Monday, April 26, 2010

Goodbye, To Do list!

So at the beginning of the month I created my To-Do-Before-I-go-back-to-work list. My goal was to get 90% done. Now that I only have a week left before I go back to work, I've retired my list, with only 54% of the tasks completed. I've decided I need to spend every possible minute with my little man before I have to go back to work. I have plenty of time to get everything done I want to get done eventually, but spending time with JJ is far more important right now. I'm sure I'll still get a few things done here and there while he's napping, like regular house cleaning and laundry and "fun" stuff like that, but the big projects, I'm setting aside for another day. Plus, we are getting our backyard completely re-done which is a HUGE project that trumps most of these other ones, so I figure it all evens out! :0)

I did actually get quite a bit done though:
*Deep clean and re-organize the kitchen DONE
*Clean window ledges and windows NOT DONE
*Find an area rug to put in the entryway that Gary and I both like NOT DONE
*Re-organize craft closet DONE
*Clean out filing cabinet DONE
*Paint hallway and floor heaters (I'm going to see if my sister will help me with this during her spring break next week) DONE, except for the floor heaters
*Polish silver my mom gave me and re-organize the china cabinets DONE
*Paint the family room and fireplace (not likely going to happen during maternity leave, but hopefully by the end of the year?) NOT DONE
*Organize the garage NOT DONE
*Go through all of our clothes and see what we can get rid of and re-organize our dressers and closet DONE
*Dig up the planters in our front yard and make them look nicer because they don't look nice now NOT DONE

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fruit Tart

Warning: A lack of humbleness regarding culinary skills to follow :0)

I'm sure I'm pretty good at a lot of things, but I don't really think too much about it. I will, however, admit whole-heartedly that I am very good in the kitchen. I love to cook and bake and I am good at it. If I had to do it all over again, I would like to have gone to culinary arts school and be a great chef. Even now, as I watch shows like "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" and hear stories of people who have no restaurant experience running a successful restaurant, I think "I could do that!" I daydream of recipes and what I would put on my menu. I'm waiting for the call for submissions for the next season of "Ultimate Recipe Showdown". I'm not sure if I would win or not, but I think it would be fun to try. Even if I didn't win, I think it would almost be enough just to hear Chef Michael Psilakis say he liked my dish. (Though the $25,000 would definitely come in handy).

Anyway, this year, like most years, it is my responsibility to bring dessert for Easter dinner at my parent's. I decided that a fruit tart sounded really good, so I poked around a few recipe sites and through my vast array of cookbooks. I couldn't really find one in particular that struck my fancy, so I took a bit from here and a bit from there and came up with what turned out to be a delicious looking treat. Due to multiple requests, here is what I came up with (my notes for putting it all together are at the bottom):

Tart Shell (
  • 1/4 cup whole blanched almonds (about 1 1/4 ounces)
  • 1 cup plus two teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until light golden and fragrant, seven to 10 minutes. Let cool completely, then finely grind in a food processor. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until smooth and light, about one minute. Add almonds, egg yolk, and extract, and beat on medium speed until well combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture, beating until just combined to form a dough. Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap; pat into a flattened rectangle. Wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour or overnight.
  3. Reheat oven to 350 degrees. On a work surface that is lightly floured, roll out dough to a six-by-16-inch rectangle, about 3/8 inch thick. Fit into a four-by-13-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim flush with edge of pan. Prick bottom of dough all over with a fork. Chill until firm, about 15 minutes.
  4. Place tart pan on a baking sheet; bake until crust starts to brown around the edges, 13 to 14 minutes. (Dough will be slightly puffed in spots.) Transfer to a wire rack. Using a metal spatula, gently press on dough until it is smooth and flat. Let cool completely.
Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream filling (
  • 3 cups milk
  • Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
  • 8 yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened

In a 3 quart saucepot combine the milk and vanilla bean seeds. Combine the yolks and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sift the cornstarch onto a piece of wax or parchment paper.

Scald the milk. Meanwhile, beat the yolks and sugar until they lighten in color. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the cornstarch. Pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously to incorporate. Whisk the tempered egg mixture back into the remaining hot milk, and place the pot back on the heat. Cook on medium high heat, stirring constantly but gently with the whisk, until the mixture comes to the boil. Reduce heat and let it boil for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and gently whisk in the butter. Strain the pastry cream into a bowl, place plastic wrap right down on the surface, and chill completely. This can be made up to 3 days ahead.

Melt 1/4 cup of milk chocolate chips with 1/2 tablespoon of milk in the microwave (or however you want to melt it) and pour a layer over the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Put in the fridge for about 10 minutes until the chocolate has reset. Pour the pastry cream over the chocolate. Decorate with your choice of sliced fruit in whatever pattern you want. Put in the fridge for one hour or overnight until the fruit has set in the filling.

*The tart shell recipe says to use a rectangle tart pan, but I used a 10" round one and it worked out just fine.
**Vanilla beans are kinda expensive ($10 or $12 for 2 beans!), but the flavor is ridiculous! I'm sure you could substitute vanilla extract which most people have on hand. I've heard one teaspoon of extract is the equivalent to one bean, but I've also heard that one teaspoon is the equivalent to only 1 inch of bean and vanilla beans are usually much longer than 1 inch, so you'd have to play around with the measurments.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Makin' Progress!!!

So a few days ago I finished my kitchen cleaning and organizing and I am SOOO much happier where everything is now! I have a decent size kitchen, but not really a whole lot of storage space (eventually we'll remodel and I'll get more storage, but a $50,000 kitchen remodel isn't even close to being on our radar right now!) Anyway, now I feel like I am getting much better use out of the space I have.
*side note: I originally put "out of my space" in that sentence. Is it just me, or do you think of MySpace everytime you hear that phrase, even if it has nothing to do with social media? But, I digress...

Today, I finished organizing my office and craft closet which was a much bigger undertaking than I had anticipated! Just when I thought I'd finished putting away all my scrapbook paper, I'd find a whole new stack! I have so much scrapbooking stuff! Now when I look in my closet, I finally understand why Gary gives me "that look" whenever I come home from JoAnn's or Michael's! But now that I have everything organized, I know exactly what I have and I don't think I'll have to make any crafty trips anytime soon. (You're welcome, hunny!)
So if anyone needs craft supplies, come check out my closet. I have tons!
I still have quite a few things left on my to do list, but I feel so proud for getting two big things done!