Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Alice’s Prune Cake

Years ago I worked for Greyhound as a ticket agent and, as my father called me, a baggage mistress.  As a ticket agent I’d help people plan their itineraries, from going to the next town or across country.  As a baggage mistress I would ship and receive freight for local businesses.

One time in particular there was a shipment of prunes, several boxes of them.  It seems they were sent to no one in particular.  No one claimed them.  There was no phone number to call.  They sat in the depot for weeks.  Finally, I asked what to do with them.  “Throw them away”, was the response. 

Enter Alice.  Alice was a partner in a fish wholesale business.  The bank, I believe.  She stopped by the depot dropping off freight, and I told her about the prunes.  “I’ll take them", she said.  We loaded the boxes in her car and off she went.

A few weeks later she brought me a prune cake.  It was delicious!  She shared her recipe. Every time I make this cake, I get compliments.  This cake freezes well, so make a double batch to have on hand.

Alice’s Prune Cake

1 cup oil                            
1 ½ cups sugar                 
3 eggs beaten                 
2 cups flour                    
1/8 tsp. salt                      
1 tsp. baking soda        
1 tsp. cinnamon 
1 tsp. allspice 
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk 
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup nuts
1 cup cooked mashed prunes                

Blend sugar and oil together.  Add beaten eggs and beat mixture for 1 minute.  Mix in sifted dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk.  Add vanilla, prunes and nuts.  Put into greased and floured loaf pan and bake at 325 degrees, 45 – 60 minutes

Monday, September 27, 2010

Virtues of Hand Washing

We’re moving into flu season.  How can we protect ourselves?  By washing our hands!

Hand washing is the best, easiest, and cheapest way of preventing the spread of many infection.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), hand washing offers great rewards in terms of preventing illness. Adopting this simple habit can play a major role in protecting your health, and that of your family. Scientists estimate that people are not washing their hands often or well enough and may transmit up to 80% of all infections by their hands. From doorknobs, to animals, to food, harmful germs can live on almost everything. Hand washing may be the single most important thing you do to help stop the spread of infection and stay healthy.

Karita recommends using Karita’s Handmade Soap because of its superior cleaning properties.  Thoroughly wash hands using warm water and soap, rubbing them together for 15 to 30 seconds.

Friday, September 24, 2010


My husband told me the other day that I was getting quieter.  When I get up in the morning, I’m making less noise.  I no longer tromp down the hall, bumping into things.  When putting on the coffee, or water for tea, I no longer bang the cabinet doors, etc.

I’m quieter because I cherish the solitude I receive first thing in the morning, before others start to stir.  I sit in my window seat and watch the day come alive. I watch as the sun casts its red glow against the trees in my front yard. I watch people running, walking their dogs, and heading off to work. I meditate, read, and study. I think about what needs to be done that day, about stuff in general.

This is my favorite time of day.  To get that solitude, I’ve had to learn to move stealthily  through the house.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese would have to be my hands down favorite food of all time.  Not the box kind, but the genuine homemade kind.

I grew up in a small country town in Northern California, which had a one-room schoolhouse. My siblings and I attended there. After I finished first grade, we were bussed to school in the next town.  . 

Every Friday was macaroni and cheese for lunch day. Different Mothers would bring macaroni and cheese to school.  Many would bring it made from the box.  My mother didn’t do boxes.  Everything she made was from scratch.  Her macaroni and cheese was the best!

Fast-forward 50 years.  I still love macaroni and cheese.  Guess what?  My husband hates it!  It was the first dinner I prepared for him when we were first married.  He graciously ate it, but it came out later – please don’t fix that for me again!  So now I rarely fix macaroni and cheese except when he’s gone, and when he is gone there is no question about what’s for dinner, no question at all.

My mother's recipe is still the bomb!

Bamma Lou’s Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 pound macaroni
(I like using penne rigate, or mostaccioli)
2 cups shredded cheese or more (Colby works fine)
1 egg
 1 ½ to 2 cups milk
Salt and pepper

1.  Cook macaroni to package directions
2.  Preheat oven to 350-degrees
3.  Layer in baking dish half of macaroni.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle half the cheese on top.  Repeat. 
4.  Mix egg with milk (you may want to add a little salt to milk mixture) and pour over macaroni just until milk reaches top of macaroni (not cheese)
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes in 350-degree oven.  Remove foil last 5  minutes to brown.

P.S.  Macaroni and cheese is not a dish I would prepare for someone with cancer.  It isn’t easily digested.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Benefits of African Shea Butter

From Nuts to Butter
Shea Butter is the oil from the nuts of wild Shea trees  scattered throughout the wooded savanna of West and Central Africa.
Women Gathering Shea Nuts
Shea Butter has been used for centuries in Africa as a decongestant, an anti-inflammatory for sprains and arthritis, healing salve, lotion for hair and skin care, and cooking oil.  

African Shea or Karite butter contains an abundance of healing ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, proteins and unique fatty acids, and is a superior active moisturizer. Unlike petroleum based moisturizers, Shea butter actually restores the skin's natural elasticity, promoting cell renewal.  Shea butter enables your skin to absorb moisture from the air, and as a result, it becomes softer and stays moisturized for longer. In addition, Shea butter has natural sunscreen properties (SPF 2-6) and anti-inflammatory agents. Because of its amazing properties, Shea butter is an excellent ingredient for soaps, lotions and creams. Regular users of  Shea butter notice softer, smoother, healthier skin. Shea butter has also been shown to help with skin conditions and ailments such as extreme dryness, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, skin allergies, fungal infections, blemishes, wrinkles, stretch marks, scars, scrapes, and more.

Check out Karita’s Exquisite Skin Creme and lip balms with African Shea butter at

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fiesta Ware

Fiesta Dishes
When I was a child, perhaps 8 or so, my family would pile into the car and visit my Aunt Ruth.  My aunt had the entire collection of Fiesta Ware as her everyday dishes.   I remember so clearly seeing them in her glass dish cabinet.  I fell in love with her dishes.  The bright vibrant colors just made me feel happy.  I have never forgotten them.

 As a young adult, I started collecting them. First with Betty Crocker coupons, the newer ones, then at flea markets, the older ones.  I never did collect the entire set.  The other month, I happened to be in Kohl’s browsing, and they had Fiesta ware.  I decided right then and there, I was going to get my Fiesta ware.  I bought the 9” plates in almost every color. I am going to purchase the bowls next.  I will get the serving pieces after that.  The rich vibrant colors still make me happy. They look just as good in my dish cabinet,  as they did in my aunt’s.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Salad Dressings

My husband was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago.  What a stressful situation that was and is!  What were we going to do, and how were we going to fight this disease?  We immediately switched to a raw food diet, consisting mainly of fruit and vegetable salads.  My husband called it rabbit food.  I called it a necessity.  But I’d have to admit, eating the same thing day in and day out was tiring.  To change it up, I began experimenting with salad dressings.  I wanted one easy to prepare and healthy.  In my search I found one simple dressing with many variations.  Here are seven.

½ cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup organic apple cider vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
1 tsp. Sea salt
1 clove garlic, crushed

Combine all ingredients in covered jar.  Shake well.  Shake each time before using.

Variations – Add to vinaigrette:

Feta Cheese          3 TBSP crumbled, or crumble over salad

Herbal                    1 TBSP Minced parsley
                                1 tsp. thyme
                                3/4tsp. Italian seasoning

French                    1 tsp. Minced onion
                                1 tomato, pureed
                                1 tsp. Agave nectar or honey

Wasabi                  1 tsp. wasabi powder or paste

Horseradish          1 TBSP horseradish

Italian                     1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
                                ¼ tsp. Garlic powder

Fruit                        ¼ cup orange marmalade
                                1 tsp. Paprika
                                ½ tsp. celery seeds or poppy seeds
Omit garlic in vinaigrette
Use lemon juice instead of vinegar


Monday, September 13, 2010


Pogostemon  Cablin
Ah patchouli – means different things to different people.  A love hate thing, there are generally no in betweens.

Two women in their mid fifties stopped by my booth one Saturday at the Farmers’ market.  One loved patchouli, while the other hated it!  The one hating it said she always thought it was the smell of marijuana.  The one loving it said it was what they wore to cover up the smell of marijuana.  They both laughed, and went their separate ways.  So it goes with the scent of patchouli!

Patchouli oil is steam distilled from the dried leaves and stems of the Pogostemon patchouli plant.  Indonesia is the leading producer of it's oil. 

Patchouli is an important essential oil in perfumery.   In aromatherapy, there are top, middle and base notes, like in music.  Top notes don’t hold very well and are fleeting.  Middle notes keep the scent together, while base notes or fixatives hold the overall scent together for a long time    giving it greater intensity.

For instance, I make a lemongrass soap.  The dominant essential oil is lemon, which is a top note.  I add to the lemon, lemongrass, geranium (which are middle notes) and patchouli.  Using patchouli in the blend keeps the lemon scent in the bar, so it doesn’t fade.

Externally patchouli is used in skin care products to promote healing, to rejuvenate old, wrinkled and tired skin. It is considered antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.

Internally inhaled it is calming, and some say it has aphrodisiac properties.

Karita’s Handmade uses patchouli in some soaps, skin cremes, and bath salts. Check them out at:

Friday, September 10, 2010

They Keep Coming Back

Dirty Dishes

Years ago I worked as a counselor in a home for developmentally disabled adults.  Repetition in everyday chores was the key in helping them to function to the best of their ability.

There was one resident in particular I will never forget.  His name was Jerry.  Jerry loved big band music and big buses.  He could listen to John Phillips Sousa all day long.  Every Saturday he would ride the Greyhound to the next town for lunch.

Jerry on the other hand, hated doing laundry and washing dishes.  He hated them because as he said “They just keep coming back!”  That phrase has stuck with me for 30 years.  I agree with Jerry 100 percent.  No matter how often I do laundry and dishes – they just keep coming back!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Can Get Married Now

The Mexicans have a saying when a woman can prepare a delicious meal; she can get married now.

I was on a Chicken Mole kick a while back, after having tasted a wonderful dish of it.  I asked for the hostess’s recipe, but never followed through.

Thus began my quest for a dynamite mole recipe.  I found it on the Internet and it was easy to prepare, and delicious.

 I prepared it and the consensus was - I could get married now!  Try it.  You’ll be able to get married too!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Shampoo In A Bar?

Karita's Shampoo Bars
A Typical Commercial Shampoo

Ingredients:  Water, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, cocamidoprophl, betaine, glycol distearate, parfum/fragrance, disodium prosphate, glycol stearate, ricinoleamidopropyl ethyldimonium ethosulfate, stearic acid, aminomethyl propanol, cocamide mea, linoleamidoprophyl PG-Dimonium chloride prosphate, glycerin, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, propylene glycol, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, tetrasodium EDTA, methylparaben, citric acid, methylchloroisothazolinone, methylisothazolinone, ext. violet 2, violet 2.

Whew!  Can you believe that?  Try reading that fast! You should have seen my spell checker!  Those were the ingredients on my shampoo/conditioner hair rinse to brighten my gray hair.  Thank goodness I only use it about once a month.

On the other hand: Karita’s Handmade Shampoo/Conditioner Bar

Ingredients:  Olive oil, water, coconut oil, castor oil, and sodium hydroxide (lye). Plus pure essential oils.

This handmade bar through its rich penetrating lather has superior cleaning and conditioning properties, to soften and add body to your hair.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Our Hen and Her Chicks

Bessie and Chicks

I love our chickens.  Recently one of our hens, Bessie, decided to set.  We live within the city limits where roosters are poultry non grata, so we had to search for fertilized eggs.  Usually we try to get some from country folk with roosters, or the local farmers’ market.  Well anyway, we got a dozen eggs and sneakily and carefully put them under Bess.  Sadly only 2 chicks hatched, but we were excited nonetheless.  So much time is spent (some folks would say wasted) observing the newest editions to our menagerie. 

Our hen is an excellent mother.  One who is fiercely protective of her brood, an example many human mothers would do well to emulate.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

When tomatoes are plentiful and it is HOT, I know I will not be cooking dinner that night.   I will fix a tub of salsa.  We eat chips and salsa – ALL DAY LONG.

Karita’s Tomato Salsa

4 cups chopped tomatoes in separate bowl

1 cup cilantro leaves
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 med. red onion, chopped
1 to 3 Chilies, to heat level desired

Using a food processor, process all ingredients, except tomatoes.  Add tomatoes, a few at a time, using the pulse mode to desired chunkiness.  Pour salsa back in tomato bowl and add:

1 tsp. Seasoning salt or to taste
Juice of ½ lime, more or less to taste.

Refrigerate to allow flavors to meld.  For extra spunk, add ½ to 1 tsp. Ground chipolte pepper.
Um um good!

For an attractive summer dinner try Ceviche Tostados

2 cups salsa
½ pound of salad shrimp meat
½ pound fake crab meat

Refrigerate 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.

Spread mayonnaise on a tostado shell.  Sprinkle with cayenne pepper (optional).  Spoon ceviche  on top.
Garnish with avocado slices, a cilantro sprig and lime wedge.

Bon Appetit!