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  • Super Easy Recipe: Strawberry Jam Pastry Tart


    Without really thinking about what I was going to do with it, I pulled a store-bought rolled pie crust out of the freezer and let it thaw. At dinner time, I had to decide what to make with the pie crust, and though I have a lot of apples, I really didn’t feel like making apple pie. So I decided to make individual pastry tarts instead. They’re really easy, and would be even easier if you have a square sheet of dough, or at least a sheet that holds together. I love Trader Joe’s products, and I’m really glad their frozen pie crust doesn’t have any hydrogenated oils, but I wish it wouldn’t unroll in pieces. If that does happen to you, just leave the dough sandwiched in the wax paper and push the pieces close together, then roll a rolling pin over the wax paper to fuse the pieces together again.

    Easy Jam Pastry Tarts
    Makes 8

    Strawberry Jam Tarts from @cfoblog

    1 pre-made pie crust
    1/2 cup jam (I used strawberry, but use whatever you have on hand)
    2 tablespoons heavy cream, half & half, milk, or egg wash
    2 tablespoons turbinado or other coarse sugar

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. Roll out the pie crust and use a pizza cutter to divide the dough into eight even pieces. Since my pie crust was round, I cut it into triangles, but rectangles would look lovely and might be easier to work with.

    3. On one side of each piece of dough, put 1 tablespoon of jam. Be sure to leave room at the edge for the crust to seal.

    4. Fold each piece of dough in half, covering the jam. Taking care not to squeeze the jam out, press the edges together. Press the tines of a fork along the edges to seal the tarts.

    5. Place tarts on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with cream or your preferred liquid (use what you have on hand). Sprinkle the tops with sugar.

    6. Bake the tarts for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool at least a little before serving, as the jam will be dangerously hot when you first remove the tarts from the oven.

    Note: I baked these in two batches in my toaster oven. They were better fresh, but the toasted leftovers made for a tasty breakfast the next morning. I think the baked pastries would freeze nicely, but I recommend making sure your dough is on the thicker side to prevent cracking.

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    Cauliflower, Raisins & Anchovies with Pasta


    I’ve been trying to serve less red meat and more fish, so I recently revamped this recipe, which contains a whole can of anchovies. Check out the notes after the recipe to see how I packed a bento the next day.

    Cauliflower, Raisins & Anchovies with Pasta
    Serves 4

    4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 head of cauliflower, broken into small florets
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 cup raisins
    1 cup hot water
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1 2-oz can oil-packed anchovies
    8 ounces dried tri-color rotini or other short pasta
    1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. In a large bowl or zip top bag, toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil and salt. Spread the cauliflower in a single layer on the baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes or until golden brown, turning the cauliflower over halfway through the cooking time.

    2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Also, combine the raisins and hot water in a small bowl.

    3. Drain the pasta, and set aside. In the same pot (in which you cooked the pasta) over medium heat, combine the can of anchovies (including the oil they’re packed in) and garlic. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, smash the anchovies, and cook until they form a paste. Add the pepper flakes and cook for two minutes.

    4. Drain the raisins. Add the cauliflower, raisins, and pasta to the anchovy mixture and toss until well combined. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

    Pasta Bento

    The above picture shows a bento I packed the next day, using a compartmented container from Easy Lunchboxes. The main compartment holds the pasta, topped by a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan. The smaller compartments hold a peeled and segmented clementine, and a mini pumpkin muffin. The leftover pasta is delicious cold, so it’s perfect for a brown-bag lunch.

    Tuna Avocado Salad (Super Easy Recipe)


    Since saving money is a priority around here, it’s hard to justify one of my favorite indulgences, Japanese food. At restaurants, it’s just crazy expensive to order high quality raw fish, whether it’s in sushi or sashimi form. So a while back, I started satisfying my cravings by buying my own fish at the Asian market, and serving it for dinner. Sometimes I make a Tuna Avocado Salad, and I love this version because it’s incredibly easy, and very adaptable.

    Tuna Avocado Salad

    Tuna Avocado Salad

    6 oz. sashimi-grade tuna
    1 ripe avocado
    2 tablespoons ponzu sauce (available in the Asian section of most markets, at least here in SoCal)

    1. Using a very sharp knife, dice the tuna into 1/2-inch cubes. (It’s important that your knife is sharp so that you don’t shred the fish.) Add to a medium size bowl.

    2. Dice the avocado into 1/2 cubes, using your favorite method. (Sometimes I like to dice it in the skin and scoop it out, sometimes I peel the skin off and then dice it. Do whatever works for you.) Add to the bowl with the tuna.

    3. Pour in the ponzu sauce and stir to combine, taking care not to mash the avocado. You may want to add more ponzu to taste.

    4. At this point, you can add any number of ingredients to enhance the flavor to your liking – some things to consider are grated fresh ginger, Sambal, chili flakes, hot sauce, or green onions. Once you’ve added all of the ingredients, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to serve. You can serve it over a bed of greens, maybe with some shredded carrots and boiled bean sprouts, for a complete one-dish meal.

    Recipe: Pastry Cream


    Pastry Cream from Chief Family OfficerPastry cream is an egg-based custard filling you can use in pies and other desserts. I made some yesterday for the Strawberry Trifle I’ll be putting together later today (recipe to come), and since I tweaked the recipe I used, I thought I would share it here. It’s actually really simple, and you can use a hand-mixer if you don’t have a stand mixer.

    Pastry Cream

    Makes 4 cups
    Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

    2 2/3 cups 1%, 2% or whole milk
    1 vanilla bean
    8 large egg yolks {save whites for another recipe}
    2/3 cup granulated sugar {I used organic}
    4 tablespoons corn starch
    4 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour

    1. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a medium saucepan. Add the vanilla bean pod and milk to the seeds, and heat over medium-high heat until just simmering. Whisk frequently to prevent the milk from curdling and sticking to the bottom of the pan.

    2. While the milk mixture is heating, combine the egg yolks, sugar, corn starch and flour in the bowl of your mixer. With the paddle attachment (or beaters), beat on high until the mixture has thickened and is pale yellow.

    3. Remove the vanilla bean pod. Transfer 1 cup of the milk mixture to a measuring cup. Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour the milk down the inside of the bowl. When the milk has fully incorporated into the egg mixture, pour the mixture into the milk in the pan. Cook the mixture over medium heat until thickened, whisking frequently to prevent clumping. The pastry cream is done when it forms a film over the back of a spoon.

    4. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and pour the hot pastry cream into the sieve. Do not force any clumps through the sieve. Remove the sieve, and directly cover the surface of the pastry cream with plastic wrap – this will prevent the cream from forming a skin. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

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    Homemade Caramel Sauce


    I’ve been perfecting an iced caramel coffee recipe, and the first ingredient is homemade caramel sauce. Unfortunately, this is one of those recipes that seems to fall more under the “art” than “science” category, although in actuality, it’s probably more science in the sense that certain chemical reactions have to take place in a precise manner. In practice, you’ll probably have to make caramel sauce a few times in order to get the flavor and texture you really like. Here’s my version:

    Homemade Caramel Sauce
    I know, I have to stop using the camera phone. Sorry about the fuzzy photo!

    Homemade Caramel Sauce
    makes approximately one cup

    2 to 4 tablespoons water
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter

    1. To the bottom of a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, add just enough water to coat the bottom. Add the sugar. Heat the sugar over medium high heat until the sugar water bubbles. You can swirl the pan, but do not stir. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the sugar mixture thickens and turns golden. You’ll need to keep a close eye on it as the line between golden and burnt is a thin one.

    2. Stir in the heavy cream (be careful because the sauce will foam). Stir in the butter until it’s melted and cook one minute. Remove from heat.

    3. Immediately transfer to a storage jar – as you can see from the picture, I’ve been using a measuring cup but a mason jar would be lovely. Cover and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

    Note: Because the sauce foams when you add the cream and butter, be sure to use a pan with high sides compared.

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    Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips


    Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips
    As you can see, I forgot to take a picture before we started eating!

    I baked a couple of things yesterday, and Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips was one of them. I adapted my original recipe for Classic Banana Bread, and reduced the sugar, subbed in some whole wheat flour, and baked it in cake form to maximize the crunchy top, which is absolutely one of my favorite things in the world to eat.

    Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips

    1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
    1 1/3 cups sugar
    4 eggs
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    6 ripe bananas, mashed
    1 cup fair trade chocolate chips

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 baking pan and set aside.

    2. In a small bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and salt, and stir to mix well.

    3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar, and mix for five minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla and bananas. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

    4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

    This recipe is freezer friendly. I recommend wrapping individual servings tightly in plastic wrap, putting the individually wrapped servings in a zip top freezer bag, and squeezing out as much air as possible before putting the bag(s) in the freezer.