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Tag Archives: #Baking

“Okay Thanks Bye Love Ya” Benicia and My Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

“Okay Thanks Bye Love Ya” Benicia and  My Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

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Spent most of the day yesterday exploring Benicia California with my hiking friends. We had the best time walking through the small businesses, looking at Christmas decorations and eating our way through town. Today’s blog will be all about our day and I will also share my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe with you.

I am lucky enough to know Sharon who invited me into her hiking group at least 10 years ago. We originally met through the neighborhood swim team over 20 years ago. She also inspired me to put my son into piano lessons at FAME Musice her son Eric was taking music lessons. I’m grateful for all she has done for me and my family over the years. But hiking with her and these amazing women is the most fun of all.

Sharon emails the group which has grown over the years, every Sunday evening about where we will be hiking every Tuesday and Thursday morning. She mixes it up every week, so we are never bored of the hiking trails in the East Bay. I haven’t been as good about attending the hikes recently, but I’m always in for a foodie adventure.

 

Marie organized and executed this exciting fun filled day in Benicia so we could all celebrate the holiday season together. Many of us walked through town first before eventually making our way to The Camellia Tea Room  for lunch. Wanting to warm our bellies with something hot, we sat outside Farm & Flour a cool new brunch place. I bought a loaf of their house made spelt grain bread which came in a cloth flour sack bag. And if I go back, I can get a dollar off my next loaf. Great marketing idea right there, and I will be back. In fact, I was there with my Aunt Teri a few months ago.

 

Next we stopped in Romancing the Home store where we looked at adorable Christmas decorations sold at reasonable prices. I love getting craft ideas and seeing what other artists are making this time of year.

 

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Owner at Juice House Company

Juice house Company caught my eye and so I had to try some of their healthy juice samples. The owner who is pregnant, opened the shop a year ago with her sister and boy is it gooooood. My husband recently bought me a juicer and I love it. I make all kinds of concoctions with tumeric, beets, celery, grapefruit and tons of other fruits and vegetables. I fell in love with “Citrus Sea” made from grapefruit, orange, lemon, celery, cucumber,ginger and cilantro. So refreshing! But the coconut almond milk drink was equally delicious.

 

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Owner of Pink Arrows Boutique

Can we talk about the cutest boutique on the planet? Pink Arrows Boutique is a little off the beaten path, but totally worth the visit. I didn’t catch the  owners name, but she was warm and answered all of our questions. This #boho style is infectious and I wanted one of everything. I limited myself to one cute red and black Bella Dahl flannel top, which she graciously gave me $10.00 off. I so appreciate it when businesses offer up discounts like these and I’m happy to make repeat purchases from them.

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The luncheon at the Camellia Tea Room was fabulous and everything you expect from a Tea house. The service was outstanding, our waitress even offering me an extra tea pot of hot water because I like my earl gray tea weak.The best bite of the day was the egg salad on a crispy and buttery focaccia bread. To die for! Good thing I got to eat two of them. Plenty of the other standards like a lemon tart with raspberry, a scone with currants, cucumber sandwich, oatmeal raisin coconut chocolate chip cookie, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and plenty of clotted cream and jelly (not homemade 😦 ) I didn’t care for the water. Tasted funny to me, but there was plenty of tea going around. 

Lastly, I heard I needed to check out One House Bakery just down the street. Everything there seemed outrageously edible, yet I had just eaten. I will definitely be going back with my mom Diane and her husband Tom very soon as this kind of place is right up their alley. And funny enough, my friend Nancy saw my Instagram post You Tube One House Bakery yesterday of this place and dropped off a chocolate raspberry roulade to me this morning. She got excited about all the sweets and breads and met a friend for breakfast there. You can’t imagine my surprise when she knocked at my door with the most decadent cake ever made. Yum! And I didn’t share. It was that good.

 

I continue to be grateful for these simple pleasures of day outs with friends. There’s nothing better than celebrating the holidays with the ones you love. If you need a fun get away, check out downtown Benicia. You will be glad you did.

 

And now for my gingerbread cookie recipe that I promised. This recipe is altered from my friend Julie Birnbaum’s recipe I received many years ago. Julie and I were in a knitting group together while our kids were in school. She made these for us one year and I fell in love with the recipe. I’ve been  making them ever since. I haven’t knitted in years, because I’d rather be baking or gardening instead.

And here’s a recent blog on my time entertaining with Lise from my hiking group and her husband in Genoa Nevada.

Please comment below on your favorite holiday cookie and where you got the recipe from. And feel free to follow my blog. I’d love to share more recipes with you.

 

Teri’s Cut Out Gingerbread Men Cookies

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#Christmas #Cookies #Gingerbread

 

Ingredients:

1 C Unsalted Butter

1 C Granulated Sugar

½ C Molasses

1 t cinnamon

1 t ginger

1 t cloves

1 t cardamom

1 t nutmeg

½ t Maldon salt

 

2 whole eggs

1 t vinegar

 

5 C unbleached flour

1 t Baking Soda

 

Directions:

In a saucepan, melt sugar, butter, molasses, salt and spices. Cool and move to a large mixing bowl.  Mix in 2 eggs and vinegar and add flour and baking soda until well blended.

Scoop out large portions onto parchment paper and place in fridge.

Roll out on a floured surface and cut men out with your favorite cookie cutters. Use raisins and red hots for eyes, nose and mouth.

Preheat oven and bake at 350 degrees for approx 8 minutes, or longer depending on how thick your cookies are. Cool on rack.Decorate with royal icing.

 

 

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Autumn Feast: Pumpkin Seed Pesto Caramel Apples and Apple Turnover Recipe

Autumn Feast: Pumpkin Seed Pesto Caramel Apples and Apple Turnover Recipe

I had the pleasure of joining my friend Lise and her husband at their property in Tahoe a couple of weeks ago. Lise had never been to Apple Hill in Placerville, and I wanted her to experience it, so she invited me up to her property after. After that excursion, we spent a couple of days cooking together, eating out at local restaurants, entertaining and exploring the cute town of Genoa Nevada.

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Carl and Lise at Walley’s Restaurant and Saloon

I met Lise while hiking the trails of Mount Diablo a few years back. She is a nutritionist and I love learning more about the health advantages of food. We can talk for hours about recipes and baking. And of course, we walked a lot while on this vacation. Sadly, my husband couldn’t join us because of his work.

 

First off, we stopped at Boa Vista Farms, where we bought decadent blueberry dumplings, blackberry dumplings, apple turnovers, and this is where we watched these caramel apples being made. Here’s the blog I wrote on my first trip there. They have everything apple. It’s quite a fun place to visit. Lots of activities for the kids and plenty of fresh fruit to purchase. My friends loved it so much that they wanted to go back to explore more farms on the way home.

 

Next, we drove to Carl and Lise’s home. It was lovely and we promptly took their cute dog for a walk around the neighborhood. For dinner that night we ate at David Walley’s Restaurant and Saloon. I had their French Dip and green salad and my friends had the ribs. It amused me to experience eating at a saloon. My friends told me that ordering a meal at the bar is much cheaper than eating at the restaurant especially if it is happy hour. And the food was really good. I had a beer on tap served with sliced oranges, my go to drink. I would recommend this place to anyone who needs to fuel their bodies and they have a resort on site for people that need a place to stay.

 

The next morning, Lise and I proceeded to take the family dog on a jaunt before cooking up a storm. The neighborhood is still being developed and  cottontail bunnies, jack rabbits, coyotes, rattlesnakes and scorpions are known to be living in the vicinity as well. This information made me a little on edge, since I’m not a huge fan of snakes. Luckily, we only came across one baby one in the middle of the road and he was harmless.

 

So when packing for the trip, I grabbed a few ingredients that I had in my fridge. I brought along plenty of fresh tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, canned olives, fresh corn, roasted beets, goat cheese, mandarin oranges, pistachios, bib lettuce, some of my homemade apricot jam, cheese and crackers for a cheese platter, refried beans,tortilla chips, sour cream, candied pecans, and herbs from my garden. I never leave the house without plenty of food.

 

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Little did I know, Lise had invited guests over for dinner, so my provisions came in handy. We spent the morning making corn salsa, a bean dip, zucchini quesadillas with pistachio-pumpkin seed pesto, and coleslaw. Oh my! The food we made was over the top stupendous. Lise’s guests were blown away by our appetizers, beet salad and main dish quesadillas. All of it was made with love and you could taste it in the food.

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Roasted beet salad w pistachios, mandarin oranges and goat cheese

Before the day got away from us, we headed town to tour Grover Hot Springs where we hiked around for a while. Feeling a bit hungry we stopped for lunch at The Pink House Cheese and Charcuterie Shop & Restaurant. We were amazed by their Fall menu selections as well as their selection of specialty foods smartly displayed on cute wooden shelves. Not only was this place located in an old victorian building, but their dishes were outstanding. I had their pork meatball on top roasted spaghetti squash and marinara, and Lise enjoyed their salmon burger with coleslaw, green salad and potato leek soup. Our waiter bragged about the chef from Philadelphia who was known for his meatballs. I found them a little bland, but they served it with a herbed goat cheese on top which made perfect sense.

 

Next was a quick stroll through the town of Genoa, where we walked by their country store, and Nevada’s Oldest Saloon where they have Sunday entertainment called porch parties. Of course there was an antique shop and my favorite store Sierra Chef Italian Pastries, (Purveyors of Bently Ranch Meats), which served coffee, tea plenty of goodies. You can also take cooking classes there! I was thrilled to see all of their ingredients stored on shelves in glass jars and their spices were stored in huge glass bottles. They must go through a lot of seasonings.

 

We were tempted by all the freshly baked goods, but don’t forget I was with a nutritionist. And we still had plenty of pastries left from Apple Hill.

 

Last stop was the Courthouse Museum where Lise and I browsed antique quilts, dolls, teddy bears, jail cells from 1865, the post office and the Genoa courthouse. I felt like I was back in an old western movie seeing how the small community lived way back when.

 

Back at the house, Lise and I prepared the remaining dishes for her friends who were about to arrive. Among the appetizers were corn salsa with avocado, candied pecans, bean dip with tortilla chips, and a cheese platter with my apricot jam and pineapple pepper jelly. Lise’s dinner entree of zucchini quesadillas with pumpkin seed pistachio pesto was exceptional and my roasted beet, goat cheese, mandarin orange and pistachio salad was delicious too. The evening went by too quickly for us all, but good memories were made.

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Lise’s zucchini quesadillas and pumpkin seed pistachio pesto

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Lise, Carl and their neighbors enjoying our Fall feast

High Hill Ranch was our destination before heading home where we collected apple and pumpkin donuts and a huge box of Autumn Glory Apples. They have been going fast in my house mostly because I love apple turnovers. Recipe below.

 

Fun was had by all during my mid week excursion in Tahoe. Lise and Carl were generous to let me stay with them and I’m thankful for their hospitality.

If you haven’t been to Apple Hill yet, it’s a must this time of year. Go hungry and take a few friends. They won’t be disappointed.

 

Apple Turnovers

Ingredients for filling:

3 or 4 Apples thickly sliced (depending on size about 3 or 4 cups)

1 C crushed Flaked Corn Cereal

1 C Granulated Sugar divided

1 t cinnamon (Penzey’s brand is best)

½  t ground ginger

½ t ground cardamom

½ t ground cloves

1 stick of unsalted butter (1/2 Cup) Cold cut into chunks

2 T Rum or Brandy

1 egg whisked in a small bowl

 

Mix ½ C sugar with spices and set aside.

Put cut apples in a bowl and pour rum or brandy over. Set aside.

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Pastry:

3 C Flour

3 T granulated 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

Directions for making Pastry

  1.  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) Another pie recipe here:Strawberry pie
  2. 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.)
  3. Wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  4. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll with pin to flatten and cut into rounds about the size of the palm of your hand.
  5. Sprinkle each round of pastry with 1 T sugar, then 1 T crushed corn flakes. Lay 4 or 5 slices of apples on center of sugar. Sprinkle again with 1 T cinnamon, sugar mixture. Bless each turnover with 1 T butter and fold over pinching the seams. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Proceed to make all turnovers until all pastry is gone and no apples are remaining. Brush with whole egg and sprinkle again with sugar.
  6. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for about 15-22 minutes until brown and bubbly.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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Enjoy! If you liked this blog, please sign up and follow me to receive more recipes and any new posts. Thank you for reading as always.

Teri

 

 

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Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti

Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti
https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Grapes just picked at Heirs of my Dream Winery Sonoma

 

Took a vacation day trip out to the Sonoma area last week. I’ve been wanting to check out the new Hanson Distillery along Hwy 12 in the Carneros Valley for some time. I’ve been passing this place and dying to go in, but I usually have my Dad in the car and he doesn’t want to stop at these places. While out and about, I also had the pleasure of walking around Homewood Winery, Troika Wines, and Ceja Vineyards. Of course I took advantage of checking out Domaine Carneros,  Napa’s Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli, their pumpkin farm next door, and Starmont Winery and Vineyards.

 

Today’s drive was spontaneous and last minute. Never enough time to schedule a pal to go along with me, so I decided to go by myself. It’s so much fun to explore these hidden gems especially this time of year. The colors are changing on the vines, the weather is cooler, and there is a crisp breeze which makes me want to drive to the wine country.

First was a tour of Heirs of my dream Winery by Ellie. She showed me around the quaint property letting me get a glimpse into her world. I was attracted to this property because I heard a man singing loudly while cleaning out wine barrels. This property is perfect for weddings and parties. Have I mentioned it is brand new? Their website is barely up, but they are doing exciting things.

 

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Gorgeous venue.

 

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Krzystof and Hanson’s vodka

 

Next was a mango, habanero vodka cocktail at Hanson’s Distillery carefully prepared by a Polish guy named Krzystof. I learned all about the Hanson family who are passionate about vodka and originally from Marin. They are the first non-GMO distillery in the US and make their vodka from grapes. They have many flavors: cucumber, ginger, mandarin, habanero, and limited varieties of espresso and boysenberry. The drink was delicious, a bit spicy too because of the habanero vodka and their Tajin Clasico Chili Lime Seasoning rimmed glass. The espresso had a bold rich flavor with notes of chocolate. The property is adorned with a pond and gorgeous romantic trees. It’s quite an experience if you are looking for a fun getaway.

 

On the same estate was Ceja Vineyards, but they were closed. Troika Wines were right next door and were offering tastings, but I had to decline since I was at my limit after drinking the cocktail. Across the road was Homewood Winery, but I chose to move on.

I’ve always wondered what the enormous breathtaking beautiful chateau was that is along Hwy 12 on the hill, and was pleasantly surprised to find Domaine Carneros. Reservations were required, but I was happy enough to walk around the premises. It seemed a bit stuffy for my taste, but I’m sure well worth the tasting if you are looking for sparkling wine and pinot noir.
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Fancy Pumpkins in wheel barrow

On the way back to Hwy 29 on the left was Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli and I was getting plenty hungry by then. The family run business owned by Wilcoxson’s are best known for their authentic pit smoked meats. Pulled pork, chicken, tri tip and brisket sandwiches are served just to name a few. I didn’t stay, since I was intrigued by their pumpkin farm adjacent to the restaurant. I’m quite the farmer, and appreciate what goes into growing these crops. This atmosphere is family friendly and a must see for locals and travelers alike.

My last stop in the Carneros Valley was paying a visit to the 50 acres of  Starmont Winery and historic Stanly Ranch. Gargantuan eucalyptus trees grace the property which draw you in and make you want to see more. It was quiet yet inviting and a nice place to spend a couple of hours. Since I was driving, I didn’t partake in their tastings, but will go back someday.

I enjoyed my day trip to the Carneros Valley. The habanero vodka cocktail is something I’d like to make for friends in the future. I will probably make one of my famous cheese platters to go with them as well. Included will be my pineapple pepper jelly from my homegrown organic serrano peppers. I also enjoy my blenheim apricot jam to accompany the brie and blue cheese.

So I hope I’ve inspired you to make a trip to the Carneros Valley with a few friends or loved ones. I know I will be finding my way back there soon also. But until then, here is my recipe for ginger, apricot, pistachio biscotti. They are chewy, not like an ordinary biscotti and a real treat.

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Candied Ginger Apricot Pistachio Biscotti

 

Ingredients:

2 C All Purpose Flour

1 C Granulated Sugar

1 tsp Baking Powder

3 eggs

2 T Sambuca (an Italian Licorice flavored liquor)

2 T Grand Marnier

1 tsp Vanilla

1 tsp Anise Extract

1 C whole Pistachios

1 T fresh Orange Zest

1/2 t  Saltverk Licorice Salt (found in iceland) or substitute 1/2 t Kosher

½ C chopped Crystalized Ginger

¾ C Mariani Dried Apricots

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheet w parchment paper or a silpat.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder together in a large size bowl. In another bowl whisk eggs, both liqueurs, vanilla, anise, orange zest and salt.

Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in pistachios, ginger and apricots.

Divide dough in half and transfer onto parchment paper into two 2.5 inch wide logs with floured hands.

Bake until golden in color, firm and dry about 20 minutes.

Remove from pan and slice loaf on a diagonal into ¼ in to ½ in thick slices. Arrange cookies cut side down onto a sheet pan and bake again for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Enjoy! Do you have a favorite biscotti recipe? This is one I’ve adapted from a culinary class taken at Diablo Valley College’s pastry program.

And here is a terrific recipe for scones dipped in dark chocolate.

 

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Blackberry Turnovers and My Secret Get Away Spot

Blackberry Turnovers and My Secret Get Away Spot

A little known fact about me that most people don’t know is that I write my blog at my gym. I belong to  Club Sport one of the nicest gyms in the Bay Area. It’s located about 20 minutes from my home and I like to come here to decompress. I know. Most people go to their gym so they can work out and get a good sweat on. Not me. I like taking an occasional spin class, yoga class or weight class here, but most of all I like to sneak away from home and write my blog.

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No one interrupts me here. At home, I have to contend with my animals, kids and husband. I’ll be honest, my pets are high maintenance. As soon as I walk in the door, the dog and cats are dying to be fed. We have a doggie door that they use to come in and out of all day long. They have plenty of dry food to eat, but they demand canned food the instant I walk in the door. And it doesn’t stop there. My two cats are 12 years old. They will meow when they want to come in your room even if it is 6 AM. We could leave the bedroom door open, but my 14 year old dog has a doggie dementia and he walks around the house tapping his little paws all over the wood floors and it wakes me up.

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This is why I am sitting in a comfortable chair at my gym near the hotel entrance where I’m not taking up a chair at the bar or cafe. It’s fairly quiet and I’m able to focus on the task at hand, writing my next blog.

 

People ask me why I post pictures of my food and write a blog. I guess at  some point I would like to own a bed and breakfast place. Maybe I will work in a professional kitchen again or teach cooking classes again. I’m not sure what’s in my future. For now, I love to bake and cook and share recipes.

 

Currently and for the past 7 months I have been working as a nanny. The job kind of fell in my lap. I wasn’t looking for an opportunity like this but it came along and I went for it. The baby is super cute and we are buddies. She loves spending time with me and I can’t wait to see her read her my newest children’s book. She’s the best baby, sleeping through the night for many months now and her parents are really cool animators at Pixar. They are wonderful people and I am lucky to share in taking care of their little one.

 

Many mornings last July I would walk the baby and pick wild blackberries from the running trail and make blackberry hand pies. These turnovers were to die for especially warm from the oven.

 

Who knows how long they will need me or if they will have more children. At least I have a job for now and am enjoying every minute I get to spend with the little one. Babies are a ton of fun and this one in particular has my heart. I’m finally able to cook for her some meals which makes me happy.

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Here is my recipe for Blackberry Turnovers.

 

Pastry

3 C. Flour

3 T granulated 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

 

Directions for making Pastry

  1.   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) Another pie recipe here:Strawberry pie
  2.  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.)
  3.  Wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  4.  Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll with pin to flatten

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Blackberry Filling:

Pick two or three cups of blackberries (or purchase 2 fresh packages/ or buy a package of frozen blackberries and defrost and drain). You can substitute blueberries, apricots or peaches. Use whatever is in season.

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Sprinkle 1/2 C granulated sugar (more if not as sweet), 1/8 C tapicoa flour, ½ t Maldon or Kosher Salt, 1 T lemon zest, and 1/2t nutmeg in a bowl of washed blackberries. Place about 1 t unsalted butter on each pastry before sealing w egg wash  (1 egg whipped in a small bowl. You can add 1 tsp water or milk if you wish. I don’t)

 

After rolling out pastry, cut into large circles or squares. Separate them by placing on parchment paper or tin foil on a baking pan leaving a little room (about an inch) in between. Scoop about ½ C onto each pastry and dot with 1 t butter. Fold over, seal, crimp with your fingers of with a fork before slashing with a knife in two places, brushing with egg wash and sprinkling them with a little turbinado sugar. Pop into a 400 degree preheated oven for about 14 min or until brown and bubbly.

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Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or a cold glass of milk. These are great after school snacks or a quick breakfast on the go. They never make it till breakfast in my house.

Or make a blackberry pie!

Do you have a secret place you like to sneak off to? Leave your comments below and thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I really appreciate my readers who inspire me every day. It means a lot.

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!

 

Please follow my blog for more great recipes and stories of my travels. And please Ieave a comment below if you have any questions.

 

 

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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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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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