Wavocana Bread

Like any place else, there are certain truisms about growing up in San Diego.  The first week of school is always the hotest.  Dude can be used as a noun, adjective, verb and even the occasional expletive. And, nobody actually buys avocados, oranges, grapefruits or lemons (because if you don’t have one of these trees in your backyard, your neighbor does).  I’m not kidding, I don’t think I consumed a single store-bought avocado until I went to college.

Sadly, the urban jungle in which we currently live is not so generous with its fruit.  Which means I actually have to spend money on this egg-shaped delicacy.  Which also means that I do everything in my power to make sure they do not go to waste.

And that is where this week’s post begins.  I had uber ripe avocados.  I also had super ripe bananas.  And some walnuts.

Well, I say, when life gives you ripe, make wavocana bread.

That’s right, avocado, banana walnut bread.

I was a little disappointed at how subtle the avocado is in this recipe.  Though, it did add fantastic texture.

Moist, nutty and satisfying.  Dude.

Wavocana Bread

adapted from: www.californiaavocado.com/


  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 ripe, Fresh California Avocado, seeded
  • ¼ cup coconut oil in liquid form (can substitute canola oil)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup buttermilk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan with parchment paper, grease bottom only.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients: oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. Scoop the avocado into a large bowl and mash lightly.
  4. Add oil and brown sugar to the avocado. Cream together using an electric mixer, until light and creamy.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Stir in bananas, then walnuts and dry ingredients.
  7. Stir in buttermilk and beat just until buttermilk is incorporated.
  8. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Wavocanana bread is quite moist and may not pass the “toothpick” test at this point. If you prefer a drier bread, bake a little longer.

Santa Maria BBQ, hackers delight

I’ll admit it up front, this post is a bit of a hack.  Where the recipes should go at the bottom, I’m going give you a link that sends you to the Santa Maria Valley site that supplied all of the recipes for this meal.  Memorial Day Weekend is nearly upon us and I had a choice–deliver the post in time for the first official grilling weekend of the summer or make you wait until July 4th.  Trust me, you don’t want to wait.

My mom is from Santa Maria as is her mother (well, Myrna was really from the tiny town of Orcutt, next to Santa Maria).  For the un-inducted, Santa Maria is a smallish town sandwiched in between Santa Barbara to the South and San Luis Obispo to the North.  Its geographic terroir makes for verdant agricultural, viticultural and ranching industries.  Pair fertile, vaquero, studded land with French immigrants (Myrna was nee Jullian) and food and wine form the centerpiece of family.  Very often, tri-tip was the star.

Tri-tip BBQ in Santa Maria is its own brand of adventure.  Sort of like pop-up restaurants pre-Twitter, the best are found in mobile locations, usually on the weekends and in the parking lots of Home Depots and grocery stores.

You can also make it at home, which my parents did quite often, slow cooking the roast on a kamado grill (long before it was popular with the cool kids).

I bought TD a kamado grill for Christmas and while it does make spectacular tri-tip, we know from experience that a charcoal, wood or  or even gas grill can yield similar results (parking lot Santa Maria BBQ uses oak wood).  Santa Maria seasoning is simple; garlic salt and pepper.  Though, returning to that french influence, we often use Herbs de Provence.

The pinquito beans are as important to Santa Maria BBQ as the tri-tip. I found these little pinto-like beans at the farmer’s market.  The recipe calls for ham, I used Canadian bacon.

Salsa also play an important role.  The Santa Maria version gets an extra punch of color and flavor from bell peppers.

And then there is the garlic bread.  To be honest, we eat this meal with tortillas as often as we do bread.

Here is how you eat it: dump the beans and salsa on top of the meat.  Enjoy.

And, don’t forget the wine.

If you are in the area and going for authentic experience, there are a couple of go-to places.  The first was made famous in the movie Sideways.  Setting aside cinematic popularity, The Hitching Post is the real deal.  So is the Garden Room Restaurant at the Santa Maria Inn (where my parents had their wedding reception over 40 years ago).

Santa Maria BBQ

Santa Maria BBQ

That’s-a-spicy cupa-cake!

They say print media is dying.  And while it is true that we don’t subscribe to The Los Angeles Times, TD and I have had the pink-plastic wrapped Wall Street Journal delivered for years.  TD, the excellent news consumer that he is, reads it every morning cover to news-printy cover.  Me?  Not so much.  But, I do enjoy their weekend editions and have, surprisingly, found the WSJ to be a source of some excellent recipes.  This is one of them.

Spicy and sweet, these cupcakes start out with a homemade chai blend.  I found my cardamom pods at Whole Foods.  Notice the peppercorns are black.  Not pink.

The spice mixture is used to scent and flavor a cake with a dense but moist crumb, perfect consistency for a cupcake in my opinion.

The aromatic cake is further enhanced by a ginger-infused cream cheese frosting that takes five minutes to throw together.

The Wall Street Journal version is actually a layer cake.  However, I think these cupcakes are just that much more festive.  And we are celebrating. At this posting, not only are TD and I leaving on a jet plane for the land of down-under, but I am also about to have one those events that involve blowing out candles.

Like, forty of them.


Amos Lee

Chai Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

adapted from the Wall Street Journal, February 2-3, 2013 (who adapted the recipe from One Girl Cookie, Brooklyn New York)

For the Cupcakes


  • 30 cardamom pods
  • 7 black (not pink) peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 4 C all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 12 ounces (24 TBS) butter at room temp
  •  2 ½ C sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ C sour cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line  2, 12-cup cupcake pans with liners.
  2. On a cookie sheet, toast cardamom, peppercorns and cloves until fragrant (about 8 minutes.  Once spices are cool, grind to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and ground spices.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a  paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar mixing until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  5. Set mixer on low speed and add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla.  Mix until fully combined, 2-3 minutes.
  6. Set mixer on low speed, add in flour in three parts alternating with sour cream beginning and ending with flour.  Mix until just combined after each addition.
  7. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix for an additional 10 seconds.
  8. Scoop batter into cupcake liners adding until just under the top of the liner.
  9. Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.  Test with toothpick.  Cupcakes are done when the toothpick comes up with moist crumbs.
  10. Allow to cool completely.

For the Frosting


  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 6 TBS of butter, softened
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 lb confectioner’s sugar (more if desired)
  • 1 ½ TBS ground ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C toasted and chopped pistachios if desired


  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, beat cream cheese, butter and salt on medium until smooth.  Scrape down sides of bowl.
  2. Add confectioner’s sugar, grounds ginger and vanilla.  Mix on medium speed until all ingredients are combined and the frosting is smooth.
  3. Frost cupcakes as desired and sprinkle chopped pistachios over top to garnish.

Moms are the bees knees

My mom has a thing for bees.  More specifically, botanical bees.  For this reason, I am always on the hunt for cool botanical bee things.  Tea towels, serving dishes, craft punches, I’ve found them all over the year and often given them as Mother’s Day gifts.

You know what else my mom also likes?  Cocktails.  Who knows why, but one of my earliest memories involves camping in the summer and the adults sitting around a newly-lit fire in camp chairs, as the shadows grew longer, enjoying “cocktail hour.”  Of course, considering the gaggle of children they would bring along on these trips, cocktail hour may have started around 8:00 am every morning.

Always one for parsimony, I’ve finally found a way to honor two of my mom’s loves together: the bees knees cocktail.

Rumor has it that this concoction came about during prohibition as a way of making bathtub gin more palatable.  The secret ingredient is a simple honey syrup.

I’ve seen this little libation topped with lavender as well.  However, it’s too early in the season for lavender.  So, I used a paper-thin lemon slice.

Chin chin and happy Mother’s Day!

The Bees Knees


  • 2 ounces gin (while bathtub gin would lend authenticity, I am partial to Tangueray though all the cool kids are drinking Hendricks
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce honey syrup (see below for recipe)
  • lemon slices or lavender sprigs to garnish


  1. Fill cocktail shaker with ice.  Add-in all liquid ingredients.  Shake until the shaker grows so cold you think your fingers might stick to it.
  2. Strain and serve garnished with something pretty.

Honey Syrup

  1. Add equal parts water and honey to a small sauce pan (to make thing even, I use 1 cup).  Whisk until honey dissolves.  Bring to a boil.  When the liquid reaches a boil, turn off the heat.  Allow to cool.  Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of months.  But, it won’t last that long.


The shortbread experiment

I have made no secret of my love for sandy, crumbly cookies.  Sables, sandies and shortbreads all tickle my fancy as an enjoyer of baked goods, if not as a baker.  I am always on the hunt for the perfect shortbread recipe and constantly in awe that something with so few ingredients can prove so elusive (though I suspect it is because of the simple ingredients).

So of course, I had to try the one included in Bouchon Bakery (I really didn’t intent two weeks in a row from the same book).

Butter, flour, sugar. Check.

Crumbly dough, check.

Time in the fridge, check.

And here is where he started to lose me.  I realize it is a personal preference, but rolling-out shortbread isn’t my thing.  I prefer to press or roll the dough into a log.

Admittedly, I rolled them out too thinly.  And while the result had a nice crumbly texture, they tasted a little too sugar-cookie to me.  TD said they tasted like shortbread.  But, he’s not a huge fan of the buttery baked good so he only gets a half vote.


If you like this, you might like these

Coconut Shortbread



adapted from Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel in Bouchon Bakery


  • 13 TBS (1 stick + 5 TBS) (180 grams) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1/2 C (90 grams) superfine sugar
  • 1/2 + 1/8 tsp (2 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 C + 3 TBS (270 grams) all purpose flour
  • granulated or sanding sugar for dusting


  1. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream until smooth on medium-low speed.
  2. Add 1/2 C (90 grams) sugar and the slat, mix on medium for about 2 minutes until fluffy.
  3. Scrape down the  sides and bottom of the bowl.  Add the vanilla and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to distribute evenly.
  4. Add the flour in two additions, mixing on low speed for 15-30 seconds or until just combined.  Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any flour that may have settled.
  5. Mound the dough on the work surface and, using the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper, push it together into a 5-inch square block.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firm.
  6. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.  Line two pans with parchment paper.
  7. Unwrap the dough and place between two pieces parchment paper.  With a rolling pin, pound the top of the dough working from left to right to begin to flatten it.  Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat.
  8. Roll-out to a 9 inch square.  If the dough has softened, slide it (still inside the parchment) onto the back of a sheet pan and refrigerate until firm again.
  9. Using a chef’s knife, cut the dough as desired.  The original recipe calls for 3 cuts horizontally and 5 cuts vertically so that you have 24 2 1/4X 1 1/2 inch pieces.
  10. Dust the tops of the dough with sugar and arrange on baking sheets leaving 3/4 inch in between each.
  11. Bake until pale golden brown, 17-19 minutes.  Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes, transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.