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A Foodies dream: Edible Flowers and Delicious Cocktails

A Foodies dream: Edible Flowers and Delicious Cocktails

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Recently I hosted a garden club meeting at my house. The theme was “cocktails with edible flowers”. This garden club is fairly chill. All of the women live in our neighborhood and have a passion for gardening. We meet monthly and we have garden topics of all kinds: composting, rose pruning, seeds and front yard vegetables, growing citrus, drought tolerant plants, wildflowers, and this month we are learning about Exotic Invasive Pests and Traps. Many of the meetings begin with tours of the garden. It’s fun to see what people are growing and what does well in Northern California.

I can’t remember what inspired me to have a cocktail class. I think i was inspired from being in Hawaii recently and drinking all the fancy drinks with coconut, fresh pineapple and lilikoi (Passion fruit). I had never tasted this delicious puree before and I was excited to try it in a cheesecake recipe. It was refreshing and delicious and not something you eat every day. I learned you can purchase this fruit concentrate at a company named Perfect Purees in Napa https://www.perfectpuree.com/ I’ve put my order in so I can make a lilikoi cheese cake for my son’s graduation party. They have all kinds of flavors like blackberry, key lime, ginger, blood orange and caramelized pineapple. I can’t wait to try them in a sorbet recipe which they have several of on their site.

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For the cocktail class, I had my kitchen set up in different stations. I had a champagne area with a ginger simple syrup and a hibiscus rose syrup. Recipe here: http://www.cookingwithbooks.net/2014/12/rose-hibiscus-cocktail.html

I had a rum, coconut cream, coconut water, and fresh pineapple drink area with the blender and cold ice cubes.

https://www.dominicancooking.com/925-pina-colada-rum-pineapple-and-coconut-cocktail.html

I had a ginger beer section for the beer lovers. I planned on having exact recipes for everyone, but decided to “wing it” and have my computer near by in case we wanted to look up a recipe. Of course my friends could choose which edible flower they wanted to put in their drink. I had skewers, and umbrellas and all sorts of ice cubes frozen with flowers to add flair to their drinks.

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All of these drinks were topped with various edible flowers such as nasturtium, violas, lilac, rose petals, pansy, lavender, dianthus, camelia, sweet pea, borage, violets, strawberry blossoms, carnations, calendula, begonia, daisy, clover, fava, jasmine, citrus blossom, rosemary dandelion and arugula blossoms. The best part was I was able to pick most of these varieties from my garden.

Since I love to bake, I also served a dark chocolate coconut rum cake. It is a family favorite and my go to dessert when I need a chocolate fix. Inspired by my trip to Iceland, I served a homemade licorice ice cream doused with sambuca (an Italian licorice liquor). The ice cream would have also tasted good served with Kahlua.

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Everyone stayed a while and chatted until almost 11PM. It was nice to get to know a few of my neighbors better.  Many learned new cocktail flavors, and can now tell which flowers are edible and can be grown in their own gardens.

Isn’t it time you hosted a cocktail party? Maybe you are excited to grow a new edible plant that you can add to a salad or dress up a white cake. If I can, you can too.

Please write me in the comments below and share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.

Bonus Extra recipe here:

 
 

Simple Tips to Compost in Your Garden and Make the Best Fennel and Goat Cheese Tart for Mother’s Day

Simple Tips to Compost in Your Garden and Make the Best Fennel and Goat Cheese Tart for Mother’s Day

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Today I took a class on composting in the home garden. Luckily for me, The UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/OurGarden/ offer weekly free classes at Our Garden on Wiget Lane and Shadelands Drive in Walnut Creek, California. This place was started in 2009 to grow food for the hungry and also to teach sustainable gardening practices to people like me. I go to learn new techniques on how to grow organically, how to compost efficiently, and to learn the secrets to growing my own vegetables and herbs.

In early April, I bought over 25 varieties of tomatoes, egg plant, tomatillos, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, and herbs like cilantro, dill and tarragon. Last season’s compost was ready to move into my raised planter box and I planted these beautiful plants into the organic soil. It’s being able to go out and pick fresh herbs that makes my dishes come out delicious, I believe.

Composting is nature’s way to turn fruit, vegetable and yard trimmings into a dark, crumbly soil amendment. I’m all for that. I’ve been composting for several years, not really knowing what I’m doing. The class taught me I should be chopping the leaves, fruit peels, greenery, etc into smaller pieces before adding to the pile. Compost is made by the breakdown of organic material primarily microorganisms like bacteria and fungi and macro organisms like worms, insects, and their relatives. The pile heats up because the bacteria decomposes the organic matter.

The compost process requires three components: organic matter, air and water. To begin composting you need brown items that include carbon like dry leaves, egg shells, straw, coffee filters, wood shavings, pine needles, shredded paper, and chopped woody prunings. You also need green items which include nitrogen such as grass clippings, well composted herbivore manures, flowers, coffee grounds, green leaves, tea leaves/bags, sod, and fruit and vegetable waste. Food scraps should be buried in the center of the pile 6-12 inches deep. Roughly 1 volume of greens to 2 volumes of browns are the starting proportions for building a compost pile.

You need a bin made out of chicken wire, welded wire fencing, or one that is purchased at a local garden supply. Geo Bin https://www.amazon.com/Compost-Bin-by-GEOBIN/dp/B0085O6NXQ came highly recommended. The optimal size bin is between 3X3 ft or 5X5X5 ft. The bin requires air holes for good circulation and someone needs to turn the pile daily/weekly to speed the compost process. Water is needed for the pile and should be kept as damp as a wrung out sponge.

I learned that compost piles are hottest in the center and can sometimes reach above 160 degrees. The ideal temperature for the best decomposer bacteria is between 122 and 131 degrees. Turning the pile brings fresh materials (food) to the bacteria and maintains the heat in the pile. Keep the pile watered and the compost should be ready in 6 to 8 weeks if the pile stays hot enough. If it’s not turned or watered enough it could take 3 to 8 months.

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Growing your own vegetables and herbs is very rewarding. Here is a pic of my raised garden in my front yard. There is nothing better than walking our to your organic garden and picking fresh herbs to add to your recipes. I’m inspired to use my composting techniques and build a healthier soil which in turn will grow healthier plants. I hope I’ve inspired you to try it in your back yard garden. You’ll be glad you did. Secrets to getting more vegies into your diet. 

Maybe you will bake this savory fennel and goat cheese tart for your friends and family this Mother’s Day. I made it recently for my garden club and they loved it. Here is the recipe:

 

Fennel, Goat Cheese and Tarragon Tart

 

Pastry Dough Recipe

1 ½ C Unbleached Flour

¾ Stick (6T) cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

¼ t Kosher salt

4 to 5 T Ice Cold H20

 

For Tart Filling

2 large fennel bulbs @ 2 ½ lbs

1 large leek

8 green cardamom pods (or 1 t cardamom spice powder)

¼ C white wine or champagne

¼ C H20

¼ C Olive Oil

1 t Kosher salt

½ t black pepper

2 T unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 large egg yolk

½ C heavy cream

½ C whole milk

¼ C goat cheese

3 Oz (½ C) Taleggio Cheese cut into extra small cubes

1 T chopped fresh Tarragon from the garden

 

Make pastry dough for tart:

 

In a food processor, blend flour, salt and butter until blended. Or use pastry cutter or fingers just until most of  resembles coarse meal. Add cold water and blend until combined. Do not over mix or pastry will be tough.

Gather dough onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and make into a ball and flatten. Cover completely and let it rest in fridge to chill.

 

Directions for filling:

Cut off and discard fennel stalks and fronds. Cut out core and cut up fennel into ¼ in thick slices. Wash and cut leek into ¼ in slices using white parts only. Flatten cardamom pods with side of large heavy knife, then remove black seeds and discard pods. Crush seeds with side of knife and chop finely. Or sprinkle cardamom spice powder onto leeks and fennel in a 12 inch heavy skillet. Add wine, water, butter, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer, covered over moderately low heat stirring occasionally until tender about 20 to 25 min. Cool.

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure rack is in center of oven.

 

Roll out dough into a 15 in round tart pan. I use plastic wrap to  prevent dough from sticking to rolling pin. Trim dough so that it is flush with rim of pan. Lightly prick dough with a fork, then chill for 30 min. Line shell with foil (I spray with Pam first)and fill with dry kidney beans, rice or pie weights.Bake on a large baking sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights and bake 10 -15 min longer or until tart shell is golden brown. Remove from oven.

 

Whisk together eggs, yolk, until foamy and add milk, cream, goat cheese, chopped tarragon, salt and pepper. Transfer fennel and leek mixture into pastry shell spreading evenly, and dot with taleggio cheese. Pour custard into shell and bake until set about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Serves 6-8 people

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about composting and making delicious tarts. Please follow my blog and feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.

Touring and Eating My Way Through Iceland

 

 

 

 

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It takes one to know one 

It takes one to know one 

Terrific read on diagnosing autism

the silent wave

The patient, whom I’ll call “P”, came into my office with their partner. P had been diagnosed as Obsessive-Compulsive, and had been prescribed medication.

They had come to see me because their instincts were nagging them, something along the lines of “this isn’t quite right. Something’s ‘off’ about this whole thing”.

I received their initial questionnaires long before meeting them in person. The questionnaires told me almost all I needed to know.

They were SO Aspergian that it wasn’t even funny.

My first meeting with them clinched it.

P and their partner arrived, and when greeting someone in my office, especially for the first time, I try to “break the ice” by noticing their clothing and making a nice comment about it.

P was wearing a jacket with the logo of our popular home sports team.

“Oooh, the ‘Victors’ (not the actual team name)! I obviously like your jacket.” (Insert…

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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Touring and Eating My Way Through Iceland

Touring and Eating My Way Through Iceland

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If you are thinking of taking a trip, why not travel to Iceland? We did. We found out about this opportunity through my hiking friend Nancy Solomon.  She is my friend who arranged the trip and is affiliated with Orinda Travel and Bridges World Travel https://www.facebook.com/Orinda-TravelBridges-World-Travel-241813252547096/. We have known each other since our kids were in junior high and this was the first time my husband and I have traveled with her. She did an amazing job and paid attention to every detail including helping us purchase our airfare and she planned an additional trip to Dublin Ireland for us on the back end of the trip. Stay tuned for a blog about Ireland and be sure to follow my blog for my latest posts!

Nancy found plenty of things for us to do in Iceland. She did a fabulous job of keeping us busy hanging out in lava caves, exploring a white sandy beach, a black rock beach, swooning over acres of volcanic rock, gazing into the stars looking at the beautiful green Northern Lights, petting wild ponies on any random highway, and hiking through wind, snow and rain in and throughout Iceland. It was quite a place.

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The food was spectacular. We ate lots and lots of seafood. Cod, a fish called place (like flounder), arctic char, scallops, crab, mussels, langoustine, and shrimp.
The butter was delish on the homemade bread usually served w a yummy black salt. Even tried some lingonberry jam this morning w my warm croissant.
Loved the yogurt here and eating plenty of desserts too. The Icelanders put licorice in many of their chocolates. We went to OmNom chocolate factory https://www.omnomchocolate.com/ today and had a quick tour. Their white chocolate bar w black licorice and salt was totally unexpected and didn’t disappoint. Justine and I wore the hair nets while watching the huge urns grind the cocoa nibs into chocolate liquor. Sugar and coco butter are added before they are ready to be poured into the plastic molds. So cool. I now regret not purchasing a few to share with family and friends. The $10.00 price per bar alarmed me. Was it really that good?  I decided to walk away and preserve my budget for other excursions.

Reykjavik was a happening place. Many tourists were there with us, some standing in line at the very popular Blue Lagoon Hot Springs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mp3LZ3t18UY and some waiting for their tour guide to take them on a full on glacier hike. We did it all. I was intrigued by the desserts. We stopped at Kaffivagninn a bakery out in the middle of nowhere that had scrumptious cakes, breads and treats of all kinds. They even had vegan cupcakes for those who can’t eat gluten. I spotted a brownie with black licorice stuck in the frosting called saltladeris prparlalderisdal suldurladiganache.  I’m sure it is easier to eat than to pronounce.

 

There were eight of us all together the entire trip and we all got along fabulously. Our accommodations were comfortable and cozy. We stayed at the Foss Hotel in Hekla which included a free buffet breakfast. They offered fresh baked breads, granola, yogurt, make your own waffles served with home made berry jam, honey and maple syrup, fresh fruit like kiwi, pineapple, melon, apples, and oranges, and scrambled eggs with sausage. Yum. We ate and ate then headed off to another destination into our van. We had two tour guides during our stay who told us all about the history of Iceland. Nancy tells me that people don’t realize what they are giving up when they choose to rent a car vs hiring a guide. We got the full experience of learning about the culture, religion, food and family heritage by listening to the stories shared by our guides who had been raised there.

 

Another last minute treat was visiting Fridheimar http://fridheimar.is/ which has a huge green house full of gorgeous red tomatoes a green house full of basil and a restaurant that serves fresh tomato everything. Of course they served tomato soup, pasta, and tortillas, but what you didn’t expect to see was tomato cheesecake, tomato ice cream and tomato and apple pie! And don’t forget to try their Bloody Mary’s drink and their Tomato Schnapps.

 

We had lunch at a place called Efstidalur II http://efstidalur.is/ a cute farm and restaurant which served us some lovely cauliflower soup and homemade bread. Their ice cream was to die for made by the cows at their dairy farm. They also served farm to table beef burgers, rib eye, a local caught trout fillet and gourmet salads. I was even entertained by the parrots who spoke to me through their cage. So cute! https://www.facebook.com/Efstidalur/

So if you are thinking of taking a vacation, give Nancy a call. She really out did herself by organizing this Iceland trip. I will think of her before I try to plan a vacation of my own. Thank you Nancy, this was a trip I will never forget.

Please leave comments below.

 
 

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The Power of Family, Long Lasting Friendships and Cheesecake

Source: The Power of Family, Long Lasting Friendships and Cheesecake

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Power of Family, Long Lasting Friendships and Cheesecake

The Power of Family, Long Lasting Friendships and Cheesecake

I am touched beyond belief at what my cousin’s best friend did for her wedding in Kona Hawaii this week. Sandy made 35 individually wrapped gorgeous cheesecakes to give out as thank you gifts for the guests attending the wedding. The thoughtfulness does not go unnoticed by someone like me who appreciates what goes into baking a decadent dessert like this. They also served Sandy’s prize worthy cheesecakes instead of a traditional wedding cake and they were divine!

She prepared three flavors: an orange ginger, a liliko’i (passion fruit) and coconut, and a rich dark chocolate Valrohna https://www.valrhona-chocolate.com/ variety as well. Sandy has perfected these recipes over several years and has wanted to start her own cheesecake business. And she should. These are incredibly rich, yet light and they each have their own special flavored graham cracker crust.

The wedding took place near bungalows right next to the ocean. You felt like you were on a movie star’s back yard lawn that had the perfect view of the ocean. One of my cousins walked down the black lava rock to get a closer look of the sea turtles who had found a cozy spot in the reef below us. During the ceremony you could see two turtles floating around like they were listening to us up above. It was the most romantic and beautiful evening that I have ever experienced.

The yard was adorned with hanging lights which kept us aware of our surroundings as well as the gorgeous table decorations that included white lily’s and jade flowers and candles. The open bar was serving beer, wine, Mai Tai’s and mouth watering margarita’s.

The food was a surf and turf: Pan seared kampachi a local fish,  Maui onion mashed potatoes, mac nut crusted local catch, a braised beef tenderloin and chimichurri and ginger miso sauce. The food was delicious and exciting.

Yet, I am still in disbelief at the care and compassion that went into these cheesecakes. It was the perfect wedding dessert. Linda and Sandy have known each other for 34 years, meeting when they were 24 years old. This long time friendship is easy to relate to as I have friends that I have known for the same amount of time. The most adorable thing to observe from a distance.

My husband was unable to be here with me this trip because of his work schedule and I am grateful that he convinced me to come without him. The wedding was extra special also because the brides father, my uncle Joe was here with us as we almost lost him a year and a half ago when he had a hernia surgery. Also, my mother was able to be here in the fragile condition that she is in surviving a multiple myeloma diagnosis 3 years ago.

My heart is full of gratitude for my family and the love we share, long lasting friendships and the ever so thoughtful gift of cheesecakes.

Aloha and Mahalo

 

Check out this previous post that includes a blueberry cheesecake bar recipe

http://letsmakemudpies.blogspot.com/2014/08/need-vacation-avoid-als-icebucket.html?m=1

 

Also please leave comments below about your favorite wedding experience and if you have been to Kona Hawaii. Would love to hear from you!

 

Teri:)

 

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How and Why You need Blackberry Pie

How and Why You need Blackberry Pie

  Let’s Make Mud Pies

Berries. Wonderful Berries.

Why should you make a blackberry pie? That’s a no brainer. Blackberry pie is one of my all time favorite things to make and eat. You can’t have a bad day after treating yourself to a piece of pie. Especially a homemade one. Served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream it’s the perfect treat. And in just three months the apricots will be back in season and we can bake apricot pies too.

The crust is crispy, crunchy and fall apart melt in your mouth delicious. Blackberries aren’t really in season anymore, but Costco seems to have palates of them. You could  substitute blueberries if you prefer.

This recipe is fairly easy to make and worthwhile for sure. I hope you will try it too!

You can make the berry mixture ahead of time and keep refrigerated and do the same with the dough as well. Here’s how…

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Ingredients:

1 bag of frozen blackberries

2 containers of fresh blackberries

3/4 C. granulated sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of the berry)

1 T dried tapioca pearls

1 T of cornstarch

2 T water

2 T lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

1/4 teas grated nutmeg

1/2 teas kosher salt

2 T unsalted butter

Instructions:

Dump frozen blackberries into medium sized saucepan with sugar, tapioca, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest and lemon juice. Cook over med high heat until sauce is boiling. Mix water and cornstarch and pour into boiling berry mixture and cook until thickened. Cool. Fold fresh blackberries into cooled mixture.

I  find that by using a mixture of frozen berries and fresh berries, it brings out the best flavor and texture to your pie.

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Pie Crust

Ingredients:

3 C. Flour

2 T Sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (1 stick)

¼ C. Shortening

3 Tbsp  H2O

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tsp white distilled vinegar

Instructions:

  1.    In a  large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blended and working quickly to prevent butter from melting into flour, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (or put mixture in food processor and pulse until combined)
  2.    In a small bowl combine water, egg, and vinegar. Stir to mix. With a fork, mix egg mixture into flour just until dough clumps together and moist enough to pat together. If dough is dry and crumbly, add more water 1 Tbsp at a time. Dough should not be wet or sticky. (I use the food processor and pulse until combined.)
  3. Wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  4.    Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll with pin to flatten

This makes enough for two single-crust pies.

Once you have your dough rested and your filling cooled you can fill, dot with butter and top your pie.  Use any cookie cutter you have, or go with the traditional lattice topping.

Pastry likes to stay cold before baked. So put the pie in the freezer for an hour or so before baking to get that great pie crust, if you can wait that long…

Brush with a whole beaten egg. Sprinkle with additional sugar and bake on a sheet pan in a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour or until golden and bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

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Enjoy!

Last Fall, my husband and I visited Boa Vista Farms http://www.boavista.com/ where they sell frozen pre made pies like apple and berry. We had a blast tasting their apple pastries, apple doughnuts, and caramel apples. They have a fun Wine Tasting counter as well. Worth a drive up to the Placerville area for sure.

Please leave a comment below and follow my blog so you will receive the next one in your inbox. I’d love it if you share this recipe on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Happy Baking!

Teri Smyth

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2017 in Apricot, Blackberry, Dessert, Foodie, Pie, Uncategorized

 

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