The Best Blueberry Muffin Recipe!

June 20, 2015

The best blueberry muffin recipe ever! The perfect blend of not-too-sweet and great texture.

The best blueberry muffins ever!!

I know that it’s a pretty lofty claim, but I think I’ve stumbled upon the best blueberry muffin recipe ever. I have always loved the Smitten Kitchen Blueberry Muffin recipe. It has been my go-to recipe for years now, with the perfect combo of sweetness and texture. As I prepared to make that recipe this morning, I realized that I didn’t have the required amount of butter. So I modified it and substituted some of the butter with coconut oil. I also didn’t have a lemon (for the zest), so I subbed orange zest instead. I also was scraping down to my last bits of sugar, so I had to modify that as well. I ended up subbing some of the sugar with the sweetness from a half banana. The result was pure bliss for my family. My kids ate a bunch of these. “These are the best blueberry muffins you’ve ever made. You need to go write this recipe down before you forget it!” proclaimed my husband, who is not usually a big fan of muffins, due to the carb overload and ultra-sweetness. Hearing those words from him prompted this post!

Recipe (modified from the Smitten Kitchen recipe):

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 of a medium banana, sliced very thin
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, don’t bother defrosting). I am very partial to Trader Joe’s Wild Boreal frozen blueberries, due to their superb flavor.

 

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray (I love Trader Joe’s coconut oil spray). Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer. The add the egg and beat well, then the yogurt and the orange zest. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter and sift half of the dry ingredients over the batter. Mix with the electric mixer until combined. Sift remaining dry ingredients into the batter and mix with a spatula just until the flour disappears. Gently fold in your blueberries and bananas. The dough will be thick, resembling a cookie dough, which is why an ice cream scoop or a spoon is a great tool to fill your muffin cups. You’re looking for them to be about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean.

Twelve Gopher-Proof Plants

January 12, 2015

Oh, this little critter… The gopher.

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I have a love/hate relationship with this guy. I love that he keeps my dog busy for hours on end, digging and sniffing in the yard. But what I don’t love is coming outside to find a plant on its side, severed at its base. Ugh. It gives me the shivers just typing that. In the nine years that I’ve lived in gopher country, I’ve done a lot of experimenting with plants and I’ve found that there are quite a few lovely, drought-tolerant plants that gophers actually won’t touch! And the best news is that these plants are easily propagated (except for the Golden Barrel Cactus), so you don’t have to spend much money  to fill up your ornamental landscape. All of the succulent varieties can be propagated by taking cuttings and planting them straight into the ground the next day, after the cut has healed and dried a bit. The rosemary can be propagated by taking rooted pieces and transplanting them. These are all great additions to a xeriscape garden.

These are photos of plants from my property in San Diego, which means that our local gophers don’t like ’em. I can’t say if the same applies to gophers in other parts of the country.

1. Sticks of Fire – This is the king of gopher-proof plants. Not only will they not eat it, they tend to stay away from the entire area when you plant this. I have this all over my front yard, and the gopher mounds have ceased to exist. The plant makes a milky, sticky, white sap that is supposed to be very irritating to human skin. I have had it all over my hands and arms with no reaction whatsoever. I hear that my non-reaction is not the norm though.

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2. Agave Attenuata – I love this particular agave because its tips are soft. I don’t know of any other agave species out there with soft tips. The rest are like hypodermic needles, so I tend to stay away.

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3. Rosemary – The one pictured here is the trailing type. Of the different rosemary types, I like the trailing one most because we live on a slope and it just spills the pretty purple flowers everywhere. Gophers won’t touch rosemary roots.
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4. Golden Barrel Cactus – This thing looks the same all year long. It’s always its vibrant yellow self, whether it gets rain or not. It is slow growing and adds a beautiful desert look to my yard.

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5. Aeonium “Dinner Plate” – This one gets its name because the florets get huge… Like dinner plates! Gophers won’t get any dinner from this plant though.

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6. Aeonium “Kiwi” – You can plant one of these florets and within a couple of years you have a small bush bursting with these vibrantly colored florets all over. Just so lovely!

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7. Aeonium arboreum “Tree Aeonium” – These form magnificent clumps. They get leggy after awhile, at which point the pieces fall off the parent plant to put down their own roots. There’s a philosophy lesson in there somewhere.

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8. Jade – This one is found all over the place in San Diego county. That doesn’t change my love for this versatile plant. Gophers don’t like it, so therefore I love it. Jade makes a great bonsai plant selection, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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9. I don’t know the name of this plant. I used to, but I can’t remember anymore. I think it is some sort of crassula (jade), but that could be wrong. Does anyone out there know? It makes these pretty orange flowers in the middle of winter!

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10. Elephant plant – This is also in the crassula (jade) family. It is great as a clipped hedge. If you let it grow naturally, it becomes a large and irregularly shaped bush.

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11. Crassula tetragona – This is another plant that looks the exact same all year. There is absolutely no frying of the edges anywhere in the scorching 100+ degree summers we have here in east San Diego county. It just goes along its merry way looking hydrated somehow. I love this plant! It is quite sculptural and is beautiful potted.

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12. And last but not least… Bulbine frutescens – Also known as “burn jelly plant.” You can read all about this plant in another blog post, where I discuss its virtues as a skin healer.

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DIY Winter Shea Butter Body Balm Recipe – Scented or Unscented

November 30, 2014

My parents moved to California from the southeast a couple of years ago. Coming to an arid environment from the humidity of the southeast was challenging for my mom’s skin and especially her face, since she spends so much time outside gardening. She struggled with itchy, red, dry skin her first winter here. I formulated this body balm, which she immediately began using, and her skin was completely healed! Now she has all of the ingredients and makes it on her own… I’m so happy to have discovered something that works so well!

This is a thick, silky body balm – ideal for winter. The shea butter adds a superior layer of protection to the skin that you just can’t get from anything else (besides maybe cocoa butter). The coconut oil helps with absorption, and the olive and grapeseed oils add nutrients and more emollients. The beeswax is a skin protector and emulsifier, helping to combine all of the ingredients together. We love this body balm in our family and will be using it all winter long. I even use it on my face when it’s really dry and cold out.

Recipe (with links to ingredients):

Instructions:

  1. Add the shea butter and beeswax to a double boiler on low heat.
  2. Stir until melted. Do NOT allow the oils to boil, so keep the heat low. I like to use a chopstick for stirring.

    Here are the shea butter and beeswax all melted in the double boiler (which is just a glass measuring cup in a pan of water)
  3. Add the coconut, olive, and grapeseed oils.
  4. Stir until melted, then remove from heat.

    All melted down to a beautiful golden yellow.
  5. Add the optional essential oils and/or the optional grapefruit seed extract. Stir until combined.
  6. Pour into a container of your choice, while still in liquid form.
  7. Leave unopened for about an hour, until it solidifies. Then cap it and use it all winter long!

Notes:

  • If you’re wondering where to buy ingredients, they can all be purchased online. I’ve provided links in the ingredients list for all of the products that I use.
  • Be sure to use this body balm within 4-6 months.
  • You don’t want to boil your oils because heat causes rancidity in oils. The less heat they experience, the longer your oils will last.

 

All-Purpose Spray Cleaner With Natural Ingredients | Homemade Cleaner

June 25, 2014

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My daughter was coming home with headaches after school all year in 1st grade. It didn’t hit me until the last two weeks of school to ask her if anything was being sprayed in her classroom. She confirmed that her teacher was having the students spray and wipe down their desks before leaving school in the afternoons! I knew that this had to be the culprit for the headaches, because she is not accustomed to harsh conventional chemical sprays. We only use water and vinegar in our house to spray down surfaces. After talking to the teacher and confirming that she was using a harsh chemical spray on the desks, we agreed that I would make a more natural spray for the kids to use in class that also smells good (water and vinegar mix doesn’t smell so great for people who are not used to it). I made the spray below, and many of the kids loved the smell. One child went as far as to exclaim to my daughter: “Your mom is awesome! I love how this smells! This is awesome!” That put a smile on my face when I heard about that! And the most important part… my daughter’s post-school headaches were no longer.

Recipe:

  • 16 oz water
  • 2 oz white vinegar
  • 10 drops grapefruit seed extract (not the same as grapefruit essential oil)
  • 15-25 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • 10-15 drops lemon essential oil

Mix them all together in a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. This all-purpose and all-natural citrus scented spray cleaner is perfect for counters, floors, sinks, bathtubs, toilets, and SCHOOL DESKS!

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Bulbine Frutescens – African Burn Jelly Plant | Xeriscape Gardening

May 30, 2014

Yesterday I was frying homemade taquitos in very hot oil and, genius that I am, thought I should remove one of the taquitos with my fingers. I missed and ended up dipping two of my fingers straight into the hot oil, about halfway up my fingernails! OUCH. I yelled for my 3 year old daughter to get me some of the “burn jelly plant” from the yard. She knows what it is because she has seen me use it numerous times on other burns. She brought a piece straight back to me, I squished it with my fingers and slathered the juice all over my burning fingertips. In less than 5 minutes, the burning was gone and I actually could not remember which fingers I had dipped in the oil. I have used aloe vera in the past for burns, but this plant is much better at treating them.

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This plant rocks, just for its burn healing properties. But wait, there’s more! It also is great for insect bites/stings, sunburn care, and moisturizing. I like to think of it as a more convenient form of aloe vera. You can take a small leaf of burn jelly plant, rather than hacking off a huge aloe leaf.

IN THE GARDEN

It is a succulent plant, native to Africa, and it will grow almost anywhere you put it. I like to plant this wherever other plants won’t grow, like in hard clay soil or south slopes that get too much sun. Don’t let its delicate looks fool you… This is one hardy plant! It’s beautiful spiky leaves give a burst of green in places where other small shrubs won’t make it. In the peak of summer, when it is extremely hot here in east county, the plant will shrivel and turn a very dark green color. It is hibernating and looks like it might be dying. As soon as it gets a few hours of rain, it bounces right back! This plant is perfect for xeriscape and rock gardens!

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Here is one of many Bulbines growing on my property, on a sunny south slope

In the winter and spring, an added bonus are the yellow spike flowers that burst up from the plant and sway in the wind. If you dead-head the plant, you’ll get more flowers.

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And one last thing. These plants are EASY to propagate, due to their clumping habit. Just remove a clump and replant where you want. If you can get a few roots with the clump, your propagation success is almost guaranteed. Happy xeriscaping!

New California Smoke Detector Laws

April 2, 2014

A new California law, having taken effect January 1, 2014 and extended to July 1, 2014, requires property owners to have smoke detectors installed in properties that meet the Fire Marshall’s new regulations.  These regulations are:

  1. The date of manufacture is displayed on the device
  2. The date of installation is displayed on the device
  3. The device incorporates a hush feature
  4. The device incorporates an end-of-life feature with notice that the device needs replacement
  5. If the device is battery-operated, the battery must be non-removable and have a minimum 10 year life span

The vast majority of smoke detectors on the market now in California are of this new type required by the Fire Marshall.  At Peak Property Management & Realty, we are actively replacing all devices for our owners so that all of our properties are up to date with the new law.

Beach-Front Property for Sale in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach | Southern California Oceanfront Property for Sale

July 30, 2013

To free information on connecting with sellers of beach-front property in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, please contact us at:

(619) 764-8300
info@peakpmr.com

Pacific Beach oceanfront properties for sale

Are you looking for beach-front property to purchase in the Mission Beach/Pacific Beach areas?  We can put you in contact with owners in the area who are looking to sell their ocean-front investment properties in the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach areas.  Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are excellent areas to invest in vacation rentals and long-term rentals, due to near-constant high demand from renters and limited real estate availability.  We have access to property owners looking to sell in those areas.

Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are iconic Southern California beach towns. Residents and visitors enjoy surf, sand, and sun along wide sandy beaches that are great for rejuvenation.  These two towns offer endless opportunities for entertainment and outdoor fun.  Activities include biking and skating along the boardwalk, lounging in the bay areas, surfing, kayaking, sailing, kiteboarding, beach volleyball, Belmont Park amusement park, shopping, and fine dining.

For a free list of beach-front properties available in the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach areas, please contact us at (619) 764-8300 or info@peakpmr.com.

Homemade Soft Scrub for Healthy Home Cleaning

July 24, 2013

Healthy Home Cleaning - Homemade Soft Scrub Recipe for Kitchens and Baths

When it comes to home cleaning, my cupboard looks very different today than it did 10 years ago.  Back then I had a different cleaner for virtually every surface of my home.  Advertisers had me thinking it was necessary to have one toxic bottle of chemicals for my kitchen counters, another for my bathtub, and yet another for my toilet.  My cleaning supplies today consist mainly of baking soda, Borax, vinegar, a little lemon, and some powerful essential oils for their antibacterial qualities.  Today I’d like to share with you my favorite formula for deep cleaning most surfaces in my home.

This soft scrub is comparable to Ajax or Comet, but without the harsh chemicals and scratching.  It takes me literally 1 minute to make! I like to scent it with a combination of lavender and grapefruit essential oils.  Both of these essential oils also carry some antibacterial qualities.  I use this on kitchen and bath sinks, bath tubs, showers, inside the toilet bowl, on my flat glass stove top, and anywhere else that needs a good cleaning.  I don’t recommend it for wood furniture.

Recipe:

  • 4 cup (or larger) plastic container for storage of your formula
  • 1.5 cup baking soda
  • 1.5 cup Borax (available at Target in the laundry detergent section)
  • 20 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • 12 drops lavender essential oil

Homemade Soft Scrub Recipe for Healthy Home Cleaning

  1. Add your baking soda and borax to your container, cap it, and shake well.
  2. Add 10 drops of the grapefruit essential oil and 6 drops of the lavender essential oil, cap the container, and shake well.
  3. Add the remaining essential oils, cap the container, and shake well.
  4. Dust the formula onto your surface and rub it in with a wet sponge.
  5. Wait 10 minutes and scrub scrub scrub.  A little elbow grease goes a long way!

Homemade All-Natural Bug Repellent Recipe | DIY Bug Repellent

July 21, 2013

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Recently, we went camping in the Idyllwild area, a beautiful alpine spot in Southern California.  The pine trees were quite majestic, the air was fresh and woody, and the campground was a perfect place to relax.  A funny habit that my kids – ages 2 and 6 –  have when we’re camping (or any other time we’re in nature, for that matter) is that they like to strip down to their underwear and run around wild and free.  I know that they enjoy this immensely, and I also know that on this trip the mosquitos enjoyed their nakedness immensely as well.  My older child was bitten at least 30 times all over her body before I realized what was going on!  And to my dismay, I had forgotten my homemade all-natural bug repellent, which actually works just as well as the stuff in the stores.  So off my husband went to the nearest grocery store to buy the dreaded OFF spray, which I used for the whole trip with reserved gratitude.  I was grateful that my kids weren’t getting bit, but at the same time I was bummed to be spraying them with poison.

I’m working on creating a camping supplies list, so that this mistake never happens again.  In the meantime, here’s my all-natural bug repellent recipe for all you lovers of the DIY.  It really works at bite prevention, smells wonderful, nourishes your skin, and best of all… you’re not poisoning yourself when you use it.  I must warn you that it works well here in Southern California, where the bugs are not overly voracious.  If you’re somewhere with a serious bug population, be sure to apply liberally and often, and be sure to cover your body with long sleeves, collars, hats, and long pants tucked into your boots.

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Homemade All-Natural Bug Repellent Recipe

Combine all ingredients in a dark colored bottle of your choice.  I have never used it in a sprayer, but that could work very well.  Shake well before applying.  Apply liberally and often.

All of the ingredients can be purchased via Amazon from the links above.

Homemade Sunscreen Recipe | DIY Mineral Sunscreen

May 14, 2013

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My homemade SPF 15 lavender vanilla mineral sunscreen!

Recently I was in a rush to get some sunscreen, so I stopped by my local Sprouts Market and bought my preferred store-bought brand, Badger, and paid $14 for a tiny 2.9 oz tube!  Granted, I love Badger and all of their products… and I love their business philosophy.  But I can make a very similar sunscreen at home for less than a couple dollars’ worth of high-quality materials.  I know there are much cheaper, more conventional brands of sunscreen out there (Coppertone, Banana Boat, etc), but they are toxic and should really only be used in an emergency.  The toxicity of conventional sunscreens is a whole other subject that I will reserve for another blog post.

The summer is upon us… let’s make some homemade sunscreen, shall we?

IMPORTANT: When using micronized titanium dioxide, you must wear a face mask. The dust particles are very small in size and can be hazardous to your health if inhaled. When mixing the titanium dioxide into the oils, cover your mixing container with a wet towel as much as possible to prevent flyaway particles.

The following recipe is for approximately SPF 15. If you want a higher SPF, you can add more of the oxide powders.

Recipe (with links for buying ingredients):

  1. Melt the beeswax in a double boiler
  2. Add any other solid oil you have and melt (in my case, coconut oil) in the double boiler with the beeswax
  3. Take the mixture off the heat and add the rest of your liquid oils. Reheat if necessary to bring it all to a liquid texture.
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    Melted beeswax/coconut oil mixture on left, liquid oils on right
  4. Mix with a stick blender for at least two minutes until all oils and wax are well incorporated with each other
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  5. Add titanium dioxide and zinc oxide powders. Be sure to wear a face mask when mixing the micronized titanium dioxide, as the fine particles can be hazardous to your health if inhaled.

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  6. Add the lavender essential oil and vanilla extract to suit your scent preferences (I use about 30 drops lavender and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla)
  7. Pour into a beautiful container so no one knows it’s homemade (wink wink)
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  8. Allow to cool to room temperature before using
  9. Apply often when in sun

Variations:

  • For higher SPF, use a larger amount of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.  You could make two batches: one that is SPF 15 for the body and one that is SPF 30 for the face (for SPF 30, you would need around 0.6 oz of each of the oxide powders).
  • Your carrier oils can be at any ratio you like.  You can also use a single carrier oil (almond is easy to find and works well) with no problem at all.  Other suitable carrier oils include soybean, sunflower, jojoba, and light sesame.
  • Use an herb-infused carrier oil for extra nourishment on the skin

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