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A Roasted Tomato Soup Recipe, Good Friends and Beer at Calicraft.

A Roasted Tomato Soup Recipe, Good Friends and Beer at Calicraft.

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Recently I met with my friends Kathi and Donna at a local brewery to celebrate our birthdays. We don’t get together often since we all have busy lives, but when we do we celebrate big. Our paths first collided when I was in the dental field 30 years ago. Donna and I met at Diablo Valley College in a microbiology class. We were both trying to get into the dental hygiene program. We studied at each other’s houses while our one year old children played together. We eventually worked in the same offices which was fun.

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Kathi and I worked as dental assistants in a small dental practice in Concord. Kathi taught me everything I needed to know about keeping kids happy in the dental chair. She called the light “Mr. Sunshine”, the suction “Mr. Thirsty” and showed me how to keep kids calm and happy during their visit. Our boys played on the same soccer team and my husband was their coach. All three of us ladies have stayed in touch over the years. We remember each others’ birthdays and I’m grateful for their continued friendship.I digress… Back to the BEER.

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 Calicraft is fairly new in the East Bay. It is located in an Industrial Park area near Kaiser Park Shadelands and most people don’t know about it. Calicraft offers a large variety of lagers. They offer various brown ales with fun and catchy names like “Oaktown” referring to the city of Oakland California that is about 20 minutes away. They have interesting flavors such as Sour Strawberry a blonde beer with 8.5% alcohol, a Sour Black Currant beer at 8.5% alcohol, a Reserve Sauvignon Peach which is a sparkling ale that is made with grapes at 12% alcohol, and their special Reserve Sparkling Rose’ that is made with raspberries, cherries and zinfandel.

I decided to try their beer flight and I was able to choose four different kinds of beer. We were disappointed that they didn’t offer more to eat. They sold bags of potato chips and beef jerky, but luckily we had nuts in our car. Kathi spoiled me and purchased my beer flight. I was interested in the summer sour strawberry, the sour black currant, the apricot haze IPA, and the Buzzerkeley sparkling ale. Each beer was full of flavor and exciting to try. The bartender was nice to share a lime with me since I love drinking beer with citrus.

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Calicraft’s marketing team has gotten extremely creative. I’m crazy for the name Buzzerkeley because it makes fun of the town of Berkeley not too far, about 20 minutes from the brewery. They named a Mexican Lager “Chico Lager” which is only 5.6% alcohol, but must be a favorite since this town hosts one of the more popular colleges in California. In fact, both of my sister’s attended Chico in the 80’s.

Another variety that Calicraft offers is a beer called “Coast” which is a Kolsch-style ale and is 4.8% alcohol. Then there is a “Guava Tree” wheat served at 6.2%. Fun was had by all. It was nice to try out the new brewery and us girls had a blast chatting it up.

Speaking of beer, a few years back, I hosted a dinner party with beer pairings for some of our soccer friends. We borrowed special glasses to get the most out of each beer. Each family brought their favorite beer, Stella, Guinness, a Boston Lager and Corona. I served each beer with a small serving of protein (shrimp, pork carnitas,and steak) that went perfectly with the beer.  I also made a gingerbread cake for dessert substituting a dark Guinness beer instead of water in the recipe. The cake is topped with a cream cheese frosting that is tart and sweet. It is a dessert you go back to often when thinking of what to serve your guests. The cake is moist and studded with lots of candied ginger, my favorite. You could substitute vanilla ice cream or whipped cream instead of frosting the cake if you wish.

Whether you are meeting up with good friends at the local bar or entertaining friends at home, keep those you love close. Stay in touch frequently and continue to foster those relationships near and far like Kathi, Donna and I have.

Here’s a wonderful tomato soup recipe that you will want to make. It is best with fresh heirloom tomatoes picked straight from the garden, but any ripe tomato will do.

Roasted Cipollini Onion and Heirloom Tomato Soup

 

Ingredients:

8 Cipollini Onions (Can substitute 1 small white or yellow onion)

1 Pound ripe heirloom tomatoes, halved

4 Poblano Peppers (can substitute 1 jalapeno instead)

3 cloves garlic, peeled

⅓ C Olive Oil

1 tsp Thyme chopped

 

2 C Chicken or Vegetable stock

¾ C a dry White Wine (Pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, or unoaked chardonnay)  

1 tsp Kosher Salt

½ tsp freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper

 

Creme fraiche and thyme blossom for garnish

 

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees

 

Directions:

Place the onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic on a sheet pan. Toss with Olive Oil, sprinkle chopped thyme, and salt and pepper on veggies and roast in oven for about 20 minutes until caramelized and soft.

 

Puree the roasted veggies with ½ C chicken stock in a blender. Push through a sieve to remove seeds and skin.

 

Place pureed liquid with remaining stock and white wine into a large pot. Cook on simmer for about 30 minutes or up to an hour.

 

To serve, ladle soup in a shallow soup bowl and garnish with creme fraiche and a thyme blossom.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Should You Take a Summer Vacation or Make Apricot Jam?

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July is almost here, which means most people are trying to get out of town for their annual summer vacation. Me? Well, besides starting a new job, I have plenty to keep me busy in the kitchen. Last week I decided it was time to get my apricot jam on. I mean, get going on the dozens of jars of preserves that I make every year. Apricots are my mom’s favorite fruit. It might me mine too, but I’ve got a thing for cherries too. Vacation is definitely NOT in the plans quite yet. Staycation is where it’s at.

Every year in mid June I drive to Brentwood and purchase 3 cases of Blenheim apricots. (I planted my own Blenheim tree a few years ago, but the critters always get to them before I do!) I love to give the jars to friends and relatives as a hostess gift all year long. My sister in law Nancy thinks I should sell my jam, but I’d rather treat those I love to this special treat. It is great on toast with a little butter or my husband’s fav is to smear it on his toast that has peanut butter on it. I like to use it in my home made salad dressings.

It starts with a call to Wolfe Ranch in the beginning of June. I make an appointment to come by and get the apricots when they are first picked. They have my cases ready when I get there.

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When I get home, I separate the apricots on sheet pans lined with paper towels and wait until they are good and ripe before starting my preserves.

I always use the less sugar Sure Jell fruit pectin (pink package) because it is not as sweet and somewhat healthier. I set out all the ingredients, have the jam jars and lids cleaned and sitting in a hot water bath, have the wax melted in a sauce pan on the stove, have the food processor on the counter next to my measuring cups, lemon juice freshly squeezed, and butter and sugar out ready to go.

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Next, I wash the apricots and cut them in half. I pulse them in the food processor and also cut some of them up with a small knife. DO NOT puree. Then I follow the cooked jam recipe exactly from the Sure Jell package.

  •  I measure exactly 6 cups of apricots into an 8 quart deep sauce pan and stir in 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp unsalted butter.
  •  Measure 4½ C sugar into a separate bowl.
  • Mix ¼ C of sugar from measured amount into a small bowl with 1 box of Sure Jell.
  •  Stir pectin-sugar mixture into fruit
  •   Bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat stirring constantly.
  •  Stir in remaining sugar quickly and return to a full rolling boil for exactly 1 1/2 minutes.
  •  Remove from heat and ladle into prepared jars. Fill to within 1/8 inch of the top of the jar. Ladle in paraffin wax.
  • Cover with lids and screw bands on tightly. When cool, wipe off any excess jam on the outside with a warm wash cloth. Enjoy!

Have you ever made jam? Leave a comment for me below and tell me about your tradition. Maybe you like to make pickles or can vegetables. I’d love to try pickling. What are you curious to make? I’m always inspired by the people who live in the middle of nowhere and have to use these methods to keep their food preserved.

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Are you getting away this summer or will you be hanging out at home like me? Either way, keep enjoying what you do. Try to give back when you can. And love the ones you’re with. We need more peace and love in the world. Listen to The Beatles “Let It Be.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ih-8K1a_SsA  The Beatles “Let it Be”My all time favorite song because my mom played the clarinet to this song at a Catholic Marriage Retreat when I was a little girl.

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Feel free to check out a previous blog here: https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/a-foodies-dream-edible-flowers-and-delicious-cocktails/

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pheasant (Or Chicken) en Creme

Ingredients:

1 Pheasant or Organic Chicken cleaned and quartered

1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 T Unsalted Butter

⅓ C Diced Yellow Onion

2 Cloves minced Garlic

½ C Fresh sauteed sliced Cremini Mushrooms

 

1 Can of Cream Of Chicken Soup

½ C Apple Cider

1 T plus 1 teas Worcestershire Sauce

¾ t Kosher Salt

½ t Black Pepper

2 t Smoked Paprika divided

 

Preheat oven t 350 degrees

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

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

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

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

Smiles and happy cooking,

Teri:)

 

Need a new cocktail recipe? Latest blog here

 

 

 

 

 

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Simple Tips to Compost in Your Garden and Make the Best Fennel and Goat Cheese Tart for Mother’s Day

Simple Tips to Compost in Your Garden and Make the Best Fennel and Goat Cheese Tart for Mother’s Day

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Today I took a class on composting in the home garden. Luckily for me, The UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/OurGarden/ offer weekly free classes at Our Garden on Wiget Lane and Shadelands Drive in Walnut Creek, California. This place was started in 2009 to grow food for the hungry and also to teach sustainable gardening practices to people like me. I go to learn new techniques on how to grow organically, how to compost efficiently, and to learn the secrets to growing my own vegetables and herbs.

In early April, I bought over 25 varieties of tomatoes, egg plant, tomatillos, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, and herbs like cilantro, dill and tarragon. Last season’s compost was ready to move into my raised planter box and I planted these beautiful plants into the organic soil. It’s being able to go out and pick fresh herbs that makes my dishes come out delicious, I believe.

Composting is nature’s way to turn fruit, vegetable and yard trimmings into a dark, crumbly soil amendment. I’m all for that. I’ve been composting for several years, not really knowing what I’m doing. The class taught me I should be chopping the leaves, fruit peels, greenery, etc into smaller pieces before adding to the pile. Compost is made by the breakdown of organic material primarily microorganisms like bacteria and fungi and macro organisms like worms, insects, and their relatives. The pile heats up because the bacteria decomposes the organic matter.

The compost process requires three components: organic matter, air and water. To begin composting you need brown items that include carbon like dry leaves, egg shells, straw, coffee filters, wood shavings, pine needles, shredded paper, and chopped woody prunings. You also need green items which include nitrogen such as grass clippings, well composted herbivore manures, flowers, coffee grounds, green leaves, tea leaves/bags, sod, and fruit and vegetable waste. Food scraps should be buried in the center of the pile 6-12 inches deep. Roughly 1 volume of greens to 2 volumes of browns are the starting proportions for building a compost pile.

You need a bin made out of chicken wire, welded wire fencing, or one that is purchased at a local garden supply. Geo Bin https://www.amazon.com/Compost-Bin-by-GEOBIN/dp/B0085O6NXQ came highly recommended. The optimal size bin is between 3X3 ft or 5X5X5 ft. The bin requires air holes for good circulation and someone needs to turn the pile daily/weekly to speed the compost process. Water is needed for the pile and should be kept as damp as a wrung out sponge.

I learned that compost piles are hottest in the center and can sometimes reach above 160 degrees. The ideal temperature for the best decomposer bacteria is between 122 and 131 degrees. Turning the pile brings fresh materials (food) to the bacteria and maintains the heat in the pile. Keep the pile watered and the compost should be ready in 6 to 8 weeks if the pile stays hot enough. If it’s not turned or watered enough it could take 3 to 8 months.

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Growing your own vegetables and herbs is very rewarding. Here is a pic of my raised garden in my front yard. There is nothing better than walking our to your organic garden and picking fresh herbs to add to your recipes. I’m inspired to use my composting techniques and build a healthier soil which in turn will grow healthier plants. I hope I’ve inspired you to try it in your back yard garden. You’ll be glad you did. Secrets to getting more vegies into your diet. 

Maybe you will bake this savory fennel and goat cheese tart for your friends and family this Mother’s Day. I made it recently for my garden club and they loved it. Here is the recipe:

 

Fennel, Goat Cheese and Tarragon Tart

 

Pastry Dough Recipe

1 ½ C Unbleached Flour

¾ Stick (6T) cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

¼ t Kosher salt

4 to 5 T Ice Cold H20

 

For Tart Filling

2 large fennel bulbs @ 2 ½ lbs

1 large leek

8 green cardamom pods (or 1 t cardamom spice powder)

¼ C white wine or champagne

¼ C H20

¼ C Olive Oil

1 t Kosher salt

½ t black pepper

2 T unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 large egg yolk

½ C heavy cream

½ C whole milk

¼ C goat cheese

3 Oz (½ C) Taleggio Cheese cut into extra small cubes

1 T chopped fresh Tarragon from the garden

 

Make pastry dough for tart:

 

In a food processor, blend flour, salt and butter until blended. Or use pastry cutter or fingers just until most of  resembles coarse meal. Add cold water and blend until combined. Do not over mix or pastry will be tough.

Gather dough onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and make into a ball and flatten. Cover completely and let it rest in fridge to chill.

 

Directions for filling:

Cut off and discard fennel stalks and fronds. Cut out core and cut up fennel into ¼ in thick slices. Wash and cut leek into ¼ in slices using white parts only. Flatten cardamom pods with side of large heavy knife, then remove black seeds and discard pods. Crush seeds with side of knife and chop finely. Or sprinkle cardamom spice powder onto leeks and fennel in a 12 inch heavy skillet. Add wine, water, butter, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer, covered over moderately low heat stirring occasionally until tender about 20 to 25 min. Cool.

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure rack is in center of oven.

 

Roll out dough into a 15 in round tart pan. I use plastic wrap to  prevent dough from sticking to rolling pin. Trim dough so that it is flush with rim of pan. Lightly prick dough with a fork, then chill for 30 min. Line shell with foil (I spray with Pam first)and fill with dry kidney beans, rice or pie weights.Bake on a large baking sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights and bake 10 -15 min longer or until tart shell is golden brown. Remove from oven.

 

Whisk together eggs, yolk, until foamy and add milk, cream, goat cheese, chopped tarragon, salt and pepper. Transfer fennel and leek mixture into pastry shell spreading evenly, and dot with taleggio cheese. Pour custard into shell and bake until set about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Serves 6-8 people

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about composting and making delicious tarts. Please follow my blog and feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.

Touring and Eating My Way Through Iceland

 

 

 

 

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