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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

Okay.  I admit it.  Thanksgiving makes me think a little bit more about how thankful I am for my life.  I should probably be a little more mindful and think about how good I have it all the other days of the year, but if it takes a national holiday to get me going, so be it.

A few years ago, I was in a serious rut.  I knew I needed to do something but I didn't know what that something was.  Every time I came upon an idea, before I could even fully formulate what that idea was, I came up with at least 100 reasons why it wasn't a good idea.  Clearly, I needed to act.

And then, one day 528 posts ago, I decided to start a blog.  Who knew that all these posts later I would still be going strong.

I know that I've had my peaks and valleys with You Little Tarte.  Sometimes I post a lot and sometimes well, not so much.  The nice thing is that I know that even if I take a little breather, you'll all still be there waiting to see what I cook up next -- both literally and figuratively.

And for that I am thankful.

Recipe:  Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices 
(Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)

Note:  I am currently having a "photo problem", but I made these and rest assured that they are (1) beyond delicious, and (2) pretty as a picture.


For the crumb:

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, plus more at room temperature for the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 large egg

For the filling:

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
3 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch


Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, and butter the sides and the parchment. In a large, widish bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and spices. With a pastry blender or fork, work the chilled butter  and the egg into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pat half the crumb base into the bottom of your prepared pan; it will be thin.

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, briefly pulse the filling ingredients until the berries are coarsely chopped but not pureed. Spread the filling over the crumb base. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs evenly over the cranberry mixture.

Bake cookies for 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Oatmeal That Packs a Punch

I love oatmeal, any oatmeal.  Okay, that's not technically true.  I don't like those little packets of flavored oatmeal that the only prep required is the addition of hot water.  That stuff is gross.  But I do love real oatmeal, be it rolled or steel cut.  It's just so yummy.

I also feel very virtuous when I eat oatmeal.  It's like a giant jump start to the day.  No matter what I eat later on, I can still cling to the fact that I had a healthy breakfast.  If I go down the road of no return and have french toast or pancakes to start the day, I know that it's all downhill from there.  And isn't life enough of an uphill battle without starting out rolling downhill?

A friend of mine recently made a brilliant suggestion to me vis a vis my morning oatmeal.  To be fair, this friend is also a nutritionist so she knows what she's talking about.  Anyway, she suggested cooking my oatmeal in skim milk and adding a half of a mashed banana to the oats as they're cooking.

Now you might be saying "I always cook my oatmeal in skim milk", or "I always add a mashed banana when I'm cooking my oatmeal".  Well, then you're way ahead of me.

You see, I always figured that cooking the oats in water was the better approach.  After all, wasn't it always preferable to cut the calories?  The simple answer to this is no.  First of all, cooking the oats in skim milk has all the obvious health benefits.  But, more importantly to me, cooking the oats in skim milk make the whole concoction taste well, creamier and way, way more decadent.  And who doesn't want a little decadence for breakfast, especially if it's good for you.  The mashed banana is just the icing on the cake.  A little banana add a who lot of sweetness and I'm all for that.

Topped with a couple of fresh (or frozen if you live in the winter wasteland where the only fruits available from October to March are bananas, apples, and pears) berries, this is a winner of a breakfast.

And it's good for you too.

Recipe:  Creamy Oatmeal with Banana


1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup oats (your choice)
1/2 banana, mashed
Pinch of kosher salt
Fruit for garnish (optional)


Over medium heat, combine the milk, banana, and salt and bring to a simmer.  Add the oats and continue to cook over medium heat according to package instructions, being careful not to let it boil.

Serve hot with fruit on top.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ooey Gooey

The other day I was browsing around Williams Sonoma.  Honestly, that store is like crack for me.  When I'm there, all of a sudden I get the overwhelming feeling that if I don't immediately purchase a small appliance such as a pasta extruder, I may have a seizure on sight.  That's right.  I'm a small appliance addict.

It's not my fault.  Williams Sonoma sends me their catalog at least once a month.  Everything in that catalog looks so damn appealing that I can't help but to lust after the panini presses and bread makers.

Fortunately, I am a women with great self control.  I fight the urge to fill my kitchen with single purpose appliances.  It's not easy, but I do it.  I am woman, hear me roar!

As much as I love the electronics, I'm not much of a pushover for the jars and packages of William Sonoma brand pasta sauces and quick breads.  I always figure that I can do it better myself, so why pay $21 for a jar of bolognese?  I'm sure it's good -- how could it not be for $21 -- but I have great confidence in my ability to follow a recipe and come up with something equally as tasty for a fraction of the price and preservatives.

Well, having proclaimed my belief that I can make anything better than something found in a packaged mix, the other day the nice Williams Sonoma lady offered me a taste of something called an Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Bar.  This thing was insane.

I can't even describe it's deliciousness.  Let's just say, that Pumpkin Pecan Quick Bread mix formed what can only be described as the most delicious crust I have ever eaten.  Topped with a cream cheesey pumpkin mixture and then baked, these pumpkin bars were little squares of cheesecakey- autumn heaven.

So I did the unthinkable.  I bought the Pumpkin Pecan Quick Bread mix.  I had a jar of pumpkin butter at home that I had picked up at the farm stand the other day, so at least I didn't end up spending $30 on Williams Sonoma ingredients.

These bars were delicious and I'm going to make them again.  I think they would be just as tasty with a graham cracker crust, so next time I'm going to opt out of the quick bread mix.  But if you're feeling flush, the next time you're in your friendly neighborhood Williams Sonoma store, pick up the quick bread mix and the pumpkin butter and give these babies a whirl.  They would make a delicious addition to your Thanksgiving dessert spread.

Recipe:  Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Bars
(Williams Sonoma)

* Note:  I did not use Muirhead Pumpkin Pecan Butter.  I used plain old pumpkin butter and it was just fine.  In fact, it was way better than fine.


For the crust:
1 package (1 lb. 2 oz.) spiced pecan pumpkin quick bread mix
1 egg
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling: 
1 package (8 oz./250g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 jar (13.5 oz.) Muirhead pecan pumpkin butter
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
15 oz. confectioners’ sugar


Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

To make the crust, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the quick bread mix, egg and melted butter and beat on low speed until the ingredients come together, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and spread out evenly. Press the crust down until it feels compact (using the back of a measuring cup can help).

Wash and dry the mixer bowl and beater.

To make the filling, in the mixer bowl, combine the cream cheese and pumpkin butter and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, vanilla, melted butter and cinnamon and beat until combined, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat well, about 2 minutes.

Spread the filling over the crust. Transfer to the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Do not overbake; the center should still be a little gooey. To test for doneness, gently shake the pan; you should see a slight jiggle in the center. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes, then cut into bars. Makes 16 bars.

Friday, November 9, 2012

An Apple (or Two) a Day

As I mentioned last week, Ted made a trip to the farm stand.  My way of dealing with the apple overload was to make a big pot of applesauce.  Great idea, right?

Everyone around here started out very enthusiastic about the applesauce.  Kate was having it as a little snack in the evening.  Ted had a bowl here and there.  But applesauce, like spaghetti, seems to grow instead of diminish and, a week later, we still had enough applesauce to serve an army.

I like an orderly refrigerator and that bowl of applesauce was just taking up too much space.  I tried changing the bowl to something a little smaller, but it was still in the way.  It was time to cook with applesauce.

I'd heard about applesauce bread but had never made one.  I consulted my close personal friend Google and there were lots of recipes, but none that "spoke to me".  So, I decided to make one up myself.

This may not sound like a big deal to you, but I am a cookbook person.  I'm willing to give others the job of "making up" the recipes.  I'm happy to take credit for "following directions", but I'm cool with someone else have their name on the cover page of the cookbook.

So, we've established that I am not usually a recipe writer.

This is why this applesauce bread is so remarkable.  It's good.  And I made it up myself.  Go figure.

I have caught the bug and am going to make it again and again to see if I can make my bread even better.

Suggestions are welcome.

Recipe:  Applesauce Banana Bread


1/2 cup mashed banana (1 banana)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
3/4 cup buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the banana, sugars, and applesauce.  Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla.

In another mixing bowl, combine the flours, oatmeal, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

Add one third of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Combine well.  Add half of the buttermilk. Combine.  Add the next third of the dry ingredients followed by the rest of the buttermilk.  Combine.    Add the rest of the dry ingredient and combine.  Do not over mix.

Pour into a greased 8-inch loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rock Your Vote

Today is a big day.  It's Election Day which means that it's the one day that our voices can be heard loud and clear.  It's the one day that we can each take a moment to do something for ourselves without any guilt.  We can cast a vote for the future.

I don't like to sound preachy, but now more than ever, it's important that we voice our opinions, in perhaps the most tangible way possible -- in the voting booth.  Whatever your politics are and with whatever hot button issues are important to you, let you voice be heard.

And help out.  There are lots of people who can't get to their polling places easily.  Give your neighbor a ride if they need one.  It's not a big deal to you -- you're going there anyway -- and it can make a huge difference in not only your life, but in the lives of everyone you know and love.

This is Charlie's first time voting.  He cast his absentee ballot a few weeks ago.  He's away at college so he couldn't go to his polling place to do the deed in person.  I wish he could have.  It's a meaningful experience and one we shouldn't take for granted.

And after you vote, order in and watch the returns.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Apple Dandy

Sometimes when Ted goes to the farm stand, he gets a little overexcited and buys a little too much.  I have to admit that, I too, fall into the trap, but never to the extend that Ted does.

Ted's most recent trip to the farm stand rewarded us with pumpkins, gourds, apple cider, and too many apples to count.  The pumpkins are on the front porch (soaking wet and not quite where we left them, compliments of Sandy), the gourds are in a nice basket on the dining room table, and the apples...  Well, the apples are... everywhere.

We started out strong, working our way through all the apples.  I was enthusiastic about having an apple or two a day, as were Ted and Kate.  But soon we grew tired of the apples and they began to get a little mealy.  Then they sat.  And sat.  And then they started to lose their shine.

In apple parlance, this is bad.

And then I went to Whole Foods the other day and they had Honey Crisps, which were so seductive because I thought they were done for the season.  So I bought a couple.  Those new shiny apples made the old ones look even less appetizing.

But being the thrifty gal I am, I decided that the old apples shouldn't go to waste.  You know the classic line: When life gives you old apples, make applesauce.

I used to make Ina Garten's applesauce, but let's face it, no one needs to put butter in their applesauce.  This is true even if it's the most delicious, rich, divine applesauce known to man.  I was feeling spunky, so I decided to throw together my own, not quite unsweetened, homemade applesauce.

Recipe:  Homemade Applesauce


5 pounds (give or take) mixed apples, peeled, cored, and chunked
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of nutmeg
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt


Preheat oven to 350.

Combine all ingredients in a large dutch oven.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until apples are very soft.

Remove from oven and, using a whisk, stir the applesauce until it reaches the consistency you want.  I like mine chunky.  Serve warm.