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Category Archives: Las Trampas

Year in Review and Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Recipe

Year in Review and Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Recipe

Here’s the latest on what’s going on in my life lately, and I will share a delicious Millionaire Shortbread Bar recipe. My husband is still working from home. It has been a year and a month since the pandemic hit and the world changed. I will attempt to describe how things have been during this challenging time and how life has changed, maybe for the better.

Here are my girlfriends waiting for me to come say hi.

First of all, I have chickens. They are five months old now and quite a handful. I’ve enjoyed spending mornings and evenings with them just hanging out with them in their chicken run. They like to be cuddled and love it when I’m around bringing them treats. They have been my saving grace while stuck at home.

Last week’s hike up Bollinger Canyon “Devils Hole” Part of Las Trampas Regional Wilderness in California

As far as the community goes, I hike occasionally with friends, and love every minute of it. In fact, I should be out there on Las Trampas with them now, but decided to hang back and write a blog instead. We don’t entertain as much, but when we do, we really love having people over. I love to cook and bake, so sharing meals has been a passion and a gift I love to give to others. 

Some people are more careful than others as far as Covid 19 goes. One friend wouldn’t hike until she was fully vaccinated, yet others are more comfortable getting together in groups. When my hiking friends celebrate birthdays, we meet at a park, bring our own food and visit. It is lovely to interact and see people more. 

Yesterday, I met two hiking friends in Benicia for lunch. Suzette initiated it and also invited Marianne to join us. We ate inside in a large dining room and I felt fairly comfortable. Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since my second Pfizer vaccination. My husband gets his second Moderna vaccination today. Lunch at Ciao Bella was lovely and I’m grateful for days spent outside my house. 

Mostly, I’ve been working in my garden the last year. I experimented with growing corn, composting, vermiculture, and growing seeds and cover crops.  I chose not to hike today because I have about 20 more tomato and vegetable plants that I need to get into the raised beds. It stresses me out to have them waiting for me. I know. It sounds crazy, but these plants are like my babies. My hikes can wait.

After lunch yesterday, I drove to REI to buy new hiking shoes. I have so many holes in my current ones, that I have no choice but to get new ones. The whole experience was anxiety provoking. First, you are met at the door and asked to use hand sanitizer. Then there are arrows on the floor showing where you are allowed to walk. The nice greeter told me the shoes were located up the stairs, so I headed in that direction. Instead of picking up a shoe and choosing which one I wanted to try on, the whole area was roped off. An employee was guarding the shoes and asked me qualifying questions to see what kind of shoe I was looking for. 

Seriously, this guy was trying to visit with me and ask me personal questions while I was trying on shoes. So awkward. I just wanted to get the damn shoes and get out of there. It was strange to have this guy watching me try on every shoe. I kind of wanted a little privacy, you know? Maybe that’s weird. But anyway, I have bad feet and having the correct shoe is important, so it’s a serious matter for me. And I really didn’t want to tell the guy my kids ages. It always freaks people out when I tell them that I have a 36 year old son and a 28 year old son. Then I feel old because they are grown men now. Ugh. In any case, of course they never have my size, blah blah blah. Eventually, the two of them, yes now there was another salesman, brought me a pair that fit. Of course, they tried to get me to sign up for the club, so I could get a 10% discount and be able to return my shoes if there is a problem. No thank you. I hate sharing my email, so they can send me spam.

Of course, I had to check to see if Krispy Kreme Donuts drive through had any warm out of the fryer yummies. Nope. So I passed on that. 

So maybe it wasn’t that unusual of a shoe buying experience, but it feels weird getting out and leaving the house. Other than shopping for food, and getting my hair done, I rarely go anywhere. My husband Ken and I like to hike or go on bike rides into Danville. Sometimes we get food to go, but I usually cook. Last night, I heated up leftover beef pot roast, roasted carrots and potatoes for dinner. We watched a little TV and called it a night.

This morning, I will get the rest of the tomato plants into the ground before it gets too hot. It’s only mid April, but Northern California weather can change quickly and become hot and dry. In case you wondered where I buy my plants from, I go to the Contra Costa Master Gardeners website and buy from The Great Tomato Sale. Each plant is $4.00 each and they have a wide variety of peppers, herbs, squash and tomatoes. I always get extra, since they don’t all survive. I bought 17 tomato plants, lemon cucumber, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, basil, 3 types of kale, two types of lettuce, 6 pepper plants. We have critters that eat everything around here. My husband routinely traps moles, gophers, rats and mice. The owls and frogs sing to us at night. It truly is a magical place. Here’s a post about a farm in Tuscany

Here is one of my favorite treats that you can make ahead. They are rich and decadent and you only need a small piece to satisfy your sweet tooth. This recipe makes a lot, so you can share with neighbors and friends.

Millionaire Caramel Shortbread Bars

Shortbread Ingredients:

1C. Cold Unsalted Butter cut into chunks

¼ C (32g) Cornstarch

1 ¾ C (219g) All Purpose Unbleached Flour (could substitute rice flour to make gluten free)

1/3C (73g) Granulated Sugar 

⅓ C Light Brown Sugar

1 Lg egg yolk

¾ t vanilla extract

½ t Maldon Salt

Caramel Ingredients:

2 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated)

14T (198g) Unsalted butter cut into chunks

1 C (200g) Light Brown Sugar (Packed)

⅓ C (80ml) Light Corn Syrup

1 t vanilla extract

¼ t Maldon Salt

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:

2 C (340g) SemiSweet Chocolate Chips

½ C Heavy Cream

1 t Vanilla extract

½ t Sea Salt (to sprinkle over bars)

Shortbread Crust Directions:

Preheat Oven to 350 degreesF (180degreesC).

Line a 17X11.5 Pampered Chef Bar Pan or Sheet pan with parchment paper. Can use a square baking pan. Bars will be thicker.

In a Cuisinart or large bowl Mix sugar, flour,cornstarch, butter, egg yolk, vanilla and salt until combined.

Press into the pan until even. 

Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes or until light brown.

Set aside to cool.

Caramel Directions:

In a medium size heavy pot, place 2 cans sweetened condensed milk, butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and whisk continuously on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes until caramel reaches 230 degrees with a candy thermometer. This process takes time. Don’t walk away or stop stirring. Add vanilla and salt and pour onto the shortbread crust. Spread evenly. Place in the fridge or let cool a bit before topping with ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

Heat heavy cream in a heavy small to medium size pot until almost boiling. Add chocolate and vanilla and stir until melted.

Pour onto caramel shortbread and spread evenly. Sprinkle with sea salt and cool in the fridge.

Cut the bars into squares and serve. This recipe can be made ahead and the bars will freeze for up to 3 months, but they won’t last that long. 

Enjoy!

Thanks for reading and I appreciate your feedback. How has this last year been for you? Have you had a similar shopping experience that you want to share? 

Teri

 

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Travel Day to Mt. Diablo Summit and Fond Memories shared at Turtle Rock Ranch and [Ranch Dressing Recipe]

Travel Day to Mt. Diablo Summit and Fond Memories shared at Turtle Rock Ranch and [Ranch Dressing Recipe]

Took my friend Ana who is originally from Croatia to the summit of Mount Diablo last week. Ana is a traveling nurse and is staying at my mom’s cottage while working at John Muir. She doesn’t have a car and relies on a few of us to take her to fun Bay Area attractions on her days off. It is fun for me since I like exploring new places and enjoy going back to my favorite retreats. This week it happened to be Mount Diablo State Park.

Hello from the top of Mt. Diablo on a rainy day

Ana had heard of this special place from her friend who loves to hike and lives in Santa Cruz. He told her you must check this place out, so it was on her bucket list of #thingstodo in the Bay Area.

At first, we were limited on time so I drove us to Las Trampas where we hiked with another friend Mica. Mica is from Czech Republic and is here studying computer science. I met her recently and decided she and Ana should meet. So after several attempts, we were able to find an open morning to hike together. Mica had a previous engagement, so we cut our visit short.  

 

Hello from the Las Trampas Hills

Anna’s heart was set on driving up to the summit of Mount Diablo, so off we went after dropping  Mica off at her car. They enjoyed a nice chat about their home countries and how much they love living in California.  I spent much of my teenage years working on top Mount Diablo at Turtle Rock Ranch and told Ana some stories about my time working there.

When I was 14 years old or so, my older sister Susan and I were asked by our neighbor Jim Sumpter if we wanted part time summer jobs working in his snack shack at Turtle Rock Ranch. Of course we were excited at the opportunity and agreed to help him out. Every Saturday and Sunday morning @ 8AM, Mr Sumpter would pick us up in his truck. We would make a few stops to buy ice, meats and candy at wholesale stores in Concord before heading up the mountain.

Turtle Rock Ranch was a recreational playground which companies, schools, churches held their summer picnics. It was my first real experience with catering large groups of people remembering the Innkeeper Linda making salads in huge plastic garbage bins. We served the most delicious BBQ ribs, and chicken alongside all the fixings liked baked beans, potato salad, green salad and bread.

But most of all, I remember working in the snack shack where we gave out sodas, chips, Fudge Bar and Crunch Bar Ice creams, Cracker Jack Caramel Popcorn, Hershey’s Chocolate Bars, long red licorice ropes, frozen snow cones and much much more. All people had to do was give us a ticket and we would give them their cold drink or treat. And the best part was being able to eat whatever we wanted.

At the end of the night, after a long day of working on our feet in the Concord summer heat, Mr sumpter would drive us home. Many nights we would see tarantulas crossing the windy street, yet I never came across one myself. Jimmy’s father passed away on Thanksgiving two years later and the Ranch was closed. We no longer worked there and by then had better paying jobs. I worked at Mr. Steak Restaurant as a hostess, then a waitress and my sister worked at Top Notch a local stationary store, then a clothing store in the Sun Valley Mall.

Early Thanksgiving Seamon family reunion November 2018

My family loved the Sumpter family. Not only were we neighbors, but trusted friends. My other would allow their adult son Jimmy to drive us to school in the morning and pick us up in the afternoon. Jimmy lived with his parents and grandmother and had survived polio as a child. Since my father had abandoned us in June of 1980 the summer of my freshman year, we didn’t have a way to get to school in the morning. Jimmy was considered disabled, but was able to drive, and loved taking us to school in his fancy Camaro. I know, nowadays no one would ever trust a neighbor to be near their kids, but Jimmy and his parents were like family to us.

My mother relied on him a lot, and my sisters and I were happy to not have to ride the bus or ride our bikes to school which was a mile away, in the cold winter weather. We even spent our afternoons after school in Jimmy’s parents’ garage where he sold candy out of the trunk of his car. I know, it sounds unreal, but it’s true.

Jimmy began by selling jelly beans to the neighbor kids. We would congregate there, tell stories and hang out. Nothing bad ever happened there. Eventually, we got tired of jelly beans, and he began selling all sorts of candy, cold sodas and ice cream out of the freezer in his garage.

Our teen days were fun, full of hard work and making money. We loved working at the ranch on the weekends and hanging out at Jimmy’s after school. We ate and ate, spent our savings on candy, soda and ice cream, but loved every second of it. Eventually, my mom sold the house on Grove Way, because she couldn’t afford the taxes. I remember telling Jimmy’s mother when she was ill in the hospital, that we would look after her son Jimmy after she was gone. She died soon after.

Even though my mom, sister and brother moved to Orinda and eventually Walnut Creek, we would stop by Jimmy’s house to visit. He stuttered, chain smoked and had a huge bird who kept him company. The Kellenhofer’s who lived next door cooked, cleaned and cared for him. I can still remember the mounds of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and bottles of Coke which lined his fridge. He had a horrible diet and ate at fast food restaurants by going through the drive through much of the time.

Ranger Bruce Erickson who works at the Summit store and was knowledgeable about the current sate of Turtle Rock Ranch

But, I digress. I have many memories of Turtle Rock Ranch on Mount Diablo. Ana loved visiting the summit and I hope she enjoys her time while living in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, Turtle Rock Ranch is closed, the house is uninhabitable and the ranger Bruce Erickson said that they use the land for storage of dead trees, equipment, etc… I’m grateful for all the good memories I have from working on Mt. Diablo and I’m happy I was able to give Anna a little glimpse of my childhood.

 

https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Hungry for chicken salad with ranch dressing?

TERI’S RANCH DRESSING

INGREDIENTS

    • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
    • 1/2 cup  buttermilk or (milk with 1 teas vinegar)
    • 3 T sour cream
    • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
    • 2 cloves garlic sauteed whole in avocado oil for 2 min on med heat
    • 1 T finely chopped shallots
    • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 2 T finely chopped fresh chives
    • 1 T finely chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
    • ¼  teaspoon  black pepper
    • 2 T freshly chopped dill

 

DIRECTIONS:

Combine mayo, buttermilk, sour cream and mustard in a small bowl. Sautee cloves of garlic and shallots in a small fry pan for 2 minutes on med heat in 1 T avocado oil. Chop garlic and shallots and remaining herbs. Add to mayonnaise mixture and season with salt and pepper.

I pick fresh lettuce, arugula, pak choi, spinach, beet greens, radish greens, kale and Swiss chard from my garden to make a salad. I leave it simple and only add a bit of feta or whatever soft cheese you prefer. Pour cold dressing onto the sides of the bowl full of greens. Gently toss and serve immediately. 

Thank you for following my blog and for reading my story. It’s fun for me to share my life , recipes and experiences with you. Please leave my a comment below about your favorite first job, your latest hiking adventure or whatever you please.

 

 

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