Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cheesecake pops

With the exception of some adult extra-curricular activities, this is the most fun I have had in a long time. Rolling the pops in chocolate and adding sprinkles and toffee was SOOOOO much fun!

I only made 1/3 of the recipe because DH and I do not need 40 of these pops in the house. I have never made from scratch cheesecake. I normally stuck with the Jello-No-bake kind. I was so nervous about making a real cheesecake because I have heard it is not easy. I had a feeling that if Jello made an "easy" version that everyone was right. And I got to use my kitchenaid for the first time!!! But I completed my second challenge without any flaws and again had so much fun!

Cheesecake Pops
They are from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor.
Makes 30 – 40 Pops (I made 24)
5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature (3 pkgs)
2 cups sugar (1 cup)
¼ cup all-purpose flour (1/8 cup)
¼ teaspoon salt (1/8 tsp)
5 large eggs (3 eggs)
2 egg yolks ( 1 yolk)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (1tsp)
¼ cup heavy cream (1/8 cup)
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.) ( I eyeballed this)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (1 Tbs)
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - O

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball.

Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed. (I used sprinkles and toffee pieces. The toffee was my favorite)

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

My 1st Daring Baker Challenge!!!

This was my first Daring Baker challenge. I loved it. I felt a great sense of accomplishment making a whole cake from scratch. The only thing that went wrong was that the layers seemed too thin to cut in half. So mine ended up to be a two layers cake. I was too scared to break the whole layer.

For the Cake:

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream:

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing:

2/3 cup blackberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake:
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out cleanTransfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream:

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.Remove the bowl from the heat.Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake:

Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.Spread it with one third of the preserves.Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.ServingThe cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

Storing: The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.Playing AroundSince lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.Fresh Berry CakeIf you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

The Best Grilled Chicken Salad

Recipe from In the Kitchen with Rosie

I love this salad. I could drink the dressing!

For the salad:

5 TBS lemon juice
3 TBS low sodium soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
3 chicken breasts, pounded about 1/4 to 1/2 inches thin
1 large red onion, trimmed and cut into 1/8 in. rounds
cooking spray
1 pound mixed salad greens
1 package crumble feta cheese
1 medium tomato cut into small wedges

For the dressing:

4 TBS lemon juice
4 TBS balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp dried basil

1) Whisk together lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic, black pepper, and basil in a bowl and set aside.

2) Pound chicken thin using plastic wrap to cover the chicken and pound with a meat mallet.

3) Transfer the marinade made in step one to a dish with the chicken and let chicken marinade for at least 3 hours.

4) Preheat the grill.

5) Turn on broiler in the oven.

6) Place onion rounds on a baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray on both sides. Place onions under the broiler and cook about 5 minutes on each side. Cooking times may vary so make sure you watch them.

7) Cook chicken on grill until done.

8) Use remaining salad ingredients to make the salad.

For the dressing:

Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a blender. Mix until garlic is finely chopped.

Honey Mustard Meatloaf

I do not usually like meatloaf. However, this was a new favorite. They were very easy to make and DH loved them even more than I did.


2 TBS plus 1 tsp of honey mustard

2 TBS ketchup

1 pound ground beef chuck

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup panko

1 cup shredded white cheddar

salt and pepper

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl mix 2 TBS mustard and kethup.

2) In a large bowl combine beef, egg, panko, 1/2 cup cheddar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper.

3) Form small loaves (about 2x4 inches) and place on a baking sheet.

4) Brush with mustard mixture and top with remaining cheddar.

5) Bake loaves until cooked through about 20 minutes.

The recipe calls for brushing the baking sheet with oil. However, I am in love with the non-stick foil and that is what I used.
Recipe from Everyday Food

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Nacho Spuds

These were a good "change of pace". If I make them again I would add some seasoning to the potatoes in addition to the salt and pepper. Maybe garlic salt, seasoing salt or creole seasoning.

2 large baking potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds I used 1 large

Olive oil

salt and pepper

1/2 lb. ground beef I used 1 lb. Extra lean ground beef

1 can black beans, rinsed

2 tablespoons taco seasoning I used the whole packet since I browned 1lb of meat

2 cups cheddar cheese shredded I used 2% cheddar cheese pre-shredded

1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered I really like tomatoes so I used the whole container

Sour cream and lettuce for serving

1) Place potatoes on baking sheet. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast rounded potatoes in oven at 450 degrees for twenty minutes.

2) Brown ground beef. After beef is brown add taco seasoning, add 2 tablespoons water and black beans. Reduce heat to a simmer for ten minutes.

3) When potatoes are golden arrange them on an oven proof platter. Pour half of the cheese over the top of potatoes, add meat, tomatoes, then remaining cheese. Place back in the oven. Turn the oven off and just let the cheese melt.

4) Serve with sour cream and lettuce.

Adapted from Rachel Ray Everyday Magazine

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Chicken Parmesan Bundles

Adapted from Kraft Foods

My changes to the recipe are in red
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened I used Reduced Fat Cream Cheese
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained
1-1/4 cups KRAFT Shredded Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese, divided
6 Tbsp. KRAFT 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
6 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1-1/2 lb.), pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
1 egg
10 RITZ Crackers, crushed (about 1/2 cup) I used whole wheat Ritz
1-1/2 cups spaghetti sauce, heated
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Mix cream cheese, spinach, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and half of the parmesan cheese until well blended; spread evenly onto chicken breasts. Roll up chicken and fold toegther with a wooden toothpick.
Beat an egg in a bowl. Mix remaining 3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese and the cracker crumbs in separate bowl. Brush egg mixture on the top of the chicken bundles. Then sprinkle the cracker and cheese mixture over the top of the chicken.
Bake for 30 min. or until chicken is cooked through. Remove and discard toothpicks, if using. Serve topped with the spaghetti sauce and remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese.