Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blueberry Lemon Tart

To start off tonight, let me inform you that I am the Business Office Manager for two VERY busy urologists in the Medical Center.  As it turns out, tomorrow is Dr. Guerriero's 75th bday, and he apparently loves the flavor profile of lemon and blueberry together; I made this special tart for him for Christmas and was told it was a total hit!  So I had a grand idea to make his favorite dessert for his birthday and ease our way into a nice 3-day weekend.  

Let me point out the originator of the fabulous dessert, Tyler Florence!  I must, once again, brag about meeting him and having him chat with me a few minutes to answer questions, talk about food and sign his new book Fresh for me.

This tart is light, refreshing and is an elegant dessert.  It is sure to please any crowd and be the talk of any gathering.  If you're on Twitter, be sure to follow Tyler Florence for all the  latest and greatest on him, his food, his restaurant; if it weren't for this, I would've never known he was coming to Houston.  The following recipe is in its true form; I dare not deviate from the master's plan!

Blueberry Lemon Tart



1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, in chunks
1 large egg, separated
2 tablespoons ice water, plus 1 teaspoon


4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 lemon, zested
Pinch kosher salt
1 pint blueberries

No need to spend money on fancy pie weights when you can use regular dry beans.  The recipe does call for 1 cup of fresh lemon juice & suggests it would be 5; but in actuality, I normally need 8 lemons to get an entire cup of  juice.

Tart pan with removable bottom


To make the pastry, pulse the flour, sugar & salt together in a food processor. 

Add the butter and pulse until the dough resembles cornmeal.  

Add the egg yolk & 2 Tbs ice water & pulse again until the dough pulls together.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Roll the dough up onto the pin and lay it inside a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the edges of the pan and fold the excess dough inside to reinforce the rim.  Cover the tart pan with plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator for another 30 minutes to rest.

To bake the shell, heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the tart pan on a baking sheet & prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. 

Cover shell with a piece of parchment paper & fill with pie weights or dry beans. 

Bake for 25 min. Remove parchment & weights. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 tsp water & brush it onto the bottom & sides of the tart shell; set aside to cool.

(in the meantime, zest one lemon & juice your lemons)

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, cream, zest, and salt. Add the blueberries to the cooled tart shell and pour the filling over the blueberries. 

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The curd should jiggle slightly when done. Cool to room temperature, remove from the tart ring, and serve.

The Masterpiece

Unmolded, side-view

So it's all done & ready; I have to let it cool completely before I put the lid on my carrier.  I want to thank Tyler Florence for being the most awesome chef on the plant and for this most incredible dessert and also a special thanks to the Food Network for saving me when I can't get to my cookbooks, lol!

I really hope that you are able to give this tart a try.  Let me tell you that I have, in the past, bought pre-made pie dought; however, this homemade crust holds up SO much better to the filling plus it tastes fantastic!  

I just might have to work on one of Tyler's recipes from his newest cookbook, Fresh.

Until next time, Happy Eating!!

The b-day boy ready for this tart!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Benvenuti in Italia!!

So tonight I finally broke down and gave in to my ongoing craving for a pasta that is served at my fave Italian restaurant, Coppa Ristorante called Bucatini Cacio e Pepe.  I did not order it the first time we went because I HAD to have the carbonara; and the second time we went, they had a special Valentine's Day menu going on.  I AM, however, going to order it on our next visit there.

Cacio e Pepe is a Roman dish and basically means cheese and pepper, literally.  In my research of the dish, I encountered one important thing: no two chefs make it the same nor can they agree on how to do it right.  It is a very simple dish and uses very few ingredients. 

Of course with me being home alone right now, I had to create a recipe for one. You can double the recipe, however, for two people.  I wish I would've had bucatini pasta because it would have been great for this dish; bucatini is a spaghetti pasta that has a pinhole size hollow middle which is great to soak up all your sauce.  You can, however, use regular spaghetti, linguine or capellini (angel hair).  My recipe for this pasta should actually be called Cacio, Pepe e Aglio since my pasta has the cheese, pepper and garlic.


Kosher Salt
3 0z angel hair 
1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbs unsalted butter
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmesan
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup pasta water

This is my favorite type of peppercorns to use for everything; I love the bite it has and great flavor.  This is why I love going to Penzeys Spices in the Heights; if you can, you really need to try to get out to this place for all your spice needs.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add salt, boil pasta according to package minus about 1-2 min for al dente. 


Pepper straight from my mill


If you don't have one of these, get one now!  This is a microplane, and I use it for so many different things.  When recipes call for minced garlic, I peel the garlic and run through here to create a paste like consistency that basically melts into your food.  I use this to zest lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit.  I also use it to grate/shred cheese like the Parmesan. Plus, I even use it to grate fresh nutmeg!

Ok, back to my recipe, LOL.  Melt 1/2 Tbs of the butter in a pan over medium heat, add oil and swirl together.  Add cracked pepper and garlic and swirl pan around for about a minute to toast pepper and bring out the flavors. 

Add the 1/4 cup pasta water and bring to a simmer.

Add the pasta, the remaining butter & oil.  Reduce heat to low, and add the Parmesan cheese.  Stir and toss with tongs until melted ensuring all the pasta is thoroughly coated.  Serve in a bowl and top with shredded Parmesan.

You can use a combination of cheese:  Parmesan, Parmigiana Reggiano, Grana Padano and Pecorino Romano.

This dish was absolutely spectacular!  This is a dish I will make again because I have to admit I prefer a simple pasta made with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice or touch of white wine.  I did make myself a small tomato, basil & Mozzarella salad stack to go along side.

This here is SUPER simple: thick slice of tomato, a little salt & Italian seasoning, thick slice of mozzarella, basil leaf and another thick slice of tomato with a little salt & Italian seasoning.  Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar; that's it, it's that simple!

I have a word of advice: don't be afraid to try new things, get creative in the kitchen.  It's fun trying all kinds of things out and playing with ideas and seeing them come to fruition. (maybe that's more than one word of advice, lol).  The kitchen is actually my therapy, it helps me unwind and decompress.  Last night I made someone my pineapple upside down cake with crushed pineapples instead of pineapple rings; it was a HUGE success, not to mention a long-overdue promise I had made to make this for them, lol.  A co-worker even asked how come I hadn't made this for the office before and am now committed to make a lemon pound cake when we return after Easter.

Well, I have rambled on enough.  I hope you give this recipe a try; remember, if you are NOT a garlic fan, omit it from the recipe (but hey, we LOVE garlic here so we use it in just about everything).  If you are needing this for multiple people, just multiply by the number needed as this is a one-serving recipe.  Hopefully it is a hit in your household as well!!

Until next time, Happy Eating!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Divine Lamb Stew

Well it's nearly the end of March, and we are well into spring; however, it turns out to be quite chilly tonight.  This is perfect for me because I have been craving lamb shanks or stew for a few weeks so lamb stew it is tonight.  

Now while Chris may no longer be in El Paso, he is now near College Station for a few days so I am not going to make an entire batch of stew.  I was unable to find a 1/2 lb of lamb stew meat and did not feel like driving to Central Market so I picked up the smallest package I could find.  Normally, I use 2 to 2-1/2 lbs of lamb meat, 3x the veggies, about 48-56oz of Kitchen Basics Beef Stock and 1-1/2 cup of red wine; however, I must improvise tonight.  Not to mention that when I do make my normal batch, we invite Jessica & Dennis over with the baby to demolish it with us.  I am well aware this is going to make more than 2 servings, but at least I will have leftovers for lunch.  Come to think of it, I can take some to Priscilla tomorrow plus I  really don't mind eating leftovers.


3/4 lb lamb stew meat
1 large carrot, peeled, sliced & quartered
1/2 onion, quartered
2 large button mushrooms, stems removed & sliced
1/2 lb baby potatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt, divided
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1.5 oz More Than Gourmet Glace D'Agneau Gold Classic Roasted Lamb Stock
1/2 cup red wine
Chopped parsley for garnish


Where to start.....first of all I did not realize I was out of beef stock here at the loft, but thankfully I had previously bought this More Than Gourmet Glace D'Agneau Gold Classic Roasted Lamb Stock.  (you can find this in the soup aisle at any grocery store.)

I am excited to see the difference it makes in my lamb stew.  In order to use this, the package states you need to mix 1 part stock to 20 parts of water so just use the same cup the stock is packaged in to measure out 20 parts.

I was excited to find these enormous button mushrooms so I only picked up 2.  I should have taken a picture of the very large carrot I found.  I am once again disappointed because HEB did not have any parsnips, and I LOVE parsnips in my lamb stew; it is such a wonderful contrast.

The lamb stew meat I purchased are always cut rather large so I cut them in half.  Combine the flour, 1/4 tsp salt & pepper and thoroughly toss into the lamb meat in order to coat each piece.  This will help thicken the stew as it cooks.

I have noticed lots of recipes call for bacon; but most of you that know me know that I am not crazy about bacon in my food or having that bacon flavor penetrating throughout it.  (For this simple reason, I always opt for my extra virgin olive oil instead.)  Heat oil over medium heat and brown meat on all sides to create a nice brown crust. (I can not stop stressing the importance of a good quality stainless steel pan like my Emerilware; it really DOES make a huge difference)

Remove meat from pan and set aside in a Dutch oven.  Add the onions and garlic to remaining oil and sauté for a few minutes.  Don't worry about the brown bits that may be stuck to the pan, this is good and you need this.

Add 1/2 cup water to pan to "deglaze" the pan (this will remove all the yummy brown bits).  Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, slowly move all the bottom of the pan to remove all the brown bits.  Add to Dutch oven.  Empty glaze container and using same container measure out 20 parts of water; add wine and simmer for 1-1/2 hrs.

I usually like to prep all my veggies & herbs & have them on a plate so I can just dump them into my pot or pan when I am cooking:

I am sure you are very well aware of dried bay leaves, but I tend to lean more towards the fresh bay leaves.  I needed them once for a recipe, and it took me forever to find the fresh!  I finally found them at Central Market:

I now use the fresh when I need bay leaves; I just double up on it.  I also need to mention that I am thankful for the built-in wine shelving we have in the loft above the fridge and the supply we have up there for when we have dinner parties.  I was completely out of my Sutter Homes mini Cabernet Sauvignon so I had to open one of our Rex Goliath wines (totally saved my stew).

I really hate opening an entire bottle to use so little so hopefully I will find something else to cook up this week to use the wine.  If you're like me and not into wine that much but need it for cooking, I strongly suggest getting the Sutter Homes wines.  They have a 4-pk of different varieties of their wine in small 187 ml bottles, and the lid screws back on so you don't have any waste.  You can find this also in any grocery store or liquor store.

After 1-1/2 hrs has passed, you will notice the liquid has reduced which I great because the flavors will be concentrated.  Add your carrots, mushrooms, potatoes (and parsnips if you can find them), thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and remaining 1/4 tsp salt.

Continue simmering for another 20 min or until your vegetables are cooked.  Pull out the bay leaves.  Personally I like my stew thick; if the stew doesn't get thick enough for my taste, I make a slurry out of cornstarch and water.  I use equal amounts of cornstarch and cold water (has to be cold); today I ended up using 1 tsp cornstarch and 1 tsp cold water and stirred until dissolved.  I then poured it into the stew and let it simmer and additional 5 min; the heat will activate the thickening agent in the cornstarch.

It came out perfect, and thick enough just like I like it.  You don't have to do the slurry, but I do it for the thickness of the sauce.  

Serve in bowls and top with chopped parsley.

You can serve this with plain white rice or a rice pilaf or even couscous.  I personally prefer a crusty bread or roll to go along with it which is perfect for getting all the thick, rich sauce. 

Let me tell you that the More Than Gourmet Glace D'Agneau Gold Classic Roasted Lamb Stock turned out to be a really great exchange for my usual beef stock.  It adds a huge depth of flavor that makes the stew SO much better. I am pleasantly surprised and very pleased with the outcome.

I hope you will give my recipe a try and hope that you enjoy it as much as my family does.  Remember if you ever have any questions or need recipe or meal ideas, please don't hesitate to comment and ask away. 

Until next time, Happy Eating!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Never Fear, Veggies are Here!

SO many beautiful vegetables at the Signature Kroger out on Studemont near I-10; I am mesmerized and just want to buy up the entire market, lol.  I had found some really cute little potatoes at HEB in a 1.5 lb container which was an assortment of red, white & purple potatoes. With Chris making a pit-stop back home this evening and heading back out to another job for a few more days, I decided I was going to cook him and Keith (his bro) some lunch with some yummy veggies that I wanted to roast up because I know he has been missing some good home cooking. Now you can roast any just about any combination of veggies that tickle your fancy, but I am kinda regretting not picking up some parsnips now because those are really great and would've added a nice flavor profile.


2 Carrots
1/2 Butternut Squash
1 Eggplant
1 medium onion
8 oz pkg button mushrooms, cut in quarters
3/4 lb asst bite-sized potatoes
6 garlic cloves
1 heaping tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tbs fresh rosemary, chopped
3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbs Sherry Vinegar
2 tsp - 1 Tbs kosher salt
1 heaping tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Cut off top & bottom of eggplant, then peel sections of the skin off.  Cut eggplant into cubes, place in a colander, sprinkle with salt (approx 1 tsp) and toss with your hands to ensure all cubes are salted.  Let sit for an hour to remove the excess water (this will also help remove some of the eggplant's bitterness).

This is the water that was released from the eggplant

Rinse the eggplant very well to remove the salt and then pat dry.

My butternut squash was 2 lbs so I only used half of the squash: remove skin and cut into cubes.  Cut your onion in half; cut into thirds and slice thick.  Peel your carrots and cut into cubes as well.  What I like to do with my garlic is run it through my microplane which produces a garlic paste.  I was lucky to find an assortment of bite-sized potatoes at HEB: white, red and purple; cut in half.  

Toss all your vegetables with the fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, salt, fresh-cracked black pepper, olive oil, sherry vinegar (you can use any vinegar but I opted for my sherry this time) & garlic and place in a 15" x 10" jelly roll pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle with the crushed red pepper flakes.

Bake for 1 hr, re-tossing veggies at the 30 min mark.

What started out as a large quantity of veggies, turned into approx 4 cups of roasted veggies, and boy do they taste yummy!  The vinegar is not too overpowering, and the crushed red pepper flakes add just the right amount of bite.

Hope you give this a try because it's a great way to serve up veggies.  I must advise that if you are going to use dry herbs as opposed to fresh, only use 1/2 of the recommended amount.  Let me say this: fresher is better when it comes to herbs though.

Until next time, Happy Eating!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Who Says You Can't Have Chocolate Cake For Breakfast?!?!?!

Happy Friday to everyone!  I made another rich chocolate dessert for the office today (it's an early Easter treat).  Again, I am home bored while Chris is still out working in El Paso so what better way to occupy myself and de-stress than bake for someone?!?!

I had viewed lots and lots of sites regarding an Easter cake with Kit Kats, so many variations and ideas so I decided to do one myself.


1 box Duncan Hines Devils Food Cake Mix
1/3 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 small pkg Jell-o Devil's Food Instant Pudding mix
1 Duncan Hines Classic Chocolate Frosting
4 King Size Kit Kat Bars
1 lg bag plain M&M (I used Easter ones)


Prepare cake mix according to package with these exceptions:  I use extra virgin olive oil instead of the vegetable oil; I use milk instead of the water (and in the case I did a 50/50 of milk & heavy cream); I add vanilla extract to boxed cakes to give it that little something extra; AND I always add instant pudding to the mix to make for a much more moister cake! (So there you have it, those are my secrets for those who've asked).  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 2-8' cake pans and distribute batter evenly.  Drop pans several times on the counter to let all the air bubbles out and to allow the batter to even out. Now, let me inform you the box says to bake for approx 30 min; however because of my changes to the mix, I find that it can take anywhere fro 40-45 min.  I suggest baking for 35 min, take a toothpick to check for doneness and bake at 5 min increments after that.

Let cakes cool completely before assembling.

My original idea was to get Easter grass to lay down on the platter first, but I forgot at the last minute (this I will do when I make the cake for the family next week).  Frost cakes evenly (if your cakes are slightly uneven, trim off tops to even out).  Once your cake is assembled, break your Kit Kats in pairs.  Place flat side up against sides of cake leaving a slight gap in between each pair and press slightly.  Top off cake with the M&Ms to cover frosting completely and spread remaining M&Ms around the cake on the platter.

So I think the cake was a success because it is being eaten for breakfast, LOL; great start to a Friday morning.  I will be making another similar cake for the family Easter get-together; however, that cake will be a yellow butter cake with chocolate frosting.  This is such an easy cake that I hope you will give it a whirl.

Until next time, Happy Eating!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Infamous Chocolate Pie

So how many of you have watched the movie, The Help?  Every time I find it on, I can't help but watch it.  Although the nature of the movie is a serious topic/issue, there is such a comical side to it that keeps me watching it over and over again.  

If you've seen the movie, Minny Jackson apparently makes the best Chocolate Pie in all of Jackson, MS.  So good indeed, that her ex-boss, Ms. Hilley Holbrooke, can't help but eat TWO slices of the "special" pie made just for her by Minny who she has basically black-balled in the town by lies.  Since, there are several of you who have possibly not seen the movie, I am not going to give it away; but you really need to see it because it is really funny.

All things and this scene apart, the pie looks decadent.  I really wanted to try making the pie which is apparently not a cream pie.  I researched and researched and has luck would have, I found the ACTUAL recipe!

Minny's Chocolate Pie


1 pckg pie dough crust, such as Pillsbury

1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whipped cream, for serving

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Ease the pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate and crimp the edges decoratively. Prick the crust lightly with a fork. Line the crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes or until set. Remove the foil and weights and bake for about 5 minutes longer, just until the crust is dry but not browned.  (I used a frozen pie shell that I thawed in the fridge)

2.  Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the sugar with the cocoa powder, butter, eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla and salt until smooth.

3.  Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake for about 45 minutes, until the filling is set around the edges but a little jiggly in the center. Cover the crust with strips of foil halfway through baking. Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool completely before cutting into wedges. Serve with whipped cream.

MAKE AHEAD: The chocolate pie can be refrigerated overnight.

I had enough evaporated milk and an extra pie crust so I went ahead and made two pies!  Sure did.  There are some MAJOR chocoholics in the office where I work so I decided to take a pie for them to ravage to start their Monday out just right! LOL

Well, since the pies are cooling and it's late, I cannot report back on the taste of these pies.  I will post a small commentary after the office devours the pie with their opinions on it.

Hopefully you'll enjoy it as well.  Until next time Happy Eating!!!!