Thursday, April 29, 2010

Not to Go On and ON and ON about the Tart thing... but Pea, Ham and Sour Cream Tartlets

I hope I don't sound like a one trick pony, but after the walloping success of the fruit-full tart, I wanted to attempt a savory tart. Boy am I ever glad I did. This one strikes a major high on the yum scale, and while I may not quite be a pastry chef yet, I can say that my pastry wasn't bad!! Or perhaps it was elevated by the brilliance of the filing.

generous 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 1/2 ounces (75 gms) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
cold water

scant 1 1/2 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely choped
3 1/2 ounces (100 gms) cooked ham
1/2 cup sour cream
3 egg yolks
salt and pepper

Grease 4 x 4 3/4" fluted, loose bottomed, tart pans. Sift the flour and salt into a food processor. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Tip the misture into a large blow and add the Parmesan a a tiny bit of cold water - just enough to bring the dough together. Turn out onto a floured counter (or one of those fantastic silicone pastry mats). Roll each piece to fit the tart pans. Careflly fit each piece of dough in tis shell and pres gently to fit the pan. Trim the edges. Cut 6 pieces of parchment paper and fit a piece in each pan, fill with dried beans or pastry weights and let chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bake the tart shell blind for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Then remove the parchment paper and beans.

Meanwhile cook the peas for about a minute in hot water (don't over-do you want them to remain plump). Train. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the shallots and cook gently for 10 minutes, then add the ham and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Stir the sour cream and egg yolks together. Add the peas to the skillet, remove from head and stir in the sour cream and egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper and divide between the tart shells. Bake for 14-18 minutes or until the filling is set.

And while you're enjoying your tarts, might I also recommend a game of something fun, like our newest board game "Sequence"? (Or as we like to pretentiously say victoriously when we're about to score a point, "Sih-kwhanssssss".)

And, um, is it just me or does this hand look like it's intending to pull the rug right out from under my little feet???

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Saga of the Sad, Sick Computer

This is what my computer looked like on the inside for the past 36 hours. It was a bloated, heavy rain cloud waiting to rain on my parade. Who knew that 50 or 60 thousand photos could take up so much stinkin' space? I can tell you now that I was a TAD horrified when I kept getting the "Listen lady - your start-up-disk is almost full. You'd better make some room or I'm takin' you AND all of your precious photos and I'm bringing you down!!!"

I think I even heard it laugh at me.

So I turned to Wes, our amazing tech guy, and plied him with a hot dog from Costco and a latte from JJ Bean, and he helped me pick out a brawny new external hard drive. 1.5 terabytes, baby. And then I coaxed my Macbook back from the brink of death. And here I am. Back in business. So I shall spend the next few days catching you up with Tales from the Soon-To-Be Pastry Whisperer.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tart Incoming!

I am fairly certain you haven't been able to sleep at night what with the promise of the tart action in the sugarlove kitchen. I know that I have been counting the seconds until I got to try out all the new toys. On this fine Saturday, I finally had the opportunity, and the brilliant excuse to slip into my new super-hero guise as THE PASTRY WHISPERER!! It's Poot's birthday and instead of making her a cake, I thought I'd take the tart pan out for a spin.

Here's how it went. Round one of butter and eggs - epic fail due to separation - due to someone not paying attention when she added the beaten egg quickly instead of slowly.

Round two - much better! It was challenging lifting the pastry into the pan, and I had a little tearing which I nattily patched.

Round three - pastry cream. I turned my back on it for a nano-second, and it was too thick. In a moment of clarity, I remade it.

Round four - pastry cream, take two. Oh my. It was beautiful.

Round five - fruit and glaze. Fun! Easy!

Round six - the completed tart. Not only did it look like the photograph from which I was working, but it tasted delicious: light, fresh and creamy....... Onward ho!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who's a Tart?

It all started about a year and a half ago, when Annie and Lara gave me this book as a present.

When I opened it, I saw many beautiful and delicious looking things including this:

Then for my birthday, 2 things happened. Thing 1: Annie and Lara gave me a silicone pastry mat. Thing 2: Tamara gave me a gift card to Gourmet Warehouse.

Since then, I've dreamed of making tarts. Sweet tarts, savory tarts, big tarts and little tarts. Yes, I know - I know. I realize that you've all had to suffer through tears born of my pastry making disasters. But I'm trying to have a better attitude about the whole thing. Perhaps this lack of 'the pastry-making ability' is only in my head? Maybe I can COAX the pastry out of me.

So, having taken a day off from work, I set out for Gourmet Warehouse this morning with a song in my heart, and that gift card burning a hole in my pocket. The anticipation was exhilarating. I entered the store with my heart all a-flutter. But don't worry - I wasn't hasty in my choices. I considered each item for a long time. I also considered my tart making dreams. After an agonizing hour pacing from aisle to aisle, here are some of the things I walked away with.

Small tart pans.

Smaller tart pans.

One honkin' big tart pan.

And this COMPLETELY adorable apron. It's green and white, and striped and polka dotted. This photo was taken with me IN it. So imagine that you are wearing the apron and holding the camera straight down. And this is the view. And THIS is the apron I plan to wear as I embark on phase 2 of my adventures in pastry land: the tart chronicles.

All of this is to say that I am gonna learn how to make pastry come hell or high water. I'm gonna let the tragedies of the past be by-gones and I'm going to become the pastry whisperer. *shakes fist in air triumphantly* Just you wait and see.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Way To a Gal's Heart is through a New Pantry

And yes, that reads PANTRY, not PANTIE. Mister Man is a decent soul who decided that we should convert the "useless corner of closet" into something useful. "Hey," he said one day, "How would you like me to build you a pantry for your birthday?" What could I do but shriek YES, YES, YES!!! I mean, that useless slice of real estate housed an empty filing cabinet, a basket full of tangled gift wrap, and a bunch of other things that didn't get much use. Here's the BEFORE photo that was taken after the junk pit had been cleaned out (but before the new-fangled pantry had been installed)

Mister Man solicited donations from family members and set to work. Here's what it looks like now, AFTER the make over. Glorious. That's what I say.

Let me push in for a couple of close ups:

Nice. So nice. Do you know how much this has changed my life? *insert chorus of angels singing right here* Mister Man sure knows the way to my heart!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Winding Down With the Wild Beasts

Mariette and Brian have 2 dogs named Frankie and Sammy. They're pretty dang cute. When we came home from that amazing dinner at Farm on Saturday night, Brian started playing the guitar, while Mariette and I lay draped over the king-sized bed like 2 groupies past their prime. The dogs decided it was a perfect time to unwind, and began the chase of the century, sprinkled with bouts of knock 'em out fighting action. I felt like I was on the set of an Ultimate Fight Challenge show, with pint sized contestants who weren't going to lose gracefully.

Clash O' The Titans:

Featuring Samm the flying dog:

And Frankie the jaw breaker:

Doesn't Frankie look like he should pull a stogie out of his pocket next, then shake your hand, and ask for your vote?

Love nibble or death blow?

Wondering what would his person do?

After the fight was over. The wee doggies chilled out.

And really, at the end of the day, from a dog's point of view, what could be sweeter than your person's love?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Wild Weekend in Celebration of Weddings and Wilma (with Mariette, Brian and the Wild Beasts)

What a fabulous Saturday we had.

We started the morning by drinking our breakfast. Before you jump to conclusions about what that means, allow me to present Exhibit A:

After a good minute on the spin cycle on the VitaMix, we had Exhibit B:

Which led, finally, to Exhibit C. This would be the most healthy thing we consumed all day, being comprised of organic spinach, raspberries, mango and psyllium fiber. That may not SOUND delicious, but I promise it was!

Mariette took me on a wedding shopapalooza.

As you know, I've ordered the wedding dress, so now it's time to accessorize with shoes, head gear etc. So off we went on our wedding adventure. The thing about Mariette is that she knows about all of the secret out of the way places in Calgary: the kinds o' places that require the services of your own personal tour guide. So off we went to The French Twist in Banker's Hall. We struck gold immediately, and I found a beautiful retro 50's white headband. It will work well with my beautiful dress! This, of course, called for a celebration, so we shared a cupcake. Who's too cute?

Then we trotted off to a Zsa Zsa's Hat Salon where we modeled many magnificent hats and head dress thingies. It was divine and fun.

As Mariette's Brian said about this next photo: "It looks like the chandelier is dripping the hat on your head."

After I snapped this photo in the mirror, I discovered that if I turned the beautiful retro 40's hat around, it works beautifully on my noggin. So I bought it. Now I need to grow a second head before September so that I can wear BOTH head/hair accessories. I do love this one though. When I figger out how to style my hair, I know this head piece will add a lovely dollop of glamour to the wedding.

We completely lost track of the time (thanks in part to the fact that I forgot to re-set my watch) and had to rush to make our dinner reservation at Farm. It was a big night because Mariette's mother, Wilma, had recently undergone hip surgery, and this dinner was going to be her first outing since being sprung from the hospital.

Farm is a small unassuming restaurant on 17th Ave S.W. And it is exquisite indeed. The food is unassuming, fresh and delicious, and the service is great and unpretentious. We started by ordering a charcuterie plate.

Here's Wilma looking very elegant.

We also ordered a fresh, delightful rose.

The charcuterie plate arrived and we were in ecstasy because the way they paired the meat and cheese with homemade condiments was out of this world. Before we dived in, the board looked like this:

Moments later, it looked like this:

Our mains were fresh and delicious, and Brian, in a moment of genius, ordered a side of spicy macaroni and cheese. Oh my. But probably the nicest thing about the evening was watching Wilma laugh and enjoy herself after all those weeks and months of pain and post operation healing. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sittin' in the Airport Passing Time (NOT passing gas)

It's the end of a busy Friday in which I spent most of the day hunkered over a bunch of spread sheets, creating a master list of materials for a film project. Mister Man was far too generous for my birthday, and capped off a spectacular day with a plane ticket to Calgary where I get to scheme and dream with my best maid Mariette. So now, I'm at YVR, after taking the brand new and fantastic Canada Line (train from the city to the airport). I have a coffee at my side, a California roll in my belly (and maybe a chocolate covered graham wafer square too - but I can't say that for sure), and I'm feeling pretty darn great. The soundtrack they're playing at the Starbucks across the way is catchy - dare I say good. I just heard Rufus Wainwright!

Writing on a computer at the airport is kind of like smoking a cigarette in a restaurant in the good ol' days. I think it was Sartre who talked about the fact that smoking gave one permission to look at people. If you inhaled and then followed the swirl of smoke out of your mouth, it always led to the scene just beyond. And that smoke was kind of like a veil of anonymity. (Not that I'm condoning smoking or anything, though I was a fairly dedicated puffer back in the day. Now I find it entirely revolting. There's a fine set of double standards for you!) That experience of smoking in public while sitting alone is kind of of how I feel now with this computer perched on my lap. I can type-type-type away and glance around me as I type. In short, I have a "cover".

I see two West Jet pilots, and I'm relieved to report that they're having juice at the bar of Starbucks (and not a good stiff one at the ACTUAL bar on the other side). I am also happy to report that the internet access here is free! I was kinda shocked to tell the truth. Something FREE at YVR? Huh.

I will have many photos and tales to share with you over the weekend. I can report that Mister Man is currently enjoying his fishing trip. We've been texting a lot - kind of like that teenager next to me who is literally glued to her phone. I wonder what she would do if I leaned over and snatched it from her hand?

In other news, I can report that my friend Maureen and I have started a daily photo blog. You can check it out here if you're so inclined (though we're only on Day 2). Inspired by the wonderful women who made A Year of Mornings, we're going to post a photo a day for a year.

If you do visit, you can read about our goal of taking a moment each day to simply stop and pause and slow down. I've already posted my photo for today. But you know what? I could take another one right this second and post it, because I am feeling the zen..... But I will leave you with a taste of the kind of images we're posting at our new WordPress photo blog called Slow Down to Speed Up (though I guess by showing you this, I'm kinda revealing most of the contents of the blog as it exists thus far!! Oh well. I AM Aries after all. A bit impatient... which is why the notion of slowing down is challenging for me.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taking the Sting Out of Aging

Okay. We all know that aging MOSTLY sucks, what with the creaky bones, failing eyesight, grey hairs, saggy bits, women-whiskers, and inability to stay up past midnight. But the thing that takes the sting out of aging year after year, are our friends. These are the people who put up with our foibles, listen to us whine, help us when the going gets tough, kick our butts and pick us up when we fall. They laugh with us (and at us), and they love us (even if we're a big ol' germaphobe who bawls at Tim Horton commercials and secretly watches The Bachelorette). And when we're getting old and grey, they celebrate with us. I am incredibly lucky, because I have an abundance of really wonderful people in my life, including the running posse. So last weekend, I set out with the posse for dinner at The Water Street Cafe and it was fabulous.

There were the stories:

And there was a lovely meal with some girlie drinks,

And there were lovely, thoughtful presents, including these (in case you can't read the fine print, these are chocolate covered potato chips. Now that combination may not SOUND delicious, but I can assure you that it is.)

I am currently rationing them and have eaten only 1. When I've lost another 5 pounds, I'll eat another one. And so on. They are worth waiting for.

Finally, one of the things I most look forward to when it comes to birthday dinners with the running posse, is seeing which pair of shoes (or boots) our Jan is going to wear. The pair she's sporting in the picture below have hand crafted embroidery on them.