Monday, April 27, 2009

Wwwwwwhat's Up Doc!?

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.Well, almost! The next time I post a Daring Bakers' Challenge, I will be a doctor...cookie doc will be a doc. AMAZING! Really, the reason I used that as the title is the addition to my cheesecake. Can you guess what it is? I haven't been able to go home for Easter for the past three years, and the past two years have not spent it with my family. However, this year, I am teaching college Sunday School and we hosted a pot luck lunch for the students who couldn't go home; so, I was able to spend it with "family" anyway! I took a broccoli salad (which I will post is delicious and I was asked for the recipe) and this cheesecake. I wanted to do something special and thought for a while. I decided to make it a carrot cake cheesecake. Basically, I just added carrots and spices to the crust. Then I used walnuts and a glaze over the filling. I was pleased, though you really couldn't tell that much difference with the richness of the cheesecake. However, when I tasted JUST the crust, it definitely tasted like carrot cake! I'm not sure if it was the addition of the carrots, using more butter than I'm used to using, or mixing the crust in the food processor...but it was just a big clump...more like a dough than a graham cracker crust. I'm sure the moisture from the carrots helped but I didn't even used all of the butter and it was just too sticky...I think I would suggest just slowly pouring in the butter until it reaches a consistency you're comfortable with. If you've only used half, then go with it...I didn't and had a much denser crust that I think a cheesecake should have. It still tasted good! For the filling I followed the recipe exactly (with the exception of using half and half...but that was only because I thought it was heavy cream and it wasn't!). Though it was a good cheesecake, it won't be the recipe I use on a regular basis. Despite only using 3 eggs (not much IMO for a cheesecake) it tasted pretty eggy and just wasn't my favorite. Not that it was bad...I left the Easter lunch with NONE left! Just prior to cooking, I sprinkled some chopped walnuts on the top. Then, after it all cooled, I poured a bit of a simple glaze over the top just to add a little more carrot cake quality to it. All in all, this was a great challenge and resulted in a very yummy dessert! Thanks to Jenny for a great challenge!

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

crust (with my changes):
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
about 15-20 baby carrots, chopped in food processor until tiny!
1/2 stick / 2 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
sprinkle nutmeg

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream (half and half)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
walnut, sprinkled on top

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.*

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

*I didn't put my pan IN the water because I didn't have a pan large enough to hold my springform! No cracks resulted...success!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stuffed to the Gills! :-)

One of my favorite things to eat is portabella mushrooms. They have a great texture. Some people would describe it as "meaty," however, I do not subscribe to this description! It is a thick and satisfying texture, though. So, when I saw this yummy looking recipe on Maria's site, I knew that I had to try it! I even "splurged" and got the yellow bell pepper (which I love but just find too pricey!). I thought this was a delicious and filling meal; however, I did miss the saucy taste and texture. This could EASILY be remidied by adding just a tad of spaghetti sauce. Try it's the perfect spring dinner (or lunch!). I did make a couple of changes because of ingredients on hand...those are in my recipe. If you want to see Maria's (which I'm sure is better!) click on the link above. AND if you're stuffed to the gills with pictures on your digital camera...check out this great giveaway from Veggie Venture and BlogHer for a great HP Photosmart Wireless Printer! What a great prize. Now get to scraping those gills and fill those mushrooms!

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
2 Portobello mushrooms
Balsamic vinegar
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 of an onion, chopped
1 yellow pepper, roasted and chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 cups of fresh spinach
corn meal
Nature's Seasoning
Mozzerella cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the stem and gills from the mushroom. I used a spoon to scoop them out as suggested by Maria...what a brilliant suggestion. Never have been able to do it until then!
2. Brush the mushrooms with balsamic vinegar.
3. Heat a sprinkle of olive oil in a small (or large!) saute pan. Add the onions and garlic. Cook until tender. Add in peppers. Cook until tender.
4. Add in tomatoes and spinach.
Cook until spinach wilted and "cooked."
5. Divide the filling and stuff the mushrooms.
6. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on the top and add Italian seasoning. Top with cheese.
7. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about ten minutes or until the cheese is melted.
8. Enjoy! Thanks, Maria!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Peanut Butter Reese's Cookies

Through my four years in med school, I've been involved in a group called the Pediatric Interest Group or PIG. Every year we have a fundraiser so that we can have lunch at our meetings and provide fun things for the kids in the hospital at holiday times. In the years past, we have had a PIG roast with bar-b-que, etc. This year, the president decided to have it at a local pizza place. I think it was a good idea because it drew more people. She also decided to add a bake sale to the fundraiser. It lasted for a week and a half; and, as you can imagine, I did a lot of baking at that reason I missed last month's Daring Bakers' challenge. Most of the things I made were oldies that I knew would please like Sharpeis, Magic Cookie Bars, and Three Great Taste Blondies (made as the original recipe calls for). However, I wanted to make a big cookie that was bake sale material. So...I went in search on Cookie Madness. These are the cookies I found. They were perfect and sold out quickly. The peanut butter makes the cookies moist and the peanut butter cup adds just the right amount of chocolate! Yum!

Peanut Butter Reese's Cookies adapted from Cookie Madness

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
4 tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup chunky or smooth peanut butter (chunky)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 scant teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/2 cups sifted flour (about 6 oz)
8 Reese’s peanut butter cups (the larger flat type)

Don’t preheat oven quite yet.

Cream butter, shortening and peanut butter together in a mixing bowl; Beat in granulated and light brown sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat in egg. Dissolve baking soda in warm water. Add to butter-sugar mixture and stir well. Stir in flour. Mix until dough is smooth. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm enough to be workable.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll dough by hand into golf ball size balls. It helps to wet your hands while doing this...the dough won't stick by doing that; it also makes the dough move easier. Working one ball at a time, split ball in half, place a Reese’s in between halves and mold dough around candy to make a neat mound. Arrange on ungreased cookie sheets, leaving 1 to 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cookies stand 10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Store in a tightly covered container.

Makes about 10 big cookies

Monday, April 13, 2009

From An Expert

In the medical field, there are many times that you consult someone to deal with a specific problem because they are an expert on that problem. As a general (most likely) pediatrician, I have to be knowledgeable about most areas of a child's health; however, I won't know the intricate details of how to deal with specific heart problems or neurological issues. I'll call an expert for that. Well, the blogging world has it's experts. If you've ever stopped by Peabody's site, you know that she is an expert at desserts. She makes some of the best looking confections EVER. If I had a question about a dessert, she would be one of the first people I'd fact, if I'm looking for a dessert recipe, her site is one of the first graced by my fingers. A few months ago I spied these snickerdoodle blondies of hers. Now, who doesn't like snickerdoodles? I don't know but if it's you, there must be something wrong! Anyway, I decided to whip these up one day (don't remember why). I made a small change to her recipe (because of supply) but it still turned out fabulous...nice and moist with that perfect blondie texture. Try them out sometime soon!

Snickerdoodle Blondies adapted from Peabody

8 ounces (two sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup loosely packed light brown sugar
3 ounces cream cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
¾ tsp cream of tartar
2 cups all-purpose flour

Cinnamon Sugar for coating (about 1/3 cup)

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch pan.* Sprinkle cinnamon sugar and move pan around to make sure that the bottom and sides are coated. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar.

Using an stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat for three minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add the cream cheese and beat until fully incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat for another 30 seconds.
On low speed add the sifted flour mixture. Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan. This will be hard as it is a thick batter. As Peabody suggests, it is easiest to just wet your hands a little and press the batter into the pan. Then even it out afterwards with a spatula. Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on top of the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

*I'm almost positive that I halved this recipe...and it worked out just fine.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Fiesta in Your Mouth

Remember those nachos that Philip created awhile back? Well, I think I was inspired by the refried beans! Last week I created a yummy Mexican pizza. It's pretty simple and makes for a healthy dinner. The tortilla I used is one of the La Tortilla Factory tortillas. I used the whole wheat version but the herb and garlic would be good, too. This even provides its own crunch as the edges of the tortilla crisp up in the toaster oven. The only thing, well only TWO things, that would have made this better would be black olives (which I bought at Target tonight!) and sour cream (or Greek yogurt). You can even customize to your tastes...add what you like, take off what you don't. If you like your Mexican spicy, add some jalapenos. If you like that strong taste but not spicy, add some green chiles. If you just HAVE to have meat, add some browned ground beef...grilled chicken would be good, too! Just make a fiesta in your mouth! Mexican Pizza

1 tortilla refried beans
roasted bell pepper
roasted onion
sliced tomatoes

Spread refried beans on tortilla. Place onions and peppers on top of beans. Place tomatoes on top of this. Sprinkle cheese over all. If you want to add something different, I'd probably put it under the cheese. If adding meat, I'd put it on top of the beans. Once dressed the way you want it (no sombreros, please!), place the tortilla on a pan and toast in a toaster oven (or bake in an oven until cheese is nice and bubbly! Serve with salsa and sour cream. Kiwis go well with this.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

We've been having some beautiful weather around here. Highs in the 70's, sun, all the best! Of course, tomorrow we have a cold front come through and the high is only in the 50's...but that's just for a day or two. I think spring is here. I honestly wish it would stay around a bit longer. I love spring...and fall! They are perfect...summer is just too hot! To welcome spring, and the bounty it brings, here are some sweet and fruity cookie bars. You can make them in a pizza form or a bar form. You can also vary the fruits you use. I like strawberries, bananas, and mandarin oranges...but used kiwi on this one. Other fruits I've seen used include blueberries, grapes, and pineapples. You could even do a tropical fruit theme and use pineapple, kiwi, oranges, even mango and banana. Yum!!!! Fruit Pizza
1 tube sugar cookie dough (you could probably even use the precut and just mash it together...OR use homemade - I USUALLY do this)
1 8oz cream cheese (you can use the 1/3 less fat)
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Fruit: e.g. - 2 bananas, 1 can mandarin oranges, drained, 1 pack strawberries (cut in slices lengthwise), 1 can blueberries, drained, kiwi, green grapes, cut in half - I suggest about three different kinds of fruit
1/4 cup peach preserves (this is optional...I don't use it)

Spread the cookie dough on a baking pan.* Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Cool. Blend cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and water. Spread the mixture on cooled cookies. If using the preserves, spread that on top of the cream cheese. Drain and cut fruit. Put on top in whatever "design" you want. Chill. Enjoy!

*The instructions I have say to cut the cookies and place them touching on a pan. Either way would work but to be SURE there are no gaps I might try spreading.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sweet Layers

Three years ago, I went with my mom and her best friend to see Paula Deen cook...well, I didn't exactly get to see her cook! Sure, I saw her but Paula is quite the Chatty Kathy. She gabbed the whole time, so when I heard that she was coming to town again, I didn't really get so excited. However, Paula DOES have some yummy recipes - even if she DOES use way too much butter. I mean, really, who puts a tablespoon of butter inside their hamburger? PAULA! A few weeks ago when my friend came over, she wanted something chocolate for dessert. Well, I remembered a DELICIOUS dessert that I had tasted around Christmas time. It was Paula's Pumpkin Gooey Butter cakes...oh, my! These are SOOOO good! At the bottom of the page, there is a version for a chocolate one. Well, I suggested that and she agreed. My only mistake was thinking that the cake base was a yellow cake instead of chocolate. This was still delicious and you can make it more or less chocoaltey based on your desires. You do have to be careful not to overbake these. When your timer goes off...just take it will continue to cook as it cools. Go ahead, take a bite! Chocolate Gooey Butter Cakes
Cake: 1 stick melted butter
1 (18.25-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg

Filling: 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat)
2 eggs
3 to 4 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used 3)
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick melted butter
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, 1 egg, and 1 stick melted butter, and stir until well blended. Pat mixture into prepared pan and set aside.

In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the remaining 2 eggs, and the cocoa powder. Lower the speed of the mixer, and add the powdered sugar. Continue beating until ingredients are well mixed. Slowly add the remaining 1 stick of melted butter, and the vanilla, continuing to beat the mixture until smooth. Stir in nuts with a rubber spatula. Spread filling over cake mixture in pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the cake; the center should still be a little gooey when finished baking. Let cake partially cool on a wire rack before cutting into pieces.