35 years ago today my life was graced by the birth of my first child, Ryan. He was a joy to raise, and every day of his life has been a blessing to me. He is everything I could have ever hoped for in a son, and continues to amaze me with his compassion, intelligence, and giving nature. And to top that off, he has brought three wonderful girls into my life as well.....His wife, Vanessa, and their two daughters, Meryn and Zoe. I have often featured my granddaughters as my sous chefs in this blog as Calicook and Zozo.
For Ryan's birthday this year, Calicook and Zozo wanted to help me make his favorite dessert, Butterscotch Torte. It's a heavenly concoction of creamy layers of goodness atop a shortbread crust. Today they made it all by themselves. I only helped with the parts that required the oven or cooktop.
LAYER #1: CRUST: 1 cup flour ½ cup cold butter (I stick) 1 cup nuts, finely chopped (walnuts, pecans, or almonds) ½ cup powdered sugar (optional)
Mix flour and butter in food processor until crumbly. Stir in chopped nuts and press into bottom of 9 or 10 inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until slightly brown. Cool.
Here we have Calicook pressing shortbread crust into the pan. We like to use a 9 or 10" springform pan because it's easy to see all the layers and just looks pretty.
LAYER #2: CREAM CHEESE LAYER: 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened 1 cup powdered sugar 1 cup cool whip (buy 8 oz size), or 1 cup whipped cream ½ tsp vanilla
Whisk all ingredients together and spread over cooled crust.
LAYER #3: PUDDING LAYER: 2 small packages instant pudding (or cook and serve pudding), any flavor 3 cups milk
Mix pudding and milk together and spread over cream cheese layer.
ZOzo is spreading out the pudding layer. She matter-of-factly said, "It looks like dog poop". Fortunately it taste much better than it looks. Any flavor will do. Butterscotch, chocolate and lemon are our favorites flavors.
Sadly, my 5 year old sous chef, Calico, has left my tutelage and moved on to a higher institution of learning.... kindergarten. Fortunately, for me, she hired her replacement before she left. I would like to introduce you to ZoZo. Now, ZoZo is 3 years old and already quite adept in the kitchen. For her debut she wanted to demonstrate how to make Gooey Pumpkin Cake.
We found this recipe on the Food Network website, courtesy of Paula Dean, and thought we'd give it a try. It took only about 15 minutes to put together and 45 minutes to bake. The aroma of pumpkin and spices baking in the oven always helps to usher in the new season and makes me glad autumn has arrived.
PUMPKIN GOOEY BUTTER CAKE
Press into pan
1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
ZoZo will demonstrate how to add the melted butter to make the filling in the video below.
To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to over bake, as the center should be a little gooey.
My sister, Teri, asked me for the recipe to Mom's pie crust yesterday. So, being the good sister that I am, I decided to not just tell her, but to show her.
MOM'S PIE CRUST
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsps. vegetable oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsps. milk
1 tsp salt
Makes 1 double pie crust or 2 single pie crusts
Pour all ingredients into a medium mixing bowl. Stir with a fork just until it is blended (20-30 strokes). Divide dough in half and form each half into a disk. Place one disk in the center of a 14" long piece of waxed paper. Place a second piece of waxed paper over the disk so the dough is between two pieces of waxed paper. Begin rolling evenly from the center outward to form a circle. Roll dough 12-14" round, depending on size of pie plate. remove top piece of waxed paper then place it gently back over dough. Flip the crust over and remove waxed paper. Center dough in pie plate and remove the waxed paper. Ease the dough into the bottom of the plate so there are no air bubbles between the dough and the pie plate. Leave 3/4" overhang on top edge of dough and fold under to form a crust.
If you are making a single crusted pie, crimp edges all the way around. If recipe calls for a baked pie crust, place foil on top of dough and weigh it down with pie weights (or dried beans). Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. Cool. Fill with cream filling.
If you are making a double crusted pie, place pie filling over bottom crust in pie plate. Roll out second pie dough disk 12-14" and center it over the pie filling. Roll both crusts edges under in a smooth ridge and crimp edges with fingers.
If desired, you can brush crust top with milk or egg white and sprinkle with raw sugar or almonds. Cut four 1/2 " slits in center to allow steam to escape. Bake 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until filling is cooked. Place sheet of foil loosely over the top of the pie if crust is browning to quickly. remove from oven when done and let cool.
The last several days have been a blur as I have picked apricots off overburdened trees at the house and made jam, pies and cobbler from the apricots. While the picking and cooking have been a lot of work, the experience has reminded me a lot of my Mom and Dad.
My dad didn't like gardening, but loved cultivating fruit trees. He got great joy in sharing his harvest with his neighbors and friends. If he didn't have enough from his yard, he would go over to Fresno State and pick whatever he needed to augment his harvest. Mom was equally generous with supplying everyone she knew with a pie, whether it be apricot, peach, or rhubarb. Every year, they would share the tedious task of splitting hundreds upon hundreds of apricots onto grape trays and drying them in their backyard. This process took weeks, and lots of patience, but the result was being handed a bag of the best dried apricots you ever tasted.
So, you see, I have apricots in my blood.
So the first apricot pies that came out of the oven are dedicated to my parents. I thank them for instilling the love of fruit and baking in me. At last count, there were 1315 19 pies, 31 39 jars of jam and 2 3 cobblers. I have become very popular with my friends, family and neighbors, and I'm delighted to share with them.
The photo above shows how productive my trees were this year. Below is a picture of the apricot filling ready to go into the crust.
The recipe I'm using here was my mom's favorite apricot pie recipe. It's quite different because the thickening agent is tapioca, rather than flour or cornstarch.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
8-10 cups halved apricots (about 22-24)
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. amaretto or orange liquer
Mix liquids and sprinkle over apricots. Stir and let stand.
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar (+ 1/2 cup more sugar is fruit isn't real ripe or sweet)
3 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. minute tapioca
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
In a bowl, stir sugars and tapioca together until thoroughly mixed. This is very important as not to have unpleasant lumps of tapioca. Add sugar/tapioca mixture to apricots, 1/2 cupful at a time, making sure you mix thoroughly after each addition. Let stand 15 minutes.
Assemble pie crust, fruit, and top crust. Brush top with milk or egg white and sprinkle with sugar and slivered almonds, Reduce temperature to 450 degrees and bake 10 minutes.Then set oven to 375 degrees and bake for 35 more minutes. Cool at least 6 hours.
For the first time, I decided to barbecue my turkey on the outdoor grill, and it turned so good that it may be an annual event. I was forced to the barbecue because my oven is just too small for a large bird. No problem, folks.
The backyard grill handled the turkey nicely, finishing a golden-brown bird in about 3 1/2 hours. It was moist and delicious, and my guests kept commenting on this being the best turkey they've ever eaten. That's high praise because they've wolfed down a bunch of turkeys in their time.
The prep was as simple as apple pie. After rinsing out the turkey cavities, I rubbed the inside and outside of the turkey with olive oil and Italian seasoning. I put the 17-pound turkey on a rack in a large disposable aluminum pan. I placed all of this on a cookie sheet in the middle of my gas grill.
I have a four burner grill, so I only lit the two outside burners so there would be no direct heat on the turkey. I closed the lid and checked on it every hour or so. My grill has a temperature gauge on it so it was easy to monitor the approximate heat. I kept the temperature around 325 degrees. Then, all I did was check the temperature from time to time. When the internal temperature reached 165 degrees I turned off the burners. I let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving it.
Next time I'm going to brine the turkey, and use a chipotle rub on it, but for now, I'm happy knowing I have found the solution to not having a big enough oven.
We took a day trip to Capitola on the Central Coast and decided to have an early dinner at the Shadowbrook, the wonderful restaurant on Soquel Creek near Capitola Village. The menu offered many treats but I was pulled to the Pacific Rim King Salmon. The dish is featured in this photo.
This Shadowbrook recipe was featured in Bon Appetit magazine. Here's the description right off the menu: Certified sustainably raised and organically fed Sea greens, ginger-wasabi sauce, ponzu sauce, miso vinaigrette-julienne vegetables and sesame seeds.
My companion had the slow-roasted certified Angus prime rib. Here's the menu description: Buttermilk mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, Yorkshire pudding, horseradish cream and Cabernet jus.
The meal was excellent and we had time to walk the lush grounds of this multi-level restaurant. The Shadowbrook is one of our favorites. Check it out the next time you're in the Capitola/Santa Cruz area.
The best part of Valentine's Day is being with the one you love, sharing treats and topping the evening off with a fabulous meal. We did Valentine's Day a day early (and may even do it a day late for those of you keeping score).
The dinner was simple elegance. Salmon steamed on the barbecue, right next to tiny lobster tails that also cooked on the grill. I put the salmon in aluminum foil, topped with three sprigs of rosemary, slices of yellow onion, olive oil and salt and pepper. Seal the foil and pop it on the grill for about 12 minutes. The lobster tails cooked for about 10 minutes on the grill.
I garnished the plate with sliced pears, and lemons. Then added a few heart-shaped raviolis, a few stocks of asparagus, and you have a Valentine's Day meal that is fit for a king.