A Gravenstein applesauce story

Do you have annual food rituals that you love? Making tomato sauce when the season's at its peak, freezing ripe blueberries or making stock when soup season begins in fall? The fizz of anticipation, the planning ahead, the sheer contentment when the treasure is stored away for future delight. If you haven't tried it or tried it with a friend yet, do! Working side-by-side with a dear friend in the kitchen is one of the most nourishing experiences in the world. Enjoy!

Every year around the 2nd week of August, Gravenstein apples make their entrance at our farmer’s market in Marin County, California. Gravenstein is an apple cultivar that originated in the 17th century or earlier. The fruit has a superbly tart flavor cherished for cooking, and it has such a short harvest! Blink and you miss it — which makes it all the more precious. My culinary co-conspirator Julie Burford is our spy. When she sees the apples come in, she orders 40 pounds from the farmer. We are preparing to preserve! 

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Irresistibly summer: Tomatoes!

Come and get 'em! The last of this seasons heirloom tomatoes, in the full array of glowing oranges, reds, and golds. But—what to do with them? If you haven't yet tried slow-roasting tomatoes, you MUST! This caramelizes and intensifies the flavor. Be prepared to have your socks knocked off. :)

On my countertop right now I have a collection of tomatoes. It looks like they’re having babies! We’re at the pinnacle of tomato season, when they’re the juiciest, the most flavorful, the most irresistible. I can’t THINK of anything I don’t want to incorporate them into!

Besides slicing the most perfect tomato, drizzling on a little olive oil, sprinkling on some sea salt and just eating it, my other favorite thing to do with tomatoes is to roast them. When you roast tomatoes, they give up their amazing sugars and become so sweet! I’m very fond of roasting the yellow heirlooms, which are lower in acid, meaning they’re sweeter and easier to digest. I peel the bubbly skin right off and throw them into the blender with a handful of basil. People say, “Are you kidding me? That’s ALL you did?” It’s like drinking summer. Or add roasted tomatoes to any soup to turn it into something special. It’s like magic!

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The Infamous “If-Then Statement”

Do you ever turn your life into an “if-then statement?” If I have this, then I can do that. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work that way. What if you can’t make the “if” part of the statement true? The second thing can’t follow, and instead you sit around waiting. Sometimes it’s worth just jumping ahead to the “then” part.

Alternatively, do you ever put off doing things because you don’t want to do them alone? A number of years ago, for instance, I wanted to go apple picking but thought that it would be more fun to do with someone else. When I couldn’t find a friend to join me, I decided to go by myself, leaping over the “if” and going right to the “then.” I took my dog, Molly, and found an organic U-Pick apple farm nearby.

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Cool as a Cucumber

Summer heat getting to you just a little bit? Have I got the coolest, most refreshing ideas for you! Soundtrack included.🙂 An excellent solution from the archives. Enjoy!

My friends, cucumbers have changed! When I was growing up, cucumbers were fat and stubby with waxy skins and big, blah seeds. They were relegated to three uses: a garnish on the plate, sliced in a salad, or finely sliced in little tea sandwiches with butter on white bread. Honestly not a major player, nothing spectacular. The texture was unexciting, the seeds were annoying, the skin was bitter. Meh.

Oh, there was one other cucumber use! Me and my friends all put them on our eyes :) We had sleepover dates, in which we would rummage through our mother’s beauty supplies, slather our faces with face masks and put cucumber slices over our eyelids to get rid of puffy eyes. (Really? Did we really need to worry about puffy eyes?) We listened to Seals and Crofts “Summer Breeze,” face masks hardening on our faces like cement. Straight out of a Patty Duke Show.

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Get Clear on the Outcome

This morning I spent an hour on the phone with Verizon Wireless to undo an erroneous charge.

Although this was not how I planned to start my day, it helped me realize something about manifestation. As I dialed Verizon, I asked myself, “What do I want?” Once my intention was clear, I was able to pursue it with determination. Yet, I wasn’t attached to the outcome, which kept me calm and focused. I wanted my account credited, but I knew I’d be okay if it didn’t happen. After talking to four different people, however, I eventually got it.

Whatever your dreams—a refund on your cellular data plan or something much bigger—set your intention, release attachment to the outcome, and feel it with all your might. My mom calls this “acting as if.” Act as if your future is already a reality and believe it or not, once you truly feel your dreams, they do indeed come true.

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Tomato explosion!

Cherry, beefsteak, sungold, green zebra. Who doesn't like a ripe, juicy tomato in the peak of summer? They seem to pop out all at once in our gardens, CSA baskets, and markets, which is why we eagerly wait all summer for them to appear. There are so many varieties to choose from, each with a distinct taste, scent, and texture. Even the health benefits vary from one variety to another: smaller cherry tomatoes contain higher levels of beta-carotene than the larger beefsteak and field tomatoes.

 

Across the board, tomatoes are a nutritional powerhouse. The vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids (a type of phytonutrients) can help protect against cancer, maintain healthy skin, maintain blood pressure, and lower blood glucose in diabetics.  Let's dive in a little deeper about some of the health supportive effects of tomatoes. 

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Dial up the flavor AND health! Incorporate more fresh herbs & spices

Did you know that fresh herbs and spices don’t JUST 10x flavor (as if that weren’t enough), but that they have magical healing powers, too? Many contain compounds capable of modifying gene expression to potentially keep cancer and other diseases at bay, plus providing immune support, controlling inflammation, and warding off bacteria and viruses—i.e., they have superpowers! So we’re not talking just enhancing taste, but improving wellness and possibly increasing longevity when you reach for that spice jar or throw some chopped herbs in whatever you’ve got cooking.

I’m delighted to share one of my favorite posts from the archives on this topic. If you haven’t seen it before, take a few moments to absorb this truly remarkable knowledge developed over the past decade of nutrition research. Plus get 2 superb recipes, including one of my most popular potato recipes ever. Serious yum!

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Cultivating Your Life

Often the effort we put into something has a direct correlation with our satisfaction. If you are a picky eater or if you have children who won’t touch a vegetable with a ten-foot pole, grow a vegetable garden. It sounds like a crazy idea, but you may discover a latent penchant for kale, tomatoes, or zucchini as a result of the love and time that you put into your little patch of earth. There is power in growing your own food, be it a small pot of mint on your kitchen counter or an acre of vegetables. I’m constantly in awe of nature’s majesty when I see what one tiny seed can become.

What other things in your life might you perceive differently if you spent time tending to them and nurturing them?

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What to do about hangry!

Have you experienced hangry? I recently got called on it. I had worked myself into a snit in conversation with my friend when she turned to me and said, “When’s the last time you ate?” I looked at her wide-eyed, and thought, Oh my God! When was the last time?

I work really hard and forget to eat. I lose track of time and my blood sugar runs a little low. At that point, I’m slipping into fight or flight and my mood is taking a dramatic dip. Have you thought through how deeply hangry can affect your productivity, your behavior, your relationships—and why? 

An article in the Washington Post this month entitled “If you’ve ever been hangry, this is what your body may be telling you” got me thinking about the whys of hangry, and how much it makes perfect sense! All your neurotransmitters are cycling through your enteric nervous system. If you’re not feeding and nourishing your brain, your mood’s gonna dip! Things that would never irritate you normally are suddenly the most monumental issues in the world. I get possessed! Who is that person? Angry, irritable, upset-out-of-nowhere and often doesn’t even realize it!

As soon as I feed myself, usually a good combination of fat, protein and carbs (enter the nut or seed), I go from possessed… back to my normal self. That little goblin goes away. Is it literally that simple? Yes.

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Summer is Delicious

Do you ever feel jealous of posts on Facebook about summer adventures? When you’re working long hours or stuck at home with a summer cold, even little things like a photo of a homemade smoothie or a mention of a walk with a dog can elicit envy. Do you want to experience the carefree feeling of the summer of your youth, to swing for hours under a grand, old oak tree, dig your toes into the sand at the beach, and wipe the sweat from your brow as you slice, dice, pickle, and preserve the bounty of a summer harvest?

One summer a few years ago when I was down with the flu and had to succumb to a bowlful of cough drops and endless hours of Netflix, I looked out the window and heard the kids next door running through the sprinkler and smelled another neighbor’s charcoal grill. I longed to join them.

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Fresh eating in the summertime: very superior salads!

Don't you get to the point on hot summer evenings when all you want to eat are fresh, crispy salads? Here's a deliciously special post from the archives with the salads of your dreams—and a fun video showing you chef's secrets for how to properly dress a salad. I'm telling you, this is a game changer!

Let’s talk salads.


I started making salads for my father when I was 7 years old. He was in the salad dressing business, and he liked his salads a particular way -- big, crunchy, crispy salads, full of vegetables, draped in dressing. Chopping up salad for him was a HUGE deal. I, Rebecca, was making salad for the Salad King!

Fast forward. When I studied cooking in Italy, I had to revamp my knowledge of salads and learn the refined art of dressing an elegantly simple salad -- lightly dressed and full of tender greens such as arugula, radicchio, and mache, varieties I wasn’t exposed to in the states. By European standards, my father’s salads were uber chunky, and way overdressed!

How do you go about dressing the perfect salad?

It’s really very, very simple.

First of all, your greens have to be dry and crisp. I like to spin them in a salad spinner then put them in a flour sack towel to pick up any moisture clinging to them. So you’re starting with the right texture, with the leaves ready to absorb the dressing and receive just a gentle coating. In contrast, if the greens are soggy the salad dressing will roll right off, down to the bottom of the bowl. This step is numero uno! Very important.

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Perfect Potluck!

My dears, we are approaching picnic season! Including the grandaddy of picnics, 4th of July. I've got you covered with potluck etiquette, recipes and strategies to help make hosting or participating a delicious—and delightful—success!

 

It’s that time of year! We’re invited to block parties, 4th of July fests, family reunions, picnics, and potlucks of all shapes and sizes. This is when we’re supposed to show up with the PERFECT dish that everyone loves, something that won’t wilt in the heat, will go with whatever everyone else brings (or at least out shine all those other dishes).

 

Here’s my favorite potluck story ever.

When I moved in with my husband on his street in San Rafael, California, no one in the neighborhood knew about me yet. I was working really hard doing heavy-duty cancer retreat cooking at Commonweal at the time, and, well, I was like the shoemaker with holes in her shoes! The summer party invitation arrived, asking us to bring something for the grill, and something for the cooler. I thought, corn! I bought a whole blue bag full from our farmer’s market. Gregg brought a bottle of wine and some fish for the grill. We walked a few doors down to the Burford’s home, and on the counter were ALL these gorgeous dishes, the most AMAZING spread. Frittatas, tarts, grain salads, gorgeous vegetables. It was like, oh my God! I did not get the memo. I’m a trained chef, I had just come out with my first cookbook and I’m walking in with a bag of corn. Granted, it was shucked! And it wasn’t a bad thing to bring, actually. But ouch! Not the ideal first impression. I could have brought a million more sophisticated things!

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Follow Your Passion and Live Your Life

Follow Your Passion and Live Your Life

I was 23 years old when I started teaching French at a small boarding school in Maine. Just three days after submitting my master’s thesis in Paris I was settled into a small, white clapboard, steps away from a salt marsh on the New England coastline.

 

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Transition time

We think of seasons: Fall. Winter. Spring. Summer… but it’s really more like transition to spring, late spring… summer… then late summer. Memorial Day feels like the pivot point, marking the start of summer; but you really never know what transition times will bring. Right now in the Bay Area, we’re having unseasonably cool temperatures and rain is predicted. For us, that’s like a blizzard coming! It’s a big deal. We may have harbingers of summer, but we’re not quite there yet.

 

Food-wise, I’m thinking spring soups, when you want something that whispers of late spring, honors the gorgeous spring harvest, and that’s bright and refreshing! Fresh pea soup… carrots… fennel… asparagus…cream of celery. Easy to put together, with the fresh, tender spring veggies.

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The Best Vegetarian Bun Free Burger Ever!

There’s nothing more satisfying than a burger... especially when it is a hashtag juicepulp burger! Pulp from juicing can be used for all sorts of food and beauty recipes. Try using cucumber pulp for cleansing the skin, carrot pulp for carrot cake and beetroot (beet) pulp for these delicious burger patties. Whatever your everyday life throws at you these beetroot burgers are designed to restore your depleted energy levels.

Makes 4 burgers

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Be still my heart: Radishes!

So cute, they’re adorable! But so brash. They can be a little bossy, a little assertive. A wake up call! Of course I’m talking about radishes, the charming but somewhat overlooked actors waiting in the wings of our kitchen stage. Let’s talk about their myriad facets, and the many roles they are ready to play on our plates!

A bit of radish history

Radish plants are native to China, and are thought to have been cultivated in Europe as early as Neolithic times (from around 9,000 to 3,000 BC). They were certainly eaten in Egypt since the beginning of civilization. The 100,000 builders of The Great Pyramid evidently ate enormous quantities of radishes together with onions and leeks. The mind boggles.

Today’s familiar red globe radishes first appeared on the food scene in the 18th century, and now there are more than 250 varieties in various shapes, sizes and colors. A veritable treasure trove of radishes!

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Why Giving from the Heart Can Be So Scary

What kind things do you think but don’t say? How would your life be different if you expressed your love, desire, and gratitude more often to those closest to you? What do you keep to yourself because it feels too scary to share?

The following is an example of a seemingly insignificant moment that I’ve never forgotten because I chose to be guarded rather than vulnerable. When I was in 11th Grade, a friend and I set off on a late afternoon stroll through some pastures in Vermont. There was a golden hue as the spring day was slowly turning to night, and I remember looking at my friend and thinking how beautiful she looked. However, instead of sharing from my heart and telling her what I saw, I bit my tongue and said nothing. How strange to be too shy to extend a compliment, but this happens more frequently than you might think.

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Arugula!

Arugula is my number one go-to green. I put it on EVERYTHING! I like a little bit of bitter, and it has good tooth—texture you can sink your teeth into. Arugula plays well with others, especially seasonal fruits like blueberries, roasted cherries, apricots. Throw it in with other lettuces, in a frittata, into a pesto. Throw it on top of soup! Top it with sardines. Throw it in at the last minute of scrambling an egg. On top of toast with smushed avocado. The topping looks like green hair! Like that girl in school who had that curly kind of crazy hair? Like that.

It’s kind of my savior.

What could be easier than grabbing a handful or two out of a bag, box or farm-market stash and plopping in whatever you’re doing? Drizzle on a little olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt. Done.

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A taste for vegetables: your guide to falling in love

Vegetables are ALWAYS a good idea, and this post is a good reminder to eat the rainbow! A plate full of color means you are loading up on the important phytonutrients that can do better than anything else on the planet to balance your immune system, reduce inflammation, and make you FEEL better. My advice? Go for it. 

For over a decade, I’ve been preaching that you need to love your vegetables, not just endure them. Veggies, and the fantastic array of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals they contain, are crucial for brain health, longevity, and cancer prevention, among their many good deeds. Cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower) contain B vitamins that are critical for methylation, for example, a process through which our brains repair themselves. We all need brain repair!

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Keeping the Balance

Recently I was hanging out with a friend who’s the poster child for “woe is me.” According to him, no one works as hard for as little and everyone else’s life is better, easier, and more fun. The more time I spent with him, the more I began to notice myself falling into this thought form as well. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we tend to mirror those around us.

Since my “woe is me” friend talks incessantly about how busy he is, how everyone he hires fails him in some way, and how everyone else seems to “have it made,” he misses the opportunity to see what’s around him and recognize the many blessings in his life. Interestingly, I’ve noticed the people whom my friend believes “have it made” tend to work hard, but they have the ability to slow down enough to find joy and beauty wherever they are, no matter what they’re doing. Henri Matisse said, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” There’s always something to marvel at, but we have to be willing to slow down and look.

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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