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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pebble Beach

I am reluctant to even talk about this amazing trip, spoiled rotten with the opportunity to go to a place like this and see this part of our country.

But there have been picture requests, so I thought I'd share some of my favorites.  Scott and I headed out to Pebble Beach for a few days in the middle of the month, with a ministry called Equip.  Scott played golf and I enjoyed lots and lots of time by. my. self.   Which was heavenly.  

There were many opportunities for the two of us to connect though, we had a memorable dinner at The Inn at Spanish Bay our first night and spent the afternoons tooling around the Peninsula exploring the coastline and taking pictures.  

We built our own tower on the actual "Pebble Beach"

Standing on the 18th green of the historic course, breathtaking! 

My eyes just ate up the sights and sounds of the coastline.

The beach at Carmel, my newest favorite city in the US.

The Lone Cypress on a foggy afternoon

And every night, a bagpiper walks on a stone path, along the golf course at Spanish Bay, playing a selection of hymns and tunes, and then finally stands behind the hotel and plays as the sun sets into the Pacific.  You can order a glass of wine and sit beside a firepit to enjoy the experience.  I cried, it was so beautiful.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Bars

Well Halloween is almost upon us and my world is surrounded by all things pumpkin.  Literally.  Scott counted 68 gourd-related items strewn haphazardly about the house.

Anyways, I was looking for something pumpkin-y to make for Bible Study this past Thursday and decided to try a new recipe, (to me at least) it's been around and comes from the highest possible source: Mary Gieser.  I added a bit of sugar to the frosting and increased the cream cheese, but aside from that, it's all Mary.

Three really nice things about this recipe: it makes a ton, filling a half sheet/jelly roll pan; it uses an entire can of pumpkin; and third, you can make it the day ahead of time with no discernible difference, perfect for a Halloween party.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bars
4 eggs
1 & 2/3's cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 (15 oz) can of plain pumpkin
2 cups flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven 350 degrees.  Spray a metal half sheet pan (or jelly roll pan) with Pam.  In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, sugar and pumpkin until it's well mixed.  In a separate small bowl, combine the dry ingredients and then add them to the wet.  Mix thoroughly.  Spread the batter evenly into the pan.  Bake for 25-30 min, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool the bars completely.

As the bars bake, make the Frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups powdered sugar

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter with a hand mixer until smooth.  Slowly add in the remaining ingredients and beat until fluffy.  Use it to frost the bars when they're cool.

These are delicious, delicate with a strong flavor of pumpkin.  Closer to a cake then a cookie, but you can still pick it up with your hand.  Try them!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

My Latest Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie

So I'll admit it, I am not a monogamous chocolate chip cookie baker.  I bounce around from recipe to recipe, trying different ingredients and techniques in search of the holy grail: the perfect cookie.  A cookie that is rounded and moist in the middle, doesn't spread too much while baking, uses really good chocolate and stands up well to travel.

I've settled into a committed relationship with an adaption of Thomas Keller's Chocolate Chip cookie, out of his Ad Hoc cookbook.  Chef and Owner of The French Laundry in Napa Valley, Bouchon in New York and Vegas and a few other notable places, this guy obviously knows his stuff.(This being the understatement of the year.)  I, however do not have time to chop up a 55% chocolate bar and a 70-72% chocolate bar, SIFT THE CRUMBS out to keep the cookie looking "clean", and other such nonsense.  So here is my version.  I hope you enjoy.

2 & 1/3 cups flour, plus 1 TB.
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 lb. unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. good vanilla

6 oz. semi sweet Ghiradeli chocolate chips
6 oz. 60% chocolate Ghiradeli chocolate chips (to taste, sometimes I add more, eyeball it)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Combine the first three dry ingredients in a small bowl.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle beat the butter on medium spead until smooth but not creamed.  Add the sugars and mix, don't beat too much air into it.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egss, one at a time, beating until mixed.  Add the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until combined. Add the chocolate chips.  

Using a small ice cream scoop (2 TB size) scoop balls of dough onto a wax paper covered rimmed baking sheet.  Fill the sheet with balls and then stick it in the freezer until they are frozen fairly solid.  Dump them all in a zip lock bag to store in the freezer, or bake them from frozen form on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees for five minutes, one sheet at a time, then rotate the cookie sheet and bake another 4 & 1/2 or 5 minutes.