I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet

Lemon Trifle with Berries

Lemon Trifle with Berries

If you have teenagers, you’ll probably want to skip this blog as the main ingredient in trifle is stale cake. If you actually do occasionally have stale (or extra) cake — with or without teenagers — read on!

If you’re unfamiliar with trifle, it’s a British invention for using  stale cake. Which does lead one to wonder if stale cake is a common problem for the Brits because their teenagers are sent off to boarding school.

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Chocolate Peppermint Meringues

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 A great way to use up leftover egg whites, especially during the holiday season. If you have leftover candy canes or peppermint candies, use them. However, if you are making these cookies during the Christmas season, look for the miniature candy canes. They have the most pink surface area. The color contrasts well with the white of the meringues.

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Exceptional Maple Sugar and Maple Syrup Vanilla Pies

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 I admit I could never imagine Maple Sugar Pie or Maple Syrup Pie. I flat out love pure maple anything, but an entire pie made with maple sugar or syrup and nothing else to offset the sweetness — like pecans for instance — seemed like it would be cloying and a full-out sugar rush. Then a  friend and I drove from Vermont to Quebec City in the early autumn of 2012.  I knew that this would be my best chance to try Maple Sugar  or Maple Syrup Pie. I was ready to convert  —  or not.

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Kick-Ass Applesauce

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 Anyone with a stove, a pot and apples can make applesauce. But, really good applesauce? Use heritage apples and a few special ingredients and you’ve got yourself a kick-ass good dessert!

In 1969 I moved to a ridge along the Mendocino coast.  Through serendipity I ended up in the second oldest farmhouse on the Coast and it came with 29 heritage apple trees! Needless to say, we had apple everything from early autumn until spring.  Apple pie, apple crisp, apple cookies, apple cake, baked apples, candied apples and a whole lot of applesauce.

Amazingly enough, I still look forward to autumn for the apples. Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like  the snap of biting into a crisp apple and feeling and tasting the juices flood your palate!

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A Knock-Out Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream Sandwich

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Fresh off the press, Jennie Schacht’s latest book, I Scream Sandwich is out in time for summer. Here’s what she says about the following recipe:

The It’s-It company began selling scoops of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between old-fashioned oatmeal cookies, all cloaked in chocolate, at San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach in 1928. By the time I moved to the area in 1978, the It’s-It was a well-established local phenomenon. I’ve filled my version of the novelty with a not-overly-sweet vanilla frozen custard.

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Ravioli with Ligurian Walnut Sauce

In 2011 I traveled with my friends to Cinque Terra, “The Five Lands,” all built on hillsides overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Basil is used throughout the region as pesto and is also blended with spinach and pecorino  as the filling for pansoti, a ravioli that is shaped like a triangle. Unless you live in an urban area or regularly make pasta, it’s nearly impossible to find pansoti. Use your favorite ravioli instead. Walnuts and almonds are also grown in this region and the Ligurian walnut sauce that I had over pansoti is seductive! When I returned home and made the sauce, I added just a little vanilla, which accented the walnuts nicely. I used artichoke and butternut squash ravioli in the picture above and served it with a roasted vegetable and white bean salad and Chardonnay. As spectacular as the view walking the ridge from Vernazza to Monterosso! (And, by the way, the sauce would be excellent served over poached chicken or fish.)

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Last Call for Summer Fruit Desserts!

The first autumn showers arrived  today after two days of beautiful, billowy cumulous clouds hanging on the edges of the Santa Cruz mountains and mildly humid weather suggesting that maybe a few sprinkles would come our way.

Unfortunately, it has been just that — sprinkles. Not enough to make the air smell of fresh rain on the pavement, not even enough to register in my rain gauge. The sky grew ominous — then the clouds moved on. I will need to water tomorrow.

Teasers like the rain forecast are the proverbial “death knell” for summer fruit. For the rest of the month we’ll be pushing pumpkins and apples at the store (with a few grapes and pomegranates for good measure) and the days will grow progressively darker. Which is why I’m sneaking in one more bit of late summer goodness before I fully give in to autumn.

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Cherry Desserts in September?

Cherries are one of life’s very special gifts, at least that’s how I view them. As a child I patiently waited for cherries to arrive in our small town’s grocery. My mother usually took me shopping with her, so when cherry season arrived, I’d beg her to buy them. I then would forfeit as much allowance as necessary to buy my own personal stash of cherries, which I hoarded in the back of the refrigerator as my brother made frequent visits to the refrigerator throughout the day and inhaled whatever he could find.

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Things to Do With Vanilla Ice Cream

Courtesy of Alice Medrich, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts

This is a selection from Alice’s book that directs readers to different recipes she has in the book. You will need to read the book for the recipes that are highlighted, but this will give you good ideas for adorning vanilla — or other– ice creams. And, for starts, how about the recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream? or Mexican Vanilla Ice Cream?

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Bringing Morocco Into My Kitchen

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This spring I tried very hard to bring together a group of kindred spirits to travel with my colleague Fattah and me to Morocco.

Fattah is Moroccan, living in Santa Cruz. As a way to pay for trips home, he periodically offers a two-week sojourn through Morocco at an unbelievably reasonable price. The trip begins and ends in Casa Blanca and covers a lot of territory, including travels through the Atlas Mountains, an overnight trip into the Magreb (desert) on camelback, a night in a sustainable community where five of the rooms are beautifully decorated caves, a hotel on the beach in Essaouira, Roman ruins, a town of fossils, the souks, casbahs, a few days in villages and so much more. The trip promised to be beyond splendid.

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An Off-Season Ode to the Sweet Pleasure of Maple Syrup

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Even in the heat of summer, I’m passionate about maple!” And  perhaps you are too?

Imagine how it must have been for the indigenous Americans and early settlers who  survived
winter on rations of dried meat, fish and roots, when the sweet, syrup was tapped and boiled then poured on the snow.

Knowing how the sweetness promised the change of seasons and broke the monotony of  simple, bland foods, I thought of the traditional pygmy peoples of Africa whose third most common cause of death was falling from trees while gathering honey. (The first  was being trampled by large animals; the second was falling into the fire at night after smoking powerful tobacco.) What a joy for those waiting on the ground for a mouthful of thick, sticky pleasure in a life of game, grubs and roots and shoots. (And a greater joy if the gatherer survived the climb!)

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More Maple! Maple Pecan Shortbread and Maple Pecan Pralines

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Ahhhhh, maple everything!! As my Vermont friend Sandra sent me 1/2 gallon of maple syrup, 1 pound of maple sugar, a box of maple leaf candies and  a jar of maple butter, I  embarked on a maple
desserts splurge. Wouldn’t you??

When I visited Sandra in St. Johnsbury in 2002, we went to the Goodwin Family’s sugaring shack. Although it was April and sugaring had ended in Vermont, the processing was still underway and the place was buzzing. There were molds filled with syrup drying into maple candies. People were picking up jugs of syrup, and boxes ready to ship lined the hallway.

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