Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blueberry and Vanilla Custard Tartelettes

Time has become a precious commodity around here. The days blur by in a pattern of feeding, changing and loving Baby Mateo, intermingled with Noah's 'big boy' activities and family meals.
I am feeling better and back to my normal self and our little family has made a smooth transition from a family of three to a even four.
I have to thank everyone who has emailed and commented with encouraging words. You know who you are and you rock!

Being as busy as I am, I am experiencing what I have recently diagnosed as a baking withdrawal as I haven't created anything in over a month now, hard as that is to believe!
It's a new feeling for me; I don't like it, but I don't resent it, because as many of you have reminded me in your comments, I am cherishing this precious time with my newborn. I know only too well that soon he'll be all grown up and I'll have plenty of time to bake to my hearts content.

If you're short on time, you'll find these tartelettes (or one whole tart) are one of the quicker desserts you can whip up, especially if you have a nice little stash of tart dough on hand in the freezer, as I did (or better yet, some frozen tart shells!) A prettier sweet treat you will be hard pressed to find, and a completely satsifying combination of flaky crust, cool creamy pastry cream and fresh fruit topping. Don't limit yourself to blueberries, use what ever fruit looks fresh and gorgeous or complements your meal.

I guess around the end of March I have a thing for custard and fruit because one year ago today I posted this colorful fresh fruit tart and that is where you will find the recipes for all the components of this dessert including my absolute favorite pastry cream recipe, made with vanilla bean and made extra rich by cold butter that is whisked in at the end, and a rich tart dough.

We're starting to see some affordable berries in the markets now, so snap some up and pretend this dreary winter is over and spring is here!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Top Ten Favorite Kitchen Items

In case you were curious, here is a peek into my kitchen and the items I grab day in and day out for my cooking. There is nothing extravagant, like the Swiss made Pacojet ice cream maker (please Santa!) or futuristic like this toaster, but these items are all as dear to me as a close friend and make daily cooking a pleasure!

Unfortunately, I haven't been cooking anything as of late... a vicious post-operative infection has put me on strict bed rest and pumped full of antibiotics. I miss my sunny kitchen. I miss the smell of baking filling the house. I miss picking over fruit at the market and imagining what I will create with it. I miss every item on this top ten list.

At least I am home with my boys!
A massive heartfelt thanks to all the friends and neighbors who have brought over such delicious meals as lasagna, eggplant Parmesan, lemon chicken, noodles, and chicken pot pie, to name a few. Good, home cooked food certainly helps the body heal.

No cooking means no blogging, but thankfully, I have a few post such as this one in the vault, and so I share with you...

My Top Ten Favorite Kitchen Items:

  1. Mac Japanese series 6 1/2 inch vegetable knife.
  2. Finally, a knife that is light enough, I can use it for hours and not get a sore wrist. Not entirely just for vegetables, it slices some pretty sexy sashimi, too.

  3. Roscan Melamine mixing bowls.
  4. Durable, lightweight and heat resistant. I love color and these bowls are a fun and cheery way to mix up anything!

  5. Large wooden cutting board.
  6. Essential for any kitchen, one can never have one too big. Mine has a hundred different uses from basic vegetable prep to cheese board at a party.

  7. All-Clad 10 inch and 8 inch sauté pans.
  8. If the house was on fire, I would probably grab these pans from the kitchen before leaving. Heavy enough to sear a steak or dissolve sugar, these versatile stove top to oven sauté pans just might actually make my food taste better.

  9. Red Le Creuset 7 ¼ quart Round French Oven.
  10. Pasta sauces, curries, stews, you name it, this pot is never empty in my kitchen and never wears out.

  11. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.
  12. A cherished wedding present, this beauty is my third arm. From the softest pizza dough to the fluffiest butter cream, with countless batches of cookies in between- this mixer does it all.

  13. Braun Aromatic Coffee Grinder.
  14. A worthwhile investment, this little coffee grinder works perfectly for grinding my spices and hasn't been used for coffee in some time. Without it, making those batches of homemade garam masala would be a lot more work. Switching from a curry to cinnamon? Simply pulse some coarse salt through it to remove odors and wipe clean with a dry cloth.

  15. Fine Mesh Sieves.
  16. Irreplaceable in a gourmet’s kitchen and perfect for straining sauces, sifting flours, passing delicate purees, these durable sieves are always with in reach.

  17. Silicone heat resistant spatulas.
  18. The perfect balance between firm and flexible, these spatulas were probably invented by someone who often absentmindedly sets the spatula down on the hot stove next to the pot. Guilty!

  19. Braun Multiquick Handblender.
  20. Where would I be without this immersion blender to puree soups, whip up batches of aioli, foam a sauce, throw together smoothies and do a dozen other tasks for me during the day? Best feature: the removable head allows for a quick clean-up.

Do you have a kitchen item you can’t do with out? Please share!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Toasting with Margaritas

With the birth of my baby comes not only the incredible gift of another son to love, but also the return of some culinary delights to my diet... and my belly is happy.

I can now enjoy runny, raw milk cheeses with a glass of wine, guilt-free lattés and pots of strong tea, honey on my scones, fresh oysters in the half shell, and yes, alcohol.

As my original post-partum plan went out the window when my doctor banned hot tubs for 6 weeks (and I decided sushi was too labor intensive for now), I saw a deal on limes at the market and decided a margarita night was the perfect way to celebrate.

It is not without some reservations that I make tequila the subject of my first post-partum post as I am not a big drinker. However, after nine months of abstinence it was nice to raise my glass with a few friends and toast the new arrival with a classic margarita!

Thanks to my New Mexican brother in law (who inevitably drags out the shot glasses and tequila at every family reunion), I developed a taste for tequila and the humble margarita became my absolute favorite mixed drink. I'm not talking any old tequila 'Bang-Bang' either, but some of the finer imports such as the oh-so-good Corzo.

This is a sipping tequila, not merely a liquid to be tossed back, shot after shot, until you reach that booze-induced state of drunkenness that gives tequila such a bad reputation, but a real classy drink.

So, snow or no snow, winter or summer, this is a drink that can be enjoyed anytime!

A quick note to my blogger friends out there....I am enjoying all of your posts! There is no better time to get caught up on all the incredible dishes you are creating than during those 3 AM feeds with Mateo. As I am not a fan of the one handed 'hunt and peck' typing system, I am not leaving comments, but do know that I am reading!

Classic Margarita

1 shot good-quality tequila
1/2 shot Triple Sec

1 shot freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 shot simple syrup

kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled.
Rub the rim of a margarita glass with lime and dip in kosher salt to rim the glass. Strain contents of shaker into the glass and serve at once.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Leap for Joy....It's a Boy!

Under the High Chair is very proud to welcome

Mateo Jules

into the family.

Born February 29, (Leap Year) 2008 at 1:46 in the afternoon

Weight: 6 Lbs, 7 oz, Length: 19 1/2 inches

Baby Mateo is healthy and eating and sleeping like a champion.

Mama Aimee is relieved to have survived the hospital food,

thrilled to be back home,

and hopelessly in love with her little boy.


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