I absolutely love the holidays because I love cooking for other people. My mom’s side of the family that lives in Georgia always gets together and has a big potluck, with each family bringing a few dishes. Last year for Thanksgiving, I made an easy appetizer: mini baked brie bites. These take no time at all to make, and are a great last minute dish to bring to parties. The second recipe I made is a green bean & asparagus casserole. It’s from scratch but it’s very easy. I used fresh veggies but canned works fine too if you don’t have a chance to run to the store. Hmm what should I make this year?
Mini Baked Brie Bites
Calories: 134 for two pieces
Difficulty Level: Easy
Cook Time: 15 minutes
1 PACKAGE MINI PHYLLO SHELLS
1/2 CUP CRANBERRY SAUCE
1/4 CUP PISTACHIOS, CRUSHED
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the brie into 1/2 inch cubes (this doesn’t have to be perfect) and place one cube into each of the shells. Bake for 5 minutes or until the brie is melted. Remove the shells from the oven and top each one with a spoonful of cranberry sauce and a sprinkle of pistachios. YUM!
Green Bean & Asparagus Casserole
Calories: It’s the holidays, who cares 🙂
Difficulty Level: Medium
Cook Time: about an hour (30 prep, 30 bake)
1/2 ONION, CHOPPED
3 CLOVES OF GARLIC, CHOPPED
1/2 CUP MUSHROOMS, CHOPPED
3 TABLESPOONS BUTTER
1/4 CUP FLOUR
2 CUPS MILK
1/2 CUP PARMESAN CHEESE
If you’re using fresh veggies, chop off the tops and bottoms of the green beans and the bottoms of the asparagus. You can chop those pieces into halves or thirds if you want as well, whichever you prefer. Place the beans and asparagus into a pot of boiling water, and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until they are slightly tender. Then drain the vegetables and set them aside.
If using canned or frozen vegetables, drain them and set them aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In one skillet, melt some butter and add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook until the onions are a nice golden brown, and then remove from heat and set aside for now.
Next, in another skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk the mixture over medium low heat for a few minutes. Then slowly whisk in the milk until it thickens into a nice sauce. Add in the parmesan cheese, and the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Finally, add a little salt and pepper, and maybe some chili powder or whatever other seasoning you think would taste great.
Place the vegetables into a casserole dish. Pour the sauce over the vegetables and mix well. If you want, sprinkle some more parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Garnish with fried onions & enjoy!
Mini Fruit Tarts
For some reason, studying torts for the business law section of the CPA exam had me craving fruit tarts (tarts, torts, same thing?) so for Easter I decided to make some for my family dessert. This recipe has three parts: the tart crust, pastry cream, and assembling the fruit. I have to admit, this is one of the more difficult, time consuming recipes but it is definitely worth it! I made the tart crust and pastry cream the night before, so that on the day of all I had to do was assemble it all together.
Difficulty Level: Medium-Hard
Time: Tart crust – 30 minutes; pastry cream – 20 minutes; Assembly – 20 minutes
1. Tart Crust
1 1/2 CUPS FLOUR
4 TBSP SUGAR
6 TBSP BUTTER
1 TBSP VEGETABLE OIL
3 TBSP WATER
A PINCH OF SALT
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the butter, oil, water and pinch of salt in a small pan until the butter is melted and a few bubbles form around the edge. Set aside for a few minutes to cool. Next, add 1 cup of flour and all of the sugar to the butter mixture. Mix it all together and slowly add more flour until the mixture forms a ball, and keep adding more flour until the mixture doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan.
It should look like this. This amount of dough is the perfect amount for one batch of mini tarts. I used a tray with fluted edges and 12 pieces. I found that the best method for putting the dough in the trays is to separate the dough into 12 parts, and then flatten out each piece and press it into an even layer over the bottom and sides of the tray parts. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the crust is golden.
2. Pastry Cream
2 CUPS MILK
1/4 CUP SUGAR AND 1/3 CUP SUGAR
2 EGG YOLKS
1 WHOLE EGG
1/4 CUP CORNSTARCH
2 TBSP BUTTER
1 TEASPOON VANILLA EXTRACT
Stir together the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and egg. Stir in the 1/3 cup of sugar and the cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture into the bowl in a thin stream while stirring so that you don’t cook the eggs. Then, return the whole mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring constantly so that the eggs do not curdle. When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract and continue stirring until the butter is completely blended in. Pour the mixture into a heat-proof container and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled before using.
3. Fruit Tart Assembly
ANY FRUIT YOU WANT, WASHED AND CUT
OPTIONAL GLAZE INGREDIENTS:
APRICOT JAM & WATER
Finally, fill the crusts with pastry cream and top with the fresh cut fruits. If you want to give your tarts the shiny sheen look, brush on the glaze. To make the glaze, heat 1/2 cup of apricot jam and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes. When melted, brush the glaze over the fruit. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!!