Serving with Style

Bar B Que, Berries and an Impressive Dinner

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Posted July 27th, 2012 in Posts, Serving with Style

Because I live in California, the backyard bar-b-que is  ubiquitous entertainment for most of the year.  Even in the central valley when it is extremely hot for a good part of the summer, the cool delta breeze kicks in in the afternoon and makes cooking and eating outside just tolerable.  When you weigh the benefit of not turning on the oven for fear that the oven and the air conditioner will overload your 100 year old circuits and you will have to swelter inside, the choice is obvious.

I am always on the lookout for great ideas for outdoor grilling and how to make something special out of a simple grilled meat.  As you all know by now I watch a lot of Food Network TV.  It is pure entertainment usually.  I am, like many of their viewers, sitting on my couch watching with no real motivation to act on what I see. But every once in a while I get inspired.  Paula Deen was cooking with one  of her sons the other day and they were making a recipe they serve in their restaurant in the south.  It sounded good AND pretty easy.  I had most of the ingredients on hand so I thought I would give it a try.  It consists of a perfectly grilled, perfectly seasoned steak, topped with a warm berry glaze made with red wine (which is convenient as you would probably HAVE to open a bottle for this meal anyway) and then topped with bleu cheese crumbles.  The warm glaze melts the cheese and the gooey blend is AMAZING with the steak!

This berry glaze uses an assortment of berries and to be fair the Dean’s used fresh berries.  Since I decided to make this spur of the moment I wanted to use what I had on hand and since I am the Queen, I always have Oregon Fruit on hand.  I think you should too because it offers you so much versatility when you don’t have fresh, local berries in the fridge.  Because I  used three different varieties of  Oregon Canned Fruit the recipe makes alot.  That got me brainstorming about what else this glaze would be good for.  I think a drape of this glaze over a block of good bleu cheese with some rustic crackers would be a fabulous appetizer to take to someone else’s bar-b-que.

I was talking to some of my co-workers about this recipe and Kurt, the plant operations manager (and a truly great back yard chef in his own right) suggested using our canned Berry Combo.  GENIUS!  This item is in limited distribution though so if you want to pick some up try your local Kroger, Winn Dixie, WinCO or Amazon.com.   The recipe  will give you both variations.

Get social, invite someone over, maybe someone you want to impress. This will definitely do it!

 

It’s Wedding Season and Time for Cake!

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Posted June 8th, 2012 in Posts, Serving with Style

 

Last weekend my family celebrated my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary. It was a momentous occasion for us and truly rare today that a couple lives together that long and still really like each other.  Four generations gathered to celebrate and the occasion was marked by the first baby steps of the first great grandchild. We felt truly blessed.

Because I am the baker in the family I volunteered to make the cake. Now my wedding cakes are legendary and not always in a good way.

For my own wedding I wanted to make the cake myself.  I left the layers cooling on the dining room table to be collected by my bridesmaids the following day and delivered to me at the reception to be decorated.   They arrived, giggling with a weird looking top hat of a cake already iced in their feeble attempt to hide the fact that my husband-to-be’s dog had ate the middle layer. He spent the morning combing local bakeries and, unable to find a layer the right size just bought what they had and the girls tried to make do. Needless to say it made for a strained beginning.  The Queen wasn’t as relaxed as I am today and I must admit I really failed to see the humor.

The next wedding cake I made was for my friend Joan. Her wedding was in Oregon and I lived in California.  My plan was to bake the cake at home and assemble and decorate it onsite.  The first catastrophe was the fact that my oven went out the day I needed to bake.  Using a friend’s oven I was able to get it done in time and off to Oregon we drove, cake in car.  At the wedding site my young daughters and I made a truly beautiful cake, all tiers and columns decorated with tule and flowers.  We successfully moved it to the cake table in the garden which was backed by a lovely lattice fence.  Just before it was time to cut the cake, a gust of wind blew that fence over and the cake went flying. The best man dove for the ground just in time to catch the top tier and the second tier landed upright on its plastic base.  A little extra icing and few minutes later the cake was good as new.  My friend Joan had the grace to laugh at this on her wedding day. She is still married. Something to be said for humor!

Walter and Katina McHugh, A 60 Year Love Story photo courtesy of Tyler McClean

 

So this time my sister asked me if I was sure I wanted to make the cake considering my history and of course I had to.  Everything went right, the Triple Lemon Blueberry Cake arrived intact, no damage and no catastrophes. I even used the original topper from their wedding cake 60 years ago.  I told my dad that this would be the best frosting he ever ate. He laughed at my arrogance since he has eaten a few cakes in his 87 years. But after downing one piece and working on the second he agreed.

 

You should make this cake!

(To make this cake this size you need to double the recipe for  the cake, lemon curd and frosting. Bake one cake batch in a 10 inch round pan and divide the second batch between a 8 in and a 6 inch round pan. All the pans I use are 3″ deep.  I divided all three layers in half using the “dental floss” technique found in the Black Forrest Cake video and spread the lemon curd between the cut layers and use frosting on top of each layer. If the tops are two rounded you can level them off with a serrated knife. PS: Please keep out of dogs reach!)

 

A Cup of Love for Breakfast

You have probably figured out by now that I am partial to individual serve items. I like cupcakes, mini pies, cake pops, dessert in a jar, ALL of it!  It’s also kind of trendy right now so I can’t claim originality.  So when I opened my Wednesday paper this week and saw individual coffee cake in a mug I knew I had to try this.

Sometimes the benefit of single serve is portion control but these little gems are NOT on the diet.  They are, however, the most delicious thing that has ever come out of my microwave.  Yes, I said MICROWAVE!  I never even use this appliance except maybe to defrost or heat up coffee.  But this recipe will make it possible to bake something delightful with very little time.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a bit of prep. But the results are so worth it.

One of my very favorite Oregon Fruits are our Purple Plums.  I admit to bias here, but our Italian purple plums are A LOT better than any other canned plums you might find in the store.  And ours are hard to find.  Not many retailers carry them but you can always get them from www.amazon.com.  You have to buy a case of 8 but, trust me, they won’t last. You will be eating them for dessert, breakfast and afternoon snack and wondering why you have just discovered them.

I made a Plum Coffee Cake in a Mug AND a Plum Upside Down Cake in a Mug (this one is kind of a misnomer but so delicious I am sure you will forgive me the fact that you don’t actually turn it upside down).  The texture of the cake baked in the microwave was surprisingly cake-like.  You got to try this!  These will definitely be go-to items at The Queen’s B&B.

 

Best of the Southwest and Best of the Northwest in ONE WEEK!

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Posted July 30th, 2011 in In the Kitchen, Posts, Serving with Style

Last week I took a much needed vacation with my family.  My mother has a few items left on her bucket list and she is trying to check them off rapid fire as she turns 85 this year.  She has been trying to get to the Opera in Santa Fe, New Mexico for years and she invited Kaitlin and me to join her and my dad on their vacation.  Kaitlin studied music at a conservatory and actually sang opera so the idea really appealed to her.  To be honest, I was motivated mostly by green chili but the opera sounded good too. We saw La Boheme with a New Mexican sunset backdrop and it was truly magical!

Since Kaitlin and I watch a lot of food TV like the Iron Chef we like to experience restaurants headed up by famous celebrity chefs.  We scoped out the restaurant selections and found “The Compound” owned by Mark Kiffin, a James Beard Winner, Best Chef of the Southwest in 2005.  This restaurant was a lovely white adobe and the menu was very high end.  We tried things we had never had like Beef Tartar with soft egg on top and then had some perfectly grilled diver scallops with fava bean, pea and asparagus emulsion with lemon vinegar.  For dessert we had an unbelievable dessert that we thought we could adapt for using Oregon Fruit. It was a blueberry polenta cake with amaretto cream topped with carmelized plum sauce.  WOW!  is all I can say.  I only wish I had the vocabulary to describe this dessert but what I did do for you is recreate it here.  I think I came pretty close.

At the end of the week, we attended the Oregon Berry Festival with two of our blogger friends- Kimberly Morales from “Poor Girl Eats Well” and Leela Cyd-Ross from “The Kitchn” and shared a table with our new friends, Tim and Dani Vincent of Vincent Family Cranberries who are cranberry growers from the Oregon Coast. In the next week or two I will be sharing with you some more experiences from this event but for now let me say that we finished the week with a meal designed by Chef Philippe Boulot, James Beard Winner, Best Chef of the Northwest 2001 at the Heathman Restaurant and Bar in Portland, OR.  Every course was designed around northwest grown berries and included an array of proteins from local goat cheese, to Chinook salmon, to lamb and finally Bison.  The Dessert was truly the grand finale as it was a Berry Trifle with Blueberry, Blackberry, Strawberry, Marionberry and Raspberry compote layered with biscuits and crème chibouste. (None of us knew this word before either-thank goodness for the I-phone. It is a pastry crème lightened with whipped cream. I can’t wait to use this in conversation with someone).

Fruit Inspires Art…and vice versa

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Posted June 16th, 2011 in Posts, Serving with Style

Oregon Fruit has been around on grocers shelves for over 75 years!  3 generations of the Gehlar family in Salem, Oregon have “grown up” in the cannery business.  I am a relative newcomer only working here for 15 years but I remember noticing the Oregon Fruit can labels ever since I started working in grocery stores in the late 70′s. OK now EVERYONE knows how old I am! Whenever I meet someone and start talking about Oregon Fruit people usually recognize the black can with the beautiful illustrations.

Our luscious berries and cherries are naturally beautiful. Artists have been inspired by fruit to create lovely still life paintings since cave men wrote on the walls (graffiti? hmmm…). For my birthday, my esteemed photographer, Mario Revello painted this wonderful abstract entitled Fruit Salad Explosion and although it is quite contemporary it works very well in my vintage breakfast nook!

Fruit Salad Explosion By Mario Revello

Mark Gehlar, the current owner’s father really launched the can company. He was a truly inspirational guy. He had a unique sense of humor, was a great writer using the back of the can as a sort of a blog of the day and really appreciated beautiful fruit inspired art. He liked to incorporate it in his label designs.  Our cans have found themselves in all sorts of interesting places like furniture catalogues, upscale kitchen store ads and even an occasional movie.  The cute little girl on the apple butter label is rumored to be his own daughter Daphne.

 

Last week on Facebook we featured an art piece from Esty with a lovely pear on top of one of our cans!  We appreciate that artists appreciate our humble products.  We think you will appreciate them even more if you open the can and eat them. After that you can feel free to use your creativity.  Suziebeezieland used her empty blueberry can for a lovely flower vase and we applaud her artistic flair as well as her ingenuity in re-using what some might call trash.  (But they would be SO WRONG!)

Oregon Pears by Linhaak of Gresham, OR

So I challenge you-let yourself be inspired by Oregon Fruit.  Bake something, paint something, write something or just eat the fruit straight from the can and use the can as a pencil holder. I promise it will brighten your desk.

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