Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Magnify the positive, shrink the negative and miniaturize the pecan pie

I have been trying for a while to become smaller.   Rather than taking the traditional approach of eating less, I've gone with the somewhat unconventional strategy of intermittent exercising combined with dining out, cocktails and frequent baking.    Thus far my method has not been that effective*, but it's been quite enjoyable, and I'm OK with that.  Particularly after hearing the message of the week in my kickboxing class today.

Magnified view of the tasty main ingredient

The idea was simple but perfect:  Magnify the positive, and shrink the negative.  Both are out there, but YOU decide what's important, and what you want to look for.   If you focus your attention on the good in life, in the people you meet, in  your work, in your family and friends, suddenly amazing things are everywhere.   Our teacher likened it to a google search.  You put out there that you're looking for ways to feel great, and that's what you get back.  Everything else is filtered out.  If instead you're convinced that LA is full of people who can't drive, you'll definitely run into an idiot around every corner**.   

I personally love this plan.  I've set my inner google to find delicious food, inspiring ways to exercise at least some of those calories right back off, and friends who think I look great just the way I am.   Positively brilliant.

As are desserts that come in packages small enough to enjoy without any exercise at all.

Mini Pecan Tarts

My mom first began making these many many years ago, and passed the recipe along to me***.  They are 100% guaranteed to impress the hell out of people.  Partly because they're adorable and elegant at the same time, but mostly because they taste so damn good.

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 stick (1/2 c.) butter, softened
1 c. minus 2 Tbs.  flour     
2 Tbs. powdered sugar

1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 beaten egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. butter, melted

about 1/2 c. of toasted pecan pieces

Using electric mixer or beating by hand, mix cream cheese, softened butter, flour and powdered sugar together to form a soft dough.  Roll into 24 small balls, just over 1 inch in diameter.  Press into bottom and sides of 24 mini-muffin tins to form crust.  Sprinkle crushed pecans on bottom of each cup.  (At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the muffin tins for a day or so before baking if you like.)   

Preheat the oven to 350.   Whisk brown sugar, egg, vanilla and melted butter together.  Pour into muffin cups until almost full.  Sprinkle a few more pecans on top.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or until crusts are golden brown.  Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to cool completely.  

Click to print this recipe!

NOTE:  This recipe is made infinitely easier by two pieces of special equipment.  The first is a rather phallic tool called a tart tamper that lets you push down on the ball of dough to form a perfect crust.  They are about four bucks at Amazon.  You should definitely get one if you plan to be in the mini-tart-making line of work at all.   Mine is shown in this photo making chocolate mini tart shells.

The second helpful item is a plastic squeeze bottle.  I find that if I put the filing into a squeeze bottle and drizzle it into the tins, I have almost no drippy mess to deal with.    

* The best I can say is that I am somewhat more compact (i.e. denser) lately, due to kickboxing and the taskmasters at the Pilates place near my house.   In a remarkably unpleasant way, they pervert ordinary tasty food phrases into torturous exercises with spring-weighed pulleys.  I now want nothing to do with "catfish" or "scrambled eggs."
** Which was so weird because I had literally been surrounded by a sampling of the city's worst vehicular operators on my way to this very class.    Especially the slowpoke in the beat up Corolla in front of me on Magnolia.     I'm pretty sure I wasn't looking for him, but maybe he was sending out vibes about finding someone whose day he could ruin and found me!
*** I also inherited her mini-muffin tins, which have to be at least 25 years old and still going strong.

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