Serving with Style

You Meet the Nicest People

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Posted December 8th, 2012 in Holiday, In the Kitchen, Posts, Serving with Style

A few weeks ago I was on a plane to Portland for a meeting and had the good fortune to sit next to a nice man named David Weiss.  David is a fellow food sales guy making his living selling Nestle Water to convenience stores.   Ironically, David’s family has a traditional holiday jello salad that contains Oregon Fruit!! What are the odds???

In my own family we didn’t eat a lot of jello.  I stopped eating it after the jolly green jello incident.  When I was in college and VERY POOR my siblings and I decided to throw a 25th anniversary party for my parents. We bought and prepared all the food.  My sister and brother were working so I am sure they either bought or made something good. My contribution was the Jolly Green Jell-O as it has come to be known in the family lore.  Of course I didn’t want to run out so I borrowed a VERY large banquet pan from the restaurant I worked in and made enough red/green Jell-O (In layers!) to feed the local soup kitchen.  I tried to get guests to take home to go portions in Ziploc bags.  I have not heard the end of this so I have never brought Jell-O to a potluck again.

I might have to change that rule this Christmas because the Weiss family recipe is delicious!  It is Cherry Coke Jell-O!  I have a very cute mold with a Christmas tree and the color is lovely.

While thinking about this post I decided to do a little Jell-O research.  I discovered that there is quite a cult following for Jell-O.  Did you know, for example that JELL-O is America’s most famous dessert?  Another interesting fact is that JELL-O was once considered a very decadent dessert and served by the upper class. They used fancy Victorian molds to create desserts that were both beautiful and tasty. OR that in 2001, after an astounding 14,000 people had signed a petition, JELL-O was made the Official State Snack of Utah? Another fun fact is that the people of Salt Lake City actually eat more lime flavored JELL-O than any other city in the world. And lastly that one million packs are sold each day? In America alone, 300 million packs are sold each year. I can assure this was all news to me.

This chance meeting on a plain reminded me that there are lots of old family recipes and several of them use Oregon Fruit. Who knew??  So I am challenging you all out there to share you family recipes with me, whether or not they contain Jell-O.  You can post them to our Facebook page, send them to me by email at or even mail them in the old fashioned way to: Erin Johansen Oregon Fruit Products LLC, PO Box 5283 Salem, OR 97304.

I really enjoy being inspired by other’s traditions so please provide me some inspiration. Happy Holidays!!


A Restaurant Dessert to Make at Home

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Posted November 9th, 2012 in Posts, Serving with Style, Tips and Tricks

Last week I had the opportunity to dine at a very nice local restaurant with some friends.  I feel it my duty to all of you to order dessert at these occasions particularly if they contain fruit.  As you know I am committed to getting my 5-9 servings per day in a variety of forms and there, on the menu, was an individual Blueberry Cheesecake with Meyer Lemon Sauce.  Well really, what was I supposed to do when presented with an opportunity to get TWO servings at once AND do research that might prove beneficial to my readers?

So the dessert was delicious and beautiful. It was the perfect blend of the creamy, tart and sweet with a nice texture both from the pop of the blueberries which are inside the cheesecake as opposed to the traditional topping and the crunch of the crust. So after enjoying I decided to try to make my own version.  I baked mine in large muffin cups which worked out well but they sunk in the middle so they didn’t look as perfect as the one created by the professional pastry chef. Upon further analysis from my friend Lori, we determined that the restaurant probably baked full size cakes and cut the individual cakes out with a ring mold.  Too much waste for me. The trick to using canned blueberries in this recipe is to drain them well and then toss them with a bit of flour so they remain suspended in the cream cheese batter.

The meyer lemon sauce is amazing and you really want to make this during the short season you can find these lemons. They are sweeter, smaller and thinner skinned than a regular lemon. I found them last week at COSTCO!!


Baby Shower Cake to Celebrate a Blessing

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Posted September 7th, 2012 in Posts, Serving with Style

Photo courtesy of Justin George

Last weekend I had the privilege of baking the cake for the baby shower celebrating the impending birth of baby “Logan”.  My young friends Anne and Justin are some of the nicest people I know and they are going to be great parents. They are together for the right reasons, have the support of all their extended family and they just exude love, respect, warmth, caring, responsibility and joy. This will be one lucky little boy.

Since I don’t have any grandchildren yet this was my first baby shower cake and I had to go to the internet for ideas.  The only instruction I was given was it had to be chocolate.  Right away I knew that I was going to use the family chocolate cake recipe. We have been baking this since my sister took a home economics class at the Gas Company when we were kids. She learned to bake this moist, delicious and very deep chocolate cake and I have really never found a better recipe.  I also knew that I wanted to try a ganache frosting after watching a contestant do it on Master Chef a couple of seasons ago. I watched a video and decided it didn’t look that hard.  Lastly, it simply HAD to have a raspberry filling or I wouldn’t get to feature it on this blog.  SO, I had my plan.  For a style I searched pinterest for baby shower cake ideas and although I didn’t find one it did spark my imagination.  There were animals on the invite and the color scheme was chocolate brown with tangerine and honeydew melon.

Photo courtesy of Justin George

I decided to create a carousel cake with animal shaped sugar cookies frosted in the invite colors.  The result was excellent and I am happy with the way it turned out.  The hostess (my friend, Angela) provided an incredibly elegant luncheon with every detail planned to perfection. The only problem was, the color scheme of the shower was BLUE!  (silly me, of course it was, the baby is a BOY!). So the cake did not match the room but it was delicious and beautiful and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  I don’t think the baby noticed since most boys are color blind anyway and besides he won’t be born for several more weeks.


Baby Shower Carousel Cake

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Posted September 7th, 2012 in Desserts, Recipe, Serving with Style

Photo Courtesy of Justin George

(Serves approximately 30)

Animal Cookie Decorations

1 tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough

2 cups powdered sugar

2 Tbs milk (or a little more until you get a good glazing consistency)

assorted food coloring colors

Roll out the dough and cut with animal shaped cookie cutters. Bake for about 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees until light brown.  Let cool completely and then frost with the prepared icing.

You can make these well in advance as they keep for a while. Let them set and dry completely so the icing becomes hard and smooth.

Chocolate Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees

I made three batches of this recipe and baked it in 10 inch round cake pans.  I baked the layers a couple of days in advance and put them in the freezer.  This made them easier to work with and also gave me the time to fill and decorate on the day of the event.

Instructions  for each layer:

1lb lt. brown sugar

2 c. flour, sifted

¼ tsp. salt

Mix together in a large bowl

1 cup hot water

1 stick butter

2-1oz squares unsweetened baking chocolate

Mix together in a glass bowl until smooth, if necessary microwave on high for one minute. Cool slightly and add to flour mixture.

2 eggs, separated.

1 ½ tsp. baking soda

½ cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

Beat yolks in buttermilk and add vanilla and soda, then add to flour and chocolate mixture.  Beat egg whites until stiff and them fold into the batter.  Grease and flour the sides of the cake pans and line just the bottom with wax paper cut in a 10 inch circle.

Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.


Raspberry Filling:


1 can Oregon Fruit Red Raspberries

2 Tbs. cornstarch


Drain the syrup into a small saucepan. Whisk in cornstarch. Heat and whisk until slurry is thickened and clear. Remove from heat and stir in raspberries. Let cool completely and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.


Mascarpone and Cream Cheese Filling

4 oz. mascarpone at room temperature

8oz cream cheese at room temperature

1 stick of butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

1 ½ lbs. confectioner’s sugar


Beat the cheeses and butter together in a stand mixer until creamy. Add vanilla and then gradually beat in sugar until it is thick and spreadable and smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.


Chocolate Ganache

18 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup heavy whipping cream


Heat whipping cream in a saucepan just until it boils. You have to watch it closely as it boils over fast!  Put chocolate chips in a bowl with pour spout and pour the cream over the chocolate. Mix together until the chocolate is smooth and the ganache is shiny.  Let cool while assembling the cake.



Stack the first layer top side down on a cake plate. Spread with cream cheese frosting and then pipe a thick layer around the edges.  Spread ½ the raspberry filling on top of the cream cheese.  Place the second layer top side down on the filling.  Repeat with filling.  Then place the final layer top side down so that the top of the cake is absolutely flat and level.  At this point just for support, I inserted three wooden skewers cut to the exact height of the cake.


Pour the ganache over the top of the cake starting in the center and pouring in a circle from the center to the edges very slowly.  Watch this video first. As you get to the edges let the ganache spill over the sides to coat completely. You can use a spreader to fill in any gaps to get complete coverage.  After the cake cools you can scrape the excess ganache that has collected around the base of the cake with the spreader and then wipe the cake plate with a wet paper towel.

Stand the cookies around the base of the cake, pressing against the ganache.

Using matching ribbon that matches your cookie colors, wind around a wooden dowel like a maypole. I glued the ribbon to the base of the dowel with hot glue to start and on the top to hold.  Then cut long strands of ribbon to flow over the cake and to puddle around the base of the cake.


Beverages for the Heat of Summer

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Posted August 25th, 2012 in Posts, Serving with Style


Here in Sacramento we have had too many days in a row of 100+ degrees.  The ever famous “but it’s a dry heat” has been uttered way too often.  It is hot and there is no sugar coating it.  I traveled to Salem, Oregon for a meeting a couple of weeks ago and here I was in the great, mild northwest and it was HOT!  Not only hot but humid and hot and I finally understood the difference. Humidity does make you hotter. OK I will add “dry heat” to my gratitude list from now on. Then I spoke to my sister who lives in Long Beach, CA, another delightful weather Mecca.  It is permanently 78 degrees with a coastal breeze. She regularly serves Thanksgiving on her patio.  And she was HOT AND MISERABLE!!  talking seriously about adding air conditioning.  So, again, I had to add to my gratitude list because if you live in Sacramento, you HAVE air conditioning.

So all this heat and all this talk of heat made me thirsty and I decided it was high time we talked about cocktails.  Last week in downtown Sacramento it was cocktail week so I think there might have been a collective thirst going on.  Because I have friends who do not drink I usually try to think up some creative mocktails as well.

My daughter Kaitlin and I got together and concocted some really excellent drinks to quench the might thirst of summer.  Not only do they taste delicious but they were beautiful as well.  We made a Blueberry Smash inspired by another blog a couple of weeks ago called Creative Culinary. I made several modifications due to what I had on hand and it was delicious and refreshing.

Because this recipe uses only the blueberries I had the syrup leftover so we made a Lavender Blueberry Martini using some culinary lavender I brought home from my vacation in the San Juan Islands.  I think this was my favorite.  I got to use my dad’s cocktail shaker from the 50’s and the latest family heirloom to land in my collection. While helping my mom clean out a few cupboards we found the fantastic martini glasses with a Fred Astaire character on the stem. My mom bought them in an Antique Store in Detroit, Michigan in 1953 so we estimate they were from the 30’s.  They are quite a bit smaller than the martini glasses of today-a revealing statement on our modern lack of portion control.  But they are cool and I am thrilled to have them!

Raspberry Lemonade is always a summer hit so I made a delicious Oregon Fruit spin on that.  Lastly, I have recently discovered a tea blend that is just the best.   I use decaf Earl Grey with Herbal Meyer Lemon. It is my version of an unsweetened Arnold Palmer and it is fantastic.  I thought it would only benefit from Blackberries so I give you my Blackberry Arnold Palmer.

Chill out!

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