Cooking TM_CK_SMMRSLO_AP_001

I’ve never been much of a summer girl. I like going to the beach, wearing flip flops, and the smell of sunscreen, but the heat always gets me (plus, growing up in New England, I’m a sucker for fall). As a home cook, I’m torn when it comes to summer cooking. The season is bursting with fresh, readily available ingredients, but trying to cook a feast indoors in the midst of the summer heat is dreadful — not to mention wanting to spend time outside in the beautiful weather instead of stuck in my kitchen. And ever since a traumatic barbecue incident which ended with my father having to hose down the grill (shrimp and asparagus included), my outlets for summer cooking are limited. That’s why I turn to one of my most trusted kitchen tools when the summer heat blazes: my slow cooker.

Yes, the appliance you might think is only good for pot roasts or hearty cold-weather stews is a lifesaver during the summer. Tucked away in the corner of my kitchen counter, it cooks for hours on its own without me having to hover over a burning flame or open a hot oven. It also keeps me safely away from the grill and allows me the freedom to enjoy the sunshine without having to be tied to my kitchen.

Letter From California TM_ORANGE_FI_001

I grew up in the frigid northeast, so I know what a jerk I sound like to all of you winter-locked folks when I tell you that, as of mid-March, the orange trees behind my Los Angeles house were in bloom. The flowers are early this year – according to the Porterville Recorder (the local paper for Porterville, CA, which is about 160 miles north of LA) an official citrus bloom isn’t usually declared until after April 1. But the recent summery temperatures have brought the bloom on early, and the small white flowers smell amazing. The scent reminds me of opening a bottle of Pond’s Cold Cream as a child – a deep, rich perfume that begs to be inhaled and re-inhaled.

Despite this lovely blossoming, most of the recent news about oranges has not been good. In fact, oranges have had such negative press recently, you’d think that they were Lindsay Lohan on a post-comeback bender*. There are a couple things working against the poor orange. First of all, orange juice sales in the United States have slid by 29% over the last decade. OJ has been losing its place as a breakfast health-food drink** – people have finally realized that juice can have as many calories and as much sugar as soda. And the scandals about how our orange juice is prepared don’t help, either. A few years ago, it was revealed that “not from concentrate” doesn’t mean that juice isn’t processed – in fact, that juice will sit in vats for up to a year, and before it goes to stores, it’s reinvigorated with a taste-boosting “flavor pack” that’s created from oranges, so it doesn’t have to be listed on the bottle as a separate ingredient.***