Posts Tagged ‘great summer salad recipes’


Summer has arrived with a vengeance here in Northern California, giving barely a nod to spring. One weekend we had snow, the next the asphalt was melting. With all the strange weather going on all over the world it is hard to deny global warming is progressing, though some persist in insisting this is so. Our glaciers are melting, our oceans temperatures are rising. I cannot for the life of me understand how sticking our heads in the sand and pretending it is not happening will make it go away. My rant for the day.

As a kid summer was at time of year highly anticipated. School doors shut for the season, warm sunny days, a glistening pool in the back yard. Life was good. Most of my life I’ve been a sun bunny. Spending my middle school and high school years in Southern California, the majority of my summer vacation was spent at one of the many beaches within driving distance from my house. Those were glorious days looking back. Blissfully innocent about the effects of the sun on our skin, we slathered ourselves with a lethal concoction of baby oil and iodine and spent hours coaxing the sun to turn our bodies a lovely shade of golden brown.

Though I’m sure not much has changed, the beaches somehow seemed safer back then. Other than an occasional incident of a swimmer caught in a riptide or someone getting a serious sunburn, I don’t remember hearing about many incidents of shark sightings or attacks, though I’m sure there were many such events. With no social media to propel stories along the information highway was much slower relying on word of mouth, nightly news, or newspapers to provide information. Southern California beaches lured sunbathers with warm water, miles of sun-kissed sand and, particularly in the Laguna Beach area, plentiful caves and tide pools to explore.


My first child began her descent into the world in Laguna Beach. The first labor pain made itself known half way up a sheer staircase at a beach aptly named “1,000 Steps”. One pain following another I willed my overripe body to continue the uphill climb. By the time I reached street level I found myself praying for a helicopter to whisk me off to the nearest hospital. An hour and a half after I arrived at the hospital by our house my daughter arrived, leaving me to wonder if that last great effort up the endless steps hadn’t helped to hasten the delivery.

No matter whether on the east coast or the west the ocean is where I find peace. The only real regret I have about not finding wealth and fame (not that I looked very hard) is not having the wherewithal to buy a house with a panoramic view of the sea. How glorious it would be to open the door each morning to a salty sea breeze. To sit on the deck with your fingers wrapped around a hot cup of morning coffee and take in the sounds of waves crashing against the shore. Ahhhhhh.


As a child the ocean was my backdrop. At the first sign of spring I would head down the hill towards the thin strand of rocky beach stretching behind our house. Sitting on a rock I would unlace my shoes and dip my toes into the icy water.


I have had the opportunity to live on the water since, but never again on the ocean. When my children were in high school, my daughter entering her senior year and my son his junior, I rented a beautiful home in a man-made water community in Northern California on the Sacramento Delta called Discovery Bay. The house was second in on the first water cul-de-sac in a series of the same winding about the community. Our boat had been sold several years before so we used the dock mainly for fishing or launching the variety of floats and water toys stored in a massive bin on the middle deck. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mornings I would seat myself in my lawn chair to watch the horizon for the first hint of the sun making an entrance for the day. Usually Barnaby the golden retriever padded down to join me keeping a watchful eye out for a duck in the vicinity or a stray cat sleeping under a deck.

There’s something so calming and soul soothing about being close to water. If responsibilities and family didn’t hold me where I am, I would find a houseboat along a waterway somewhere and drop a line over the rail.On a day such as today where the thermometer is projected to reach record highs, the idea floats around in my brain like a bingo ball bouncing in a cage.

Should reincarnation be an option, I am definitely going to rethink being rich and famous just to allow me to live somewhere with salt in the air.

This cole slaw is positively decadent. I served it with tuna croquettes and a nicoise salad and it disappeared quickly.

Blue Cheese Cole Slaw

6 cups finely chopped shredded cabbage
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. Sriracha sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. celery salt

Mix together the cabbage, blue cheese, and onion in large mixing bowl.

Whisk together remaining ingredients to make dressing. Pour over cabbage 1 hour prior to serving and refrigerate.

Serves 6


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On the news this morning they reported a woman was killed by a lion several days ago while driving through a tourist attraction in South Africa. Signs were posted to keep car windows closed while in the compound. Unfortunately, we humans like to tempt fate and this time it was with disastrous results. We insist on putting ourselves in an animals habitat then are surprised when they behave like wild animals. Wild animals hunt. That is their nature. Because we have captured them does not diminish this urge in the least.

Back in the late 90’s a friend and I purchased tickets to see Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage in Vegas. Our seats were directly adjacent to the stage allowing an unobstructed view of the magnificent white tigers around which their act was centered. Several times during the performance I found my mind hoping the animals were having a good day, not experiencing a hangnail or just out of sorts, and wondering what the consequence of one of them feeling a bit peckish would look like. Happily we enjoyed a fascinating glimpse into their lives with nothing by way of a catastrophe coming our way. This, as you may know, did not hold true further down the road. Always when dealing with animals, even the domestic variety, a hint of caution can circumvent a catastrophe. While working with the cats at the animal shelter you had to keep your eye on their “tells”. They can turn on you in a heartbeat. Many a volunteer has ended up in the E.R. with stitches. Some of you may have seen the video of the house cat gone postal holding it’s humans captive behind a bedroom until they could be rescued. Even old Boo, the Queen of Cats, has her off days taking a swipe at Rick or I when she’s had enough of us.

I haven’t been to an amusement park featuring exotic animals in a long time. Well, depending on your view of long, at least six or so years. The last one was Marine World/Africa USA. Marine World originally was a place to go in the Bay Area to see exotic animals, outside of a typical zoo environment. Often baby animals would be on display in common areas held in check by handlers. Loved that part of the visit. In particular I remember a tiny orangutan, the largest part of which would have been his long furry arms, dressed in a diaper. While seated on a park bench enjoying a corn dog, the little monkey (literally correct in this case), climbed up next to me and with an upheld hand indicated an offer of a bite wouldn’t be rejected. Sooooo sweet was this little guy. Asking his 0043154ec9f2387204485b4928858405trainer if I could give him a small sample, once popped in his mouth he climbed up on my lap. Draping both monkey arms about my shoulder he proceeded to lay big gooey open lipped kiss directly on my surprised face. A thank you would have sufficed. His trainer said he thought I was his mother. Really? Why, thank you…..um, I think. There was a boat show at the San Francisco location as well culminating in a Bengal tiger riding up onto the shore in a speed boat with his trainer. What beautiful animals tigers are, undeniably commanding your attention as they perform in such close quarters to their audience. The show kept me riveted to my seat while also keeping one eye on the nearest exit.

Built initially on the tidelands of San Francisco Bay, the park moved to its present Vallejo site in 1986. After the move it lost its wonderful animal interaction quality trading instead on roller coasters and other thrill rides to appeal more to the kids. The animals were still there but I found the shows less entertaining, the waits longer, and in general the focus, at least for me, had shifted. On the day we went to Vallejo it was open to the public as well as entertaining a huge group of employees from a large well-known business. Parking required circling the lot until someone pulled out, then fighting to get the spot once emptied. Hot hot, hot, that day as well. Two things definitely not giving me a smiley face are masses of people crammed together in one spot and asphalt melting, shoe sticking, heat. Standing in line to get tickets I was surprised to find it was $60.00/per person to get through the gate. So crowded inside, it was nearly impossible to get anything to eat or drink, and the wait time to get into the shows in the heat of day hardly made it worth the effort. Many of the attractions that made the San Francisco location so special were gone, and on the way home I thought probably we wouldn’t be going back again any time soon.

Sea Life Park on Oahu is an animal theme park well worth the visit. As with most things Hawaiian it’s hard to beat the surroundings. Guests can sign up to swim with the dolphins, dog paddle with the sea lions, and hop in the water to cavort with the rays. I loved the rays. Gentle creatures looking as if they’d just popped out of a scene from The Abyss. What unusual and fascinating creatures the sea houses beneath her skirts. If I wasn’t so claustrophobic definitely scuba diving would have been on my bucket list long ago.

While in Hawaii I had the opportunity to take a catamaran tour to snorkel at Kealakekua Bay. The honuandyellowtangs_f_improf_640x426incredibly clear teal water offered a window to the most colorful sea life I’ve ever seen. Turtles swam along under the water with brightly colored fish appearing to have hitched a ride. A seahorse without rider peered at me through my mask before disappearing as quickly as he’d arrived.

Staying on the living creature theme, I got a bee in my bonnet last week to go to the zoo. Rick, who successfully deflected my pleas for a visit to the circus last time Barnum & Bailey hit town finally caved and said he would take me. If I am a good girl, he added, he will buy me a stuffed animal and cotton candy. Works for me.

I vary my salads and my dressings trying new combinations to keep them interesting. This one was definitely a keeper.

Fruity Avocado Chopped Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
3 small avocados, pitted and sliced
2 nectarines, pitted and sliced
8 large strawberries, sliced
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 1/2 Tbsp. snipped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup walnut halves

Place all ingredients in salad bowl. Toss with dressing.

Lime Vinaigrette

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

Whisk together all dressing ingredients but red pepper flakes. Stir in pepper flakes. Refrigerate for 1 hr. Toss with salad.

Serves 4

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Went for a walk behind Nevada City early this morning with a friend. Along the heavily wooded trails are periodic distance hirschman-pond-nevada-city-california-nikon-dslr-april-2014c2a9-sally-w-donatello-and-lens-and-pens-by-sally-2014markers and boards with maps indicating with an X “you are here”. Along with your location the boards provide interesting information about the flora and fauna in the area, as well as things to beware of. Coyotes are pictured on each board with warnings if one approaches you along the trail make yourself seem larger, wave, and make a lot of noise. Both of us being small of build, after reading the third of such notices with the size of the coyote increasing each time, we decided to bring a larger companion for diversion next time or possibly a revolver.

There are two ponds along the three miles of trails, both leftover from the days when working mines existed here. According to the boards turtles, beavers, and frogs make their homes there, though we never saw any of the three along our way.

This was the first long walk totally in the woods I’ve taken since spring arrived. Predicted to be hot, I loaded up on sunscreen, pulled a ball cap on my head, and put on shorts and a tee-shirt. As Edwards-typical-trailwe got deeper into the woods the umbrella of trees obscured the sun except for occasional spots of light bleaching through where the overgrowth thinned. About a mile and a half down the trail the first sensation, not unlike a pinprick, made me stop and slap my arm. The next one followed very quickly. The two of us began this unchoreographed dance in the dirt looking either as if we were summoning rain or waiting for the orderlies to show up from the local sanitarium. Hearing them before seeing them, the air suddenly seemed filled with mosquitos. Looking down they were perched on my arms and legs. Damn. My can of Off was sitting on the counter by the sink.

We put into practice the same advice given us for spotting a coyote except we added an additional instruction, “RUN”. Do not stop, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars. Not even in high school could I have run a mile and a half with such amazing alacrity. My lungs were doing the samba against the wall of my chest. Truly I didn’t know I had it in me. Piling into the car we immediately began scratching like two blue tick hounds with a bad case of fleas. All that diligence about avoiding sitting on the deck early in the morning when they’re buzzing around really paid off. Sigh.

The last time I dealt with mosquitos in such numbers was on a beach in New Hampshire. The group of twenty-somethings we called friends at the time their offspring and ours had gathered for an end of summer blue crab boil. The plan was a weekend on the beach with a crab feed on Saturday night. If memory serves it was Indian Summer that year. Not only hot, but incredibly sultry and still. Two fires were built and wood stacked in sort of teepee fashion. Pots of water were hung over the fires. The ladies were tasked with shucking the corn and cleaning the crabs while the men busied themselves popping open cans of cold beverages and throwing frisbies. Right. Where is it in the handbook where it says this sort of job is “woman’s work”? Men have been trying to convince me for years this is how it was originally written. I have reached a juncture where I need to see this in black and white.

A boom box was turned on for a little background atmosphere, and picnic tables provided by the state park served as a place to lay down newspaper to toss the crabs and ears of corn once cooked. A Coleman stove was used to melt butter and heat crusty loaves of garlicy bread which smelled wonderful drifting in the air. Just enough of a sea breeze kicked up to rustle the sides of the newspaper and cool us off, but not strong enough to require anything pulled over our shorts and tee shirts.

That night we feasted in the glow of the dwindling fire, drank brain freezing lemon-lime daiquiris out of the thermos and when the children exhausted from a day in the sun fell fast asleep, danced into the brim of the following day.

Thankfully the black fly population, present on our last trip to the New Hampshire shore, had abated. However, with the humidity high mosquitos buzzed in circles around our heads all night. People flicked and batted at them like horses will their tails as they flew past their ears or lighted on their skin.

Sand provided a rather soft cushion beneath our sleeping bags, but the flannel interiors of the bags meant for cooler climates proved hot. Even in the wee hours with the sea breeze, the land refused to give up the heat gathered during the day and most of us tossed off the tops of our bags allowing the breeze to cool our bodies.

I woke up the following morning to the sound of laughter, and the smell of bacon (my favorite smell outdoors) both close by. The laughter I was to find was at my expense. During the night, with a daiquiri or two under my belt, I’d slept uninterrupted as the mosquitos made a meal out of me. Fortunately I’d sprayed my body, but left my face totally vulnerable. Word must have gotten around that seating was available in that area because they had their way with me above the neck. When I spoke I sounded like I had a terrible cold because they’d bitten my nose so often it had literally swollen shut. I looked like a female version of Karl Malden. My husband reassured me no one would notice but since every time someone looked at me they laughed I found that highly unlikely.

The following day getting ready for work the swelling was down but still very evident. I boarded the subway with my hands over my nose with people eying me curiously as they often did the people dancing in Boston Commons talking to themselves. Finally after several days I returned to myself, certainly a vast improvement over Karl. On him the look was distinctive. On a woman, I assure you far less so.

I’m taking off for a couple of days to see my mom. The other half and the cat will be batching it. Cya when I get back.

Grape Nutty Cole Slaw

2 pkg. angel hair cole slaw
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups halved red seedless grapes
1/2 cup blueberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Mix together in large bowl.


2/3 cup sugar
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup 2% milk
5 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Pour over cabbage mixture 1 hour prior to serving.

Serves 8-10

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Getting old is no walk in the park.  I volunteered a while ago to drive Angie, a lady in her late eighties, to the store to pick up some needed items.  The California Department of Motor Vehicles took umbrage with the fact Angie continued operating a motor vehicle once her eyesight had deteriorated to a point an elephant on her couch would have gone unnoticed, and pulled her license several years back. Since then, children out of state, she has depended on volunteers or county ride programs to get her where she needs to go. Must be tough, I’m thinking.  Tugging the “in” right out of independence.  Independence is chipped away piece by piece as the years pass like a sculptor shaping a face out of marble until the original structure of the stone is no longer recognizable.  Knowing Angie is unable to get out of the house often, I suggested we stop for a quick bite of lunch.  Still struggling to gather bits of conversations with her second set of hearing aids our dialog consisted of me screaming to be understood and Angie asking “what” when I haven’t uttered a word.  Unwilling to allow me to “treat” in spite of her fixed income, I opted for a small coffee shop in town catering to seniors and their pocketbooks.  The menu, more a tome, featured a 55+ page with selections such as half sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, pot pies and waffles. It seems as we age we regress in the mind of the writers of such things, because senior menus are generally located right next to the “kids meals”, as though both groups share a common link. Next they’ll be handing out crayons a coloring pages to those with a bit of snow on the roof.

A self-professed “good eater” and little hampered by the dentures recently acquired, the diminutive woman tore into the generously filled tuna sandwich as though the judge had declared it her last meal.  Dwarfing her sandwich was a mound of fries suitable for sustaining a family of twelve in Cambodia as well as keeping their livestock going for a month.  Words poured out of her between bites as though they’d been stored up and finally set free.  I learned as we spoke of her childhood on the east coast, her father’s ministry there and the son she’d lost to appendicitis before he’d celebrated his fifth birthday.  Growing up in a farmhouse on an island in Maine, she explained, isolated them from the mainland. Angie was home schooled, and with no children her age nearby shared her childhood instead with the abundant wildlife prevalent in the area. Whispering her secrets and dreams in the ear of a lounging seal on a rocky beach, porpoises playing in the waves, or a hundred pound Labrador retriever answering to Bud not averse to being dressed in hats and coming to tea.  The middle child in a family of six and the only girl, on days when the weather conspired to keep her indoors she would write in her diary or draw in her sketch books. Later she would recall her stories in a series of children’s books published to what she referred to as a “selective audience” mainly family and friends.  Her deeply grooved face appeared youthful while she spoke, the rich narratives making it easy to picture the beauty of the spot almost allowing me to hear the dark blue waves of the Atlantic slapping against the rock laden beaches.

At night, she went on to say, “Father opened the bible following our supper.  In the flickering light of the melting candle, the worn leather book was passed from child to child, each of us asked to read a chapter of our choosing aloud to those in attendance.  I always read from Genesis, as it was easiest for my young mind to understand.  There are only three of us left these days, but whenever I look at the bible now displayed on my writing desk, I can almost hear their voices.  In my mind, of course, for they are long gone and that seems to be the best way to hear for me these days, in my mind”.

I was told Jean, her mother, died before Angie conceived her first child. A virulent cancer which progressed mercifully in a quick and unrelenting manner.  At twenty-two she had been an aspiring actress living in New York, Broadway’s footlights squarely in her headlights. Angie’s father met her on a bench in Central Park while visiting for the summer. Before fall dropped it’s first leaf he’d changed her name to his. Filled with enthusiasm and brimming with energy, life had suited her well on the remote island. Despite never hearing her complain of the isolation, Angie always felt there was a hint of sadness lingering behind the ever-present twinkle in her mother’s eyes perhaps telling of a path not taken and a chance passed by.  On occasion she would find her mother in the attic sitting next to her lovely silk dresses laid out on the floor, but if there were any regrets, they were never spoken of, at least not to her.

How many blanks were filled in for me during our lunch. Bits and pieces I would never have known about Angie.  So much more to the woman beyond her gift for crocheting, evidenced by the delicate afghans adorning the furniture in her small apartment. Names were assigned to the peoplejohn lennon in the photographs lined up on her piano, and a past tied into her present.  It is easy to discount an elderly person, particularly if you are young and fearless, but they have so much to share.  They lived through times we never will and are the narrators of things gone past and our access to it.

So, I enjoyed my lunch and will do it again.  This little salad is one of my favorites.  I pull it out when I’m having sticky rice, or as pictured to add a little zing to a sandwich and chips.

Here are some pics of the new house.  The yard has so many interesting plants growing about.  I will have to investigate when I’m sure “slither” and “slink” aren’t about.  Not up to snakes.



Thai Cucumber Salad

2 English cucumbers, sliced very thin
1/3 cup red onion, sliced very thin
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced very thin
4 shallots, sliced very thin

Mix salad ingredients together in small mixing bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.


1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Mix all dressing ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Pour over salad and allow to marinate for 1/2 hour.

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