Recipe #14: Cheesecakes and Anniversaries

A few weeks ago marked the one year anniversary of my relationship with my boyfriend Andrew. I’m not usually a fan of making a big deal out of anniversaries and such, but since neither one of us had been in a relationship that had lasted longer than 3 months, it was a pretty big deal. Needless to say, I figured a nice thing to do for him would of course involve baking something. Now, somehow I found me a man that does not have a huge obsession with chocolate and desserts as I do. How this happened, I do not know. I guess it’s a good thing, since I won’t be pressured to constantly bake things for him that I myself will end up eating large amounts of; but, at the same time, it’s kind of a downer since I LOVE to bake, and I love to share my baked goods with the people that I love. To his credit, Andrew does always enjoy what I bake, and gladly eats it, just not as often as I would like. He’s not a big chocolate person, but he does like cheesecake and he likes key lime pie. I was going to just go with making him the key lime pie, since I had never made one before, but then I found the recipe for lime cheesecake and decided it was the perfect compromise. Or, so I thought…

The moment I told him, all excitedly, that I made him a lime cheesecake, he looked at me kinda strange as if I had made something no one had ever heard of or eaten. Admittedly, lime cheesecake is not a popular dessert, but it’s definitely been done before. I reassured him that he would definitely like it. He didn’t. OK, he said he did, but I still don’t believe him. He didn’t even eat a whole piece, he just tasted mine. His argument was that he couldn’t taste the cheesecake because the lime flavor was so strong. Huh? I have no idea what that means. All that matters is, I thought it was delicious. My dad did, too, since he ate the rest of it pretty much singlehandedly.

Long story short: if you like lime and you like cheescake, you will most defintely like this recipe. Unless, of course, your name is Andrew and you’ve been dating me for the last year:)

I have to brag about the aesthetics of my cheesecake. Notice how the top is not cracked? That’s because I followed this simple little trick: Fill a shallow pan with hot water and place on the rack under the cheesecake while it’s baking. It totally works!

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Lime Cheesecake
recipe from allrecipes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons butter, melted
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 eggs
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
2/3 cup key lime juice
Directions:
1. Combine cookie or graham cracker crumbs with butter or margarine. Press into bottom and partially up sides of 9 inch springform pan. Refrigerate.
2. In a large bowl, beat with an electric mixer the cream cheese, sugar, lime peel, and cornstarch until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, blending just until smooth. Add key lime juice with mixer on low. Finish mixing by hand. Do not overbeat, or cake will crack during baking. Pour batter into prepared crust.
3. Bake at 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) for 55 to 65 minutes, or until set. To minimize cracking, place a shallow pan half full of hot water on lower rack during baking.
4. Turn oven off, and let cheesecake stand in oven 30 minutes with the door open at least 4 inches. Remove from oven. Refrigerate cake overnight, and up to three days.

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Recipes #12 & 13: Cookies & French Toast

It’s been awhile, I know – I apologize for the hiatus! not that many people follow this blog religiously, but if you are one of the chosen few who do check this blog often – i’m sorry for only updating every couple of weeks. as much as I wish I was a dedicated food blogger, I’m just not!

I don’t have any specific recipes for you, but some pictures of previous experiments. First, due to some complaints that the chocolate cookies I made a few posts ago were “too rich” or “too chocolately” (seriously??), I decided to bake a batch with a little less chocolate. I used a basic Nestle Toll House cookie rccipe, but I added the same three kinds of chocolate chips that I used for the chocolate cookies. I highly recommend using Ghiradelli chips – they really are worth it.

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

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A few Saturdays ago, I had planned to make blueberry pancakes for breakfast, but when I realized how expensive blueberries were, I bought some strawberries instead. With some cream cheese and Texas toast, my mom and I made some delicious stuffed French toast. You definitely need to use a thick bread for this – Texas toast is perfect. Simply cut it halfway down the middle, and stuff it with a large spoonful of cream cheese mixed with strawberries. Dip these in eggs, milk, cinnamon, and sugar, and cook on the griddle. Top with powdered sugar and whipped cream. Quite indulgent, I know, but perfect for brunch, or a special breakfast for two:)

Stuffed French Toast with Strawberries

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Recipe #11: Chocolate Lover Cookies

This cookie is amazing. I’m not even kidding. It’s FABULOUS.
Ok, maybe I’m a bit biased, since I (somewhat) created it myself. But, if you like chocolate (lots and lots of it), you will love this cookie. I guarantee it.

I created this recipe using a “Design Your Own Chocolate Cookies” recipe from The Cookie Bible.
I had a variety of chocolate chips at my disposal, so I wanted to put them to good use.

The basic recipe is:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Hershey’s cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
Any choc chip of your choice

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs; beat well.
3. Stir together flour, cocoa and baking soda; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until sent. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Here is my modified recipe, which I like to call ‘Amazingly Fabulous Chocolatey Chocolate Cookies’

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter-flavored Crisco stick
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
about half a bag each of: semi-sweet choc chips, Ghiradelli bittersweet choc chips, and Ghiradelli white choc chips

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I modified this recipe for a few reasons. First, I used a Crisco stick instead of another stick of butter because it adds a lightness and a nice crispiness to the cookie. Second, I used more brown sugar than granulated sugar, because it makes the cookies more chewy and more soft. Third, I used almond extract, because almond and chocolate go well together – and, admittedly, I had no vanilla extract on hand. Finally, I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa instead of regular because, well, dark chocolate is just realllly good – and also, better for you.

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This cookie is somewhat rich – but if you’re a true chocolate lover, I think you will find this cookie pretty close to perfection.

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Day 1 of Lent : Ash Wednesday

Prayer

Faithful God, trusting in you,

we begin

the forty days of conversion and penance.

Give us the strength for Christian discipline,

that we may renounce evil

and be decisive in doing good.

We ask this through Jesus Christ.

Amen


-taken from Henri Nouwen’s “Show Me the Way: Readings for Each Day of Lent”

Baby Shower Treats

My sister, Laura, is getting ready to have her first baby, and I am so excited. Laura and I grew up together very closely, since we are two years apart. Though we look nothing alike, we have nearly identical mannerisms and ways of speaking. I love her so much and can’t wait to meet her little baby boy!

For the shower, I was responsible for some of the dessert-like food. I decided to do a variety of mini muffins. I also did some mini peanut butter brownie cups. I realized that the “mini” theme was suitable since babies are “mini”, but it wasn’t my original intention. I also made peppermint chocolate biscotti with a dark chocolate drizzle that was fabulous.

The mini muffins were…

Lemon Poppyseed, Cranberry Walnut, and Blueberry

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The lemon poppyseed recipe I found here and I modified it by adding poppyseeds, which this recipe omitted. I added about 1.5 tablespoons. I definitely recommend making the glaze for these, it makes them extra delicious.

The cranberry walnut recipe was made using dried cranberries and a recipe I found for basic muffins – I’m not exactly sure where I found it, but a simple google search should bring it up. Also, since I only had dried cranberries and not fresh ones, I learned a new trick for plumping up dried cranberries – let them soak in hot water for about 20 minutes. It really works!

Finally, the blueberry muffins (which turned out great) were made using a simple box mix – thanks, Pilsbury! Hey, I had to take a shortcut for at least one of these.

The other mini treats were the Brownie Candy Cups which I found on Bakerella’s blog. These are technically not supposed to be all that mini, but since I didn’t have the right sized cupcake papers, I used mini muffin pans to make them. This works just as well, since the peanut butter cup fits perfectly inside.

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I found the recipe for the chocolate peppermint biscotti on Google somewhere, but I can’t remember where…so, unfortunately, you’re out of luck for that one, too. I pretty much used a basic chocolate biscotti recipe, and added peppermint chocolate chips. For the glaze, I used dark chocolate chips and a tablespoon of shortening, which I melted in the microwave until smooth, then drizzled over top the biscotti with a fork.

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Overall, the shower turned out great, and my sister was happy with all the great gifts she received. Just a few more weeks, and little Wesley will be here!

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change

all this talk about change. all we want is change. something different. something better. but what good will changing the state of our country do us if we, ourselves, do not make any effort to change who we are as human beings? why does the change in our country have any effect on how we treat each other or talk to each other or act towards one another? i’m all for change – but i don’t think a change in America will really change who we are as Americans. if we want to change, we better start now. we should have started a long time ago.

Christmas Cookie Extravaganza

My Christmas cookies were successful! Well, for the most part. I wasn’t entirely happy with how the chocolate ones turned out, but hey, there were no complaints, so I’m happy:)

I took the day off work this past Monday so I could get all my baking done. I made two kinds of dough on Saturday, then two more on Sunday, so all I had to do was bake them on Monday.

I made four kinds of cookies this year:

Mini Snowball Chip Cookies (one of my favorites)

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Oatmeal Toffee Cookies (usually everyone’s favorite)

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Chocolate Reese’s Pieces Cookies (sorry, I didn’t get a picture of these)

Jam Thumbprint Cookies (my first time baking these – they were great! the icing was a great idea, which i found here, on sarah’s blog.)

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Here are my little containers, all stuffed with cookies and ready to give as gifts at work! I loved these things – they are so festive, and cheap – only .99 at Michael’s.

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So all in all, I think this year went well – I tried two new recipes I hadn’t tried before, and they turned out pretty decent. I think next year, I’ll try two more different ones. I think I’m going to keep the mini chip snowball and the oatmeal toffee as my traditional cookies, and then try two new recipes.

If anyone would like the recipes for the cookies above, just let me know!

Merry Christmas:)

Ohhhh, Christmas…

so, for the past two years, i have not been the biggest fan of christmas. not one bit. but this year, im turning over a new leaf, and am choosing to positively embrace the holiday season. this new attitude could be credited to the fact that i’ve already decorated our house and am about 75% finished my christmas shopping. but no matter what the reason, i realize that i do appreciate Christmas for the religious meaning it has for me, and that negativity towards the commercialization of the holiday really doesn’t make it go away. so here’s to Christmas – may it be joyful, peaceful, and of course, tasty:)

speaking of tasty, i am currently planning my christmas cookie menu. i gave out christmas cookie assortments as gifts last year to my coworkers, and they were a big hit. i have so many recipes i want to bake, however, and i’m having trouble narrowing it down.

meanwhile, i’ll try to post my favorite ones as i bake them – be patient with me, as my camera still is crappy, and i was using my boyfriend’s which is a nice one, but then i went ahead and lost it (whoops).
maybe i’ll get a new one for christmas! we’ll see…

ps – if you have any favorite christmas cookie recipes, let me know! i’d love to try them this year.

Recipe #10: Biscotti

Basic Biscotti
(from the Cookie Bible)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

So, this is the recipe that makes up basic biscotti – then, you are free to add whatever you’d like. My first biscotti recipe used cinnamon chips and white chocolate glaze, which was very good. Then, I made chocolate chip hazelnut biscotti, which was also a favorite. This recipe below uses mini chocolate chips and chopped hazelnut. I then melted some Nutella with about 2 tablespoons of shortening to make a yummy glaze to go on top. I dipped some in the glaze and sprinkled with the leftover hazelnuts. Overall, this is a great biscotti recipe, and a perfect breakfast food or dessert. Enjoy!

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Recipe #9: You Can Never Have Enough Pumpkin

I bought a spice cake mix to use for this recipe, but I had no luck finding those pumpkin spice hershey kisses. So, I instead found a quick and easy recipe for pumpkin spice cupcakes, iced with store bought cream cheese frosting; I made these for a coworker’s birthday, and they were super tasty. I definitely recommend them for an easy fall pumpkin dessert.

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Cupcakes
(Cooks Recipes)

1 (18.25-ounce) package spice cake mix
1 (15-ounce) can LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
3 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 (16-ounce) container prepared cream cheese or vanilla frosting
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Paper-line or grease 24 muffin cups.
  2. Blend cake mix, pumpkin, eggs, vegetable oil and water in large mixer bowl until moistened. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.
  3. Bake for 18 to 23 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Spread cupcakes with frosting. Decorate with assorted sprinkles, if desired.

Makes 24 servings.