Wednesday, March 26, 2008

dulce de leche cheesecake bites

right off the bat, i'll tell you two things. one, this recipe is another from smitten kitchen's blog. two, this recipe is worth the time it takes to make it.

i really love cheesecake. of course, the more i write this blog, the more it seems like i really love a lot of things. that's certainly not true. it's just that i blog about only good things...things that i like. anyway, back to cheesecake. i like turtle. i like mint chocolate. i like all of it except for the kind with canned cherry pie filling (and possibly pumpkin, with makes me gag a little). however, it's another item on my list of things i've never made. overall, it was successful and tasty. i took most of them to work because it's quite easy to pop 2 or 3 (or 11) into your mouth without realizing what you've done.

i'll be honest - this recipe has a number of steps and takes a lot of time. the nice part is that the individual steps are fairly easy and the time is mostly spent waiting, not working. i'll offer the recipe in parts.

dulce de leche
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1. heat milk in a double boiler, covered
2. stir occasionally for 40 - 50 minutes, until thick and caramel colored
3. remove from heat and whisk until smooth

graham cracker crust
1 c crumbled graham crackers
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1. line 8 in baking pan with 2 sheets of foil, crisscrossed with 2 inches overhang
2. finely grind graham crackers, sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor
3. with motor running, slowly add butter until combined
4. press mixture evenly into baking pan
5. bake for 10 minutes at 325°F
6. cool completely

oops - this is a little messy. pouring sticky caramel substance while operating a camera is hard to do!

cheesecake filling
1 tsp unflavored gelatin
1/4 whole milk
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 lg eggs
3/8 tsp salt
1 c dulce de leche

1. sprinkle gelatin over milk in a bowl, let stand for 2 minutes
2. beat together cream cheese, eggs, salt and gelatin mixture until combined, about 2 minutes
3. stir in dulce de leche gently but thoroughly
4. pour filling over crust and spread evenly
5. bake in a hot water bath for 45 minutes, until center is set
6. cool cheesecake for 2 hours, cover and chill for 6 hours

i enlisted husband's help to get a better shot here. the lighting was bad. i can't win!

chocolate glaze
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (i used 71%)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tsp light corn syrup

1. heat all ingredients over a double boiler, stirring until smooth
2. pour over cheesecake, tilting pan until evenly coated
3. chill, uncovered, for 30 minutes

to make the bites: lift cheesecake from pan using foil. cut into 1 inch squares, wiping the knife between each slice.

a few more notes here. one, nobody said this was low fat. i said it was cheesecake. two, i would have chilled this even longer after the chocolate step because when i cut mine it hadn't hardened completely. i could have stopped and waited, but that was too difficult. i had waited all day and wanted mah cheesecake. three: i will make these again and get better pictures. (yep, just for the pictures. i won't even eat one. or eleven.)

with a one inch piece, people will, more please?

Monday, March 24, 2008

ghostly eggs waiting to get all dyed up

ok, not our first ever. but our first easter as married peeps. we had a small easter meal, dyed eggs, ate candy, and i made a cheese cake for the first time (more on that in the future). everything was super easy because on top of that, i had gocco-ing to do (yeah, more on that later, too) and i didn't want to spend my time in the kitchen all day. so onto the goods.

i had a moment while making the ham. i'm alone in the kitchen, preparing a meal for just 2 people...and i find myself cutting diamond shapes into the skin and placing a clove in each cross point. for one of the first times, possibly ever, i thought...what am i doing this for? not in a bad way..but in an "ok crazy lady, no need for these shenanigans, just put it in the oven" way. but, as always, it makes me happier to spend that time if the end result is even a little bit better than "just doing" and behold! my first crosshatched, clove poked easter ham:

super simple (seriously, it's sandra lee's!) glazed ham
2/3 c bourbon
1 c honey
1/3 c molasses
1/2 c orange maramlade
whole cloves
bone-in smoked ham, fully cooked & unsliced

1. heat first 4 ingredients over low heat and boil for 15 minutes or until reduced by half (stir occasionally)
2. cut a diamond pattern in the skin of the ham and place a clove at each cross point
3. pour half the glaze over the ham an bake at 350 F (15 minutes per pound), baste occasionally
4. remove from oven and let ham rest for 20 minutes before slicing

roasted garlic asparagus = potent goodness

roasted garlic asparagus is just about as easy as it sounds, so i'm not even writing the "formal" recipe. roast the garlic in tin foil (cut the tops off) at 400F until just golden. roast the asparagus at 425F after tossing with some olive oil and s&p for about 20 minutes. coat the asparagus in a mixture of lemon juice, butter and mashed roasted garlic. commence dragon breath speech.

our spread also included sweet potato biscuits - they need some work, so i'm not including the recipe.
::shakes fist at paula dean::

hippity hoppity happy easter!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

i llove lleeks

farfalle with turkey sausage, leeks and broccoli

do you think i can work that into a llama card? no? 

cooking light just had a feature on leeks. i had never used them, but saw a few recipes i thought we'd like, so i gave them a try. i'm on a leek kick. tonight i made a pasta dish from the march issue and it was pretty tasty.

if you've never used leeks, you should know that they hide dirt in their layers so cleaning is essential. once you trim the roots and dark greens, halve the leek lengthwise. hold the leek under running water and fan the layers, white tips pointing up. you can also chop them first (if the recipe calls for this) and swish them around in a bowl of water, rinsing as necessary.

alright, leek lesson over...onto the making.

give leeks a chance

it's photos like these that keep you coming back...right?

farfalle with turkey sausage, leeks and broccoli*
(*to be technical, this recipe calls for broccoli rabe, but husband could not find this and bought plain old broccoli. no one died over it, so substitute if you'd like.)
3/4 lb broccoli cut into 4 in pieces
8 oz cooked farfalle (use package instructions)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 c thinly sliced leek (2 large)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves (sliced or chopped)
1 lb turkey italian sausage (i used 3 hot)
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 c fat free ricotta cheese
1/4 c grated parmesan
1/4 tsp kosher salt

1. blanch broccoli for 2 minutes in boiling water then rinse under cold water *reserve 3/4 c cooking liquid*
2. heal oil in skillet and add leeks, cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally
3. add red pepper and garlic and cook 2 more minutes, stirring
4. remove sausages from casing and add to pan, stirring to crumble, cook for 4 minutes
5. add 1/2 c reserved cooking liquid and cook 5 minutes or until sausage is done
6. add remaining 1/4 c liquid, broccoli, pasta and lemon zest to pan, toss to combine & cook for 5 minutes
7. remove from heat and stir in cheeses and salt

naked noodles (before the cheeses were added) looking good.

Monday, March 17, 2008


i like greeting cards (have you seen the llama? more of him is in the works!). i worked at a card store (not hallmark-esque, funkier and unique) and really started to take an interest in small cards and stationery items. i use photoshop and illustrator (and now my wacom!) to create my own cards to send to friends and family.

whales for wales - congrats to my sister!

above you see my latest card, a cute little whale sending my sister congrats. she is going to wales this fall to do an internship abroad...maybe a visit is on the way!

below is one of my favorites. i've done many a baby card...probably because i *love* babies...and tiny objects (cupcakes, crystals, mini cards - too cute!)...but this one sticks out at cuter than the rest. i'll post some of my others at some point and maybe some new ones as well. for now, just enjoy these sweet little peas!

mini peapod = the cuteness

Monday, March 10, 2008

potato focaccia

fresh baked bread goodness: potato focaccia

ok, here's something i had never made: bread.

i think it's the yeast that makes bread seem difficult and time consuming...waiting for it to rise, pounding it's patience i don't always have. but then i came across this delicious looking focaccia that has potato in the dough (i'm quite fond potato in almost any form) and tomatoes resting on top. the recipe is from the blog the wednesday chef. 

a most interesting photo of dough, resting. riveting, i know.

potato focaccia
1 medium yukon gold potato
2 c all-purpose flour (plus more if needed)
1 tsp fresh yeast
pinch of sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt (plus more for salting water)
2/3 c warm water
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced crosswise
1 to 2 tsp dried oregano
coarse sea salt

1. wash the potato and place in a saucepan with enough water to cover the potato
2. bring to a boil and add a handful of salt to the water, cooking until potato is tender
3. drain and allow potato to cool, then peel and mash finely with a fork
4. put the yeast in a large mixing bowl along with a pinch of sugar
5. add warm water in a thin stream over yeast, using a fork to help dissolve (allow mixture to stand a few minutes)
6. pour the flour into the yeast water and stir with a fork
7. add the potato and salt and stir to incorporate (dough will be thick and shaggy)
8. add 2 tbsp olive oil and begin to knead dough by hand
9. knead against the bowl until dough is smooth (add flour if dough is too sticky to handle)
10. form the dough into a ball and let it rest, covered with a towel, for 1 hour
11. cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of an 8 inch cake pan
12. gently place the risen dough in the cake pan and pat it out to the edges
13. cover the dough evenly with tomato halves, sprinkle with oregano and coarse sea salt and drizzle with olive oil
14. let the dough rest for another hour
15. bake at 425°F for 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through
16. allow to cool for 20 minutes before removing focaccia from the pan

prior to baking, the dough has time to rest

i imagine that this dough would work well with other toppings. as i arranged my tomatoes, i thought about asiago cheese and an assortment of herbs. my husband wanted basil and tomato (he would). the one constant would probably be the coarse sea salt. those salty bits are so good on the finished bread, i can't imagine it without. maybe the right topping combo (perhaps the cheese) could make up for it...

subtle potato bread with juicy tomato bursts and a salty crust

Sunday, March 9, 2008

banana muffins

this post is for my dear friend tsquared[somethingorother], my edamame brother. he knows who he is and so his name isn't important. the point is, he made a grand attempt at a mass banana bread making session without really having done a lot of baking before. we're talking loaves and loaves, muffin upon muffin. what he learned was that baking soda is important, but too much might be deadly...and that using proper measurements might actually make a difference.

during one of his attempts (there were multiple...) he posted pictures of "my" recipe that didn't fare all that well. i felt that i needed to post some of my own to show that, indeed, with measuring instruments and the right ingredients (oh, let me point out that tsqaured[...] actually substituted
olive oil for vegetable oil in boxed brownie fiasco), you too can bake.

look mom, i can measure!

banana muffins

1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed banana (i prefer 3 overripe or frozen then thawed bananas)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c flour
1/4 c chopped dark chocolate (or chips) *this is optional - you could sub with toasted walnuts, halved cranberries, or just do without*

1. cream butter and sugar
2. add eggs one at a time, beating between each
3. add dry ingredients and mix until combined
4. fold in chocolate *optional
5. pour into 12 muffin cups
6. bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 F (until toothpick comes out clean)

ready to bake

i would like to point out that tsquared[...] is determined. he worked through his mistakes, found a 1 cup measuring device and figured out that self rising flour doesn't replace all dry ingredients. he made a successful batch of banana muffin-cakes and frosted them with cream cheese and chocolate frostings.

the final result: golden on top, gooey chocolate on the inside and a rich banana flavor
(and no potential risk of death by a baking soda overdose)

Friday, March 7, 2008

sorry i've been mia - i have actually been making things, mostly meals, but i've also been busy. plus, i've been fighting with my picasa uploader for a week and finally figured out that i can just export using new photos are up and i have reason to post!

yesterday i made a yummy, updated (to me) version of stuffed peppers. i remember these being filled with white rice, cheese, ground meat and possibly a vegetable (one single piece, i mean). i've even made them that way in the last year. but then i stumbled across the blog smitten kitchen and found this recipe that calls for none of the above (well, yes, it has the vegetable component...but so many, in fact, that it doesn't really equal the "one" required above). i'll
share the recipe below.

chopping zucchini, one of my favorite year-round veggies

a nice selection of little tomatoes

so now you know...there are zucchini and tomatoes in these peppers. there's also so much more:

couscous and feta stuffed peppers
1 1/4 c fat-free vegetable broth (you can use chicken for non veg friendly)
2/3 c couscous
4 extra large or 5 large bell peppers, mixed colors 
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 c chopped onion
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced thinly
1 yellow squash, quartered and slice thinly
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
3 tbsp tomato paste

1. coat a baking dish with cooking spray. 
2. cut the stems and top half inch off the peppers and remove seeds and membranes
3. place peppers upright in baking dish and roast at 350°F for 15 min, or until soft (then remove from oven until filling is ready)
4. bring vegetable broth to boil, add couscous, cover and remove from heat
5. heat oil in non-stick skillet and saute onion, zucchini, squash and spices/salt until softened
6. remove from heat and add tomatoes, chickpeas and tomato paste - stir to combine
7. add the couscous to mixture and toss to combine
8. stir in feta
9. fill peppers with couscous mixture and bake for 15 minutes at 350°F

stuffing ready for peppers

we enjoyed this with some heavily buttered bread stuck under the broiler. (hey, a little bread and butter never hurt anybody. except paula dean. she should lay off the butter, if only so we wouldn't have to see her licking the knife/bowl/food/etc. on every show)

trust me, this is good stuff (heh...)