another one of my favorite Chinese restaurant dishes is the Szechuan Green Beans?  The recipe I had called for Chinese long beans but traditional green beans make a fine substitution.  You do have to stir-fry for quite a while but it's worth it.  Not only does it taste as good as the restaurant version, but I can say I actually made a recipe that I'd been saving.  What a good concept.
 Szechuan Green Beans
1 lb. fresh green beans or Chinese long beans
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. ginger, diced
3 green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. chili paste
1 Tbsp. lite soy sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
sea salt
2 Tbsp. vegetable or peanut oil

1. Wash the beans, trim the ends, cut into 2-3" pieces.
2.  In a wok or large saute pan heat 1/2 the oil until medium hot then add the beans and sprinkle with sea salt.
3.  Stir fry the beans about 8-10 minutes until they soften and get slightly brown, then remove from the pan.
4.  Add the remaining oil to the pan, turn up to high heat, and add the ginger, garlic, and green onions.
5.  Stir fry a few seconds then add the chili paste and continue to stir a few seconds more.
6.  Wow, that smells good, doesn't it?
7.  Now add the beans back into the pan, plus the soy sauce and brown sugar, and toss to combine.
8.  Good, you're done!
9.  Delicious hot, but very tasty cold too, with or without chop sticks.