SUNFLOWER SEED BAGUETTE

We are celebrating the return of the Olympics with sunflowers by using sunflower seeds in our baking. This is the recipe for our sunflower seed baguette. Sunflowers from the Miyagi area of Japan are featured at the Olympics. The organizers said that after the earthquake and tsunami, the parents planted sunflowers on a hillside in Miyagi in memory of their children who died, and every year now the hill becomes covered with sunflowers.

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Finnish cookies

FINNISH COOKIES

These Finnish cookies are made with browned butter, toasted pecans and maple syrup, and then rolled in powdered sugar. There are a number of similar cookies, such as Snowballs, Mexican wedding cookies, and Russian Tea cakes. Tony’s mother is half Finnish and she remembers her Finnish Grandmother making them when she was a child, so she has always called them Finnish cookies. They are a family tradition, and we make them every year at celebrations. Over the years we have made a few changes to her Grandmother’s version, though. This version is made with pecans and maple syrup, ingredients that are native to America, so maybe we should probably call them American cookies at this point, but we are not going to mess with tradition that much.

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SANTA CRUZ FOREST FIRE

Last year, a forest fire in northern Santa Cruz county, the CZU lightning complex fire, burned 86,000 acres. It was stopped as it reached the University of California, Santa Cruz campus north of Santa Cruz, where we live. As we are again in fire season, we felt it would be a good time to post a few photos we took of the area that was devistated by the fire last year.

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FIG STAR BREAD IN ITALY

We love the look of this fig star bread. We first saw the star shaped bread in Italy. A soft sweet bread that looks very festive, but is actually very easy to make. The bread is made from a basic sweet bread dough, and for this version we used fig jam and fresh figs.

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FRENCH VANILLA ICE CREAM

French vanilla ice cream. Christmas came early and Santa just left me a Whynter ice cream maker. Wow! We made one batch of ice cream in it and I immediately got rid of all the previous ice cream makers we had hanging out in the garage never being used. No messing with ice and rock salt or freezing the inner container. But best of all, it made the most incredible French vanilla ice cream I have ever had. Better than anything we had found in France. I was stunned.

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CASSOULET IN PARIS

The cassoulet at Au Pied de Cochon – the perfect Parisian brasserie – was one of the highlights of visiting Paris. On this particular trip, we were there in the winter, so the restaurant was serving le Cassoulet Toulousain. This means it is in the style of the way it is made in Toulouse, which is a classic. It is made with pork shoulder, duck confit, garlic sausage and topped with bread crumbs. With some research, I was able to recreate the recipe at home.

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