Every January, there are resolutions made and resolutions broken. Last January, I made 5 resolutions. Several that I reached and a few that I broke. Quite honestly, the ones that didn't crumble into forgotten pieces as 2011 pushed on were the ones that seemed natural from the very start. On the other hand, the ones I broke were made in an effort to will myself into committing to things that I might otherwise not. Although the latter idea always conjures up hope for a monumental, life-changing year, it also sets a person up to experience some degree of failure. If I'm waiting for the clock to tick down the seconds into a new year so that I can get started tackling my life goals, am I truly ready to get down and dirty and knock them out? Possibly yes but probably not. I've realized that the start of a new year has become one big, exceptional excuse to procrastinate on personal goals.
Not to take away from the strength that resolution setting can have for some people, but if I'm not committed to changing my behavior at the moment the inspiration reaches me, who's to say it will be any different on January 1st? Most of my favorite and greatest accomplishments have sprung from random bouts of inspiration throughout all moments and months of the year. Thus, I tossed resolutions like an old pair of shoes and decided, long before this new year, that I would simply live by the motto strike while the inspiration is hot.
And strike I did when a surge of dessert inspiration hit me on December 31st. Dan and I invited one of our favorite doubledate duos (Kris + Katie) over for a pre-NYE celebration at our place and a tasty mini-feast was definitely in order. A variety of appetizers is always a must, but I wanted to throw in a sweet addition as well. Having recently (December 28th) rediscovered a favorite tart recipe from the past, I couldn't resist making it again for this occasion.
I found this tart recipe in one of my mom's Cooking Light books back in good ol' 2005 and fell in love with it upon first bake. The ease and simplicity of the recipe + the fact that it's a fairly healthy dessert + the sweet, creamy, and crunchy combination it renders = the perfect dessert to whip up again and again. And did I mention that it resembles a field of glossy rubies dusted with slivered almonds? So pretty.
Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart (Serves 8-10)
Modified from Cooking Light
For the Crust
◊ 36 honey graham crackers (9 sheets)
◊ 2 tbsp sugar
◊ 2 tbsp butter, melted
◊ 4 tsp water
◊ cooking spray
For the Filling
◊ 8 ounces light cream cheese
◊ ⅓ cup sugar
◊ ½ tsp vanilla extract
◊ ¼ tsp almond extract
For the Topping
◊ 6 cups fresh small strawberries, hulled and divided
◊ ⅔ cup sugar
◊ 1 tbsp cornstarch
◊ 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
◊ 2 tbsp sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare crust, place crackers in a food processor; process until crumbly. Add 2 tbsp sugar, butter, and 4 tsp water; pulse just until moist. Place cracker mixture in a 8x12-inch rectangular* removable-bottom tart pan lightly coated with cooking spray, pressing into bottom and up sides of pan to ¾ inch. Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on wire rack.
To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, sugar, and extracts in a medium bowl; stir until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture over bottom of tart shell.
To prepare topping, place 2 cups strawberries in food processor, and process until smooth. Combine strawberry puree, ⅔ cup sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 1 minute. Remove glaze from heat. Cool to room temperature, stirring occassionally.
Combine the remaining 4 cups strawberries and lemon juice; toss to coat. Arrange berries in rows over cream cheese filling. Spoon half of glaze evenly over berries (reserve remaining glaze for another use or discard). Sprinkle almonds around edge. Cover and chill 3 hours. Enjoy!
* A 9-inch round tart pan can be substituted