Berry Chocolate Ganache Tart

I love it when things push me out of my comfort zone. I combined three different recipes to create this gorgeous Berry Tart! I’m pretty proud of myself too. It wasn’t without some trepidation and learning though! If you make ganache on a regular basis, please skip ahead and don’t read the following imperfections of a regular non-ganache making person.

Berry Chocolate Ganache Tart

Are we alone now? No professional ganache makers among us? Whew! Let me tell you, this one freaked me out a little. I’ve only made ganache in the safety of a cooking class with an instructor ready if I screwed up. This time it was just me, some chocolate, heavy cream and a bit of butter. How hard could it be? Well, let me say, I am thankful for the expertise of Alton Brown and my microwave!

The instructions for ganache are simple: Chop 8 oz of good quality chocolate and put it in a bowl. That’s great, except if you think “Cool! 8 oz is a cup so I only need a cup of chopped chocolate.” Wrong. You need EIGHT OUNCES of chopped chocolate. If you don’t have a digital scale in your kitchen, please go get one as soon as possible. Turns out, eight ounces of chopped chocolate was almost equal to a cup and three-quarters. Lesson learned. We move on to “Sara attempts to make ganache, TAKE TWO!”

The next ganache instruction is “In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a very low simmer.” The cream is used to melt the chocolate and needs to be warm enough to do that and melt butter later. This does not mean, when you see little bubbles around the edges of the pan it’s at a “low simmer.” Little bubbles around the edges of the pan mean you need to let it heat more! Otherwise you’ll be using memories of Good Eats “The Art of Darkness III” and your microwave! My cream wasn’t warm enough so I had to put my chocolate and cream mix in the microwave for just a few seconds, twice, to get the right consistency. I could have saved myself the hassle by simply bringing the cream to the right temperature the first time. Every one of you will do that now, right? I hope you’re nodding because I’m going to invite the ganache makers back to the conversation and we want to be cool.

Ganache lovers! Welcome back! Let’s get to tart making, shall we?

I used my grandmothers Pate Sucree (Pastry made with Sugar) recipe. Then, I followed Joy The Baker’s chocolate ganache recipe, and finally, topped this beauty with tons of fresh berries a simple recipe for sweet cream!

Berry Chocolate Ganache Tart

Let’s start with the tart!

Tart Crust

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 TBLS sugar
1/8 tsp salt
6 TBLS unsalted butter, cut into pieces and frozen
1 egg yolk
1 TBLS plus 1 tsp cold water

In your food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the frozen butter, egg yolk and 1 TBLS cold water. Process for 5-10 seconds. If the dough looks too dry, add the additional 1 tsp water, but don’t over process it.

(You can do this by hand, if you don’t have a food processor. Don’t freeze your butter if you do it by hand but it does need to be very well chilled. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the cold butter and use a pastry blender or your fingers to mix until the dough resembles coarse bread crumbs. Beat together the egg yolk and the water, then add it to the dough and stir until just blended.)

Pour the dough into a round 8 inch tart pan with a removable bottom, or you can use 6 mini tart pans for individual desserts, press dough gently around the bottom and up the sides to form a solid crust. Place the pan it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

While the crust is chilling, make your ganache!

Chocolate Ganache filling

8 ounces dark or milk chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

Place your chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, bring the cream to a very low simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for two minutes. Use a whisk and start stirring in the center of the bowl. Don’t lift the whisk off the bottom of the bowl, but continue stirring from the center out until the mixture is smooth. Add your butter chunks and use a spatula to stir the ganache until the butter is completely melted and your mixture is nice and glossy. Set aside to cool to room temperature and thicken up.

While you are waiting for the tart crust to finish chilling and the ganache to thicken, pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.

When the oven is hot (AND the hour is up for chilling your tart crust) remove the tart from the refrigerator, place a piece of buttered-foil (butter side down) on the tart (or use beans or a pie chain, whatever you want!) to weigh down the tart and keep it from bubbling while it bakes. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until it’s a light golden brown.

Allow the tart to cool completely.

Berries and Sweet Cream Topping

1 cup heavy cream
3 TBLS powdered sugar
3/4 tsp Almond extract

1 1/2 cups assorted fresh berries

In a medium bowl, using a hand blender (or do it yourself with a whisk!) beat all the ingredients (except the fruit) together until you get soft peaks or it starts to look like Cool Whip! But don’t use Cool Whip, this tastes better!!

To assemble this delicious-ness, spoon ganache filling into the cooled tart shell. Spread evenly with a spatula. Pile the berries on the ganache and top with sweetened cream.

Berry Chocolate Tart

These are well worth the effort to make for that someone special for Valentines Day, or, you know, just because it’s Tuesday. Either way, have fun!

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Peanut Butter Cookies with Mini Chips and Smoked Sea Salt

Everyone has their favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. I love peanut butter cookies rolled in sugar with a Hershey Kiss in the middle. These are perfect Valentine treats!

Next to the famous Toll House Cookie recipe, I think these are my husbands favorite! I didn’t have any Kisses in the house, but I did have mini chocolate chips and smoked sea salt. I thought it would be a fun way to say “Welcome Home” and “Happy Friday!” to my favorite Valentine!

Here is how they turned out…
Mini Chip Smoked Sea Salt Peanut Butter Cookies

Not bad, right? You should make a dozen (or three) for your favorite Valentine!

Peanut Butter Cookies with Mini Chips and Smoked Sea Salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter – use your favorite!
11/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp smoked sea salt

In a stand mixer fitted with paddle, cream together the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add 1 cup granulated sugar, all of the brown sugar and continue to beat at least two minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing for one minute between each egg.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda.

Stop the blender and scrape down the sides. Add flour mixture all at once into batter. Mix on low-speed until just combined. Remove from the mixer, scrape down the sides and incorporate any leftover flour mix that may not have gotten mixed in. Place the mixing bowl in refrigerator for 1 hour.

When you are ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in sugar before placing them on parchment lined baking sheets. Dip a fork in the remaining sugar and flatten each ball, making a criss-cross pattern. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown slightly around the edges.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle 1/4 tsp of mini chips on each cookie. Sprinkle the whole batch lightly with smoked sea salt.

Let cool completely and enjoy!

Pizza Quesadillas!

Pizzadilla!

Wednesday night is “Pizza Night” at our house! This tradition started years ago when the kids were younger. In those days we had at least two of the three, if not ALL three, busy with soccer, baseball, swimming, wrestling, marching band or water polo! It was far easier to pick up a pizza than figure out dinner on a weird time-table. For whatever reason, we’ve kept that tradition. Not so much that our favorite pizza place knows us by name, knows our order and feels free to harass us every time we come in on a night that ISN’T Wednesday. No. Not that much. That would be weird.

ANYWAY…

Earlier I made Garlic Tomato Marinara Sauce, and was trying to find something wonderful to pair with it.

We missed our usual pizza night this week and I knew this marinara would make a spectacular pizza sauce! I had all the ingredients in the refrigerator for pizza quesadillas, so I simply swapped out the pizza sauce for my wonderful homemade version. Lunch has never been more delicious!

Pizzadilla with Garlic Tomato Marinara Sauce!

Pizza Quesadillas
Inspired by Closet Cooking-Pizzadilla recipe

2 (10 inch) flour tortillas
1 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella, divided
3/4 cup Garlic Tomato Marinara Sauce, divided
pepperoni slices
sliced black olives
sliced mushrooms
OR a mixture of your own favorite pizza toppings!

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Place one tortilla in the pan. Sprinkle 3/4 cup cheese over tortilla, sprinkle 3 TBLS of the marinara sauce randomly over the cheese. place HALF the pepperoni, olives and mushrooms on top of the cheese. Top with second tortilla.
Cook quesadilla until light brown on both sides and the cheese is melted, approx 2-4 minutes per side.
Take the skillet off the heat. Spread 1/4 cup of the remaining marinara sauce across the top of the quesadilla. Sprinkle with all the remaining cheese and adorn with the other half of your pizza toppings!
Put the skillet in the oven and let it bake for 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
While the pizza-dilla is baking, warm the remaining marinara in a small saucepan to use as dipping sauce.
Remove pizza-dilla from the oven and let it set for about 3-5 minutes. Cut into eight pieces and enjoy!

This is a quick and easy meal! It is very filling too! It has me thinking about other dishes I could turn into something-dillas! Hmmmm… Of course, it also has me thinking we might be seeing less of Bob, Frankie, Adam and Chris. Not that I know the names of the owner or the rest of the guys at our pizza place. I’m just sayin’. 🙂

Pizzadilla
Enjoy Foodie Friends!

Garlic Tomato Marinara Sauce – Recipe Swap!

I belong to several food bloggers groups on Facebook. One of the groups is doing a recipe swap! The basic idea is to pick a recipe from another blog and try it! Simple, yes?

Recently, the lovely Bernadette from Rants From My Crazy Kitchen, tried my Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers. Read her blog post about them… HERE!

I tried Bernadette’s Garlic Tomato Marinara Sauce! I did tweak it just a bit. The first thing was to cut the recipe in half. There are just two of us for dinner most nights now and we don’t need that much. Thankfully this recipe also freezes beautifully, so the leftovers went straight into a container for another dinner next month! I also used a bit more tomato paste for some added depth! In the summer when we have fresh tomatoes, I will be using this recipe again. It’s simple, easy and I love the tangy garlicky tomato aroma it gives off as it simmers on the stove! Delicious!

Garlic Tomato Marinara Sauce

1 TBLS olive oil
1  14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1  14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 TBLS tomato paste
1/2 cup onions, diced
1/3 cup garlic, diced
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 TBLS chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté just until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients except parsley and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the parsley. Cover again and finish simmering!

What did I do with this fabulous sauce? I made Pizza-dillas!

Pizzadilla with Garlic Tomato Marinara Sauce!

Who knows what I’ll do with it next month, but I see pasta in our future! Thanks Bernadette for a great new recipe!
XOXO,

Sara~

Baked Potato Soup

This delicious soup came from a combination of a late dinner with my husband, a visit to Costco and a brainstorming session during our last camping trip!

Baked Potato Soup

On our way home from Disneyland last month, we were hungry, it was late, and there wasn’t much open in the area but a little steakhouse. We stopped for dinner and my husband ordered soup. A little while later, this delightful baked potato soup arrived at our table. One taste and it was decided we had to learn to make this ourselves.

During our pre-camping Costco visit, one of the ladies had a sample tray with cubes of aged sharp white cheddar. Now, I admit, I am cheese tramp. Good cheese (in jokes and on my plate) makes me happy, That little bite, or maybe three or four, I don’t remember, was delicious! Needless to say, we bought a block and a salami tray to take camping.

Fast forward to that camping trip! Freezing on the beach in our little tent trailer, snacking on salami, aged cheddar cheese and crackers, we started brain storming how to use the rest of the gigantic cheese block! It’s COSTCO people! It’s a two-pound block of cheese!

This is one of several recipes we came up with that day. The cheese is just a garnish, but it TOTALLY makes the soup!

Baked Potato Soup

8 TBLS (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (optional)
2 medium size baking potatoes
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
4 pieces of bacon, folded in half and cut into strips
chives, to taste
1 cup aged sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F..

Scrub your potatoes, then dry thoroughly. Pierce each potato several times with a fork. Using your hands, lightly coat the potatoes with 1/2 tsp vegetable oil. Sprinkle each potato with Kosher salt. Place the potatoes directly on a rack in the oven. Don’t wrap them in foil! You want the crispy skin with great baked flavor! Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

When the potatoes are nearly done baking, start your soup base. Do this all in one pot, it makes clean-up much easier!

At the bottom of a medium stock pot, fry your bacon strips in 1 TBLS butter. When the bacon pieces are crisp, remove them from the pan and let them drain on a paper towel lined plate. Without removing any of the bacon fat, add the rest of the butter and the diced onion. Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the onion is soft, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes. The roux will get very thick. Be careful not to let it get brown.

Slowly pour in two cups of the chicken broth. Use a spatula to scrape up all the little brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the broth and bring the mix to a boil, stirring often.

Chop the baked potatoes (with the skins still on!) into bite-sized pieces and add them to the soup. Let the soup simmer gently for 8-10 minutes.

Add the pepper and red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Slowly add the heavy cream. I think the soup is better without it, but by all means, use it if you want your soup to be extra creamy! Either way, it’s going to be thick, delicious and wonderful!

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with bacon, chives and cheese. Serve immediately!

Baked Potato Soup

If you’re wondering about the other recipes we came up with, stay tuned! Next month could be very cheesy! 😉

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Chicken!

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers are one of my favorite appetizers. Then, I ran across a recipe with the same flavors stuffed inside a bacon wrapped chicken breast! Well, you know what happened next, right? Yep! This was dinner last night…

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Stuffed Chicken

It’s SO simple and easy! I used the same filling from my Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers and they came out perfectly! Why didn’t I think of this before? This meal is going into our usual dinner rotation and I couldn’t be happier!

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Chicken
Inspired from Closet Cooking – Serves 4

4 large chicken breasts, pounded thin
4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 green onions, diced, both green and white parts
1 tsp garlic, minced
3 jalapeños, finely diced
8 slices bacon
Salt and Lemon Pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, cheddar, onions, garlic and jalapeño together. Set aside.

On a cutting board, lay chicken breasts flat. Season both sides with salt and lemon pepper. Place 1/4 of the mixture on the widest section of each breast. Roll the breast up tightly. Wrap two pieces of bacon around each breast. Secure with a toothpick if needed.

Place bacon-wrapped breasts on a rack in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp.

Bacon wrapped jalapeño chicken

We really enjoyed these. Start to finish it took less than an hour to get on the table. I love that!

Try them yourself and see what you think!

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