Category Archives: Entertaining

A Fruit and Cheese Plate for Friends

Life can be so hectic. We are all so busy. I am grateful for the time we share with friends. I’m a little late in posting my most recent cheese plate, devoured at a Friendsgiving. This one overflowed with fall fruit…

Fruit and Cheese Platter

I broke with my cheese cutting trend. You can review how I cut the cheese here and here. Yes, my Instagram is filled with cheese. I decided to leave most of these cheeses whole because they were soft, semi-soft or spready.

How will you be cheesing it up this holiday season? Please tag me on Instagram with #BabyBirdsFarm if you post anything yummy!

fruit and cheese plate

Clockwise from 12 o’clock: persimmon, grapes, pomegranate, dragon fruit (pitaya), Époisses de Bourgogne, marcona almonds, honeycomb, pistachios, Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog, Cypress Grove Purple Haze, strawberries, tangerines, blackberries, Camembert. The Époisses, a famously stinky French cheese I discovered through the Cheeses of Europe Cheese Pop Up, I acquired as a hand me down, of sorts. But the rest of the cheese, fruits and nuts are from Specialty Produce.

Shopping notes: the berries are from the organic cooler at Specialty, the persimmon and dragon fruit from the Farmers Market cooler, and be sure to check out the cheese section along the South wall of the main cooler. You can find the honey comb up at the retail checkout counter. The nuts are from the bulk section. Did you know that they will open up any large box of nuts (or anything, really) and let you buy just a handful?

Our Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! Thank you for taking the time to read our posts and click through to see our pictures.

thanksgiving-3

Papa Bird and I were feeling a little unenthusiastic about Thanksgiving this year. Neither of us have family in town, and the traditional “story” about Native Americans welcoming the English immigrants to the first Thanksgiving felt at odds with the current state of our country. But we talked about making new traditions and celebrating what we do value.

rotisserie turkey

We invited our sweet friends with a newborn over for a traditional meal at our house. At twelve pounds, the turkey was small enough to (just barely) fit on the rotisserie attachment of the grill. Thank goodness! However do you cook all the sides if there is a bird in the oven? Our friends made oven-roasted veggies and mashed potatoes with homemade creme fraiche, and even so, our oven was in full use throughout the morning and early afternoon.

thanksgiving-4

Many thanks to Sarah and the girls’ “Tio Lou” for coming over, cooking, and sending us the pictures of us at the table. Papa Bird and I had seen their newbie at the hospital, but the Little Birds were thrilled to meet baby Mateo for the first time.

Sarah and Mateo

And there was pie. And pie crust cookies made by the girls. (Not pictured: chocolate mousse made by the girls, too.) I used my all-butter crust recipe and the “Real Pumpkin Pie” recipe from a few years ago with the following improvements: I used maple syrup instead of honey as the sweetener, which mixes easily without having to be warmed up. I also ended up using mostly cream and only a splash of milk, just because we had more cream than milk on hand.

real pumpkin pie

And the day after Thanksgiving we put up our tree. Christmas and Hannukah, here we come! (Another photo courtesy the Moras, as I was covering a shift at the hospital Friday.)

picking the perfect tree

Our Backyard Party with Apple & Hickory Catering

Our Little Birds are getting so big! They just turned five and three. We recently threw a joint birthday party in our backyard. Since I don’t get to throw many parties these days, I made sure it was a party an adult would want to attend, too. We worked with our friends with a new catering company, Apple & Hickory, and the food was just beautiful.

A fall salad with persimmons, pistachios and pomegranates

Apple & Hickory Catering - Persimmon Pistachio Salad

Our Littlest Bird is enamored of Chef Ryan’s macaroni and cheese. We reached out to him just to see if he would be willing to make a tray of it for us for the girls’ birthday party. He ended up offering to cater the whole party at cost in exchange for photos for their new website.

Mmmmm, cheese…..

Cheese plate by Baby Birds Farm

Even if it was a kids party in theory, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pull out some cheese and wine. This cheese plate included Humbolt Fog, Truffle Tremor, a mild Spanish cheese, an aged gouda, honeycomb, pistachios, grapes and Marcona almonds.

apple-n-hickory-corn

Both Chef Ryan and Chef Leland have been in the catering and restaurant business for years. Both recently left positions as number two in charge of restaurants. We are happy to see them branch out on their own independently.

Chef Ryan was very easy to work with. We told him our theme, “fairies” and party size and he put together a whole menu proposal as a starting point. In addition to mac n’ cheese, we feasted on crispy pork belly, green beans with apples and almonds, aguachile, chips and salsa, corn, fresh fruit, and the beautiful fall salad above.

Fresh Baja Shrimp Aguachile

Fresh Baja Shrimp Aguachile from Apple & Hickory Catering in San Diego

I had fun shopping the day before for ingredients with Chef Ryan. We hit up Catalina Offshore for the fresh Baja shrimp, Restaurant Depot for the meat, cake supplies from Do It With Icing, and Specialty Produce for the rest.

Do you still call it a smash cake when they are 5 and 3?

Edible Flower Decorated Smash Cakes

The two little smash cakes were a total collaboration. I baked the cake layers from an old Southern recipe for Hummingbird Cake. Chef Ryan made extra cream cheese frosting – the same frosting he used as the fillings in his funfetti “cakies.” Since the girls (ok, and me, too) wanted a fairy theme for their party, we decorated the cakes with lots of edible flowers.

"Cakies" - funfetti cookie cakes filled with cream cheese frosting

Similarly, the photos were a group effort. One of Papa Bird’s photographer friends shot most of the images on our camera, though I took a few. We rented a nicer lens for the day. And Papa Bird processed the images. He also ended up starting a website for Apple & Hickory Catering – something he has been doing a lot of lately! As a part of his Burd’s Nerds IT support business, he recently redid my psychotherapy website, too.

Great success

As you can see from the girls’ faces, they were pretty happy fairies!

Baby Birds Farm

Give the guys a call if you are planning an event or just want someone to cook dinner for you at home. Check out their website at applenhickory.com – a few of the pictures might look familiar!

Pumpkin Custard with Ginger and Maple

It’s officially pumpkin season! San Diego weather may change its mind on a daily basis, but pumpkin everything gets the green light in my book! Today I’m sharing the recipe for a ginger-maple pumpkin custard topped with a pepita streusel. This creamy alternative to pumpkin pie is made extra gingery with both fresh and dried ginger, and sweetened with maple syrup.

Ginger Maple Pumpkin Custard with Pepita Streusel

The pumpkin custard is gluten-free, with no refined sugars, and no cans. Like in my pumpkin smash cake recipe, I won’t tell anyone if you speed the recipe up with canned pumpkin, but try a real pumpkin one time so you can taste the difference. I use whole cow milk, but you can substitute any milk alternative. This custard is adapted from the filling for the real pumpkin pie recipe. We topped it with real whipped cream (get the “real” food trend?) and a pepita (pumpkin seed) streusel. Find the streusel recipe here.

Papa Bird and the little birds grew pumpkins this year from seeds saved from last year’s sugar pie pumpkins. Specialty Produce is also fully stocked with baking and decorative pumpkins.

[Recipe] Ginger Maple Pumpkin Custard with Pepita Streusel (whole, unrefined ingredients, gluten-free)

Try the recipe today and you just might be eating this surprisingly healthy custard for dessert and breakfast. Or else pin the recipe to save and try later!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pumpkin Custard with Ginger and Maple
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8 servings
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
A creamy alternative to pumpkin pie, made extra gingery with both fresh and dried ginger, and sweetened with maple syrup. Gluten-free, no refined sugars, and no cans. I use whole cow milk, but you can substitute any milk alternative. Adapted from my "Real Pumpkin Pie" filling.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups roasted and pureed pumpkin (1 sugar pie pumpkin or 1 15 oz can of pureed pumpkin)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup whole milk
Instructions
  1. Prep pumpkin (see notes) or use canned (I won't tell anyone, but try a real pumpkin one time so you can taste the difference.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350* F.
  3. If you are using homemade pureed pumpkin, add the rest of the ingredients into your food processor or blender. Mix until combined.
  4. Place six to eight custard dishes or ramekins inside of a large roasting pan. Fill the small dishes/ramekins with the pumpkin batter. Pour water into the large pan, being careful not to splash water into the custards. Fill the pan until the water level is even with the level of the batter in the small dishes. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the center of the custards are "set."
  5. Remove the custards from the water bath and cool on a wire rack.
  6. Serve with streusel and/or whipped cream.
Notes
1. If starting from a fresh pumpkin: Use a "sugar pie pumpkin" or "pie pumpkin" and not a decorative jack-o-lantern type pumpkin. Preheat oven to 350* F. Wash the outside of the pumpkin well. Cut off the stem of the pumpkin, and then cut in half vertically. Remove the seeds and strings. Rinse and save the seeds for drying and replanting and/or roasting. Place the two halves of the pumpkins on a baking pan lined with a piece of foil that is twice as long as the pan. Fold the foil over the top of the pumpkins and bake for 75 to 90 minutes, or until soft.
Allow pumpkins to cool (they can be refrigerated over night.) Peel off the skin, and any overly browned parts.
Place the flesh of the pumpkin in a food processor or good blender and puree until smooth.
Leave the pumpkin in the processor or blender, and add the rest of the custard ingredients.
An average sized pumpkin makes about 2 cups of pureed pumpkin. A little more or a little less is fine.
2. Nutrition figures are for 8 servings. I made 6 large custards, and we felt full after half, so it could easily serve 12. I split the difference and calculated for 8. Nutrition is also for the custard as written, and does not include streusel or whip cream topping.
3. Streusel recipe here.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 131 g Calories: 111 Fat: 3g Saturated fat: 1.2g Unsaturated fat: 1.8g Trans fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 18g Sugar: 14 g Sodium: 188mg Fiber: .8g Protein: 3.8g Cholesterol: 73mg

 

Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana’s Passover Cake)

This chocolate, apple and walnut torte is the Passover cake my mother and grandmother have made for decades. I have been asked to share the recipe several times — and here it is! Like my great-grandmother’s recipe for Matzo Ball Soup, it is published in an old synagogue cookbook that I still use for traditional Jewish recipes, including many from my family. (By the way, Mower’s matzo ball soup is still surprisingly popular on Pinterest.)

chocolate, apple, walnut passover torte

My grandmother “Nana” had a serious stroke 12 years ago. She doesn’t remember much that has happened since her childhood, and pretty much thinks of herself as a girl. She doesn’t remember me when I visit her memory-focused assisted living, but gets that I am there for her and is as sweet and as pleasant as ever. She even forgets what she said a minute before, and when she finds a good joke, she repeats it. We were only recently a family of four on our last visit to New York and she kept asking how many kids we planned. She would then advise, “Two or three is okay, but more than four is too many.” So of course my husband would tell her we wanted fourteen and she would crack up. This happened about twenty times in the space of an hour.

But memory is a funny thing. She can identify the names of every single plant on the grounds. And she remembers recipes! On my last trip, my uncle gave me her recipe box to bring to the visit. Nana remembered them all and shared stories. I recognized the Passover cake recipe as identical to the one I had made a month before (and every Passover before it since I was a teenager.) I am calling it “Nana’s Passover Cake” but as she reminded me, it was originally the recipe of her friend Bea Glück. “Well, since it was Bea’s recipe, naturally it’s a winner. Natch!”

Nana's Passover Cake

As you may see in the index card, there isn’t a ton of detail to the technique, nor in the version my mom wrote for the cookbook. But I’ve added some tips and my own system for sailing through the prep. You could make it all by hand, but a food processor and mixer will help. Tip: no need to wash the processor between ingredients. I even go ahead and make charoset right afterwards.

A friend in the midst of a Whole 30 challenge, gave me a Paleo-friendly apple and nut muffin that had such a similar taste and texture. Although this a “torte” in the sense that it uses no flour, rather ground nuts and a handful of matzo meal (similar in baking to breadcrumbs), I bet it could be adapted to gluten-free pretty easily. Try using almond meal in place of the matzo and/or more apple. There is no added fat, other than the eggs and nuts, and this Passover torte is not too sweet. My grandmother noted “Red Delicious” apples, but I have often used Fujis with good results.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana's Passover Cake)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish (Passover)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Passed down from my grandmother, this traditional passover cake could easily be confused with a contemporary paleo-ish torte, featuring chocolate, chopped walnuts and apple in a light sponge. It's not too sweet, and everyone loves it!
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
  • 2 apples, cored and grated
  • 1 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ cup matzo meal
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350*F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Using a grater, or grating attachment on a food processor, grate the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a medium sized mixing bowl. Without washing or rinsing the food processor, grate the apples. (The apples should be cored but don't peel them.) Add to the mixing bowl. Without washing, take out the grating plate and put the chopping blade into the food processor. Chop the walnuts and then add to the mixing bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick (at least 2 minutes on high/fast.) Gently stir into the chocolate, apples, and walnuts and add the matzo meal. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the batter.
  4. Bake in the greased springform pan for 1 hour. Cool in pan.
Notes
The instructions include equipment (such as a food processor and stand mixer or hand mixer) that make the cake a snap. But the cake can also be made by grating, chopping, and beating by hand.

Serving options: I like the cake with whipped cream (or non-dairy whip for Kosher friends) and strawberries. (Strawberries are usually in season for Passover/Spring Equinox/Easter.) My mom's transcription from the 80's suggests sprinkling with powdered sugar just before serving.

The cake is best the first day, but can be baked the morning of a big dinner.

If you like this recipe, please like the Baby Birds Farm page on Facebook, or follow my Jewish Recipes board on Pinterest.