Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sinful "Sin"namon Rolls. Dare to take a bite?

Okay. If you are going to eat something like this sinful "Sin"namon roll everyday, you would be 400lbs. Let's have this tasty treat on a special occasion. I made these yesterday when it was cold and rainy outside. It was too cold to go on a hike and too muddy to play in my garden. These are the days I'm inspired to bake.
 Luckily I had already gotten in my hike for the week. I met my friend Donna last Friday and we explored a fun park nearby that lead us to open space. It was a beautiful clear day and I felt lucky to have found a new trail just a few blocks away from my home.

 Donna and I have been friends since our kids were in the same preschool. I don’t dare to say how many years that have gone by since then, but our friendship has stayed strong and grown over the years. I am so fortunate to have her in my life.
I also found time this week to plant some herb seeds before the rains came in. I planted lettuce, basil, parsley next to the already thriving lemon thyme, oregano, chives, arugula and mint. I love herbs planted near my kitchen so I can run out and cut a handful of them for soups, salads and especially fish recipes. If you ask me, fresh herbs play a big role in providing that extra wow factor in flavor and presentation.
I was inspired by taking a class on “Celebrating Fresh Sustainable Local Foods” last month in Brentwood. It was a fabulous class that discussed the history behind Brentwood corn, conserving farmland, composting, olive oil production, and container gardening. I learned a lot and have become more passionate about growing my own herbs, vegies and fruits in my own backyard.

Today, I’m celebrating "Sin"namon rolls. Cause, let's face it. There is nothing better than the smell of fresh baked right from the oven pastries. These tasty morsels are full of plump raisins, toasted pecans, brown sugar and butter. The layers of pastry allow one to peel off the sugary and crispy goodness bite after bite. I’ve doused them in cinnamon cardamom sugar after removing them from the oven just to be sure they are sweet enough. Want to be "sinful " too?  Dare to make this recipe.
Sinful "Sin" namon Rolls

1 sheet of frozen French puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm sold at most grocery stores)

1 whole egg beaten

¼ C. unsalted butter

½ C dark brown sugar

¾ C. chopped pecans (toast in 325 degree oven on sheet tray for 8 min)

¾ C raisins (I buy Trader Joe’s Jumbo Raisin Medley)

½ t cinnamon

½ t cardamom

Optional (½ C granulated sugar, ¼ t cinnamon, ¼ t cardamom) toss the rolls when hot from oven

Take the puff pastry out of freezer night before and place in fridge to defrost overnight. Or place on counter and wait until it is soft enough to work with. Do not microwave.
Displaying photo.JPG

Mix toasted nuts, butte, brown sugar and spices in Cuisinart until blended, or cut butter into mixture with a pastry cutter. Add raisins.  Brush entire pastry with beaten egg. Spread sugar nut mixture onto edge of puff pastry and roll it up keeping the mixture from coming out on the sides.
Displaying photo.JPG

Cut into 12 equal portions and place into greased muffin tins. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for @ 15-18 min or until browned on edges. Bake a little longer to be double sure they are cooked through. There is nothing worse than eating raw dough!
Displaying photo.JPG

Remove rolls with a tablespoon and drop into cinnamon, cardamom sugar. Roll around until coated.

Enjoy with your favorite cup of coffee. This "Sin"namon roll is the perfect ending to my perfect week.

How about you? Ready to sweeten up your day? I dare you to take a bite.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Get Well Soup and Brownies w Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting is on the Menu Today

Sometimes I cook and bake for the ones I love. This week has been a particularly busy one bringing dinners to my mother and her new husband, my son and his girlfriend and my high school friend Christy and her family.

There has been a terrible flu going around that makes you feel miserable for about three weeks. I know, because I had it too. My favourite way to comfort people is by bringing them something warm and flavourful like my “Get Well Soup.”  And of course anyone who knows me would expect that I would also be bringing them a yummy treat as well like my brownies w coconut cream cheese frosting.

When my kids were young, I read to them a lot. One of their favourite books was “Get Well Soup.” Sorry, I’m not remembering the author at the moment and I’m NOT climbing into the rafters to find our selection of baby books that I have stored away for future grandchildren. This book was about a mother rabbit and her 12 bunnies that were sick. There was a blizzard and the store was closed so mother rabbit had to ask her neighbours if she could borrow some ingredients. Mother rabbit gathered her ingredients from various animals in her neighbourhood and invited them all over for “Get Well Soup.” It made my boys feel better hearing about the characters in the story and I always enjoyed reading it too.

Wednesday, I brought dinner to my girlfriend and her family who had suffered a great deal, but at last was in heaven at peace. You can imagine my shock to find out that she had passed away just before I arrived with my healthy dinner. I felt honoured that Christy gave me the privilege of providing a nourishing meal to her husband, three children and her parents that night. As much as my heart aches because I lost a friend, I know she will always be in my heart.

Here is my recipe.

 Get Well Soup

2 or 3 whole chicken carcasses (All chicken removed and saved for future meals)
Roasted chicken recipe on one of my prior blogs

Roasted Lemons, roasted onions with skin on (for darker broth) , garlic left over from roasted chicken

1 Carrot, 1 celery stalk, ½ C. fennel, 2 Tbsp sliced raw ginger

2 Bay leaves, a few black peppercorns, 1 Tbsp Kosher salt, parsley stems. I admit I also threw in the bones from the veal and lamb shank for the osso bucco recipe.


Fill a large stock pot with cold water and add all ingredients. Cook uncovered on a low boil for 2 ½ hours. You can use the crock pot if that is easier and let it cook all day.

Cool. Put covered soup in fridge and let sit overnight so it has the most flavor. In the morning, remove pot from fridge, and warm up the broth just until the fat is melted. You can skim off the fat with a spoon if you want to be healthier, but that is where all of the flavor is according to my mom.

Strain the soup in a large china cap or sieve. Keep chicken broth stored in freezer in canning jars or save in zip lock bags for future use. I will use the frozen broth instead of buying canned broth in many recipes.

Chocolate Coconut Cream Cheese Brownies

Follow the directions on two boxes of your favourite brownie mix and bake in a Pampered Chef 13X9 bar pan lined with parchment paper for @ 25 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean in a preheated 350 degree oven. Cool.

I know it seems crazy to use a store bought box of brownies, but trust me. They are delicious. When I worked at a French Patisserie, the pastry chef and owner also used a box mix for her brownies!

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

While brownies are baking, take 8 oz cream cheese and 1 stick (1/2 C) of unsalted butter and bring to room temperature. Mix ingredients in a stand mixer until blended. Add ¾ C confectioners’ sugar (or more if you like it sweeter), ½ teas vanilla paste and 1 Tbsp of coconut extract.

Bake 1 C of sweetened flaked coconut on a sheet pan in a preheated 250 degree oven for @ 8 minutes. Watch it so it doesn’t burn. Cool.

Flip fully cooled brownies onto a cutting board that is sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.  Cut off dry edges on each side of slab. Frost evenly. I dropped @ ½ C. ganache  (left over from another recipe. Recipe found on my blog for truffles) in splotches on top of brownies and sprinkled the brownies with toasted coconut.






Friday, February 14, 2014

Be a Chocolatier and make Truffles!

Be honest. You know you want to know how to make chocolate truffles. Really. They are no big deal. As long as you have a few simple ingredients, you'll be able to master truffles too.


Valentines Day is a sweet time to get creative. Let's just say it's easier to make gifts for the people you love. How often do I make truffles for just little ole me? Never. I need an excuse to have a party or visit a loved one. Most of the time I made truffles for a catering gig for a school PTA meeting, swim team auction dinner party, boy scout event, or National Charity League annual tea party. But why not invite a few friends over and have a truffle making party? People WILL come for chocolate.

Here is how I make chocolate truffles.


3/4 lb high quality dark chocolate (or milk) I use Trader Joe's brand, or Cacao Barry or Ghirardelli
(I purchase these at Cash and Carry Warehouse restaurant supply)
1 1/2 C. heavy whipping cream
1 teas flavoring (vanilla, Kahlua liquor, coffee extract, peppermint extract, lemon extract, orange extract)
Get creative here. Use lemon zest, orange zest, raspberry jam, or any liquor.

Heat cream in a heavy bottom sauce pan until hot. Do not boil.
Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate and flavoring. Stir until chocolate is melted.
Pour into a square pan lined with plastic wrap. Place in fridge or freezer until solid. Unmold chocolate ganache onto a cutting board and cut with a large chef's knife into bite sized pieces.
Roll into balls. I find using plastic gloves works the best here. Ask your dentist for a unscented box. That is where I get mine, or purchase from a restaurant supply store.

At this point, you can roll into cocoa powder, powdered sugar, toasted and finely chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, macadamia, whatever you like).

Personally, I enjoy adding another layer of chocolatey goodness by coating these precious gems with tempered chocolate. I have a tempering machine, but you can temper chocolate yourself. It is a process learning how to get chocolate to the perfect temperature. I won't go into a long description on tempering today, but you can Google it or just skip this step. Many chocolatiers serve their truffles by only coating with cocoa powder.

If you do coat with tempered chocolate, you must coat the truffle twice to avoid the ganache from oozing out of the truffle. Use parchment paper, wax paper, foil, or a candy making non stick option when making truffles. These will set up on the counter, or speed up the process by placing in fridge temporarily.

Serve by placing on a small platter or a tiered candy dish. Store them in a covered plastic container in the fridge for up to 3 months or freeze for up to 6 months. Enjoy!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bay Area Foodies. You Need To Know @ Oxbow Public Market

I had the most amazing day with my sister in Napa visiting the Oxbow Public Market. I heard about this fabulous
destination by reading one of my food magazines. I tore out the page and kept this piece of information hidden in one of my many piles.  I must have wanted to check out Annette’s Chocolates famous rocky road candy or her Italian Cherry Merlot Fudge. Yum! I could easily eat the whole jar with a spoon.

So you can imagine my surprise when driving through Napa, we happened upon the sign to Oxbow Public Market! Sure enough, my sister and I were in heaven. The first stop was Marshall’s Farm Honey stand. There we tasted all types of honey: cloves, orange blossom, CIA Greystone Herb Garden Honey, S.F. Bay Area’ Beekeeper’s Blend, Napa Valley Wildflower, and many more. I had to indulge and purchase two books on cooking and baking w honey “Taste of Honey” by Marie Simmons and “Backyard Beekeepers of the Bay Area” by Judith Adamson.

There was so much more to tickle your senses with the Hog Island Oyster Co and The Olive Press featuring different flavoured vinegars. My favourites were the Meyer lemon and Blenheim apricot varieties. But I also tried Marion berry vinegar which was delightful and would work well in any salad.

You will have to check this place out for yourself. It reminds me of the Ferry Building in San Francisco. If you go, be sure to grab a taco at Casa. For under $10.00 you can satisfy your palette with duck, skirt steak, salmon, or crab. I had the grilled skirt steak, with avocado, sautéed wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, lime crema and a corn tomato salsa. It was so fresh and juicy that it inspired me to make these at home for dinner. My husband couldn’t have been happier.
Displaying photo.JPG

Skirt Steak with Red Onion and

Citrus Lime Mojo


1 Skirt Steak

1clove garlic

3 green onions

1/2 jalapeno/ remove seeds

1bunch cilantro, including stems/divided

3/4 cup canola oil or peanut   oil

1teaspoon ground cumin
1teaspoon Mexican oregano
1teaspoon ground mustard
1teaspoon kosher salt
1teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Juice and zest of 3 limes
2 large red onions, peeled and thickly sliced

 Chop the cilantro and reserve 3 tablespoons for garnish. Set aside.

On a clean, wide work surface, place skirt steak down between two pieces of plastic wrap (spray the plastic wrap with non-stick spray before placing steak). Using a flat-sided meat pounder, flatten each steak until tender, paying attention to the thicker side of the steak. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the canola oil, the remaining cilantro, ground cumin, garlic, mustard, oregano, lime and salt and pepper. Process until the mixture is a smooth paste. Rub ½ the mixture over the steak and let marinate at room temperature for ½ hr.

TO COOK AND SERVE: Light a charcoal or gas grill, or have grill pan hot on stove top. When the grill is very hot, remove the steak from the marinade (discard the marinade), pat dry, and season with salt and pepper; cook 5 to 7 minutes on one side and 3 to 4 minutes on the other for medium rare. Remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes.  Grill the red onions at the same time as the strip steak
6 to 7 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, warm the reserved mojo over low heat. Slice the flank steak very thinly on the bias and serve with the reserved mojo, cilantro and grilled onions.


Nutrition Facts per Serving
Yield: Yield:  Serves 4-6
Fat. Total:
Carbohydrates, Total:
% Cal. from Fat:


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Need Inspiration to Cook? Visit the Wine Country

If you haven’t had a chance to get to the wine country in Northern California, you must make arrangements to go sometime. This picture was taken a couple of months ago in the town of Yountville. I have had to make weekly visits there to visit my dad since May and I usually try to slip away for a special lunch or dinner while I’m in the area. I’ll treat myself to a nice bowl of soup or fried calamari at Bistro Don Giovanni, or sometimes enjoy a warm dish of mozzarella and
crostinis at Tra Vigne Restaurant

 in St Helena

I feel fortunate that I live only an hour away from “Dadio” as I so fondly call him. It’s nice to be able to see him whenever I’m able to carve out time in my week for a leisurely drive to the wine country. The grape vines off Highway 29 are glorious and there are frequent wineries to stop off at along the way. I especially love the Silverado Trail where you will find my brother’s favorite winery Rombauer, and many more. 

Dad was diagnosed with dementia and has been moved to a higher level care facility at the Veterans Home. The nurses there are warm and caring and they know how to help the families cope with their loved ones and their illnesses. It’s been an ordeal knowing that dad is on the path of possibly deteriorating. I realize that my parents are aging and it can be a bit much, but I try to take it all in and soak up the time that I have with them.
After all, Sonoma County is one of the best destinations in Northern California. I’m so lucky live here and relish in the good food and wine that nature has to offer us.

Having lunch at one of these fine restaurants always gets me inspired to cook. I love to have a hot meal waiting for my husband when he comes home from a long day at work.  Today’s challenge was to make a dinner without going to the store. It was time to clean out the freezer anyway, so I dared to use what I had.
I am guilty of taking leftovers and saving them in Tupperware for another night’s meal. Today, I searched those containers for anything that I could put in a marinara sauce. I found leftover ragu meat sauce, tomato paste, and whole organic heirloom tomatoes that I had picked from my garden in the summer.
I took the frozen tomatoes and roasted them with olive oil, salt and pepper on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven for @ 30 minutes until they were juicy and caramelized. I then put them into the blender in small batches and pureed them. After that, I strained them through a sieve removing the bitter seeds and skins and added them to my leftover sauces in a large pot. I boiled the sauce adding salt, Madeira, dried herbs, and a tablespoon of brown sugar to cut the acid. Soon enough the sauce was cooked down and thick enough to make my lasagne.
I usually use mozzarella, and Jack or cheddar cheese, but since I only had a slab of Parmesan (shredded in my Cuisinart) and canned Parmesan, I used that instead. I also added an egg, parsley, and a cup of Trader Giotto’s Grated Parmesan and Romano to the ricotta mixture. I assembled the casserole by spraying a 13X9 casserole dish with a cooking spray, Spreading @ a cup of the marinara sauce into the bottom of the dish, and layering with no bake lasagne noodles, ricotta, more noodles, sauce, and repeating. I like to make sure that the noodles are covered in sauce and more cheese is sprinkled on top. I place a piece of parchment on top along with a long piece of aluminum foil and bake covered for 50 minutes at 400 degrees, removing the covering in the last 10 minutes.
The result? A delicious and hearty lasagne that filled my home with the aroma of Italy. My husband Ken was a happy boy knowing I had saved money and time by making dinner without having to go to the store and by cleaning out the freezer.
Try taking your frozen leftovers and elevating them with this easy recipe. You’ll be glad you did.