vanilla bean & meyer lemon chess pie

Vanilla Bean & Meyer Lemon Chess Pie | daisysworld.net

Citrus season reaches its peak in winter.  Isn’t that great timing?  Just as Mother Nature is dumping massive amounts of snow on many parts of the country, here in California, she is providing an abundance of tangerines, oranges, grapefruits, and lemons so that we can bask in the bright, citrusy sunshine even on the coldest days of winter.  To me, nothing says summer-in-the-middle-of-winter more than meyer lemons.

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strawberry rhubarb mini-tarts

Strawberry Rhubarb Mini-Tarts

I don’t often repeat things on the blog, but I love the concept of tarts made with puff pastry so much that I made another version, this time with a strawberry and rhubarb filling. These simple and easy to make tarts come together quickly once the sheet of frozen puff pastry is thawed, so these mini-tarts are great if you’re pinched for time. The best part is that they’re absolutely delicious. I love the flaky layers of dough as the base for tart rhubarb, sweet strawberries, and an almond crumble flavored with a hint of cinnamon. There’s also a hidden layer of orange-scented cream cheese on the bottom that gives these mini-tarts a touch of creaminess.

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black velvet apricot and rhubarb tart

Black Velvet Apricot and Rhubarb Tart

One of the things I do to find food inspiration is to go to Whole Foods Market’s produce section. It’s big, brightly lit, and full of the most perfect and beautiful fruits and vegetables. The prices can be a bit steep, but I love perusing its aisles looking for interesting ingredients. There is always one aisle that has something different, at least to me. Over the last year, I’ve found red currants, gooseberries, passionfruit, and other items not commonly found in Southern California grocery stores. And, did I mention that I have a crush on one of the produce guys there? Continue reading

persimmon galette

Persimmon Galette

Persimmons have always looked rather unappealing to me – bruised, overly ripe, and way too soft, as if they would burst and ooze at the slightest touch. Sometimes, their skins had black streaks which made them appear almost rotten. I could never understand why my Mom liked them so much. As a teenager, I vividly remember countless times when she would lovingly offer me some of its dark orange, almost gelatinous flesh cradled in her hands, and how I would rebuff her each time. Being the bratty teen that I was, I would crinkle my nose, make that “face” that signifies utter disgust and total disinterest, and walk away with my hands folded across my chest, without ever tasting it. She seemed almost disappointed that she couldn’t share her enjoyment of this “weird” fruit with me, yet, somehow, she also had a look of relief that I now assume meant, “Yippee, I get to eat all of this luscious fruit by myself.” She would always cut the persimmon in half and expertly take spoonfuls of fruit, leaving the peel almost completely intact, her hands sticky and dripping with orange-colored juice.

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blackberry galette with mascarpone and orange marmalade

I made my first galette a couple of weeks ago, and it has quickly become one of my favorite desserts.  I love its simplicity and rustic quality, along with its versatility. Short on time this past Labor Day, I opted to make this quick “semi-homemade” Blackberry Galette. Instead of pastry dough, I used a sheet of ready-to-bake puff pastry.  The light and flaky puff pastry encased a trio of ingredients – blackberries, mascarpone cheese, and orange marmalade. The tart blackberries made a nice contrast to the slightly sweet orange marmalade and rich mascarpone cheese. It was a simple dessert, yet very pretty and full of flavor. Served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this galette was a perfect end to a nice holiday dinner.

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plum and peach galette

A galette is a French round, flat cake made made with pastry or yeast dough and topped with either a savory or sweet filling, such as fruit, jam, nuts, meat and cheese. It is quicker and simpler to make than a pie or tart.  Its deliberately free-formed shape eliminates the need for a pie tin or tart pan. A galette only requires a bottom layer of dough, so there’s no crimping or latticework, often done to finish pies. The dough is simply rolled out, the filling placed in the center, and the excess pastry pulled toward the middle to hold everything in.  It’s meant to be rustic and irregularly shaped, not at all fussy nor fancy.

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hazelnut frangipane and nutella-dark chocolate ganache tart and another giveaway

Hazelnut Frangipane and Nutella Chocolate Ganache Tart

I can’t believe that it’s been over three months since I’ve baked anything with chocolate.  How could I have let that happen? To remedy this dire situation, I adapted my Fig, Almond Frangipane, and Orange Tart to make this nutty tart. I recently received a complimentary bag of hazelnut flour from Bob’s Red Mill to try out, so I took this opportunity to use it in both the crust and the frangipane.  Continue reading

fig, almond frangipane, and orange tart

Right off the bat, I will say that this is one of the best things I have ever baked in my entire life. While I cannot take credit for developing this tart recipe on my own, I can acknowledge those who did – Paule Caillat, renowned French cook and cooking instructor for the tart shell and Anita Chu from Dessert First Girl for the frangipane. I did add my own tweaks to the recipe as well, as you will see. You might be wondering how I came about putting this recipe together. Well, read on and I will tell you the story of how this lovely tart came to be.

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baked banana wontons


I bought a small jar of  Babbi hazelnut cream  on sale at a gourmet Italian grocery store a couple of weeks ago and I finally got a chance to use it. It is a spread, like Nutella, except that it does not contain any cocoa.  I used a small bit of it to make these banana wontons.  They’re super easy to make and no “recipe” is needed.  Let your creativity flow and make your own filling.  You may substitute Nutella, chocolate, peanut butter for the hazelnut cream or give the combination of cream cheese and strawberry preserves a try.  Better yet, how about pairing mascarpone and roasted figs with a drizzle of orange honey? Oh, the possibilities…..
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banana tarte tatin


Tarte Tatin is a French upside-down tart primarily made with apples, and caramelized with butter and sugar until golden brown. It is usually made in a skillet and put over the stove top first to start the process of caramelizing the sugar and then finished in the oven. In this shortcut version from the October 2011 issue of Bon Appétit magazine, the apples are replaced by bananas and then baked in ovenproof crème brûlée dishes. I added some orange zest since I’ve been on such an orange kick lately and I knew that it would enhance the sweetness of the caramel.

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chocolate ganache and raspberry tart


I was dragging all day last Sunday, waiting for Chris to get home from his camping trip.  My iMac’s hard drive crashed so I couldn’t blog or surf the ‘net.  My big activity of the morning was making breakfast.  I had the leftover filling of goat cheese, pepperoni, and chives from the stuffed zucchini blossoms so I made an omelette with it for breakfast.  While waiting for the football games to start, I needed something to do so I decided to practice my crust-making skills.  I really liked the pâte sablée crust I made a couple of weeks back, so I got to work on making it again.

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roasted fig and mascarpone tart with candied walnuts

Time really does fly when you’re having fun…and what fun I’ve had this past week!  From celebrating my wedding anniversary to transforming my backyard into an urban vegetable garden to making some yummy desserts, this staycation has definitely been a blast!!

One luxury of my time off has been to indulge in longer baking sessions than I would normally have time for during a regular work week.  As such, I was able to develop this tart recipe.  This was a perfectly sweeet ending to my weeklong staycation.

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peanut butter pie for chris

A few days ago, Chris requested that I make something with peanut butter.  Since I was in the mood to make some kind of dessert, I decided to make a peanut butter pie.  I Googled “peanut butter pie” and the results were a little puzzling.  The internet was buzzing with many  food bloggers making peanut butter pies “for  Mikey.”  After further research, I learned that last month prominent food blogger Jennie Perillo’s husband, Mikey, suffered a heart attack and died leaving her to raise their young children alone.  To honor Mikey, Jennie wrote a touching tribute on her blog, part of which I share with you.

For those asking what they can do to help my healing process, make a peanut butter pie this Friday and share it with someone you love. Then hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.

~ Jennie Perillo, food blogger

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Homemade Pop Tarts

Kellogg’s Pop Tarts have been a convenient breakfast treat for many Americans growing up.  Adults turn nostalgic at the mere mention of them, usually recounting days when they ate their favorite flavor on the bus on the way to school.  I know it may be shock for many of you, but I didn’t have my first Pop Tart until after I got married.  Chris used to love the Chocolate Pop Tarts and he would eat them with ice cream.  I tried one, but I didn’t really care for the dry, cardboard-like pastry covered in super sweet icing. A couple of days ago, while perusing one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen written by Deb PerelmanI stumbled on her entry for homemade pop tarts.  Those pop tarts looked so cute, especially naked without that coat of icing. I knew that I had to make them this weekend.

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