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.


* 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

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 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.