Saturday, July 27, 2013

Peach Cobbler

My mom and dad were visiting with friends who shared with them "the BEST peaches" they have eaten since being in Italy.  I guess there is this man who drives a refrigerated truck filled with peaches and blueberries from Georgia, parks in a parking lot, and sells the fruit right out of his truck.  I am not sure how people find out about the location, but they do.  I guess his business mantra is, "deliver the peaches, and they will come."

Anyway, my parents decided to meet this trucker and buy some of his Georgia peaches and blueberries. My parents are very generous people.  They bought this wonderful fruit and shared it with my brother and his family and me and my family.  There is nothing like spending a wonderful day at the zoo and coming home to a kitchen counter filled with perfectly ripened fruits and a note from your parents explaining the gift that was left for you and the family.  And those are some of the Blessings in my life.
So after eating several of the peaches, the baker in me decided to make something perfectly summer like with them.  Funny thing is, I called my mom to tell her what I was going to do with some of the peaches only to find out that her and my dad did the very same thing the night before. I guess this only stands to reason, I was raised in her kitchen.

The following recipe I am about to share is a variation on a recipe I found online at  I looked up many cobbler recipes and the basics of this cobbler recipe can be found all over. Here is the recipe I used with the changes I made.

Peach Cobbler

peach part

7-9 peaches depending on the size or about 5 cups (pealed and sliced)
1/2 - 3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice

Start by blanching your peaches (quickly boiling your peaches) to get the skin off.  Unless you prefer to keep the skin on the peaches; that is just a personal preference. To blanch your peaches, bring water to a rolling boil.  Use a knife to place an X on the bottom side of your peaches (to help the boiling water loosen the skin).  Place the peaches in the boiling water for about 45 seconds -- to 1 minutes if they are less than perfectly ripe.  Take the peaches out and put them immediately into an ice bath; this stops the cooking process.  Once the peaches are cool, it should be easy to take the skin off.  Now cut the peaches into bite sized pieces.  Place the peaches, sugar, water, and lemon juice into a pot, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Set aside and cool.

cobbler part

1/2 cup of butter

1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons of baking powder
1/2 - 3/4 cup of sugar
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of skim milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
some cinnamon

powdered sugar for garnish
pecans for garnish (toast nuts in a dry pan)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  This recipe can be made in one 13 x 9 or one 7 x 11 and one loaf pan.  Melt the butter the baking dish with high sides you chose to use.  While butter is melting, make cobbler part.  Mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Once blended, slowing add milk and stir making sure you don't get any lumps.  Lastly, add the vanilla.  Once butter is melted, add cobbler mixture to baking dish, but DO NOT stir mixture into butter; just let it sit there.  Lightly, add peaches and liquid on top of cobbler mixture.  As the cobbler bakes it will rise to the top and pass up the peaches .  Trust me it is worth the wait. If you want, this is the point I added a dash of cinnamon. Bake for 40-45 minutes.  Keep checking your cobbler; it should be light brown on the edges.  Take out of the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

While cobbler is cooling, heat pecans in a dry pan.  Once you smell the pecan, they are done.  Don't warm them for too long or you will burn them.  Serve your cobbler warm, garnish with some powdered sugar and warm pecans.  If you are looking to make this perfect dessert even more perfect, serve it with a bit of vanilla ice cream.

After you make this the first time, don't be surprised when your family starts requesting it -- I know mine did.

Thanks Mom and Dad for your generous gift of the perfect summer peaches -- what a treat!

Buon Appetito! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Romantic Anniversary Gift

The most romantic gifts aren't diamonds and emeralds.  Don't get me wrong jewelry is always a big hit, but it doesn't go in the romantic category.  Yesterday was my husband and my 8th wedding Anniversary.  My husband came home from work yesterday with this..........

Now although anyone looking at this flower arrangement may say,"oh that is pretty."  It would end there.  Flowers are always a nice treat, but they usually don't invoke tears.  But this flower arrangement put tears in my eyes.  As I was starring at it speechless, my husband asked, "do you recognize this arrangement?"

"Of course," I say, "it is my wedding bouquet."  And I continue to stare at the flowers as my heart is rushed filled with memories of that sacred day. My wedding bouquet was a tight ball of red roses with highlights of white stephanotis flowers.  It was beautiful. Here is my bouquet.

The florist told my husband that the stephanotis flowers are used for weddings, but they really don't last for more than one day. So she used some filler flowers in the flower arrangement she made so there would be flowers present when the stephanotis withered.

I am very Blessed to have such a wonderful thoughtful husband.

I live "La bella vita" -- the beautiful life    

Monday, July 22, 2013

Princess Birthday Cake

My little Bambolina (little doll in Italian) wanted to have a Princess birthday party this year, a Sleeping Beauty Aurora party to be precise.  She loves Sleeping Beauty Aurora, she loves pink, and she loves anything princess.  So I knew I had to make the princess cake that Wilton and Betty Crocker have been making since ... well way before I was born.  You know the one.  The one with the little doll sticking out of the top and the cake is the girl's dress.  Yep, that was the one I needed to make.  There are all sorts of You Tubes about this type of cake out there for any baker to watch.  And here is my story about my first princess cake for my daughter's 3rd birthday.

First thing I did was try to figure out what bowl I was going to bake my cake in.  I looked at all my bowls and didn't see the tell tale markings on the bottom that would make me think I could bake safely in any of my bowls.  So I called my dear friend Lene; I knew she would have a baking bowl.  And she did.  She also had a Wilton baking book to help inspire my dress decorating side.  This book as she said was "ancient."  But I have to tell you the cakes in that book are beautiful to look at; and I am not sure if the home baker today attempts cakes like this anymore .... nope I am sure .... most home bakers today do not attempt cakes like this.  The princess cakes in the book were elaborate, and I knew I didn't have that level of expertise.  But the book did give me ideas for some pretty lines of decorations that I could put on Sleeping Beauty's dress.

The next step was making the cakes.  I chose to make a yellow cake in Lene's bowl, which would become the part of the dress closest to the doll's waist.  And two chocolate 9 inch round cakes.  I figured this would give me four layers of cake (the bowl cake gets split into two layers because it the bowl is so deep) and a good sized dress.

Once the cakes were done and cooled, it was time to start stacking the layers.  But first, I needed to create the hole which the princess would stick out of.  So I took a round cookie cutter and cut a hole in both chocolate round cakes.  Then I cut the bowl cake on the horizontal first.

 Lastly I cut the same round cookie hole in both parts of the bowl cake.  Time to start stacking.  I made a butter cream frosting to use between each layer.

Then I put a crumb coat over the whole cake.  This is just a thin layer of frosting used to hold the crumbs down, so that when you put on your final layer of frosting there are no crumbs to be seen.  It makes your cake look more professional.  After putting this crumb coat on, I put the cake in the refrigerator for an hour or so to let the frosting set hard.

This is where I ran into trouble. It was  time to finish the cake.  I took the cake out of the refrigerator, put plastic wrap around the Sleeping Beauty doll I bought my daughter.

I place the doll into the hole I made and........... The cake / dress came up to the doll's mid thigh.  I forgot to measure how much dress I needed.  I just assumed that  four tiers (two 9 inch rounds and 1 bowl cut in half) would be enough.  I clearly needed another 9 inch round.  Since there was nothing I could do to make the cake taller, I used one of my daughter's less expensive knock off Barbie dolls because it was easy to take the doll apart at the waist. Now with only half a doll (from the waist up) I was able to place her in the hole I made and use a couple of  toothpicks to support her floating torso. 

Now it was time to decorate the dress.  I had fun with this part. I made the dress pink with dark pink embellishments and small little pearl candies.
I had to put the doll's hair in an "updo" so it wouldn't get into the cake.
I had to add a lot of dark pink flowers to the back of her dress to help hold her floating torso up.

The BEST PART .... my son made my daughter close her eyes, so she could be surprised when she saw the cake for the first time.  And was she surprised? YOU BET SHE WAS!  I will always remember her face and that beautiful smile.  The first thing she said was," oh.... thank you Mama!"

Happy 3rd Birthday my Little Princess.  I love you. Mama