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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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Celebrating my Mom and a Risotto Recipe to die for

Celebrating my Mom and a Risotto Recipe to die for

We are getting close to Valentines day, and  I can’t help but share a story about helping my mom find love. Yes. I had tried for years to set her up with patients at my dental office with no luck. I thought about matching her up with a guy from my meditation group, but that didn’t pan out either. For many years my mom was single. My dad and her divorced when I was 14 and neither of them remarried. That is until a few years ago when my mom found love.

This is a pic of my Mom, Tom, Virginia and Keith my mom’s long time friends
Tom was my neighbor. He and I went for walks with our dogs. He would casually stop by with his wife when taking her out for short walks. Tom’s wife suffered from cancer and he would talk to me about food, and how he was caring for Penny. “12 almonds a day” he would tell me. I thought he was a special man since he cared so deeply for his wife.

After she passed away, I would stop by to see how he was doing sometimes offering some oranges from my garden or delivering a book on grieving. Tom was always on the go, choosing vacations to go on back East and entertaining friends and family. It wasn’t until Tom walked by one day while I was gardening that I got the idea to introduce him to my mom. He complained that he missed talking to someone and bouncing ideas off of them like he had with his wife for over 49 years. I gently suggested when he was ready, I would like to introduce him to my mom who was also lonely. She and Tom both loved the same hobbies like gardening and cooking. I thought they would make a great couple.


A few weeks later, it happened. I invited my mom and Tom over for some tea and cookies. They met at the driveway and instantly made a connection. They arrived at my door together and have been together ever since. They married about 2 years later and have been through a lot together since my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma a rare blood disease, but treatable a few weeks after their honeymoon.

My Mom, Tom, sister in law Alyson and the cutest niece ever Josie
Tom is a wonderful man and my family is so grateful for the love he as given to all of us and especially my mother. She has never been happier. Not only do I have a new dad, but my kids have a new grandfather who they look up to for love and guidance. Tom’s family has been a God sent too giving my mom 6 more grand kids to love and care for.

A pic of my mom and dad in their earlier days of marital bliss 1967 

above that a pic of Mom and Tom, Andrew and his friend Mary after a St Mary’s Choir concert 

This is what Valentines Day is all about. I love bringing happiness to others through networking and my food.  I am also the luckiest girl around since I’ve been married to Ken the love of my life for 28 years. Happy Valentines Day Mom and Dad. May your lives be richer because of the love you share.


A friend asked me to share my risotto recipe. Hope you try this and make it for your own valentine this Tuesday.

 

Mushroom Fennel and Leek Risotto

Ingredients:

2 T Extra Virgin Olive oil

2 T Unsalted Butter

2 C Arborio Rice

6 C Veggie or Chicken broth

1 C White Wine(Chardonnay or your fav) Can use champagne also.

1 C Cremini Mushrooms chopped finely

½ C Fennel chopped finely

½ C Leeks chopped finely

2 cloves chopped garlic

¾ C freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

2 T Heavy Cream
Instructions:

Put Oil and Butter into heavy bottom soup pot. I use Le Creuset pan. Place chicken broth or veggie broth on med high heat in an alternate pot. (I make my own from using chicken bones from baked chicken, garlic, onion, celery, carrots, water, ginger, fennel and boil for 1-2 hours. Cool in fridge overnight)

Place Mushrooms, leeks, and fennel into hot oil on med to med high heat until softened.

Add garlic and rice and stir to moisten rice. Cook for 3 minutes. Add white wine, cook and stir until it evaporates. Add chicken broth ½ C at a time and stir rice. Continue to add broth until rice is cooked about 15-20 min. When the rice is no longer toothsome or chewy and is plump and moist add cream and Parmesan cheese. Top with a splash of truffle oil and chopped herbs like parsley from the garden. Serve immediately. Serves 4

Enjoy!

 Teaching Preschool and Making Pumpkin Cake 

Also feel free to post comments for ask questions below. Follow me and share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2017 in Foodie, Mothers, Risotto, Uncategorized, Valentines Day

 

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A Foodie’s best place to Shop and Beef Bourguignone


It’s Fall here in Northern California. The weather is changing from warm sunny days to windy and sometimes cool and rainy days. Yesterday it was on the cooler side, but still nice enough to go on a day trip. I drove to Oakland which is about 25 minutes from my home in Walnut Creek California. I took a tour of Rockridge Market Hall on College Avenue. This venue is fun for any food lover, especially me. I walked from the Coffee bar with my 2 shot espresso and steamed milk over to the bakery to scan the goods. I’m usually a Peet’s kind of girl, but this will have to do.



This place was bustling with activity from the vendors scooping fresh hot baked chicken from the ovens, to the customers selecting which salad or side dish they wanted to buy. This place is like Heaven on earth to me. They have everything from the best cheese varieties in the world to special organic olive oils like Bondolio https://www.bondolio.com/ made in Winters California. (Bondolio gives tours and tastings on Sunday’s in December and if you have 10 people, I learned they will fire up the pizza oven on site.)


I was impressed by the knowledgeable staff like Wendy who took me for a tour of the marketplace. She introduced me to jars of honey from all over the world. There was one called “Miele” that was made in Tuscany and it was most beautiful and feminine painting of dainty flowers on the jar. I can only imagine how sweet and lovely it tastes. “Alemany of Spain” had an orange blossom honey made with orange peel that would be delicious in a cup of herbal tea, and a thyme honey that is wonderful in marinades. They had other varietals from New Zealand and even a special one grown in the USA in Savannah Georgia called “Verdant Kitchen” that was infused with ginger and bottled like a maple syrup with fancy packaging.


The Pasta Shop displayed the most beautiful cheeses like the pasteurized Taleggio from Italy, a speckled blue Stilton from England and not to be forgotten the Bay Blue variety from Pt. Reyes Farmstead in California which I have visited and so many more.  I drooled over the perfectly half wrapped perfect sized baguette with aged cheddar melted inside. It tasted even better after the bakery slid it in the oven for a few minutes for me. I got excited when I saw the roasted hazelnuts and marcona almonds that were screaming to be purchased and served with a slab of Tomme de Gascogne from France. This cheese was semi soft and would spread easily on a crispy sesame seed cracker.

The Market Hall also sells canned Octopus in olive oil, stuffed calamari, canned sardines and mackerel fillets packed in wine and mild spices. They recommend serving these delicacies in a sandwich, in pasta, in mashed potatoes, or over tomato and saffron rice.  I also spotted smoked salmon in a jar or can from Alaska. There were Italian anchovies packed in salt and spicy peppers or paste which would work well to flavor stews and sauces and give them an umami flavor.

The store was adorned in cookbooks galore. I fingered through Nick Haddow’s “Milk Made” a book about cheese. It has 71 recipes and is written about how to choose your cheese, serve it and eat it for the best dinner parties. Great gift set ideas for whoever hosts your Thanksgiving feast this year including “Jamnation” damn good jam, the very popular Leonardi’s Balsamico, or why not bring a beautifully purple checkered wrapped Fig and Chocolate Panettone. I wanted one of everything, no kidding.


I did break down and buy a bar of Oakland’s own Barlovento’s Dark Chocolate studded with dried cherries and ate half of it before the end of the day. In my mind this is the best end of meal kind of treat. It melted in my mouth and provided the best tart little bite after chewing the biggest dried cherry I’ve ever seen in my life. I call myself a pastry chef, but I am truly a candy maker loving what chocolate does with caramel, orange flavors and liqueurs.

Which brings me to finish off the visit by taking in the meat market and fish market and watching the chef grill whole trout and then top with an olive and pepper gremolata. It looked like the perfect dinner to serve to my husband who would be looking for something like this at the end of his long hard day. I purchased a package of oxtails that would become a hearty meal for my family this week. Of course they were selling huge turkeys that are ready to be brined and baked, but I am still waiting for my second fridge to be fixed so that will have to wait. A dehydrated bone for my doggie Baxter was my last expense, making sure he would be happy to see me come home from my adventure.

Market Hall had so many other areas of interest like the wine section, the fresh flower stand, and the dried pasta section. In the pasta area, I browsed some I had never heard of like Rustichella d’Abruzzo’s Torchio, Orecchiette, Rigatoncini, and refrigerated pastas.  Chestnut flour was new and interesting. I had to ask what a chef might use that for. Wendy wasn’t sure exactly, but guessed one could make a pasta or special bread with it. And if you are wondering if they sell fresh home-made soup, well then you won’t be disappointed. I discovered clam chowder, vegetable beef, chicken noodle, and many more made daily. How does one decide? This place was phenomenal. I thought I was in the best culinary dream of my life.

I haven’t even spoken of the bakery counter which holds fresh pizzas, focaccia’s, the most desired loafs of bread like Multigrain Batard, Levain, Whole Grain Sourdough, Sicilian Green Olive and Cranberry Walnut, just to name a few. I wanted one of everything. My family LOVES hot bread. Doesn’t everyone?


Let me just say that I will be back to Market Hall in Oakland, California. Not only to deliver Wendy a jar of my very own home made apricot jam that I make every June. I go to Wolfe Ranch’s in Brentwood http://www.peterwolfe.com/ and buy their very ripe and juicy apricots found only an hour from Walnut Creek. Here’s a link to my older blog with the recipe http://letsmakemudpies.blogspot.com/2014/07/blenheim-apricot-preserves-make-summer.html.

This marketplace is a fun excursion to take your mom or best friend to. I only wish I lived closer so that I could walk there and find the best breakfast pastry, specialty coffee, lunch and dinner all in one trip. You must go. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: http://www.rockridgemarkethall.com/

Here is a recipe for a nice hearty meal on a cold autumn day.


Teri’s Beouf a la Bourguignonne 

3 1lbs. Chuck Beef cut into 2×1 ½ in pieces removing fat

1 ½ C Red Wine (I prefer Cabernet Sauvignon)

2 C Chicken broth ( boil bones for 1 hr w garlic, onion, carrot, celery, lemon after baking chicken and then remove meat from bones. Save chicken meat for another meal)

1 C. tomato puree

1 shallot minced

3 cloves garlic sliced

4 T bacon fat (I save the fat after baking bacon on trays and keep in fridge in a sealed jar)

4 T Unsalted Butter

4 T flour combined w 1 t Kosher salt and ½ t ground pepper

4 sprigs of parsley from garden chopped fine

3 sprigs of fresh thyme from garden. Remove leaves and discard stem

1 C. Beef bouillon or beef stock

1 C pearl onions (Buy in frozen vegie section in store)

1 ½ C quartered fresh button mushrooms

1/4 cup cherry preserves

2 T Brandy

1 T Worcestershire

1 T Mushroom Soy Sauce

1 C fresh or frozen peas

6 med white or red potatoes left whole

 

Directions:

Marinate beef in red wine for a few hours or overnight if possible. Remove beef onto a dry towel or paper towel and dry. Put flour salt and pepper mixture into a large bowl and add the pieces of beef. Coat on all sides and fry in small batches in a Le Creuset or heavy pan in butter and bacon fat. As they are brown, turn occasionally to brown on all sides. Remove and place onto a sheet pan lined w foil. When all are brown, place sheet pan in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile sauté mushrooms in butter and bacon fat. Add frozen pearl onions and add wine that meat was marinating in and cook down adding a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Cut up carrots in chunks, put on a sheet pan w olive oil salt and pepper and roast for 15 min.

After baking for 15 min, add beef into mushroom and onion mixture. Add shallots, garlic, tomato puree, chicken broth, beef broth, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, Worcestershire, mushroom soy sauce, cherry preserves, any leftover red wine and roasted carrots. Cook on med high heat on stove until boiling, then transfer to oven making sure to cover lid w foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 ½ hrs. Then add fresh peas and bake uncovered another 30 min.

Peel 6 white potatoes and boil on med high heat covered in H20 for 30 min until soft.

When serving, place 2 potatoes in a bowl. Add beef stew to cover potatoes.

Serves 6-8

Enjoy!

Teri

 

Revised recipe originally found in James Beard’s American Cookery. Also used ideas found on Julia Child’s recipe.

Recipes may not be republished without prior consent.

 

 

 

 

 
7 Comments

Posted by on November 19, 2016 in Autumn, Beef Stew, Foodie, Uncategorized

 

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