Living Columns & Blogs


Are You a Glitterbug?

Are you still cleaning up glitter from your holiday celebrations? Did anyone glitter bomb a friend for fun or revenge? That shiny, sparkly stuff which sticks in your hair, your car, your carpet for weeks and years is polluting our fresh water streams and rivers, as well as our oceans.

Cathie Campbell

Cuckoo for coconut

While pondering what to write about for this week’s column, I kept seeing a lot of recipes that featured coconut. I know there are more than a few people I’ve met who said they hated coconut, but most folks I know seem to like it. If the coconut haters will forgive me, I would like to share some of my favorite recipes that use the white shreds we see in many desserts. As a kid, it was always a treat when my mom would buy a fresh coconut at the grocery store and we’d have fun poking holes into it and draining off the coconut water. Then it would get cracked and we would enjoy the tender flesh. I did find the rind a bit challenging to remove, though. On to the coconut recipes, but keep in mind that coconut cream is not the same product as coconut milk or water.

Cathie Campbell

Dates for snacks and cooking

The reason I chose dates for this week’s column goes back to seeing a display in a Los Banos grocery store during recent travels. As soon as I walked in, I spotted the 2-pound clear plastic tubs full of sweet, sticky Deglet Noor (also Deglet Nour) dates, just begging to be placed in my shopping cart. Upon arriving at my mom’s house, I shared the tub of dates with family. We literally could not stop eating them, and everyone commented that they had never had such delicious dates as those. In just one day, those dates pretty much did a disappearing act, so I was very happy to find some more in a Gilroy grocery store. I left those with my mom, and on the way home stopped once again in Los Banos, where I bought two more tubs to take home. They were a lot more expensive in Gilroy, so that is why I didn’t load up there. Deglet Noor dates are called The Queen of Dates and appreciated for their soft texture, transparent light color and honey-like taste, which supposedly distinguish the Deglet Noor from other dates. I was happy to see that California has a very successful date growing climate. The origin of this particular date is said to be (according to old books on the subject) Algeria, but Tunisia also lays claim to the title of original producer. Wherever they came from, I am a huge fan of the Deglet Noor date.

Cathie Campbell

Nothin’ like muffins

This is the time of year I love to sink my teeth into some warm, oven-fresh muffins, and of course I use butter on them. If I am going to allow myself a treat like that, I am not going to skip the embellishments. The weather is chilly and I am scouring my wardrobe for sweaters, sweat shirts and long-sleeved tops. Several people are cranking up the heat, whether by thermostat or wood stove, in areas where that is allowed. (Plenty of firewood in the hills, due to all the dead trees.)

Sue Langley

Winter gardening in our foothills

It’s sunny and 70º as I write this and it’s a reminder that our December weather can be rainy, snowy or sunny with brilliant blue skies. It also means that we can still get out into the garden; we just need to don our flannel shirts and jackets in the early mornings. Here are some of the things I do in my garden in December and January:

Cathie Campbell

Some New Year’s snackies

A lot of people will be gathering for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, and one thing is for sure: people love to snack. Keep your guests full and happy with some tasty food, and don’t forget to save a few for yourself. Many times I have underestimated just how many snacks guests can devour, but that’s okay, as I love to see them enjoying what I have chosen to make and serve. May you all have a safe and Happy New Year.

Cathie Campbell

Fun with apple cider

Don’t you just love being able to enjoy comfort foods this time of year? Or foods and beverages that are seasonal? It gives us one more thing to anticipate when the seasons roll around. I enjoy being cozy when the weather turns cold, curling up with a good book, a homemade afghan and perhaps a hot (or cold) beverage. Something like apple cider, for instance. I missed out on getting some fresh-pressed cider this year and the same thing happened to me last year, but I can always hope for the future. Here are some recipes that feature apple cider that you and family or friends can enjoy as you go about your holiday preparations. As usual, stay warm and safe.

Cathie Campbell

Homemade holiday candy

Most of us don’t have a lot of time to spare around Christmas time, including myself, but there are a few things on my to-do list that have become so traditional that my family insists on having them every year. Homemade candies at our house are pretty much the same things every Christmas: English toffee (sometimes called butter crunch), various types of fudge, popcorn balls, peanut brittle and sugared walnuts. I used to always prepare candied orange peel, but it is getting so I find the mess to be a bit much. Still love the stuff, but I’m giving that a little break for a while and so far, nobody’s complained. Yet. If you would like to make some homemade candy for the holiday season, I am more than happy to share with you my family’s favorite recipes. Here’s wishing that you are all safe and warm and continue to be so all through this winter. The mixed-up weather has my garden plants doing some odd things. The rosemary is blooming, my fig trees are making new leaves and I have daffodils already at least three inches above the soil line. Well, let’s get on with the recipes; that candy isn’t going to make itself.

Cathie Campbell

It’s Christmas cookie time again

Hey bakers, it’s time to stop, drop and roll, and I am not referring to what you do when your apron catches on fire. There are so many cookie types to choose from, such as drop cookies and rolled ones. I think most of us like a variety of cookie types, and if you bake goodies to give away, often it is nice to present a nice array of different cookies.

Caltrans officials discuss Highway 41 closure

Elizabeth Yeldon, spokesperson for Caltrans, discusses the closure of Highway 41 in eastern Madera County. The roadway was closed due to rock slides.