Sunday, November 27, 2011

tart and more tart

I hope you all had an enjoyable Thanksgiving filled with good food and family and/or friends. Dinner for us on Thursday was hosted by my brother and sister-in-law, so the only thing I had to do was make dessert. I decided to keep it light and simple with a French apple tart. I realized as I prepared to lay down the apple slices in a circle, that I had no idea how to do this. Do I start in the center and work my way out, or start at the edges and work my way in? I learned three things: 1. I need to create a step-by-step on this simple task; 2. It’s not as fussy as it looks; 3. When you put apples, cinnamon and sugar together and bake them, your house smells wonderful all morning.

Sometimes it’s good to mix things up, break from the traditional pumpkin pie. This seemed perfectly light, almost healthy after a heavy meal.


I placed the apple slices along the edge of the crust and worked my way toward the center, overlapping as I went. Then went back and filled in any spaces.

Michael returned from three weeks in Africa. I welcomed him home with a dinner of chicken enchiladas and this super easy, slightly tart, moderately sweet, lemon tart...


Attention lemon lovers: you can include two full lemons. 
I stopped at one and a half, and it was plenty lemony for me. 

Lemon Tart
Printable Recipe

Adapted from a recipe by Susan Branch

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Butter a 9x14” tart pan (or you can cut the recipe in half and use an 8” square).

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
2 pinches of salt

Place all ingredients into a food processor and mix until soft and smooth. Please evenly into the tart pan and bake for 20 minutes.

While the crust is baking, make the topping.

2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
4 eggs
Juice and zest of 1−2 lemons
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
powdered sugar for dusting the top

In a kitchen mixer, beat eggs well. Gradually add sugar and mix until mixture is thick. Add all other ingredients (except the powdered sugar). Beat. Pour this mixture over the baked crust and return it to the oven. Reduce heat to 325°F. Bake 30-35 minutes until it turns golden. Cool and remove from tart pan. Sift powdered sugar over the entire tart. Cut into squares.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

what I’m thankful for... part 4


“When I am anxious, it is because I am living in the future.
When I am depressed, it is because I am living in the past.
When I am peaceful, it is because I am living in the present.”

Yoga is about living in the present... occupying your body, stretching beyond what you thought were your limits, and erasing all stress for a short period of time. Yoga has the ability to ward off injuries from other more strenuous workouts, and give you the strength necessary to push your body even further.

I have not always believed this. For years I was a yoga skeptic. I went to a chiropractor, my GP, a psychologist, a massage therapist. Every one of them (with the exception of my GP, who gave me a prescription for anti-anxiety meds) recommended yoga to me as a way to strengthen the muscles that hold up my head and reduce the anxiety I was experiencing. I was running four days a week and lifting weights every other day. My neck and shoulders hurt more and more with each workout. Some days my neck hurt so badly that the pain made me sick to my stomach and dizzy. I was convinced that I must have some major nerve issue going on. The more it hurt, the more tense I became, which in turn created tighter muscles and more anxiety.

In hopes of breaking the vicious cycle, I heeded the advice of many and joined a yoga class. People were standing in the tree pose for several minutes. Just standing there on one leg! “You are a strong tree, gently swaying in the wind,” the instructor spoke quietly. I carefully placed my right leg onto my left. My right foot slipped right off my left leg and landed back on the floor. I was not just swaying, I was a fallen tree.

It all began to change the day I met an amazing instructor, Jim Gillen. Jim has an approach to yoga that I had never experienced before. He jokes during class, his voice and manner calm me. He corrects poses. After several months of classes with him, I realized that with his corrections, and a steady, focused gaze, I too was becoming a stable tree. I swayed slightly, but didn’t topple over.

I have been doing yoga regularly for the last year. I love it, crave it, it’s limbering me up and strengthening my body more than any other exercise ever has. Muscles made sore from running and weight lifting are stretched and soothed in yoga. My core strength, balance and anxiety have improved immensely.

According to a study done by The Wall Street Journal, yoga does not have mental effects. I am convinced that their study was not conducted for long enough to reveal those mental benefits. If something healthy can reduce my anxiety levels, I’m sticking with it.

Being fit is not a destination, it’s a way of life.

This is my new favorite pose.

and then there’s the cute clothes factor...

No more baggy Guatemalan prints from the 70’s are seen in yoga classes today. Yoga clothes have become so cute you’ll wanna wear them all the time. Since discovering Lucy (we have several stores nearby), I could be perfectly content living in workout wear. The compression of their pants gives the feeling of weightlessness. When I put their clothes on, I feel as fit as an olympic athlete. Throw on one of their awesome jackets, and voilá! They had a sale last Saturday, a birthday celebration with 25% everything in the store. I stocked up on a few necessities.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

what I’m thankful for... part 3

My husband

While my daughter and I are here with all the comforts of home, hubby is in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe at the Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage and Matobo Hills National Park. He’s working with one of the Oregon Zoo’s curators on a biodiversity and leopard study of Matobo Hills. He’s reported that working conditions are not ideal. Daytime temperatures sore into the 100’s, and dip into the 90’s at night. While staying at the orphanage, he’s not able to open the windows in his room... well, he can, but he’ll have to share his space and belongings with monkeys and cute lil’ lion cubs.

Michael living one of his boyhood fantasies... driving a Land Rover through Africa looking for photo opportunities.

Most of his time is spent out in the back country of the Matobo Hills. I guess they’re camping while in the park, but to tell you the truth, I don’t want to hear the details of that until he returns.

In case you don’t know what my husband does for a living... he’s a hotshot natural history photographer. His devotion to his work, and the extent he goes to achieve outstanding results, continue to amaze me every day. His work is so specialized that he is forced to develop and create equipment to suit his needs. With the tight airline security in force, you can imagine the delays he encounters when traveling internationally. During security checks, he’s questioned, sometimes interrogated and delayed while he explains mysterious photo equipment to personnel. With language barriers, the stress level is high. When I traveled to Ecuador and The Galapagos with him last year, I witnessed a bit of that stress first hand.

While he’s traveling in Africa, we’ve had a few conversations using FaceTime on our smart iPhones and iPads, but because power and internet is inconsistent, we have to go for days or weeks without communication. He tells me that being out of contact with us is his greatest source of anxiety.

I look forward to the day when I’m able to travel with him more frequently.


These are some of the orphaned lions living in the care of the Chipengali orphanage. 
Chipengali means “open friendly country.”

I just received more information about this larger lion cub: 

“The larger lion cub is 18 months old. This is a bit old (and large) to be roaming with people, but she was so malnourished when she was young that she needed constant care and love and had to fight to live. She is playful but remarkably gentle. Still it is a bit frightening to see her rush over to play since she can knock a person over. She is good with the dogs and small animals. We eat outside and this lion will not try to take food or steal food from the dogs. It’s just weird to have such a large alpha predator with such a mellow disposition.”

I love you sweetie! Stay safe!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

what I’m thankful for... part 2

Friends and fresh food


All this was in this week’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) gift. It includes: comice pears, liberty apples, chanterelle mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, leeks, spinach, celeriac, delicata squash, purple carrots, kale, onions, fennel, eggs, cheese and a loaf of bread. A lot of farm fresh deliciousness in this box!

I love it when friends aren’t able to use their CSA box and they gift it to me! Thank you Chris!!

A big part of the excitement in having all these fresh ingredients in my kitchen is figuring out what to cook... and photographing it, of course.


Chanterelle mushroom. Mushroom risotto?


Purple carrots. Will be great in squash soup. Along with delicata squash, apples and onions.

Do you know what this is?...


If you answered celeriac (aka celery root), you’re correct! There are several recipes online that use celeriac including: celeriac soup; mashed potatoes with celeriac; slaws, and remoulade. Good to know that it’ll keep, wrapped loosely in the produce drawer of the fridge for up to two weeks.

Comice pears. Not sure what I’ll do with these yet. Maybe just bite into them. Or bake them into individual tarts and serve them warm with ice cream. They are beautiful aren’t they?


It looks like I’ll be occupying my kitchen for a while.

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

what I’m thankful for... part 1

My daughter


While my husband is off in Zimbabwe for the month of November photographing leopards, bats, and other creatures that go bump in the night, my daughter and I are home doing girly things (along with going to school, dance, work and household chores... but let’s forget that part for now). We are really enjoying our mommy/daughter time together.

Last weekend Isabel set up a spa in our living room. She made us warm foot baths with oils, lavender, sea salts and/or oatmeal. While we soaked our feet, we watched reruns on Hulu+ like Rhoda, Mary Tyler Moore, Cake Boss. Then she lathered on lotion and gave me a relaxing foot massage.

She also provides facials created with natural ingredients such as egg, coconut milk, lemon juice, oatmeal, yogurt. Taking into consideration the dryness or oiliness of our skin, she carefully prepares a personalized formula. Often a shoulder massage is involved. We trade off being the masseuse. She calls this a massage train. We feast on seafood and eat ice cream. That’s it! She is forbidden to grow up and leave!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

French Apple Tart


Gravenstein apples had been chillin’ out in our spare refrigerator for several weeks before I finally found time to bake something with them. An apple pie seemed like too much dessert during these days while my husband is doing a slow-carb diet. That means that every day of the week but one, he avoids sweets and carbs. Saturdays are his designated “eat whatever I damn well please” day. So unless I want to make a total pig out of myself, I bake on Saturdays. Then I have the rest of the week to enjoy the leftovers.

This French apple tart recipe was exactly the type of dessert deserving of the slightly tart, crisp apples I’d scored on a recent local farm excursion. Simple. Light. Not too sweet. Goes down easy after a large meal and even better mid morning with hot coffee.

Working with dough is very satisfying!


I just learned about glazes. They can magically make pastry look professional.

French Apple Tart
(a slightly modified version of Ina Garten’s recipe)
Serves 6



2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup ice water

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds. Add the butter and pulse 10-12 times, until the butter is in small pits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water into the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to hold together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. At this point you can either: grab a sheet pan and line it with parchment paper or a Silpat mat; or, as I did, a rectangular (10x15) tart pan with a removable bottom. I think this gave the tart a fancier, company worthy presentation.

Roll the dough out slightly larger than 10x14 inches. If you’re using a sheet pan, you’ll want to use a ruler and knife and trim the edges. Place the dough on/in the pan of your choice and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Apple filling

4 apples (you can use Granny Smith, Gravenstein, or any other semi-tart apples)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, diced small

Peel the apples the cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baller. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch-thick slices. At this point, apple slice placement depends on the pan you’re using. I created three rows of apples, but you could place them diagonally, or spiral them if you want to make it real purty. Sprinkle the apples with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and dot with 4 Tablespoons of butter.

Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown.


1/4 cup apricot jelly or jam
2 Tablespoons apple brandy, rum or water

Heat the jelly or jam along with the liquid. If you used jam, you’ll need to sieve it through cheesecloth. Brush apples and pastry completely with the mixture.

Allow to cool and serve warm with a little whipped cream or ice cream.