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PECAN PIE . . . CAKE

Here is another fantastic recipe we prepared in one of The Lark Inn Cooking Classes; Pecan Pie . . . Cake.  No, that’s not a typo, it is truly a cake that tastes like Pecan Pie.  Oh my gosh is it good.  this may not be the best for your New Year’s resolution for weight loss so don’t fix it for just having around the house.  Unless of course you are one of those blessed people who can eat anything at any time and will never show it in your weight.  In that case . . . make it for breakfast!

The recipe has a lot of steps to it but don’t let that scare you off.  It is really pretty easy!

Here’s the recipe:

PREP:  35 MINUTES

BAKING TIME: 25 MINUTES

OVEN TEMP:  350 DEGREES

SERVES –12 SERVINGS

Ingredients FOR CAKE:

3 CUPS FINELY CHOPPED PECANS, TOASTED AND DIVIDED

½ CUP BUTTER, SOFTENED

½ CUP SHORTENING

2 CUPS SUGAR

5 LARGE EGSS, SEPARATED

1 TABLESPOON VANILLA EXTRACT

2 CUPS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR

1 TEASPOON BAKING SODA

1 CUP BUTTERMILK

¾ CUP DARK CORN SYRUP

1 RECIPE PECAN PIE FILLING

1 RECIPE PASTRY GARNISH

Directions FOR CAKE:

  1. 1.     Sprinkle 2 cups pecans evenly into 3 generously buttered 9-inch round cake pans; shake to coat bottoms and sides of pans.
  2. 2.     Beat ½ cup butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating well.  Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.
  3. 3.     Add flour and baking soda to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour.  Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in remaining 1 cup finely chopped pecans.
  4. 4.     Beat egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks forms; fold one-third of egg whites into batter.  Fold in remaining egg whites. Do not overmix. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  5. 5.     Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until done.  Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Invert layers onto wax paper-lined wire racks.  Brush tops and sides of layers with corn syrup, and cool completely.
  6. 6.     Spread half of Pecan Pie Filling on 1 layer, pecan side up.  Place second layer, pecan side up, on filling; spread with remaining filling.  Top with remaining layer, pecan side up.
  7. 7.     Arrange Pastry garnish on and around cake.

 

PECAN PIE FILLING

 PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES

COOKING TIME:  5 TO 7 MINUTES

CHILLING TIME: 4 HOURS

 

Ingredients FOR PECAN PIE FILLING:

½ CUP FIRMLY PACKED DARK BROWN SUGAR

¾ CUP DARK CORN SYRUP

1/3 CUP CORNSTARCH

4 EGG YOLKS

1 ½ CUPS HALF-AND-HALF

1/8 TEASPOON SALT

3 TABLESPOONS BUTTER

1 TEASPOON VANILLA EXRACT

Directions FOR PECAN PIE FILLING:

 1.Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a heavy 3-Quart saucepan until smooth.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute or until thickened.  Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla extract.  Place a sheet of wax paper directly on surface of mixture to prevent a film from forming, and chill 4 hours.

Yield: about 3 cups

Note:  to chill filling quickly, pour filling into a bowl.  Place bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice.  Whisk constantly until cool (about 15 minutes).

ENJOY!!

If this positing was interesting to you visit my website: http://www.thelarkinn.com/CookingClasses.html

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SPICY ROAST CHICKEN WITH TOMATOES AND MARJORAM

Spicy Roast Chicken with Tomatoes and Marjoram

We fixed a super great chicken dish in our October Cooking Class at The Lark Inn.  It is a “Spicy Roast Chicken with Tomatoes and Marjoram” and is very simple to prepare, very low on calories and fat and . . . it’s YUMMY!  Another thing that I like about this recipe is that with the tomatoes, it plates very nicely . . . it looks great spread around on a nice platter!

Our class had a great time fixing it and . . . eating it!

Here is the recipe:

SPICY ROAST CHICKEN WITH TOMATOES AND MARJORAM

 

PREP: 15 MINUTES

COOKING TIME: 35 MINUTES

OVEN TEMP: 450 DEGREES

SERVES –4

Ingredients:

24 OUNCES OF WHOLE CHERRY TOMATOES

¼ CUP OLIVE OIL

5 GARLIC CLOVES, MINCED

¾ TEASPOONS OF DRIED CRUSHED RED PEPPER

2 TABLESPOONS OF DRIED MARJAROM

4 CHICKEN BREASTS – BONELESS BUT WITH SKIN ON

SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER

Directions:

Kris looks on as students work in one of The Lark Inn's many cooking classes.

 1.     Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Prepare pans with either a silpat lined baking sheet or parchment paper for chicken.

  1. 2.     Toss the olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper and marjoram in a large bowl to combine.
  2. 3.     Place chicken on prepared baking sheet.
  3. 4.     Pour the tomato mixture over the chicken, arranging the tomatoes in a single layer around the chicken.
  4. 5.     Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  5. 6.     Roast until chicken is cooked through and tomatoes are blistered, about 35 minutes.

Enjoy!!

If this recipe sounds interesting to you, check out my web site: http://www.thelarkinn.com/CookingClasses.html

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WINTER FRUIT SALAD

I introduced this Winter Fruit Salad at my “Fall Harvest” cooking class.  the combination of fruits and spices is perfect for anytime . . . but especially cold weather.  Though it is served cool, at room temperature, it’s savory blend of flavors will warm you up on any winter day.

This is very light, simple to prepare and is perfect to serve with a heavier meals.  Another option is desert.  I love this so much that I serve it as a appetiser or as a stand-alone dessert.

Enjoy!!

 

WINTER FRUIT SALAD

 

PREP: 15 MINUTES

SERVES – 8 MINUTES

 

Ingredients:

3 TABLESPOONS PACKED BROWN SUGAR

1 TABLESPOON GRATED LEMON ZEST

2 TABLESPOONS LEMON JUICE

1 TEASPOON GROUND ALLSPICE

3 BRAEBURN APPLES, LARGE DICE

2 CUPS FRESH CUBED PINEAPPLE

2 BOSC PEARS, LARGE DICE

½ CUP CURRANTS

¼ CUP SLICED ALMONDS

 

Directions:

 Combine the brown sugar, lemon zest and juice, and allspice in a large bowl.  Add the apples, pineapple, pears, and currants; toss to coat.  Sprinkle with almonds.

 Note:  Cover and refrigerate the salad up to 2 hours in advance, but don’t sprinkle it with the almonds until just before serving.

 

This is very light and is perfect to serve with a heavier meals.  Another option is desert.  I love this so much that I serve it as a appetiser or as a stand-alone dessert.

Enjoy!!

For more information about my cooking classes visit my website:  The Lark Inn Cooking Classes

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WEDDING WEEK AT THE LARK INN – TUESDAY

TUESDAY – FAMILY BEGINS TO ARRIVE!

 The Lark Inn was dark on Monday.  Partially for preparation of the coming week but primarily so that Pat could have dinner with his single daughter one last time.  A time to share and encourage and be encouraged.

 Kris’ mom and sister Kelli flew in this morning.  Later, her brother Kevin, his wife Heather and kids, Treavor, Billy and Richard flew into LAX.  This gave Pat one more opportunity to reconnect with his 8 gazillion friends he made on the San Diego Freeway when he was doing his commute years ago.  The traffic cooperated; although, all flights were delayed so Kevin and the little boys and Pat had coffee at the international terminal and made up stories about the various people we saw.  What a great place for people watching and . . . if you are going to people watch, Kevin, the consummate story teller is a world-class people watcher!!

 Number of Guests                   15

 Menu:

Veggies with Dipping Sauce

Apple Smoked Pork Chops

Smashed Potatoes

Garlic Sautéed Green Beans

Rice Salad

Angel Food Cake with California Strawberries ala mode


Veggies with Tomato Basil Dipping Sauce

 

Shopping List:

1 Assorted Fresh Veggie Tray with Celery, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cherry Tomatoes

1  Cup Hellmann’s Mayonnaise

½ Cup Sour Cream

½ Cup Chopped Fresh Basil

1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste

1 Tablespoon  grated Lemon Rind

 Stir together last 5 ingredients.  Cover and Chill for at least 1 hour.  After Chilling out under a blanket, cover and chill the dipping sauce for at least 1 hour up to 2 days.  Serve with your veggies . . . now than you have chilled out!

 Apple Smoked Pork Chops:

  Shopping List:

2 Packages of 10 Center Cut Pork Chops

Fred’s Rub

Season the pork chops heavily on one side with “Fred’s Rub”*

Cover and put the seasoned chops in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

 Start smoker with apple wood in the smoke chamber and crank the heat up to high.  On my Treagor electric smoker, that is about 425 to 450°.

 Once smoker has reached at least 425° put the chops on the grate, seasoned side down.

Cook for about five minutes and turn.

Continue to cook until temperature in the middle of the chop is 145° and remove and cover in foil.

Let stand for at least 10 Minutes before serving.

 Alternate cooking method:

Because of the small size of my smoker and the large number of guests for dinner I also fired up my gas grill on high.

I put half of the pork chops on the smoker, seasoned side down and the other half on the grill, seasoned side down.

I cooked them for about five minutes, turned them and cooked them for another 5 minutes or so.

Then, I switched; moved the chops from the smoker on to the grill and those from the grill on to the smoker. 

 Tip:  You might want to use a tray to put one of the groups of chops on to make room for the other set of chops . . . otherwise you could become trapped in a terminal do-loop of making room on the grill for the smoked chops . . . but there isn’t room  . . . I better move them . . . but there isn’t room . . . so I better move them . . . we don’t want to have to send someone over to rescue you.  If you think this may be a problem . . . you should probably not cook pork chops alone!  This is especially dangerous if alcohol is involved.

 Once you have finally navigated the switching process, cook them for another 5 or so minutes on each side until the internal temp reaches 145°.

Remove, cover with foil and let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

*Fred’s Rub

 Fred’s Rub was created by Pat’s dad; Fred Larkin who, perfected the art of steak grilling on his “Hastybake” charcoal grill.  At one such time, over a half a century ago Fred was paid a visit by the Grilling Gods!  They took him into their landing craft and while rocketing through the galaxies, performed horrible experiments on Fred.  Being the powerful and courageous man that he was, he fought them all off and commandeered their ship, flying it back to planet earth.  Though he was free in body, he was still theirs in his mind . . . all he could think of was seasoned salt, garlic salt and pepper . . . seasoned salt, garlic salt and pepper . . . seasoned salt, garlic salt and pepper .  Then it came to him; he was supposed to put the concoction on his steaks and then grill them . . . FRED’S RUB WAS BORN!!!  Fred’s Rub is  only available through the Lark Inn and is about a zillion dollars a bottle.  But, if you want to make it, here is the top secret recipe:

 1-1/2 Parts Seasoned Salt

1 Part Garlic Powder

¼ Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper for each ½ cup of rub

 Please remember; if you divulge this top secret recipe . . . the Grilling god’s may pay YOU a visit!!!


Smashed Potatoes

 

Shopping List:

5 – 7 lbs. of Yukon Gold Potatoes* (About 3 per guest)

Fred’s Rub

 * Tip: for you Californians or other folks not from the south or the Midwest; “New” Potatoes are the same as red potatoes.  New potatoes will have a more “earthy” (no it’s not just from the dirt) flavor and the Yukon Gold will tend to be a bit sweeter.

 Select however many potatoes you want (for tonight’s group of 15 we used 40 – 45).  Wash the potatoes and boil them until they are about 90% done.

While the potatoes are boiling, start your oven set to Broil at 450°.

Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil spray.

Once the potatoes are finished boiling, drain them and let cool for a few minutes.

For smashing the potatoes you will want to find either a spatula (egg turner) or a solid faced potato masher and spray the face with olive oil.

One at a time, place the potatoes on the cookie sheet and smash them just until they break open . . . . sort of like a tomato.  They will look like a little split open bulb.

Spray (or drizzle) olive oil over the potatoes and sprinkle with Fred’s Rub.

 Hint: use the Fred’s Rub sparingly on potatoes and vegetables as it has quite a bit of salt in it.

 Put the cookie sheet with your potatoes in the oven with the rack in the top position.

Allow to broil for about 10 minutes, until they reach your desired amount of golden crispiness.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Garlic Sautéed Green Beans

 Shopping List:

3 lbs. of Crisp, Fresh Green Beans

4 Cloves of Garlic

Wash the beans and snap them into sections about 1 to 1/12 inches long.

 Hint:  Snapping green beans means that you bend them until they break (do I have to explain everything?!).  If they only bend, they are too ripe.

 Dice up four cloves of garlic (you could substitute 2 teaspoons of minced garlic)

Drizzle olive oil in your large skillet (or possibly two depending on the size of your skillets) Heat the skillet up on medium/high heat.

When the skillet is warm, throw in the green beans along with the garlic and drizzle with a bit more olive oil.

Turn the beans frequently to avoid burning and cook until just al dente

 Tip:  For my friends from the south Al Dente is not short for Albert Dente.  This means that you don’t cook the bean until they is mushy.  You only cook them until they are just tender enough to stick a fork in them . . . (I have to say it) as in “Stick me with a fork, I’m done!”

 When finished, remove from the skillet and serve

 Serving:

We serve everything family style with each item in a bowl or platter of it’s own which requires those at the table to work together so that everything is passed in the same direction.  I have faith in you control freaks out there . . . this is a simple one for you!

 Wine:

With the light pork meat and veggies, you will want a fairly light wine; for my palette, either a nice Chardonnay or Pinot Noir will work great.


Angel Food Cake with California Strawberries ala mode

 

Shopping List:

          3 Sugar Free Angel Food Cakes (if not available, regular will do)

          3 Pints of FreshCaliforniaStrawberries

          1 Qt. Light Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Slice the cake into ¾ inch wide slices and place in a small bowl.

Wash, cap and slice the strawberries and pour over the cake.

Scoop out a large tablespoon of ice cream and put on the top of everything.

 Tip:  For an delightful variation of this, heat your grill to high heat.  Be sure that your grates are oiled with canola oil to reduce sticking.  After you slice the angel food cake just put on the grill for about 20 seconds per side . . . I think you will like the results.

 For information about cooking classes with Kris Larkin go to: www.TheLarkInn.com


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Napa – The Perfect Day

Napa Valley

got wine?  If you are in the neighborhood of The Napa Valley in northern California, I have just the perfect day for you.  Pat and I have been teaching community college classes in the Napa Valley area for several years and have, of course, developed our favorite restaurants, wineries and things to do there.  Here is a sampling of a near perfect day in Napa:

First, for those of you not familiar with Napa Valley, a bit of familiarization.  The Napa Valley is north of the San Francisco/Oakland area by about 25 miles on highway 12.  It is a lush valley about 15 miles long from south to north and about 2 miles wide (west to east) at its widest point.  Highway 12 runs north and south along the western side of the valley and Silverado Canyon Road is its counterpart on the east side.

There are several little towns primarily along highway 12 starting with Yountville on the south end, then Oakville, St. Helena and concluding at the north end of the valley with Calistoga.  In an around the valley are roughly 18 ba-zillion wineries ranging from the big boys . . . Rutherford, BV, Sutter Home . . . right down to the small boutique wineries.  For more info go to: www.napavalley.com.

Enough history.  Let’s get on with the near perfect day!

Breakfast:

Model Bakery

We slept in and took care of some business and then, on the recommendation of Michael Chiorello on The Food Network, we headed for the Model Bakery in St. Helena for a late breakfast.  This bakery is fantastic.  Michael had spoken about their unique English muffins and he did not lie!

They are lighter than the English muffins most of us are used to.  Perhaps a bit more bread-ish but with a fabuloso flavor.  Pat had a breakfast san

dwich which was a scrambled egg, piece of Canadian bacon, spinach and he added avocado.  His report . . . two thumbs up . . . mainly because his mouth was too full to tell me how fantastic it was.  I had a toasted En

glish muffin with butter on the side (how else should you eat English muffins?

) and it was . . . To Die For!!  Model Bakery is located at 1357 Main St. in St. Helena.  For more info on The Model Bakery you can visit their website at: www.themodelbakery.com

St. Helena is a great little town to shop . . . up one side of the street and back down on the other.  We shopped a little and then headed off to our favorite boutique winery; Burgess Cellars.

 

Wines and Wine Tasting:

 

View from Burgess Cellars

Burgess Cellars is a great little winery on the east side of the valley and up the hill making for super vistas.  They have very reasonable prices (in comparison to the other wineries in Napa) and several award winning red wines from merlots to cabernets, shiraz and several blends.

We actually went to Burgess to pick up our wine club shipment to save them shipping it.  While we were there we had to taste the wines we were picking up and a couple of wines they had released since we were last there in November.  Just to ensure that they were keep the quality where it should be and besides . . . we now live in Kansas and it was well after noon there!  For more info and directions for Burgess go to: http://www.burgesscellars.com/

By the time we left Burgess it was well after noon . . . even in California.  We went just down the hill and a bit to the north (like ¼ mile) to Duck??? Winery.  They had some nice red wines though they were about 40% more expensive than Burgess and the wines not much better . . . at lease for my pallet.  It is well worth the trip though.  It is a very nice place with a great area outside atmosphere and the tasting is $20.00 per person and ample.  We tasted a few wines and decided it was time for lunch.

Lunch:

 

 

You can’t go to Napa Valley without eating at the Farmstead Restaurant.  It is back in St. Helena and is a great place for lunch.  It is like eating in an upscale, newly built barn . . . oh wait . . . it is!  Their food is fantastic, the portions very large, the menu; very inventive and the atmosphere . . . couldn’t be better.  The Farmstead is part of the Long Meadow Ranch Winery and they will give you a token for free wine tasting (imagine that!).  Another nice thing about the Farmstead is that they don’t charge a corkage fee if you want to bring in your own wine.  Check out The Farmstead at: http://bit.ly/gISYVu.

Pat had a Muffela Sandwich with Bierwurst and I had a cob salad.  We could have easily ordered one of the entrées and shared but . . . it was more than enough!

Dinner:

The next “can’t miss” in Napa Valley is Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Restaurant in Yountville.  This restaurant subscribes to the business philosophy that makes the American Dream come true and that is: deliver exceptional value for a reasonable price.

Pat and I have eaten at a lot of high end restaurants from LA, New Orleans, New York and points in between and Bottega is in the front of the pack but, their prices are among the most reasonable in the Napa Valley or any other place.

Our first time there, we went with another couple and shared the Polenta Under Glass, caramelized wild mushrooms, balsamic game sauce and Shaved Artichoke Salad Two Ways lemon olive oil braised and roman fried, shaved parmigiano reggiano appetizers.  The staff at Bottega took it upon themselves to replate these selections for each of us individually and the presentation was stunning.

For our main dish, the four of us shared the Wood Grilled Chops of Grass-Fed Lamb fuyu persimmons with tarragon, fennel seeds, white balsamic vinegar, California olive oil, creamy ancient grain polenta and the Twice Cooked Natural Pork Chop Peck seasoning, pancetta wrapped stone fruit, pork jus.  Again, everything was re-plated for four and oh yeah . . . the food was to die for!

Wine selections were over the top.  We ended up with the Bottega Old Vine Zin with the help of the Bottega staff and it was a fantastic complement to our food choices, the ambiance and the evening all together.

Do you think I liked Bottega?  To die for!  For more information and menus for Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Restaurant go to their web site:  http://www.botteganapavalley.com/index.html\

In closing, want to spend a day in Napa and the California wine country?  It’s hard to go wrong.  Check out the visitor information centers or go to www.napavalley.com  for more information

Have a glass of wine and relax . . . it's OK!

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Wedding Week at The Lark Inn – Sunday

This Post is an except from the book :  Wedding Week at The Lark-Inn Recipe Book.  The book is a chronicle of the week surrounding our daughter’s wedding, the various meals,events and get togethers.  We cooked for anywhere between 5 and 150 people on any given night.   It starts slow with only 5  to 10 guests, but it builds and builds and builds until it crescendos on Friday night Bar-B-Que for about 100 and Saturday morning Brunch for 150 and it came off very well.  Stay Tuned and enjoy this stories, tips and recipes!

 

 

INTRODUCTION

They came from near and far, from high and low . . . . the rednecks and the fruits and nuts!  It was Bree and Steve’s wedding.  There was a great love story; Bree and Steve growing up together and the destination; the autumn tipped Southern California Mountains.  This promised to be a relaxing and inspiring place to witness this momentous occasion.  But wait . . . there was something else.  Could it be that all this vacation time taken, hassles with traveling with kids and all the expense of making this pilgrimage was not for Bree and Steve?!?! NOT A CHANCE!!! Could the allure have been the promise of gluttony, wonderful food and wine and fellowship with those not seen in years?!?!  THAT TOO!!  The weekend was destined to be a world-class reunion of basically everyone we had been doing life with over the past 19 years.  People came in from all over the country and we had a great time cooking for them, entertaining them and just catching up. 

This cookbook has all the menus and recipes we prepared for dinners at our home (The Lark Inn) during the week leading up to the wedding as well as for the rehearsal dinner and brunch the morning of wedding day.  Of course they are laced . . . with a few stories here and there!

 There’s a lot of stuff here.  If you try to cook and eat it all we can’t be responsible for your weight loss program or your health . . . but it could transport your soul!! 

SUNDAY – WEDDING WEEK BEGINS!

 A nice slow start to the event filled week.  Our best friends from past and present ended up joining us for a relaxing evening of catching up and of course . . . eating!  We became friends with Todd and Cheryl back in 1990 at the Crystal Cathedral.  We met them and that was it.  They have since moved all over the place and finally settled in North Carolina.  They have been great spiritual partners in our journey through the last nearly 20 years.  They are the kind of friends who  you can be away from for long periods of time and when you get back together it’s as if no time has passed at all.  Emerson and Velda joined our small group 4 or 5 years ago.  From the moment they walked in the door and Velda saw the Southern Living Magazine on the coffee table we knew our friendship would be a fit.  Since that first evening we have traveled many places together and the most significant travels have been our journeys of faith; making that pilgrimage together has been quite an adventure with God!  It’s amazing how our friends from such different beginnings can all come together. It is like we have known each other forever!  I think that when God fills your life with His people, who are earnest in following Him . . . there will be no boundaries!

 Menu:

Taco Soup

 Shopping List:

1 lb. Ground Turkey

1 Large Onion

1-1/2 Cups of water

1 Pkg. Taco Seasoning

1 Pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing

2 Cans Beans – Chili, Pinto, Black or Kidney

1 Can Corn

1 Can Mexican Style Tomatoes

1 Small Can Diced Green Chilies

1 Can Tomato Sauce

Sauté the meat and the onion.  Add the water, the taco seasoning and the Ranch dressing.  Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook to heat through.

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