Monday, October 22, 2018



I'm starting with the sweet. These luscious bites are exquisitely easy to make, have no sugar added, and are truly delicious. I got the recipe from my Paleo Cookbook.

Every January my husband, Jerry and I go on some type of strict eating plan after our holiday indulgences. One year we did Paleo and decided we really liked many of the recipes. The Paleo Diet is roughly crafted after "Eat as our ancestors ate", which I interpret to mean no processed food, sugar (honey and maple syrup in moderation are OK), no grains, legumes or dairy. There are many different interpretations of what this diet is. My personal opinion is our ancestors ate anything they could get their hands on. We did not follow Paleo that strictly, but did see some health benefits, namely we both lost weight! These little Coconut Date Bonbons (In the cookbook they're called Macaroons, but they really are not; this name courtesy of Steve Vis.) taste like something right our of your favorite confectioners, and they only contain 4 ingredients.
Not pictured: salt and vanilla

2 cups plus 2 or more Tbsp. unsweetened coconut flakes
1 1/2 cups dates, pitted and soaked in warm water for 5 minutes
1/4 tsp. vanilla, optional (Paleo recipe calls for alcohol-free if using. No alcohol on Paleo diet.)
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place 2 cups of coconut flakes, dates, vanilla, and sea salt in a food processor and process until thick and sticky.
Place remaining coconut (you may need more than 2 Tbsp.) on a plate. Form the date mixture into little balls. Roll in coconut flakes. The coconut flakes get a little brown and crispy while baking, which adds a nice texture contrast.
I lined the cookie sheet with parchment paper so did not grease.
Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until just golden.

I think soaking the dates in some warm rum for 5 minutes, instead of water, would give a beautiful tropical flavor! (Definitely NOT Paleo!) Mickey Trescott, cookbook author, also says they freeze well. Mine didn't last long enough!

The last couple of blogs covered a delicious duck dinner at my friend Debby Vis's. As you may remember the duck was a little tough, but still very flavorful. I took what was left of the duck meat on the bones and the bones home to make soup and this is what I came up with.
As with most soups, and recipes for that matter, mix this up any way you like. This soup reminded me of a hearty Hunter's Stew and the use of the fruit sauce gave it a slightly sweet flavor, reminiscent of Eastern Europe.

Ingredients-for the Stock:
Remains of 4 duck legs
1 cup of duck fat leftover from roasting the duck*
1 cup leftover fruit sauce from roasting the duck
2 stalks celery, roughly diced
1 carrot, roughly diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
1 Bay leaf
*That sounds like a lot of fat, but you will be removing most of it later.

Ingredients-for the soup:
4 roughly chopped carrots
1 diced onion
2 large cloves garlic
4 cups sliced mushrooms
Duck meat from the bones
1 cup barley
1 cup frozen peas

Place all ingredients for the stock in a large pot and cover with water, about 1 quart. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for 2+ hours. The longer you simmer, the richer the duck broth. Remove from heat and cool. Chill in refrigerator overnight to allow duck fat to harden. Once hardened, remove most of visible fat, which will have hardened on top of the broth. Bring back to a low simmer and then strain all the veg, bones, and duck from the broth. Remove any large pieces of duck from the bones and chop to add to soup. To the broth add 4 roughly chopped carrots; 1 diced onion; 2 large cloves garlic, chopped; 4 cups sliced mushrooms--I used 2 cups white buttons and 2 cups baby portabellas. Add the duck meat and 1 cup barley. Bring back to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer for another 35-40 minutes until barley is just tender. Add 1 cup frozen peas. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve. This soup also freezes well.

I just finished reading Ruth Reichl's, Comfort Me with Apples, a fabulous story of her early years in California as a restaurant critic and food writer. She has inspired me to be a better and more adventurous cook. She captures the most heart-wrenching details of her life with warmth in an easy-to-read, conversational style. Throughout the book she shares recipes either she refined or from others, along with wonderful stories of outrageous dinner parties that make you feel like you're sitting right next to her! Including her first dinner with the Danny Kaye, who I did not realize was quite the chef himself! Thank you Trudy G. Silverman for turning me on to Ruth's books. Have known Ruth as Gourmet's editor for years, but did not know she was such a great writer! Here's my recipe for Mushroom Soup.

3 cups rich chicken stock*
1 cup rich wild mushroom broth**
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped

4 cups sliced mushrooms. I used white buttons.
4 Tbsp. flour
4 large Tbsp. chicken fat or butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 capful either dry sherry or Madeira (I used Madeira as that's what I had.)
Salt/Pepper to taste

*To make rich chicken stock, make chicken stock as you normally would and then cook the stock a second time in new bones to make it more rich.

**The same friend who cooked the duck dinner, gave me this beautiful mushroom broth. Thanks Deb! Like myself, Deb feels most sane and balanced when she has several types of soup stock in the freezer.

In a large pot, bring all ingredients, up to the mushrooms, to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Let cool slightly and strain. Heat the chicken fat or butter in a shallow pan and add the flour to make a roux stirring until slightly thickened. Add the chopped mushrooms to coat and then add mushrooms to the strained broth. Bring back to slow boil and reduce heat and cook 15-20 minutes until mushrooms are tender.  Add sherry, cream/milk, and salt/pepper to taste. I think what made this soup so special was the mushroom broth. I served with some freshly chopped parsley.



Me on my FIRST Ferris Wheel ride at the Santa Cruz County Fair!
September 21, 2018
Live life to the FULLEST!

Saturday, October 13, 2018


As I said in my last blog post the recipe we used for our Duck Legs was not perfect. I am not sure what happened, but the legs were quite tough. Tasty, but tough. The sauce we made was spectacular so I am going to focus on that. I am also including Debby Vis's recipe for Duck a L'Orange as this is perfect every time.
Deb and me making the marinade. She just knew
that duck would be happy swimming in delicious red wine!
First we marinated the legs for about 1 hour in the following:

2 cups red wine
3 tsps. olive oil
1 tsp. salt/a few grinds black pepper
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. onion powder

Preheat oven to 350.
Remove duck legs from marinade and pat dry. Reserve the marinade. In a large, heavy skillet heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter over high heat until smoking. Brown the duck legs on both sides. Place the legs in a large casserole and cover with the marinade. Roast at 350 degrees for 1 hour. I think the cooking time was off on this recipe. We should've cooked another 30 minutes. Next time I would suggest testing for doneness with a meat thermometer. The USDA recommends internal temp be 170 degrees, but for medium rare legs I would stop cooking at 135 degrees. In the rush of getting the other dinner items readied I am not sure we gave the legs the finger test to tell if they were soft, succulent or still stiff and tough.
This is a very brown plate of food. We should have added
freshly chopped parsley to the brown rice and topped
the duck leg with scallion tops.
To make the sauce, remove legs from the pan and set aside under foil to keep warm.
Heat the pan juices adding 1 more cup red wine, 1/2 cup chicken stock, 2 Tbsp. butter, 1 finely diced shallot and 1 cup dried fruit: cherries, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries. Salt/Pepper to taste. Stir any brown bits into the sauce and cook until reduced by half; about 20 minutes. We chose not to strain the sauce as the fruit and shallot gave it a nice, rustic texture, although straining the sauce gives it a little more elegance.

Here is my friend Debby Vis's excellent tried and true Duck a L'Oranage. She has made this dish for me and my husband and it is truly delicious!
Deb's husband, Steve, storms the kitchen brandishing
 a sword making sure the 2 cooks stay in line!

I snagged this photo from the internet.
Deb's Duck a L'Orange looks just as pretty.
Only difference is she cuts the duck in half.
2 whole ducks, cut down the middle, lengthwise
4 oranges, cut into thick slices, leave peel on
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and pat duck halves dry. Rub all sides with the Herbs de Provence. Liberally salt and pepper. Place half the orange slices in a large pan. Top with duck halves, skin side up. Add the rest of the orange slices, onion, and celery. Cook for 11/2 hours. Every 20 minutes baste the duck and use the baster to remove some of the duck fat. To brown the duck, turn oven temp up to 425 degrees and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove duck from the pan and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Make the sauce in the same pan you roasted the duck in.

1 Tbsp. butter
2 large shallots, diced
Rind of 1 orange, cut into strips
1/2 can orange juice concentrate
1/2 (or more) cups Cointreau
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 Tbsp. brown sugar

Melt 1 tbsp. butter in the roasting pan. Add the shallots and cook until just softened and caramel color. Add the orange strips, 1/2 can orange juice concentrate, 1/2 cup Cointreau, 1/2 cup chicken stock, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Stir constantly to incorporate the drippings from the pan the duck cooked in along with cooked celery, onion and orange slices. Cook for 15-20 minutes until reduced by half. Strain and pour over the duck to serve. Garnish the duck with a few fresh slices of orange.

This is the first blog-post I have published since my dear friend, Dennis Makes passed away. Since starting this blog (thanks to the urging of his wife, Diana, 6 years ago) Dennis has not missed making a comment each and every time I post, even while traveling in Africa, New Zealand, or the Galapagos Islands, he always had a positive word. He was a fabulous cook himself and we loved to talk food, cook and share meals together. We shared many holidays; good times on the golf course, and simply enjoying each others company. Both my husband, Jerry and I are missing him dearly.
NOVEMBER 13, 1952 - OCTOBER 5, 2018
'Thank  you' dinner for work Dennis had done on my computer.

Camping Salero Ranch
Very special Czech dinner for Dennis's Mom, Helen.
We "Birdied" #14 at Kino Springs!
What's missing from this photo?!?
Kino Springs 2015
We've shared many Easter feasts with Dennis and his dear wife, Diana.

Easter 2017
Dennis was filled with love, joy and laughter, never
missing an opportunity to live life to the fullest!
And he loved his Wildcats!
You've made a big impact on my life,
as you have on all those you touched.