Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

a good year for roses

In spite of (because of?) very little rain this past winter, it’s been a good year for roses.

Lady Banks roses 2011

Joseph's Coat roses 2011, photo 1

Joseph's Coat roses 2011, photo 2

rose petals and cactus rose wine

Here is the beginning of this year’s harvest of rose petals. Last year I made Cactus Rose Wine out of prickly pear fruit syrup and rose petals.

Joseph's Coat rose 2011 photo 3


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My neighbors gave me olives from their tree.  I LOVE black olives, so I set about curing them. I used a recipe given to me by a friend, but I revised it a little bit.

First, make two deep cuts in each olive–all the way to the pit. I made my cuts one on each side.

Soak them in a brine of 1/4 cup salt to two cups of water.

IMPORTANT: Use kosher salt, pickling salt or sea salt. Don’t use iodized or plain salt.

Make sure the olives are completely covered with brine.

Stir a little bit each day.

Change the brine every week.

Taste after three weeks to see if the bitterness is gone. This time I soaked mine for four weeks.

When the bitterness is gone, rinse the olives in water and pack in jars. The recipe my friend gave me called for packing them with garlic, lemon, and spices, but I like the beautiful olive taste so I didn’t add these. I used about a tablespoon of salt, one part water and one part vinegar per jar. I think next time I’ll use a little less vinegar, although as the olives age, the vinegar taste mellows a bit.

Top each jar with about 1/2 inch of olive oil. Turn the jars upside down.

After a week, turn them right side up.

Try not to eat them all in one sitting. (It’s hard!)


(Quick update on the olive recipe–I found that adding an additional tablespoon of salt and the juice of half a lemon to each jar improved the taste immeasurably. And to be honest, there aren’t many left 🙂

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Someone gave me some navel oranges recently. I juiced them and then I candied the peel. In order to help the candied peel dry more quickly, I wanted to put it outdoors. But I wondered how I could protect it from insects. Then I hit on an idea: why not put the peel inside one of those potato bags I’d been saving?

candied orange peel

It worked perfectly. Now I have an excellent use for these bags! They are wonderful for containing and protecting food as it is drying.

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Fall has arrived–a blessed relief to those of us who dwell in the desert. While I will miss the long days of summer, I won’t miss the heat.

In honor of autumn, I decided to make a cake! I love a simple chocolate cake, without any icing.

Here is my mom’s recipe with some additional comments by me.


Chocolate Cake

1 3/4 cups flour

1 tsp each baking soda and salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup shortening [I used butter]

2 eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup hot black coffee

Grease pans, dust with cocoa. [I use a single 9″ x 11″ glass baking pan.] Set aside.

Mix together flour, soda and salt. Set aside.

Dissolve cocoa in coffee. Set aside.

Cream shortening and sugar well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and coffee in 3 equal portions [each] to creamed mixture, ending with coffee and beating well [100 strokes] after each addition.

Bake at 350 degrees until done [center springs back after being pressed lightly or wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean].


I make cake the old fashioned way, mixing everything by hand with a wooden spoon, counting the strokes.

My mom was never fond of cooking, but I loved baking from the very start. We didn’t have a rubber spatula and I remember the first time I ever saw one–at my neighbor’s house. I was enamored of the spatula’s efficiency in getting every bit of batter out of the bowl. But I felt sorry for my neighbor (my best friend)–there was no batter left to be scooped up and licked from an index finger.

That was my first lesson in the cost of efficiency.

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life* gave me lemons . . .


but this means so much more than just lemonade!

lemon bars

lemon cookies

broiled lemon fish

lemon sauce

lemon chicken

lemon for salads

lemon for household cleaning

lemon pie

lemon granita

lemon to make fresh goat cheese

lemon butter




A couple of lemon tips:

  • you can freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays for handy, portioned defrosting later
  • it occurred to me this morning  that the frozen lemon peels might make terrific disposal cleaners–just drop one in and whirr!

*via a generous friend

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Here’s a recipe I invented for a refreshing late summer salad.

Apple Cucumber Melon Salad

Use equal parts:

Honeydew (or similar green or white) Melon

Cut into chunks.

Mix and dress with plain yogurt mixed (or vinegar) with a splash of lemon or lime juice and a pinch of sugar.

Top with peanuts or fresh mint, if desired.

This salad was made with melon and cucumber from the garden, homemade goat’s milk yogurt, lemon juice from a neighbor’s gift of lemons, and garnished with garden mint. Maybe next year the apple will be from my little orchard, too.

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This is the time of year when eggplant is abundant in the garden. There was a time when I had so much eggplant I couldn’t give it away. Suddenly friends’ schedules were full and they wouldn’t have time to see me until after the first freeze.

No more!

My friend Carolina saved me by sharing her grandmother’s recipe. Now none of us can have too much eggplant. This recipe preserves the eggplant and it is terrifically delicious!

Carolina has kindly given permission for me to post her grandmother’s recipe here:


Carolina’s Beautiful Eggplant Recipe

If the eggplants are bitter, cut them and spread salt on them; that’ll extract the bitter juice.

Rinse them with water.

Boil them in 1/2 water+1/2 vinegar until they’re tender (but don’t let them puree)

Prepare a sauce which has 1 measure of oregano, 1 of chopped garlic, 1of red peppers (dry), 1 of olive oil (approx. 1 spoon of each/eggplant).

Get a glass jar, put a piece of eggplant, a little sauce, a piece of eggplant, a little sauce . . . and so on.

When you’re done, add oil to cover them all.

Let them macerate [in the refrigerator] for at least 4 days.

They’ll last forever!

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