Little Chefs Cooking Class, Butternut Squash Cake!

My 12 year old son, Zane, insisted that I bake a cake with the kids. I wasn’t sure about doing something sweet, but I liked the idea of showing them how we can put a vegetable in a cake and still make it taste awesome. It also reminds me a little of pound cake, but healthier.

Anyway, we ended up using half the sugar that the recipe called for in the batter. We all strongly agreed we didn’t need that much sugar! How sweet does it really need to be??

preparaion cake

I got everything ready on the table before they arrived. Plus celery snacks. The butternut squash, I boiled and pureed the day before.

I had an important baking question. How do I use the glass baking dishes instead of metal? I asked my friend Patrice, “The Angel in Your Kitchen”. She’s a master organic baker in town.

The oven needs to be preheated 25 degrees less then the recipe calls for.

Oil the dish, then put the parchment paper on top and oil that. Keeps the cake from falling apart when you take it out.

The edges of the parchment paper are poking up in this picture, I cut those a little smaller after showing Patrice the pic.  Needs to lie flat around the edges.


We picked mint in the garden.

We cooked apples from my Grandmothers garden for the center layer.

We took pictures of tiny toy cows. They say they want to hide that cow in every picture.

We watched the cake cook in the oven.

We talked about the 5th dimension.

We decorated. We celebrated. The kids took selfies with my phone.

The cake tasted so good.


We made a healthier frosting, instead of powdered sugar and food coloring. We did a cream cheese mint, with maple syrup. It tasted a little strange, but we tried it with toast and cucumbers and it was good that way.


The cake was two layers, and we had a little extra batter to make mini cakes for them each to decorate. The little cakes, were ready in about 20 or 25 minutes.

Butternut Squash Cake Recipe


For the batter, we used this recipe. We used half the sugar, and a little maple syrup.  

For the filling we diced apples and cooked them on low heat with cinnamon, vanilla, coconut oil, and a little maple syrup. Would’ve been fine without the maple syrup though.

For the whip cream, we whipped our own with maple syrup. Honey would work too. No sugar needed. 

For the mint frosting, we blended in the vita mix, 16 ounces of organic cream cheese, 3 tablespoons of butter, a little maple syrup, and lots of fresh mint. 

Once the cakes and apples cooled down, which we had placed in the freezer to speed up the process, we decorated!

One more note about the glass baking dishes. Don’t put them in the freezer until they’ve cooled down enough to touch them, so they don’t shatter in your freezer.

Have an awesome day!


Spring Time Recipes

These are some of the recipes posted often in our newsletter, that are great this time of season.

Zucchini and Summer Squash

From stir fries to chocolate zucchini bread, I’ve never been sick of zucchini, with the variety of ways to use it. It’s also perfect when I need something quick and easy, I just season it, throw it on the grill, and make a tasty sauce.


Summer Squash with Egg

summer squash with egg

Creamy Zucchini Noodles


Summer Squash Puree Curry

summer squash curry puree

Zucchini Soup with Red Russian Kale

zucchini kale soup



My favorite vegetable in the world is an artichoke. I think they were in my Xmas stocking one year as a kid, along with pickles. I had only ever cooked them until my friend told me a couple years ago that he always ate them raw in France. So we sat down and tried it with him, with some sauce. It worked, but I prefer it cooked.

This is the way I was told to check if it’s ready, since I was young. While it’s boiling, pull a leaf out, and if it comes out nice and easy, it’s ready. If you don’t check soon enough, it might be too cooked, but it’ll still be fine. If it’s kinda tough to pull out, it’s not ready. That and not adding too much water in the pot, but not too little where it evaporates too soon and I start smelling burning artichoke. I usually have to add a little more water in before it’s done cooking. I start with a few inches.

How To Cook Artichokes 

Fried Artichokes, makes me miss Castroville.

Grilled Baby Artichokes with Aleppo Pepper and Parmesan

One of these days I’ll make a list of awesome artichoke dip recipes.

Fava Beans

Fresh beans are so much better then dry beans, and they take just a few minutes to cook.

Here’s a link on how to peel and eat them.

Fava Beans and Peas with Burrata, thanks to one of our subscribers for sharing this one. 

favas and peas

I’ve used them to make hummus which I think is way better then garbanzo bean hummus, but it’s more work with all the peeling, 1 lb makes a mini batch.

Quick pickles

Instead of going through the whole process of pickling, quick pickling tastes great, and I finish it before it expires. It’s one of my favorite morning snacks.

Watch How to Quick Pickle

I love pickling onions and use them in various ways. Here’s a recipe where I chopped up the pickled onions and mixed it with crispy chopped garlic, rind of lime, and lime juice.



An easy way to make these, boil them whole and slip the skins off when they’re done. Dip with mayo or veganaise.

Borscht pickled eggs

FullSizeRender (24)

Borscht– Instead of finding a recipe for this, (I tried online), I asked my fellow Russian gardner friend/neighbor, (who actually grew up in Russia) how to make it. “You have to start with a broth of bone, marrow and beef. Then you add beets, onions, cabbage, carrots, potatoes. Let it cook, then finish it with a little bit of vinegar and fresh herbs.” That made more sense to me then the recipes I saw online.

Beet Chips~ Kids like these, they really do! Just slice them thin and bake them with oil and salt.

Roasted Beets, Cut them in little cubes, rub coconut oil around them, add salt, and fresh herbs like thyme, oregano and rosemary. Roast them in the oven.


Pickling Cucumbers are better as pickles, and quick pickles are easiest. You can certainly eat them as is, but the texture isn’t my favorite that way.

Japanese Cucumbers are super tasty, they drive me crazy. Really no need to take the skins off these ones, even in pureed soups. Dip them in different flavors of mayo or veganaise. Sometimes they seem a little flimsy and not as crisp as regular cukes, but bite into it, it’s crisp and flavorful.

Cucumber Soup

blackened salmon with sour cream cucumber sauce

Cucumber and Charred Onion Salad

Spring fruit, veggie salad~

Here’s a salad I made for Mothers Day a couple years ago. My brother and his girlfriend, are hooked on it. As a kid, my brother used to make himself a cucumber salad with tomatoes, lettuce, lemon juice, oil, salt and chili powder, all the time. The salad has, nectarines, apricots, cilantro, cucumbers, passion fruit, oranges, lemon juice and olive oil, sesame seeds, salt, chili powder, smoked paprika, some dates and dried citrus on the side, and some surinam cherries. It was crazy tasty, I’m serious.




When a trusted farmer I work with has Asparagus, OMG! Yes! It’s not easy to find it organic. I mean really organic, not big agriculture / super market standards. I’ve seen a few farmers with it. Hard to grow. I have some in my yard, and can’t get it to the kitchen before I chomp it up. The taste is real and sweet. This is the first year we’ve had them in the boxes. Thanks to Sage Mountain Farm!

It’s really tasty to roast it with coconut oil, salt and pepper.


I’ll add more to this list soon…..









Avocado Spinach Soup

I was asked to make a chilled soup for a dinner party for 40 people. I made 12 liters of Avocado Spinach Soup. Here’s about the amounts of everything I used, if you just wanted enough to fill a blender.


3 cups homemade veggie broth

2 avocados

about 1/2 a cup fresh lemon juice

about 1/4 cup or more of good quality olive oil

Maldon smoked salt flakes

Cayenne Pepper

2-4 cloves of raw garlic

1-2 bunches fresh spinach

1 bunch of cilantro

Some scallions

Blend it all and top it off with more smoked salt.

Zucchini Soup with Red Russian Kale

I really enjoyed taking the time and attention for this soup. It can be eaten chilled or warm. Available at Mimosa Cafe in Topanga or through me.


Cooked zucchini with stock made with onions, cumin, sea salt and lemon pepper. Pureed with fresh cilantro, lemon juice, and haas avocado. Mixed with chopped heirloom scallions, baby red Russian kale, and diced, toasted garlic.

zucchini kale soup

Fennel is Cooler then Kale


I’m not dissing kale, but after I made this salad I’m still craving it a week later. I still don’t get why so many people tell me they don’t like fennel. I think it’s misunderstood. I’ve seen some people smell it and turn their heads away because it reminds them of black licorice, so they won’t try it. It doesn’t taste like licorice. It’s so versatile. You can shave it thinly for salads, roast the root simply with oil, salt, and pepper, puree it in a soup, or add it to the pot for slow cooked meat. I loved having a salad without lettuce or kale, that was so fresh, and crunchy, and works so well with olive oil and lots of lemon juice.

Thinly slice apples, fennel, and radish. Fennel in the bowl first, sprinkle a nice amount of salt, and massage the fennel. Then add sliced apples and radishes. Pour some olive oil, lemon juice, sliced tomatoes, and cilantro and mix it in. Taste it to see if there’s enough salt, lemon juice and olive oil. I think I used two lemons.



Butternut Squash Desserts

We’re really happy to have winter squashes right now. You don’t have to eat them right away, and there are so many things you can do with them.

It might sound weird, but I made my Husband a butternut squash Birthday Cake. There isn’t too much difference in flavor with winter squashes so any one of them can be used. The butternut squash is just there to make the cake a little moister and healthier. It ended up tasting like a pound cake. Which is awesome!

I chopped up fuyu persimmons, and stir fried them on low heat with maple syrup, coconut oil and cinnamon.

I let that cool down and mixed it with homemade whip cream, and spread that in between each layer of the cake.

I used this recipe, but made my own frosting and came up with the persimmon layers. I boiled the butternut squash, and used that instead of canned pumpkin. This kind of recipe can be done using gluten free flour and a dairy free milk. You can do it with coconut oil instead of butter too.


After that, I looked up pumpkin mochi and used butternut squash.

I used this recipe, Chinese Pumpkin Cake.

You can use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar. I used homemade chocolate for the center instead of red bean paste. I made these for my family at Thanksgiving and they absolutely loved it.


The Topanga Chili Cook Off 2015

I don’t have a recipe to share for my chili. I can only list the ingredients I used and a few methods. What I really want, is to share what I used, and thank the local farms and my friends. From finding fresh curry leaves at the farmers market, to my Husband asking me to put fresh strawberries in chili one night, everything came together from the inspiration that surrounds me. I got second place in the traditional category, even though it was quite untraditional.

Here are the ingredients I used and what I did.

Santa Rita Farm Heirloom Tomatoes~ In the summer when the tomato season was at it’s peak and the flavor was best, I vacuum sealed and froze bags of them.

Barley Forge Coconut Beer~My local brewer friends. If not for them, I would never put beer in the chili because I never liked beer until I tried their coconut beer.

Grass fed ground beef and grass fed bison stewing meat. The beef is from Novy’s, and the bison is from the guy at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. I’ll post the name of the farm once I go back and ask.

Fresh Curry Leaves~Coleman Family Farm ~ I infused olive oil with the leaves and crushed garlic. I let the garlic burn. Poured the oil in a bottle, straining the garlic and curry leaves out. I used the infused oil to marinate the bison over night.

Padron peppers and jalapenos~ Santa Rita Farm~ I made a chili paste after roasting padron and jalapeno peppers. Roxanne even gave me one lucky red padron.

Habanero Hot Sauce~Sage Mountain Farm~ I made my own habanero sauce with habaneros, poblano peppers, garlic, carrots, vinegar and salt.

Chantrelle Mushrooms~ Santa Monica Farmers Market

Heirloom Sweet Potatoes~Milliken Farms~Everyone loves their heirloom sweet potatoes. They are special and I had to use them.

Jerusalem Artichoke~Coleman Family Farm~I was aiming for the artichoke flavor and unique texture, but I cut these too small and it seemed like it was just all sweet potatoes.

Rind of Limes- Etheridge Farm~I added a lot of this to the chili, but I couldn’t taste it in the end.

Sweet Onions and Heirloom Garlic~Milliken Farms~Best Ever.

I topped the chili with fresh strawberries from Tamai Family Farm.

I topped that off with habanero lime whip cream I made. (no sugar in the cream)

Why whip cream? For one, I love organic pastures raw cream. I thought about sour cream, but I didn’t want something store bought. I usually put some homemade mayo on top when I make chili. Then I thought, “some people are scared of raw eggs.” So whip cream came to mind. “Can I make a savory whip cream?! That could be totally weird.” So I tried it. With a lot of Lime juice, and a few spoon fulls of homemade habanero hot sauce, it tasted awesome. And since I was already planning to add fresh strawberries, it just made since to top whip cream on it.

Tamarind chutney~The one non local ingredient, but this one idea was bugging me. It really seemed like I needed some tangy tamarind in the chili. I really liked it. I would’ve just use tamarind paste, but chutney was all I could find.

I wish I had the chance to have a bowl, every bit of it was devoured by others.

Here’s a funny story on this years cook off, and a real chili recipe, from SkinnyGirlsandMayo.


~Brown the meat first.

~Use the beer before adding in stock and stuff. Pour it in with the browned meat, onions, and garlic, and cook it until the beer is almost all evaporated. Then pour in stock.

~Let the stewing meat cook about an hour before adding the ground meat and vegetables.

~Add tomatoes in later. I put them in on the last hour, without the skins and juices.

~Kudzu powder or some kind of sauce thickener. With kudzu, you have to let it dissolve in a little water first and then add it in, or it will clump.







Celery Cream Sauce with Cauliflower Greens

You can use other greens as well, collards, kale… I used cauliflower greens because I have some giant leaves in the garden.


Things I used from the box: celery, potatoes, jalapeno, and basil. (could have used the kale)

To make the cream sauce, boil a few potatoes. Then use a potato ricer once they’re cooked.

In a sauce pan with oil and butter, stir fry, chopped celery and a little chopped jalapeno (which was in the family box), or you can use some red pepper or cayenne pepper. Then add cream, and let it simmer until it gets a little thicker.

Put it all in a blender, then to a bowl, add the potato, and stir, smashing the potato a little more. If you add the potato in the blender it might make the sauce really sticky.

Add the sauce over the top of your stir fried greens.

If you want to do this without dairy, use cashew cream and coconut oil instead. 

The basil oil, is just olive oil, salt, garlic, and basil pureed.IMG_1879

Salmon with Fresh Curry Leaf, Kombu Broth


When working with another family to bring locally, sourced foods and preparing it for them, I consider that all four of them have different needs and taste buds. It’s a balancing act to keep everyone happy.

I wrote several paragraphs about the challenges I’m facing with that, and how I’ve found new appreciation for things I used to dislike (like spaghetti squash). I think I’ll just keep it simple and bring up the spaghetti squash recipe another day.

To my surprise, I found fresh CURRY LEAVES and key limes leaves from Coleman Farms! A broth came to mind.


1 kombu sheet

branch of fresh curry leaves (around 8 leaves)

2 key lime leaves

1 padron pepper

real salt

Soak the kombu in water for 15 minutes. Turn on the heat til it boils and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the kombu. Add salt, curry leaves, pepper, and key lime leaves, and simmer for 20 minutes.


Sear the salmon on both sides in coconut oil and ghee, some salt and pepper on top. Keep salmon raw in the middle. Remove the skin and set it aside.

Sort of a relish?

I have pickled onions I made a week ago. Diced garlic, and browned them in the pan after the salmon was removed. Chopped up pickled onions, the browned garlic, and key lime rind with a little squeeze of the citrus.


I took some fresh frisee from Maggies Greens, and put it in the bowl.

Warmed the broth up in the pan the salmon was seared in. Then put the salmon back in it for a minute to cook, but not over cook.

Put a piece of salmon on top of the frisee, spooned the broth over it, and added the pickled onion relish on top. Squeezed a little more key lime on top the salmon.

If you ever come across fresh curry leaves, get some! They’re crazy tasty!