Friday, October 28, 2011

Lemon Anise Cocktail

At our recent house-warming slash cocktail party, we decided it’d be fun to serve a signature cocktail.  We wanted something citrusy and complex, a little herbal, and not too sweet.

The result was this pale yellow beauty – the Lemon Anise.  It’s made with lemon, gin, and just the tiniest bit of pastis which is a French anise flavored liquor. 

lemon anise cocktail

For the final touch, the Lemon Anise can be topped with a champagne float.  I loved the slight fizziness & complexity the champagne added, but Dulcie preferred hers straight up.

lemon anise cocktail 5

lemon anise cocktail 3

lemon anise cocktail 4

Lemon Anise Cocktail

  • 2 oz gin
  • 2 oz lemonade
  • 1/4 oz pastis (we used Ricard Pernod) or other anise liquor
  • float of champagne on top, about 1/2”. optional

Combine the lemonade, gin, and pastis – pour over ice.  Top with the 1/2” float of champagne.

lemon anise cocktail 6

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Apple Brie Tart

This simple tart with flaky crust and tart apple slices sandwiching a layer of bubbling brie is a perfect fall dish.

The fun part of this tart is it’s very simple to make – it really only has three ingredients if you count “crust” as one ingredient.  But the final product is gorgeous and impressive.  The thinly sliced apples arranged in a pretty rose shape with brie bubbling up between them is basically irresistible.

I recently had a little house warming party and served a couple of these tarts (one was apple brie, the other pear camembert) as appetizers. They were perfect – not too sweet, not too savory, and easy to eat while socializing with our park playdate group.

Most of the toddlers in the group seemed to like them, too, which is always a nice surprise!

Thank you to A Spicy Perspective for the recipe inspiration!

Crust (makes 2, so save one for later):

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp (1.5 sticks) butter, cut into small 1/4” cubes
  • Have measured 1/2 c ice cold water
From the Alice Waters classic. Mix the flour & salt together.  Cut or work the butter cubes into the flour mixture, leaving some fairly large irregular pieces.  I do this in the food processor, and just hit pulse a few times until it just becomes irregular and grainy.  Pour in about 3/4 of the ice water, pulse a few more times, then add the rest of the water if needed until the mixture sticks together into a rough ball.
Divide the dough into two, wrap in plastic, flatten into discs, and refrigerate for a few minutes or days (depending on when you want to use the dough, you can make it a day or two in advance). 
Roll one of the discs out in a circle to fit a 10” tart pan. No need to prebake the crust.


  • 2 large apples.  I like honeycrisp best.
  • 8 oz brie, approx.  This is about the size (maybe a little less) of one of a standard smallish wheel of brie that’s commonly available at the supermarket.
Slice the brie into 1/4” thick planks.  Core & quarter the apples, then slice them as thinly as possible.   Line the bottom of the tart evenly with slices of brie, then top with the apple slices.  To arrange the apple slices, start at the outer edge to create the first circle of overlapping pieces.  Line the pieces up very closely in order to create a good total thickness of apple for the top of the tart – you don’t want to wind up with a paper thin layer of apples in the end.  For the center, stand the apples up with skins out in concentric circles to form a rose shape.  Bend the apples into smaller & smaller circles to create the pretty rose shape.  I learned how to do it here, at a Spicy Perspective, which is also the source of my recipe inspiration!
Bake at 400 for 40 minutes – until the brie is bubbling up and golden.
Let rest and cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting & serving.  This helps it hold together and not completely slip apart due to the hot bubbling brie!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Golden Watermelon Margarita

Now that it is nearing the end of October, most of us are thinking about pumpkins, butternut squash, and the like. But local farms around us are also producing lots of that other cucurbita: the watermelon. I received a lovely yellow-fleshed watermelon from a friend, and we decided to run it through Sarah's fancy-pants juicer and came up with a cocktail which is a close relative to the margarita.
We created this drink for our Mexican-inspired October dinner party. It was the perfect accompaniment to the slow cooker carnitas tacos! Sweeter than a regular margarita, but not too sweet. Just a hint of lime. The yellow juice from our golden watermelon was really lovely, but it would be ever so sweet in pink, wouldn't it?
Golden Watermelon Margarita
  • 2 ounces watermelon juice
  • 1 ounce tequila
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • 1/4 of a lime
  • ice
Put watermelon juice, tequila, and triple sec into a shaker with ice. Now squeeze the lime in as well. Give it a good shake, pour, and enjoy. Makes 1 drink.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Dinner Party {monthly menu}

Fall is my favorite season, and October is my absolute favorite month. The heat clicks on, the sweaters come out, and now it is time to crank up the oven. 

We'd been kicking around the idea of making carnitas since the middle of summer, but we kept putting it off. Once we experienced our first cold snap, the idea of pork quietly simmering all day sounded like just the thing. We developed a somewhat-Mexican-inspired menu around the carnitas. 

October Dinner Party Menu

The smoky bacon pumpkin soup was thick with a creamy texture and sweetened with a bit of maple syrup. We topped it off with crumbled queso fresco and finely chopped cilantro.

I got my very lovely DeLonghi slow cooker almost a year ago, and although I use it regularly to prepare meals for my family, this is the first time we've ever used it for a Two Tarts' recipe. A crockpot is perfect for a dish like carnitas which needs to simmer slowly for hours. We threw the meat under the broiler just before serving to brown it up a bit. 
Slow Cooker Carnitas
  • 3 1/2 pounds pork shoulder
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 limes
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 cup beef broth
Mix salt and cumin together and rub all over the pork shoulder. Place the pork shoulder into the slow cooker, along with the whole garlic cloves. Squeeze the oranges and limes and add the juice to the slow cooker. Pour the beef broth over the top, and cook on low for 10 hours. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and turn on the broiler. When the carnitas has cooled a bit, gently shred with your fingers. (Remove all the fatty bits and discard.) Place the shredded carnitas onto the baking sheet and broil until the meat starts to caramelize and brown around the edges, about 5 minutes.

We topped our carnitas tacos with a delicious green chile (recipe forthcoming!) as well as queso fresco, cilantro, and chopped white onions. We finished our meal off with individual ramekins of apple crisp topped with vanilla whipped cream. Not a very Mexican way to end the evening, but I had a bag of lovely, tiny apples from a friend's apple tree and they were just begging to be placed in a crisp.

The same gentleman who gave us the tasty little apples gave us a golden watermelon. We whipped up a cocktail which is essentially a watermelon margarita. It was awesome, and the recipe is right here.

We listened to:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Vanilla Whipped Cream

This whipped cream has just three lovely ingredients – cream, sugar, and vanilla.  It’s just barely sweet, spiked with lovely flecks of real vanilla bean, and would be truly offended if you even tried to compare it with “real whipped cream” that comes in a can.

vanilla whipped cream 1 sq

It’s so easy to make delicious whipped cream.  This makes an excellent topping for any cake, pie, tart, beverage, etc.  Please don’t buy canned whipped cream or – shudder – cool whip anymore.  It’s just not worth it.

vanilla whipped cream 3 sq

You don’t need to whip up the entire pint of cream at one time.  It’s really simple to tweak this recipe in half (or less) if you’re just making a dessert for two, or if you don’t want to have thoughts like this running through your head for a few days: “I have a lot of delicious whipped cream in my fridge! How shall I eat it next?!”

vanilla whipped cream 2 sq

Vanilla Whipped Cream

  • one pint heavy whipping cream
  • seeds of one vanilla bean (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Pour cream into a large bowl.   Begin beating (I use a handheld electric mixer.  I’m sure it could be done by hand, but I haven’t attempted that yet!).

Tips on how to make great whipped Cream:

  • Use a large bowl to minimize splattering.
  • Make sure the bowl is completely clean – any greasy residue left behind will hinder the beating process and could prevent the cream from turning into whipped cream.
  • For best and fastest whipping results, try freezing the bowl & beaters for a few minutes before getting started. The coldness helps the cream whip more quickly and easily.
  • Powdered sugar dissolves more quickly and evenly into the whipped cream, but it is possible to substitute regular granulated sugar.

When the cream begins to form soft peaks (no longer totally liquid but can begin to hold its shape just a little), add the sugar and vanilla bean seeds.  Continue whipping until the cream becomes thick and easily holds peaks & valleys. 

Note that if you don’t beat the cream long enough, you’ll have a more soft and creamy final product that doesn’t really hold its shape (but still tastes delicious).  If you beat it too far past the point of when it is holding peaks & valleys, it will suddenly separate into butter & whey.  Which would be a bummer.

vanilla whipped cream 4 sq

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Applesauce Spice Cake

Fall baking is in full swing around here, and what better to bake in October than a cake scented with apples, cinnamon, and cardamom!  Don’t worry – this isn’t one of those cakes where you substitute applesauce for butter.  There is plenty of butter in this baby – the applesauce is used for its flavor, and the final result is the perfect blend: a comfort food with grown up spices.

applesauce spice cake 4 sq

My little guy turned 2 at the beginning of October.  One of his favorite foods is applesauce, so after a little thought and cake-recipe-browsing, I decided that a cake made with applesauce, cardamom, and cloves sounded like the perfect balance between what a 2 year old would enjoy and what his parents and their friends would enjoy, too!

applesauce spice cake 3 sq

The spices come through strong and true, in a very nice way.  The apple is subtle and delicious.  We dusted the top with powdered sugar and then decorated the cake with a little circle of thin apple slices.  Vanilla whipped cream (recipe coming soon!) was the topper. 

applesauce spice cake 2 sq


Applesauce Spice Cake

  • 3 c flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

This recipe makes one 9 inch tube pan sized cake, or you can divide it between a 9 inch tart pan (not one with a removable bottom) and a small loaf pan – which is what I did.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Gradually add flour mixture; beat just until combined. Beat in applesauce.

Spray desired pans with cooking spray. If using a tart pan, consider cutting out a round of parchment paper to line the bottom with, as well. Spoon batter into pan; smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (but slightly wet):

50-60 minutes for tube pan.

45 minutes for tart pan + loaf pan.

Thank you to Martha Stewart for the recipe inspiration!


applesauce spice cake 1

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lemon Currant Scones

These delicious golden scones are packed with currants and lemon zest, and made with butter and heavy cream.  So of course they’re delicious.  They’re very pretty too – brushing the tops with a little beaten egg and cream before baking creates a golden crust that’s lovely and tasty.

currant scones

I have been excitedly awaiting the cooler weather of fall so that I could start baking without heating my house to the point of insanity.  These scones were perfect for a brunchy fall snack.

currant scones

The dough is dry but really wasn’t hard to work with.  The trick is to shape it into rounds, then cut those rounds into wedges - on the parchment paper you’ll be baking the scones on.  Not having to transfer them from a working surface to a baking surface makes things much easier.

Lemon Currant Scones

  • 2 c flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c cold butter, cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1/2 c currants
  • zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 375

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the cubed butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs.

In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together cream and egg, then add the liquids to the drys.  Reserve 1 Tbsp of the cream/egg liquid.  Stir until just combined, then dump onto a piece of parchment paper.  Knead 3-4 times until the dough just holds together, then shape into two rounds.  Cut each round into quarters and pull the pieces a few inches apart.

Brush tops of scones with the remaining cream/egg liquid. Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes.

currant scones

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Spiced Nuts

Now that it’s October, we felt the need to roast some nuts to a sweet and autumn-spiced crunch.
spiced nuts 1
These are the result, and the main thing I have to say about them is that I had no idea it was so easy to replicate the super crunchy crispy nuts that you can find at street fairs during the holiday season. 
The egg whites create a very nice and extremely crispy shell, the sugar does what sugar should do, and the spices make these taste like fall.  And Dulcie and I agree that fall is the #1 best season.  Don’t you?

Spiced Nuts

  • 2 eggs whites
  • 4 cups whole raw nuts (I used almonds, walnuts, and pecans)
  • 1 cup white sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it!)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
Add the two eggs whites to a large bowl and whisk until broken up and just starting to become foamy.
Add the 4 cups of nuts and stir well to completely coat the nuts in the egg white.  Add sugar and spices, stir well to coat.  Spread the nuts into a single thin layer on 2 baking sheets covered in parchment.
Bake at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until nuts are no longer sticky and flexible.  Let cool completely, then break apart and enjoy.
Thank you to 101cookbooks for the technique inspiration!
spiced nuts 2

Monday, October 3, 2011

Carrot Muffins

Let me introduce you to the carrot muffin. It’s like a less-sweet carrot cake. My two year old goes crazy for these and I feel pretty happy about it considering the amount of carrot they contain.

I am a major fan of muffins for breakfast. Dulcie has her eggs & toast ritual…but around these parts we like muffins.

These are tasty enough that my left-over hating self (& family) can happily handle making & eating a double batch. Do you realize what that means? They are extra delicious!

So.  I don’t know what else to say.  Therefore…

Here’s the recipe.  Enjoy!

Carrot Muffins

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch fine salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (ish) of grated carrots (3-4 medium carrots) Preheat oven to 350
    Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk oil, eggs, and vanilla together in a medium bowl, then add to dry mixture.  Stir until just combined, then add carrots & stir until incorporated. 
    Divide batter evenly into 12 muffin cups and bake at 350 for 28-30 minutes.
  • Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...