Where did July go?

This is the first blog entry that I am writing that doesn’t have a recipe attached to it.  I hope you will forgive me but at the moment I have two strangers in my kitchen and so, I have no way to bake or cook for me or you.  Well, I know who they are, they are working for me.



July was such a busy month and it just slipped on by me.  The beginning of the month, I found myself as a tour guide with my dear cousin’s two sons plus one girlfriend.  It was great fun as we went through Harry Potter World, Disneyland, Solvang, San Francisco, Napa and all the local attractions around Sacramento. They kept me hopping as we all stayed up late talking and watching movies.  I truly enjoyed their visit.

A few days before they left, the California State Fair opened.  I was scheduled to work in the Olive Oil Education Classroom the weekend before they left.  When I agreed to do this, I did it, of course, for the love of olive oil and to get the word out on what a good quality oil is.  I didn’t really think through the hours of this commitment.  I had to arrive by 10:30 and stayed until 8:30 or so.  I did have little mini-breaks throughout the day. The weekend classes were packed.  It was a lot of work.  I didn’t work all through the 17 days but I did put in ten 11-hour days, all the weekends.  Some days I was in charge of getting the classroom set up with the necessary papers, pamphlets and the correct oils poured, announcing the instructor.  Then, cleaning everything up in 15 minutes, washing the cups and setting up all over again within an hour.  Some days, I taught up to five classes a day.  Other days, I did both set up, clean up and teach.  It was crazy and much fun.  I met some young people who opted to volunteer in our Olive Oil Classroom and enjoyed getting to know them. I came home very night pretty exhausted.

I did get my Five Seconds of Fame!  KCRA Channel 3 with Leticia Ordaz came to interview me about the classes.  I was on the 6:00 News that Sunday.  I was working and couldn’t see it.  They didn’t show it at 11:00 but my neighbor, Eileen, actually recorded it for me to see.  I don’t know how they found any cohesive sentence because I stuttered and made no sense when I saw the camera on me.  Ha ha.  What an experience and now I can say that I’ve been on TV.  I’ll make sure to put it on my resume.  (Wink!)

On two days, I offered a cooking class.  Boy, do people show up when there is free food.  People were lining up outside the classroom to watch and wait to sample.  I baked one Celebration Cake for each class, slicing paper thin pieces and I barely had enough for everyone.  Unfortunately, the first day I was in such a hurry that I wrote “Celebrity Cake” on the white board and told everyone that if they didn’t get all the instructions they could look it up.  Well, when you search Celebrity Cake on this site, it doesn’t show up!  Dang!  I felt terrible.  I’m hoping people will search for cake and see that it shows up.

I love teaching, so doing the classes was great!  If you came to visit me at the State Fair, thank you!  I saw a few former students and friends while I was there.

That was July.  Now August, I am having my kitchen cabinets painted.  They are looking wonderful.  I can’t wait to get everything put back and see how it looks.  It’s a great time to deep clean all my small appliances and cooking utensils.  I’m very tempted to buy a few new things.  I’ve got the shopping bug.  I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

There are a few recipes that I am excited to try out.  As soon as I get the kitchen put together again, I will experiment and blog about them.

Until then, eat well, drink well and live well.

Cherry Hand Pies

Cherries and I go way back.  I have a friend who lives in the Seattle area but owns a Cherry Farm in Idaho.  Imagine owning a Cherry Farm!  Every year, after harvest, he goes to Montana to sell his crop.  With the money he makes from the sales, he and his wife host a weekend party on the farm.  How wonderful is that!   Every year they send a postcard with some clever saying to invite people to the farm.  We never have made it up there but still dream of doing so some day.

I love the idea of growing one’s own food.  I have a vegetable garden that I tend to, mostly in the summer.  I, also, have herbs that I love to incorporate in my dishes.  Fruit trees are another way I grow food.  I have a few citrus, one pomegranate and kiwis.  I know the last one is a vine and not a tree.  Anyway, I don’t have apples, cherries or peaches.  I do go up the hill to get apples in the fall, at least once a year.  You can’t get closer to farm to fork than if you pick your own and bring them home.

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to hear Georgeanne Brennan speak.  She is an author that I truly enjoy.  She lives in this area and has a new cookbook out.  I love her way in the kitchen.  She is influenced much by the French country ways.  The idea of eating what’s in season, better yet, eating what’s in your garden.  All her ideas really resound with me.  I think I am a country girl at heart.  I know I feel so free and happy on a farm.  I just don’t know if I could live on one.  Well, back to Georgeanna, at her talk she spoke of the long meals with friends.  She talked about how long it took her to write her last book and the difficulty she had in finding a publisher.  Someone asked her if she had any ideas about what to do with the stone fruits that are coming ripe at the moment.  Georgeanne answered that she had the perfect solution.  It’s called a Bachelors’ Pot (I didn’t quite catch the second word.) or ???? -Something in French.  I nearly failed my one and only semester of French in college, so…  Basically, you get a large jar and fill it with the fruit of the season. So, you layer cherries and then apricots, plums, peaches, etc.  Just layer the fruit through their season and with each layer you add brandy.  By the end of the summer, you have some delicious fruit to put on ice cream or cheesecake or panna cotta, whatever you choose, and some great brandy to sip after dinner.

After hearing Georgeanne’s talk, it got me thinking more and more about picking my own fruit.  Nothing better than freshly picked fruit.  I looked up some u-pick farms in the area and on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I set off to pick some Cherries!  It was close to home and they also had apricots and some berries.  I brought my bounty home and since the next day was Memorial Day, I thought that Cherry Pie would be most appropriate.  Searching around on the internet, I found a wonderful recipe for Cherry Hand Pies on bakerbynature.com.

It does take some time, as all pies from scratch do but I find that if you plan ahead, you can make some things the day before to relieve the long stretch of cooking time.  The crust can be made the day before.  You might be able to pit the cherries the day before, too.  Although, I would probably make the crust earlier but leave the cherries for the bake day.

Now, I must seem to be a “Hostess” fan.  If you haven’t seen my “Hostess”-style creamed filled chocolate cupcakes, you might not understand.  I like the idea of trying to recreate things from my youth.  I think that many of these treats do not taste as good as they did when I was young and maybe that’s my fascination.  Let me be quite clear here, I didn’t eat a lot of these treats but I would occasionally have a chocolate cupcake, a cherry pie or a ding dong or two.  This did not happen on a regular basis.  As I was baking these hand pies, I thought it would be fun to give them a glaze like these traditional store bought ones.  This is optional.  I had a lot of fun glazing them and I think that it brought the pies to a different level.  Give it a try and tell me what you think.



2 cups Unbleached Flour

1/2 tsp. Salt

3/4 Baking Powder

1 Tbl. Sugar

1/2 cup (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, very cold and cut into cubes

1/2 cup Sour Cream, very cold


2 1/2 cups pitted Sweet Cherries, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup Sugar

1 1/2 Tbl. Cornstarch

1 Tbl. fresh Lime Juice


1 large Egg, beaten


1/4 cup Whole Milk

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

2 cups Confectioners’ Sugar

Start with the crust:  In a large bowl, whisk Flour, Salt, Baking Powder and Sugar together.


Add the Butter.  Using a pastry cutter or your hands work Butter in until it’s a course meal. The Butter should be large pea-size pieces.

Using a rubber spatula, add the Sour Cream.

Turn it out onto a well floured surface and knead a few times until it comes together.  Pat the dough into a 10 inch log.  Roll out into a 10″ x 12″ rectangle.

Dust both sides of the dough lightly with Flour and fold into threes.  Start at the shorter end, fold down and fold lower end up, like a letter.

Flip dough over and roll again into a 10″ x 12″ rectangle.  Fold it in three again.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.  Here is where you can leave it in the refrigerator overnight.

For Cherry filling:  Combine Cherries, Sugar, Cornstarch, and Lime Juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat.

Simmer, stirring constantly until the mixture starts to thicken.  Reduce heat to low and cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature.  Careful here!  The filling can become too thick if you are not watchful.

Prepare glaze by combining Milk, Confectioners’ Sugar and Vanilla Extract.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silk pat and set aside.

Roll the dough into a large square that’s about 1/8″ thick.  With a straight edge and pastry wheel (or pizza cutter), cut out 16 – 3 inch squares.  Make 2 or 3 cuts on 8 of the squares.

Fill the other 8 squares with 2 Tbl. of Cherry filling.  Lightly brush the edges with the beaten Egg and top each Cherry topped square.  Crimp sides together with a fork and lightly brush the tops of each pie.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool.  Then glaze.

Here is where I enjoy the idea of being a home cook.  Notice the pies are not perfect.  Some day I will strive for that but for now, I just want my recipes to look taste and taste even better than they look.

I really enjoyed listening and singing along to Creedence Clearwater Revival during this bake.

Well, then, until next time.  Remember to eat well, drink well and live well.

Popovers with Olive Oil

Well, it has been a while.  I have had you on my mind every day but just didn’t make the time to write.  Notice that I didn’t say that I “couldn’t find” the time because that is never true.  One can always find the time if one tries.  I was focusing on other things that seem to take me away from writing.  Anyway, here I am.

April and May were busy with olive oil competitions.  I was invited to judge at the Napa Valley Olive Oil Competition in Calistoga.  It was great fun.  I didn’t take any pictures that day.  I think that was due to the cold weather.  We were inside all day with our coats on.  I, also, had the opportunity to venture out a little.  I tried out for a Honey Panel at UC Davis and was accepted.  So, now on Tuesdays, I’m tasting honey.  Olive Oil is my passion but I’ve got to say that Honey is a lot of fun.  It’s so yummy, too.  It’s very exciting to try something so different.  I am being exposed to different aromas and tastes.  The bad news to that is that I am even more sensitive to smells wherever I go.  I am always trying to relate smells to honey or olive oil aromas.  It’s weird.  My EVOO panel leader had warned us about this.  Sue was right.

The beginning of May brought me a family visitor from out of state.  It was someone that I didn’t know well, so, it was fun showing him around and getting to know him better.

We went to San Francisco for the day and I had breakfast at one of my favorite places to eat, the Cliff House.  Unfortunately, it was foggy so the view wasn’t the best but the food was wonderful as always.  I ate my fill of popovers.  I don’t think I have had popovers anywhere else but there.  My mom never made them.  If you have never had them, let me explain how heavenly they are.  The outer layer is crusty.  Once you open it, you find a large pocket of air.  The inner pastry reminds me of a very thin Yorkshire Pudding, soft and custard like.

On a whim, the night before Mother’s Day, I looked up the recipe to see how difficult they are to make.  To my surprise, they are very easy.  Have you ever tried to make these?  I decided to try them for my breakfast the next day.  The only problem I was that I don’t own a popover pan.  I had to use my 6 oz. glass custard cups which I usually appropriate for flan.

Sunday morning, I woke up early and started my popover experience.  I’m not sure if you can tell through my writing but I can be a little bull-headed at times.  The recipe called for greasing the cups with shortening or “spray”.  I am against the sprays because I worry about what’s in them.  One of these days, I’ll go out and buy a can and we can talk about it some more.  For the moment, just understand that I don’t have any in the house.  So, I figured shortening is just vegetable oil in solid form.  This is another thing that doesn’t “feel” right to me.  I do have some in the pantry and will use small quantities in a few Christmas treats or pie crusts  but I try to limit the use of this fat also.  You can imagine that I thought of my two stand-by’s:  butter and olive oil.  Since I was using olive oil in the recipe, I opted to grease the custard cups with olive oil.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out too well.  I’m not sure if I overcooked the popovers but next time I’m going to try butter or better yet, buy a non-stick popover pan.

The bottoms stuck to the glass cups but the popovers were still very yummy.  I ate them with gusto, butter and a cup of coffee.


Shortening or Nonstick Spray to grease pan

2 Eggs

1 cup Milk

1 Tbl. Olive Oil

3/4 cup Unbleached Flour

1/2 tsp. Salt

Grease Popover Pan or 5 6-oz. custard cups.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Beat Eggs, Milk and Olive Oil with a whisk or beater in a medium bowl.  Beat until mixture is well blended.


Add Flour and Salt.


Beat until mixture is blended but still a bit lumpy, like with pancakes.

Fill the popover or custard cups halfway.  Bake for 40 minutes or till crusts are very firm.  Don’t peek.

Turn off oven.  Remove and prick with a fork to let out the steam.  Return popovers to the oven for 5-10 minutes until desired crispness.  Serve hot.

Each popover contains 164 Calories, 8 g. Fat, 6 g. Protein, 16 g. Carbs.

The music to listen to is anything by Tony Bennett, of course.  I like his Duet 1 CD.  There is a lovely rendition of  “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” on it.

So, this is how my cups looked after I took the popovers out.  Disappointing but they still tasted great.

Chocolate Cake to Go!

I was in a high end grocery store the other day and I found myself in the olive oil aisle.  I always go there even if I’m not in the need for oil, just to peruse.  There was a woman there looking at all the bottles.  She was taking a long time, studying all the oils, and not deciding on one.  I looked over towards her and she asked if I could help her find a virgin olive oil.    Well, you know I can’t keep my mouth shut.  Why? I asked her.  She had just seen an episode of America’s Test Kitchen and they recommend that people use a virgin oil to fry and not an extra virgin.  I asked her why and she replied that the cooking show said that it’s cheaper and better for frying.  Then she mumbled something about smoking point.  I’m pretty tired of hearing people worry about the smoking point of olive oil.  Really?   I told her that the smoking point is higher than is usually thought, especially if it is a good oil and I asked what she was going to fry.  Oh!  She was making marinara sauce and it was to sauté the onions and garlic.  Oh!  I asked her what oil she had at home.  I don’t want to tell you the label but it is a “grocery brand” of a popular market.  I asked if it was the Italian, California, or Greek label.  She didn’t know.  Any of those would be fine to start her spaghetti sauce, I explained.  I didn’t take the time to tell her that what she had at home, was probably virgin already.  I, also, didn’t tell her that the extra virgin label did not guarantee the quality of the oil.  That many bottles of oil have extra virgin on the label but are in fact only virgin.  I, also, didn’t ask her how old it was because I was afraid to tell her that it might be rancid and possibly not fit for human consumption!   I did recommend some of the bottles on the shelf for nice finishing oils.  She left without buying anything but happy knowing that she could use her oil for her sauce.

As she left, an older gentleman was there looking at the oils.  Boy, was I tempted to ask him if he needed help.  Instead, I just turned around and left.  I can’t help everybody.

I have a difficult time in supermarkets.  I wish I could wear an olive green cape and stand in the olive oil aisle and talk to everyone who wanders by.  Maybe I should just stay away from that aisle all together.  It’s difficult because I want to explain it all and there is not enough time or I will sound like a pedant.  So, I just give a tidbit of information and people take that and run with it but it’s not the whole picture.

Can I please say one thing about the smoking point of olive oil?  Italians, Greeks and Spaniards having been using this oil for everything from sauces, salads and frying for thousands of years and they have been doing just fine.  In fact, if you have ever been to Europe, you know how wonderful their cuisine is.  So, please relax on the smoking point.  Most oils, Canola, Olive, Corn, etc. have about the same smoking point – in the 400º or so.   Butter’s smoking point is 350º.  Why doesn’t anybody worry about the smoking point of Canola Oil or Vegetable Oil?  Why just Olive Oil?  Refined oils of any kind, will have a higher smoking point.  Refined oils are processed with heat and chemicals.  As a home cook, when I see my oil smoking, I lower the heat and add whatever I’m cooking immediately to the pan.  I am watchful so that this doesn’t occur too often.  Many inexpensive oils are virgin no matter what their label says.  So, if you are watching your wallet and plan on frying a lot, then go for those oils.  Otherwise, don’t worry about using an extra virgin oil for frying, sautéing and whatever else you are cooking.  That’s all I want to say about the matter.

I had the opportunity to judge at the California State Fair Olive Oil Competition, this year, also.  It was great fun!  I sat at a table with a fellow sensory panelist which I have know for years and a new acquaintance that felt like an old friend when we were through. This is a one day event.  We start at 9:00 and end about 5:00 or so.  We tasted 35 oils.  So, I feel it is a little more laid back than the L. A. competition in so far as the amount of oils we taste in the allotted time ensues a more relaxed atmosphere.  There isn’t much time for mingling but we do have the opportunity to chat with our table judges as we wait for our next flight of oils.

I have been asked to join the Napa Valley competition which is coming up in May.  I haven’t heard from the Yolo County head judge.  So, I might not be in that one.

This week’s recipe is a Chocolate Cake baked in Mason jars.  It’s lovely idea for a picnic.  A few weeks back, my son and his girlfriend were driving down to Los Angeles on the day that happened to be her birthday.  So, I thought it would be fun to pack them a basket with some goodies for the road and cake for the birthday girl.  The Chocolate Cake is made with olive oil and is quite flavorful.  The frosting is the best I’ve ever made to date.  I just spooned the frosting into a ziplock bag and cut the corner.  I tried to use a piping tip but it didn’t allow me to point the frosting into the edges once inside the jar. It’s so fun and portable.  I found it at sarahcucinabella.com under Deep, Dark Chocolate Cake in a Jar.  Let me know if you give it a try.


1 cup Unbleached Flour

1/2 cup Sugar

1/2 cup Dutch-processed Cocoa Powder

3/4 tsp. Baking Soda

1 tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt

1 large Egg

1/2 cup Milk

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1/2 cup Boiling Water


3/4 cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

2 cups Confectioner’s Sugar, sifted

3 oz. Dark or Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted and cooled

1 1/2 Tbls. Cream

3/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Set six pint-size canning jars on a baking sheet. In a medium bowl, whisk together Flour, Sugar, Cocoa Powder, Baking Soda, Baking Powder and Salt until mixed evenly.

Add Egg, Milk, Olive Oil and Vanilla to the bowl.  Whisk for two minutes.  It won’t be easy, but it’s worth doing it by hand.

Pour the Boiling Water into bowl and whisk gently to combine until it is of a smooth consistency.

Divide the batter evenly among canning jars.  Batter will only fill about 1/3 of jar.  Slide baking sheet into oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool before frosting.  Cake can be covered and stored for 3 or 4 days.

While cake is cooling, prepare Frosting.

Add all of ingredients to a mixer bowl and with the paddled attachment.  Beat until thoroughly combined and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Spoon into a ziplock bag.  Snip one end and pipe into the jars.

Screw on the covers and you are ready to go!

This is a pretty quick recipe.  I’ve been listening to Louie Armstrong a lot.  His music is so upbeat and I’m hooked.

Until next time, eat well, drink well and live well.



Stuffed Chicken Breasts

It’s been raining off and on lately.  We’ve been having beautiful warm sunny days and then the very next day, it’ll be cold and rainy.  Sometimes we get both extremes on the same day.  It’s on days like this that I go out to the garden and pick snails.  I have snails everywhere.  They eat my plants, flowers and fruit.  I put them in a plastic bucket and toss them into the GREEN garbage bin.  I figure there they are able to live by eating all the weeds and grasses that I throw in there and once a week, they get hauled off to the dump’s large compost pile.  I try not to kill insects when I’m outside.  I figure that that is their home.  The only exceptions are black widows.  I hunt them down and smash them with gusto.  They scare me.  As long as insects are outside, they are safe from me but don’t get into my house.  You never know what mood I might be in.  Generally, inside, I’m not too kind.

There is this one snail that I have left alone.  I was just thinking that I haven’t named him.  I’ve been remiss.  Two years ago, I had my house painted.  This snail had his house painted at the same time with my paint!  I hope they didn’t charge me for that.  So, his shell is painted to match my house.  (It’s a new thing in the design world.)

Whenever I see him, I leave him alone and snap a picture to send to my daughter.  This last time, she asked me how long do snails live?  Good question.  I googled it and they only live a year.  So this designer snail might be the son or grandson of the original painted snail.  I’ll still honor this guy and let him live in my garden. My daughter made a remark about how I see the world a little differently than most people.  This is my daughter and I know I felt the same way about my mom.  This got me thinking about this blog and you.  Yes, you.  I feel so appreciative to have you read my musings.  I realize that you don’t have to.  In fact, many of the blogs I follow, I often skip over the story because I’m really just wanting the recipe.  Unless of course, the story catches my interest.

I used to teach high school Spanish and would often start the class with a story of my past, when I was a child or teenager, of my present, something silly that I did or said, or of my family or pets that made me chuckle.  I don’t have a problem laughing at myself and my loved ones.  I’ve figured out that you have taken my students’ place.  They were a captive audience but you aren’t.  I recognize that you could pass right over this.   And so if you have made it this far, thank you.

Today’s recipe is an entree.  I thought it was time to switch a little since all I have been doing is treats and desserts.  It reminds me a little of a snail because it is rolled up into a spiral. Unfortunately, once it’s cooked it just looks like a stuffed chicken breasts.  It’s so yummy.  It looks more complicated than it is but it could  easily be a weeknight dinner.  You could prepare some things in advance like the chicken breasts could be flattened days ahead.  The marinara sauce could be store bought or made in advanced.  I used only one can because I don’t like too much sauce but if you do by all means just add another can.   Let me know if you try it.  Write in the comment section and send me a picture.



4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

1/2 tsp. Salt, divided

Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

4 pieces Bacon

12 oz. Spinach, stemmed

4 oz. Softened Cream Cheese (I used Neufchatel)

1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

2 Egg Whites, slightly beaten

1 1/4 cups Breadcrumbs

1 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Homemade Marinara Sauce (You could always use a jar marinara but why, when it’s so easy to whip one up at home!

2 Tbl. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1- 2 can (14 oz.) Tomato Sauce, no salt added

3 cloves Garlic

2 tsp. Basil

1 Bay Leaf

Salt and Pepper to taste

Red Chili Pepper Flakes (optional) to taste

On medium heat, place Olive Oil in a saucepan.  Once the Oil is hot, add Garlic.  Lightly brown garlic.  At this time, you can leave the garlic or take it out.

Add the Tomato Sauce, Basil, Bay Leaf, Salt and Pepper.  Bring heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally while cooking the Chicken.

Spray or oil bottom of casserole pan.  Flatten Chicken Breasts by placing in between two plastic warp sheets and pounding until 1/4 inch thick.  Season with 1/2 of Salt and Pepper.

Cook Bacon until crisp.

Remove Bacon and reserve 1 Tbl. of bacon grease.  Set aside 15 – 10 Spinach leaves.  Add remaining Spinach to skillet and stir until slightly wilted.  Remove from heat.  Transfer Spinach to the food processor.  Add Cream Cheese, Parmesan, Bacon, and remaining Salt.  Process until smooth.

Place Spinach Leaves on top of Chicken.  Spread 2 Tbls. of Spinach/Cream Cheese mixture.

Roll up Chicken Breasts, dips in Egg Whites and roll in Breadcrumbs.  Place seam side down in prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove from oven. Set oven to broil.  Spoon on Marinara Sauce and sprinkle with Mozzarella.

Return to oven and broil 2 to 3 minutes until Cheese melts.

Serves 4.  Each serving contains: 455 Calories, 25.6 g. Fat, 21 g. Carbs, 36 g. Protein.

Eat well, drink well, and live well.  Until next time.