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
Also please leave comments below about your favorite wedding experience and if you have been to Kona Hawaii. Would love to hear from you!
Let’s Make Mud Pies
Berries. Wonderful Berries.
Why should you make a blackberry pie? That’s a no brainer. Blackberry pie is one of my all time favorite things to make and eat. You can’t have a bad day after treating yourself to a piece of pie. Especially a homemade one. Served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream it’s the perfect treat. And in just three months the apricots will be back in season and we can bake apricot pies too.
The crust is crispy, crunchy and fall apart melt in your mouth delicious. Blackberries aren’t really in season anymore, but Costco seems to have palates of them. You could substitute blueberries if you prefer.
This recipe is fairly easy to make and worthwhile for sure. I hope you will try it too!
You can make the berry mixture ahead of time and keep refrigerated and do the same with the dough as well. Here’s how…
1 bag of frozen blackberries
2 containers of fresh blackberries
3/4 C. granulated sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of the berry)
1 T dried tapioca pearls
1 T of cornstarch
2 T water
2 T lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teas grated nutmeg
1/2 teas kosher salt
2 T unsalted butter
Dump frozen blackberries into medium sized saucepan with sugar, tapioca, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest and lemon juice. Cook over med high heat until sauce is boiling. Mix water and cornstarch and pour into boiling berry mixture and cook until thickened. Cool. Fold fresh blackberries into cooled mixture.
I find that by using a mixture of frozen berries and fresh berries, it brings out the best flavor and texture to your pie.
3 C. Flour
2 T Sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
¼ C. Shortening
3 Tbsp H2O
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp white distilled vinegar
- In a large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blended and working quickly to prevent butter from melting into flour, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (or put mixture in food processor and pulse until combined)
- In a small bowl combine water, egg, and vinegar. Stir to mix. With a fork, mix egg mixture into flour just until dough clumps together and moist enough to pat together. If dough is dry and crumbly, add more water 1 Tbsp at a time. Dough should not be wet or sticky. (I use the food processor and pulse until combined.)
- Wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
- Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll with pin to flatten
This makes enough for two single-crust pies.
Once you have your dough rested and your filling cooled you can fill, dot with butter and top your pie. Use any cookie cutter you have, or go with the traditional lattice topping.
Pastry likes to stay cold before baked. So put the pie in the freezer for an hour or so before baking to get that great pie crust, if you can wait that long…
Brush with a whole beaten egg. Sprinkle with additional sugar and bake on a sheet pan in a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour or until golden and bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Last Fall, my husband and I visited Boa Vista Farms http://www.boavista.com/ where they sell frozen pre made pies like apple and berry. We had a blast tasting their apple pastries, apple doughnuts, and caramel apples. They have a fun Wine Tasting counter as well. Worth a drive up to the Placerville area for sure.
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Caramelized Cauliflower Soup and Easy Hot Rolls
February is a beautiful time of year. We celebrated Valentines Day last week which is one of my favorite holidays. The weather has been cold and rainy, and it is time for soup. There is nothing like a hot bowl of soup to make my tummy happy. This recipe is perfect for an easy weeknight meal or great to serve for company on a special occasion. In my opinion, cauliflower is an under utilized vegetable. Most people walk right by it because they don’t know what to do with it. This recipe will make you a cauliflower believer too and you will be healthier for eating it.
Who needs bread to go along with soup? I do! Why make the dough from scratch (I have recipes if you want to go through the trouble), when you can make them look and taste like you made them from scratch and your friends and family will never know the difference. It’s hard to believe, but it is true. Read on to find your next favorite best kept secret to making any meal extra special.
- 2 T olive oil
- 1/4 C unsalted butter
- 1 white or yellow onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into ½ inch pieces
- ½ bunch thyme, stems removed
- 1 tablespoon fine chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 2 cups Chardonnay
- 1 cup Madeira
- 1 cup veal or beef stock (vegetable stock optional)
- 2 cups half and half
- 2 T dried potato flakes if needed to thicken
- 4 crostini (lightly toasted thin slices of French bread)
- 1 cup grated Fontina or smoked gouda cheese
Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until almost caramelized, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the onions and continue to cook, stirring until they darken. Put the cauliflower on a sheet pan, sprinkle w/ 1T olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until caramelized. Add the thyme and garlic to pot and cook for 5 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients to pot and cook soup on medium heat for 30 minutes.
Ladle soup into ovenproof bowls, top with the crostini and the cheese. Place the bowls under a hot broiler until the cheese is bubbly. Serves 4.
Beautiful peppers and tomatoes picked from our garden
Easy Hot Rolls
Buy Bridgeford Loaves (comes in a pkg of three loaves and found in freezer section of most grocery stores). Defrost in refrigerator overnight in covered bag so it does not dry out.
Divide roll into 10 pieces with a sharp knife and roll each piece into 4 inch long strips. Take each strip and tie in a knot. Place each knot into a greased (shortening or Pam) muffin tin pan. Brush w/ slightly beaten egg and let rise on counter until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve immediately w/ homemade apricot jam and butter.
This is a pic of hot rolls served at the famous restaurant #Sirandstar on a recent get away weekend http://sirandstar.com/
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Yesterday I invited my longtime friend Marie over for a baking day. She wanted to learn how to bake her son Ryan’s favorite vanilla cake. I made one last Fall for his brother Aaron’s engagement par…
We are getting close to Valentines day, and I can’t help but share a story about helping my mom find love. Yes. I had tried for years to set her up with patients at my dental office with no luck. I thought about matching her up with a guy from my meditation group, but that didn’t pan out either. For many years my mom was single. My dad and her divorced when I was 14 and neither of them remarried. That is until a few years ago when my mom found love.
This is a pic of my Mom, Tom, Virginia and Keith my mom’s long time friends
Tom was my neighbor. He and I went for walks with our dogs. He would casually stop by with his wife when taking her out for short walks. Tom’s wife suffered from cancer and he would talk to me about food, and how he was caring for Penny. “12 almonds a day” he would tell me. I thought he was a special man since he cared so deeply for his wife.
After she passed away, I would stop by to see how he was doing sometimes offering some oranges from my garden or delivering a book on grieving. Tom was always on the go, choosing vacations to go on back East and entertaining friends and family. It wasn’t until Tom walked by one day while I was gardening that I got the idea to introduce him to my mom. He complained that he missed talking to someone and bouncing ideas off of them like he had with his wife for over 49 years. I gently suggested when he was ready, I would like to introduce him to my mom who was also lonely. She and Tom both loved the same hobbies like gardening and cooking. I thought they would make a great couple.
A few weeks later, it happened. I invited my mom and Tom over for some tea and cookies. They met at the driveway and instantly made a connection. They arrived at my door together and have been together ever since. They married about 2 years later and have been through a lot together since my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma a rare blood disease, but treatable a few weeks after their honeymoon.
My Mom, Tom, sister in law Alyson and the cutest niece ever Josie
Tom is a wonderful man and my family is so grateful for the love he as given to all of us and especially my mother. She has never been happier. Not only do I have a new dad, but my kids have a new grandfather who they look up to for love and guidance. Tom’s family has been a God sent too giving my mom 6 more grand kids to love and care for.
A pic of my mom and dad in their earlier days of marital bliss 1967
above that a pic of Mom and Tom, Andrew and his friend Mary after a St Mary’s Choir concert
This is what Valentines Day is all about. I love bringing happiness to others through networking and my food. I am also the luckiest girl around since I’ve been married to Ken the love of my life for 28 years. Happy Valentines Day Mom and Dad. May your lives be richer because of the love you share.
Mushroom Fennel and Leek Risotto
2 T Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 T Unsalted Butter
2 C Arborio Rice
6 C Veggie or Chicken broth
1 C White Wine(Chardonnay or your fav) Can use champagne also.
1 C Cremini Mushrooms chopped finely
½ C Fennel chopped finely
½ C Leeks chopped finely
2 cloves chopped garlic
¾ C freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
2 T Heavy Cream
Put Oil and Butter into heavy bottom soup pot. I use Le Creuset pan. Place chicken broth or veggie broth on med high heat in an alternate pot. (I make my own from using chicken bones from baked chicken, garlic, onion, celery, carrots, water, ginger, fennel and boil for 1-2 hours. Cool in fridge overnight)
Place Mushrooms, leeks, and fennel into hot oil on med to med high heat until softened.
Add garlic and rice and stir to moisten rice. Cook for 3 minutes. Add white wine, cook and stir until it evaporates. Add chicken broth ½ C at a time and stir rice. Continue to add broth until rice is cooked about 15-20 min. When the rice is no longer toothsome or chewy and is plump and moist add cream and Parmesan cheese. Top with a splash of truffle oil and chopped herbs like parsley from the garden. Serve immediately. Serves 4
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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.
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
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.
Be sure to check out my earlier posts here.A Foodie’s best place to Shop and Beef Bourguignone