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Wine Tasting, Fabulous Cocktails and Tapas in Healdsburg California

Wine Tasting, Fabulous Cocktails and Tapas in Healdsburg California

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It’s been awhile since I have posted because I have been vacationing in Florida and taking day to Apple Hill, Occidental, Healdsburg and Santa Rosa. It’s hard to decide which foodie day to talk about, since all of them were exciting. I will start out writing about last Saturday’s trip to Healdsburg with my niece Michelle. We had the best day tasting wine, eating great meals and Michelle was treated to a few very special cocktails at the bar at Bravas Restaurant.

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I don’t know when it started, but a few years back I began taking my nieces and nephews out for their birthdays. It’s been super fun having these twenty somethings around, spoiling them and mostly enjoying time together making memories. Michelle has always been open to an adventure with her Auntie Teri.

Last Saturday was no exception. Michelle and I started out the day early, making sure not to waste any time on our day together. I picked her up at 9:30AM and we drove directly to Healdsburg, only stopping briefly at Keller Estate Winery. We tried to make a quick stop there out of the blue, but they couldn’t accommodate the two of us short notice. We were disappointed because it was high on a hill, near a cute duck pond, but we trudged on ahead to bigger and better wineries.

First stop was Gustafson. We were treated especially well by a knowledgeable local who not only offered Michelle some of the best 2013 Estate Syrah, but she also gave us a map and recommended the names of other wineries that had to be on our “go to” list. She spoke highly of their vineyard overlooking Lake Sonoma and encouraged us to next time bring a picnic lunch and hang out at their gorgeous family estate. This generous girl also gave us several cards of other wineries in the area that offered free tastings. Of course, we were excited to catch a break and utilized a few of them that day.

Next we found a extraordinary cafe named Shed Shed. This place offers products from local farmers, ranchers, and sustainable artisan producers. When you walk in you are greeted with fresh flowers, garden and kitchen gifts, specialty coffees, exotic teas, a juice bar, a cheese section, charcuterie, gourmet sourdough bread, challah, seeded varieties and more. If you can find a spot to sit, you can splurge on their main dishes like Pear and Prosciutto Pizza, Wood Oven Mussels w smoked tomato, broccoli shoots, Calabrian Chili, cherry tomatoes and toasted bread just to name a couple. Everything is meticulously plated with fresh herbs and petite greens you’ve never seen before. Michelle and I didn’t eat here, but we did partake in their seeded loaf of bread. I’ve been making my own breads lately and very much appreciate what goes into the making of a good loaf. 

Close by was Costeaux Bakery where we picked up a French Baguette (I told you I was into bread!) with goat cheese, salami and fresh greens. I behaved myself and didn’t buy the coconut macaroon dipped in chocolate (my fav), but I did go for the day old pastries which included a chocolate croissant, a few raspberry pastries and a plain croissant to take home to the family. We also had the clerk warm up and split in half their ham, veggie and cheese croissant. Oh my!  I gobbled it up in two bites!

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Spicy Vines had a table outside where we could enjoy our sandwiches alongside their 2015 Cabernet Franc Pine Mountain Cloverdale Peak and Michelle’s favorite Peter’s Delight Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (her brother’s name and the area which my dad was raised.) We relaxed in the midday sun getting caught up on the latest in the life of an audiologist and talked about our upcoming trip to Cancun with our extended families.

Now we were ready to make our way into another local winery and found Portalupi.  We took a seat on the comfy couch  and were delighted by the generous pours and friendly guests. We loved everything from the old vine zinfandel to their pinot-noir. Of course I was pacing myself since I was the designated driver and made sure that the birthday girl was getting the most pours and tastes on her special day. 

A couple hours later, on our way to the restaurant, we stumbled into Journeyman Meats a butcher shop, salumeria and tasting bar. This place is a one of a kind meat market/specialty foods store offering fresh turkey and salami sandwiches alongside cool cookbooks like The Art of Wood Fired Cooking by Mugnaini and In The Charcuterie by Boetticher and Miller.

Last but not least, we walked and googled our way to Bravas which had rave reviews by all the locals and it didn’t disappoint. We got lucky and found a spot at the bar where we could watch the bartenders Todd and Jordan (really expert mixologists) prepare some phenomenal cocktails. I didn’t partake in more drinking here, but Michelle was treated with the utmost care getting samples of spirits like Alameda’s St. George’s newest Malt Whiskey “Baller” and San Francisco’s Raff Distillerie’s Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin. There is a very cool story about the rescue dogs named Bummer and Lazarus in case you want to look it up on Instagram. Such a clever name as well.

We sat next to a couple of ladies named Lucy and Shellie from Menlo Park who kept us entertained  and they graciously gave us the inside scoop as to what to order from the menu. Grilled octopus, foie gras with crispy serrano, and backyard marmalade and bacon wrapped dates with blue cheese. And we ended the meal by ordering their famous crispy yet flavorful Paella. We were in Heaven!

I haven’t even begun to describe the cocktails that my niece ordered. She tried the “Bang a Rang’ made with High West Double Rye, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon, and Benedictine and another special drink made with Gin, her favorite. She was having so much fun learning about the various gins, whiskeys and spirits. It was a grand time checking out the local wineries, restaurants, bakeries and coffee houses and I can’t wait to go back.

Make sure you set aside a day to drive to Healdsburg with a relative or two. Why not take advantage of these glorious days of Autumn by spending time in the wine country with your loved ones. I guarantee you will have a good time enjoying good food and you won’t go thirsty either with the many choices of wineries and cocktail bars on every corner.

Thanks for reading.

Please follow me for more foodie adventures.

Teri:)

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Apple Time is Strongly Encouraged and an Apple Cake Recipe for your Sunday Supper

Apple Time is Strongly Encouraged and an Apple Cake Recipe for your Sunday Supper

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I’m loving the gorgeous Fall weather in Northern California these days. Last week I made a trip to Apple Hill in Placerville to celebrate and take advantage of the Fall colors, food and wine. My primary goal was to get out of town to get away from the depressing news about the Northern California wild fires, to enjoy a long drive, and most importantly take home some gorgeous colorful apples for Sunday night’s dessert.

 

First I started out at Grace Patriot Wines to sample their varietals. I tried the reds only since I was driving and wanted to save my calories for the apple and berry pastries. The women were friendly and generous with their pours and I decided to buy their orange olive oil since I love to bake pound cakes with it.

 

Next I drove a little ways up the street and came across Boa Vista Farms  fresh produce stand, gifts and baked goods. They also have a wine tasting section, as well as apple and pear samples, and fresh apple cider too. The pastries are bursting with fruit and they have a wide array of pies and donuts as well. Don’t forget the caramel apples dipped in chocolate and sprinkles, nuts and Oreo cookies. You will want to buy one of everything.

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Don’t just come here for the sweets, the apple varieties are outstanding. I found bushels of Gala, Jonagold, Empire, Red Delicious, Golden delicious, Jonathan, honey Crisp, Rome, and McIntosh. For about $26.00 you can get a box of these ripe and just picked crisp apples. Of course you can find gourds, pumpkins and fresh vegetables here as well.

 

 

This place is nothing short of charming and great for the entire family. There is a map of various farms and wine makers so you won’t get lost. I find it is more fun to drive along and take a turn here or there. You never know where you might turn up. In fact, this is how I have found my most precious food and wine finds in the past. Just last July I came across Rams Gate Winery when showing our friends from Spain around Sonoma. I was delighted when they were able to accommodate our party of 8 at a long table right in the center of the excitement. They offered us a cheese board and charcuterie platter along with accompaniments like nuts, jam and chocolate truffles. 


It was just what we needed to fill our tummies before stopping for lunch at Rutherford Grill. This place has to be my favorite of all restaurants in the wine country. Their prime rib French dip is amazing and I can’t stop thinking about their focaccia and olive oil side dish. It was melt in your mouth delicious, just the right amount of salty from the bread and fruity taste from the oil. You won’t want to miss eating there. But make sure you have a reservation, because it can get busy.

 

 

So when you want a Fall themed outing and you need to get away for a day, you have a few ideas here to explore. Now for some kitchen time to make homemade cinnamon applesauce, apple cake with caramel sauce and maybe an apple strudel too. Make this for your next Sunday supper. My family will be thrilled with all these goodies and my house will smell divine.

Here is a pic of the strudel.

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Fresh Apple Cake

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4 C peeled and sliced apples (3-4 apples of your choice) I use Jonagold and McIntosh

1 ½ C Granulated sugar

2 C. All Purpose Flour

2 tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground Ginger

½ tsp Nutmeg

½ tsp ground Cloves

½ tsp Kosher Salt

2 tsp Vanilla

2 Whole Eggs beaten

½ C Canola Oil

½ – 1 C Chopped Walnuts

 

Directions: 

Take sliced apples and coat with granulated sugar in a extra large mixing bowl.set aside. 

Sift dry ingredients ( flour, soda, spices, and salt)  together in a medium size bowl. 

Measure oil in a med size glass measuring cup. Add eggs and vanilla and stir. 

Take bowl with sugared apples and pour dry mixture over them and stir until apples are coated. Pour in wet mixture, chopped walnuts and stir until combined.

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Pour into a 13X9 glass Pyrex dish, smooth out and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 40-45 min or until toothpick comes clean when inserted. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

 

Enjoy!

 

Please follow my blog for more great recipes and stories of my travels. And please Ieave a comment below if you have any questions.

 

 

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Why You Should Go To Pike Place Market and Lemon Blueberry Bread

Why You Should Go To Pike Place Market and Lemon Blueberry Bread

 

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Spent an entire Sunday morning at Pike Place Market in Seattle Washington a couple of weeks ago. It was my first time visiting this incredible food market. I was blown away with the intense heavy scent of flowers that welcome you into the building. The sunflowers and dahlia’s were mesmerizing in size and were everywhere I looked. They sold spectacular flower arrangements for only $10.00 in every color a girl could ask for.

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Besides walking past every kind of flower you could ever want, my husband and I tasted  Beecher’s handmade cheeseThe varieties of seasonal fruit were overwhelming finding juicy nectarines, plums, berries, sweet currants and cantaloupe just to name a few. We spotted boxes of colorful organic peppers and just around the corner and a collection of mushrooms some I’ve never heard of like maitake, eryngi, nutty shimegi, lobster, chanterell, and matsutaki  for the chefs delight. It was honestly a foodies paradise. I was in Heaven.

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I was excited to spot Gosanko Chocolates  and check out their special chocolate offerings. They had dark chocolate rocky road, clusters of sunflower seeds coated in chocolate, peanut raisin, almond, walnut, and cashew  clusters. I spied red velvet, sea salt caramel and PB and J  fudge, and blackberry, strawberry, mocha, Irish cream, loganberry, peanut butter, limoncello, kahlua,grand marnier, cherry, rum and classic truffles. I wanted one of each! And of course I’m partial to almond butter toffee coated with dark chocolate. Yum! If I could travel around the world and just visit chocolate shops, I would. Most of the time I try their hot chocolate since this is always a measure of a good quality chocolate.

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Next we came across local farm fresh Raw and Pure Honey and discovered wildflower and blackberry flavors. There were gorgeous really cool textiles like cotton scarves in bright primary colors and artists previewing their spectacular pieces.

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Too bad we were staying at a hotel because I wanted to buy and cook the huge assortment of fresh caught trout, salmon, red snapper, rockfish, and halibut just waiting to be fried or grilled to perfection. The dungeness crab and jumbo king crab legs were enormous and reasonably priced. Apparently the cherries in Washington are abundant and family owned since 1988 Chukar Cherries Co. provided delicious chocolatey samples if you could stand waiting in the long line.

There was plenty of hot food for those that wanted a nibble with displays of fried chicken, tempura shrimp, corn dogs, chicken tenders and French fries. And of course we came across the bakery selling savory cheddar cheese rolls, chocolate dipped cookies, German chocolate and cream cheese strawberry donuts, Swedish cookies which my Danish great grandmother Helga “Nana in the white hair” is what we called her, would have wanted, cinnamon crispies (which reminded me of a pastry I had in Truckee. Here’s a previous blog with a gingerbread recipe I’m fond of and made recently)  and peanut butter cream cheese cannoli’s. Yuck.

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My gingerbread cake! So delicious!

I loved the lavender products offered by https://www.allthingslavenderseattle.com/.  Baker’s dream of ingredients like these: lavender sugar, lavender and sweet orange infused honey, and tea’s for ice cream, scones and other sweet goodies.

I bet you didn’t know I’m a cheese fanatic either. My sister Julie introduced me to cheese spontaneously many years ago and I fell in love. Pike Place Market has a good deal of delicious gouda, asiago, fontina, pecorino romano, parmegiano, and lots of soft cheeses too like chevre, sheep milk feta, burrata, mozzarella, and brie. I’m planning on making a roasted cherry tomato with burrata tonight for my family. I first experienced this at a fancy restaurant in St Helena. It was simply decadent. 

Britts Pickles sold us a jar of their spicy pickles, but unfortunately for my son Curtis they were confiscated at the airport. I’ve seriously have barely scratched the surface of what Pike Place Market in Seattle has to offer. If you haven’t been, it’s a must. This vacation get away was one of my favorite vacations ever. Great food, a hippie vibe/nerdy kind of people, and super fun hikes are awaiting you.

Have you ever been? Share your Seattle experience with us. I would love to know your thoughts.

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And just in case you are inspired to bake, you can find a tasty blueberry lemon bread recipe below. It’s one of my favorite breads to make and share with your friends and family, especially if you have an excess of lemons.

 

Lemon Blueberry Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:

½ C Unsalted Butter room temp

1 C Granulated Sugar

2 Large Eggs beaten

2 lemons zested and juiced and set juice aside

 

1 ½ C All Purpose Flour or Cake flour for a finer crumb

1 t Baking Powder

½ t Maldon Salt

½ C Milk

1 1/2 C fresh Blueberries

½ C Powdered Sugar

 

Directions:

In a mixing bowl cream the room temperature butter and granulated sugar for @ 3 minutes on high. Add lemon zest and eggs and blend for 4 more minutes on med high.

 

Sift flour, baking powder and salt until combined.

 

Alternately, starting with dry flour mixture then milk , add to wet creamed mixture in small portions and mix on low until combined. Toss in blueberries coated in 1 T flour.

 

Line a 9X5in loaf pan with parchment paper, or coat with vegetable shortening. Pour batter into pan and bake uncovered for @ 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While loaf is baking, juice lemons and mix with powdered sugar. When loaf is taken out of oven, poke with a wooden skewer and pour sugared juice over loaf. Cool.

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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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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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