Life's little short cuts for the everyday and baking (aka my random OCD tendencies revealed):
If you need to bake during the week, but work 5 days a week...pre-measure your dry ingredients a day in advance and store in an air tight container. Then you only have to measure out your wet ingredients the day of. If the recipe has baking powder in it, store the dry ingredients in the refrigerator. (This is basically the only way I get office birthday cakes done or really any serious baking during the week.)
If you need to bring butter to room temperature quickly, slice the stick of butter into thin slice into your mixing bowl. The butter will soften much more quickly. (This also totally works with a stick of cream cheese.) You can also use the back of a fork to work the butter if you are really in a rush. Hold the bowl on the side or bottom and the heat of your hand will help speed the process. If you really plan it out you could totally carry the butter to work and then just take it out of the refrigerator and hour before you plan to go home and bake. (I know this sounds crazy strange, but it helps a lot when you need/want to do other stuff on a "school" night and still get to bake.
Lists, Lists, Lists....sometimes you just have to layout exactly what needs to happen everyday at home...like what has to get done after work or before work at 5am. What groceries have to be purchased and when for the freshest ingredients to be used. Packing lists and lists for planning out dinner parties and brunch menus. Sometimes it strangely feels good to be organized...lets not even talk about lists at work. Do you remember this scene in Gilmore Girls with Michel and his Post-it notes system?
Well I have totally been very close to this being me at times...
Sunday afternoon/nights are my "lunch for the week" cooking time. I try to make my main dish for the week, so that every night all I have to do is cut/scoop/divide out my portion for the next days' lunch. Then on mornings where I can't decide what to where, can't find my keys or the other one of my shoes, or basically just can't get moving; I know all I have to do it reach in the fridge and pull out my lunch for the day.
This tart was my "main dish" for lunch this week, served with carrots, celery and hummus. I jammed packed my lunch with veggies, whist totally means I can have ice cream for dinner. Right?
This tarts is all about its layers: Its starts with store bought pie crust. (I left the making of pie crust for later in the week when I made two apple pies.) Then there is a layer of thinly sliced zucchini and yellow squash. It is then topped with a thin layer of ricotta cheese with herbs. Next we pack on the remaining zucchini and squash with some lovely heirloom tomatoes. To finish it off, just sprinkle with reduced-fat Italian cheese blend. This tart is full of flavor and reheats perfectly in the toaster oven on 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes. Seriously give this a try this summer when these veggies are in their prime.
Tomatoes, fresh thyme, and basil...
Lets get to slicing here...
Fat Free Ricotta + Thyme + Basil + Italian Season + Garlic + Salt & Pepper
Time for layering...
So close...just needs a little...
Lite Summer Vegetable Tart:
1 store bought pie crust from the refrigerator section
1 medium tomato, cut into 1/4 inch slices
4-6 small heirloom tomatoes (could substitute with cherry tomatoes), cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 cup non-fat ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
1/2 cup reduced fat Italian cheese blend
1. Prep all veggies. Set aside then zucchini and squash. De-seed the tomatoes and then lay them out on a cutting board or plate. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper. The salt will help draw the water out of the tomatoes so that the tart doesn't end up soggy.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the ricotta cheese, basil, thyme, Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and grated garlic.
4. Roll out the pie crust and form in to the tart pan so that it goes up the sides of the pan. Cut off any excess crust. Using a fork poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust and pre-bake pie crust for 10 minutes.
5. Cover the bottom of the pie crust with the thin slices of zucchini and squash. Then spread the ricotta cheese mixture evenly over the zucchini squash layer. Top this with any remaining zucchini and squash as well as all of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the Italian cheese.
6. Place into preheated oven and back for 30-35 minutes or until cheese is melty and slight browned and the crust is golden. If your crust is browning to quickly cover with aluminum foil and let finish baking. Serve immediately or reheat in a toaster oven on 400 degrees F for approximately 10 minutes. Enjoy!