Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pistachio, Lime & Cheesecake Tart

Is it just me or did Christmas come, and go, rather quickly this year? As much as I adore the Holidays I feel as though I didn't get much time to prepare, and therefore, little time to really enjoy Christmas. Any free time I have leading up to and during the Holidays I generally spend in the kitchen feverishly baking. I usually hold at least two big parties, and have many people in and out of the house for drinks, hot cocoa , or to watch old Christmas movies and bake cookies. This year I only had one real party at the very beginning of December, I didn't watch one Christmas movie, or to my horror bake one batch of Christmas cookies. I'm actually a little depressed about how un-fabulous the Holidays were in this sense. I did get to spend time with the people I love, and I saw one of my dearest friends I haven't spent time with in years. I also had quite a bit of time off, and relaxed. But it still just didn't feel like Christmas. We didn't even cook a Christmas dinner, we simply ate a gaggle of appetizers. I had, however, slightly prepared a dessert. You see a few days before Christmas I took our billing company a plateful of almond rocca cheesecake bites, and I had enough cheesecake batter leftover to make a nice thin layer of the creamy smooth stuff. Coincidentally, around the same time, my mother handed me a page torn from a magazine that displayed a beautiful lime and mascarpone tart with pistachio crust. Since I didn't have any motivation to go to the store, or to follow a recipe, I decided to make something of my own with my leftover cheesecake batter, the limes I had lying about the house for cocktails, and wouldn't you know it, the giant bag of pistachios one of my colleagues gave me for Christmas. No trip to the store required!

I started out by whipping up my favorite tart crust recipe, which generally calls for almonds, however I substituted the almonds for beautiful little green pistachios. Next was the very simple, but a little time consuming, and sweat inducing (you try standing in front of burner under hot stove lights for 15 minutes whisking your little heart away without breaking a little sweat) lime curd. And perhaps the easiest of all was pouring my leftover batter into my spring form and popping the sucker in the oven. All that was left to do, after the cooling of each component of course, was assembling. Easy peasy. And viola, you have yourself a delicious, and fairly uncomplicated dessert. And with accents of green nonetheless, perfect for a little Christmas cheer.

Recipe: Pistachio, Lime and Cheesecake Tart

What you will need for the tart crust:

1 stick plus 1 Tb. butter, cut in small pieces
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup pistachios
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk

Tart Crust Directions:

1. In a food processor, pulse all the dry ingredients.
2. Add the butter and pulse again.
3. Add the egg yolk and pulse until the mixture comes together in a ball. (This step is SO COOL!)
4. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate as you prepare the filling.
5. Roll between sheets of plastic wrap and lay over tart pan, cut off any excess and press crust firmly into crevices.
6. Bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

The dough likes to puff up, so either keep an eye on it and pat it down with the back of a spoon, OR fill the pie with beans (with a layer of parchment between the beans and crust of course) to prevent puffing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's a Marshmallow World for this Gingerbread House

My "Gingerbread" House., originally uploaded by razzieswirl.

Every year we get a group of people together and make "gingerbread" houses. I use quotations because as you can see it's not really gingerbread, it's graham cracker. I'm not particularly fond of gingerbread, not that it matters in the case of gingerbread houses because you generally don't eat them (at least in our house), the sugar glue taste pretty god awful. 

This year we had a beautiful dinner party for our dear friend Skylers birthday, and just like last year, this year for his birthday we made gingerbread houses. Last year I spent over $50 on candy (I know, I know, whoa), so this year I requested everyone bring two bags of candy, and I only ended up spending about $7-$12 on candy. Skyler is one of those people who will not, no matter how I fight, partake in any crafty activity. He will not carve pumpkins, he will dye Easter eggs (okay I convinced him to do Easter eggs once, and they were less than "appropriate" but that's a story for another day). I can, however, get him to make gingerbread houses. Why? I don't rightly know, perhaps it's because if you can make a structure that doesn't cave in on itself, all you really need to do is glue a bunch of candy to the outside and viola! you have a house. Most houses look likes piles of candy (at least in our house), so there is no anxiety about having to be toooooo creative (like carving a pumpkin is ). But he likes it, and I'll take anything I can get him to do with me that's crafty! It was overall a lovely and extremely fun night. We ate delicious food, had fun gluing candy to graham cracker shacks and did a little dancing, woot! woot!

The picture above is my "gingerbread" house. I feel that the yard is just as important as the house itself. Just think, when you drive by a house with a flat, square, brown yard, you're generally less than impressed. But my house boasts a marshmallow world, a yard of fluff and white, a red brick path that greets you with large red lanterns, a yard flanked by towering green gumdrop trees and a tiny cookie shack out front adorned with a little green wreath. I know if I were sitting in front of a cozy little fire in my "gingerbread" house I would greatly enjoy the lovely view from my little windows. I can just hear Dean Martin crooning "It's a marshmallow world in the winter. . . " can't you? 

I am also posting all the other houses created here on Saturday night. They make up a pretty fine neighborhood. And one of the things I love about gingerbread houses, for the same reason I probably love carving pumpkins, it's most fun to see how unique each house is. Everyone has their own idea of structure and decoration, it's amazing to see what everyone does. 

This post is my entry in the YumSugar Gingerbread food blogging event as well. I'm so looking forward to what other people are going to be submitting for this event to. Check out YumSugar and the gingerbread event at :

And if you haven't made your own gingerbread houses yet, I hope this event, or my post will inspire you to sit down with some of your loved ones and create away!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gorgonzola Pear & Honey Crostini

These are amazing. And oh-so easy! If you have a few people coming over for a glass of wine and you want to put more on the table than a bowl of nuts and some slices of cheese, keep these in mind. You don't need to purchase many ingredients (try 3, not including olive oil, since everyone should have large bottle of that lying around), and whips together in a matter of minutes. Plus, everyone you will serve them to will love them. They're salty, tangy, smooth, crunchy and warm. The gorgonzola has such a pungent flavor, the pear is slightly crunchy, cool and sweet, the honey is drizzled atop a thick slice of hot gorgonzola fresh out of the oven. You know when you put peanut butter on a hot piece of toast fresh out of the toaster and it gets all melted and gooey, and if you put a light drizzle of honey on top of the warm melted peanut butter how the honey becomes one with peanut butter, but it's light sweet taste lingers? It's the same idea, but with cheese and pear. You don't even need to know your way around a kitchen to whip these tasty delights up. I've made these on several occasions and every time they've been a hit, and they don't last very long! 

Recipe: Pear, Gorgonzola and Honey Crostini


1 baguette sliced (each slice about 1/2 inch thick)
1 healthy block gorgonzola - sliced
1 ripe anjou pear (or other favorite pear) - sliced 
A jar of fresh honey
Olive Oil


1. Preheat oven to 375 F

2. Arrange the sliced baguette on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil

3. Toast in the oven until only slightly turning golden brown (about 5 minutes)

4. Remove bread from the oven and top with a slice of pear, then a slice of cheese. 

5. Put the tray back in the oven and toast another 3-5 minutes until gorgonzola has warmed and melted a bit. 

6. Remove from oven and immediately drizzle with honey (the crostini need to be extremely hot, so that the honey will glaze the top of the crostini).

7. Serve on a pretty platter, and start another batch pronto, you'll need more, trust me!



Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cheesecake Extrodinaire

I had a lovely Thanksgiving that consisted of all the staples: Turkey, buckets of stuffing, mashed potatoes galore, the best green bean casserole on earth (no canned mushroom soup here), roasted sweet meat squash, and of course plenty of homemade cranberry dressing. Thomas' sister Rayne joined us out at my mothers. We spent the day (and most of the evening) drinking tea, lounging in front of a roaring fire, listening to soft music and playing games. It was such a delight to have Rayne with us this year, we both love her to pieces. Going out to my mothers is like going on vacation, you're out in the middle of nowhere (or at least it feels that way), it's quiet, and her house is so lovely it feels like you're at a fancy resort. Her house is practically all large windows (or at least that's what it feels like), and so you feel as though you're outside amongst nature, when in fact you're sitting in front of a roaring fire, on a plush sofa, covered in the softest of blankets, lounging like our pugs do. It's simply the greatest. 

This year she asked me not to make a heavy dessert, since the dinner is always very heavy. I mulled it over in my head for about a week and finally said "Screw that, I'm making cheesecake". I knew she wouldn't object in the end, and she didn't. Pumpkin cheesecake is fairly popular option around turkey day because it reminds us of pumpkin pie (which I dislike anyway) in a creamier, sweeter sort of way. I've done pumpkin cheesecakes before, ginger snap crusts and all, but decided I wanted to combine MY favorite pie, apple, with cheesecake. I adore my apple pie because it doesn't have a top crust, I always top apple pie with a mixture of melted butter, brown sugar, flour and oats. It's like a crunchy yet chewy giant oatmeal cookie atop a sweet, tart, sticky apple center. I wanted the same flavors and textures but mixed with a cool, thick creamy vanilla bean cheesecake. 

I really had no recipe, in fact, I did my apple pie upside down, in a way. I made my crumb topping except I added some additional flour and oats to bind it a bit more and make it more crust like and less crumbly. I cooked the apples in the same manor I cook them for apple pie. I then topped it all off with a creamy vanilla bean cream cheese mixture. 

I'll post my crumb topping/crust recipe and the apple pie filling recipe. I won't post a cheesecake recipe as a lot of people seem to have their favorites and mine is a guarded family secret. 

Recipe: Brown Sugar Oatmeal Crumb Topping (Or Cheesecake crust)


1/2 cup or 1 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup of oats 


1. Melt butter
2. Add sugar, flour and oats, mix thoroughly. 
3. Top a pie, or press firmly into the bottom of a springform pan for crust.

Recipe: Apple Pie Filling


4 honeycrisp apples
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 brown sugar
2 tsp. good cinnamon (adjust according to taste)
1/4 tsp. clove
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1-2 TBL. flour


1. Melt butter in a large sauce pan
2. Add apples, both sugars, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. 
3. Cook this mixture over medium low heat for 10-15 minutes or until apples begin to soften and mixture caramelizes a bit.
4. Add flour to thicken. This should give you a nice mixture of apples and a cinnamon/sugary gooey sauce. 
5. Add this to a pie shell or place atop oatmeal crust for cheesecake.

To make cheesecake, top with your favorite cheesecake recipe and bake according to cheesecake directions.