I just returned from Italy and had a strong itch to make something my family and I enjoyed daily with our coffee in the sweet little villa we rented outside the city of Lucca. 5 Beautiful days I was there. My parents are still there with a family friend Vicki, whom actually organized the rental property and kindly extended the invitation to our family members. Mike and Sonja were the same amount of day’s I had been and Karen arrived a few day’s before us.
The flight coming back from Amsterdam was about 9hrs long. I had ample time to think and think and think. My mind has been running lately about work and family and baking. Italy was very relaxing for me, we had beautiful weather and food. Pasta, bread, gelato, wine, and biscotti’s.
I didn’t put any walnuts in and I used baileys instead of brewed coffee for the flavoring.
So my Aunts grand babies are coming into town to stay with my parents. Gerri (my Aunt) passed away this year of pancreatic cancer. She was a strong woman full of life. She exuded this radiant energy that I longed to imitate. She was the life of the party and a dear friend, only did I realize how big her circle of friends were until her last few weeks of life. A selfless woman she was, always putting her loved ones first, especially her family. She absolutely loved her grand babies and as her days grew nearer she was worried how they would carry on without her. My mom made a promise to her to look after them as best as she could living in a different state and to make sure that their ties were always connected. Conner and Emma are coming up for their first visit since their grandma has past away. Its a special visit for many reasons. I’m looking forward to spending some time with them, see how they are getting along and only if I sense they are comfortable or if they mention Gerri will we reminisce about that golden beaut. These kids have SO.MANY.ALLERGIES!!!! Omg its terrifying. I am not sure the degree of intensity their reactions and I am not so eager to find out. So I wanted to welcome the two kiddos with some sweet treats I made them with some simple ingredients and vegan/paleo friendly. NO NUTS. NO DAIRY. NO EGGS.
I used a recipe from Martha Stewart :). For the chocolate I used the vegan brand: Enjoy Life. So using a makeshift double boiler I melted the chocolate chips, coconut oil and water, stirring constantly until everything was a shinny smooth ganache. Then I added the pinch of salt and vanilla, stirred a few more rounds and placed her in the fridge to harden. One hour later I used a tablespoon to scoop out the chocolate and formed the balls between my hands to make a perfect circle. Once formed I rolled them in my desired toppings. I actually didn’t try the end result because I had so much of it while I was tossing it together. They look beautiful I will have to ask the kids when they get here.
I grew up on a great avenue. It was a dead end street and there were about 10 of us kids all around the same age in the neighborhood. At night we would catch lighting bugs and play cops and robbers and during the day depending on the weather we would be playing out in the sprinkler or inside watching a film we rented at blockbuster. Those certainly were the days. Getting in my parents car heading to rent a few movies for the night was a highlight for the weekend.
I have many memories of that neighborhood, one of our neighbors had a beautiful garden in which stalks of rhubarb grew and every year our family would get some of their stalks or receive a dessert made with this tart plant. I wanted to bring a little nostalgia back for myself and my family. I brought back from the farmers market a bundle of stock and a few pints of organic strawberries.
I got the recipe from Ina garten I was both pleased and worried to be working with cornstarch. I wasn’t quite sure how it would thicken the mixture but it certainly did a fabulous job the recipe was delectable.
“The term monkey bread, initially referring to a loaf formed from pieces of yeast dough dipped into butter, seems to have emerged or was at least popularized in southern California in the 1940s. It was a rich savory bread, sometimes accompanied with jam or preserves, requiring no knives to serve. The dough pieces were definitely not rolled in any sugary substance. Then by the early 1970s, loaves of dough pieces enveloped in either cinnamon-sugar or brown sugar — previously called Hungarian coffee cake and golden dumpling coffee cake — also became known as monkey bread, transforming the term into a beloved dessert and breakfast treat.” (Tori Avey)
There is nothing better in the morning than being served warm sweet bread with coffee. The whole process is a delightful experience. Getting your hands dirty preparing the dough, the pleasing aromas and lastly finally getting to sink your teeth into that sweet soft dough. I didn’t really want to make cinnamon rolls or caramel rolls, I was feeling a bit more adventurous. I decided that I would make Monkey bread! I got my recipe from sallysbakingaddiction.com. I followed her recipe to the T with the exception of the frosting. My first attempt at the frosting left me with an opaque watery glaze and I wanted more of a frosting instead of a glaze. So I added more powder sugar and milk until I found the perfect consistency. The next time I make this I will prepare the dough the night before so I can bake it right away in the morning for my guests/family.
I recently bought one of those 5lb cherry bags from the grocers. At the time it seemed like a good idea, I hadn’t had cherries yet all summer and these babies were booming with color and flavor (yes I’m the person who samples from the bag at the store). I understand how unsanitary this whole sampling business is but I am not going to buy a 1-3lb bag of fruit if the fruit does not taste first-rate. So I will take the chance of getting a 24hour GI bug. Did I mention I worked for Trader Joes for about 6 years on and off? If you ever want a great place to work, it’s there.
Back to the bars. I had too much fruit at my house. I also had mangos and oranges. I was overwhelmed with the choices and with the stifling heat I knew I didn’t have much time before they entered the spoiling stage. Oh I do hate to be wasteful. My only options were: I could freeze the suitable items, give some of the cherries away, go on a 48hr fruit diet or bake with the cherries!!!!! I searched the internet for some recipes. I wanted to bring whatever I made into my work for my coworkers to think highly of me. I’m still somewhat new there and I want to start out on the right foot ;-). I knew it had to be something that could be easily grabbed or scooped. I decided to go with blondies.
These bars were toothsomely generous with every bite. I got the recipe form Averiecooks.com I decided to substitute the chocolate chips for chocolate chunks. I wanted to a bit more chocolate/cherry ratio the the bigger bits of chocolate help with this. The bars turned out great, the coworkers loved them. I decided to save a few for my parents so I put them in the freezer. This was a bad idea, initially they were frozen and chewy and the chocolate chunks were hard which made it a fun bite and altered the flavor but soon they became a mushy bar.
So I wanted to make his birthday extra special this year for more than one reason: 35 is a big year for him and his family, last year we were relatively new to one another and while I was able to help him feel special I didn’t quite know just how special he was for me, follow me? A year later I’ve learned and experienced so much with him it comes more naturally to show him my adoration and lastly everyone deserves a homemade cake. He loves chocolate and I recently just obtained a bundt mold from his family (thank you again) so I knew where to start on this adventure.
I’ve had limited experience with bundt cakes, they were never around the house hold and from my lack of perspective and understanding I’d imagine them being boring and dry. I knew I had to find out for myself it was a risk I was willing to take on his big day. I searched endlessly for what appeared to be the best recipe. I wondered if it should have a tunnel of fudge? Sprinkles? an addition of fruit? I ended up settling on a plain chocolate sour cream cake with a decadent chocolate ganache.
I stirred the ingredients and put the cake in the oven. I’ve had issues in the past in the kitchen with impatiences. I just get so excited and want to see the end result. It doesn’t happen often but It’s something I’m working on. I’m mentioning this because I did not let the cake cool as long as it needed to and when I flipped her out of the mold half of her moist middle was left in the pan! Mind you I’m meeting Troy at his house in an hour, I begin to sweat and worry. I couldn’t go to his house without this cake, I won’t… I thought. So I ever so delicately lifted the rest of the cake out and molded a circle together with my hands. I stirred the chocolate and cream for the ganache and double layered his cake. She was beautiful like Cinderella on the night of the ball.
I packed her up safely and headed to his house. Troy loved the cake and I did too. I proved my assumptions wrong, the cake was moist, rich, beautiful and best yet made with love. Memories of that day will stay with me forever.
When your mother gives you lemons make lemon bars? It was a beautiful lazy sunny morning and I was visiting my parents house. My mother would disagree with me on this one but they have an amazing kitchen. Its spacious and ergonomically designed to entertain while cooking or baking. We have spent many mornings sipping OJ and sharing bites of french toast and many nights sipping our last drops of wine. I’m at an age where I shouldn’t be using my parents of anything anymore but I do, I use them for their kitchen and every once in awhile their shower (you would have to experience it and my shower too for that matter).
Lemon bars are one of my fathers favorite summer treats, unfortunately he was out of town when I baked these sweet tartlings. I froze a few for him and per him “tasted wonderful” when he eventually bit into one. I too sampled a frozen version and I myself preferred this style. Both the lemon butter layer and shortbread layer had firmed just enough to given your brain more time to process what it was you were biting into. SENSATIONAL.