Pork Rillettes

Pork RillettesBeach Bites
Hitting the beach in the summer is awesome…the sun…the surf. There is nothing better than kicking back at the beach and relaxing. And, you’ll need it because as great as a day at the beach can be, the schlepping of all of the stuff you need is not.

I admire those people who can throw everything they need for a day at the beach into a cinch-sac and head out the door. I am not one of those people. I would like to be—but I am not. I require a chair and an umbrella at a minimum. And, of course, a cooler full of tasty food and refreshing drinks.

Of all the things you need for a day at the beach, I think the food it the hardest because it actually takes some preplanning. Because we head to the beach every summer when we go to Tahoe, my sister and I are now a well-oiled machine when it comes to packing lunch for 10 of us. But, you better be okay with a sandwich and some chips for lunch. That is just our routine at Tahoe.

Before we got married and even for some time after, my husband and I used to spend our weekends sailing the bay either on our own or with friends. Our favorite place to stop for lunch was on Angel Island and I always tried to pack something good to eat. Sometimes we hiked around to the south side and ate on the beach there. (We did that once for Fleet Week. The Blue Angels flew right over our heads. It was fantastic.) More often than not though we would find an empty picnic table or sometimes just eat on the boat. It goes without saying that whatever we brought had to be compact. The sailboat wasn’t that big. And, if you had to haul your lunch around an island, you didn’t want to bring a big heavy cooler. So I got good at making what I call snacky lunches.

Snacky lunches are basically picnics made up of a bunch different things that when you choose a little of this and a little of that make up a rather lovely lunch. They usually consisted of a fresh baguette, a variety of cheeses, assorted charcuterie, cut veggies, some dips or spreads, fruit, and something bite-size and decadent for dessert. Sometimes, if we had a bigger group I would add on an orzo or tomato salad.

Occasionally I would make Rillettes because it is the perfect picnic food. You can spread it on a fresh baguette or crackers and you store it in a mason jar for easy transport. If you are planning on hitting the beach in the near future, give this a try…

Pork Rillettes
Yields about 5 cups Read more…

Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Bourbon Peach CobblerPeachy-Keen
I know that apple pie is the undisputed champion of 4th of July, but if you have walked through any produce department lately you may have noticed that peaches and nectarines are doing everything they can to get your attention. What is it about that fragrance that makes me stop in my tracks and throw a half dozen in a bag?

Truth is I am a bit mad for peaches and nectarines right now. It is the peak of their season and they are just so good. I think I have used them in every meal this week. Grilled and diced into a salsa to put on the pork chops I grilled them with or sliced up in a cool crisp salad with some Point Reyes blue cheese and some spiced nuts. Or just sliced and eaten by themselves. Then there are the smoothies and baked goods….

I love apple pie but I am having a hard time getting excited about it for the 4th. Instead, my mind is filled with visions of gooey cobbler mixing with cool vanilla bean ice cream and it’s making my mouth water. Even better? This recipe also includes a splash of Bourbon…

Bourbon Peach Cobbler 
Adapted from Tyler Florence and the Food Network
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

Fresh Cherry & Apricot Clafoutis

Fresh Cherry & Apricot ClafoutisRainy Day Cherries
It is the month of May, right? Ok. Good. I just wanted to check because as I gaze out my window right now it’s looking a whole lot like February. What is this rain, people? I had big plans for this weekend and now they are all washed out…

For the past week, I have been getting notices from some of my favorite U-Pick farms that they will be open for business this weekend. (Let the cherry and apricot picking begin!) And while I have no problem going picking in a light rain, the thunderstorms and torrential downpours that are predicted might be a bit much. My disappointment in possibly not being able to go is less about the fruit and more about this being the first time in years that we actually have a free weekend to go a-pickin’.

I love U-Pick farms. Probably to the point of obsession. I just get so much joy being outside on a ladder trying to find the best ones. Plus my kids still think it’s fun which is fantastic because the list of activities they deem acceptable to do with their parents is minuscule.

At this point, I am in wait-and-see mode. Sunday looks like it might be okay. And, yes, I can grab some at the store since the cherries and apricots are in. But, the experience is not the same. They kinda frown on climbing ladders in the Produce Department. Party poopers!

Fresh Cherry & Apricot Clafoutis Read more…

Swedish Pancakes

Swedish PancakesBreakfast in Bed
Mother’s Day is this weekend. And, while you would imagine that all thoughts would be on Mom, I can’t help but think of my Dad.

Mother’s Day was always kind of a weird day growing up. As a kid, I had a love-hate relationship with Mother’s Day. Obviously, I loved my mother and wanted to celebrate her. But, more often than not, Mother’s Day landed on my birthday and instead of having cake and celebrating with my friends, I would be forced to go to a Mother’s Day brunch at some restaurant because that is what my grandmother wanted to do. Not an 8-year old’s idea of a good time!

After my grandparents moved to Arizona, we celebrated Mother’s Day in the way you would expect with handmade cards (or the occasional school made pottery project of nondescript nature) and breakfast in bed. That’s where Dad comes in…

Mom had a snazzy white bed tray that was great for breakfast in bed because it had these cubbies on the side for a newspaper or whatever. But, the cubbies made the tray stable. You could push yourself up to a seated position without spilling the orange juice. And, if you weren’t eating, the top would stand up like an easel so you could read or write, etc. It was perfect. As a kid, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Dad was the king of weekend breakfast. If there were waffles on the iron, toast that was French, or pancakes on the griddle, he was in charge. And, as you can imagine, these were some of the rotating items on the annual Mother’s Day menu. There was one option though that will forever be tied to my father, Swedish Pancakes.

I have a very distinct memory of standing by his side at the stove while he instructed me on the ins and outs of perfect Swedish Pancake preparation. They can’t be too thick but they can’t be too thin either. And the trick to spreading the batter out evenly in the pan is all in the wrist. Swedish pancakes were a big deal and without question for me a favorite Mother’s Day option.

Now that I have my own family, the tradition continues. Even my angst-y teenagers get excited and smile when I announce that I’m making Swedish Pancakes for breakfast. I have also passed on all of the prep knowledge to my daughter. And, I am happy to announce that she’s got the batter spreading wrist action down.

There will be no Swedish Pancakes for me this year though. My boys’ 15th birthday is on Sunday… So, yeah.

Swedish Pancakes
These pancakes are served folded with butter and dusted with confectioners’ sugar. They are also great with a squeeze of lemon, or a smear of jam, or berries on the side. Read more…

Lemon Pound Cake Bliss

Lemon Pound Cake BlissBunny Brunch
Easter is sort of a mixed-up holiday. First of all, not everyone celebrates it. For those who do observe Easter, not everyone does it on the same day. (Orthodox Easter is a week later this year). And then there is the Easter feast—some people do breakfast, some do brunch and some do dinner. And then some people just do chocolate…

We don’t really have a set celebration for Easter. We have done dinner and breakfast. But, for the most part, we default to brunch. Now that the kids are older and it’s harder to get them out of bed, there are no egg hunts to be concerned about. (The baskets still happen though. Lord help us if there are no baskets! However, now they are less about the chocolate bunny and more about things like movie tickets and clothes without stains…I still sneak a little chocolate in though.) No egg hunts mean we can sleep in and start the party a little later which is great on a Sunday. Nothing like enjoying a beautiful late morning and a lovely Bloody Mary while dining al fresco…

As for the food, we always have a ham which we like to serve with some sort of biscuit to make little ham sandwiches. We like a really good cheddar biscuit or one of our favorites like these Sausage and Sage Biscuits or our Easy Self-Rising Biscuits.

Then there is some version of eggs. They could be scrambled or deviled but there are always eggs. Casseroles are a frequent choice as well. Our Asparagus Bread Pudding Layered with Fontina is perfect for Easter Brunch.

And, of course, Easter baking wouldn’t be complete without the sweet stuff. Hot Cross Buns are a must. And, traditionally we have carrot cake or this Carrot Cake Cheesecake for dessert. But, I took a poll this year and the results tell me I should go in a different direction. This year is less about the carrot and more about the lemon.

I’ve been sort of on the bundt cake bandwagon lately. (They’re just so easy to do and there a so many fun pans!) So I think I am going to use a new tiered bundt cake pan set that I just got and make a show stopper of a lemon cake cause cake is good no matter the time of day.

Lemon Pound Cake Bliss
Yields 12 to 16 servings

Read more…