Monthly Archives: August 2010

A fruit tart for my sweetheart

I think some recipes tend to make themselves overly complicated and therefore, scary. For example, I made a Challah recipe the other day (stay tuned: soon to be blog-worthy) and just because I was running short on time, I skipped some steps and mixed everything together instead of in separate bowl, and just in general, stressed less. It turned out great!

Same goes for this tart. The original 5 recipes that I looked at gave me heart palpitations just scanning them. I got ADHD just trying to read through them in one sitting. So, for you today, I will attempt to distill these five recipes into one condensed version: the one that I ultimately made. Maybe the more complex versions are more delicious but in ignorance bliss I contentedly remain.

Who doesn't love a hidden chocolate surprise?

Sweetheart Tart

Pastry Crust

  • 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom (or four tartlet pans)
  • 1 1/3 C. flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • A few tsp ice water (add as needed)

Pastry cream

  • 1 ¼ C. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ Tbsp. sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/8 C. flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 generous Tbsp liqueur (Grand Marnier, Amaretto, Brandy…)
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • (I also melted half a bag of semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler to spread in the tart crust before adding the pastry cream. This is a nice addition and also serves a dual purpose of preventing soggy crust)

Sweet Pastry Crust:

1)    Mix all the pastry crust ingredients. You don’t need to do it in any special order, but try not to over mix, and just crumble it into pea-size bits with your fingers until all the elements are equally dispersed. Flatten into a disc and cover with Saran wrap, and refrigerate for 20 minutes. (Meanwhile, start your pastry cream.)

2)    Have ready an 8 – 9 inch (20 – 23 cm) tart pan with removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into a circle. The pastry should be about an inch larger than pan. Lightly roll pastry on your rolling pin and unroll onto top of tart pan. With a small floured piece of pastry, lightly press pastry into bottom and up sides of pan. Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to cleverly and neatly get rid of excess pastry.  Prick bottom of dough (prevents puffing). Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten.

3)    Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Fill tart pan with pie weights, rice or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Bake crust for 20 to 25 minutes until crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove weights and cool crust on wire rack before filling.

Pastry Cream:

1)    In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon. Add the flour and cornstarch and mix to a smooth paste.

4)    Meanwhile, in a saucepan heat the milk and vanilla on medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling.

5)    Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30-odd seconds until it thickens dramatically.

6)    Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the liqueur (if using). Pour into a clean bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Beat before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Apricot Glaze:

1)    Heat the apricot jam or preserves and liqueur/water in a small saucepan over medium heat until liquid (melted). Remove from heat and strain the jam through a fine strainer to remove any fruit lumps.  Let cool until it is only slightly warm.

To Assemble Tart:

1)    To remove the tart from the fluted sides of the pan, place your hand under the pan, touching only the removable bottom not the sides. Gently push the tart straight up, away from the sides. The fluted tart ring will fall away and slide down your arm.

2)    Spread a thin layer of the apricot glaze or melted chocolate (if using) over the bottom and inner sides of tart. Let dry.

3)    Spread the pastry cream into the tart, filling about 3/4 full.

4)    Go wild with your amazing decorating skills!

5)    After arranging the fruit, gently brush a light coat of the glaze on the fruit. Do not put it on too thick or it will look like Jell-O. The idea is to make the fruit look shiny.  If not serving immediately, refrigerate.

This fruit tart is best eaten the same day as it is assembled. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers. Serves about 8 – 10 people. Bask in the glory of the completed fruit tart.


Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Desserts


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Emotions get in the way

This was a saved draft that I started during finals, and never finished:

Last week at the hospital was difficult. Not like, “I got to try a new procedure and I am thrilled but tired” but rather more of an energy zap and I couldn’t really put a finger on what it was that felt so hard until later. I was able to follow-up with my patient from the previous week, which I was very grateful for. Last week, we connected and it’s hard for me to let go of connections gracefully since I grew so accustomed to them while working in Assisted Living. However, it also was a reality check for me. People don’t go to the RICU very often when they are “getting better.” It’s nothing like Labor & Delivery, for example. You may be quite literally breathing life into your patients, not usually a long term solution. My patient from last week had rapidly metastasizing cancer in her lungs. I knew she wasn’t getting better, but it doesn’t make it easier to watch a 60-something year old woman face dying when she isn’t ready for it. I spoke with her son last week who told me that she was non-responsive and nearly obtunded. She couldn’t speak anymore. So much changed in merely a week. The RICU might be her last stop.

My patient for the current week didn’t improve my outlook. She was alert and oriented to person/place/time when we began our care in the morning, although she was also very old and sickly. She had taken a big fall and broken an arm as well as hitting her chin on something hard which caused a lot of swelling and ecchymosis. She was in the RICU for her breathing which was labored and required supplemental oxygen. Just days before, she had been living independently, but the fall had taken a huge toll. Here we were, doing a head-to-toe bed bath, trying to elicit responses and receiving far fewer than we liked. We watched the nurses take blood tests from her delicate veins, covered by a dry and papery-thin layer of skin. They were trying to figure out if her reduced mental status was due to an undiagnosed infection. By the end of the morning, she had gone from awake and alert to lethargic and somnolent. It was hard for me to watch this progression. When we presented on our case in the afternoon, it seemed clear to us as well as to our preceptor that our patient’s prognosis did not look good. I left that day feeling a little bit heavier. I am starting to realize that you don’t always get to help your patients “get better.” As rewarding and obviously satisfying as that might be, it’s only one facet of the job.

Update: The following week, when I went back to the hospital, the aforementioned patient was much better! She had made almost a complete 180. She was awake and alert. She said that she remembered us from the previous week even though it hadn’t seemed like she was at all “with it” to be aware of us. Her bruised chin was less swollen, she was breathing entirely on her own, her skin was cool to the touch and best of all, she could communicate with us. I know this won’t always be the case. Not every patient gets better. But in some cases, the patients that seem the least likely to make a full turnaround, do. You provide the same level of care to everyone and sometimes you get a great outcome. It’s important not to decide for your patient whether they will get better or not, but just adjust your care to the changing conditions, with monitoring mental status being one of the most important indicators. It was so gratifying to see a patient on the road to recovery.


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A perfect snack

I wrote this post about a week ago – and never posted it. Oh my goodness, it feels so good to read over this post now, a week later, remembering how stressed out and tired I was then and how GREAT I feel now! I am finally done with nursing school’s dirty little trick – summer boot camp. I didn’t get an ulcer, I am not sick with the flu (yet), and I did pretty darn ok! I am going to write another entry shortly, reflecting on my experience over the summer, since I didn’t get to digest it before…but for now I have this for you…

(Written a week ago…) The inspiration for this recipe hails from my mom. Clearly, I cannot make her recipes taste better, nothing tastes better than the mom-infused touch, but I can at least try and make it healthier. Ah, the dreaded words. However, in nursing school bootcamp, with little-to-no-time to exercise (a lame excuse, I know) I am trying to be more conscious of what I eat. For the time being. Because I am in the 6 day countdown till FREEDOM, and once that bell tolls, it’s all about running, and playing and eating freely!

Healthful Yogurt Banana Bread

  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2-3/4 C. sugar (depending on how ripe your bananas are: more ripe=less sugar)
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 C. toasted walnuts/pecans; chopped coarsely–about 1 cup (optional)
  • 3 very ripe, darkly speckled large bananas
  • 1/4 c. yogurt (I use plain greek yogurt)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled (I used less, probably about 3 Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract, cinnamon if you like!

1) Use a regular loaf pan, grease and flour bottom and sides. Preheat oven to 350.

2) Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, nuts.

3) Mash the bananas well, and mix them with the yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Fold this mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake 55 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, transfer to wire rack.

Of course, there are many fun variations you can try too. Banana bread is never boring! Try using a flavored yogurt, such as vanilla. My mom regularly made her famous banana bread studded with chocolate chips. You can try different nuts, adding coconut, substituting some apple sauce, adding in some zucchini to fraternize with the banana, etc, etc — the possibilities are endless. Let me know if you come up with any fantastic variations. I can’t wait to try it!

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Posted by on August 8, 2010 in Breads & Muffins, Snacks


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