Thursday, September 29, 2016

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month






Many of you participate in 3 day walks, Breast fests, fundraisers or some other event, me, I bake in support of Breast Cancer awareness month.
With the statistics of 1 in 8 women affected by breast cancer, I didn't just want to repost my story about my friend and co-worker, Gwen Leighty, who lost her battle with disease. I wanted to remember and pay tribute to her once again.
Gwen was a real go getter at work. She always seemed to be on mission and I guess she was as our chief fundraiser. Always on the job to find the next be donor. She was still fundraiser and working when she could during her fight. She was always looking out for the staff. When we needed funds for a staff event she was right there asking what we needed. Never hesitating to make sure we had what we needed.
One fall before her untimely death, she gave me some antique gardening books and tubers of irises from her garden. The irises were planted right away and the next spring bloomed in to the softest shade of a bluish violet. The books are still on my shelves and the irises are still thriving. When they bloom in the spring and as I pass them in the yard I smile and  think fondly of a friend and dear co-worker.


So these cupcakes are for everyone who has been touched by this disease. They are the copycat of Hostess cupcakes and I'll blog about that latter this month.


      

Thursday, September 15, 2016

National Apple Dumpling Day






Many people rejoice the arrival of September, kids go back to school, Pumpkin Spice Lattes arrive in coffee shops everywhere, the weather is cooler and less humid and apples make their appearance at farmers markets.
I for one love September, I hate the heat and I do suffer, so when the cooler weather arrives I savor it.
September 17th is the holiday to celebrate the Apple Dumpling! Yes, there actually is a food holiday to celebrate the apple dumpling. In fact there is a food holiday for everyday. It's a way to celebrate all things food.


To celebrate the apple dumpling I made, apples dumplings of course. I used the recipe including in my King Arthur Flour catalog. Recipe can be found here King Arthur Flour.









I made the dough first and from the start I knew it was not going well my butter was warm and I really over mix the dough. I was right, the dough was not flakey at all  and boy was it tough! It took a knife to get to the apples, which by the way came out perfectly soft and sweet. They were well seasoned with the perfect sugar cinnamon combination.






I quickly fixed the problem by using my homemade vanilla ice cream that I just happened to have on hand. Cold ice cream on apples quickly makes you forget the crust is rather inedible and is a great combination to the hot sweet apple. 
Next time I'll be careful and stick to my pie crust recipe. Now that apple season is  just getting started there will be other opportunities, I can redeem myself. So let's never speak of this again!      

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

End of summer pesto




The cricket's chirps become more numerous and louder in late August, the days are less humid and the sun sets a little earlier everyday. It's a sure sign of the end of summer and the end of the basil growing in pots on my front steps.
But then again, it means I need to get busy and make pesto. If you are like me, you've been reading a  lot about of “Pesto Mouth”.  This happens when you eat Pesto with pine nuts (mainly from China) and end up with a bitter mouth for days and possibly weeks. 
I didn’t want to take a chance with my basil crop so I opted to make the substitution with toasted walnuts. I was lucky to come into some sample bags of California Walnuts while attending IFBC in Sacramento this year. Thanks California walnuts!
It is a very easy recipe to make, 5 minutes tops. And what an easy way to prepare a Sunday night supper. Pesto on noodles, pesto on a poached chicken breast, pesto in the refrigerator, and pesto for days!   






The recipe is so simple and quick, maybe 5 minutes and you let the food processor do all the work. Pesto freezes well. If you use ice cube trays they can be divided into single serving sizes just perfect for a quick and easy pasta lunch or dinner.  If you plan on freezing it omit the cheese until you make it.

PESTO:




Ingredients:
* 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
* 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/4 cup of pecorino cheese
* Salt and pepper to taste





Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread walnuts evenly on cookie sheet, toast until lightly browned and fragrant,  8-10 minutes. Let cool completely.  Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.


* If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.



* If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Pesto can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Ice cream you scream, or, you could just ask





Time is weaning on this growing season. Oh there are still plenty of tomatoes at the farmers markets. My shaded front steps have become a small herb farm. I seem to be able to grow basil, thyme, margoram and a phethera of mint. So it seems that shade and occasional watering seem to agree with my mint.
I always buy too many plants in the spring with grandiose plans for the different varieties. Tea, making chocolate leaves, mojitos, and ice cream.
This year was a bumper crop for me! All my plants survived. I should have cut them back. Oh well maybe next year. My mint is grown in containers because it can take over a garden if it's not contained. 




Now that my kitchen is done there seems to be permanent space in the freezer for my KitchenAid ice cream bowl. It takes no time at all to make a base and have it ready to churn. Once it goes into the bowl about 20 minutes later you have soft ice cream. You could eat it straight out of the bowl but I "age" it for about 6-8 hours or overnight, if you can wait that long.
There is nothing like homemade ice cream. Simple ingredients controlled by you. This recipe is from The Perfect Scoop  by David Lebovitz

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sweet glorious pears

*****DISCLAIMER, In exchange for a discount registration for the International Food Bloggers Conference I agreed to write three posts. This is my second post.*****


Pears just hanging off the tree. (Used a watercolor app)


I had never really thought much about where my food came from until I had the opportunity to ride through the Sacramento farming delta. I really had no idea that the farms in this delta are surrounded by the Sacramento and San Jouquin Rivers and that the Sacramento River is responsible for most of California's water.
Winding down the highway along the river banks we were on our way to one of only four remaining pear orchards in Sacramento. The scenery was stunning and the local history lessons, fascinating. The fact the climate in California is perfect to grow any kind of crop you can thing of.
When we finally arrived at the Elliot's family orchard, Stillwater, it was harvest time for the Bosc pear.  Food bloggers waking along side of the trees, taking pictures of the ripe fruit hanging off the branches. Rows upon rows of  pears being harvested by the workers swinging the ladders and climbing in the trees in silence.


Bosc pears waiting to be picked


Did you know it takes about 10 years for a pear tree to start bearing fruit? That's quite a long time to wait for the sweet juicy fruit, But the multigenerational farm families do. The Elliotts grow more than one  variety of pear.
Freshly picked Bosc pears
Refreshing pear cider on a hot day from Hemly Cider 


Busy picking the fruit


After the orchard tour we were treated to lunch under a Sycamore tree that we were told was 150 years old. It provided much needed shade, it just so happened the temperatures that weekend were around 100.


Our lunch spot. A magnificent 150 year old Sycamore tree  


Pear crisp


Not a bad way to spend your lunch. Grilled endive salad, pork tenderloin sandwiches, pear and endive salad, and the featured fruit ended up as a pear crisp for dessert. We sampled pear cider, so it's  not just for apples anymore.
On the way back to the bus we were each given a bad of Bartlett pears to take home. I was happy that my  pears made the cross country journey safely. But what to make with them? I could try to recreate the pear crisp. Maybe my pear upside down gingerbread cake? No, too warm for that.  I scoured the internet for a pear cake recipe and came across this Pear Cake recipe from Allrecipes.com. So of course, that's what I should make.
The bag of pears we received as we left the orchard 

Pear cake, one for me and the other for our new neighbors  


Thanks to Elliot's and California Pears I made two so I keep one and then I could share the other with our new neighbors. What at a sweet way to introduce your self.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

You say en-dive, I say än-ˈdēv

***DISCLAIMER- in exchange for reduced registration, I agreed to write 3 posts about my experiences at the International Food Bloggers Conference. This is my first post.***


The growing endive 


In the cold darkness in trays stacked on trays grows the endive. Did you know that there is only one endive farmer in the United States? I really had no idea. Only one farm that grows endive. And yes is really pronounced än-ˈdēv.




Rich Collins, the original endive farmer in the US 



The root waiting to be decapitated and put into growing beds, this is the start of the second growing season  



Our hosts for the morning



I had a eye opening experience about the endive while visiting the California Endive Farms. I was on an excursion with about 30 other food bloggers. As we rode through the Sacramento farm delta, Rich Collins gave us the low down on the the history of the endive and his history of how he started with endive farming. 
I confess I knew very little about the endive. Did you know that the endive is the second growth of the chicory plant or that is grown in darkness, like a mushroom? Well they are! While chicory grows wild or is harvested for coffee, it's the root that is harvested put into cold storage and then planted and in the cool, moist dark storage the endive grows and thrives, until harvest time. 
The chickory root in cold, very cold storage


Rich Collins is the original endive farmer and the only one in the US. This farm supplies the US with 50% of the endive and only on the west coast. The east coast gets their endive from the Belgium. Rich's passion for the endive and for farming shined while he explained the processes of his farm. We toured the cold room where the roots are stored. Which felt good. 32 degrees vs. 100 degrees outside. We toured the growing room, cool, dark and damp just the way the endive likes the growing conditions. Crate upon crate in the darkness was the endive. Each was formed to resemble a torch flame, growing in their own little world. Crates stacked upon each other, high to roof. It look surreal and reminded me of a B rated sci-fi movie, The Day of the Trifids.





Stacks and stacks of endive in the cool, misty dark room



Row and rows of growing endive




 The California Endive Farms grows the white, the red and now the newest variety the Coroline and yes it's pronounced Cora-Leen.



The endive is in the front row and the Coroline is in the back row



Rich has retired from the endive farming business but it looks like the traditions will continue on in California. 
To end the day we were served a wonderful lunch under a 150 year old Sycamore tree.


Lunch under the Sycamore tree consisted of grilled endive salad.




Grilled Endive Salad (PLEASE note that this my interpretation of the salad we were served at lunch. Rich was kind enough to give me the ingredients but the amounts. So this is what I used).


Ingredients:

6 grilled endives
1/2  sliced  red onion caramelized
1/2 cup of dates, chopped
1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
Shavings of Parmesan cheese





Dressing, mix to taste:

1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons Honey
salt and pepper to taste


Directions:




Grill the endive and cut off the root at the bottom and slice. Caramelize the sliced onion. Chop the dates. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

In a separate bowl mix the Balsamic vinegar, mustard, honey. Combine with all the other ingredients. Stir in the pumpkin seeds and the parmesan shavings.
This can be served cold or at room temperature. 





Thursday, August 25, 2016

Dream Kitchen and new FARGRIK


TA DA my long awaited dream kitchen

I love when things happen when you are not around, don’t you? It seems like magic. One day there is cardboard protecting the floors and plum lines chalked on the walls and poof you come home from work or a trip and the cardboard is gone, countertops are installed and things are magically getting done.
The new kitchen being installed and the old kitchen



The Sektion cabinets



My new baking area

That is how this kitchen renovation project has been going. Eight weeks of loud banging, dust, hammering, painting and tiling. I have been at work for 99% of the renovation and my mom and the hubster, and the dog have suffered through the worst of it.

I left town for the last of it. I came home to my dream kitchen.

Cooktop, oven and backsplash 

There is so much more storage, no more storing pots on the stove or under workstations. My cookies sheets are lined up. No more pulling 4 cookie sheets out when I only need one! My rarely used appliances will now be stored properly. Even my spices are nice and neat. Not alphabetized, because that's just crazy, well wait a minute that’s a good idea.

The workhorse of the kithen

My baking supplies are still in one cabinet but it is time for some serious restocking. Can you say hello, King Arthur Flour shopping extravaganza? Cocoas and chocolate and the flavorings!  

Looking into the kitchen from the baking workroom 


New floor, cabinets, windows and the old original door and reclaimed wood shelves
I will probably get rid of more items as I begin the task of unpacking and trying to figure out the best areas to store what. I will finally get to use my mid-century glassware and I discovered you can't have a new kitchen without new flatware and dishes.

Successful shopping trip with new Fargriks, snuddas and sinnerlig or two!


My first shopping trip to IKEA and my list was long and full of VARIERAS, SNUDDAS, ANVANDBARs, BESKURENS, FILURS, and lots of FARGRIK. You can’t have a new kitchen without new FARGRIKS. Translation =dishes! I definitely need a lot more VARIERAS and one more FILUR for the dog food.    

 
Dog approved!
 After I bake something I'm going to destroy that cabinet. Cue music ...    
Done. Buh bye.



Monday, August 15, 2016

Julia's birthday and a classic dish

This post was written before my big kitchen remodel. I like to go to see her kitchen when I need some inspiration.
So, today would have been Julia Child's 104th birthday. In need of something, my recent trip to her kitchen at the National American History Museum (it's right next door to my office), was a chance to get some inspiration. Standing in the doorway peering into the kitchen I was inspired not only to cook but I decided to hang my pans like she did.

Julia's kitchen, my source of inspiration.

One small DIY project later my pans were hung up on  peg board just like she did (well the hubster really did the work).
DIY pan hanging project
I wanted to make something iconic and not too complicated to honor her life. Should I make 
a cake or a dessert? Not sure to what to make and I was getting some what obsessed about it. Then it hit me,   Boeuf Bourguignon, the dish that started it all. I started at noon and four hot hours later it was finally ready. It seemed more liquid like a stew and not as thick as maybe it should be. And not as simple but it only took one taste from the hubster and he was hooked. 
A recipe, mushroom, bacon and the finished dish

 Holy Crap, damn that's good, were a few of our comments. Wishing for cooler weather and I'm going to make this again. 


Boeuf Bourginion 




Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tips on Attending a food blogging conference

***DISCLAIMER: I have been giving a discount on registration in exchange for writing 3 blogs on my experiences at the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC). This is the first of the 3 blogs. ***


My solo trip to Sacramento in late July will be to attend my 5th food blogging conference.  I have learned a lot since my first conference in New Orleans. I wanted to pass on some advice to those who have never attended one or if this is your first conference.

  1. Take two suitcases. A small one in a larger one. Food conferences do not disappoint with the swag. The first year I had to leave a lot in my hotel room. One year I thought I brought a big enough suitcase but I di not and had to mail my swag home. Last year I wised up and brought a carry on bag in a medium sized suitcase. Packed my swag in the bigger bag that was checked for free and had my carry on filled with clothes and swag I did not want to pack. So I will do the same this year.
  2. Take lots of business cards. You hear this advise all the time so I will repeat it. You will hopefully make lots of contacts at the conference. My cards are pretty simple blog name, and social media icons that I am active. You can get great cards from Moo, Vistaprint and there are others. Pick a design you like or create your own. But bring a lot.  
  3. Network, Network, Network. This is the hardest part of attending conferences. I consider myself a shy person so I find it hard to do that. One trick I do is to go over the list of attendees. Review the blogs and other social media and make notes of some of the bloggers or speakers I want to meet. And then, I go for it. Making my way to talk to bloggers. Remember you have something in common, food. GO for it and don't be shy. I once bought a book on how to work a room and that didn't workout. So skip the books and just mingle.
  4. If there are separate excursions, go on one. They are great for getting to know the area and a chance to learn new things, meet new people on a smaller scale and maybe for blog inspiration. 
  5. Take notes. I always carry a moleskin and write down ideas during the sessions. I end up writing on the plane ride home. 
  6. Take lots of pictures. It is all about the food so make sure you have plenty of space on your smart phone or camera. I used to take my DSLR and my smartphone but now I am all about the smartphone. There are lots of fun apps so down load a few or ask some of the attendees what they use.    
  7. Have fun! Explore. Try a restaurant that you have read about, see the sights if time permits. I usually schedule a day to myself to explore  and walk around.
  8. Keep it simple, at least with technology. I used to bring cameras, iPads, a computer and a smartphone. I have lightened the load and only bring my iPad and iPhone. I can write and upload photos from both of those devices. It saves me some time in the process.   
I wanted to have 10 tips to share but I only came up with 8. I'm sure others can add to this. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Kitchen update week 4





floors are level and it is one big room 


new windows, drywall is going up   















new cabinets and new cook top and stove


One level floor, what a difference it makes   




I am a little behind on my kitchen remodel posts. The remodel is now in the 4th week. The floors are level and the electrical work is almost complete. They will come back to finish the electrical after the all-important inspection Thursday.

The floors are level and I can see all the possibilities. It seems like so much more room but after the cabinets are in and in all the appliances are in it will probably seem crowded.

new centered larger opening


The electricians have been working for 4 days now and as they were cleaning up I discovered an issue of concern. They had the sink light and the garbage switch in the wrong location and now that I think about it the quad outlet may need to be moved as well. 

wall of cabinets with lots of storage


I am hoping that will not interfere with the schedule or whatever they call a schedule.

Once the electrical work is done then they come back to finish framing the doorways, drywall, flooring install the cabinets, tile and paint, hook up the appliances and finish the details.

We had the original door stripped and it ready to hang.

There is almost light at the end of the tunnel, there is almost light at the end of the tunnel…

I am trying to figure out what to create when it is complete.