Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake... and my new mixer!

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Anne of AnneStrawberry. She selected this gorgeous and wonderful Tall and Creamy Cheesecake. You'll find the recipe on her blog.

So guess what Santa brought me!! A KitchenAid mixer! I love it!!! Can you tell by all of the exclamation points?!?!? I used it for the first time to make the cheesecake. Look how fabulous it looks, working so hard.

I'm officially retiring my old hand mixer. I didn't really know what to do with myself not having to do all the work to mix up this cheesecake recipe (which required a whole lot of mixing, by the way). At first I just stared in amazement at the contents of the bowl being mixed. And then I decided I better take advantage of my extra free time. Wanna know what you can get done while your KitchenAid mixer is doing all the work for you? Well, I found out...

1. empty the dishwasher
2. pull out all of the subsequent ingredients you need
3. eat a cookie
4. pull out the roasting pan from the deep dark pits of your cupboards
5. stare a little more in amazement at your beautiful mixer
6. wash the dishes you've already used
7. chase your child around the room
8. eat another cookie

It's quite a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Well, I know it's Wednesday and I'm a day late. But I decided to make the cheesecake for a New Year's Eve celebration. It is so creamy and delicious and just wonderful.

Despite my tin foil not really working well and a little water leakage onto my crust... and my top being a tad bit more browned than I'd like... it's wonderful. Quite close to perfect if it weren't for those two things. My husband's absolute favorite thing is plain cheesecake, so he forbid me to put fruit or chocolate or anything else into this. I'm kind of glad I didn't either, it's oh so heavenly.

And by the way, the Tuesdays with Dorie group is opening up to new members until New Year's Day. So if you've been contemplating joining, I urge you to do it. It's very fun and you'll make lots of new friends as well as make everyone swoon over your fancy treats. Let me know if you're interested in joining, I can give you all the info. Or, just go to the TWD site and check it out for yourself.

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

French Toast Stuffed with Bananas and Walnuts

Well, I am trying very hard to recuperate from my holiday sugar high. Unfortunately I don't think it's really going to end until after New Year's, when I'm vowing to start back up my diet and do some exercising again. This holiday season seems to have been filled with more food than ever, and while it's really been enjoyable, it's just not good, if you know what I mean.

I've had this particular recipe for Stuffed French Toast bookmarked for quite a while in one of Paula Deen's cookbooks. In her The Lady and Sons, Too cookbook she has a chapter of recipes from some of her favorite Savannah restaurants, and this recipe for Banana and Walnut Stuffed French Toast piqued my interest from that chapter quite some time ago. So when planning out our Christmas morning menu, I remembered this and knew I had to make it. The result was great - this is very tasty and so easy. And I had all of the ingredients on hand, which means now I have no excuse not to make this over and over and over again... maybe New Year's Day breakfast?

French Toast Stuffed with Bananas and Walnuts
(adapted from Paula Deen)

6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
4 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup (1 oz.) coarsely chopped walnuts
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
8 slices egg bread
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1. In a large, shallow bowl, using a fork, beat the eggs until lightly frothy. Stir in the milk; set aside. Peel the bananas into a small bowl and mash them with a fork. Stir in the walnuts and the nutmeg. Spread the walnut mixture evenly over half the bread slices, leaving a 1/4-inch border uncovered on all edges. Top with the remaining bread slices and press down gently. Turn gently and let soak for a moment, until evenly saturated on both sides. Remove from the bowl and repeat with the remaining 2 sandwiches.

2. In a frying pan or on a griddle large enough to hold all the sandwiches at once, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sandwiches and fry until the undersides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip the sandwiches with a spatula and fry until the second side is browned, about 2 minutes longer. Serve hot, with jam or maple syrup.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Peanut Butter Candy Bar Brownies

This recipe is for all of the peanut butter lovers out there (you know who you are). Just reading this recipe for Peanut Butter Candy Bar Brownies made my mouth water. I loooove peanut butter and chocolate, so the ingredients sounded magical to me. Nutter butters, butterfingers, reeses peanut butter cups and chocolate chips... is there any better combination?

This recipe does not disappoint. You have to trust me - TRY THIS! I sent a plate of these to work with my husband for a potluck lunch. He comes home that night and tells me he conveniently "forgot" to put these on the potluck table. He instead kept them in his office and ate a bunch himself. And he, thankfully, brought the rest home. I did a little happy dance when I saw them again... it had been rather sad when he left the house with them that morning. Yep, that's my husband... helping me gain 10 pounds in the month of December.

The original recipe called for peanuts and coconut. I'm not a big fan of peanuts in my brownies and I just didn't think I wanted coconut in the peanut butter gooey goodness, so I omitted both ingredients. Feel free to throw them back in if that's your type of thing. I was also thinking next time I may try making the crust with Oreos instead of the Nutter Butters to see how they turn out being a little more chocolatey.

Peanut Butter Candy Bar Brownies
(adapted from

1 16-ounce package Nutter Butter cookies, crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
7 & 1/2 ounces Reese's peanut butter cups (about 25 miniature cups), coarsely chopped
4 ounces Butterfinger candy bars (about 7 small candy bars), coarsely chopped
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13″x 9″ pan with aluminum foil, allowing it to extend over edges of pan. Grease foil well.

2. Combine crushed cookies and butter in a medium bowl. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes.

3. Combine condensed milk, peanut butter, and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

4. Sprinkle chopped candy bars and chocolate morsels over prepared crust. Drizzle condensed milk mixture over toppings.

5. Bake for 25-27 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in pan on wire rack. Using foil, lift out of pan. Peel foil away, and cut into small bars (they're rich!).

Makes about 25 bars.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday's Super Tip: How to Store Fresh Herbs

I am constantly purchasing bundles of fresh herbs at the grocery store, only to use a tiny bit at a time. They usually end up going bad before I can use them up, which can be very frustrating since they're not cheap. One of these days I'll start growing my own herbs. But until then, I'm forced to use some tricks to increase their shelf life and allow me to get my money's worth.

Here are some ways I keep my herbs fresh so I have time to eat them up.

1. Wet a paper towel and wrap it around the stems of your herbs. Cover them loosely in a plastic bag to store.

2. Another option is to put them in tiny containers with water. A small glass or container with just a little water at the bottom is your best bet. Be sure to put a loose plastic bag over the tops and then store them either in your refrigerator's crisper or on the countertop.

3. If you won't be using your herbs within about a week and a half, pop them in the freezer! Take them out when you need them, allow them to thaw, and then use them just like you normally would. They'll last about a year in your freezer, but their potency deteriorates over time, so use more than you normally would if they've been frozen for a while.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pumpkin-Filled Cinnamon Rolls

A few weeks ago I compiled a kinda-sorta bucket list. Just a list of things I want to do or places I want to see over the next several years. It was kind of fun to do! One of the things on my list was to make homemade cinnamon rolls. I am a die-hard cinnamon roll fan and I just looove their ooey gooey goodness. So I've always wanted to make the perfect cinnamon roll.

Well, I think I may have done just that. And instead of the normal cinnamon-filled kind, I decided to mix in some pumpkin to make them even more flavorful and wonderful. It totally worked. These rock!

My all-time favorite kind of icing on a cinnamon roll is cream cheese flavored. So I frosted them with a great cream cheese icing recipe and it all came together perfectly.

Anyone who's ever made cinnamon rolls from scratch knows what a tedious process it is. If you want these for a weekend breakfast, you'll need to start the dough the day before. Just pop the dough in the fridge after it's done with its first rise, and pick up the directions where you left off the next morning. These are so perfect for a Sunday morning breakfast. Enjoy!

Pumpkin-Filled Cinnamon Rolls
(dough recipe adapted from Betty Crocker)

3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 packages regular or quick active dry yeast
1 cup very warm milk (120 to 130 degrees F)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 large egg

2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. To make dough: mix 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add warm milk, 1/4 cup butter and the egg. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

2. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Place dough in large well-greased bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour 30 minutes or until double. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

3. Prepare filling: place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well blended.

4. Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Flatten dough with hands or rolling pin into 15x10-inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. Spread with filling. Roll rectangle up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal. Stretch and shape until even. Cut roll into fifteen 1-inch slices with dental floss or a sharp serrated knife. Place slightly apart on a well-greased baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place about 30 minutes or until double.

5. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown.

6. Prepare cream cheese frosting: cream butter and cream cheese in a bowl. Mix in the vanilla and then the powdered sugar until well blended. Frost cinnamon rolls in the pan if eating them warm. Or, remove them to cooling racks and frost when cooled.

Makes 15 rolls.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TWD: Buttery Jam Cookies

Buttery jam cookies... I love you.

Typically these wouldn't be the kind of cookie that I'd gravitate to. I like my cookies loaded with "stuff" - things like chocolate chips, oatmeal, peanut butter, that kind of thing. This is a very simple cookie. But it's sooo soft and moist and just kind of melts in your mouth. Oooh, I liked these cookies.

I chose to use an orange marmalade in my cookies and it was a really great flavor. The only thing I was disappointed in was how tiny they turned out. Dorie instructs us to scoop out rounded teaspoonfuls, which is what I did. But these cookies did not spread AT ALL. So I had tiny little bite sized cookies, which just made it all that much harder to stop eating them. They were too easy to pop them right in my mouth.

I was fortunate enough to bake these up last week while at a baking party that a friend of mine hosted at her house. We whipped up several different kinds of cookies together and all swapped. Besides the buttery jam cookies, I came home with white chocolate cranberry cookies and peppermint cookies. What fun!

This week's selection was chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl. You'll definitely want the recipe, so go find it on her blog!

I want to take a quick second to give a big shout out to my secret Santa (or... elfster? What are we calling this?). Jill at Jill's Blog sent me not only a cute Christmas card, but the most adorable kitchen towels and snowflake-shaped pot scrubber. I was beyond ecstatic when I opened it. The towels are already hanging on my stove. Thanks so much Jill! Here's a photo of my gifts, with the buttery jam cookies making an appearance again!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday's Super Tip: Sweetened Condensed Milk

Welcome to Sunday's Super Tip - where I give you a valuable kitchen tip! This week's tip is how to make sweetened condensed milk. It's happened to me before - I'm getting ready to bake, taking out my ingredients, when I realize - I don't have what I need and there's no time to get to the store! Grrrr!

Well, if you find yourself in a bind, here's how to whip up your own sweetened condensed milk!

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup powdered milk
2/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth.

Leftovers can be stored in a tightly sealed container for up to one week.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ritz Cracker Ice Cream

Did you ever think to make ice cream with Ritz crackers? I could have never dreamed this up myself.

I saw this ice cream over at a fabulously creative blog called Ideas In Food. Check them out, you won't be sorry. You're guaranteed to find things there that will leave you scratching your head and wondering how people can just naturally be this creative. I wish I got that gene.

This ice cream is really rich and tastes like eating pie crust. This is serious sinfulness and total deliciousness, people. Hey, the diet starts in January, right?

Ritz Cracker Ice Cream
(adapted from Ideas In Food)

1 pint half and half
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups crumbled Ritz crackers
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Combine the sugar and the half and half and bring to a boil. Pour over the crumbled Ritz crackers and then stir in the sour cream.

2. Puree the mixture in a blender. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and then process in an ice cream maker according to your machine's instructions.

And now for some award business! Cathy over at Tortefeasor passed along this award to me. I was so honored because I absolutely love her blog and her hilarious commentary. Thanks, Cathy!

And I'd love to share this award with some of my favorite food bloggers out there.

1. First and foremost, my great friend Michelle. I've known her since high school and I love having a fellow foodie who I actually know! She's not only sweet and wonderful, but she's a great cook too. Check out her site, Sweet Sensations.

2. Another blog I frequent and love belongs to Teanna over at Spork or Foon. I love all of the crazy things she finds and shares, and she is such a riot. Thanks for keeping me laughing, Teanna!

3. The next site is one that I just recently started reading and really enjoy. Amy of The Delicious Cook does such a great job of bringing us really great classic recipes. Everything on her site looks delicious. Check out her sweet potato creme brulee. Yum!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TWD: Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

Chosen perfectly for Christmas, this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection was made by Ulrike of K├╝chenlatein. Find the recipe there!

As you can see, I chose to make Christmas-shaped cookies. I don't even wish to discuss the amount of time I spent making these. Chill the dough, roll out the dough, now too soft to hold any shape, so put the dough back in the fridge, take the dough back out, cut the shapes, pick up the scraps, chill the scraps, etc.

At least they came out pretty though! I found some of them to be too hard, so I started doing batches with thicker dough, and it was much better that way.

Half of them I sprinkled with some sugar - these were my favorite.

The other half I spread with colored icing - very fun and festive looking.

Up next week - more cookies!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Beer Cheese Bread

It's a rather well-known fact that I'm not a big fan of beer. You wouldn't guess it knowing some of the people I've hung out with over the years. And of course then there's my husband, who loves the stuff and even brews his own beer. That's right - I gave him beer mixes for our anniversary a few weeks ago. I'd love to support his hobby, but I just can't bring myself to like anything he's made. Shame on me.

So... beer cheese bread? Really?


I've developed a newfound fondness for beer. I've finally found a use for the beverage - pour it into a batch of bread and voila! Tasty!

I served this with hot bowls of chili. Moist, comforting, perfect.

Beer Cheese Bread
(from Cooking Light magazine)

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
13.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
12 oz. bottle lager-style beer (I used Yuengling)
2 Tbsp. melted butter, divided

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion to pan; cook 10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in pepper and garlic, cook 1 minute.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Add onion mixture, cheese, and beer to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

4. Spoon batter into a 9x5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. butter over batter. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes. Drizzle remaining 1 Tbsp. butter over batter. Bake an additional 25 minutes or until deep golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Try some variations to this recipe: Use cheddar cheese, a hard cider, and add apple chunks for Apple-Cheddar Beer Bread. Or, substitute jalapenos for the onion, use Manchego cheese and a Mexican beer for Manchego-Jalapeno Beer Bread. So many possibilities! Happy baking!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lucky Peas

Well, as you can see I skipped out on Dorie this week. The selection was a cookie. I don't think I can handle any more sweets after Thanksgiving weekend, so I decided to sit out and wait patiently for next week.

Life is busy around the holidays - and stressful at times. I'm trying to keep on top of my posting. I haven't been lagging on cooking, fortunately I always seem to make time for that. I'm just a bit backed up on posting the yummy creations. So I'll try to be a good girl and keep up!

Here's a really tasty and unique recipe - Lucky Peas. I don't make black-eyed peas very often, but I think this recipe is going to become a regular in my house, so the pea-frequency may increase. This is super simple to make and the ingredients are easy to come by - two things I love!

The blend of the peas, ham, and the spices are just perfect. It may not sound like much, but it's really a great family friendly and inexpensive dish. My 13-month old son even enjoyed it and my hubby requested that I make it again. Serve it over a bed of rice and with cornbread on the side and it's perfect.

And for those who don't know, eating black-eyed peas on New Year's day is a tradition in the south. They're thought to symbolize wealth (which couldn't hurt). And because they swell when you cook them, it's another sign of prosperity. So there you have it - eat these now and then again on New Year's Day!

Lucky Peas

1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup chopped cooked ham
1 garlic clove, minced
Two 15-oz. cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
14 oz. can chicken broth
1 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. pepper
Chopped tomato, sliced green onions and hot pepper sauce for toppings

1. Saute chopped onion in hot oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat for three minutes. Stir in ham and garlic, and saute three minutes. Stir in peas and next 4 ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Serve with desired toppings over rice.

Makes 6 servings.