Sunday, 27 February 2011

JUNIOR'S CHEESECAKE

Wow, this was delicious!!  This is very close to the perfect cheesecake, in my opinion.  I must admit I haven't eaten a lot of cheesecake.  Why?  Two reasons, the first being I am an "impulse baker", meaning I crave something and I jump up and make it.  Cheesecake doesn't really fit into my lifestyle. It takes planning and patience.  The majority of recipes require the cheesecake to sit in the fridge over night.  By the next day, I have probably already moved on to a different dessert.  Reason #2 is because I can't let myself buy a piece of cheesecake for $5 or so at a restaurant when I think I could make a million cupcakes for that price.  

Anyway, I finally made a cheesecake.  Mainly because I had four sticks of cream cheese that were expiring, so if I was ever going to make a cheesecake, now would be the time.  I'm sure all of you have heard of the famous Junior's Cheesecake in New York (unless your Mark of course - Ha Ha)!  One of the owner's shared their famous cheesecake recipe and that is the one I tried.  I loved so many things about this recipe.  I loved that the "crust" was actually a light lemon flavored sponge cake instead of the usual graham cracker crust.  I love lemon and I love cake, so we were off to a great start.  Next, is the filling, it is rich and creamy and oh so delicious.  Last, is the topping.  I actually like my cheesecake plain, but I know not everyone does.  So, I topped with some yummy strawberry sauce with strawberries and blueberries on the side.  

This cheesecake was really really really good.  It is definitely worth the long wait and the patience it requires!  It bakes up beautifully and it stays fresh for several days.    
Junior's Cheesecake
adapted from: here

Thin Sponge Cake Layer:
1/2 c. cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
3 extra-large eggs, separated
1/2 c. + 2 Tbl. sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 drops pure lemon extract
3 Tbl. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan and wrap tightly with foil, covering the bottom and extending up the sides; set aside.  Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.  Beat the egg yolks together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes.  Then, with the mixer still running, gradually add 1/2 cup of sugar and continue beating until thick light-yellow ribbons form in the bowl, about 5 minutes more.  Beat in the vanilla and lemon extracts.  Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand until no more white flecks appear.  Then, blend in the butter.  In a clean bowl, using clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high until frothy.  Gradually add the remaining 2 Tbl. sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.  Stir about 1/3 cup of the whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites (don't worry if a few white specks remain).  Gently spoon the batter into the pan.  Bake the cake just until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched, only about 10 minutes (watch carefully).  Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack while you continue making the cheesecake filling.  Do not remove the cake from the pan.

Cream Cheese Filling:
4 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese (regular, not light)
1 2/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 Tbl. pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream

Place an 8 oz. package of cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar and the cornstarch in a large bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.  Beat in the remaining 3 packages of cream cheese.  Increase the mixer speed to high and beat in the remaining 1 1/3 cups of sugar, then beat in the vanilla.  Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating the batter well after adding each one.  Blend in the heavy cream.  At this point, mix the filling only until completely blended (just like they do at Junior's).  Be careful not to over mix the batter.  Gently spoon the cheese filling on top of the baked sponge cake layer (I didn't add all the filling, because I was afraid it would overflow.  I did all but maybe 3/4 -1 cup).  

Place the springform pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1-inch up the sides of the pan.  Bake the cheesecake at 350 degrees until the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Cool the cake on a wire rack for 1 hour.  Then, cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is completely cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.  Remove the sides of the springform pan.  Slide the cake off the bottom of the pan onto a serving plate.  Or, if you wish, simply leave the cake on the removable bottom of the plan and place it on a serving plate.  Top with desired toppings.  If any cake is left over, cover it with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.  

I linked this up at Sweet's For Saturday  

Thursday, 24 February 2011

MINI VANILLA BEAN YELLOW CUPCAKES WITH CREAMY CHOCOLATE FROSTING

Last Saturday I watched a new episode of Throwdown With Bobby Flay.  It was a cupcake challenge and guess what?  These cupcakes won the Throwdown!! He competed against a Bakery in California and he actually won!!  I always wondered if Bobby feels worse when he wins or loses?  Anyway, so if the judges liked these cupcakes better than the famous bakery's then they must be amazing!


I cut the cupcake batter recipe in half and still ended up with 48 mini cupcakes.  So, unless you want 96 cupcakes, make sure you cut it in half.  I did make the whole frosting recipe, because I love lots of frosting!  Vanilla/Yellow cupcakes go perfect with chocolate frosting.  The cake was not too light and not too dense, just somewhere in the middle.  The frosting is very rich and chocolatey. It kind of reminds me of fudge?  Very thick and creamy.  It was one of the easiest frostings I have ever made.  Just throw everything in the food processor and mix until creamy and you're done!  So, next time you're craving cake and frosting, give these yummy mini cupcakes a try! 
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Creamy Chocolate Frosting
adapted from: Bobby Flay
(Printable Recipes)

2 1/2 c. cake flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. sugar, divided
10 Tbl. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 c. buttermilk, room temp.
3 Tbl. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split & scraped (I used vanilla bean paste)
6 large egg yolks, room temp.
3 large egg whites, room temp.


Line mini muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in a bowl.  Whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, vanilla beans and yolks in a medium bowl.  In a clean bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium-high sped until foamy, about 30 seconds.  With the machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, continue to beat until stiff peaks just form.  Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.  Wash the bowl and dry.  Add the flour mixture to the now-empty mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment.  With the mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in the butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds.  Stop the mixer and scrape the whisk and sides of the bowl.  Return the mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10-15 seconds.  Using a rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten and then add the remaining whites and gently fold into the batter until no white streaks remain.  Fill the cupcake molds 3/4 full and bake until just firm, about 8-12 minutes (mine took 11 minutes).  Let cool and frost with creamy chocolate frosting.  


Creamy Chocolate Frosting
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. cocoa powder
pinch of salt
3/4 c. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. semisweet choc., melted & cooled slightly (I used milk)
1 tsp. espresso powder (I didn't add)


In a food processor, process the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Add the corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5-10 seconds.  Scrape the sides of the bowl and then add the melted chocolate and espresso and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10-15 seconds.  

Sunday, 20 February 2011

CHILI VERDE

I was first introduced to Chili Verde by Bob (My Father-In-Law) and I was instantly hooked.  He makes the best Chili Verde I have ever had and when I make his recipe it just isn't the same, so I will leave that to him.  

So, I tried to come up with my own version.  I combined a few different recipes and this is what I came up with and it turned out very good.  This is a pretty easy recipe to put together.  The majority of the time it takes is just cooking time, not a lot of hands-on time.  There is a number of ways to serve this dish.  Jake eats his over toast and eggs.  This time I tried mine over rice, but it is also good served over a tortilla that is filled with refried beans or inside a tortilla with cheese and sour cream or even just served in a bowl with crushed up tortilla chips.  Whatever the way you choose, it will be delicious.  Enjoy!  
Chili Verde
From: Jenn-eatcakefordinner
(Printable Recipe)

1 Lb. pork loin
1 Tbl. olive oil
2-3 Tbl. minced onion
1/2 Tbl. minced garlic
1/2 Tbl. salt 
1/2 Tbl. pepper
4 tomatillos, wrapper removed and washed
1 Anaheim pepper
1/2 small onion
1 Jalapeno pepper
zest of 1/2 a lime
1 can diced green chiles
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1-2 tsp. dried oregano
1-2 tsp. dried parsley
1-2 tsp. cumin
2 c. chicken broth (more or less)
3/4 can corn or to taste
3/4 can pinto beans or to taste
chopped cilantro, for garnish


Rub 1 Tbl. olive oil, minced onion, minced garlic, salt and pepper all over pork loin.  Place in baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour; set aside. Place tomatillos, Anaheim, Jalapeno and onion on baking sheet and broil until charred, flipping over occasionally to make sure each side gets charred.  Remove from oven, place tomatillos and onion in food processor (or blender) and place the Anaheim and Jalapeno in a zip-lock bag to let sweat.  After a few minutes, remove the peppers from the zip-lock bag and peel off the charred skin and remove stem and seeds. Add peppers to food processor with the tomatillos and onion along with 1/2 cup chicken broth, lime zest, can of diced green chiles, 1/2 clove minced garlic, oregano, parsley and cumin.  Pulse until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Pour into large pot over medium heat.  Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes and add to pot.  Add remaining chicken broth until reaches desired consistency.  Add the corn and beans.  Cover with lid and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Serve over tortilla chips, rice, toast, or inside a burrito.  Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serves: 4          

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

TURKEY PICADILLO SLOPPY JOES

You have got to give these a try!!  This was another recipe from Mexican Made Easy, my favorite Food Network show (other than Paula Deen of course).  I was a little skeptical at first, ground turkey?  Weird?  All I can say is that these are my new favorite Sloppy Joes, the best I've ever had. The ground turkey was not weird at all, in fact I loved it.  The corn is a must in this recipe, do not leave it out.  I promise this is way better than any Sloppy Joe you have ever had, so give them a try. By the way, I was worried that ground turkey was going to be expensive, but I got 1 Lb. for $2.43 which is pretty cheap if you ask me.  
Turkey Picadillo Sloppy Joes
adapted from: Mexican Made Easy

2 Tbl. vegetable oil
1/3 c. onion, finely diced
1/4 c. celery, finely diced
1/4 c. carrots, finely diced
1 c. canned corn
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno, ribs & seeds removed, finely chopped
1 Lb. ground turkey
1 1/2 c. tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped (I used dried)
2 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped (I used dried)
S&P
hamburger buns
avocado, sliced, opt.
    
Heat vegetable oil in large skillet.  Add the onion, celery and carrots; saute a few minutes or until tender.  Add corn, garlic and jalapeno; saute another minute. Add the ground turkey and saute until cooked through.  Stir in the tomato sauce, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to medium, cover pan & cook for 10 minutes.  Discard the bay leaf.  Serve on hamburger buns with fresh avocado slices.  Serves: 5-6.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

WHOOPIE PIES WITH MINT FILLING AND CHOCOLATE GANACHE

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY ON MONDAY!!  

Here is one more Valentine's recipe for you.  I found this recipe online the other day and I jumped up and made them immediately.  They were so easy to throw together and they tasted so yummy.  I am a huge mint chocolate fan!  

I changed up the recipe slightly.  The cookie recipe didn't call for any salt?  I wondered if they just forgot to type it in the recipe?  So, I added a little salt to my cookies.  Also, the filling called for egg whites and I was a little scared of eating the raw eggs, so I left that out and I added a little Vanilla Coffee Creamer to make it the right consistency and of course I added more powdered sugar, because I love lots of filling.   My filling turned out so yummy, I was eating it by the spoonful (No Joke)!  All together, they are delicious.  I really really like these cookies.  The cookie is very soft and cakey with a perfectly minty frosting and a creamy ganache.  

Here are some other great ideas for Valentine's Dessert:


Red Velvet Bars      


Whoopie Pies with Mint Filling and Choc. Ganache

Cookies:
2 c. flour
5 Tbl. cocoa
1 1/8 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. shortening or softened butter
1 c. sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 Tbl. vanilla extract
1 c. milk

Mint Filling:
3/4 c. shortening or softened butter
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4-5 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. vanilla coffee creamer or milk
a few drops red food coloring

Chocolate Ganache
3 Tbl. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. milk chocolate chips

For the Cookies:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.  Using an electric mixer, beat shortening, sugar, eggs yolks and vanilla until well blended.  Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beating until blended.  Drop dough, by tablespoons, onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake until cookies are slightly puffed and spread, but are still soft, 8-10 minutes (mine took 10 min.).  Cool in baking sheet 10 minutes.  Carefully transfer cookies to rack and cool completely.  

For the Mint Filling:  Using an electric mixer, beat shortening, peppermint extract and vanilla extract until blended.  Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time.  If it gets too thick, add vanilla creamer or milk to reach desired consistency and is light and fluffy.  Add a few drops of food coloring, if desired.

For the Chocolate Ganache:  Bring cream to a simmer in small saucepan.  Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips; whisk until smooth.  Cool until lukewarm, but spreadable, about 15 minutes.  

To Assemble the Cookies:  Spread 1 tsp. of ganache onto one side (flat side) of half the cookies and place cookie, ganache side up, on cookie sheet.  Spread a giant spoonful of filling onto the flat side of the remaining cookies.  Place peppermint filling topped cookie atop each ganache topped cookie, pressing slightly to adhere. Yield: 15 whoopie pies (I got about 18 whoopie pies). 

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

NEAPOLITAN CAKE

THIS CAKE IS SOOOOOOOOOO YUMMY!!!!!!! You have got to make this ASAP.  I used this strawberry cake recipe, then a chocolate and vanilla that I have made before.  Feel free to use your favorite recipes or even box mixes if you are pressed for time.  The original recipe fills each layer with strawberry jam, but as you know, I am a huge frosting lover, so I used frosting between the layers instead of jam.  It is definitely more impressive looking without the layer of frosting, but sometimes you have to do what you like, not what might look better.  

This really does taste like Neapolitan Ice Cream and it is one of the best cakes I have ever had.  It leaves a delicious aftertaste in your mouth and has you begging for more.  Enjoy!! 
Strawberry Cake
adapted from: here
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 oz. strawberry Jell-O
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1 + 1/4 + 1/8 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. milk
1/2 Tbl. vanilla
1/4 c. strawberry puree (I used frozen, sweetened strawberries and pureed them in my blender until smooth)

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add Jell-O.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Combine flour and baking powder and add alternately with milk and vanilla; beating until just combined.  Blend in strawberry puree.  Pour batter into one (9-inch) greased and floured cake pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (mine took 33 minutes) or until done.  Cool in pan 10 minutes, invert to rack and cool completely.  

Vanilla Cake
from: Jenn@eatcakefordinner
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour one (9-inch) round cake pan.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.  In another bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk and vanilla until smooth.  Pour into dry ingredients and mix just until combined.  Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 22-26 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert to rack and cool completely.

Chocolate Cake
adapted from: Martha Stewart
1/4 c. + 2 Tbl. cocoa
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 + 1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/4 + 1/8 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/4 c. + 2 Tbl. warm water
1/4 c. + 2 Tbl. buttermilk
1 1/2 Tbl. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour one (9-inch) cake pan; set aside.  In a large bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add egg, warm water, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla; mix until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Pour batter into prepared cake pan.  Bake until top springs back when lightly touched, about 24-25 minutes.  Cool in pan 10  minutes, invert to rack and cool completely.     

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
from: Jenn@eatcakefordinner
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/3 c. shortening, opt. (I add this to help my frosting 
     hold its shape better for piping)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. strawberry puree 
   (frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed)
2 tsp. strawberry extract
a few drops red food coloring, opt. 

Cream together butter, shortening and cream cheese until fluffy.  Add 2 cups powdered sugar.  Add 1/4 cup strawberry puree, strawberry extract and food coloring and beat until smooth.  Add remaining powdered sugar and strawberry puree alternately and beat until reaches desired consistency.

TO ASSEMBLE CAKE:  Slice the strawberry and the chocolate cake layers in half horizontally.  Trim the vanilla cake if you want it to be the same size as the strawberry and chocolate, if not, just leave it whole.  Place one chocolate layer down on your cake board and top with either strawberry jam or strawberry frosting.  Top with a strawberry layer and top with more jam or frosting.  Top with vanilla cake, then more jam or frosting.  Followed by the remaining chocolate layer, jam or frosting, then top with the remaining strawberry layer.  Frost entire cake with strawberry frosting and decorate as desired.  Eat immediately or store in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature before serving.       

Saturday, 5 February 2011

SWEET & SPICY TACOS

I saw these tacos on a recent episode of Mexican Made Easy on Food Network.  I have tried so many yummy recipes from that show.  On this same episode with these tacos, I saw another recipe that I also tried this week and it was super yummy too.  The recipe for these tacos call for short ribs and it is not always easy to find short ribs where I live.  The store that I had seen them at before says they only have them every once in a while, which was not right now.  So, I had to use boneless pork ribs instead of short ribs, which was perfectly fine, because these tacos turned out really good.  I baked mine in the oven instead of in the crockpot, because it is a few hours faster.  When your meat is cooked, you are supposed to shred it in the sauce, so it is super juicy, but I might have cooked mine slightly too long, because my liquid was completely absorbed?  So, I just added a little beef broth and my meat was still moist and flavorful. I served in corn shells with fresh salsa, sour cream and a cilantro with guacamole on the side.  Very Very Yummy!  I found the dried ancho chiles in the Mexican section of my grocery store.  A package of 4 dried chiles was around $2.
Sweet and Spicy Tacos
adapted from: Mexican Made Easy

4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and ribs discarded
1 medium onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbl. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 tsp. salt + extra
1 tsp. black pepper + extra
6 Lbs. beef short ribs (I used boneless pork ribs)
1 Tbl. vegetable oil
warm corn tortillas
Mexican crema or sour cream
cilantro, chopped
fresh salsa

Soak ancho chiles in boiling water until softened, about 15 minutes.  Drain and discard liquid.  Remove the stem, seeds and ribs.  Transfer chiles to a blender.  Add onion, garlic, brown sugar, vinegar, beef broth, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper.  Puree until smooth.  Pat dry ribs and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in large oven-safe pot over medium-high heat, but not smoking.  Brown ribs, about 7 minutes.  Pour sauce over top (should be halfway up the meat).  Cover and cook in a 350 degree oven for about 3-3 1/2 hours or until very tender.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly in the sauce.  Remove ribs and discard bones (if you have them) and fatty parts.  Shred meat and add back to the sauce (or if your sauce evaporated, add a little beef broth).  Season with salt and pepper, if needed.  Serve in corn tortillas with fresh salsa, sour cream and chopped cilantro.  You can also cook the ribs in a slow-cooker, on low, for 7 hours or until tender.          

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

YUMMY OATMEAL

I saw this oatmeal on a recent episode of Paula Deen and boy did it sound yummy!!  Did you know that oatmeal is actually really healthy for you?  At least it is before you add all the yummy fixings to it!!  If you want to keep it super healthy, just add banana, low-fat milk and a little cinnamon to it before serving. I served mine the way Paula suggested, with a little cream, brown sugar, cinnamon and bananas and it was sooooo yummy!!  Let me just tell you, the banana is a must,  do not skip that ingredient.  

Some of the benefits of eating oatmeal are: 1.  Oatmeal may help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.  2.  Oatmeal can help control your weight, because you feel fuller longer.  3.  The soluble fiber helps control blood glucose levels.  4. Oats (in the canister) are 100% natural and if you look at the ingredients the only thing listed is rolled oats.  5.  Oatmeal contains many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and is a good source of protein and iron.  6.  The fiber and other nutrients found in oatmeal may actually reduce the risk for certain cancers. (Note, I read the above information on various websites and on the canister of Quaker® oats, it is based on regular oats, not the instant packet kind that contains lots of sugar) 

If all of those health benefits didn't convince you to try this, then I don't know what would.  So, just give this oatmeal a try.  It is cheap to make and it is ready in under 10 minutes.  What a great way to start the day or to end the night!  I served my oatmeal with the best blueberry muffins I have ever had!           
Yummy Oatmeal
adapted from: Paula Deen

1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
    (not the instant or quick cooking kind)
3 1/2 cups water
For serving: banana slices, brown sugar, butter, heavy cream or milk, honey and cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil and add salt.  Stir in the oats and simmer until thickened, about 6-8 minutes.  Spoon into bowls and top with desired toppings.  Yield: 2-3 servings.