Monday, April 27, 2009

Pumpkin-carrot walnut cupcakes

Baking carrot-pumpkin walnut cupcakes
Both my parents' birthdays are within a couple days of each other so we always celebrate together. Mom likes pumpkin bread and Pop likes carrots so I combined the 2 ingredients to make birthday cupcakes for them. Decorated with Johnny-Jump-Up flowers cultivated in my garden specifically for eating.

Making it more healthy...
Yes, of course I altered the recipe which is based on Spiced Pumpkin Bread from It came out moist and delicious so I'll do it again...
- instead of 3 cups white flour, I used 2.5 cups whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup white flour
- instead of 1 cup of oil, I used 1/2 cup of oil and 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce (more liquid to balance the dryness of whole wheat flour)
- decreased the sugar to 1.5 cups (instead of 3 cups) and also added 1/2 cup honey (which helped to also increase the moisture)

- also added 2 shredded cups of carrots - this is optional since the recipe doesn't call it for it

Don't overbake...
If you bake them in a cupcake tin, then between 15-20 minutes seemed to be the right baking time, depending on your oven. And because it's based on a "bread" recipe, they're really more like dense muffins than a light cake. And because they're not too sweet, they worked well as breakfast muffins and tasted better the next morning. :-)

The frosting...
Just a basic cream cheese frosting - found a generic recipe and just decreased the sugar. You know... cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla.

All in all in turned out well and everyone enjoyed looking at them as well as eating them.

April 30, 2009 UPDATE...
In yesterday's San Jose Mercury News article in the Food section, Katherine Greenwald writes a great story titled "What's this flower doing in my food?" If you want to learn more about which flowers are edible, this is a must-read. More on this topic in a future blog entry!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Is coffee really that bad?

All the conflicting reports out there has me really confused. I choose what I want to believe (don't we all do that?)... but I'll keep reading the latest & greatest new studies in hopes there will be a definitive answer. Can anyone recommend some good recent studies or articles on caffeine and its effects on health?

What I want to believe...
That a moderate amount of coffee (without milk) helps digestion and therefore helps with detoxification. (yeah! I like this one.)

Unfortunately the caffeine jolt triggers the adrenals and stress hormones, and apparently, that encourages fat cells to be stored (in the form of love handles in my case - urgh!).

Ultimately I believe...
That (mostly) everything in moderation is ok. One 8-oz cup in the morning with about 4 oz. of soy milk does the trick and occasionally in the afternoon, but never past 3pm (or I won't be able to sleep).

I love the smell of coffee in the morning and love the little burst of "energy" it gives me, . And do I love the taste of this motivation juice, so why not start my morning in a pleasurable way?

About the photo
Bad Ass Coffee is one of my favorite coffee shops in Santa Cruz, CA. Their coffee is incredibly smooth and tasty - which conflicts with their name. :-)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thank you Mother Earth

Half Dome
Thank you for the beautiful works of art that you have carved and created all over this beautiful planet of ours.

I've been so fortunate to see your works of art on six different continents and with each place I go, I never cease to be amazed at your inspiring creations... many of which are literally just in my backyard.

Thank you for these works of art that I have been able to experience through my five senses and thus has nourished my soul. If I listed all of my favorite places and all of the magical things I've seen, heard, touched, smelled, felt and experienced, I would be writing non-stop for years!

For each of you reading this, go to a place where YOU have been... a place on this lovely earth where you have seen incredible beauty... NATURAL beauty. And take a moment to reflect and be grateful of our home, Earth.

Happy Earth Day to everyone!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Moments in my garden

California flower
Originally uploaded by love_yellow
Some of the most visually rich and gratifying moments spent in my garden are when I see beauty in the random and un-composed. It could be an unswept patio, still littered with leaves and blossoms from the strong spring winds, but that "litter", though chaotic, can make a naturally beautiful patterns.

Sure I love to have my garden look nice and cleaned up with orderly plantings, carefully selected by color and size. But the juxtaposition of the designed and not designed can make for a beautiful design in and of itself.

Orange poppies popped up in my bed of purple tulips - I would never mix warm & cool colors. Combined with the hose I leave out and the pebbles out of place looking messy and unkempt. But for some reason, it all works and I was compelled to capture this scene because it drew me in... into that magical moment when you just feel so happy to be in your garden.

And the photo below is another neglected area... but the pink tulips come up every spring, as dependably as the perennial geraniums push out bright red flowers. Both brighten up and make the path a place where I can stop and ponder.

This ramble will either make sense to you or not. Hopefully it does, but if it doesn't... well then, thanks for sticking with it to the end. :-)

Tulips & geraniums

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Thyme!

Woodland Brown 1 quart
Originally uploaded by love_yellow
Thyme is my favorite herb in my garden. It's easy to grow and versatile in cooking - goes well in many dishes. This time of the year my thyme plants are thriving and the fresh spring leaves are beautiful and tasty.

Recently I learned some cool things about thyme I didn't know before.

Did you know...
- Thyme is native to areas such as Asia, southern Europe and the Mediterranean region.

- It retains its flavor on drying better than many other herbs. As a rule of thumb, use one third as much dried as fresh thyme, a little less if it is ground.

- Either in its fresh or dried form, should be added toward the end of the cooking process since heat can easily cause a loss of its delicate flavor.

- 20-54% of thyme leaves contain Thymol, which is an antiseptic and is the main active ingredient in Listerine mouthwash. Before the advent of modern antibiotics it was used to medicate bandages.

- The ancient Egyptians used it as an embalming agent to preserve their deceased pharaohs.

I'm fascinated by all the great things I learned about this herb from and I've gained a whole new respect for this plant and will be more mindful of it's power when I'm gardening or cooking with it.

About the photo
A friend gave me a thyme plant a couple of years ago which I planted in my garden. It has been thriving ever since, and I think of her every time I see the plant. In this photo is the batch I had to prune to keep the plant healthy. I kept it in my fridge for almost 2 weeks - used for cooking, added to salads and gave some to neighbors. A gift that keeps on giving.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Re-using vintage dishes

Retro dinner party
Originally uploaded by love_yellow
Look! My friends and I had a pot luck using our vintage dishes. Not only did we feel good about making good and healthy food for our friend's birthday dinner (last summer), but we also used old dishes that were passed down from our Moms or found at garage sales or thrifts. Re-using (or continuing to use) old stuff instead of filling the landfills can be fun.

The vintage look and the bright retro colors was perfect. Mid-century goodness for our mid-century friend.

The menu:
- vegetarian waldorf salad made with organic brown rice, apples & walnuts
- grilled wild salmon
- organic mixed green salad with avocado, feta, cucumber, toasted almonds witn EV olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- crudite platter of veggies with various dips (hummus and a couple others, can't remember exactly)
- multi, whole grain organic bread
- blackberry cobbler (berries picked and baked the night before)
- and birthday cupcakes

We certainly enjoyed a delicious and colorful feast!

Retro party - dessert

Friday, April 10, 2009


Recycle World image
Originally uploaded by love_yellow
Today I'm going to indulge my crazy habit for collecting vintage kitchen wares. I'm drawn to them because of their unique, colorful and retro designs. I justify the purchases because I believe that by RE-USING old stuff, it's a way of recycling. Plus buying this old "junk" from garage sales and thrift shops is often inexpensive.

Remember Pyrex from the 60's and 70's?
OK, maybe you're not old enough, not to say that I am :-) But one of the things I have collected is vintage Pyrex glass. Not only do they make the table fun and bright, but they are immensely useful for baking, storing leftovers, preparing food and many other uses! Bringing food in these dishes to parties is always a hit.

Check out all of the fun and wonderful ways people use their vintage Pyrex in this Flickr group called Pyrex in Action. It's really inspiring! Do click on the link, I think you'll enjoy it.

Can't we just re-use the old stuff?
It's a sad reality that we need to keep manufacturing new stuff that people buy to keep our economy going. But I also imagine a world where we can re-use as much old stuff as we can before sending them to our landfills. I'm so glad the retro design movement is popular right now... I know I'm not the only one acquiring old junk. :-)

To celebrate Earth Day, I'm thinking about having a contest and give away some vintage Pyrex. I'll decide later... come back soon!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April is Earth month

Earth Energy
Originally uploaded by Auntie K
April 22nd is Earth Day and it's awesome that during the whole month of April we see a lot of media coverage promoting activities and good practices to help keep our environment clean and healthy.

I too will dedicate the most of this month's blog entries to being good to our planet and environment.

I try my best to tread lightly on this earth. I'll admit that I don't do everything I know I should or should not do (for example, I do drive a car), but I believe that even the smallest daily practices help. For example...

I try to hang most of my laundry, especially larger items like towels that soak up a lot of water. Yes, sometimes, I put those items in the dryer for about 10 minutes when they're still a little moist just to soften them up a bit, but at least I dried 90% of it without the use of the dryer.

It's also more gentle on clothes and makes them last longer. It seems like a lot of trouble but actually, once you get in the habit, it doesn't really take that much time - you don't have to hang it perfectly. I learned this from my parents so I've been practicing this my whole life.

I'm lucky enough to be a 10-minute walking distance to a supermarket so when I don't have too big of a load to pick up, I walk over with my canvas bags. Luckily my bank/ATM and the post office are also in the vicinity so I run those errands at the same time.

I know, I know... life is very busy and who has time? For me it's only 20 minutes round trip by walking, but even if it's 30 minutes, it's a good way to get a little exercise (walk fast) and get away from the phones and computer. It's amazing what it can do to your mental state to stop the frenzy. I just make a choice to give up watching TV or reading a book for that amount of time. Sometimes the trade-offs aren't that easy, but the point is that I TRY to do it when I can. :-)

What small (or big) things do you do on a regular basis to help our environment? Please do share.

About the photo
This amazing photo was found on - click on the image to see the full credits.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tulsi Tea

Tulsi Tea
Originally uploaded by love_yellow
I love trying new things I just learn about. Tulsi tea, also known as Holy Basil, was recommended by my yoga instructor, Sean (who is also an herbalist). He writes in his blog:

"Medicinally, Tulsi has been used in Ayurvedic medicine, for centuries, to support a healthy response to stress, promote longevity, nourish the mind, and elevate the spirit. And now, many modern studies support this use. Studies show tulsi does lower blood glucose levels. It also is a natural COX-2 enzyme modulator, which means it has an inflammatory-cascade normalizing action. Many studies now show it supports immune system health, and it is a potent anti-oxidant."

I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy basil leaves steeped in hot water but it was actually really good. It's not like drinking pesto. :-)

Sean just started his blog but I've started following it because I anticipate more interesting and healthful recommendations. If you're interested, follow him at