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March 2013

Food Alchemy~ Quinoa Dark Chocolate Cake

Food Alchemy~ Quinoa Dark Chocolate Cake

Food Alchemy~ Quinoa Dark Chocolate Cake

To me, Food Alchemy is what happens when you take an ingredient that's usually meant to be used one way and then turn it into something that is by turns utterly extraordinary and totally unexpected. Such was the case with this chocolate cake. The recipe above came from last months Organic Spa magazine and the lovely young woman in the picture above is my sons girlfriend Angie. About three nights ago she asked me if we could try this recipe and I was completely intrigued. Quinoa in a cake... How bad could it be? If it worked I thought, there's one more gluten free cake recipe to add to the arsenal and I'm happy to say that it was absolutely delicious. 

We had a wonderful time making it and really the hardest part was cooling the quinoa down fast enough to make the batter. If you make it beforehand and cool it you won't have that problem! Indulge yourself if you have a copper bowl and whip the cream with a handwhisk. I added some rose extract, a bit of vanilla extract and date sugar to the whipping cream. It turned into a luscious, dense custard, just lightly flavored and perfect with the chocolate!

We sat in front of the oven for the 50 minute baking time just laughing, watching and smelling the luxurious chocolate aromatherapy that was taking over the kitchen. When the baking time was over we dusted the cake with cinnamon and ate it warm with the whipped cream. It was amazingly rich, dense and chocolate~ty. It was surprisingly not chewy and when you look at the list of ingredients, actually quite healthy! Have fun with this one. I'm going to make it again for  my next Herb Society meeting, but I'm going to slice it in half, fill it with bittersweet ganache that I've flavored with raspberry jam and then I'm going to cover it with clouds of whipped cream pineapple basil, candied violets and fruit. Let me know what you invent and my thanks to you Angie for all of the fun and inspiration! I probably would never have tried it if not for you!

Tea Leaves & Tarot Cards: Memories of High Tea & Jo Malones Sugar & Spice Collection



There is just something special about an traditional English tea. Everyone has tried to imitate it , but in my mind it's never been duplicated with the exception of the afternoon tea on Bergdorfs 7th floor which occasionally and with the right companion can come pretty close. Don't get me wrong, there are many lovely tea rooms here in America and I enjoy them all but there's a regality about a proper British tea that I thoroughly enjoy as well as a touch of whimsy which is allowable because tea is so entrenched in their culture that it's just understood and not worried about. British children have their own tea services for goodness sakes and It's a wonderful thing! More importantly and because the Brits are fairly addicted to sugar the sweets found at their High Teas are legendary and the savories are the perfect accompaniments.

  image from www.mofflymedia.com

But in my world it was all about the sweets. You haven't lived until you've tasted a real British scone, with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, all buttery and warm I might add. You just haven't and I've never met an American scone that could come close. It's a bit like a southern biscuit…you must use Crisco or forget it. British scones are filled with butter…lots of butter and white flour.  Some things should truly just never be tampered with. Just eat one and then jump back onto the healthy band-wagon. For the majority of us, one won't hurt you and the reward is a rich and relaxing afternoon!

Tea has been a part of my world since I was a very young child. I've talked many times about my own mothers penchant for afternoon tea; raised by a very Patrician mother of her own she continued to believe until the day she died that it was the only civilized meal left to be eaten in the western world.   As a result of this passion when she died I inherited several pretty fabulous tea sets and was left with decades of wonderful memories. My father was a coffee drinker so she didn't really get to enjoy afternoon tea unless she was traveling with me.  My mother and I enjoyed  tea all around England, Scotland and Ireland and those images are engraved in my mind and heart forever. So are the smells and the perfect tea services!  I learned to love coddled eggs because of breakfast teas , egg and radish sandwiches, Scottish salmon croquettes and refreshing fruit soups!

image from static.productreview.com.au

Because we were in the porcelain business we had appointments to visit every wonderful factory and in those days they always had a beautiful high tea prepared for us when we arrived.  I’ll never forget the high tea at the Royal Worcester / Spode factory , where the whole thing was served on  a set of Duke of Gloucester, with British sterling and Stuart Crystal…I felt like a Princess. I still remember that because because that was the first time that I ever enjoyed a buttered roast beef and watercress tea sandwich which is an absolute thing of beauty. I've even been lucky enough to have gotten the chance to enjoy many a cucumber sandwich and later in life a few martinis with Lord Wedgwood, a most charming gentleman who definitely knows his teas. More recently my nephew Michael is spending a year or two in Oxford in a masters program, and he keeps posting all of these lovely pictures of tea that he’s enjoying on a spring holiday that he’s taking through the English countryside with his darling girlfriend Molly, placing afternoon tea in the forefront of my mind once again. 

image from 1.bp.blogspot.com
So it came as no surprise to me yesterday when I was walking through Saks Fifth Avenue that my eye was drawn to the uncharacteristically vibrant display at the Jo Malone counter. I walked over and took a look at the display of 5 little bottles with sugar spun pastel labels displayed with a covered glass cake plate filled with sweets named most appropriately  “The Sugar and Spice Collection”.  I rolled my eyes and then the really sweet SA came over to talk to me and convinced me to take a closer look.  I’m not really one for foodie scents, but I’ve got to admit I was almost immediately smitten. I don’t know if it was the perfumes themselves or just the whole presentation, but as I sprayed them I became very happy, in a distinctly childlike way. By the time I was done I was wearing them all and they blended together beautifully like an elegantly set tea table amidst a blowzy English herbaceous border. All that was missing was the perfect hat, cartwheeling children and a couple of large lovely dogs!  I brought them home to my husband to see if  it was just a product of my overly vivid imagination ,  but he loved them and said that I smelled like a perfect country day. Enough said!

Here are the descriptions of each of these pretty perfumes straight from the Jo Malone site.


Ginger Biscuit

“Just-baked biscuit. Spiced with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, melting into caramel. Butter-crumbly with roasted hazelnuts. Warmed by tonka bean and vanilla. Irresistible”


Lemon Tart

“The mouth-watering tang of lemon tart. Sparkling with citrus fruits and verbena, contrasted with swirls of meringue and lemon thyme. Refreshing.”


Red Currant and Cream

“A summer pudding. Sharp-scarlet juices of red currants, lush strawberries and raspberries, rippling through creamy musk. Vivacious and enticing.”


Elderflower and Gooseberry

“A voluptuous gooseberry fool. Crushed, summer-green gooseberries, juicy with lychee, enfolded into the soft delicacy of elderflower. Tender and feminine.”


Bitter Orange and Chocolate  

“The bite of bitter orange, layered with dark chocolate.  Orange peel counterpoised with warm, powdery cocoa, milky coconut and coumarin.  Sumptuous and addictive.”


They are all wonderful and I’d love to give a whole set not just to a granddaughter but to myself. I adore the Bitter Chocolate on it’s own and find the elderflower and Gooseberry to be something that I’d enjoy wearing all spring long. I must admit that until I smelled this collection the genre  of  sugary fruity gourmand perfumes had escaped me almost entirely, but there’s something about these  playful Jo Malone’s that’s absolutely delightful and makes the possibility of smelling like a warm ginger biscuit seem sophisticated and very romantic. They’re only available through March so you don’t have much more time and priced at 60.00 a bottle they’re easy to succumb to.  Take your inner child to tea (or at least a precocious niece or nephew!) and try them all!


 Photo Credits on each picture ~ this was originally posted on my favorite Perfume blog ~ Perfume Smellin Things

The Magical Home: Vision Boards ~ Learning to Speak the True Language of Your Style!


image from www.sbryant.me
Over the years I’ve enjoyed many a beautifully decorated home, but wondered to myself where the heart and soul of the owner was truly  residing.  When it comes to home-style I am firmly convinced that the best home design, the one that really works for YOU will come from your own inspirations. That’s why I always recommend to my clients that they do a bit of internal interior prep work themselves and then  bring in a designer who can bring their visions to life!  A little time spent discovering how you truly want your home to look and feel will guarantee that the results are a home that you and everyone who comes into it will really love. This is all about learning to speak the language of your style. 

It is easy and fun to do just that and my favorite way is by creating handmade vision boards or  because I do love the latest technologies , a vision board on a Pinterest account. For those of you not familiar with PInterest.com, it is an online scrapbooking  application that’s fun and easy to use. On Pinterest you can create pages of photographs that you love, that will reflect different styles and interests and it’s a very easy way to create rooms that you love without any financial commitment at all! 

Traditionally a vision board is crafted from a piece of poster board that you paste images  and words that you’ve torn out from various magazines, newspapers and books. It’s a fun way to learn about what you really desire in a home environment and it’s easy and fun project to do.  You could also get a large leather bound sketchbook and keep an evolving vision journal for your home.

This is really an effective tool to use anytime you are beginning a renovation or decorating project.  We all want our homes to reflect who we are and who we are becoming because that’s when we truly feel comfortable in them.  I’ve done this exercise often with people who are redecorating or building important rooms in their homes like kitchens and bedrooms. It’s amazing what happens when they allow themselves to dream outside of the box for a bit. Suddenly a ultra-modern kitchen turns into a beautiful chateau with a trompe l’oeil wall and a bedroom that was originally lacy and traditional becomes a 50’s style movie star set!  

The idea behind creating a vision board of any sort is that when you begin to surround yourself with images of who you want to become, what you want to have, where you want to live, or travel to, your inner life begins to change and the world can expand to manifest  your desires.  I feel that there’s no better place to do this than in your home , in the rooms where you live, work and love everyday.

 I’ve been doing this for years and often my vision boards have brought me clear access to the thingsthat I have outgrown and the new ways that I have wanted to live.  Our current home looks very different than our previous home which was a reflection of the things that I had and that I thought that I should use, but not necessarily that I loved nor wanted. Creating a vision for our new home allowed us to know that what we really wanted to create was a home that felt like our beloved Southern California, with diffused light and bright color everywhere with some very traditional accents instead of the Colonial style of home that we had before. Looking at the blueprint we created allowed us to give away a lot of items and recycle some that we hadn’t looked at in awhile  because  we realized that  we’d  grown into another style.  I know that it’s because I created a visual reference of exactly what we wanted that our friends often remark that that they are so comfortable in our space because it feels just like us. We walk into it even on the toughest days and it always welcomes us home. 


No matter what type of vision board you’re creating be sure to take a moment to relax and focus on your desired outcome for your home. You may be very surprised by what you see.  Just take a moment to breathe and be inspired by with whatever appears next.


Put on music that you love.  It could be Sinatra or Stravinsky, anything that helps you get clearand creative. Next go through magazines (or if it’s Pinterest that you’re using through websites!) and cut or tear words that you love and images that speak to the kind of spaces that you want to create in your home. Enjoy the process and don’t worry about having too many! Be sure to have a photo of yourself and your family because you’ll want to put it somewhere on your board for inspiration!  Lay your favorite images out onto a piece of poster board in whatever way that you want. Begin to glue everything that you’ve chosen onto the board and add paint, ink or marker wherever and however you’d like.  There is no right or wrong approach to this exercise, only the approach that makes you happy. Use your intuition as a guide and you’ll begin to see  patterns and styles that you’ll love  that may really surprise you and I promise that if you do this exercise, that you'll end up with  rooms that you'll really love. Just trust yourself and have fun!






This was originally written for and printed in Currents!

Gorgeous example of Vision Boarding Photo courtesy of SBryant


Bubbling in the Cauldron: Three Cheese and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese

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I found out today that Friday April 12th  is National Grilled Cheese Day. For someone like me, that's perfect. Cheese is actually my favorite food. I am told that it's an addiction, but I really don't care. Grilled cheese is one of my all time favorite comfort foods and there are so many different varieties. Generally I don't think that there's anything better than a plain old fashioned grilled cheese with   American cheese and tomato soup. I know, I know....

That being said  my favorite restaurant in NYC Artisanal is having a contest to come up with a fabulous new grilled cheese sandwich to put on their menu and I decided to try to come up with a submission in hopes of winning a fabulous dinner in their private cave.

I took my inspiration from my favorite appetizer in the world, the simple yet sublime Gougere. A Gougere is a simple puff pastry with with flavorings added and baked into warm little balls of cheesy deliciousness. They're cheese puffs, but  to call them that is actually an insult.A perfect Gougere is a sublime little puff of Pate a choux (think cream puffs!) filled with spices and cheese. I make mine with gruyere, jarlsburg and cumin and I love them.

 This grilled cheese began with me caramelizing the onions and ended with sandwiches of fresh pumpernickel bread and three different cheeses; Gruyere, Jarlsburg and to add the cumin flavor , a delicious Leyden which is a medium hard nutty cheese reminiscent of a Gouda  and is studded with cumin. I added apples and mustard seed to the onions because I wanted the touch of sweetness. I have to admit that it was very very good!


You will need for each sandwich:

 2 tablespoons of Caramelized onions.  I caramelized my onions with a few apples, a touch of honey, balsamic vinegar and mustard seed, but plain lightly salted caramelized onions would be just as delicious!

Two slices of a fresh Pumpernickel Boule about 1/2 an inch thick. (I got mine at Whole Foods)

2 or 3 hand sliced thin pieces EACH of Leyden, Jarlsburg and Gruyere.

1 or 2 slices of organic Black Forest ham  ( I didn't use it as we are not eating meat right now but I thought that it could be a great smoky addition)

1 tablespoon of Pasture raised organic butter 


The preparation is simple!

Lay the cheese in alternating layers on the pumpernickel bread and top with the onions. Close the sandwiches and  melt the butter in a  cast iron pan. Lay the sandwiches in the pan and begin to grill them. Take a manual panini press or if not a cast iron pan lid and press the sandwiches. They are done when the cheese is melted and the bread is delightfully buttery and crisp. 

Serve with a side of mushroom soup or an arugula and walnut salad! To drink I'd choose a delightfully refreshing hard apple cider or apple lambic!





Wise Woman Traditions: Healing Ourselves Emotionally from Unhealthy Entanglements



From www.experience project.com


"We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been - a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free." Starhawk


From time to time, I've found myself in relationships that were difficult without really understanding why I had chosen to be there in the first place. I think that we're always looking for our soulmates on this planet and that sometimes in our inherent human loneliness we can settle for milk chocolate more easily than we can wait for the 70% Green and Black bar. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with milk chocolate- NOT AT ALL...there are some people that for them a Hersheys bar with almonds is their personal nirvana, just not for me.

When I settle in my relationships for behaviors that I don't want to paticipate in and I tolerate behaviors from others that I find  energetically disruptive and would normally never put up with, I know that I'm settling for what is heartsickening for me and does not support the greening of my life.

Unhealthy relationships become draining and emotionally deadly to many of us who are very empathic and we tend to allow those relationships  (key word here is " allow"!) to take over our lives and feel almost apologetic when we can't tolerate them anymore. There are such things as energy vampires... I've found the current fascination with Hollywood vampires to be very unsettling because almost anyone who works with energy in any way has had to free themselves of a "vampiric" relationship or two and knows that there is definitely more fact than fiction when it comes to that sort of relationship.

People hook on to you when  they want something that you have whether it be physical or emotional and because they don't see any way to create it honestly for themselves they settle for trying to take it from you and justify their behavior in whatever way they can. In any situation like this it has everything to do with the emotional security and energy that they crave and believe that they will never have and  the insidious part is that you're getting something out of too. Often this is a person who makes you feel needed and wanted. We all want to be known and loved and a person like this will tend to make you feel as if you are the only one in the world who "gets" them. Your ego will love the attention and you'll feel so good about what you do for them, but you won't realize the trade off until it's just a bit too late. You're already hooked and that's when it becomes your responsibility .


Source Unknown


It's very sad actually because in my experience people who tend to try to derive their energy from other people have had really deep wounding in their childhoods or even other lifetimes. It's a hard cycle for them to break, that cycle of dependency , shame and  anger and what they really needed was to simply be loved listened to and understood.

Strangely enough and because inherently they know the game that they are playing, this same type of person will also get very angry when you begin to question the relationship and try to understand the things that upset you about it. They will often try to psychically and verbally bully you into not reacting and that's where it gets really complicated because of the strange emotional entanglements that you can have when a friendship appears to be very intimate, but is based almost solely upon need. You know if you're in a relationship like this because you feel almost bone dead exhaustion at the thought of it and you start to pick at it in ways that are provocative in a conscious attempt to free yourself. I've seen people who are on the drained end of a relationship like this begin to get physically very weak and  practically heartsick. These are all signs that it's time to quickly move on. Your energy will usually return when you've been able to finally disengage emotionally. 

To be fair I have seen cases where two people want the relationship to work so much that both parties are willing to do the work that it takes to grow together independently. However, that's pretty rare and more often than not  breaking the energetic bonds that you hold between you is the only way to break the spell of a relationship like this because one person is usually getting so much more out of it than the other. I like to encourage the use of ritual for endings like these because I think that as humans we are programmed for it...somehow we need it to inspire us to be bigger than we know ourselves to be.

If you find yourself in a situation  or relationship where you know that it's time for it to be over don't delay the ending. Let that person go with love and image the cutting of the energy between you.If you're angry that's fine..do whatever you need to do to separate but without sending energy that could emotionally harm the other because that's just more of the same and Karma IS really a bitch! Besides...you did once really care and that's to be honored, not diminished.

Take care of yourself and don't worry about the other person...they've got their own work to do and they NEED to do it themselves.  I tend to view this as an amputation and a cauterization, because you want to cut the cords and then staunch the bleeding as fast as possible. If you feel any adverse energies coming at you, just don't engage. (I know..easier said than done!) Ground yourself and put a shield around you and send the energies back, because they belong to that other being, not to you.




Do something that feels good....plant a flower, a tree ...anything that will grow and do it with the intention of freeing yourself from the bonds of your relationship  with the other. Acknowledge that you once cared about the relationship and probably in fact still do but that it no longer serves either if you as it is.

 Hatred won't do that...anger will still keep you bound together in ways that you don't need in your life any longer. Acknowledge the deep sadness that comes from ending a relationship that's been toxic for you and understand that you've been a willing participant. There's no geting around that one....your relationships are your responsibility and in allowing it to continue, you've allowed yourself to  play the victim..an act that does just as much psychic damage to the other person. Last but not least, as hard as it is,  under no circumstances should you be in touch with that person, because once a relationship like this is over, it's over and it takes awhile to heal from the wounding of it.  Once you've determined that it's over and done, it doesn't pay to rehash the obvious or as my mother used to say..."stop smacking yourself Beth and wondering why it hurts!" It doesn't matter if the other person involved doesn't understand~ It's important that you do. With real understanding comes freedom and compassion as well as the ability to never let history repeat itself again.

Psychic self defense

Do the work to energetically extricate yourself because how you feel when it's finally resolved is worth the effort. When relationships that are no longer healthy are removed from your life, everything begins to snap quickly back into focus. The book above by Dion Fortune "Psychic Self Defense" is one of the best books that I've ever read for detailing how to do the work to free yourself from this sort of relationship without causing anymore harm to yourself or THE OTHER PERSON. No hexes, curses, Ill-wishes or other generally bad mojo is EVER allowed !