Tips and Tricks

A Master Sauce- a Versatile Idea

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Posted November 11th, 2011 in Posts, Tips and Tricks

Professional chefs know all the short cuts. They spend the day prepping for dinner service so that everything is ready to go.  I was perusing the Culinary Institute of America website where they have a special feature on blueberries and I came across something I thought was worth sharing.  Master Sauces are a base from which lots of interesting things can be made.  They suggested making blueberry compote as one such “master sauce” and then using your imagination to find creative ways to use it.  We all know that blueberries are good for us; we all know they are delicious. Why not try making some of this up and then experimenting. Some idea starters from the site are below.


Making blueberry compote with Oregon Canned Fruit is amazingly easy:

Drain the juice of two cans into a saucepan and whisk in 2 Tablespoons cornstarch. Whisk over medium heat until the mixture is just thickened and clear.  Remove from heat and stir in the reserved blueberries.  Let cool.

Easy ways to use Blueberry Compote (borrowed from the CIA)

  • At breakfast, Blueberry Compote is perfect as a topping for waffles, pancakes, french toast or oatmeal
  • Create a blueberry breakfast smoothie-in-a-bowl: stir Blueberry Compote into yogurt; pour it in a bowl and sprinkle with granola or other grains, nuts and dried fruit to eat with a spoon
  • Layer Blueberry Compote, vanilla or fruit-flavored yogurt with crisp rice cereal or granola
  • Ever-useful Blueberry Compote adds flavor, color and value to desserts: as an ice cream topper; spooned over cheesecake, angel cake, lemon pie, flan or whipped cream-filled shortcake
  • Before baking a coffee cake, spread a layer of Blueberry Compote over the batter then top with streusel
  • Fill tartlet shells with Blueberry Compote and top with whipped cream
  • Make it savory! Play with Blueberry Compote and add mustard, vinegar, herbs, pepper, sour cream—whatever, Use the savory sauce with pork or chicken.


This will work great with any of our fruit.  Please feel free to share your ideas.


Cheese Tart with Spoon Sweet Cherries-Greek AND Gluten Free

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Posted September 2nd, 2011 in Posts, Tips and Tricks

Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to visit my family in Seattle and meet my little grand niece just 5 weeks old.  Of course my gift to her was a colorful set of pots and pans. Afterall, her parents and grandparents are all foodies and her great aunt is The Queen of Tarts. Got to get her going asap!

My Seattle relatives have lovely lush gardens due to all the rain.  My nephew has a beautiful urban oasis with a very productive garden in a small space. We ate the best green beans fresh from the garden for dinner. My brother was hard at work constructing a greenhouse so he can recreate his California tomatoes in his forest environment. 

After visiting with the new baby and family I went out to my cousin’s house for the rest of the weekend. They also live in a beautiful spot-their house is surrounded by beautiful gardens and deep forest. I sat on that porch overlooking the garden for several hours reading a book and it was just delightful.  My cousins Lee and Fritz are amazing in the kitchen.  I always feel like I spent the weekend at a fabulous b&b-pampered, relaxed and well fed. 

Lee and I spent hours pouring over cookbooks and talking about cooking, cooking classes, ingredients and tools.  Lee has celiac disease and had to totally change the way she cooked a few years ago.  She asked me to try making more gluten free recipes on the blog and even to make the same recipe with and without gluten from time to time to accommodate the folks struggling with this new reality. 


So today I made something Greek adapted from her cookbook, Foods of the Greek Islands by Aglaia Kremezi.  I decided to make the cheese tart with ricotta cheese and thyme honey and top it with spoon sweet cherries.  It wasn’t entirely traditional to put those two together but it sounded good to me.  The subtle sweetness of the tart, with the warmth of the cinnamon and honey topped with the sweet, tart cherries was a great combination. I made two versions of the pastry-one regular and one gluten free. I decided to make mini tarts with the gluten free pastry and a big tart with the other so I could make sure to keep them absolutely separate. The secret ingredient in the pastry is beer!  I used a gluten free raspberry beer because I am pretty sure they buy the raspberry puree from Oregon Fruit.   

Frugal Libations

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Posted August 19th, 2011 in Drinks, Posts, Recipe, Tips and Tricks

Last weekend my good friend Nancie visited me from San Diego. We spent the weekend shopping for vintage excessories for our vintage homes.  Nancie is an incredible decorator and has an eye for a bargain like no other. She also loves a “do it yourself “project.  We decided to try to save a glass top from a very old and rusty umbrella table to put on my new (old) black iron patio table. Far be it from us to add to the landfill.  We spent a good two hours on this project including several trips to my neighbor Tom’s very well stocked tool shed.  We got the table disassembled but were struggling with the metal ring around the edge. We resorted to a hacksaw.   When we lifted the glass up to put it on the table to cut the rim off, we realized it was 4 inches in diameter TOO BIG!!!   Neither of us thought to measure first.

Nancie thought this effort entitled us to cocktails on the porch.  Since there is not much of an alcohol selection in my house we headed out to Trader Joe’s to buy some vodka.  Nancie likes good vodka, expensive vodka but she was not willing to pay the price.    I told her that a clerk at BevMO told me once that you could turn the cheapest vodka into very fine vodka simply by filtering it through a coffee filter.  Now that was a DIY project she could get behind. 

We bought the very cheapest we could find.   When we got home, we tasted it straight and it was awful, even to me. Tasted just like rubbing alcohol.  We poured it through a coffee filter into a pitcher and then tasted it again.   There was a noticeable improvement.  We decided to filter it again and ( I am not lying!) it became smooth and drinkable.   We mixed it with the only thing I had, raspberry crystal light.  Not a five star cocktail but after the day we had, it worked just fine.

Last night I had my friends Bob and Chris over for dinner.  Bob is responsible for my move to this adorable house.  He was always talking about biking to the farmer’s market and that inspired me to make this change. I finally got around to inviting them for dinner in my new house.  I made my famous Raspberry Chipotle Sauce on Flank Steak and as you know, after making the sauce you are left with some delicious raspberry syrup.  I thought it would be fun to make Raspberry Cosmos with the aforementioned “elevated” cheap vodka.  Turns out Bob is something of a vodka connoisseur so they were the perfect guests to try this out on.  They loved this drink! 

Of course Bob pointed out that if you are going to add delicious raspberry syrup to it,  it is kind of a waste to use the good stuff anyway.  Point well taken but I still think it’s a tip worth sharing. These economic times call for some creativity!

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