Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

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Every Christmas I love to make a show-stopping dessert for our Christmas Day feast. (Last year was a champagne layer cake!) My problem is that it’s always a new recipe…clearly leaving some room for error – some more forgivable than others. For example, this year I planned on making Joy the Baker’s Honey Almond Butter Chocolate Tart …only problem was that I should have checked that jar of almond butter perched on our pantry self, because it was solid – definitely past its prime. Sooooo, peanut butter it is! And the problem when I up and move to DC like the crazy daughter I am is that my mom’s and my kitchens are better together. No tart pan in California now :( sooooo, spring form pan it is!

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Don’t stop now! Keep reading…

Red Wine Caramel Tart

 

How do you say “caramel”? – “care-ah-mul” or “car-mul”? Someone made fun of me for saying the former – is this a thing people are worried about? I mean, a former roommate of mine once told me a story involving a “wind-meal”…”umm, you mean ‘wind-mill’?” Granted windmills doesn’t come up very often in regular conversation, but how do you get through twenty-some years with no one calling you out on that?! Caramel isn’t one of those things, right? Can we just call it a regional preference? …Kinda like how people in Georgia say “pee-can” instead of “puh-cahn” and how people from Nevada say “Neh-vah-da” not “Neh-vahh-da.” …Wait. I don’t know how to spell phonetically, but you get me – they say the “a” in the middle like you would in “cat.”

 

Regardless, I think we can all agree that caramel is gooey, buttery, dreamy goodness – especially when salted and paired with chocolate. And THEN someone went and paired it with red wine! …genius. This tart screams fall – which is seriously my favorite season – oh, how I missed you the last 9 years out in California! (This basically sums up how I feel about fall: “Mr. Autumn Man Walking Down Street With Cup Of Coffee, Wearing Sweater Over Plaid Collared Shirt“)

 

It’s FALL in the city! (Can you tell I’m excited?!…like cracked out on cider and toasted pumpkin seeds kind of excited.) This is where all those pumpkin seeds came from…

 

Aren’t we just the cutest roommate trio you’ve ever seen?!

Ok, briiingin it back. Red Wine Caramel Tart! I made this wonderful tart with Caitlyn and Becky, and you know what I always say, “Teamwork makes the dream work!” (Thanks for that little gem, Rosie ;) Needless to say, the tart turned out beautifully (even without the totally necessary help of a food processor). The crust turned out almost like a thin shortbread, and the filling was smooth (not too sticky) and sweet with a tangy-rich depth from the red wine. I highly recommend this served along with some vanilla ice cream and some sliced farmer’s market pears or apples.

Here’s what we did:

Red Wine Caramel Tart 

(Slightly adapted from The Boozy Baker)

*For the crust:

Combine in a food processor:

-1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
-3 Tbs. sugar
-1/4 tsp. salt

Then pulse in, until course:

-1 stick butter (cut into small chunks)

Then pulse into the mixture:

-1 large egg yolk
-1 Tbs. milk (a little more if it seems super dry)

Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Then roll the dough out on a floured surface so that it is a couple of inches larger than your tart pan. Transfer the floured dough into a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. (I roll it up on the rolling pin, and then roll it off over the pan – a little tricky, but easier than just free-handed.) Form it to the crevices of the pan, and then prick the dough with a fork. Refrigerate it for 30 more minutes, then bake it on 375 for about 20 minutes, or until it’s golden brown. Set the crust aside to cool.

*For the red wine caramel filling:

Pour into a saucepan on medium heat:

-1 cup red wine (I used an old vine zinfandel cause it’s mah fave) 
**make sure you use GOOD wine, because the flavors are just going to concentrate. (And, hey, you get to drink the rest of it!)

Bring it to a boil, and then lower the heat and let it simmer for a while (20ish minutes) until it’s syrupy and reduced to about 2 tablespoons of liquid. Set aside.

In another saucepan, combine:

-1 1/2 cups sugar
-3 Tbs. light corn syrup
-1 tsp. salt
-6 Tbs. water

Boil the mixture until it turns into a rich gold/brown color and a candy thermometer reads 330 degrees (careful not to burn it – it will happen quickly!) Or if you don’t have a thermometer like me, you want to drop pieces of the caramel into ice water, and when it reaches the hard crack stage (literally, you’ll get a piece of hard candy that you could crack after it drops in the water), pull it off the heat. Stir in:

-the reduced wine
-6 Tbs. heavy cream
-6 Tbs. butter, diced

Pour the caramel filling into the tart shell, and refrigerate for about 4 hours before you enjoy! …I know it’s torture, but it’s totally worth it. Dive in with close friends – Bex and Cait, you’re the best :D

**French phrase for fun

Profitez de la journée d’automne avec des amis incryoables.
Enjoy the autumn day with awesome friends.

 

<3

Lemon Icebox Pie and Happiness

So I’ve decided to take on a “happiness project.” Don’t freak out, I’ll still be your “ray of sunshine” – as a sweet-talking friend described me. But let’s be real here, it’s already past the middle of the year (and while I’ve kept my one New Year’s resolution to make at least one new recipe every week and then blog about it), I know that there is lots more that I can and want to be doing! I’ve been having fun frolicking in New York, enjoying the DC brunch culture, hittin up Jazz in the Sculpture Garden and farmer’s markets. I have a good job, great friends and family, and an awesome city as my playground. But I want more from myself. I’m going to take on little things everyday to make life even happier! JOIE DE VIVRE :)

Today, I started by writing down 100 things I want to do. I sat down for an uninterrupted 20 minutes and wrote down 100 things that I want to do (today/tomorrow/when I’m prune-y) – places I want to go, careers I want to have, people I want to meet, things I want to learn, ways I want to live my life! I’ll look at the list in a day or two and then pick out things I can actually do now and things that are long-term, think of specific ways to accomplish those things, and do them! I’m starting with two simple things: setting aside more time to read and starting to volunteer at an urban youth garden. Here’s a little happiness inspiration (:

*Accept yourself, and expect more of yourself.
*Create a most wonderful day for yourself. Remember you are in charge of your happiness.
*Let kindness prevail inside and out.

And in the meantime, let’s make PIE! :D Pie always makes me happy! I made a lemon icebox pie and got crazy with a giant curl of lemon peel – don’t be crazy like me. You should probably just sprinkle some lemon zest over the top.

Here’s what I did:

Lemon Icebox Pie

For the graham cracker crust:

Pulse to a fine texture in a food processor:

-1/4c. roasted unsalted almonds

Next, pulse in until fine:

-about 12 whole graham crackers

Pulse in the rest of the ingredients until combined:

-5 T. melted butter
-1/4c. sugar
-pinch of salt

Press the crust into your glass pie dish (you can use a second one on top to press it all down if you’re lazy/super clever like me – thanks for the idea, Mom!)

Brush the crust with a beaten egg, and bake the crust in a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes until it’s golden brown.

For the filling:

Beat together in an electric stand mixer until smooth and silky:

-1 8oz. package of cream cheese
-1 can low-fat condensed milk
-zest of one lemon
-1/3c. fresh lemon juice
-1.5 t. vanilla extract

Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust, and refrigerate overnight. Right before you’re ready to serve it, top the pie with fresh whipped cream (whipping cream whipped up and sweetened with a quarter cup of powdered sugar) and lemon zest OR a GIANT lemon peel curl if you’re crazy like me.

Slice up some happiness! :)

**French phrase for fun:

Qui voudrait une tranche de tarte au citron?
Who would like a slice of lemon pie?

 

Speedy Fruit Pie and Summer Fun

 

I love summer. Summer has peaches and berries, baseball and outdoor concerts, cocktails on the roof, and fireflies and picnics. Joie de vivre at it’s finest!! This past week I managed to go on a beautiful hike with the UCLA alumni group, go to my first Nationals game, and go to a phenomenal DC farmer’s market. Take a look:

 

Mmmh!!! Seriously some of the best white peaches I’ve had in a very very long time. Sweet, juicy, and perfectly ripe – just what you dream of in a summer peach.

And a hike at the beautiful Great Falls Park with one of my best friends!

…the only problem with all of the wonderful summer activities?? IT’S WAYYYY TO FREAKIN HOT!!! Folks, I’m seriously struggling here. Struggles. This past week was rough – I almost didn’t make it through. Can we talk for a second about the humidity here? Ok, I know it has always been this bad, but I moved to California, got used to perfection, and am ruined for life. California gets hot, but never humid. It’s lovely. True, walking around a farmer’s market and going on a morning hike in 100+ degree heat…not the smartest of things, but hey, you gotta live your life, right?! (just hopefully not passing out from heat stroke.)

The other beautiful thing I did this weekend? I made my great grandmother’s summer specialty – Speedy Fruit Pie. It’s kind of like a cobbler, but less involved, and still oh so perfectly summer. You dot the baking dish with butter, make your batter, pour it on the bottom- crazy, I know (I always have to read that part of the recipe twice), then pile on two cups of sweet, juicy summer fruit of your choice, and bake it! …Again, turing the oven on to 350 degrees in the hot summer, not ideal, but I did wait until after nightfall.  And if you make yours with dark sweet cherries, your hands won’t look pretty after pitting them, but it should turn out something beautifully scrumptious like this!

See how the crust baked up around the fruit?! Mmmmh! Thanks family!!! Serve it up with vanilla ice cream, or if you’re like me and forgot it at the store, then a dollop of tart yogurt will work surprisingly well. (Disclaimer: I grew up with my grandpa and mom making this all the time, and I haven’t cleared the unveiling of the recipe, so you’re gonna have to shoot me a message if you’re DYING to know!)

GO! EMBRACE THE SUMMER!…but don’t die in the heat!

***French phrase for fun!

Les vieilles recettes de famille sont toujours les meilleurs.
Old family recipes are always the best. :)

California and Southern Banana Coconut Cream Pie

I love California. I’ve lived all over the world, but California is AWESOME, and I’ve called it home longer than anywhere else, so I now consider myself a Californian. There! I said it! I chose a place to really call home! Wild!

How could I possibly choose between 7 different wonderful homes?! Well let me lay it out for ya…

  1. Where else can you wear flip-flops all year-round? California has GORGEOUS weather…we’re talking 60 degree “winters.” :)
  2. It’s hot, but not humid. You can straighten your hair and trust it will stay that way all day long.
  3. There aren’t that many bugs. We don’t have annoying little gnats that try to dive-bomb into your eyes and nose when you just want to enjoy a nice stroll.
  4. This one may sound trivial, but in California you can purchase any kind of alcohol 24/7. I mean, what if it’s a Sunday, and you forgot to pick up some gin for that delicious mixed drink you’re taking to that party later?! …other states have restrictions! It’s crazy, and I say, it’s silent prohibition!
  5. They created Yogurtland and Trader Joe’s. You’re welcome.
  6. We have a breath-taking coast, beautiful beaches, and the laid-back beach culture that follows. :)

But then there are all the things I really do love about the East Coast too…

  1. They have seasons. I think the fall in Virginia is simply enchanting.
  2. There are epic summer thunder storms.
  3. They have FIREFLIES!!!! :D They are so magical! They make everything happy :)
  4. Their silent prohibition is a hard one to come back from, but the DC brunch culture is pretty darn fabulous.
  5. They created Great Harvest Bread Company.
  6. You can experience the beauty of the Cherry Blossom Festival!

And here’s where we come full-circle…I am a Californian, but I only truly feel at home with my southern food roots in the (south)east. I love grits, but most Californians have never heard of them, let alone tasted them! Then there’s boiled peanuts (<3), hushpuppies, fried okra, chess pie, and cream pies, liiiiiiiiike…

The Banana Coconut Cream Pie that I made for my parents before I moved out to the East Coast!

The recipe is from Joy the Baker’s new cookbook which I am in love with!!! It was a silky custard cream pie topped with luxurious whipped cream with a nice sweet crunch from the toasted coconut and delicious graham (isn’t that spelled weird?!) cracker-coconut crust!

**French phrase for fun:

J’adore la Californie, mais j’aime aussi la cuisine du sud. 

I love California, but I also love southern food.