Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Recipe Repost: Tomato Basil Tart with Sweet Balsamic Reduction

Summer just gives me hankerings for tomatoes. Anyone with me?

Either cookied, in salads, or just to snack on-- I've got tomatoes on my mind. In honor of this summer fruit, I thought I'd share one of my favorite savory tart recipes that I created when I was still blogging on Yumology. This tomato tart is satisfying and delicious, but also very healthy.

More power to the tomatoes.
Tomato Basil Tart
*serves 6-8 on a 12″ tart dish
Cornmeal Crust (adapted from Ellie Krieger)
1 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cubed
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp cold water
Preheat oven to 375ºF
1. Combine cornmeal, flour, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Incorporate butter and oil by adding and pulsing until mixture resembles crumbly and small pebbles. While food processor is on, stream in cold water until a loose dough is formed.
2. On a 12″ tart dish, press in cornmeal dough to form a 1/8″ thick crust around the sides and bottom. Cover with aluminum foil and fill dish with dry beans or rice to weigh it down. Bake for 10 minutes, remove foil and weight, and then bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Change oven temperature to 400ºF.

Tomato Basil Tart Filling
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 3/4 tbsp 
1 tbsp white truffle oil
3 fresh garlic cloves, minced 
 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
 3 medium sized tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper
1. In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp white truffle oil and minced garlic (to infuse the oils). Mix and set aside.
2. In a medium pan,  heat 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and add the sliced onions. Add a pinch of salt and cook on medium-low heat until translucent (about 5-6 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Use a brush to thinly coat the tart shell with the garlic oil. Pour any remaining oil and garlic on the crust and spread. Layer 1/4 of the mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top. Spread the onions evenly over the tart, layer another fourth of the cheeses, and cover with the chopped basil. Add another fourth of the mozzarella and parmesan cheese then layer the sliced tomatoes on the tart (overlapping if necessary). Add remaining cheese, light sprinkling of salt and pepper, and drizzle the 3/4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over the tart. Bake, uncovered, at 400º F for 30 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and tomatoes have wilted. Garnish with extra basil if desired.

Sweet Balsamic Reduction
*makes about 1/3 cup (his was more than enough for the tart so I saved the leftovers in a container to eat with meat dishes, fruit, etc. in the near future).
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp white sugar
1. In a small sauce pot, add the balsamic vinegar and cook on medium heat until it reaches a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low (making sure it does not boil) and stir occasionally. When vinegar reduces by half, add sugars and stir to combine. Continue to cook until reduction is thick, syrupy and coats the back of a spoon.
2. With a spoon, drizzle over tomato tart.

My Household Toys

Yesterday, I had a day that involved crafting, baking, and some bridal shower prepping (for a friend). I realized that I had used all of my favorite toys in my house. Hmmm...what do these things say about me? Haha.

My Household Toys
1. Dyson Animal Vacuum: Our biggest super hero in the war against dog hair in this house.
2. Kitchen Aid Professional 6 Quart Stand Mixer: I use this nearly everyday! It's definitely run several marathons if you consider creaming butter, eggs, and sugar running.
3. Ryobi Mini Power Sander: I threw in the towel for sanding projects down with my hands. This power sander is a dream.
4. Cricut Die Cutting Machine: I don't know how I survived crafting without one of these before! My friend loaned me hers last summer for wedding prep and I fell in love. I was stoked when I found the one I own at JoAnn's on Clearance for $75!

What's funny is if you handed me a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, a Skip It, and a Neopet (obviously a 1990's child), I would probably still be just as excited.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wear What You Eat

Wear this cheerful Zinke Beach House Romper in a fun Orchid Chevron print and eat these bright and colorful Funfetti Sugar Cookies by Chez Cateylou.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Earl Grey & Salted Caramel Frozen Custard

I always have a hankering for floral and tea flavors outside of my actual tea cup. Whether it be lavender, bergamot, rose, or earl grey-- you can count me in. I especially love these flavors in the form of gelato and ice cream. In fact, my husband always can tell that I will surely fall in love with an ice cream shop if they carry flavors of the sort.
About three months ago, Henry picked up a carton of honey-lavender gelato from a local market. The same carton has been in our freezer, and is only about half-way empty-- not because it's not good, but because I love it too much! I nearly died of pure bliss and satisfaction after my first bite. I could seriously eat the whole thing in one sitting, but because I would still like to fit into my skinny jeans, I hold off on that temptation. Instead, I have a little spoonful ever once in awhile. These small bites keep the joy fresh, our freezer stocked with good gelato, and my waistline from O.D'ing in regret. Win, win, win.
I've been telling Henry that I would like to purchase an ice cream maker. The possibilities and flavors going through my mind are out of control. However, we don't have one yet and I didn't want to wait to try out a flavor combination (also, I had a lot of egg yolks I needed to use after a macaron-making-spree). I followed David Lebovitz method on How to Make Ice Cream Without a Machine and created a recipe that is only slightly modified from his Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe. I about doubled the amount of egg yolks in the recipe making this truly a frozen custard.
Although ice crystals are nearly unavoidable without a machine, this frozen custard blew my socks off. The flavors are divine! Earl grey never disappoints me with it's deep tea taste with a bit of citrus and the salted caramel adds a nice smokey, salty, and sweet layer of flavor (SO GOOD). Since there is a lot of cream and egg yolk, the ice crystals are hardly noticeable once the frozen custard starts to melt on your tongue.

It did take awhile to make, and would probably wait till I get my ice cream maker to create another batch of this goodness...but I have to say that patience definitely paid off after I tasted this creamy frozen treat.
Early Grey & Salted Caramel Frozen Custard
modified and adapted from this recipe
makes about one quart

1 cup whole milk
 pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 earl grey tea bags
2 cups heavy cream
10 large egg yolks
1/2 cup salted caramel sauce (I used this recipe)

1. Heat the milk, salt, sugar, and vanilla extract in a saucepan. Stir continuously to avoid burning; once the mixture has reached a low boil, turn off the heat. Empty the contents of two tea bags into the milk and soak the remaining three in it. Cover the pot, remove from to, and infuse for about 20 minutes. Make sure to  squeeze any tea out of the tea bags at the end to ensure a good concentration of earl grey flavor.
2. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.
4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool,then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.
6. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
7. When the ice cream is almost frozen, drizzle the warm salted caramel all over it. Stir and continue to freeze.

 ** Note: If you don't have an ice cream maker, skip step 6 and follow these directions from David Lebovitz:
Making Ice Cream/Frozen Custard Without A Machine

1. Prepare your ice cream mixture, then chill it over an ice bath.
2. Put a deep baking dish, or bowl made of plastic, stainless steel or something durable in the freezer, and pour your custard mixture into it.
3. After forty-five minutes, open the door and check it.
As it starts to freeze near the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir it vigorously with a spatula or whisk. Really beat it up and break up any frozen sections. Return to freezer.
4. Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously as it’s freezing. If you have one, you can use a hand-held mixer for best results, or use a stick-blender or hand-held mixer.
But since we’re going low-tech here, you can also use just a spatula or a sturdy whisk along with some modest physical effort.
5. Keep checking periodically and stirring while it freezes (by hand or with the electric mixer) until the ice cream is frozen. It will likely take 2-3 hours to be ready.
6. When the ice cream is almost frozen, drizzle the warm salted caramel all over it. Stir and continue to freeze.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Why 30 Is Not the New 20

A girlfriend of mine encouraged me to watch this video of Meg Jay (clinical psychologist), for Ted Talks,  discussing the significance of the age of "20's".

If you are in your twenties and have the time, I highly recommend you also watch this video, too! Dr. Jay presents the importance of why individuals in this age group should avoid the reckless, thoughtless, and careless choices. Life decisions and habits made during these times are a huge precedent for lifestyle and qualities of one's 30's, 40's and beyond. 

I loved this as it reinforced everything I try to work towards in my life. Plus, I get geeky with information and facts related to psychological development. :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Basket Case

I'm not a friend of clutter. In my home, I try (key word: try) to have a place for everything in hopes of minimizing any possible clutter. However, sometimes there just isn't a proper spot for miscellaneous items so they just end up mixed into drawers that once had meaningful purposes.   Well, it's too bad that this quick attempt to de-clutter just leads to more clutter behind the front of a drawer surface! Incognito messes are the worst.

Thankfully, there are solutions to this problem: baskets! I adore storage baskets for large spaces  to serve as a particular spot for certain items, or just a brief "hang-around" location for miscellaneous items until more time permits for me to properly put them away-- this is especially handy when picking up the house right before company comes over (am I right?).

Currently, I am searching for sets of the right basket for my walk-in closet. I am always spotting cute and functional baskets for bargains at places like Home Goods, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls. Occasionally, Cost Plus has great sales on their basket selections.  These are where most of the baskets that we have in our living room and office were purchased.

Looking for some basket inspiration? Here are some lovely finds I have gathered. From modern and chic to simple and basic-- there are lots of options for anyone's basket case needs.
A Baket Case

Source (from top left to right): 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 //

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Collaborative Sugar High

A few weeks ago, my good friend Adriel Callao, one of the photographers from Love Story Pictures, generously worked together with me on a dessert table and style shoot. I wanted to create a tasty spread of plenty of treats made with love and joy. I am eager to start working on more collections of small and big dessert items-- so, I decided to showcase some of my favorites! The theme of this dessert table is simple, colorful, and whimsical. The featured items are a mix of classic and vintage flavors with modern twists. Also, since a dessert table just isn't as elegant and charming without the appearance of French macarons, I made sure to include plenty of them. Oui Oui!

Here are the fantastic photos (all thanks to Adriel) for you to take a peek. These were taken at our if a few framed photos/parts of the couch/rug show up, you will know why. ;) Enjoy!

P.S. I would like to thank all of the friends and family that came to eat these desserts! Thank you for your support, love, and hungry bellies. It's always nice to have a network of loved ones who are eager to take sweets I create off our kitchen table. :) xo.
Espresso Panna Cotta with Hazelnut-chocolate Sauce
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Blueberry Coulis
Assorted French Macarons: Salted Caramel, Blackberry, Lemon, and Mocha
Hand painted fondant cake with handmade sugar flowers: Top Tier: Snickerdoodle Cake; Bottom Tier: Vanilla with Grapefruit Curd

S'mores cake: Spiced yellow cake with chocolate ganache and toasted meringue frosting
Petite Cheesecake Tarts with Fresh Berries
Whiskey Pecan Pie Bars
Key Lime Shortbread Bars
Mini Banana Cream Pies with Chocolate Ganache & Salted Caramel
Assorted Mini Cupcakes: Lemon-Coconut and Strawberry-Vanilla Cream.
Sometimes you don't realize that you match your desserts!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013

In the Middle

The statement, "Change is not easy." seems to be an understatement this week.

In life, "to change" yourself refers to the act of transforming, or transferring, one's original state-- whether it be an a physical aspect, mental or emotional mindset, or job/role in relation to others and/or society.  As creatures of habit, by nature, most of us are well aware that it takes a great deal of effort to make a change in life effective, smooth, and positive all at the same time. It is common for others to provide some sort of support or encouragement that usually involve the phrase, "It will take time." Typically, time does help alleviate uncomfortable change-- however, when paired with a plan of action to move towards positivity the movement of time seems to assist in the settling of the change.

Back in January, leaving my role as a teacher, after almost six years of experience plus years of schooling, seemed to be the climax in the plot of my life (at least so far). Prior to the decision, months of anxiety, thoughtful decision making, physical illness, and lots of prayer slowly acted as the rising action. I've mentioned this before, but I don't really have a problem saying it again-- putting in my resignation was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life so far. To resign as a teacher was more than just quitting a job-- it was more like capping off a huge part of who I was. However, as challenging as it was to hurdle over, leaving my classroom and school behind was an essential step I needed to take towards emotional and physical recovery. It was like ripping off a bandaid that is so tightly adhered to a bad wound-- you know it will hurt tremendously, but at the end of it just had to be done.

As the weeks and months passed and my students and school continued on without me, I truly felt encouraged. I missed relationships and the children, but I was relieved to know that my life was really getting better and putting my career behind me didn't cause as big of an earthquake as I thought it would. In fact, my health continued to improve drastically and I had time to work on hobbies and other passions all while growing more into my role as a wife. Additionally, an admittance into The Art Institute of California to pursue a degree in Baking and Patisserie also came into view. I felt extremely blessed! This life of mine was just moving along and I could feel the change start to smoothly transition into something I was comfortable and proud of. Time really did make a difference. I had, and have, so much to look forward to.

As the plot starts to wind down, the climax has passed, and what seems to be the resolution starts to move on in-- I really felt like I was in the right place in life. However, this confidence, started to get a quite shaken during this last weekend and into this week.

Preparing for the start of my first quarter en route to being a pastry chef includes finalizing transferrable courses and testing out of some. This week, I was preparing a speech to give in front of an Effective Speaking course at the Art Institute in hopes of passing and not having to take it (thus saving me hundreds of dollars when we all know I can speak in front of people...that's just what I did for most of my adult life).  In the meantime, while I am preparing to speak to a crowd of strangers, the last week of school for my former students and colleagues has arrived. Since I have a hard time avoiding social media, I see pictures, statuses, comments-- you name it-- relating to end of the year field trips, classroom cleaning, graduating 5th graders, and the excitement for summer break. In the middle of the week, I found myself feeling like I was right in the middle of my past and my future-- I peaked into my new culinary ventures and looked back at a world that seemed so close to home, yet so far away.  Initially, I felt some interesting emotions, but didn't think anything of it since...well, time  had passed, changes had been made, and there was nothing to be emotional about. Well, too bad it wasn't that simple.

Two nights ago, I was practicing my speech in front of my husband. My content was great, but my delivery needed some work. I realized that it had been awhile since I had to prepare such a speech in front of people-- but I kept reminding myself that I used to do this all the big deal, right? Except, after stumbling over my words repeatedly during a fifth rehearsal, I lost it and broke down into tears. Yes, I was frustrated, but this moment was deeper than that. I suddenly realized that it wasn't just the speech I was upset about. In that moment, I felt completely lost as an individual and person. The thought of losing my finesse in regards to public speaking made me feel as if I was losing more and more of the professional educator I had so much pride in being. I felt like a piano out of tune that had lost the melody that so strongly defined it before.

I sat on the floor of my living room as my poor husband tried to console me. A flood of emotions filled me up as I thought about how much I missed parts of myself as a teacher. Although, truth be told-- the burnout was nothing to be desired again-- I missed how important I felt doing my job. That may seem quite egotistical, but I don't intend it to be. As a hard-working teacher, I was driven with strong motivation to help encourage, lead, and foster young children with the skills necessary to become more brighter and better individuals-- something that not everyone can do. Teachers do this everyday and anyone who thinks that running a classroom is just arts, crafts, and circle time is a fool. I realized that I missed being a part of this tremendously important group of people. I missed shaping lives and having their lives shape me.

What will I be now as a career woman? A future pastry chef? The pride I take in this is strong, but it really is such a different kind. I sat there realizing that as a pastry chef, I would never be as meaningful and important as a teacher is to a child. I hope that my creations and my work truly do move people and I can help be there during life's greatest moments to celebrate and build memories. Although this is something to be confident in, it just won't be the same. Truthfully, it breaks my heart a little bit. It's also so complex to leave a profession that I put so much time and my life in to move to a new career where I am starting back at square one-- it's humbling, but challenging.

With that said, I have no intentions of retreating in my move forward at in the field of baking and pastry. I can't wait to explore new horizons and allow the passionate seed I have in me to grow and prosper in ways I never expected or imagined. I just have to accept this backlash of making the change in my life and move on. Transitional phases are tough!

In the end, I picked myself off the living room room and carried on with my speech preparation. Last night, I confidently presented it and feel quite certain that I will be able to check that class off my list. It just felt like it took a lot out of me to get there.

A good friend and former colleague told me, "You will always be a teacher. Your students will always think back to 4th grade and remember you, always, as their teacher. You won't lose that place. Later on, you'll be a teacher to your children, too. You can't just erase the significance of being an educator from your life." She's right. It's just a little hard. Even though I know that everything is going to be just fine and glorious as I find myself in the middle, of the past and future, it's just a little hard.