Baked Occasions: Sweet Potato Tart with Gingersnap Crust and Heavenly Meringue

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I was excited to have a big holiday to bake something from the new cookbook. I chose the tart immediately and bought the ingredients.

Later I read through the whole recipe and my heart sunk. Not only would I be making a meringue for the first time (for some reason meringue has seemed intimidating and I’ve avoided making recipes that have it) but I needed a torch.

I don’t have a torch. I went to buy a torch at Bed Bath and Beyond and left empty-handed. I didn’t want to spend that much money for one recipe.

My husband went to Harbor Freight for something else and noticed that they carried very cheap mini torches. I went back and bought one ($7) and grabbed some butane from Lowe’s. ($5)

I made the crust, which was a breeze, although I always manage to extend my crust up too high which makes the edges too tall and jagged. I need to work on that.

Next up was the filling. This part was tricky because I was using a 10″ springform instead of the 9″ it called for so I wanted to make a bit more filling. I added a bit more of everything including an extra egg and crossed my fingers that it would set. (it did)

I put it in the fridge overnight and on Thanksgiving morning I made the meringue. It came together so much easier and quicker than I was anticipating. It was beautiful: bright white and glossy and it was fun to swirl it over the tart. The only thing left to do (besides unmold it) was to torch it.

I started to very tentatively brown the tops of the swirls and my husband was standing next to me trying to control the urge to grab it from me. I handed it over willingly and he perfectly browned the meringue for me.

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I took it in my lap to our friend’s house and removed the springform ring there. It came off perfectly and everyone ended up loving the tart. Of course I was making mental notes about what I would do better/differently next time but that’s what happens with a self-critical baker. 🙂

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The next-day leftovers (there was hardly any left!) were perfect and delicious although I don’t think I’d keep this tart any longer than that. I will happily add this to my regular holiday rotation.

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What did you bake for Thanksgiving?

Four Year Anniversary

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This year (October 17) was our four year wedding anniversary. We decided to celebrate with one of our favorite musicians Ryan Adams. He came to town to play the Moody Theater October 22 (he did an ACL taping) and we saw him the next night on the 23rd.

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The show was perfect and amazing–it far surpassed any expectations I could have had. I saw DRA perform twice in support of Gold (the first album I bought of his–yes, even before Whiskeytown and Heartbreaker) in the early 00’s in San Francisco.

Those shows were great, but he was in a different place back then. (weren’t we all?) It was nice to get to share the experience with my husband–we’ve been listening to his records together for years and Ryan was in top form. He was warm and funny and goofy and the songs were performed flawlessly.

He didn’t play my favorite song from the new album (Feels like Fire) but he played so many of my other long-time favorites that it didn’t really matter.

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Product Spotlight: Mode de Vie Vanilla Lip Balm

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When I was working at Bare Escentuals in the late 90’s they sold a yummy shea butter-based lip balm. It came in a giant tube and was the perfect Tahitian vanilla. I loved it–it was my Holy Grail lip balm.

A few later when I started working natural foods stores I realized that the lip balm was made by Mode de Vie and must have been private labelled for Bare Escentuals. I was happy to have it readily available again, and it was still in the giant tube.

Now they have downsized to a regular tube, but the creamy shea butter balm is the same. And I don’t care what the packaging is like, I am just still happy that I can get this delicious, soothing, hydrating lip balm.

It’s available at Whole Foods and other natural markets, and online.

It also comes in red tango: a slightly tinted berry balm, and cappuccino–a warm espresso flavor. I like to use red tango in place of lipstick with just a bit of mascara and brow pencil on casual makeup days.

*Here is what the color of the tint in red tango looks like.

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Cost: About $7

What is your favorite lip balm?

Cold Weather Survival Tips: Cherry Pillow

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Winter weather can wreak havoc on your skin and hair. When night falls and the temperature dips in your house, it’s tempting to crank up the heater. But once you are asleep you body temperature should stabilize. There’s nothing worse than waking up parched and sweating in the middle of the night because you overestimated your heating needs.

Overnight is when your skin regenerates and regulates oil production. If you lose surface moisture, that will cause your skin to pump out more oil, and excess heat will dry your skin, leading to clogged pores and overall congestion.

I love hot water bottles and have two that I like to put under my blankets before I get into bed: one at the foot of the bed and one at the head. I have covers on them so they don’t get clammy when they cool down. I do get nervous at the idea of falling asleep with them, so I try to kick them out of bed before I fall asleep. I’ve always been paranoid that I will roll over and somehow puncture one, flooding my bed. (hasn’t happened yet, thankfully!)

I’m always happy for it to be cool enough to pull out my cherry pillow.

The cover is made from organic cotton and it is filled with cherry pits leftover from making cherry liqueur. Three minutes in the microwave gives me the perfect amount of heat to warm up and fall asleep. I also like putting it in my lap when I’m feeling chilly but no one else is–when I am messing around online, or watching a movie or reading a book.

I’ve had my pillow for thirteen years and it still looks great, and I love the way the cherry pits smell when they heat up.

I’ll Show You Mine…

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…Kitchen work space that is. I love that I have a corner of my kitchen that is separate from where my husband cooks, so we can both do our thing and not be in each others’ way. Behind my baking table is our bookshelf where we keep all of our cookbooks. Be sure to check out my favorites!

Your turn! I want to see pictures of your kitchen! Show me your favorite tools, favorite apron, favorite cookbooks!

Like my apron? Get your custom apron, skirt, dress or other clothing item here!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Campfire Cookies

This seemed like the perfect recipe to jump back in with. It’s cold and dreary and the perfect time to bake. Plus, I DO need to narrow down some  recipes for cookie swaps this season. I was really excited to bake what I thought were going to be perfect cookies.

These were easy to put together:
(I know there are two eggs in my picture, but I just used one)

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and I love my new(ish) cookie scoop:

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Child Labor:

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Done:

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One of my boys’ teachers had a birthday and I was happy to have a treat to share with her. The shape turned out a little weird because of the marshmallows, which bummed me out, but I still felt hopeful.

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Unfortunately, even though I only baked my cookies for 14 minutes, when they cooled they were hard as a rock. I had 37 cement cookies. I didn’t have time to bake more so I sent a dozen to school with my son and received a very nice thank you card. I feel terrible because they were NOT what I expected. I know not everyone hates crunchy cookies and I hope she really did enjoy them.

I was bummed that a recipe I was so excited about turned out so terrible so I decided to try again. I was inspired by a fellow baker and decided to put the cookies in a muffin tin with the marshmallows on top. I also hated the cinnamon–it’s all I could taste in the first round–so even though I doubled the recipe this time I only used 1/4 teaspoon.

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I don’t have a torch (sadly) so I pulled the cookies out when the marshmallows darkened and the cookie looked done. The cookie stayed soft and the marshmallow didn’t burn off the way they did in the first round. The chocolate chips melted well in the center and helped anchor the marshmallow.

They turned out great this time. My family loved them, and all the flavors I was expecting in the first batch were there–not drowned out by the cinnamon. I would be proud to take these to a cookie swap and will have the chance since I am hosting one next month!

Go see if the other bakers had more luck than I did!

Next up!: Date Squares

Baked Occasions!!

Next Sunday I’ll post about the first recipe I’ve made for Baked Sunday Mornings for the new Baked book. (the second for the group)

I had so much fun test baking for the book and I was so bummed to not be able to go out to NYC for the launch party. I’ll make it out there one day!

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