Herbed Leek Tarts

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." - Pablo Picasso

One of the things I love about blogging is being able to push myself to try out new foods and ingredients that I never thought I'd try. I'm not saying it because certain foods might not be available where I live. On the contrary, I can find any ingredient needed in the city, either in Publix, or Whole Foods, or Epicure, or if needed as a last resort, online. What I mean about pushing myself is that I grew up as a very picky eater, and it carried out into my grown-up years. I would try to avoid vegetables and nuts as much as possible, and let's lump weird flavor combinations into that "to-avoid" list. I would stick to the basics of chicken, meat, salmon, rice, and pasta. Salads, quiches, tarts? Oh no! It was only until a few years ago that I decided to branch out and try new recipes which would be cool to feature on my site. If you've been following my site, you've been able to see new recipes featuring eggs (such as the deviled eggs) to shrimp (such as in spring rolls) to many more in the coming future with seafood and tons of different vegetables. But for now, a recipe that features leeks and peppers is up next on the recipe queue. They're mixed together along with a new cheesy undertone and a crunchy almond topping. This recipes yield 2 big tarts which can be sliced any which way you want even though the recipe says to cut each into 12 slices. I bet this tart can be mixed up with different cheeses or different peppers so feel free to change it up a bit and let me know how it all comes out!

Herbed Leek Tarts
adapted from: New Cook Book 14th Edition by Better Homes and Gardens

*yield: 2 tarts*

6 medium leeks, thinly sliced
2 tsp organic minced garlic
2 tbsp extra light tasting olive oil
1/2 small red sweet pepper, chopped
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried basil
5 oz shredded natural Swiss & Grand Cru cheese
1 15-oz package of 2 refrigerated pie crusts
2 tbsp sliced almonds

1) For filling, in a large skillet cook leeks and garlic in hot oil about 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; stir in sweet pepper, mustard, and basil. Cool slightly; stir in shredded cheese. Set filling aside.
2) Preheat oven to 375F. Unfold pie crust according to package directions. On a lightly floured surface, roll one pie crust into a 12-inch circle. Transfer to a baking sheet. Spread half of the filling in the center of the pie crust, leaving a 1 1/2-inch unfilled border. Fold edge up and over outer edge of filling, pleating as necessary. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of the almonds over uncovered filling. Repeat with remaining pie crust, filling, and almonds.
3) Bake about 25 minutes or until crusts are golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes on baking sheets. Cut each tart into 12 wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Herbal Healer Smoothie

"A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil." - Victor Hugo

I don't know about you, but I love how easy it can be to change someone's day just by smiling at them. Like, let's say you're walking through the mall, and you notice that a random stranger is looking at you (in a non-creepy way hopefully). Don't you usually smile at them, or nod, or do something that acknowledges the fact that they're looking at you? Well, I usually smile, and the reaction I get is usually priceless. Seeing that person smile back just gives me a great feeling, mostly because you just don't know the kind of day that the person may be having. What if just by that one smile their whole day went from 0 to 100? What if it alleviated a little bit of stress or sadness? In school, what if the other person had been bullied earlier and then your smile just made them feel better? Or even at the gym, smiling can go a long way, even though most exercise-loving people are already smiling to begin with. According to what I learned from "Legally Blonde" when I was younger, exercise releases endorphins, and endorphins make you happy, therefore exercise makes you happy! I've been trying to get into exercise lately, and the last thing on my mind when I leave the gym is happiness. All I'm feeling is tiredness, sweaty, thirsty, and with an extreme need of taking a shower. Another exercise-related topic that doesn't leave me smiling is drinking green juices. I've been seeing tons of people posting pictures of their green juices on Instagram and how great and happy they feel while drinking it. C'mon people, who can truthfully say that drinking a liquid salad leaves you feeling fresh and excited? I, for one, can't vouch for having had that feeling. I can say, though, that the green juice I'm featuring in this post is great for weight-loss, and I mean GREAT! My dad lost 8 pounds in the first week of having this smoothie just once a day. He did say that the texture took some time to get used to, but that after a few days, it was easy to drink and he felt light yet satisfied after drinking it. Although I don't know if the results prove the same for others, I suggest trying this drink out if you're in need of losing a few pounds. One warning though: brush your teeth and rinse off with mouthwash. The green onions in this drink can leave your breath smelling super harsh, so to avoid any embarrassment, have some gum handy even up to a few hours after you drink it while your body digests it.

Herbal Healer Smoothie
adapted from: Smoothies! by Stella Murphy

*serves 1*

1/2 cucumber, chopped
1/4 oz fresh dill
1/4 oz fresh curly parsley
1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped
4 green onions, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup water

1) Place the cucumber in the blender and whizz, then add the herbs, pepper, onions, and water and blend until smooth.
2) Pour into a glass over ice.


Mojito Pound Cake with Spiced Glaze

"Intense love does not measure, it just gives." - Mother Teresa

So, I don't know about you, but generally speaking, a lot of us out there have that one person that just, doesn't quite seem to make it over to our good side. No matter what they say or do, that person ends up digging their own grave in the cemetery that is your 'black list' day after day after day. Although this pettiness is normal in social aspects, it grinds my gears when I see it in the workplace. Um, hello, isn't the workplace supposed to be a playground of professionalism? Let me backtrack a bit though. Let's say someone in a higher position doesn't like someone in the team that they're in charge of overseeing. Should that influence the projects which are assigned to that person, or should it influence the seating arrangements of said person? I think not. I think, as a person of higher ranking, silly pettiness shouldn't be mixed into work, or work assignments, or work seating arrangements. The person that you don't like shouldn't be the victim of subliminal workplace bullying, no matter what position you or that person are in. I know all of this sounds really vague and doesn't really make sense, but trust me, if I started to get into the gruesome gory details, what was meant to be one simple post would end up being a whole book of a post. Want to know what's a good replacement for a super long whiny post? A drink, or a piece of cake... or what about a drink-themed pound cake, huh?? Oh, trust me... This cake kills two birds with one stone. It's the real deal. You get the taste of a mojito along with a delicately textured cake that's re-baked in order to have a zinger of a spiced glaze on the outside. The combination leads to you having a flavor-packed punch with every bite of this cake. Another thing I loved is how great the house smells while the cake is baking. Your whole entire house ends up smelling as if you had put a giant mojito-flavored air freshener into your AC.

Mojito Pound Cake with Spiced Glaze
adapted from: CakeLove: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch by Warren Brown

*yield: one 12-cup Bundt cake*

12 oz unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup all natural unmodified potato starch
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup ultra-pasteurized half & half
3 tbsp spiced rum
2 tsp "Crush" pure vanilla bean extract
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp pure lemon oil
1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract
juice of 1 lime
1/2 lb all natural unsalted butter
18 oz extra fine granulated sugar
zest of 1 lime
4 large eggs
2 large yolks

1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Set the rack in the middle of the oven.
2) Set out the ingredients and equipment.
- Sift the flour directly into a bowl on a scale for accurate measuring.
- Measure the other dry ingredients into a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, and whisk for 10 seconds to blend. Set aside.
- Measure the liquid ingredients into a separate bowl, whisk to combine, and set aside.
- Measure the butter and sugar into separate bowls and set aside.
- Crack the eggs and yolks into two separate bowls and set aside.
3) In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and lime zest on the lowest speed for 4 to 5 minutes.
4) With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time followed by the yolks, fully incorporating after each addition.
5) Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly through this step to avoid overworking the batter. Don't wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.
6) Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Don't miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom of the bowl. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter's structure.
7) Prepare the pan. Spray the pan well with a nonstick spray.
8) Fill the pan about three-quarters full by depositing the batter with the rubber spatula in small clumps around the prepared pan instead of by pouring it into one spot. Level the batter with the rubber spatula.
9) Bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes.
10) Once the top of the cake doesn't jiggle in the center and the surface looks blonde with browned edges, test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer in the center of the cake. When the skewer shows just a touch of crumbs or comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a heat-resistant surface or wire rack.
11) Once the cake has cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, remove the cake by inverting the pan onto a flat surface. Allow it to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before glazing with the Spiced Glaze.
12) Store under a cake dome at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 1 week. To store longer, label, date, and store the plastic-wrapped cake in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Spiced Glaze

1/2 cup peach preserves
3 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1 tbsp spiced rum
1/2 tsp ground cloves
pinch ground allspice

1) Preheat the oven to 350F.
2) Place the cake on an oven-safe plate.
3) Heat the preserves in a saucepan over low heat until the preserves liquefy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
4) Transfer the heated preserves to a sieve placed over a bowl and press with a rubber spatula to separate the liquid from the solids.
5) Brush a light coat of the warm preserve liquid onto the cake with a pastry brush.
6) Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and lightly brush the mixture onto the preserve-coated cake.
7) Bake for 5 minutes to seal in the glaze.
8) Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool to room temperature before serving.

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