Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle


Retreat report

Marin County sits just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. It is a hiker's paradise, encompassing both Mt. Tamalpais and Point Reyes National Seashore, with their hundreds of miles of trails and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

My women's group of 20 years has an annual get-together at a healing retreat center in a remote corner of Marin County. We convened there this past weekend, ten friends who know how to be present for each other without judgment or agendas. These few days a year when we gather together from our now widespread hometowns is such a delight!

We walk, frolic on the beach, meditate, swap stories, dance, sauna, sing, and do crafts together. We shed a few tears and laugh a lot. And of course we feast. My cooking contribution this year was Saturday night's meal.

My partner in the kitchen, who shall be called Lulu Coyote, shopped at her local farmers market and came bearing a cornucopia of beautiful fresh veggetables -- eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and squash -- in many sizes, shapes, and colors.

I made a filling of saffron rice, fresh herbs, garlic, and the suateed innards of said veggies, with which we filled the scopped out vegetables before baking them. Also on the menu: roasted green beans with peppers and sweet red onions and an arugula salad with heirloom tomatoes, basil pesto vinaigrette, and toasted pine nuts. Appetizer: Carrot garbanzo hummus I'd whipped up at home, with pita chips. Dessert: A birthday cake for Felicidad -- banana yogurt "pudding" spread between layers of yellow cake, the whole thing topped with berries and fresh peach slices -- made by C & D.

The meal was a succulent celebration of summer produce -- light and luscious and lovely to behold. However, I took only one photo -- of the wild and wonderful cake --being so caught up in the present moment that I couldn't be bothered with camera duties.

I'm home now, back in the big city, missing the silence of the woods and the crash of the sea, the closeness of my sisters. No doubt about it: such getaways help me stay grounded and happy with my lot.

May you nurture such friendships and celebrate them for years to come!


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