Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Need a Vacation? Avoid the ALS #Icebucket Challenge, Explore Point Arena and Eat Cheesecake!



 

Last Fall, I took a drive to the coast with my aunt Teri. We stayed at a cute B&B called the Coast Guard House Historic Inn. I like to spend time with my favorite auntie. She is the one of the sweetest people you will ever meet and is like a sister to me. We take weekend trips together whenever we can get away so I can spoil her.


 Teri is a 2 X breast cancer survivor. She is my hero. Instead of contributing to these #icebucket challenges, and Relay for Life fundraisers, I use the money I would normally donate as charity to directly make my aunt’s life better.  This way we can make memories together and I know she is getting the most out of our time left on this planet. We have been to Calistoga, Santa Barbara, and Placerville together just to name a few.



Point Arena California was one of our greatest trips.  It is an old town, not far from Mendocino and is where my husband and I spent our honeymoon. The weather is cool and overcast for much of the year, but perfect for getting out of the heat. Luckily, my aunt and I were able to squeeze in time to visit relatives too, which is a huge bonus because they live in the nearby town of Elk. 


 
My idea of a good time is checking out the local bakeries. Of course I usually have to taste something and this visit, a slice of blueberry cheesecake was calling me. Oh my! The cheesecake was thick and dense, but creamy and sweet with a touch of tartness from the lemon zest and blueberries.  

 
 

This bakery was adorable and had an extra cuteness to it. You basically wanted to buy everything in the store. You could tell the locals loved making #Franny's Cup and Saucer a weekly excursion for their cup of Joe and morning pastry.

 

My version tastes just as decadent, but can serve a crowd of people. This cheesecake is baked in a bar pan and made with a shortbread crust. It has an extra layer of crunchy goodness that is missing from a plain cheesecake. I usually use frozen blueberries and make a compote with them by adding ½ cup of granulated sugar, lemon zest, ¼ cup of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.  I wait until the blueberries are boiling before I add the cornstarch and lemon juice. I like this method as opposed to buying blueberry preserves, but that will work also.
 

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

16 oz cream cheese softened (leave on counter overnight)
2 lg eggs
¾ C. sugar
1 teas vanilla
1 teas lemon zest
¾ C. blueberry preserves (or compote see above)
Hot shortbread base (recipe to follow)

Preheat oven 350 degrees

Shortbread base

1 ½ sticks (3/4 C) unsalted butter
2 C. All purpose Flour
½ packed light brown sugar
½ teas salt

Cut butter into ½ in pieces. In a food processor, process all ingredients until mixture begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle mixture into a 13X9 X 2 baking pan lined with parchment paper and press down with metal measuring cup. Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden @ 20 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk cream cheese until smooth and add eggs, sugar, zest and vanilla. Evenly spread blueberry preserves/compote over hot shortbread and pour cream cheese mixture over it. Bake in middle of oven until slightly puffed about 30 min. 

Cool completely in pan and cut into 24 bars.
Bars keep covered and chilled for 3 days or freeze them for up to a month. Enjoy!

Here is a picture taken with the relatives. Aunt Teri, cousin Barbara, me, my mother in law Nilda, Aunt Nita and Uncle Ted below us. We have since lost our Aunt Nita, but we will always love Point Arena and will keep her in our thoughts the next time we make a visit.

Who needs an icebucket challenge when you can make memories with the ones you love. Aunt Teri's birthday is this week, so we are planning our next girls weekend away. Where should we go this time?

That is what I think. Leave me your comments below.
 


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Craving Bing Cherries AND Chocolate Brownies?

Craving Bing Cherries AND Chocolate Brownies?



There is nothing like a warm chocolate brownie nestled in a pile of hot cherry sauce. This dessert was something that I had never made before. I was looking through my hundreds of recipes yesterday, when I ran across Raspberry brownie Bake recipe.  I wanted to make something to bring to a friend’s birthday celebration at a nearby restaurant, but I didn’t have a lot of time. The party would begin in an hour and a half! This recipe looked like a winner and even though I didn’t have enough raspberries, I DID have canned cherries and a box of brownie mix.

This dessert was easy to make and perfect for the occasion. It is served warm with vanilla ice cream on the side for an extra decadent presentation. The sour cherries burst in your mouth while the warm sweet chocolate brownie has a slightly chewy texture.
We ate it before I had a chance to snatch a picture of it, but I promised my friends I would share the recipe with them. I was able to make a few individual size extra servings that I can freeze for a later date.  I hope you will give this easy recipe a try and love it as much as I do.

 

 Warm Chocolate Cherry Jubilee

1 18.3 oz Box Fudge Brownie Mix (I used Betty Crocker) Plus eggs, water and canola oil per directions on box
2 15 oz cans of Dark Sweet Cherries pitted in heavy syrup. (I used Oregon Trail) Frozen cherries are ok.
½ C granulated sugar
Juice of 1 orange @ ¾ C
2 T Unsalted butter
¼ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp Kosher salt
2 Tbsp Kirsch Liquor or Grand Marnier
3 Tbsp cornstarch
¼ C water

 

Make brownies in a large bowl according to package directions. Set aside.
Open the canned cherries, pour into med sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add salt, nutmeg, orange juice.
In a separate small bowl measure out 3 T cornstarch, add H20 and stir. Immediately add cornstarch water mixture to boiling cherry sauce and stir with a wire whisk until thick and bubbly. Take off heat and pour into a buttered 13X9 baking dish. Dollop @ 8 huge scoops of brownie mix onto cherry sauce. Bake for 35 minutes or until tooth pick comes out clean.

 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chocolate plus Raspberries= CAAAKE




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Have you ever had a cake that just melts in your mouth after every bite? Do you love the way raspberries explode into your mouth like a bright and refreshing summer day? I do. This recipe is easy to make will make your guests drool every time you serve it. I especially like it with a fresh cup of #Peet's Coffee.

I made this cake for my friends son's surprise 50th birthday. The party was fun and this cake made it memorable for everyone. Won't you try it too? And don't forget to share it with your friends on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.



Chocolate Raspberry Cake w Whipped cream

1 box devils food cake (follow recipe and add these extra ingredients)
1 extra egg
1 box chocolate pudding
½ C sour cream

1 carton of Pastry Pride whipped topping found at Smart&Final or Cash&Carry

Ganache: recipe below

Bake cake in two round cake pans using parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan according to directions on the box and remove from oven when tooth pic comes out clean. I used an extra large round pan for mine. Cool. I know I know. You are going to make a comment about how you shouldn't use boxed cake mixes. Well I have to disagree. By adding these extra ingredients, the cake turns out perfect every time. I can't tell you how many times I have made this dessert for various functions like retirement parties, book club meetings, and special dinner parties.

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You can make these ahead of time and freeze them. Defrost at room temperature when ready to decorate.
Ganache: Use 1 pint of heavy whipping cream, 1 ½ C  good quality dark chocolate like #Guittard or #Ghiradelli, 1 T unsalted butter, 1 teas vanilla, and 1 T Karo corn syrup. Prepare by heating cream in a heavy med size pan until steamy not letting it come to a boil. Take off heat and add remaining ingredients and stir until all chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.

Split each cake in half and brush with Kahlua, or coffee w simple syrup. 

Whip up Pastry Pride using half a carton at a time because it expands.

Clean two baskets of raspberries and dry on paper towels.


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Assemble cake by slicing and making two layers. Place bottom layer onto a platter. Brush generously w simple syrup. Frost 1st layer w 1/3 of ganache. Sprinkle 1/3 raspberries onto ganache. Place 2nd layer on top of raspberries and brush w simple syrup. 

Place cake onto cooling rack w sheet pan underneath to collect extra ganache. Pour ganache on top of cake and repeat until all of cake is covered. Decorate w/ Whipped Pastry Pride. Sprinkle remaining raspberries on top. I happen to have chocolate shavings from #William Sonoma to decorate the sides, but you can make your own.

This cake is definitely my favorite. You're gonna be screaming YoYoYoYoYoYoYoYo after you try it.

Enjoy!
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 Don't forget to follow me and leave a comment. I want to hear from you.
Best~
Teri:)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Blenheim Apricot Preserves Make Summer Sweeter





 
 

It’s that time of year when I’m inspired to make apricot jam.
It’s a tradition to drive to Brentwood in mid June and purchase 3 cases of Blenheim apricots. (I planted my own Blenheim tree last year, but the critters ate them all!) I love to give the jars to friends and relatives as a hostess gift all year long.


 
 I call Wolfe Ranch in the beginning of June and make an appointment to come by and get the apricots when they are first picked.

 


 I will then come home, separate the apricots on sheet pans lined with paper towels and wait until they are good and ripe before starting my preserves.


I always use the less sugar Sure Jell fruit pectin (pink package) because it is not as sweet and somewhat healthier. I set out all the ingredients, have the jam jars and lids cleaned and sitting in a hot water bath, have the wax melted in a sauce pan on the stove, have the food processor on the counter next to my measuring cups, lemon juice freshly squeezed, and butter and sugar out ready to go. 

 
 

Next, I wash the apricots and cut them in half. I pulse them in the food processor and also cut some of them up with a small knife. DO NOT puree. Then I follow the cooked jam recipe exactly from the Sure Jell package.





  •  I measure exactly 6 cups of apricots into an 8 quart deep sauce pan and stir in 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1tsp unsalted butter.
  •  Measure 4½ C sugar into a separate bowl. 
  • Mix ¼ C of sugar from measured amount into a small bowl with 1 box of Sure Jell.
  •  Stir pectin-sugar mixture into fruit
  •   Bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat stirring constantly.
  •  Stir in remaining sugar quickly and return to a full rolling boil for exactly 1 1/2 minutes.

  •  Remove from heat and ladle into prepared jars. Fill to within 1/8 inch of the top of the jar. Ladle in paraffin wax.

  • Cover with lids and screw bands on tightly. When cool, wipe off any excess jam on the outside with a warm wash cloth. Enjoy!
Have you ever made jam? Leave a comment for me.





Saturday, June 7, 2014

Exploring Napa, Oxbow Public Market and Yountville

There is nothing better than spending the day with one of your nieces in Napa. I was lucky enough to be able to steal Michelle away and enjoy the day with her in the wine country.
Michelle is getting ready to begin her externship at Stanford Hospital as an audiologist. She has been living in San Diego for the past four years studying, playing volleyball at the beach and going out with friends. Her family has missed her, especially me. So I wanted to celebrate her accomplishments and introduce her to my world.
Michelle and I headed out early and ventured over to Oxbow Public Market. We visited Marshall’s Honey stand first and tasted all the different varieties.  Here’s more @ Marshall’s. http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs173/1102025210658/archive/1114802582692.html
After that we explored the grocery aisle that sold various gourmet specialties, fruits, veggies, and looked at the different gluten free flours. Since we hadn’t had breakfast we grabbed a bite at the taco stand. I ordered the salmon ceviche tostada; sorry I forgot to take a picture and Michelle ordered something with a fried egg on top. Delish!  
We ran across Napa Valley Distillery Tasting Salon.
We were impressed by the technique in which you are supposed to use when you taste each liquor. Paul Martin was our mixologist and he taught us how to take a breath in, sip the liquor, then swallow, and then breathe out slowly in order to get the full flavor/effect.
For our tasting Paul set up a vodka, an anise flavoured gin (my fav), a plume brandy, a Manhattan, a mint julep, and a Meyer Lemon liquor.

Since I try to visit my Dad at the Veterans Home every couple of weeks, I thought I could combine a little fun in the mix as well by taking my dad and Michelle to Domaine Chandon.