Sunday, July 31, 2016

Our House Favorite Made Even Better

Not just cake, James' birthday nearly always calls for his favorite -- spaghetti and clam sauce. Though I make this favorite throughout the year for a special birthday dinner I slip in a little smoky bacon.
While the spaghetti is cooking I sauté 3 slices of chopped bacon in about 1/4 cup of hot olive oil. Next I add 2 chopped garlic cloves and a pinch of chile flakes to the pan followed (after about a minute) by the juice of one lemon, a good sized handful of chopped parsley and about 3/4 cups of white wine. After the wine cooked down by about half I tossed in about 4 pounds of very small little neck clams.
Honestly I prefer manilla clams which are small and sweet and James and I both think are perfect for spaghetti but so hard to find these days.
With the pan tightly covered it takes about 7 minutes for all the clams to open.
Meanwhile the pasta is cooking and when it's ready and drained I add it and about 3 TB butter to the pan with the clams, give everything a good toss around, add in another small bunch of fresh parsley and bring dinner to the table.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Happy Birthday James

A birthday dinner for two calls for a special cake -- mini cake for the birthday boy.
I bought these 3" cake pans years ago and had nearly forgotten them until this afternoon when cake for one seemed like the obvious choice. No leftovers makes it easier to get back on the diet.

I went for a simple Vanilla White Cake.

Preheat the oven to 350º
Prepare five 3" mini cake pans with buttered parchment paper on the bottom, sides buttered, the entire pan lightly dusted with flour.
Cream 1 stick of room temperature butter with 1 cup of sugar.
Add 2 eggs and 3 egg yolks one by one (beating well after each addition)
Drizzle in 1/2 tsp of good quality vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of cake flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp salt all sifted together
Add 1/3 of the flour, beat until just mixed, add 1/3 of the milk (1/2 cup total) and repeat until the last of the milk is added and the batter is silky smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake springs back to your touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I trimmed the mini cakes and used two split in the center to make 3 nice even layers which I brushed with homemade jam and a fluffy sweet American buttercream.

In an electric mixer set to medium speed mix 1 stick of softened butter and 1 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar until smooth. When danger of dusting your kitchen in powdered sugar has passes, turn the mixer up to high to beat in as much air as possible, drizzle in a touch of vanilla and 1 - 2 TB of whole milk and mix to desired fluffy consistency.

Classic birthday cake in miniature.

Many many happy returns Honey!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fruits of Summer

A new garden and a few grapes not yet eaten by the passing deer.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Lazy Summer Day

Late July and five calves on the ground.
Lazy days eating grass and napping in the shade.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Of all the years to miss the fair.
I was out of town for work and then just made it back for a day and a half of power weeding, cooking and general improvements before our houseguests rolled into town.
I was in such a rush getting dinner into the oven today I ran late and had to ask James to run down to the fair office to pick up my entries. I had no idea I'd won and it turns out this is my best Marin County Fair ever.
I missed seeing my own "pyramid" of prizes and getting my picture in the paper. I admit I was a little disheartened after the Sonoma-Marin fair this year. I usually do very well there and my jellies -- one of which I thought was the best I ever made -- were not a big hit with the judges. And yet -- that very same jelly, Gewürztraminer plum, took best in show in the Preserves competition at Marin county along with my Apple Bourbon jelly which took best in show in the Homegrown category.
I was giddy when James walked in the door.
I love the fair.
I'm never going to miss one again.

Monday, July 4, 2016

American As . . .

Apple, raisin, pecan pie with flaky lard and butter crust.

I pulled this beauty (unbaked) from the freezer just in time to bake up an all American dessert with visiting friends.

Warm pie for dessert. Who needs fireworks?