I love things you can make that are visually stunning, tastes amazing and takes little or no effort to make. Like this Peach tart. It is gorgeous and people will rave about it and it takes just a few minutes to put together. I love it! All you need is a package of store bought puff pastry sheets (you can be a Martha Stewart and make your own, but why?) and some fresh ripe peaches and you’re golden. ANYBODY can make this. Literally the peach tart for dummies. Try it for your next get together and watch the rave reviews come in!
Peach Tart for Dummies
1 sheet puff pastry dough, defrosted
1/4 cup sugar
2 ripe peaches, thinly sliced
1/4 cup apricot jam
1 tsp water
Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Defrost puff pastry dough in the refrigerator. Take out one sheet and place on a silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet. No need to roll out. Pierce the puff pastry with a fork. Thinly slice two fresh large peaches and layer them in three rows on the puff pastry sheet leaving a half-inch clearance on all four sides. Sprinkle sugar on top of the peach slices. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly. In a small microwave safe bowl heat apricot jam and water together for about 45 seconds. Brush over the peaches until shiny. Serve cooled.
I’m still on my blueberry kick. I already made some scones so I decided to try some crumble bars. I wanted them to have a nice crust on the bottom, sort of like a lemon bar but have the moisture of a coffee cake and the crunch of a streusel topping all rolled into one. There are a huge variety of crumb bar recipes out there. I decided to combine some of the things I liked about a few of the old stand by recipes I had for cherry crumb bars and lemon bars to come up with this one. It turned out very nicely. I didn’t even have to add nuts to the top to give it the satisfying “crumb” texture, the blueberries kept their integrity without turning into a gooey sauce and the bottom crust was fantastic, holding it all together. This thing can be eaten as a bar, but I’m telling you it’s unparalleled with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream on top! (Or at least that’s what everyone else who ate them up told me. Only 4 more days to go on this cleanse…)
Blueberry Crumble Bars
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (save to add to the mixture later)
4 cups fresh blueberries
juice of one lemon
3 tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup sugar
Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. In a bowl, mix together 1 cup sugar, flour, salt, lemon zest and baking powder. Using a pastry blender cut in the butter with the flour mixture until a crumbly mixture forms. Whisk egg and vanilla together and pour into the flour mixture and blend well. Mixture will be crumbly. Press half of the flour mixture into the bottom of the prepared 9 x 13 pan and bake for about 18 minutes.
In the meantime, add the rolled oats to the remaining flour mixture and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the blueberries with lemon juice, corn starch and sugar, taking care not to smash any of the berries. Take the crust out of the oven, it should be a light brown color, spread the blueberry mixture evenly on top and sprinkle the flour/oat mixture on top of the blueberries. Return to the oven and bake an additional 40 minutes until golden brown on top and berries are nice and bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cool completely and cut into bars.
It’s blueberry season! They are abundant and delicious and to top it all off, they are a superfruit, full of antioxidants and nutrients. I found an awesome deal on blueberries today…80 cents a pound. I came home with 6 pounds of blueberries. I’m going on a blueberry kick for the next few days. I’m going to be making blueberry preserves, crumb bars, muffins, sauce…I’m doing a happy dance in my head. But first I think I’ll start with the basics….A wonderful lemon blueberry scone. Scones are great with coffee anytime. As a dessert or as a breakfast or brunch item. They also freeze really, really well which means I can have some when I get off this Master Cleanse (I just had a food porn moment).
Lemon Blueberry Scones
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
1 stick of unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup heavy cream
a little extra cream and some turbinado (raw) sugar for brushing and sprinkling on top
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add lemon zest to the flour mixture and mix together. Using a pastry blender or two forks cut the cold cubed butter into the flour mixture until it’s a coarse mixture. Beat together egg and heavy cream and pour into the flour mixture and fold the mixture together, when it’s fairly well mixed, gently mix in the blueberries taking care not to smash the blueberries. Don’t over work the dough. On a floured surface, press the dough dough gently to form a square about 1 inch thick. Cut into half then into half again so there are four squares. Cut the squares at a diagonal to get the triangle shape. If you want smaller pieces cut the triangles again so you get a total of 16 pieces. Place on a ungreased cookie sheet. Brush the tops of each triangle with some heavy cream and sprinkle with some turbinado sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes at 400°F. Let the scones cool on a cooling rack before serving.
I have a sweet tooth. There’s no getting around it. I taught myself to bake mostly because I wanted to eat amazing cakes, cookies, tarts, pies…. There is an amazing thing that happens to me when I bake though. I don’t usually have to eat very much of what I make. The process of baking and creating something from scratch and the delicious smells that comes out of the oven are usually enough to satisfy me. I can get by with a little bite or two. But if someone else made the same dish, I fall upon it like a starving Hyena. I have no idea why. Right now, I’m doing a Master Cleanse. If you’ve never heard of it, go check it out on this site. Basically I’m drinking a lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper concoction for 16 days…NO FOOD. I figure that at least once in my life I should do some heavy duty cleaning from the inside out. Anyway, I still have been baking, cooking, working normally. I won’t lie, sometimes it’s been really hard not to eat, especially when it smells so great. The hardest thing though has been trying to figure out if textures and tastes turned out okay on recipes that I’m putting together. Like these cookies for instance. I know in my brain that the combinations of ingredients should turn out great. I haven’t tasted any though, so I’ve been taking them around to co-workers and family to find out the verdict. I wanted something that was slightly crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside. The sourness of the cherries to be balanced out by the sweetness of the chocolate chips. I’m told that I’ve succeeded. So, now you’ve got to try it out and see for yourself.
Dried Cherry and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Cover a cookie sheet with silpat or parchment paper. In a medium bowl mix flour, salt and baking soda and mix well. In a separate bowl cream butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs until light and creamy. Slowly add in the flour mixture until well incorporated. Using a spatula or wooden spoon stir in oats, cherries and chocolate chips. Using a scoop drop cookies 2 inches apart on cookie sheet and bake for about 11 minutes for chewy cookies or 13-14 minutes for crispier cookies. Transfer cookies to cooling rack to cool. Makes about 36-40 cookies.
I remember it clearly, even though it was 19 years ago, the immediate cessation of pain at 6:29 a.m. Suddenly someone else was crying with some gusto in the room besides me! I have been blessed to have two amazing kids. A boy AND a girl! Onjoli came along on Father’s day morning, June 20th, looking surprised and a little ticked off. She still has that look on any given 6:29 a.m.
Raising kids, especially a daughter has been an adventure. All through Kindergarten, Onjoli insisted on wearing a crown to school…EVERYDAY. The teacher would not let her bring the matching wand for safety reasons (who knows who could get whacked in the head?). That pink bejeweled plastic crown will always have a special place in my heart. After all, if you are a princess you should have the crown to go with it. Over the years, I’ve made my share of birthday cakes. The Barbie with the giant skirt cake, Pokemon, a myriad of Disney characters and unusual requests like the giant chocolate chip cookie pizza with candied toppings. Parties have changed from the chaos of a million kids running around to brunches at fancy restaurants. Each year the tastes and palates of both my kids have developed and become more sophisticated. This year, Onjoli wanted Carrot Cake cupcakes with “really good frosting”. I tried to deliver. After all, I don’t know how many more years I will have the privilege of making birthday cakes. I will always be a mom even as the quality of our relationship changes and becomes richer and deeper over the years. Even as I look back with nostalgia on the little girl I once had, I am ever so proud of the young woman I see before me. I am one blessed woman and mom!
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream & Goat Cheese Frosting and Candied Carrots
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup oil
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
2 cups shredded carrots
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup pecans (optional)
8 oz Neufchatel Cheese, room temperature
4 oz fresh Chevre (goat cheese), room temperature
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups powdered sugar
1 medium carrot, peeled into strips
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Pre-heat oven to 350° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or if you’re using a hand held mixer, just use a big bowl) place all the ingredients of the cake except for the nuts and mix at low speed until blended. Increase speed and mix for 2 minutes until light and airy. Mix in the nuts by hand. I usually scoop out 6 cupcakes without nuts (due to some nut allergies in the family) and then add the nuts to the rest of the batter. Line cup cake pan with liners and fill 3/4 full using an ice cream scooper. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.
To make the candied carrots:
Peel one carrot into long thin strips. In a small sauce pan heat sugar and water until boiling and add the carrots. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes. Take out the strips using a fork or a chopstick and place on some wax paper to cool. Separate them out as you take it out of the syrup so they will not dry out in a large candied clump. Set aside
To make the frosting:
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix all frosting ingredients together until smooth. Place in a piping bag with a star tip or in a plastic storage bag with the corner cut off and frost the cupcakes. Top each cupcake with a piece or two of the candied carrots. Makes 24 cup cakes
There is really no food that I DON’T like. I am not allergic to anything either. I can eat it all. At one time in my life I think I tried to do just that, eat it ALL, which was not pretty. Being a fat dietitian is kind of like being an ugly beautician. Who takes you seriously? I decided to take my own advice a few years ago and began to eat in moderation, exercise a lot and drink lots of water. I still love food but I don’t have to eat huge quantities any more. I find that when I think up a recipe and go through the creative process of making something from scratch, I don’t have to eat very much of it. I know the flavors will be great and the process of cooking satisfies something within me. I often end up making a big batch of something and then look for people to feed it to. Fortunately, finding people to eat home cooked foods is not usually that difficult. Case in point, this brownie fruit pizza with a chevre (goat cheese) and cream cheese filling, it was gone so quickly that I didn’t even get to taste it. I guess I’ll have to make another one really soon just so I can taste a little of it. According to everyone who ate it, it was “the bomb”. You decide.
Brownie and Chevre Fruit Pizza
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dutched cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
5 oz chevre (goat cheese), room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 lemon, zested
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
2 pints fresh strawberries or any berry in season
1 cup fresh blueberries or any fruit in season
Making the Brownies:
Sift together the cocoa, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and set aside in a pan. In a sauce pan melt the butter and add in the sugars and mix together. It’ll be kind of a dry mixture. Add that mixture to the sifted flour mixture along with eggs and vanilla. Line a half sheet cake pan or a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Pour brownie mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20-22 minutes in a pre-heated 350° oven. Run a butter knife along the edges of the pan to loosen the brownie. Place a cooling rack over the pan and invert pan. Gently peel off the parchment paper and invert the brownie either back into the pan or on a large platter (I use a cardboard cake server covered with foil).
In a separate bowl zest the lemon and then cut the lemon and measure out 1 tbsp juice. Add cream cheese and goat cheese along with the sugar and mix until smooth. Spread evenly over the brownie. Wash and slice the fruit and arrange in any visually pleasing way that you want all over the brownie. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
I love cookies with nuts in them. Unfortunately, my husband is allergic to all nuts except cashews. Which is a bummer since cashews are not ideal for every recipe. I’m trying to make more cookies and quick breads that have enough “other” stuff in them that you don’t miss the nuts. This is one of those cookies. It’s variation of the basic chocolate chip cookie! The sweetness of the white chocolate chunks is nicely offset by the unsweetened dried cranberries and the brandy is great in this cookie. Don’t skip it, you’ll love the flavor. If you don’t have brandy on hand, then I guess you can use vanilla extract but I highly recommend the brandy! Pour yourself a good cup of coffee, a few of these cookies and a good book…bliss!
White Chocolate Chunk Cranberry Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp brandy
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chunks
1 cup dried cranberries
Mix together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside. Using an electric mixer blend butter and sugars until creamy, add in the eggs and brandy until well blended. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture beating at a low-speed until well blended. Stir in white chocolate chunks (I used a knife and an ice pick to make my chunks) and cranberries by hand. Drop cookie dough using a cookie scoop onto parchment or silpat lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom. Cool on cooling racks.
At Christmas time I love to make a Bûche de Noël otherwise known as a Yule log. This last Christmas, I had a great time making Tiramisu flavored Bûche de Noël . Somehow those same flavors seem a bit heavy during the summer. Especially when so much fresh fruit is readily available. I decided to modify my recipe to slim it down for summer. This cake is light, flavorful and visually gorgeous. Splurging on this dessert is easy on the diet and on the budget! I hope you try it. You will love it!
Light and Lemony Cake Roll
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla
8 oz neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat) or you can use regular cream cheese, softened to room temperature
8 oz light frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 cup plum or strawberry jam
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar (for the outside of the cake)
Preheat oven to 375° F. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. In a small bowl beat egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff but not dry. Set aside. In another bowl beat the yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until it’s a light yellow color. Add in vanilla to the yolk mixture. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sifted flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in the egg white. Be careful not to over mix. Batter should be light and fluffy. Line a jelly roll pan or a half sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Pour cake batter onto the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown but not dry. Loosen edge of cake while it’s still warm. Dust cake with powdered sugar. Place dish towel on top of the cake and invert the whole pan onto the towel. Gently peel off the parchment paper. Beginning with the narrow side roll the cake and towel together into a roll. Let it sit on a cooling rack, seam side down for about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime assemble the filling by combining the Neufchatel cheese with the lemon zest, 1 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar. Mix well and then fold in the thawed whipped topping until well blended. Take the jam and microwave it for 30 – 40 seconds until it’s a liquid. Gently unroll the cake and brush the jam all over the cake. Spread the lemony mixture on top of the jam layer, leaving 1/2 inch clearance from the edges. Gently re-roll the cake, using the towel to help roll. Dust with additional powdered sugar if needed and place seam side down on a serving platter. Slice into 1″ thick slices and serve with fresh strawberries or other fruit.
Ghee or clarified butter is a big part of South Asian cuisine. It has such amazing flavor that a little goes a long way. I’ve tried making ghee at home but it never seems to taste or smell like the amazing stuff we get back home (meaning the “homeland” of course). In Bangladesh, there is a famous brand called “Baghabari Ghee” with a picture of a Royal Bengal Tiger on the label. It’s famous flavor is renowned . Every time I went home for a visit I would try to sneak a few jars of the stuff back with me. I even tried to bribe my relatives who were going home to get me some ghee. They would look at me in disbelief. Really of all the things I could request someone bring back on a long journey and it’s ghee? That’s a foodie for you. I’m well-known for trying to schlep food in luggage. One time I had curried Hilsa fish in my carry-on luggage (this was before the TSA liquid restrictions) and it exploded all over everything. The WHOLE plane smelled like Bengali Hilsa Fish. I tried to look innocent and blend, which is hard to do on a flight from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho because I was the only brown person on the plane. Flight attendants were walking back and forth sniffing the air and saying things like, “do you smell that?” or “what is that smell?”
For years, my attempts at making ghee seemed a waste of time since I couldn’t tell the difference between the ghee or just regular butter. Why bother if the flavor is not improved? The whole idea behind a good ghee is to remove the milk protein from the butter leaving behind a nutty unclouded liquid. My problem was that I was not heating it long enough at a low enough temperature. The trick here is to use a heavy bottomed pan like a cast iron dutch oven or something similar and heat the butter for 20-30 minutes and to add curry leaves halfway through the process. It’s also important NOT to stir the melted butter but to let it simmer unaided. This helps to separate the milk proteins properly. The curry leaves add a depth of flavor that I was missing all these years. I have to say that this ghee smells and tastes even better than the famous “Baghabari Ghee”. That’s one less thing that I have to hide in my luggage.
How to make Ghee
1 pound unsalted butter
4-5 curry leaves
In a heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and let it simmer over very low heat. Do not stir but keep an eye on the butter, when small brown chunks begin to appear on the bottom of the pan and the top part of the butter looks pretty clear (about 10-15 minutes) add curry leaves and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. When the top layer of butter looks light brown and very clear, take out the curry leaves and strain ghee through a fine mesh strainer into a mason jar. Don’t throw away the brown protein bits. Save them to make Ghee Laddoos, a sweet treat made with the leftover protein (we don’t like to throw anything away).
1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
In the same pan the ghee was made, heat the browned leftover milk protein with 1/4 cup chickpea flour (Besan) and 1/4 cup of All-Purpose flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat until everything is a nutty brown color and the sugar has incorporated well. Roll into small balls and enjoy.
There’s nothing more delicious and delectable than a good fresh fruit tart. Sometimes, I’d rather eat that over chocolate (gasp!). The key to a great tasting tart is the crust of course but also a great pastry creme. We had friends coming over for dinner, what better way to top of a great meal than with a wonderful, fruity dessert? The only real “tool” you need is a tart pan with a removable bottom. I have little ones and a couple of big ones (9 inch). They are under $10 at any baking store. They are great for making savory quiches and tarts as well sweet desserts. It also makes you look like you spend a lot of time and effort (my kind of food!).
The Pate Sucree or sweet pastry crust recipe is from here. But I shall re-write it for you, for your convenience.
Sweet Pastry Crust
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Mix flour and salt together and set aside. Place butter in mixing bowl and beat until softened and smooth (use stand mixer or electric hand mixer). Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the beaten egg until just incorporated. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix until it just forms a ball. Flatten into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. Lightly spray with cooking spray a 8-9 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Pat the chilled pastry dough into the pan going up too the sides of the pan evenly. Wrap with plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes. In the meantime, pre-heat oven to 400°F and place rack in center of oven. Lightly prick bottom of tart shell with a fork as this will keep it from puffing up. Place tart on a large cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes at 400° then reduce temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 15 mintes or until crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. You can seal the crust with an egg white glaze or apricot glaze. Can be covered and stored for a few days.
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise or a tsp of vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tbsp grand marnier or Brandy
In a heat proof bowl mix sugar and egg yolks together until creamy. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and add it to the egg mixture until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.
In a sauce pan heat milk and vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from heat and add a little bit to the egg mixture and whisk (this tempers the egg so it doesn’t turn into scrambled eggs). Slowly add the rest of the milk, whisking the whole time. Take out the vanilla bean and take a knife and scrape all the little seeds and add it to the milk/egg mixture. Return everything to the sauce pan and cook until mixture begins to thicken, stirring constantly. When mixture begins to boil and it’s thickened remove from heat and immediately whisk in liquer. Stir in vanilla extract if using this instead of the bean. Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until needed (keeps up to 3 days in fridge). Beat or whisk before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.
Do not discard the vanilla bean, wash it gently and pat it dry and place in some sugar to make wonderful “vanilla” sugar.
Fruit Tart Assembly:
Spread pastry cream evenly in pastry crust and top with fresh fruit. I like to work my way from the outside in so it looks pretty or you can just dump all your fruit in…it’s a personal choice. To give the fruit a nice shiny top, you can heat up a little apricot jam with a tsp of water in the microwave for about 30 seconds or so and brush it over the fruit.