'Tis the season for good food and great company. My wonderful cousin and younger sister, traveling from Oregon, paid the BF and I a visit, and we showed them a few of our favorite local spots. Even though I had to work for clients while they were here, we managed to squeeze in much fun.
One day, we visited the Cantor Museum and Rodin Exhibit on the Stanford University campus. On another, we walked up and down Palo Alto's University Avenue and had dinner at a delicious Menlo Park Turkish restaurant.
The last day, we took our choco-lab Marlowe and walked around Bol Park, aka "Donkey Park" (Perry was the model for "Donkey," voiced by Eddie Murphy, in the film Shrek), and ate lunch at Thai Bistro on California Avenue. In the evening we made gingerbread cake topped with eggnog whipped cream along with spiralized celeriac latkes [Ed. note: I don't think we ate it in that order?], and watched a superb documentary called Shanghai Ghetto.
When they left, while cousin and sister went up the long escalator at a local Bart station, Marlowe let out the most woeful cries as they slowly disappeared from view. [Ed. note: We'll forward the therapy bills.]
My cousin is an expert beekeeper and gifted us with the most amazing raw honey, which we can't stop dipping into. She also gave us homemade lemongrass soap and lip balm, as well as some sinfully good Burnside Distillery small-batch bourbon, which kept everybody warm! [Ed. note: Can confirm.]
My sister is very knowledgeable and talented with rocks, stones and gems. She gave us beautiful hand-engraved stones that say "Shalom" and "DZ," which now rest proudly on the kitchen window sill that I work in front of every day. More significantly, she also gave me custody of our mom's engagement ring (we trade off every year), which was was so brilliantly polished and shiny it practically glittered. She is also adept in the landscaping arts, and got to work in the backyard well before unpacking. (She makes up for my black thumb.)
Marlowe is always a happier camper when she has a "pack," and as usual the did the nighttime "rounds," visiting the visitors as they slept.
Life is good when these girls are with us.
And it wouldn't be a family gathering without dessert, so for December: peppermint! It just says winter to me.
This cheesecake is almost too easy. No baking, no sugar, low carb and comes together in about 15 minutes. With a crust that tastes like Oreo cookies, it was the most popular dessert of the visit, even though we had plenty of other desserts with real sugar. There's only a slight change to the original recipe (upped the whipping cream from 2 tablespoons to 4), as I like a fluffier mousse-like cheesecake. Also added a pinch of salt to the crust. Should also note that I used my favorite brand of sugar substitute called Swerve, but you can use whatever you like.
Adapted from: All Day I Dream About Food
Number of servings: 16
The Holiday season is here, with Hanukkah coming up next week and Christmas soon following. Here we're breaking out a theme most revelers get behind: gingerbread. This looks like a gigantic Hostess Ho Ho [Ed. note: DID SOMEONE SAY HOSTESS HO HO], and may initially appear imposing, but it's actually very light and fluffy, with a beautiful hint of gingerbread spice.
Now it has come to my attention from certain people [Ed. note: umm <whistling>] that some of you might want to make this more of an "adult" dessert and put a dash of bourbon or rum into the eggnog filling. Honestly, I would advise against putting more liquid into the filling; the main reason I added mascarpone cheese was to make the filling more stable. Adding more liquid could make this a bit of a messier proposition. Of course, if you want to have a drink (like a bourbon or hot toddy) with the cake, by all means do.
[Ed. note: Don't call this a "log" for cheap comedic effect don't call this a "log" for cheap comedic effect don't call this a "log"...]
Happy Holidays! More confections to come!
Adapted from: Crazy for Crust
Number of servings: 8-10
The BF and I recently had a wonderful dinner at a neighbor's house. Husband and wife (turns out she and the BF went to the same university and graduated a year apart) and their two adorable children. The wife made a special request for something sugar-free and low carb, something I always try to pull out of the proverbial hat over the holidays.
So besides the normal sugar-full monstrosity that sent the kids (and BF) spinning [Ed. note: GERPH SNORG FLEEGLE NOP], I presented a version of this pumpkin cheesecake to the wife.
"Honey, you have to try this," she gasped at her husband. Soon, everybody was taking a small forkful.
The husband and my BF, bless them, went from sumptuous satisfied grins to quizzical bewilderment. The husband cocked his head, "This is...sugar...free?" No wonder, it really did taste like a decadent cheesecake.
The BF likes to say these are "weapons." [Ed. note: As in, people, including or especially kids, will not question whether or not the dish has a particular ingredient until you tell them.] When time allows, I experiment and make us sugar-free-grain-free-low-carb desserts (or similarly constructed main dishes) and the BF will say, "It's okay, but it tastes healthy." Kiss of death. So when something gets the "weapon" seal of approval, it must be shared. The pumpkin cheesecake will definitely make an appearance on this year's Thanksgiving dessert table.
Many have even asked me to post more sugar-free, low carb desserts, so rest assured, there will be more to come.
A big reason why this cheesecake and other such desserts can now be made: sugar substitutes have come a long way in the last 30 years. Had never found one that I liked for baking, until stumbling on a product called Swerve (swervesweet.com/products), which comes in granulated, powdered-confectioners, or brown form. This is not a sponsored post, simply have made countless desserts with it and the performance screams "real thing." Will bet you can't tell the difference.
You can purchase Swerve online, or I have been lucky enough to find in my local grocery store. Am sure you could try a different brand, but I highly recommend this one and can't vouch for other brands in the final outcome of this particular dessert.
The original recipe for this mini cheesecake says it serves two, but for the aforementioned dinner it was cut into four small pieces and was a perfect ending to the meal. Made a few tweaks to the original recipe from the blog All Day I Dream About Food: upped the cream cheese filling just a bit and doubled the whipped cream topping.
For people who count their Net Carbs, half of this cheesecake is only 3 Net Carbs.
Number of servings: 2 large or 4 small
Adapted from: All Day I Dream About Food for Swerve, The Ultimate Sugar Replacement
[Ed. note: We have a special-guest blogger today.]
My name Marlowe. I chocolate labrador. I five years old. Mom and Dad say I "rescue" lab, but I not know what that mean. All I know is they love me, feed me, bathe me, pick up my poop, and give me scratches and belly rubs.
Mom say she try make mini-caramel apples but always fail. Say caramel not stick to wet apple flesh. It slide off and look bad. Dad mean and no give me caramel, say cause blockage and if I has blockage I go doctor. Me no like go doctor.
Mom say she has great idea use butterscotch chips instead of caramel. Say dessert is easy to make, good for Halloween, and for sure will use for Thanksgiving. Also say kids like because treats are super-mini-small and can eat in one bite.
Mom prefer apples at room temperature [Ed. note: ROOM TEMPERATURE] since butterscotch soft, but Dad like apples cold because he weird. Also say apples stay fresh for several days, keep well in fridge or on counter. I no allowed to counter surf any more because I eat all food on counter and everybody has a mad.
Anyway me thank you for reading this especially since I no have thumbs and is difficult to type.
As final, I dressing up for Halloween. I go as UPS driver. Mom and Dad say to wish you a very Happy Halloween.
Adapted from: I Am Baker (blog)
Number of servings: Makes approximately 20-24 mini apples
There are brownies, and there are HEAVY DUTY brownies like these. The kind of brownies that discourage driving or operating complicated machinery, immediately afterward. Brownies that make your primary care physician gasp in horror at the blood test results.
Heavy. Duty. Brownies.
Not only intensely decadent and fudgy, these also have a hit of espresso. [Ed. note: WAIT A MINUTE YOU DIDN'T TELL ME THAT BEFOREHAND WHY AM I FLYING DID YOU SEE THAT ROLLER-SKATING ELEPHANT IS THIS MUCH FUN LEGAL]
However the most important aspect of this dessert is the frosting-to-brownie ratio, which you can properly see in the photo below. Am all about the frosting. As far as I'm concerned there can never be enough, and if you're the same these won't disappoint.
You could wait until Halloween to treat yourself to this, but if you make it now I won't tell. (It actually freezes very well, if you want to put some of it away for later.)
All of the usual "healthy" disclaimers, well, yeah. Kind of out the window. But you knew that at the title, right?
Look at that frosting, and check out the chocolate chips in there. [Ed. note: WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE]
The recipe was adapted from Thalia's blog Butter & Brioche. Didn't really change a thing. And I even kept her measurements in grams, as you really want to be extra careful of amounts. If you over-measure the flour, you will have a disappointingly dry brownie. If you're serious about baking, I strongly recommend buying a kitchen scale (have a Oxo digital food scale that kicks ass).
PS: Because we can't be all sweets all the time, last year's countdown to Halloween included a vegan garam masala carrot soup (www.moveablefeast.me/blog/vegan-garam-masala-carrot-soup).
Adapted from: Butter & Brioche
Number of servings: Makes one 8 x 8" pan
"Only the knife knows what goes on in the heart of a pumpkin."
It's here. October. My favorite month of the year. The month where the BF hangs on for dear life, as I vortex all things pumpkin. [Ed. note: I'm worried about you, man. Seriously.] Pumpkin items I adore: bread, muffins, donuts, cakes, cookies, popovers (coming soon to the blog), ice cream, mousse, cheesecake, soups, curries, pancakes, french toast, scones, cinnamon rolls, trifle and candles. Lots and lots of candles.
Most unnecessary pumpkin-spice products that I've seen? Pringles, vodka, body lotion, kale chips, salsa, salmon and bagels (the BF had a bite and requested that I never, ever, pinkie-swear-on-penalty-of-death buy that again). [Ed. note: Can confirm.]
Side note: The Huffington Post "reports that their taste testers were struck with a variety of reactions to Pringles’ new line of potato chips, ranging from 'surprisingly not revolted' to a 'horrible abomination to humanity.'"
October is also the month to make a mean pumpkin lasagna, crispy pumpkin and sage cannelloni (coming to the blog close to Thanksgiving) and pumpkin gnocchi. Seriously, I feel like there are not enough days in October for everything I want to make with pumpkin. [Ed. note: So this is why you were pining for them in February.]
This pumpkin bread is moist, tender and plush on the inside, with a sumptuous cinnamon-sugar craggy lid. One of my biggest pet peeves when baking pumpkin bread are the recipes that use 1 cup of pumpkin puree out of a can that holds 1 ¾ cup. That leftover puree drives me bat-shit crazy. [Ed. note: Can confirm.] Fear not, this recipe utilizes every last drop of that canned pumpkin and it only takes one bowl to make.
Very key here is the size of your loaf pan, as this will fill out every inch of it. Mine holds 6 liquid cups; it’s 8 × 4 inches on the bottom and 9 × 5 inches on the top. If yours is even slightly smaller or you’re nervous, go ahead and scoop out a little to make a muffin or two.
Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen says, "Finally, I know someone is going to say 'that’s way too much sugar!' but please keep in mind this loaf is gigantic, easily 1.5x a normal one and the sugar is scaled accordingly. You can decrease it if you wish but we have made this now several times and many people have commented about how in-check the sugar level tastes, not over the top at all."
PS: Can't forget last year's pumpkin challah (www.moveablefeast.me/blog/pumpkin-challah), and mini pumpkin whoopie pies with apple cider filling (www.moveablefeast.me/blog/mini-pumpkin-whoopie-pies-with-apple-cider-cream-cheese-filling), which were client and reader favorites.
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen
Number of servings: 8-10
So. We missed a week. Let me explain.
If there is one thing that can throw a serious monkey wrench into a personal-chef business, it's a broken refrigerator. Three weeks of no working fridge in the house, so to the rescue come three friends and their three fridges. (You know who you are and I love you dearly.) The BF and I are driving all over town to these different locations, then out to fulfill all the client orders. Extra time, extra hassle, and then of course problems with new-fridge delivery and oy...
Then, a bonus: jury duty. [Ed. note: #@%$#^&*] I was called to attend, but luckily was dismissed on the second day. A side note: in 1993 I served for four weeks during procedures that were deciding whether or not a serial killer was competent enough to stand trial. We determined that he was.
So, with all apologies, am late in getting into the Rosh Hashanah spirit. Even though it started on Sunday and ends today, Tuesday, it's not too late to make this lovely apple cake. This will work throughout the rest of fall and winter, and really, the last three weeks have had a "better late than never" kind of mantra.
Many years ago I made this for my Momala, and it was an instant favorite (and she is a woman who knows her coffee cakes). The BF enjoyed it for his birthday last year, and of course it was brought out again for this Rosh Hashanah. It doesn't skimp on the apples, the entire house smells like apples, cinnamon, and fall.
The BF and I want to wish all our Jewish family and friends a healthy and happy Shana Tova!
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen
Number of servings: 12-16
For the apples
DO AHEAD: This cake is awesome on the first day but absolutely glorious and pudding-like on the days that follow, so feel free to get an early start on it. I keep it at room temperature covered with foil.
* NOTE: The apples love to hide uncooked pockets of batter, especially near the top. Make sure your testing skewer or toothpick goes not just all the way down to the bottom, but does a shallow dip below the top layer of apples, and make sure it comes out batter-free. Should your cake be browning too fast, before the center is baked through, cover it with foil for all but the last few minutes, while in the oven.
"More people will come if they think we have punch and pie!"
~ Eric Theodore Cartman
Twenty-one years ago, four crudely animated foul-mouthed boys began their seemingly endless journey through grade school in the quaint, cozy mountain town of South Park. Through alien abductions, soul-singing chefs, cannabis-drenched towels, and commentary covering all possible levels of political incorrectness, one thing has been perpetually certain: Eric Cartman loves pie. Loves all desserts, actually.
Growing up, my siblings and I would ask my Mom, "Can we have dessert?" Her reply would often be, "Yes, you can have a piece of fruit." As if channeling Cartman, we would all bellow in unison, "But Mom, fruit is not a dessert."
Honestly, in this form, it really is.
Whenever I bake a pie, especially a blackberry pie, I recall the mother of my best childhood friend (Mrs. C). A master pie maker. She taught me how to make a pie from scratch.
We picked wild blackberries from her daughter's back yard. The berries were so plump, we filled the huge plastic bucket within 15 minutes. Of all the priceless baking tips Mrs. C gave, I'm most thankful for her method of thickening a pie filling with tapioca flour (a.k.a. tapioca starch) instead of cornstarch or all-purpose flour. Tapioca flour makes the filling bright and clear, whereas cornstarch or A.P. flour can give the filling a cloudy look and chalky taste.
This recipe is adapted from Julia Frey's blog Vikalinka. Besides some general streamlining, my changes include adding a bit of cinnamon to the filling, upping the amount of blackberries, and subbing tapioca flour in place of A.P. flour. I love her idea of topping the pie with honeyed creme fraiche (a favorite that really complements the blackberries well).
One note, if you're lucky enough to have wild blackberries in your backyard, use them (and I'm envious). If not, store bought will do just fine. If you're short on time, you can also use your favorite store-bought pie crust. Just don't forget the honeyed creme fraiche. More people will come if they think you have honeyed creme fraiche.
Adapted from: Vikalinka
Number of servings; 8
"Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake."
Today is mamala's birthday, and as with my BF-mom's birthday, we gather here today to celebrate their collective sweet tooth.
Mamala passionately loved root beer floats and "black cows" (made with Coke instead of root beer), quintessential summer treats. Are they as nostalgic for you as they are for me? If so, what was your first memory of them? (Feel free to comment below!)
Even though I was lucky enough to grow up with an A&W in my hometown (it's still there), growing up we didn't frequent it too often. Mamala made her own floats at home, and oh how I loved watching her make them. One scoop of vanilla ice cream in a frosted glass. Root beer poured just so. The carbonation would foam up instantly, but never overflowed. She had the touch. I also remember she used a long, slender soda spoon to give it a slight stir.
I made it home for almost all of her birthdays, but one year it wasn't possible and the BF and I Fed Exed these root beer float cupcakes (frosting in a separate container, ice cream not included) to my sister and mom. They were delighted, and a little surprised, to discover what was in the box.
My first attempt at this was as a full-sized bundt cake, as was originally written in one of my favorite cookbooks, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Renato Polafito. When I spied the cupcake version on the Smitten Kitchen blog, knew I had to make it for mamala. I added the root beer fudge frosting.
If you don't have time to make individual cupcakes, make it into a bundt, frost it and serve ice cream on the side. Either way, you won't be sorry.
Adapted from: Matt Lewis and Renato Polafito, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and Smitten Kitchen (cupcakes)
Number of servings: 22 cupcakes or one (10-inch) bundt cake
PS: One year ago...
Marionberries have a short season. July to be precise. The plump, Oregon-borne morsels are the cabernet of blackberries, with a tart-yet-sweet flavor that's somewhere between raspberries and blackberries.
NPR states, "The marionberry, a cross between Chehalem and Olallie blackberries, was bred at Oregon State University as part of a berry-developing partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that dates back to the early 1900s. It's named for Marion County in the Willamette Valley, where most of the field trials took place."
[Ed. note: To be clear, this has nothing to do with the late-D.C.-Mayor Marion S. Barry, who in 1990 was caught in an FBI sting smoking crack. Man, this blog suddenly got dark, didn't it? All apologies, we now return you to your regular programming.]
The original recipe calls for raspberries, but I chose marionberries as an homage to my home state. Feel free to use raspberries, blackberries or even boysenberries. I have been lucky enough to find fresh marionberries, but have used frozen too and it's delicious.
An incredibly moist, unassuming everyday cake that is perfect for breakfast, tea or a light dessert. Works well with ice cream or softly whipped cream, but it needs no accoutrement Well, maybe a cup of coffee!
Adapted from: Bon Appetit, March 2015 and Orangette
Number of servings: 8
I'm Jacquie, personal chef & recipe developer in the bay area. Living life with my wildly funny boyfriend and dog Marlowe. Lover of books, bourbon, chocolate and movies.