Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Summer Excursions and Food

So I just spent the last 3 weekends away from home. After all, it is summertime and it is time to play.
I also spent many hours preparing food for all three excusions since I love to feed people.

The first trip was to Bethel Island where my husband and I spent two nights in a motor home. That was a fun experience and it beats staying in a tent any day. We went boating with our good friends Kevin and Donna and their grandson Jamison. It was a blast.
 I brought my decadent Grand Marnier Dark Chocolate Cheesecake to celebrate my girlfriend Kathi's 50th birthday. It is her favorite and was enjoyed by everyone. This recipe is a crowd favorite and feeds a large crowd if you slice it thinly. After all, it is very decadent. It is the perfect end to a perfect meal with friends and enjoyed best with a cup of strong coffee.

Here is the recipe:

Grand Marnier Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
4 tbsp             butter, melted
1 cup               graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp             granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp          ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients and press into the bottom of an 8" or 9" springform pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

5   8oz pkgs    cream cheese
1 3/4 cup         granulated sugar
1 tsp.               lemon zest
1/2 tsp.           vanilla
Pinch              salt
4 or 5            large eggs = 1 cup
2                   egg yolks
1/4C             whipping cream

1. Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until soft and well-blended.  Add zest, vanilla and salt and blend again.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just blended.    Fold in cream.
Put into a spring form pan on a sheet pan in the center of a preheated 450 degree oven for 12 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking for 1 hour more. Cheesecake will pull away from sides of pan when cooling and crack in the center. It is ok since you will be topping with the dk choc ganache when cool.
Ganache Topping:
1 cup                 cream
1 tsp                  vanilla
1/2 tsp.              coffee extract
1 C                   dk chocolate 52%  (like Cacao Barry)
1 T.                   corn syrup

Heat cream in a med size stock pot until almost boiling. Take off heat and add chopped chocolate,corn syrup, vanilla and coffee extract. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Set aside to cool.
When cool, top cheesecake with ganache. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove sides of pan and bottom before slicing. Can be frozen for up to 1 month.

     The next excursion was in Tahoe with 22 members of my husbands family. We stayed in the same house like we do every summer and we shared meals, stories and adventures. It was so much fun and I really enjoyed being with the neices and nephews and their babies.
I made a BBQ pulled pork, a turkey ragu w/ spaghetti, chicken enchilada's, Spanish rice and magic cookie bars for the occasion. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect vacation. Here is the recipe for the magic cookie bars:

 Magic Cookie Bars


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Use a 13 by 9 glass baking dish.

Take 2 packages of graham crackers and crush them in a food processor and 1 stick of butter or margarine melted and mix. Spread mixture into a 13x9 baking dish. Place 1 Cup shredded or flaked coconut onto crust. Sprinkle 10 oz or more of semi sweet chocolate chips over coconut. Sprinkle @ 3/4 C. chopped walnuts over chips. Pour 2 cans of sweetened and condensed milk (not evaporated!) over entire pan.

Bake 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until brown.

Cool and cut into squares.


Last weekend, my Aunt Teri and my mother in law Nilda and I headed north to the Point Arena Coast to visit the relatives. My aunt and I stayed at the Coast Guard House and had a quiet and relaxing time together visiting the local shops and going to the famous Point Arena Lighthouse. My aunt loves history and was excited to find a local book on the area that she could bring back to cherish forever.
We also had an unexpected visitor surprise us with his presence. We didn't expect to see a tiny green frog crawl out onto our window sill, but it was something to do since we didn't have cable tv. Next thing we knew, he was devouring his dinner right before our eyes! My aunt and I must have been tired because we couldn't stop giggling during the frog incident. I haven't laughed that hard in years!

I prepared a ragu bolognese with polenta, a roasted cauliflower and split pea soup, raviolis with Armenini's pesto, chocolate cream puffs, and candied ginger banana bread. Yum! The 93 year old aunt and uncle enjoyed the homemade meals and loved having their niece Nilda there to share stories about the good old days.

I'm back at home now planning the next great summer excursion to go on. I'm excited to cook again. What should I make next time?


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