Friday, October 11, 2013

Berry Oregon Summer. Could it be we got lost in the summer?

Berries to end it all.
August is a spoiled sweet month. There is the sweet putrid smell of the end of summer. Fruits are ripe on trees and fall on the streets without notice. Rancid plums or peaches may stain your car’s hood overnight, blackberries shrivel on every corner, and stores have the best deals on local berries of the year.
The plans for multiple picnics, river trips, hiking extravaganzas, and the ultimate camping nights always seem plausible when summer stats;, but once you hit August you realize that “Ain’t nobody got time for that”, so you turn on your AC, get some delivery pizza and if you are determined enough, make something out of those berries before you pop them in your mouth like popcorn.
This summer has rushed by like hoard of hungry zombies; changes galore have been torn up in seconds by these hungry guests. Yet, I have managed to accomplished things to be proud of. Finding a resting spot for my heart, a temporary home for my plants, a workout my muscles are eager to accomplish, and a peace my mind has been striving for the last months.
A piece of pie and a cold beer is sometimes all you need to make a weekend feel like a real weekend. A stella is an occasional reward I allow myself somewhat often. The light crispness combines well with a good variety of my favorite foods, specially sushi.
On this occasion, I allowed myself a six pack of Stella and some farmers’ market berries and rhubarb. It makes a perfect simple treat when the sweet tooth is aching and the throat is thirsty for some ABV.
The second recipe is for the very special Dapper Hand Pies. My WA best friend is the proud lady writer for the, where she very somewhat often shares her exclusive recipes. We decided to join forces and make some delicious and Handy Dapper Pies to give out on a beautiful Sunday street event. Fresh berries, plums, peaches and basil were the following stars of some swanky tunes by  Rebel Without a Cat. Overall, the enjoyment of fresh pastry, sun, tunes and friends are something that smells, sounds and feels like summer.
A maze of sweet fruit, cold river water, old melodies, honeysuckle scents, tight itchy sunburns, cold libations, and short dresses fill my summers. This year was no exception, the putrification has started, and soon the berries will dry up and wave a sad goodbye; see you next year.
I used the same dough for both desserts. I love the flexibility this dough has once it is cooled. And the flakiness to richness ratio is just right.

Rhubarb/Strawberry Pie

Crusts (this makes one pie with double crust)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice water
1 egg, beaten

Mix flour, sugar and salt. Cut in butter with pastry cutter, and add ice water one T at a time until dough is malleable but not too sticky. Refrigerate for at least one hour wrapped in plastic wrap.

Fillings for pie
1 pint quartered strawberries                                                        
 3 stalks rhubarb, chopped
1 cup blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together and fill your pastry shell.
Top  with other half of dough.
Make slits for venting.
Brush with egg wash.
Bake at preheated 350 oven for around an hour, until it is golden and juicy.

For hand pies
Follow same procedure! Just cut up your pastry dough into rectangles of about 3 times 4 inches. The fillings can be what you like! Just remember to add a bit of sugar, salt, citrus and flour.
Our flavors:
-Peach Apricot Basil
This will take a bit less time to cook, so keep an eye to them! And turn your pan around in the oven for perfect golden pastry.

  dresses fill my summers. This year was no exception, the futreasil were the stars. og

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Berry Oregon Summer. Crostata and memories.

It is still summer and there’s still berries galore. Plus ripe fragrant stone fruits, juicy tomatoes and colorful greens. The farmer markets are the biggest event of the week, and anyone without a dog or a kid feels a bit left out, but secretly lucky to be lacking. Being overwhelmed by the sheer amount and variety of produce is definitely understandable. My first summers in Vancouver I would be hesitant over each piece of fruit or vegetable, what if I don’t use it? What if it spoils tomorrow? I’m sure apricots will be in season next week right? I would leave the market with my usual pound of apples, an apricot scone and a burning desire to own a bulldog to show off.
This year has meant a lot for me, I have made a lot of changes to my life that have resonated who I am. Small changes in your ordinary life, like getting those 4 dollar raspberries don’t seem like such a drastic difference, but I have learned that big rewarding moments come from the smallest of indulgences. That first raspberry you taste in the summer might make you smile like you haven’t in years; making that pie or jam might give you the amount of peace and control you have been looking for; and sharing your finished product could make you feel like Santa in the middle of summer.
Finding a reason or moment to eat your produce is a lot easier than finding these such produce in a moment of craving; and it’s even harder when that craving hits a couple weeks later,  and you find out there is no one fresh tomato to have in the county. Summer is all about adventuring in my mind, taking advantage of the long hours and making memories; henceforth, I am always attempting to make significant memories for each summer. The summer of the 6 pounds of strawberries (lots of jam), the summer of juices (I juiced everything in my sight), and now, the summer of the berry.
I am afraid summer will be over any second now, and here I am, buying any produce I fancy and stuffing my face with glee. There will always be salt to season those tomatoes, a napkin to wipe that plum juice off your chin, and a great recipe to use up those berries in. This week I have a beautiful crostata recipe I found online.
Crostatas are basically the fancier, skinnier and European cousin of pie. It is an open faced dough disc that gets topped with fresh fruit and then crimpled back to seal the juices while baking. The contrast of golden dough to vibrant baked fruit looks divine on a white plate, and for the decadent audience, vanilla ice cream could not ask for a better date.
This recipe made enough for two good sized pies, enough to feed four comfortable sized adults or 6 models. The pies will fit in one baking sheet. I made a blueberry and a basil peach one. The possibilities are infinite though, off the top of my head I can imagine a mint blackberry, apple bacon, tomato brie or mushroom gruyere. If I had some prepared dough in the fridge, there would be a guarantee no summer produce would go to waste. Good thing memories last a lot longer than crostatas do on the plate.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice water
1 egg, beaten
About 2 cups of fruit
1-2 T sugar
1 -  Macerate fruit with sugar. Add herbs and a pinch of salt if desired. Set aside.
2  -  Combine flour, sugar and salt.
3   - Cut in chilled butterpounds of strawberries (lots of jam), the summer of juices (I juiced everything in my sight), and now the  until it resembles coarse sand.
4    -Add ice water a T at a time and keep cutting in. Use your hands to make a ball. It should be moist but not sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, up to a week.
5    -Once chilled, preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out dough to a circle and transfer to buttered baking sheet.
6    -Layer fruit in middle, leaving about an inch of outside rim.
7    -Crimp up outside dough making sure it is sealed.

8    -Use the egg to brush dough.
9-Bake for about 20 minutes. It will be golden, bubbly and delicious looking when ready.
10-Let cool and enjoy with ice cream, creme fraiche or a glass of sweet wine. 
                                                         Make memories happen. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Cream Cheese and Berries. Cheesecake.

I have a terrible secret to admit. I like cream cheese. I like cream cheese a little too much. I have memories from very long ago of some Mexican cenas depending of cream cheese quesadillas and a good 2 inch sized block of pure cream cheese on the side. Just by itself, cream cheese has a perfect combination of creaminess, saltiness and tanginess that makes my taste buds want to party. Adding sugar and lemon to the guest list is creating a dramatic contrast that takes this regular party to one of Gatsby’s level.
So this summer, when I got carried away picking berries, I Knew this was the right time to attempt one of  my most ambitious ideas, cheesecake. Lemon Berry Cheesecake. The initial recipe is from SmittenKitchen lime cheesecake. I made a few changes to adjust to my ingredients and palate. I was immensely impressed by the simplicity of the recipe and the end result. It is a very straightforward cheesecake that delivers everything you want from a summer sweet. I used blueberries and raspberries, but I bet any mix of fresh berries will be great. I will keep this recipe in mind for the rest of the year, maybe use some cranberries and pecans for fall, mint and chocolate for Christmas. Cheesecake, I am ready for your party.

Cheese n Berries Cake
-          1 ¼ cup graham crackers crushed

-          3 T sugar

-          ½ stick butter, melted

1)      Mix all ingredients and spread over heavily buttered springform pan.
2)      Bake at 350 F for 8 minutes and let cool.

-          2 packages cream cheese at room temperature

-          1 cup plus 2 T sugar

-          ¾ c lemon juice plus its zest

-          ½ c sour cream

-          ½ t vanilla

-          2 ½ T flour

-          ¼ t salt

-          3 eggs

-          About 3 cups of mixed berries

-          1 T apricot jam for glaze

1)      Set oven at 350 F
2)      Beat cream cheese until fluffy, add sugar and mix
3)      Add lemon, sour cream, zest, vanilla and beat to smooth.
4)      Mix in flour and salt at low speed until just incorporated.
Time for art! 
5)      Add eggs all at once and mix until just incorporated.
6)      Pour into pan and bake for about one hour. Once you jiggle the pan and the center doesn’t move its good!
7)      Let cool on rack until completely cool!!! Now its time to decorate
8)      Arrange your berries as artistically as you would like, go crazy! Just remember no one wants to be the person with no berries in their slice, unless you are a mouse.
9)      Heat up the T of jam with a T of water in the microwave and glaze your cake with a brush, if the mixture is too goopy just add more water.
10)   Let set in fridge for about two hours and you are good to go!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Berry Oregon Summer. Muffins and such.

Summer starts and I am pumped. It seems people have multiplied like rabbits over the winter and once the sun is out, everyone is a runner, hiker, kayaker, gardener and/or professional BBQer. One of my favorite aspects is the produce. I try and keep a seasonal diet, and summer is the cornucopia of seasons; when I get to indulge in my favorite fruit family: berries.

Muffins with whipped cream cheese
The Pacific Northwest is known for its extensive array of berries. Once the caviar of fruits in Mexico, now I pay next to nothing (or nothing, when they grow in your own backyard) for this most exquisite candy Mother Nature makes. By the handful fresh from the vine, in a pie a la mode, over cheesecake, in baked goods, or just thrown in my morning cereal are my favorite ways to gobble up pounds upon pounds of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and marrionberries all before you can say Labor Day.

This summer, after an extensive berry picking session I created about four different desserts I would like to share with you.  The summer is almost over, so you will either have to hurry to the farmers market soon, or keep this in your mind for next year. Believe me, I will be anticipating the next berry summer berry berry much.

Blueberry Cherry Muffins 
-5 T soft butter
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 egg
- ¾ cup yogurt or sour cream ( I used half and half because that’s what I had around)
- ½ t lemon zest
- 1 ½ cup flour
- 1 ½ t baking powder
- ¼ t baking soda
- ¼ t salt
- ¾ cup blueberries (I used blueberries and cherries!)

How beautiful are these?!

1) Oven at 350 F.
2)Beat butter and sugar first. Add egg and mix. Add yogurt and lemon and mix.
3)Mix dry ingredients, sift in half, mix in. Then sift the other half and mix.
4)Fold in berries
5) Batter will be thick. Its ok!!! Scoop with an ice cream scooper or two spoons and top with brown sugar for extra tempting muffins.

6)Bake for about 30ish minutes? Just do the toothpick method, check them around 20 minutes depending on the size of your tins, but once toothpick comes out clean, you are good! 

Enjoy them fresh from the oven or warmed up later with salted butter, cream cheese or Peanut butter. Oh yeah. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Dog's Party

Day Chomper found my arms
In the parking lot of a Home Depot I did the best shopping I have ever done in my life. It fit in one hand, soft as cashmere, smelled like a taco and wriggled like a worm. There was no doubt in the sale, once that lady put Chomper on my hand there was no way in hell I wasn't taking that smelly, soft worm pup home.
I had the fortune (or not) of not having a job that summer and really not doing much with my life in any way whatsoever, so I dedicated my time to this beautiful little pup. We would spend those sweltering summer days playing, walking and watching Netflix. He would start sleeping on my legs and end up on my chest or shoulders, trying to be as close to my heart as possible; he is now a 60 pound dog that believes I still enjoy this. My body goes numb, but I enjoy every second of it.
He’s had his humorous puppy adventures, like he would climb inside the reclining couch and scare the crap out of me when I noticed the couch was howling. One night he got into his food bin and transformed into a black beach ball that required lots of potty trips the next day, I thought I had killed you, but you probably had the best night of your life. He has also chosen to eat his good amount of REAL LEATHER shoes over, say old navy flip flops? Or dog toys.
But he has always been there, with his scary excitement to see me, encouraging kisses to force unto me and devoted looks to give me when needed.
Chomper turned a year old this month. So I decided to make him some treats and spoil his diet. He has never been too much of a food beggar, but carrots are his kryptonite, anytime he would hear me chopping them he would run to the kitchen and sit like a good boy until I obliged. And since we used Peanut Butter for toys and treats, me and him would go through a jar of it fairly quickly. I found this recipe for carrot and peanut butter dog cupcakes online, but I think it is exceptionally delicious. They turned out more like muffins because of the density, but with some cream cheese frosting the humans were more than happy to taste. I will definitely be making these again for the next night me and Chomper have of indulging and cuddling.
Carrot PB muffins
(makes about 6)
-1c  flour
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/4 c natural Peanut butter (smooth of chunky is fine)
-1/4 c vegetable oil
-1 c shredded carrot
-1 tsp vanilla
-1/3 c honey
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt
1)      Combine flour and baking soda in large mixing bowl
2)      Add all other ingredients!
3)      Bake at 325 for about 25-30 minutes.
4)      Let cool and decorate with cream cheese frosting for humans, for dogs I would recommend a tiny bit of frosting or peanut butter to adhere a cute doggie treat. 

Chomper with his first pinata!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Gatsby

The Great Gatsby.
Two mesmerizing eyes in a royal blue background, story that stays with you, a character that deeply touches you, memories that haunts your past.
A classic book most of us have read containing an exciting romance that ends tragically, a great American drama. When I read this book a LOT of years ago I remember finishing the last page and questioning what the hell was all the fuss about. A mentally unstable man has trouble letting go of the past; and ends up screwing up his life even further dedicating all his time, energy, and money to convince this pretty ditzy girl to love him again. In the end, I felt Gatsby got his karma right back where it was deserved; and old sport Nick got a great story from it. I moved on with my life and into other books right away.
Watching the 1974 Coppola classic movie was but a mere strike of luck between laundry being ready to fold and Netlix having it available. Again, a lovely story, a good ending, and a damn handsome actor. Let’s move on to dishes and maybe some Family Guy later. Tonight, an hour after watching the 2013 version of Baz Luhrman, I am transformed.
It was not the special effects, the selection of music, the great acting, or the glass of wine I had before.  
It was that moment. In Nick’s cottage, a dream of cascading white orchids and the constant splatter of a summer rain. That striking moment when Daisy and Gatsby lock eyes. I felt my heart skip a beat with hers, a tremble in the lips and the memories course by.
 “I am certainly glad to see you again”
These words she bravely speaks; I don’t know if my brain is smart enough to come up with or my heart foolish enough to allow. This moment of reencounter, I don’t know if destiny has it in my plans. But pretending life is actually a great novel, and mine were to be a tragedy, I only ask for there to be orchids please.
Gatsby with his lies, Gatsby with his secret past, Gatsby with his childhood, Gatsby with his extravagance, Gatsby with his passion, Gatsby with his love. I tried to refuse my theories and see past it, see nothing but Leonardo DiCaptio playing the role of a sick millionaire; but those flashes would reappear: nights, wine, screaming, and pleading; feeling perfectly safe and completely lost at the same time.
“You can’t repeat the past”
I had to smile and exit the theatre with the other people, wondering if we had all felt the same. If nights were reminiscent and words reinvaded in our brains. Maybe I understand Daisy better now, when she smiled and agreed on returning to the past? or when she hung up the phone and left forever? I am not sure. All I know right now is that if it happens, let there be white orchids. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Fabiola and Lavender


My mother lives somewhere I like to call heaven. Every time I visit Mexico I make sure to have some days to dedicate to her. A couple of hours outside of Mexico City, she found a perfect haven. Abundant sunny skies, greener here, visiting blue birds, hopping bunnies, daring squirrels and the most beautiful variety of flowers are thrown in together to create the beautiful place my mom calls home.

Growing on the back terrace, she has countless herbs and flowers. The way she cares for them reminds me of a fairy, she just naturally knows when they need water, sun, more soil, or just some comforting words. Surrounding the house on one side, there lives a fragrant row of lavender. It sways with the wind and feeds the bees daily, making itself very at home. It gives off that magnificent scent that brings back those memories. A grandmother’s vanity , the anticipated beginning of spring, or a piece of Provence you brought back in your suitcase a long time ago.

On my latest trip I was, as usual, prompt to cook something to share with friends.
Something sweet was a must.
Something fresh was obvious.
Something colorful for fun.
Something fragrant for the love of it.
Lemon Lavender Meringue Pie it is.

I used Alton Brown’s lemon meringue pie, obviously. But created the lavender meringue by easily grinding the sugar for the meringue with lavender, it was subtle and fragrant, perfect for the spring day we enjoyed with friends.
*cooking with lavender is extremely easy. Just pick some beautiful flowered lavender stems and pluck out the “seed looking” part of it. Not the petals or the stem, but whatever that part is called from it. Use them fresh or let them dry and Voila! Make scones, syrup, pancakes, ice cream, anything that could benefit from a fragrant and fresh taste. 

4 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)

1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 (9-inch) pre-baked pie shell
About 2 Tablespoons fresh lavender or about 1/2 teaspoon dry lavender.                                                    3 Tablespoons sugar                                                                                                                             One pinch cream of tartar


Meringue- Take 3 tablespoons of sugar and the lavender and place them in a coffee grinder. Pulse several times until the lavender has been cut into small pieces and is mixed in the with sugar. Set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until they become foamy. Beat in the lavender sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat the egg whites until they become shiny and stiff and hold peaks.
make some art with your meringue! Do not over beat though! 

PhotoAdjust the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Whisk egg yolks in medium size mixing bowl and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine cornstarch, water, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine. Turn heat on medium and, stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and gradually, 1 whisk-full at a time, add hot mixture to egg yolks and stir until you have added at least half of the mixture.

Return egg mixture to saucepan, turn heat down to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute. Remove from heat and gently stir in butter, lemon juice, and zest until well combined. Pour mixture into pie shell and top with meringue while filling is still hot. Make sure meringue completely covers filling and that it goes right up to the edge of the crust. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until meringue is golden. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Make sure pie is cooled completely before slicing.


The pie turned out sweet, fresh, colorful and fragrant, and will always remind me of my mother. I have realized that the reason I believe she resides in a heavenly place is only because she is there. And I will always think of her as my personal heaven, waiting for me with open arms and just the right amount of lavender fragrance.

My mother enjoying the pie.