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How to Drink Your Way Through Disneyland

How to Drink Your Way Through Disneyland

Hello again. A quick update about what’s going on at Smyth Family Farm. My mom is turning 80 tomorrow, and we are celebrating at Blackhawk Grille in Danville. This is the restaurant that I worked as a pastry chef at. I will be bringing three cakes for my mom tomorrow: A white cake with elderflower liqueur, strawberry jam, and fresh strawberries and whipped cream, a lemon cake doused with limoncello and simple syrup, meyer lemon curd, whipped cream and a lavender white chocolate buttercream. Last but not least will be the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I picked up the white tulips that I will try to decorate the lemon cake with. I am inspired by the wedding cake I saw last weekend at Kevin and Lora Mahlman’s wedding. Incredible. We’ll see if I can pull it off. More photos at the end of this blog.

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Whipped Cream and cut up strawberries to fold into the center of the white cake.
My husband Ken, me and my girlfriend Marie and her husband Ron at their son’s wedding last weekend.

Also, we have another surge of Covid spreading across the Bay Area where I live. My son Andrew was exposed at his Blackhawk Choir concert last weekend, where 10 of the singers came down with covid. My good friend Denise, had to cancel a trip to Napa because she was exposed at a women’s group meeting where she volunteers. I’m super sad that she and her husband are leaving the state. It’s one of the many who are exiting California. This past year has been full of loss whether it be from sickness or moving out of the area. I’m not happy about it, but I understand. 

Here is my continued blog from the Disneyland trip I took in February 2022. Here is part one, if you missed it.

Day two of Disneyland adventure.

Woke up at 6:15 and got ready in our nice hotel. It’s convenient to stay at the Grand Californian because it’s close to the park. Kathleen, Keri and Jamie and I met up with the Louies in the lobby. We took off to Guardians of the Galaxy. It replaced the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in 2017. It is much more fun now. I wasn’t crazy about dropping hundreds of feet, but Guardians of the Galaxy is different and brilliantly done.

Toy Story Midway Mania ride was next. We love taking aim at moving objects and try to score more points then our riding buddy. The Pixar Movie Toy Story came out when my youngest son Andrew was three years old. He loved Andy, Buzz Lightyear, and the Woody character and would watch the movie over and over again. There is something about being in Disneyland that reminds you of being a child, and or bringing fond memories back of raising your kids.Loved the ride. I’m not great at scoring points, but it’s fun to try.

Incredicoaster was next on the list. All day, Kathleen is monitoring all of our lightning passes which were previously called Fast Passes. She is monitoring her phone and the Disneyland App to see when she can book our next pass. These lines are much smaller and it saves a ton of time. Only two passes are allowed per individual per day, which is why Kathleen asks us to purchase two park passes per day. It’s a lot of money, but totally worth using your time wisely at Disneyland. There is a strategy to her madness. She researches blogs and internet tips for months preparing for this trip. I don’t think Disneyland knows we are purchasing two tickets each. It’s illegal, and we would be kicked out of the park if they find out.It’s a risk we are willing to take to make our experience even more pleasurable.

Incredicoasteris located at Pixar Pier and is the fastest ride reaching a high speed of 55 miles per hour. You will be greeted by JackJack, Edna, Elastigirl, Violet and Dash, the characters from The Incredibles Movie. I’m not usually a huge roller coaster person. When I was 12, my dad made me ride the Tidal Wave Ride at California’s Great America previously called Six Flags. It was built in 1976. It terrified me. Since then, I have overcome my fear and have more fun taking pleasure in these roller coasters.

We bought a “Nom Nom” Cookie which I need to try to make myself at home. They are served warm and are an incredible cookie. Of course we share them because it’s too much cookie for one person.

Some of us purchased a latte or coffee to go with our treats.

Soaring Around the World was just as much fun the second time. It’s fun to get on this ride and sit in the first row. Your feet hang down and you feel like you are flying in the open sky. Not too far from here was Monsters Inc. We got on a “taxi ride” where we were entertained by Mike and Sully rescuing a human child. I’m not as familiar with this movie because my kids didn’t get into it. I’m also not as familiar with Tangled and other princess movies since I had two boys. I’ve had to rely on my nieces to introduce me to some of these films.

We tried getting on the Cars ride next, but there was a 30 minute wait. We never wait that long for a ride. On to see Ariel and her Under Sea Adventure from The Little Mermaid with my sister in law Terri-Ann. Ariel has always been Keri and Jamie’s favorite princess growing up. Over the years, we would get to visit each princess and take pictures with them. Of course, they are all special, but Ariel was always the family’s most loved princess. All of the others in our group went on Goofy’s Sky School Ride.

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My nieces Jamie and Keri at Carthay Lounge

All of those rides can make a girl thirsty, so we were grateful that Kathleen made reservations in advance at the Carthay Circle Lounge. I ordered the Soba noodles with salmon edamame and a ginger soy vinaigrette. Sooo good. The VanWinckel’s ordered the shrimp spring rolls and more. I enjoyed a double pear martini. It is made with Double Cross and Absolut Pear Vodka, Pear Nectar and fresh lime complemented with a baby pear and mint leaf. Just delightful! Keri had a Sparkling Mare. This is made with Saint-Hilaire Sparkling Wine, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Aperol Orange Aperitif. Jamie ordered the Negroni I think. I’m trying to figure it out by looking at the menu and her drink from my photos. It was a few months ago and I have a horrible memory. Having drinks with these girls is a lot of fun. I get to sit back and watch the sisters interact and not have a care in the world. These drinks cost between $15 and $18.50 each. We are there for a limited time since Kathleen has us on the go, but not before the girls order their second cocktail which I believe included tequila. Interestingly enough, no one gets too inebriated. We all relax and have a good time.

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Star wars Ride

The most anticipated attraction at Disneyland is Star Wars: Galaxy Edge called Rise of the Resistance. It is four rides built into one and about 15 to 20 minutes long. It’s epic and you won’t want to miss it.

After all the excitement, it was time to slow down and have a drink and pizza poolside at the Grand California. We sat in the hot tub to soak our tired feet and had long conversations. We’ve all missed our family gatherings since Covid started, so there was a lot to catch up on.

My drawing. I have no idea which character this was.

Next we all met at Animation Academy located at California Adventure Park. This 23 minute long hands-on attraction allows you to draw with the cartoonist. They teach you how to draw a Disney character. The whole experience is fun and challenging, especially for me since I can’t draw. So it was evident that I would lose my marbles and laugh uncontrollably when I heard Keri laugh. It was one of those awkward moments when you think you will be kicked out of class. Maybe it was the cocktail? I’ll stick with that.

We ate dinner at the Lamplighter Lounge, which again needed to be booked in advance. The Lobster Nachos are always a hit so the Van Winckel’s  always order two. I find them a little over rated. I don’t find them to be very “lobstery”, but I go with the flow.

Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Fireworks, It’s a Small World, Oga’s Cucina for drinks (An Absolute MUST), and the Pirates of the Caribbean finished up our day.

That finishes up day two of our Disneyland 2022 trip.

I will post day three and four next time.

Thanks for joining me and reading my blog. I hope I’ve inspired you to take a trip to Disneyland.

Wish me luck completing and pulling off the birthday cakes for tomorrow. They are already in the freezer just waiting for the decorating final touches. I will post photos of them and my mom’s special day next week.

Here are the cakes I made for Mom’s 80th. The recipe for the white cake is in this link.

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Strawberry Jam. White Cake and a great premade frosting to whip up.
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Creating the White Cake with strawberry Jam and whipped cream.
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It’s good to make a whipped cream edge so the jam doesn’t escape.
 

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About Last Weekend in Half Moon Bay

About Last Weekend in Half Moon Bay

 I’m excited to share our last family day trip in Half Moon Bay California. We were celebrating my son Curtis who recently had a birthday. The last adventure we had before that was on Thanksgiving day at the Sonoma Mission Inn enjoying their spa treatments, pool and scrumptious dinner. Neither of my son’s had ever been to Half Moon Bay before, so this day was going to be extra special.

We started off leaving Walnut Creek at 10:30AM so we could get to the coast as early as possible. None of us like waking up early, with the exception of my husband, so 10:30 seemed like a good compromise. We made it to the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company by noon, just in time for lunch and a cocktail.

We loved their outdoor dining set up with plenty of tables and chairs available. The staff was outstanding accommodating our every need, and the cool, fresh ocean air was delightful. Some days are completely fogged over near the coast, but not this day. It was sunny and gorgeous, the perfect kind of day to celebrate a birthday.

Here we are at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company http://www.letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Curtis ordered his favorite handcrafted cocktail the Brewco Bloody Mary served with Tito’s Habanero Vodka infused in house.He loves the spice! Andrew and I went on the more conservative side and ordered beer. He sampled the Saison Farmhouse Ale: 6.8%ABV a pilsen malt that lends a soft dry mouthfeel with notes of bread crust and honey. I ordered the 16 oz Tactical Sunglasses: IPA-New England 6.4% ABV which had pineapple and passionfruit with hints of ripe stone fruit and citrus lime from HBC 735, Citiva and Citra Hops. After we managed to finish these, we shared a Flat Mars Society IPA-New England 6% ABV which is floral and fruity with passion fruit, grapefruit, pineapple, orange, and lemongrass overtones from Nelson, Citra, and Simcoe. Their house N. E. yeast blends lends to a nice juicy mouthfeel, with a soft and clean finish. My favorite was the Tactical Sunglasses IPA. Ken always orders water since he doesn’t drink alcohol.

Enough about beer, although we were at a Brewing Company. Isn’t it always about the food? Fresh Crab was available, but I didn’t notice it on the menu. They also served cioppino which had ½ crab, calamari, 3 prawns, linguicia, tomato, red and green onions, fennel, and an in house tomato base served with garlic bread. I have never made cioppino, but I have a recipe from my dad’s cousin’s husband Skip which I have been meaning to try. I will be talking about Skip again later in the blog.

Chalkboard of Specials at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

We ordered their cheese bread with a delicious tomato sauce as an appetizer. This was devoured almost immediately. My best bite of food that I have eaten in a long time and we make a lot of cheese bread in our house. My husband ordered the fried chicken sandwich with caesar salad, I ordered the pretzels and cheese sauce and grilled artichokes which were a little over cooked to my liking. But I had to because we were near Watsonville where artichokes are grown. The Blackhawk Grille where I worked as a pastry chef had the best grilled artichokes. They were to die for, but I don’t think they are on the menu anymore.

Andrew ordered a Portuguese seafood soup with clams, prawns and garlic toasts. He loved it. And he is my budding chef. He loves to cook, has no problem cooking with a lot of spice and makes his own fermented vegetables. Curtis ordered the beer battered seafood sampler with calamari, prawns, cod and French fries. This was served with both tartar sauce and cocktail sauce and plenty of lemon. It was very tasty, but isn’t deep fried food always tasty?

We stopped off at the inside bar and ordered a 6 pack of something that Andrew wanted to try and I bought Curtis a hoodie with Half Moon Brewing Company on it so he would have something to remember the day with. Next stop: The Ritz Carlton.

The beyond gorgeous Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay http://www.letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Lucky us, we happened upon a free parking spot along the coast walking trail on the way to The Ritz Carlton. Otherwise, they do have 25 available spots to park in for the hikers at the hotel. They have been known to charge a day rate to park there, which I don’t love.

My husband Ken, and son’s Curtis and Andrew at Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay California

It was lovely walking along the path next to the golf course and the ocean on the other side. We don’t get out to the coast as much as I’d like. So today was the day. Ken and I can walk for hours, but Curtis complains of going too far because of his knees. He was also sore from a basketball game he played in the night before.

My son Andrew, husband Ken, and son Curtis the birthday boy at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bayhttps://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com
Vienna gave us the wine list and this is what we chose.

Eventually we made it to the hotel. I like looking around, but am happier at the bar. We chose the inside bar, since there were 3 seats available. We loved our adorable bartender Vienna, who poured generous portions of a 2019 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County alcohol 14.0%. I try to order wines from the Russian River because that’s where my dad’s family is from. My dad was raised in Guerneville and would swim up the Russian River to visit a friend at Korbel Winery (his friend’s parents worked there), and then swim back down the river to his home.

Beautiful flowers adorning the front entrance of Ritz Carlton https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

The Ritz Hotel is stunning inside and out. If it were up to me, we would have stayed for dinner and dessert at The Conservatory, their signature restaurant. They serve everything from a Niman Ranch Pork chop, a Rack of Lamb, or a American Wagu Ribeye served with duckfat potatoes, brussel sprouts and red wine Jus.They served a beet salad with burrata, toasted pine nuts, peach balsamic and sourdough croutons. Grilled octopus, pumpkin soup, baked oysters and Marin County Cheese platter with Point Reyes Blue, Marin Schloss Nicasio Reserve and Walnut Bread. My kind of food right here. And much, much more was offered, but we decided upon another pour of the wine, Andrew had a blackberry beer and Curtis switched to wine after he drank the Purissima Mule: Purissima Vodka, fresh lime, strawberry mint syrup and Fever Tree Ginger Beer. 

A look of the patio and ocean from inside the Ritz Carlton

As the night grew darker, we found ourselves on the patio getting warm from the fire pit and enjoyed visiting with the hotel guests. It’s always nice to chat with people from all over, yet these locals were from Santa Rosa. They was a charming young couple celebrating their Baby Moon, which is a vacation you take before the baby comes. The woman happened to be a special education teacher and was fascinating to talk with. We shared our son Andrew’s diagnosis of autism and explained how he overcame some of his challenges. It was a win-win for us all. Here is the blog where I explain our story on raising a son with special needs. Ken and Curtis talked business as Curtis is in sales and has admired all of Ken’s achievements in his career as an Information Technology executive. 

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Our bartender Vienna

Overall, the day couldn’t have gone any better. Ken and Curtis walked back to the car and Andrew and I waited at the turn around for them to arrive. It’s a glorious place. You feel spoiled and special even if you only stop by for drinks.

I hope you have enjoyed my story about our fabulous day with our son’s Curtis and Andrew. It’s days like these that give me great joy to know they still live close and we can run away if only for a few hours to spend time together. It may not be this way forever and this I understand.

So here is a Blue Cheese Dressing recipe that was shared from my dad’s cousin’s husband Skip Cassidy who is 85 and lives in Guerneville, California. He and I chat from time to time. Last year he generously gifted me four marajuana plants that I grew and harvested last year. I make apple cake with the dried leaves and it helps me sleep. He’s a gem.

Skip’s Blue Cheese Salad Dressing from Casanova’s Restaurant in Cazadero

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Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese

Ingredients:

1.5 C. Milk

10 oz Blue Cheese

¼ C Apple Cider Vinegar

3 C Best Foods Mayonnaise

2 tsp Kosher Salt

1 T No Salt

4 Cloves sauteed garlic

1 tsp Accent

¼ t black pepper

Directions:

Heat milk in a medium size pot on the stove on medium heat. Watch to make sure it doesn’t overboil. Add crumbled blue cheese and stir until melted. Saute’ garlic in a small pot with a little olive oil. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until combined, being careful to cool the warmed milk and cheese before adding liquid in a blender. Place in the fridge and the dressing will thicken.

Place cleaned and dried greens in a large bowl. Pour dressing along the inside of the bowl. Toss greens to coat. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and add any topping you wish.

I served mine with pistachios and a cup of warm apple butternut squash soup.

Blue Cheese Dressing on Romaine Lettuce and
pistachios with Butternut Squash soup
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Hello 2022 and a Tiramisu Recipe

Hello 2022 and a Tiramisu Recipe

It’s a new year, so let’s get it off to a good start by writing again. Truthfully, I’ve gotten out of my groove for some time. Covid hasn’t helped things, nor has farming and raising 8 chickens for the past year.

My niece Michelle and her boyfriend Nitin

I’ve loved being in my garden. It has brought me peace and a great deal of exercise which I love. For a 50 something lady, I’m doing pretty good health wise. About 80% of my family got Covid during the holidays. That includes my husband, whom I live with. It hasn’t been easy staying away from him since he works from home and has for the past almost two years. We get along great, but not having time to myself to write has been an issue. 

My Sister Julie, Me, Sister Susan and Brother Rick on Christmas Eve

I also gave up my gym membership two years ago and that’s where I wrote each and every blog post. I would order a beer and an appetizer after a workout and get to writing. I miss that space, but am happy to spend more time in my garden and with my chickens.

My “girlfriends” Babe, Arthur, Mabel, Burtha, Mary Kate, Caramel Corn, Dolly and Bee Bee have been a huge blessing in my life. They bring me joy each and every day. I spend time talking to them, feeding them, cuddling them and driving to local grocery stores to pick up fresh greens and almost spoiled fruit and veggies. If the chickens aren’t interested in celery, or peppers, or whatever, I compost it. Nothing gets wasted here. Sometimes the tomatoes or corn are good enough to eat for us. In which case, it becomes a bit of work and a time commitment for me to separate everything, refrigerate it and feed it or compost it, etc… I love to juice celery, turmeric, beets, ginger, carrots, apples, kale and spinach for Ken and me and then give the pulp to the chickens. They basically get to have any leftovers that we can’t eat. Spoiled girls for sure.

Back to Covid. Right now the Delta and Omicron variants are here in the Bay Area. No one knew they were ill on Christmas eve. Maybe they were asymptomatic, but it was a superpreader event like no other. So far, everyone has survived. Everyone was vaccinated. Not all of us were boosted, which means their cases will be more severe.

I listen to podcasts at night when I can’t sleep and one of them is from Vincent Racaniello called MicrobeTV. He is known as the Earth’s Virology Professor and he has guests that chat with him and answer questions. It is very interesting to me. Probably not something I should be listening to in the middle of the night, but whatever. I learn a lot about Covid-19 and what’s going on.

Sometimes I listen to the Live Twitter feed of theCovid-19:Updates for the US. My favorite is listening to Governor Murphy in New Jersey who speaks every Monday or Wednesday about the numbers of deaths, whether schools are open, stories about the people who have passed away, etc… Last year, I listened to Governor Cuomo in New York, but he has since lost his job. I love learning. It’s a passion of mine.

I haven’t baked as much recently. My friend Marie and I got together last October and baked tiramisu together. I have a few recipes that I use and I promised her that I would post the recipe. I know. I’m a little late. Oh well…

 Ohh. And I’ve been quilting too. I also attended a 5th birthday party for a special little girl in my life. The BEST day ever. I’ve made marajuana pound cake, apple cake with cannabis leaves which is GREAT for sleep, and cannabis butter from plants I grew last summer. Recipe coming soon.

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Billie’s 5th Birthday at a park in Walnut Creek

I attended a Holiday concert with Blackhawk Chorus that my son Andrew and good friend Denise Clark performed in which was a blast. 

From the Back left Sue, Nintin, Laura, Curtis, Andrew, Dan, Second row: Hanson, Michelle, Shannon, Nancy, and Terri Ann. And Me in front
Blueberry Pie

I spent Christmas day with my 2 boys, my hubby, my older sister Susan and my dad Ron which was unexpected, but so much fun. We made a ham, scalloped potatoes au gratin, and a blueberry pie with a heart shaped crust and Marion Berry ice cream.

My Daddio and Me with our #Smythfamilyfarmwc hats from my cute husband Ken
Here are the four of us on Christmas Day . Starting in Back: My Husband Ken , son Andrew. Second row: Son Curtis and Me
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Back to the recipe.

Tiramisu Recipe

You can purchase 30 small Savoiardi cookies instead of making ladyfingers. Or make a Chiffon Cake and use that instead.

Lady Fingers: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

 Butter a 12X16 inch baking tray. Line with Parchment paper and brush again with butter.

In a mixing bowl, whip the egg yolks with ¼ C sugar until ribbon stage and light in color. Reserve. In another mixing bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining ¼ C sugar and continue to whip to medium peaks. Sift the flour again. With a rubber spatula, fold half of the flour mixture into the yolk mixture.. Fold in ½ of the egg whites. Then fold in ½ of the remaining flour mixture. Lastly, fold in the remaining ½ egg white mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and with an offset spatula, carefully spread the batter evenly. Bake for 12-15 minutes until done and golden in color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. This can be made up to two weeks in advance, wrapped in plastic wrap and foil and stored in the freezer. 

Mascarpone Cream:

Ingredients: 

6 Egg Yolks

6 Egg Whites

1 C Sugar

¼ C Marsala

¼ C Italian Brandy

2 Lbs mascarpone cheese

2 sheets gelatin or 2 Oz unflavored Knox gelatin

¼ C cold water

2 ½ C Heavy Cream

Espresso Syrup:

1 C hot espresso or use 1 T dry espresso powder with water

3 T brown sugar

1 T sugar

1 teas lemon juice

1 teas vanilla extract

¼ C Kahlua

½ C grated Bittersweet chocolate (preferably Guittard or Ghirardelli) 

½ C Cocoa Powder Dutch Processed

Mascarpone Cream:

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Add the Marsala and brandy. Place over a ban marie/double boiler and cook until mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Continue to cook mixture for another 5 minutes, until the mixture resembles a thick paste,( called sabayon). Remove from the double boiler and cool mixture over an ice bath or until room temperature. Whip the mascarpone cheese to soft peaks. Fold the cooled sabayon into the mascarpone until well incorporated. Place gelatin sheets in ¼ C cold water. After 5 minutes, pour mixture into a small pot and melt on medium heat. Cool. Fold melted gelatin into mascarpone sabayon mixture. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into mascarpone mixture ¼ at a time. Place heavy Cream in a cold bowl and mix until whipped or “chantilly” stage.Fold into sabayon mixture.Mixture should be smooth and light. Use as layers in the tiramisu or as needed. Can be made up to four hours ahead.

Espresso Syrup:

Brew fresh espresso. (or go to Peet’s Coffee or Starbucks and buy 1 Cup). To one cup of espresso, add the brown sugar, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir until dissolved.

Assembly of Tiramisu:

Divide the sheet of ladyfingers into 2 (8X10Inch) sheets. Divide espresso syrup into 2 portions. Divide the mascarpone cream into 3 portions. To assemble, spread the first portion of the mascarpone cream at the bottom of a deep (8X10-inch) deep dish topped with 1 sheet of ladyfingers. (Or for fun use wine goblets) Pour one portion of espresso syrup on to the layer of ladyfingers until soaked using a brush. Repeat process. Sprinkle grated chocolate and cocoa powder on top of mascarpone. Lastly, top with remaining mascarpone cream, and cover with grated chocolate. Cover pan and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Note: If not serving right away, keep in freezer wrapped tight with plastic wrap and foil. (I’ve kept mine in freezer up to 3 months!) When ready to serve, transfer to fridge to defrost or take out of freezer and leave on the counter to defrost.Then top with whipped cream and chopped chocolate and a sprinkling of cocoa powder when serving.

Recipe was developed by combining Sullivan’s Sweets and Savories cookbook, Diablo Valley College’s Pastry Baking class tiramisu recipe, Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa and celebrity Italian chef Mario Batali’s recipe. You can double or triple the recipe to make a large amount to share with friends and family. 

I had to stop and take a break to bring treats to my chickens “girlfriends.” Ken stopped by Lunardy’s on his way home from soccer and picked up a box of sprouts, broccoli, butternut squash and seeds, spinach, carrot tops, celery and lettuce. They were thrilled. Brought out the garbages, transferred the laundry to the dryer, texted a few friends, replied to Instagram posts and here I am.

And it goes without saying that we miss my Mother in Law Nilda Smyth who died last October a week before she turned 90. We love you Grandma Nilda.

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Me and my husband Ken Christmas 2021

Happy New Year everyone and hope to be writing again soon.

Teri

 

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Eating our way through Napa and smudging herbs

Eating our way through Napa and smudging herbs

    Hey everyone! It’s great to be writing again. I’ve had quite a few distractions since I‘ve last written. My son Curtis introduced me to Club House, a new app on my phone. It’s super interesting and worth looking into. I’ve also started listening to The Bible in a Year Podcast with Father Mike Schmitz. I was raised Catholic, but have never read the bible. It has been interesting so far. I’m also raising chickens, baking bread from scratch, making nutritious meals and entertaining occasionally. I spend a lot of time in the garden composting, weeding, seed sowing, planting vegetables and bulbs. The garden is popping right now with paperwhites, daffodils, snow drops, anemones, calendulas, rosemary, borage, lemon balm, mint, and much much more. I hike with friends, my sister or my husband regularly. It’s a passion. I love working on puzzles when I find the time to sit. There is always so much to do around the house. And don’t forget cookie baking. I also made a yummy gluten free crispy ginger cookies recipe this week. I can share that recipe too.

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Did I mention my trip to Napa with my girlfriend Marie? We started at the Model Bakery where we purchased scones, wheat bread, focaccia, and apple pies. Next to it was The Fatted Calf, and if we weren’t going to be gone all day, I would have gotten something to barbeque for dinner. They had every kind of meat, pork, duck, sausage, bacon, salami you could think of. Back to the bakery. Marie got an oatmeal raisin cookie too, and saved it for her husband Ron. We had them slice the bread and divide them up so we could both bring some home to our families. I’ve since made a grilled cheese with tuna salad on the wheat bread. Soooo gooood. Next we walked through Ox Bow Market. If you haven’t been there, it’s a must see. Of course we had to stop at the Napa Valley Distillery, Anette’s Chocolates and Hudson Greens and Goods. You can find Ritual Coffee, Napa BookMine, The Olive Press and our favorite Whole Spice. We then walked to town and had lunch at the Archer Hotel Roof Top where we enjoyed olives, crostini, beet salad and good wine. It was a glorious day and I’m thankful for a day with my friend Marie.

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Bakery Items at Model Bakery. Decided to go after seeing a post from a friend about their English Muffins

Today I planted seeds of dill, Thai basil, Genovese basil, sweet peas, snow peas, and microgreens. I attended a class on Smudging on Club House today and learned which herbal plants can be used to make these potent dried bundles. They can be used for practical reasons, or spiritual or ceremonial purposes. Antimicrobial Sages, yarrow, calendula, mullein, mugwort, cedar, juniper, English lavender, rosemary, sweet grass, palo santo, thyme, bayberry, oregano, frankincense, myrrh, peppermint, basil, lemon grass, clove, cinnamon,blue spruce, dill, bay leaves, and eucalyptus are many of the herbs used in making the smudges.I’m still learning about the health benefits of burning these herbs. Many tribes from the ancient ways and traditions believe these herbs are sacred, have special healing effects and cleansing essence. They can help low vibration energies.

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Blueberry scone from Model Bakery

I bake with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom whenever I make oatmeal cookies or gingerbread cake. These are my favorite warm spices. I wrote a blog and shared a gingerbread cupcake recipe. My son and his girlfriend Shannon made it together yesterday. It tasted terrific, but the cupcakes didn’t rise correctly, so I have to go back and make the recipe again myself. We still ate the moist crumbles with a white chocolate buttercream frosting. They were delicious.

It’s after 5PM already, and I have to bring in the chickens and make dinner for my husband. I’m planning on preparing a white fish with a pineapple mango salsa for dinner. It’s so yummy. I might have to share the recipe with you.

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Pecan Sticky Rolls

Brioche

Sponge= Pre dough

Ingredients:

2 ¼ t dry yeast

⅓ C warm Milk

1 egg

¼ C sourdough starter

1 C All Purpose Flour or Bread Flour

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a stand mixer and combine on medium to medium low speed until combined.

Sprinkle 1 Cup All purpose flour/ bread flour (I use ¼ C. Hard Red Wheat, ¾ C Bread flour over dough so it doesn’t dry out. Let rest and rise for 30-45 min.

The sponge adds flavor to the brioche and keeping quality.

Ingredients:

 ⅓ C Sugar

1 T Kosher Salt

Crack 4 eggs into a separate bowl (approx ¾ C.)

¾ -1 C softened butter

Directions:

Place sugar, salt, and eggs alternatively with 1 -1/12 C. more Flour into stand mixer.

Using the dough hook, slowly incorporate all these ingredients adding the softened butter a Tablespoon at a time at the end until all of it is added.

Mix on medium to med high speed for 7-9 minutes until you hear the slap sound when the dough hits the bowl.

Transfer to a clean buttered bowl. Cover and let sit until it doubles in volume about 1- 2 hours.

Deflate and redistribute the dough by gently lifting edges of dough a little from the bottom, turning the bowl as you lift the dough.

Place the dough into the refrigerator for 4-6 hours or overnight.

At this point you can divide the dough in half and keep the other ½ of the dough covered in the fridge.

Pecan Sticky Buns

Pecan Sticky Buns

Smack the dough with a rolling pin  on a lightly floured flat surface into a 11/14 square or rectangle. Touch as little as possible. Dot in 3 0z softened butter onto dough. Fold over itself. 1/2 up and 1/2 down.

Roll out again. Dot with 3 oz softened butter. Fold over itself again. 1/2 up. 1/2 down. Place on a sheet pan and place in fridge for 1/2 hour to chill.

Sprinkle counter with four. Roll out dough with a floured rolling pin to 11/14 rectangle using plenty of four so it doesn’t stick. Crack 1 whole egg into a dish and whisk it until combined. Using a pastry brush, brush on egg wash onto dough. Sprinkle 4 T sugar and 1 teas cinnamon onto dough evenly leaving an inch or two at the edge free of cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle 1/2 C toasted chopped pecans onto dough. Use more egg wash so it seals when you roll up. Roll up away from you, making sure to seal the edges. Set on a sheet pan and set in freezer for 45 min. so dough will slice easier.

Prepare a round baking dish with 1 stick of softened butter and sprinkle 1/2 C light brown sugar on top of butter.

Cut roll of dough into 1 1/2 ” slices or 7 pieces. Put 3 pecans on each slice and place pecan side down into prepared pan.. Place cinnamon rolls next to each other and let rise again for 1 -1 1/2 hours at room temperature. You can leave in fridge over night and place on counter for 1 hour before baking.

Bake in a 325 degree preheated convection oven or 350 degrees oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven invert onto a dish and cool.

Enjoy!

Thanks for joining me here. I appreciate your comments and feedback if you have questions about my recipes or the smudging. 

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Great friends in front of Napa’s fine art sculptures. I love hearts

Teri

 

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Heart Full of Love and Gratitude in Mendocino and Cheese Zombie Recipe

Heart Full of Love and Gratitude in Mendocino and Cheese Zombie Recipe

Stole my husband away from the Bay Area a few weeks ago to celebrate his birthday. Ken has been working from home since the March lockdown and hasn’t had a vacation since our trip to Tuscany last July. So you can imagine how excited he was to learn of my escape plan to  The Albion River Inn close to Mendocino, our favorite place. Today’s blog will be about our adventure, exploring the town and local businesses. I will also share my cheese zombie recipe that my friends keep asking for.

Ken and I masking it up in Mendocino

Mendocino is special because it is where my husband and I spent our honeymoon 31 years ago. We hadn’t been back to the Albion River Inn for many years and we wanted to escape the poor air quality in Walnut Creek. California has had the worst fire season ever. Even Oregon and Washington are struggling to contain wildfires also, causing smoke all across the West Coast. Yesterday, we had our first clear blue sky in many weeks. It was so bad that no one could go outside for fear having the effect of smoking 20 cigarettes. Ugh. We escaped to Yountville in August to get away as well.

After a restful night at our bed and breakfast, we drove to Mendocino. The Albion River Inn provided hot coffee, homemade granola, fresh fruit and yogurt, and freshly squeezed orange juice brought directly to our room and left on the doorstep of our little cottage. We slept like angels listening to the ocean and breathing fresh salty air all night long.

Pandemic herbal recipehttps://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Not much of the town was open, but there were a few quaint places to check out. The streets and stores were adorned with the most beautiful wildflowers. We found a natural food store  Corner of the Mouth Co op. I bought local whole wheat flours, buckwheat, teff, cracked freekeh, and organic barley so I can bake healthy breads and pizzas. They even had an herbal section where they sold a pandemic tea for $49.00 a pound. Let’s hope we never need it. I spotted dried organic hop flowers, horehound, holy basil, hibiscus flowers, lobelia, linden leaf, maca root powder, marshmallow root, green teas from India, China, Japan, Nepal, Argentina, Ecuador, South Africa, USA, Poland, Cameroon, Hungary and more. Wild yam root, yarrow, turmeric, white willow bark, wild cherry bark, wormwood, valerian root and much much more. I saw many kinds of dried mushrooms including reishi which has healing powers. These herbs and mushrooms fascinate me since they have been used as medicine for many years.

The herbal book section at The Corners of the Mouth Store in Mendocino

We stumbled upon a small family owned business called Garden Bakery where we had fresh chicken tacos and empanadas, and a blueberry cream cheese pastry for lunch. I saw an Oreo cookie baked inside a chocolate chip cookie too! They only took cash, so we had to go back to the car. We hardly carry cash anymore. Totally worth it.

The Mendocino Garden Shop had plenty of seeds for me to buy. Have you noticed the seed shortage? More people are planting gardens since the pandemic, so it can be hard to find seeds. I also bought cover crops like crimson clover, rye grass, and fava beans to add to my soil. These fix nitrogen that have been depleted from our summer vegetable gardens.Other cover crops that I didn’t buy were Red Fescue, Daikon Radish, Bell Beans, Common Vetch, Red Oats, Journey Peas, Blue Wild Rye Grass, Meadow Barley, White Dutch Clover. If you are interested in learning more about cover crops, you can listen to John Kempf and this YouTube video. It is so interesting. Some other soil diversity experts are Chris Nichols, Jeremy Wilson, David Johnson, Grant Simms, Joel Williams, Russell Hedrick from North Carolina and Andrew Man from Alberta. If you want to grow great crops, listen to these experts.

The flowers in Mendocino are outstanding! I loved seeing the hollyhocks, sunflowers, naked pink ladies (belladonna lily), and more in bloom. It is enchanting and romantic to be where we began our marriage.

Another thrill was finding the Highlight Gallery where we enjoyed seeing exceptional fine art, watercolors and oil paintings. Erin Dertner is one of the local artists who provided us with gorgeous watercolors that adorned our walls for many years. We met Phil Chomak who happened to overhear me speaking to the sales lady at the gallery. He is one of Erin’s good friends and was able to tell us how she recently relocated to Santa Rosa. We were given her biography which revealed her philosophy, “There is no better life than to study the world with paintbrush in hand and a heart full of love and gratitude.” We love art galleries. Here is the one of the artsy blogs I wrote when we went to see my friend Margery Ammond’s art in Caramel a few years back.

Me and Ken at the Albion River Inn Restaurant
Our table view of the fog coming in

Getting to run away with my husband to Mendocino was one of the best vacations we have ever had. The time away and clean ocean air was just what we needed to get rejuvenated and reconnected. I highly recommend eating at the Albion River Inn Restaurant too. We were spoiled with free champagne, an incredible Caesar salad with grilled shrimp and anchovies, meatballs and mac, and a seafood chowder with crispy croutons. The table was set outside with the most beautiful view of the sea and coastline. Charming lights were lit and strung above us and whimsical heat lamps were nearby to keep us warm. It will be an evening I will always remember.

Our romantic setting at the Albion river Inn’s Restaurant

Thanks for spending time with me today. I hope I’ve inspired you to bake, garden, or vacation with a loved one. I’m grateful for the time you have shared with me here and outside these homebound walls.

While rifling through my recipes, I encountered this family favorite. Cheese Zombies! I first experienced tasting one of these in high school in 1978. They were sold at brunch and provided by the cafeteria ladies. I’ve since learned my girlfriend Kim Johnson’s Russian grandmother Helen Ballock who worked for the Mount Diablo School District in the 1960’s came up with this recipe and it was inspired by her husband’s Piroshkis. The government had a cheese surplus, so she invented the Cheese Zombie. Kim’s grandfather immigrated from Russia to the United States in 1926.  I may have to make Piroshki’s next since Kim shared her family’s traditional recipe with me. 

These delicious warm balls of cheesy dough make the perfect snack. I hope you will give them a try.

Cheese Zombie with chili

MOUNT DIABLO SCHOOL DISTRICT ZOMBIE RECIPE

This recipe makes 2 ½ pounds of dough or 15 large filled zombies or 24 smaller zombies

2 C warm water

2 T Active Yeast

6 C Bread Flour

¼ C Sugar plus 1 T for activating the yeast

½ C room temperature unsalted butter

1 ½ t Kosher salt

⅛ C Poppy seeds or White or Black Sesame seeds

1 whole egg whisked

1 t black Hawaiin Sea Salt or whatever special salt you have

Whichever filling you desire:Cheese, sausage, etc… I used canned chili and cheese.

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and 1 T granulated sugar. Stir and let bubble up for about 5 or 10 minutes.

Using a dough hook, slowly begin adding some of the flour (about 2 cups) a bit at a time, incorporating the sugar and salt also while the mixer is on low. Add the room temperature butter to the dough in stages to make sure all butter is incorporated equally.

Let dough rest for 5 minutes, before adding more bread flour until most of the flour has been added. The dough should be mixed on medium high for about 10 minutes or until it is soft and pliable to the touch.  Set dough aside to rest for about another 5 or 10 minutes.

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Cheese Zombies filled with Nicasio Cheddar and sprinkled with sesame seeds and black sea salt

Divide the dough into 1pound portions and roll into long logs. Cut each log into 5 equal pieces.

Roll out each piece with a rolling pin, using extra flour as needed to keep from sticking and place your favorite filling in the center of the dough, being careful to pull dough up from the sides to cover filling. Pinch to close carefully, so the filling can’t escape while baking. Place zombies pinched side down on a well greased or use parchment paper on a sheet pan. Brush with one whole egg.Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds and Hawaiin Sea Salt. Let rise until doubled in size.

Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Fillings:

Use 1 ½-2 oz of cheese per zombie. 

Traditionally, Velveta Cheese was used, but I prefer a sharp white cheddar.

Other filling suggestions are:

Pepperoni, pizza sauce and cheese, ham and cheese, green chilies, ground beef, sausage, roasted vegetables, or scrambled eggs.

Cheese Zombies http://www.letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

I’m told these zombies were inspired by the Russian Piroshikis. My friend Kim Johnson told me her grandmother worked for the Mount Diablo School District in the 1960’s. The government had a cheese surplus, so she invented the zombies to use up the cheese. Kim’s grandfather would fill his dough with meat. Great history lesson there.

I’m a huge fan of these lunchtime or anytime treats. It’s comfort food during these hard times.

Ken and me on the balcony at the Albion River Inn near Mendocino
 

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The French Laundry Part 2 and a Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe You Will Come Back To Every Time

The French Laundry Part 2 and a Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe You Will Come Back To Every Time

The famous blue door to The French Laundry. We dined right next to it

I’m stuck sitting in my house all day because the smoke and ash from the West Coast wildfires are making the air unhealthy to breathe.The fires have charred over 2.5 million acres and it’s only mid September. I can’t imagine anything else that could go wrong in 2020. America and the world have been dealing with the Covid pandemic. We have missed weddings, funerals, concerts, and everything about our previous lifestyle and all this began a little more than six months ago. But August 23, 2020 will go down in history as being one of my favorite experiences ever, dining at The French Laundry in Yountville, California.

I’ve been following Thomas Keller (ChefThomasKeller)  and the Three Star Michelin Restaurant The French Laundry (tfl) on Instagram for years. I’ve walked through the gardens across the street from the restaurant every time I visit my dad at the Veteran’s Home in Yountville. I’m inspired by the organic produce they grow and look to see what flowers I can identify by name. Not only have I worked as a pastry chef, I’ve also been an avid gardener for over 30 years. So getting the chance to dine at one of the world’s 50 best restaurants, was a dream come true.

In January, my sister Sue booked a reservation in May for four to celebrate her daughter Marie’s 30th birthday. Marie takes after her auntie and is one of the biggest foodies there is. She knows her wine too, especially after working for Wente Winery for a few years.There is a great story of our day together in a previous blog if you want to check that out. When Covid hit in March, the restaurant had to close and pivot to outdoor dining reopening on July 8th. Our reservation was rescheduled for August 23rd, which happened to be my sister’s birthday. Perfect right? I was excited to be included in this fancy affair and couldn’t wait for August to come fast enough. 

When the day finally arrived, we started it off the right way by having brunch at my house first. Here’s the beginning of the story tfl Part 1. I didn’t want to go wine tasting at Robert Biale on an empty stomach, so I whipped up a few dishes to keep our tummies full.

The Bees home in the tfl gardens
Saying hello to my chicken friends

Before our reservation, we had to get coffee and hot chocolate and buy something at Bouchon, the famous French Bakery also owned by Thomas Keller. We then took a walk through the gardens, said hello to the chickens and the bees and took photos like we were having the best day of our lives. And we were. We even touched up our makeup and hair in the car so we would be ready for what was to come.

The time had come. It was 5:15PM, so my husband Ken dropped us off (a designated driver is always a good idea), took a few photographs and we walked up to the back entrance. We were greeted and welcomed with a smile. We gave our name and were escorted to our table. Just so you know, I don’t get to eat at places like this every day. I appreciate restaurants and bars and how they make us feel and that’s why I write about them. 

My niece Marie, Sister Sue and friend Sue Baker waiting for our experience https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Our waiter was handsome and had an English accent. Very charming. We were smitten with him. My niece is single so of course I wanted to see if he was available since I am a matchmaker. I bet you didn’t know that about me. Well, he was taken, so that was that.

 Marie brought a Del Dotto Rose sparkling wine and I brought a Red wine to avoid extra costs. Our waiter was nice enough to decanter the Italian Amarone Della Valpolicella Terre Molin red wine and open the sparkling wine to start. It was delightful. Light and plenty of bubbles. The perfect way to start the evening.

Then the tastings started coming. There was an amuse bouche of a cheese ball served in a cone dipped in white and black sesame seeds, chia seeds and flax seeds I think. We were also given hand made, perfectly cut out, flower shaped crackers filled with special cheeses that  came from the cheese maker Soyoung Scanlan at Andante Farm in Petaluma California. 

And lucky me, Chef Keller graced our table. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. Chef’s are like rock stars to me. I had to give him my business card with my blog on it and share that I almost applied to a job to be his assistant 8 months ago, before I chickened out. Maybe I will get the courage to apply there someday. He was warm and professional and everything I had hoped for. He is an author of three cookbooks: Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc At Home, and the latest one Under Pressure Cooking Sous Vide, none of which I have. Hint. Hint. He also launched a magazine called Finesse in Dec 2010 that featured different themes of importance to Chef Keller such Design, Community, Preservation and Evolution. I must check these out. For $15.00 a month you can register for his Online Masterclass and learn how to poach perfect eggs, make pasta by hand and confit vegetables. Pretty cool.

Birthday Menu

I should have taken better notes because I’m trying to decipher the menu and compare it to the photos I took of the dishes. I can recall a special pastry that we were served along with their extraordinary butter made by Diane St. Claire, found only in Vermont by a dairy called Animal Farm. Chef Keller even had a cow named after him. I bet the pastry was made from heirloom grains provided by Glenn Roberts owner of Anson Mills in Columbia, South Carolina. The miller also grows Japanese buckwheat, French oats, Italian farro, legumes and antebellum corn. I’ve been experimenting with these grains and making bread by grinding grains with a Mocksmill that I purchased when there was a flour shortage. 

This dining experience is special because of the close relationship the chef has with the farmers like Sadie Kendall at Kendall Farms in Atascadero who makes creme fraiche, seafood purveyors like Island Creek Oysters in Massachusetts,or Ingrid Bengis Seafood for her lobster,  scallops and crab. Chef Keller buys only the best ingredients for culinary excellence and discriminating appetites such as special spices and olive oils from  Le Sanctuaire in San Francisco. You get the idea.

I won’t go into every bite with you here, but I will include the menu so you can look it over yourself. It’s totally worth every penny to have an experience like we had.

Dessert table at tfl

In my opinion, the best part of the meal was the dessert. We were presented with a birthday cake “Gateau Marjolaine” a hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate ganache and praline buttercream for the birthday girls that had fireworks coming out of it. No joke. Incredible. My niece was blown away and so were the rest of us. 

Did I mention Sue Baker, my sister’s best friend paid for Marie to have a special glass of wine selected from the wine cellar to celebrate her and to make her experience even better? How sweet was that? I can’t forget to address that my sister Sue paid for all four of us to dine at The French Laundry. It’s seriously unbelievable and added to the excitement of the day. Thank you Sue. So generous.

Our waiter and the box of chocolates
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Back to the desserts, because of course these were my favorite treats and the most indulgent part of the evening. They kept coming and coming. There were caramels, and a strawberry flavored one too. We tried a peach French macaron (My recipe here) and chocolate covered macadamia nuts. I ate a white sesame cake with yuzu glazed strawberries, served with cream and cosmos flower petals.

Our service was undeniably the best I’ve ever had and our waiters had the precise attention to detail, skill and expertise that you would expect from a three star restaurant. They anticipated our every desire. Only better. I’m pretty sure someone stood near our table the whole evening just in case there was something we needed.

I wish I had taken better notes because I can’t begin to describe what was served in a tiny coffee cup. I also couldn’t stop eating the fluffy white dessert with chocolate crumbles. You realize we had been eating for four hours at least nine or ten decadent servings of everything a person could ever want and yet, I couldn’t stop myself from eating every single bite. Then they brought out the chocolates and we could try as many as we wanted. OMG. To die for. Don’t tell anyone. I took a few home in my purse so I could save them for later. Delicious. Works of art. 

To make the day even better, the staff guided us through the kitchen for a tour. The kitchen is spotless and shiny like no other. Copper pots lining the walls, bins of tiny white and red onions probably coming straight from their garden across the street. 

tfl kitchen
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We laughed and giggled all the way back to the East Bay telling Ken all about the upcharge option of wagyu beef, and the stunningly, impeccably cared for grounds and the gently lighted ambiance when the sun went down.

Dining at the French Laundry has been the most relaxing and memorable foodie experience ever. We were treated like royalty by the most courteous staff. It was truly remarkable.

I hope you enjoyed my blog on The French Laundry. Meeting Chef Thomas Keller made my evening, but dining with my family and loved ones will be something I will always cherish. Thanks for stopping by.

The four of us at the end of our tour at tfl
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Follow my blog for more stories and recipes. 

CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM

Ingredients:

50g or ½ C. Cocoa Powder

40g or ⅓ C. Powdered Milk

150g or ¾ C. Granulated Sugar

10g or 2 T Instant Coffee powder Or Espresso

½ T Kosher Salt

100g or about 5 large Egg Yolks (Yolks ONLY)

360ml or 1½ C. Whole Milk

2 T Rum

480ml or 2 C. Heavy Cream

1 tsp Tahitian Vanilla Extract

Directions:

In a medium size heavy saucepan, place the cocoa powder, the powdered milk, granulated sugar, instant coffee, rum, salt and stir with a wire whisk. Stir in the egg yolks. Pour the cream, milk and vanilla extract into the pan. Whisk ingredients and cook over low to medium heat until the thermometer reaches 158 degrees F or 70 degrees C.

Mixing the egg yolks into dry ingredients
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For the next 25 minutes (set your timer), move the pan off and on over the heat keeping the temperature between 158-162 degrees F or 70-72 degrees C and constantly stirring. Stay with your ice cream base the entire 25 minutes.

Cooked chocolate custard
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Remove the pan off the heat, once the 25 minutes is up. Strain the custard through a wire mesh into a large bowl to remove any clumps.Cover with plastic wrap touching the custard directly onto the plastic to prevent a skin from forming on your custard.

Put the chocolate ice cream base into the refrigerator overnight or for at least four or 5 hours to chill. Pre chill the 2 quart bowl preferably overnight. (I leave mine in the freezer all year long, always returning to the freezer after my ice cream is made.) When ready to churn, take the frozen ice cream container out, add the chocolate ice cream base and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions approximately 15-20 minutes or until doubled in volume. Remove it from the ice cream machine and place in a container with a lid and freeze until firm. 

This is my latest favorite dessert. It is fairly easy to make and keeps well in the freezer. Never lasts long in my house… Here is a video of me making the chocolate custard that is uploaded from my Instagram page.


 

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The French Laundry (tfl) Part I

The French Laundry (tfl) Part I
n the garden at The French Laundry

Spent last Sunday in Napa and Yountville celebrating my niece Marie’s 30th birthday and my sister Sue’s birthday. We were joined by Sue’s best friend Susan Baker, her college roommate from 40 years ago. Today’s blog is all about our day together having brunch at my house, tastings at Biale Winery and dinner at the world famous three Star Michelin restaurant The French Laundry.

I was concerned about drinking on an empty stomach, so I decided to whip up a few things to keep our tummies happy. The day before, I prepared an organic milled spelt, bulgur, heritage grain Olan wheat flour by Capay Mills, sun dried tomato and salami bread and kept it in the refrigerator to ferment overnight. Baked it fresh that morning, so it would have time to cool before cutting into it. I served this wonderful high protein bread with two cheeses: havarti dill, and Nicasio Reserve from Marin County California and my homemade Blenheim apricot preserves. We splurged and opened a bottle of sparkling wine and made bellinis with my canned peaches from my garden and garnished with lemon verbena from the garden.

I also served a potato Spanish tortilla and a peach crumble with vanilla ice cream and homemade caramel sauce. So yummy. I probably over did it. But this was going to be a special day and I wanted to start it out right.

We left for the winery later than expected with full bellies and smiling masked faces all piled into my Lexus. My husband Ken agreed to drive us, so we could enjoy the day. 

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My niece Marie and sister Sue at the French Laundry Gardens

We had a nice experience tasting wines at Robert Biale Vineyards. Since Susan has a membership, we were spoiled with impeccable service and attention. We relaxed looking at the vineyard, chatting and sipping some of the best Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, and Biale’s rare blends some of the best in the Napa Valley. We happened to be the only people there because of the wildfires and smoke permeating the area. We were lucky there was a breeze and the air quality didn’t bother us. It was much worse in the Bay Area where we traveled from. We sat for hours admiring the planters filled with prolific fuchsia pink and yellow perennials lantana, pink dianthus and red and yellow dahlias. Just gorgeous.

My niece Marie, my sister Sue and me at The French Laundry Garden

We were blessed to be able to get a reservation at The French Laundry 6 months ago for a May celebration. Covid closed down many restaurants in March, April and May, but we were fortunate enough to claim one for August so we could acknowledge Marie’s 30th birthday. Her dream came true that day, and I was ohh soo grateful to be included in her special day. I can’t forget to mention the quick stop at Bouchon Bakery where we indulged in hot chocolate, espresso, fresh French bread and pastries, not wanting to spoil our appetites for what was to come. Bouchon sells Paris-Brest, Macarons, fresh fruit tarts, chocolate eclairs, cupcakes, pain aux raisins, yuzu citrus croissants, chocolate almond croissants, cream cheese Danish, french baguettes filled with ham and cheese, smoked salmon sandwiches on seeded rolls,tomato and brie sandwiches, cookies, chocolates and candies like almond toffee.

It’s hard to know where to begin on describing my experience at the French Laundry. The four of us began by walking through the gardens across the street from the restaurant. They are incredible. They keep bees hives, tiny new starts of herbs in a tunnel, rows of lettuce, peppers, squash, onions, tomatoes and more. We visited the chickens who seem happy eating their fill of discarded squash. I’m curious about owning chickens and am ready to try keeping them in my home garden.

My husband took photos of us perfecting our makeup, like we were getting ready to get married or something. We were so excited and had waited so long to have this day finally happen. It had been cancelled a few times because of Covid and we were worried it would be cancelled again because of the fires and smoke in Napa County. The tables would be set up outside because no one is allowed to eat indoors for fear Covid could spread. We were fortunate to have the money and resources to afford the $350.00 per person fine dining experience. My sister Sue treated us by scheduling the date and paying many months ago. How incredibly lucky I was to be included in this special day, since originally my sister had another person in mind for the ticket.

More photos were taken at the entrance, then my husband drove off to find his own dinner nearby. Kind of sad we couldn’t include him in the event, but he wouldn’t have wanted to participate nor have wanted to spend the money on this extravagant meal.

I’m going to end here and write my next blog about the remainder of the day. I hate to see my blogs getting too long. Look forward to my next write up continuing on about our French Laundry experience part II.

First I will share my Peach Crumble and Sea Salt Caramel Recipe.

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Peach crumble made with fresh Alberta peaches from the garden. Used buckwheat, oatmeal, almonds, brown sugar, butter, baking powder and salt. Served with ice cream and home made caramel sauce

Peach Crumble with Sea Salt Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

4 or 5 medium to large size peaches peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick

2/3 C Brown Sugar

⅓ C Granulated Sugar ( Plus 2 T more sugar for peaches

2 T Tapioca Flour or arrowroot to add to peach mixture later)

½ C. Buckwheat flour

¼ C All Purpose Flour

¼ C Oats

½ C Unsalted Butter room temperature or cold cut into chunks Plus 1 T extra to coat pie dish

½ t Kosher Salt

½ t ground cinnamon

½ t ground ginger

¼ t ground cloves

1 Baking pie dish or use several individual oven safe serving size bowls 

1 Cuisinart Food Processor or Kitchenaid Mixer 

Instructions:

Crumble Topping

In a Cuisinart food processor, Kitchenaid Mixer or large bowl combine all dry ingredients: Brown Sugar, White Sugar, Buckwheat Flour, All Purpose Flour, Oats, Salt and spices: Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves.

Pulse 5 times to mix thoroughly. Add butter pieces and pulse again until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

Peel peaches by boiling first and placing in an ice bath to loosen skins. Dry and cut peaches, remove pits and cut into ¼ inch thick slices and place in a medium size bowl. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of sugar mixed with 2 T tapioca flour onto peaches. 

In a buttered pie dish, place cut pieces of peaches that are covered with sugar and tapioca flour. Add crumble topping on top of peaches. Set the pie dish on a sheet pan and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35-50 minutes or until dessert is hot and bubbly.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Dessert can be refrigerated at this time and reheated and served later.

Serve alongside vanilla ice cream and sea salt caramel sauce.

Sea Salt Caramel

Ingredients and Instructions

320g or 11 oz Heavy Cream

200g or 7 oz Light Corn Syrup

60g or 3 oz Granulated Sugar (Plus an additional100g or 3.5 oz for later)

Heat these ingredients together in a medium size pot and set aside keeping it hot.

In another medium size pot, on medium low heat sprinkle 100g or 3.5 oz of granulated sugar little by little melting and cooking sugar slowly NOT stirring, until caramel turns amber color. 

Slowly add hot cream mixture to amber caramel stirring and cooking until temp reaches 105 degrees C or 220 degrees F. The longer you boil, the thicker the caramel.

Add 4g Sea Salt, Maldon, or Fleur de Sel and cool. Caramel will thicken as it cools. 

Recipe credit to Pastry Chef and author Dominique Ansel

I’ve used buckwheat flour to add complexity to the recipe and to make it healthier. You can substitute your favorite flour or use flax meal or almond flour.

Enjoy!

Thanks for joining me today. Leave me questions or comments below.

 

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Using Our Victory Garden to Deal With Sadness During Covid and an Ahi Tuna Poke Recipe

Using Our Victory Garden to Deal With Sadness During Covid and an Ahi Tuna Poke Recipe

Spent the morning planting herbs. Last week, I went to Sloat Nursery and bought basil, parsley, cilantro, marjoram and kale. My girlfriend Marie gave me a generous gift card for my birthday. I also bought seeds for my Fall vegetable garden. Tending my garden helps me cope with the challenging times Covid brings. Also sharing my favorite Sesame Ahi Tuna Poke

I’ve really taken the Victory Garden thing seriously this year. Because of Covid and the possibility of a food shortage, I planted seeds in March. I am growing 3 types of zucchini, 3 types of pumpkins, strawberries, lettuce, kale, peas, beans, chard, several tomato plants, several corn varieties, cucumber, sunflowers, fennel, cantaloupe, butternut squash, acorn squash, and more. It brings me joy to share these organic crops with the neighbors and our family.

 

I’m harvesting peaches now. I should be canning them instead of writing, but I’ve put my blog on hold for way too long. Last month we picked loads of Santa Rosa plums from our backyard tree. Besides sharing with neighbors, I was baking crisps, jams and we ate plenty of fresh ripe plums and now peaches with our yogurt in the morning.

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Me, my Dad Ron and my sister Sue taken over 25 years ago

This has been a tough week. Thank goodness for my garden. I feel peace there and can work in the soil and feel my stress dissolve away. The first set of bad news came a week ago last Sunday. I received a call from the Veterans Home where my Father lives. He had a seizure and was taken to the emergency room at a hospital in Napa for tests. It was the worst day ever waiting for some kind of news. I wasn’t able to visit him because of Covid. All of the hospitals have strict visitation rules about keeping loved ones away. It is sad and hard knowing I couldn’t be with my Dad.

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Great day visiting my Dad Ron at the Veteran’s Home 8 years ago

Luckily, the cat scan was negative and his blood tests were normal. They released him back to the Veterans Home, but since he was away for more than 6 hours, they had to quarantine him. So he has been in the hospital across the street from his home all by himself. I talk to him regularly and he has had a fairly good attitude about his situation. He is feeling okay, but misses his home in memory care. He should be released back there this weekend if his Covid test comes back negative. Thank Goodness.

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Great time hanging out with my Dad Ron in the patio at the Veteran’s Home in Yountville 8 years ago

All in all, my Dad is well. He is a fall risk, so that is scary, but hopefully he will get stronger and regain his strength.

I cried talking to him today. This happens often, but today I was especially sad. He said I almost made him cry, and he never says that. I miss him and wish this pandemic would go away so we can go back to our normal lives and be with our aging parents.

 

The next bad news came last Sunday, a few days ago. Ken’s Mother Nilda fell and broke her ankle. She was visiting Ken’s brother Dan and fell going up a step. She has horrible knees and doesn’t get around very well. She is 89 years old and we are very concerned about her.

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Beautiful Mother in law Nilda at her aunts wedding

She had surgery on her ankle and will get a cast when the swelling goes down. She is still in the hospital at John Muir and we are not able to visit her. The family doesn’t want her put in a nursing home because people are dying in these homes from Covid. It’s a horrible time to need care. 

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My mother Nilda and her daughter Terri Ann visiting with us in her home in Rossmoor

So there is a plan to put a hospital bed in her family room when she is released and she will be cared for in her own home by Ken’s sister Terri Ann, his brother Dan and his wife Nancy who will temporarily live there with her. It’s a crazy idea and no one knows if things will work out. 

 

There are obvious things to worry about like blood clots, and pneumonia from being in bed too long, etc… It is a tough time. You can never prepare for losing a parent.

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Great day celebrating my son Curtis’ graduation at Monte Vista High School with my ex husband Eric, and his grand parents Elena and Robert 17 years ago

The last bit of sad news was hearing that my son Curtis’ grandfather Robert passed away last Friday. He was my ex Father in law. We are so sad to hear this and had heard he had a stroke a few weeks ago. My son wasn’t able to see him either before he died. It is hard to process these times. How can you grieve the pain? I work in my garden. I see the beauty in the plants and flowers. I pray for my family. I talk with my friends and I write. It’s times like these we need each other even more. We hold our spouse a little closer. We take one day at a time. We stay away from the news. We love those around us more than ever before.

 

There is more to do. I will be preparing food and helping out however I can. I hope life is treating you well.  For now, I will put the computer away and sit with my 16 year old kitty. My husband is done with his work for the day so we can hang out . Maybe we will play Scrabble and eat popcorn. Maybe we will start a puzzle. In any event, it is a good day and I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. Ahi Tuna Recipe. 

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Enjoyed a Sesame Ahi Tuna Poke appetizer at Jessup Winery in Yountville California last Friday with friends

Sesame Ahi Tuna with Avocado

1 lb fresh Ahi tuna
1/2 jalapeno , 3 cloves garlic, 1 green onion, 2 shishito peppers, sauteed in canola oil
1 T soy sauce
1 T chopped fresh ginger
2 T Sesame oil
2 avocados cut in small chunks
Juice and zest 1/2 pink grapefruit
Juice 1 lime
Bunch of cilantro
1/2 t sesame chili oil
1/4 t kosher Salt
1/4 t Lemon pepper
White and black Sesame seeds to garnish
2/3 C Canola oil
1/2 package Won Ton wrappers fried in canola oil.
1 t finishing salt. Sea Salt, Himalayan salt or Fleur de sel
Cut 1 lb of fresh Ahi Tuna into bite sized chunks. Set aside.
In a blender add all other ingredients except avocado and mix until combined.
Pour dressing over raw tuna.
Heat up a frying pan with canola oil. Fry each won ton until crispy turning over after 1 minute. Place on a sheet pan lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle with sea salt while hot.
Cut up 2 large avocados into bite sized pieces and fold into tuna mixture. Alternatively, you can put the avocado on the bottom and the tuna on top if desired.
Serve into individual bowls and sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds.

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Heaven on a plate. Sesame Ahi Tuna Poke with crispy won ton wrappers and a chicken pot pie for a mid day lunch in our backyard

Feel free to follow me if you aren’t already. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and I hope to see you again very soon.

 

 

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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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