Tag Archives: caramel

Fruity Ice Cream Smoothie Pie

"picnic flowers"

Twice this past week, I’ve been asked about our July 4 weekend plans and each time, I felt a bit awkward before responding we had none.  The feeling of awkwardness is more uncharacteristic than any worry of not having plans, because plans are easy to make if I’m interested, or prodded by those who are challenged in this area which is most often the case.

The feeling of awkwardness makes no sense.

It’s been forever since we’ve made a big hoo-haw over July 4th.  Having a child with a birthday on the 2nd has put the focus more on that for 18 years, and this year he’s at school, so we’re without that as well to have an excuse to party.  My extended family feels a bit strung about the country right now, my older boys always seem to work on busy holidays, and my husband’s family is in need of a cheerleader to rally them into one big get together for these occasions.

Before you have any thought of my gearing up for an all out whine, you have to know I’m the last person to feel badly about not having plans, which gets me back to the awkwardness.  I don’t get it.  But I’ve written a list for my husband of what we might do this holiday weekend because he loves having plans for any reason whatsoever.  Call him the original Party Man.

Party Man’s Fourth of July Weekend To-Do List:

  1. Take the beach umbrella & book/iPad/beverage/munchies to the water either this afternoon, tomorrow afternoon, or Sunday afternoon. (Check — Friday evening)
  2. Shopping.  There are lots of great sales on this kind of weekend, and maybe we can find a killer deal on something.  You know, because you always need something, right? (Party Man went by himself Saturday.  Check.)
  3. Picnic dinner (packed in the picnic bag we never use) somewhere for the 4th.  Choose a spot we’ve never been depending on where the fireworks are — like the Embarcadero or something.  We could walk to the Cove again which would be fine with me.  Either pack the picnic bag, or pick a place in town to eat, then walk to see fireworks. (Looks like an impromptu BBQ with family on the 4th.  Check.)
  4. You could rent a beach cruiser and I could finally use the bike Mom gave me to cruise all the way around Mission Bay from Crown Point Drive at the end. I need to figure out how to get that bike in my car anyhoo. (Does renting a sailboat count? Saturday with friends. Check.)
  5. Do the “make like a tourismo thing” on Coronado, in Encinitas, Ocean Beach, or you name it which means “goose necking” in the shops, having lunch,  and enjoying the sunshine.
  6. Choose a place tonight and go on an impromptu road trip up the coast like Malibu or something.  Stay one night.  Nothing fancy.  So, Saturday and Sunday.  It would be fun! (Not — Catsitting my brother’s cat)
  7. Help me figure out how to build a fence for the patio, because I’m pretty sure I can do it.  Maybe. (Check — consulted with someone who had good ideas)
  8. Choose a place in San Diego — like downtown — so I can walk around and take photos.  Balboa Park would even be okay. You can hold the camera stuff. (Does Mission Bay count?  Saturday with friends.  Check.)
  9. Want to see the Padres?  Not high on my list, but relaxing.  I like the ball park. (Not — they’re in Seattle this weekend.)
  10. Walk to the boardwalk when the holiday is in full gear just to gawk at all the crazy beach people.

This is what you get to do when your kids are grown and there are no invitations.  Make your own party.  Freeing, to some extent, and certainly nothing to feel awkward about.  Just different.  We’re not very good at it yet, but we’re working on it.  No sooner had I sent this list to him than he remembered Tour de France begins tomorrow.  Nice.

Because a summer holiday weekend calls for ice cream at some point, I say make it a smoothie instead — or an ice cream smoothie pie.  This one isn’t complicated, but does take a bit of planning ahead.

Happy Independence Day!

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Banana Caramel Nut Frozen Yogurt

dipped pops

I like bananas when they’ve just yellow but tinged with the faintest color of green on the ridges that run their length.  No spots, firm, and crisp sounding when I pop the top and pull that first piece of peeling away from the fruit.  If bananas could stay like this for days, I’d enjoy one every day all by itself.

But they don’t.

I don’t like the cloying sweetness that begins to take over once the ripening process gets going, and the softer texture leaves much to be desired.  I wish I was better at pulling out the blender because I wouldn’t have trouble making a smoothie and putting a too ripe banana out of its misery with some yogurt and orange juice, but I’m not.

Recently, we’ve had quite the ripe banana back up so I spent more time than I normally would looking for something different to make with them — something other than banana bread or muffins.  I love frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and nuts, but they’re not something to be made with brown bananas.  Pastry Chef Sherry Yard has some delicious ideas involving frying and dipping, so that’s on my list, but I wasn’t in the mood to get too involved.

If not frozen banana pops, then why not banana ice cream — or frozen yogurt since I had Greek yogurt and kefir cheese in the fridge.  Then I could make banana frozen yogurt pops.


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Caramel Crumb Bars


While many others in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying the first snow of the season, I’m admiring from afar, surprised by our own low temperatures which have hovered near 40 on a few nights. It’s been enough to coerce me to turn on the heater and take the chill off the house, but not more than that, because it’s nice to have some sense of a change of seasons.

Our family has never decorated our home for Christmas until a week or so before the holiday, so the days immediately following Thanksgiving have always presented a time to consider the simplicity of the season. We won’t venture down to our favorite tree lot until a week or so before Christmas, and decorations will remain in their boxes until then. I’ve wondered whether to wait even longer this year since our youngest isn’t expected home for the semester break until the 19th.

Decisions, decisions.

In the meantime, I’m happy to have been invited again to participate in a holiday cookie fest of with a group of the loveliest people. Two years ago, we took on Gourmet and  Christmas cookies from 40 years of publication. Last year, it was Bon Appetit, and 12 cookie recipes in 12 days. This year, we’re choosing from Saveur’s collection of Christmas Cookies, and presenting one a week.

Each year, I’ve had some excuse for my lack of follow through on the task, whether it was an overwhelming home remodel, an adjustment to working life after three years of retirement, or in the case of this year, knee surgery with lots of physical therapy to follow.   We’ll see how it goes.

This year, our group is comprised of Courtney of Coco Cooks,  Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes, Claire of The Barefoot Kitchen, Di of Di’s Kitchen Notebook, Judy of No Fear Entertaining, Michelle of Big Black Dogs, RJ of Flamingo Musings, Sandy of At the Baker’s Bench, and Tiffany of The Nesting Project.


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California Cuties: Citrus Tian Dessert

Blood Orange Tian

It’s nearly April, and with Spring having done its annual thing, the Acer on my patio is finally beginning to leaf out, I’ve replenished my sadly neglected herb box, and it seems everything is in riotous bloom.  The season has had a positive effect on me as well, because I actually completed a Daring Bakers Challenge within respectable time of its March 27 reveal date.  Will wonders never cease?

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.  Oh the possibilities for this particular challenge.

If you’ve not heard of a tian before, it’s a layered dessert comprised of a pate sablee, marmalade, flavored whipped cream and fruit — and in the case of this month’s challenge — oranges.  Living in the Golden State, or Southern California in particular, citrus is plentiful.  At this time of year, there are  lemons, Meyer lemons, Persian limes, key limes, pink grapefruit, yellow grapefruit, cara oranges (they’re pink inside), Valencia oranges, blood oranges, and Cuties.

Cuties are California mandarins.  They’re tiny, compact orbs of sweet, segmented deliciousness — especially if you want something for a healthy snack.  And since they were on sale at Henry’s, I decided they’d become the base of my dessert.  Thanks very much to Jennifer for this challenge.  A tian is a dessert that can be made ahead of time in parts, then assembled right before you’d like to enjoy it.

Wait — have you ever made marmalade?

Ah, well.  Therein lies the rub.

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Chocolate Caramel Cookies with Orange Mascarpone Cream

It was only a matter of time before I gave into temptation and changed one of the cookie recipes I’ve been sampling from Bon Appetit’s Holiday Cookie assortment this year.  Actually, that’s only partially true.  The collection includes several mix and drop cookies, and I strayed early on to experiment with a recipe for the perfect oatmeal cookie that I may share, but I digress.

When I saw the festive-looking Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies, I truly wanted to try them — but without the peppermint. I decided that if a hazelnut chocolate chip cookie could be classified as a holiday cookie, then why not chocolate and caramel?  All I needed to do was find a different filling for them since peppermint and caramel aren’t flavors I’d want to sample in one bite.

There happened to be some mascarpone in the fridge, and if I used a few drops of…

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