calm mornings


When I have the chance, I like to eat sit-down breakfasts. They’re not grand affairs, nor composed of contents from a box hurriedly dumped into a bowl and splashed with milk. I think of each breakfast as a calm beginning for whatever the day ahead will present. It is a ritual that makes me feel as if I have already accomplished one task from my list.

One of my favorite breakfasts is made with muesli. What is muesli? It is similar to granola, but made with raw rolled oats (granola is made with baked oats). Like granola, muesli usually contains dried fruits, nuts, or seeds. Unlike granola, there is no baking involved, or sitting by the stove the entire time making sure you don’t burn anything. Muesli is forgiving; all you have to do is shop for the ingredients, if you don’t already have them, and toss them together. The combinations are manifold, which gives my creativity plenty of exercise. What I enjoy most about muesli is that it comes together quickly, and lasts a while. I recently chose to make a batch of muesli with some of the ingredients I already had in my pantry, the jars that are almost-but-not-quite empty, taking up space with ten pieces of something inside.

Below, I offer some of my favorite muesli combinations with the fruit that is in season now. I promise that they do not take more than five minutes to prepare, from gathering the ingredients to arranging in a bowl. Muesli can be made to accommodate all allergy symptoms. Oats don’t sit well with you? Try adding puffed quinoa or toasted buckwheat instead. Dealing with picky eaters? Try adding some of their favorite dried fruits or nuts to the mix. If you don’t like yogurt, try kefir or your preferred type of milk or milk substitute instead. Most of all, spend a few minutes with yourself, not Buzzfeed or your phone.


Muesli Mix Ratio*
-40% rolled oats

-20% other grain (puffed rice)
-40% dried fruits and nuts (10% almonds, 10% dried blueberries, 10% dried raisins, 10% date pellets)
-a handful of seeds (sunflower)
-pinch of salt

*I use this ratio for all the muesli I make. In parentheses you will find the ingredients for the blueberry muesli I mention in the recipes below.


Strawberry and Banana Muesli with Hemp Seeds
strawberry and banana muesli Ingredients (measurements are suggestions, adjust to your liking):
-generous quarter cup of plain yogurt
-two heaping tablespoons of blueberry muesli
-half a banana, peeled & sliced
-six strawberries, washed and sliced
-one teaspoon hemp seeds (hemp seeds are full of easily digestible protein, various vitamins, iron…the list goes on)
-half a teaspoon of poppy seeds (not pictured)
-less than one tablespoon wildflower honey

To arrange: 
1) First place the yogurt in a bowl (mine is from Crate & Barrel), and top with the muesli. Continue layering with the fruit, and then seeds. Drizzle honey on top.


Mixed Cherries and Strawberry Muesli with Almonds
mixed cherries and strawberry muesli with almondsIngredients (measurements are suggestions, adjust to your liking):
-generous quarter cup of plain yogurt
-two heaping tablespoons of blueberry muesli
-dozen cherries, washed and pitted, then sliced in half
-eight strawberries, washed and sliced
-about 15 almonds (almonds are high in calcium and fiber) 
-less than one tablespoon of orange blossom honey

To arrange: 
1) First place the yogurt in a bowl, and top with the muesli. Continue layering with the fruit, and then almonds. Drizzle honey on top.


Orange-Banana-Cherry Muesli with Chia Seeds (aka sunshine on a cloudy day)Orange-Banana-Cherry Muesli with Chia Seeds (aka sunshine on a cloudy day)

Ingredients (measurements are suggestions, adjust to your liking):
-generous quarter cup of plain yogurt
-two heaping tablespoons of blueberry muesli
-half a banana, peeled and sliced
-half an orange, slices or supremes
-about two teaspoons of chia seeds (chia seeds are a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphorus)
-4 cherries, washed and pitted, then sliced
-half an apricot, sliced
-about 20 goji berries (goji berries are high in antioxidants) 
-7 pistachios, shelled
-a light drizzle of wildflower honey, optional 

To arrange: 
1) Place the yogurt in a bowl, spread on the bottom, and top with the muesli. Arrange the banana slices on the outer side, and the orange supremes on top of the muesli in a flower/clock/circular pattern. Sprinkle the chia seeds between the spaces of the orange supremes. Layer the sliced cherries in between the orange supremes, finishing with the apricot slices, goji berries, and pistachios. Drizzle lightly with honey on top. This is optional, as the bowl is already a sweet from all of the fruits.


Kiwi Muesli with Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote and Poppy Seeds
Kiwi Muesli with Rhubarb-Strawberry "Jam" and Poppy Seeds

Ingredients (measurements are suggestions, adjust to your liking):
-generous quarter cup of plain yogurt
-two heaping tablespoons of blueberry muesli
-one kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced
-one tablespoon of rhubarb-strawberry “jam”, directions below
-about two teaspoons of poppy seeds

To arrange: 
1) Place the yogurt in a bowl, spread on the bottom, leaving some “gaps” for the muesli. Place the muesli in the “gaps”, and add the kiwi fruit around the edges. Place the rhubarb-strawberry jam on the yogurt, and top off with poppy seeds.

For the Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote: 
1) First things first, this is not a traditional jam, but a looser version. Now that this is out of the way, take one washed and dried medium sized rhubarb stalk, cut into two inch pieces, and 12 medium sized, halved strawberries, and toss in a bowl with juice from half a lemon, and two tablespoons of sugar. The sugar amount you use will be more or less depending on how tart your rhubarb is, or how sweet your strawberries are. Let the mixture sit until a good amount of juice has been extracted (15-30 minutes).
Note – I do not recommend honey, or other sweeteners, when making this mixture because both fruits are low in pectin, and too tart to use with citrus juices alone (the pectin in citrus would gel the mixture, but my results were too tart in previous trials). The sugar here acts as a binding/gelling agent, and honey/agave both proved to be too watery to use. The process took much longer, with diminished results. 
2) Then, place the contents of your bowl into a stainless steel or copper pot, and turn the heat on high. You want to keep the mixture from sticking, so stirring with a rubber spatula is important. As the mixture begins to boil (it will rise, bubble, and foam), reduce the heat to medium, and continue stirring.
Note – You can remove the top of the foam at this stage, or wait until the end. Removing the foam only produces a clearer set, so if this is not a problem, then move along swimmingly.
3) You want to make sure that the contents are breaking down, so if 5 minutes or so have passed and you still have large chunks of fruit, feel free to gently mash them with your spatula against the sides of the pot (not the bottom, because they may stick due to the pressure you are applying). The consistency will become a little thicker, and the bubbles will appear smaller in size. Keep stirring.

4) The desired consistency is up to you, but I measure mine by the drips falling from the spatula when I hold it up straight (horizontal) over the pot. If the drips are very rapid, that means it needs a little more time to thicken. When the drips take a second or two to come down, almost like they want to fall but have to think about it, then I turn off the heat. (And sometimes, when I haven’t been paying attention, and the drips almost seem to unite to form one larger drop, then it is closer to traditional jam (ie thicker) than I want it. You can add some water or juice to loosen a thick set jam, and boil a minute or so more.)
5) I pour the hot compote into clean jars, immediately after turning the heat off, seal and turn the jars upside down until cool, and then refrigerate. These jars sometimes seal, sometimes they do not, which is why I put them in the fridge, and eat the contents in about a week. If you would like to process this mixture, make sure to follow the USDA recommended canning instructions.

farewell to winter salad


The sun wakes us up early with a glow that creeps in through the openings of the brown curtains, and remains throughout the day, growing brighter and warmer. A small breeze is a welcome relief on my way to work. The weather brings forth spring produce, and green is seen all around. I received some wonderful citrus this week, juicy and heavy from a long rest on the trees all winter. I gathered it along with the last fennel bulb in the refrigerator, and a can of chickpeas. In about three minutes, I had a lunch that paid tribute to the passing of winter, but was bursting with the brightness of spring.

Chickpea Salad with Orange and Fennel

chickpea salad with oranges and fennel
Ingredients (for one): 
1/2 can of chickpeas, drained and thoroughly rinsed
1 medium orange, peeled and sliced (or one large orange, half peeled and sliced, and use the other half to squeeze over the salad)
1 very small fennel bulb, or a couple of layers, sliced
one sage stem (about 20 small leaves), chop if using larger leaves of sage
1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon mushroom and sage olive oil (or extra virgin olive oil)

1) Combine the chickpeas and fennel, toss with vinegar and olive oil. Gently incorporate your orange slices, and use some of the liquid from the bottom of the dish/bowl to soak them. You don’t want the slices to break apart, nor be drenched in oil or vinegar.
2) Add the salt, and adjust to your taste. Finish with the sage leaves, and enjoy.

farmers market


It is the end of winter at the farmers market, and a time to rejoice for the offerings of spring, but also reminisce about the winter. Today was a day full of bright colors, especially citrus. I am excited to make cake, jam galore, juice, and finally just eat these beauties, especially the pomelo.

Citrus bountyTop row: ruby red grapefruits (4 for $1), top right hand corner is sweet lemons.
Middle row : cara cara oranges.
Bottom row: lemons, blood oranges, and an oroblanco pomelo.

winter salad with Cara Cara oranges


During cold winter nights, like almost everyone else, I dream of a bowl of soup, even if only for hand warming. However, the winter has not been bitter and cold here, but rather mild and quite predictable. The vegetables and fruits don’t seem to mind though, and continued on producing, even in high numbers. This great bounty of citrus is a match for the weather, and I don’t think I can tire of eating oranges in lieu of chips or nuts at work.

But let me take a moment to pay much deserved attention to the Cara Cara oranges that I found at the farmers market. I had never seen them before, and the intriguing pink flesh made me think at first that they were small grapefruits (sidetrack here, but this clip about grapefruits from Aziz Ansari is gold). Anyway, reading up on these navel oranges, I read that they are actually believed to be the product of a cross between the Washington navel and the Brazilian Bahia navel, first discovered at the Hacienda de Cara Cara in Valencia, Venezuela. The College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at UC-Riverside notes that the rich color of the rind and juice is due to a large presence of lycopene, like the red color of tomatoes. The juice has a red color too, and is lower in acid content than other navel oranges. I even tried to make some curd with it, but it took much longer to thicken than lemon or orange juices, and the color faded into a very pale pink.

I had not done all of this research on the eve of making this salad though. Instead, I wondered what the addition of these sweet oranges and some ripe mangoes would do to a very bitter bunch of kale which had been shoved into the back of the refrigerator repeatedly. The result was a salad with multiple layers: crispy bites from the kale and the late minute addition of a few pecans, sweet undertones from the mango and oranges, and a welcome kick from the champagne vinegar dressing.

mango salad

Ingredients: (for four as a salad or two as a main dish)
half bunch of kale (note: about four to five large leaves will do)
handful of spinach (about one third of a bag, I used baby spinach)
one ripe mango
one avocado
two medium cara cara oranges
a quarter cup of pecans (can be omitted or substituted with almonds or hazelnuts or walnuts)
two to three tablespoons of champagne vinegar (or you can substitute one to two tablespoons of Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar)
quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper

1) Wash kale and spinach, even if pre-washed. Air dry on towel, or quickly dry with paper towels.
2) Peel mango and slice into quarters, bite size. Slice avocado into similar bite size cubes.
3) Peel oranges normally into slices or spice it up by doing orange supremes.
4) Toss greens with olive oil and vinegar in a bowl. Add the mango, avocado, and orange slices. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly toss together with your hands, as to have better control. Add pecans (or nuts, if using) on top.