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Category Archives: Dessert

Discover the Food Scene on College Ave and a New Chicken Recipe

Discover the Food Scene on College Ave and a New Chicken Recipe

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Imagine how surprised I was to stumble upon this quaint neighborhood called Elmwood when dropping off my family room rug to get cleaned. My mother has been having her rugs professionally cleaned at Tulanian Rugs for over 50 years.  I was somewhat of a skeptic, never having my rugs cleaned outside of my home before. I always hired someone to come in and clean in the past, but I trusted my mom since she had a good experience there. First I called and spoke to a very pleasant woman who answered lots of questions that I had. She knew a lot about how to care and clean a rug that has been around pets, etc… I felt so comfortable bringing my rug to her that I brought two of them in!

After paying for a 3 hour parking spot and dropping off my rugs, I decided to look around. The neighborhood reminded me of Multnomah Village in Portland Oregon that I visited last November. I wrote a blog about that experience and you can read about it here: https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com/category/toffee/

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I discovered restaurants like The Elmwood Cafe . There was a line going outside the door. Must be goooood.  I decided to grab a menu and see what else I could find. I didn’t get far before I found a restaurant called Summer Kitchen. This place looked extra yummy too. I hope no one saw me drooling over the pile of fried chicken sitting right behind the counter. IMG_9565 (1) They also had several salad offerings, made to order sandwiches, pizza and nightly dinner specials like chicken from the oven, spicy braised pork, and Arctic char for @ $20.00. What a deal. Not ready to decide what to eat I kept on.

Next I stopped into Mrs. Dalloway’s Book Store. I enjoyed their literary selection, but I couldn’t get enough of their garden art and cooking selection gifts. I found really cool wrapping paper (I’m a sucker for colorful anything) and adored their displays of Mother’s Day gifts and Grad Cards. So fun.

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I was happy to find Kerry Moriarty’s Jewelry shop 14 Karats. Just that week I lost a back to an earring and needed to replace it. I also lost a stone in a special bracelet that my husband bought me in Thailand. I happened to have them both in my purse and was able to get Kerry to help me out for a reasonable price. When I went to pick up the bracelet, he and his wife gave me their special Hot Sauce that they playfully call”Jo Boo’s” make from scratch. They have been making it for years and even brought it to “Burning Man.” It has several different chili’s in it including the famous ghost chili. Can’t wait to try it. His wife also worked as a caterer for years and generously gave me a piece of her famous dark chocolate almond crunch. Sooo good.

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Just around the corner I found Nabolom Bakery & Pizzeria . I was told to try their pizza by the guy in the Sweet Dreams Candy Shop. Yes I love candy too. I’m a sucker for a piece of a good quality dark chocolate and almond bark.

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To my disappointment, the bakery only serves the pizza from 11-2PM and then from 4-7PM and it was already 2:45PM! I opted instead for a chunk of focaccia bread with caramelized onions. I gobbled it ALL up on the drive home in the car. It was warm, and chewy and salty and perfectly baked. I was a happy girl. The pics below were taken the following week when I went back for the pizza.

Don’t forget to check out Casa De Chocolates in case you want to satisfy your sweet tooth with a nice cup of hot cocoa with a hint of chili in it. This tasty treat was very chocolaty and the perfect pick me up after a long afternoon of shopping. In addition to their hand made boxed chocolates, this company specializes in making Latin American chocolate bars and desserts like flan, tres leches cake and Mexican wedding cookies.

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Lastly, but not least I happened upon a small women’s clothing shop called Rue Atelier    I met the owner Barbara who was adorable and she told me a little more about the history of the area. The Elmwood neighborhood was hit hard when the popular Lululemon moved out of the corner property recently. I felt so bad for her that I had to buy a really cute blue jean jacket that i found on her sale rack for only $35.00- just my size. Barbara even posed for a pic with her dog for me!

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I couldn’t help myself, but walk into The Ashby Marketplace. In this store you could find local produce, plenty of artisan gluten free varieties of rice flours, coconut flour, ground corn meal, wheat germ, baking powders, baking sodas and many more extra ordinary options for the baker enthusiast.

I could go on and on about the fun businesses that this end of Berkeley has to offer. But, why don’t you go see it for yourself? You will be glad you did. Go hungry. Be ready to shop for cute chic clothing and go there for great new books or gifts. Goodness knows I will be heading back to the Elmwood neighborhood in Berkeley again real soon. My husband will love it too and he will be happy to know we have clean rugs again.

Just in case you would like a new chicken/pheasant recipe, here it is. My husband’s coworker was looking for a good recipe and I promised her I would add it to my next blog and share it with her. I had this delicious meal at a neighbors home one night after her husband came home from pheasant hunting. There is nothing low calorie about this dish, but you will be glad you tried it.

 

Pheasant (Or Chicken) en Creme

Ingredients:

1 Pheasant or Organic Chicken cleaned and quartered

1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 T Unsalted Butter

⅓ C Diced Yellow Onion

2 Cloves minced Garlic

½ C Fresh sauteed sliced Cremini Mushrooms

 

1 Can of Cream Of Chicken Soup

½ C Apple Cider

1 T plus 1 teas Worcestershire Sauce

¾ t Kosher Salt

½ t Black Pepper

2 t Smoked Paprika divided

 

Preheat oven t 350 degrees

Directions: Saute Onions, Mushrooms in Olive Oil and Butter until Onions are translucent about 7 minutes adding the minced garlic at the end so garlic doesn’t burn.

Place Pheasant in ungreased 9X9X2 baking dish. Mix Soup, Cider, Worcestershire Sauce, Salt, Pepper in a small bowl until combined. Add cooked onions, mushrooms and garlic and stir. Pour mixture over pheasant and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake uncovered in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 ½ -2 hrs or until fork tender basting occasionally. After 1 hr, sprinkle the pheasant with more paprika.

Enjoy! Follow me for more delicious recipes and fun adventures. Also I’d love it if you could take the time ask a question or leave a comment below. 

Smiles and happy cooking,

Teri:)

 

Need a new cocktail recipe? Latest blog here

 

 

 

 

 

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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:

 
 

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

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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One Special Confection You Can’t live Without This Holiday

One Special Confection You Can’t live Without This Holiday

Before I divulge the best toffee recipe of all time, I will share a quick story about my recent vacation. Here is a pic of my niece Kendall helping me in the kitchen.

What a trip! My husband and I traveled to Portland Oregon this week for business and pleasure. I was excited to get away and have fun exploring the food and vibe in the Great Northwest.


The day started with a trip to Voo Doo Donuts after dropping my husband off at the refinery. It was my first time trying these fabulous baked goods. People go crazy for these donuts. One lady in line bought seven dozen and another guy walked out with four dozen glazed, sprinkled, filled and twisted… the list goes on and on. I was happy with my two-one raspberry filled dusted w powdered sugar and one glazed with chocolate and filled w pastry cream. So delish!


The place reminded me of a Hard Rock Café kind of place. It has a weird kind of vibe with skull and cross bones and biker chic like culture. They sell music CD’s and T-shirts w logos like “The Magic is in the Hole.” And I might add that we saw a few people in the airport carrying huge pink Voo Doo Donut boxes too.

Apparently there is usually a line out the door of this place. Today, this wasn’t the case but there were plenty of visitors taking part of the “Voo Doo Donut experience.”  The shop is small. No seating is available. I chose to stand at the back counter and eat the chocolate one w Bavarian cream first. It didn’t disappoint. The Stumptown coffee was watered down and not anything like the normal Peet’s espresso w steamed milk that I make for myself every morning.



Next I explored the shops in the Multnomah Village and Hillsdale Shopping area of Portland. Here I wandered around in this cute quaint small neighborhood. I found everyone there to be friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about their goods. I was able to pick up a couple of last minute Christmas presents for a few people on my list. I found a cashmere scarf for my son who will soon be traveling to So Korea for a business class. He will be sure to find a good use for it there. After visiting a bead store, I also got the great idea to bedazzle my Christmas packages w brown twine and lace them w sparkly beads in blue, red, clear, yellow and some that look like diamonds. This will be the perfect addition to my holiday wrap. I love decorating a gorgeous tree every year and placing beautiful packages under and alongside the ornaments and brightly lit tree.


I also spotted an old fashioned candy store called Hatties which had every kind of candy you could think of. I brought home peppermint candy canes to make my chocolate and peppermint cream cheese brownies and root beer, licorice, butterscotch and orange flavored lollipop sticks to add to the gifts of the kids on my list. Remember the ones you had as a child? They also offered many varieties of homemade fudge like salted caramel, chocolate and peanut butter swirl and red velvet cheesecake flavor and gave you a free chunk of it if you spent more than $10.00.


One of the perks to shopping in this area was the “Golden Ticket” that was provided as a free gift if you spent over $10.00 in any store. It was fun to see so many crafty knitted hats, crocheted gloves, and colorful socks of all kinds. Wonderful place to go if you like unusual things “Keep Portland Weird” that you don’t necessarily find in the department store. I also felt great knowing I was supporting a community of small business owners.

It began to snow outside, so I kept warm and dry inside until it was time to drive back to get my husband at his office. Make sure to watch the video I made while enjoying the fun day. I hope after reading my blog you will make it to Portland too and have as much fun as I did exploring the city.


I’d like to share my favorite Christmas Candy that has been made in my family for generations.

I’ve been bringing this dish to holiday parties and celebrations for years and everyone is always asking me for the recipe. You will want to double the recipe. Here you go.

Thanks for reading.

Please share this blog on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Teri’s Crunchy English Toffee

7 oz sliced Almonds

1 ¼ C Light Brown Sugar

½ C Unsalted Butter

2 T Water

¼ t Baking Soda

1 t Vanilla Extract

7 oz chopped Ghiradelli or high quality Dark Chocolate

Spread sliced almonds onto a sheet pan and bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 8 min or until brown. When cool, chop finely using a food processor and spread onto two pans lined with sil pat.

Place sugar, butter and water in a medium size heavy bottom pan on medium heat. I find that doubling the recipe makes it easier to keep the candy thermometer in the caramel and thus reads easier. Stir until butter melts and mixture is combined, then do not stir. Boil until thermometer reads 285 degrees. Remove from heat and add vanilla and baking soda. Stir with wooden spoon and pour onto nuts. Spread evenly and quickly put chocolate chunks onto warm caramel to melt. Spread chocolate then cool in fridge, freezer or on counter until set about 1 hour.

Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from Rose Levy’s Mahogany Butter Crunch Toffee.

 

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Teaching Preschool and Making Pumpkin Cake

Teaching Preschool and Making Pumpkin Cake


Today is the day. Today is the day I gain the courage to write another blog. For some reason I have been finding reasons not to write. Well, I was preoccupied with a full time job for the past year. From October until June I worked as a preschool teacher at a private school in Danville. It was a very exciting job. I worked alongside 2 other very talented and patient women who taught me how to take care of twenty-two 2-3 year olds five days a week. Some of them stayed all day from 7AM until 6PM and others only came half days from 8-12noon.

I taught music by singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “The Wheels on the Bus” to keep them entertained. We read books about outer space, transportation, Cat in The Hat books, books about summer vacations, books about a new baby brother or sister, and several others depending on the theme of the month.

I was challenged to come up with art ideas that looked cute on the wall for the parents to see and that also taught the kids how to paint, color, glue things, matching work sheets, and others. This was the hardest part of my job coming up with various ways to help the children learn art. I would search Pinterest for cute project ideas and spend hours preparing lessons. The trick was to get all 22 kids to do the project and we only had between 15 to 20 minutes to finish it. Try to get a 2 ½ year old interested in leaving the train table to sit and color something. Some could barely hold a crayon and a few of them would refuse and start to cry if we made them.

I loved watching these kids interact with their friends. There was always one or two that would interfere with circle time by yelling out something, laughing out loud, laying down, or taking off their shoes. These were usually boys and we had to sit them at a different table until they were ready to participate with the group. Two of them would work together to giggle across from one another (we could never allow them to sit together. That equaled TROUBLE). And during nap time these two boys couldn’t wait to wake up and make noises at each other so the others would wake up. It was constant chaos. They would try my patience day after day and yet they were only little guys so you couldn’t blame them. It was their job to make our lives miserable.

I would catch myself laughing out loud because it was hilarious trying to keep the class under control. Each student had their own personality. Some were extra smart and questions came easily to them. Others were delayed in their language and couldn’t speak. Some kids had strong accents and you could barely understand what they were saying. One girl would cry every morning when her mom dropped her off. And she didn’t just cry softly, she screamed. For 30 minutes! There was nothing anyone could do to keep her from screaming. She would stand at the window with her blankey and special stuffed animal and scream for her mom. It was horrible for everyone. It wasn’t until circle time would start when she would finally begin to settle in. But of course, she HAD to sit on the rainbow carpet square. You see each carpet square had a letter and a picture of something that began with that letter. Well this girl only liked that particular R rainbow carpet square and if she didn’t sit on it first and some other kid got it, she would start screaming again. And if I made another kid get off that rainbow so the girl would stop screaming, the other teachers would scold me and tell me she had to learn. She wasn’t allowed to get her way all the time. Oh boy, did that tork me in a big way. So what? Let the poor girl have the rainbow carpet. Big deal? It wasn’t easy to get along with how the other teachers wanted to run their classroom, but we did. We had to in order to keep the peace in front of the kids.

After circle time came snack time. We had things for them like apple juice, orange juice, milk or water to drink. We provided popcorn, graham crackers, French Toast sticks, Chex Mix, Cheerios, and other snack items like string cheese and yogurt. The kids were also offered orange slices, apple slices, bananas, apple sauce, canned peaches and canned pineapple. It was hard for some to stay in their chairs. One set of twins had to have their own gluten free snacks brought in, not because of a food allergy, but because the parents preferred it. These two didn’t sit for long and would run into the play room to play. We had to guide them back into their seats only to have to chase them around the tables after they got up again. One boy with special needs was never interested in eating snack. He would pour his juice or milk onto the table and then want more. The only time he was interested in food was when I brought in soup one day. I showed the kids how to make “Stone Soup” at circle time giving them opportunities to show their friends what celery, or what a carrot was. This boy sat at the table for over 30 minutes and ate the soup with a spoon. I was amazed, told his mother and she was happy about it.

After snack time, the kids lined up to go outside. Just getting these kids lined up was a chore in itself. The two trouble makers would climb into the playhouse, or onto a stack of chairs, or pull on the blinds. Others would push and shove or try to sneak out the door. We were only allowed to watch 12 children at a time by ourselves. One of us would be cleaning up snack and the other would be changing diapers and taking the kids to the bathroom. It was a hard to manage these youngsters and keep them safe. They couldn’t climb onto the changing table unless we were right there to catch them if they fell. We had to make sure they didn’t try to escape out the front door where they could easily run into the street parking lot. Many times I chased kids up the stairs into the library area because that was their favorite place to run away to. They would run up there during clean up time so they didn’t have to put away their toys.

I loved taking the kids outside. They wanted to ride their tricycles and police cars and fire engines. They wanted to climb the play structure and slip down the slide. The girls would hold hands with each other and play make believe with the toy dolls. Some would watch out the gate for their mommies and daddies and be sad. I was on a constant look out for keeping them safe from each other. Many would not watch where they were riding and almost hurt someone else. They would run at full speed not minding that there was a pole up ahead or a wall they could run into. Of course the mud puddles and wet grass were their favorite, but the parents never wanted them wet. One boy would love to play with chalk on the pavement, but would be covered with it by the end of the play period. He ruined his clothes by putting holes in the knees of his pants and tearing at them more when there was any site of a rip.

I remember having to help the kids pull up their pants after potty time cause the pants were one size too small. Many couldn’t button or snap either and would ask for help getting dressed. While outside we would search for lady bugs, or roly poly bugs, or airplanes flying high in the sky. We sang and danced “Mr Clown, Mr Clown, Who’s the funniest clown in town?” We had Easter egg hunts and collected the plastic eggs with paper bags that they personally decorated during art.

One of my students and his Mom


I could go on for days about my experiences teaching at Tassajara Learning Center, but I must get on with my day. It’s Halloween after all and I must prepare for the trick or treaters and get the dessert ready for our Octoberfest party tonight. I making a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting to bring and share. The recipe is originally used to make carrot cake, but substituting pumpkin works well too.

 

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Pumpkin Cake

 

Ingredients

2 C granulated Sugar

1 Cup Canola Oil

4 eggs

 

2 ½ C fresh and roasted (Place huge chunks of cut pumpkin skin side up onto a sheet pan lined w parchment or foil and bake for @ 1 hour at 400 degrees and cool) or canned pumpkin

 

2 ½ C All Purpose Flour

2 t Baking Powder

1 t Cinnamon

1 t Ginger

½ t Cloves

2 t Baking Soda

½ t Maldon Salt

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz pkg room temp cream cheese

1 stick or ½ C room temp butter

2 C. Confectioners Sugar

1 t Vanilla

 

Blend cream cheese and butter in a mixer on med high until combined. Add sugar while mixer is on low until combined. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix in.

Directions:

 

Combine oil and sugar in mixer until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and mix on medium speed for @ 5 minutes.

Sift together flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt. If salt doesn’t fit through sifter, add to dry ingredients.

Alternately starting with the 1/3 flour mixture, add to oil, sugar and egg mixture, then adding 1/3 pureed pumpkin, then 1/3 more flour, and repeating with flour until mixture is combined.

Pour into a greased and floured bunt pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for @ 45-55 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.

Remove cake from pan onto a platter. When cool, frost with cream cheese frosting. Slice and serve. Serves @10.

Enjoy!

My husband and I and my son’s dog Hank dressed up for Halloween

Hank and my son Curtis hanging out to see the Trick or Treaters at our home.

My youngest son Andrew cane to Grace Cathedral

 

 

And in case you want to bake a pie. Try this one.

http://letsmakemudpies.blogspot.com/2016/10/lets-make-mud-pies-oh-no-you-didnt-just.html

 

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Posted by on November 5, 2016 in Dessert, Halloween, Holidays

 

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