Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TWD: Low and Lush Chocolate Cheesecake

So after a long hiatus from baking, I decided I needed to make this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection - the Low and Lush Chocolate Cheesecake. I so love cheesecake, and the fact that it's chocolate only makes it sound better.

So a few weeks ago when we were having company, I finally got in the kitchen and baked! Since I had the baby our meals have consisted of putting together a sandwich or pulling something out of the freezer. So I thought a home baked dessert would be fabulous.

Unfortunately, we weren't thrilled with this cheesecake. The chocolate flavor wasn't pronounced enough - instead it tasted more like cream cheese. It was okay, just not as great as I was hoping and expecting. I probably wouldn't make it again. If I were to bake a cheesecake, it would be Dorie's Tall and Creamy Cheesecake - that one was a real home run!

If you'd like to get the recipe or see how someone else's turned out, visit Tea and Scones.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

One Of The Two Best Things I've Ever Made

My little sweet pea, Chase Alan, was born December 2, 2009 at 1:41 a.m. He weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces and is 21.25 inches long. I ended up being induced at 6 days past my due date. He sure kept his Mama waiting!

We are adjusting to life with two little boys and things are going really well so far. Chase is a great sleeper and has been sparing me the bags under the eyes that usually come hand in hand with newborns. We'll see how things go when his Daddy goes back to work next week!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Peanutty Buckeye Bars

Let me just tell it to you straight. I'm 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant. Two days past my due date. My back aches, my feet hurt, I'm tired of trying to keep my house clean for when the baby (and therefore company) comes, and I'm frazzled. I thought I'd either be in the hospital right now or home with my new baby. But instead I'm sitting around the house trying to keep my mind occupied with something other than this baby not coming!

This is where the Peanutty Buckeye Bars come into play. I had the urge to bake. Just to get my mind off things. But I wanted something easy that wouldn't require me to be on my feet too long. And seeing as how I love chocolate and peanut butter together, these Buckeye Bars were just the thing I needed. Now I can calm my frazzled nerves with chocolate. And don't forget the scoop of ice cream on top. These are GOOD - chewy and fudgy and peanut butter-y!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to praying that I go into labor rightthisminute so the misery stops!

Peanutty Buckeye Bars
(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)

19.5-ounce package brownie mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup peanut butter

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a large bowl, combine brownie mix, eggs, and oil. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined (batter will be dry - you can add a Tbsp. or two of water if it's too dry). Stir in peanuts. Spread half of the brownie mixture evenly into prepared pan. Set the other half of mixture aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter until smooth. Spread evenly over brownie mixture in pan. Separate the remaining brownie mixture into pieces, flatten them with your fingers, and place them on top of the brownie mixture in pan.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until top is set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 32 bars.

To Store: Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars

I'm now in my 38th week of pregnancy - which means I'm in the home stretch. It's that very exciting last couple of weeks where all you can think is, "when will I go into labor and have this baby?!?" But it's also the most uncomfortable time period - it's hard to be on your feet for long, your back hurts, and you just can't put much effort into anything. Which is why my baking and posting has been very few and far between. And I fear that it won't get much better once I have a newborn to handle and a 2-year-old running around the house.

BUT, the good news is that I always seem to get that itch for baking after it's been a while. So I'm sure the mood will continue to strike me after the baby's born (though my baking may be a bit on the healthy side, as I will surely have some weight to lose!).

Lately I've been dying for something homemade that would celebrate the season. I bookmarked this apple streusel cheesecake bar recipe quite a while back, and it was calling to me. It's really delicious, and was completely worth the time on my feet in the kitchen.

The bars start with a cookie mix and also use an apple pie filling, though no one would ever guess it was only semi-homemade. They came together easily and tasted great. I particularly enjoyed eating these with vanilla ice cream, though they were completely addictive all by themselves too!

Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars
(adapted from Betty Crocker)

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® oatmeal cookie mix (I used oatmeal chocolate chip - the chocolate chips were a nice addition!)
½ cup firm butter or margarine
2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 can (21 oz) apple pie filling
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom and sides of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray.

2. Place cookie mix in a large bowl. With a pastry blender or fork, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly and coarse. Reserve 1 ½ cups crumb mixture; press remaining crumbs in bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, vanilla and egg with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.

4. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over partially baked crust. In medium bowl, mix pie filling and cinnamon. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle reserved crumbs over top.

5. Bake 35 to 40 minutes longer or until light golden brown. Cool about 30 minutes. Refrigerate to chill, about 2 hours. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

Makes about 24 bars.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

BLT Pasta

I came across a great dinner recipe over at Alwayz Bakin' - this BLT Pasta. It's everything you love about a BLT sandwich, but with pasta instead of the bread. What a genius idea! We loved it!

The recipe made a ton - enough for dinner, and then heaping servings for lunch the next day for my hubby and I. It was easy to make and on the table in a jiffy. And my son even enjoyed it also. It's a really fantastic meal!

BLT Pasta
(adapted from Alwayz Bakin')

1 package (1 lb.) spiral pasta
1 package (1 lb.) bacon, cooked, drained and chopped
4 ripe plum tomatoes
3 cups sliced romaine lettuce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse, drain, and transfer to a large bowl. Add bacon, tomatoes, and lettuce.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Toss mayonnaise mixture with pasta and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Train Birthday Cake

Last week we held my son's second birthday party. He's completely fascinated with trains, so I went in search of some ideas for a train-themed cake. I came across instructions for one that was so incredibly creative. I was a little hesitant about taking on that much work for his party, but it was just too darn cute to pass up.

The instructions for this cake are unbelievably straightforward - anyone can do it. However, the cake is very time consuming to decorate and takes a lot of patience. My son absolutely loved it, though, so I was glad I took on the challenge.

If you're planning a little boy's birthday party and are looking for theme ideas, try the train theme and the train cake. It's just so cute!

Train Birthday Cake
(from Parenting.com)

•1 family-size frozen pound cake (16 oz), thawed
•2 cans (16 oz each) vanilla frosting
•Blue food coloring
•Yellow food coloring
•Red food coloring
•2 Fruit Loops Cereal Straws (I used Twizzlers)
•1 Kids mini–ice cream cone (I used a regular sized cone)
•2 tsp light corn syrup
•2 Tbsp yellow decorating sugar
•2 Tootsie Rolls
•4 Ring Dings
•1 cup dark-chocolate frosting
•12 mini-Oreos
•4 Oreos
•11 large chocolate nonpareils
•12 Sno-caps
•1 blue M&M
•2 Tbsp mini-marshmallows
•2 green Fruit Loops Cereal Straws (I used Twizzlers)
•1/3 cup Hershey's Kissables (I used Gummi Bears)
•5 Hershey's Sticks or Kit Kats for the track (optional)

What you'll need:
•A bread knife
•A serving platter
•A resealable sandwich-size plastic bag (Ziploc)

Trimming the cake:
1.Using a bread knife, trim a ¾-inch piece off both short ends of the pound cake to make the cake about 9 by 4 ½ inches.
2.Cut the pound cake as indicated on the diagram to make two 2 ½ by 4 ½-inch cars, one 4 by 3 ½-inch car, and one 1 by 4-inch slice. Reserve the 1 by 4-inch piece and set aside.

For the colored frosting:
1.Spoon the contents of 1 can of vanilla frosting into a bowl. Add a few drops of blue food coloring to tint it a light blue.
2.Divide the remaining can of vanilla frosting in half and spoon into separate bowls. Add yellow food coloring to one bowl of frosting to tint it yellow; add red food coloring to the other bowl of frosting to tint it red.

For the engine decorations:
1.Cut the red Froot Loops Cereal Straws in half.
2.Brush the outside of the Kids Cone with the corn syrup and sprinkle with the yellow decorating sugar.
3.Heat the Tootsie Rolls in the microwave for 2 to 3 seconds. Roll out each Tootsie Roll on wax paper and cut into two 1 by ½-inch rectangles for the train windows.

Frosting the cake:
1.Lay the trimmed 1 by 4-inch slice flat on a serving platter. Spread the top with some blue frosting.
2.Stack the 4 Ring Dings, spreading frosting in between each cake, and lay the stack on its side to make the cylindrical front engine.
3.Place the 4 by 3 ½-inch piece upright behind the stack of Ring Dings.
4.Spread the entire engine with blue frosting to cover and make smooth.

Assembling the engine:
1.Spoon the chocolate frosting into a resealable plastic bag. Snip a small corner from the bag and pipe a 1-inch-high layer of chocolate frosting at the base of the cake.
2.Add 2 mini- and 2 regular-size Oreos to either side for the engine's wheels. Pipe small dots of chocolate frosting on the cookies and add the large chocolate nonpareils to the Oreos and press the Sno-caps onto the mini-Oreos.
3.Press the Tootsie Roll windows into the sides of the upright cake.
4.Press a single large chocolate nonpareil into the nose of the engine. Pipe a small dot of chocolate frosting on the center of the nonpareil and add a blue M&M.
5.Gently press the Kids Cone and Froot Loops Cereal Straws into the top of the engine. Fill the cone with mini-marshmallows for the engine's steam.

Decorating the middle car:
1.Set one of the 2 ½ by 4 ½-inch pieces of pound cake behind the engine. Frost with the yellow frosting.
2.Trim the green Froot Loops Cereal Straws with a serrated knife to fit the length and width of the top edges of the cake.
3.Fill the top of the cake with the Hershey's Kissables.
4.Pipe a half-inch-wide band of chocolate frosting along the base of the cake. Attach the mini-Oreos. Pipe a dot of chocolate frosting onto each mini-Oreo and add the Sno-caps.

Decorating the caboose:
1.Set the remaining cake piece behind the middle car and cover completely with the red frosting.
2.Set the 2 remaining red Froot Loops Cereal Straw halves on top of the back of the cake.
3.Pipe a half-inch-wide band of chocolate frosting around the base of the cake. Press the remaining Oreo cookies in as wheels on either side of the caboose. Pipe a dot of chocolate frosting onto each mini-Oreo and press the Sno-caps on.

For the optional train tracks:
1.Cut 3 of the chocolate sticks in half.
2.Place the pairs of halved chocolate sticks in front and in back of the middle car and caboose. To complete, place the 2 long chocolate sticks in front of the engine cake.

Serves 8 to 10. For diagrams and more pictures, go to Parenting.com.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

Sometimes I feel like I'm in an appetizer rut. I have a few that I really like and I just keep making them over and over again for every party and get-together that I have. So I was trying to come up with ideas for something kid friendly for my son's birthday party and saw this recipe on another blog. I knew immediately that I had to try it, and I'm so glad that I did.

This cheese ball was fantastic! It was so easy to make and everyone loved it - kids AND adults. Everyone kept asking me what was in it and how to make it. And my sister took the recipe and made it for a gathering at her house the next weekend.

Make this - you won't be sorry!

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball
(from Mommy's Kitchen)

1 8oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1/4 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
For coating: 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, crushed graham crackers, or 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
For dipping: Graham crackers, chocolate graham crackers, vanilla wafers, pretzel sticks, Teddy Grahams or animal crackers.

1. Beat softened cream cheese, butter, & vanilla until creamy. Slowly add sugars until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Place mixture in a Tupperware or plastic container. Refrigerate for 1 -2 hours.

2. Form into a ball and roll ball in pecans, graham cracker crumbs, or mini chocolate chips. Serve with graham crackers, vanilla wafers, Teddy Grahams, pretzels, or animal crackers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

These cupcakes are wonderful! I made them for my son's birthday party. We were decorating with red and blue, so I knew red velvet cupcakes would be perfect.

The recipe makes 12 cupcakes. I needed more, so I made a double batch and it doubled really easily. The cinnamon cream cheese frosting was one of the best parts. So easy to make and super delicious! The cinnamon adds a little extra flavor and I love the fun speckles throughout it.

The batter can also be made into cake, which I plan to try someday. But cupcakes are way more fun for a kid's birthday party! And eat them with some ice cream - totally to die for!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
(from Joy the Baker and Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 and 1/2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tbsp. red food coloring
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Turn mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

2. In a separate bowl mix together cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter, mixing thoroughly until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.

3. Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.

4. Turn mixer to low and add salt, baking soda and white vinegar. Turn to high and beat a few more minutes.

5. Spoon batter into a paper lined cupcake baking pan and bake at 325ºF for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.

6. Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 and 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, cold
scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Beat the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-slow speed until it comes together and is well mixed.

2. Add the cream cheese all at once and beat on medium to medium-high until incorporated. Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy. Do not over-beat as the frosting can quickly become runny.

Makes one dozen cupcakes, double recipe to make two 9-inch layer cakes. Double frosting recipe to frost a two layer 9-inch cake.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Squash and Black Bean Chili

Here's a great, easy dish to make you happy that fall is here! Once the weather starts getting cooler, I always end up making a lot of chili at my house, especially fun variations on the classic. I really like cooking with butternut squash and this is a perfect use for it.

This chili is super easy to make. If your grocery store sells pre-chopped butternut squash, it will save you the time and the muscle power that goes into chopping and peeling one yourself. I had this on the table in about 30 minutes, and served it with a simple cornbread mix as a side dish. My sister-in-law gave me a great cornbread tip - spread honey on the bottom of the pan before you pour in the cornbread batter. Bake it up as directed on the package, and you have a fabulous tasting cornbread. It's super simple and delicious (thanks Kristin!).

Squash and Black Bean Chili

1 Tbsp. olive oil or canola oil
1 medium bell pepper (I used a small green and a small red pepper)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium stalk celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cans (15 to 19 oz. each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 and 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
14.5 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
14 oz. can vegetable broth

1. In 5-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pepper, onion, and celery, and cook 5 to 8 minutes or just until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and chili powder and cook 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring.

2. Meanwhile, in small bowl, coarsely mash 1/2 cup beans. Stir all beans, squash, tomatoes, salt and broth into mixture in Dutch oven; cover and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, 15 minutes or until squash is tender. Serve chili with shredded cheese, sour cream and lime wedges if desired.

Makes about 4 servings.

And here's my other favorite chili, which I've already made this fall because I love it so much. White Bean and Turkey Chili

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD: Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart

Carla of Chocolate Moosey chose the Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. It's gorgeous... and so delicious.

I wish someone had told me sooner how easy it was to make Dorie's tart dough! I believe I skipped a tart recipe a little while back because I didn't feel like messing with dough. But boy, it was easier and quicker than expected.

I baked this a few weeks ago for company and it turned out perfectly. Making the caramel ended up being fairly easy. And the layer of chocolate ganache set up beautifully. I couldn't get over how picture perfect it looked. This will definitely be a go-to recipe for company and special occasions.

Another Dorie success! Great choice, Carla!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Paula's Corn Chive Pudding

The group My Girl, Paula baked Corn Chive Pudding this week. It's not exactly photogenic.

But at least it tasted good! I learned something valuable this week: read the recipe before you start. Baking this was one big snafu that consisted of "oh no, the bag of frozen corn needs to be thawed!" "Oh no, the butter needs to be melted and cooled!" "Oh no, I thought I had chives!" I was so close to throwing in the towel and calling it quits, but I sure hadn't gone through all that trouble to have nothing to show for it.

The corn pudding was really tasty, even though the term "corn pudding" really doesn't sound all that appetizing. I decided to try it because it sounded more like a corn casserole, which I love. I have another corn casserole recipe that I make a lot and can eat in large quantities. It's really quite scary. Unfortunately, though this corn pudding was good, I prefer my tried and true recipe to this one. But I'm glad I gave it a go!

Corn Chive Pudding
(by Paula Deen)

Two 10-ounce packages frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup sugar
1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch of grated nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a 1 and 1/2-quart baking dish.

2. In a food processor, pulse 1 of the packages of corn until coarsely chopped, then transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the remaining package of corn and sprinkle with the sugar and salt; stir to combine.

3. Whisk together the eggs, milk, butter, chives, flour, and vanilla and combine with the corn. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake in the center of the oven until the center of the pudding is just set, about 45 minutes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Soufflé

I'm a little late with posting this, so I guess we'll just call today Friday with Dorie. The pick this week was the chocolate soufflé, and I've really been wanting to try my hand at a soufflé, so I just had to give it a try.

It was much easier than I anticipated. I was frightened the whole way through, and was so sure I was going to ruin it. But it turned out beautifully. I halved Dorie's recipe and it was the perfect fit for my three small ramekins. I knew that soufflés fell quickly after you took them out of the oven, and boy is that right. I had maybe a minute to snap a couple pics before the tops fell down into the ramekins and they were no longer as pretty.

They tasted so good. They were chocolatey and delicious. I was really glad they tasted as great as they looked. I enjoyed them warm from the oven and oh man, that was good!

If you'd like to try your hand at this chocolate soufflé, you can find the recipe on Susan's blog, She's Becoming DoughMesstic.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Milky Way Cake

Last week the group My Girl, Paula baked up this delicious Milky Way Cake. It looked fabulous and I had been dying to try it. But I decided I needed to wait until we had someone to share the cake with before I made it. The thought of having an entire cake in my house for me and my husband to eat alone didn't sound like the greatest idea.

So fortunately, I had the opportunity this weekend to make it and share it. The cake was really easy to make and included melted Milky Way bars in the batter - yum. The frosting was a bit more challenging, as it had to reach a specific temperature on the stovetop. It took boiling for a good 10 minutes or so before I got it there. I was a little impatient. And then it got a little hard to frost towards the end as the icing began to cool and harden.

But the finished cake was very moist and oh so rich. It's the type of cake that you'll need to slice very thin, as you'll love the first several bites, but the richness just kind of gives you a stomachache after eating an entire piece!

Everyone commented how great it tasted and how much it really tasted like a Milky Way bar. So if you're a fan of Milky Ways, you'll definitely want to give this a try. And be sure to go to the blogroll at My Girl, Paula to see what the other group members did with their cakes (I've seen delicious looking Milky Way cupcakes and bundt cakes!).

Milky Way Cake
(from Paula Deen)

For Cake:
confectioners' sugar, for dusting pans
8 (1 3/4 ounce) Milky Way bars
1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, well beaten
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For Icing:
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup marshmallow cream
1/2 cup butter
6 ounces chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Grease three 9-inch cake pans and dust them with confectioner's sugar. To make the cake, melt the Milky Way bars with 1 stick of butter. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Cream the remaining 2 sticks of butter with the granulated sugar. Add the beaten eggs and the cooled chocolate mixture. Sift the flour and the baking soda together. Alternately add the flour and buttermilk to the batter, blending well. Add the nuts and vanilla.

3. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the cake is firm to the touch. Cool for 5 minutes, remove from the pans and place on cooling racks.

4. While the cake cools prepare the icing. Combine the sugar and milk in a heavy saucepan. Cook to the soft-ball stage (234 degrees on a candy thermometer). Remove the pan from the heat and add the marshmallow cream, butter and chocolate chips, stirring until melted. Add the pecans. When the cake has cooled completely, frost each layer, sides and top of the Milky Way Cake.

16 - 20 servings.

One Year Ago I Was Baking: Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TWD: Cheesecake Brownies

Mmmm... cheesecake brownies.

How could I pass up this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection? Melissa of Life In a Peanut Shell selected Dorie's Espresso Cheesecake Brownies for the group this week.

You know, I'm pregnant. And I've been using that excuse a lot lately as I'm baking extravagant, calorie-laden treats such as this. But I really need to stop. They say you only need an extra 300 calories a day for the baby. Call me crazy, but I'm pretty certain eating a couple of these cheesecake brownies in one day is waaaaay more than I need for the baby. I think I feel my hips getting larger with every bite. Please someone, remove the fork from my hand. Right. Now.

But please don't listen to me. Because, you, my dear readers, should really make these and enjoy them. They're perfect for a Labor Day picnic or an end of summer celebration. They're incredibly delicious. Don't take my word for it, just make them and eat them!

They were fairly easy to make. I followed all of Dorie's instructions, but left out the espresso. I thought my brownie layer was a very, tiny, small bit (maybe it was in my head?) dry. But the cheesecake is absolutely to die for, and I loved the sour cream/powdered sugar topping.

So do me a favor, go on over to Melissa's blog and get the recipe for yourself. Yum!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Steak Parmesan

Let me tell you my new favorite place to find cookbooks. Thrift stores and yard sales.

I now immediately scan the book section for cookbooks anytime I'm at one of these places. Most of the time there's a lot of junk and reeeeeally old cookbooks that suggest using things like lard to cook your dinner in. But sometimes you find one or two things that are worth the fifty cent asking price. And heck, even if you only use a couple of recipes, how can you pass them up for under a dollar?

I found this recipe for Steak Parmesan in a rather old Southern Living collection of Quick and Easy Recipes. I'm all for quick and easy, so that book totally came home with me without a second thought.

We've all had chicken parm in our lives, I'm sure. It's the one thing I always find myself ordering at Italian restaurants even when I tell myself I'm going to try something new. It's just so good, I can never resist it.

But I had never, ever had steak parmesan. It looked pretty good in the picture in the cookbook (then again, when do those pictures not look good?). So I figured I'd give it a try. After all, it's quick and easy.

Fortunately, I wasn't disapointed. It was really very good and a cinch to throw together. I liked that it was something different. I made very quick mashed potatoes as a side dish and will include the recipe below. But it would also be very good with a pasta, just like at the Italian restaurants!

Steak Parmesan
(from Southern Living)

1/2 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. water
1/8 tsp. pepper
4 cubed sirloin steaks (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pizza sauce

1. Combine breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Combine egg, water, and pepper. Dip steaks in egg mixture; then dredge steaks in breadcrumb mixture.

2. Brown steaks in hot oil in a large skillet over medium heat 3 minutes on each side. Arrange steaks in an 8-inch square baking dish; top with pizza sauce. Bake at 325ºF for 20 minutes or until done. Remove steaks from oven, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Quick side dish:
Cream Cheese and Chive Mashed Potatoes

7 and 3/4-oz. package instant mashed potato flakes
8-oz. package cream cheese, cubed and softened
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. Prepare instant mashed potatoes according to package directions. Add cream cheese and remaining ingredients to the mixture, stirring until blended.

Makes 4 servings.

One Year Ago I Was Baking: Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ranch Chicken Kebabs

Am I the only one who is confused about the spelling of "kebab"? I typed the title as kebab, but then I doubted myself. Could it be kabob? I went to the source of this recipe and saw that they spelled it kabob. So now I really am doubting myself. Fortunately, you can find out anything on the internet, so I went to Merriam-Webster, which I have bookmarked for occasions like this. Turns out, it's kebab, but it also lists a variant - kabob. Okay, so much for that! I guess either way is right.

At any rate, let's talk about this Ranch Chicken! These are the best kebabs I've ever made. Hands down. You're going to love these, especially if you're a fan of ranch dressing, and who isn't? These kebabs are soooo moist and flavorful.

You'll find yourself with dinner on the table pretty quickly and easily when you make these. Simply throw all of the ingredients together in a bag and allow to marinate for 30 minutes. Then thread them on your skewers and cook on the grill. Make an easy side dish like rice or corn on the cob, and you've got dinner!

Ranch Chicken Kebabs
(adapted from Allrecipes.com)

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon white sugar, or to taste (optional)
5 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1 inch cubes
Assorted vegetables of your choice (I used peppers and onions)

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the olive oil, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, salt, lemon juice, white vinegar, pepper, and sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes. Place chicken and vegetables in the bowl, and stir to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the grill for medium-high heat. Thread chicken and vegetables onto skewers and discard marinade.

3. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill skewers for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and the juices run clear.

Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TWD: Applesauce Spice Bars

This week Karen of Something Sweet by Karen chose the Applesauce Spice Bars for Tuesdays with Dorie. I opened up the cookbook, browsed over the recipe, and decided I had to make it. The picture looked great, and even better still - easy!

I was excited about something different this week. These bars got me in the mood for fall to arrive. I don't know about everyone else living in the south, but I've been hating all the heat we've had. The big pregnant belly sure doesn't help that situation. I've wanted to hide indoors until the weather cools off. So this dessert really made me feel like fall actually is just around the corner, thank goodness!

These bars turned out to be really delicious. They were like an apple cake with a sweet glaze, and so moist and flavorful. And extremely easy to make! I left out the raisins per my husband's request, and also left out the optional alcohol. The rest of the recipe I followed precisely. Go on over to Karen's blog for the recipe, you won't be sorry!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

TWD: Brownie Buttons

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection was the Brownie Buttons. Jayma of Two Scientists Experimenting in the Kitchen chose the brownies for us this week.

I just looooove brownies, so I was excited to try these. I didn't mess with all the extras - didn't add the orange zest and didn't add any frosting. It was partially because I was lazy and wanting instant gratification, and also because I didn't want to spend the extra money at the grocery store.

The brownie buttons were delicious - very rich and tasty. But my goodness, they were SO small! I ate one in two bites and then needed another... and another. I loved, loved, LOVED the flavor, and making them in a mini muffin tin is a cute idea. But there just wasn't enough to them for my taste. I think I'll stick to pan brownies next time - maybe I'll make those Katherine Hepburn brownies again. Now, those were some mighty tasty brownies!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Black Bean Dip

This week I made the Black Bean Dip for the group My Girl, Paula. This seemed a lot like other cheese dip recipes I've made in the past, but had the addition of beans, which sounded fantastic.

It didn't turn out to be the most fabulous looking dip, but it was really tasty and easy to whip up. I liked that it was a little "different" than my normal cheese dip. I'm glad that I tried this one, and I may make it again in the future if I want something different, but I think I'll stick with the other dip that is always a sure-fire hit and uses a few less ingredients!

Black Bean Dip
(from Paula Deen)

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. chopped onions
1 (4 ounce) can green chilies, chopped
1 tomato, diced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1 teaspoon Paula Deen's house seasoning
1 (15 ounce) can black beans with jalapenos
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 (4 ounce) package Velveeta Mexican cheese, diced
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, diced

1. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the green chilies, tomato, cilantro and House Seasoning and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the beans and cheeses, and simmer until hot and bubbling. Serve hot with tortilla chips.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hummingbird Cake

This week we made Hummingbird Cake for the group My Girl, Paula. I've seen this cake made by other people but have never tried to make it myself. It has pineapple and banana in the batter, and since I love both, I was really excited to try it.

The cake was very quick and easy to put together. The worst part is dividing the batter between three pans, which I didn't have. I just had two pans, so I had to bake them in two batches. All of mine were done at the very minimum time - 23 minutes. And upon tasting, they seemed just a tiny bit on the dry side, as if they were overdone. So next time I'd check them a few minutes early.

The frosting is a typical cream cheese frosting, which reminded me of eating carrot cake. It was such delicious frosting and spread really easily. The cake was really good and totally gorgeous... and HUGE. Half of it is still sitting in my fridge and I'm not sure how it's going to get finished in the next few days. Guess I better get to work and have another piece, right? :-)

Hummingbird Cake
(from Paula Deen)

3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 3/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 to 4 bananas)
8 oz. can crushed pineapple, with juice
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners’ sugar

8 oz. package cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans.

2. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add the eggs and oil and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Do NOT beat. Stir in the banana, pineapple and its juice, pecans, and vanilla. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 23-28 minutes, or until tooth pick in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pan, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.

3. While the cake cools, blend together cream cheese and butter. Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the pecans, or reserve them to sprinkle over the frosted cake. Fill and frost the cake.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

TWD: Cookies 'N Cream Ice Cream

Okay, so this week's Tuesdays with Dorie pick was actually vanilla ice cream, but I couldn't resist adding the cookies to create my very favorite ice cream - cookies 'n cream. The vanilla ice cream was selected this week by Lynne of Cafe Lynnylu. Click the link to get the recipe and see her fabulous pictures, which put the ones I took in under three minutes to shame!

This ice cream came together really easily and was surprisingly quick to make. I guess I'm getting good at this ice cream making thing. I followed the recipe exactly, and added about 10 crushed cookies during the last five minutes of its churning in the ice cream maker. My son actually helped me add the cookies (and ate a few) and loved watching the ice cream churning around. Look at him sitting there with his spoon, waiting to get a taste!

Overall, it tasted great and everyone enjoyed it. The recipe makes for a great base and just about anything can be added. Maybe next time I'll try cookie dough... yum!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Basil Grilled Chicken

Basil Grilled Chicken was this week's selection for the group My Girl, Paula. This was a very simple one that I didn't even have to buy anything from the grocery store for. I already had chicken on hand, along with butter, and I love getting to use my basil from the garden. So this was cheap and easy!

We really enjoyed this. We cut it in half and only made two chicken breasts and half the amount of the seasoned butter for dipping (and we still had some of the butter leftover). But we thought it was really delicious! We put a dollop of the seasoned butter on top of the chicken and let it melt, and it made the chicken so moist and extremely flavorful. We'll definitely be making this recipe again - especially since I need to use up the basil in my garden, which this is great for!

Basil Grilled Chicken
(from Paula Deen)

3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 skinned chicken breast halves
1/4 cup freshly chopped basil leaves, plus 2 tablespoons freshly minced basil leaves
1/3 cup (5 Tbsp.) butter, melted, plus 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Fresh basil springs, optional

1. Prepare charcoal grill (I used a gas grill).

2. Press the coarsely ground pepper into the meaty side of the chicken breast halves. Stir the chopped basil into the melted butter. Brush the chicken lightly with this mixture. In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, minced basil, Parmesan, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Beat at low speed with an electric mixer until smoothly blended. Transfer to a small serving bowl; set aside.

3. Grill the chicken over medium coals for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, basting frequently with the remaining melted butter mixture.

4. Serve the grilled chicken with the basil-butter mixture. Garnish with fresh basil springs, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gorilla Bread

I'm assuming that most people have either had monkey bread, or have at least heard of it. If not, you're totally missing out. And here's your chance to try something like it, but even better. This Gorilla Bread is like a kicked-up version of monkey bread. Way more fattening. Way more filling. Way more tasty.

The bread was selected for this week's installment of the group My Girl, Paula. I'm happy... and slightly embarrassed... but mainly happy... to say that when we were asked for suggestions of what we should choose from Paula's book to make this month, it was ME who suggested this one. The most buttery, sugary, cream cheese-ey, heart attack inducing selection. Yep, that was me.

This Gorilla Bread was really outstanding. It totally puts monkey bread to shame. It's made very similarly, with the store-bought cans of rolls smothered in seasonings and baked up in a bundt pan. But with this one, you insert a square of cream cheese in the center of each roll before putting it into the pan to bake. And you pour a brown sugar/butter mixture over top of it. The recipe also calls for nuts, which I omitted, though they sure would have been pretty on top.

Here's a picture of it still in the pan, waiting to be taken out and completely devoured.

The bread is perfect for breakfast or dessert and is easily reheated the next day to enjoy leftovers. My hubby really liked it with his coffee in the mornings. And I liked it at pretty much any time of the day. Very delicious!

Gorilla Bread
(from Paula Deen)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
2 (12-ounce) cans refrigerated biscuits (10 count)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Spray a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon. In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over low heat, stirring well; set aside.

3. Cut the cream cheese into 20 equal cubes. Press the biscuits out with your fingers and sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar. Place a cube of cream cheese in the center of each biscuit, wrapping and sealing the dough around the cream cheese.

4. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nuts into the bottom of the bundt pan. Place half of the prepared biscuits in the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, pour half of the melted butter mixture over the biscuits, and sprinkle on 1/2 cup of nuts. Layer the remaining biscuits on top, sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar, pour the remaining butter mixture over the biscuits, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of nuts.

5. Bake for 30 minutes (Mine needed a tad bit longer to cook all the way through). Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Place a plate on top and invert.

Makes 12 to 14 servings.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Creole Meatloaves and Mashed Sweet Potatoes

This is an incredibly comforting and hearty meal. For whatever reason my hubby is a big fan of meatloaf. I think it's a guy thing because I've always just thought it was "okay." It doesn't do a whole lot for me. But since I'm such a nice wife (at least I think so), I try to make meatloaf for the hubby every now and then. I came across a Rachael Ray recipe for Creole Meatloaves with Trinity Gravy and thought it sounded like a fun twist on basic ol' meatloaf. So I gave it a shot. And we loved it!

The mashed sweet potatoes are a perfect compliment to the meal. The addition of buttermilk makes them so rich and creamy. And the Trinity Gravy tastes great poured over top of both. They're both rather easy recipes to make. I'm always a little intimidated by making gravy, but this one's a ton easier than your typical turkey gravy. And if you're not into the whole gravy thing, it would all taste fine and be even easier without it all!

Creole Meatloaves with Trinity Gravy
(from Rachael Ray)

2 pounds ground pork
2 medium onions, 1/2 of one grated, the rest finely chopped, divided
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup grainy mustard
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
2 tablespoons butter
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 to 3 tablespoons hot sauce, depending on how much spice you like
4 to 5 scallions, sliced on bias, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground pork, grated onion, garlic, paprika, thyme, salt, pepper, grainy mustard, egg and breadcrumbs. Divide the pork mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into 4 loaves, each about an inch thick. Drizzle them with EVOO, place them onto a baking sheet and bake 35 minutes.

3. While the meatloaves are cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the remaining chopped onion, celery, bell pepper and cook until nice and soft.

4. Add the tomato paste and cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, until it starts to smell nutty. Whisk in the stock and hot sauce, and cook until thickened. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve the meatloaves topped with the Trinity Gravy and garnished with the scallions.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
(from Rachael Ray)

2 1/2 to 3 pounds sweet potatoes
1 cup buttermilk
Salt and ground black pepper

1. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes, then cut them into 1 1/2 to 2-inch chunks. Place them into a large pot and cover them with cold water (they should be covered by 4 or so inches of water so they cook evenly). Place the pot on the stove, add some salt and turn the heat on high to bring to a boil.

2. Once boiling, cook about 8 minutes, until they are tender but not falling apart. Drain thoroughly, then pop them back into the pot and place them over medium heat to dry them out a bit. Add the buttermilk, pepper and some salt to taste.

Makes 4-6 servings.