February 28, 2014

Pear & Chocolate Tart

I'm moving everything from the cooking closet [my other blog that has been inactive for over a year] over here to MN365. I'm decluttering. Hope it's not too annoying! (-:


Waaaaay back when I lived in NC, my birthday buddy, MG made a very similar tart to this one. She inspired me, but then I couldn't find a recipe and I was too lazy to ask, so I made this one up from a couple of sources.
chocolate pear tart
Me? Making things up? Control your shock. (-:

You want to start with a shell, I like pie crust. Here's a recipe I've used in the past, but this time I went with gluten free recipe and it was a little dense compared to what I usually like, so that needs some work. Is that a gluten free problem? Or just an amy problem? Bake it in a tart pan and let it cool.
chocolate and pear
Then make your ganache. I live in an area that has minimal fancy-schmancy grocery stores and I'm on a budget so I went with Ghirardelli because a) I could find it, b) I could afford it and c) I like it. I did a mixture of two parts dark chocolate [the bar] and one part milk chocolate [the chips].
Add heavy cream and gentle heat in your faux double boiler [aka your glass bowl over a pot of gently simmering water]. Yes, you're technically supposed to heat the cream first and then add the chocolate, but I'm always putting the cart before the horse and it worked out. Which is probably why the cart keeps getting in front. Oops. Low and slow, once the chocolate melts and becomes glossy and beautiful, spread it in your cooled crust.
ganache in a crust
And you can top it with a bit of salt if you're into that kind of thing. I am.

Prepare the pears!
Get them nekkid, cut them in half, and take out the core! Do it or forever regret your negligence of pear-dom. Basically, what I'm saying is peel your pears, halve them and carefully remove the core because it's tough.
vanilla bean paste
I may have over-lightened this photo. We all have our days...

Next, you're going to poach your pears. Start with water, sugar, and vanilla [I used vanilla bean paste, I'm in love] in your pot. Bring it to a boil, turn off the heat, add your pears, swish it around a bit and cover the pot and let it come to room temperature.
vanilla simple syrup
vanilla simple syruppoached pears
Once you've let them cool, you'll have lovely vanilla-infused, perfectly cooked pears to slice up and place upon your ganache.
poached pears
Arrange the pears starting at the outside and working your way in. It's a fancy look with minimal effort.
chocolate pear tart
This is the point where I made a drastic mistake. I used about half my pears that I'd poached thinking that it was lovely this way. I was wrong. LAYER it up! You want a whole heckuva lot of pears on that baby...otherwise you won't be able to taste them. That is sad. You'll have to add the extra pears to your slice later like I did.
chocolate pear tart
I prefer this tart cold, directly from the refrigerator. That may be a personal preference, but I'm pretty sure I'm right.
the perfect bite.jpg
And that's the perfect bite.

Pear and Chocolate Tart
For one 9-inch tart pan

Use your favorite pie crust in your tart pan or pie dish and bake it. Let it cool while you prepare the ganache and pears.

  • 4 oz [one bar] Semi-sweet Chocolate
  • 2 oz, or 1/4 cup Milk Chocolate
  • 1/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
Cook, stirring gently in a bowl placed over a pot of simmering water [the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl until the chocolate is melted. Spread the ganache in your prepared shell.

  • 1 1/2 cups Water
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla Bean Paste [or Vanilla Extract]
  • 3-4 Pears, peeled and halved
Choose pears that are firm, but not hard for this recipe. When I eat pears plain I like them to be super soft. Those aren't the ones for this. Bring your water, sugar and vanilla to a boil. If you're using extract, don't add it until you add the pears. Once your liquid comes to a boil, remove from heat and add in your pears, cover and let cool for about 30 minutes or so. Thinly slice the pears and arrange on top of the ganache. 

Serve cool. 

February 27, 2014

Hot Sauce and Blue Cheese

I'm moving everything from the cooking closet [my other blog that has been inactive for over a year] over here to MN365. I'm decluttering. Hope it's not too annoying! (-:


I rarely crave meat, but when I get super-duper hungry I crave hot wings.

When I actually think about eating them, the craving is gone. It's one of those mind tricks I play on myself. "MMMmmmmmm hot wings sound amazing." I then spend 12 seconds thinking about hot wings, "EEEEeeeeewwwww bony chicken wings in my mouth."

Why hot wings? I HAVE NO IDEA. It's not like I ate hot wings very often in my former life. [Does the phrase "in my former life" make anyone else think of the club scene from Coming to America (1:12)?]

I blame the blue cheese for my hot wing cravings. I heart blue cheese.

OK, down to business, let's start with tofu. Extra firm, please.
Drain it and crumble it with a fork, I do this in the box.
Now is the time for patience, grasshopper. In a non-stick pan heat some oil and put your crumbled tofu in.
Once the liquid from the tofu has evaporated and the tofu gets really brown you can dump the hot sauce on it and cook it some more.
DSC_0054.JPG DSC_0054.JPG
You're also going to be making a bit of blue cheese dressing.
I like to substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream, a little mayo and blue cheese.
The first time I ate these in a tortilla shell, sort of a taco, then I ate the left overs as a salad. Follow where your heart leads when it comes to eating this. Just remember, it's all about the hot sauce and the blue cheese.
A little avocado and lettuce never hurt anyone either. 

Hot Tofu with Blue Cheese Dressing

-One package of Extra Firm Tofu, drained and crumbled
-2 Tbsp Oil
Cook the tofu over medium-high heat until all the tofu has dried some and has browned on the edges. This will take about 20 minutes.

Hot Sauce
-1/4 cup Hot Sauce [Frank's is a good choice, if you're feeling choosy]
-2 Tbsp Butter, melted
-1 tsp Onion Powder
-1 tsp Garlic Powder
-1/2 tsp Salt
Combine throughly and pour over the cooked tofu. Continue cooking the tofu and hot sauce until it is bubbly and warm. Remove from heat.

Blue Cheese Dressing
-1/2 cup Sour Cream [or Greek yogurt]
-1/4 cup Mayonaise
-1 tsp Garlic Powder
-1-2 Tbsp White Vinegar
-1/2 cup Blue Cheese
Combine the sour cream, mayonnaise and garlic powder in a bowl, add enough vinegar to thin the sauce slightly. Stir in the blue cheese. I think this tastes better if you make it first and let it sit while you prepare the tofu and hot sauce.

February 26, 2014

GYST - 2. Exercise

This is part of my 2014 non-resolution-resolution to Get Your (my) Shit Together
I think I should probably call it my "Life Plan," but the 12-months of 2014 
seems more manageable than say, oh, the next 50 years.

  1. 1.
    activity requiring physical effort, carried out esp. to sustain or improve health and fitness.


Yeah. That physical effort thing.

To be perfectly honest, I heart exercise. I love to be sweaty. I love moving. I love feeling strong. I love feeling able. I just like it.

All those happy thoughts said, exercise is the first thing I dismiss off my list when I'm busy. WHYYYYY???
I think I ignore my need to move because it's easy. It's easy to say, "I don't need to change clothes if I watch a movie." Or, "I did just do ______ last Saturday." Or, "school is more important" rather than remembering that I'll be able to focus better, study harder, and sleep well if I exercise.

The sleep. Ahhhhh. When I'm getting my proper physical exertion on, my sleep is amazing. You know what I mean? I'm all sore and achy and when I fall into bed my mind is off and I'm out for 7 hours and 45 minutes. BOOM.

Apparently I'm using this post to convince myself to get down to business. [You may be thinking, "Amy, wasn't that the point?" You would be correct Friends.]
Last Fall I was on a long drive, contemplating my navel life and I came to the realization: I like running.


No, really, WHUT? So, so, sooooo much of my history has been: "I HATE TO RUN." "RUNNING SUCKS." "I RUN BECAUSE MY COACH MAKES ME." "I WILL ONLY RUN [AS AN ADULT] IF SOMEONE IS CHASING ME AND THEY'LL PROBABLY CATCH ME BECAUSE I'M SLOW." When I started running a couple of years ago, I dreaded it. You know what part I hate about running? The getting into shape part. Weird. [not actually weird] You know the time when you struggle and you feel like you cannot get enough oxygen and every person who passes you is probably wondering if you're going to collapse? Yeah, that part.

But the burn of the throat, the ache of the legs, the sheer mental will-power is TOTALLY WORTH IT. You know why? Because I can do it. I can appreciate that my body has the ability to move. I can put one foot in front of the other. I can breathe hard and not die. I can be strong. I can get this shit done. Not to mention the actual being in better shape part ---- oh.so.good.

Who cares if my thighs rub together and my boobs bounce and my form is kinda sucky?

Not this woman.

The next step after this is doing some kind of muscle building thing. Lifting has no appeal. Do body-weight calisthenics have the same benefits as weight lifting? What do you like? 

February 25, 2014

Holy Mole!

I'm moving everything from the cooking closet [my other blog that has been inactive for over a year] over here to MN365. I'm decluttering. Hope it's not too annoying! (-:


That's mohl-LAY, not mole. It's rhymes with olé! 

[It's really quite difficult to make a spinach, mushroom, and cheese stuffed tortilla coated with mole look pretty.]

I always thought mole had an accent, but according to Wikipedia it does not. You learn something new every day. (-:

I was cooking in my tiny apartment [I miss you first space I ever lived in alone!] on this day and I kept smelling this odd thing. What was it?!? I was pretty sure it was gas leaking out from my oven. Using my broiler at lunch to toast my bagel had somehow magically created a leak and then Hank and I were going to die. Luckily, it was only about 48 degrees outside so I opened a window to give us some ventilation so we wouldn't die right away. It would happen later in our sleep.

Then I discovered that I had forgotten this piece of parchment in my oven on a cookie sheet and I had burned it to a crisp. I guess it's not my time to die by gas poisoning.
This mole recipe was introduced to me by Meagan who was introduced to it by Michelle, so it comes highly recommended by the three of us. You can decide who the most important recommender is, but I'm pretty sure it's me [wink-wink], so try it out and let me know what you think!
Peanut butter? Peanut butter. Trust.

Don't forget the brown sugar either, it really enhances the complexity of all the spices. I kept thinking something was missing so I added salt. Then I added more salt. Then I thought my taste memory was off. Then I realized I needed brown sugar. Just remember it the first time and you'll be good without adding unnecessary salt.
One thing I have discovered as I cook in my teensy-tiny kitchen is how important it is to get everything out and ready to go in the pot--especially when there are lots of ingredients!
I decided to use queso fresco as my cheese of choice, but you could use any cheese you like. It was my first time with queso fresco and although it is quite yummy, it is also very squeaky against your teeth! I wasn't expecting that.
I kept all my fillings in their raw state--counting on my bake time to get them cooked--so my chopped 'shrooms, frozen spinach and queso fresco went in each tortilla before becoming smothered by sauce.
350 degrees and 25 minutes later...

I separated these out and froze them individually. I'm a HUGE FAN of freezing my food in individual servings and then throwing the frozen item into my bag on my way out the door. It stays cold until lunch and then I pop it in the microwave. 

Mole Sauce
  • 1 medium Onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1/4 cup Chili Powder
  • 3/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 2-4 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp Peanut Butter (creamy)
  • 2 cups Water
  • The Things You Will Put Your Mole On
Sauté the onion and garlic in vegetable oil until it's soft, then add all the spices and the water. Let cook down for about 10-15 minutes on medium heat until the sauce has thickened slightly. 

Prepare your filling for your tortillas, feel free to use whatever basics you like shredded chicken, beans, beef, or be like me and use spinach and mushrooms [they were delicious!]. Put enough mole sauce in the bottom of your 9x13 pan to just cover the bottom, fill your tortillas with your filling of choice and cheese and place seam side down in the pan and cover with the remainder of the mole and about 1 cup of cheese. 

Bake covered for 20 minutes at 350 or uncovered at 400 for 10 minutes. [I cooked mine a bit longer since I didn't pre-cook the filling.]

February 22, 2014

Brownie and Caramel Icing for One

I'm moving everything from the cooking closet [my other blog that has been inactive for over a year] over here to MN365. I'm decluttering. Hope it's not too annoying! (-:


Oh sweet, glorious Sunday!

I woke up last Sunday morning inspired by this: Double Chocolate Brownies with Caramel Frosting

My first thought? I WANT THAT IN MY MOUTH! 
My second thought? NOW!

The only solution? Make a single serving...and that's what I did.

So I had a big, fat, fudgy, caramel icing covered brownie on Sunday. (-:
Your basic brownie ingredients, from the cupboard.
My mom found these little ceramic covered dishes at Sam's Club on clearance and I got a box of 8. She must have had a moment of reading my mind because I've been needing something to cook single portions in!

I really love that the whole thing is mixed and prepared and eaten in the same container.
Making individual items that contain a portion of an egg is hard. Here's the deal though, take your egg, beat it and then split it in half. This came to about 1 1/2 tablespoons of beaten egg. The other half of the egg? Add it to your scrambled eggs later in the week. (-:
Bake it: 350. 20 minutes. I didn't use the lid because it would be silly to bake a brownie with a lid.
It'd be good like this...except I want more decadence. ICING!!
I don't know if you can do this in a microwave [I don't have one], so I grabbed my smallest pot. Heat your butter, sugar and half of the milk until it comes to a boil--stirring constantly, hence no pictures. Let it boil for about a minute. Then remove from heat and add the vanilla [or wah-nilla], salt and powdered sugar, adjust the consistency with more milk until it's just the way you want it.
My brownie sunk. It didn't affect the flavor though. I think it's because I didn't grease my dish, better bakers than me? Thoughts?
Do you see that? Yeah, I savored some gooey, chocolate, caramel decadence while I ate ALL OF IT.

And I don't regret one calorie.

Brownie for One
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Egg
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp Flour
  • pinch of Salt
  • pinch of Baking Soda
  • 1 Tbsp Chocolate Chips [optional]
Melt the butter and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder, add the egg and vanilla and stir until combined. Then add the flour, salt, and baking soda until just combined. If you want some chocolate chips, stir them in!

Caramel Frosting
  • 1/2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Milk
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla
  • pinch of Salt
  • 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
Prepare to stir constantly for a few minutes: in your saucepan heat your butter, sugar and 1 Tablespoon milk until it comes to a boil. Let it boil for one minute. Then remove from heat and add the vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar, adjust the consistency with more milk until it's just the way you want it.