Birthday Tarts

I’ve never really liked birthday cake. It’s sacrilege, I know, but there’s something so sickly sweet and terrible about the birthday cake and all that icing on top of it that just really turns me away from it. Don’t get me wrong; there’s always a time and a place for cake, just not on my birthday.

Because of this, at the joint birthday parties my sister and I would have, there’d sometimes be some alternative like a gigantic cookie cake or ice cream cake, but sometimes it was just so easy to go the the grocery store bakery and pick something up.

But a few years ago I moved in with my mom and for my 15th birthday we made this.

It was awesome. And ever since I haven’t been content with just any cake. It may seem silly, but at the same time I don’t care what you think! Hahaha. And for the most part I’ve been making my own birthday desserts, so it all works out.

One thing that’s hit me and really stuck was the tart.

For the longest time I’ve been making these with my mom and sister. We always followed the Martha Stewart recipes for the crust and the filling, but this time I wanted to try to make my own recipe. (Part was due to the desire to create from absolutely nothing, not even a recipe, part was due to the laziness encountered when faced with the task of looking up the recipe.)

I started off by selecting and preparing some fruit that I thought would go well together and look nice.

I chose blackberries, strawberries, kiwis, dragon fruit, raspberries and blueberries. Good stuff.

And for the crust, I used:
1/4 cup sugar (you can use less or none at all, as you wish)
2 cups flour
8 oz cream cheese
1 tbs water

This makes enough for one 9inch round plus a little extra. I used my handy-dandy stand mixer (thanks mom!)

to mix the dough but any sort of mixer (or even your hands) would work fine. You want it to have the consistency of a crumbly cookie dough.

I just put it in the pan and flattened it out with my hands, but it would also work if you rolled it out first. That’d probably look really nice, but at the same time, it’s about to be covered with cream so it doesn’t matter.

I didn’t bake it, I wanted to see how it would come out as is. So I just set it in the fridge to get harder and cold while I did the next parts. (I think I’m going to try baking it later, maybe into a pear-tart, mmm.)

***UPDATE***
So I tried baking them this time. They came out kind of crunchy and nice, so I definitely recommend it. If you want it to be flakier and lighter, try adding a little butter. Maybe even replacing some of the cream cheese for butter.
I preheated and baked at 360-375 (my oven’s not super accurate) for about 25 minutes. I checked on them every 5, so that may have let out a bunch of heat, thereby making it take a bit longer than it should have. They brown a little, but not very much; you don’t want them to be golden all over, just some on the edges. (If they cook too long they get kind of too hard.)
***

Next I made the filling. It was very simple and light because it doesn’t use cream cheese like a lot of other fillings I’m used to making.

It calls for:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar (powdered would be best, but in all honesty I used granulated)
16 oz cottage cheese (small curd)
1 tbs vanilla

Similarly, just whip until it’s whip-creamy. I think I got up to the 6th speed setting, and maybe let it sit there a few minutes. But you can play around with it some, like stop it for a “quality control taste test,” if needed.

Then when that’s done, just plop the whipped cream onto the tart shell, flatten it out with a spatula, and start decorating.

I had a couple of friends help me decorate, which explains the variety of designs. This is really one of those tangible manifestations of food-ing as a social thing. It’s nice when people can get together over something playful and delicious like this.

Biscuit Pizza Trifecta

My friend’s mom showed me this idea the other day and it’s just so convenient and easy that I wanted to show everyone! Basically, instead of making pizza dough or buying a premade crust, you can use canned biscuit dough! The pizza’s don’t come out very big, but I’d say you could make three personal pizzas. An advantage of this is you don’t have to work with it a lot. Pretty much just mush the dough together and cut it into however many divisions you want, then cover it with a wet paper towel and a rag for 20 minutes to let it rise a little. It makes it softer and easier to work with. And because they’re so small, you don’t need a rolling pin to mold thing; a glass would work just fine (that’s actually what I’ve been using for most of my pizza making existence).

We took this opportunity to make some of our favorite pizzas.

Greek pizza, chicken mushroom pizza, and an imitation of the heart-attack breakfast pizza.

For those three we used:
1 can biscuit dough
Tomato sauce
Mozzarella
Spinach
Olives
Tater tots
Bacon
Sauteed mushrooms (video coming soon)
Parmesan (only because we some in the fridge)
Chicken (hoo-ray for leftovers!)

While the dough was rising, we baked the tots and cooked the bacon. (The mushrooms are from something I made the day before.) By that time, the dough was ready and we started the chicken mushroom pizza.

It’s pretty simple, about two tablespoons sauce, cheese, pile on the mushrooms, then the chicken.

Next came the breakfast pizza.

Again, a little sauce, some cheese, then pile on the tots and bacon. Yes.

And finally the redemption pizza; the greek pizza.

This one’s a little bit different. There’s no sauce, just spinach, olives, chicken and cheese (I didn’t show the cheese picture because it’s not as pretty).

And they were all super tasty.

The dough came out nicely. It seemed fluffier and flakier than normal dough (more biscuit-y in other words). But it was a little weird reheated. Not bad, just really biscuit-y. But I’d definitely recommend it as a quick fix.

Bacon Cheddar Croissants

This one is really easy to make and not too hard either. And I can’t take the credit for it either; (it wasn’t my idea, you can thank トラ for this buttery deliciousness).

All you need is:
A pack of bacon (you might have leftovers, but who doesn’t love left over bacon?)
A pack of white cheddar (again, there’s a leftover possibility here)
2 tubes of croissants (or one, if you can’t handle all the deliciousness)

First start by cooking your bacon, but make sure you don’t over-crisp it because it’s going to be baked later.

Personally, I cooked mine in the microwave. It’s really easy and fast. All you need is a plate, a bunch of paper towels and a microwave. So that worked for me.

While that was going, I sliced the cheese and opened up the croissants. Also, I got the oven preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Then, instead of rolling the croissants up like normal, I laid down the bacon strip, if it was too long, I folded it, then put in some cheese.

Then just roll it up like you normally would.

There was one that I set up differently.

And that one was easier to eat, but a little bit not as cool looking.

Now I baked them for about 10 minutes, took them out, and put more cheese on top.

After that, it took about three minutes in the oven, and they were done.

There were five of us there and we all had already eaten, but despite that, all of the croissants were gone before they had a chance to cool off.

Potatoes O’Brian

This is one of my favorite thing to do when I have an abundance of potatoes. It’s so easy and you can do whatever you want with it. I know my grandma really likes it with green bell peppers. It truly is one of those left over dishes, where you look at what you have in your fridge and make something awesome out of it.

What you want to start with is,
a couple potatoes,
butter or olive oil,
and whatever you want to cook it with (seasonings, meats, veggies, etc).

I made more than one batch because I cut up more potatoes than what could fit in the pan. One of them was with bacon and green onions. In the other batch I dropped an egg and some onions on top of the bacon. I like bacon for this because as the fat cooks out, it makes the pan a little more non stick. If you don’t use bacon, make sure to use something else, like olive oil, canola oil, or butter–whichever you’re more comfortable with.

For this method, they come out soft. If you want them to be crunchy, cook them on a higher heat at the end and in smaller batches.

To start, cut up your ingredients. Smaller potatoes cook faster, but the main thing to keep in mind is to try to keep them about the same size overall. Inconsistencies may lead to raw potatoes being overlooked, which don’t taste bad, just a little weird.

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I kept the skin on because it doesn’t bother me, but if it happens to be something that gets at you, feel free to peel it off. It’s also a good idea to cut up the bacon before you cook it. It will cook faster, and you won’t have to deal with hot bacon.

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When the bacon is done cooking–not to the crunchy stage, still a little soft and delicious, add the potatoes. They are going to take a little while, so you may need to hold off on the other ingredients. If you add any veggies now, they will get really soggy and soft by the end. If you want them to keep their crunch, then definitely wait. When I used onions, I threw them in with the potatoes, but I waited when I used green onions. It’s all personal preference.

Also, if you plan on egging it up, this is the stage to do it. Depending on how much bacon you used or if you didn’t use any at all, you may need to add some butter or olive oil.

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Try not to overload the skillet like I almost did; it will make it hard for all of the potatoes to cook thoroughly–the ones on bottom will be a lot more done than those on top, and you’ll have to stir them frequently enough to make sure nothing burns or turns to mashed potatoes. This is where you add whatever seasonings you plan on using. I find Greek Seasoning to be excellent for this, along with some black pepper and garlic powder. If you felt like grating up some garlic or food processor-ing it, that would be awesome too. (Those are some of the best ways of having garlic’s flavor spread all throughout your food.)

Making sure they’re sufficiently hydrated, with either butter, olive oil, or even water at this point, you can cover them and walk away. Leave it on a just-below-medium heat and come back every ten minutes to stir. When you stir you really want to make sure you’re bringing the top ones down and vice-versa.

Test their softness every time you stir. You want to be able to mush them with your spatula. And keep in mind, for this, it’s better to overcook it slightly, than to undercook it. Also, they tend to be a bit translucent when done. It may be hard to see in the pic though.

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My roommate really likes it with cheese. But that’s not something I’d recommend throwing in the skillet–unless you feel like doing painfully dirty dishes.

One thing that’s super great about this is that you can make a whole bunch, and have awesome leftovers. When microwaved, they come out exactly the same as just off the stove.