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“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
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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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The End of Summer Brings Inspiration in the Kitchen and Sadness in our Hearts

The End of Summer Brings Inspiration in the Kitchen and Sadness in our Hearts

Summer is coming to an end and so is my vegetable garden. I have been picking tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and herbs. It’s also an end of an era,  losing a member of our family. We had a very sad day yesterday saying goodbye to our family pet dog Baxter. Last week while my dog was pacing around my kitchen, I was inspired to make a pineapple pepper jelly so my peppers would not go to waste. Little did I know, our puppy wouldn’t be with us a week later. My heart is breaking writing this post, yet writing is cathartic and expressing myself is healthy. 

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This is my beautiful dog Baxter who lived with our family for twelve years and I will miss him dearly

I will never forget the day twelve years ago when my son Andrew and my niece Jasmine took a day trip to the Tony La Russa”s Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek. It was Christmas break and the kids were off from school, so we were looking for a fun adventure. And back then, they had free coffee and free popcorn to munch on while looking at the animals. Arf was the perfect kind of field trip even if we weren’t looking to adopt a pet.

I remember seeing “Grand Master Flash which is what they called him” Baxter for the first time. He was cute, spunky and full of life. We asked to bring him in the larger room and he bounded around jumping on our laps and making the kids who were 12 and 13 years old at the time giggle. We had no idea we were going to fall in love immediately with this sweet little guy. I had to call my husband at work and make him come right over so we could adopt him, since the rules were that both of us had to sign the consent forms.

The kids were thrilled and couldn’t wait to buy him a leash, dog treats, a kennel and new dog toys. After all, we believed him to be about 4 years old already. Baxter adapted to our home quickly, even getting along with our two, 1 year old cats Charlie and Charcoal. He loved taking walks in the evenings smelling all the neighbors plants and lawns.

In his later years, he had back problems and couldn’t jump off the beds anymore so we bought him poufs and littered the house with them. Most recently, he suffered from doggie dementia and his hearing was compromised. He would yelp at night and we couldn’t tell if he was hurting or just scared, so we started leaving the lights on for him.

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Many days we would barely be able to walk and we would carry him outside to do his business. He even let me hold him in my arms for extended periods of time which was nice. For the past several months he has needed a special diet of seared steak, roasted chicken and cooked ground beef since he wouldn’t eat his dog food. That was fine since he was usually happy having whatever we were eating.

Today, we grieve. Tomorrow is a new day and hopefully my heart will feel less empty as time goes on. Until then, we have our memories.

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Here is the Pineapple Pepper Jelly recipe:

 

Ingredients:

4 cups Pineapple finely chopped

2 cups sweet mini red, yellow and orange peppers finely chopped

¼ c serrano peppers (seeded and finely chopped)

1 c white vinegar

5 C granulated sugar (divided)

6 oz (2 packages) Sure Jell

¼ C fresh lime juice

1 T lime zest

¼ c fresh finely chopped fresh ginger

1 T lemon verbena chopped

½ t butter

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Instructions:

I basically followed the Sure Jell directions for making quick and easy freezer jelly.

1 Prepare containers: rinse and clean jars and lids with boiling water and dry thoroughly by placing upside down on a cooling rack.

2 Prepare Pectin Mixture: gradually add 2 pkgs Sure-Jell and 1 cup sugar to fruit and pepper mixture. Stir in vinegar, lime juice, zest, lemon verbena and ginger.

3 Bring to a rolling boil over med to med high heat.Then add remaining sugar and bring to another boil. When at a high boil, put timer on for 2.5 minutes continuing to stir. Add butter at the end to help avoid foam.

4 Carefully pour jelly into clean sterilized jars. Wipe edges clean with paper towel and seal with warm lids. Let set on counter until cool. Freeze for up to 6 months.

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This jelly is served with cream cheese and crackers for an appetizer. It is also delicious served alongside a cheese platter and crisp baguette toasts. I’ve also made salad dressing with this delicious and beautiful jelly.

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Hope you find the inspiration to make jelly of your own. It’s really a fun project and my friends will benefit from something sweet when I stop by with some of this edible treat.

Thanks for reading this and I hope you will follow my blog for more fun recipes and entertaining blog posts.

Teri

 

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Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

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Spent my birthday weekend at my sister’s friends house in Truckee last weekend. It was a fun filled time hiking, sleeping in (my favorite), board games, barbecuing nice meals and checking out Northstar Resort and The Ritz-Carlton Resort. My sister Susan, her friend Lori, my husband Ken, my and niece Marie and nephew Vince were able to change around their work schedules so they could stay with us too. 

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We hiked around Spooner lake with the two dogs and stayed nice and cool in the tall trees. The dogs loved getting in the lake while we watched for local birds like the white headed woodpecker, kestrels, steller’s jay, barn swallows and many others. Birding is one of my favorite hobbies and it’s fun to find new species when I travel.

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Marie bought me a “birthday” marion berry pie from Ikeda’s and it was scrumptious. She and my sister wanted to bake me a cake, but that’s a tall order to make a cake for a pastry chef. And we were all having so much fun playing outside and relaxing on their deck to bake in a hot kitchen.


The highlight of the trip was hanging out at the Northstar California Resort. They offer mountain biking, hiking, golf, Kids Adventure Camp, Mini Golf, and something called Kid Zone. There’s even a roller skating rink open during the summer for families that like that kind of thing. What we loved were the full body massages that were offered by Jackie at Tahoe Yoga and Wellness Center. This business gives yoga classes too, some of which I have attended.  Marie and I made appointments that morning and got right in. Now that’s the way to end a fun getaway weekend feeling all relaxed and pampered.

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Next we drove up the hill to explore lunch options at the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe. After all we were celebrating my birthday weekend and I’m always up for checking out 5 star hotels. This place was incredible inside and out. Very family oriented also, the outside seating at the Manzanita Restaurant included frisbees so kids could play in the nearby grass while waiting for their food. What a luxury to be able to have a conversation with your spouse and know your kids aren’t bored out of their mind. And they had a art show displaying famous artists inside the hotel. 

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The food was simple but delicious. The three of us shared the turkey club served warm with organic turkey, gruyère cheese, pecan-wood bacon, pickled onion, lettuce, tomato, and herb Mayonnaise. We also ordered the Mediterranean salad with loads of salty goat cheese, cherry tomatoes and nicely brined kalamata black olives.
It was exciting sitting outside when the rain started to come down in buckets. We were under a covered patio, so it was pleasant enough. We realized that anything can happen when you are in the mountains at high altitude. Taking time to visit with my niece and nephew on this vacation was priceless. We are so lucky to have family that lives in the Truckee area. Maybe next time our own kids will join us.

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Fennel, Chive and Heirloom Tomato Green Salad

 

Ingredients:

1 Head of Organic lettuce washed and torn to large bite sized pieces

1 carrot peeled and shredded

¼ bulb fennel sliced thinly (saving the dill like fronds to top for decoration)

2 T chives finely chopped (saving the florets for top to decorate)

1 C chopped red and yellow heirloom tomatoes from the garden

 

Directions:

Place greens in a large bowl. Sprinkle remaining veggies onto greens and toss saving dill fronds and chive florets for the top. Place salad plates in fridge earlier in the day. 

Serves 7
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Apricot White Balsamic Salad Dressing

 

Ingredients:

 

1 T Dijon Mustard

2 T Organic Blenheim Apricot Preserves

¼ C White Balsamic Vinegar (or Champagne Vinegar)

1 T grapeseed oil

1 t minced shallot

2 t minced garlic

1 T local honey

1 orange/lime/ or lemon freshly squeezed

½ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

In a small saucepan, saute shallots and garlic in 1 T grapeseed oil on medium heat until soft and translucent. Add honey.

Place dijon mustard and apricot jam in a small to medium size bowl. Add sauteed shallots, garlic and honey. Add balsamic vinegar, citrus, salt and pepper and stir. Slowly incorporate olive oil in a steady stream while whisking. Set in fridge until ready to eat salad. Nothing worse than bruised and wilted lettuce, so don’t put dressing on until last minute and toss lightly after pouring dressing around edges of inside of the bowl. This way, all lettuce gets covered evenly.

Thanks for reading my blog today and make sure to sign up to get my future posts with recipes and recent foodie adventures.

 

 

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Cooking with Family and Celebrating Birthday’s in Wine Country

Cooking with Family and Celebrating Birthday’s in Wine Country

I’ve noticed that I haven’t written any blog posts lately. Today I am going to change that. I hurt my back gardening a month ago, so sitting at the computer has been a challenge. I’m getting stronger every day and am able to exercise again. Whew! It’s no fun to lay around. My back didn’t seem to get any better when I was sedentary either. I know it sounds crazy. But it’s true. I love to share food stories with others, so here goes. If I can bring friends and family into the kitchen to cook and bake with me, I’m a happy girl. today I will share a few of these stories and I will be including links to my previous blogs that also include recipes.

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Here’s a pic of Andrew dressed as Clark Kent for Halloween

Just yesterday, my son who recently moved out wanted to make guacamole with me and I was thrilled. He didn’t need my help. Andrew has his own creative recipe testing techniques and I give him suggestions here and there. But for the most part, he’s confident in his cooking game and likes to experiment.

Some of my best memories of my nieces are when they asked me if they could make something with me. Like for instance, when my niece Jamie was craving a sweet treat called “Puppy Chow.” This favorite snack is made with Rice Chex Cereal, Peanut Butter, Milk Chocolate, Confectioners Sugar and our addition of 3/4 Cup of Nutella. It’s messy and you will need your biggest bowl, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Jamie is living in London right now (for the summer) working using her computer science training from Chico State. I’m following her Instagram stories to keep up with her adventure. We all miss her dearly and can’t wait to hear all about her time in Europe.

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Ken and I picking up Keri from the airport and sharing a piece of my carrot cake with her. Her fav!

This foodie day making Puppy Chow was a last minute get together that included my other niece Laura. Many of the cousins take grandma Nilda to breakfast on Sunday mornings, and it was there that they decided a cooking day with Auntie Teri was in order. I had most of the ingredients already, except for the cereal of which I asked them to pick up.

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Getting back to Laura, she’s a gem. I’ve had fun getting to know this young woman over the years. She graduated from UC San Diego and works full time at an aviation insurance company in San Francisco. She and Jamie became fast friends when Jamie’s sister Keri went off to college over 5 years ago. Now Keri will be moving back to the Bay Area to live with her parents and pursue a new marketing job in San Francisco. The family couldn’t be more thrilled. I’m the luckiest aunt because they happen to live in my neighborhood, so I’m sure I will be seeing a lot more of her. Her and her boyfriend Sam have been living and working in San Diego. Our families like spending time together, so much that we went to Cancun together in 2013 and 2015.

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In a couple of weeks, Keri and I will take a day trip to the wine country to celebrate her birthday. Who knows where we’ll end up. Sonoma was fun with our exchange student from Bilbao and his family.  It’s only about an hour away, but totally worth the drive. Here’s the blog about our foodie day there with fun times wine tasting, and nibbling on yummy cheese platters.

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Silly goofy Keri and I trying on make-up while shopping in down town Walnut Creek during the Holidays while she was in town.

Or we could head into Napa and check out OxBow Public Market . It’s a fun place to hang out for the day. My son Andrew and I went there last November and enjoyed a relaxing day together. Here’s my blog on the beer, spices, chocolate fudge and more that we experienced in case you want to know more. Even Michelle and I went to Oxbow together.

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Me and my niece Michelle capturing the moment during our day at Oxbow Public Market in Napa

Now that my back is feeling better, Keri and I can explore a new Bay Area destination.  I know that I will take plenty of photos so that I can share the day with all of you that follow my blog. Have I thanked you lately? It means a lot that you take the time to read my posts and leave comments below.

 

Have you been on any excursions lately? Do you have a destination vacation idea for me? If so let me know. It’s been a pleasure sharing my life and recipes with you. Have a happy Thursday. Here’s a pic from our family Cancun reunion.

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The Smyth’s and Van Winckel’s during a Cancun vacation a few years back. Standing My son Curtis, sister in law Kathleen, Brother in Law Rodney, and my son Andrew. Kneeling from the left: My husband Ken, me, and my nieces Jamie and Keri

Teri:)

 

 

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Sip Happens… It’s Okay to WINE

Sip Happens… It’s Okay to WINE
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Lynie and me at Bob’s Wine Class

Took a spectacular wine class last weekend at the local community center in my town with my neighbor Lynn. Lynn also happens to be my husband’s cousin, so that makes her extra special. She got me excited about signing up for the class a few months ago, and boy am I glad I did. I’m usually a food blogger. But wine goes well with food, right?

In today’s blog, I will be sharing the highlights about what you need to know about wine and sharing my favorite risotto recipe. Bob Becker a certified Sommelier and Wine professional gave the wine analysis presentation along with his wife Darla. Lynie and I and several other wine enthusiasts learned that Americans drink 900 million gallons of wine a year!  It was interesting to find out that there were only 40 wineries back in 1970. And today, there are 9000 wineries in the US! We like our wine. In fact, Bob said that Americans drank 3.7 billion bottles of wine in 2017!

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My nieces Keri and Jamie last December at Rombauer in St Helena

I had no idea how complicated wine tasting could be. We went through the Seven Components that make up the structure (there happens to be 1200 components in a glass of wine): Aroma, Alcohol, Sugar, Acid, Tannin, Texture, and Body were what we covered.These characteristics helped us learn how to identify the glasses we had in front of us. During our lifetime, we create a memory bank of aromas that our brain remembers when drinking wine. The three types of Aroma are Natural/Floral like a Viognier, a Bouquet aroma (the wine is 4 or 5 yrs old) and was made w molecular equilibrium like raisin or leather aroma, or Wine Maker Infused because of the wine barrels. There are American, French and Hungarian wood barrels.

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Lynie getting serious while waiting for Bob’s presentation

American barrels might smell like vanilla, dill or coconut. Where as the French barrels have a caramel, spice or nutmeg aroma. The Hungarian may taste like cinnamon or cloves and the winemakers add wood chips to get these flavors when they burn the barrels. True story. They can only flavor wine in a barrel three times before these barrels are discarded. When Bob worked at Hess in Napa they had 3,500 barrels at one time and each barrel cost approximately $1,600 each. That’s a lot of moolah.

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Bob’s wife Darla and a few happy participants

Then we learned the five step tasting method: Sight, Swirl, SniffSip and Summarize. Sight– When looking at your wine, look for clarity.  Is it crystal clear? How old is it? White wines get darker after 4 yrs because they start oxidizing. What climate was it grown in? Red wines get lighter as they age. The color pigments fall to the bottom and at 4-6 yrs old the reds have a different color at the outer edge rim part of the glass. Are you confused yet?

Actually we were just getting started tasting the various wines sitting in front of us. It was so fun. When one Swirls, you are aerating the wine releasing esters of aroma molecules that enter the nose. Fun fact! Right handers swirl their wine glass counterclockwise and left handers clockwise. Apparently, legs are those streaks that trickle down the side of any wine glass after you swirl it. They tell nothing about wine. It means the cabernet grapes had thick skin. The slower the legs the more alcohol.

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Lynie and I had to identify various Smells like coconut, pear, lemon, cloves, raspberry, pineapple, diesel and mildew (cause from a moldy cork) that were located in small bottles on the table. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to remember each of these. Smell is the gateway to flavor. For example, New Zealand’s wines have more of a lychee aroma. A Spanish wine over 10 years old will smell like leather. A Viognier white wine may taste like white peaches, apricots or a green apple aroma. And we learned that no two people smell things alike. Who knew?

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My dad Ron and my friend Susan at Rombauer a few years ago. Of course I was trying to be a matchmaker again

It was so interesting to find out that everyone has a dominant nostril when Sniffing wine. The professionals hold their glass within an ⅛ of an inch of the rim to properly sniff. They tilt the glass and use only one nostril. Fascinating!  

Now I know I was supposed to take notes on Sipping and Summarizing too, but there is nothing written here. I wonder if the wine was kicking in…

Bob also talked about ways to recognize bad wine. For instance, if you make a reservation for an earlier time, the restaurants may be serving wine from the day before that doesn’t taste quite right. And if you are paying $12-16 dollars for a glass of wine, it should taste good. Call the waiter and have them open a new bottle in front of you so you know it isn’t old. Great tip!

We talked about Infrared Thermometers that help tell the wine’s exact temperature. We now know that lying a bottle on its side helps prevent air getting in and that we should keep the bottles in a cool dark 55 degree room. Wine cellars can cost $87,000 to build! Interestingly enough, don’t store your wine in a home fridge because they vibrate in there and that changes the flavor of the wine prematurely. It’s also too cold and dry in your home fridge. For those of you that only drink a glass or two a night, buy a coravin. These help suck the wine into your glass and keep the cork in place to keep the wine fresh. These are just a few of the many interesting wine tasting tricks in Bob’s class.

Bob was clear about serving wine from a clear glass with a stem that is thin with a narrow rim like these or these.  The thinner the glass the better the wine tastes. I know these rules are boring you, but I’m excited to have my next dinner party and show off all of my new wine tips.
Thank goodness red wine has beneficial health benefits too. Although it’s best to not over drink. Make sure to drink a wine that is older than 10 years quickly and don’t decant it. The oxygen destroys the flavor immediately. 

Also- Bob pointed out that screw tops are perfectly fine, they are fabulous at preserving wine and are better than corked wines. Five out of every 100 wine bottles have bad corks!

The characteristics of a well made wine are: Expressiveness, Complexity, Pleasing Texture, Balance and Lingering Finish. When you swallow, how long does the flavor stay on your palate? Does it burn the back of your throat going down? This may mean it has a high alcohol content. Side note: Bob mentioned Screaming Eagle Wine founded by female winemaker Jean Phillips. He and Darla had the pleasure of enjoying her wine for $1,200 a bottle! No kidding.

One of the most interesting facts about the class was realizing that wine is full of SUGAR. These bottles show how much sugar is in each wine. Sparkling wine like Cava/Spain, Prosecco/Italy, and Roederer/France has less sugar and go with many foods. It’s against the law to add sugar to wine. Just before the wine is bottled, the vintners dump raw grape juice into the bottle. The yeast eats the sugar and ethyl alcohol is produced.

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At the end of the class Bob revealed what we were drinking. It was fun to find out more about these wines. My favorite was either #4 or #5 because I was picking up a coffee aroma and I love coffee.

#1 A Sauvignon Blanc from Smart Cookie Vineyards

#2 Chenin Blanc from Beringer

#3 A Zinfandel from Quackenbush

#4 Pisano RPF Uruguay Tannat 2013

#5 Apothic Red 2015
I could go on and on with more wine tips, but why not take a class like Bob’s? His email is Beck711@comcast.net. He also does private parties. Or you could go wine tasting at Page Mill Winery in Livermore and meet my hiking friend Debbie.She knows her stuff. Lots of cool things to do in Livermore.

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Wine Wheel that helps while wine tasting

In Bob’s  words “If you wine a little bit, you’ll feel a lot better.” Well, I can tell you that my husbands cousin Lynie and I definitely felt a lot better after taking his class. I hope you have enjoyed this write up and have picked up a thing or two about wine.

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And finally, I will end with a quote from Benjamin Franklin. “In wine there is wisdom, in beer freedom, in water there is bacteria. I think I’ll plan a day trip to the Napa Valley, Livermore or Healdsburg. Anyone want to go? Hit me up! Leave me a comment below and tell me your favorite wine tip.

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My fav chef Michael Chiarello even has his own wine. Pic taken a few years back at Bottega restaurant in Yountville at Marketplace

 

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