Fancy Fruit Tart

Fruit tarts are so fancy. I feel like, maybe, if fruit tarts had a theme song, it would go something like “ooooh lala, ooooooh lalala…”

I had never made a fruit tart before. It all seemed so complicated: make a perfect shortbread-like crust, whip and whip and whip and whip various creams and eggs until you have something resembling pudding, peel and slice ripe and beautiful fruits and arrange them, somehow, perfectly, so that everyone who sees your fruit tart will think you purchased it from the gourmet grocer.

Much too much effort for some fruit and pudding!

But then I was invited to a dinner party {yippee! we love dinner parties! and we love the people we got to dinner party with this weekend! oh how life would have been different had we met them all a year ago!} and I decided to give the fancy fruit tart a try.

It. Was. Delish.

And not that hard. You just can’t be distracted while whisking the pastry cream — it takes 100% of your focus. Word to the wise.

May today be worthy of a fancy fruit tart!

~Kristin

P.S. I used THIS sweet tart shell recipe and a slight variation of THIS pastry cream recipe.

Oh My Breakfast :: Healthy Yogurt Bran Muffins

It’s the new year. Most of the country is convincing themselves they will be eating healthily from now until eternity. And while I applaud even the mildest effort toward increasing ones health, the January-gym-goer-I-only-eat-Lean-Cuisine lifestyle makes me absolutely nauseous. I mean, does anyone actually LIKE the way frozen fat free food tastes?

Today, my friends,  I bring you a healthy AND delicious way to start your January mornings.

Yogurt Bran Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

1 stick of room temperature butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 container low fat greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
a pinch of salt

preheat oven to 400 degrees

Beat butter and brown sugar in an electric mixer until light and creamy – about 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine flour, bran, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Add egg, honey, and yogurt to butter/sugar mixture and beat until combined. Stir in raisins, then add the flour/bran mixture and stir to combine. The mixture will be fairly lumpy.

Butter or line a muffin tin with muffin liners, and fill each liner to 3/4 fullness. Bake at 400 until lightly golden on the top – 15 to 20 minutes.

These muffins are delicious. Delicious just as they are. Delicious with a pat of butter. Delicious with some jam. Just plain delicious. And considering they are filled with fiber and just over 150 calories a piece, they should fit perfectly into any January plan you may have.

Happy Monday, friends!

~Kristin

Mom’s Enchiladas

These are my Mom’s enchiladas. They aren’t your mom’s enchiladas, they aren’t some restaurant’s enchiladas, they aren’t a basic ole recipe for sour cream enchiladas… they are Mom’s Enchiladas.  Always have been, always will be. Legend has it these enchiladas are what opened up my Dad’s eyes to the awesomeness that is my Mom, and only a few months after making them for him, they were engaged.

Let’s start with the most essential part of any enchilada: the tortilla. Growing up, we didn’t have access to tortillas so my Mom made her own. They were awesome. They were also a lot of work. When we moved back to the US we found these fabulous things: RAW tortillas. So good. Tastes like a little Mexican lady just spent the entire day rolling dough in your kitchen, but it only takes 45 seconds per side. I have yet to find a place that sells raw tortillas other than California, so if you don’t live there I sincerely apologize. It’s probably worth having a friend mail or bring them to you {that’s how I got them here to AR!}, or moving to the other side of the country just so you can buy these every time you are at the grocery store.

Once all of your tortillas are cooked {or if you are using pre-cooked tortillas} it’s time to make the filling. Cook up a few chicken breasts – I chose to roast three bone-in chicken breasts and then pull apart the meat – chop or shred the meat into bite-size pieces, and mix it with 2 cups of shredded cheddar {the sharper the better!} and a good dose of taco seasoning. If you are so inclined, you can also add in green chilis. I didn’t have any on hand, so I obviously wasn’t so inclined.

Next up, combine a tub of sour cream with a can of cream of chicken soup. This will be your enchilada sauce. I had accidentally purchased the fat-free cream of chicken soup {gross!} but it still turned out just fine. I also added a few dashes of Taptatio hot sauce. It gave it a light and delicious kick that I was very happy with.

Spread a thin layer of the sauce onto the bottom of the pan, and now it’s time to assemble the enchiladas. Add a couple tablespoons of the filling, then roll up the tortilla and place it, seam side down, into the pan. Each pan will fit approximately 8 enchiladas. I was able to get two full pans out of this.

Top with the remaining sour cream sauce, and a nice dose of shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for approximately 25 minutes. Serve alongside beans, rice, and homemade guacamole {of course!} for the perfect Americanized Mexican Dinner: Mom’s Enchiladas.

This is a delicious and super easy meal that everyone will enjoy – the perfect contrast to all that crazy prepping and cooking we will all be doing next week for Thanksgiving.

I hope you have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next week for loads of Thanksgiving fun. Yaaaay! 🙂

~Kristin

A Thanksgiving Menu

I just finished making the Thanksgiving menu for next week.

Last year on Thanksgiving, it was just Glenn and I. We were here in Little Rock with no friends or family, which was actually not as sad as it sounds, mostly because we decided to have fun with it and still make ourselves a full Thanksgiving meal. This year, we are still in Little Rock but we will now be hosting five other friends/family for Thanksgiving! That means there will be SEVEN people eating dinner with me this holiday! It’s quite exciting, if I do say so myself.

The menu I have put together so far, is as follows:

Appetizer: crudite platter with homemade ranch dressing; hummus and pita.

Main Course: cider-brined turkey.

Side Dishes: creamy mashed potatoes, green-bean casserole, herb-stuffing, cornbread and andouille sausage stuffing, fresh cranberry relish, parker-house rolls, mixed greens, baked sweet potatoes with caramel and marshmallows, giblet gravy. I might throw in some roasted brussel sprouts if I’m really feeling ambitious.

Desserts: perfect cheesecake, apple pie, a pumpkin pie brought by #3, and either the pecan pie I made last year, or a cinnamon-bread and chocolate chip bread pudding with whiskey cream sauce.

I KNOW, it’s a ridiculous menu! I KNOW I will be exhausted before it’s even noon! And yes I do refuse to do anything other than home-make every single item! But come on… isn’t the best part of Thanksgiving sharing in the abundant blessings we have been given, surrounded by friends and family? Isn’t the whole point to have so much food you are forced to send each guest home with a box of leftovers?

Let me know if you think I’m missing anything from my menu! 🙂

~Kristin

Marseille Style Shrimp Stew

I have a little bit of an obsession with France.

Not with the French Prime Minister, who so rudely dissed Israel’s leader along with our own President the other day… but with the bread, the cheese, the wine, the countryside, the crepes, the fashion, the snootiness of it all. I love it!

Since I am far, far away from France or from any kind of trip to France, sometimes I try to bring France to me. Like with this Marseille Style Shrimp Stew, featured in the October issue of Food & Wine. Deee-lish.

I served this along with a lovely, crisp French Rose {Also recommended by Food & Wine. Thanks F&W. So helpful in my menu planning!} as well as a baguette {of course}, and a small salad of mixed greens and vinaigrette.

Easy. Fresh. Light. Delicious. Here’s the recipe from Food & Wine. Hope you enjoy!

~Kristin

Turkey Chili

It’s a dreary day today.

A little rainy, really windy, and refreshingly crisp – this is the perfect day for a warm bowl of chili.

Turkey Chili
Recipe by Kristin Murdock

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1.25 pounds ground turkey
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or pot – I use my LeCreuset because it’s the best thing ever and oh so versatile. When the oil is hot, add in the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for approximately 1 minute, then crumble in the ground turkey.

Saute the onion/turkey mixture over medium high heat until the turkey is cooked through. Now it’s time to add all the fun ingredients! Start with the spices – cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, chili powder {feel free to add in any other spices you think might enhance your chili!} and then add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, and beans. Let this cook together for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Lower the heat and add in the corn kernels and green bell pepper, as well as additional salt and pepper for seasoning. Allow the chili to simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes.

Quick, easy, delicious. Just the way a wintry day’s meal should be.

Enjoy!

~Kristin

All that is Left

I could have taken pictures of the process. Sifting the flour, adding the spices, whisking the eggs.

I could have taken pictures of the finished product. Beautiful loaves, crumbly topping, cooling in pans.

I could have taken pictures of the slicing. Perfectly moist apples, brownish-orange interior, small pieces of fall perfection.

I could have taken pictures of the eating. Bite after yummy bite, cinnamon-sugar topping crumbling down our shirts, exclamations of “oh yum!”

I could have done all of that, but I didn’t.

And so, my friends, this is all that is left.

You’re just gonna have to trust me: it was delicious.

Love,

Kristin

Pumpkin Apple Bread – recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook

Topping:
1 tablespoon flour
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature (soft)

Bread:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 (15oz) can solid-pack pumpkin
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

Make the topping: Blend together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter in a small bowl with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside.

Make the bread: Preheat the oven to 350. Butter two 9-by-5 inch loaf pans.

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice into a medium bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, oil, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stirring until well combined. Fold in apples.

Divide batter between buttered loaf pans. Sprinkle half of topping evenly over each loaf. Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of bread comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.

Cool loaves in pans for 45 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Baking Bread

Yesterday was a bread baking kind of day.

And so, as rain poured from these Mid-America skies, I got out the bread flour, tested the limits of my Kitchen Aid, and baked bread.

I used to be terrible at baking bread. It would never rise the way it was supposed to, so it would end up being super dense and not really good bread at all. Then I decided to try something different for the rise: I turned the oven on WARM, then as soon as it heated up, turned the oven off. This created a warm, draft-free space that was perfect for the yeast eating up all the sugar and helping my bread dough double in volume.

So far I have had a slice of bread with natural peanut butter {could anything be more delicious?!}, a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, and Ree Drummond’s Egg In a Hole. All have been scrump-diddly-umptious.  I kind of want to eat them all again right now. But I will refrain, because, come on people, there’s only so much homemade bread one can eat while losing weight.

Kristin’s Homemade White Bread:
Inspired by the Joy of Cooking Bread chapter.

Ingredients:
6 cups bread flour
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 1/4 cups warm water {105-115 degrees}
butter, for greasing the bread pans

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the active dry yeast and 1/4 cup of warm water. Let it sit until the yeast dissolves and bubbles. If it doesn’t bubble, start over because your yeast is not active and your bread won’t rise!

Add 3 cups of bread flour, the salt, sugar, and melted butter to the yeast and mix until combined. Next up add the remaining 3 cups of flour, 1/2 a cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and shiny. I had to add an additional teaspoon or so of water toward the end because my dough was too dry and not combining. Depending on how things go, you may need to add up to 1/2 cup more flour or a bit more water. Watching for the smooth and shiny consistency is key!

Once the dough is at the correct consistency, switch to the dough hook. Let your mixer “knead” the dough for 10 minutes. Remove it from the mixer and place it in a large bowl that you have coated with oil. Top with an oiled piece of plastic wrap, and place in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in volume – about 1.5 hours.

Punch the dough down, split it in half and place each half, seam side down, in a buttered bread pan. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and place back in the warm, draft-free place for another 1.5 hours until it has doubled in volume yet again.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake the loaves at 450 for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 and bake for 25 minutes. One great way to know if your bread is finished is to tap the bottom of the bread pan, and if it sounds hollow: you’re done! Thank you, Joy of Cooking, for teaching me this lovely fact.

May today be a bread baking day for you!

~Kristin

 

Malted Chocolate Cupcakes

Martha Stewart, you have outdone yourself.

I made these Malted Chocolate Cupcakes last week to bring to Carol’s Craft Party {I got invited to a party! I am hip and happening!} and then brought some over to my dear friend Debbie’s house the next day. They were a hit.

How could they not be? Chocolate? Malt? Cupcake?

Glenn and I had way too much fun trying to figure out which aisle in the supermarket to find malt powder. First we tried Target {where I found the cardigan to go with my Missoni dress… HELLO… I’m living a dream} which was no luck at all. Next up was the world’s largest Kroger. It’s like Kroger and Costco got together and gave birth to this store. I mean really, it’s insane.

Anyway, Glenn suggested we look near cereal because he claims malted milk powder is just like malt-o-meal. I told him there was no way that was the case, but still humored him by checking the cereal aisle. Yea, malted milk powder was nowhere near the cereal. We found it where I had suggested we look {please forgive me as I pat myself on the back real quick}: next to the Nesquick.

Martha says the malt powder adds an element of nostalgia. Considering the fact that I’ve had like one malt ever in life, the nostalgia didn’t come so much as the “oh hey! this is delicious!” I would imagine, however, that for someone like my parents, who grew up in the Norman Rockwell, Soda-shop, share-a-coke-in-penny-loafers era, the flavor of malt in these cupcakes would bring back great memories.

I topped my cupcakes with a simple vanilla buttercream frosting and some chocolate shavings. You know, ’cause I’m fancy like that. Hope you all enjoy these cupcakes as much as I did.

To Craft Parties and Martha Stewart,

~Kristin

RECIPE:

Malted Chocolate Cupcakes, recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart Cupcakes Cookbook.

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cup malted milk powder
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Frosting and Chocolate Shavings {for fancy-pants cooks!}

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, both sugars, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk and malted milk powder until powder has dissolved.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat flour mixture, milk mixture, and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add sour cream and vanilla, beat until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about halfway. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, about 20 minutes or until cake tester {or toothpick!} comes out clean.

Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe :: A Little Pinch of Heaven

Yesterday started and ended in the same way: with an excessive amount of carbohydrates. It was bad. But oh so good. I couldn’t help myself!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara has been my favorite pasta dish since I was little. I have sampled a variety of Carbonaras, in a variety of countries, but the best I’ve ever had IN. MY. LIFE. was at Mario Batali’s Lupa in New York City.  Although I have yet to figure out how the fine folks at Lupa make their Carbonara sooooo creamy, this version comes close. Here’s my how-to.

Start with a nice thick slice of pancetta. You can get pancetta already cut up, but I wanted to make sure my pieces were a little larger so I asked the guy at the Kroger deli counter to cut me a 1/3 pound slab.

Chop the pancetta into 1/3 inch cubes and throw them into a hot, heavy-bottomed skillet. I used my Le Creuset because I don’t have a cast-iron skillet, but I am sure one of those would work just as well. Cook until the pancetta has browned, and the fat has rendered.

Chop up an onion, really finely, and throw it into the pancetta/rendered fat/hot pan. At this point you will want to bathe in the glorious smell that is coming from the stove. There is nothing that compares to cured pork and onion cooking together. Oh me oh my.

Now, the step that must not be forgotten and could quite possibly be THE step that makes or breaks your Carbonara experience: pour yourself a lovely glass of Italian wine. It would be great if you spilled it on your white counter, too.

The onion/pancetta combo is going to cook for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are a nice golden color. While it is cooking, throw a pound of pasta into some boiling salted water and cook 8-9 minutes until al dente.

Adding a nice spoonful of salt to the water before your pasta cooks really makes such a difference. Salty processed carbs. I should add that to this month’s favorite things.

While the pasta is boiling and the onions are browning, whisk together some grated parmesan cheese {the good stuff, NOT the Kraft version: parmigianno reggiano would be best}, grated Pecorino Romano, 3 eggs, and a pinch of salt and pepper. This cheesy/eggy mixture is going to combine with the pancetta/onion and make the best pasta sauce ever.

Drain the pasta, reserving a cup or two of the cooking water to add to the sauce. Throw the pasta into the pancetta/onion pan and toss to coat. Make sure every piece of spaghetti really gets tossed in there. Add the cheesy/eggy mixture, along with about a cup of the reserved pasta water, and mix until the cheeses melt.

Grate some freshly cracked pepper over the top, serve, and enjoy.

Hope you try my version of Spaghetti alla Carbonara soon. It’s totally worth the calories. 🙂

~Kristin

Spaghetti alla Carbonara alla Kristin: Adapted from the Gourmet Cookbook
1/3 pound pancetta, cut into 1/3 inch cubes
1/2 onion, finely diced
3 eggs
3/4 cup high quality Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup pasta water
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch salt

Cut pancetta into 1/3 inch cubes and cook over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet, until pancetta is browned and fat has rendered. When the fat has rendered, add chopped onion to the mixture. Cook for 9-10 minutes, until onion is golden-brown. As onion is cooking, boil 1 pound of spaghetti for 8-9 minutes, or until al dente.

Whisk eggs, Parmesan, Pecorino, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Drain pasta, reserving some of the cooking water to add to the sauce. Remove the pancetta/onion mixture from the heat, add the cooked pasta to the skillet, and toss to coat. Add in the egg/cheese mixture, as well as approximately 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Mix to combine, until the cheeses have melted. Serve immediately.