Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Salads 2016

I love my salads, and a salad is basically any kind of vegetable with some nuts, maybe fruits and a tasty dressing. The combinations are limitless and often depend on what’s in the fridge. Nevertheless, some salad have character and so they have names. Waldorf salad, Salad Nicoise, Massaged Kale salad. Ah, kale salads. When I browse instagram, kale salads seem to have taken over  restaurant salads these days. In the last 2 years, I was no longer into kale, I felt if I’d eat anymore, it would surely grow out of my ears. But this year, I planted some kale in my garden yet again, and looking forward to all the tasty combinations.

Watermelon Kale Feta salad


Avocado Massaged Kale Salad


Greek Potato Salad

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Lunch on the go Salad


Rarrrr Salad (Massaged kale with pickled jalapenos!)



The summer is back, after a phase of unseasonably cold weather, and today is the second day of summer.  Summer brings back childhood memories, of going swimming all day, picking berries, playing all day long with friends and racing home for dinner with the town’s church bell rang 6pm. Summer days seemed endless.

I am not sure what brought it to my mind but I’ve been thinking about the endless rounds of hopscotch I played as a child. Is this something people still do today? It is just  low-tech game but so much fun.


Just a paved driveway, sidewalk or residential street, some colorful chalk and a few stones, and you are ready to go.


The version that I played included throwing a small pebble stone into the first number, the jumping over this block with one leg to the ground and the other leg angled up, hopping through the numbered blocks, turning around, hopping back, picking up the stone, jumping over the block, and being done with the first round. The lines could not be touched, not with the stone or hopping through them. Then, the next number. If you make a mistake, it is the other person’s turn.  The person who is finished first, wins the game.


We played endless afternoons, again and again and again, as only children can repeat things, and get into a state of flow, talking, telling stories. It requires quite some skill and stamina that gets really better over the course of a summer, and next year it would start from the beginning.


At least parents have legit reasons to get in on the action…


although, it seems popular and fun at any age….


Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer Quinoa Salad

Summer is doing a disappearing act at the moment. It’s been cold, gray and rainy for days, oh well. By the second half of the week, the temperatures should be back to normal.

Summer is a great time to make a large salad to keep in the fridge and use for lunches, light dinners or picnics. Quinoa has such a nice, nutty flavor so that it is one of my favorite grains. Cooked with a bit of white wine and onion and garlic and broth, it has even more flavor.  Adding some fresh vegetables like radishes, apples or cucumber for color and crunch, and some nuts for more sustenance.


Quinoa Summer Salad

Cooking Quinoa

  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 TB olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled, minced
  • 1/2 cup of crisp white wine like pinot grigio
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth or chicken broth

In a heavy bottom pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 min (don’t burn it). Add the quinoa and stir around dry in the onion and garlic for a bit to toast it and give it an even more nutty flavor. 

Now, add the white wine and stir well, scrap off the brown parts from the bottom and less the wine mostly cook off. Then, add the broth, stir, and turn down the heat to medium-low. Cover with a lid, and cook for about 20 min, until the quinoa is fluffy. 

Take off stove and cool.


  • cooled quinoa
  • 3-4 radishes, sliced
  • 1/3 of an English cucumber, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 apple, diced
  • optional: pomegranate seeds, celery
  • chopped mint, dill and cilantro
  • some sliced almonds or toasted walnuts

Mix all the salad ingredients and serve.

Monday, June 6, 2016

10 ways of treating yourself without eating or buying anything

Work, chores, just day to day life can get out of hand sometimes, and we need a treat. This can be an ice cream cone with sprinkles or some shoes online. Nothing wrong with it, but here are a some ways to treat ourselves that do not involve food or money.


1. Take a nap in the afternoon
Put on comfy clothes, lots of pillows, a blanket sprayed with a few spritz of perfume, the blinds drawn, and linger.

2. Start the day with a hot bath
Instead of an in-and-out shower, take time to run a steamy hot bath, with essential oils,  your favorite bubble bath, and flower petals. Light a few candles, and soak. Yes, in the morning. Nothing will reset the day more than time for a hot bath in the morning.  The daily plans take on a relaxed mode, too, starting to feel like vacation.


3. Take a day off chores for no reason at all
Use your day off to do wonderful unproductive things: sleep in, write a journal, read an old journal, draw, cook jam, Skype with a friend in different time zone, write a letter to a friend you have not been in contact with for years. Nap. Go and smell the lilacs in the garden.

4. Re-watch your favorite movie
Movies put a watcher in a mood, and some are like a wonderful bubble bath. In the summer, I love to watch “The Talented Mr Ripley” . Who can resist Jude Law on a sailboat in 50s Italy summer, and I always want to be right there, in Montebello.


5. Give yourself a mani or pedi
Add a few drops of essential oil and body wash to a pretty bowl of warm water and soak your extremities while you sit back and relax. Put on a fresh coat of fast drying nail polish in a fresh color.

6. Have a friend read a section of your favorite book to you aloud
It will bring back memories from childhood, when someone took time to be close to you and read for you. If your your lover reads it, it will certainly spark intimacy.

7. Borrow a dog and go for a walk
Your friendly neighbors or friend might have a dog who would love to double the walking time. Don’t forget to tell the dog about your day either and he’ll give you all the attention and empathy.

8. Learn something new you always wanted to learn and never had time to
Learning French? Italian? Arabic? Learning how to knit? crochet? Program computers? Cooking a complicated dish? Write a short story? Compose a poem? Paint a picture without ‘coloring for adults’? Today, it is easy to learn about anything with free resources on the internet.

reading aloud

9. Go for a walk around the neighborhood
Just to stroll, to relax. Take in the familiar sights. This is your extended home. Feel at home.

10. House-sit for a friend with house in the country and a dog and cat for the weekend
Wanting to get away? A friend of mine augments her income with house and pet sitting, but it looks like a great getaway, living in a nice place with pets.

11. Listen to Samba music and start dancing
Mas ne qada, by Sergio Mendes and Bossa Nova is a good start to get in the mood for summer and the Olympics this year.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lemony ricotta bundt cake

The long weekend is over  and the sunshine is back. Besides one day, it was rather cold and gloomy, and most people resorted to the first rule of long weekends: shopping.  I had some stuff to do around the house and then baked a lemony ricotta cake which was to die for (people went back again and again to cut off another small slice, it was so addictive). Accidentally, I overbake it a bit but it added to the flavor with a bit of a dark ‘crust’ almost and the moist, lemony, sweet interior.


Lemony Ricotta Bundt cake

  • 1  stick unsalted butter At room temperature
  • 8 oz part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • dash of orange extract
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 large, organic, untreated meyer lemon (save rest for glaze)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1  cup all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 Teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For The Lemon Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • juice of half lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the bundt pan.
  2. In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the ricotta cheese and blend well. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each. Add the extracts and lemon zest and mix until fully combined.
  3. Add the sliced almonds and gently mix in.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and soda.
  5. Add the dry ingredients in several smaller parts, mixing just until incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spoon as needed.
  7. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean.
  8. Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
    Cool completely.
  9. Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth and thick.
  10. Drizzle the lemon glaze over the top of the cake.
  11. Let the glaze set for 30 minutes and then cut into wedges and serve.



I poured the cake batter into a regular 10 cup bundt form (the amounts are for a 6 cup bundt cake pan), and it came out like a large ring with smaller slices, just right for the afternoon coffee.

BabyCat approves.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Sunshine in my pocket

The day started off with blue skies and bright sunshine. Everyone in the neighborhood was on the clock: things needed to get done before the scorching heat of 90F would set in around noon, kicking off the Memorial weekend. I tied on my running shoes, put on my old Sony headphones that don’t fall out of my ears when I run, turned on “Can’t stop the feeling” and set off, finally feeling the easy spring in my step again when I run, after getting back into the routine of running for a week.

After mowing the lawn by 10am, I jumped in the shower and put on actual clothes for the day. A long summer weekend feels like getting handed a cocktail --- promises  of unending fun. I tried not to get carried away, skipped the deals in the stores, and settled for lunch at Chipotle.

Enjoying my late lunch, bathing in the little summer traffic that reminded me of life in the big city, I realized I did not have plans, really, for the rest of the day, so I meandered back home, and unleashed myself on the chaise lounge with a book. 


I aggregated a whole stack of new books since I started listening to the “Creative Live Genius” series. I usually don’t get around to read books, my hack are audiobooks in the car, but it was so interesting, how could I not to. Amazon, tsha-tshing, and another book on the way. One side of me says, wisely, with a wagging finger  “No! No more books! You are not reading them!” and the other side says, “Well, maybe, I make time in my day. I tone down my to-do list, and make room for my to-be list.”

And so, this stack is waiting, for me to make good on my promise.

Summer is a tough. Living in Maine, I feel I wait all winter long for warm weather, for long, sunny days. Instead of life being dictated by work, it belongs to my own direction again. With unstructured days on my hands, I feel like a kid in the candy store and can’t decide what to do, maybe just all of it?  Summer FOMO sets in.

But there will be another summer, and I will  miss out on some stuff. I just need to accept it. And then I can focus on what I really want to do. Today.


(by Ella Luna, Instagram)