Fresh Fruit Tart

I can’t think of many other desserts that are as beautiful as a fresh fruit tart.  The combination of the vibrant fruit colors and the shiny glaze all nestled inside a crispy pastry crust is a thing of beauty.

When I first set out to make this desert, the recipe seemed really daunting, with many steps.  So, I decided to spread out the process over a two-day period.  The first day, I made the pastry dough and the pastry cream.  The second day I tackled the baking of the crust and adorning the tart with the cream and fruit.

On the first day, I was helping a friend babysit her 5-year old daughter and I thought it would be fun to have a baking buddy.  My kids are usually in school when I bake, so it was nice to have someone in the kitchen with me.  Janelle even brought her own little apron………so cute!  She sat up on a high stool against my black granite counter top, with her clean hands and sleeves pushed up, ready to work.

 This post made it to #5 on Foodbuzz’s Top 9 on April 9, 2011.  Check it out!

Add in the flour, sugar, salt and cold butter.

You will notice that this is the first time I’ve used a food processor in any of my baking or cooking.  That’s because I didn’t have one until this time.  I asked for a Cuisinart food processor for Christmas and my wish came true, thanks to my hubby!

Janelle, couldn’t help but notice that with every step of this process, I would stop and wash my hands and pick up my camera to take a picture.  She asked why I was doing this and I explained as generically as I could without having to explain to a 5-year old what a food blog was.

I told her that I wanted to keep the pictures so that I could remember how to make this in the future.

Janelle:  “Mrs. Freese, why don’t you just keep the recipe for next time?”

D-u-uh!  What a smart little girl.

Pulse, while drizzling in the egg yolk until it looks like corn meal.

Grab some dough and squeeze into a ball.  If it holds its shape, it’s ready to go!

Pour out the dough onto the counter top and form into a ball.

Wrap it up with plastic wrap and flatten into a disc.

After resting for about 30 minutes, roll out the crust in between the plastic wrap.  This is a great way to keep your counters and your clothes flour-free!  Clean up is so much easier this way.

Keeping one side of the crust attached to the plastic wrap, turn it onto your tart pan and gently press into the fluted edge.  Then run your rolling pin over the edge to cut the excess dough off.

Here’s the completed pastry crust.  Refrigerate again for about 30 minutes.

Here is the tart crust all baked off.  I totally forgot to take a picture of the blind-baking process where you lay foil or parchment paper over the crust and bake with dried beans .  The beans weigh the dough down during the baking process, so that the dough does not rise.

Melt strawberry jelly with some water for the glaze.

Apply a thin layer of the glaze to the crust to seal it in.  This also helps the crust with not becoming soggy when you spread the pastry cream in.

This step ends the pastry crust tutorial stage.

Start the pastry cream with three egg yolks and sugar.

Mix with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.

Janelle did a great job mixing this part.  Thanks Janelle!!

Sift in the flour and cornstarch until smooth.

Here’s everything all mixed well.

Boil milk and vanilla bean paste.

At this point, I had to take Janelle to her afternoon Kindergarten class, so “Zai jian, Janelle.”

I forgot to mention that while I was baking, I also taught Janelle some Chinese.  She already knew, “ni hao” or hello, so I taught her good-bye, “zai jian.”  When I dropped her off at school we said, “Zai jian” to each other and I came back home to finish the rest of the tart.

Whisk in the hot milk slowly into the egg mixture.  Pour everything back into the pot and put over low heat.

Keep whisking until the cream hardens and becomes thick.  Add in the half and half until nice and smooth.

Dump it out into a clean bowl.

Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap touching the top, so it does not create a dry film on top.

Once cooled, spread the pastry cream into the tart crust and go to town with your berries and fruit.

Don’t forget to brush on a final layer of glaze over the fruit.  The shiny finish really makes this fruit tart sing!

Janelle, I hope you’re very proud that you helped me make this beautiful fruit tart.  Thanks honey!!

P.S.  When I spoke with Janelle’s mom later that day, she told me that Janelle said that we were making a pop tart together!  So funny.  She probably would be more impressed with that.

Fresh Fruit Tart

Adapted from

Sweet Pastry Crust:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Pastry Cream:

1 ¼ cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

3 large egg yolks

¼ cup granulated white sugar

2 tablespoons  flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ cup half and half

Glaze: (optional)

1/2 cup strawberry  jelly

1 tablespoon water


2 – 3 cups mixed fruit, such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, kiwifruit

Sweet Pastry Crust: In a food processor, pour in the flour and salt. Cut the cold butter into ½ inch pieces and add to flour. Pulse your food processor until the flour and butter resemble coarse corn meal.  Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated.  (Do not over mix or the pastry will be hard when baked.) Flatten the pastry into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm.

Have ready a 9- inch tart pan with removable bottom. Uncover the dough and center it in the middle of the plastic wrap, after folded in half. Roll out the dough and keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). To make sure it is the right size, take your tart pan, flip it over, and place it on the rolled out pastry. The pastry should be about an inch larger than pan.

When the pastry is rolled to the desired size, lightly peel off one side of plastic wrap and place onto top of tart pan. Never pull pastry or you will get shrinkage (shrinkage is caused by too much pulling of the pastry when placing it in the pan). Gently lay in pan and lightly press pastry into bottom and up sides of pan. Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line unbaked pastry shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill tart pan with pie weights, rice or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Bake crust for 20 to 25 minutes until crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove weights and bake 5 more minutes until the crust is completely cooked.  Cool crust on wire rack before filling.

Pastry Cream: In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon. (Never let the mixture sit too long or you will get pieces of egg forming.) Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine the milk and vanilla bean paste on medium heat until boiling. (The milk will foam up to the top of pan when done, so watch carefully.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.)

Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 – 60 seconds until it becomes very thick and it is hard to stir.

Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the half and half. Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Beat before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Glaze: Heat the jelly and water in a bowl in the microwave until liquid.  Let cool until it is only slightly warm.

To Assemble Tart: To remove the tart from the fluted sides of the pan, place your hand under the pan, touching only the removable bottom not the sides. Gently push the tart straight up, away from the sides. The fluted tart ring will fall away and slide down your arm. If you want to remove the bottom of the pan, run a knife or thin metal spatula between the crust and metal bottom, then slide the tart onto a cardboard cake round.

Spread a thin layer of glaze or melted chocolate over the bottom and sides of the baked tart shell to prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the glaze dry between 20 – 30 minutes. Spread the Pastry Cream onto the bottom of the baked tart shell, filling about 3/4 full.

To decorate the tart you will need 2 to 3 cups of mixed fresh fruit (such as berries, bananas, oranges, kiwifruit, plums, pineapple, and melon). Prepare the fruit by gently washing and drying. Peel and slice the bananas, plums and kiwifruit. The strawberries will need to be sliced also. Arranging the fruit on the tart can be done either randomly or in concentric overlapping circles, starting at the outside edge. Try to cover all the pastry cream with fruit so that no pastry cream is showing through.

After arranging the fruit, rewarm the glaze, if using, and gently brush a light coat on the fruit. Do not put it on too thick or it will look like Jell-O. Try not to get any glaze on the tart shell. The idea is to make the fruit look shiny.  If not serving immediately, refrigerate. Take out about 30 minutes before serving to give the fruit and cream a chance to warm to room temperature.

This fruit tart is best eaten the same day as it is assembled. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.

Serves about 8-10 people.


Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

I’ll shout it from the rooftop any day, “I am a comfort-food lover!”  Except if it’s raining, or if I don’t happen to have a ladder handy.  There’s just something about comfort-food that is just so……..well…….comforting.

Sorry if that’s redundant.  For me, it’s the equivalent of coming home from a long day and slipping on your cozy sweat pants, soft cotton tee and fuzzy pink slippers with the bunny ears on them.  Who can say no to that, right?!

Well, my good friend Katie is a whiz with comfort foods.  She grew up in rural Iowa on a ranch, so you can imagine the wonderfully comforting family recipes that came out of her house.  She shared this one with me and it’s been a favorite in my family ever since.  This is a great side dish to serve with any type of beef or pork or chicken dish.  I chose to serve it along side pan-seared sirloin steak and roasted broccoli spears.

My favorite part of it is the crusty edge, with the charred cheese bits.



I sliced these potatoes thinly by hand, but it would be a lot faster if you have a mandoline slicer.

Sprinkle green onions on top.



Add in the cheddar cheese to your bechamel sauce.  Bechamel is French for a white sauce made from butter, flour and milk.



Here’s the resulting cheese sauce.



Pour the lovely creamy cheese sauce over the whole thing and pop into the oven until bubbly, gooey and oh so good!

The next time you have one of those long days, come home and do the sweats, tee and bunny slippers thing and then make this.  I guarantee you”ll feel better!



Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

6 cups potatoes, sliced thin

2 green onions, chopped

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp flour

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

2 cups milk

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the thinly sliced potatoes in a greased 13×9 baking dish and sprinkle the green onions on top.

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.  Whisk in flour and allow it to cook for one minute.  Add in the salt, pepper and milk.  Stir constantly until mixture has thickened.  Sprinkle in the cheese as you whisk, until all the cheese is melted.  Pour the cheese sauce over the potatoes.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.  Bake for 1 hour.  Remove foil and continue baking for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.


Chocolate Mousse Pie

This pie was so fun and easy to make.

Why so fun?  Well, I got to beat the heck out of the graham crackers in a zip top bag.  I guess you could just put them in a food processor and push a button.  But, what’s the fun in pushing a button?

Then I got to pipe whipped cream.  I love piping those pretty little scallops!

You can see that I left the crust a little bit thick.  This is by design.  Since the chocolate mousse is so rich, I really like a thicker crust to balance it out.  The contrast of smooth to crunch is just fun in your mouth.  And of course the creamy whipped cream doesn’t hurt either!

Give it a whirl and tell me what you think.


Chocolate Mousse Pie

Graham cracker pie crust:

1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup white sugar

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup powdered sugar

1-1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups heavy cream

Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter or margarine, and cinnamon until well blended . Press mixture into an 8 or 9 inch pie plate. Bake at 375 degrees F for 7 minutes. Cool.

In large bowl, combine cream cheese and cocoa. Beat well until smooth and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. In medium bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form; fold into chocolate cream cheese mixture.

Pour into cooled pie crust. Cover and chill until firm, 4-5 hours.  Decorate with whipped cream if desired.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

When you scroll down to the bottom of this post and see the recipe to this soup, you’ll know why I love making this for my family on a busy week night.  One-third of the ingredients come out of a can!

Don’t get me wrong, I am still cooking here.  There is still baking, chopping and sauteing going on.

You will be amazed at how much flavor develops from this soup in only one hour of cooking.  Soups always taste better the next day, but this one is pretty darn tasty, piping hot the same night.

I must apologize for this bowl that I took the picture of the soup in.  I got so excited to eat and the family was hungry, so it didn’t occur to me to take the photo until I spooned the soup into this glass bowl for my hubby’s leftover lunch the next day.



The nice thing about the glass bowl is that I can you see all the ingredients swimming around in there, playing nice with each other.  Aren’t they cute?

By the way, my hubby did confirm……….the soup tasted even better the next day!



Chicken Tortilla Soup

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

1 onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 tsp minced garlic

15 oz can diced tomatoes

15 oz can pinto beans, drained

15 oz can black bean, drained

15 oz can cream style corn

15oz can sweet corn kernels

1 package taco seasoning mix

1 package dry ranch dressing powder

½ tsp cumin

6 cups chicken broth


Place chicken on a baking pan and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Put in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until cooked.  When cooled, shred the chicken and set aside.

Add olive oil to a stock pot and sauté onion, bell pepper, and garlic until soft.  Add in all the remaining ingredients and stir.  Allow it to come to a boil and turn down to medium heat and cover for 30 minutes.  Add in the shredded chicken and cook for another 30 minutes.

Enjoy soup hot with tortilla chips and toppings such as sour cream, avocados and shredded cheddar cheese.

Always Use Your Leftovers

This dessert might look to you like a huge red velvet whoopie pie, but it’s actually the leftovers from a red velvet cake I made.

I’ve mentioned several times now that I am Chinese and was raised with very strong convictions about the wasting of food.  In our house, it just didn’t happen.  The only thing that was allowed to be thrown out from our dinner table were bones and fish skulls, with all the meat eaten off of course.

I take this same discipline of frugality to my baking.



This is the cake from my red velvet cake to-go post.



These are the tops that were lopped off of the cakes.

I love my cake layer cutter (on the left).  Cuts the cakes nice and evenly.



With a bit of leftover cream cheese frosting, I was able to make a dessert for my family that night.

This also served as a great distraction, because my kids were salivating over the cake I made and of course couldn’t have because it was for a friend’s birthday.  This leftover creation kept them at bay long enough for me to slip the cake out of the room undetected.

Yogurt-Marmalade Pound Cake

If you like citrus flavors in your baked goods, you will love this pound cake.  The addition of yogurt is genius too.  It makes this cake so moist and delectable!

Unfortunately, my hubby finds citrus flavors in his desserts objectionable.  I really didn’t think he would give this a try.  He wouldn’t even take one bite of my lemon bars.

To my surprise, he did.  And he went back for a few more bites too!



After I removed the cake from the loaf pan, I pricked the top with a toothpick.  This helped the orange marmalade icing soak into the cake.  You should do this while the cake is still warm.



I was sure to not let any of the icing go to waste either.  I smeared my pieces of cake with the icing that pooled around the edges of the cake.  Just heavenly!


Yogurt Orange Marmalade Cake

From Pioneer Woman

1-½ cup All-purpose Flour

½ teaspoons Salt

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 cup (heaping) Plain, Lowfat Yogurt

1 cup Sugar

3 whole Eggs

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1 whole Zest Of Lemon

½ cup Canola Oil



½ cup Prepared Orange Marmalade

¼ cup Yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together 1 cup of yogurt, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, and canola oil until just combined. Pour over dry ingredients and mix until just combined; do not over beat.

Pour into a loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Remove from pan. While cake is cooling, pour marmalade into a sauce pan. Heat it on low until melted, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 cup of yogurt to the pan and turn off heat. Stir to combine, then pour slowly over the top of the cake, allowing icing to pool around the sides.

Oatmeal Scotchies

For those of us moms whose children go to school, the best conversations are had at drop off and pick up times.   You moms out there know what I mean, right?  Well, this cookie started as a conversation at school.  A mommy-friend, Jennifer said she just had the best cookie of her life, these oatmeal butterscotch cookies.

After weeks of prodding, I finally broke down and decided to give them a try.  The recipe is very easily found on the back of the Nestle butterscotch chips bag.  This was actually my first time ever buying and using butterscotch chips.

These cookies came out beautifully crunchy on the edges and chewy in the middle.  The smooth and toasty butter flavor paired well with the nutty oatmeal texture.

The only alteration I made to the recipe was using 2 1/2 cups of oatmeal instead of 3.

Give it a try and see if it sparks a conversation at your kids’ school!!


Oatmeal Scotchies

From Nestle Toll House


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ½  cups quick or old-fashioned oats

1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats and morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 7 to 8 minutes for chewy cookies or 9 to 10 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.