Chocolate Mint Tart

A decadent chocolate mint tart! A baked chocolate pie crust topped with layers of mint white chocolate and dark chocolate ganaches.

If you have been following my blog, you already know my garden is the inspiration for many of my recipes. You also know I adore my herbs. None more than my chocolate mint. Just working in the garden, a gentle bump against these fragrant beauties releases the most glorious aroma. You’ve heard the saying, stop and smell the roses. I rather stop and smell the chocolate mint which I do each time I get a whiff of them.

I’m bringing all those wonderful smells into this tart. The mint ganache layer incorporates fresh mint leaves in a homemade chocolate mint extract. This adds that extra freshness to the mint ganache layer which is so much better than an imitation extract that can taste a bit like chemicals. Using a dark chocolate balances the mint for that perfect balance between the layers.

*Chocolate Mint Extract:

Do you want to make your own extract? Cram a clean canning jar full of fresh chocolate mint herb and cover the herb with vodka. Let it age in the back of a cabinet that does not get any direct sunlight for a minimum of four months. The longer it ages the more intense and beautiful the extract will be. Once distilled drain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and discard the leaves. Store the extract in an airtight jar.

Secret Ingredient:

I actually do not like cocoa powder. I find it to be too bitter for my liking. My trick is to use a cocoa mix instead. It adds a creamier, slightly sweeter, flavor to the dough.

CHOCOLATE MINT TART

Cedar Oak Farms
This chocolate mint tart is wonderfully reminiscent of an after dinner Andes mint, tucked into a chocolate pastry shell. 
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Chill Time 5 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine French

Ingredients
  

Crust:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Mint Ganache Layer:

  • 9 ounces white chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon *chocolate mint extract
  • Green food coloring, optional

Chocolate Ganache Layer:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • Pinch of Salt

Garnish:

  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, melted
  • White chocolate shaves
  • Dark chocolate shaves
  • Mint Leaves

Instructions
 

Make Crust:

  • Place the butter into the bowl of a stand-up mixer. Sift in the powdered sugar through a fine-mesh sieve. Turn the mixture on medium and beat until smooth.
  • Beat the egg and add half at a time to the butter mixture, beating well to incorporate between additions.
  • In a medium bowl sift the flour and peppermint cocoa powder together. Add to the butter mixture.
  • Using a rubber spatula, mix the cocoa mixture into the dough until evenly distributed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerator for at least 30 minutes
  • Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
  • Grease a 9-inch tart pan and roll out the chilled dough to an 11-inch circle. Roll the dough around the rolling pin, then unroll the dough over the pan.
  • Press the dough against the bottom and sides of the pan, then use the rolling pin to roll over the top of the pan, cutting off any excess dough. Press the dough gently against the pan once more. Using a folk, prick some holes in the bottom of the crust so it doesn’t puff up.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the tart shell from the oven. Let cool completely.

Mint Ganache Layer:

  • Finely chop the white chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl. Place the cream in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in the chocolate mint extract. Pour over the pastry and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until set.

Chocolate Ganache Layer:

  • Finely chop the chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl. In a heavy saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Do not let it boil. Pour the whipping cream over the chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add in the vanilla and salt and stir well until evenly combined.
  • Pour the chocolate ganache on top of the set mint layer in the tart tin and gently tap the tin on your work surface to knock out any air bubbles. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before transferring the tart to the fridge to set for 4 hours (or overnight).

Garnish:

  • Once set, remove the tart from the tart tin. Drizzle the melted dark chocolate over the tart. Garnish with the white and dark chocolate shaves and fresh mint leaves.

Notes

* This recipe assumes you are using a homemade extract. If you are using a store bought extract reduce the amount you use to 1 teaspoon.
Keyword Pies & Tarts

Pork Ragu with Squash and Sage Pappardelle

This is one of those perfect fall dishes that takes advantage of the fall vegetables and herbs. Pork simmered in a rich and savory broth served with pappardelle, sage, and thinly sliced butternut squash.

Our fall vegetable garden, much like the season itself, is filled with color. Pumpkins, squashes, and gourds are bursting throughout the garden and I do mean bursting. These vine plants can take over a garden if you are not careful. I give them their own garden away from my stalks, but there is a movement towards three-sister planting.

Three-sister planting is the process of planting corn, beans, and squash together. The Three Sisters, work together to help one another thrive and survive. I tried it once but it really messed with my compulsive organization personality. It felt cluttered and messy and I just could not deal with it. So my pumpkin and squash live together in their own little plot and we all seem to be happy with that.

One of the benefits of having them off by themselves is I do not accidently step on or nick the rind as it ripens and readies for harvest. This will lead to rapid deterioration. This gives us plenty of pumpkins which we use for our Fall Festival that includes pumpkin bowling and painting. Activities loved by all the children. And it gives me plenty of butternut squash. I love cooking with butternut squash.

Benefits of Butternut Squash:

Butternut squash is rich in important vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting antioxidants. It is low in calories, rich in fiber, and can protect against conditions like high blood pressure, cancer, and mental decline. But I love how versatile and easily it is to cook with. It can be added to both sweet and savory dishes and the burst of color is so much fun to work in recipes. For this recipe I fried it in butter with fresh sage leaves and added to my pasta. Those little half-moons add a brightness to the dish and they are absolutely delicious fried. It adds crunch to an otherwise soft dish.

Ragu vs Bolognese:

I wanted to use a Ragu for this dish. I just like how its hearty, rich flavor compliments fall dishes and vegetable like butternut squash. The main difference between Ragu and Bolognese is that Ragu sauce is thicker in texture. It uses a full-body red wine like burgundy or cabernet sauvignon. Ragus are also heavier on meat and minced elements. Whereas Bolognese is more of a red sauce with meat, ragu is meat in a red sauce. I added a whole white onion and garlic cloves to give it a bold and savory full flavor and opted for pork. And believe me, it is bold and delicious!

Pork Ragu with Squash and Sage Pappardelle

Cedar Oak Farms
Do not be intimidated by the cooking time. It is a simmer and forget three hours that will make your home smell cozy and warm, filled with bold scents. Your neighbors might be stopping by with bowl in hand as this simmers and releases its fragrant aromas.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 large onion peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, fat trimmed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1-2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup strong red wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 ounces) canned pureed tomatoes
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup butter, 1 stick
  • 12 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 batch (4 servings) homemade pappardelle
  • salt
  • freshly grind black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Cut the pork into 1” chunks. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch Oven. Add the pork, onions, garlic, and herbs to the pot and fry for 5 – 6 minutes.
  • Stir in tomato paste. Deglaze the roast in 2–3 steps with red wine. Boil it down completely with each addition. Add the chicken broth and pureed tomatoes. Add bay leaves and bring to a boil. Then cover and simmer slowly over low to medium heat for 2 1⁄2–3 hours.
  • In the meantime, wash and core the butternut squash and cut into thick wedges. Use a vegetable slicer or mandolin to thinly slice the wedges together with the skin. Fry them with the butter and sage in a large skillet over a medium heat for about 4–5 minutes. Season with salt.
  • Cook the pappardelle in plenty of boiling salted water. Fresh pasta cooks up quickly, usually in 6 minutes, drain. Carefully fold in the squash.
  • Finally, season the pork ragu with salt, and pepper. Stir in the rest of the olive oil.
  • Plate the pappardelle and top with the pork ragu.
Keyword Pasta, Pork

Chicken and Leek Pot Pie

This rustic chicken and leek pot pie is a real showstopper. It bakes up deliciously creamy and aromatic wrapping you in a comforting blanket of savory warmth.

Chilly nights are tapping on the windows reminding us that it is time to winterize the outbuildings and harvest the last of the garden before the first frost. Today I brought in the last of my leeks and am making some stews to freeze for those busy nights when cooking isn’t an option. The rest is going into a rustic chicken and leek pot pie, a classic comfort food, to console me as I ready myself for the brittle winter season.

Leek vs Onion:

Let’s face it leeks are just sexier than onions. They are more vibrant just as versatile and taste sweeter with a delicate earthy flavor that elevates the dish. Leeks are delicious on their own and can be served grilled, roasted, or sauteed. Yet they offer many versatile options by replacing onions, chives, shallots, and even garlic in recipes. I love them so much I plant a row or two of leeks every planting season and enjoy them all season long. I use the young green plants in light soups in the spring, stir them into fresh pastas on warm summer nights, and give my thick stews and pot pies more depth on chilly fall nights. Just remember no matter when you use them or for what, wash the leeks thoroughly. Dirt likes to play a mean game of hide and seek hiding between the many layers.

A Mushroom by Any Other Name:

Which mushrooms should you use? Some mushrooms take to one cooking method better than others. Some are meatier than others, but for the most part, they’re interchangeable. My personal favorite in this chicken and leek pot pie is Cremini mushrooms (baby bellas). Cremini mushrooms are the same variety as button mushrooms but offer one growth stage more giving them a complex and savory flavor, If you are buying ingredients for this recipe pick up the baby bellas. Otherwise go ahead and use whatever you have in your refrigerator.

Chicken and Leek Pot Pie

Cedar Oak Farms
This chicken & leek pot pie is the perfect all-American comfort food. It bakes up deliciously creamy and aromatic.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 leeks
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 – 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grind black pepper
  • 1 sheet puff pastry

Instructions
 

  • Wash and slice the leeks. Slice the mushrooms. Set aside.
  • Dice the chicken. Place in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper; toss to mix.
  • Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat just to shimmering. Carefully add the chicken, working in batches, sautéed to a golden brown. Remove chicken to a bowl and set aside. Add the leeks and mushrooms to the skillet. Turn heat down to medium. Sauté 5-10 minutes until the leek is tender. Transfer to the bowl with the chicken.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wipe the skillet out with a paper towel. Melt the butter in the skillet, sprinkle in the flour and stir on a low heat until smooth. Gradually whisk in the milk, whisking until all the milk has been added. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until a smooth, thick, white sauce. Stir in mustard.
  • Stir in the chicken, leeks, mushrooms, oregano, salt and pepper until blended. Turn into a 9” cast iron skillet, or 5” individual pie pans. Remove the pastry from the package and give it a quick roll, to about the thickness of a nickel, on a lightly floured work surface. Cut the pastry into 10 even strips. Using a basket weave pattern crisscross the stripes covering the skillet. Crimp or decorate the top with the off-cuts, and transfer to a baking tray.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is lightly golden brown and crisp. Let cool for 10 minutes then serve.
Keyword Chicken & Poultry

Ginger Panna Cotta

Ginger panna cotta, a cross between pudding and cheesecake, is topped with whip cream and a freshly pressed apple cider granita. All those wonderful Fall flavors we look forward to ever season.

I only recently found, and fell in love, with panna cotta. Just the name alone, panna cotta, sounded complicated enough for me to avoid it. I’m not much of a dessert person to start with and I defiantly am not a baker of any sort. Give me a stock pot and a garden I’ll come away with someone wonderful. Sit down some flour, baking soda, and a copious amount of randomness and I’m like, uhmmm, what am I supposed to do now? So, yes, panna cotta made me shiver in complicated fear. I was wrong!

What is Panna Cotta?

Panna Cotta is Italian Pudding. Basically, it is simmered sweetened dairy, in this recipe I used heavy cream, thickened with gelatin. That’s it! You can add flavors and spices to the dairy and let it simmer into the milk, but it couldn’t be easier. The only thing you want to watch out for is splitting the cream. I avoid that my dissolving the gelatin separately and adding it to the simmered dairy off the heat. Do not let the dairy come to a boil. Boiling destroys gelatin’s thickening power and will split the panna cotta for sure.

Since Fall is in the air I choose to bring all those wonderful fall spices and fruits into the dessert. What could be better than ginger, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and apple cider frozen into an apple cider granita.

What is Granita?

Granita is fresh fruit simmered in water, blended and frozen until icy, flaked with a fork and frozen again. By using apple cider, half the work is already completed. Since granita is basically flavored shaved iced I was generous with the spices to really boost those flavors.

Ginger Panna Cotta

Cedar Oak Farms
Ginger panna cotta, a cross between pudding and cheesecake, is topped with whip cream and a freshly pressed apple cider granita.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Freeze/Refrigerate 12 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

For the Panna Cotta:

  • 1 envelope Knox gelatin
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

For the granita:

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions
 

For the Panna Cotta:

  • Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and set aside. Place the rest of the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Do not boil. Remove from heat and whisk in the gelatin milk. (This might look like a paste at this point, but not to worry. It is the perfect consistency.) Pour into 4 cocktail or wine glasses, filling halfway up. Place in the refrigerator until set, about 4 hours.

For the granita:

  • Mix all the ingredients together, and simmer for 15 minutes on low heat. Place in a bowl and freeze for 2 hours. After two hours, mix with a fork and freeze overnight. When ready to serve scrape with a fork to resemble graham cracker crumbs. Reserve any unused granita in the freezer.

To Serve:

  • Serve the panna cotta in the glass, top with some freshly made whipped cream. Add the granita. The granita will melt quickly; serve immediately.
Keyword Custard

Beef and Pumpkin Stew

A thick and hearty stew filled with fall flavors perfect for those chilly evenings.

It is that time of the year where the garden is coming to an end with just a few stragglers hanging on. Today I picked the last of the tomatoes, some herbs, a pumpkin, and a handful of onions. This may sound like a random array but isn’t that the best thing about soups and stews. You can pretty much throw anything into them, and they will come out perfect.

The Spices:

What spice goes well with pumpkin? For me, that’s cinnamon! Cinnamon gives food warmth, adds a natural sweetness, and mixes in a depth of flavor that is irresistible in this stew.  I use a teaspoon of cinnamon for this recipe, but if you are not used to using cinnamon in savory dishes you might need to adjust it a bit. It is such a distinctive flavor it might require easing into.

Pumpkin:

Do not throw any of that pumpkin away. Did you know you can eat every part of the plant? Pumpkin flowers, leaves, stems, seeds, flesh, even the skin are all edible. Some varieties are better for eating than other. Your smaller pie pumpkins are sweeter than your heirloom varieties, but all are edible. The harder varieties, like butternut or Queensland blue, are better for soups and stews. Soft varieties tend to make the soup watery.

Beef and Pumpkin Stew

Cedar Oak Farms
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat cut into 1” cubes
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 small pumpkin peeled and cut into 1” cubes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth divided
  • 4 – 5 tomatoes peeled and sliced
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 can (14 ounces) garbanzo beans, undrained
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup roasted & salted pumpkin seeds optional
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Instructions
 

  • In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the beef on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove beef and keep warm.
  • Add the onion to the Dutch oven and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté for another minute.
  • Return the beef to the Dutch oven. Add 2 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Carefully, add 2 – 3 tomatoes to the water and let boil until the skin cracks, about 1 minute. Immediately place in cold water. Repeat until all the tomatoes have been processed. Set aside. Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the pulp, but reserving the seeds. Cut the pumpkin into slices that are easy to peel. Cut into 1” chunks. Set aside.
  • After an hour, add the pumpkin, tomatoes, tomato sauce, garbanzo beans, orzo, and spices to the Dutch oven. Stir in the remaining 2 cups of vegetables broth. Bring to a slow boil then reduce to heat to low. Let simmer for another hour.
  • If you are choosing to use the pumpkin seeds, roast them during this time.
  • Stir the stew and taste. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Serve in bowls and garnish with the pumpkin seeds and parsley.
Keyword Beef, Soups & Stews