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Showing posts from April, 2011

Organic Beeswax-Olive Oil Lipbalm

If you're anything like me, you probably have lipbalm tubes in every purse, the center console in your car, in your bathroom drawer, and under the couch. They are everywhere. My lipbalm of choice is usually Burt's Bees because of its natural product certification, 30% post-industrial content in their containers, and no animal testing; but still, all of those little plastic tubes are weighing on me. I decided: no more. So, I looked up a do-it-yourself lipbalm recipe, ordered glass jars that I will reuse, tracked down a supplier of organic beeswax, found some organic flavor oils, and I'm doing it. I will make my own lipbalm with organic ingredients in a refillable container! Years ago my then almost 4-year-old wrote a poem for Mothers' Day. So all you mommy pals of mine, you know what you're getting...grape, cherry, or marshmallow flavored organic lipbalm. "Mommies are sweet like grapes and smell like cherries. Mommies give squishy cloud kisses. Mommies

Camilla's Crêperie

Standardized testing has paid the bills for me at different times in my life. I've written and edited standardized tests. I've taught prep classes for standardized tests. But, with all of that, I don't get the fuss. Maybe it's because of all that that I don't get it. Parents fret over preparation or what they perceive as lack of preparation. Parents get incensed over the results. It's just a test. Chill out. Still that doesn't stop me from making whatever breakfast the boys want on testing morning. So, as today was the first morning of Riley's STAR tests, I asked him what he wanted for breakfast; his answer: crêpes. Fine. "Mom, do you know why I asked for crêpes?" B ecause you like them. "Well, yes, I do like them. But it's because your pancakes aren't very good." Maybe we should work on the balance between candor and tact. 1 C white whole wheat flour 3 eggs 2 C milk Whisk everything together to form a thin batter. H

Rhubarb Pavlovas

I realized, in horror, at about 4 o'clock that I completely forgot to plan a birthday dessert for Jake. Whoops. I wanted something elegant but easy, so I settled on rhubarb pavlovas. I've never made pavlovas, but in prepping for the class I'm about to teach at the boys' school - Aussie Adventures - this popular Australian dessert entered my culinary radar. In 1935, the chef of the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia, Herbert Sachse, created the pavlova to celebrate the visit of the great Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. 6 organic large egg whites pinch pink Himalaya salt dash of ground ginger 1 t white vinegar 3/4 C plus 2 T organic granulated sugar for the whipped cream 1 T cornstarch 1/2 t pure vanilla extract 1 C heavy cream 2 C fresh rhubarb, chopped 1/4 C butter, cubed 1/2 organic granulated sugar Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine egg whites, salt, and white vinegar together in a large mixing bowl and beat on high speed until

Alcatra, Part II

Click here for 'Alcatra, Part I.' Traditionally the alcatra is cooked for two days; I didn't have two days and thought that a colossal waste of energy anyway. So, after marinating overnight, I roasted the alcatra for three hours in accordance with some more modern recipes. At 375 degrees, the roast cooked for two hours. Then I added potatoes, reduced the temperature to 325 and cooked for another hour. To serve I smashed the potatoes, sliced the roast and sausages, and topped it all with the roasted onions. Delicious.

Colomba di Pasqua, Revamped

Because I usually have leftovers and because my boys are notorious food-snobs - I don't know where they get that? (wink, wink) - I revamp my leftovers so that they look a little bit different than when they were served the first time around. Otherwise, my little one will usually make some comment along the lines of "Mommy, didn't we already eat this?!?" So, this morning I sliced the remaining colomba di pasqua and made French toast with it. Dipped in a beaten egg with a splash of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon, cooked with a pat of butter on the griddle, dusted with powdered sugar, and - voilà! - French toast.

Alcatra, Part I

I decided a traditional beef pot roast dish from Terceira, one of the Portuguese-held Azores Islands, would be a great dish for Jake's real birthday dinner. Alcatra is a Portuguese recipe for a spicy piece of ass, the perfect dish for my spicy...well, you get the idea. Traditionally the alcatra beef roast is slow-roasted in a clay pot that's shaped like a flower pot with herbs and spices. The closest thing I have is a large stoneware baking bowl. Tonight was the first part of alcatra preparation: the marination. From all of my research, a few ingredients are key to the alcatra marinade - cinnamon sticks, whole allspice, onions, garlic, wine, bay leaves. So I placed all of that in the stoneware bowl with the rump roast and two nitrite-free Portuguese sausages. That will all soak overnight. Look for 'Alcatra, Part II' tomorrow night after we celebrate Jake's 36th birthday.

Bear's Head Mushroom Soufflé with a Truffle-Beciamela Sauce

My 'Fungi Feast for My Fun Guy' had some easy dishes - open jar and serve - and some culinary challenges that got me out of my comfort zone. Having never made a soufflé, I thought I'd tackle it for Jake's birthday dinner. It was well worth the effort. Keep in mind this egg-to-person rule: every egg you use represents a single serving. So, if you are having a soufflé party for 6, use 6 eggs. Simple. Slice whatever mushrooms you are using – in this case bear's head mushrooms from Far West Fungi were my fungus of choice - toss them into a hot skillet and sauté them until water bubbles out and they brown slightly. Separate your eggs and stir the mushrooms into the yolks. Whip your egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and fold the mushroom-yolk into the egg whites 1/3 at a time. Butter your soufflé ramekins, and fill them three-quarters of the way up. Put them in the oven - in a baking dish with water coming halfway up the ramekin. Bake for roughly 20 minutes, or

Shitake-Fennel Foccacia

Foccacia is such an easy thing to make - there's very little kneading required. The yeast does all the work. But with some toppings, it makes a tasty addition to your table. For the 'Fungi Feast for My Fun Guy', I made a double batch and opted to top foccacia with sauteed shitake mushrooms, sliced fennel, and fresh oregano. I served it with a dipping sauce of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and black truffle oil. 4 C white whole wheat flour 2 t pink Himalaya salt 2 t dry active yeast 2 C warm water 2 C sliced shitake mushrooms 1 C sliced fresh fennel 4 T fresh oregano olive oil In a large bowl, stir flour, salt and yeast together until well combined. Saute the mushrooms and fennel in a splash of olive oil till softened. Add warm water and stir well until a sticky dough is formed. Let rise, covered, in a warm place for about 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil baking pan and then add the dough to it and using your fingertips stretch the

Tonka Bean Hot Milk Sponge Cake

I've made this hot milk sponge cake, from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri, more than a dozen times. It's easy. It's moist. And I figured that it would be a great way to show off the unusual flavor of the tonka bean. [ Click here to read more about these illicit legumes.] Ingredients 8 T butter, cut into 8 pieces 1/2 C milk 1-1/2 C white whole wheat flour 2 t baking powder 3 large eggs 1/2 t pink Himalaya salt 1 C organic granulated sugar 1/2 t almond extract 1/2 t pure vanilla extract half of one tonka bean, grated finely Procedure Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine milk, butter, and grated tonka beans in a saucepan and cook over low heat until the butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat. Stir together the flour and baking powder. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs to break them up, whisk in the salt, whisk in the sugar, and continue whisking till the mixture has lightened in color. Mix in the extracts, then the milk mixture. Gent

Wild Boar Sausage With Truffle Mustard

Because one of my best friends is a hunter, I get gifts of meat, lots of meat. My boys call their Uncle Brian "the best killer in the family." For this fungi dinner Brian gave me some wild boar sausages. I put Jake to work, manning the grill, despite his protests that it was his party and he shouldn't have to cook. He also grilled some monster-sized portabella mushrooms. Then I topped the grilled sausages with a white truffle mustard that I ordered from So, technically, I didn't do anything for this dish...Brian killed the boar and had the sausages made; Jake grilled them; but I did open the jar of mustard!

Triple Mushroom Pâté

Due to waaay too much vino on Friday night, I am getting a late start on blogging about the food I served that evening. We celebrated Jake's 36th birthday with 'A Fungi Feast for My Fun Guy.'  First up: a triple mushroom pâté. I served this with raisin-rosemary crackers from Trader Joe's. I started with a recipe from Gourmet magazine from 1997 and tweaked a bit to come up with this version. It's a pretty involved recipe, but it's well worth the effort. 1 1/2 C chicken stock 2 C chopped shitake mushroom 2 C chopped trumpet mushroom 2 C chopped crimini mushroom 1 stick butter 2 minced shallots 4 minced garlic cloves 1/4 cup wine 1 C organic heavy cream 4 large eggs 1/4 cup ground almond meal 1/4 C chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 2 t chopped fresh thyme 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs 1-1/2 T fresh lemon juice 2 t pink Himalaya salt 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper Butter loaf pan, then line bottom and sides with parchment paper and butter pape

Meyer Lemon-Agave Marshmallow Chicks

Peeps schmeeps. Who needs 'em? But as they are ubiquitous at Easter, I figured I should at least give a Spring-shaped marshmallow a whirl. I even caved and used some colored sugars to jazz them up. Mine don't look quite as nice as the ones in a package, but I guarantee that mine taste a lot better! canola oil powdered sugar 1/2 C cold water + 1/2 C freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice, divided 3, 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin 2 C organic raw sugar 2/3 C organic agave nectar 1/4 t pink Himalaya salt Prepare a 9×13 inch pan by oiling it with canola oil. Dust powdered sugar and colored sugar over the oiled sides of the pan. Place 1/2 C of water-lemon juice mixture in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water and allow to soften, 5 minutes. Place remaining water, juice sugar, syrups, and salt into a large saucepan. Melt all of the ingredients together, without stirring, and bring to a boil. Boil until the syrup reaches 240 F on a candy thermometer. With t

Colomba di Pasqua II

Annnnd because I can never do anything the same way twice, I did a variation of my first colomba di pasqua ...this time with unsweetened cocoa and chocolate chips. Breads 2 quarter ounce packages of active dry yeast 1/2 C warm water (approx. 110 degrees) 1/2 C butter, room temperature 7 oz. package almond paste (in the baking aisle of most grocery stores) 1/2 C organic granulated sugar 1/4 C unsweetened cocoa 1 T pure vanilla extract 1 t pink Himalaya salt 3 large eggs, room temperature 1 large egg, separated 1/2 C warm milk (approx. 110 degrees) 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 C white whole wheat flour 1/2 C dried cherries 1/2 C raw pistachios 1/2 C semisweet chocolate chips Glaze 1/2 C organic granulated sugar 1/2 C ground almonds 2 large egg whites 1/4 t almond extract 1 C sliced almonds 1 C semisweet chocolate chips Powdered sugar 1. In a small cup or bowl, stir the yeast into water to soften. 2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, almond paste and sugar until light and

Bee Pollen Truffles

10 oz high-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces 1/2 C heavy whipping cream 1/2 t fennel pollen unsweetened cocoa and bee pollen* for rolling In a small, heavy saucepan bring the whipping cream to a simmer. Place the chocolate in a separate bowl with fennel pollen. Pour the cream over the chococlate. Let stand for 3 minutes. Whisk till smooth. Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Roll half-teaspoon sized balls in your hands as quickly as you can. Roll in unsweetened cocoa and dip the top into bee pollen. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate overnight before serving. *Note: about the bee pollen...I ordered mine from the Monterey Bay Spice Company. [ Click here for their link.] But I believe the Vitamin Shoppe carries it. I haven't checked WholeFoods, but it shouldn't be too tough to find.

Fabulous, Fresh Fungi

After my failed attempt to purchase mushrooms from Far West Fungi last week - due to a mushroom farmer with integrity - I hauled up to Moss Landing again this morning and purchased three pounds of freshly harvested mushrooms. Straight from their farm to my table in about twelve hours. Thanks, Erik, these will be much better than week-old mushrooms! I opted for the canary oyster mushrooms, for its vibrant, sunny hue, and the bear's head mushroom, for its fluffy texture.  Look for recipes and photos tonight, but the bear's heads will be featured in my individual mushroom soufflés while the canaries will be served atop a mushroom pâté that I made last night. I know I'm a kitchen geek, but I can not wait to get home and get cooking.

Marzipan Mushrooms

I love using marzipan to model cake decorations; typically, I make woodland decorations - mushrooms, pinecones, holly berries, and holly leaves - for my b û che de noël. Pressed for time, I ended up buying a tube of marzipan tonight for these mushrooms that will go on the dessert tray tomorrow night. But I've had homemade marzipan and it is undeniably better than this. Still, these will suffice, especially since these will be plucked from the tray by excited little hands!  Once I formed the mushrooms, I dusted them with a mixture of unsweetened cocoa, cinnamon, and ancho powder. Homemade marzipan 225g (8oz) granulated sugar 180g (6oz) ground almonds 40g (11/2 oz) icing sugar (confectioners sugar) pinch of cream of tartar 1 egg white, lightly whisked 5 tbsp water 1\2 tsp vanilla extract Put the sugar and the water in a heavy based saucepan and cook on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add cream of tarter and bring to the boil until the sugar reaches 116oC (240oF

Intriguing and Illegal: Tonka Beans

Clicking around Monterey Bay Spice Company's website - to use my groupon - I wanted to purchase things that were unusual and new to me. Tonka beans fit the bill perfectly. Described as having an aroma that is a mixture of vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, and tobacco, I thought them a perfect addition to my culinary adventures, especially since I'd never heard of them before. And while searching for recipes that utilitze the beans, I realized that - sold as a food item - tonka beans are illegal in this country. How is that possible? They were just delivered to my doorstep! Then I discovered that tonka beans are commonly used and sold for love spells and other witchcraft rituals. That made them all the more intriguing. Thank goodness for witches! A quick note about the ban, as gleaned from several websites, including Ike DeLorenzo's article "The Tonka Bean: An Ingredient So Good It Has to Be Illegal"... In this country, all foods that contain the chemical compo

Portuguese Easter Bread

Now I'm not too sure how authentic this recipe is, but I was searching around for Easter breads from around the world. And because Jake's maternal grandfather was Portuguese, I figured it would be both a culinary adventure and an ancestry lesson! Dylan laughed when I told him the story of his "girl name." Before we knew that we were pregnant with a little boy, Jake and I had picked names for both genders. If Dylan were a girl, we wanted to honor Jake's grandfather by using that surname as our little girl's middle name. So, if Dylan had been a girl, he would have been Thalia Augusta Mann. This Portuguese recipe appealed to me because of the combination of honey, unsweetened cocoa, and nutmeg. Necessity breeds invention, right?! The original recipe called for more honey, but I ran out and added some plain yogurt instead. With the alacrity at which these little treats disappeared from my cooling rack, I'd call them a hit. Like the French canelé, these h

Strawberry-Lemon Curd Tart

With a tad of leftover ridiculously easy tart crust , I pressed small balls of dough into mini bundt pans and baked to form small tart crusts.  I spooned in lemon curd and topped it all with some sliced fresh strawberries. Simultaneously sweet and tart, this is a perfect treat with a strong cup of espresso. Lemon Curd 1 C fresh lemon juice 4 t fresh lemon zest 1 cup organic granulated sugar 6 large eggs 12 T butter, cut into cubes Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes. Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour.

Black and Blue Tart

I decided to try a berry tart, starting with my ridiculously easy tart crust . I had fresh blackberries and blueberries, hence the name: black and blue tart. Once the tart crust is baked, spoon in this filling. 4 C mixed berries 1 C organic granulated sugar 2 T butter, thinly sliced 2 T white whole wheat flour Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes. Let cool.

Rhubarb Tart

It doesn't take much to make rhubarb shine - just some butter, sugar, and my ridiculously easy tart crust . Once the tart crust is baked, spoon in this filling. 4 C sliced rhubarb 1 C organic granulated sugar 2 T butter, thinly sliced 2 T white whole wheat flour Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes. Let cool.

Ridiculously Easy Tart Crust

2 C white whole wheat flour 1/2 C powdered sugar pinch of salt 3/4 C butter Mix the flour, sugar and salt; rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in 1 teaspoon of water with a fork until the mixture forms a ball. Roll out between two pieces of parchment paper. Press gently into a tart pan. Prick crust with a fork to prevent bubbling. Bake for 20 minutes at 350, or until a light golden brown.

Wine-Steamed Clams

Whenever we go to Moss Landing, there are two additional requisite stops: Phil's Fish Market and Surf City Coffee. This afternoon Riley picked fresh clams, prawns, and wahoo for dinner tonight. So easy and so tasty: wine-steamed clams. In a large saucepan, I browned smashed cloves of garlic in butter. Then I added the scrubbed clams and some leftover wine. Once the clams begin to open, sprinkle in some fresh dill and squeeze fresh lime juice over the clams. Serve with soft French bread.

A Mushroom Farmer with Integrity

In preparation for Jake's birthday dinner, A Fungi Feast for My Fun Guy, I began a search for a local mushroom vendor. Jenn pointed me in the direction of Far West Fungi; they sell at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, but their farm is right here in Moss Landing. So I picked up the boys from school this afternoon and we headed up the coast for a family field trip. But when the farmer found out that my dinner wasn't for a week, he refused to sell the mushrooms to me. He warned that you have to treat mushrooms as you treat raw fish: they need to be eaten within a day or two. Gotta respect that. So, I'll be heading up there again when we get closer to the dinner. Can't wait to cook with some freshly-harvested canary oyster mushrooms, shitakes, blue oysters, bear's head, and king oysters! Straight from the growing logs to my table all in one day. After he flat out refused to sell me the mushrooms, Aaron offered to give us a tour. So we wandered through the s