Archives for category: Fruit

March 28 2013 180I have made many flourless chocolate cakes in my career.  I love the ease of a flourless chocolate cake and when you use exceptional chocolate the result is a dense and flavorful cake that all of your guests will love.

I can finally say that I have developed the perfect flourless chocolate cake recipe.  I have made many recipes from Martha Stewart to Rose Levy Barenbaum and this recipe takes all of the best parts of those recipes to create not only a delicious cake but an easy cake.

This cake is so easy you would not say it was unreasonable at all.

The people who I served this cake were definitely unreasonable in the best possible way.

I was catering recently for a group from the Unreasonable Institute.  If you have not heard about this group, check them out.  Amazing….is all I have to say.  I spent at least 3 hours just looking at all of the entrepreneurs they have helped with their program the first time I went to their website.

This is what it says on their website:  “We get world-changing ventures and entrepreneurs what they need to scale their impact. Each year, we unite 10-30 entrepreneurs (called “Unreasonable Fellows”) from every corner of the globe to live under the same roof for six weeks in Boulder, Colorado. These entrepreneurs receive customized training and support from 50 world-class mentors, ranging from a Time Magazine Hero of the Planet, to the head of user experience at Google X, to an entrepreneur who’s enabled over 20 million farmers to move out of poverty. In the process, they form relationships with corporations and international organizations, receive legal advice & design consulting, and get in front of hundreds of potential funders. Our goal is to bring all the resources to accelerate these ventures so they can scale to meet the needs of at least one million people each.”

How cool is that..

Here are a few of the ventures they have helped out:

Worms 4 Change

Replicable vermicomposting production and training model to promote health and development in rural and urban communities

Initiative for the Development of Former Child Soldiers (IDEFOCS)

Restoration of peace & security in West Africa through Former child soldiers’ rehabilitation & reintegration.

Lili Dairy

Empowering Women Through Dairy Farming

The list goes on and on.

I had the privilege to cater for this group and the one dish they raved about most was the flourless chocolate cake.  I agreed to share the recipe.

Very Simple Flourless Chocolate Cake

8 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
8 oz 60% cacao chocolate chips (I used Costco Brand which I love..)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup very hot and very strong coffee
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons unsweetened organic cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli again)
8 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tbs vanilla extract
1 tbs whiskey (I used Jack Daniels)
 Pre heat the oven to 350ºF. Prepare a 10-cup Springform pan by lining the bottom with buttered parchment
Break up the unsweetened chocolate into pieces and put the chocolate into the bowl of the food processor or blender. Add the chocolate chips as well.  Pulse until the chocolate breaks up into small bits. Add the sugar. Pulse until the chocolate and sugar turns into a sandy grain.
Pour the hot water or coffee slowly into the feed tube as you pulse again. Pulse until the chocolate is melted.
Add the butter pieces and the cocoa powder, and pulse to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla, whisky and process till smooth. The batter will be liquid and creamy.
Pour the batter into the lined Springform pan. Wrap the outside of the whole pan with a big piece of foil. Bake at 350º  in the center of the oven, till puffed about 45-55 minutes.
Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes and then remove from pan and let cake cool on rack for 1 hour.  Best when refrigerated over night wrapped in plastic wrap.  Top with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar or berries.
March 28 2013 184

Feb 6 051

I stood in front of the display of Satsuma tangerines at Whole Foods.  I was not there to buy fruit.  I had a list and a budget.  I looked down at the tangerines.  The display was artful and tantalizing.  Lovely oranges, yellows and dark greens swam before my eyes.  I mumbled to myself that I have to remember not to go to Whole Foods on an empty stomach.  Of course I reached for a paper bag and starting filling it with these little beauties.

If you have not had the pleasure of tasting Satsuma Tangerines do yourself a favor and buy them today.  They are available for a short time each year and then they are gone. You will have to wait for the next season and this is not advisable.

When I got home and sat down to peel the thin skin off of a Satsuma I took my time and enjoyed the process.  It reminded me of my favorite author.  MFK Fisher.  Most of you hard-core foodies are familiar with Mary Francis.  If you love food and life and the sensual pleasures found in food then pick up any of her books.  The tangerine reminded me of her book Serve it Forth.  In the essay Borderland she describes her secret love of dried tangerine segments.  “My pleasure in them is subtle and voluptuous and quite inexplicable.”  This line is Mary Francis at her best.  Her erudite musings on food and life are beautiful to read.  I lose myself in her books.  I do not read them on the bus or at a crowded cafe but save them for a quiet place where I can stop and just stare off into space and think about what she has written.  I am always inspired to cook and eat, usually with a few good friends after reading MFK Fisher.

I enjoyed my honey sweet tangerine and was pleased with my lack of self-control at Whole Foods.  I had no regrets about not sticking to my budget.

You can cook with Satsuma tangerines but eat one fresh as well.   Enjoy the perfume of sweet citrus and then experience the sweet juice as you bite into each little segment.

Jen Yu describes her first experience with Satsuma Tangerines in her stunningly beautiful blog Use Real Butter.  Fall Fruit and Yogurt Salad.

You can add Satsuma tangerines to salads, make a fruit salsa for fish, bake a lovely tart or make a sweet and tart Satsuma marmalade.

Todays recipe is not a gourmet recipe.  I wanted to make something for my 12-year-old son.  He was getting over a cold and his throat was sore.

Jello!  Always my favorite for soothing a sore throat when I had a cold as a kid. It is  easy to make your own jello and the ingredient list does not contain words hard to pronounce.

My son and I read a box of Jello at the store.  He was not enticed by the disodium phosphate or the adipic acid and fumeric acid.

We made our own jello with just a few more steps than the boxed kind and it was delicious.  Little bits of Satsuma flesh dotted the jello and a bright citrus flavor dominated the taste instead of the usual cloying sweetness of packaged jello.

Top your jello with some fresh made real whipped cream  or just eat it plain.  This is not gourmet but a real treat.

Satsuma Jello 2 003

Satsuma Tangerine Gelatin

You can substitute honey or agave nectar for sugar in this recipe but reduce water by 1/4 cup

I recommend honey since Satsuma tangerines have a honey note that is intensified with honey.

1/2 ounce or 2-1/4 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

2 1/2 cups cold water

1 cup fresh squeezed Satsuma tangerines

2 tangerines sliced into rounds

1 cup cane sugar, or to taste since this recipe is slightly sweet without added sugar

If substituting the sugar with honey or agave nectar remember to reduce water by 1/4 cup.  Agave nectar gives this recipe a nice slightly brown color and rich molasses flavor.

Bloom the gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water in a large bowl.  Let sit for 5 minutes and then stir.

Feb 6 049Boil 2 cups of water with the tangerine slices and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Add tangerine juice and pour hot mixture into cold water and gelatin mixture.  Mix throughly and put in the refrigerator to set.

Feb 6 059It should set up in about 2 hours.  Leave the tangerine slices in the jello as it will increase flavor.  You can remove them before serving but since Satsuma tangerines  do not have a bitter pith then they are sweet and tasty when left in whole slices and eaten with the dessert.

Satsuma Jello 2 002

I am going to admit to one of my strange quirks…. one of many….of course.

I love to watch the cranberries split!  I love it.  This is one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving.   Most people would say they love eating roasted turkey or pumpkin pie.   They may say that they love the football games or eating stuffing.

For me, right behind hanging out with my family would be watching the cranberries split.  What?  You may be thinking “what does she mean?”  Crazy food blogger…..

Well, let me tell you about it.

It is a multi-sensory activity using your sense of smell, taste, visual and auditory all in one easy cooking activity.  What more could a food obsessed individual need for the holidays

I love looking over the edge of the pot and seeing the different reds and purples and pinks of the fresh cranberries mingled with the dark green rosemary and bright yellow of lemon.  Shiny with water and sugar the berries sparkle in the light.  They dance when the water starts to boil.  It is like a cranberry disco on your stove.

Turn up the heat and wait a couple of minutes and the fun really starts.  The berries start to dance around in the pot and the earthy smell of rosemary and bright smell of lemon reach your nose.  Next comes the popping.  Cranberries will expand and split when cooked and release that quintessential of holiday smells, fresh cranberry sauce.

I just love it.

Simmer the berries a bit longer and that is all you have to do.  The sauce is best cooled overnight and it will thicken naturally.  No need to add gelatin.  Gone forever from your table is the metallic tasting can of cranberry flavored gelatin that slides out in one big ribbed lump.  Canned cranberry gelatin is not nearly as fun as dancing cranberries with fresh herbs and citrus.  You can get very creative with cranberry sauce as you can see from my extensive list of variations at the bottom of this post.  Have fun with this traditional side dish and add dried fruit, nuts, spices and herbs.

Master Cranberry Sauce

200 gram sugar (1 cup)

1 cup water

4 cups fresh cranberries

After you cook the cranberries you may add any savory or sweet additions you would like to flavor your sauce.  At the bottom of this post I will list some of my favorite variations.  Makes 2 1/2 cups cranberry sauce.

1 Wash your lovely cranberries.  In a saucepan bring water to a boil and add sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add cranberries, return to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.   Lovely!

2 At this point you can add all number of optional ingredients.  The cranberry sauce in the picture has fresh rosemary and lemon wedges.   You can add a cup of dried cranberries or dried cherries.

3 Remove from heat.  Cool at room temperature for 1 hour and chill in the refrigerator overnight.   Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

Cranberry Sauce Variations

Southwestern Cranberry Sauce

1/2 tsp chipotle powder and topped with minced fresh cilantro and lime juice before serving

Orange and Almond Cranberry Sauce

Substitute fresh orange juice with water and add sliced almonds

Apple and Ginger Cranberry Sauce

1 tbs candied ginger diced fine with 1 cup diced honey crisp apple

Rosemary and Port Wine Cranberry Sauce

1 tsp minced fresh rosemary, 1/4 cup port wine (reduce water to 3/4 cup) and 1 tsp orange zest

Maple Walnut Cranberry Sauce

4 tbs maple syrup, substitute brown sugar for white sugar and 1/3 cup diced toasted walnuts

Apricot and cardamom Cranberry Sauce

1/3 cup diced dried apricots and 1 tsp cardamom

Lemon Thyme Cranberry Sauce

1 tbs fresh thyme and 1 tbs lemon zest

Let me know if you have any creative variations for cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving menu.

At Cal-Wood we literally go through hundreds of granola bars each week.  Since I first started at Cal-Wood a year ago I wanted to make the granola bars from scratch.  I started a few recipes last year but they were either too thick or fell apart.  I needed something that would hold together in a back pack but was not hard on the teeth.  My first trial recipes were also time-consuming and I had to keep labor costs down as well as cost of ingredients.  I scrapped the plan when we started getting busy for spring and summer and vowed to come back to it in the new year.

This year I have had success.  I researched different granola bar recipes on the internet and finally came up with one that was both chewy and sturdy.  This is a healthy snack treat that will keep the kids going with energy while out hiking.  My family loves these granola bars as a mid-afternoon snack while home-schooling.

The best part about these granola bars is that they are gluten-free and dairy free.  They taste great and kids on special diets do not feel like they are missing out.

Inspiration from Smitten Kitchen, King Arthur Flour and Ina Garten.

Granola Bars

1  2/3  Cups Whole Oats

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar

1/3 Cup Oat Flour (process oats in food processor for 2-3 minutes until finely ground)

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

2 Cups Dried Fruit and Nuts (optional)

6 Tablespoons Canola Oil

1/4 Cup Corn Syrup, Maple Syrup or Honey

1 Tablespoon Water

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 inch baking pan with foil or parchment and coat with non-stick spray.

Stir together dry ingredients in a bowl.

In a separate bowl. wish together oil. liquid sweeteners, vanilla and water.  Add to dry ingredients.

Stir until combined.  Spread mixture into baking pan and press down until firmly molded into pan.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool for 3 hours or overnight before cutting.  Store in the freezer for best results.

Tasty Variations:  Add 1 cup dark chocolate chips and 1 cup coconut shreds to replace fruit and nuts.

Add 1 cups sliced almonds for fruit and nut mixture and substitute corn syrup for all maple syrup.

Add 1 cup dark chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons orange zest.

Add 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds with 1 cup dried cranberries and substitute cinnamon for all spice.

Add dried mango, apricot and pineapple for 2 cups fruit and 1 cup coconut shreds for a tropical bar.






My family loves to have creme fraiche with berries for breakfast.  Whenever I go to buy it I find I am dismayed by the price.  This is just too expensive for everyday eating.   Creme fraiche translates into fresh cream in French.  It is actually cultured cream, much like sour cream or yogurt. 

I adore both sour cream and yogurt so I decided that cultured heavy cream made from high quality heavy whipping cream should be delish beyond compare.  Boy was I right.  De-freaking-lish!

The final product came out with a velvety and smooth texture from the heavy cream and a slightly sour taste that really made it special.  I seriously have to stop eating this stuff to get a good idea of how to describe it.  There is no added sugar in this recipe but it has a slightly sweet finish to it.  There is no need to add sweetener to it because it is great alone.

Home-made Creme Fraiche

1 quart heavy whipping cream (I used Organic valley)

1 pint Greek yogurt (I used Greek Gods)

Simmer heavy whipping cream on stove top stirring to avoid scalding for 5 minutes.

Let cool on counter until cream reaches 110 degrees.

Add yogurt and whisk to fully incorporate.  Over night the yogurt cultures will begin to work on the cream and flavor and thicken it.

Cover and leave in your refrigerator over night.

It should be thick and ready to enjoy the next day.

Some ways to use home-made creme fraiche:

Made cucumber dip for greek meatballs.  Add diced cucumber (peel it first) a little fresh garlic, lemon juice and parsley.

Add fresh garlic, herbs and sea salt and pepper to make a dip for veggies.

Dollop some next to pie or cobbler instead of whipped cream.

Serve for breakfast with berries and granola.

I have a book of recipes that I have accumulated over the years cooking professionally that I use all the time.  These are recipes that I feel are the best of all and easy to make.  I keep adding to the book of favorite recipes but this recipe has to be one of the easiest and most used.

The master recipe can be used for biscuits, scones, cobbler and pot pie crust.  The biscuits turn out so beautiful and taste rich and lovely every time.  All of this with very little effort.

There is nothing more enjoyable than a hot out of the oven baked treat in the morning.  Problem is I am never fully awake to start baking in the morning.  All that weighing and measuring and precision.  I am happy if I do not spill coffee everywhere in the morning.   This recipe has changed all that.  You can make biscuits and scones anytime and freeze them up un-baked.  Pull them out and heat up the oven and pop them in.  That is about all I can handle most mornings.

You may doubt me when I say this recipe will change your life and maybe it won’t but it did for me.  Now, it is simple to throw together breakfast or dessert treats with ease.

Biscuit Master Recipe

2 cups or 12 oz all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups heavy cream


1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir in the cream with a wooden spoon until dough forms, about 30 seconds. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gather into a ball. Knead the dough briefly until smooth, about 30 seconds.  This dough likes to be kneaded a little bit. Some biscuit recipes call for you to handle the dough as little as possible but this recipe calls for a little kneading and it helps the dough raise up nicely.

3. Shape dough and roll out to desired thickness.  I usually roll it to 1/3 inch thick.  Cut out with a biscuit cutter or just cut into squares or triangles.  Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking.

Biscuit Variations:

Add chive and sharp cheddar:  Add 2 teaspoons finely minced chive and 1/4 cup finely grated sharp cheddar.

Bacon and Sharp Cheddar (make sure bacon is crispy and broken into fine pieces):  Add 4 slices crispy cooked bacon and 1/4 cup finely grated sharp cheddar.

Parmesan and Cracked Pepper:  Add 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper.

Variations to make really wonderful scones:  Increase sugar to 2 tablespoons.  Form dough into a round and cut into triangles.  You can freeze the uncooked dough on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper until solid and store for up to 3 months in a freezer bag.

Dried Cherry and Almond Scone:  Add finely minced dried cherries, sliced and toasted almonds and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.  Top with sliced almonds and sugar before baking.

Lemon Ginger Scone:  Add 1 tbs Candied ginger minced finely and 1 tbs fresh lemon zest.

For cobbler or pot pie top your fillings with cut out unbaked biscuits.  If biscuits become too brown but still uncooked on the underside cover with foil to finish cooking.

When I had my cafe I was always amazed with the way cupcakes make people smile.  Kind of like a baby or really cute dog.  Customers would come into the cafe and see the cupcakes on the cake stand and smile.  They did not always purchase a cupcake but they would smile and say “Oh such pretty cupcakes!”

Cupcakes are always a big crowd pleaser.  When I bring cupcakes out into the dining room for service at Cal-Wood the room either goes completely silent or the kids erupt into applause.  Who doesn’t love that kind of response.  I feel like putting down the tray, executing a perfect curtsy and stepping up to the podium to thank the important people in my life…sorry I digress…

My favorite cupcake recipes are those that yield a moist cake and are topped with a not-too-sweet frosting.  I cannot abide by cupcakes that have really sweet frosting or when the frosting is double the volume of the cake.  I usually knock off the frosting into the trash and enjoy the cake.

I recently developed a large quantity  lemon cupcake recipe that I am very pleased with.  The moist cake is topped by a light cream cheese frosting.

This is a big batch recipe meaning it yields 80 cup cakes when batter is scooped with a 1 oz scoop or a #30 scoop.

This recipe is written in weight not measurements so you can easily make it for only 20 cupcakes by using only 1/4 of the weight.

These cupcakes freeze well so you can freeze them without the frosting for up to 3 months.

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes

3 lbs 12 oz Bread Flour

2 teaspoons Baking soda

2 teaspoons Sea Salt

2 lbs Unsalted Butter, soft

3 lbs 6oz Sugar

1 lb 8oz Eggs

1 1/4 oz Lemon zest

32 fl oz Buttermilk

6 fl oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.

Cream butter and sugar in large stand mixer with paddle attachment.  Scrape down sides of bowl half way through.  Mix for 4-5 minutes or until light in color.

Blend eggs, lemon zest and add into butter mixture until incorporated.  Add in 3 additions mixing on low speed.

Add sifted dry ingredients alternating with buttermilk in 3 additions.

Add lemon juice and mix on low until just incorporated.

Bake at 350 degrees until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

The market is full of a large selection of fresh pears at great prices.  I bought a case and wanted to add fresh pear to my dessert at Cal-Wood this week.  After considering many desserts I finally decided on a cheesecake.   Erik one of the teachers at Cal-Wood and an all around good guy is allergic to chocolate.  It seems like every dinner he works at the lodge I am serving some sort of chocolate dessert so I was inspired to design a dessert without chocolate and since he mentioned he loved pears this combo was just the ticket.

Erik and Jamie at a Staff Party

This is a picture of Erik and one of our interns Jamie at a staff party we had at the lodge recently.  One of the things that makes working for Cal-Wood enjoyable is the staff.  This diverse group of dedicated individuals never seem to bore me.  I  cook for the staff as well as the guests at Cal-Wood since they eat most of their meals at the lodge when working and I  want to make sure the meals are not too repetitive. and always yummy.  I admire all the hard work the teaching staff at Cal-Wood put in working with the kids that come up for our outdoor education program so I make an effort to cater to them as well as our guests.

Pear Cheesecake with Maple Glaze

·         For Crust

    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus       room-temperature butter for pan
    • 8 oz vanilla wafers or animal crackers
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

·         For Filling

    • 2 1/2 pounds bar cream cheese, room temperature
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1 teaspoon Maple Syrup
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 cup sour cream

·         Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make cracker/cookie crust: Butter a 9-by-3-inch spring form pan. In a food processor, pulse crackers until fine crumbs form; add melted butter, sugar, and salt, and pulse to combine. Press crumb mixture into bottom of pan. Bake until set, 12 to 15 minutes; let cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Fill small pot on stove with 4 cups water to boil. Make filling: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy periodically scraping down side of bowl. Add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in maple syrup and sea salt. Beat in eggs scraping down side of bowl after each addition and add sour cream.
  3. Wrap bottom half of pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in a casserole pan with at least 1 inch sides. Place Pear slices on top of cheesecake mixture laying them in a tile pattern around the top.  Dust with nutmeg or cinnamon.  Pour in boiling water to come halfway up side of spring form. Bake until just set in center, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight before serving.  Drizzle with real maple syrup just before serving.

“Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits.” — Henry David Thoreau, Wild Apples

There was something out of the corner of my eye that caught my attention. when I was walking to work.  Right by my house was an apple tree!!  I had heard tale of such apples but frankly had never noticed them…..

Little apples adorned with dew and shining in the morning sun just waiting for me to pick them.

When I first tasted one of the apples it had a tart flavor followed by a clean and clear apple essence that amazed me.   My hubby and I found a big ladder and picked apples.  These little darling took for freaking ever to peel but boy was it worth it.

Apple Spice Cake


  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I suggest King Arthur)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large organic eggs
  • 3 to 4 Granny Smith apples, pulsed in food processor
    or grated on box grater (3 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped assorted nuts such as pecan or walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Nonstick cooking spray with flour


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Working over a large sheet of parchment paper, sift together flour,
    cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; gather sifted ingredients into center of sheet; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs; mix on high speed until lemon yellow.
  4. Fold reserved parchment in half lengthwise; with mixer on medium speed, gradually shake in dry ingredients until just incorporated.
  5. Add apples and, if desired, nuts, to batter; mix to combine. Add vanilla, mixing until incorporated.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, and cool slightly on a wire rack.

Adapted from
Martha Stewart Living


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