Archive for the ‘art making’ Category

Seven Layer Yum Pie from Culinary Arts

January 30, 2012

My students must create a recipe, demonstrate it in front of the class, and serve it nicely, for one of their final semester projects. This is one of those projects…..

Imagine soft, caramelish chocolate chip cookie dough for the base, about 1 inch high

next comes rich fudge, the creamiest fudge ever made with dark chocolate, on top of the cookie dough, about 1 inch high

then comes a layer of Reese’s Peanut butter cups, stacked 2 high on top, remember to take them out of their little papers!

now, take a package of dark chocolate instant pudding mix and whip it with 1 cup of milk to make a very thick, rich pudding and spread this over the peanut butter cups

whew! next layer on Oreos, Sammie and Lydia used double stuffed, but apparently you can use mint, peanut butter, sugar free, vanilla, what ever you like, and these can be stacked 2 high as well, if you wish

for the top, whip 1 cup of cream until stiff, whip in a bit of sugar and vanilla, then slather that over the cookie

it wouldn’t be finished without the cherry on top….as many as you like, read the ingredient label before eating!

then for that mountain look and texture you may crumble 2 oreos over the top and this completes the 7 Layer Yum Pie…..or mountain, complete with glaciers, boulders, snow and …..chocolate. Nice job chefs!


Breakfast Musings…..Helping Out

August 9, 2011

This is my favorite breakfast: part of a toasted sourdough baguette, a fresh nectarine or peach, fresh goat cheese and homemade tayberry jam. I do like pancakes with maple syrup, and I do love biscuits and sausage country gravy. Granola with almonds and a full fat organic vanilla yogurt can win me over too. There is pure taste bud joy in the commingling of crusts, creaminess, the slapping together of tart and sweet and sour in the breakfast you see above. I feel a certain success in getting the nectarine to ripen perfectly in it’s brown paper bag. The jam recalls Bruce in the kitchen with his little lacy apron, mashing the berries, stirring the jam, steam wafting throughout our little house, wait, there was no lacy apron? Ok. A different story.

I did a small benefit dinner for some friends last week. One of the qualities about living in a small town is that we know each other. I am not saying I know everyone in LaConner but a lot of us run into each other all the time at our small store, small post office, the bank, walking the dogs, the dock where we dump in our boat, our favorite shops where we know the owners and those who work there. Somehow this makes us all neighbors in the best sense of that word. So when a neighbor becomes ill and has no healthcare plan, and that could be a whole new rant of a post, we rally. There have been benefits and donations, she is getting everything she needs and thankfully  is still with us today.  So I donated a couple of dinners for six, my favorite number to cook for.

How lovely to then be able to cook for other neighbors in the cause! It was a beautiful afternoon on Skagit Bay, up in the trees, looking across to Goat Island and the entrance to the Channel.  We started with goat cheese, pestos, olives, I love those chartreuse ones I can’t spell or pronounce, and some crackers, my favorite opening. Next was a salad of mixed baby greens, gorgonzola, blackberries, toasted pecans and a berry vinaigrette, followed by a filet of fresh halibut, marinated for a few minutes in the vinaigrette, baked for 10 minutes, topped with a skewer of grilled spot prawns, and a nap of reduced and strained raspberries with garlic, red pepper flakes, sea salt and honey, brown rice on the side. The dessert course ran riot! Chocolate genoise with chocolate ganache with raspberry filling and a mound of softly whipped cream! Fresh peach crisp flavored with cinnamon and cardomom resting next to a spoonful of lavender/vanilla ice cream. Enjoy these pictures!

The champagne grapes make a sweet contrast with the cheese.

I will remember how to spell that beautiful olive!


You can use walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts in this salad. I like the milder, sweeter pecans with the super tart blackberries.



White plates would have made the raspberry reduction stand out nicely.




Why so many desserts? We couldn’t decide on one. Small portions saved our day. And there must be left over cake, crisp, and ice cream for a midnight snack.



I am hoping for more photos to come from this afternoon. Everyone had their cameras out for the repast and stunning day.

Holiday Favorite Things

January 4, 2010

what a gift…..2 weeks of holiday time. I found myself keeping the festivities simple. Bruce and I had a special Christmas day with my sister on the river. we walked the woods, and Monk, our dog, had the best time running the beach and splashing in the water. We had a potluck dinner with the crowning dessert a date/walnut pudding that our mom used to make every Christmas. Then, we raced to the ferry to make it to The Berni family Christmas, more dessert, homemade berry pie, pecan tarts, and an apricot almond tart. We stayed overnight and went to breakfast, then a nice drive home with Grandma and our nephew Sam.

My friend Eddie and i had practiced making these apricot tarts with a thin layer of almond filling underneath. We used a German type of puff pastry, really easy. It takes some time for the dough to rest. We tried California and Mediterranean dried apricots, and canned, as no fresh were available. To soften the dried ones we slowly poached them with some water and sugar. I let one batch go too long and almost candied them. They were intensely sweet and not what we wanted, which was a certain amount of sweet and tart combined. This is one of the tarts with apricots canned with pear juice.

We spent many evenings at home, just being together and talking about the past year and changes we might make in 2010. this last year was so difficult, and frightening with my mom passing away. when a parent passes there is a kind of shock even when it might be expected. When I look back now I don’t know how I endured and stayed present with her at that time. I was so fortunate to have my sister and husband with me.

These are Monk and Jojo. Jojo is teaching Monk about sharing the couch, perhaps becoming a bit more friendly.

On New Years Eve we went to a wedding reception for good friends. Our gift was a tiramisu that could serve about 50-60. I’ve made this before in 4 tiers. It is tricky to put together because there is no cake inside, just the mascarpone filling so the doweling that separates layers needs to be large to sit on the bottom. The cake cannot be left out of refrigeration for too long because it will soften. As you can see I am a bit out of practice with the buttercream pearls, but the fondant roses and hearts turned out sweet.

As usual I will be the last to take down the lights outside. I take some down after twelfth night, and then leave something until February……I love the colored lights in the dark, the cheerful feeling I have coming home. We all need to do the little pleasurable things…..even if it isn’t “done”. Life is so short my friends. Take good care of yourselves and family. This is what we have. This is what we are here for.

The Last Croquembouche….Probably

December 13, 2009

The Croquembouche Project

December 12, 2009

Well this week has been thrilling in the Culinary Arts room, or perhaps it could be called the Croquembouche Factory. Yesterday all but 4 students of a total of 32 have finished their tower of chocolate drenched cream puffs, filled with whipped cream…..with variation on the traditional shape. We had some cream puff bowls filled with whipped cream, some bumps, some logs. The fondant project went from leaves and holly berries to sharks, skate boarding figures, huge roses, the grinch, penguins, bears, soccer balls, doves, and a purple snake.

This is a great project providing practice in very specific recipe following, speed, and creativity. Some parts of the plan I insist they follow, some parts I ask them to imagine their favorite animals, colors, something about their life that they might reveal to the world.

The speed part is always troublesome for me…..we only have 55 minutes each day. One for fondant work, or maybe a bit more the next day when we make the pate choux and squeeze the little puppies out. I usually finish up the baking….and who tell me, who teaches their children to finish dishes and dry them, put them away? None from what I can tell. Sorry guys but you are falling down on some simple skills. And who knows about scrubbing the sink out once in a while so that killer bacteria doesn’t crawl up the sides and attack an unsuspecting teenager in a really bad movie? OK, this is about creativity and the holiday spirit……I enjoy the thought of all these beautiful-in-their-own-way Croquembouches , puffs filled, assembled, decorated on the third day…..going out into the world to parents, if  they get that far, or eaten on the bus on the way home despite the no-eating rules set by the Transportation Manager.

All this from butter, eggs, flour, cream, and some sugar and chocolate. What could possibly be more thrilling than pastry work during the holidays I ask?

Christmas Cookies……The Sprinkles Overload Lesson

December 6, 2009

For the last couple of years I have been purchasing my sprinkles for cookies from Market Spice in the Pike Place Market. They have the large size and a wonderful range of colors. And the retail price is very good. I usually get about $80 worth for all the events we make cookies for. I like to buy things from India Tree but they have a big minimum price for shipping. I used their decorative beads, sugars and snow flakes, etc. when I owned my own bakery. I miss making the star cookies with pale blue icing and big white crystals….Or the angels with pale yellow and blue.

Last night was the Tree Lighting ceremony in LaConner. I couldn’t be there because of a prior commitment to read poems….but the cookies were a big hit with the kids. Here are some of them, just finished and waiting to dry for packing.

Somehow that little teddy bear cookie seems appropriate, slightly out of focus as though reeling from too much sugar, not sure what the decorator’s intent was with that last big button of red. We had fun and you can tell. And at this point in the semester we are looking for fun. Just wait for the Croquembouches coming next week. WoooHoooo!

Culinary Arts Cookie Decorating for the Community Tree Lighting December 5

December 4, 2009

Once again we are baking and decorating sugar cookies for the LaConner Community Tree Lighting on December 5, down at the waterfront park. We have also baked off some Seven Layer Bars, those walnut, coconut, chocolate, butterscotch, drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, gooooey, bars.

Did you know that a can of sweetened condensed milk….that little can, has about 1500 calories? I used to know some serious long distance and time kayakers who packed these in their boats and put it in their coffee and on graham crackers to keep up their energy on long trips.

My favorite place to purchase holiday sprinkles is the Market Spice store in the Pike Place Market. They have great big sprinkles in great colors. Of course, once there it is just a few steps to Delaurenti’s and the cheese counter…….oh for a slice of delice de Bourgoyne or a 3 year old pecorino.

So, perhaps later I will take some pictures of the cookies. Here are the fabulous, community-minded culinary artists at work…..

Favorite Things, A Thanksgiving Muse

November 30, 2009

Here it is Sunday evening, the long weekend coming to a close. Monk the pup has had his romp around the neighborhood under parting clouds, glittering stars, Orion standing guard over us tonight.

And I am thankful for so much, even, and especially the struggles of the everyday troubles. Life is rich with wonder, work, mystery, and my favorites: pressure, patience and surprise.

For all my solitary nature I have the best of family and friends. In moments of difficulty I know that tomorrow all will change and to play my part to the best of my ability and let life proceed. I have learned to see the beauty in just about all things. I am learning to use my mind for the great tool it is and make peace with the dark thoughts that come sometimes.

It has been an extraordinary experience to continue to know and grow with my sister. We had a rough beginning and have had the patience, luck, and perception to keep coming closer. She has become my teacher and confidant.

And I am so lucky to have found my sweet heart and made a safe place in the world with him. His heart is huge and beautiful. The best hugs…..gleaming copper pots…….an insatiable appetite for so many things…..courage to change…….finding balance in a violent world…..and he sees me just the way I am.

I get to teach and learn with very special kids. This work is so hard sometimes, letting the right word be spoken, taking advantage of the moment to make space for a kid to grow instead of cramming in one more bit of trivia about the elasticity of albumen. Forgiving them their profanity, being forgiven for my thoughtlessness and vanity.

Lately my mom has been so present with me. She passed away on May 12 of this year. I think autumn will be when I think about her most. She continues to teach me with all I remember…..I had a glorious day in the kitchen with her on Thanksgiving day, making my crackers, putting the turkey in the oven, making stuffing, peeling potatoes, making my cranberry relish.

Here are some pictures of the day.

the crackers, nicoise, morrocan dry cured, and fresh mozz.

the apple tree next door.

our poplar tree

roses on the porch

How We Learn Opening The Pathway to Critical Thinking

November 11, 2009

I haven’t been thinking too much about what to write here for the last month. So much extra work and school activities….you must remember how much drama and excitement pervades the halls during homecoming week. And mid quarter grades, conferences, and the dinner Culinary Arts students cook for staff during conferences…Whew. The spaghetti sauce has been cleaned out of the burners and off the walls.

And I have been thinking. One of my favorite quotes, one I take to heart every day whether I can practice it in tough moments or not, is:

“When people ask about it I say my religion is kindness.” The Dali Lama

So everyday I attempt to meet my students, my world, with kindness in my heart, and kind words from my mouth. Now, sometimes I do have to convey a disappointing bit of news, or ask some difficult questions, state some uncomfortable facts. I can still fulfill these in ways that are honestly understanding and supportive. When the fear of failure is allowed to fade into the background just a bit, the curiosity and risk taking can begin to emerge out of the mental fog.

I think we have to realize that many students come from a home where there is so much scrutiny over grades and behavior that we are a possible small ray of hope for relief…or at least a view into another world where judgment is not so harsh….in fact I am beginning to formulate a new definition of what real true judgment would be a world that operated out of only kindness. Many teenagers are left to their own growing up….parents are too busy or assume that they are smart enough now, or are just too tired to do the potential or on-going battle they see out there with their kids. Some might not care.

One quality that must be present at all times is a sense of calm despite the emotional or mental storm that students can bring into the class room. This is a wonderful practice that I recommend highly.

I don’t care so much about the outcome of some of our class experiments, or the reviews, or answers to questions. The real value is in the process, they are attempting, thinking, possibly inspired. Inspiration is a very good place to get to. Everything else might fall into place once true inspiration is felt. Then thinking becomes more important.

more later. thanks for reading. let me know what you think.


Pumpkins in October

October 5, 2009

I promised some more photos of my friend Eddie Gordon’s Family Farm Pumpkin Stand when they opened this weekend. And here are some. I hope to get a few early morning misty ones in the next week or so. And there are more fields, more ghostly spots to reveal.

IMG_0182IMG_0183IMG_0185IMG_0186IMG_0187IMG_0191They grow the usual carving pumpkins and eating winter squash, like butternut, buttercup, acorns, delicata, hubbards, turbans, plus about 25 different heirloom types with wonderful striations, mellow colors. they also have Indian corn, decorative gourds, and corn stalks.

Behind the barn an old stable houses a ghostly tableau, finely carved pumpkins and lights. This is one of my favorite places in the world.