Blueberry Frangipane Tart

I really believe that if you’re going to become excellent at anything, from baking to baseball, you’ve got to be willing to try new things and make some mistakes.  My success and confidence in the kitchen has come from years of practice and experience and yes, I’ve had my share of failures.  As Einstein said, ‘anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.’  This is how we learn.

I had wonderful blueberries.  I had pie crust already made.  I knew it would be tricky to combine them with frangipane in a tart the way I wanted to, but decided to proceed nonetheless.  Frangipane is a sweet filling made from almonds, butter and eggs, and it’s one of my favorite treats.  It must be baked, and it really needs to be exposed to the heat (not buried deep in a pie) in order to puff up and brown a little.  I did everything right in this recipe, almost.  I made sure to blind bake my crust.

I didn’t cover the frangipane completely with blueberries.  I baked until bubbly in the center.  However,…. it needed 5 more minutes!  The edges were perfect with crisp and flaky crust, but the center was not.

If I make this again, I think I’ll put the frangipane on top of the blueberries and let the berries peek through instead of vice – versa.  At any rate, my husband LOVED this tart and said the amount of sweetness was just right.  Served with lightly sweetened whipped cream, it really was good despite it’s imperfection.

Blueberry Frangipane Tart

Adapted from The New York Times Cooking

1 pie crust –  Here’s an old post with a recipe you can use.

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1/2 cup ground almonds (almond flour)

2 teaspoons all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 stick butter

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

  • Roll out the dough, chill and blind bake.  For more information about blind baking click here.
  • Mix the almond flour, all purpose flour, sugar, almond extract, egg and butter really well.  Spread into the pre-baked shell.
  • Place the blueberries on top, making sure to leave some frangipane filling peaking through.
  • Bake at 375 F for 35 to 40 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven.  If the crust becomes too dark around the edges, cover with a ring of foil and continue baking.
  • Allow to cool at least an hour before slicing.
  • YUM!

Here’s an old post about the first time I made a Pear Frangipane Tart.

 

The Easiest Lasagna

The only reason I’m posting this is because maybe there’s someone else out there who needs super easy dinner ideas.  It won’t work for a last minute meal because it takes over an hour to bake.  That’s because you do not have to pre-cook the noodles!  This is the most non – technical, adaptable, semi home made recipe I’ve ever posted.  It’s really just a method of assembly.  Simply layer everything in a casserole and bake, hooray!

The quality of your ingredients still matter in this easy dish, so look for organic tomato sauce that doesn’t have added sugar.  I chose to use organic cheeses as well.  The ground turkey makes it a little lighter than beef lasagna, but it’s still kinda heavy for the middle of summer.  Cucumber and Avocado Salad is a nice cooling side dish, click here for recipe.

The Easiest Lasagna 

adapted from my sister’s Spinach Lasagna recipe

1 jar tomato sauce

1 large container cottage cheese (it’s lighter and saltier) OR 1 large container ricotta cheese OR 1 small container of each

freshly ground black pepper

12- 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1 box lasagna noodles

1 lb ground turkey

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F
  • Brown the ground turkey until done – I used a little oil to get it going
  • If you’re using a mixture of ricotta and cottage cheese as I did, mix them together in a dish as add some fresh black pepper.  I used a whole container of ricotta and about half the container of cottage cheese.
  • Begin assembly in a casserole dish.  I made three layers of noodles but there’s no hard and fast rule here, it’s just how much will fit.  I had lots of left over noodles for another day.  Start with sauce on the bottom of the dish, then a base layer of noodles.  Spoon on about 1/3 of the ricotta/cottage cheese and spread over the noodles.  Add a layer of mozzarella, then meat, more sauce, and another layer of noodles.  You get the idea.  Fill the dish and add all juices from the ground turkey.  Finish the top with sauce and mozzarella cheese.  You can sprinkle some parmesan on top if you have it.

  • Cover the dish with foil and make sure it’s tight around the edges.  Bake for 1 hour.
  • Remove from oven and let sit, still covered, for 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and have a look.  If you’d like to make the top more brown and crispy around the edges, return to the oven and set it on broil.  Keep a close eye on it.

I’m feeding a growing boy and he’s HUNGRY and this got very positive reviews.  It was originally a Spinach Lasagna recipe, but I was afraid my boy wouldn’t eat it unless it was meaty and not veggie.  If you’d like the original recipe, just email me.

Ukrainian Poppy Seed Cake

This is a lemon poppy seed cake with emphasis on the poppy seeds.  It’s practically health food because poppy seeds are high in dietary fiber and minerals.  With three eggs, plus the additional nutrition from all those seeds, this cake is solidly in the ‘okay for breakfast’ category!

I  found this recipe in one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks, The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.  I love her handwritten recipes, doodles and drawings.  The recipes are delicious and healthy without sacrificing richness and flavor.

Ukrainian Poppy Seed Cake

3/4 cup poppy seeds

1 cup milk

1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup sugar (white or light brown is ok)

3 eggs

2 cups all purpose flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest and juice from 1 lemon

  • Place poppy seeds and milk in a small saucepan and scald (heat to almost boiling, then remove from the heat).  Set aside and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 10 inch tube pan.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Sift together the dry ingredients on wax paper or in a separate bowl.  Add this to the butter mixture alternately with the poppy seed – milk, beginning and ending with the dry mixture.
  • Stir just enough to blend well, adding the vanilla, lemon juice and zest at the end.
  • Bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a plate. 

This cake has so many poppy seeds that it’s almost nutty tasting.  It’s a little different from your average lemon poppy seed muffin or cake, but still very familiar in flavor.  I love that it’s not super sweet, I also love the crunch of the seeds and the little hint of lemon flavor.  If you want more sweetness, you can add a simple glaze of lemon or orange juice mixed with powdered sugar.

Cucumber and Avocado Salad

We’ve had a very rainy summer thus far and the cucumbers are coming in fast.  This salad highlights the crisp coolness of cucumbers by contrasting with the creamy richness of avocado.  The proportions for this recipe are not exact, so make adjustments according to taste and your abundance of cucumbers.

The secret to a delicious and crispy cucumber salad is to salt them before adding to your recipe.  Prep the cucumbers by peeling, seeding and chopping them to bite size.  Place them in a colander or on clean towels and sprinkle generously with salt.  The salt draws out water and tightens the cucumbers so they stay crisp and delicious.  Another trick is to wait until the last minute to add the avocado so that it doesn’t fall apart or get brown.  The vinegar will prevent browning to some degree, but avocado is best when really fresh.

Cucumber Avocado Salad

Fresh cucumbers ( about 4 – 6 medium size)

sea salt

1 avocado

1/4 onion or scallions

freshly ground pepper

3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

optional: a few cherry tomatoes and/or 1 sweet bell pepper

  • Peel the cucumbers and slice them end to end.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  This is not necessary if you’re using very small cukes.  Chop them to bite size pieces and place in a colander over a bowl.
  • Sprinkle on 2- 3 teaspoons of salt and mix in really well so each bit has some salt.
  • Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour.
  • Discard the liquid, pat the cucumbers dry on a clean towel and place in a bowl.
  • Slice the onion very thin (I use a mandolin) and combine with the vinegar and some black pepper in the bowl.  Mix well so the onion is in contact with the vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • When you are ready to serve the salad, wash the avocado, slice it open, cut it in cubes while still in the peel, then scoop it out with a spoon.  Mix into the salad gently.  Add tomatoes or chopped bell peppers if using.

More cool recipes for hot summer days:

Cool Cucumber Soup

Gazpacho

Perky Pickles

Happy New Year

c2466f6f0a2544cc4c3b573b076fcb71--julia-child-quotes-julia-childsDo you make resolutions in January?  Each new year, I find myself feeling heavy and sluggish from too many holiday treats and loathe to go outdoors in the freezing temps.  Each January I feel the need to address sugar cravings and a desire to feel healthier.

I love cooking, baking, all the details, science, history and culture of food.  However, sometimes it’s all just too much and I need to take a break.  This year I’m focusing on healthy eating by cutting way back on sugar in January as part of a fresh start to a fresh new year.

If you are interested in making some changes this January, here are some links, tips and recipes I’m considering as I move forward.

Let’s think about a few things as we look at the month ahead:

  1. Whatever I choose to eat this month, I will be paying attention to what I eat, reading labels, and really thinking about how I feel.  Do I want added sugar in my sandwich bread?  How much sugar is in those kombucha drinks I love?  How much protein is in my breakfast?  Does this meal make me feel full, healthy, satisfied or tired?  Did I take the time to notice the taste and texture of my food and really enjoy it?  Have I checked the label on my almond butter to see if it has added sugar?  You get the idea…
  2. I will not be cutting back on fat.  Here’s an article about why our bodies need fat that also explains the different types and sources of fats.  My diet includes a LOT of raw nuts, extra virgin olive oil,  and avocados, as well as fresh eggs and moderate (sort of…) amounts of butter and cheese, and small amounts of bacon, and gasp… lard!(click here for more fascinating info about the king of fats)
  3. Why am I doing this?   I want to feel healthy and energetic, and I know from experience that I feel better when I eat very little sugar.  Everything from my digestion to frequency of headaches to cravings and moodiness improve when I stop mindlessly consuming sugary snacks.  We each have our own reasons for the choices we make – it’s important to know ourselves and find what is best for our own bodies.
  4. Rather than focusing on what I’m not eating, I’ll be turning my attention to what I’m adding this month such as:
    1. I plan to drink more hot tea  (unsweetened of course)
    2. I’m adding delicious fruit to my diet – I can have sweet mandarin oranges for dessert or a smoothie if I really need a treat (go to the end of this post for links to recipes)
    3. I LOVE to feel healthy, sleep well, and be happy – and eating healthy foods supports these goals
    4. I’m adding vegetables to my diet, and I’ll eat all my favorite winter veggies such as roasted carrots and cauliflower.  I’ll also make salads with lots of cheese and nuts, and make sure my fridge is stocked with things I like to eat so I don’t feel deprived.

As you know I love to bake, so here are a few recipes I’ll be revisiting this month.

It feels so good to make healthy choices about what to eat.  If you would like more tips and info about making changes to your diet, reading nutrition labels, or encouragement look for me on facebook  @ Monticello Georgia Yoga.

P.S. Am I cutting out dessert forever?  absolutely NOT!  I’ll be back with more sweet treats in a month or two.

 

Applesauce Muffins

This recipe was inspired by these Pistachio Chai Muffins I blogged about several years ago.  I made them again recently and decided I could do better by adding more nutrition and less sugar.

20171029_105851Applesauce is a great natural sweetener and also allows you to reduce the amount of fat in baked goods without sacrificing moisture.  Many recipes actually use applesauce as a replacement for butter, but that seems a bit extreme.  I also employed a favorite trick for adding rolled oats to muffins which I discovered during my first few months of blogging.  It’s well known that buttermilk is wonderful for baking, but it’s also great for tenderizing (I guess that’s why it’s good in marinades).  So if you measure out the oats and buttermilk and let them soak for a few minutes, there will be absolutely no tough fibrous texture in your baked goods.  I researched and wrote all about the wonders of buttermilk in this post.   I have since learned even more about the fascinating world of butter, cultured butter, buttermilk, and making various dairy products at home.  For example, did you know that the buttermilk we buy in the store is nothing like the buttermilk our great great grandparents made at home?  That was a by-product of cultured cream that was left in the churn overnight (that’s the ‘cultured’ part) and then churned into butter the next day.   I digress, but you can read more about buttermilk here!  One other thing I like about this recipe is that all the ingredients are easy pantry staples.  However, since I was out of chai tea bags I had to use cinnamon, cloves and ginger instead.

Onward to the recipe:

Applesauce Muffins

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped pistachios for the top

Preheat the oven to 375 and prepare the muffin tins.  This recipe will make 12 large or 16 skimpy muffins.

Measure the rolled oats and buttermilk into your mixing bowl first so they can soak while you get everything else ready.

Add all the wet ingredients (egg, applesauce, oil, vanilla) to the oats and buttermilk and 20171029_111058stir together.  Measure the dry ingredients and mix into the wet until just combined.  It’s a good idea to sift the dry ingredients together to remove any lumps and incorporate the leaveners into the flour, but not entirely necessary for this recipe.

20171029_111547  20171029_112239

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Scoop the batter into muffin tins and top with chopped pistachios.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove to cool a bit more before eating.

My son and husband agreed that this new recipe is superior because these muffins are very moist and yummy.

Fall Farro Salad

Here’s a delicious and nutritious salad for the fall.  Farro is an ancient grain in the wheat family.  Although it does contain gluten, it has less than modern varieties of wheat.  However, this recipe is easily adapted to a gluten free grain such as black rice.  Farro is very nutritious and an excellent source of fiber, iron, b vitamins, zinc, magnesium and protien.  This grain makes a chewy and satisfying salad when combined with roasted vegetables and fresh herbs.  I especially like this combination with it’s mix of sweet potatoes, sour apples, and savory onions.  Consider this more of a guide than an exact recipe.

Fall Farro Salad

1 cup farro (or other grain such as rice or quinoa)

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes – cubed

1 granny smith apple – cubed

1/2 onion – chopped

1 garlic clove

1 bunch fresh parsley and other herbs such as basil, cilantro or mint

salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the cubed sweet potato, apple, and onion on a foil lined baking pan and toss with about 3 Tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast, stirring once, for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned and very soft.

Meanwhile, cook the farro according to package directions with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a whole clove of garlic in the water.  This grain will need to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Drain the farro and toss with cooked vegetables and chopped herbs.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Serve warm or at room temperature.