26 November 2010

How About a Little Trek, Since We’ve Had So Many Treats?

Sam promised he would plan a surprise hike for us last weekend, but I didn’t expect to be blindfolded and driven to the beach!  We started with a hearty breakfast (sorry, I had to sneak a treat in there somewhere!) at Champagne Bakery in Carmel Mountain Ranch, followed by my eyes being covered with a dark blue bandana as he drove for about 25 minutes toward the secret destination.  I was certain that we were heading toward Julian, or somewhere in the mountains, so I was so astonished to see the waves as we pulled up to Torrey Pines State Beach!  I cannot believe that I’ve lived here for nearly six years, have worked down the road from this site, and ran (er, shuffle-grunted) up its hill in the La Jolla Half-Marathon, but still had never hiked any of its gorgeous trails!  What a splendid morning by the lovely gal known as Mother Nature, working her magic in Southern California as always…

The Knave of Hearts Assuredly Would Have Stolen *This* Tart, & Maybe the Muffins, Too!

What does one make when hoping to give the lovely Thanksgiving gift of a baked good to one’s manfriend’s mother and vegan sister?  (Insert said ‘one’ dashing around, tugging on her blonde locks, trying to make this decision on Wednesday).  Well, with a multitude of sliced apples remaining from the classroom’s Grandparents’ Day festivities, an idea began to sparkle its way to the surface…how about some Carrot/Apple Muffins (vegan), and an Apple/Almond Tart (vegetarian)?!  Fantastico!

I’ll start with the tart, because it was:

a) absolutely divine

b) très facile! (very easy, my dears)

c) an opportunity to purchase my very first tart pan!  (Removable base superbly handy for serving!  Hurrah for Analon!)


Apple & Almond Custard Tart
(Everyday FOOD - Dec 2007)

-3/4c all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
-1/4t baking powder
-6T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
-1/2c sugar
-1 large egg
-1/2t pure almond extract

-4T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
-1/2c sugar
-1 large egg
-1 1/2t finely grated lemon zest and 1T fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
-3T all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
-1/2c heavy cream
-1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, & sliced 1/4" thick
-1/3c sliced, blanched almonds

1. Make crust: In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder; set aside.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter & sugar until light and fluffy.  Ad egg and almond extract; beat until combined.  With mixer on low, add flour mixture; mix just until combined.

2.  Using an offset spatula or table knife, spread dough (it will be soft!) in a 9" removable-bottom tart pan, evenly covering bottom and sides.  Freeze for 20 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350° and make filling: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter & 1/4c sugar until light & fluffy.  Add egg & lemon zest; mix until combined.  With mixer on low, add flour and then cream; mix just until smooth (do not overmix).  Set aside.

4.  In  medium bowl, toss apple with lemon juice; arrange evenly in tart pan over chilled dough.  Spread filling over apple; sprinkle with almonds and remaining 1/4c sugar.  Place tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until golden and set, 40-45 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield = 8 (or…3.  Leave 1/2 of the tart with manfriend’s mother, taste one lil’ piece, observe manfriend feasting repeatedly upon the tart for next day…)
(Source: Jo-Ann Zador, South Surrey, British Columbia, Canada)


Vegan Apple-Carrot ‘Apple Pie’ Muffins

The recipe can be found at this website.  The egg-subsitute, Ener-G, can be found at Henry’s, Sprouts, and Whole Foods.  It would be great for gluten-free diets, as well!  Before you try this recipe, please note the following alterations:  I did cut the salt in half (used only 3/4t) as well as the baking soda (used only 2t).  Additionally, I substituted 1/2c of whole wheat flour for 1/2c of white, and used a little less oil and about 1/2c more applesauce.  In hindsight, I would only add about 1/4c more applesauce, but increasing the oven temperature to 400° and cook time to about 30 minutes.  The insides will be gooey, but will firm up quite a bit overnight, or while cooling.   Mmmm!  They’re just like little apple-pie muffins! 

11 November 2010

Michigan-Marie Shares a Sweet-Peppery Delight!

Sometimes this California-transplanted gal finds life a little lonely with friends so far away.  However, I can often feel just a bit closer by enjoying tales of tasty treats savored by distant compadres.  Exhibit A: Couscous-Stuffed Peppers with Basil Sauce.  Since we couldn’t be with the Phillips fam in Michigan when they created this treat, Sam + I recreated it in our neck of the woods.  Thanks for the recipe, Marie!  Quote of the day, “Wow, Henry’s is proud of their crème fraiche,” solemnly stated by Sam after graciously picking up the groceries needed to create this lovely, savory, and filling delight.  Although a bit pricey, the crème fraiche provided the sauce with the perfect nutty twang.  If you do not have access to this ingredient, here are two additional substitutions for your next dish:  Crème fraiche substitute #1, or Nutty Twang substitute #2

Please, Miss, May I Have Some More?

Nov2010 033 Nov2010 024

If there is a poster-child for autumnal soups, perhaps it would be any variety created from Butternut squash.  We adapted M. Bittman’s recipe to make it a bit more veg-friendly (i.e. nixed the bacon and meaty broth).  This was my first foray into working with a raw Butternut squash, but found that my good vegetable peeler made quick and easy business of separating this tender treasure from its sturdy exterior.  Although we do not have a hand-held mixer, which many would feel is essential for soup-creation, we thoroughly enjoyed the hearty textures provided by spoon-crushing the roasted squash, apples, and onions against the heated sides of the stock-pot.  All at once rustic, buttery, comforting, and traditional, this soup made an ordinary evening feel like a holiday.  We recommend creating your own holiday around this soup – and toast it with a nice glass of dry white wine.  After all, you’ll have the rest of the bottle available after using just a smidge in the soup! Great pairing (and ingredient) = Pinot Grigio: Bela Sera ‘05, Maso Canali ‘08 or (Angela’s choice) Santa Margherita ‘09.

Roasted Butternut & Apple Chowder

1 small, Butternut squash (1 1/2-2 lbs.) peeled, seeded, + cubed
1 large onion
2 large apples; peeled, cored, + chopped
2T minced garlic
salt + pepper
3T olive oil
1T chopped fresh sage or 1t dried
1/2c dry, white wine
4-6c vegetable stock (to your preference)

-Preheat oven to 400°
-Spread squash, onion, apples, + garlic in a deep roasting-pan or baking sheet
-Sprinkle with salt + pepper; drizzle with oil
-Roast until all tender, about 45 minutes (stir occasionally)
-Remove roasting pan from the oven
-Stir in sage + white wine; scrape up all of the browned (yummy) bits from the bottom and include in the mixture
-Transfer the contents of the pan to a large pot or Dutch oven + set it over medium heat
-Add stock + cook until squash, onion, + apples break apart/thicken/flavor the broth (about 25 minutes).  Use the back of a spoon, or handheld blender to break up the mixture.

Yield = 4-6

07 November 2010

“She’s choppin’ broccoli[ni]!”

Let’s reminisce for a moment, to bygone days of exceptional SNL casts.  Good casts have come and go in phases but, for the sake of today’s treat, I’d like to take a moment to remind you of Dana Carvey singing, 'The Lady I Know.'  Alright, here’s another…just for the sake of the memories.

You may already have recognized our budding obsession with all things ‘galette.’  Did you know that there’s a French children’s song about this tasty pastry?  “J’aime la galette, savez-vous comment? Quand elle est bien faite, avec du beurre dedans.” (“I like galette, do you know how? When it is made well, with butter inside.”)  Mmmm…there’s truly a lack of butter-themed songs in the world.  *Sigh*

At any rate, we discovered a recipe in the most recent edition of Everyday Food – the only culinary mag to which we subscribe.  Scandalous?  Perhaps.  Our adaptations included bread crumbs in the center, prior to adding the filling.  New culinary technique for Sam: blanching.  Not to be confused with this, of course.

Broccolini & Feta Galette

2c all-purpose flour
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt & ground pepper
2 bunches broccolini (1 lb.)
1/4c grated Parmesan (we used Asiago)
2/3c crumbled Feta (we used 4oz.)
4T bread crumbs
1/4t red-pepper flakes
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Combine flour, oil, 1t salt, and 1/3 cup ice water (add it by the T until you have a stiff dough).  Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30mins.
2.  Preheat oven to 400° with rack in the lower third. 
3.  Blanch broccolini in a large pot of boiling, salted water (until it turns bright green).  Remove with tongs, and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
4.  Roll out dough to 1/4" thick, approximately 14" round (doesn't have to be perfect).  Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet or pizza stone.
5. Sprinkle dough with Asiago/Parmesan and top with Broccolini leaving a 2 1/2" border.  Top with feta and red-pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper.  Fold dough border over filling and brush with egg.
6.  Bake until crust is golden brown, 35-40 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield = 6-8

01 November 2010

Happy Halloween! (part the second: Pumpkin Cookies!)

Every once in a while, I get a little nostalgic about making treats from my mom’s recipe box.  These little, cloud-like pumpkin delights are every ounce autumn yumminess.  I decided to make the icing for just half of the batch, and realized…”Hey, my mom never made this icing!”  After getting over the feeling of being slighted, missing out on this homemade caramel-maple-esque glaze in lieu of its cream cheese frosting cousin, we decided this was just enough sweetness to turn this cookie from a sleeper to, “Jazz hands!”  Bonus points for using our new housewarming gift to ourselves: sassy Melamine mixing bowls!


1c sugar
1c shortening
1c pumpkin
1 egg
1t vanilla
1t baking powder
2c flour
1/2t baking soda
1t cinnamon
1/2t salt
1/2t nutmeg
1c raisins (optional) – we opted out
1/2c nuts (optional) – we used walnuts


Preheat oven to 350°, line two cookie sheets with Silpat or parchment paper.

Cream together shortening and sugar.  Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla and beat well.

Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, then stir in optional raisins and nuts.   Place on cookie sheets by the tablespoon, or use a fancy-shmancy cookie scoop to keep the size uniform.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until puffy, delightful, and as golden brown as the newly-fallen leaves in Julian pie country.  (Sorry, got a little carried away).


3T butter
4t milk
3/4t vanilla
1/2c brown sugar
1c powdered sugar


Cook butter, brown sugar, and milk to boiling point.  Cool, and add powdered sugar and vanilla.  Drizzle over cookies and allow to cool.  Share with your most favorite of companions.

Yield = 2 dozen