Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

The craziest thing happened the other day, true story… My son, son #2 that is, who is home from school on spring break, brought packaged blueberry muffins into my house. You know the kind that are filled with all kinds of preservatives, calories, and lord knows what else. I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I spotted them sitting on the kitchen table. I said, dude, your mom writes a blog called Mama’s Gotta Bake! Think man, think!

Naturally I did what any good food blogger and mother would do, and raced to my kitchen and made my son homemade Blueberry Muffins with fresh, yes, fresh blueberries. I felt like I had restored order to the universe…

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from Williams – Sonoma

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated  sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, (equals = 1/2 cup, 4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a pastry brush, thoroughly brush the insides and tops of a 12 well muffin tin. (I was able to make 12 regular sized and 12 mini muffins).
  2. Melt your stick of butter in a small dish, and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Then give it a good whisk to fully disperse the ingredients. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and cooled butter and add the eggs making sure that the milk/butter mixture is sufficiently cooled so that the eggs won’t scramble when you add them. Fold in the flour mixture and blend until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Gently add the blueberries, mixing to disperse them throughout the batter.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each one 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes (mine were done at 15 minutes, 12 minutes for the mini-muffins), or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Run a sharp pairing knife around the edges and gently shake out muffins.

Makes 16 regular size muffins, or 12 regular size and 12 mini muffins

Baking Blueberry Muffins

Baking Blueberry Muffins

 

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Recipe: Easy


Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

I love”homey” food, but you already knew that, didn’t you. Some people like to curl up with a warm blanket and a book, I myself, like to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a piece of cake. When curling up, it’s always best not to have a piece of cake that’s too sweet and sugary. No, proper curling should be done with a less sweet, almost bread like cake that will perfectly compliment a cup of tea. Ta Da! That’s where this Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts comes in.

This cake is the BFF to a cup of tea. The “not-so-sweet” cake is filled with chunks of juicy apple and topped with earthy, crunchy pine nuts. Really, a perfect combination of flavors. This recipe will make two, 8″ x 4″ loaf cakes, so guess what, keep one for yourself and give the other to your BFF. Wrap it up in parchment paper and tie it with baker’s twine, and I guarantee, they’ll be very impressed.

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

Apple Loaf with Pine Nuts

Adapted from Real Food, Winter 2013

  • 3 large, crisp tart apples peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2″ slices
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 5 large eggs
  • 10 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. For this recipe I used two, 8″ x 4″ loaf pans. I sprayed the inside of the pans, then I cut parchment paper to fit in the pans and sprayed that too. I like to use the parchment insert because the cake will lift out effortlessly.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Set aside.
  3. Next, in a large bowl, I added the lemon juice and lemon zest. I cut the apples into 1/2″ slices and as I added them to the bowl, I tossed them in the lemon juice so that they wouldn’t oxidize. Then, sprinkle the apples with 2 tablespoons of sugar, and gently toss.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs and 1 cup of sugar for 2 minutes.
  5. Slowly, stir in the butter and vanilla. In several increments, add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter over the apples and gently fold it in.
  7. Evenly divide the batter between the two pans, and sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
  8. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 2, 8″ x 4″ loaf cakes

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Mama’s Tips: 

In baking, size does matter. Make sure you always adjust your baking times if you’re using a pan that’s not the one specified in the recipe.

  • An 8″ x 4″ loaf pan holds 4 cups of batter
  • An 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan holds 6 cups of batter
  • A 9″ x 5″ loaf pan holds 8 cups of batter

Whenever working with fruits like apples, pears and bananas, toss them in a little lemon juice to keep them from oxidizing. Brown fruit is definitely not appetizing.

When baking, remember all ovens do not work the same, so baking times are always just an estimate. I always check my cakes 5-10 minutes before they’re supposed to be done to make sure they don’t brown too quickly.

I always like to put a parchment paper insert into my pans (which I spray along with the pan) so that cakes will always lift out effortlessly. It’s a bummer when the whole cake doesn’t come out intact!

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Recipe: Easy


Apple Pie in a Bag

Apple Pie baked in a brown paper bag

Apple Pie baked in a brown paper bag

It’s getting closer to the big day, you know what day I’m talking about, right? Thanksgiving, of course. It’s my most special meal, well it seems every meal is my most special meal, but this one definitely is. In fact, I am so excited I can hardly contain myself.  It’s the one day I will eat with reckless abandon. For me it’s a food version of a perfect storm. Every food I consider to be one of my favorites will make an appearance at my Thanksgiving table.

I embrace this holiday not just for the food, but for the fact that I truly am thankful for the food, and for my family.

I was speaking to my sister-in-law, Wanda the other day and she told me about a pie she makes that is my brother’s favorite. Since Apple Pie is a requisite for any Thanksgiving dinner I thought I would try it out before the big day. I was intrigued because this pie was baked in a brown paper grocery bag. She said that the bag kept the crust from over browning and that the apples became soft and tender and stayed juicy. Hmmmm, sounds like Mama needed to give this a try. Well Wanda, I was quite pleased with the results. I used a pre-made crust for this pie, but hey, if you’ve got the energy then go ahead and make your own crust.

Apple Pie baked in a bag

Apple Pie baked in a bag

Apple Pie in a Bag 

  • 7 crisp, tart apples peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sugar – divided
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 stick, unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 box pre-made refrigerated pie crust, 2-9″ crusts
  • 1 large brown paper grocery bag

Directions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.  Peel, core and thinly slice your apples placing them in a large bowl. As you slice them, sprinkle a teaspoon or so of the sugar mixture over the apples to coat them so they won’t turn brown as you slice them. When all the apples are sliced and in the bowl, spoon in the remainder of the sugar mixture and toss to coat all the apples.
  2. Place one of the 9″ crusts into a 9″ pie dish. You may need to roll it out a little, so you should do that on a piece of parchment paper.  Spoon the apple mixture on top of the crust.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 stick of melted butter and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Pour this mixture over the apple mixture.
  4. Place the remaining crust on top of the pie. You may have to roll it out a little so that it fits over the pie. Seal the edges of the 2 crusts together. With a sharp pairing knife, poke 5-6 slits on top of crust so that the steam can escape.
  5. Place the pie into a large brown paper grocery bag and then staple the ends shut.
  6. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Leave pie in bag for 5 minutes after removing from the oven.
Apple Pie baked in a bag

Apple Pie baked in a bag

Mama’s Tips

I sprinkled my apples with a teaspoon of the sugar mixture as I sliced them. The sugar mixture kept the apples from turning brown.

When pie is done baking, if you like a browner pie crust, remove the pie from bag and bake a few minutes more til browned on top.

Place bagged pie on a cookie sheet to avoid messy spills in the oven while baking.

Removing Apple Pie from the paper bag

Removing Apple Pie from the paper bag

Recipe: Easy


Grilled Brie & Pear Sandwich

Grilled Brie & Pear Sandwich

Grilled Brie & Pear Sandwich

Ooooh mama, look what I got in the mail today!  If you follow my blog then you know I recently featured a posting for an almond pear cake.  Apparently someone at Frog Hollow Farm saw that posting and realized that I must be a serious pear lover, and offered to send me a box of their pears. Well Mama never turns down offers of food.

It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon and the husband and I haven’t eaten lunch yet, so I’m thinking grilled cheese and pears because it’s a perfect combination. I always have arugula and pecans on hand so this is pretty much a done deal.  It’s buttery, it’s creamy, it’s sweet, it’s crunchy…do I have your attention yet???

I really want to thank the folks at Frog Hollow Farm because these were probably the best pears I ever had, and I’m not just saying that. These particular pears that they sent were called Warren Pears, and they were sweet and juicy and devoid of that grittiness that pears can sometime have. If you’re a pear lover like me, then I would recommend you check them out.

Frog Hollow Farm

Frog Hollow Farm Pears

Grilled Brie & Pear Sandwich

  • 4 slices of bread – I chose a hearty multi grain variety
  • 1 firm, ripe pear – any variety
  • small wedge of brie, cut into 1/8″ slices
  • handful of fresh arugula
  • handful of toasted pecans
  • 1/2 stick butter, at room temperature
  1. Directions
  2. Using  a mandolin on the larger setting, slice your pears and with a sharp knife, slice out the core and seeds.
  3. Butter the four slices of bread making sure you cover every square inch of bread with butter to insure perfect toastiness.  Layer a bread slice with the arugula and pecans, several pear slices, and the brie. Then place the second bread slice on top.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium and place the sandwich in the pan.  Let the sandwich get a nice sear on it, then cover the pan with a lid to allow the cheese to melt better. When the sandwich is golden on the first side.  Flip it over until it browns on the other side.

Makes 2, darn good sandwiches

Pear Chips

Pear Chips

I just couldn’t get enough of these scrumptious pears, so I sliced some up on the thinner setting of the  mandolin and made some pear chips to serve along with our sandwiches. However, to really savor the loveliness of this fruit, one should just eat it in it’s natural state!

Recipe: Easy


Almond Pear Cake – Gluten Free

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

My favorite time of the year is the end of September when summertime evaporates into a fond memory and leaves turn golden and the air turns crisp.  Oh wait, that was my former life growing up on the east coast.  As Jimmy Kimmel said in his monologue last night referring to the autumn in Los Angeles; that it was a “bone-chilling 95 degrees today”. He went on to say, “that we have one season…and it’s the good one!”  I’ll be honest with you, since moving to the west coast I definitely do not miss the other three seasons, but I do have a major hankering for the fall. After residing here for three decades I still bring out the heavy sweaters and boots this time of year, and yeah, I’m sweating profusely in my effort to embrace the season.

It’s time to say good bye to the summertime fruity favorites; strawberries, blueberries, peaches and plums and hello to cranberries, apples, pumpkins and pears. I do love the latter as they harken the start of the holiday season, and all the celebratory family meals ahead of me.

My personal favorite fall fruit is pears. In this gluten-free cake, they are paired with almond meal, sliced almonds and fresh pear puree which results in an overly moist and flavorful cake. I think this Almond Pear Cake will become one of your go-to desserts for the upcoming season.

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake – Gluten Free

From USA Pears

Equipment needed:  10″ spring form pan, large food processor or electric mixer

  • 4 pears, any kind, 3 for batter 1 for topping
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar plus additional 3 teaspoons
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 1/4 cups ground almond meal
  • 8 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon, plus additional 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon neutral tasting oil (like canola or grape seed)
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and place the rack in the center position. Spray a 10″ spring form pan with cooking spray. PAM original cooking spray is gluten free, however PAM Spray for Baking is not.  Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit on the bottom of the spring form pan.
  2. For my cake, I used  Bartlett, Anjou and Bosc pears, but any firm ripe pear will work.  Peel and core the three pears and then roughly chop them. Place the chopped pears into a small saucepan and add the lemon juice and 3 teaspoons of sugar. Cook the pears over medium heat in the covered pan for 10 minutes. Let cool. When cooled, mash the pears with a fork into a coarse puree.
  3. Place the almond meal and 1 3/4 cups sugar in the bowl of a large food processor, and give it 5-6 long pulses. (This makes a large quantity of batter, so you’ll need a large food processor, not the mini kind). Add the eggs one at a time, along with 1 teaspoon of vanilla and the pear puree. Pulse until all ingredients are incorporated. Alternately, if you don’t have a food processor, you can use an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pour the batter into the spring form pan.
  4. Next, peel and core the fourth pear and slice it into 1/4″ slices. In a medium skillet, heat the oil and the honey stirring until the mixture begins to bubble. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla. Add the pear slices and toss gently to coat.
  5. Sprinkle the almonds over the top of the cake, and add the pear slices in a pinwheel shape. Spoon the remaining sauce in the pan over the top of the cake. Bake for 55-65 minutes until the cake begins to brown and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. As my cake was starting to brown too much, I placed some foil over the top for the last 10 minutes of baking. Keep in mind that all ovens are different so the baking time is an estimate.
  6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes and then you can remove the sides. Transfer to a serving platter.
Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

Mama’s Tips:

An easy way to cleanly remove the core of the pear is to use a melon baller to scoop out the center.

For this Almond Pear Cake you can use any variety or combination of pears you like. In the past, I have used Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc and Comice pears. Just make sure they are ripe yet firm.

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

Pears, Pears…

Almond Pear Cake

Almond Pear Cake

…and more Pears.

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Recipe: Intermediate


White Wine Kiwi-Apple Sangria

Kiwi Grape Sangria

Sangria

T’aint nothing better on a scorching summer’s day here in the San Fernando Valley than a couple of your closest girlfriends and a big pitcher of sangria. Because what else do women like to do but talk and drink lots of wine. We will, of course be discussing many pertinent political and social issues, but I felt we needed something cool and refreshing to aide in our verbal discourse.

As most of my buddies know, Mama isn’t much of a drinker. I will tell you this though, my favorite drink back in the day was called a Tom Collins. Those of you born after 1978 will have no idea what that is, but it was quite popular  back in the days of Donna Summer and disco.

Sangria however, is a fruit punch that has its roots in Spain and is served in those warm summer months as a cooling refreshment.  Traditionally it’s made with a red wine and lots of fruit and left to sit in the fridge to chill so that the wine and fruit can meld together to create that fruit-a-licious flavor. Personally, I prefer white wines and I decided to add green apple, kiwi, grapes and lime because those are my favorite fruits.  You can play around with it and create your own personal concoction. I also chose to add some fresh thyme to it just to develop another layer of flavor. Because Mama likes flavor!

Right before serving I like to add some fresh fruit to each glass (because it’s pretty!). I also freeze about a dozen grapes to add to each glass as they become ice cubes and make the drink super-cold.  Ahhhh…chit-chat and wine on a hot summer’s day!

Kiwi Grape Sangria

White Wine Kiwi-Apple Sangria

White Wine Kiwi-Apple Sangria

  • 1 bottle of white wine – Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc are good choices
  • 3 tablespoons of Triple Sec
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice, strained several times to omit the pulp
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup*
  • 1 cup club soda
  • 1 green apple, quartered sliced thin with skin on
  • 1 lime, sliced thin
  • 1 cup green, seedless grapes, sliced in half (1 additional cup of green grapes frozen)
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and sliced thin
  • a couple sprigs of fresh thyme, and more for garnish

Directions

  1. First, make your simple syrup by combining 1/4 cup  water and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Constantly stir over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil, and all the sugar dissolves.  Lower the heat and stir mixture a few more seconds until it begins to thicken and become syrupy. Remove from heat and add the fresh thyme allowing it to steep in the syrup. When the syrup is cooled, remove the thyme and discard. While your preparing the sangria, place the syrup in the fridge to chill.
  2. In a large pitcher, pour the white wine, the Triple Sec, the orange juice and the chilled simple syrup and stir. Add the apple, the lime, the grapes and the kiwi to the pitcher and place in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours.
  3. Right before serving, add the club soda and stir. Garnish with a sprig of thyme if you like.
  4. I slice up extra fruit to add to each glass of sangria.
Fixin's for a Kiwi Grape Sangria

Fixin’s for a White Wine Kiwi-Apple Sangria

Mama’s Tips:

Making simple syrup is as easy as 1, 2, 3.  It’s basically 1 part water to 1 part sugar. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and then add the sugar stirring constantly until all the sugar is dissolved. Let the mixture cool in the pan until it thickens and becomes syrupy. You can also infuse the syrup with herbs, spices and fruit. You can make the syrup in larger batches to use in other cocktails too. Just store the syrup in a sealed container and it should last several months.

Along with adding lots of ice to this sangria, I included the addition of frozen grapes to chill the beverage also.

Kiwi Grape Sangria

White Wine Kiwi-Apple Sangria

Recipe: Easy


Banana Date-Walnut Bread

Banana Date-Walnut Bread

Banana Date-Walnut Bread

I think everyone should have a good banana bread recipe in their baking repertoire. It’s just a good go-to cake that lends itself to many occasions. This is a great bread to bring to showers and brunches, birthdays and lunches. It’s great with a cup of coffee or tea, and even a big glass of milk.

This particular recipe comes to us from my good friend Gail Berger.  She is a baker extraordinaire. We met while we were both attending a professional baking program and have been culinary soul mates ever since. Gail is definitely a kindred spirit and we spend many hours on end together trolling the bakeries, cafes and eateries of Los Angeles searching for the ultimate in baked goods. Yeah, we complain about our weight a lot, usually as we’re downing a chocolate chip cheesecake or an expertly crafted dobos torte. But we continue relentlessly on our journey in search of that holy grail of baked goods.

I think you’ll be as pleased with Gail’s recipe as I was. It’s extremely moist (which is actually a term I find bizarre in describing food items), the walnuts give the bread a nice crunch, and the dates add a pleasing texture to the bread. When I wrapped this bread in plastic wrap and let it sit over night the flavors in it melded together and tasted better the second day. You might just want to try that approach.

The beautiful mahogany color of this Banana Date-Walnut Bread

The beautiful mahogany color of this Banana Date-Walnut Bread

Banana Date-Walnut Bread 

Recipe Courtesy of My Friend Gail Berger

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg (if you don’t have it, you can use powdered)
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 6 dates chopped (tossed in 1 teaspoon of flour to keep them separated)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with melted butter.
  2. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and set aside.
  3. Cut up the bananas in chunks and place in a large bowl and mash them with a spoon.  Take the banana mixture and place it into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and add the sugar. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until it’s light and fluffy. Add the butter, eggs and vanilla extract and beat on medium, just until incorporated. Scape sown the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Add the flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed just until ingredients are incorporated. Fold in the nuts and dates.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and give it a good rap on the counter to get out any air bubbles.
  6. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Cool in pan for about a half-hour and then turn out to cool completely on a rack before slicing.
Banana Date-Walnut Bread

Banana Date-Walnut Bread

Recipe: Easy


Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

It’s practically summertime here in Southern California and there’s beautiful berries everywhere. Everywhere I look from supermarkets, to farmer’s markets and roadside stands all I see are berries. It’s my personal observation that strawberries always seem to get top billing with blueberries and raspberries coming in at a close second. It appears to me that the blackberry just doesn’t get the same notoriety as it’s cohorts. Since today was designated as a baking day, I thought I would show the blackberry a little love and make it the star of this particular baking project.

I found that this cake tasted even better when I added a nice dollop of freshly whipped cream to it and then sprinkled it with a few juicy blackberries. This rustic, homey dessert is best when served warm from the oven.

Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

From Baking by Emma Patmore

  • 1 pound blackberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup self-rising flour

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a pastry brush and a tablespoon of melted butter, lightly grease a 8″ cake pan or a 9″ pie plate and set aside.
  2. Place the blackberries and the sugar together in a medium bowl and gently toss until the blackberries are totally covered in the sugar. The berries are very tart (usually) so make sure they’re completely coated.
  3. Place the coated berries in the pan you set aside. Spread them around so they evenly cover the bottom of the pan.
  4. Beat the egg and brown sugar together in a large bowl until well combined. Stir in the melted butter and milk. Sift the flour into the egg/butter mixture and blend until the flour is incorporated.
  5. Blend until you have a smooth batter then spread the batter over the blackberries in the pan.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes until the cake is firm and golden around the edges.
  7. Dust the top of the cake with some powdered sugar and serve warm.
  8. You can also bake this cake in individual ramekins, just adjust the time accordingly.
Blackberry Pudding

Blackberry Pudding

Recipe: Easy


Strawberry Ice Cream made with fresh California Strawberries

Strawberry Ice Cream made with fresh California Strawberries

Strawberry Ice Cream made with fresh California Strawberries

What could be more fun for a girl obsessed with strawberries, than the opportunity to spend the day frolicking in the fields of a strawberry farm in Oxnard, California!  Yes, it’s true.  I was invited by the California Strawberry Commission to tour a working strawberry farm along with a group of fellow foodbloggers. The farm is run by Bill Reiman who took us out into his fields and showed us how this gorgeous fruit is picked, processed and packed. As our group stood there in the warm California sun, Bill explained  how environmentally conscious California strawberry farmers are, and how they have invested millions into research and sustainable farming practices.  He went on to explain how 88% of the nation’s strawberries are grown in California, and that California has a 12 month growing season. So guess what, you can enjoy your strawberries 24/7!

The final highlight of the day was a strawberry-themed dinner prepared by Executive Chef Tim Kilcoyne. Our hosts had set up a white canopied tent that was surrounded by strawberries as far as the eye could see, and our backdrop was the Santa Monica Mountains. A Hollywood set designer couldn’t have done a better job. As if this wasn’t enough, each guest was sent home with a flat of  sweet, California Strawberries. Yes, it was a most excellent adventure, and one I’ll never forget.

So what did I do with all those berries you ask…well, I turned them into ice cream of course.

Strawberry Ice Cream made with fresh California Strawberries

Strawberry Ice Cream made with fresh California Strawberries

Strawberry Ice Cream

Williams Sonoma “Ice Cream”

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (185g) sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (250g) fresh California strawberries, stemmed and coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the cream and milk. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt and whisk the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the vanilla. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes so that the flavors begin to blend together. Cover and refrigerate the mixture until chilled, from 3-8 hours.
  2. In a medium bowl, using a fork, mash half of the chopped strawberries until they break down into small chunks, then add the remaining coarsely chopped strawberries to the bowl. Cover and refrigerate these strawberries for an hour.
  3. After an hour, pour the milk/cream mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When nearly frozen and the mixture looks like thick whipped cream, add the strawberries. Churn just until blended. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Freeze until firm, about three hours, or up to 3 days before serving.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts

Fresh California Strawberries

Fresh California Strawberries

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We were treated to a chef prepared, strawberry themed meal in a tent set up in the middle of the strawberry field. The Santa Monica Mountains were the perfect backdrop.

Fun Strawberry Facts:

8 strawberries contain more vitamin C than an orange. They’re low in sugar, with only about 50 calories, and strawberries are a great source of fiber, folate and potassium. Yeah, so who else can make that claim!

Strawberries are good for your heart folks. Potassium found in strawberries can help control blood pressure and fight strokes. The antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals in strawberries has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels.

California strawberry farmers use less than one percent of California’s cropland, but create nearly 10 percent of all California’s farm-related jobs. You go California farmers!

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Mama had a grand old day in the California Strawberry Fields.

Recipe: Easy

* Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The California Strawberry Commission. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.


Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

I come from a long line of coffee cake eaters. In fact, the family motto is” we never met a coffee cake we didn’t like”. Our family’s coat-of-arms is a cheese Danish and a cup of coffee. So you get my drift, right. We like coffee cake, so much so that I can’t bake ’em as fast as they eat ’em. But that’s okay, it keeps me on my toes.

This Apple Streusel Coffee Cake is a particular family favorite. Why, because it’s all apple-y, and streusel-y, and cinnamon-y, and nut-y. I can think of no better combination of flavors. Well, maybe coconut and bananas, but that will be another blog posting.

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Adapted from Gale Gand’s Brunch!

The Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 apples, peeled and cored, and chopped (I like to use a tart Granny Smith apple)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Streusel Topping

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a pastry brush and melted butter, grease an 8-inch baking dish.
  2. For the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or I used an electric hand-mixer) beat the egg and then mix in the milk and melted butter.  Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is incorporated. Add the apples and walnuts to the mixture and pour into the baking dish.
  3. To make the streusel topping, mix the sugar, flour, cold butter and cinnamon in a medium bowl by pinching them together with your fingers until combined. Spoon the mixture over the top of the batter.
  4. Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden, and when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan, and then cut into squares.

Recipe: Easy

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Mama’s Tips:

Not all apples fare well when added to baked goods. The varieties that I find work well are; Granny Smith, Fuji, Rome Beauty, Gala and Honeycrisp. I like to use a combination of these apples instead of just using one kind.

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