Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Explosion Cheesecake

My husband is a purest when it comes to food.

He doesn't like alot of seasonings or sauces, just the food, plain and simple.

He likes his cheesecakes plain also, no fruit, no sauces, nothing.

We were having company over for dinner and he asked me to make a cheesecake. I aim to please so I said, sure. I had planned to make a plain ole cheesecake, but then I came across Paula Deen's recipe for Chocolate Explosion Cheesecake. How can you not make something with that name..... seriously?!

I had to, there was no going back. My husband walked in the kitchen mid-cheesecake preparation and said, "oh no, what are doing to my cheesecake!" I explained how I have this problem called "crazy" and I am drawn to crazy things. Explosion Cheesecake!!!! He just sighed and walked out.

Then he tasted it and decided crazy is ok sometimes.

Let me break down the layers for you.

Graham Cracker Crust
Chocolate Fudge-like layer
Caramel Sauce

Chocolate Chip Cookie

Let's get started, it is an all day process so I suggest you make it the day before you need it.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

 2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

In a medium bowl, combine the cracker crumbs and sugar. Add the melted butter, stirring to combine. Press the crust into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 6 minutes; let cool.

Chocolate Layer:

6 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter (or microwave on high in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until the chocolate is melted and smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes total). Whisk in the sugar, eggs, and flour until just combined. Pour into the bottom of the cooled crust and bake for 15 minutes; let cool.

Cheesecake Layer:
1/2 cup caramel sauce
(I made my own found here)
1 (16 1/2-ounce) package refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream

Spread the caramel topping evenly over the cooled chocolate layer.
Get your cookie dough ready by using already sliced refrigerator cookies or if you are feeling extra crazy you can make your own.


Place the cookie dough slices in an even layer over the caramel, pressing gently together to seal the edges.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and flour until just combined. Stir in the sour cream. Pour the mixture over the cookie dough layer (I suggest you start pouring from the rim of your pan inward so the cookie dough doesn't clump to the edges)  and bake until the cake is cracked and browned around the edge, about 1 1/2 hours (depending on your oven, it should not longer be jiggly). I baked it for 1 hour, not done, so baked for another 30 minutes then turned the oven off and waited another 20 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and gently run a knife around the edges to release the crust from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely.

Ganache: makes more than enough so feel free to half it

(I use Alton Brown's)
3 tablespoons corn syrup
6 ounces heavy cream
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepan combine the corn syrup and heavy cream. Bring to a simmer and add the chocolate. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Cool.

Spread over the top of cooled cheesecake. 

Next time however, I will just drizzle this over the top. It is a very rich cheesecake as is and this just put it over the top rich.

So... note for next time: Drizzle ganache and caramel sauce over slices.

Crazy Good!

Baking from my heart to your kitchen,

Cast Party WednesdayLinking up over at:
Foodie Friends Friday

Friday, August 24, 2012

Caramel Topped Snickerdoodle Bars

I asked my mom one day, "Why are supermodels so skinny?"

She replied very wisely, "Because they eat to live, whereas we live to eat."
Aha! Mystery solved.

Now my mom is in no way overweight, and I certainly try my best to maintain a certain size.
However, I will never be supermodel thin, or ever be accused of being too skinny.

I seriously love food too much. I enjoy trying new food, cooking new foods and even revisiting old favorites.

When I wake up, I'm thinking about food.... after breakfast.... what's for snack.... what's for lunch.... what's for snack.... what's for dinner.... what can I bake today..... it's so sad, but true.
I even go to bed thinking about what new thing I can bake. 

I have even opened my world to healthier eating/cooking/baking. I was dreading it at first, but then realized all the new food I would be creating. Yeah!
This recipe is not one of them though, sorry.

This dessert doesn't hide the fat, but embraces it.

Caramel Topped Snickerdoodle Bars

Caramel Sauce
I'm in love with this stuff. I dedicated a whole post to it, with pictures, here.

3 cups granulated sugar, divided (2 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 2 1/2 cups sugar, corn syrup, and milk. Stir continuously until the sugar dissolves and no longer has a granular feeling. Keep warm over low heat.

In a separate deep, heavy saucepan, add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and spread evenly over the bottom. Cook over medium heat without stirring until the sugar dissolves and begins to turn an amber color. You may “swirl” your pan if necessary to re-distribute sugar while cooking.

As soon as the sugar turns colors, carefully add the warm milk mixture into the heavy saucepan. It will bubble up vigorously and sizzle and the caramel on the bottom will harden.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the caramel dissolves and the liquid turns caramel color. Then cook without stirring until the mixture reaches soft-ball stage (235°F) on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter.

Snickerdoodle Bars

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
In large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.
Stir in the flour mixture until well blended.
Spread evenly in prepared pan.
Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed. 

Once slightly cooled, but still warm, cut into slices.
Drizzle with the caramel sauce.
To make it even more spectacular, my fabulous husband made homemade ice cream.

Ridiculously good! 

Baking from my heart to your kitchen,

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dog Party

My friend's little boy was turning one and I had the pleasure of making this cute dog cake to celebrate. Our youngest sons are only two months apart, so I know they are going to be great friends.
Her son is walking before mine, but I'm not stressed about it. My son crawls so fast I think walking would slow him down and he wouldn't be able to keep up with his older brothers.

Meanwhile, she did such a fab job on his little party I told her I was going to put it on my blog. Good thing she said it was ok. She had great ideas.

Check out these sandwhiches cut into dog bones.

From the garden. That artichoke dip was amazing, I couldn't stop eating it.

Dog treats: BBQ chicken sandwiches, meatballs, dogs in a blanket and pizzas. 

Puppy Chow (I can't resist puppy chow). Just look at that cute little doggie, it is red velvet cream cheese ball (YUM), complete with Nilla wafers.
Of course, dog food, a.k.a. Reese's cereal.

Can't forget the cake! 

To make the dog cake I used a 6"inch round with a ball pan on top for the head. For the body I used a 9" pan and one of my pyrex bowls. The pyrex bowl just took a little longer to bake, but made a nice round shape. The feet, tail and other decorations are all marshmallow fondant.

Thanks for stopping by!

Baking from my heart to your kitchen,

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sweet Potato Cornbread GF DF

Yes, you read that right. This is really good and gluten free.

I was making chili and I really wanted cornbread. I found this idea on Gluten Free Goddess. She has lots of fabulous recipes I want to try. She uses corn meal and gf flour, but let's face it, that stuff is not cheap.
I was a bit discouraged shopping for gf products, they are all twice as much as gluten filled products.

I was super excited to find a reasonably priced cornbread mix by Bob's Red Mill. I decided to adapt the recipe and use the mix. 

Results were fab-u-lous!

It is a tad bit sweet, but you can omit or use less brown sugar if you don't like your cornbread sweet. It also is moist because of the sweet potatoes, which I love, but if you prefer your cornbread grainy and crumbly, this is not for you. 

Moist, a bit sweet and delicious, that's for me.

Sweet Potato Cornbread

2 large organic free-range eggs
 1/3 cup  vegetable oil
3/4 cup sweet potato puree
2/3 cup organic light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 package Bob's Red Mill Cornbread Mix
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
 1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice blend
  salt, to taste

Puree the sweet potatoes. I boiled mine in water until soft, then put them in the food processor until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease an 8 or 9 inch pan. (I used an 8x8 and it didn't bake evenly, next time I will try a 9")

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until foamy with an electric mixer.
Add the oil; beat again to combine. Add in the sweet potato puree and mix well. Add the light brown sugar, and vanilla extract, and mix to combine.

Add the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, salt, cornbread mix and milk. Beat on low until combined. Turn the mix to high and beat for 30 seconds more.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

 Bake on a center rack in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or so, until the cornbread is firm to the touch and golden. Check with a wooden pick, if necessary; if it emerges clean, the cornbread is done. 

Cool for a few minutes, slice and enjoy!

If you are wondering how it is going. I have decided I do not have a gluten free allergy. I can eat bread and I am just fine. The jury is still out on the lactose.

This has taught me that I don't need to snack all day. I am hungry, I'm not going to lie. The first week was rough. My body is getting used to it though and I don't eat as much. 
This week I have a noticable differance in energy. I don't feel tired all day and I feel good.

The point is, eating healthy does make you feel better. I am not going to eat completely gluten free, but I am going to greatly decrease the amount me and my family consume. 

This cornbread and chili was fantastic, so eating healthier doesn't have to be bland and tasteless. And I have lost 5lbs, bonus!

Baking from my heart to your kitchen,

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies and another Green Smoothi

Week 2 of Green Smoothie every morning. The one I made this morning will be at the end.
Week 1 of Gluten-free (gf), Dairy-free (df) diet. 

I know you are anxiously awaiting to hear how it's going.   
First few days were a bit torturous challenging. I was a bit discouraged with all the foods I couldn't eat. I'm just plain hungry.  
This may not be a big deal to you, but to a foodie like me, it was difficult to wrap my brain around. Then I started finding a TON of gf recipes and blogs and started cooking.
I also went out and bought some gluten-free snacks, some were great and some where down right ew. Coconut milk yogurt, not so great. Veggie chips, not too bad. 
Trail mix, ate the whole bag in two days. Chex cereal with Lactaid, surprisingly delicious.

One super great side effect, my clothes are looser. After only a week, well two if you count from the smoothie beginning. 
I would love to tell you I lost weight, but I don't own a scale. As soon as I get one, I'll let you know the results.

However, I need cookies! I need to bake! I finally couldn't take it anymore and searched for a gf recipe that I could make with the ingredients I already have. I found....
Peanut Butter Cookies!

Super easy too!

Here is what you will need:

1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used the Natural pb)
1 cup white sugar (I did 1/3 white and 1/2 brown)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

Basically, throw all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with a spoon. I told you it was easy.

Roll the dough into balls and roll in sugar. Press criss-cross with a fork. My 3 year loved that he could help.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes depending on your oven. Don't Overbake! 

Right out of the oven they are yummy (as you see the missing spot where I am munching one while taking the picture) Don't judge, I seriously needed a cookie.
Meanwhile, while they were yummy, it was not entirely the same as a pb cookie with flour.

My hubs said it tasted like the dough, just baked... um sweetie... that's what cookies are... baked dough. I couldn't resist, he really opened himself up for that one. Upon further discussion that really is the best description. That grainy texture of cookie dough.

If you have enough will power to wait a day, they taste even better. Maybe they just have to sit and come to terms with the fact they don't have flour.
We all agree here in my house, better the next day. My 5 year old keeps asking for more. So, definitely kid approved.

What should I try next? 
I'm a bit excited about these new possibilities.

Let's talk Smoothie:

1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup Pineapple (all I had left, you could add more)
1 Peach (I peeled the skin off mine)
1 Pear
1 Carrot (medium size)
Handful of Spinach

I put it all in the blender in the order of ingredients. I read somewhere to put the soft fruits and veggies first, end with the spinach and ice. Not sure why, but it works much better.

This mornings green color did not look that appealing, but it was actually really good.

If you are wondering how filling they actually are, they do pretty good. I start to get hungry again 3-4 hours later and grab a snack before lunch. I have made the smoothie as a morning snack after breakfast. 

Do I have more energy? Really hard to judge since I'm chasing around 3 boys all day, but I definitely don't feel as tired as I usually do. I have had no stomach pains this week either. 

What do I eat? 
Yesterday I had.....
Breakfast: Coffee with Lactaid and a Green Smoothie
Lunch: Salad with turkey, carrots, cucumbers and sesame seeds with vinaigrette dressing.
Snacks: Trail mix and veggie chips
Dinner: BBQ chicken, gf sweet potato casserole and peas
Sweets: gf peanut butter cookies

There are so many supportive blog full of wonderful recipes. 
Week 2 here I come!

Baking from my heart to your kitchen,

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mint Brownies and Green Smoothies

Remember last week when I told you about my mild vitamin D deficiancy thing.


Now to resolve some other "issues" she wants me to eat lactose and gluten -free for two weeks. 
Say What!!
I started researching this gluten-free diet and I basically  have to cut out all foods that I love. As for baking, well that's out the window. At least for two weeks.

After I had a "my life is over" moment, I decided it's worth a try. What's two weeks if it makes me feel better and I find out what may be causing my "issues". Issues are basically random stomach cramps after eating certain foods. So far greasy foods are out. 

So my dear readers, welcome to my journey/experiment/adventure.

I know, your wondering about the mint brownies. It was the last sweet I made before the hammer was dropped. I thought I would share before I start posting my experimental recipes.

At the end I'll tell you about the green smoothie part.

Let's talk sweets first.

Mint Brownies
adapted from Make It Do
(I did her recipe and a 1/2, those are in parenthesis)

1 c. melted butter (1 ½ c.)
 ½ c. cocoa powder (3/4 c.)
2 c. sugar (3 c.)
4 eggs beaten (6)
1 tsp. vanilla (1 ½ tsp.)
½ tsp. salt (3/4 tsp.)
1 ½ c. sifted flour (2 ¼ c.)

1 cups Andes mints (chopped)

Whisk together the butter and cocoa.
Add the sugar, eggs,vanilla and salt
Mix well, then stir in the sifted flour

Stir in by hand. Do not over mix.

Stir in the Andes mints, I found a bag of them already chopped.

Pour into 9×13 pan sprayed with cooking spray. If making 1 1/2 recipe pour into Baker’s Half Sheet (large cookie sheet.) Bake at 350 degrees for 25-28 minutes.
Cool for a few minutes and then place in freezer for 20 minutes.

While brownies are in the freezer make first layer of topping.

Mint Filling
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons whipping cream
2 oz cream cheese, softened
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon mint extract
2 drops green food color

In large bowl, beat filling ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread over cooled brownies. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until set.

While that is setting, make the chocolate layer.

Chocolate Topping
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 1/3 cups (8 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup butter (do not use margarine)

In 2-quart nonstick saucepan, heat topping ingredients over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Cool about 10 minutes or until lukewarm.
Pour over chilled filling. Refrigerate until set, about an hour.

Once set, I decided they would be cute round, so I got out my cookie cutter (see it stuck in there), the brownies were too thick. I did, however, find this old biscuit cutter or something my neighbor gave me a while back. It worked beautifully
Just work fast when you cut them, much easier to slice or cut when they are cold.

I didn't think I would enjoy these, I only made them because they were requested, but I couldn't stop eating them. They were good cold, but even better at room temp when the chocolate and filling were softer.

Ok, Green Smoothie

My sister is a strong believer in juicing and she really wants me to give it a go.
I don't have a juicer, however, and they are quite pricey. I am compromising and having a green smoothie every morning for breakfast. They are surprisingly yummy once you find a combination you like.
My favorite one so far is:
1 Cup Coconut milk
1/2 cup pineapple
1 kiwi
1/2-1 cup strawberries
1/2 cup carrots
handful of spinach

No, you can't taste the spinach, I promise. 

Baking... errr... experimenting from my heart to your kitchen,

The Mandatory Mooch

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cream Cheese Crusted Spinach Mushroom Quiche

I'm going savory again.

I know, but I don't do it often and I will be back to sweet making in no time.
Give me a chance to redeem myself.

I had a doctor's appointment and I was explaining about being a mother of three and how tired I am all the time. I simply asked for a magic energy vitamin to give me a boost after the morning coffee wears off. I was half joking, half serious. 

Since she has to do her job and she was not totally convinced that being a mother of three causes that much energy depletion, she ordered some blood work. She is not a mom by the way, great doctor, but not a mom, so I amused her and gave blood. 

Turns out I have a mild vitamin D deficiency and she wants me to start taking some D vitamins. 
I decided to go one further and eat some foods that might be high in said vitamin. I went straight to Google, top authority on everything. 
Yep, mushrooms were the only veggie and there was no fruit listed.

Other food items listed were cheese, milk, certain fish, beef liver (ew), cereal and a couple other not edible things.

Fabulous, a bunch of food I seriously detest. I better look into those vitamins.

In the mean time I'll try some mushrooms and cheese. I was drawn to this recipe because of the crust. I found it here. Cream cheese in a crust, I had to try it. 
The measurements are not what I'm used to and the not sure what language the blog is, but the recipe was in English. 
Here are the measurements I used.

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar (to taste)
3 1/2 Tbls cold butter (cut into small cubes)
½-1 tsp salt (to taste)
1/3 tsp ground black pepper (to taste)
Pinch of nutmeg
8oz cream cheese
1-2 Tbls milk

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar and pepper. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles the breadcrumbs.
Add the cream cheese and milk to bring mixture together.
Knead lightly to form dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 11-inch circle. Fit into a 9-inch round tart pan (or spring form pan), pressing dough into corners. Transfer to freezer to chill for 20 minutes.

Yes, the freezer, not the oven. Trust me

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
3 Tbls butter
1 small onion (chopped)
2 1/2 cups fresh spinach (chopped)
1 cup Cheddar cheese (shredded)
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
Salt, ground black pepper to taste

In a medium skillet melt butter. Stirring occasionally, sauté onion until translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and continue to cook stirring frequently, until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add spinach, season with salt, nutmeg and pepper and cook, stirring a couple of times, for another 2 minutes. Take off from the heat and set aside.
Take off the quiche crust from the freezer. In a small bowl whisk together milk and eggs. Sprinkle half of grated cheese on the bottom of the crust. Spread filling mixture over the cheese and then top with remaining cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the filling. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes or until set. Cool for about 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I apologize for not getting pictures of the process. I wasn't going to blog about it, but changed my mind when I tasted it. Super delicious!

My hubs loved the crust, it was thick and almost biscuit-like. It really made the dish.
The filling was great too. All my boys ate it without complaint, always a winner.

There was only one slice left which my hubs ate for breakfast.

Trust me, the crust alone enough to make this, even if you change up the filling.

I will back with sweets later, maybe.... we'll see.

Baking from my heart to your kitchen,

Linking Love; /