Monday, August 18, 2014

French Apple Custard Tart

~ a funny fact about the nester ~

i once ate and apple and found half a worm. it made me realize that it is better to find a whole worm... think about it. :o)

french inspired apple tart


last summer our family took an amazing trip to france and we dined our way through paris and provence. on our second day in paris, we just randomly chose a little cafe that served up organic dishes that were pre-made. i must say that i was a little worried about the flavor of the food, but it turned out to be quite delicious! we bought an apple custard tart that was was a delightful blend of custard, apples and crispy flaky croissant crust. and so for the rest of our trip we kept sampling apple tarts and we were greatly disappointed. so, of course i've been wanting to recreate the tart we had in france. for those who know me, you wouldn't be surprised that i've been a little focused on accomplishing this task. you see, i have a little obsessive personality trait that my family finds either annoying or entertaining. 

recently we took a family trip to montana and i had a lot of time on my hands... so, i tried a few attempts at creating this apple tart. i finally came up with a version that is really close to the original tart! my dessert has a flaky croissant crust and a layer of egg custard followed by cooked apple slices and then finally topped with a rich glaze of apricot jelly and calvados brandy. i hope you enjoy baking and eating it as much as my family does. this dessert doesn't last too long in our house! 

it is best served warm and fresh. but, if eaten the next day, heat in the oven to get the crust to it's original flaky texture.

serving size: makes two small tarts or one large tart.

- crust


1 box of pepperidge farm pastry puff sheets (1/2 a box)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheit.

thaw half the box of pastry sheets. use one sheet and cut in half or if you want one big tart don't slice the dough in half. next, cut about a 2- 1/2 inch wide strip on the long ends of the pastry dough. next cut one 1/2 inch wide strip on the side. these strips of dough will be the sides of your tart. take both strips and place one on each side of the rectangle of dough. pinch the edges so there are no gaps between the dough. next take the side strip of dough and place on the short ends and pinch. you should now have a little rectangular tart (see the photos below for an example). place on a foil lined cookie sheet. you can place baking beans in the middle of the pastry dough so that it won't rise above the sides. i baked it without the beans and when it comes out of the oven, i just punched down the flaky crust.
Bake until crust is set, about 20 minutes
Cool and let stand to room temperature.

- custard filling

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 granny smith apples (about 1 ¼ pounds), peeled, cored, sliced medium thickness
1 ¼ cups whipping cream
1 2-inch piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise (if you don't have a vanilla bean, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract)
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 325.

peel apple, and core and slice them (medium width). melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium size sauce pan over medium-low heat. add apples and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. using slotted spoon, transfer apples to a plate. increase heat to medium, and add cream.  scrape seeds from vanilla bean into cream; add bean and bring to boil (you can use 1 tsp vanilla extract instead of the bean). in another sauce pan, beat 4 egg yolks and sugar. now, gradually add the hot cream mixture into the egg and whisk thoroughly after each addition . stir over low heat until mixture thickens slightly and coats back of spoon, about 7 minutes; do not boil. remove from heat; whisk in 1 whole egg. pour custard into crust. place apples over custard and arrange in a pattern. beat one egg in a small bowl and set aside. bake tart in oven and half way through baking, brush the crust with the raw egg mixture. continue baking until custard is set in center and slightly puffed around edges, about 35 minutes. cool completely.

- glaze


1/2 cup apricot jelly (if you use jam, strain first)
2 tablespoons calvados brandy. (seriously, you can use just brandy)
mix the jelly and brandy together in a small sauce pan and heat. after cooking for about 2 minutes, let cool a bit and then brush apples with the glaze. i've found that this dessert is best served warm or on the same day that it is made. if you do eat it the next day, warm in the oven to crisp up the crust.

prepare the apples. i prefer to slice the apples a medium width, otherwise they kind of fall apart when cooked on the stove top. 

thaw the pastry sheet. i use pepperidge farm's puff pastry sheets which are so delish and easy to use! the tart that we ordered in france had a flaky crust exactly like these pastry sheets. you can't beat pepperidge farms!

cut the dough in half. so i cut the sheet in half. depending on if you want two small tarts or one large tart, this will determine if you cut the sheet.

here's how to make your tart shape. after slightly thawing the dough, cut the edges and place on top of the rectangle. line up the edges.

seal the edges. pinch the outer edges together so, that you have a crust that will hold the custard and apples.

shape the middle. so once it is baked, the pastry dough tends to puff up and rise. while it is slightly warm, i just gently push down the middle part of the tart.

ready for the oven. now while it is baking, let's get started on the glaze.

let's make the glaze. this is a photo of the strainer that i used.

now for the good stuff! anyone for a glass of brandy? i had never heard of this type of french brandy, don't you just love the bottle. seriously, you can use a regular brandy for this recipe.

final glaze. doesn't this glaze look delish?

a closer look.  i baked this version on our vacation, note the beautiful aged wood that it is photographed on! so the size of this tart is a little different then the next one. 

this dessert will be a hit! so your's will look like this one. you'll either make two skinny ones (like the above photo) or one larger one. 

if you end up making this recipe, please leave a comment. i would love to hear from you. also, thanks for stopping by and if you would love to stay in touch, please subscribe by email. thanks so much for visiting i appreciate all you support of my blog!


Friday, August 15, 2014

A Montana Retreat

~ a funny fact about the nester ~

one of my favorite pastime while vacationing is to bake yummy desserts!

blackfoot, montana

we recently took a trip to montana and had an amazing time! my husband loves everything outdoors, so he looks forward to this trip all year long. this year we rented a cabin in the blackfoot region which is just outside the town of missoula.  this cabin has 500 acres surrounding it with several ponds, a river, a stream and cattle. it was a great time to unwind and go cell phone and internet free for a week. here is a peek at the homestead we rented. i hope you enjoy this post as much as i enjoyed putting it together! thanks so much for visiting and i hope you have a wonderful weekend.

this is the pump house that greeted us with the simple chalkboard note from the owner jon! what a nice touch. he was an amazing host who had such nice touches like, he had chocolates waiting for us at the cabin. who doesn't like to have a bowlful of chocolates!

here is another look at the cabin. i just love the huge wrap around porch. note all the bikes along the front wall, jon made sure we had all the sports equipment, like mountain bikes, canoe, and fishing gear.

relaxation is a priority at this place. you're totally forced slow down since there is no internet connection or cell reception. although we all were thoroughly entertained by my husband's frenetic behavior.. he was like character hammy from the movie, "over the hedge." he never did relax, but instead he thoroughly enjoyed all the outdoor recreation.

of course my hubby finally experienced exhaustion from all his crazy activities, and he ended up falling asleep in this hammock one evening. 

one of the beautiful ponds on the homestead. of course, there were trout living in this pond out back.

don't you just love this gorgeous pink thistle? these attracted the many beautiful butterflies in the fields.

every cabin has to come with a croquet set.

what a gorgeous display of old rockers. i found it difficult not to go antique shopping since, shipping furniture home would have been too expensive. 

this dinner triangle was located off the back porch. i seriously need one of these at my home.

my daughter can be a ham, kind of likes the camera! but, besides my daughter, you've gotta love the display of dried flowers framing the front door.

don't you just love the iron lock on the door? also, the wooden switch plates were throughout the whole house, which is such a great touch.

even the dachshund door stop is just too cute!

the kitchen is so warm with the exposed wood. jon's talented son, made and installed the wooden frame for the three lights.

this is the living room with a high ceiling and the beautiful log walls. notice my kiddos aren't on their phones or computers, needless to say lots of books were read and many games of monopoly were played during our stay here.

i love the nice old barn wood framing of the relief map.

here is the downstairs bathroom, it had an old-fashioned toilet with the tank located above it.

the antique teapot is incredible!

i love these wood coasters.

so i hope you enjoyed the first installment of our montana adventure. if you have a vacation that you would like to share, i would love to hear from you. or just let me know through a comment if you enjoyed this little tour. please sign up for emails so that you don't miss out on future posts and offers. and i really appreciate your visit and support, it means a lot to me that you have taken the time to stop by my blog!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Homemade Room Diffusers

homemade room diffuser

now that autumn has officially arrived my nesting instinct has kicked in around my home.  I feel like my kitchen and dining room need a little hint of cinnamon to bring in a cozy autumn feel! when we vacationed in montana this summer the house that we stayed at had a homemade diffuser in a mason jar.  so, i got this idea of making my own diffuser. 

of course you'll need a bottle for this project.  i bought my little green bottle at a local drugstore.  i guess you want a bottle with a small opening so that the oils don't evaporate out so quickly.  after i bought mine i found some really cool ones on amazon!  here is the link:  vintage bottles   if you don't find the style you like on this link, just scroll down and there are more options...

i bought my reeds from amazon, here is the link that i used:  diffuser reeds   also i found a small package of reeds at michael's craft stores.  what i read on the internet is that you want the rattan reeds since the oils will travel up them. i ended up using about 10 reeds per bottle.


here are the ingredients you'll need, vodka, mineral oil, and a essential oil. start with a 1/2 cup of mineral oil and add 4-5 tablespoons of vodka. thoroughly mix these two ingredients since the vodka helps thin the oil which helps the oil move up the reeds. if you want to add essential oils you can add them at this point, around 3-4 tablespoon or more depending on how strong a scent you like.  i bought a few bottles of essential oils at whole foods but the amount that i bought was so small and expensive.  

so i went ahead and made my own cinnamon oil. to make it you'll need olive oil and cinnamon.  

place about 3/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup of cinnamon (definitely buy this in bulk) in a sauce pan.  stir and simmer for about 3 minutes.  then place a coffee filter in a mug and carefully pour the cinnamon oil into the filter.  let it drain and after it has cooled wrap the top of the coffee filter with a rubber band and let sit over night in a bowl.  initially, you'll get some oil, but if you let it sit you'll get more to drain out.  i would imagine that you might have better drainage if you use a piece of mesh.  i was lazy and just used what i had on hand. 

then once you have mixed this into the mineral oil and vodka mixture you can pour it into your decorated bottles and add the reeds.  once the reeds are in and drenched with the oil take out and flip them upside down and place them back in the bottle. i flip my reeds everyday so that the reeds give off a fresh strong scent of cinnamon.  enjoy the scents of autumn!

i used oak leaves and an acorn for decor.  of course i had to add a bit of shiny beads to the bouquet!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Kitchen Remodel part 2

~ a funny fact about the nester ~

my husband is amazed that i can talk construction workers into building extra things at no cost. one of the many things i persuaded our painter to do, was to paint our old barstools. i think it is my happy personality that is contagious.

our kitchen
since i couldn't fit all my photos and paragraphs on the last post, i decided to break up the story. so if you missed out on the earlier post, here is the link: kitchen remodel, part 1  my hope is that this post will help you with your kitchen projects and inspire you. 

remodeling can test your patience...

how many of you have survived a kitchen remodel? what was the hardest part of the remodel, besides spending waay too much money?! here is a funny story about testing my patience... during our remodel, i had to listen to our worker's music. let's just say that i heard the same songs over and over for 7 months. so, you can imagine that certain songs just make me cringe. i kind of go into a bizarre physical state when i hear the song " moves like jaeger"! remodeling does test our patience, but in the end it is worth it.


i viewed many light fixtures in the store and on the internet and i found a line of handblown italian lamps. i was excited that they contain the colors of the granite and the cabinets in the beautiful glass. i feel that lighting is a very important element in a kitchen. we placed lights over our island, the sink, under the cabinets and over the stove. also, we did have our electrician put some of them on dimmer switches. just some ideas to think about when designing your kitchen.

~ task lighting
i just love the under cabinet task lighting. all of these lights are controlled by one switch. in our last home, my husband installed another type of under cabinet lights and we had to manually turn on each row of lights. now that they are all on one switch, this makes me so, so, happy!

~ stove top lighting
i love these halogen lights. it lights up my work space and makes stove top cooking so much easier.

fun decor

~ framed cards
so a little known fact about me is that i love cows. here in northern california, the cows roam the hills and you can hike among them. so here is my favorite cow. it was originally a greeting card that i framed. this is an easy to way to get instant art that is cheap!

~ i can't have enough clocks
if you have read my older post (here is the link: clock) you are familiar with this cute and happy clock. i found it at a thrift store and it was on sale!

essential equipment

~ elica zepher hood
we bought this at our local appliance store and our salesman went to their back room and found this awesome hood that was the last year's model. so instead of paying the premium price tag for a new model, we ended up saving a ton of money. the thing i love about this hood is that the top part is made of glass, so it allows light to come through and makes the cooking area less claustrophobic and dark.

~ dacor gas stove top
in our seattle home, we had a dacor stove that was very similar to this one. the thing i love about this specific stove top is the cooking surface. it is made of a very washable material. i love how easy it is too keep clean, and of course that makes me very happy!

~ moen faucet
i love this faucet. the key that i found with this type of faucet is that the spigot that detaches does best if the base has an arch that points down. my last one had a regular shape and didn't point down and so when i tried to use the spigot, i had a difficult time getting the hose out of the faucet. i hope this makes sense to you. trust me that this is a good shape for a faucet. also, i love my big sink, it is so hassle free since it is one big tub and i can pile all our dishes in it. 

counter tops and backsplash

~ stone
this is the granite my husband chose. i was so worried that it was going to be way too orange, but once we got it into our kitchen and i quickly changed out my wall color to silver (benjamin moore, revere pewter) so that it complimented the granite. i have a hard time photographing it, but in person it is more subdued. it definitely is dramatic and is the star of our kitchen!

~ finding your granite
we had the darnedest time finding a piece of granite that was big enough for our kitchen island. we found places that carried prefab finished stone counter tops (that were too small) that were ready to install. so, with a ton of research, we found a specialty shop that carried big pieces of stone and the prices weren't that different to the prefab ones. sorry that the above photo is blurry, but it shows the three slabs that we bought. 

kitchen stations

~ dish towels
i wanted the towels to be hidden, so i placed them along the back end of the kitchen island. also, it is cool that they are conveniently located to the sink.

~ dish towel hooks
i bought these damage free hooks at target that won't ruin the surface! i love how they match the wood stain. here is the link on amazon: 3M hooks  

~ my coffee and tea station
i have a little spot that is devoted for making tea and coffee. i also made sure that it was tucked away in a corner so it wouldn't interfere with the flow of the kitchen traffic.

~ coffee and tea station essential equipment
this cuisinart electric tea kettle (here is the amazon link: kettle) is the best. my absent minded husband has fried two tea kettles because he has left them on the stove and for some reason cannot hear the loud whistling noise they make when the water is boiling. so this little kettle heats up the water quickly and also has an automatic shut off feature that makes it essential in our household. also the little nespresso frother in the background is my friend in the morning. it foams my soy milk/milk combo so quickly and just makes my drink taste like i bought it from starbucks! you've gotta buy one!!!  here is the link: frother

~ * ~

this ends my tour of our kitchen and i hope you enjoyed it. i look forward to posting more room tours of my house so, keep checking back or subscribe by email. by the way, let me know how your kitchen remodel turned out, or better yet write a quick comment on your favorite part of your kitchen. i would love to hear from you, really! i truly appreciate your visit and i hope you have a wonderful weekend!