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Get a Taste of the Arts During Covid and a French Macaron Recipe

Get a Taste of the Arts During Covid and a French Macaron Recipe

It’s been almost a year since my neighbor Caroline came over to teach me how to make French Macarons. Caroline is a student and dancer at Loyola Marymount University in Southern California. She is quite an artsy person and I love her parents. She was on her summer break when she and I met to have baking lessons in my kitchen. I taught her how to make apricot jam and in return she taught me how to make macarons.

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Here’s Caroline showing off her macaron’s on the sil pat

I feel badly for all the college kids that have to return home because of Covid 19. It’s such a bummer how our lives have changed since March 2020 when California went on lock down. My kids have since graduated and moved on, but I can’t imagine how hard it is to not get the “college experience” of being on campus with your friends.

I have also been affected by this virus. I’m not allowed to visit my 83 year old father who lives in a skilled nursing facility in Yountville. He has COPD a lung disorder, diabetes and many other preexisting conditions that would make him vulnerable if he got the virus. I fell badly that he is alone without his family. We can drop off goodies and they will bring them to him. We can Face Time him and talk on the phone, but it isn’t the same as a personal visit. He has a good attitude about it all and is hanging in there.

 I haven’t been able to have outings with my mother who is also immunocompromised. We can talk over the phone also and visit at a distance from her front porch, but it is difficult. She has her husband Tom to keep her company and they are very happy.

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Me and my mom on her wedding day 7 years ago

We haven’t had any large family gatherings and that is unusual for us. We have seen our son’s who live nearby and neighbors when we walk in the evenings, but that’s about it. We are only going out for groceries and essentials to keep our exposure to a minimum.

A few of our family members have enjoyed a dinner or two at a distance in our backyard, but even that makes us a little uncomfortable.

Before the Corona Virus, I would go to my gym and exercise and write my blog. It was my happy place, but I’ve decided not to rejoin and find ways to exercise on my own. I’ve missed my hiking on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings with my friends. I can hike, but prefer to go with only one other person, usually my husband.

 I’ve spent my days keeping abreast of the news (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Late night shows, You Tube, the SF Chronicle) and talking to friends. I listen to podcasts like Macrovoices.com, The Sourdough Podcast, Rise Up, Unlocking Us By Brene Brown, Oprah Super Soul Conversations, The Southern Fork, and Hidden Brain. I have two books I’m listening to on Audible. I’m definitely informed and up to date on the latest shenanigans of President Trump. I’ve even started reading “Why Are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria,” by Beverly Daniel Tatum PhD.  Our family started a book club to raise awareness about racism since George Floyd’s outrageous death by a police officer. And don’t forget Netflix.

 

I’ve spent most of my days gardening and growing vegetables in five raised planting beds. This is the first time I grew most of the plants from seed. It has been fun picking zucchini, tomatoes, beans, peas, peppers, and cucumbers. The pumpkins are cute and getting bigger and more orange every day. 

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ravioli’s made with semolina flour, parsley, Parmesan ricotta and spinach

 I’ve been making pasta from scratch, finding ways to fill raviolis and lasagna and serve them to my husband. I’ve learned how to make sourdough bread and brioche with my own sour dough starter, experimenting with rye, buckwheat, kamut, quinoa, beans, and millet. I learned how to make a starter with cherry pits and also one with organic red grapes. I now know how to properly score the loaves by following lots of bakers on Instagram and You Tube. It is so much fun and tasty too.

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Brioche rolls sprinkled with sesame seeds and poppy seeds

I’m cooking more since my husband is working from home. I had to cancel my cleaning people since I didn’t want to bring the virus into my home. Now I’m cleaning more than I ever have, even the dusty floor under the bed yesterday. Yuck!

One of my latest endeavors, was growing poppies. Fancy ones. I grew varieties like “Fruit Punch” Papaver, a raspberry Breadseed papaver somniferum, “CupCake”, “Swansdown” and a Papaver Atlanticum called “Flore Pleno”. I’ve let the pods dry and carefully collected the seeds so I can grow them again next year. They are beautiful and extra special additions to my garden.

Dahlia’s were my latest obsession last year and I bought more tubers a few months ago from the Dahlia Society. The first one has bloomed and I’m quite excited. 

 I dusted off the sewing machine too and started making masks for the family. I was hoping to try a new pattern today, but got involved in writing my blog instead. There is always tomorrow to start sewing more masks.

 So after almost one year, I’ve finally posted the recipe of these amazing macarons. I hope you will try them too. I don’t have the filling recipes up here yet, but I hope to get to that by next week. Thank you Caroline for the great recipe and the fun time.

 Thanks for stopping by my blog. I’m grateful for my family and friends who follow me and read my posts. Hoping all of you stay safe and healthy and we can get back to our happy places whether it be a college campus or the gym. 

Hope I’ve inspired you to try something new in your kitchen or garden. Make ART.

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 French Macarons

 

 

Ingredients:

150g Confectioners Sugar

150g Almond Flour

150g Granulated Sugar

150g Egg Whites

38g water (for sugar syrup)

55g liquefied Egg Whites (Eggs that have been in the fridge for a week outside of shell  (for sugar syrup)

1.5 teaspoon Vanilla or whatever flavoring you like

Candy thermometer

Pastry bag and medium size plain tip

Sheet pans

Parchment Paper or Silicone mats

Directions:

Using a Cuisinart Food Processor, combine Almond Flour and Confectioners Sugar pulsing until combined. If you don’t have a food processor you may sift almond flour and sugar together a few times until there are no more lumps in the mixture.

In a separate large clean bowl, pour 55g of egg whites to the flour and sugar mixture and stir with a spatula until it forms a paste. Set aside after covering with plastic wrap.

Sugar syrup:

Put the 38 grams of water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan on medium heat. Use a pastry brush to keep the sides of the pot clean by brushing the sides with a small amount of water. Bring to a boil and cook syrup until 116C/ or 240 degrees F using a candy thermometer.

Start mixing the egg whites in a clean bowl of a mixer with a whip attachment when sugar syrup is almost ready at 115C or 235degrees F. Simultaneously, whip eggs on medium high until the eggs are frothy. Pour sugar syrup in the mixer slowly incorporating the sugar into the eggs. Keep mixing until the meringue is white and fluffy and can hold a stiff peak about 6 minutes. Add the vanilla and any food coloring you might like. Continue to whip meringue for another 4 to 5 minutes until it has cooled to 50C and is thick and glossy.

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Meringue ready to mix into almond flour and confectioners sugar for our macarons

Mix a scoop of the meringue and fold into the almond flour/confectioners mixture. Little by little being careful not to deflate the egg whites, folding together with a large wire whisk or spatula. Keep folding meringue into dry ingredients until it gets to the ribbon stage where the batter falls off the whisk into the bowl like a ribbon. 

Scoop the batter into the pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip. You will have to fill it a few times.

Get out a flat sheet pan.Place the parchment paper on top. Draw small 3cm to 3.5cm circles (1 inch diameter) onto your parchment paper about 2-3 cm apart with a pencil or use a sil pat silicone baking mat. Place a tiny amount of batter onto the sheet pan on the corners under the parchment paper to keep the paper from moving while baking. Tap the tray onto your counter to get out any tiny air bubbles. Leave tray stand on the counter for at least 30 to 60 minutes to harden the shells and form a skin on the cookie.

Preheat oven to 160C or 320 degrees F. Bake macarons for 12 minutes in the center of the oven one tray at a time, turning the sheet pan around half way during the bake. Cool completely.

Finish the macarons by filling with your favorite curd, chocolate ganache, or Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting or Italian Buttercream.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

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Passion fruit Macarons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday Fun Day with Good Friends Wine Tasting in the Shenandoah Valley

Sunday Fun Day with Good Friends Wine Tasting in the Shenandoah Valley

   It’s Tuesday. These days I rarely know which day it is. My husband and I spent last weekend in Eldorado Hills and Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley with our friends the Cowies and Castiglione’s.  It was refreshing to have social time again especially with some of my favorite people. It was nice to introduce good friends to our other good friends who happen to live in the same town. In today’s blog I will reflect on our weekend away and tell you what I’ve been up to lately.

 

The last four months have been interesting. Every day, I wake up, check on the latest news, water my vegetable garden, check email, have my coffee and a bit of breakfast, and do whatever chores are needed to get done. I’m not currently working, but I have worked harder in the past four months than I ever have. It seems there is always more laundry, more cleaning,  flour to mill and bread to bake, fresh pasta to make, pies to bake, or a new cookie or Rice Krispie treat recipe to try. 

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Two of the masks I made for friends to protect themselves from Covid19

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Covid masks made for the little people in my life

I’ve also made a dozen or more masks for family members, using up material I have had for years. It is rewarding to up cycle many fabrics that I’ve saved, knowing I could find a way to use them eventually.

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My strawberry plant blossoms. Just one of the many plants I am growing in my victory garden

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Just a few of my baby seedlings poking up through the soil

I’ve started an enormous vegetable garden, growing many varieties mostly from seed months ago. Not knowing whether we would have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, because of Covid 19, I decided to grow a victory garden. I’ve had edible gardens in the past, but never like this one. It is rewarding  checking on the size and color of the tomatoes and picking them off the vine when ripe. Many of them don’t make it into the bowl, but get popped right into my mouth. So tasty.

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Many varieties of flowers from my March garden in Walnut Creek. Photos taken by a friend Linda Kwong

So when our friends Elaine and Craig Cowie invited us to their new home in Eldorado Hills, we jumped at the idea. They have postponed the visit at least three times, because the Bay Area has been on lock down. My husband and I have been good about not going out unless we wear a mask, and we social distance if we see one of our friends or family. We felt safe about going North since there aren’t as many cases of Covid there. The population is less, and it’s not as crowded there.

 

We have known the Cowies for over 30 years. We met them after moving to our second house in Concord California. They lived directly across the street, so we had many dinner parties with them.  Also included into the mix were the Faulkenberry’s.  The Cowies and Faulkenberry’s  have been friends since college at Chico State. Our son Curtis took Taekwondo classes from Ray Faulkenberry when Curtis was in elementary school and we’ve loved them ever since.

 

Every year, the three families  have stayed connected taking turns having dinner together, even after we moved to Walnut Creek. We’ve had great times together watching our kids grow up, attending weddings and sharing meals over the years. We were happy to finally meet again, this time at the Cowies new home in El Dorado Hills. They moved there in February, after selling their home in Concord, to live closer to their daughter Leslie, son in law Kyle and two precious grand kids.

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Two couples enjoying the day at Iron Hub Winery and Vineyard.

Leaving the chores, the garden and kitty cat behind, Ken and I happily drove North and were graciously greeted by Elaine and Craig when we arrived. We unpacked the car with all the goodies and clothes and enjoyed the tour of their new home. I was excited to learn their floor plan was similar to our other friends the Castiglione’s, our friends from our current Walnut Creek neighborhood who have also recently relocated to  Eldorado Hills. Kayla and I have been in the same book club for over 20 years. I was happy to set up a day for the two couples to meet. We decided to get the six of us together on Sunday while wine tasting. Unfortunately, the Faulkenberry’s couldn’t stay overnight and join us having to get home to their puppies and cats.

 

We relaxed by the pool on Saturday while snacking on chips and mango salsa, fresh fruit skewers and pinot grigio. When the Faulkenberry’s showed up, I visited with their daughter Meg, who is a writer and social media expert. She wrote a book called Summer Rain. She had all kinds of great tips about how I should use Twitter to share my blog and many more new websites to check out like Blue Host, Hootsuite Wattpad, Booksie, 750words.com, Quotev.com and who to follow on Tik Tok. She should be teaching classes on these social media tools.

The weather was warm and yet there was a nice breeze which kept us cool. Elaine and Craig made fish tacos for dinner which we gobbled down and I made two apricot dishes for dessert. The first dessert was an apricot pie. I picked these ripe and juicy Patterson apricots from a farm in Tracy a couple of weeks ago. I also made two gluten free apricot turnovers with Teff flour and Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour. These were special. I had heard about the Teff flour from The Sourdough Podcast, so when I stumbled across it at Lunardi’s Grocery Store I quickly swept it into my cart. I had a little sticker shock when I got to the register. It was over $7.00 for a small bag, but was worth the price. It is high in fiber, high in protein, has more calcium than any other grain and is the only ancient grain containing Vitamin C. Teff flour has a subtle hazelnut earthy taste, is cultivated in Eastern Africa and is found in Ethiopian flatbread called injera. I enjoyed these hand pies more than the apricot pie made with all purpose flour.

 

After the Faulkenberry’s left Saturday night, we got on our “jammies ” or pajamas and watched a couple of episodes of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix. Ken and I had never seen it before, so it was nice to find a new funny night time splurge. I haven’t laughed that hard in years. It was so fun. 

 

Before bed I assembled my Overnight Baked French Toast recipe and placed it in the fridge. I make it with two loaves of cinnamon bread,  cut it into thick slices and pour a custard over the top to soak overnight. In the morning, you spread on a brown sugar,  butter and maple syrup mixture on top of the soaked bread and bake in the oven for one hour. I made a fresh blueberry sauce ahead of time, before we left for our trip.  I served the sauce along with maple syrup on the baked French Toast. I was introduced to this recipe from my friend Carolyn Regan. She made it when we went on a St Mary’s religious retreat in Guerneville many years ago. It is the perfect breakfast served with Italian sausage or bacon.

 

Sunday morning, Ken finished off preparing the breakfast and baked the French Toast while I stayed in bed a little longer. Most people know I love to sleep. At 9 AM, we ate breakfast and got ready to drive to the wineries. My husband Ken drove since he doesn’t drink. It was a gorgeous day and it was nice to drive through the countryside.

 

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Ken and I outside at Iron Hub Winery

Our first stop was Iron Hub Winery and Vineyard. The views here were simply spectacular. They only charge $10.00 for a tasting and if you buy a bottle of wine, they give you a tasting for free. The pours were tiny, but we tried two whites and four reds. There was hardly anyone there with the exception of one other family of three tasting at the end of the outside bar.

We had an appointment at Cooper Vineyards at 12:15 and met up with our friends Kayla and John Castiglione. The six of us sat outside in a shaded patio where we shared stories and drank more delicious wine. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of all of us this time. We will have to go back again the six of us.  The Cowies are members there, so our wine tastings were free. That’s a bonus. The 2017 Barbera Riserva was the group favorite and the server generously gave us another pour.

The last place we ventured into was Jeff Runquist Winery where John and Kayla were members. We enjoyed the beautiful and welcoming tasting room, especially the fresh wild flowers of black eyed Susan, clarkia, yarrow, daisies and queen Anne’s lace in vases in every corner. We tried their Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc,  Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Barbera, and Petit Verdot. At the end of the tasting, we said goodbye to John and Kayla and sat outside for a quick picnic before driving back to El Dorado Hills. It was lovely and the perfect day with friends. It was nice to see John and Kayla exchange numbers with Elaine and Craig. Especially since they are practically neighbors, living less than 10 minutes from one another.

 

We had hoped to check out the Amador Flower Farm in Plymouth, but it was getting late and we still had to drive back to the Bay Area. The weekend couldn’t have gone any better. We thanked Elaine and Craig for the generous hospitality and good food, packed up our things, cleaned and changed the sheets and were off. Our drive home was uneventful and I had plenty of time to get home and water the garden before dark. It’s nice to know our friends won’t be lonely since they now have a new couple (The Castiglione’s) to play golf with or have dinner with.

Today, I’m back to my cleaning, cooking, gardening, baking and writing. It’s good to be home, back to my meowing kitty and small homestead. I’m grateful for friends, their generosity and love. We have so much to be grateful for, even during a pandemic.

Stay healthy. Thanks for reading and following my blog. I promise to add a recipe next time I write.

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One last photo to bless you with. This photo was taken at Ben Runquist Winery’s tasting room

 

 

 

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Things To Do During Covid19 Crisis and a Chef’s Salad Recipe

Things To Do During Covid19 Crisis and a Chef’s Salad Recipe

Sitting here in my backyard watching my husband take a quick break to have lunch with me is a new reality. It’s nice to have a lunch buddy even if only for a short time. We have been in lock down for 6 or 7 weeks now since the Covid 19 breakout. My husband has been working from home in the spare bedroom taking conference calls from early in the morning until at least 5 or 6 Pm every weekday. I’m sure he has gained a bit of weight since I’m making him healthy lunches and dinners daily. We’ve only ordered out a few times: Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chipotle and Round Table Pizza were the few restaurants we chose to indulge in. 

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My husband Ken and our Kitty while working from home

Normally I would write my blog at the club I belong to so I can focus and not be interrupted. But that luxury has been taken away since the quarantine. Instead I get to look at my beautiful garden, the squirrels that munch on the  birdseed and the scrub jay that snacks on the peanuts I provide. They are constant company and happy little friends who are grateful for my presence and heavy hand with the snacks.

 

The days begin and end in much the same way as before, except I read and watch more news to keep informed on the latest on the virus. I haven’t worn make up much or gotten dressed up since we aren’t going anywhere. I really should do something about that.  We’ve been social distancing by staying home, not entertaining and only going out for walks or bike rides, and an occasional trip to the market. 

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Side view of back yard currently.

I have been spending time weeding, planting seeds and playing tug of war with the gophers. They made their way into my backyard raised bed a few weeks ago and my husband and I had to dig everything up, transplant all of my vegetables into temporary buckets, containers and my front raised bed. As soon as we accomplished this enormous task, the f@%^&*$king gophers got into my front yard raised bed! Now I’m hurrying to save those plants until the bed can be gopher proofed. It’s a huge chore and not easy, but I’ve been making the best of it.

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Raised garden bed in back that has had to be replanted because of gopher damage.

This year I’m growing lettuce, kale, collards, spinach, sweet peas, green beans, parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, onions, tomatoes, Swiss chard, rainbow chard, cucumber, pumpkins and squash. I love walking into my garden and  gathering fresh greens to make salads with.

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Lettuce and kale picked fresh from our home garden

Today I made a chef’s salad with leftover ham from Easter. My husband loves ranch dressing, so I made a fresh batch of that to dress our salad. Here’s the recipe in case you want to have a yummy healthy salad.

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Chefs Salad for two with fresh greens and herbs from the garden

Teri’s Chef’s Salad

 

Ingredients:

¾ head of Lettuce washed then torn to pieces

¼ C fresh organic Kale washed and sliced thin

2 pieces of bacon cooked crispy

2 hard boiled eggs

1 whole tomato seeded and cut up into bite sized pieces

2 slices of cheddar cheese cut into small chunks

2 slices of Monterey Jack cheese cut into small chunks

1 green onion sliced thin

1 T fresh Italian parsley chopped finely

Avocado (If you have one. We didn’t)

 

¼ C sour cream

¼ C mayonnaise

3 T Milk

1 T Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix

 

Instructions:

In a large bowl, tear washed lettuce into bite size pieces. Add thinly sliced washed kale. Add chopped parsley and green onion. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix sour cream, mayonnaise, milk and ranch dip mix. 

Pour dressing into the sides of the bowl around lettuce. Toss with your hands and divide between two pasta size bowls. Add ham, cheeses, sliced avocado, hard boiled eggs cut in half and seasoned with salt and pepper, tomato and a touch more salt and pepper.  Serve immediately. 

I’ve also started sewing again. It seems masks are essential and short of supply, so yesterday I took to making them myself. Here’s the pattern I found on YouTube. My first attempt didn’t turn out all that great since I misjudged the pattern and they came out way too small. It’s okay because I was able to share them with a family that has little ones. My girlfriend Marie is using this pattern

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Pediatric size masks hand made with love for some little ones

I will adapt the pattern and make it larger so these masks will fit adults.

Earth day was three days ago. Late to acknowledge but wanted to give a link to a recent post about cannabis when in Santa Cruz last year.

As you can see I’m keeping busy sewing, gardening and cooking for the ones I love. I’m in total awe of the nurses, doctors and first responders that are sacrificing their own lives to help the sick. I’m grateful for all the I have including my good health and hope everyone stays well.

Thank you for reading my blog and follow me if you aren’t already. Especially grateful for my WordPress family of readers and writers. What have you been doing while staying home? Would love to hear in the comment section below. Stay safe everyone.

 

 

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Health Scare and How I learned about the Covid19 Pandemic and a Multigrain Bread Recipe

Health Scare and How I learned about the Covid19 Pandemic and a Multigrain Bread Recipe

Today is the day. Today is the day I break my silence. I haven’t written for a few months. It’s been one thing after another that has gotten in the way of my writing. Let me explain. 

 

In mid December, my husband became ill with kidney stones and life changed. I spent sleepless nights worrying about him, driving him to ER rooms for xrays, pain medications,and fluids. Then they scheduled a surgery the same day to put in stents in his kidneys which led to his bladder shutting down the next day and another trip to the ER, this time in Oakland. The doctor immediately gave him a catheter which relieved the pressure from the blockage.

 

He needed a lithotripsy appointment which would blast the stone into smaller pieces so he could pass them. But that appointment couldn’t be scheduled because the office that does the procedure wasn’t open for two weeks during the Christmas holiday. My poor husband didn’t attend any holiday parties because he was embarrassed about having a catheter. You can’t blame him, but it made Christmas extra sad. Eventually after 5 days Ken removed the catheter himself after watching a YouTube video and from directions from his urologist. Ken could sleep better and had less pain after the catheter was removed.

 

More CT scans and a trip to Antioch Kaiser on a Sunday to get a sonogram on his kidney. This was our new life. Many phone appointments with his medical doctor, urologists but not his surgeon because he was off for the holiday break. Let me just say, don’t get sick during the holidays.

 

Finally, the Friday after the new year, the lithotripsy appointment was scheduled for January 8th at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland which is one of the few hospitals that provide this procedure in California. Later they got him an appointment sooner on January 7th since Ken had plans to travel for work in late January and we were begging his doctors.

 

A week later, Ken passed the stones at work while I was in Disneyland at a pre-planned trip with the family. A week or so later, he went back into the urologist to have the stents removed after more xrays to make sure the stones were passed. 

 

Let’s just say I have taken a new appreciation to having good health. We’ve always eaten well as I usually cook every night. Ken has had a family history with kidney problems and has had them in the past. We weren’t unfamiliar with this illness, but we never thought we would have to go through this.

 

As I said earlier, Ken had to travel to Texas in late January and was gone for most of February with the exception of two weekend visits. During this time, I spent a lot of time on Twitter following what was happening in Wuhan China. People were dying from the Covid 19 Global Pandemic in masses. Crematories were working 24/7 according to some. 

 

Around this same time, I found Macrovoices.com podcast on Twitter and began listening to Erik Townsend who would interview people about finance and macroeconomics. Listen to the January 30th, 962 Hot Topic #6: Covid Pandemic Update episode with Chris Martenson PHD from Peak Prosperity.com.

 

I learned about the asymptomatic transmission about people that can shed the virus without being detected which makes it hard to contain.These people test positive for the disease, but have no symptoms.

 

In any case, in the past few months I have been shopping and preparing for the worst. I bought a huge bag of flour (which is the way I usually buy flour), lots of eggs, extra milk, extra sugar, etc… I even bought dry milk, and dry eggs in case we can’t get these commodities.

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My seedlings getting thinned out and transplanted into larger cell packs. I’m growing tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkins, squash, beans, sweet peas, shallots, garlic, onions, and more

I’ve also spent hours and hours planting seeds for my vegetable garden knowing we could have a food shortage in the future. I listened to John Barry on Peakprosperity.com who wrote the book Author of “The Great Influenza.” He also writes a survival blog and that has inspired me to get prepared for the worst.

 

I bought a generator in case we lose our electricity so we can charge our cell phones and keep our food cold. I’ve been making bread to feed my family since it is something that I can do to keep my family healthy. I use bread flour, whole wheat flour, spelt, flax meal, rye flour, oats and sunflower seeds to make a loaf of bread and will share the recipe later.

 

The new normal is we are on lockdown here in the East Bay Area of California and we don’t know how long it will last. We don’t have a vaccination yet, and we do not have immunity to this disease. We don’t have pharmaceuticals that are effective in treatment. We are told to wear masks if we are out in public and to wash our hands often. Most restaurants and stores are closed. Only essential businesses are open like grocery stores and hardware stores. Most people are working from home and schools are closed. 

 

I have been scared that my parents will get sick since they are older and have compromised immune systems. My father lives in a skilled nursing facility which is at risk since these diseases spread easily there. We haven’t been able to visit him recently, but we can call him to check in.

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Here I am with my dad when I last saw him on Jan 18th.

 

My mother’s immune system has been compromised for 6 years because she was diagnosed with a rare blood disease. It’s scary for all of us since if my parents do get the Covid 19, we won’t be able to be with them at the hospital and they could die alone. 

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Here I am with my Mom in front of my favorite tulip tree in our yard. Photo taken several years ago.

So today is the day I’ve decided to speak out about my life these last few months. I’m grateful my husband is better and my kids are healthy.  I hope all of you stay safe. 

Here is my Multigrain Bread recipe for you. This recipe makes 2 loaves.

Multigrain Bread

Ingredients:

½ C Rolled Oats plus more for top of loaves

1 ⅓ C Cooked Wheat Berries

½ C Flax Meal

1 C Soaked Bulgar Wheat

2 ¾ C Whole Wheat Flour

2 ½ C Bread Flour or All Purpose Flour

1 C Rye Flour

2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt

 

2 pkg Active Dry Yeast

½ C warm water

2 teas honey

 

6 T Softened Butter

1 ¼ C plus 2 T Warm Water

3 T Honey

1 T Molasses

½ C Guinness Beer or beer of your choice room temperature

1 Egg white plus 1 teas water mixed to brush on loaves before baking

⅓ C Sunflower Seeds plus more for top of loaves

 

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Crumb of my multigrain loaf perfect with butter and apricot jam.

Instructions:

Measure out all dry ingredients (Oats, flax meal, whole wheat flour, Bread flour, Rye flour, and Kosher Salt) into an extra large mixing bowl. Set aside.

 

Cook Wheat berries as directed on package. Cool.

 

Soak Bulgar wheat in 1 Cup warm water (drain)

 

Mix ½ C warm water (NOT hot) with honey and 2 packages of Active Dry Yeast and mix until dissolved. Will get bubbly.

 

In a large measuring cup, measure out 1 ½ warm water, honey, and beer together.

 

Add cooked wheat berries, soaked Bulgar and yeast mixture to a large bowl with dry ingredients. Can use a large stand mixer with dough hook instead.

 

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients slowly adding softened butter in as well.Add sunflower seeds and knead or process on mixer for a few minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes. 

Continue to mix or knead for an additional 10 minutes adding extra All Purpose Flour if dough is too sticky.

Place dough into a large buttered bowl covered in plastic wrap and let rest for 1 ½ hours in a warm place. 

Cut dough in half, roll into two rectangles, then fold over and place into two buttered loaf pans.

 

Brush with egg white and water. Sprinkle oats and sunflower seeds on top of loaves.

 

Let rise again for 1 hour.

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake loaves in center of the oven for 45 minutes to one hour or until golden brown. 

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Multigrain Loaf

Serve warm with butter and apricot jam.

Enjoy!

 

 

Thanks for reading my blog. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or have something to share. 

 

 

 

 

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Family plus Wine, a Surplus of Stone Fruit and Apple Crumb Pie Recipe

Family plus Wine, a Surplus of Stone Fruit and Apple Crumb Pie Recipe

Being a writer has its challenges, especially for someone like me. Just finding the time to sit and write is tough, since I’d rather be out and about drinking wine and eating apple pie with family and friends. So you can imagine that I am behind on my blogging. Insert open mouth emoji here. But for today, I will cut myself some slack and reflect on my birthday lunch with my niece Marie at Wente Vineyards from last July. 

#MAKETIME with your family. Especially your niece

Me and my niece Marie in the new wine bar at Wente Family Estates

Not only am I behind on writing, but I’m behind on my quilting.  Baby Luna our newest great niece, is already 3 months old and I’ve barely begun piecing material together. Luckily, it has been hot and babies don’t need too many quilts this time of year.

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Congratulations Ben and Hajara! Baby Luna is precious

I’ve also needed to spend time in my garden clearing out dead plants. We had huge sprinkler problems when we were away in July and lost quite a bit of our annuals and perennials. In addition to that, many of my 20 tomato plants that I planted in March are in need of harvesting. I try to pick them biweekly at least, and then of course you have to cook with them, preserve them in jars, or freeze them before they go bad.

And lately we have been quite the entertainers, having guests over for dinner multiple nights of the week. Made ricotta and spinach ravioilis inspired by our Tuscany trip. It’s never boring at the Smyth house that’s for sure. 

 

Also there’s the huge crates of European plums that Andy from Andy’s Orchard gave me a week ago to make jam with. I have Reine des Mirabelles and Green Gage (Reine Claude) which are tricky to make jam with. (Another blog to write!) Yesterday, our friends The Roth’s blessed us with a huge box of Gravenstein apples which I can’t wait to process into sauce, pies and cakes. It’s exciting to think of all the goodies that should be coming out of my kitchen right now. It’s just that all these activities take time and energy and I don’t have a live in sous chef these days. My husband would rather be watching soccer games in his free time.

 

And then there’s training for walking The Camino de Santiago in Spain which I need to be in shape for in October. How can a girl choose which activity to get involved with first? I’m super ecstatic right now because my girlfriend Sandra who wanted to meet in an hour, just cancelled and rescheduled for tomorrow. Yeah! More time to write and my husband won’t be home until after his soccer practice around 9:30PM. A bonus…

 

Back to the birthday lunch story. A few months ago, my sister’s daughter Marie invited me to have lunch with her where she works at the newly renovated Wente Winery Restaurant called “Vineyard Table” in Livermore. The veranda dining room is elegant and perfect for a lunch date in the country. Make sure you check the hours before driving there because the restaurant is closed on concert days. Yes! They have summer concerts and lots of wine tasting. 

 

If you’ve never been to Wente, it’s quite the Farm to Table experience serving only the best wines for a delicate palate. Marie and I met there for lunch at the Arroyo Road property and were brought Wente’s classic small lot Brut to celebrate the occasion. We were immediately put in the right mood to have a good time as we always do when we get together. She is so sweet and generous offering to take me to lunch at this spectacular oasis.

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My gorgeous niece Marie, Wente Brut and roasted olives with mozarella

I was excited to see the new menu and we started by ordering the roasted olives, my absolute favorite. Next came the Shrimp a la Plancha- caramelized onions, fresh tomatoes from the garden, chili sauce, shrimp scampi, green Goddess dressing with sourdough toast. We shared Diane’s Garden Bowl- Red quinoa, sunflower seeds and feta cheese atop a bed of fresh greens with a balsamic vinaigrette. We were stuffed, but somehow scarfed down the warm salted caramel laden plate, chocolate ganache tart in pastry, seasonal raspberries, and sliced strawberries with dulce whipped cream. This dessert is perfect way to end any meal. We would have ordered espresso, but Marie was on her lunch hour and needed to make some calls.

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#MAKETIME Amy Hoopes holding flowers from my garden and my niece Marie in the newly refurbished Veranda room at Vineyard Table Restaurant at Wente in Livermore.

It was a treat to be greeted by the President of Wente Family Estates Amy Hoopes who stopped by our table to let me know how valuable Marie was to their company. Sadly enough, Marie has since moved on to a better opportunity, but will always cherish her Wente family.

After our fabulous lunch, we had a tour of the whimsical half acre garden previously an old cabernet franc vineyard. For the past 20 years, Master Gardener Diane Dovholuk has been amending the soil and composting with kitchen scraps and green waste from Chef Josh’s restaurant just steps away. They were growing heirloom tomatoes, peppers, corn, zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers, hollyhocks, grapes of course and much more.

 

The highlight for me was getting a glimpse of the rattle snake that they were transferring to another part of the property in a huge Rubbermaid garbage can by way of a small truck. They found him in a corner of one of the wine cellars trying to stay cool. 

 

I’m fortunate to have Marie in my life. My niece loves food, beer and wine almost as much as I do, possibly more. And I’m not complaining about the precious stone fruit and apples that I’ve been gifted. Everyone has to manage their time and I need to be more patient with myself. We are already in mid September, the weather is changing and life goes on. Trip to Spain blog here.

 

Thanks for spending this time with me and reading my foodie stories. Wente’s hashtag is #MAKETIME. How more relevant to today’s post can you get? Follow my blog for more adventures in food, travel and recipes.

Here’s the write up on the day Marie and I had in Healdsburg California together.

Ohhh! And here is my recipe for Apple Crumb Pie!

Apple Crumb Pie

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As you can see, I wasn’t 100 percent accurate on removing the apple skins for my Apple Crumb Pie. I’m okay with that

1 Pastry Recipe. See recipe for pie crust in previous blog post. Make this first and set dough in fridge for half an hour to rest while you slice apples.

 

 Ingredients for apple pie:

5 Cups of Gravenstein or Granny Smith Apples peeled and sliced into acidulated lemon water

1 Lemon juiced into a large bowl of water big enough to hold sliced apples

 

1/2 C Granulated Sugar 

1 t  ground Cinnamon

1 t  ground Ginger

½ t Maldon Salt

1 T Tapioca Flour

1 T Apple Cider Vinegar

4 T Unsalted Butter (to dot on top of apples before crumb topping is put on.)

 

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My ready to pop into the oven Cinnamon Gravenstein Apple Crump Pie

 

Crumb Topping

 

½ C Granulated Sugar

¾ C All Purpose Flour

½ C Cold Unsalted Butter cut into chunks

¼ t Maldon Salt

½ C Whole Almonds

1 t ground Cinnamon

1 t ground Ginger (or Cardamon is nice too)

 

Instructions:

Peel,pare and slice apples into a large bowl of lemon water.

 

Make crumb topping next. I put all ingredients sugar, flour chunks of cold butter, salt, almonds, cinnamon and ginger in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is mixed well and butter is incorporated into dry ingredients. (You can use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into sugar and flour and spices if you don’t have a food processor.) Set aside.

 

For the apples:

In a separate small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, tapioca flour. 

 

When apples are sliced take out of lemon water and dry on a clean kitchen towel. Put in a large dry bowl and sprinkle with apple cider vinegar. Then pour dry ingredients into sliced apples and stir.

 

Have pastry shell crimped and ready to go before you add apples and sugar mixture. (I always sprinkle a little granulated sugar on the prepared pastry before adding fruit. It helps the crust from getting soggy.) Pour sugared apples into unbaked prepared pie crust.

 

Sprinkle crumb topping onto apples dotted with the extra 4 T unsalted butter. Butter always makes everything taste better.

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pie on a sheet pan in the center of the oven and bake for 45 min to an hour until apples look done and topping is a little brown. Cover with foil if the crust starts to brown too quickly. 

Yesterday I tried to hurry up the baking process by using the convection oven and turning temp down to 400 degrees. I think this just dries out the pie and it’s worth being late to the party and baking at normal 400 degree oven. Never rush a good thing.

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My half eaten Cinnamon Apple Crumb Pie

 

Serve alongside vanilla Ice cream of your choice. I like Kirkland brand sold at Costco. Caramel sauce can be a nice addition, especially during the Fall months.

 

Thanks again for reading my recipe. I’m grateful for the love and hope I’ve inspired you to bake something special.

 

 

Teri

 

 

 

  

 

 

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From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California and Ricotta Poppyseed Pancakes Recipe

From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California and Ricotta Poppyseed Pancakes Recipe
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Gorgeous grapes at Rubino in Livermore

 

Rounded up a friend last Wednesday to go wine tasting in Livermore. Maggie and I have talked about doing this for over a year and had it planned on the calendar for at least two months. She and I visited Steven Kent, Ruby Hill and Rubino and didn’t leave town until 1PM because I had a previously scheduled lunch date with neighbors.

 I have the nicest neighbors! Cindy, Joan and Nancy treated me to California Pizza Kitchen. It was the perfect lunch. I had half turkey club sandwich and a salad. My girlfriends even brought me gifts! A hand made knit scarf and cute blank stationary cards made by Joan, an adorable house plant from Nancy and pasta making tools and copies of favorite family recipes from Cindy and her Italian mother in law. It was already the best day possible and I have gratitude for these women in my life.

 

Back to the day in Livermore… Maggie and I met over 6 years ago at our neighborhood garden club. Again, how lucky I am to live in this great neighborhood!  You could say we bonded over garden walks, compost and Portlands’ chocolate tastings meeting. She and her husband have also lived in the neighborhood for 20 plus years. She is a red wine lover and wanted to take a day trip with me since she follows me on Instagram and sees the adventures I take.

 

She had called the day before to make appointments, but didn’t have much luck. I explained how I will usually “wing it” and drive around until I find an interesting location or side street that looks inviting. That system works in Napa, St. Helena and Healdsburg, but not so much in Livermore. We learned that they have 55 wineries there, and only 10 are open on Wednesdays. I guess my poor planning bit me in the bum that day, but we made the best of it. After all, how many wines can one taste anyway?

 

Maggie happened to have two free tastings at Steven Kent from a dinner auction item, so we started there. Instead of a flight, I asked for a pour of their 2016 SVS Cabernet Sauvignon from their Casa de Vinas Vineyard. Instead, our attendant would only pour me a little at a time. I thought this was a little strange, but I went along with it. Maggie wasn’t interested in the white varieties and only asked for the red varietals.

 

We learned Steven Kent Mirassou is a sixth generation member of America’s oldest winemaking family. Starting Steven Kent Winery in 1996, he specialized in Bordeaux grapes crafting small lot vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

The tasting room was dark, small and empty except for us and one other couple. We weren’t exactly welcomed with warm open arms either. We didn’t stay long hoping we would find a better experience elsewhere.

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Me and Maggie tasting wine at Ruby Hills Winery in Livermore

 

Maggie had done some research and knew that Ruby Hills Winery was open. Neither of us had tasted there before. I had been to the club years ago when my niece Jasmine and I attended a National Charity League Senior Presents program there. It was a special place, so I was excited to check out their winery. 

 

We weren’t disappointed although our Google Maps took us up over the hill in the middle of nowhere before we realized we were going in the wrong direction. I don’t think the WiFi was working, so we got a little lost. That isn’t an uncommon thing for me, unfortunately. The Ruby Hill building is enormous and grand with many country decorations inside adorning the walls. They sold jewelry, dark chocolate caramels from Something Sweet Chocolates, Rubino Estates Winery Orange Blossom and Wild Thistle Honey and of course wine. They also had a nice deli counter with many types of cheese, hummus, prosciutto, salami crackers and chips. I appreciate this gesture so people can enjoy their wine with food in case they are hungry.

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Hand made dark chocolate caramels with sea salt sold at Ruby Hills Winery

 

We were treated with the utmost care and respect at Rubino and I would highly recommend it. Our sommelier was friendly, helpful and easy going. She allowed Maggie to taste the reds of her choice from both the Estate Flight at $15 per person and the Jewel Flight at $20.00 per person. And she took off the tasting fee since she purchased two bottles of the 2014 Intesa for $34.00. Maggie really knows her wine and spits after she tastes. I tried a splash of just the 2015 Jewel Zinfandel which received 92 points from Wine Enthusiast and that was enough for me. 

 

We read about the Mello Cielo Vineyard Experience for groups which includes a tasting, then two hour tour on their vintage wine bus. Then a visit to Ruby Hill’s modern on-site production facility where one can see the winemaking process from vine to bottle. Our garden club members may take advantage of this opportunity. A few wanted to join us on our Livermore day out, but I only learned about it the day before. The private tour will require a minimum of eight people and a maximum of 14. There are two tours available daily, 11:15AM and 2:15PM and reservations should be made a week in advance. The price is $35.00 for non-members. Club members are only $30.00 and are allowed to bring one guest. Looks like a good time.

 

Mia took care of us at Rubino Estates Winery open since March of 2013, and is conveniently located around the corner from Ruby Hills, open since 2007. Both Wineries are owned by the Callahan’s, the Lloyd’s and the Brown’s.  They call this the Cal-Ital Winery only an hour South of Napa Valley. They feature exciting Italian varietals such as Barbera, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo as well as the classic Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Mia’s family is from Sicily, so we had a nice time chatting about my recent time in Tuscany.

 

Maggie enjoyed Rubino’s wine tasting experience and we agreed to each bring home a bottle so that her tasting was free. I refrained from drinking, since I was the designated driver.

 

Rubino sells cheese at their deli counter with flavors such as Black pepper, Tennessee Whiskey, Basil Asiago, Espresso, Balsamic, Raspberry, Rosemary Olive Oil, and Chipotle that pair with each wine. Fantastic! The tasting room is 8,000 square feet and it’s nestled in between 150 acres of vineyards. Bocce ball courts are open Monday through Friday first come first serve. 

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Maggie and I didn’t take advantage of the food or bocce entertainment this time since we wanted to get back before the Bay Area commute traffic took hold on Highway 680. But we did stop off at a nursery to check out the flowers which seemed appropriate being that we are garden lovers.  I bought a small lemon verbena because the one I had last year died in the frost. It’s a beautiful fragrant leaf and nice in iced tea or lemonade.

My day with Maggie was delightful and adventurous. Maybe next time we will bring the rest of the garden club clan with us to experience the great wines of the Livermore Valley.

Here’s my recipe for Orange Poppyseed Pancakes with Ricotta. It’s perfect for a Sunday Brunch with family and friends.

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Orange poppyseed pancakes with ricotta.

Orange Poppyseed Pancakes with Ricotta

Serves 4 people

Ingredients:

1 C unbleached All PurposeFlour

½ C Almond Flour

¼ C Granulated Sugar

1 t Kosher Salt

1 t baking powder

 

½ C plus 2 T Ricotta Cheese

3 whole eggs separated

1 ½ C Milk 

½ C Heavy Whipping Cream

1 t Rum Extract

1 t Orange Extract

1 T Orange Zest

⅛ C Poppy seeds

Unsalted butter used for skillet

Confectioners sugar for dusting 

Pure maple syrup

 

Directions:

In a blender, place 3 egg yolks (whites to go in a stand mixer), milk, cream, ricotta, extracts. Blend on low until combined. 

In a small bowl mix all purpose flour, almond flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Pour into blender and mix with wet ingredients on low and batter is smooth.

In the stand mixer, using a wire whisk, mix the room temperature egg whites and a tiny pinch of salt until small peaks form. 

Add the whipped egg whites to blender in three increments mixing well, but not for too long.

Using your large nonstick skillet, melt 1 Tablespoon of unsalted butter on medium heat. Pour or ladel about 1/2 C of the batter onto the hot skillet and sprinkle with about ½ t poppy seeds and cook for about 2 minutes or until edges are golden. Flip carefully and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes more until pancake is cooked thoroughly. No one likes a wet on the inside pancake.

I fold mine like a crepe, folding it onto itself twice like an omelette. Eat right away or keep in a low oven in a baking dish. Serve with fresh fruit peaches, strawberries or blueberries or whatever is in season and pure maple syrup. Mine were perfect all by themselves and didn’t need adorning other than a shake of confectioners sugar.

Enjoy!

Thank you for reading and sharing my blog. Hope I’ve inspired you to take get away day and enjoy a glass of wine or two. And here’s a glimpse of what Venice Italy was like.

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The best part of visiting #Venice is riding on a gondola

 

 

 

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My True Chocolate Obsession: From Bean to Bar

My True Chocolate Obsession: From Bean to Bar
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Décor at the Ace Hotel Portland Oregon next to Stumptown Coffee

Spent the week in Portland researching Chocolate Shops recently. Out gracious concierge at The Nines Hotel gave me some great places to check out while my husband was at work. Today’s blog will focus on the chocolatiest hot spots in Portland including Creo Chocolate, Woodblock Chocolate, and Cloud Forest Chocolates.

 

To be truthful, I actually spent the morning at Stumptown Coffee writing my last blog because it was one of the only places open early. This cool place had Ace Hotel in an adjoining room that guests could drink their latte’s and read the news or work on their computer. Since I had to drive my husband to work by 8AM, I needed a place to hang out before venturing out into the city. This was the perfect place to write and enjoy my two shots of espresso and steamed milk. Delicious. My usual preferred method of blogging consists of a happy hour where I order a Shock Top Beer with fresh orange and an appetizer. The words start flowing and my fingers start typing.

 

Creo Chocolate is a family owned and operated bean to bar factory with internationally award winning hand crafted chocolate. Their beans are sourced from the Los Rios region of Ecuador and they use 2 main ingredients: cacao beans and evaporated cane juice. They offer Twicks Bars (yes that’s what I said) made from milk chocolate, shortbread and caramel. I had to have one and it was decadent. The Batch Bar looked equally delicious make with dark chocolate, coconut almond praline and caramel. I saw truffles galore made by their chocolatier Jeremy Karp who makes many chocolates with fun names like Vietnamese iced coffee, Dark chocolate meltaway, Coconut almond delight, Spicy passion, Garden mint, Yuzu gimlet, Earl grey, Raspberry dark, Dulce de leche, Hazelnut crunch and  try my favorite Raspberry dark chocolate. I wish I had bought one of each! They sold malt balls, Cacao Seasoning Rub, Hazelnut Chocolate Spread, and have a variety of sipping chocolate mixes like Mayan Spice, and Mint, Midnight Truffle. And of course they had chocolate bars like 62% Dark Orange, Dark Raspberry, 73% Dark Toasted Coconut which I had to have, 64% Oreo Crunch, a Dark Milk and a Coffee and Cream bar Yum. Honestly, chocolate is almost a spiritual experience. I know how much work goes into growing, harvesting, fermenting, packaging and preparing each and every sustainable bar.

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Minty sipping Chocolate at Creo Chocolate in Portland Oregon

 

I decided to try their mint sipping chocolate drink served with a side of seltzer water and whipped cream. It was exquisite! I savored every drop. One of my hiking friends Sharon drinks a hot chocolate every day at Peet’s Coffee to get in her calcium for the day. I think she would approve of Creo’s sipping hot Chocolate.

Creo had a chocolate tour happening while I was there which would have been fun, but I had places to go and people to see. I did enjoy reading Food Lover’s Guide to Portland by Liz Crain while drinking my cocoa drink. I even read about Hood River Oregon which I had been to the day before. Also purchased a few chocolate bars to take homelike their Toasted Coconut and Dark Chocolate Mint.

 

Next up was WoodBlock Chocolate. Can I mention that there are samples everywhere? Yes. If you are in the mood to taste chocolate, this is your kind of place. This place sold chocolate covered hazelnuts, 70% dark chocolate bunnies, gianduja which has a hazelnut flavor, a 60% dark milk chocolate made with Peruvian cacao that tastes like caramel, and much, much more.

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#Guittard #Woodblock Callebaut #Creo #chocolate sampling at Garden Club Party

 

It was here that I got inspired to have a chocolate tasting party for my garden club. After all, WoodBlock offers effleurage. (The process that uses solid fats to capture fragrance exuded by flowers, exotic spices and botanicals) The tasting involves chocolate that has been flavored with coffee beans, herbs, teas and flowers like hibiscus. This party was held last Wednesday and everyone that attended had a good time. We tasted chocolate with hops, hibiscus tea, masala chai tea, peppermint and coffee. It was so much fun. I was hoping more garden club members would have sampled the Petrus Cherry and Chocolate Stout Beer and Boatswain Chocolate Stout Beer with the dark chocolate samples together, but only one of the ladies imbibed. It was a warm evening and we sat outside on the patio, the perfect place for a cold beer and chocolate  tasting. A few years ago I hosted an edible flower class with cocktails.  That was fun too.

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Decidedly my favorite chocolate bar ever made by Creo Chocolate

I was introduced to a beer called Gigantic which is a chocolate IPA made with Wood Block Chocolate. They call it “The Weapon of Mass Seduction” and It’s a chocolate oatmeal oyster stout. What will they think of next? They offer Stumptown Coffee called Hair Bender, or the direct trade House Blend which would be my go to if I hadn’t already sampled and sipped more chocolate than I needed to.

I tried Woodblock’s chocolate caramel with sea salt which was chewy and mouth watering and walked away from the coffee milk chocolate truffle with cacao nibs. The most interesting part of my day here was meeting their pastry chef. I learned she was incorporating chocolate into their biscuits. They had already run out f them or I would have ordered one. This sounded intriguing since I had just been to Pine State Biscuits a few hours earlier for a hot biscuit with whipped butter and Marion berry spread. They also have apple butter, strawberry jam, Bee Local Honey and house pimento. We need a place like this where I live, that’s for sure. Here is my blog and recipe for apricot jam.

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#PineStateBiscuits

 

My last stop, but not the least was venturing over to Cloud Forest Chocolate. I got to hear the scoop about Sebastian Cisneros the owner and his story behind the Ecuadorian cacao and his obsession with chocolate. I sampled the Bee Chocolate Bar made with bee pollen from Oregon’s Bee Local and Jacobsen Salt also located in Portland. It’s made with organic cacao butter, organic milk solids, organic cane sugar, bee pollen, organic cacao beans, vanilla seeds and sea salt. The look is this bright yellow color with dark brown stripes running through it. Very cool looking and super tasty. Unlike any other chocolate you have had before.

 

I was intrigued by their Holy Wood Bar made with a dark chocolate from the Bolivian Amazon and infused with an aromatic Palo Santo wood found in Ecuador.

Google says ” Palo Santo is a mystical tree that grows on the coast of South America and is related to Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal. In Spanish, the name literally means “Holy Wood”. It is part of the citrus family and has sweet notes of pine, mint and lemon. I had to try the sample of course and take one home for later. There were several other bars to choose from including one made with sesame seeds and matcha.

 

Cloud Forest serves a maple drinking chocolate, a classic hot chocolate with Ecuadorian cacao (see a theme here?), a seasonal magnolia and pistachio marshmallow hot chocolate, aqua de cacao (a water based unsweetened chocolate drink served with Old Blue Honey), Snow Honey Chrysanthemum tea from China, Mulberry tea from Thailand, plus more and all the coffee lattes a girl could want. I think they were coming up with bigger ideas in the coming months to offer classes to the public.

 

“Craque” is Cloud Forest’s candied cacao and used to sprinkle on desserts and ice cream. I might try to duplicate this treat since I bought cacao nibs from WoodBlock.  I purchased the vanilla seeds instead and a few chocolate bars for family. Their chewy caramel with cacao nibs was unforgettable, something I will consider making at home as well.

Did you know that Google gives a thumbs up to bloggers who have subscribers who read all the way to the very end of the post? It’s true. So thank you for being a loyal reader and following me. It means a lot.

Do you have a favorite chocolate company? Have you been on any tours or taken any chocolate classes? Well, after my trip to Portland, I’m even more obsessed with chocolate. It’s my go to snack when I need a pick me up in the middle of the day. Good thing I have a chocolate stash which I consume on a daily basis. And I’m not embarrassed to admit that I never leave the house with out some chocolate in my purse.

Thanks again for supporting me and my love for food blogging. Hope to see you next time when I explore Cannabis and how Blue Star Donuts is taking the plain breakfast treat the next level.

 

 

 

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“Over Acheeser” Pizza in Hood River Oregon and Marion Berry Hand Pies

“Over Acheeser” Pizza in Hood River Oregon and Marion Berry Hand Pies
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#FullSailBrewingCo in Hood River Oregon

Another fun day exploring Oregon as a food blogger. Took a chance on Hood River area hoping to find new bakeries, coffee shops, gardening shops, etc.  My husband has work in Portland, so he took me along. I’m so excited to share my experience with all of you. Yesterday, I found Good News Cafe and Garden Center, a vintage boutique called Bend in the Road, Phelps Creek Tasting Room, Pine Street Bakery where I had an “Over Acheeser” piece of pizza, Apple Green Boutique, Oblation Papers & Press, and a fun dinner at Screen Door in Portland with my husband and his coworkers.

 

Driving from the city to the Oregon countryside is exhilarating. The was mountains on the right of the highway and the water on the left makes for a nice one hour drive. As I arrived in Hood River I came across Full Sail Brewery. It wasn’t open yet, so I wasn’t able to go in, but I was hoping to catch it on the way back to Portland.

 

Maybe you’re wondering how I decided to go to Hood River. I found a magazine at the Avis rental place that had an article about the Hood River County Fruit Loop. http://www.hoodriverfruitloop.com/apple-valley I knew that there is more going on from May through October, but thought I’d take a chance anyway.

 

I drove through acres of  blooming fruit trees and scrolling hills. It was beautiful. I was disappointed to find Apple Valley Country Store was closed. They are only open Wednesday through Sunday. I guess I’m not as familiar with businesses out in the middle of nowhere and how they have limited hours.  They have pies, jams, pancake and scone mixes, They have flavors like huckleberry, marionberry, bumbleberry, caramel apple jam and more!

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Art shown at #TheNinesHotel Portland Oregon

Onward and upward I drove to Phelps Creek Tasting room next to the Hood River Golf and Country Club. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYkDQMj8Vik  This wasn’t as intriguing to me since I was my own designated driver, but a bathroom break is always appreciated after our delicious breakfast at the Nines Hotel. Even though I am spending most of my day at coffee houses, bakeries and local eateries I always pack a croissant sandwich stuffed with ham, turkey, salami, marionberry jam, and provolone, swiss and cheddar cheese to save money. Their breakfast spread is incredible offering pastries, yogurts, fresh fruit, gluten free muffins, roasted vegetables, deli meats and cheeses, cereal, oatmeal, coffee and Stash tea.

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Here’s my lunch that I made from the breakfast buffet at The Nines Hotel

Next, I discovered Bend in the Road Vintage Consignment Store. It was fun to see what antiques were floating around Oregon and purchased some Scrabble letters for an art project for my niece. I was getting a rumbly in my tummy and was excited to find Good News Cafe and Garden Center. I couldn’t resist their marionberry hand pie that they graciously warmed up for me. Here’s my recipe for blackberry hand pies. Was tempted by their smores cookie since I’ve never seen one before, but I held off for something more savory. I purchased a few packages of seeds to give out to the nieces’ and nephews’ kids for Easter.

 

I had heard good things about Pine Street Bakery which was a few miles away, so ventured in there for a peek. Inside there were lines of people waiting for their fresh baked breads, cookies and savory choices like sandwiches, pizzas, and salads. I withheld from buying their egg shaped sugar cookies, their triple chocolate, and oatmeal raisin cookies. Instead I opted for the veggie pizza made with spinach, caramelized onions, ricotta and fontina. It was moist in the center, cheesy and the perfect choice for my long drive back to town.

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My tasty snack after a long day of exploring Hood River Oregon

I still had plenty of time to check out the Apple Green Boutique in the Pearl District where they had lots of Spring gifts like Easter bunny books and paper supplies. They also sold vintage material that you could make tea towels or table runners with that I almost purchased for my Mother. Her birthday is in May and I haven’t gotten her anything yet. My latest  is taking out family members and having adventure excursions. It makes for good blog posts too. I wonder where she will want to go.

 

Oblation Papers and Press was my last stop before picking up my husband at the plant. They had colorful displays of ribbons, wrapping paper, invitations and even baby books which I almost purchased for my niece Hajara who is expecting. I’d rather let her pick out her own since there are so many to choose from.

 

The Screen Door Restaurant is where we landed for dinner. Their menu is Southern Cajun Creole style. Hushpuppies, shrimp & grits, crispy fried buttermilk chicken is what they are most known for. Everything we had was delicious and I won’t forget my first taste of the sweet tea vodka cocktail. Someone suggested combining the sweet tea vodka with lemonade for an Arnold Palmer cocktail. Sounds delish. I’ve never been to New Orleans, only Florida so I’m not as experienced in critiquing this cuisine. We didn’t stay for dessert, although they had options like pecan pie, cara cara upside down cake, rhubarb custard pie by pastry chef Erin Eberlin Sage. Yum.

 

Overall, the day was something to remember and I’m happy to share my stories and recipes with you. Here’s to Hood River and Portland Oregon and their weird vibey culture. Thank you for a delicious and fun filled adventure.

 

Follow my blog by adding your email to the link on the right and share this site with your family and friends. I appreciate your love of food and travel and I will continue to find more places to explore.

 

 

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Forks and Corks at Chez Panisse and Strawberry Pie Recipe

Forks and Corks at Chez Panisse and Strawberry Pie Recipe
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Me and my son Andrew at Chez Panisse in Berkeley

Had the best lunch today with my son Andrew in Berkeley. We ate at the #ChezPanisse Café, Alice Waters’ farm to table restaurant, open since 1980. It’s commonly referred as one of the best restaurants in the country. We visited The Local Butcher Shop which is where many of local chefs like Alice purchase their protein. Then we went to see the inspiring organic and sustainable Edible Schoolyard garden located at King Middle School a few blocks from the famous Chez Panisse Restaurant. At the end of this post you will find my strawberry pie recipe if you hang around long enough.

I was fortunate that my son had time to have a leisurely lunch with me. I decided to treat us both and give him (and me) the 5 star dining experience. Sometimes it’s nice to have one on one time to really appreciate your loved one. Andrew appreciates good healthy food more than most and today’s lunch was exceptional.

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Spring Flowers to brighten your day from my garden

I had been to Chez Panisse twice before when celebrating special occasions. The first visit was a dinner with my Mom Diane and my Step Dad Tom. They took my husband and I out for my birthday. The second time, I spoiled my friend Marie for her birthday and took her there for lunch. The attention to detail on every level is top notch. I’m speaking about the professional staff who greet you at the top of the stairs and graciously seat you. Of course, it’s best to have a reservation since it is very popular. Andrew and I were fortunate enough to get a table calling the day before. The atmosphere was delightful, people imbibing in a glass of wine (in my case) or beer (for Andrew) to go along with lunch to enhance the experience. Because you never feel pressured to eat quickly here and why not relax a little?

 

The menu is packed with seasonal fresh produce from local farms, fruit from orchards, ranches and the best fisheries that practice principles of sustainability. Chef Nathan Alderson is the Cafe’s culinary artist. Here is the menu we were presented when perfectly seated.

 

It’s actually a dream of mine to work at Chez Panisse. Still recovering from toe surgery, so I’m taking it easy these days. Easter is coming up and everyone is asking if I will host again. I’m not feeling 100% and I’m of the opinion that it’s okay to let others carry the burden of the holiday party once in a while. After all, I’ve been entertaining ever since Ken and I got married almost 30 years ago.

 

My Mother hosted Easter when the weather was good. For several years she had chickens and a bunny which the grandkids loved. And she has a picture perfect garden with a pond, big trees and a nice brick patio. But my mom hasn’t been well for about 5 or 6 years now and it’s not an option. I don’t like feeling pressured to host even though I love to cook and bake. I’m ready for the younger generation to step up and “take the reigns.’ After all, they have the young ones who like to hunt for eggs and like waiting for the Easter bunny. Luckily, my brother Rick and his wife Aly graciously offered to have Easter at their home. Hopefully, we can all be together this year.

 

So, enough of my ranting. Chez Panisse is a great Berkeley destination if you like good food. We were greeted at the top of the stairs with a beautiful flower arrangement with ranunculus, jasmine, and quince branches with gorgeous pink blossoms.

 

The lunch menu was full of seasonal vegetables like fennel, cauliflower, beets, carrots, parsnips and garden lettuces. We started with their fennel and citrus salad,  plate of rosemary olives, Spanish anchovies and parsnip-carrot soup with crème’ fraiche and chives. Delish.

 

Then I ordered the halibut with snap peas, spinach and Meyer lemon beurre blanc, and Andrew ordered the pork loin. After a bit, the waiter explained that they needed to substitute the pork with a roasted chicken breast, which was served with  roasted asparagus and shoestring potatoes. Andrew absolutely loved it. He said he could cry after taking the first bite. He said it was his second best meal of his life, the first being in Europe.

 

Later, the waiter brought us the coconut panna cotta with tangerine-passion fruit coulis and a cardamom cake with blood orange caramel and Chantilly cream on the house. Our generous waiter also gave me Mary Jo’s email who is the pastry chef at Chez Panisse. Of course I tried to look her up on Instagram immediately to follow her. And I will definitely be reaching out to her to see if she needs an assistant.

 

 

With full satisfied bellies, we walked into The Local Butcher shop and bought a pork chop so my son could finally get the pork he was looking forward to. This place had everything you could think of from chicken, sausages, deli meats, bacon, smoked ham hocks, hot dogs, pates, duck, turkey, rabbit, quail, varieties of lard, stocks and bone broth.

 

This butcher shop focuses on providing local proteins: Such as Wolfe Ranch in Vacaville, Devils Gulch in Marin County, Paine Farm in Sonoma, Farmer Joy in Petaluma, Tomales Bay Pastures in Marshall and many more. They offer sausage making classes, a poultry butcher class, a stock making class, duck confit classes and much more. I would check out their website for more information on dates and classes.

Next, Andrew and I we on to the Edible Schoolyard at King Middle School which I’ve heard so much about, a few blocks from Chez Panisse. Kids learn about gardening, cooking, composting, edible education programs, and the program is committed to forging a just, sustainable food system. We saw rows of organic kale, arugula, leeks, borage and much more.

 

 

“To spend time in an Edible Schoolyard is to realize how much more is going on here than teaching kids how to garden or cook. Kids begin to learn about food in all its dimensions – as an edible medium of culture, science, ecology, and even social justice. The Edible Schoolyard is an eloquent and practical answer to some of the most pressing questions facing us as a society.”

MICHAEL POLLAN Journalist and Author

Here the children learn about fungi, bacteria, and how food scraps become rich organic compost in six weeks. Andrew and I saw cuttings of fruit trees that had been grafted and placed into pots. Last year, I took a class last year on grafting trees and learned a lot. Unfortunately, my apple tree didn’t survive, but plenty of Alice Waters’ students trees were thriving. There was even a greenhouse with new plantings that the students grew from seeds.

 

I was impressed by the curriculum of pressing cider, learning about global warming, making kale pesto, the study of bees and pollinators, and the process of orienting kids into a kitchen and what happens there.

 

We even came across a friendly neighborhood cat who looked content supervising our visit. It was even more exciting to walk by a plant share kiosk in front of someone’s house. People leave extra plants that they don’t need and share them. I could place one of these stations in front of my house since I have many plants that reseed everywhere. They call it the “give and take garden” and I’m in love with the concept. After all, I started out gardening when my friends gave me cuttings of perennials from their gardens.

 

Overall, it was a fabulous day spending time with my son and exploring Berkeley. We loved Chez Panisse, The Local Butcher Shop, and The Edible Schoolyard. I hope you and your loved ones are getting out and trying something new. It’s exciting to be inspired by what’s going on in the community.

 

Are you inspired to cook when you see fresh produce at your market? What dish are you looking forward to making this Easter? I saw an adorable cake on Instagram by TheTipsyCakery that I could try making with my four year old niece Josie.

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Isn’t this the cutest cake by thetipsycakery? Found on Instagram

Please subscribe to my blog to get the latest posts. And thank you for reading. It means a lot. Happy Easter!

Here’s my recipe for Strawberry Pie

 

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Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti

Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti
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Grapes just picked at Heirs of my Dream Winery Sonoma

 

Took a vacation day trip out to the Sonoma area last week. I’ve been wanting to check out the new Hanson Distillery along Hwy 12 in the Carneros Valley for some time. I’ve been passing this place and dying to go in, but I usually have my Dad in the car and he doesn’t want to stop at these places. While out and about, I also had the pleasure of walking around Homewood Winery, Troika Wines, and Ceja Vineyards. Of course I took advantage of checking out Domaine Carneros,  Napa’s Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli, their pumpkin farm next door, and Starmont Winery and Vineyards.

 

Today’s drive was spontaneous and last minute. Never enough time to schedule a pal to go along with me, so I decided to go by myself. It’s so much fun to explore these hidden gems especially this time of year. The colors are changing on the vines, the weather is cooler, and there is a crisp breeze which makes me want to drive to the wine country.

First was a tour of Heirs of my dream Winery by Ellie. She showed me around the quaint property letting me get a glimpse into her world. I was attracted to this property because I heard a man singing loudly while cleaning out wine barrels. This property is perfect for weddings and parties. Have I mentioned it is brand new? Their website is barely up, but they are doing exciting things.

 

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Gorgeous venue.

 

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Krzystof and Hanson’s vodka

 

Next was a mango, habanero vodka cocktail at Hanson’s Distillery carefully prepared by a Polish guy named Krzystof. I learned all about the Hanson family who are passionate about vodka and originally from Marin. They are the first non-GMO distillery in the US and make their vodka from grapes. They have many flavors: cucumber, ginger, mandarin, habanero, and limited varieties of espresso and boysenberry. The drink was delicious, a bit spicy too because of the habanero vodka and their Tajin Clasico Chili Lime Seasoning rimmed glass. The espresso had a bold rich flavor with notes of chocolate. The property is adorned with a pond and gorgeous romantic trees. It’s quite an experience if you are looking for a fun getaway.

 

On the same estate was Ceja Vineyards, but they were closed. Troika Wines were right next door and were offering tastings, but I had to decline since I was at my limit after drinking the cocktail. Across the road was Homewood Winery, but I chose to move on.

I’ve always wondered what the enormous breathtaking beautiful chateau was that is along Hwy 12 on the hill, and was pleasantly surprised to find Domaine Carneros. Reservations were required, but I was happy enough to walk around the premises. It seemed a bit stuffy for my taste, but I’m sure well worth the tasting if you are looking for sparkling wine and pinot noir.
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Fancy Pumpkins in wheel barrow

On the way back to Hwy 29 on the left was Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli and I was getting plenty hungry by then. The family run business owned by Wilcoxson’s are best known for their authentic pit smoked meats. Pulled pork, chicken, tri tip and brisket sandwiches are served just to name a few. I didn’t stay, since I was intrigued by their pumpkin farm adjacent to the restaurant. I’m quite the farmer, and appreciate what goes into growing these crops. This atmosphere is family friendly and a must see for locals and travelers alike.

My last stop in the Carneros Valley was paying a visit to the 50 acres of  Starmont Winery and historic Stanly Ranch. Gargantuan eucalyptus trees grace the property which draw you in and make you want to see more. It was quiet yet inviting and a nice place to spend a couple of hours. Since I was driving, I didn’t partake in their tastings, but will go back someday.

I enjoyed my day trip to the Carneros Valley. The habanero vodka cocktail is something I’d like to make for friends in the future. I will probably make one of my famous cheese platters to go with them as well. Included will be my pineapple pepper jelly from my homegrown organic serrano peppers. I also enjoy my blenheim apricot jam to accompany the brie and blue cheese.

So I hope I’ve inspired you to make a trip to the Carneros Valley with a few friends or loved ones. I know I will be finding my way back there soon also. But until then, here is my recipe for ginger, apricot, pistachio biscotti. They are chewy, not like an ordinary biscotti and a real treat.

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Candied Ginger Apricot Pistachio Biscotti

 

Ingredients:

2 C All Purpose Flour

1 C Granulated Sugar

1 tsp Baking Powder

3 eggs

2 T Sambuca (an Italian Licorice flavored liquor)

2 T Grand Marnier

1 tsp Vanilla

1 tsp Anise Extract

1 C whole Pistachios

1 T fresh Orange Zest

1/2 t  Saltverk Licorice Salt (found in iceland) or substitute 1/2 t Kosher

½ C chopped Crystalized Ginger

¾ C Mariani Dried Apricots

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheet w parchment paper or a silpat.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder together in a large size bowl. In another bowl whisk eggs, both liqueurs, vanilla, anise, orange zest and salt.

Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in pistachios, ginger and apricots.

Divide dough in half and transfer onto parchment paper into two 2.5 inch wide logs with floured hands.

Bake until golden in color, firm and dry about 20 minutes.

Remove from pan and slice loaf on a diagonal into ¼ in to ½ in thick slices. Arrange cookies cut side down onto a sheet pan and bake again for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Enjoy! Do you have a favorite biscotti recipe? This is one I’ve adapted from a culinary class taken at Diablo Valley College’s pastry program.

And here is a terrific recipe for scones dipped in dark chocolate.

 

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