Saturday, January 30, 2016

2nd Photo Outing with Ryan

January 30, 2016


Photos that I enjoy from this afternoon's walk showing my new skills

I like this photo for a few reasons.  First of all, it represents well the riparian preserve with the natural foliage, the reclaimed water, and, of course, the wildlife or ducks in this case.  Second, I like the way the ducks and the central tree are reflected in the water.  One would not guess that this is a city park only a couple miles from my home.  It looks to be miles away, out in nature.  Guess that's the idea!  And the ducks are unusual Chinese ducks, I believe Ryan advised, with a strange honking quack.  It is interesting to me that they recognize their own kind and stick together.

 I've never seen so many bunnies in the park.  They are everywhere!  And quite friendly.  Caught this little guy up close and with the sunlight shining through his ears.  The effect is rather angelic or as though something special is going on in her head. People get halos; bunnies get lighted ears. Ryan got the best bunny ears photo!

 Peace and Tranquility

Above two photos show my new fuzzy backgrounds with focus on smaller, interesting portions of nature; pieces usually ignored by those strolling through the park.

Ryan pointed out the interesting sky through the tree tops.  His similar photo is without the foreground free and his sky is with deeper, richer color and more pronounced clouds. 

 Working on my fuzzy backgrounds.  See the area of focus?

The above three photos are similar shots but using different "f" or Focus settings.  The first has the clearest background, then the middle photo has the fuzziest, and the last photo shows the background tree being discernable, the center portion is focused and the foreground is also fuzzy...just because of where I focused...all using different "f" ...a small, larger, and small again but with a different area of focus.  Did I get that right, Ryan?

Now we have some depth of field in this white fence photo...not too bad for a beginner!  In my humble opinion.

 Do you see the hidden bunny?  Like I said, they are everywhere! 

This photo shows a mid-fuzzy "f,"making the background tree blurry but discernable, and the front limb more sharply focused.  I actually turned the camera on it's side to get this vertical shot.

 I just liked this landscape setting.  The canal with the bridge reflecting in the water. The bicyclist crossing the bridge.  The San Tans in the background...way down in Queen Creek.   The clouds in the sky.  Looks like I should take a long walk!

The neighboring horses.  They were begging to have their portraits!  I like the top one best, however, I like the layers in the second shot beginning with the green gate.  About 8 layers are obvious in this photo.

Ryan explained about the sunlight effect on photos and how the pic would not be crisp and the colors sharp, etc.  But I kinda like the sun in this photo anyway...seems to permeate the photo from top right corner to bottom left corner.  Not a great photo, but I like it anyway.  So, I'll end here.  I'll post my first photo adventure another time...this being my second.  Now Prof. Ryan can critique my work.  HA!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Son #2 took me to lunch a couple of weeks ago, suggesting a trendy spot only a 10 minute drive from home.  The menu had so many wonderful choices so it was a surprise when we each ordered the same meal.  Our lunch choice was what I would call a pizza using lavosh bread as the crust.  We decided to invite the family for Sunday dinner where we re-created our lunch for everyone to try, but our version was missing some of the great flavor from our special lunch.  What we made was really good, but we learned from that experience and tonight I tried again.  Now I have a recipe that is one to keep and to share.  Son #2 agrees that no changes are necessary and we have successfully re-created our great lunch.

I purchased a package of whole wheat lavosh bread at Trader Joe's as my base.  I used two breads which fed 3 adults.  I placed these breads on a parchment (or rsilicone sheets are wonderful) lined baking sheet.

First I set my oven to 400^  and place one rack near the middle and one closer to the bottom of the oven.  While waiting for the oven to heat I sliced 3 chicken breasts into 1" strips.  I placed parchment paper on a baking sheet, arranged the chicken on the paper so that no strips touched, drizzled them with olive oil, and gave them a good shaking of Cajun spices.  Slide the baking sheet into the oven on the rack near the middle.

The chicken was cooked perfectly, tender and juicy, in about 20 minutes.

Turn the oven to 425^ after removing chicken.

While the chicken roasted, I made a 1/4 cup of sauce made from 1/2 mayo and 1/2 catsup,  (fry sauce) which I spread on the lavosh.  Next 2 Roma tomatoes were thinly sliced and those slices were laid on top of the sauce.

Then I chose to layer on 2 varieties of cheese, Provolone and Feta.   I had sliced Provolone that I use in sandwiches in my fridge, so  I used 6 slices which  I cut into1/2 inch strips.  These strips were laid on top of the tomato slices and then I added a generous handful of feta cheese to each pizza.  Mozzarella cheese would work  well in place of the Provolone.  Now I added a couple Tablespoons of pine nuts to each pizza.  This is a very flavorful touch and these nuts give more flavor when roasted as the pizza bakes.

Next I added diced red onion, which I had on hand.  Our lunch variety came with sliced scallions.  Either are great.  Because I wanted additional color I picked a little parsley from my garden which I chopped roughly and set aside.

My chicken is now perfectly roasted and removed from the oven.  I turned each strip upside down and let them rest for 5 minutes in the pan juices.  After resting I sliced the strips into 1" chunks, tossed them with more shakes of Cajun spices and Italian spices.  The Cajun spices give some "heat" to this recipe and the Italian spices are great with this combination of ingredients.  Use each to taste.  You may need to add a little salt, depending on your Cajun mix.

Now the chicken is ready to add to the pizza.  Last, garnish the top with the chopped parsley (or scallions).

This pizza is also wonderful with sliced portabella mushrooms instead of chicken for a vegetarian meal.  No pre-baking necessary.

When all the pizza ingredients have been added put the pizzas on the baking sheet into the oven on the rack near the bottom for 5 or 6 minutes.  The edges of the lavosh bread should be a little browned and barely crispy.  The Provolone cheese should be melted.

Using a pizza cutter, slice each pizza into 8 pieces.  Serve immediately.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kris' Lemon Bars and Coconut Lemon Bars

This post is to record my work on lemon bars.

I'm posting my recipe which I'm developing for a crowd...we seem to always be a crowd for one reason or another.  I'm working to tweak my lemon bars which I've been asked to bake for a wedding reception.  I will need about 200 bars.

Because I’ve never found a lemon bar recipe that I truly love, I decided to create my own.  I studied more than a dozen recipes from great cooks and blogs and put together a combination that I actually really do  love....I find myself going back for more and more.  I've written the recipe to show how I bake these bars...not with an ingredient and then a procedure list.

First make the crust, which is a shortbread/sweet-tart-dough type recipe.

This recipe will make 6 rectangle, 4" wide by a foot long tart pans....or a couple of baking sheets of lemon bars.

If using pans other than removable bottom tart pans, line pans with foil and butter the foil.

Preheat oven to 350^.

Place the following dry ingredients Into a food processor:

3 1/2 Cups AP flour
1 cup confectioners sugar
1  teaspoon salt
and half the zest of one nice size fresh lemon

Pulse these 3 times

Now add 1 ½ cups very cold butter cut into ½" cubes

Pulse 6 times
Place 5 yolks into a bowl and whisk with a fork; add 1-2 T icy cold water and 1 T vanilla, whisk again.  Add this egg mixture to the food processor with dry ingredients.

Pulse a couple of times to combine and make a dough that will hold together when pinched.   Mix well, but do not overmix.
Dump this crust dough out onto plastic wrap, divide in thirds, make 3 flat disks, wrap all 3 in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until it can be easily rolled on a very lightly floured surface.

Roll each disk into a rectangle long and wide enough to fill bottoms and sides of two  rectangle tart pans.  (Or divide your dough from the food processor in half, refrigerate, and roll out to baking sheet's OK to cut in half for ease of putting this dough into a larger pan...just press the seam together before blind baking.  this dough will actually roll up and then can be unrolled in the pan...just be careful.)

Cut rolled out dough in half vertically.  Remove ½ with a spatula and carefully place into tart pan, pressing onto the bottom and up the pan sides.  Remove excess dough from the rim by pressing down on the pan edge, which will cut off the excess.  Mend any holes or cracks, use little pieces of dough to reinforce corners.  Now place the unbaked crusts in the freezer for 20 minutes.  Remove from freezer and bake 20 minutes or until edges are just turning golden.  Remove from oven.  Patch any cracks with tiny pieces of leftover dough which will stick with a little water.  (If you press in the dough rather than rolling it out, it may crack while baking...but is easily mended.)

Turn down the oven to 325^.  Pour in the filling, (see below), not filling the pan too full as the filling will puff up a little during baking.

For the filling:

In a mixer bowl, beat 12 large room temperature eggs until frothy
Add 5 cups sugar and beat until creamy and fluffy...about 5 minutes (reduce sugar by ½ cup if using sweetened coconut or if using Meyer lemons which are sweeter)
Add the remainder of the zest of above lemon

While the mixer is working, in a separate bowl whisk together:
1 t salt
1/4 c corn starch
1 c flour

Add this dry mixture to the mixer bowl on low speed

Increase mixer speed and beat for a minute or two, then add, again with mixer on low
3/4 C whole milk
2 ½ C lemon juice

Use a bag or 4 C coconut if making coconut lemon bars.
Or divide the filling in ½ and use 2 cups coconut in ½ the filling, giving ½ regular lemon bars and ½ coconut lemon bars.  After filling the pre-baked crusts with coconut filling, sprinkle more coconut on tart tops.  The coconut topping will toast as the tarts bake, giving a lovely toasted coconut garnish to these tarts. (About 3 cups total coconut needed with the garnish making 1/2 the tarts regular and 1/2 coconut)

Fill the pre-baked still hot tart shells,  leaving a little room for the tart filling to expand.  Bake 20 minutes or until the middle is springy or spongy to the touch and crust is golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 20 minutes, then cool in the fridge until thoroughly chilled.  Remove tarts from pans, bam non-coconut bars with confectioners sugar, cut, and enjoy.  (If refrigerating and using these lemon bars later, dust tops with confectioners sugar just before eating...or it will melt into these moist bars and actually looks gross.)
There will be enough filling to fill at least 2 baking sheets  or about 8-9  above tart pans, especially with added coconut.

This method creates a thick, delicious filling that tops a rolled thin crust.  It is very lemony yet does not have a strange aftertaste, common with most lemon bar recipes.  The filling is creamy yet substantial and this bar cookie is not too crusty.  By using the long tart shells there is crust on each piece, making them easy to pick up and eat as finger food.

Cut 9 strips across the tarts and then cut each strip in ½ giving 18 servings per pan.

Assuming 6 tarts are made, this recipe makes 108  three bite bars, or it will make two baking sheets.  For tarts there will be extra filling for 2-3 more tarts, especially with the coconut addition.  This can be frozen for later use. 


Besides the mixing time I will need:

Freeze shells 20 minutes (don't need pie weights if thoroughly frozen)
Blind bake frozen shells 20 minutes
Bake filled tarts 20-25 minutes (sheet pans bake longer)
Cool 20 minutes
Refrigerate an hour or so before slicing

You can see that this project is one that needs some planning.  From beginning to end these bars will take about 3 hours if made as tarts...faster if made in 2 baking sheets, but longer baking time.

I took a platter of these bar cookies to a ladies meeting and everyone really enjoyed them.  I also took a platter to a neighborhood party, and again they were enjoyed.  I asked for critiques, telling my tasters I was tweaking my recipe to be wedding reception quality.  The only comment for change would be to cut the sugar in the coconut variety a little more as the coconut is very sweet.    

The regular bars cut beautifully with little refrigeration...I was in a hurry for my meeting which was soon after baking.  The coconut bars may not cut as beautifully with all that stringy coconut, but they were not refrigerated before cutting for the photo.

As I tweak my recipe, I'll also adjust this post.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Use-Up-The-Ripe-Bananas Cupcakes
with Fresh Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
or Peanut Butter and Chopped Peanuts Frosting

Is it just me, or do most people buy too many bananas (well, they come in a bunch) causing some to sit around the kitchen becoming very ripe and no longer pretty on the outside, but wonderfully flavorful and sweet on the inside?  One son-in-law thinks that very ripe, sweet bananas have gone rotten--all those black spots-- and won't touch banana bread or banana desserts...bananas with black anything, in his view, are way past their prime and way ready for the trash.

One of my favorite uses for these bananas that would find their way into the trash tomorrow is to bake cupcakes, which, with this recipe, are more like muffins topped with a dollop of flavorful  frosting added to their tops.

This recipe yields 12-14 regular sized cupcakes.

First, in a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment cream together:
1 stick butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar

When this mixture is smooth and fluffy add:
2 large room temperature eggs

Then add 2 or 3 (I go with 3) very ripe bananas broken into large chunks.  Mix 2 minutes, making sure the banana pieces have distributed well into the mixture with no large chunks remaining.

Now, add 1/4 cup of a  liquid sugary ingredient such as honey or light corn syrup or real maple syrup, depending on your tastes and what is in your pantry.

Next, add 1/4 cup of plain or vanilla yogurt or buttermilk.

Now choose a flavor booster such as vanilla extract, banana flavor, or rum, and add ½ to 1 teaspoon of your flavor choice.

This mixture may look curdled and due to the banana chunks it will be lumpy...not a pretty batter, but this is all how it should be.

In a separate medium size bowl whisk together: (You can do this while above is mixing or at the beginning of the cupcake making process, and set aside.)

2 1/3 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Now, preheat your oven to 350^ and line your cupcake pan with papers.  You are ready to add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixer bowl.  Beat these ingredients together until all are well incorporated, but don’t over beat.  2 minutes of mixing is long enough, with a break to scrape down the bowl sides at about 1 minute.

It is easiest to use an ice cream scoop to fill the cupcake liners.  You will want to fill them 3/4 full.  Bake these cupcakes for 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean and the tops are golden brown.

When done, remove from oven to a wire rack and remove the cupcakes from the pans after 2 minutes.  If the cupcakes are allowed to completely cool in the pan, their bottoms may become soggy.

When the cupcakes are completely cool, make the frosting and pipe a swirl on each.

Frosting ideas:

1.    Peanut Butter Frosting:

In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment place:
3/4 Cup peanut butter–I like chunky, but creamy is OK
2 Cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ Cup whole milk or cream or any milk will do...but creamy milk is best.

Beat all together...may need a tad more milk to create a good piping consistency.  In dry AZ I usually need more liquid.  (Piping is not necessary, can frost with a knife or spatula.)

After piping onto cupcake tops, garnish tops with chopped salted, roasted peanuts.  (Again any peanuts will do such as honey peanuts...whatever you have or like best.)

These cupcakes keep well for 3 days in an air-tight container.  If you keep them in the fridge, they will be good for an extra 2 days.
This frosting also works well with chocolate cupcakes or desserts with jam such as shortbread with jam.

2.    Fresh Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Beat together until creamy, but not airy (too much air does not pipe well):
1 stick butter
1 eight oz package cream cheese

Add the zest and juice of one juice orange (not navel orange).  Beat again.

Add enough powdered sugar to make good piping consistency...about 3-4 cups, depending on the juiciness and size of your orange.  Any leftovers keep well in the fridge in an airtight container for 2 weeks.  This frosting works well with strawberries or other berries desserts (such as strawberry cupcakes) or any citrus desserts that need a dollop of iciing.

NOTE:  One great thing about these cupcakes is that frosting is not necessary...they are good on their own, much like a muffin.  Without frosting these cupcakes are wonderful for brunch or as a quick on-the-run breakfast.

Add Ins you may like:
chopped pecans or walnuts
crushed pineapple (reduce the sugary liquid in the recipe)

Saturday, March 31, 2012


My Favorite Lemon Meringue Pie

A major advantage of living in the Arizona desert is the climate is perfect for growing our own citrus.  Nothing compares with freshly picked, zested, and squeezed fruit for my favorite lemon meringue pie.  The entire house is filled with the refreshing aroma from the lemon oils and juices every time I use our fresh fruit. 

For this pie, I like a milk and egg based custard, or pudding, for the filling rather than traditional lemon curd, which has richer flavors and has better uses.  It takes about 15 minutes to complete the filling and that includes time to run to the backyard, pick the fruit,  zest the rind,  and squeeze the juice

Kris Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Curd and Cream Cheese Frosting


Kris’ Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Curd

Yield: 24-36 Cupcakes, depending on size

First, make your garnish by spreading a cup or two of sweetened, shredded coconut on a baking sheet and place in a preheated 325^ oven.  Stir every few minutes until the coconut has toasted to a light, golden color.  This process will take 5 to 10 minutes.



1 3/4 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt, kosher is best

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup buttermilk


Preheat oven to 350^, place rack in oven center, and line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until fluffy, add the sugar and beat on medium high until light–3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Add vanilla and combine.

Beat in the coconut until combined, scraping the bowl sides as needed.

Add half the flour mixture and beat on low until combined.  Add buttermilk and beat until combined.  Then add the remaining flour mixture and beat just until all ingredients are incorporated.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups, using an ice cream type scoop, about 1/4 cup batter per paper liner, filling the cups about 3/4 full.

Bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of cupcake comes out clean, about 18 minutes.

Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes and place on rack to cool completely. 

Create a hole in the top of each cupcake using a small knife or very small scoop.  Fill this hole with lemon curd, recipe to follow.

Frost the filled cupcakes with a layer of cream cheese frosting using a piping bag with a large decorative tip.  A star stip works well.  Recipe to follow.

Sprinkle with the toasted coconut. 

Keep the filled and frosted cupcakes in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.  Bring to room temperature before serving.


2 large eggs
8 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
2 Tbls. Unsalted butter


In a heatproof bowl set over, but not touching, simmering water in a saucepan.  Whisk together the eggs and yolks, sugar and lemon juice.  Cook stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring until incorporated.  Strain and cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on top of the curd and refrigerate until chilled.  The curd will keep for a week in the fridge.  Makes about 2 cups.

Cream Cheese Frosting:


4 cups powdered sugar (or more for desired consistency)
1 stick butter
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice


Beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Add butter and beat until smooth.  Add powdered sugar and beat on low until incorporated and then mix on medium for 1 minute or until smooth, but not airy.  Add lemon juice and beat until mixed.

Pipe onto cupcakes as desired for frosting.

Kris' Strawberry Cupcakes


Kris’ Strawberry Cupcakes

Yield: 30-36 cupcakes, depending on size



2 1/4 cups     AP flour
½ cup           cake flour
1 Tbls.          baking powder
1 tsp.           salt
2 sticks        unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups     sugar
1 ½ tsp         vanilla extract
3 large eggs,  room temperature, plus 1 egg white
1 cup             milk
2 ½ cups        strawberries, finely chopped


1 ½ cups        fresh strawberries (8 oz), rinsed, hulled and coarsely chopped
4                    large egg whites
1 1/4 cups      sugar
3 sticks          unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes

Extra strawberries


Preheat oven to 350^.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cake flour, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend.  Set aside.
In a mixer bowl using medium speed beat the butter until creamy , about 3 minutes, then add the sugar and vanilla, beat again 2 minutes.

Add the eggs and egg white one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl sides 2 or 3 times.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated after each addition.

Remove bowl from mixer and using a spatula, gently fold in the chipped strawberries.

Divide the batter between the paper liners using an ice cream type scoop; about 1/4 cup per liner.
The liners should be about 3/4 full.

Bake about 25 minutes until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remember to rotate pans halfway through the baking process.

When done, remove pans from oven and cool on wire racks for 5 minutes.  Then remove cupcakes from pans and allow to cool completely on the racks.

To make the frosting, place the strawberries in a food processor or blender and puree. 

Combine the egg whites and sugar in the clean, heatproof mixer bowl and set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160^ and the sugar has dissolved.  Pinch a little of the warm mixture between your fingers to make sure the sugar has dissolved.

Place the mixer bowl on the mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium until the mixture is frothy, then use a higher speed and whisk until the mixture has cooled to room temperature and stiff peaks have formed. The mixer bowl should be cool to the touch.

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, one cube at a time.  Continue to beat until the frosting is thick and smooth, more than 5 minutes.  This frosting may look curdled or soupy until it comes together.  Putting the frosting mixture in the fridge for 20 minutes can process. 

When the frosting has come together and is fairly firm, add the strawberry puree and blend until smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whisk until all ingredients are incorporated.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large decorative top with the frosting.  A star tip works well.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired, and garnish with fresh berries or slices.