Fruit Tarts

Yum.  These fruit tarts are creamy, sweet, all-natural, and fresh.  They take about 2 hours to make so I wouldn’t classify this as quick and easy but the taste is worth the work.  They can be topped with any type of fruit. I chose strawberries and my roommate, Scott, chose bananas.

I saw fruit tarts at a french bakery in Winter Park, FL and knew I had to go home and try to make some myself.  I ventured over to Williams Sonoma’s and got these cute, 4-inch tart dishes.

There are 3 parts to this recipe- 1) The crust 2) The filling and 3) The assembly

1) The crust-

As with any pastry crust, the colder the better. Start with combining 1 1/4 cup of flour, 3 tbs of sugar, 1/2 tsp of salt.  Place this mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes so it’s nice and freezing.  Pour the flour mixture into the bowl of a food processor with a blade attachment.  Drop in 8 tbs of very cold butter cut into tablespoons. Pulse it until the butter is in small pea-size pieces.  Drizzle in 1/4 cup of ice cold water and pulse again until it comes together in a dough ball.

Place the dough on a floured surface and form into a disk.  Then wrap it in plastic and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

While the dough is in the fridge move on to the second stage.

2) The Filling

Here’s all that goes into it:

5 extra-large egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups scalded milk (Milk heated to 180 degrees, just on the edge of boiling)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Cognac (I buy the little airplane sized bottle)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes with an electric mixer.  It’ll will get very thick., Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.

With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Now, Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes.

Don’t be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Don’t worry, it will be ok. I promise.

Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes. The custard will start to become pudding.

Stir in the vanilla, Cognac, butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.

Now that the filling is chilling, go back to step one and pull your dough out the fridge.

Roll out the dough to be about 1/4 of an inch thick.  Cut out circles of the dough that are a little bit bigger than your tart shells. Place it into your tart shell and press ( not stretch) the dough into the shell.

Once the dough is in the shell, roll your rolling pin over the top to cut off the excess.  

Now do it for the rest of them! What fun!
Aren’t they adorable?
Now butter some foil squares and put the foil butter side down into the shells.
Put something like beans or rice on top of the shells.  This will keep the bottoms from rising while they bake.
Throw them in the oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Then take out the foil and beans and cook them for another 15 minutes.  If they are getting too brown, place a piece of foil loosely over the top.
You’re almost finished!
3) The assembly:
Cut up the fruit you want to use.  Try to cut them in flatter pieces so they will lay nicely on the tart.  Spoon the cool custard into the tart shells and then decorate with the fruit.
Voila! Enjoy!

French Bread Veggie Pizza

After a long night out on the town, I always wake up craving………. pizza. Bread + Sauce + Cheese = perfect cure.  I needed something quick and easy so I could crawl back into bed and watch HGTV for the rest of the day. French bread veggie pizza was a perfect solution.  No dough, no waiting, just assemble and eat.  It turned out amazing. Here’s how I did it:

I chopped up some veggies I had in the fridge.  You can use whatever you have/like. Pepperoni would be good too.

Since mushrooms and spinach have a lot of water in them, I sautéed all the veggies for 8-1o minutes to let some of the water out so the pizza wouldn’t get soggy.

I took a chunk of fresh french bread and sliced it lengthwise and put them on a foil lined cookie sheet. As pizza sauce, I used Dave’s gourmet organic red heirloom tomato sauce.  The stuff is awesome.  It doesn’t have any funky ingredients or preservatives.  It’s just pure delicious, light, flavor.  I’m trying to figure out where I can buy it in bulk.  Then eat it with a spoon.

Then put on your cheese.  I used fresh mozzarella and goat cheese. You can use shredded mozzarella as well. Mmmm coming together so nicely.

Now top on all the veggies and throw it in the oven.  If you’re patient, then preheat the oven to 400.  If you’re not patient (like me), just put the oven on broil so you don’t have to wait for it to heat up. yum. yum. yum. yum.

Put it on a plate, crawl into bed, put on House Hunters, and enjoy a perfect Sunday morning.

Perfect Crab Cakes

If you’ve ever had a dozen crabs plopped on a newspaper covered table, you know how much work goes into getting one shred of meat.  I prefer to eat sans the work.  I’d rather spend my time tasting then digging.  That’s why I love the crab cake.  I’ve ordered many a crab cake from restaurants and have always found the ones with lump pieces of crab and not a lot of filler to be the best.  Sometimes you get a crab cake with finely shredded crab and lots of breadcrumbs. yuck.

As with everything I make, I read through about 10-15 different recipes and take from each what I like.  I didn’t want to add old bay, celery, red peppers, or yellow onion.  This is what I decided on:

I mixed in:

Real mayonnaise, egg (to act as a glue), green onion, worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, salt, cayenne pepper, and fresh breadcrumbs ( I had some semi-stale french bread that I threw in the food processor).

Then I folded in the crab.  Be very careful not to stir it so much that the crab comes apart.  You want as many lump pieces as possible.

Just mix it enough to coat the crab with the egg mixture.  Once this is mixed, throw it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.  Not to freeze it but to make it come together a little nicer.

Our freezer might be a little too full –

Now get your skillet ready- melt 2 tbs of butter and 1 tbs of olive oil.  I used cast iron because it browns things so nicely. While the skillet is warming, start forming the crab mixture into little cakes.  Then roll them in the fresh breadcrumbs.

It’s a little camouflaged but the cake is in there.

Now plop it in your skillet and get them nice and brown.

Be careful when you flip them. You don’t want them falling apart.

They turned out exactly how I wanted them.  Lump crab pieces were the shinning star and everything else just added to the cake.  With a little squeeze of lemon, the cake was complete. Delicious!  I paired it with a nice caprese salad.  Fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil drizzled with some balsamic vinegar.

Here’s the full recipe:
Yields 6 small crab cakes

1 tbs of real mayonaisse (the kind with egg, vinegar, and oil as the only ingredients, like Hellmann’s)
1 small egg, lightly beaten
1 tbs of green onion, chopped
1/4 tsp of worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp of dry mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 pound jumbo crab meat
2 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the mayo, onion, egg, worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, salt, and cayenne.  Fold in the crab and 1.4 cup of the breadcrumbs. Shape the mixture into 6 cakes.  Coat the crab cakes with breadcurmbs.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tbs of butter and 1 tbs of olive oil.  When the foam subsides, add the crab cakes over moderate heat until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes per side.  The cakes can be kept warm on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven.  Serve with lemon wedges.

If you don’t want to cook them right away, they can be made ahead of time. Just keep them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook them.

I finished off the meal with a spoonful of something above godliness:

and it’s all natural so you don’t need to feel guilty (if you just have a big spoonful)

Whole Food’s Almond Butter and Apples

My first friend on the planet, Jessica, is also a foodie. She’s actually a professional foodie. I adore her.  So when she recommended Whole Food’s almond butter, I first cringed envisioning the price tag but ventured to whole foods 2 days later to give it a try.

Worth. Every. Penny.

Here’s the set up:

Yep. That’s right. You grind it yourself.  Fresh at it’s finest with one ingredient.

The ingredients on the label say: organic dry roasted unsalted almonds.

Product of USA. Contains: tree nuts. Made in a facility that produces peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, and wheat

Almond butter’s not so hipster cousin- Jif Peanut Butter contains the following:

Apparently Choosy mom’s choose HYDROGENATED OILS.

Jessica, please correct me if I’m wrong but here’s the deal with hydrogenated oils

Hydrogenation is the process of heating an oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. If you fully hydrogenate, you create a solid (a fat) out of the oil. But if you stop part way, you a semi-solid partially hydrogenated oil that has a consistency like butter, only it’s a lot cheaper. Because of that consistency, and because it is cheap, it is a big favorite as a butter-substitute among “food” producers.

So what?  Here’s why it’s bad for you- hydrogenated oils contain high levels of trans fats. Trans fat interfere with the metabolic processes of life by taking the place of a natural substance that performs a critical function. Which is the definition of what? Poison. Your body has no defense against them, because they never even existed in our two billion years of evolution. Trans fatty acids contribute to heart disease, cancer, MS, diabetes, and God knows what else.  You might as well ingest pure plastic. Stick with the one ingredient nut butters.  Your body will thank you.

Ok, back to the happy stuff.

I enjoyed this almond butter with a sliced apple and coffee in the comfort of my cube.  While this isn’t an ideal place for enjoying breakfast, I find it nearly impossible to get out of bed any earlier than necessary to get to work on time.  Since apples are in season right now, the apple was a perfectly sweet compliment to pure ground almonds.

I’ll leave you with some nice reasons on why almonds are good for you:

  • Regulates your blood pressure
  • Prevents Cancer
  • Protects against Diabetes
  • Helps you lose weight with their nutrient density
  • Boosts Energy
  • Reduces the risk of Heart Disesase
  • Prevents Birth Defects
  • Improves your brainpower

Roommate Dinner

Once a week, my roommates and I have dinner together.  One person decides on the main dish and then the two fill in with drinks and/or sides.  Tonight, my roommate, Alex, was feeling generous and made us rib-eye steaks! I love rib-eye because it is tender cut of meat with just the right amount of marbling (fat) to keep it juicy and give it a nice flavor. To complement the steaks, I decided to make garlic mashed red potatoes.

Here’s the cast of characters:


 I roasted the garlic first then removed the cloves and mashed with a wooden spoon:


Then I cooked the potatoes.  I love making mashed red potatoes because you don’t have to peel them first!


Then I added in the miracle workers- butter and half and half.  Mashed it all together and Voila! a delicious compliment to a juicy rib-eye.


Here’s the recipe:


  • 1 head garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 2 pounds red potatoes, washed well and quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup half and half


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Slice off the very top of the garlic head. Drizzle head with olive oil and wrap in foil. Place on a sheet tray and bake until tender and fragrant, roughly 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Remove the cloves and mash with a wooden spoon.

Place potatoes in a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Cook until fork tender and drain. Mash the potatoes until smooth.

Meanwhile heat butter and cream until butter melts. Add the roasted garlic and potatoes and mash all together.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

The Difference of Fresh

My mother’s rationale of why I was never allowed to watch R-rated movies was “what goes in, goes out”.  This nugget of mom-wisdom has wiggled its way into my kitchen.  Using quality ingredients will make a better dish every time.  I have recently moved to central Florida and after shopping at Publix and Wal-mart for a few weeks, I threw in the towel. The produce was flavorless, lifeless, and expensive.  I googled local farmers markets and came up with one 20 minutes away in Winter Park called Eat More Produce.  I ventured there today eager to get my paws on something fresh and flavorful.  I wasn’t disappointed-  this little shack had wine galore and a nice selection of veggies. While the prices weren’t significantly different the quality was 100x better. The best part though- farm fresh eggs that were laid TODAY!  There are all different colors- blue, brown, and cream.  

While there is no difference in taste nor nutrition of the color of the egg, they seem more natural in this state rather than bleach white.  I was planning on making crab cakes tonight but I couldn’t pass up eating an extremely fresh egg.  I usually only like scrambled eggs but I decided this one was too good for scrambled and prepared it sunny side up.  I cooked the center a little too much (oops) but it was still fabulous.  It didn’t need spices, veggies, or cheese. It was perfect just being an egg with a little salt and a small slice of french bread.  Instead of a strong egg taste, it was melt-in-your-mouth creamy.  I ate it slowly and savored the freshness.