Saturday, July 31, 2021

Ladybug fruit tart

This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

One of the first things I learned how to make in my baking classes is fruit tarts. The two main components of tarts, the shell and the pastry cream, are basic skills that are clearly very important because I've had to prepare them time and time again. I had an internship at a local bakery over the summer (more on that later), and the very first thing my supervisor asked me to make was pastry cream. I was quite nervous because it had been at least half a year since I last made pastry cream, but fortunately it turned out perfect. Over the next few weeks, I made a lot of pastry cream, and really, once you get the hang of it, it's like riding a bike.

My internship course at Ivy Tech concluded with a final exam in which I had to make numerous desserts over the course of 4 hours (once again, more on that later). One of the dishes was, you guessed it, a fruit tart. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to walk you through how to make that tart shell and the pastry cream. The fruit tart recipe I'm sharing today has a lemon pastry cream and is made to look like a ladybug because I thought it would be a fun summer dessert.

First, let's discuss the shell, also known as pâte sucrée. Pronounced pat-sue-cray, pâte sucrée is the French term for sweet pastry dough. It is similar to the American short dough, and I think it tastes like a shortbread cookie when it is baked. 

There are two main mixing methods for pastry dough: the sanding method and the creaming method. The sanding mixture is what you think of when making pie crusts—breaking up the butter with your hands or a pastry cutter into tiny, pea-sized pieces and cutting it into the flour. The creaming method is what I use when making cookies in which I beat the butter and the sugar together until creamy before adding egg and the dry ingredients. Pâte sucrée is traditionally made using the creaming method, but it can also be made using the sanding method. Personally I prefer the creaming method, so that’s what I did. Traditionally, when using the creaming method with cookies, you want the butter to look “light and fluffy” before proceeding. However, that isn’t what we want here. That’s because when you’re beating the butter and sugar together you’re incorporating air, which is great for reducing the spread on cookies, but that isn’t what we want here. So just beat the butter and sugar until well combined, but not any longer. I like to use Challenge European Style Butter. It has a higher butterfat than regular butters (83% versus 80% for standard butters), and the lower moisture content yields a flakier crust.

This recipe calls for almond meal because I think it gives the tart shell a boost in taste and texture. But it is important to note that almond meal isn’t the same as almond flour. Yes, they are both made from ground almonds, however, almond flour is made from peeled almonds and finely ground, whereas almond meal is made from unpeeled almonds and is coarser. That said, it won’t contribute to the texture in the same way as almond meal.

The classic formula for pâte sucrée (using baker’s percentage) is 100 percent flour, 50 percent butter, 50 percent sugar, and 20 percent egg. But I also like to use a little baking powder in my pâte sucrée because I found that it lightens the texture.

The shell is blind baked with parchment paper and pie weights (or dry beans). Blind baking is the process of fully baking a tart shell. We want to fully bake the tart shell because the pastry cream doesn’t need to go into the oven. We cover the tart shell in parchment paper and pie weights to prevent the crust and sides from becoming misshapen during the baking process. The pie weights should completely fill the pie pan. I’ve seen a lot of pictures that show pie weights just on the very bottom, but that doesn’t prevent the sides from slouching.

After about 15 minutes, remove the parchment paper and pie weights from the shell and continue baking about another 10 minutes, or until the bottom is baked through and turns golden brown. Once the shell cools, it is ready to be filled.

Now, let’s talk pastry cream. It is a cooked-stirred custard with very basic ingredients, including milk, sugar, egg yolk, cornstarch, and butter. Additional ingredients can be added for flavor (like in this case I added lemon zest for a lemon pastry cream.

When making pastry cream, the first thing you want to do is bring your milk up to a boil. While it’s heating up, whisk the sugar and the cornstarch together for even dispersion and then whisk in the egg yolks until just combined. Don’t overmix because you don’t want to incorporate too much air into the mixture. Once the milk comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and slowly pour about half of the milk into the egg yolk mixture while whisking continuously. This is called tempering. You’re slowly heating up the egg yolks so that they don’t scramble. Then return the mixture to the pot and heat it to its boiling point once again. It’s important to continuously whisk the custard, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom or the sides.

Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue to whisk and let it boil for 2 minutes. This is important in order to thicken the cream and fully swell the starch. Once you’ve finished cooking it, remove it from the heat and stir in butter. Butter increases the pastry cream’s richness and flavor.

If made correctly, you shouldn’t have to strain the pastry cream. However, if you see that your pastry cream has small lumps in it, strain it through a chinois or fine-mesh strainer.

Finally, the pastry cream is poured into a shallow container, covered to the surface with plastic wrap (otherwise a skin will form), and refrigerated until you're ready to use it.

Ladybug Fruit Tart
Yield: One 9 or 10-inch fruit tart, or about 12 servings
For the pâte sucrée
  • 180 grams (1 stick + 5 Tablespoons) Challenge European Style Butter
  • 180 grams (1 1/2 cups) confectioners’ sugar
  • 94 grams (2 large) eggs
  • 4 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 360 grams (3 cups) all purpose flour
  • 54 grams (1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons) almond meal
  • 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) baking powder
For the lemon pastry cream
  • 550 grams (18 fluid ounces) whole milk
  • 6 grams (or zest from 1 lemon) lemon zest
  • 140 grams (1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 39 grams (4 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) cornstarch
  • 110 grams (6) egg yolks
  • 67 grams (4 Tablespoons) Challenge unsalted butter
For assembly
  • 2 pints raspberries
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 pint blackberries
  • 125 grams (1/2 cup) apricot preserves
  • 1 Tablespoon (14 milliliters) water
For the pâte sucrée
  1. Cream butter and sugar together until combined; don’t overmix
  2. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth
  3. Gently mix in flour, almond meal, and baking powder until just combined
  4. Gather all ingredients and form a ball and then gently flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Grease bottom and sides of 9-inch or 10-inch tart pan
  6. Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness and lay over tart pan, carefully pressing the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan; trim excess dough
  7. Use a fork to dock the bottom of the crust all over
  8. Place the tart pan in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes
  9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  10. Line the tart pan with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans
  11. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, remove from oven, and remove parchment paper with weights
  12. Return tart shell back to oven and bake uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes, or until tart becomes golden brown, cooked through, and crisp
  13. Remove the tart pan from the oven and cool completely
For the lemon pastry cream
  1. Add milk and lemon zest to stainless steel pot and heat on medium until it begins to boil
  2. While waiting for milk to come to a boil, mix sugar and cornstarch in large bowl
  3. Add egg yolks to sugar-cornstarch mixture and whisk until combined; don’t overmix
  4. Once milk comes to boil, remove pot from heat and slowly pour 1/2 of it into egg yolk mixture while whisking continuously
  5. Return mixture to pot with rest of milk, set heat to medium, and continue to cook while stirring constantly
  6. Cook until custard has boiled for 2 minutes; at this point it should be thick and difficult to stir
  7. Remove from heat, add butter, and stir until mixed completely
  8. Pour pastry cream into shallow pan and lay plastic wrap on the surface so it doesn’t develop a skin
  9. Refrigerate immediately until ready to use
For assembly
  1. Fill tart shell with pastry cream
  2. Arrange raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries in ladybug pattern
  3. Heat preserves and water in microwave until mixture is liquified. Brush glaze gently over fruit tart.
  4. Remove tart from tart pan and serve

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Salmon burgers with lemon-dill feta sauce


This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

I’ve been experimenting with a lot of unique burger recipes throughout the past year, mostly inspired by Trader Joe’s impressive selection. I love their shrimp burgers because you can see and taste big chunks of shrimp—the seafood isn’t all ground into a paste. On the other hand, the salmon burgers are kind of subpar. They look like pink hockey discs all stuck together. So I wanted to make my own salmon burger that tasted fresh with a lot of texture and flavor.

My main goal when developing the salmon burger recipe was to eliminate filler as much as possible to allow for the salmon flavor to shine through. That’s why I didn’t use any bread crumbs or mayo. I used a little Greek yogurt and egg instead. That way the salmon binds together, but still remains light and tender. The only other ingredients are fresh herbs and some seasonings. 

I’ve seen two methods for making salmon burgers: starting with raw salmon or starting with cooked / canned salmon. I prefer to use raw salmon because I think the patties come together with less filler more easily, and I like to be able to control the texture of the salmon.

To get the best texture and mouth-feel for these salmon burgers, I prefer to combine everything except the salmon in the food processor. The last thing I add is the salmon, and I hit pulse until everything is combined. I pulse it instead of blending it so that it doesn’t all turn into a paste. If you don’t have access to a food processor, you can chop the salmon into fine pieces.

The herbs and seasonings are customizable depending on your taste preferences. I chose parsley, dill, and oregano to complement the lemon, dill, and feta spread I made to go with it. Ever since my friend Emily told me she likes to serve her shrimp burgers with whipped feta, I’ve been dreaming about creating a similar spread for salmon burgers.

The combination of lemon and dill with feta really brighten the flavor of the salmon. The salty-tangy combination tastes really fresh, and it’s absolutely perfect for summer. And of course I used Challenge cream cheese because they use real milk, cream, and natural ingredients, and nothing beats the superior flavor and ultra smooth finish. Honestly, I make this sauce pretty much every week because it tastes great on everything: sandwiches, crackers, vegetables, by the spoonful, etc.

Also, please take note that this recipe makes 8 decently large burgers (about 3.5 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick). You can certainly cook all 8 burgers, or you can do what I like to do and freeze half of them uncooked. I made the recipe with such a large yield because I hate it when you spend a ton of time making something only to get 4 servings.

Salmon burgers with lemon-dill feta sauce

Yield: Makes 8 burgers


For the lemon-dill feta sauce

  • 1 (8-ounce) block feta cheese
  • 4 ounces Challenge cream cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons dill, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt, to taste

For the salmon burgers

  • 1/4 cup dill
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, plain
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds raw, wild salmon, skin and bones removed, cut into chunks
  • Toppings such as lettuce, onions, tomatoes
  • Optional: 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs


For the lemon-dill feta sauce

  1. Blend feta cheese and cream cheese in food processor until smooth 
  2. Add everything else and blend until combined
  3. Taste sauce and adjust salt and seasonings as necessary
  4. Place sauce in bowl and wipe out food processor because you’ll use it for burgers

For the salmon burgers

  1. Combine herbs, Greek yogurt, eggs, and seasonings in food processor.
  2. Add salmon to food processor and pulse until everything is combined. Be careful not to over-process.
  3. Cover and place in refrigerator for about a half hour (or up to 24 hours in advance).
  4. Form the mixture into 8 patties that are about 3 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick (I used an ice cream scoop to portion).
  5. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes to allow the patties to firm up before cooking.
  6. OPTIONAL: Add panko bread crumbs to shallow bowl and coat salmon burgers in panko before cooking for crispy exterior.
  7. Grill the patties on medium heat for about 4 minutes per side or cook in skillet on stove for same amount of time until inside registers between 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. (USDA requires salmon to register 145 degrees Fahrenheit, but that’s for well-done fish and salmon will continue to cook even after it’s removed from heat source)
  8. Assemble salmon burgers by spreading lemon-dill feta sauce on both the top and bottom buns. Place lettuce and burger on bottom bun with salmon burger. Add any additional toppings and close with other half of bun.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Fun and healthy after-school snacks

When I was a kid, one of my favorite parts about finishing the school day was getting an after-school snack. I usually just had fruit or vegetables or some type of granola bar, but sometimes I went home with a friend from school and raided their pantries for "the good stuff." I'm talking Dunkaroos, Fruit by the Foot, and the holy grail, Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies. Obviously, I know now the reason my mom never purchased those snacks was because they aren't very healthy, but no one can deny they certainly are tasty!

Food presentation is very important when kids are deciding what to eat. Bright colors, fun shapes, and familiarity are often the biggest factors when it comes to their willingness to try foods. That's why I wanted to transform some of my favorite healthy snacks into creative creations.

Hummus has become a fairly popular snack in recent years, and for good reason—it's packed with protein, iron, potassium, and plant fiber. But did you know with a little red cabbage and some baking soda, you can turn your favorite hummus blue? That's because red cabbage is a pH indicator and turns blue in a basic environment (hence the baking soda in the recipe). The key is you cannot use any lemon juice or other acid in the hummus because then it won't work. I added an orange bell pepper, candy eyeballs, and carrot slice "tentacles" to the hummus bowl to make it look like an octopus in the ocean.

Guacamole is another great snack. Avocados have lots of healthy fats and fiber to refuel kids' energy levels and keep them satisfied until dinner. But instead of serving the guacamole in a bowl, put it back in the avocado skin and use cucumbers, candy eyes, and carrot sticks to make it look like a crocodile!

Octopus hummus (Octomus)

Yield: Makes about 1 cup hummus


For the hummus

  • 1/4 cup (64 grams) tahini, stirred
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste (I used around 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I used around 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup (45 grams) chopped red cabbage, boiled 1 minute
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 milliliters) cold water

For the octopus

  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 candy eyeballs


For the hummus

  1. Add tahini to bowl of food processor and run for 1 minute until tahini is lighter in color. And more creamy.
  2. Add the garlic, olive oil, salt, and black pepper to the food processor, and process for another minute until well-blended.
  3. Add half the chickpeas and process for 1 minute before scraping the bowl, adding the other half of the chickpeas, and processing for another minute.
  4. Add the red cabbage and the baking soda to the bowl and process for another minute.
  5. With food processor on, slowly add water until hummus reaches smooth consistency.

For the octopus

  1. Turn pepper on its side and cut about 1/2 inch below the stem. Use a paring knife to cut out the seeds and the pith from the inside.
  2. Slice carrot into thin circles.


  1. Transfer hummus to large, shallow bowl or deep dish plate.
  2. Place pepper in center and use carrot slices to create 8 tentacles stretching from the pepper to the edge of the plate. Arrange the wider slices so they are closest to the pepper, and the slices should progressively get smaller as they get closer to the edge of the plate. 
  3. Spread a dab of nut butter or honey on the back of each eyeball and stick on the pepper.
  4. Serve with vegetables and crackers.

Crocodile guacamole (Guacadiles)

Yield: Makes 4 “guacadiles,” or the equivalent of 2 cups of guacamole


For the guacamole

  • 2 ripe Hass avocados
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeño, no seeds, finely chopped

For the crocodiles

  • 1/4 cup matchstick carrots, cut in thirds
  • 8 cucumber slices, not peeled
  • 8 candy eyeballs


  1. Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. Save the avocado skin and set aside.
  2. Scoop the flesh of the avocados out of the rind and place in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour lime juice and salt in bowl with avocados.
  4. Mash it all together until just combined (don’t over mix!)
  5. Fold in the red onion, cilantro, and jalapeño and mix well.
  6. Taste the guacamole and adjust seasoning if necessary.

For assembly

  1. Place 1/4 of guacamole back into each of the 4 avocado skins
  2. Add 2 cucumber slices sticking straight up at the back of the wider portion of the avocado. Repeat for each of the 4 avocado skins.
  3. Stick 1 candy eyeball in front of each cucumber slice.
  4. Arrange carrots around inside edge of avocado skins.
  5. Serve with vegetables and chips.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Healthier Pastitsio

This is a sponsored post by Dishtory, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

My Yiayia and my mom were the biggest influences in my life in regards to developing my passion for cooking. I spent many hours learning from them in the kitchen and watching them construct baklava, spanakopita, tiropita, and other incredible Greek dishes. They didn’t even need to look at a recipe. I joined the fun when I was a bit older, making sure to pay close attention to their idiosyncrasies.

Later in life, I asked my mom to send me one of Yiayia’s recipes. The recipe she sent me was written in Greek. And then once I translated it, I realized it only had very basic directions—it didn’t include all of the tips and tricks Yiayia showed me when we made it together. I called her to ask about it, and it was only until she explained it to me over the phone that I remembered how to make the recipe.

Most people can follow directions, but oftentimes, there’s a lot more that goes into a dish than what is written in the recipe. That’s why Dishtory is such a great concept. The app allows users to record, save and share recipes in their own voice so they can create, plate and curate home-cooked creations with people who matter most. Unlike written recipe cards, the audio heirlooms cooked up on Dishtory exist in perpetuity, can be shared instantaneously, and bring the voice of a distant, departed or disconnected one to life. 

I recently used the app to share a “lightened-up” version of one of my family’s favorite recipes, pastitsio. Often described as Greek lasagna, the dish is traditionally very heavy with ground beef and a rich béchamel sauce. The lighter version I created uses mushrooms instead of meat, and I used a Greek yogurt topping in place of the béchamel sauce.

My mom was skeptical of the recipe, so I asked her to make it with me. I wanted Yiayia to come over as well, but unfortunately she is unable to travel due to restrictions at her assisted living facility.

This photo shows Yiayia and my mom making baklava in 2017.

Replacing ground beef with mushrooms is a fairly new food trend, but there are certain steps you need to take when making the substitution. For example, mushrooms are 90% water, so before using them in a recipe, you need to cook them down to the point that all the water evaporates from the mushrooms. If you don’t evaporate all the water, your dish will be soupy. It took about an hour of cooking the mushrooms on the stove before the water was all evaporated. I explained that to my mom when we were cooking together, and I also recorded that info in the Dishtory app so she can listen back to it without me.

Dishtory’s simple, easy-to-use interface allows users of all ages and life stages to quickly navigate and create their audio recipes for posterity—no complicated instructions or tutorials required! You can record a recipe and upload a picture within the app, or you can upload sound and images from your phone’s library. And if you’re not comfortable sharing your recipe with anyone else, there’s an option to keep it private.

Also, you can search for recipes in the app by either the username or the recipe name. After discovering a new recipe you’re interested in, save it in your “recipe book” in the app for easy access.

Even though Yiayia wasn’t with us to make this recipe, I shared the recording with her. I know it warmed her heart to see that her passion for cooking and Greek food lives inside me.

Healthier Pastitsio

Yield: 12 servings


For the sauce

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds baby Bella or cremini mushrooms
  • 2 yellow onions, small dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1, 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 egg, beaten

For the pasta

  • 14 ounces bucatini pasta
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

For the topping

  • 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Kefalotyri Greek cheese, grated (can substitute romano or parmesan)


For the sauce

  1. Pulse mushrooms in food processor until they resemble ground meat.
  2. Cook mushrooms in deep skillet until all water is released and evaporates.This may take up to an hour.
  3. Once water evaporates, add onion. Cook on low until onions become soft and translucent.
  4. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook until mixed in, about a minute.
  5. Stir in tomatoes, red wine, salt, paprika, black pepper, cinnamon, ground cloves, and bay leaves.
  6. Bring to boil, reduce to gentle simmer. Cover and simmer 45 minutes to an hour to allow flavors to develop. Stir occasionally. Sauce should be very thick. If it isn’t thick enough, cook uncovered another 5 - 10 minutes. Set aside when done.
  7. Allow sauce to cool and stir in beaten egg.

For the pasta

  1. Cook bucatini in salted water for 8 minutes, or 1 minute short of al dente per package instructions.
  2. Allow to cool and stir in beaten egg and feta cheese.

For the topping

  1. Mix Greek yogurt with beaten eggs, salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg.

For assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Spray 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
  3. Spread pasta in even layer in baking dish.
  4. Spread sauce in even layer over pasta.
  5. Spread topping in even layer over sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top
  6. Bake about 30 minutes or until topping turns golden. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

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