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Year in Review and Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Recipe

Year in Review and Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Recipe

Here’s the latest on what’s going on in my life lately, and I will share a delicious Millionaire Shortbread Bar recipe. My husband is still working from home. It has been a year and a month since the pandemic hit and the world changed. I will attempt to describe how things have been during this challenging time and how life has changed, maybe for the better.

Here are my girlfriends waiting for me to come say hi.

First of all, I have chickens. They are five months old now and quite a handful. I’ve enjoyed spending mornings and evenings with them just hanging out with them in their chicken run. They like to be cuddled and love it when I’m around bringing them treats. They have been my saving grace while stuck at home.

Last week’s hike up Bollinger Canyon “Devils Hole” Part of Las Trampas Regional Wilderness in California

As far as the community goes, I hike occasionally with friends, and love every minute of it. In fact, I should be out there on Las Trampas with them now, but decided to hang back and write a blog instead. We don’t entertain as much, but when we do, we really love having people over. I love to cook and bake, so sharing meals has been a passion and a gift I love to give to others. 

Some people are more careful than others as far as Covid 19 goes. One friend wouldn’t hike until she was fully vaccinated, yet others are more comfortable getting together in groups. When my hiking friends celebrate birthdays, we meet at a park, bring our own food and visit. It is lovely to interact and see people more. 

Yesterday, I met two hiking friends in Benicia for lunch. Suzette initiated it and also invited Marianne to join us. We ate inside in a large dining room and I felt fairly comfortable. Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since my second Pfizer vaccination. My husband gets his second Moderna vaccination today. Lunch at Ciao Bella was lovely and I’m grateful for days spent outside my house. 

Mostly, I’ve been working in my garden the last year. I experimented with growing corn, composting, vermiculture, and growing seeds and cover crops.  I chose not to hike today because I have about 20 more tomato and vegetable plants that I need to get into the raised beds. It stresses me out to have them waiting for me. I know. It sounds crazy, but these plants are like my babies. My hikes can wait.

After lunch yesterday, I drove to REI to buy new hiking shoes. I have so many holes in my current ones, that I have no choice but to get new ones. The whole experience was anxiety provoking. First, you are met at the door and asked to use hand sanitizer. Then there are arrows on the floor showing where you are allowed to walk. The nice greeter told me the shoes were located up the stairs, so I headed in that direction. Instead of picking up a shoe and choosing which one I wanted to try on, the whole area was roped off. An employee was guarding the shoes and asked me qualifying questions to see what kind of shoe I was looking for. 

Seriously, this guy was trying to visit with me and ask me personal questions while I was trying on shoes. So awkward. I just wanted to get the damn shoes and get out of there. It was strange to have this guy watching me try on every shoe. I kind of wanted a little privacy, you know? Maybe that’s weird. But anyway, I have bad feet and having the correct shoe is important, so it’s a serious matter for me. And I really didn’t want to tell the guy my kids ages. It always freaks people out when I tell them that I have a 36 year old son and a 28 year old son. Then I feel old because they are grown men now. Ugh. In any case, of course they never have my size, blah blah blah. Eventually, the two of them, yes now there was another salesman, brought me a pair that fit. Of course, they tried to get me to sign up for the club, so I could get a 10% discount and be able to return my shoes if there is a problem. No thank you. I hate sharing my email, so they can send me spam.

Of course, I had to check to see if Krispy Kreme Donuts drive through had any warm out of the fryer yummies. Nope. So I passed on that. 

So maybe it wasn’t that unusual of a shoe buying experience, but it feels weird getting out and leaving the house. Other than shopping for food, and getting my hair done, I rarely go anywhere. My husband Ken and I like to hike or go on bike rides into Danville. Sometimes we get food to go, but I usually cook. Last night, I heated up leftover beef pot roast, roasted carrots and potatoes for dinner. We watched a little TV and called it a night.

This morning, I will get the rest of the tomato plants into the ground before it gets too hot. It’s only mid April, but Northern California weather can change quickly and become hot and dry. In case you wondered where I buy my plants from, I go to the Contra Costa Master Gardeners website and buy from The Great Tomato Sale. Each plant is $4.00 each and they have a wide variety of peppers, herbs, squash and tomatoes. I always get extra, since they don’t all survive. I bought 17 tomato plants, lemon cucumber, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, basil, 3 types of kale, two types of lettuce, 6 pepper plants. We have critters that eat everything around here. My husband routinely traps moles, gophers, rats and mice. The owls and frogs sing to us at night. It truly is a magical place. Here’s a post about a farm in Tuscany

Here is one of my favorite treats that you can make ahead. They are rich and decadent and you only need a small piece to satisfy your sweet tooth. This recipe makes a lot, so you can share with neighbors and friends.

Millionaire Caramel Shortbread Bars

Shortbread Ingredients:

1C. Cold Unsalted Butter cut into chunks

¼ C (32g) Cornstarch

1 ¾ C (219g) All Purpose Unbleached Flour (could substitute rice flour to make gluten free)

1/3C (73g) Granulated Sugar 

⅓ C Light Brown Sugar

1 Lg egg yolk

¾ t vanilla extract

½ t Maldon Salt

Caramel Ingredients:

2 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated)

14T (198g) Unsalted butter cut into chunks

1 C (200g) Light Brown Sugar (Packed)

⅓ C (80ml) Light Corn Syrup

1 t vanilla extract

¼ t Maldon Salt

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:

2 C (340g) SemiSweet Chocolate Chips

½ C Heavy Cream

1 t Vanilla extract

½ t Sea Salt (to sprinkle over bars)

Shortbread Crust Directions:

Preheat Oven to 350 degreesF (180degreesC).

Line a 17X11.5 Pampered Chef Bar Pan or Sheet pan with parchment paper. Can use a square baking pan. Bars will be thicker.

In a Cuisinart or large bowl Mix sugar, flour,cornstarch, butter, egg yolk, vanilla and salt until combined.

Press into the pan until even. 

Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes or until light brown.

Set aside to cool.

Caramel Directions:

In a medium size heavy pot, place 2 cans sweetened condensed milk, butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and whisk continuously on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes until caramel reaches 230 degrees with a candy thermometer. This process takes time. Don’t walk away or stop stirring. Add vanilla and salt and pour onto the shortbread crust. Spread evenly. Place in the fridge or let cool a bit before topping with ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

Heat heavy cream in a heavy small to medium size pot until almost boiling. Add chocolate and vanilla and stir until melted.

Pour onto caramel shortbread and spread evenly. Sprinkle with sea salt and cool in the fridge.

Cut the bars into squares and serve. This recipe can be made ahead and the bars will freeze for up to 3 months, but they won’t last that long. 

Enjoy!

Thanks for reading and I appreciate your feedback. How has this last year been for you? Have you had a similar shopping experience that you want to share? 

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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How Stopping Off at a Roadside Farm Can Inspire Your Baking

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October is one of my favorite times of the year. The weather is getting cooler in the mornings and evenings and we hold out for hope that the rains will come soon. My neighbor’s kids are getting excited about the upcoming Halloween by decorating their yards with goblins, skeletons and huge fake black spiders and I’ve been purchasing sweets for their arrival at my front door on October 31st. Of course I won’t be baking treats for the youngsters, but their parents might enjoy a little something sweet while trekking through the neighborhood. This is where my apple cake will come in handy.

You’re probably wondering what inspired me to prepare this super moist cake. Recently while driving through the countryside of Sonoma County I ran across a farm called Green String Farm along Old Adobe Road in Petaluma. My sister Susan and I were taking my dad to the casino in Santa Rosa when we stumbled across this gem.

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I was happy to learn that they sold local produce, nuts, flowers, olive oil, eggs, cheese, honey and herbs. These establishments are rare where I live in rural Walnut Creek, but are occasionally found in the hills of Petaluma. I know how much work goes into growing these vegetables because I have a garden also at my home. Keeping up with the water in the midst of the drought is not a small feat. This is why I appreciate buying from places like Green String Farm. I know my purchase will be fresh and fairly priced.  The owner happened to be friendly, answered any questions we had and sent us on our way with a smile.

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I found their walnuts to be the best I’ve ever tasted. They are sold in bulk by the pound in their shell.  Apples pair well with walnuts and it’s the season when I’m in the mood for a warm spice cake. I’ve made this recipe for the past 15 years every time I have an excess of apples and I love serving it with a caramel sauce and Chantilly cream or vanilla ice cream. Luckily, I have plenty of time to bake before the trick or treating begins next week.

FRESH APPLE CAKE

Ingredients:

4 C sliced apples (3-4 depending on the size. Leave the peels on for more fiber) Granny Smith or Johnagold or your favorite apple.

1 ½ C Granulated Sugar

2 C All Purpose Flour (Can substitute Coconut, or Almond Flour if you want less carbs)

2 tsp Baking soda

2 tsp Cinnamon

2 tsp Ginger

¼ tsp Nutmeg (freshly grated)

½ tsp Cloves

½ tsp Maldon Salt Flakes

2 tsp Vanilla

2 Eggs (slightly beaten)

½ C Canola Oil

½-1 C chopped Walnuts

Optional

Vanilla Ice Cream

Heavy Cream

Caramel sauce

Ingredients:

¾ C (6oz/185 g) Granulated Sugar

2 T Water

½ tsp fresh Lemon Juice

¾ C (6 fl oz/180 ml) Heavy Cream

Directions:

In a medium size heavy saucepan combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Cook over medium high heat until it turns amber, 6-8 minutes. Do not stir. Tip the pan to ensure even cooking. Do not allow the sugar to burn. When amber color, remove from heat and add cream. Stir with a long handled spoon or whisk until the sauce is smooth and blended. Let sauce cool to warm and use immediately. Can be covered and refrigerated for up to a week.

Makes about 1 cup (8 fl oz/250ml).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Directions:

Sprinkle sugar over sliced apples in a large bowl and stir. In another bowl, combine all spices, soda, salt to flour and mix. Add dry ingredients to apples and mix with a wooden spoon.

In a separate bowl, measure out oil and add eggs and vanilla and stir.

Pour wet ingredients into apples and mix well. Add walnuts and pour evenly into a buttered 13X9 inch pan. Or for a special occasion, pour into separate small ramekins to serve individually. Baking time will be less for these.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes until a tooth pick comes out clean.

Serve alongside caramel sauce,and a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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