Category Archives: Recipes from the Garden

Loquat Sorbet Recipe with Tequila and Salt

Here’s a fun post: a delicious recipe for loquat sorbet made with a splash of tequila and sprinkled with Hawaiian black lava salt.

Loquat Sorbet Recipe using fresh loquats and a splash of tequila and salt

The loquats came from a tree in our backyard. We started it from the seed of a tree down the street and it’s taken off. According to the Specialty Produce App, loquats grow well in most Southern states, but usually only fruit in California, Florida and Hawaii.

Loquat Tree with fruit ready to make into loquat sorbet

This post is a family collaboration! Papa Bird (our sorbet master) came up with the recipe and shot the “making of” photos. The child labor came from the (not so) Baby Birds.

Fresh loquats from the treekids cooking loquat sorbet

Kids Cooking in the Garden

Kids cutting loquats for sorbet with playful chef safety knives

The girls have been honing their kitchen skills with their new knife set. They love the safety knives from Playful Chef (Amazon link) which are designed to cut through apples and carrots, but safely fit in young hands. They use them almost daily.

The kids also harvested the loquats from the tree, selecting the ripest, softest and sweetest fruit.

My kids enjoy cooking, especially sweet treats. And they LOVE making and eating anything from our garden.

How to Make Loquat Sorbet

Loquat Sorbet Recipe using fresh loquats and a splash of tequila and salt

Loquats are from the same family as apples, pears and roses. The fruit have a mild, sweet, slightly sour and refreshing flavor.

loquats on the tree, ready for this sorbet recipe

They grow rampant in Southern California. So check your neighborhood and forage! If you or a friend have a tree, you likely have more fruit than you can deal with. And sadly, there are not very many loquat recipes out there. Select fruit that are a little soft and pull off easily from the branch.

Loquat sorbet

Next, Papa Bird set up an assembly line for the girls outside. The fruit can be juicy and sticky.

Kids Cooking Recipe: Fresh Fruit (Loquat) Sorbet

The kids cut the fruit in half. Loquats contain 3-7 large, hard, inedible seeds in the middle.

fresh loquats with seeds

Remove the seeds. The fruit are now ready to run through a juicer.

loquat sorbet

Preparing the loquat sorbet

This sorbet came out delicious!

Loquat sorbet with tequila and Hawaiian lava salt

To make 2 cups of juice, Papa Bird used approximately 60 halved, seeded loquats. We have a Breville compact juicer, which quickly separated the juice from the skin and less edible parts.

Read the printable recipe below. Continue reading

Pumpkin Custard with Ginger and Maple

It’s officially pumpkin season! San Diego weather may change its mind on a daily basis, but pumpkin everything gets the green light in my book! Today I’m sharing the recipe for a ginger-maple pumpkin custard topped with a pepita streusel. This creamy alternative to pumpkin pie is made extra gingery with both fresh and dried ginger, and sweetened with maple syrup.

Ginger Maple Pumpkin Custard with Pepita Streusel

The pumpkin custard is gluten-free, with no refined sugars, and no cans. Like in my pumpkin smash cake recipe, I won’t tell anyone if you speed the recipe up with canned pumpkin, but try a real pumpkin one time so you can taste the difference. I use whole cow milk, but you can substitute any milk alternative. This custard is adapted from the filling for the real pumpkin pie recipe. We topped it with real whipped cream (get the “real” food trend?) and a pepita (pumpkin seed) streusel. Find the streusel recipe here.

Papa Bird and the little birds grew pumpkins this year from seeds saved from last year’s sugar pie pumpkins. Specialty Produce is also fully stocked with baking and decorative pumpkins.

[Recipe] Ginger Maple Pumpkin Custard with Pepita Streusel (whole, unrefined ingredients, gluten-free)

Try the recipe today and you just might be eating this surprisingly healthy custard for dessert and breakfast. Or else pin the recipe to save and try later!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pumpkin Custard with Ginger and Maple
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8 servings
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
A creamy alternative to pumpkin pie, made extra gingery with both fresh and dried ginger, and sweetened with maple syrup. Gluten-free, no refined sugars, and no cans. I use whole cow milk, but you can substitute any milk alternative. Adapted from my "Real Pumpkin Pie" filling.
  • 2 cups roasted and pureed pumpkin (1 sugar pie pumpkin or 1 15 oz can of pureed pumpkin)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup whole milk
  1. Prep pumpkin (see notes) or use canned (I won't tell anyone, but try a real pumpkin one time so you can taste the difference.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350* F.
  3. If you are using homemade pureed pumpkin, add the rest of the ingredients into your food processor or blender. Mix until combined.
  4. Place six to eight custard dishes or ramekins inside of a large roasting pan. Fill the small dishes/ramekins with the pumpkin batter. Pour water into the large pan, being careful not to splash water into the custards. Fill the pan until the water level is even with the level of the batter in the small dishes. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the center of the custards are "set."
  5. Remove the custards from the water bath and cool on a wire rack.
  6. Serve with streusel and/or whipped cream.
1. If starting from a fresh pumpkin: Use a "sugar pie pumpkin" or "pie pumpkin" and not a decorative jack-o-lantern type pumpkin. Preheat oven to 350* F. Wash the outside of the pumpkin well. Cut off the stem of the pumpkin, and then cut in half vertically. Remove the seeds and strings. Rinse and save the seeds for drying and replanting and/or roasting. Place the two halves of the pumpkins on a baking pan lined with a piece of foil that is twice as long as the pan. Fold the foil over the top of the pumpkins and bake for 75 to 90 minutes, or until soft.
Allow pumpkins to cool (they can be refrigerated over night.) Peel off the skin, and any overly browned parts.
Place the flesh of the pumpkin in a food processor or good blender and puree until smooth.
Leave the pumpkin in the processor or blender, and add the rest of the custard ingredients.
An average sized pumpkin makes about 2 cups of pureed pumpkin. A little more or a little less is fine.
2. Nutrition figures are for 8 servings. I made 6 large custards, and we felt full after half, so it could easily serve 12. I split the difference and calculated for 8. Nutrition is also for the custard as written, and does not include streusel or whip cream topping.
3. Streusel recipe here.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 131 g Calories: 111 Fat: 3g Saturated fat: 1.2g Unsaturated fat: 1.8g Trans fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 18g Sugar: 14 g Sodium: 188mg Fiber: .8g Protein: 3.8g Cholesterol: 73mg


Green Eggs and Ham

“That’s not how my school made green eggs and ham,” Little Bird was quick to point out. No, probably not.

We had ham leftover from Thanksgiving. And the basil she planted from seeds from a Mother’s Day fundraiser at Green Acre is still going strong, so we made a hand-chopped pesto and served it over fresh eggs and the leftover ham.

green eggs and ham

Little Bird was happy to cut some of her basil.

cutting the basil she planted from seed

Our youngest hens have just started laying.

backyard eggs

I wanted to try hand-chopping the pesto. I saw someone in Italy do that once on a show several years ago. I used a curved knife and chopped the dry ingredients first and then stirred in the olive oil. The ingredients were the same as from my pesto recipe here.

hand-chopped pesto

To make a more complete dinner, we ended up eating all of this over spaghetti. And we added avocado, because, well, we eat avocado at almost every meal!

Brunch at Catania

Ever since dining at Catania in La Jolla, I’ve been looking forward to returning. I was happy to accept an invitation to sample the new brunch menu last weekend.

Brunch at Catania Coastal Italian in La Jolla

Joining a group of friendly San Diego foodies, I sampled several of the new menu items. Our waiter brought out Two Eggs and Ham (above) and let us know the Italian sausage and Prosciutto Coto were made and cured in house. The tomatoes, like the arugula in the salad below, were planted and harvested by the restaurant staff at the Milagro vineyards. It sounds like a farm to fable boast but the veracity is backed up by my friend from Revolution Landscape and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Brunch at Catania Coastal Italian in La Jolla, CA

The Arugula and Eggs includes pancetta, roasted mushrooms and Pecorino Toscano. I swear I’m going to start putting a poached egg on top of my salad now. I’ve mentioned before in my “restaurant recreation” posts how I like to get ideas from restaurants. I love finding simple, easy things that I can replicate or add to my cooking repertoire at home. I know some people think putting an egg on top of everything is a food fad that is past its time, but in this case my eyes are totally open to how delicious it is on top of a slightly bitter green salad. Try it!

Italian brunch at Catania in La Jolla, CA

Next up we tried two dishes that are worth getting out of pajamas to let the chefs make for you: Veal Milanese, with eggs, tomato and toast, and (my favorite) Eggs All’Amatriciana, eggs baked in a delicious sauce made from tomatoes, guanciale, white beans, swiss chard and breadcrumbs. The sauce was cozy, and homey, and made you just want to keep eating.

We sat on the patio again. I love how the atmosphere can be casual and laid-back, while still being special. I sent some good friends to the Catania patio at sunset for their anniversary. This time I spied a stylish shopgirl run in for a quick bite solo, and later saw her in front of her shop, which is visible from the patio. The third story deck is poised for some of the best people watching in La Jolla.

Polenta Pancakes at Catania in La Jolla, CA

Can I make a confession? I had super amazing ricotta pancakes at home before going to the restaurant… Papa Bird is a pancake master. I usually request pancakes on Mother’s Day. The Little Birds ask for them at five days a week (and get them four.) Still, I had never tried Polenta Pancakes. These were dressed with an abundance of fall fruit (persimmon, pear, figs, blackberries), lemon syrup and mint, and were light and fluffy.

Farro Oatmeal with Pistachio Marscapone, persimmon, fig and currants

The Farro Oatmeal was also topped with persimmon and fig, along with currants, honey and cinnamon. For me, it edged out the pancakes by the inclusion of a pistachio marscapone. Which was every bit as creamy and decadent as it sounds.

What To Order at Brunch at Catania

My two picks for a perfect brunch would be the Eggs All’Amatriciana and the Farro Oatmeal. Go halvsies with a brunch date, or just show up solo like the shopgirl, order them both, and bring any leftovers home for your afternoon snack. Then again — lunch items are also available and it’s hard to avoid one of the seasonal crudos. Decisions are the worst.

Catania has self-serve coffee and nutella brioches on a side board. It makes the place seem more home-like and is perfect for those that come hungry and can’t wait to be served.

Today’s Restaurant Recreation Inspired by the Catania Brunch

Rice Pudding with Papaya, Pomegranate, Grapes and Honey

I thought I’d for sure be trying out the poached egg + salad for breakfast soon, but I ended up finding inspiration this morning from the farro oatmeal plating. I made my Baby Birds these two bowls of rice pudding with cinnamon, topped with papaya, pomegranate, grapes and local honey. It was a hit, in part because I had them help prep the fruit. If you follow my kids’ cooking posts, you’ll know my philosophy is to bring kids into the kitchen from infancy.


Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday until 3 pm.

Catania website

7863 Girard Ave, Suite 301, San Diego, CA 92037
(858) 551-5105

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Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu

Fresh shishito peppers are in season. We received some in our most recent Farmers’ Market Box from Specialty Produce.* Shishito peppers are a small, mild pepper, very similar to a Padron pepper. Approximately every 1 in 10 is spicy, which makes eating them like a fun, culinary version of Russian roulette. When I lived in Spain, one of my most favorite tapas was pimientos de Padrón, in which the peppers were simply cooked with salt and pepper.

Fresh Shishito Peppers are in Season

When my sister and her family came down to help celebrate our Little Birds’ birthdays, we cooked up a batch. We were loosely inspired by the Shishito peppers at Mahe in Seal Beach, which are tempura fried and covered in a ponzu sauce with bonito flakes. We just seared ours in a hot pan instead of tempura battering them. Since we also ordered pomegranates from Specialty Produce, I let pomegranate take center stage in my ponzu. And to mimic the fishy hint from the bonito flakes we added fish sauce into our version of ponzu. Well they turned out great, so I picked up another batch of Shishitos from Melissa’s Produce at Sprouts and made it again.

Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu

Don’t you love the look of our picnic table (above)? Papa Bird got the matte black look by charing (burning) the wood in the Japanese tradition of Shou Sugi Ban. It also preserves it from the elements. 

Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu Recipe

Notes: 1. I made this once in a wok and once in a large frying pan, and I liked the frying pan better because I could get all of the peppers to fit in it, which made it easier to blister them evenly. You could also use cast iron or broil them. You want to cook them quickly on high heat so that they blister. If they are in the pan too long they’ll steam and get mushy. 2. I used avocado oil because it is a neutral tasting oil that is suitable for high heat. (It’s also good for you!) You could use grapeseed oil or another vegetable oil. 3. The peppers cook very quickly (just a few minutes) so have the sauce and other elements ready to go before you start them.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Asian Fusion
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Shishito Peppers are blistered in a wok or pan, and tossed with a pomegranate ponzu made with pomegranate concentrate, soy, fish sauce and Go-Chu-Jang.
  • Shishito Peppers or Padron Peppers
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate concentrate
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Go-Chu-Jang
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or other light, neutral vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (can substitute white vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or other neutral vegetable oil)
  • pomegranate arils for garnish
  1. Rinse and dry peppers, discarding any that no longer appear fresh.
  2. Mix the pomegranate concentrate, soy sauce, fish sauce, gochujang, avocado oil and vinegar together in a small mixing bowl. Taste and adjust according to your preference. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the pomegranate arils by pulling them out of a fresh pomegranate and set aside.
  4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium high to high pan or wok. When it is hot add the peppers. You want them to cook quickly and hotly, so that they blister on the outside. You don't want them to steam, or sit too long. Once the peppers are cooked, pour about half the sauce to all of it (depending on how sting or saucy you like it) over the peppers and very briefly (30 seconds) continuing cooking.
  5. Remove from the heat, garnish with the pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

*Specialty Produce is the leading supplier of fresh produce to San Diego’s top restaurants. They also let retail shoppers (aka normal home cooks like me) buy from the warehouse and feature local farms in a weekly Farmers’ Market Box. If you use the group code BABYBIRD when signing up for a Specialty Produce Farmers’ Market Box account here, you will automatically have $2 taken off each box. For $20 – or $18 for you – it is a generous amount and variety of produce. I don’t receive any kickbacks, per se, on your purchase, but I not so secretly want to be invited to more of their events, so letting them know I sent you by using the code is very much appreciated!