Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It Takes A Village

A hard working team of volunteers served 327 meals today at the Wednesday Community Meal at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

I wish I could say I helped but it was one of those days when things don't go as planned and you have to just go with it.

Two hours into preparing the meal, I cut my finger pricking potatoes with a knife. It happened so fast and I was afraid to look but my friends determined I needed medical attention.

Fred and Leah took me to the hospital where I received five stitches and the rest of the volunteer team carried on and did a wonderful job. We arrived back in the kitchen just a few minutes before the end of the meal service and everyone was hard at work.

At the end of the day I am feeling blessed to have such loving and helpful friends. And, from now on I am going to use a fork to prick potatoes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Another Zucchini Idea

Seasoned and roasted zucchini slices make a wonderful topping for focaccia or pizza dough.

You could add the slices raw but roasting them in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes makes them less watery and more flavorful. It also shrinks them down so you can utilize more of your summer zucchini stash.

In addition to the roasted zucchini, I topped a recent batch of focaccia with hot Italian chicken sausage, sauteed mushrooms and onions, red pepper and dollops of fromage blanc.

It's fun to experiment with different flavor combinations and utilize the zucchini.

Focaccia Dough:
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar and let sit for 5 minutes or until foamy. Add salt and olive oil. Add flour a cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover and set aside until double in bulk, about 1 hour.

Set dough on a greased sheetpan and press into a rectangle. Let rise for 30 minutes.

The shaped dough rising.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make dimples all over the bread with your fingertips and add desired toppings.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Strawberry Cream Cake

Strawberries and cream are one of my favorite flavor combinations.

How can you not like strawberry shortcake with whipped cream, angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream or even toast with cream cheese and strawberry jam?

So to honor this perfect duo of flavor I created this Strawberry Cream Cake.

I baked two layers of my favorite white cake, soaked them with sweetened strawberries and coated it with a lightly sweetened cream cheese and cream frosting.

The cake turned out pretty and was loved by my dinner guests. A plus is that you can make this cake anytime of year. I used frozen sliced and sweetened strawberries.

Strawberry Cream Cake

For the cake:
1 cup shortening
4 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
6 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups milk
4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and line with parchment two 8-inch round pans that are at least 4-inches deep. Combine the shortening, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, vanilla and almond extract.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the milk and beat for 2 minutes. Add the four unbeaten eggs and remaining 1/2 cup of milk, beat for 2 more minutes.

The batter divided among the two pans.
Pour the batter evenly into the two pans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes before inverting them onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely.

To assemble you need:
24 oz. frozen sliced and sweetened strawberries, defrosted
One of the cake pans cleaned and lined with plastic wrap
Cream cheese and cream frosting

Use a serrated knife to cut one of the cake layers in half.

Put one of the halves, crumb side up in the lined cake pan. Spread 1/3 of the strawberries over the layer and be sure to drizzle on 1/3 of the juice.

Top with the other half of the cake layer crumb side down. Press the cake down using your hand or the back of a spoon.

Spread 1/3 of the strawberries and juice over the top of the cake layer.

Use a serrated knife to cut the final cake in half and put half of the cake crumb side up in the pan.

Drizzle the final 1/3 of the strawberries and juice over the cake and top with the last half of cake crumb side down.

Press this down and cover with plastic wrap.

Put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes or until the cake layers firm up.

Invert onto a cake stand or plate and frost with Cream Cheese and Cream Frosting.

Chill the cake for at least 2 hours before serving.

Cream Cheese and Cream Frosting:
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Whip the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

Finally add the heavy cream and whip for 2 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Zucchini Bread

It's that time of year when zucchinis in the garden double in size overnight and you have a surplus building up fast.

My suggestion is to pick them before they get too big and overwhelming and grate them for future use in breads and cakes.

Grated zucchini freezes just fine so you can portion out the amount you need for your recipes, put it in a labeled freezer bag and you've got a frozen asset ready when you need it.

Pick zucchinis before they get too large. These are just right.

Zucchini Bread
(makes 2 loaves)
3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups grated zucchini
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two bread pans.

In a large bowl beat eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar together. Add grated zucchini.

In another bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and baking powder. Add this to the wet ingredients and mix until well combined.

Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Glad To Be Back

Cooking fresh from the garden produce.

It was so good to be back volunteering at the Wednesday Community Meal.

I missed the work, the community we serve and my fellow volunteers who have become dear friends.

After a quick catch up though we had to get to work because it was a busy busy day.

We had top notch produce thanks to volunteer Kate who has a large garden and is very generous. She brought in squash, beans, tomatoes and some of the best eggplant I've ever seen. We also had lettuce and chard from Spring Hill Organic Farm.

There was lots of chopping to do but we made a really good vegetable medley with tri-colored pasta and beef.

After the doors opened we served 220 meals in just the first hour of service and by the end of the two hour service we had served 342 meals.

And it's not even the last week of the month yet which is almost always the busiest. I'm anticipating that next week will be our busiest ever.

Pasta with roasted beef and vegetables.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Soft chocolate cookies with a hint of espresso and vanilla ice cream make these homemade ice cream sandwiches just about the best thing ever.

Labor Day is just around the corner and these ice cream sandwiches would be just the thing to serve at an end of summer barbecue.

The cookie recipe is from Julie Richardson of Baker & Spice and used to make their coffee and chocolate sandwich cookies. I love Julie's recipe and have been thinking for some time I should use the cookie recipe to make ice cream sandwiches.

I halved the original recipe and used a 3-inch round cutter to make 24 cookies. After filling the baked and cooled cookies with a scoop of softened ice cream, be sure to put them back in the freezer for at least 4 hours before serving.

Ice Cream Sandwiches
Makes 12

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
2/3 cup Dutch Process Cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Using a hand held mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for 5 minutes or until light, scraping down the bowl occasionally as needed.

Add the vanilla. Add the egg. Add the sifted cocoa powder on low speed until combined.

Blend the flour, salt and espresso powder together and add to butter mixture until just combined.

Chill the dough for at least one hour.

Wrap the dough and chill for at least 1 hour before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to approximately a 1/4 inch thick.

Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut cookies and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until cookies are no longer shiny but still soft in the middle.

Cookies baking.

Cool completely before filling with vanilla ice cream.

To Fill the Cookies:

Let your ice cream soften in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.
Put one scoop on a cookie and gently top with another cookie.
Immediately put the ice cream sandwiches in the freezer to set for at least 4 hours before serving.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Drop Oatmeal Scones

I'm back home in Portland and have been busy catching up around the house and a busy day calls for something simple to bake that makes the house smell great.

Drop Oatmeal Scones are tender, delicious and couldn't be easier. Just use one bowl to make the dough and drop it by spoonfuls onto a sheetpan.

Drop Oatmeal Scones

1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup dried cranberries (optional)
* You can substitute other dried fruits for the cranberries. Dried apricots and dried cherries are especially good.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl combine oatmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the shortening and using your fingers cut it into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the milk, egg and vanilla and mix until just combined. Add the dried cranberries and drop large spoonfuls onto sheetpan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


A burger from In-N-Out Burger may not be fancy but boy is it good and a bargain.

We stopped by the Glendale store for a late dinner on our way home from The Getty Center.

The restaurant has been around since 1948 and the menu is simple - just burgers, shakes and fries. The service is fast and friendly.

Why can't we have one Portland?

A cheeseburger costs just 2.20 and be sure to ask for grilled onions. They are a free addition and in my opinion what makes the burger great.

The Getty

The Getty Center is hands down my favorite place to visit in Los Angeles.

The art is fine but the main attractions for me are the gardens and the architecture.

We spent some time looking at the new Herb Ritts exhibit but most of the day outside wandering through the gardens.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Heath Ceramics

We visited the Heath Ceramics store and studio in Melrose yesterday.

I love the simple design and colors of the dinnerware.

These are the dishes Alice Waters uses in her renowned Berkeley, California restaurant Chez Panisse.

I was impressed to learn that Heath Ceramics has teamed up with Skid Row Housing Trust in collecting dinnerware to be donated to the needy.

Until August 31, people can bring the dinnerware they want to donate into Heath Ceramics in exchange for 25-percent off corresponding Heath items.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Spice Station

While walking in the Silverlake neighborhood with my brothers and daughter this afternoon we came across Spice Station a quaint store kind of hidden from the street.

The store was filled with jars of spices, salts and infused sugars.

The sugars were what really caught my attention.

The woman working was friendly and encouraged us to taste so we did.

Wow! There were so many flavors of sugar to try like tangerine, lime, habanero, cinnamon and dark cocoa and they all were fantastic.

The dark cocoa and lime were the ones I chose to buy and can't wait to sprinkle them on top of chocolate shortbread and sugar cookies.

Thankfully the store is happy to take mail orders because I can imagine I'll be wanting more.

Here's the contact information:
Spice Station
3819 W. Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Away In L.A

I just arrived in Los Angeles this morning and will be here for a week visiting my brothers Josh and John.

Some very kind volunteers will fill in for me and run the kitchen at the upcoming Wednesday Community Meal.

While in L.A. I'm on the lookout for interesting food that I can post.

My brothers have a vintage oven that currently doesn't work so I'll have to forgo baking for a while. I think I'll survive.

The O'Keefe & Merritt stove that I wish I could figure out how to get up and running.. The Stove works but the pilot light in the oven won't stay lit.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bread And Croutons

Homemade croutons ready to be toasted in a 400 degree oven.
 At the Wednesday Community Meal we are lucky to receive loafs of crusty artisan bread donated from Grand Central Bakery.

We hand out the loaves to guests and slice it to make sandwiches, toast and homemade croutons.

The homemade croutons are especially popular.

To make them, we toss chunks of the bread in a bit of olive oil and add kosher salt, black pepper, garlic and herbs.  Then we lay the bread on a sheet pan and toast them in a 400 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes.

Purchased croutons are expensive and filled with preservatives. These croutons are way better and the best part is that we are utilizing old bread.

We served 195 meals today at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and lots of homemade croutons on a salad of fresh greens gleaned from Spring Hill Organic Farm.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Red Velvet Macarons

I love the rich look and taste of these red velvet macarons. The cream cheese filling isn't too sweet and they received high praise from my taste testers.


Red Velvet Macarons
180g ground almonds, sifted
270g powdered sugar, sifted
10 grams cocoa powder
150g egg whites, aged 2 to 4 days in the fridge and then brought to room temperature
100g granulated sugar
Red food coloring

Line four heavy baking sheets with good quality parchment paper and set aside. Also, set aside two pastry bags for the piping of the macarons.

Sift together your ground almonds with the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and set aside.

Whisk the egg whites (at room temperature) to glossy firm peaks adding the granulated sugar gradually in four parts. Add the food coloring, a few drops at a time until the egg whites are a deep red color.

Incorporate the dry ingredients into the beaten egg whites using a large rubber scraper.  Mix well. 
Fold the mixture with the rubber scraper by pulling down the sides and flipping the mixture over. Do this until you have a smooth mixture that falls like a “ribbon” off the scraper.

Transfer the mixture into the two piping bags. Use rubber bands to close the piping bags. Clip the tip of the bags, one at a time, and pipe small quarter sized rounds, leaving 1-inch of space between each because they spread as they set.

Leave to set for about 30 minutes or until the top has formed a crust and is not sticky to the touch. While they are setting, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. A convection oven is preferable. 

Bake one sheet at a time in the center of the oven for about 12 minutes or until the cookie is firm, matte and doesn't wobble when touched.
Leave on the baking tray until cool then lift them all off the parchment carefully. You may need to use a thin knife to help lift them off.

Sort into pairs and fill with cream cheese filling.

Cream Cheese Filling
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whip butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and whip again.

Use a pastry bag to fill the macarons.

Pie Crust

Now is the time to make pie.

With all the wonderful summer fruit available, I thought I should post my favorite pie crust recipe.

Pie crust can actually be kind of controversial — There are the butter pie crust people, the shortening pie crust people, the lard pie crust people and the combination fat pie crust people.

I'm a shortening pie crust person.

I find that shortening crusts are the flakiest, easiest to assemble and you don't have to chill the dough before rolling.
Basic Pie Crust
3 cups flour
1 cup Crisco
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup ice water

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add Crisco and using your fingers, break it into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs with some large pieces remaining.
Add the water, just a few tablespoons at a time until the dough is moist enough to pull together into a ball. Divide dough in half and roll out on a floured surface for the bottom and top crusts.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Summer Fruit Sauces

Homemade apricot sauce on pancakes.

There are so many summer fruits available now that it's the perfect time to whip up some fruit sauces. Homemade sauces are also a good way to use up over ripe fruit.

I love maple syrup on pancakes but this morning I made apricot sauce and it was a welcome change.

All I did was mash up a cup of ripe apricots, add some sugar and simmer it over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Soft fruits like apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries and berries transform into a sauce so much faster than firmer fruits like apples.  It really takes no time at all and is so good.

Besides topping pancakes, enjoy the sauces as is or try them on waffles, toast, yogurt or ice cream.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Focaccia is such a versatile bread.

You can top it with really anything you like before baking and suddenly you have a bread that's ready to be the star of a meal. All you need is to add a soup or a salad and dinner is served.

Today I topped a batch of focaccia with slices of baby zucchini from my garden, smashed chickpeas, garlic, rosemary and cheddar cheese. It was a vegetarian delight!

Focaccia with Chickpeas and Zucchini

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar and let sit for 5 minutes or until foamy. Add salt and olive oil. Add flour a cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover and set aside until double in bulk, about 1 hour.

Set dough on a greased sheetpan and press into a rectangle. Let rise for 30 minutes.
The shaped dough rising.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make dimples all over the bread with your fingertips and add desired toppings.

A drizzle of olive oil
Sliced zucchini
Chopped garlic
Chopped fresh rosemary
Canned chickpeas, smashed with a fork
Fresh ground black pepper
Coarse salt
Shredded cheddar cheese
Smashing the chickpeas.
Fresh rosemary and a sliced baby zucchini.
A topped focaccia before baking.
Ready to eat!

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Little Something Sweet

When you are craving a little something sweet but want to eat something healthy try making this simple treat — non-fat yogurt, blueberries, walnuts and a drizzle of pure maple syrup.

It's delicious and the perfect treat to make during the summer when you want something cool and easy.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Breakfast Muffins

When you need a quick and nutritious breakfast, these muffins hit the spot.

They are easy to make and satisfy. You can change the recipe by substituting other dried fruits like currants, apricots or dates for the cranberries.

Breakfast Muffins
(makes 14 to 16 muffins)

1 1/4 cup whole grain hot cereal (Roman Meal and Bob's Red Mill are two brands I like)
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pour buttermilk over cereal and let stand for 15 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and mix until just combined.

Fill greased or paper lined muffin tins 2/3 full and bake for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Grateful For The Space

Volunteers Gwen and Jeff plating lunches in our spacious kitchen.
There is no way we could prepare and serve as much food as we do at the Wednesday Community Meal without the use of a commercial kitchen and large dining room. 

Besides four commercial ovens, the kitchen is filled with amenities like heat lamps, soup warmers and insulated Cambro cabinets that are a huge help to us.

It's because of the generosity of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral that we have the use of these great spaces and were able to serve 244 meals today.

Bowls of soup stay hot under heat lamps.