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Category Archives: Travel

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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The Power of Family, Long Lasting Friendships and Cheesecake

The Power of Family, Long Lasting Friendships and Cheesecake

I am touched beyond belief at what my cousin’s best friend did for her wedding in Kona Hawaii this week. Sandy made 35 individually wrapped gorgeous cheesecakes to give out as thank you gifts for the guests attending the wedding. The thoughtfulness does not go unnoticed by someone like me who appreciates what goes into baking a decadent dessert like this. They also served Sandy’s prize worthy cheesecakes instead of a traditional wedding cake and they were divine!

She prepared three flavors: an orange ginger, a liliko’i (passion fruit) and coconut, and a rich dark chocolate Valrohna https://www.valrhona-chocolate.com/ variety as well. Sandy has perfected these recipes over several years and has wanted to start her own cheesecake business. And she should. These are incredibly rich, yet light and they each have their own special flavored graham cracker crust.

The wedding took place near bungalows right next to the ocean. You felt like you were on a movie star’s back yard lawn that had the perfect view of the ocean. One of my cousins walked down the black lava rock to get a closer look of the sea turtles who had found a cozy spot in the reef below us. During the ceremony you could see two turtles floating around like they were listening to us up above. It was the most romantic and beautiful evening that I have ever experienced.

The yard was adorned with hanging lights which kept us aware of our surroundings as well as the gorgeous table decorations that included white lily’s and jade flowers and candles. The open bar was serving beer, wine, Mai Tai’s and mouth watering margarita’s.

The food was a surf and turf: Pan seared kampachi a local fish,  Maui onion mashed potatoes, mac nut crusted local catch, a braised beef tenderloin and chimichurri and ginger miso sauce. The food was delicious and exciting.

Yet, I am still in disbelief at the care and compassion that went into these cheesecakes. It was the perfect wedding dessert. Linda and Sandy have known each other for 34 years, meeting when they were 24 years old. This long time friendship is easy to relate to as I have friends that I have known for the same amount of time. The most adorable thing to observe from a distance.

My husband was unable to be here with me this trip because of his work schedule and I am grateful that he convinced me to come without him. The wedding was extra special also because the brides father, my uncle Joe was here with us as we almost lost him a year and a half ago when he had a hernia surgery. Also, my mother was able to be here in the fragile condition that she is in surviving a multiple myeloma diagnosis 3 years ago.

My heart is full of gratitude for my family and the love we share, long lasting friendships and the ever so thoughtful gift of cheesecakes.

Aloha and Mahalo

 

Check out this previous post that includes a blueberry cheesecake bar recipe

http://letsmakemudpies.blogspot.com/2014/08/need-vacation-avoid-als-icebucket.html?m=1

 

Also please leave comments below about your favorite wedding experience and if you have been to Kona Hawaii. Would love to hear from you!

 

Teri:)

 

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The One Thing You Must Do When Traveling With Friends

The One Thing You Must Do When Traveling With Friends

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Great pic of President Obama and wife Michelle

Lots has happened since my last blog post. We now have a new president named Donald Trump. Long gone are the days with Obama. I don’t consider myself a political person, nor do I get involved in protests, etc. It seems one cannot get onto social media these days without hearing the latest updates about what is going on in politics.  The country is changing and people don’t like change. Even my book group ladies had different opinions about the presidential pick and his policies during our last adventure to So Cal.

 

 

In January, the five of us traveled to Los Angeles to see a member who moved back east 6 years ago, then more recently to Southern California. I’ve known these women for the past twelve years. We’ve gathered at each other’s homes monthly to discuss the latest and best books one can find. We’ve raised our kids, talked about our parents and genuinely cared for one another through good and bad. We haven’t always agreed on politics, or religion, but that has never mattered. We’ve respected each other’s views and could set aside our differences. A few of the women had definite opinions on Trumps behavior in the oval office. I deliberately choose to “wait and see” and not get worked up over women’s rights, and the rest of the drama that is going  on around us. It stimulates fear and hate and I like to live my life without chaos. Maybe I’m pulling the wool over my eyes and ignoring the news so I can live in harmony. I see what I need to see on Twitter and that’s enough.



We stayed in a cute house in Pasadena where our friend Rachel lives. Rachel took us on a fun 3 hour hike at Chantry Park http://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/sturtevant-falls-trail Hiking So Cal where we took the Gabrielino Trail to the beautiful Sturtevant waterfalls and reveled in the rolling green hills. 


We stayed out late and attended a small concert in Hollywood starring Kylie Rothfield from The Voice and drank wine at a famous Bar called White Horse Lounge. The food there was presented with flair. We especially liked the hummus with roasted shishito peppers and crispy flatbread. The calamari was served with a sweet and sour glaze and chipotle aioli. Not a bite was left on the platter.


We stopped for a look see at Pasadena City Hall after appetizers and enjoyed the majestic display of lights on the antique building. It was exquisite. On our last day, we leisurely ate breakfast outside at Urth Caffe’ https://urthcaffe.com/caffe/locations/urth-downtown-la. I had a spectacular veggie omelet which didn’t disappoint.



Normally, I would do the cooking on such a trip, but this visit was untraditional. We mostly ate out and made things easy. It was short and sweet and the perfect getaway vacation. I very much enjoyed spending time with the girls and look forward to our next vacation together. As time goes on, we will see how Trumps politics affect the country, hopefully in a positive way. I’m grateful for my life, my friends, my family and for the opportunity to live in the USA. Make sure when you travel with your friends that you respect their ideas political or otherwise. It makes for long and lasting relationships.

Here’s the pumpkin bread recipe that I brought with me and gave as a hostess gift. It was a hit.

Pumpkin Bread

3 Eggs

2 C Sugar

1 C Canola Oil

1 T Vanilla

2 C Flour

1 t Cinnamon

1 T Ginger

½ t Cloves

1 t Kosher Salt

¼ t Baking Powder

2 C roasted or canned Pumpkin Puree

¾ C Black or Golden Raisins

1 C chopped Walnuts

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs until frothy. Beat in sugar, oil, and vanilla until mixture is thick. Sift dry ingredients together. Alternately, starting with dry ingredients add ½ C at a time to egg mixture and blend. Then add pumpkin, dry, then pumpkin, ending with dry. Stir in nuts and raisins until incorporated.

Pour into loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto rack and cool completely removing parchment first. You can frost w cream cheese frosting (1 8 oz pkg of cream cheese, 1 stick unsalted butter, 1 t vanilla, 2 C powdered sugar and orange or lemon zest. Blend in mixer till smooth). Tastes great by itself. Very moist and delicious.

Enjoy!

Be sure to check out my earlier posts here.A Foodie’s best place to Shop and Beef Bourguignone

 

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One Special Confection You Can’t live Without This Holiday

One Special Confection You Can’t live Without This Holiday

Before I divulge the best toffee recipe of all time, I will share a quick story about my recent vacation. Here is a pic of my niece Kendall helping me in the kitchen.

What a trip! My husband and I traveled to Portland Oregon this week for business and pleasure. I was excited to get away and have fun exploring the food and vibe in the Great Northwest.


The day started with a trip to Voo Doo Donuts after dropping my husband off at the refinery. It was my first time trying these fabulous baked goods. People go crazy for these donuts. One lady in line bought seven dozen and another guy walked out with four dozen glazed, sprinkled, filled and twisted… the list goes on and on. I was happy with my two-one raspberry filled dusted w powdered sugar and one glazed with chocolate and filled w pastry cream. So delish!


The place reminded me of a Hard Rock Café kind of place. It has a weird kind of vibe with skull and cross bones and biker chic like culture. They sell music CD’s and T-shirts w logos like “The Magic is in the Hole.” And I might add that we saw a few people in the airport carrying huge pink Voo Doo Donut boxes too.

Apparently there is usually a line out the door of this place. Today, this wasn’t the case but there were plenty of visitors taking part of the “Voo Doo Donut experience.”  The shop is small. No seating is available. I chose to stand at the back counter and eat the chocolate one w Bavarian cream first. It didn’t disappoint. The Stumptown coffee was watered down and not anything like the normal Peet’s espresso w steamed milk that I make for myself every morning.



Next I explored the shops in the Multnomah Village and Hillsdale Shopping area of Portland. Here I wandered around in this cute quaint small neighborhood. I found everyone there to be friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about their goods. I was able to pick up a couple of last minute Christmas presents for a few people on my list. I found a cashmere scarf for my son who will soon be traveling to So Korea for a business class. He will be sure to find a good use for it there. After visiting a bead store, I also got the great idea to bedazzle my Christmas packages w brown twine and lace them w sparkly beads in blue, red, clear, yellow and some that look like diamonds. This will be the perfect addition to my holiday wrap. I love decorating a gorgeous tree every year and placing beautiful packages under and alongside the ornaments and brightly lit tree.


I also spotted an old fashioned candy store called Hatties which had every kind of candy you could think of. I brought home peppermint candy canes to make my chocolate and peppermint cream cheese brownies and root beer, licorice, butterscotch and orange flavored lollipop sticks to add to the gifts of the kids on my list. Remember the ones you had as a child? They also offered many varieties of homemade fudge like salted caramel, chocolate and peanut butter swirl and red velvet cheesecake flavor and gave you a free chunk of it if you spent more than $10.00.


One of the perks to shopping in this area was the “Golden Ticket” that was provided as a free gift if you spent over $10.00 in any store. It was fun to see so many crafty knitted hats, crocheted gloves, and colorful socks of all kinds. Wonderful place to go if you like unusual things “Keep Portland Weird” that you don’t necessarily find in the department store. I also felt great knowing I was supporting a community of small business owners.

It began to snow outside, so I kept warm and dry inside until it was time to drive back to get my husband at his office. Make sure to watch the video I made while enjoying the fun day. I hope after reading my blog you will make it to Portland too and have as much fun as I did exploring the city.


I’d like to share my favorite Christmas Candy that has been made in my family for generations.

I’ve been bringing this dish to holiday parties and celebrations for years and everyone is always asking me for the recipe. You will want to double the recipe. Here you go.

Thanks for reading.

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I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Teri’s Crunchy English Toffee

7 oz sliced Almonds

1 ¼ C Light Brown Sugar

½ C Unsalted Butter

2 T Water

¼ t Baking Soda

1 t Vanilla Extract

7 oz chopped Ghiradelli or high quality Dark Chocolate

Spread sliced almonds onto a sheet pan and bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 8 min or until brown. When cool, chop finely using a food processor and spread onto two pans lined with sil pat.

Place sugar, butter and water in a medium size heavy bottom pan on medium heat. I find that doubling the recipe makes it easier to keep the candy thermometer in the caramel and thus reads easier. Stir until butter melts and mixture is combined, then do not stir. Boil until thermometer reads 285 degrees. Remove from heat and add vanilla and baking soda. Stir with wooden spoon and pour onto nuts. Spread evenly and quickly put chocolate chunks onto warm caramel to melt. Spread chocolate then cool in fridge, freezer or on counter until set about 1 hour.

Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from Rose Levy’s Mahogany Butter Crunch Toffee.

 

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