I started a gratitude journal. Corny, I know, but I’ve found myself, like many people, struggling to stay on track during the pandemic. There’s too much time spent watching Tiger King, not enough time hiking or baking or gardening. On one such evening, splayed on my couch with blanket and Netflix and feeling low, my cat, Mochi, jumped up on my chest, gave my tummy a gentle knead, curled up and soothed me with his motor at a steady rumble. I scratched his head and thought, “THIS is contentment. This is all I need tonight.” The first entry in my gratitude journal:
Mochi, sleeping on my chest, purring
On today’s walk, the birds and their new babies were a choir of song, warming sunshine shone across my back while the lightest breeze kept the heat from being unbearable, Jacaranda trees Jackson Pollocked the sidewalks in a lavender explosion, and the air smelled sweetly of star jasmine. “THIS,” I thought as I traversed the neighborhood, “is all I need.”
I’m also grateful that my local Italian Market, Claro’s, stocks a pretty decent Cannoli shell.
Hazelnut Mocha Cannoli
- 12 cannoli shells
- 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2.25 oz. chopped hazelnuts, toasted
- 8 oz. Nutella
- 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
- 10 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
- 4 teaspoons instant coffee
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- Melt the bittersweet chocolate in the microwave by heating it at 30 second intervals and stirring until melted (about 90 seconds total). Dip both ends of cannoli shells in chocolate then in the hazelnuts. Set aside to set.
- Lightly beat together Nutella, mascarpone, ricotta and instant coffee. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle with filling. Pipe the filling into both ends of the cannoli, filling completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
He loosely grips the steering wheel with one hand, the other nestles along my left thigh. The dappled sunlight warms our scalps, unimpeded by a convertible roof tucked away in the trunk. My hair is kept restrained by a scarf. I catch his eye and grin, content and ready for another adventure…
The Southern California weather’s been ideal, bright sunny days with cool breezes, and I long for the return of road trips with my guy, shelved during this self-isolation and COVID shaming. Reminding myself that the best part of the adventure is often the journey, I suggest a road trip where the final destination becomes secondary, where we needn’t leave the safety of our convertible. The first weekend, we head northeast to two mountain destinations offering up patches of slushy snow and the fresh, cool air we so desperately crave. Our picnic by the lake, his doing, is a bonus. We’re hooked. The next weekend, it’s two hours south to Julian, a town known for its freshly baked apple pies. Not only do we pick up a still-warm apple crumble pie, we also pull off at a dusty roadside fruit stand for blood oranges, avocados, and honey. Next weekend, it’s our longest adventure yet, up the coast to an enclave famous for aebleskivers and Danish kitsch.
This cake is a celebration of our roadside stop last weekend where we stocked up on local honey and blood oranges. These farm-fresh ingredients made their way into this refreshing citrusy dessert that looks quite the showstopper when the cake is inverted onto the serving platter.
Blood Orange and Honey Upside-Down Cake
A refreshing citrus cake that looks quite a showstopper when turned out is sure to be a favorite of anyone who appreciates a bit of marmalade.
- ½ cup honey
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice (either blood orange or regular)
- 1 to 2 unpeeled blood oranges (depending on size), very thinly sliced crosswise (discard ends). I used a mandolin.
- ¾ cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Tablespoon grated orange peel (either blood orange or regular)
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- Lightly sweetened freshly whipped cream (optional)
- In a 10-inch nonstick, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, stir honey and orange juice until boiling. Cook without stirring until mixture is foamy, slightly thickened, and reaches 230°, 2 to 4 minutes. Place in freezer until cooled, about 10 minutes. Slightly overlap orange slices in concentric circles over syrup.
- Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in orange peel.
- In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir half the flour mixture into butter mixture just until incorporated. Stir in milk, then remaining flour mixture. Do not over mix. Carefully spoon batter over orange slices in pan and spread evenly.
- Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Lay a flat plate over pan and carefully invert cake onto plate. Lift pan off, being careful with hot syrup. Allow to cool completely and cut into wedges. Serve with whipped cream, if desired. This cake is best eaten the same day it is made.
I’d love to claim this recipe as one of my own, but it actually comes from Sunset Magazine. My only alteration was substituting blood oranges for standard oranges.
I wrote this post a few months ago, when socializing with family, friends and neighbors was a typical part of life and not a longed-for luxury. During those simpler times, I made this recipe for two separate get-togethers. I re-read this post today and I’m dumbfounded by the difference in today’s reality. Oh, how life in the midst of COVID has changed…
I’ve never been adept at making friends with women. The language of female bonding has always been foreign to me. As a result, I’ve only had a couple of close female friends in my life, women who somehow understood me even though I lacked some essential female bonding gene. Last year, that all changed, when I seemingly discovered my nascent estrogen bonding abilities, resulting in new friendships. Two women, in particular, I’m pleased to call not only neighbors, but genuine friends. It all started last year, at an impromptu progressive New Year’s Eve party, and has blossomed into regular happy hours, food sharing, and celebrations. I’m excited when I discover a text suggesting “Wine Down Wednesday” or a happy hour get together, which always results in copious amounts of wine, bellies full of cheese, and plenty of laughs…
Tonight is one of those nights and, in support of one of those lovely women who is currently “Keto for a Cause,” I’ve made these Keto-friendly stuffed mushrooms to pair with our coconut vodka cocktails. It’s sure to be another fun night!
Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
Mushroom caps stuffed with sausage, cream cheese and Parmesan – Keto-friendly and tasty!
- 3 Italian hot sausages, casings removed (if using mild sausage, add ¼ teaspoon chili flakes)
- 1 teaspoon sage
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk
- 24 large crimini mushrooms, stemmed
- Sauté sausage, sage, and thyme in a large skillet over medium-high heat until sausage is cooked through and brown, breaking into small pieces with back of fork, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1-minute more. Set aside and allow to cool. Mix in ½ Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper and mix in egg yolk.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13×9-inch baking dish. Fill each mushroom cap with scant 1 tablespoon filling and sprinkle with some of remaining Parmesan cheese. Arrange mushrooms, filling side up, in prepared dish. Bake uncovered until mushrooms are tender and filling is brown on top, about 25 minutes. Finish under a broiler, if needed. Serve warm.
Adapted from this recipe
“Are there raisins in it?”
Why is this always the first question anyone asks when I offer up homemade oatmeal cookies or carrot cake? What’s wrong with raisins? I enjoy raisins in both bakes, but usually leave them out if I’m sharing, in an effort to appease the large raisin-hating crowd. Why are raisins so polarizing? Is it their flavor – who could hate a little pop of fruity sweetness? Is it their texture – a bit dry, chewy and gritty, if not prepped properly (I always re-hydrate my raisins before using)? Is it their appearance which can often resemble a rat turd? Regardless, I’m a huge raisin fan, especially plump, juicy golden raisins, which I enjoy adding to dishes both sweet and savory.
One of my favorite ways to sneak raisins into a savory dish is by pickling them. The first time I was introduced to pickled raisins was at the now-defunct Lincoln restaurant in North Portland. They were scattered over simply-roasted cauliflower and were a culinary epiphany, adding a complex pop of sweet, tart, herby, fruitiness to what would have otherwise been a rather boring side dish. That night, I wrote down “pickled raisins” in my food notebook and, upon returning home, sought out a recipe to try myself, which led me to this slightly adapted version of Suzanne Goin’s recipe.
In addition to pickled raisins’ fruity tartness, this recipe also includes a bit of herby rosemary and spicy heat. For those wondering how you would use pickled raisins, besides the roasted cauliflower I mention above, here are a few other options. I’d love to hear your ideas as well.
– Scatter over any meat that pairs with fruit, such as pork or duck
– Throw in tagines or any Middle Eastern or Moroccan chicken and rice dishes
– Include on a cheese board for a unique addition
– Add to stuffing
– Sprinkle over roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots
– Include in salads like kale or grain salad
– Add to coleslaw
– Pimp up your standard chicken salad
Pickled Golden Raisins
Pickled raisins add a complex pop of sweet, tart, spicy fruitiness to roasted meats, roasted vegetables, and salads.
- 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons Champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 dried chile de arbol, stemmed and crumbled
- 1 bay leaf, crumbled
- ½ pound golden raisins
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 2 small rosemary sprigs
- In a small saucepan, toast the mustard seeds over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until the seeds just start to pop. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the liquid has reduced by half, about 8 minutes.
- Transfer raisins to canning jars along with spices in pan. Cover completely with remaining liquid in pan. Cool completely and refrigerate, turning jar occasionally. Use within a week.
3.. To preserve for longer than a week, use your preferred canning method.
My guy wanted to sample a loaf of freshly baked bread I had made earlier in the week. I knew it wouldn’t survive with maximum freshness until Saturday, when I’d see him next, and I was trying to determine the best way to supply him with the baked goodness he craved. Toast with jam? Yawn! French toast? Been there, done that! Then, I remembered bostock.
Oh yes, bostock!
If French toast and a bear claw had a love child, bostock would be the result. This addictive breakfast confection is made by soaking a thick slice of enriched bread, like brioche, in flavorful syrup, slathering it with a generous layer of homemade almond cream paste and finishing it off with crunchy sliced almonds. The pastry is then baked until the almond topping is puffed, golden and crispy. It needs nothing more than a sprinkling of powdered sugar to finish it off. Fancy enough for a brunch gathering, this tasty treat first appeared in Europe as a way for bakers to use up day-old brioche bread but became such a beloved treat that bakers had to start baking more brioche just to keep up with the demand. I’ve seen some bakers sandwich a layer of jam between the syrup and almond paste to gild the lily, but I prefer the simplicity of the original.
It may seem like a lot of work for a busy weekend morning, but it’s actually simple to prepare. The syrup and almond cream paste can be made the day before. Then, in the morning, just slather the bread with the syrup and almond cream while the oven heats up, sprinkle with almonds, bake for about 20 minutes while you have your first cup of coffee (or some morning canoodling) and they’re ready. Breakfast is served!
Almond-Orange Bostock Pastry
The REAL French toast. Crispy almond cream paste topped pastries flavored with orange flower syrup.
Orange Flower Syrup
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon orange flower water
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
Almond Cream Paste
- ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup almond flour a.k.a. almond meal, toasted until fragrant
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 large egg
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 6 slices brioche, challah or other enriched bread, sliced 1” thick
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- Make Syrup: Heat water and sugar in a small saucepan until sugar has dissolved. Turn off heat and add orange flower water and zest. Set aside.
- Make Almond Cream Paste: In a medium bowl, stir butter, toasted almond flour, powdered sugar, and salt together until well combined. Add egg and extracts and blend well.
- Make Bostock: Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Brush both sides of brioche slices well with orange flower syrup. Liberally spread tops of slices with 3-4 tablespoons of almond cream paste and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Place bostock on lined sheet pan and bake 18-22 minutes until tops are golden and almond cream is slightly puffy. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.