for the new cooking school...
January 2006, Rancho La Puerta's
founder Debra Szekely and her daughter Sarah Livia Brightwood,
the school's landscape and building designer dug a ceremonial
shovel into the soil to mark the beginning of construction
of a 4,500 square foot cooking school. When Claire and I
were guests the building was moving forward on schedule
and everybody was extremely excited about plans for its
unique curriculum. In July 2007, we were pleased to learn
Cocina Que Canta (The Kitchen That Sings)
built in the heart of the organic garden is now up and running.
Schedules for visiting chefs will be posted at Rancho
La Puerta's website. Imagine the potential
-- all of that wonderful organic produce coupled with hands-on
cooking classes by world class instructors. It's definitely
a winning formula!
Rancho La Puerta
describes their cuisine as an 'all-natural diet that is
low in fat, sodium, and refined flour and sugar while high
in energy, fiber, and complex carbohydrates'. Claire and
I describe it as 'beautifully prepared, wonderfully tasty,
always filling, and presented in a most sophisticated way.'
If you can't live without red meat, pork or poultry, Rancho
La Puerta is not for you. If you love seafood,
grains, fruit, and the freshest vegetables, get ready for
a dining extravaganza. One
of Claire's favorite dishes that week was the Spinach and
Mushroom Enchilada, I preferred the Fresh Halibut Tecate
Style, and we both agreed that the Asian Stir Fry with Shrimp
was a dish we'd each like to try cooking at home.
meals at the Ranch are served in a two-level Spanish Colonial
dining hall with a spiral staircase joining the floors.
Colorful Mexican yarn paintings adorn every bit of available
wall space. Breakfast and lunch are offered buffet style
and can be eaten outdoors if you wish. Dinners are country
formal, three course affairs served by a wait staff ready
to listen to any of your food concerns and (in our case)
frequent requests for seconds.
found that meal times were perfect times to socialize with
the other guests, to chat about the activities you tried
and to learn about the ones you hadn't. We met so many delightful,
unassuming folks all with interesting stories to tell, all
with one goal in common -- staying as 'mind, body, spirit'
healthy as possible. One day I sat beside a doctor from
Toronto, the next day an entertainer from New York. We chatted
with a fundraiser from Seattle and a fine art dealer from
Chicago. Most guests come back year after year for their
Rancho La Puerta
fix. The week that we were there we were introduced to a
woman who had been there over twenty times. This spa definitely
has a magic that draws you back for more, and more and more.
It should be noted that the dress code at the Ranch is strictly
casual. Even in the evenings guests tend to wear their most
comfortable exercise clothing or leisure wear. Management
requests that you leave your jewelry at home and just about
Pampering is good
for mind, body and spirit...
of any mainstream personal treatment you've ever enjoyed
and chances are Rancho La
Puerta offers it as well. Their
spa facilities and health centers are all immaculately clean
and beautifully designed. Waiting areas are furnished with
comfy sofas; the latest magazines and newspapers are readily
available and the soothing scent of fresh flowers is everywhere.
Step into any of these lovely Mexican-inspired buildings
and you could be in the most upscale Fifth Avenue spa except,
at Rancho La Puerta,
all pretension is checked at the main gate.
you're popping in for a whirlpool bath, manicure or hot
stone treatment you'll leave feeling refreshed and relaxed.
With all the extra walking we did, Claire and I opted for
healing massages designed to soothe tired muscles. However,
special mention must be given to the spa's Le Grande Classique,
a deep pore-cleaning and restoring facial. I saved that
treatment for last and the next morning my skin looked and
felt great as I reluctantly dressed in street clothes ready
for my upcoming, afternoon flight home.
As we boarded the bus bound for the airport, Claire handed
me a tiny box. Inside I found the silver earrings from El
Mercado that I had fallen in love with -- a thoughtful gift
from my favorite roommate to celebrate our reunion and a
wonderful rejuvenating week at Rancho
Estrellas Choco-Carrot Bread
makes two regular or six mini loaves. Use as many organic
ingredients as you can find.
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. non-aluminum baking powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
4 cups organic whole-wheat pastry flour
or unbleached flour.
2 cups grated organic carrots (5-6 medium
1/2 cup low fat yogurt
1/4 cup cold pressed oil
1 tbsp. vanilla
½ cup mild honey
2 cups unfiltered apple juice
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Oil loaf pans.
Place the dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix well.
Make a well in the center of the dry mix; stir in the wet
ingredients, combining until all dry ingredients are moistened.
Fold in the chocolate chips.
Place the batter in the oiled loaf pans. Place pans in preheated
oven. Bake loaves 50-60 minutes, or until tops are nicely
browned and a skewer comes out clean. Remove from pans and
let the loaves cool for 10 minutes before slicing.
This bread freezes nicely and makes a thoughtful and delicious
Recipes created by Rancho La Puerta
La Puerta’s Aztec Guacamole
10-ounces of broccoli flowers
1 medium avocado, pit removed, scooped
out and chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup cilantro, chopped
½ ripe tomato, seeded and diced
½ small yellow onion, finely diced
½ small jalapeño pepper,
seeded and finely diced
Parboil the broccoli flowers for 7 minutes and
then drain under running cold water. In a food processor bowl
fitted with a sharp blade, combine the broccoli flowers and
avocado. Pulse very briefly. Add the lime juice and salt and
pulse again to blend, keeping as chunky as desired (authenticity
requires some chunkiness!).
Add the cilantro, tomato, onion and jalapeño and pulse
about 3 times. Again, do not over-process the guacamole.
Variations: Instead of broccoli flowers, you may use 10 ounces
of edamame "beans" or asparagus spears (parboiled
3-5 minutes and then drained under running cold water).
Makes 2 cups of low-fat, creamy guacamole.
Recipes created by Rancho La Puerta
Women's words on
|Cooking is like love. It should be entered
with abandon or not at all.
Harriet Von Horne
in Vogue (1956)
If you're interested in cooking, you're also just
naturally interested in art, in love and in culture.
Madame Jehane Benoit, in The Canadian (1974)
Cooking should never be frantic or angry
because the most important ingredient is the spirit.
Alice May Brock, Alice's Restaurant Cookbook (1969)
Rancho La Puerta Photo Album 1/2
our listing of more women-centered healthy holidays