Clam Chowder Bread Bowl

One of my favorite things about going “home” to Fallbrook is getting to visit some of my favorite restaurants on the planet! Can’t you just taste those yellow raisins, and the cheese, and all those little seeds? Fallbrook does salad like nowhere else I know of… And the clam chowder? I could eat it everyday, happily.

It was great to share lunch at Garden Center Cafe with one of my very favorite people, Julie Reeder. And I also got to see my old friend Camereno! We worked together at Main Street Cafe, twenty years ago!

Clam Chowder Bowl
Clam Chowder Bread Bowl, at Garden Center Cafe, Fallbrook, California


Pastel Rainbow Jello Cake

Rainbow Jello Cake // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I kept seeing rainbow cakes pinned on Pinterest – and while they were cute, I kept thinking it would be so much prettier to do a pastel version. Sure, if you’re making a kid’s birthday cake, vibrant colors are fun. But if it’s just a no-reason cake, for a summer evening, wouldn’t a pastel version be more appealing to most adults? Certainly more appetizing!

But there was a problem! All of the recipes I found started with plain white cake – which is sweet, but boring. No way am I going to spend time making a cake that doesn’t taste good…

My favorite cake of all is Lemon Jello Cake. It’s a cake my Grandma Spelts used to make for Easter, and whenever anyone offers to make me a birthday cake, it’s what I request. The recipe requires a yellow cake mix, a small package of Lemon Jello, and slightly more oil than you usually put in a cake. Mix it all together, bake, and when the cake is still hot, poke it all over with a fork, and then pour on a glaze of fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar. It’s moist and tart and sweet and just the best cake ever!

So why couldn’t I use other flavors of Jello to make a rainbow cake? So I tired it. My first attempt wasn’t quite right. I used too much Jello, and the colors were too vibrant, and that much Jello changed the consistency of the cake. I also decided that the super moist quality the extra oil gave it while perfect for a Lemon Jello Cake, wasn’t quite as appropriate for a rainbow cake! Next I tried making cupcakes – and while I got the balance of Jello and cake batter fixed, I decided that cupcakes are too small to really get the full effect of the rainbow. I wanted a full cake to cut into, to show off all the colors.

Today I made my third attempt, and this time I got the balance of ingredients right – I divided the cake batter into six sections, and put a half-a-teaspoon of each color of Jello crystals into each one. And if the color wasn’t quite deep enough? I used a drop of food coloring to get it just right. And I skipped the Blue Jello entirely, because I’m not a big fan of that flavor. And blue food coloring worked just fine!

Rainbow Jello Cake // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

It looks totally incognito before you cut into it. Just like any other loaf cake with cream cheese frosting.

Rainbow Jello Cake // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
But once you cut into it, you get all these pretty colors, swirling around.

I chose to be a little freeform with how I glopped the batter into the pan, because I wanted interesting swirls – but if you want a neater demarkation, just plop each new color in rounded spoonfuls, directly on top of the last color, and it will spread out on it’s own, into neat little stripes.

So despite all my troubles figuring out the best way to do it, in the end it was dead simple. Just a plain white cake mix, and follow the directions on the box – then divide into sections, and mix a half-teaspoon of a different colored Jello flavor into each one – and plop into the greased pan, one color at a time. Then bake normally! The frosting is equally easy. It’s an adaption of a Martha Stewart recipe. Just take one stick of butter, and one 16 oz bucket of cream cheese, one box of powdered sugar, half-a-teaspoon of vanilla, and a splash of milk – and mix together. Takes about one minute to make the frosting and four minutes to frost the cake. Couldn’t be easier, or in my opinion, prettier!

Spelt Banana Nut Bread

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

This is an adaption of a recipe my mother still makes – but I used Spelt flour, because I wanted to try it, and because it’s much better for you than modern white flour – and I use more nuts, and add dark chocolate chips – both of which are good for you in small doses! This is a nice dense bread – and a little piece will fill you up and satisfy your sweet tooth – and it’s fairly healthy! The Spelt flour has a nice nutty honey flavor – which works well with the bananas and nuts and chocolate. And if you use Sucanet instead of sugar, then the only “not-so-good-for-you” ingredient is the third of a cup of butter, and divided over a dozen portions, even that’s not too bad!

Spelt Banana Nut Bread

Mix together thoroughly…
2/3 cup sugar or Sucanat
1/3 cup butter
2 organic free-range brown eggs
a splash of whole milk

Mix in…
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir in…
3 ripe bananas
2 cups Spelt flour

Blend in…
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Let stand for 20 minutes before baking at 350°F in a greased baking pan. Sprinkle with more of the dark chocolate chips right before baking, if you want it to look ever prettier and taste ever better! Bake for about 30 minutes in a small cake pan, or 50-60 minutes in a loaf pan.


Just a pretty little image of some pretty little carrots…

And a link to a great post on food as fuel

And finally, a wish for today! It’s March 1st, which in my world is the true start of Spring. The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue with fluffy white clouds, and the birds are singing. It’s perfect! And my wish is that today is is the start of something new and wonderful for everyone who reads this.

Here’s to the Spring of 2011!


Tangerines may be my favorite fruit. Maybe. They’re tangy and sweet, and you really only find the good ones right now, at this time of year – so find a Farmer’s Market quick, make the most of it! I know I am!


Tangerines and Blueberries

It’s not what you don’t do…

Cereal with Blueberries

How often have you heard someone who is trying to get healthy, or thin, or beautiful, explain that they don’t eat cookies anymore? Or potato chips? Or maybe they go all the way and just swear off all fat or all carbs…

It seems so simple and elegant to just say “no more bad food” and be done with it.

But for me the problem with swearing off certain foods or food groups, is that while it sounds good in theory, it’s incredibly difficult to do.

Isn’t it smarter to think less about what you’re NOT going to do, and think more about what you ARE going to do? Like adding more blueberries to your day? Or eating at least one fresh vegetable everyday? Or drinking enough water each day?

Eat Locally. Eat in Season.

California white nectarines and blueberries // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

When I was just out of high school I got to visit the same nutritionist who had treated my Great-Grandma, my Grandma, and my Mom. Her advice was personalized, just for me. She had me lay on a board, with my head lower than my feet, and she felt all my internal organs through my clothes. She looked at my skin and hair and eyes. She gave me pamphlets, and told stories and gave me lots of really good advice that I still remember.

One of her best pieces of advice was to eat what is grown locally and what is in season. It’s just plain healthier, as well as being cheaper.

And who doesn’t love California white nectarines and California blueberries? I’m so grateful to live here!

Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day is one of the best holidays all year long… No presents, no decorating, no big elaborate meals – just a lazy summer day where you get to do exactly what you want to do. My kind of day!

Spinach and Tomato with Roast Beef Salad // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

And this is one of my favorite meals! A big spinach salad with some beautiful sliced tomato and beef – the kind of beef intended for fajitas – and a little raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing. Absolute perfection!

Green Tea

Green Tea // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsI’ve never liked coffee or tea. I was a waitress for years, working mostly breakfasts – since it’s the most profitable time period, but don’t tell anyone! It’s one of the best kept secrets in the restaurant world… So I served more coffee in a few years than most people have seen in a lifetime. And smelled it. And cleaned up the grounds. But I never got hooked on drinking it. And tea held no appeal at all to me. I was always a Diet Coke drinker! Even for breakfast! I loved that big dose of caffeine and the taste – definitely a Diet Coke girl!

But times change, and two years ago I gave up Diet Coke. I still drink it occasionally, socially, but it’s not my daily drink anymore – more like my monthly splurge drink!

And I love water, so I haven’t really missed having a “drink” anymore – just give me some water and I’m happy.

But I keep reading about the health benefits of Green Tea…

And it would be kind of nice to have a drink again…

So, I decided this morning that I’m going to learn to like Green Tea.

But is taste something you can just decide? I mean, seriously, is taste a static thing? Can we decide to change what we like? I’m not sure, but I’m going to try.

I decided to start with one cup of regular strength tea, and then add enough water and ice to make 32 ounces. In other words, I decided to start with an extremely diluted version of tea – more like tea-flavored water. And it’s not bad! It’s not good either, but I don’t mind drinking it. And does it really matter if I drink one cup of full strength tea and my regular amount of water separately, or if I combine the two?

I also did a little Googling and found some tips on how to make Green Tea – from what I’ve read the key is to not get the water too hot – 180°F is perfect – and to only steep it for two-and-a-half minutes. If you use too hot of water or steep for too long, it supposedly gets bitter.

I knew that Green Tea is a powerful antioxidant, and that supposedly people who drink it have lower occurrences of heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. And during my Googling I ran into lots of references to Green Tea being good for weight loss – though I’m not sure that’s been proven conclusively yet – but hey, if it is true, that would be great!

I don’t know yet if it’s possible to change my taste, and learn to like Green Tea, but hey, it’s worth a try… Wish me luck!