Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

My oldest child had her birthday yesterday.  She detests cake, she really does.  No biggy she loves cheesecake and that's a pretty easy one to pull off.  Her order this year was "candy cheese cake".  TH is that?  We talked a bit and came up with peanut butter cheese cake with mini peanut butter cup candies baked into it and as garnish.  WINNER.  Even the cheesecake hater in the house loved this one.

The interwebs were filled with recipes for peanut butter cheese cake, but the crusts were just wrong for what we wanted.  This recipe is a combo of several plus my favorite stand by crust.  Tasty for sure.

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

  • 3 c Oreo or similar chocolate creme cookie crumbles
  • 1 stick butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 lb cream cheese
  • 1 c peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 2 T corn starch
  • 4 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 8 oz bags of mini peanut butter candies
  • chocolate syrup

Preheat oven to 350F

Put cookie crumbles and salt in food processor.  Pulse until fine crumbs are created. Drizzle butter over the running processor until all butter incorporated.   Pat into bottom and up 1 inch on the side of a 9" X 3" tall spring form pan.  Bake 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.

Put sugar, corn starch, room temperature cream cheese, peanut butter and vanilla in the mixing bowl.  Attach whisk and beat until smooth.  Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time, beating until each is just incorporated.

Spray inside of the spring form pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Line outside of pan with aluminum foil.  Place prepared spring form into a large pan or roaster. Sprinkle 1 8oz bag of peanut butter candies over the chocolate cookie crust.  Add cream cheese mixture to the spring form pan.  Place in oven.  Fill roaster with hot water about half way up the side of the spring form pan.

Bake 2 hours at 350f.  This cheesecake's top burns easily so you need to keep watch on it.  AT about 1 hour, 1 hour 20 minutes it will be golden brown.  At that point cover loosely with aluminum foil and continue baking.  At end of baking time, turn off oven and crack open the oven door.  Let sit in cooling oven for an hour.  At end of hour put on cooling rack and cool to room temperature.  When room temperature remove sides of spring form pan and then chill in refrigerator.

To serve, garnish with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and add few mini peanut butter cup candies from the remaining bag.

golden brown top prevented from burning with aluminum foil

Monday, May 30, 2016

Roasted Peach Sherbet

I love Sherbet, its even easier to make than ice cream.  Why?  None of that custard making and worrying about scrambling the egg because your mixture is to hot,

This Sherbet is quite the taste treat.  One can use fresh peaches but we are really a few weeks short of them here so I opted for frozen peaches.  If using fresh you can cut your roasting time by 10-15 minutes.

Using buttermilk and sour cream instead of half and half really works magic in the sherbet.  I adds just the right tang to offset the super sweetness of the roasted peaches.   Yummo.

Roasted Peach Sherbet
  • 4 c frozen peaches
  • 1 c sugar 
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • pinch salt
  • 1 c butter milk
  • 1/3 c sour cream

Preheat oven to 425F

In 8X8 oven safe baking dish add sugar, salt and peaches.  Split vanilla bean lengthwise.  Scrape out seeds and add seeds and pod to the peach mixture.  Toss to combine.  Bake in oven 50-60 minutes until the mixture is bubbling and sugar dissolved.  Remove from oven.  let cool and put into a container and cover.  Refrigerate 2-3 hours until cold.

In a large blender pour in buttermilk and sour cream.  Remove vanilla bean pod from the peach mixure.  Pour peaches and all the liquid into blender.  Blend on high speed uintil smoot.  Add mixture to ice cream maker and follow instructions to churn until smooth.  Enjoy straight from ice cream maker or spoon off to freezer safe container and enjoy later.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Blueberry Rhubarb Pie

Growing up spending summer with my Grandmothers in Ely Minnesota I managed to learn a few things about Blueberries and Rhubarb.  FACT.  They go together great in a pie.  No kidding.

This version is based loosely on my Grandmothers recipes.  I twisted it up with the inclusion of half a vanilla bean split and seeded to up the flavor quotient a bit.  Just remember to fish out the pod before you mix the filling.

I'm also a blueberry SNOB to the nth degree.  Those nasty grape size things sold in the grocery store certainly ARE NOT blueberries.  They are gritty, lack flavor and not worth the hard earned cash you spend on them. What is however worth it is buying frozen wild blueberries from Trader Joe's or similar grocery store. Yes you pay a premium but what you gain in texture and flavor is worth every buck more they cost you over the domesticated stuff.  Take that bit of wisdom to the groc your next trip and get the wild blueberries.

Blueberry Rhubarb Pie

  • 2 sheets pie crust
  • 3 stalks rhubarb
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod
  • 3 c wild blueberries
  • 3 T corn starch
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T water
  • 2 t coarse raw sugar

Preheat oven to 425F

Trim root end and leaves from rhubarb.  Slice into 1/2" chunks.  In non-reactive pan add sugar and 1/2 cup water. Add rhubarb. Split vanilla bean pod and scrape out seeds, adding seeds and pod to mixture.  Stir to dissolve sugar over medium heat.  When it begins to boil reduce heat and cook 5-8 minutes until rhubarb is just fork tender. 

Remove from heat. Remove vanilla bean pod.  Add frozen blueberries and corn starch. Fold gently to combine. Set aside to cool.

Roll out bottom crust and loosely fit into pie plate.  Add cooled pie filling.  Roll out remaining crust for the top of pie. Gently place top crust onto pie.  Gently fold under into the bottom crust and crimp edges to seal.  Cut steam slits into top crust. 

Combine egg and 1T water, beat to incorporate.  With a pastry brush, lightly coat the top crust with the egg wash.  Sprinkle with coarse raw sugar.  Place pie on a baking sheet to catch spills.  Bake for 1 hour.  At the half hour mark you may need to put foil on the edges of the pie to prevent from burning.
Cool on wire rack to room temp before serving.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Souffle' for one

I love a souffle'.  Its the perfect flavor delivery device.  Add cheese, especially a smoked cheese or similar rich flavored fermented dairy product and I'm in heaven.  Heaven I tell you.

This is stupid easy to make.  Simple steps.  Simply Divine treat at the start of the day or at dinner with a salad when you are home alone.

Souffle' for 1
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T flour
  • 1/3 c milk
  • 1/8 t thyme
  • pinch salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup firm cheese like smoked Gouda, Gruyere or Stilton
  • butter for coating ramekin
  • 1 T grated Parmesan

Pre heat oven to 425F.

Coat inside of ramekin to the top edge of rim with butter.  Dust inside with Parmesan cheese.

In a small sauce pan melt butter.  Add flour and cook 1 minute whisking until smooth.  Add thyme, salt and cayenne pepper, whisk to combine.  Add milk and over low heat whisk until smooth and thickened.  Remove from heat.

Add cream of tartar and egg whites to a small bowl. (copper bowls get greatest volume from egg whites).  Beat on high until soft peaks form....2-3 minutes,

Add egg yolk to milk mixture.  Whisk until smooth.  

Add 1/3 of the egg white to the yolk mixture.  Whisk to combine.  Pour this over remaining whites.  Sprinkle your 1/3 c cheese over the whites and gently fold to combine.  Some whites may remain...that's OK you just want to fold lightly to combine.

Put ramekin on a small sheet tray.  Pour souffle' mixture into ramekin.  Place in preheated oven.  Bake 5 minutes then reduce heat to 375F,  Bake additional 13-14 minutes.  Serve hot.

This is what happens when you don't butter the entire ramekin including the rim...a dry spot that causes it to stick on one side and rise lopsided.  My bad.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sea Salted Salmon on a bed of Zucchini "Noodles"

Simple food, simply prepared with minimal processing means healthier eating.  Most of the time.  At least that's what I tell myself.  At least the lack of migraines when I eat this way tells me I'm on the right track to living in a healthier way.

I broke down and got a mandolin with my stash of birthday cash.  Its a super sharp tool that slices uniformly any veggie that you want and adjusts to any depth you would want.  Add in the nifty julienne option and you can do perfectly uniforms trips in narrow or wide sizes.  Think noodle sized or french fry size with minimal effort.

I have to confess the zucchini as a noodle isn't an original idea.  I copped it from some TV show on where it was done as a the base for an appetizer.  I thought to myself then....hmmmm great way to use the old zucker in a new way and have fun with it.  Enter the mandolin that can slip slice and julienne perfectly long spaghetti like strands.  Being neutral in flavor you can zip it up as much as you'd like.  Added boner is swapping out fiber for carbs.  Total. Win.

The salmon is simply prepared.  Pepper and smoked sea salt then roasted.  Tastes lightly smoked as if done on a grill with out the fuss of charcoal.

Sea Salted Salmon on a bed of Zucchini "Noodles"

  • 2, 8 oz salmon fillets
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • Smoked Sea Salt
  • 2 long medium sized zucchini
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • sea salt or kosher salt
  • olive oil

Pat salmon fillet dry.  Prepare  baking sheet with a light spritz of cooking spray. Season with pepper and smoked sea salt.  Place on prepared baking sheet and oven roast at 350F for 20 minutes.

While salmon is roasting wash your zucchini and dry them.  Prepare mandolin to slice thin julienne strips of the veggie.  Run zucchini across the cutting blades in long straight strokes stopping when you get to the seed core.  Rotate to each side cutting to seed core.  Discard seed cores.  Dice tomato, add zucchini and toss with garlic powder.

Heat a pan coated with a couple of tablespoons olive oil until starting to shimmer. Add zucchini mixture.  Toss to coat with oil.  Stir fry turning with tongs gently several times until they are soft and spaghetti like, about 8-10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To plate divide "noodles" between two plates.  Top with salmon fillet.  Enjoy with a nice bottle of sauvignon blanc.
"Noodles" of julienned zucchini with tomato and garlic powder resting
"Noodles" stir frying and softening

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Roasted Shrimp and Polenta

I'm really into the clean food movement, little if any processed foods in our diet here.  I like to start with good fresh ingredients and build flavor the old fashioned way avoiding tons of salt and preservatives.

I really like the Golden Pheasant brand polenta easily found in local grocery stores. Its just the right grind and fresh corn flavor to build flavor upon.  The key to polenta without lumps is to stir constantly with a whisk and slowly add polenta to the boiling water in small amounts and incorporate completely before adding the next bit.

Roasting shrimp is stupid easy and they can marinate in the flavors while you prepare the polenta.  They simply roast in a hot oven until pink and cooked through...no effort on your part once they are on a sheet tray.

Roasted Shrimp and Polenta
  • 1 c Golden Pheasant polenta
  • 2 c water
  • 1/2 t garlic salt
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan
  • 2 lbs 21-25 count shrimp
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 3 T olive oil 
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • salt 
  • pepper

Preheat oven to 400f

Peel and clean shrimp.  Place in mixing bowl.  Add minced garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes and thyme.  Toss to combine.  Set aside while preparing the polenta.

Bring water to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Add garlic salt.  Slowly whisk in polenta meal until it is well combined with no lumps.  Reduce heat to low and simmer slowly, stirring continuously until thick and big bubbles puff their way to the top...15-20 minutes.  Reduce heat to lowest setting and stir in Parmesan cheese.  

Spread shrimp onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake in preheated oven 5-7 minutes until pink and cooked through.

Put a dollop of hot polenta in a serving bowl.  Ring it with Roasted shrimp and enjoy! 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Gnocchi with Brown Butter Mushrooms and Herbs

Gnocchi is those little potato dumplings that are light as a feather and totally act as the best damn flavor carrier in the world.  I buy mine from a local Italian Deli (Claro's) to save time in the kitchen.  Fresh herbs and mushrooms in a brown butter sauce finishes them perfectly.  A quick shave of Parm gives it the final touch to take it from terrific to awesome.

I use cremini mushrooms (aka baby portabella) as they have a nuttier richer flavor than the more easily found white button mushrooms.  Easy swap with only a minor difference in flavor.

Browning butter is easy, takes a few minutes but the results are worth it....a richer nutty flavor to play off the mushrooms and accent the freshness of the herbs.Simply heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add butter and stir gently until it stops foaming.  The milk solids in the butter will turn a golden brown and then you're ready to cook.

Gnocchi with Brown Butter Mushrooms and Herbs
1 8 oz package gnocchi
1 stick unsalted butter
1 T minced garlic
8 oz cremini mushrooms - sliced
1 T fresh thyme (stripped from 4-5 stems)
1 T fresh sage - chiffonaded
Parmesan cheese

Brown butter.  Add mushrooms,garlic, thyme and sage when it stops foaming.  Saute until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste,  8-10 minutes,

Bring salted water to a boil.  Cook gnocchi according to package or recipe directions.  When they are done and floating remove with a spider and add to the browned butter and mushroom mixture.  Toss to coat.  Serve with a dusting of fresh grated Parmesan cheese.