Friday, December 30, 2011

Simon Says Stamp Challenge

This is my first entry to the SSSC.  The challenge is "Anything Goes" goes.
Just a little something to use as a "Do not Disturb" sign for my studio door.  It is made from a recycled brown bag with a handle.  Stamps are by: Stampotique, Tissue tape by Tim Holtz, Tattered Floral die cut flowers by Tim Holtz Alterations, Gesso mixed with acrylic paint for the background, Black Staz-on ink used for stamping images/phrase and a few rhinestones to dress up the Prom Queen's outfit.

Just one word

"Less is More" is having a challenge to create a clean and simple card with just one word highlighted.  The word I chose is "blessing".  I try to count mine every day.  This card is made with few embellishments, just some little flowers from Tim Holtz's collection that I sprayed with glimmer mist to give them a little color.  Oh, and some little golden pearls from Queen and Co.  It is hard for me to restrain myself and not bling it up too much.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

SDC45: A wish for the new year

I love challenges since they force me to be flexible and create things in a different way.  This week Stampotique posted a challenge using only their products and a resolute wish for ourselves in 2012.    This is my submission, a doorhanger, serving as a reminder on my craft room door to create a little art every day.  For this challenge I used the stamps:  "Relaxin'", parts of the words from "Do not disturb the artist" & "Blah, blah, blah" (my personal favorite) is stamped on the flower.  I recycled a brown paper shopping bag with a handle by using gesso, acrylic paints, glimmer mist, Tim Holtz tissue tape and Ideaology flower trimmings.  The phrase saying "Do my art daily" looks more like a threatening ransom note than the gentle reminder that it is.  All of their stamps make me smile.

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Alice in Wonderland" CakePop Box

This Alice in Wonderland box is definitely an "Altered Alice".  I used Graphic 45 "Alice" paper that has lots of great colors and seems a little grungy/"goth", which I love the look of.   Then made a bow out of the same paper to put on the top.  Of course it went to California to "Popping Palate" cake pop master, Misty, and she said she loved it!  That's all that matters at the end of the day, right?

More Stampotique Creations

I don't know what it is about the Stampotique line of rubber stamps that speaks to my soul!  The characters all have their own kind of charm.  These are my latest card creations using some of Daniel Torrente's people.

A delicious and easy side dish

I am always trying to get more vegetable dishes into the weekly menu, especially if they are dark leafy green veggies.  Remember the chard cooks way down, so using 2 or even three bunches in not an unreasonable amount.  The anchovies in this recipe are the secret ingredient since Joe HATES anchovies.  I tasted it first to see if the flavor was strong and found instead that there was no "fishy" flavor to it, just a warm, buttery, nutty, aftertaste that you can't quite put your finger on.  (BTW, he loved it!)  It is so delicious with the feta that you could actually use this to put on top of a homemade pizza (Boboli) or make an open faced hot sandwich on a toasted French baguette.  You could even add some beans and sliced ham to this and serve it with some corn bread on the side.  I could keep going on and on but I won't.  Makes a great side dish with any protein.


1 to 3 bunches of Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated and chopped
3 Tbl olive oil
1 medium to large onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
2 anchovy fillets
Freshly grated nutmeg or 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste (you may not need the salt because of the anchovies and feta)
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese or crumbled Feta

Thoroughly wash and chop the chard stems and leaves into bite-sized pieces.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt the water.  Add the chard stems and leaves, blanche for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain well in a colander or sieve in the sink, press out any excess moisture.
In the same pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the anchovies and allow them to melt into the oil.  Add the garlic and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, until translucent.  Add the chard, sprinkle with nutmeg and continue to cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.  Top with the cheese and allow it to melt in.  Add salt and pepper.  Serve warm.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bolton Common Appetizer Recipe

Warm Brie with Mango Chutney Appetizer
The Mixing Bowl
By Renee Zarate

Let yourself be surprised by the intense flavor of the savory jam called Chutney combined with the delicate creaminess of brie cheese.  If you are in a pinch for time you can make this appetizer in the microwave in about 3 minutes or if you prefer, bake it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.   Any leftovers can be spread between two tortillas the next day for the ultimate quesadilla.

1 (19.6 oz) President Brie Cheese Round
1 (10.5 oz) jar of Mango Chutney
Carr’s Water Crackers or other assorted crackers

Oven Directions:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Unwrap the cheese round and place it on a small baking sheet or a pie plate.  Carefully remove the rind from the top of the brie with a sharp knife.  Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until softened.  Transfer to your serving plate and top the brie with chutney.  Serve with crackers.

Microwave Directions:
Unwrap the cheese round and place the brie on a microwave safe plate.  Remove the rind from the top of the brie with a sharp knife.  Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until softened.  Transfer to your serving plate and spoon the chutney over the top.  Serve with crackers.

Makes 10-12 servings

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Shimmer, Glimmer, Glitter & Glitz" Cake Pop Box (holds 8 pops)

I've got a new hobby....making cake pop boxes for a very talent baker in California named Misty.  She runs a little business baking her delicious cake pops and from time to time she has special orders that require special containers.  That's where I come in.  The box I designed for her and mailed today is a "Grunge" style box using Stampotique rubber stamps that are comical.  The color scheme is red, black and white.  The customer likes skulls and so those are of course scattered through out.  It was really fun and I think it turned out very cool.  I threw in a gift card that matches the box theme.  Hope she likes it!  I liked it so much I posted it on the Stampotique site for their "Shimmer, Glimmer, Glitter & Glitz" Challenge (it really does have a lot of gold, Glimmer Mist and bling on it even if my photography doesn't show it). : D

Saturday, December 10, 2011


A friend asked me for a cookie recipe today and I wanted to give her my oatmeal raisin chocolate chips w/walnuts cookie recipe but she thought that sounded too healthy.  (That's a good one!)  So my next favorite recipe for cookies is the tried and true Peanut Butter Blossoms.  You know the ones....little peanut butter nougats topped with a big Hershey's Kiss.  They are delicious and so easy.  The recipe is no secret, it is right on the bag of Kisses, with a few modifications.

48 Hershey's Kisses Brand Milk Chocolates, unwrapped
1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)
3/4 cup of Peanut Butter (cannot be reduced fat)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 Tbl milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1  1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl beat with an electric mixer the shortening, peanut butter, 1/2 cup white and 1/2 cup  brown sugar until creamy; beat in the egg, milk and vanilla.  Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat this into the peanut butter mixture.  Place the 1/4 cup of granulated sugar in a small bowl.  Roll the dough into 1 inch balls, then roll in the sugar to coat.  Place the balls about 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes; make sure all the kisses have been removed from their wrappers.  Remove the cookies from the oven and quickly top each with a kiss, pressing down until the cookie cracks around the edges.  Return the cookies to the oven and bake for 3 to 5 minutes more; remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Transfer to racks and let cool completely.  Store air tight.


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Sunday, November 27, 2011

A gifted pie baker at age 13!

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Kristina and I made 2 pies that day.  The other was a classic...Cherry Pie.  Since this is not my favorite pie I have always lightened up the flavor of the cherries with other fruits, in this instance, raspberries.  The result is a pie that almost tastes like jam.  A little vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and you have life time memory in the works.

Cherry Raspberry Pie
Makes one 9” pie with a top lattice crust
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees for 20 minutes before baking the pie; bake at 450 for ten minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until brown.

Pie dough

2 cups of flour
1 Tbl white sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
½ cup of Crisco
¼ cup of ice water

Blend together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter and Crisco into the dry ingredients until it is the size of peas.  Add the water gradually with a fork.  Gather the dough into a ball and divide in half.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest for about an hour in the refrigerator.  Roll one of the dough balls out on a lightly floured surface until it will fit a 9” pie plate with about an inch or 2 of overhang.  Roll out the second ball and cut long strips about one inch wide with a pizza cutter.  This will be the lattice work for the top.  Fill the pie with the following filling:

Cherry filling
2 bags (2 ½ cups each bag) or 5 cups of frozen or fresh, pitted cherries, defrosted overnight
1 bag or 12 oz of frozen or fresh raspberries (defrosted)
1 ¼ cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
2 Tablespoons of tapioca (quick cook)
1 teaspoon almond extract

In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, flour and tapioca.  Add the cherries, raspberries and almond extract.  Toss gently until the fruit is coated.  (If using frozen fruit, let it stand for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the fruit is partially thawed but still icy.)
Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust.  Cover the filling with a lattice top.  Brush the lattice work top and the fluted edges of the pie with one beaten egg and then sprinkle lattice work with 1 Tablespoon of white sugar.  Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Oh my, Coconut Pie

Coconut Cream Pie (the quick version)

My neighbor has been asking me for the past two years if I would teach her how to make a coconut cream pie.  I had time this week so she and I made this pie and also a Cherry-Raspberry Pie.  I don’t believe this one made it out of their house for the family dinner the next day.
I do make my own pie crust for this recipe, but I save time when making the filling.  I usually make the filling first and allow it to chill out in the refrigerator while baking the crust.  When the crust is cooled then I can pour the filling in it and allow a few hours for it to set up before serving.


2 boxes of Jell-O instant vanilla pudding and pie filling (4.5 oz boxes)
1 ¾ cups of coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp coconut extract
1 cup toasted unsweetened, shredded coconut

Set aside another ½ cup or more of toasted, unsweetened, shredded coconut
You will need an additional cup of whipping cream to whip up and place on top of the pie before serving.  (Or if you prefer use canned whipped cream to top pie)

Toast 1 ½ cups of coconut in a 350 degree oven until it is golden brown.

Mix all the ingredients together and beat it with an electric mixer for at least 2 minutes.  Fold in 1 cup of the toasted coconut.    Allow pie filling mixture to set up in the refrigerator while you make the pie crust.

Pie Crust (makes one standard 9-inch pie crust)
Preheated oven of 400 degrees

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon fine salt
¼ cup cold, unsalted butter
¼ cup Crisco
¼ cup cold water
1 egg white beaten

Butter a 9-inch pie plate and set it aside.
Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Cut the butter and Crisco into the flour mixture until it resembles small pea size pieces.  Sprinkle cold water over the mixture and toss with a fork.  Gather the dough together into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes or longer.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough between two pieces of waxed paper until it is large enough to fit the pie plate with an inch of overhang.  Fold the excess dough under and crimp the edges or press the edges down with the tines of a fork.
Tear off a piece of foil about 20 inches long and place it in the pie crust leaving long “wings” on either side.  You will use these wings later as handles to lift out the pie weights.  Fill the foil with either metal pie weights or dry beans (which are reserved only for this purpose, you can’t eat them later).  Bake in a preheated, 400 degrees oven for 15 minutes.  Remove the pie crust from the oven, using the “wings” on the foil carefully remove the weights and foil, set aside, lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.  Take a fork and prick the pie crust all over, about 10 or 15 times.  Put the pie crust back in the oven for another 15 minutes.  Take the pie crust out and paint the entire surface of the crust with the beaten egg white, this is what will keep it from getting soggy.  Put the pie crust back in the oven for 2 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place the pie shell on a rack to cool.  When completely cool, fill, refrigerate for at least one hour.

 Top the pie with whipped cream, canned or fresh whipped, and sprinkle with reserved
½ cup toasted coconut.  Serves 8 or more.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pie Baking Time

I love to bake pies this time of year.  Lemon Meringue is a favorite of many.  I have found this recipe is my best one:

Classic Lemon Meringue Pie

Pie Crust (makes one standard 9-inch pie crust)
Preheated oven of 400 degrees

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon fine salt
¼ cup cold, unsalted butter
¼ cup Crisco
¼ cup cold water
1 egg white beaten

Butter a 9-inch pie plate and set it aside.
Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Cut the butter and Crisco into the flour mixture until it resembles small pea size pieces.  Sprinkle cold water over the mixture and toss with a fork.  Gather the dough together into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes or longer.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough between two pieces of waxed paper until it is large enough to fit the pie plate with an inch of overhang.  Fold the excess dough under and crimp the edges or press the edges down with the tines of a fork.
Tear off a piece of foil about 20 inches long and place it in the pie crust leaving long “wings” on either side.  You will use these wings later as handles to lift out the pie weights.  Fill the foil with either metal pie weights or dry beans (which are reserved only for this purpose, you can’t eat them later).  Bake in a preheated, 400 degrees oven for 15 minutes.  Remove the pie crust from the oven, using the “wings” on the foil carefully remove the weights and foil, set aside, lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.  Take a fork and prick the pie crust all over, about 10 or 15 times.  Put the pie crust back in the oven for another 15 minutes.  Take the pie crust out and paint the entire surface of the crust with the beaten egg white, this is what will keep it from getting soggy.  Put the pie crust back in the oven for 2 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place the pie shell on a rack to cool while you make the filling.

Lemon Filling

1 cup white sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
A pinch of salt
1 ½ cups cold water
3 egg yolks, beaten (save the egg whites for later)
Grated peel of one lemon
¼ cup FRESH lemon juice
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Mix the cornstarch, sugar, salt, water, and egg yolks together in a sauce pan and place over medium heat.  Stirring mixture constantly, bring it to a boil (about 8 to 10 minutes) then reduce the heat to low.  Continue to cook and stir the mixture for one minute or so until it becomes very thick.  Turn off the heat and remove the sauce pan from the burner. Now you can add the lemon juice, lemon zest and butter stirring the mixture until it is smooth.  Pour the hot filling into the prepared pie crust.  Cover the lemon filling with plastic wrap until you are ready to put the meringue on top.  Make the meringue.

Meringue Topping

6 egg whites separated earlier and allowed to come to room temperature
½ cup of white sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites until they hold a soft peak.  Beat in the cream of tartar and salt.  Gradually add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time until all of the sugar has been added.  Continue to beat the egg whites until they are thick and glossy but not dry.  Remove the plastic wrap from the lemon filling.  Mound the meringue in the center of the pie, spread it out to the edges and make sure it is touching the crust and sealed all the way around. (If it is not sealed it will shrink and pull away from the edges.)  Use the back of a spoon to make the swirls all over the pie.  Place in the hot oven to brown.  Do not walk away; this will only take a few minutes.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.  After the pie has cooled to room temperature, place it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving.  Cut with a wet, serrated knife, wiping off the knife between each cut.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Home Made Biscuits--get 'em while they're hot

Here is my article for the The Bolton Common.  Biscuits are a year round favorite either as a side with a savory dish or sweetened up with honey butter and served for breakfast.  Cut them out with a larger cookie cutter and you could make little breakfast sandwiches out of them.

The Mixing Bowl
By Renee Zarate

The next time you are asked to bring the rolls or biscuits to a family dinner consider making these baking powder biscuits.  Biscuits are considered a “quick bread” because they are leavened with baking powder instead of yeast.   They don’t take long to make and can be frozen weeks in advance of an event and then baked fresh that day.  Unbaked homemade biscuits are great to keep on hand in the freezer for a weekend brunch, too.  Just imagine how wonderful it would be to wake up to the aroma of fresh baked biscuits.  Biscuits are so versatile you can serve them with savory gravy or a little butter with a spoonful of jam.  They are a delicious addition to almost any meal.

Baking Powder Biscuits
Makes 2 dozen depending on size of cutter

6 cups of flour
½ cup of instant non-fat powdered milk
¼ cup baking powder
¼ cup white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
2 cups of shortening like Crisco
1 ½ cups of water (or a little more)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees for about 30 minutes before actually baking the biscuits.  In a large bowl mix all of the dry ingredients together.   Cut the shortening into the dry mixture with either a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Slowly add the 1 ½ cups of water until the dry mix is moistened; if it seems too dry you can add ¼ to ½ cup more water.  Gather it together in your hands until it forms a ball of dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it 8 to 10 times, until it feels smooth.  Roll the dough out with a rolling pin until it is ¾” thick.  Using a 2 ½” circle cutter, dip the cutter in flour then cut the biscuits.  Place the biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet about 1” apart and bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven or until the tops are golden brown.
To freeze:  Prepare the recipe as above but do not bake.  Instead place the shaped, uncooked biscuits on a cookie sheet and quick freeze them.  Remove the biscuits from the cookie sheet after they are frozen and drop them into a plastic freezer bag.  When you want to serve the biscuits, preheat the oven to 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Remove the frozen biscuits from the plastic bag (do not thaw) and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet about 1” apart, bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lights Out

We finally have power restored after 5 days of darkness.  Whew.  The storm came through last Saturday, the lights went out Saturday night at 7pm and were finally restored on Thursday night at 7:30 pm.  I sure do appreciate electricity but we managed just fine with all of our camping gear.  So, you might ask "what was for dinner?"  This was our best effort using a camp stove with 2 burners and a lantern.

Bow Tie Pasta with Salmon

Cook 1/2 of the box of Bow Tie pasta following the directions on the box.  Let it cook until it is just a little al dente or a little chewy.  Save about 1 cup of the pasta water to thicken the sauce if necessary.

6 oz of uncooked salmon
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups of fresh green beans, roughly chopped
nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon)
garlic salt (1/2 teaspoon or more depending on your taste)
paprika (a couple of dashes for color)
fresh ground pepper
fresh or dried parsley (a handful chopped if fresh, about 2 Tablespoons if it is dried)

grated lemon peel from one lemon
capers (optional)
Havarti cheese with dill, shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

Start by pan frying the salmon in the butter until it is seared on both sides.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add the shallots, garlic and green beans to the same pan taking care not to brown the butter.  Add all of the seasonings to taste then chop the salmon and add it back into the pan with all the veggies, etc.  Cook together until the salmon is cooked through.  Add the perfectly cooked bow tie pasta to the skillet and mix everything together adding pasta water to make a sauce.  Pour the contents of skillet into a serving dish and top the mixture with grated lemon peel, capers, and your choice of cheese.  Serve immediately.
2 to 4 servings

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tee Time, I mean Tea Time.

One of the many beautiful qualities that my husband, Joe, possesses is that he loves to take tea like a real gentleman.  He happened to be home all day today and the weather is really taking a turn for the worse.  It is supposed to snow tonight.  Bummer.  So anyway it was quite a chilly day.  Around 2pm I told him to come downstairs for a little surprise.  Nothing cheers me up more than afternoon tea!  I have all of the flowers in the house that were left in the garden.  It seemed like a day to set the table with Herend china and dahlias.  Brewed a little Earl Gray tea and set out some fresh baked quadruple lemon cupcakes.  We had our little tea party for an hour and reminisced about all the great hotels around the world where we have enjoyed this guilty pleasure.  London, Paris, California Ritz Carlton and the best……drum roll please…..The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong.  Wow, is that ever an experience!

Lemon Buttermilk Poppy Seed Cupcakes
Makes 30-32 depending on much you put in each cupcake holder

1 package (18.25 ounces) Super Moist White cake mix
1 package (3.4 ounces) lemon Jello
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1 cup low fat Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon Vanilla paste or seeds from one vanilla pod (optional)
½ cup canola oil
½ cup buttermilk (or substitute ½ cup milk with 1 Tablespoon vinegar)
4 large eggs
the zest from one lemon and then
juice from one lemon
2 teaspoons lemon extract

One can of cream cheese frosting
Sprinkles or jimmies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.  Set pans aside.  Place the cake mix and jello mix in a bowl, mix together while dry.  Form a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour all the other ingredients into the well.  Blend with an electric mixer for about 1 minute on low speed.   Scrap down the sides with a rubber spatula.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes.  The batter should look thick but not lumpy.  Load each paper liner with about two thirds full.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.  Top each cupcake with frosting and jimmies if desired.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Candied Walnuts!

Crunchy Candied Walnut Snack

Snack attack!  These candied walnuts are wonderful sprinkled on a salad with goat cheese or blue cheese.  They also are delicious all by themselves and really easy to make.  Store them in a jar with a tight fitting lid or in a zip bag for up to 2 weeks.  (They won’t last that long believe me.)

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup water
1 pound walnut halves
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.  In a large skillet combine the sugar and water over medium-high heat and cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves and the syrupy mixture comes to a boil.  Add the walnuts, butter, and the salt and turn the walnuts continuously with the spoon until the syrup thickens.  When almost all the liquid is gone and the walnuts are goopy and well coated, spread them out on a parchment lined cookie sheet in a single layer.  Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let the walnuts cool completely on the cookie sheet on a wire rack.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Caramel Corn Weather!


This is an easy treat that is reminiscent of a night at the movies or an afternoon at the Fair.  Only it is cheaper, no admission fee!  It is based on Paula Deen’s recipe called:  Grandma Paul’s Caramel Corn and it is delicious.  You can use either microwave popcorn or pop your own.  Just be careful to screen out or pick out any un-popped kernels.  Use a large turkey roaster pan to pour all of the popped corn into and then pour the caramel mixture over it.  You can keep it simple or add vanilla paste and other goodies to make it fancy.  Your only limitation is your own imagination.  Try making your own mix with M&M’s, mini-pretzels, raisins, salted nuts, etc, added to the finished and cooled caramel corn. You could give this away to co-workers or friends in cute cellophane bags sealed with a metallic twist tie for an afternoon treat.

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups of packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt (you may not want to add this if you are using micro waved popcorn that is pre-salted)
½ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 vanilla pod, cut open and seeds scraped out or 2 Tablespoons vanilla paste (optional)

8 quarts of popped corn

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Over medium heat, combine the first four ingredients in a medium sized saucepan and boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda.  This will foam up, keep stirring for a few minutes, then add the vanilla seeds or paste, stir.  The popcorn should already be popped and in the roasting pan waiting to be anointed with this golden deliciousness.  Pour the hot mixture over 8 quarts (four bags of micro waved popcorn or pop your own) of popped corn.  Stir to coat well.  Bake in large roaster for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Spread on parchment paper or waxed paper to dry.  Add any other ingredients to the mix after it is cooled and dry.  Pack into bags if desired.
Makes 8 quarts or more if you add additional ingredients.  Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bolton Common Article

Time for my monthly article!  The weather is getting chilly.   How about a 20 minute soup dish.

The Mixing Bowl
by Renee Zarate

This quick Taco Soup is easy enough for a weeknight supper.  With the combination of chicken, veggies, cheese and cilantro it is satisfying enough to be a whole meal unto itself.  The tortilla chips remind me of the only thing that is missing, a crisp taco shell.  Best of all, the entire pot of soup can be ready in about 20 minutes.

Taco Soup
Makes about 2 ½ quarts

One pound of cooked, boneless, skinless and chopped chicken
1 (32 oz) box of chicken stock
1 (10 ¾ oz) can of Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese Soup
1   (8 oz.) package of shredded Sergeant 4 Cheese Mexican
1 (15.5 oz) can of black beans, well drained and rinsed
1   (15.5 oz) can of dark kidney beans, well drained and rinsed
1 cup of salsa
1 (7 oz) can of Old El Paso chopped green chiles
2 Tablespoons of McCormick brand Taco Seasoning Mix (you can add more or less, to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish with:
Tortilla chips, crushed
Fresh chopped cilantro (to taste)
1 Tablespoon sour cream

Pour the chicken stock in a large soup pot and heat to simmering.  Mix in the canned soup, the shredded cheese, rinsed canned beans, salsa, and  green chiles.  Then add the spices and the chopped chicken.  Bring the soup up to a slow simmer.  When serving just crush some tortilla chips in each serving bowl and ladle the soup over it.  Top with a tablespoon of chopped cilantro and sour cream if desired.

Serves 8

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bolton Common Apple Picking Article

The Mixing Bowl by Renee Zarate

Apple picking time is here!  We have some friends that have an apple picking party every fall.  To begin the party we all meet at the orchard and pick the apples.  When we’re finished picking we go to our friend’s home and enjoy a fantastic bon fire, roast hot dogs and then go in the house when it gets chilly for coffee and some sort of baked apple treat.  If you like apple strudel you will probably enjoy this dessert.  Part of it can be prepared the day before and then you can finish it up in just a few minutes after dinner.  It is light and crunchy with just a little sweetness.  You have several options when serving this.  You can leave it plain, sprinkle powdered sugar over it, add a topping of whipped cream or a little ice cream on the side. 
 Apple Harvest Cups
(Makes 24 mini-tarts)

One box of Athens phyllo/fillo dough or pastry sheets (you will only need to defrost ½ of the box).  Follow the directions on the box to thaw the phyllo.
One stick of unsalted butter, melted

½ cup of cornflakes, crushed finely and mixed with
½ teaspoon of cinnamon

4 apples, chopped coarsely
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
The zest of one lemon, finely grated
A pinch of salt
¼ cup of brown sugar

powdered sugar, whipped cream or ice cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare two muffin pans with cooking spray or butter.
On a piece of waxed paper or parchment, lay down one sheet of the phyllo, lightly paint with melted butter.  Sprinkle one teaspoon of the ground cornflakes mixed with cinnamon over the sheet of phyllo.  Repeat until you have 5 layers of the phyllo stacked.   Do not paint the last layer with butter yet.  Cut six four inch circles from the phyllo stack (don’t worry if they are not perfectly round).  Place the cut circle into the muffin cup, pressing firmly against the bottom and sides.  Paint butter on the top of each and tuck the edges in to make it fit into the cup.  Repeat the process 3 times to make 24 phyllo cups.  Bake in a preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.  Cool on a baking rack.  Remove from the muffin pans.  Set aside.  This part of the dessert can be done one day before serving.  Cover the phyllo cups with foil and leave at room temperature until ready to fill.

Peel, core and chop 2 lbs of tart apples.  Put in a saucepan with nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon zest, salt and brown sugar.  Cook until the apples are soft.  Put warm filling into the phyllo cups, sift powdered sugar over strudels or serve with whipped cream or ice cream on the side.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Taking Zentangle to California!

I just got home from California.  The trip served three purposes (1)  My in-laws, Joe and Cecelia Zarate celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. WOW, what a party. (2)  I took time to visit my relatives, Mom, Holly, Karen, Dave, Justin, Amber, Patrick, Kaitlyn and the new baby JOSHUA!  My Aunt Ella just happened to pop in while we were there to make it pretty complete. (3) I taught my first Zentangle class in a scrapbook store environment at The Stampin' Post in Temecula.
So while I was there I took the time to introduce my sister-in-law Deborah and her 12 year old daughter to Zentangle for Kidz.  Big success!  Sophia started creating immediately and seem to love it.  Hopefully, someone will send me pictures of their work to post on my blog.  My niece's daughter, Kaitlyn, is only 5 but learned quickly using the same book by Sandy Steen Bartholomew.  I love teaching this to kids.  They seem to grasp the meaning and method immediately and create beautiful art.  Kaitlyn's friend came to play and of course the first thing Kaitlyn did was teach Zentangle to her friend.  Amazing!
I purchased 10 of these books and I have almost sold out.
While I was staying with my Mom we had our friends Terry and Bill Richie over for dinner.  I made them Chicken Fettuccine with homemade Alfredo sauce, Caponata, Caprese Salad with fresh mozzarella & homegrown tomatoes, garlic toast.  For dessert Apple Pie and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, topped with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.  I tried to keep the menu light since the weather was at least 100 degrees!
I made plenty.  I figured that would leave Mom and Holly a little something to eat after I left.  Just a little reminder that someone loves them both very much.
I got home to Bolton Tuesday night at 10pm.  Flying all day.  I would be about this tired if I had taken the RED EYE!  I'll keep that in mind next time.  Sure feels good to be home.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Mixing Bowl Column

The Mixing Bowl
By Renee Zarate

I had never tasted a rhubarb pie until last summer when someone asked me to bake them one using their family recipe.  Oh…. My….Goodness!  Rhubarb is very tart by itself but when combined with fruit such as strawberries or raspberries and a good amount of sugar it is truly wonderful.  A scoop of vanilla ice cream is perfect with this.  If you have ever hesitated using rhubarb why not give it try.  Just a reminder:  only the rhubarb stalks are edible, never eat rhubarb leaves, cooked or raw, they are toxic. 

You can use a purchased pie crust or make this one:

Pie Pastry
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Crisco
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup ice cold water

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Filling
2 cups (one 16 ounce container) of frozen, sweetened strawberries
2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 ¼ cups sugar (if your berries are unsweetened you may wish to add an extra ½ cup of sugar)
1/3 cup flour, less 1 Tablespoon
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Make the pastry:

Mix the flour and salt together with a fork in a large bowl.  Cut the shortening and the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until it resembles small peas.  Slowly add the ice water until all the dough is moist and can be gathered into a ball.  Divide the dough in two, press each half into a disc shape, wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.  Roll the bottom crust out first and line a 9 inch pie pan with it.   Refrigerate this while you roll out the second disc which will be the top crust or you can use it to make lattice for the top crust.
Mix the fruit filling ingredients together in a medium bowl and pour into the prepared pie crust.  Cover with the top crust, cut vent holes, flute edges and paint the top with a little milk.  Sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar over the top.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes then reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 45 minutes until the crust is brown and the fruit is tender.  You may want to bake the pie on a cookie sheet in case the juices overflow.  Allow the pie to cool for several hours before cutting it.

The Bolton Fair Pie Project

Every year for the past 9 years I have entered exhibits in the Bolton Fair.  Submitting things in the Fair with the hope that maybe I would get a ribbon has been a dream since childhood.  Of course there was no way my parents were going to drive me around to do that sort of nonsense when I was little.  So I feel like I have been living that dream since I moved to New England.

This year I only entered 2 pies.  A traditional New England Apple Pie and a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie.  I am going to post both of those recipes on my blog today.  I found the quest for the perfect apple pie to be much harder than I ever thought it would be.  I do think I finally have a simple straightforward recipe that works.  I think the judge this time thought so too.  I got a first place ribbon for both pies and a Best of Show for the apple pie.  The judge did suggest that next time I add a Granny Smith apple to the mix, which I will gladly do.  The rhubarb pie is so old fashioned I decided to write my Mixing Bowl column based on that recipe.

Traditional Apple Pie
Makes one double crust 9 inch pie
2 Cups flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup of Crisco
2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/3 cup of iced water
10 crisp, tart apples (I used 5 Macouns and 5 Braeburns)
½ - ¾ cup white sugar (depending on tartness of apples)
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon boiled apple cider
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tablespoon flour
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

Make the pastry:
  1. Mix the flour and salt together with a fork in a large bowl.
  2. Cut the shortening and butter into the flour with a pastry blender until mixture resembles small peas.
  3. Slowly add the ice water a tablespoon at a time until the dough is moist and can be gathered together into a ball.
  4. Divide the dough in two and press each half into a disc shape.
  5. Wrap dough discs in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or longer.
  6. Roll the bottom crust out first and line a 9 inch pie pan.  Refrigerate while you roll out the second disc, use this for the top crust. 

Pie filling:
  1. Pare core and slice the apples.
  2. Combine the sliced apples in a large bowl with the sugars, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour.
  3. Fill the prepared pie crust with the apple mixture making sure the center is mounded a little higher.
  4. Dot the surface with 1 tablespoon of butter.
  5. Place rolled upper crust on top, flute edges and cut vent holes.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees for the first 15 minutes then reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 45 minutes until crust is brown and apples are tender when tested with a skewer.  If the pie is browning too much or too quickly, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pie Pops

Last month I did a column for the Bolton Common on cake pops. I couldn't decide which were better the cake or pie "pops". When in doubt bake both and let the neighbors decide which is better. The kids all seemed to enjoy the cake pops the best and the pie pops were a close second. So last month cake and this month pie. Here's what I wrote:

The Mixing Bowl
By Renee Zarate

Summer is a great time to bake fruit filled pies.  However, there are times when just a few bites of pie would be nice rather than eating an entire piece.  This is a fun dessert that even the kids can get involved in making and looks really cute.  You can use cookie cutters to get different shapes or just use a 2 inch circle cutter and keep it simple.  I have found the lollipop sticks at craft stores work perfect.  The craft stores even have little plastic bags with twist ties to keep the “pies” fresh and easy to transport.  You can use your favorite jam as pie filling.  With a box of frozen pie crust in the freezer and a jar of jam from the pantry these treats can be made quickly any time of the year.

Pie Pops

Makes 24 two-inch round pie pops (the shape and size of the cutter will affect the yield)

2 Pillsbury 9” frozen pie crusts (there are 2 pie crusts in one box)
24 Lollipop sticks with matching bags and twist ties (found at Michael’s or A.C. Moore)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Follow the directions on the pie crust box.  Unroll the dough on a lightly floured surface.  I used a 2 inch circle cutter but I have also made these using a large leaf cookie cutter.  Place the cut out dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat non stick baking sheet.  Press a lollipop stick in the center of the cut out.  Spoon ½ teaspoon of jam in the center, I used strawberry but you can use whatever your favorite is.  Dip your finger in some water and run it all lightly around the edge of the cut out dough, this will be the glue that binds the top crust to the bottom.  Top the cut out with another piece of dough and press the edges together with the tines of a fork.  When the cookie sheet is full, place the pies in the preheated oven for 12 to 14 minutes or until they are brown.  Allow to cool on the cookie sheet.  Carefully remove and dust with powdered sugar.  At this point if you choose to put them in the little bags you can do so and either tie with a ribbon or seal with the little twist ties.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Heat Wave!

It is soooooo hot here!  All I can think of is soaking in the cool waters of the Caribbean, sailing around the islands every day, snorkeling randomly.  Drinking icy rum drinks with little umbrellas.  Watching the full moon come up over the water.  Hmmmm....sounds good!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Puff Piece

This week marked an end to my 90 day work experience at BHL in Framingham.  They treated me very kindly while I was there so as a going away gift to my fellow employees I wanted to make them all feel special with some desserts.  On Monday I brought in my fruit and cream filled puff pastry dessert, which I like to call a Napolean, and of course my Chocolate Walnut Torte.  It seems like so many people are allergic to nuts now a days so the puff pastry dessert is an easy alternative, plus it goes a long ways!  It was so yummy I thought it would be a perfect "Mixing Bowl" feature for this month.

By Renee Zarate


When I was first learning how to cook I thought I had to make everything from scratch.   Puff Pastry scared me to death and took me almost the entire day to make.   With age comes wisdom and I found out that some shortcuts are quite acceptable.   Puff Pastry is definitely one of them!  If you have not already tried frozen puff pastry sheets now is your chance.  It takes all the fear out of preparing a beautiful and delicious dessert that looks like you spent all day in the kitchen when in reality it can be made in less than an hour.

Puff Pastry with cream and fruit filling

½ pkg of a 17.3 oz. Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets  (1 sheet) 

Remove one sheet of puff pastry from the box and thaw at room temperature for about an hour before using.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray it with Pam.  Gently unfold the pastry sheet and place in on a lightly floured surface.  Cut the sheet into three pieces using the fold lines as a guide.  Be careful not to drag your knife, just cut straight down on the pastry, this way you will get the maximum “puff” or height out of the pastry dough.  Place on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until it is golden brown.  Cool on a rack and then split each of the three pastry “logs” in half lengthwise.  You will have three tops and three bottoms.  You can fill these buttery, flaky pastries with all kinds of fillings such as:  ice cream, chocolate pudding, whipped cream, fruit, etc.  The following is one of my favorites.

Vanilla cream and fruit filling

2 pkgs (3.4 oz each) of Jello instant pudding and pie filling
2 cups of milk or Half and Half
1 teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract
1 cup whipped cream or 1 cup of frozen whipped topping (Coolwhip)

1 quart of strawberries or mixed fresh berries cut and sweetened with 1 Tbl of sugar
(Or if you prefer several fresh, ripe bananas cut up instead of berries or fresh peaches when they are in season)

In a medium sized bowl, mix the two boxes of pudding together and blend in 2 cups of milk along with the vanilla, beat for 2 minutes.  After it has set up for about 5 minutes in the refrigerator fold in the whipped cream or the thawed Coolwhip.  (You can add more whipped cream or Coolwhip if you desire.)  Cover this mixture and refrigerate it until you are ready to assemble the dessert.
Place all three of the “bottom” crusts of the pastry logs on the serving tray.  Divide the cream filling into three portions and spread each portion on one of the pastry bottoms.  Ladle your choice of fruit on top of the cream filling then top each with the remaining pastry “tops”.  Sift powdered sugar across the top of the entire dessert tray and you are ready to serve it.
You can refrigerate this completed dessert for up to four hours or serve immediately.  Use a serrated knife for easier slicing, just wipe off the knife after each cut with a wet towel.  It will serve 12 or more.