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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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Discover the Food Scene on College Ave and a New Chicken Recipe

Discover the Food Scene on College Ave and a New Chicken Recipe

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Imagine how surprised I was to stumble upon this quaint neighborhood called Elmwood when dropping off my family room rug to get cleaned. My mother has been having her rugs professionally cleaned at Tulanian Rugs for over 50 years.  I was somewhat of a skeptic, never having my rugs cleaned outside of my home before. I always hired someone to come in and clean in the past, but I trusted my mom since she had a good experience there. First I called and spoke to a very pleasant woman who answered lots of questions that I had. She knew a lot about how to care and clean a rug that has been around pets, etc… I felt so comfortable bringing my rug to her that I brought two of them in!

After paying for a 3 hour parking spot and dropping off my rugs, I decided to look around. The neighborhood reminded me of Multnomah Village in Portland Oregon that I visited last November. I wrote a blog about that experience and you can read about it here: https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com/category/toffee/

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I discovered restaurants like The Elmwood Cafe . There was a line going outside the door. Must be goooood.  I decided to grab a menu and see what else I could find. I didn’t get far before I found a restaurant called Summer Kitchen. This place looked extra yummy too. I hope no one saw me drooling over the pile of fried chicken sitting right behind the counter. IMG_9565 (1) They also had several salad offerings, made to order sandwiches, pizza and nightly dinner specials like chicken from the oven, spicy braised pork, and Arctic char for @ $20.00. What a deal. Not ready to decide what to eat I kept on.

Next I stopped into Mrs. Dalloway’s Book Store. I enjoyed their literary selection, but I couldn’t get enough of their garden art and cooking selection gifts. I found really cool wrapping paper (I’m a sucker for colorful anything) and adored their displays of Mother’s Day gifts and Grad Cards. So fun.

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I was happy to find Kerry Moriarty’s Jewelry shop 14 Karats. Just that week I lost a back to an earring and needed to replace it. I also lost a stone in a special bracelet that my husband bought me in Thailand. I happened to have them both in my purse and was able to get Kerry to help me out for a reasonable price. When I went to pick up the bracelet, he and his wife gave me their special Hot Sauce that they playfully call”Jo Boo’s” make from scratch. They have been making it for years and even brought it to “Burning Man.” It has several different chili’s in it including the famous ghost chili. Can’t wait to try it. His wife also worked as a caterer for years and generously gave me a piece of her famous dark chocolate almond crunch. Sooo good.

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Just around the corner I found Nabolom Bakery & Pizzeria . I was told to try their pizza by the guy in the Sweet Dreams Candy Shop. Yes I love candy too. I’m a sucker for a piece of a good quality dark chocolate and almond bark.

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To my disappointment, the bakery only serves the pizza from 11-2PM and then from 4-7PM and it was already 2:45PM! I opted instead for a chunk of focaccia bread with caramelized onions. I gobbled it ALL up on the drive home in the car. It was warm, and chewy and salty and perfectly baked. I was a happy girl. The pics below were taken the following week when I went back for the pizza.

Don’t forget to check out Casa De Chocolates in case you want to satisfy your sweet tooth with a nice cup of hot cocoa with a hint of chili in it. This tasty treat was very chocolaty and the perfect pick me up after a long afternoon of shopping. In addition to their hand made boxed chocolates, this company specializes in making Latin American chocolate bars and desserts like flan, tres leches cake and Mexican wedding cookies.

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Lastly, but not least I happened upon a small women’s clothing shop called Rue Atelier    I met the owner Barbara who was adorable and she told me a little more about the history of the area. The Elmwood neighborhood was hit hard when the popular Lululemon moved out of the corner property recently. I felt so bad for her that I had to buy a really cute blue jean jacket that i found on her sale rack for only $35.00- just my size. Barbara even posed for a pic with her dog for me!

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I couldn’t help myself, but walk into The Ashby Marketplace. In this store you could find local produce, plenty of artisan gluten free varieties of rice flours, coconut flour, ground corn meal, wheat germ, baking powders, baking sodas and many more extra ordinary options for the baker enthusiast.

I could go on and on about the fun businesses that this end of Berkeley has to offer. But, why don’t you go see it for yourself? You will be glad you did. Go hungry. Be ready to shop for cute chic clothing and go there for great new books or gifts. Goodness knows I will be heading back to the Elmwood neighborhood in Berkeley again real soon. My husband will love it too and he will be happy to know we have clean rugs again.

Just in case you would like a new chicken/pheasant recipe, here it is. My husband’s coworker was looking for a good recipe and I promised her I would add it to my next blog and share it with her. I had this delicious meal at a neighbors home one night after her husband came home from pheasant hunting. There is nothing low calorie about this dish, but you will be glad you tried it.

 

Pheasant (Or Chicken) en Creme

Ingredients:

1 Pheasant or Organic Chicken cleaned and quartered

1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 T Unsalted Butter

⅓ C Diced Yellow Onion

2 Cloves minced Garlic

½ C Fresh sauteed sliced Cremini Mushrooms

 

1 Can of Cream Of Chicken Soup

½ C Apple Cider

1 T plus 1 teas Worcestershire Sauce

¾ t Kosher Salt

½ t Black Pepper

2 t Smoked Paprika divided

 

Preheat oven t 350 degrees

Directions: Saute Onions, Mushrooms in Olive Oil and Butter until Onions are translucent about 7 minutes adding the minced garlic at the end so garlic doesn’t burn.

Place Pheasant in ungreased 9X9X2 baking dish. Mix Soup, Cider, Worcestershire Sauce, Salt, Pepper in a small bowl until combined. Add cooked onions, mushrooms and garlic and stir. Pour mixture over pheasant and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake uncovered in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 ½ -2 hrs or until fork tender basting occasionally. After 1 hr, sprinkle the pheasant with more paprika.

Enjoy! Follow me for more delicious recipes and fun adventures. Also I’d love it if you could take the time ask a question or leave a comment below. 

Smiles and happy cooking,

Teri:)

 

Need a new cocktail recipe? Latest blog here

 

 

 

 

 

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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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How and Why You need Blackberry Pie

How and Why You need Blackberry Pie

  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…

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Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

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Pie Crust

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

  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)
  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

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.

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Enjoy!

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.

Please leave a comment below and follow my blog so you will receive the next one in your inbox. I’d love it if you share this recipe on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Happy Baking!

Teri Smyth

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2017 in Apricot, Blackberry, Dessert, Foodie, Pie, Uncategorized

 

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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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Blog: 9 Ways to Double Your Pleasure While on Vacation

Blog: 9 Ways to Double Your Pleasure While on Vacation

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I’m loving winter time. I am spending five days up in the mountains with family. It is currently 33 degrees here in Truckee California. We are at 6125 Elevation nestled in the coziest house you can imagine. There is a huge snow storm going on. We are expecting at least two more feet of snow.

It’s days like these that make me want to bake. And gingerbread is the perfect comfort food to celebrate this holiday season. After all, December is a glorious time of year, especially when it’s snowing outside.

Over the years, my family would take a drive up north once in the winter and once in the summer to celebrate birthdays and have family reunions. All 15-20 of us cram into a big house and eat, drink and play games. It’s a joy to spend time with my nieces and nephews on a more personal level. Many of them join me in the kitchen to whip up a meal like chicken parmesan or lasagna. Then we find time to bake something sweet to make a perfect ending to a family meal.

This week I’m enjoying cooking for my sister and her girlfriend. I’ve made bean soup, BBQ pulled pork, and this wonderful gingerbread cake. We’ve enjoyed having this cake for breakfast as well as dessert.

I feel spoiled to be able to sneak away from my life in the Bay Area and enjoy the splendor of life in the woods. Here are my 9 ways to double your pleasure while on vacation in the mountains.

  • Make a fire in a wood stove and be grateful for a generous sister
  • Stay in your pajamas all day long
  • Make an apple butternut squash soup and serve w crème fraise
  • Drink homemade peppermint hot cocoa w whipped cream or marshmallows
  • Scrapbook homemade greeting cards
  • Put your feet up w a warm blanket and cuddle w a loved one
  • Watch football with a cold beer and eat hot appetizers like potato skins dipped in ranch dressing
  • Snuggle w your kitty cat on your lap and drink a Peet’s coffee w a dark chocolate ganache
  • Bake a delicious and moist gingerbread cake and serve with a vanilla caramel ice cream

Here’s the recipe.

Gingerbread Cake

Ingredients:

Softened Shortening or butter for coating pan

1C Canola Oil

1 C Granulated Sugar

1 C Molasses

2 T crystallized candied ginger

2 large eggs

3 C unbleached all-purpose flour

1 T baking soda

1 T ground ginger

2 T ground cinnamon

1 t Maldon salt

½ t ground cloves

1 C Pale Ale or Guinness Beer

Serve w whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly coat a 9X13X2 cake pan or 2 9” round pans with shortening and line w parchment.

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In a large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, molasses and candied ginger. Add eggs and whisk until smooth.

In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Whisk dry ingredients into molasses ingredients starting w dry alternately adding beer ending with dry until just combined.

Pour into prepared pans and bake in preheated oven until tooth pick comes clean @ 45 minutes.

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video of snow storm

Don’t forget to follow my blog and share with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. Feel free to ask any questions you might have or leave a comment.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2015 in Dessert, Holidays, Wintertime

 

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The Biggest Challenge: Raising a Son with Autism

The Biggest Challenge: Raising a Son with Autism

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I rarely mix my recipe blogging with parenting, but today I’m feeling inspired to tell my story about raising a son with autism. It’s something my family and close friends know about me, but rarely anyone else. I’ve never publicized this information because I wanted to protect my son and family from any repercussions and stay private.I’m not ashamed or anything about our situation, but it is a sensitive subject especially when things aren’t going well.

Lately, Andrew the son I’m speaking of is struggling with college. Although I am proud that he has come this far, I’m worried about his chances of graduating. Here is a little glimpse of his story.

Andrew is currently 23 years old and one of the sweetest men you will ever meet. He is well spoken, articulate and handsome. He is athletic in the sense that he has earned his third degree black belt in Taekwondo and had been teaching students at a local studio for the last five years or so. Andrew also achieved his Eagle in scouting when he was in high school. He worked hard to gain this honor by learning leadership, completing many badges, hiking for days in the wilderness, and completing a project that helped the Monument Crisis Center in Concord. He is also a very talented musician. Andrew’s choice of instrument is his voice. He is a tenor and received much of his training from director Ken Abrams and the award winning San Ramon Valley High School and was lucky enough to travel to Costa Rica. My husband and I were chaperons for most of his tours and enjoyed supporting the organization. Andrew got a partial scholarship to go to college at St. Mary’s College of Moraga California and joined the Chamber Singers Choir with the famous Dr Julie Ford. In the past year they performed at Carnegie Hall and in Latvia the summer before. St.Mary’s Choir is traveling to Russia this Spring to compete in the World Choir Games and our son is hoping to rejoin the choir next semester and perform with them. At a the young age of 7 we sought out piano lessons for him and he continued his studies in music for ten years. As of last summer, Andrew taught piano and voice lessons to students in the East Bay area and hopes to continue to share his passion for music in the future.

But even after all this success, our son seems lost. He had to cut back his school schedule because of finances and is currently a part time student at St Mary’s College and Diablo Valley College. He chose not to sing this semester and I believe it was the worst decision of his life. He is now more quiet and withdrawn than ever. He goes to school, comes home and goes directly to his room. Most of his college friends have graduated and moved on. He doesn’t have the social life like he did since he now lives at home instead of on campus.

As you can see, Andrew has had tons of success in his life. He has so much potential to be a great musician, composer or teacher someday, yet something is getting in his way. As a parent, it is hard to know how involved I should be. When he was young, it was easy. It was my job to make sure he got the best teachers, disability counselors, etc. Now things aren’t as clear.

I realize I’m not the only mom raising a son with disabilities. And I know there are many kids/adults with autism that haven’t had these successes or opportunities like my son has had.  Being a parent is hard. I have to trust that Andrew knows whats best for him. I have to believe that one day he will overcome these struggles. I don’t know what it is like to be him. I haven’t walked in his shoes. I’m only the mom who cares for him and loves him and wants the best for him.

This is what I know. I know I will be there for him through the good times and the bad. I will support him and his decisions while he is learning the ways of the world. I’m grateful for being given the chance to raise a son with autism. He is going to do big things and go places someday. I am confident I can look at the big picture, take a step back and be happy with my parenting so far.

Here are two recipes that I have made recently that my family loves. You will never go back to making a plain cornbread ever again. Toss in some blueberries and see how these warm berries burst in your mouth. Adding a pad of butter to the warm slice always brings a smile to Andrew’s face.

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Here is the best Blueberry Corn Bread recipe.

Ingredients:

1 ½ C All Purpose Flour

2/3 C Granulated Sugar

½ C White or Yellow Corn Meal

½ tsp Kosher Salt

1 T. Baking Powder

2 Large Eggs

1 ¼ C. 2% Milk

1/3 C. Canola Oil

3 T Butter melted

¾ C Fresh Blueberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350degrees. Butter or grease 9” round pan.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder.

In another medium size bowl combine milk, eggs, oil, and melted butter and mix well. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir with a wire whisk until blended. Toss blueberries in last and stir. Pour into a round baking dish and place in center of preheated oven. Bake for 30-35 min or until tooth pick comes out clean.

Need a healthy alternative to either a plain bowl of cereal or a hard boiled egg for breakfast? Try these delicious moist muffins. They freeze well and delight even the pickiest eater. If you like them extra sweet, top with a cream cheese frosting for a little extra tangy flavor.

Blueberry Cranberry Muffins

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Blueberry Cranberry Muffin ingredients:

2 C. King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour

1 C. All Purpose Flour

2/3 C. Granulated Sugar

2 1/2t Double acting Baking Powder

1 ½ t Baking soda

¼ t. Kosher Salt

1 t cinnamon

1 t ginger

1 C. Plain Nonfat Yogurt

½ C. Canola Oil

1/3 C. Thawed Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate

2 Eggs

1 ½ C Fresh Blueberries

1 C. Dried Cranberries

24 Dried Apricot halves, chopped (Soak in ½ C Brandy) Heat Brandy in microwave first. Add apricots and let them get plump before removing from liquid and chopping.

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Use Paper liners and line 2 muffin tins to bake 24 muffins.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and spices.

In a large bowl combine oil, yogurt, orange juice, and eggs. Mix well. Add dry ingredients ½ cup at a time just until combined. Gently stir in blueberries, cranberries and soaked apricots.

Spoon batter equally into muffin tins. Bake until tooth pick comes clean when removed about 15-20 minutes.

Cream cheese frosting: 8 oz room temperature cream cheese, 1/2 C softened butter, 1 1/2 C confectioners sugar, 1 t vanilla. Mix until combined.

Enjoy!

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Teri:)

Choir Article

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Dessert

 

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