Friday, March 28, 2014


Happy New Year! Early January is a satisfying time of year for me because for a solid 14 days, it feels like the whole world is perfectly aligned with my personal interests. The Williams Sonoma catalog has jewel-colored juices on the cover. People are Pinning yoga. Everyone’s searching like mad for vegan recipes. Life is good. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t afraid to let my absolute freak flag fly on Serious Eats this week with the Buffalo Green Juice. Not gonna lie, it’s both savory and spicy. And also? It’s my favorite. You can find the recipe here on Serious Eats.


Hi folks, here’s me catching up on January juice month at Serious Eats, where I posted these three jewel-colored juices. Up top is Asian Pear Basil Juice, followed by Green Grapefruit Ginger Juice and Orange Sweet Potato Juice. Just click through on the photos to get to the Serious Eats posts and recipes. See you later in the week with some recommendations and a recap of our recent trip to Florence.


Our girls have grown up so much since we moved to London that when we took a recent trip to Florence, Michelangelo’s David was like, “Wow, they’re big in person!” Tell me about it, you giant, beautiful slab of stone. Tell me about it. As they’ve grown, this whole casual travel around Europe thing has gotten easier and more fun. Even so, most of what’s fun is that we’ve abandoned all expectations and learned to show up, take in what we take in, and get out.
Florence was an important — if tricky — place to practice that style of visit. With six bajillion “must-see” museums, you could spend weeks chasing guidebook affirmation. Or you could cross the Arno river to the more relaxed left bank, hike up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic city view that also allows for some major run-around time, and settle in at  Trattoria La Casalinga with a big, homey plate of spaghetti and totally decent house wine without the tourist prices. Just sayin’, it’s up to you.

Truth be told, we did our share of museum visits in Florence. Maybe more than our share, as evidenced by the girls’ casual observation on day four: “NO MORE MUSEUMS!” Yeah, we’re still tweaking the balance. I don’t know how I can have seen so many Caravaggio paintings and still know virtually nothing about him, but I shouldn’t be surprised. As well-traveled kids, my sister and I had a side business leading Non-Informational Tours. We couldn’t tell you anything you couldn’t have observed on your own, but we were damn fine at walking backwards with a closed Totes umbrella held above our heads. Plus ça change.

Does Beaver Tush Flavor Your Strawberry Shortcake? We Go Myth Busting

A few years ago, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver kicked up a foodie firestorm when he told the audience at the Late Show with David Letterman that vanilla ice cream contains flavoring from a beaver’s … um, derriere.
“Beaver anal gland — yes,” Oliver shouted bluntly, as the crowd booed and hissed. “Oh, come on! You’re telling me you don’t like a little beaver? … It’s in cheap sorts of strawberry syrups and vanilla ice creamIn the food flavoring world, the truth can be stranger than fiction. (Remember when Starbucks was coloring its strawberry Frappuccinos with crushed bugs?) And since Oliver’s big reveal, the Internet has perpetuated the tale of the beaver tush flavoring.
But was Oliver telling the truth? Or was he pulling our turkey legs?
Probably a little bit of both, says flavor chemist Gary Reineccius, from the University of Minnesota.
Decades ago, he explains, scientists did indeed extract compounds from a gland in a beaver’s tush. And then they would use the potion to help create strawberry and raspberry flavorings or to enhance vanilla substitutes.
And these days, the Food and Drug Administration regards the beaver extract as a safe, natural flavoring. There’s even a Swedish schnapps flavored with it, called baverhojt.
But the chance of encountering eau de beaver in foods today is actually slim to none, Reineccius says. It’s simply too expensive. So companies have pretty much stopped using it.
“In the flavor industry, you need tons and tons of material to work with,” Reineccius tells The Salt. “It’s not like you can grow fields of beavers to harvest. There aren’t very many of them. So it ends up being a very expensive product — and not very popular with food companies.”
In 2004, the food industry used only about 300 pounds of the beaver extract, according to according to the fifth edition of Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients, an industry bible of sorts. That’s a mere drop in the bucket compared with the amount of vanilla extract used. And in 2011, the Vegetarian Resource Group asked five companies that make vanilla flavoring if they used any beaver extract. All of them said no.
“If food companies can find anything else to substitute for vanilla or to create a strawberry flavor, they will,” Reineccius says. “It actually isn’t very hard to make a basic strawberry flavor that you would recognize with just two compounds.”
So why did flavor scientists go looking to beaver behinds in the first place?
Turns out, the scent of beaver is not only pleasant but downright wonderful, wildlife ecologist Joanne Crawford told National Geographic in October.
“I lift up the animal’s tail and I’m like, ‘Get down there, and stick your nose near its bum,’ ” she said, adding, “People think I’m nuts. I tell them, ‘Oh, but it’s beavers; it smells really good.’ ”
Like dogs, beavers mark their territory by secreting pungent scents from their behinds. But unlike Fido’s odors, the fragrance of beavers has been prized by perfumers for centuries. Extracts of its secretions are thought to have put the “oh!” in many famous eaux de toilette, from Chanel to Shalimar.
So why such a fuss over a rodent’s secretion?
The beaver’s scent contains hundreds of compounds, including ones that smell like honey, anise and even raspberry. At high concentrations, the mixture has an intense animal, musky and leathery odor. But at low concentrations, the bouquet supposedly takes on more subtle nuances.
Those fruity fragrant compounds probably come from the beaver’s diet of bark and leaves, Crawford told NatGeo, and because the beaver secretions don’t contain foul-smell bacteria.
That last point brings up another remark from chef Oliver that needs correcting. Beaver food flavoring doesn’t actually come from the animal’s anal gland but from another organ next to it, called the castor sac. And the technical term for the beaver extract is “castoreum.”
And with that refresher on biology, we can all go safely back to enjoying a cup of vanilla ice cream with strawberry syrup drizzled on top.

Truckin’: Salmon Take A Long, Strange Trip To The Pacific Ocean

In California, severe drought has imperiled millions of juvenile salmon who now face waterways too dry to let them make their usual migration to the Pacific Ocean. So state and federal officials are giving millions of salmon a lift — in tanker trucks.
Over the next two-and-a-half months, some 30 million Chinook salmon will be trucked from five hatcheries in the state’s Central Valley to waters where they can make their way to the ocean.
The trucking experiment formally kicked off Tuesday, when some 400,000 smolt — juvenile salmon about 3 to 4 inches long — hitched a ride on climate-controlled tankers from the Coleman National hatchery near Red Bluff to the Sacramento River, in the delta town of Rio Vista. A roughly 100-foot-long pipe then funneled the fish from the truck into a series of floating holding pens in the water.
The salmon usually make the 270-mile trip on their own. But they wouldn’t have been able to survive the swim in this drought, says Bob Clarke, fisheries program supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“If we don’t get any rain, later in the year the river may become too low, too slow and too clear,” Clarke says, “so that the fish would face too warm temperatures and too much predation, and would … all perish.”
These are certainly extreme measures, says Stafford Lehr, the chief of fisheries for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, but drought has left officials with little choice.
“We are not necessarily in favor of trucking 100 percent of our fish,” he says. “So we would prefer to find other means to release these [salmon], to improve their homing ability to get back to their natal streams.”
Officials worry that this hitchhike for the fish will disrupt their ability to “imprint.” That refers to the process by which the fish learn the location of their home waters so they can return there from the ocean in three or four years in order to spawn.
But Lehr says that’s a risk worth taking. And the trucking operation could be a boon to researchers.
“Twenty-five percent of these fish have a small tag in their nose that identifies the hatchery and the river they belong to and the release strategy,” he explains. “So we’ll be able to track those fish in four years, or three years. As they come back, we take those tags and we read them.”

A California Department of Fish and Wildlife worker prepares to release fingerling Chinook salmon into the Sacramento River on Tuesday in Rio Vista, Calif. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
There’s more than a little history here. In 1991 the state trucked salmon to the delta. But the trucks simply dumped the fish near the river banks, where they were easy pickings for predators.
In 2008, poor river conditions and a low supply of food in the ocean caused few salmon to return home for spawning. The result: The commercial salmon fishing industry was virtually shut down for a couple of years.
That’s why state and federal officials are taking painstaking steps to make sure every juvenile salmon is flushed properly out of the tanker trucks. The holding pens are operated by staff from a group called the Fishery Foundation of California. Kari Burr, a senior biologist with the group, says the pens allow the fish to get accustomed to the water temperature.
One tell-tale sign that smolts are ready to make the transition to salt water? The fish assume a shiny silver color, she says. “They’re looking good and healthy,” she says of the current batch of fish.
After the pens are full, a boat slowly tugs them at about the speed of the tide to the middle of the Sacramento River, where the fish will be released.
The salmon are the root stock of an industry estimated at about $1.5 billion in these parts. On the dock, the executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, John McManus, is beaming.
“For us in the sport and commercial salmon fishery industry, it means that we should see much better returns of adults in 2016, when these fish are fully grown,” he says. “We’ll have something to harvest.”
And that means lovers of salmon will find fish on the market.

AP Stylebook Adds ‘Aioli,’ ‘Vegan,’ and ‘Buffalo Wings’

The Associated Press Stylebook announced this week its updates for 2014, which include adding a number of new food terms, such as aioli, Buffalo wings, caipirinha, demi-glace, kamut, mixologist, vegan and vegetarian.
You’d have thought vegetarian would have achieved mainstream acceptance before now, but in fact it wasn’t until this week that AP added the entries on vegan and vegetarian. While the AP Stylebook determines what many news organizations use in their reporting, it often can seem behind the times. Along with finally acknowledging vegan, it also added entries on selfie and Snapchat–though it continues to insist on capitalizing Internet.
Last year, the AP Stylebook added entries on Grand Marnier, upside-down cake and madeleine.
The most recent changes were announced at the American Copy Editors Society conference during the Ask the AP Stylebook Editors session. Reportedly, some of the additions and changes (emoji!) were met with audible gasps. Most notably, people are up in arms over permission to now use “over” (instead of just “more than”) in reference to a numerical value.
While the AP Stylebook updates each year, it was in 2011 that AP added a specific food section to its stylebook in recognition of the growing importance that food is playing in the media. That section consolidated existing food and wine terms, as well as added new entries. The food section also includes an official recipe section and answers style questions about the kitchen. Some of the explanations and definitions at times can be entertaining: “locavore — The preferred term for a person who strives to eat locally produced foods.”
The reason AP Stylebook changes matter to those outside the insular world of copyeditors is because how AP goes so too goes society. When the Associated Press announced it would no longer use the term “illegal immigrant”–ruling that only actions can be illegal, not people–The New York Times shortly followed suit. Will how we refer to immigrants without proper paperwork change how we perceive them? Perhaps, in the long arc of history.
In that same way, the fact the vegans and vegetarians are finally getting their own definitions in the AP Stylebook suggests that they have become very nearly mainstream. It may not have much effect on how people who choose not to eat meat are perceived, but at least it will spread the word about their decisions.
And, evidently, Buffalo wings finally needed someone to explain if they’re really made of Buffalo.
Want daily tips on your grammar, punctuation and style? Follow @APStyleBook for tips like:
  • “Sichuan is the preferred spelling: Sichuan peppercorns (not Szechwan).”
  • “It’s barbecue, not barbeque or Bar-B-Q.”
  • via:

The Search For The Perfect Cup Of Coffee Can Be Such A Grind(er)

Doug and Barb Garrott assemble a Lido 2 grinder at their home in Troy, Idaho. They’ve spent the past three years perfecting their design for the hand-cranked machine. Photo: Jessica Greene
Post by Sam Dean, The Salt at NPR Food (3/27/14)
In the tiny town of Troy, Idaho, Barb and Doug Garrott have spent the past three years perfecting a machine that could change the morning routines of coffee drinkers all over the country: a $175 hand-cranked coffee grinder.
It’s called the Lido 2, the first run of 500 has already sold out on preorder, and coffee aficionados are asking for more.
Before you spit that cup of coffee all over your screen, consider this: Single cups of pour-over coffee, brewed with nothing but hot water and a paper filter, are replacing shots of espresso as the gold standard of the gourmet coffee world.
People in pursuit of the perfect cup of Joe no longer need to spend thousands of dollars on an espresso machine to brew like a pro. That shift has given rise to a new wave of high-end home coffee lovers (and a wave of articles on the seemingly simple art of making a cup of regular coffee).
But even if good coffee is more accessible than ever, it’s not quite as easy as getting good beans, a $10 drip cone and practicing your hot water pour. Without a good grinder to chop those single-origin beans into a consistent size, you might as well be brewing with your grandma’s percolator.
The Lido 2 (far right) is the latest hand grinder produced by the Garrotts. Their previous efforts were the well-regarded Pharos (left) and Lido 1 (center). Photo: Jessica Greene
The Lido 2 (far right) is the latest hand grinder produced by the Garrotts. Their previous efforts were the well-regarded Pharos (left) and Lido 1 (center). Photo: Jessica Greene
Ask anyone in the coffee industry, and they’ll tell you: The grinder is the unsung hero of the coffee process. Benjamin Brewer, Blue Bottle Coffee‘s director of quality control, says the switch from a “crummy” grinder to a more competent machine “totally makes a difference. It’s like, oh, we can actually taste the coffee now!”
Making coffee is all about dissolving some of the roasted beans’ flavor compounds — including the slightly bitter tang of caffeine — into hot water. Every brewing method is designed to pull out just the right amount. For espresso, that extraction happens when hot water passes through tightly packed, superfine grounds for just a few moments; for French press, when water steeps in coarse-ground beans for a few minutes.
But all of that depends on the coffee grounds being as close to uniform in size as possible. Once you introduce too many big chunks (known as “boulders” in grinder parlance) or tiny microparticles (dubbed “fines”), the extraction gets all out of whack.
The fines give up their flavor too fast, making for a bitter brew, and the boulders hardly give up anything at all, leaving your cup thin and sour. It’s the same problem that occurs whenever you cook widely varying chunks of anything all together — potatoes in a pot of boiling water, for instance. The result will come out either cooked to oblivion or underdone.
The whirling blade grinder that most people have at home just doesn’t cut it. The blade smashes coffee to smithereens, making boulders and fines all over the place. Instead, the coffee pros use burr grinders, which chew the beans up to a precise, consistent size by funneling them through a set of steel or ceramic teeth.
In other words, a good grinder can make all the difference between a cup of sludge and a rich, aromatic morning mug of Joe.
Which is exactly why the Garrotts set out to make an ideal hand grinder three years ago. “It started out as a winter project to stave off the boredom,” Barb says.
She and Doug had been running a business called Orphan Espresso, selling repair parts for vintage espresso machines and old-timey wood-box coffee grinders. They’d found themselves disappointed with most of the hand grinders on the market, vintage and new. So, they figured, they might as well make one themselves.
Since their first machine debuted in 2011, they’ve sold over 1,500 grinders, mostly to the self-selecting coffee obsessives on forums like Home Barista and CoffeeGeek. Each one was painstakingly put together by hand in the workshop next to their house. Now, with the Lido 2, they’ve gone through the hoops to mass manufacture their parts in Taiwan, but are still assembling their first run of 500 at home.
The $175 price tag comes from using professional-grade parts, cast metal construction and lots of attention to detail. They also added adjustment mechanisms to stop the teeth from wobbling while crushing up beans. That means the grind is more regular, and more consistent, than many of the hand grinders on the market.
But why make, or buy, a hand grinder at all?
Simply put, they deliver the same quality as motorized machines at a fraction of the cost. There are other hand grinders that are even cheaper than the Lido 2, such as the Hario Slim ($50) and Porlex Mini ($7). But die-hard coffee lovers contend that with sub-$100 models, you’ll have problems with inconsistent grinds.
Joshua Viau, a regular Home Barista contributor, says the appeal of the Lido 2 and other serious hand grinders goes beyond mechanics.
“You taste differences in the cup, but it’s more than that. These feel like tools, like something that lasts.” Grinding every morning, he says, “you form a bond with it.”

KQED’s Bay Area Bites Seeking Journalists and Writers!

KQED is hiring freelance journalists and writers to contribute stories to KQED’s food blog, Bay Area Bites.
  • Are you passionate about writing stories on food-centric topics?
  • Do you have food journalism or food writing experience?
  • Are you on the pulse of the culinary scene in the Bay Area?
  • Can you take photos and understand the art of food porn?
    Basic Requirements:
  • Food media writing experience – published articles
  • Basic photography skills – shooting and editing photos
  • Active in social media and follow food-related sources
  • Familiarity using WordPress
  • Competent at managing time and meeting deadlines
  • Familiar with KQED – its mission and media
  • Video skills
  • Illustration and Infographic skills
  • Expertise in wine, beer, spirits
If you have these basic qualifications and would like to apply, please send information about yourself — your areas of expertise, why you would be a good fit for BAB, links to published work, and two pitches reflecting your areas of interest to

Blood Orange Buttermilk Pound Cake

It’s always around this time of year that we begin swimming in citrus and every meal (and drink!) has some splash of fragrant juice. You can call it a garden obsession, but we’re not far from being finished. Last week we planted another (our third) blood orange tree and it wasn’t in-celebration to grow more, but rather, to replace one blood orange tree that had completely died on us.
So this blog post has mixed emotions, both sadness for losing a beloved tree and joy of giving another tree life in our garden. We’re ready to move on and celebrate blood oranges.
Call it over-zealous gardening or perhaps too much attention to care which resulted in overwatering. After ten years, our beloved first blood orange tree completely died. We were in shock and speechless when it started to deteriorate after only 4 weeks of peaking out with hundreds of blood oranges. With still about one hundred pounds of blood oranges to pick, the tree quickly started to yellow and lose it’s leaves.

After many phone calls to nurseries, conversations with Master gardeners and hours researching online, the conclusion was that our tree was being over watered.
We killed our own tree? Did we really hurt it? After a phase of feeling guilt for nurturing the tree too much, we realized we shouldn’t be punishing ourselves for loving something too much. In fact, we saw it as a learning experience on how to care for older established trees and not baby-ing it like a toddler-tree.
As we said good-bye to our first blood orange tree for all the years of beautiful juice, zest, cocktails and love, we celebrated its contribution to our garden with this blood orange buttermilk pound cake. It’s delicious and beautiful, just like the tree that we loved so much.
We’re grateful for all the wonderful blood oranges that have graced our kitchen and hope you’ll enjoy this Seasons bounty of blood oranges too.
-diane and todd
Here’s some of our previous blood orange recipes you might enjoy:


Meyer Lemon Magic Custard Cake for Breakfast

The Winter Olympics are here and we’re trying our hardest to sneak in as much spectator time as possible, on television, that is. There’s so much that we love about the Olympics, but it’s the personal stories that make watching the events so special. We all have our dreams to pursue and to see someone be able to live their personal dream by just being in the Olympics is so inspiring.
It’s hard to not be drawn to each Olympians personal commitment and story to why they love what they do so much. And it’s also about understanding their personal drive, un-faultering commitment and obsession to their sport. We’re always cheering for for our favorites, even when we scream so loud that it scares the pups. Go Team USA!

On the topic of obsession, we’re not ready to let go for obsession with our magic custard cakes and adoration for homegrown citrus. It started with a craving for blood orange buttermilk pound cake and a blood orange gin and tonic (recipe soon). Then we started picking some meyer lemons from our tree and it all wen’t downhill from there. It’s a citrus addiction, we tell ya. Citrus therapy, please.

We were wanting to make another batch of magic custard cake for breakfast (it’s great with coffee) and had a basket of meyer lemons on the counter. So rather than making the traditional vanilla version, we wanted to experiment with some fresh meyer lemon zest and juice, hoping for a brighter flavor on our original one.
This meyer lemon magic custard cake version is just as delicious as the vanilla version, but not as sweet. It’s lifted with the floral and sweet essence of meyer lemon, along with the bright citrus notes of meyer lemon that make it super special.

Serve up a slice for breakfast along with a cup of your favorite coffee. It’ll start your morning in a simple, lovely and delicious way. The custard cake has enough egg in there, so it’s the perfect partner to your morning meal.
Enjoy Breakfast. And Go Team USA!


Blood Orange Gin and Tonic

We swear it wasn’t intentional to be missing from the blog for five weeks and return with booze. In fact, we had this recipe ready to share about seven weeks ago but a few things got in the way and blog life kinda came to a screeching halt. And secondly, we missed you all and want to let you know it feels good to be back. So this blood orange gin and tonic is indeed, a celebration to what lies ahead.
Here’s the latest news and biggest reason that distracted us from blogging recently, we’ve been working on some big changes in our studio. To be exact, there’s an additional 1,400 sq foot of change. We’re taking over the space next door to our current studio and are doubling our space! This is exciting for a number of reasons: we finally have more space for all our props, or expensive junk. What ever you want to call it, we’re just overloaded with dishes, textures, tables and chairs.
Secondly, we’re finally building our gallery to showcase our special photo prints. We have a special collection of prints that have never had their fair share of hanging time in the studio because quite frankly, they’d all be lost in the sea of props and photography equipment. Now, we can finally have a ton of extra space to build out or dream gallery that we’ve been wanting for so long.
So that’s where we’ve been hiding. Between juggling conversations on new construction, to design ideas, sourcing new furniture and everything involved with doubling our space, we’ve been behind on blogging.
But we’re back to full swing on blogging and if any of you by chance have any idea inspirations on how to design a white studio with lots of wood and black furniture, we’d love to hear about it!
In the meantime, have a few of these blood orange gin and tonics on us while there’s still blood oranges around. Gin and tonics are one of our go-to drinks and adding that seasonal-splash of blood orange juice really hits the spot. And best of all, it screams out to celebrate beautiful citrus while it lasts.


One Pot Stovetop Creamy Kale Mac and Cheese

Yes, adding kale can justify mac and cheese being “healthier”, can’t it? Please say yes because that’s what my conscience was telling me when I wanted to combine two of my top 25 foods all in one pot. Perhaps I’m making up lost time as a kid when all I wanted to eat was mac and cheese, but instead I was fed a healthy diet of fresh fish, greens and rice. Oh, the “trauma” of eating fresh homemade food during childhood.
Please, let me explain.

As a hungry kid growing up in a family with five younger siblings, we add suffered from the pain of growing up in two cultures. When I say “pain”, it’s from the perspective of a thirteen year old who was always hungry for American foods. Granted, we never were actually hungry because my parents had a whole backyard of garden fresh vegetables and herbs. Practically every meal we ate was homemade, 50% homegrown and always fresh.
Fresh and homegrown were bad words back then when my siblings and I were growing up. Why? Because all we wanted to eat were mac and cheese, hamburgers, french fries and pizza. As kids, not only was it torture to have to help out in the garden and pull weeds every weekend when we wanted to play Atari, but it was even more torture to have to eat all the greens that my parents grew.
Yuck. That’s all we could think of every day for three meals a day. That amounted to 21 meals a week that had to be homemade and fresh. But we ate everything my parents put in front of us or else we’d starve.

The pangs of hunger and cravings for cheesy mac and cheese were only satisfied once a month. And that was in the form of the boxes of Kraft mac and cheese. If it was on sale, then my Mother would treat us to three boxes. Now if you did the math, that would mean three boxes between six kids, which meant that after it was all cooked, each kid only had about 1.5 cups of mac and cheese.
Yes, we were all good at math, including the two year old twins who knew how to count out exactly their fair share of 1.5 cups of  Kraft mac and cheese.
So, now as an adult, I often have cravings for this comfort dish and always remember how little I had it growing up and am now making up for all those childhood years of lost mac and cheese dinners. So what does all mean?
Well, what it all means is that I indulge in my quick stove top mac and cheese, my “healthier” broccoli mac and cheese and now this kale version that’s super creamy, quick and satisfying.
Now that you know my childhood struggle, you can now join me and enjoy a big bowl of kale mac and cheese for me. And I’ll enjoy a few bowls of this creamy goodness myself.


Orange-Spiced Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Lately we have been gardening fools.  Geeked out over little projects and springtime plantings. Our souls feeling rejuvenated as the garden warms from its wintertime laziness. Yes even here in So Cal the garden goes a bit mellow during the chillier months.
We’ll shoot with a client in our studio from 7 until 4 and then come home and stretch out every last ounce of daylight in the garden with the birds, bugs and plants. Sometimes working even longer with the help of our headlamps. Our hands have gotten sore and blistered. Muscles have ached a bit. But it is all worth it.

It’s hard not to be inspired to spend some quality time in the garden this time of year. Tomatoes are hitting the nurseries and our seedlings are ready to find their summertime homes. The raspberries are sending out their canes with the beginning flower buds promising delicious rewards.
The blueberries are plumping up, just beginning to show a tint change from green to blue. And the strawberries have their initial gems secretly hidden from curious doggie noses but not from experienced fingers.

Yes, it is a beautiful, emerging time in the southern California garden. And the rock stars of the show are the citrus. This is the triple-play time of year for so many of our citrus. Much of the fruit is perfectly ripe. The branches are sending out a ton of new growth. And the flowers are going absolutely crazy, filling the air with their sweetness and the lacing the ground with their fallen petals.
Back in the kitchen, not wanting to waste a speck of the citrus glory, we’ll often zest the oranges before juicing them. There is so much goodness in the rinds. And when we recently had a load of leftover “hero” bananas after shooting nearly 60 banana recipes for a client, we came up with this gem of a loaf. An orange-spiced chocolate chip banana bread.
The base of the banana loaf was from one of my grandma’s favorite cookbooks. She had given the recipe her top-notch four “x” rating and it has been our go-to recipe ever since we first made it. We added a bunch of fresh orange zest, finely grated with a microplane zester, and then whisked in some complimentary spices to the flour. Add a bit of orange bitters for a special pizazz and some chocolate chips because, like bacon, they tend to make just about everything better. The end result was extraordinarily delicious.
Hope you enjoy!
-Todd & Diane

Orange-Spiced Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Yield: 1 Loaf
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
For best results use really ripe bananas. As in, to ripe to eat but not yet funky enough to throw out. They'll make the loaf more moist and sweet compared to a loaf made with bananas which are just "eating" ripe. The orange bitters in the recipe give the loaf a little extra pop of flavor, but if you don't happen to have any in the house, the recipe is still great without it. If you happen to have fresh tangerines, their zest is an amazing substitute for this recipe.


  • 1 1/4 cups (160g) Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg
  • 1 cup (200g) Sugar
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted Butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Orange Zest
  • 4 medium ripe Bananas (@1 1/2 cups when mashed)
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • optional - 1/2 teaspoon Orange Bitters
  • 1 cup (175g) Chocolate Chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease a 4.5"x8.5" loaf pan. Line the bottom of the loaf pan with parchment or wax paper. 
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg for about 20 seconds or until well blended. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer, cream together sugar, butter and orange zest until light and fluffy. Add bananas and mash with potato masher until no large banana pieces remain. Stir in eggs and orange bitters (if using) until combined.
  4. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (chocolate on the toothpick doesn't count) The house should be filled with the scent of fresh banana bread.
  6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan. Loosen the edges, then pop loose the bottom. 
Recipe Source:

Hello! All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use our images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or simply link back to this post for the recipe. Thank you. And remember in making the recipes, if using table salt instead of kosher or sea salt, make sure you reduce the salt amount.


Soaked Vanilla Maple Almond Butter

If I told you today’s almond butter recipe was the best almond butter I’ve ever eaten in my life, half of you would be skeptical, and the other half wouldn’t care. Actually, I’m projecting. I only know that if I were you, I would be skeptical, or I wouldn’t care. I tend toward the cynical. But in all my analyzing, I’ve found that we who tend towards disbelief are actually the once highly hopeful; it’s just that at some point, we put those high hopes into something (politics, people, friends, projects, ideas), and that something let us down. So then, rather than being let down again, we disbelieve; we say, “prove it”; we try to control what can hurt us by being highly choosy about what we let in. I get it. I do it. But the only problem with walling all new things out is that you miss some legitimately good new things. When you lock up your heart against hurt, you lock it up against love, too, like C.S. Lewis said. You lose out on hope! And, to bring it back to the almond butter, the thing is that I actually made and tasted this almond butter with my own hands and tastebuds, and I would swear to you it was the best almond butter I’ve ever had, even though I know that’s not quite proof (and I’ve eaten a lot of almond butters). Believe me or not, I say this almond butter has two key things going for it: (1) It’s soaked, for easier digestion and (2) It’s flavorful like a hurricane, coming at you with its salty, sweet taste in a way that makes you want to eat it on its own, standing at the counter with a big spoon. (And we have.)

The method for creating this soaked vanilla maple almond butter comes from the new book, Back to Butter: A Traditional Foods Cookbook – Nourishing Recipes Inspired by Our Ancestors, written by the duo beholdOrganic Spark, a traditional foods blog. Traditional foods are the kinds of food you hear a lot about when you follow Weston A. Price or Sally Fallon or read The Maker’s Diet, which you’ve probably heard us mention before. In a more subtle, less didactic way, they’re also the kinds of foods you hear us talking about or see us eating here.
At their most basic, traditional foods are exactly what they sound like—foods that have stood the test of time, not just from my grandma to me, but from ten or twenty generations ago. They’re historical foods, foods that are naturally rich in nutrients and prepared in ways that help your body digest them.
While some of the other resources about traditional foods are lengthy and complicated, Back to Butter is laid out in a pretty basic, user-friendly, easy-to-understand way, with two main sections: The traditional foods pantry (section 1) and traditional foods recipes (section 2). We like this because it feels so approachable, no matter what your level of familiarity with traditional foods might be. If you want a fuller understanding of why unrefined fats like coconut oil are so amazing, for example, this book will help. If you want detailed instructions for making homemade yogurt or soaking grains, this book provides the formulas.
As an example, today’s post features Back to Butter‘s method for soaking nuts. We used raw almonds, freshly sent to us from San Francisco from two of our favorite people on earth. There’s nothing hard about the process, but, like a lot of traditional foods recipes, it does take time—24 hours to soak and 24 hours to dehydrate. An impatient person like me (yes, impatient and cynical!) finds it best to spend the five minutes prepping the nuts at each point in the process and then forget about them in my mind—no more thoughts about nuts!—or I’d drive myself nuts (ha! get it?). After the nuts are done, you can eat them as they are or pureé them in a food processor like we did for my favorite almond butter to date. Flavored with fresh vanilla beans and a kiss of maple syrup, it is salty, savory, sweet, and addictive.
ps. Are you wondering why soak nuts in the first place? To reiterate the point about traditional foods, one thing we consistently see in ancient cultures is that they knew to soak their nuts and grains. Soaking breaks down anti-nutrients in these foods that not only make it harder for them to be digested but also inhibit the way the body can process their nutrients. Just as you’ve heard us say that many people who have a hard time digesting store-bought bread and/or gluten do okay with sourdough and/or soaked ancient grains like einkorn, so too many people who struggle with feeling weird when they eat nuts do better when they soak them first. As stated in the book, our ancestors might not have realized why this practice was so helpful, but natural instinct about how they would feel as a result led them to make it a habit.
Below, two recipes: A method for soaking almonds + a recipe for taking those almonds to make vanilla maple almond butter.

3.14.14 – from the field

I’m writing this from the Whole Foods Market in Birmingham, Alabama, while Tim’s getting in a little more work and we’re both eating blueberry kefir mixed with maple buckwheat flakes and fresh fruit. Already this morning we’ve been the hotel guests who don’t want anything from the free breakfast buffet besides an orange. We’ve been the out-of-towners beelining for the local Target because one of us forgot her entire makeup bag. We’ve been that laughing couple in a sunny parking lot, me on the phone catching up with a dear friend, Tim on his phone catching up on emails. Today we’re heading to Pensacola, Florida for the weekend, but last night, we were driving straight to Highlands Bar and Grill here in Birmingham, all because we were sent a copy of this book recently and after I read about its chef, Frank Stitt, and about his passion for vegetables, love of culinary travel, and lifestyle of keeping his own family farm an hour away to source food for his restaurants, I wanted to go. When we got there last night, we learned I’d made reservations for the wrong night (!), but, thankfully, they still fit us in. We ate shredded Brussels sprouts and little gem lettuces and our first-ever Gulf Pompano, and Tim wore the suit jacket that doesn’t fit him quite right, because The Highlands is the kind of restaurant where gentlemen wear coats. Before we hit the road again, I wanted to jot down these memories here, partly for you and partly for my leaky brain, and, as long as I’m doing that, I may as well point you to some other things worth remembering, too:
Beautiful food-focused spaces like Dolly and OatmealFarm on Plate, and The First Mess.
Instagrammers who add beauty to the middle of my day when I’m stuck in line at a store or in the passenger seat on a long trip, like @woodsermom@crannyandme@amandajanejones@kathryndave,@jivandave, and @carissa_graham.
My friend Holly (you may remember her from here), who started a new food blog recently, Feast or Fallow, filled with thoughtful posts and seasonal recipes.
This book and the way it is killing me with what it means to love.