TWD: Apricot-Raspberry Tart

This week’s recipe for TWD was Apricot Raspberry Tart.  I had very high expectations for this tart.  Apricots and raspberries are two of my favorite fruits.  I am even lucky enough to have it be raspberry season here in Wisconsin right now.  There is a huge PYO raspberry farm about 2 miles from our house.  So, I was able to go pick some raspberries for this recipe.


Overall, the recipe is very easy.  I have always been a fan of Dorie’s tart crust recipe.  Even with that said though, this recipe was not a winner in our house.  The apricots were just too tart in the end and I’m not a huge fan of baked raspberries.  The crust was delicious, but the rest was just so-so.  Oh well.  This is probably the first Dorie recipe that was a true flop for our house.  And it wasn’t because the recipe failed, we just weren’t fans of how it turned out.


I did have some extra apricots from the recipe though, and so the next morning I made Deb’s Apricot Breakfast Crisp.  Now that was a success for our house.  We spooned it over some plain yogurt and gobbled it up for breakfast.


I hope other people enjoyed the recipe more than we did.


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TWD: Strawberry Shortcakes, Franco-American Style

A couple weeks ago I made strawberry shortcakes the way I always had it when I was growing up.  I bought the little sponge cake cups you get at the grocery store.  I put some sliced strawberries on them and then I topped them with whipped cream.  Afterwards, my husband looked at the ingredients for the sponge cakes and he was appalled.  He didn’t understand how something that seemed so simple could have so many ingredients.  Needless to say, we haven’t had those again.


This recipe was also perfect timing in that my son and I picked strawberries on Saturday.  We ended up picking over 13 pounds!  The berries were just so good that I couldn’t stop picking them.  I made a double batch of jam, or 20 pints, and I still had half of them left over!  So, I made sure to use up quite a few in this recipe.  In my opinion, you can’t eat too much fruit or vegetables and so a dessert with fruit is always a perk.


The shortcakes were a basic lady-finger recipe piped into circles and baked.  I was a little shocked that they didn’t rise, but in the end that didn’t matter.  Mine actually sunk a little after I took them out of the oven.  Oh well though, it isn’t as though that impacts the taste.  I also took the time to roast some strawberries per Dorie’s suggestions.  Overall, this was a hit in our house.  My husband said these were so much better than the kind we used to make.  The only similarity between the two was the whipped cream.  I didn’t take the time to whip my own, instead I used the canned.  I just didn’t feel like dirtying another bowl for something I feel is quite good in the can.




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TWD: Chocolate Cherry Brownies

I’ve been following the Tuesdays with Dorie group for some time now.  I used to do this with the other book, although I never did finish all of the recipes.  I probably finished about 3/4 of them.  I have been wavering on whether or not to join the group, but here I am.  I took quite a large break from baking after having my kids, but I can no longer ignore my desire to get back in the kitchen.  I’m hoping that this will also give my kids a chance to join me.


This was a great recipe for my “official” (I did make the rhubarb upside down cake a few weeks ago) start again.  It was easy and delicious.  While my husband swears that he doesn’t like anything in his brownies except for chocolate, he ate a quarter of these in less than a day.  Next time I would probably bake them a little longer.  I kept it on the short side at 27minutes, like the recipe recommended, but they are super gooey.  And while I prefer my brownies gooey, these were a bit too gooey.  It didn’t stop us from enjoying them though.  I used a mixture of dried cranberries and cherries since I didn’t have enough dried cherries, but I could barely tell the difference.  If anything, the tartness from the cranberries were nice.





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America’s Test Kitchen’s Wacky Cake

America’s Test Kitchen is hosting a “journey” through the 1900’s where you cook one recipe from each decade.  This week’s recipe is from 1945, during the heart of World War II when food was being rationed.  This week’s recipe is Wacky Cake, which is a basic chocolate cake that requires no milk or eggs.  The leavening is from the chemical reaction that occurs between baking soda and vinegar.  Overall, the cake was very easy to put together.  It only required 1 pan and only 5 minutes to put together.  Also, I already had all the ingredients on hand.  It’s also delicious.  For the recipe, please see  America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe here.

Also, in order to show my spirit of the 1940’s and wartime rationing I thought I would include a photo of all of my canning work.  It includes strawberry, raspberry, and apricot jams, applesauce, tomatoes, pickles, beets, salsa, and vegetable soup.

My husband and I have quite the garden, so any extra crops end up either being canned or frozen for the winter.  While beets are good canned, green beans and peas are frozen.  Nothing tastes as good as homemade in the middle of winter!



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Ricotta, Basil, and Summer Squash (Zucchini) Frittata

My husband is a great guy, but he generally stays out of the kitchen.  He can make spaghetti, macaroni and cheese and pizza.  Besides those things his cooking skills are rather limited, except for one thing.  Frittatas.  Don’t ask, but somehow, that man can make excellent frittatas.  Whenever I try, they just don’t turn out.  The last time I tried, half of it stuck to the pan while the other half oozed out.  It wasn’t a pretty site.  So, from now on, my husband is responsible for making all of our frittatas.

I found this recipe for ricotta, basil, and summer squash frittata while I was looking for recipes to use zucchini.  As everyone knows, there is always an abundance of zucchini this time of year.  This year doesn’t appear to be an exception either, even considering the drought we are in.

So, while I watched our son, my husband successfully made another frittata.  It was good.  Next time though I think I would substitute out the ricotta for something with a little more pizzazz, like fontina.

Recipe: Ricotta, Basil, and Summer Squash Frittata

From: America’s Test Kitchen Simple Weeknight Favorites

10 large eggs

3 Tablespoons half-and-half

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Salt and Pepper

12 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4″ think

1/4 cup olive oil

2 summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4″ thick (I used zucchini)

4 ounces (1/2 cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese

1.   Position oven rack 5 inches from broiler element and heat broiler.  Whisk eggs, half-and-half, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in bowl until combined.  Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil in another bowl, cover, and microwave until tender, about 5 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch ovensafe non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add squash and cook until golden brown and tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer to plate.  Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and potatoes to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Add egg mixture and squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until large curds form but eggs are still very wet, about 2 minutes.  Shake skillet to distribute eggs evenly and cook, without stirring, until bottom is set, about 30 seconds.  Dollop heaping teaspoons of ricotta on top.

3.  Transfer skillet to oven and broil until ricotta is hot and melted and surface of frittata is spotty brown, 3 to 4 minutes (eggs should still be slightly wet).  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.  Using rubber spatula, loosen edges of frittata from sides of skillet.  Slide loosened frittata onto platter, cut into wedges, and serve.


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Another weekend is done.  Why can’t we have the week work in reverse.  Have a 5 day weekend with a 2 day work week?  That would be great.  Then I might actually get the chance to complete the things I say I am going to on a weekend.  Don’t get me wrong, this weekend was great, but I could still use about another, oh, 2 years off.  We had friends in town from North Carolina.  They used to live in Wisconsin and then they moved to NC about 2 years ago.  They are now moving back to Wisconsin in May.  I’ve been so excited.

The female of this couple friend, “C”, became one of my closest friends while she lived here.  We worked together at a manufacturing site up in a small town in Wisconsin.  We were the first female engineers to work in the plant.  So, we received a lot of crap from the floor personnel on a regular basis.  It helped that we could lean on each other.  She helped me more than she probably realizes.  Before working with her and becoming good friends I didn’t really know how to cook or bake and nor did I do any physical activity.  “C” encouraged me to start exercising and start cooking and baking.  Now I am addicted to both.  I exercise at least 5 days a week and we only eat out about 2-3/month.  I feel so much better about myself and I have never been in as good as shape physically as I am now.

So, when “C” moved away it was very difficult on me.  I’ve been trying to make other friends, but no one is quite the same.  When she left I filled up my time with more exercise and classes.  Then I became pregnant and that filled up my time.  Still though, I missed having “C” around.  “C” and I flow in the kitchen when we are together.  I am never worried when she is in my kitchen.  I think she knows her way around it better than my husband does.  Conversation is effortless between us.  We are very different but yet very similar, but I think that is what makes us work.  We reaffirm to each other that we are not weird or alone in our worlds.  We aren’t judgemental of each other.  I’m so glad she is moving back.

When “C” came to visit this weekend, Wisconsin decided to welcome her back with the only way it knows how.  A snow storm.  I love snow storms.  I love curling up in my house drinking tea and watching the nasty weather outside.  In my mind I’m thinking about cross-country skiing and getting out and enjoying the snow.

In order to celebrate what little we have of this winter left I made beef burgundy.  It is one of those “winter” meals that just doesn’t taste the same when the temperature is above 40degrees outside.  This stew was excellent.  My husband and I really enjoyed this meal and it really hit the spot after the snow had stopped.  Enjoy!

Beef Burgundy (from Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen)

1 (5-lb) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces

Salt and Pepper

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

4 ounces bacon, minced

3 onions, minces

1 carrot, peeled and minced

1/4 cup tomato paste

6 garlic cloves

1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried

1/3 cup AP flour

2 1/2 cups Pinot Noir

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 bay leaves

2 cups frozen pearl onions

1/2 cup water

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 tsp sugar

1 lb cremini mushrooms, trimmed and halved if small, or quartered if large

1.  Dry beef with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Place half of beef in slow cooker.  Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Brown remaining beef well on all sides, 7-10 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.

2.  Cook bacon in skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Stir in onions, carrot, tomato paste, garlic, and thyme and cook until onions are softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in 1 1/4 cups white, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps; transfer to slow cooker.

3.  Stir broth, soy sauce, and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high.

4.  About 20 minutes before serving, bring frozen pearl onions, water, butter, and sugar to boil in 12-inch skillet.  Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until onions are fully thawed and and tender, 5-8 minutes.  Uncover, bring to boil, and cook until all liquid evaporates, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in mushrooms and cook until vegetables are browned and glazed, 8-12 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.

5.  Add remaining 1 1/4cups wine to skillet and simmer until it has reduced by half, 6-8 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.  Let stew settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon.  Discard bay leaves.  (Adjust stew consistency with additional hot broth as needed.)  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

My Notes:

I used a 2 1/2 pound chuck roast because I couldn’t find a 5 pound one and I thought that was quite large.  Next time I think I will keep with the 2 1/2 pound roast, but half the rest of the recipe.  It didn’t have quite enough meat.

I used 2 carrots in mine since I tend to prefer more vegetables than what most recipes call for.

I used a Merlot instead of Pinot Noir because I couldn’t find a Pinot Noir.  The Merlot was dry enough that it worked.


(Here’s a picture of my husband scrapping off the burnt goodness from the side of the slow cooker.  It was delicious.)

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My breath

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.  You see, a lot has happened over the past year which has really taken up a lot of time.  I changed positions at my company, had a baby, went back to work, took classes for my MBA, finished my MBA, and then took a breath.  Whew.  It was a nice breath.  During that breath I did whatever I wanted to do (as long as my son approved).  I read a lot, caught up on some TV shows, went shopping and took some naps.  I feel refreshed.

For 4 years I worked and took classes year round.  I rarely had a break and when I did I tended to have a lot of changing up to do on other things that I neglected.  Now, I actually have some free time.  Free time?  What is free time some of you might ask?  I’m not sure if I fully know what it is, but I think it is that time during which you have stuff to do, but it is not urgent enough that needs to be done immediately.  It’s the time during which you might able to read a couple more pages or surf the Internet or just sit down and catch your breath.  Some of us, including myself, seem to have a difficult time knowing what to do with free time.  We feel as though there must be something else that needs to be done.  I’m starting to learn that it is okay to stop and take a breath and enjoy my free time.  It is okay.  We are all just individuals and we must take breaths for not only others, but for ourselves also.

My 11 month old son taught me that when he was just a few weeks old.  It is probably the most valuable lesson he has taught me.  You see, he had colic.  So, my maternity leave was spent with a crying baby.  I would just sit and hold him because then he would calm down.  I spent hours holding him.  During those hours though I was neglecting myself.  I didn’t eat, drink or even go to the bathroom for long periods of time.  Eventually I got to the point that I was having milk supply issues from it.  It was at that point that I realized that I really wasn’t doing either of us any good if I didn’t take care of myself.  If I didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to nurse.  So, it was then that I started taking care of myself first.  It sounds selfish, but if I didn’t do that I wouldn’t be able to take care of him.

Well, I have taken a deep breath, actually many deep breaths, over the past few months and I feel much better.  I feel like I’m in a routine and things are humming along as they should.  It’s nice.

Now, if only the weather would cooperate, it would be even better.  Some of you have probably been rejoicing this winter since it has been rather warm.  In Wisconsin, it has been very warm and we have had almost no snow.  It might sound odd, but I actually don’t mind winter and snow.  I like snuggling up on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea while there is a blizzard raging outside.  I like going cross-country skiing.  I love all the foods that come with winter.  Beef stew just doesn’t taste the same when the temperature is above 40degrees, trust me, I’ve tried.

So, I was excited when I checked the weather for this week and we actually had a winter storm advisory.  The first one of the year!  Great!   Ski trails here I come!  I spent quite a bit of time this past weekend searching through my cookbooks looking for a good “winter” recipe.  One that would heat us up all the way to our core.  One that would preferably sit in the slow cooker all day making the house smell wonderful; so the minute I step inside after a long day’s work I remember that it will only be a few minutes until I warm up again.

Here is what I came upon: Ultimate Lentil Soup.  It sounded so homey, granted not my childhood home.  My only previous encounter with lentils was when I was in grade school and my mom decided to try them.  I don’t know what she did to them, but they were horrible.  I had almost completely written them off.  But this past weekend, I felt adventurous.  So, Ultimate Lentil Soup here I come!

This soup did exactly what I was hoping for.  It warmed me to the core.  It made our house smell wonderful.  It was quite filling too.  And it has given me a new opinion of lentils.  This soup has quite the depth of flavors and they really hit the spot when you are in the middle of a winter weather advisory.  So, if you find yourself in that position, try it.  Even if you are uncertain of lentils, I’ll be happy to let you know that my husband and I agree that this recipe will be made again in our house.

Ultimate Lentil Soup (from Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen)

2 onions, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp EVOO

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and minced

1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

4 cups vegetable broth

4 ounces bacon

3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

12 ounces portabello caps, gills removed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed

2 bay leaves

8 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed and leaves sliced 1/2-inch thick (I omitted this since I couldn’t find Swiss chard.  I was going to substitute spinach and put it in right before serving, but I forgot.)


1.  Microwave onions, garlic, oil, tomato paste, porcini mushrooms, and thyme in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to slow cooker.

2.  Stir chicken broth, vegetable broth, bacon, carrots, portobello mushrooms, lentils, and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until lentils are tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

3.  Stir in chard, cover, and cook on high until chard is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.  Discard bacon and bay leaves.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with additional olive oil.


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