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Category Archives: Travel

Wine Tasting, Fabulous Cocktails and Tapas in Healdsburg California

Wine Tasting, Fabulous Cocktails and Tapas in Healdsburg California

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It’s been awhile since I have posted because I have been vacationing in Florida and taking day to Apple Hill, Occidental, Healdsburg and Santa Rosa. It’s hard to decide which foodie day to talk about, since all of them were exciting. I will start out writing about last Saturday’s trip to Healdsburg with my niece Michelle. We had the best day tasting wine, eating great meals and Michelle was treated to a few very special cocktails at the bar at Bravas Restaurant.

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I don’t know when it started, but a few years back I began taking my nieces and nephews out for their birthdays. It’s been super fun having these twenty somethings around, spoiling them and mostly enjoying time together making memories. Michelle has always been open to an adventure with her Auntie Teri.

Last Saturday was no exception. Michelle and I started out the day early, making sure not to waste any time on our day together. I picked her up at 9:30AM and we drove directly to Healdsburg, only stopping briefly at Keller Estate Winery. We tried to make a quick stop there out of the blue, but they couldn’t accommodate the two of us short notice. We were disappointed because it was high on a hill, near a cute duck pond, but we trudged on ahead to bigger and better wineries.

First stop was Gustafson. We were treated especially well by a knowledgeable local who not only offered Michelle some of the best 2013 Estate Syrah, but she also gave us a map and recommended the names of other wineries that had to be on our “go to” list. She spoke highly of their vineyard overlooking Lake Sonoma and encouraged us to next time bring a picnic lunch and hang out at their gorgeous family estate. This generous girl also gave us several cards of other wineries in the area that offered free tastings. Of course, we were excited to catch a break and utilized a few of them that day.

Next we found a extraordinary cafe named Shed Shed. This place offers products from local farmers, ranchers, and sustainable artisan producers. When you walk in you are greeted with fresh flowers, garden and kitchen gifts, specialty coffees, exotic teas, a juice bar, a cheese section, charcuterie, gourmet sourdough bread, challah, seeded varieties and more. If you can find a spot to sit, you can splurge on their main dishes like Pear and Prosciutto Pizza, Wood Oven Mussels w smoked tomato, broccoli shoots, Calabrian Chili, cherry tomatoes and toasted bread just to name a couple. Everything is meticulously plated with fresh herbs and petite greens you’ve never seen before. Michelle and I didn’t eat here, but we did partake in their seeded loaf of bread. I’ve been making my own breads lately and very much appreciate what goes into the making of a good loaf. 

Close by was Costeaux Bakery where we picked up a French Baguette (I told you I was into bread!) with goat cheese, salami and fresh greens. I behaved myself and didn’t buy the coconut macaroon dipped in chocolate (my fav), but I did go for the day old pastries which included a chocolate croissant, a few raspberry pastries and a plain croissant to take home to the family. We also had the clerk warm up and split in half their ham, veggie and cheese croissant. Oh my!  I gobbled it up in two bites!

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Spicy Vines had a table outside where we could enjoy our sandwiches alongside their 2015 Cabernet Franc Pine Mountain Cloverdale Peak and Michelle’s favorite Peter’s Delight Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (her brother’s name and the area which my dad was raised.) We relaxed in the midday sun getting caught up on the latest in the life of an audiologist and talked about our upcoming trip to Cancun with our extended families.

Now we were ready to make our way into another local winery and found Portalupi.  We took a seat on the comfy couch  and were delighted by the generous pours and friendly guests. We loved everything from the old vine zinfandel to their pinot-noir. Of course I was pacing myself since I was the designated driver and made sure that the birthday girl was getting the most pours and tastes on her special day. 

A couple hours later, on our way to the restaurant, we stumbled into Journeyman Meats a butcher shop, salumeria and tasting bar. This place is a one of a kind meat market/specialty foods store offering fresh turkey and salami sandwiches alongside cool cookbooks like The Art of Wood Fired Cooking by Mugnaini and In The Charcuterie by Boetticher and Miller.

Last but not least, we walked and googled our way to Bravas which had rave reviews by all the locals and it didn’t disappoint. We got lucky and found a spot at the bar where we could watch the bartenders Todd and Jordan (really expert mixologists) prepare some phenomenal cocktails. I didn’t partake in more drinking here, but Michelle was treated with the utmost care getting samples of spirits like Alameda’s St. George’s newest Malt Whiskey “Baller” and San Francisco’s Raff Distillerie’s Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin. There is a very cool story about the rescue dogs named Bummer and Lazarus in case you want to look it up on Instagram. Such a clever name as well.

We sat next to a couple of ladies named Lucy and Shellie from Menlo Park who kept us entertained  and they graciously gave us the inside scoop as to what to order from the menu. Grilled octopus, foie gras with crispy serrano, and backyard marmalade and bacon wrapped dates with blue cheese. And we ended the meal by ordering their famous crispy yet flavorful Paella. We were in Heaven!

I haven’t even begun to describe the cocktails that my niece ordered. She tried the “Bang a Rang’ made with High West Double Rye, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon, and Benedictine and another special drink made with Gin, her favorite. She was having so much fun learning about the various gins, whiskeys and spirits. It was a grand time checking out the local wineries, restaurants, bakeries and coffee houses and I can’t wait to go back.

Make sure you set aside a day to drive to Healdsburg with a relative or two. Why not take advantage of these glorious days of Autumn by spending time in the wine country with your loved ones. I guarantee you will have a good time enjoying good food and you won’t go thirsty either with the many choices of wineries and cocktail bars on every corner.

Thanks for reading.

Please follow me for more foodie adventures.

Teri:)

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Apple Time is Strongly Encouraged and an Apple Cake Recipe for your Sunday Supper

Apple Time is Strongly Encouraged and an Apple Cake Recipe for your Sunday Supper

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I’m loving the gorgeous Fall weather in Northern California these days. Last week I made a trip to Apple Hill in Placerville to celebrate and take advantage of the Fall colors, food and wine. My primary goal was to get out of town to get away from the depressing news about the Northern California wild fires, to enjoy a long drive, and most importantly take home some gorgeous colorful apples for Sunday night’s dessert.

 

First I started out at Grace Patriot Wines to sample their varietals. I tried the reds only since I was driving and wanted to save my calories for the apple and berry pastries. The women were friendly and generous with their pours and I decided to buy their orange olive oil since I love to bake pound cakes with it.

 

Next I drove a little ways up the street and came across Boa Vista Farms  fresh produce stand, gifts and baked goods. They also have a wine tasting section, as well as apple and pear samples, and fresh apple cider too. The pastries are bursting with fruit and they have a wide array of pies and donuts as well. Don’t forget the caramel apples dipped in chocolate and sprinkles, nuts and Oreo cookies. You will want to buy one of everything.

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Don’t just come here for the sweets, the apple varieties are outstanding. I found bushels of Gala, Jonagold, Empire, Red Delicious, Golden delicious, Jonathan, honey Crisp, Rome, and McIntosh. For about $26.00 you can get a box of these ripe and just picked crisp apples. Of course you can find gourds, pumpkins and fresh vegetables here as well.

 

 

This place is nothing short of charming and great for the entire family. There is a map of various farms and wine makers so you won’t get lost. I find it is more fun to drive along and take a turn here or there. You never know where you might turn up. In fact, this is how I have found my most precious food and wine finds in the past. Just last July I came across Rams Gate Winery when showing our friends from Spain around Sonoma. I was delighted when they were able to accommodate our party of 8 at a long table right in the center of the excitement. They offered us a cheese board and charcuterie platter along with accompaniments like nuts, jam and chocolate truffles. 


It was just what we needed to fill our tummies before stopping for lunch at Rutherford Grill. This place has to be my favorite of all restaurants in the wine country. Their prime rib French dip is amazing and I can’t stop thinking about their focaccia and olive oil side dish. It was melt in your mouth delicious, just the right amount of salty from the bread and fruity taste from the oil. You won’t want to miss eating there. But make sure you have a reservation, because it can get busy.

 

 

So when you want a Fall themed outing and you need to get away for a day, you have a few ideas here to explore. Now for some kitchen time to make homemade cinnamon applesauce, apple cake with caramel sauce and maybe an apple strudel too. Make this for your next Sunday supper. My family will be thrilled with all these goodies and my house will smell divine.

Here is a pic of the strudel.

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Fresh Apple Cake

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4 C peeled and sliced apples (3-4 apples of your choice) I use Jonagold and McIntosh

1 ½ C Granulated sugar

2 C. All Purpose Flour

2 tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground Ginger

½ tsp Nutmeg

½ tsp ground Cloves

½ tsp Kosher Salt

2 tsp Vanilla

2 Whole Eggs beaten

½ C Canola Oil

½ – 1 C Chopped Walnuts

 

Directions: 

Take sliced apples and coat with granulated sugar in a extra large mixing bowl.set aside. 

Sift dry ingredients ( flour, soda, spices, and salt)  together in a medium size bowl. 

Measure oil in a med size glass measuring cup. Add eggs and vanilla and stir. 

Take bowl with sugared apples and pour dry mixture over them and stir until apples are coated. Pour in wet mixture, chopped walnuts and stir until combined.

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Pour into a 13X9 glass Pyrex dish, smooth out and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 40-45 min or until toothpick comes clean when inserted. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

 

Enjoy!

 

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Why You Should Go To Pike Place Market and Lemon Blueberry Bread

Why You Should Go To Pike Place Market and Lemon Blueberry Bread

 

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Spent an entire Sunday morning at Pike Place Market in Seattle Washington a couple of weeks ago. It was my first time visiting this incredible food market. I was blown away with the intense heavy scent of flowers that welcome you into the building. The sunflowers and dahlia’s were mesmerizing in size and were everywhere I looked. They sold spectacular flower arrangements for only $10.00 in every color a girl could ask for.

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Besides walking past every kind of flower you could ever want, my husband and I tasted  Beecher’s handmade cheeseThe varieties of seasonal fruit were overwhelming finding juicy nectarines, plums, berries, sweet currants and cantaloupe just to name a few. We spotted boxes of colorful organic peppers and just around the corner and a collection of mushrooms some I’ve never heard of like maitake, eryngi, nutty shimegi, lobster, chanterell, and matsutaki  for the chefs delight. It was honestly a foodies paradise. I was in Heaven.

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I was excited to spot Gosanko Chocolates  and check out their special chocolate offerings. They had dark chocolate rocky road, clusters of sunflower seeds coated in chocolate, peanut raisin, almond, walnut, and cashew  clusters. I spied red velvet, sea salt caramel and PB and J  fudge, and blackberry, strawberry, mocha, Irish cream, loganberry, peanut butter, limoncello, kahlua,grand marnier, cherry, rum and classic truffles. I wanted one of each! And of course I’m partial to almond butter toffee coated with dark chocolate. Yum! If I could travel around the world and just visit chocolate shops, I would. Most of the time I try their hot chocolate since this is always a measure of a good quality chocolate.

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Next we came across local farm fresh Raw and Pure Honey and discovered wildflower and blackberry flavors. There were gorgeous really cool textiles like cotton scarves in bright primary colors and artists previewing their spectacular pieces.

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Too bad we were staying at a hotel because I wanted to buy and cook the huge assortment of fresh caught trout, salmon, red snapper, rockfish, and halibut just waiting to be fried or grilled to perfection. The dungeness crab and jumbo king crab legs were enormous and reasonably priced. Apparently the cherries in Washington are abundant and family owned since 1988 Chukar Cherries Co. provided delicious chocolatey samples if you could stand waiting in the long line.

There was plenty of hot food for those that wanted a nibble with displays of fried chicken, tempura shrimp, corn dogs, chicken tenders and French fries. And of course we came across the bakery selling savory cheddar cheese rolls, chocolate dipped cookies, German chocolate and cream cheese strawberry donuts, Swedish cookies which my Danish great grandmother Helga “Nana in the white hair” is what we called her, would have wanted, cinnamon crispies (which reminded me of a pastry I had in Truckee. Here’s a previous blog with a gingerbread recipe I’m fond of and made recently)  and peanut butter cream cheese cannoli’s. Yuck.

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My gingerbread cake! So delicious!

I loved the lavender products offered by https://www.allthingslavenderseattle.com/.  Baker’s dream of ingredients like these: lavender sugar, lavender and sweet orange infused honey, and tea’s for ice cream, scones and other sweet goodies.

I bet you didn’t know I’m a cheese fanatic either. My sister Julie introduced me to cheese spontaneously many years ago and I fell in love. Pike Place Market has a good deal of delicious gouda, asiago, fontina, pecorino romano, parmegiano, and lots of soft cheeses too like chevre, sheep milk feta, burrata, mozzarella, and brie. I’m planning on making a roasted cherry tomato with burrata tonight for my family. I first experienced this at a fancy restaurant in St Helena. It was simply decadent. 

Britts Pickles sold us a jar of their spicy pickles, but unfortunately for my son Curtis they were confiscated at the airport. I’ve seriously have barely scratched the surface of what Pike Place Market in Seattle has to offer. If you haven’t been, it’s a must. This vacation get away was one of my favorite vacations ever. Great food, a hippie vibe/nerdy kind of people, and super fun hikes are awaiting you.

Have you ever been? Share your Seattle experience with us. I would love to know your thoughts.

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And just in case you are inspired to bake, you can find a tasty blueberry lemon bread recipe below. It’s one of my favorite breads to make and share with your friends and family, especially if you have an excess of lemons.

 

Lemon Blueberry Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:

½ C Unsalted Butter room temp

1 C Granulated Sugar

2 Large Eggs beaten

2 lemons zested and juiced and set juice aside

 

1 ½ C All Purpose Flour or Cake flour for a finer crumb

1 t Baking Powder

½ t Maldon Salt

½ C Milk

1 1/2 C fresh Blueberries

½ C Powdered Sugar

 

Directions:

In a mixing bowl cream the room temperature butter and granulated sugar for @ 3 minutes on high. Add lemon zest and eggs and blend for 4 more minutes on med high.

 

Sift flour, baking powder and salt until combined.

 

Alternately, starting with dry flour mixture then milk , add to wet creamed mixture in small portions and mix on low until combined. Toss in blueberries coated in 1 T flour.

 

Line a 9X5in loaf pan with parchment paper, or coat with vegetable shortening. Pour batter into pan and bake uncovered for @ 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While loaf is baking, juice lemons and mix with powdered sugar. When loaf is taken out of oven, poke with a wooden skewer and pour sugared juice over loaf. Cool.

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Seattle’s Best Brewery, Ice Cream and a Birthday at Aqua

Seattle’s Best Brewery, Ice Cream and a Birthday at Aqua

Decided to splurge and take my husband to Seattle for his birthday. We have never traveled there before, so planning an impromptu trip was just what we needed.

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Seattle didn’t dissapoint. After renting a car we drove to Cedarbrook Lodge. Our accommodations were outstanding. Their location is only 10 minutes from the airport. We showered and drove to the city where we saw the Space Needle, and walked along the waterfront. The weather was perfect  coming from an extreme heat wave in the SanFrancisco Bay Area.


Aqua Restaurant brought us a delicious hot platter of fresh calamari never frozen according to our waitress 0ak. She offered a somlier to assist me in my wine selection, but there was no need. I was delighted by a glass of their Pinot gris from New Zealand. A piano guy named Ben played old TV theme songs which made the entertainment extra exciting.

We couldn’t decide between the seaweed crab salad and the Caesar so we enjoyed a half serving of each.   The birthday boy ordered the clam chowder his favorite and the bread was warm and perfect w the butter sprinkled w Himalayan sea salt.

Ken also had the raw tuna w chips for his main dish. I tried the pancetta prawns and the roasted romesco and broccoli w Parmesan.

The water glasses were never empty and the vanilla icecream sunday with cherry and dk chocolate chunks was the best ending to a lovely evening on the patio. At one point a sailboat scooted right past our table a few feet away from us. Incredible! Highly recommended this place and not just because the food was awesome. They also gave us a free shuttle back to our car at 9:30 at night. This was greatly appreciated since we were several blocks away. Aqua was moderately priced and we walked away spending @ $150.00, with full bellies and a safe drop off at our car.


Our last night we ate and drank at a pub/bar called Elliot’s in West Seattle. The people in Seattle we found to be extra friendly and we chatted with a newly married couple who were sitting beside us. We got to know them immediately finding out that the guy was a police officer and his wife was a long time employee of Macy’s. They spoke highly of their neighborhood which seemed a lot like College Ave in Berkeley. See my previous  blog


Our bartender Mikey gave me a flight that I would love and ww settled in for good conversation, great beer and delicious food. We shared the sumptuous Phillycheese steak w caramelized onions, veggies and the ever so salty chili cheese nachos w black beans, olives and crunchy red onions.

All throughout the dinner the wife kept reminding us that we must go across the street for icecream at Husky’s which she worked at on weekends for 4 years while supporting her 4 children. Sadly they were closed, but after our talkative friend banged on the door, the owner Jack opened and let the four of us in. We were greeted with the biggest hug and kiss on the cheek. This guy has been running the business for 42 years and his father since 1932.


I had to try the highly regarded scoop of Swiss dk  chocolate with orange and the salted caramel ice cream. This cold sweet cream just melted in my mouth leaving me craving more. I can see why one client cried when John couldn’t provide her with the orangey chocolatey delight. She said “you don’t understand!” Sobbing extensively. I laughed at this story but understood how addictive this treat could be.


Aah. On our way home now from our four day adventure of hiking, exploring Washington and eating our way around Seattle. Maybe your husband needs a little TLC too. Life is way too short to not take advantage of vacations like this one in Seattle. Now rested and relaxed we can smile knowing we have another birthday celebrated to the fullest.

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Oriental Crunchy Salad

Oriental Chicken Salad

 

Ingredients:

1 Roasted Chicken Shredded

 

¾ C Sugar

½ C White Wine Vinegar

½ C canola oil

½ C Peanut Oil

1 T Toasted Sesame Oil

2 teas Soy Sauce

 

 ½ C Melted Butter

½ C Sesame Seeds

½ C. Sliced Almonds

1 Pkg Oriental Top Ramen

 

1 head of Napa Cabbage chopped thinly

3 Green Onions chopped

2 stalks celery Chopped

1 Green Apple Chopped in small cubes

2 Carrots peeled and shredded

1 Jicama chopped in small cubes

½ red or yellow bell pepper sliced thinly

½ C Cilantro Chopped finely

 

Directions:

 

Either Bake or buy a roasted chicken and shred into small bite size pieces into a large bowl. Set aside.

In a microwave safe large glass bowl, combine, sugar, all three oils, vinegar, and soy sauce. Microwave for @ 45 seconds. Stir.

 

Melt butter in a large frying pan and add, sesame seeds, almonds and Top Ramen. Saute on Med heat until brown for about 7 minutes taking care not to burn. Set aside.

 

Wash and Shred cabbage and place in the biggest bowl you can find. I use a food processor for this. Add roasted Chicken, chopped vegetables, apple, and cilantro. Toss until well mixed. Sprinkle in browned ramen, sesame seeds, and almonds and pour dressing over salad. Stir until all vegetables and cabbage is dressed.

 

Serve right away. Enjoy!

 

 

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Baking a Wedding Cake and a Tour of Facebook in the Same Day.

Baking a Wedding Cake and a Tour of Facebook in the Same Day.

IMG_0232It’s been quite a month. I took on making a wedding cake for a good friend that reconnected with me on Facebook.  I also was unusually busy because I met up with my niece at Facebook the same day that I had to bake the cakes. This is what’s so great about Facebook. You never know who you might meet up with again since they have globally 1.28 billion people active users daily and 200 billion monthly active users.

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Last month I was invited to take a tour of the Facebook campus from my niece who works for an accounting firm there. Jasmine showed me around the property. It was quite expansive and the employees  used bikes and busses to get from campus to campus. These busses come frequently, are air conditioned and very comfortable. But, let’s talk about the FOOD at Facebook. When I arrived, I was given a day pass and offered something to drink. I delightedly made myself my fav drink: an espresso w half and half and sugar. It was so exciting to see all the options and everything was FREE.Eventually, we made our way over to the BBQ pork, macaroni and cheese, and spicy greens and I was in heaven.

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Jasmine also introduced me to several snack areas which give away, pretzels, chips, granola bars, fruit snacks, popcorn,candy, gum and pretty much whatever your heart desires. I took Altoids (my Dad’s favorite), peppermint gum and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for the ride home. Yum. They also have refrigerators near the exits that have pre made salads, etc so you don’t have to cook when you get home. That’s a huge help to many families that struggle with meal preparation. I can’t imagine anyone being hungry though. Jasmine and I walked down the main campus where there were places to eat lining the street. I saw a Noodle Bar, a BBQ place, a burger joint, a Salad Bar,  a bakery and an ice cream shop. And I’m sure I’m forgetting many more.They even had a cafeteria on her campus which was closed already.  I wanted EVERYTHING. I couldn’t believe that all this food was FREE.

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Cameras weren’t allowed near the workstations, but I was amazed at all the different nooks and crannies all over campus that were set up to work from. Comfy couches and rooms that looked like libraries were positioned all over making it hard to choose where one would feel like hanging out. It felt more like Disneyland than a place of employment. We even walked by Mark Zuckerman’s office! So cool.

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Jasmine also showed me all around Instagram which Facebook also owns. There were huge art pieces all colorful and exciting, a place one could be inventive and inspired for sure.

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The wedding cake story is explained next. I don’t consider myself a professional cake baker. Yes, I have gone to pastry school and made special occasion cakes for different events, but never for a wedding. That’s a lot of pressure that I don’t need to put on myself, and no one had ever asked me before so it wasn’t an issue. Noelle and I had raised our kids together in the same neighborhood, same swim team and same schools. That is, until she and her husband separated about 10 years ago and moved out of the neighborhood. She and I lost touch and I hadn’t spoken for a very long time. Then out of the blue, she sent me a message on Facebook and asked me to give her a call. I guess she saw my many dessert  posts and of course remembered how much I loved baking. About a week later, I had her and another friend from the neighborhood named Chris over for dinner to discuss her new man, anything we might have missed out on the last 10 years and of course THE CAKE.  

 

And Noelle, is in sales and can be very assertive and overbearing, yet I like that about her. I was also excited to have this opportunity to make a wedding cake. After all, she really wanted me to bake her cake and there is something kinda cool about that.

It took some convincing, but I finally agreed. Now I had to do the research, look for recipes, find the right sized cake pans, figure out how what to put them on and learn what kind of supports I would need to serve a wedding cake in Mid July. Thank goodness for You Tube, Pinterest and good friends who suggested I make a tiered wedding cake instead of piling them on top of each other. (Best decision ever!) I spend hours watching home chefs decorate cakes, and got to see what tricks I would need to make this process a success.

I spend days shopping picking up ingredients like drinking straws (to use inside the cake to keep from falling), fresh lemons for lemon curd, eggs, butter (lots of butter), meringue powder, powdered sugar, raspberries, and pudding mix. Yes. I used box cake mixes because I am guaranteed a good tasting cake with the right texture. If I made them from scratch, I would worry that the weight of these cakes wouldn’t hold up to another on top. Like I said, I’m not a cake baker. I generally dislike making a decorating cakes, because it takes someone with patience to make them look just right. They have to be even and the icing needs to be the right consistency with various scrolling, etc…

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Another thing most people don’t know about me is that I listen to motivational podcasts every morning. I like Deleon Motivation , Tony Robbins, and The Mulligan Brothers just to name a few. These talks push me a little out of my comfort zone and ask that you try something new. Do something that you wouldn’t normally do, they say. This cake definitely did that for me. I was waay out of my league, yet I was determined to make it happen for my friend. It was the least I could do for her, after all.

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Lucky for me, my husband helped out by engineering the “tiered look” and stepped up big time at the last minute. I also was fortunate to have our cousin volunteer to make the rose cake topper, which made the cake look professional. Lynie loves flower arranging and I knew I would not have the time or energy to give this cake the finishing touch that it deserved. She only charged me $39.00 for the roses and baby’s breath and refused to let me pay her for her time. It was such a gift.

A week or so before the wedding I started baking the five cakes. I’ve taken enough baking classes to know you never refrigerate a cake or it will dry out. So I had to take my freezer food to my mom’s house so I could make room for all five cakes. The lemon curd was made next, since that can be made ahead. I waited until the day before to make the frosting. Buckets and buckets of frosting! I worried a little, no A LOT about how I would decorate each cake, but in the end they all turned out beautiful. One I topped with the flowers, one I used fresh raspberries and blueberries, and one I delicately placed meringue cookies in a huge pile on top of this enormous round cake.

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I got excited when I decided to fill the cakes with whipped cream, lemon curd, raspberries, and buttercream. I used Grand Marnier, simple syrup, to moisten the layers before filling. I found pink ribbon and used mylar strips/acetate to keep the ribbon from touching the icing on the sides of the cake.To decorate the sides, I used tempered white chocolate and a piece of a huge metal form that my husband used to build a rock wall. This metal piece had a fun pattern to it that would make the cake look special. (Kind of fun to use something no one else would ever think of using!)

 

The tricky part was making room in the fridge and freezer for the finished cakes and also transporting them to the venue which was only 15 minutes away. The weather wasn’t cooperating with us either, since it was over 100 degrees at 2:00 in the afternoon. My little Lexus came through allowing us to crank up the air conditioning for 10 minutes before we loaded them in the car. I’m sure most cake makers have special vans or large vehicles that make it easier to get five huge cakes to a wedding.Not not me, but we made it happen.

After arriving at Il Postino in Lafayette, my husband built the structure of cake platters and we used a brand new white sheet that covered the table perfectly. I picked a few flowers and greens from my garden and was able to put together something cute to give the presentation a little color besides the rose cake topper.

In the end, everything worked out well. Noelle and Mark got married and they had a beautiful cake that make their day extra special. Who knows if there are any more wedding cakes to be made in my future. At least if there are, I will have the knowledge and expertise this time to do it.

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I genuinely would like to thank my niece Jasmine for taking the time to take me to Facebook. I’m so proud of her!  It’s because of Facebook that I was offered these friends like Noelle and Chris to magically pop back into my life. The wedding was beautiful, the cakes were phenomenal and I have a new trick up my sleeve when it comes to calling myself a pastry chef. And without the help of these morning motivational talks, I can ultimately say I probably wouldn’t have considered taking on this gargantuan task. To say  that I am grateful for the opportunity to make a wedding cake is an understatement. Congratulations Noelle and Mark. Thank you for including me in your special day.

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Should You Take a Summer Vacation or Make Apricot Jam?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Touring and Eating My Way Through Iceland

Touring and Eating My Way Through Iceland

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If you are thinking of taking a trip, why not travel to Iceland? We did. We found out about this opportunity through my hiking friend Nancy Solomon.  She is my friend who arranged the trip and is affiliated with Orinda Travel and Bridges World Travel https://www.facebook.com/Orinda-TravelBridges-World-Travel-241813252547096/. We have known each other since our kids were in junior high and this was the first time my husband and I have traveled with her. She did an amazing job and paid attention to every detail including helping us purchase our airfare and she planned an additional trip to Dublin Ireland for us on the back end of the trip. Stay tuned for a blog about Ireland and be sure to follow my blog for my latest posts!

Nancy found plenty of things for us to do in Iceland. She did a fabulous job of keeping us busy hanging out in lava caves, exploring a white sandy beach, a black rock beach, swooning over acres of volcanic rock, gazing into the stars looking at the beautiful green Northern Lights, petting wild ponies on any random highway, and hiking through wind, snow and rain in and throughout Iceland. It was quite a place.

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The food was spectacular. We ate lots and lots of seafood. Cod, a fish called place (like flounder), arctic char, scallops, crab, mussels, langoustine, and shrimp.
The butter was delish on the homemade bread usually served w a yummy black salt. Even tried some lingonberry jam this morning w my warm croissant.
Loved the yogurt here and eating plenty of desserts too. The Icelanders put licorice in many of their chocolates. We went to OmNom chocolate factory https://www.omnomchocolate.com/ today and had a quick tour. Their white chocolate bar w black licorice and salt was totally unexpected and didn’t disappoint. Justine and I wore the hair nets while watching the huge urns grind the cocoa nibs into chocolate liquor. Sugar and coco butter are added before they are ready to be poured into the plastic molds. So cool. I now regret not purchasing a few to share with family and friends. The $10.00 price per bar alarmed me. Was it really that good?  I decided to walk away and preserve my budget for other excursions.

Reykjavik was a happening place. Many tourists were there with us, some standing in line at the very popular Blue Lagoon Hot Springs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mp3LZ3t18UY and some waiting for their tour guide to take them on a full on glacier hike. We did it all. I was intrigued by the desserts. We stopped at Kaffivagninn a bakery out in the middle of nowhere that had scrumptious cakes, breads and treats of all kinds. They even had vegan cupcakes for those who can’t eat gluten. I spotted a brownie with black licorice stuck in the frosting called saltladeris prparlalderisdal suldurladiganache.  I’m sure it is easier to eat than to pronounce.

 

There were eight of us all together the entire trip and we all got along fabulously. Our accommodations were comfortable and cozy. We stayed at the Foss Hotel in Hekla which included a free buffet breakfast. They offered fresh baked breads, granola, yogurt, make your own waffles served with home made berry jam, honey and maple syrup, fresh fruit like kiwi, pineapple, melon, apples, and oranges, and scrambled eggs with sausage. Yum. We ate and ate then headed off to another destination into our van. We had two tour guides during our stay who told us all about the history of Iceland. Nancy tells me that people don’t realize what they are giving up when they choose to rent a car vs hiring a guide. We got the full experience of learning about the culture, religion, food and family heritage by listening to the stories shared by our guides who had been raised there.

 

Another last minute treat was visiting Fridheimar http://fridheimar.is/ which has a huge green house full of gorgeous red tomatoes a green house full of basil and a restaurant that serves fresh tomato everything. Of course they served tomato soup, pasta, and tortillas, but what you didn’t expect to see was tomato cheesecake, tomato ice cream and tomato and apple pie! And don’t forget to try their Bloody Mary’s drink and their Tomato Schnapps.

 

We had lunch at a place called Efstidalur II http://efstidalur.is/ a cute farm and restaurant which served us some lovely cauliflower soup and homemade bread. Their ice cream was to die for made by the cows at their dairy farm. They also served farm to table beef burgers, rib eye, a local caught trout fillet and gourmet salads. I was even entertained by the parrots who spoke to me through their cage. So cute! https://www.facebook.com/Efstidalur/

So if you are thinking of taking a vacation, give Nancy a call. She really out did herself by organizing this Iceland trip. I will think of her before I try to plan a vacation of my own. Thank you Nancy, this was a trip I will never forget.

Please leave comments below.

 
 

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