Sunday, June 19, 2011

Icebox Oreo Cheesecake (lots of pics!)

This week my oven heating coil snapped in two. I've never seen it happen, but since baking a dessert was out of the question until it's fixed, I chose to make Icebox Oreo Cheesecake (from Blue Ribbon Desserts) for Father's Day.

1. Crust
Process 30 Oreos with 7 tbsp butter until fine.

Press into 9 inch spring-form pan, across bottom and up sides. Refrigerate for an hour, or up to 2 days.

2. Filling
Bring 3/4 cup milk to a simmer over low to medium heat. My pan heats quickly and will scorch the milk on higher heat, so I prefer to stick with a lower heat.

Whisk 4 egg yolks, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup milk until fairly smooth. Then slowly add the hot milk to the bowl to temper the egg yolks. That's a fancy word for slowly bringing up the temperature (cooking) of the yolks without scrambling them. No one wants scrambled cheesecake! Once all the milk is blended in, pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Put back on medium low heat and constantly whisk until mixture turns thick and glossy. The recipe said 1 to 2 minutes. Mine happened right at about 1 minute and 45 seconds. It needs close watching because it instantly goes from looking thin and matte to glossy and thickened. Remove from heat.
Add the white chocolate and whisk until blended. I should note here that it is REALLY important to have the chocolate chopped or broken up AHEAD of starting the cooking process. It needs to be ready to go when the custard mixture comes off the heat. If you're wondering, the recipe says you can use white chocolate chips, but being a bit of a chocolate snob, I used the real thing. White chocolate chips do not typically have actual cocoa butter in them. I used the Ghirardelli brand.
Once the chocolate is melted and blended in, pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap ON the surface of the custard. This prevents a "skin" forming. Refrigerate for an hour. Although the recipe doesn't say to strain it, I did because I wanted to be sure there would not be any little scrambly bits (which you can see on the sieve). Remember, scrambled and "skin", bad; smooth with no "skin", good.

About 20 minutes before it's time to take the cooled custard out of the fridge, take 2 lb of cream cheese out of the fridge to soften. Break 12 Oreos into chunks. Once the cream cheese is soft (15 to 20 minutes), whip in an electric mixer with 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract on medium high heat for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

Scrape down bowl. Place mixer on medium low speed and pour custard in. Mix until just combined, about 30 seconds.

Pour about one quarter of this mixture over crust. Sprinkle one third of the Oreos over the cream cheese mixture. Repeat twice, then pour final quarter cream cheese mix over the top. Refrigerate for 6 hours. Loosen by wrapping pan in a hot, damp towel for a minute. Remove springform.

A couple tips! Get technical help when taking photos.

AND save some Oreos to eat while you're waiting the six hours. :)

My new kitchen table

I wanted to post a pic of a recent acquisition that DH got (for free!) through work. I am really excited over having a smooth surface that will make it easier to roll out dough and provide some extra kitchen room. Right now, it stores some of my Tupperware.  :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dannon Activia Yogurt works - I promise no "TMI"

For a while now, I've seen the ads with Jamie Lee Curtis. Dannon Activia will help regulate your digestive system. Then they show a diagram of a torso with a bunch of yellow dots moving down. I always wondered what those yellow dots are meant to represent, haven't you? 

Anyway, both my daughters and I have a side effect of consuming certain types of dairy. If we eat yogurt or icecream made from cow's milk, or if we drink cow's milk - well, let's just say our digestive systems are not regular. (On a side note, cheese does not have this effect. Thank goodness because E would be lost without her pizza.)
Seeing the ad intrigued me and I visited the Dannon website, but they don't give any details. As I promised no TMI, I guess so did Dannon. The only thing I could see that might be different from other yogurts was they had a culture they patented. Hmmm.
Not wanting to spend money on a new item without knowing details, I let the thought of trying it float happily out of my head. The less crowded it is in there, the better for everyone really. Then I got hooked on this show called Extreme Couponing. And I started watching prices, and collecting coupons, and just like that Dannon Activia 4-packs went on sale for $1.29 and I had coupons for $1 off. I was definitely more willing to experiment when something would only cost me 29 cents versus $3. I bought vanilla and strawberry.
E liked them both and surprisingly so did I. (Growing up eating European based yogurts, I've not found the American versions up to par generally speaking). It is creamy, with no odd chalky aftertaste that some of the yogurts with all the thickeners added have. And it has no artificial sweetener (unless you buy the Light version, which we have not tried). We also tried blueberry which was okay compared to the other two. I don't know what the difference was, but I didn't want to scrape every bit out of the container with the blueberry.
And by now you're asking, "Well, did it regulate you?".  Since we were already there, let's say we were very happy the yogurt did not de-regulate us. So if you have a great need to be regulated (pardon how dominating that sounds),  you might want to try this brand of yogurt.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer means berries, and berries mean pies

I was very excited over a cookbook called Cook's Country Blue Ribbon Desserts. I watch the TV show and the dessert recipes are always the one I want to try the most. I may have been a little too excited when I decided to make two pies in one go. The first was Icebox Strawberry Pie, and the second was Raspberry Chiffon Pie. Somewhere in there I also made dinner and I think that was mistake number one. I completely forgot to add the fresh raspberries to the raspberry pie. Mistake number two was buying refrigerated pie crust. Making one from scratch, while time consuming, would have resulted in a much better crust. So next time I make a berry pie I will  make sure I have the time carved out to properly focus on it. My favorite was the strawberry. The girls preferred the raspberry, possibly because of the Jell-O in it. I am posting the strawberry pie recipe only since it was followed to the letter and turned out so amazing. I could eat the topping all on its own easily!

Icebox Strawberry Pie (from Blue Ribbon Desserts)
The sacrificial first piece is always the best!
* one 9-inch single crust pie-dough, using your fave recipe or store-bought. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate and chill in fridge at least 20 minutes

* 2 lb frozen strawberries
* 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
* 2 tbsp water
* 1 tbsp unflavored gelatin
* 1 cup sugar
* pinch salt (1/8 tsp)
* 1 lb fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin
* 4 oz cream cheese, softened
* 3 tbsp sugar
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 cup heavy cream, chilled

1. Adjust an oven rack to center position and preheat 375 degrees.  Line chilled crust with foil, and fill with pie weights (or dried beans in you use those). Bake until pie dough looks dry and is light in color, about 25 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake another 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. 
2. Cook frozen berries in large saucepan over medium-low heat until berries begin to release juice, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until thick and jamlike, about 25 minutes (mixture should measure 2 cups; if it measures more the filing will be loose). 
Note: Use a large saucepan - it helps contain splatter. I used a medium one and had a nice big mess of splatter to clean up after. Also, the strawberries took about 40 minutes to get to 2 cups because I cooked them on medium heat, since I was trying to do too many other things and didn't want them to burn. 
3. Combine lemon juice, water, and gelatin in small bowl. Let stand until gelatin is softened and mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir gelatin mixture, sugar, and salt into cooked berry mixture and return to simmer, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. 
4. Fold fresh berries into filling. Spread evenly in pie shell and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. (Filled pie can be refrigerated for 24 hours.) 
5. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth, about 30 seconds. With mixer running, add cream and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Serve pie with whipped cream topping.
And because someone is bouncing near me as I type and wants a photo of the raspberry pie too......

Friday, June 10, 2011

Raspberry Cereal Bars

This week I did it - I made a meal plan for the week because I decided 3 weeks of winging it and having whatever was enough. And not only did I plan just dinners, I did breakfast, lunch, snacks. I was very proud of myself except that breakfast was a bit bleak. One dimensional sameness. Not that my lovely E would mind, but we're in an unusual window of trying new things and I want to take advantage of that. (She tried bacon recently and liked it. Yay for more protein!)
For a while, I've been looking for a good recipe for a cereal bar. Something similar to a Nutrigrain. Recipes run the gamut from what I perceive would taste like cardboard to those that use boxed cake mix as the crust. I finally found a middle of the road recipe - there is butter in there folks. But it uses fresh pureed berries and rolled oats; or in my case, substitute half the oats with quinoa flakes. They are just a touch sweet and just dense enough to fill you up for a couple of hours. And they taste way better and cost much less than Nutrigrain. :)

Raspberry Breakfast Cereal Bars (from The $5 Dinner Mom Breakfast and Lunch Cookbook)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (I used 1 cup oats, 1 cup quinoa flakes)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened

1 cup fresh raspberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar (I did this to taste since the raspberries were already sweet. I ended up using about 3 tablespoons)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch glass baking dish.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Cut the softened butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender or a fork.
3. Place the raspberries, vanilla and sugar into a food processor and puree.
4. Place about half the oat-flour mixture to the baking dish and press into the bottom of the dish using the bottom of a measuring cup.
5. Pour raspberry filling and spread over the crust.
6. Add remaining oat flour mixture on top of the puree and lightly press down to form the upper crust, again using the bottom of a measuring cup.
7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Makes 12 to 16 long cereal bars. I cut those in half for a snack size portion. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mangoes Mangoes Mangoooooes!

When I was a child I remember my friends and I singing "Mangoes, mangoes, mangoes" (a chorus to a local Trinidadian folk song). We would climb up the mango trees and retrieve the yummiest juiciest mangoes and bite a hole in the skin and suck the juice out before peeling and eating what was left of the flesh. After years of living far away from that wonderful tropical place, I know there will never ever be a supermarket mango this far north that will meet that experience. I don't know how young they pick the mangoes or if they freeze them on the trip up, but they are always dry, sometime chalky. Something that makes you want to gag more than cheer. The picture is a good example of a typical mango here. It looks good on the outside. But cut it open and it's kind of blech.
Once in a while, you find a good one and when I do, the kids will eat it, but I have found that buying the frozen mango and letting it thaw tastes way better. We've also tried canned mango with  mixed feelings. E didn't care for it, H loved it, but she loves any kind of canned fruit with that awfully sweet heavy syrup on it.
One day I hope to  make a trip down to my childhood home and have them taste fresh mangoes, fresh coconut water, and  some roti that is unlike any flatbread elsewhere in the world. Until that day, they are happy watching videos of mangoes, such as this one we found recently. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

A little of this, a little of that means a little bit of yum

You know how sometimes you are late from work because you spent an hour in traffic caused by an accident, the kids didn't eat well and they're starving when you get home and they're whining at you, and you're irritated because you have to get dinner on the table that fast? You know how sometimes you throw a bunch of stuff together and it just works? Well, it doesn't happen often that the two moments follow in the same evening but tonight I threw a can of peas in a skillet with some good olive oil, added some fresh squeezed lemon juice (1/2 a lemon), and a teaspoon of dried dill and it was quite good. The peas were still that weird canned pea color but everyone ate them up. They were eaten so fast that there were no leftovers and I couldn't get a picture!!

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