Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My birthday weekend!!!

So this weekend had nearly nothing to do with baking, but there were some baked goods!!!

Friday, we went to go see Last House on the Left (not bad, and way better than the 1972 version!) Then I got two new tattoos... My friend Danielle came with and also got two of her own. My poor bf's hand was squeezed like mad while I got the first one, but I was in so much more pain than he was, so I don't feel as bad ;)

I got a cute little star and flower design I saw in an ad a while back on my foot. The foot is a bit swollen and the picture isn't the greatest, but you can see the basic gist of it.

My foot is really kinda swollen, which I've heard is normal for foot tattoos (?). It appears to be healing nicely though. :) It's just a matter of wearing shoes that don't cover it so they don't scratch the heck out of it!!! But it makes for a great excuse to buy more shoes! Yay!

The second on I got was on the left shoulder blade and it's a dove w/ an olive branch. That one stung more so afterward than while it was being done. Matt did a great job (as usual) on it.

After we got our tattoos, the three of us were STARVING!!! So we went down the street to Kuma's... Mmm... Kuma's... I got the mac and cheese w/ bacon and scallions (it was after midnight so not technically Friday anymore...) w/ a pretzel roll on the side. They serve all of their sandwiches on pretzel rolls and I love them so much and had to have one... Danielle said that it was the best burger she's ever had.

Saturday, Heather and I met on the train to head up to 1154 Lill Studio on Armitage for Nancy's party. I can't wait to get my Hadley purse!!! I'm also going to be having a Lill party in April, so if you are interested, let me know!!! They have locations in other states in the US, so if you're not from around here, go check them out online!

Well, Heather and I missed our train(s) by seconds so we have a couple hours to spare before we could get another one. So we went walking, searching for a shoes store (mind were killing me since I ran in them, and they ARE NOT running shoes). Well, apparently on a Sat night in the middle of the financial district, not much is open. Except for Subway and McD's. We grabbed some food at Subway's and trekked back to the train station.
On the way, we saw this:
Now, I realize that some people call it "soda", some call it "coke" and some people (like Heather and me) call it "pop" This debate came up b/w Heather and our friend Jeremiah. He calls it "soda" what do you guys call it? I'm just curious. But I thought that seeing this add right after we had our little debate was funny. :)

We went to Stir Crazy for my birthday dinner on Sunday night, but nothing exciting there...

Monday we went to Cheesecake Factory for lunch... And there is a new cheesecake, the 30th Anniversary Edition. It is four layers, two of fudge cake and two of plain cheesecake, alternating. YUM. It is so decadent, I could only have two bites before I put it back in the fridge. And I had one bite this morning before leaving for work. Yum. Seriouly, one bite a day will make me a happy person this week. :) It's definitely something I plan on trying to make soon... And after work tonight, I'm getting a massage w/ mom. I love self pampering. :)

I'm also house/cat sitting this week. Little Rachel (yeah I know, I didn't name her!!!) was bit freaked out with me at first, but she loves me now. I was watching TV last night and she climbed up on the couch, crawled under my blanket and curled up next to my legs. Isn't she adorable??? Yeah, Beck and Lucky are gonna come back from their honeymoon and not going to be able to find their cat... Cuz I'm gonna catnap her!!! She slept on head last night. So cute!!!

Anyways, once I get back home, I'm gonna make come chocolate pomegranate cupcakes w/ vanilla cream cheese frosting. Check back for the recipe soon!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake

So I found this recipe (I can't remember where exactly, but definitely on one of the blogs I follow) and I was sooo excited. I love peanut butter. Love it. As a kid, I was more excited about peanut butter than chocolate. I will break a Reese's cup apart and only eat the peanut butter and toss the chocolate coating. I dipped carrots in peanut butter, apples, everything. Yum. And it's Skippy all the way for me. Love it!!!

So I got this recipe and thought, wow, peanut butter and so easy to make... Which it was. Even with my mom like all over me trying to cook dinner...

And, guess what? I used a water bath. After someone commented about the cracked top on my Oreo cheesecake (yeah, that's right, he told me! Did you not see my berry cheesecake? No cracks there buddy!), I decided to try the waterbath again. This time, I used two layers of heavy duty foil to keep out the water and I had much more time to bake it, so I didn't care if it took forever!

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake

2 cups of Oreo cookie crumbs
4 Tbsp of melted butter

Middle filling:
1/3 cup of slightly melted peanut butter
1 large milk chocolate bar, chopped

Cheesecake filling:
3 pkgs (8oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp flour
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup peanut butter

Preheat over to 300 degrees F. Grease 9-inch springform pan (recipe used 9-inch, but I use a 10-inch cuz it was what I had)
Fill a large roasting pan w/ hot water, about an inch, inch and half up. Set on the bottom rack while the oven is preheating.

In a medium bowl, combine Oreo crumbs and butter and sprinkle evenly on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 mins in the oven (not in the water).
Remove when done and rasie temp to 350 degrees F.

Spread the first 1/3 cup of slightly melted peanut butter on top of the crust (doesn't have to be all the way to the sides) and then sprinkly the chopped chocolate on top. If you don't have a large chocolate bar, chocolate chops work well too.

Beat cream cheese until creamy. Add the condensed milk and peanut butter and blend until smooth (make sure you scrape all of the cream cheese off the bottom of the bowl and the sides so it is all incorporated. I forgot to and had some little cream cheese chunks throughout the cake). Add the sugar and flour, beat until just combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, adding the vanilla w/ the last one. Beat until juts combined.
Pour the batter into a foil wrapped springform pan. Try to smooth out the top as much as possible b/c how you put it in is how it looks when you pull it out.

Place the foil-lined filled pan in the water bath.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the sides are set and the middle moves slightly. Turn off the oven and crack the door just a little bit. Let the cheesecake sit in the water bath in the oven for at least an hour, no more than 2 hours. Take a butter knife and run it along the edges of the cheesecake so that when the cheesecake cools, it won't be sticking to the sides and make the top crack.

When you pull the cheesecake out of the water bath, it should be cooled enough to remove the springform. Let it cool another 30 minutes or so uncovered.

You can serve it just like above, or (b/c I didn't like the look of the top) you can top it with some melted hot fudge like below. I just splattered it on, but you can make whatever design you'd like.
So there is my beautiful, delicious, not cracked peanut butter cheesecake. It is sooooo good. Good enough that one of my managers threatened to take it in her office and finish it off after having a slice. She didn't, thankfully. She doesn't have a lock on her office door, so I think I would have had to storm the office and yank it from her hands if she had. Amazingly I have leftovers, so after sharing some w/ my cousin, there was enough for my dad. He was happy about it... :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Strawberry Cupcakes

The past Valentine's Day, while I was slaving over that delicious cake on a previous post, new friend Amanda was making these so damn good cupcakes. I guarantee she couldn't have been slaving b/c they were sooooo easy to make!!!

The recipe she sent me made 12 cupcakes, so I made some alterations and made 36 instead! I was making them for my co-workers and I didn't think it would be very nice of me to make 25 people fight over 9 cupcakes. I say 9 b/c one for me, one for mom and one for dad. :) Can't forget them!

So I would have just tripled the recipe, but in all honestly, it wouldn't have done well. Sometimes, you just kinda have to experiment with that texture would be good. So this is the recipe as I got it from Amanda (the little asterisks are her notes):

Strawberry Cupcakes (makes 12 cupcakes)

1/2 cup sugar *i used organic cane sugar, its better and not bleached. bleach is gross and has no place in the things you eat*
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 large egg *cage free/free range always taste better*
6 ounces Vanilla Lowfat Yogurt *i'm sure you can use soy yogurt, you know, if you're into that*
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour *unbleached, for reals.*
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt *really any salt works, i used sea salt with minerals*
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, diced *fresh and organic - no pesticides/waxes/hormones - they're also not Frankenstein size or deformed*

2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 fresh strawberries, about 2 Tbsp. mashed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. With an electric hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg, Dannon® All Natural Vanilla Lowfat Yogurt and vanilla, blending until smooth.

2. Measure the dry ingredients into the bowl and blend, then fold in the strawberries.

3. Divide the mixture equally between the 12 paper-lined cupcake cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. *When they're out of the oven, take them out of the muffin pan asap, or else the heat of the cupcakes creates steam which gets trapped in the pan and makes the bottoms soggy. No one likes soggy bottoms.*

4. Beat together butter, powdered sugar, and mashed strawberry in medium-size bowl until creamy and smooth. Chill frosting for 15 minutes or until thick. Frost cupcakes with a spatula. Keep cupcakes in the refrigerator loosely covered.

Now my version which made 36 cupcakes, plus 4 minis. :)

1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 1/2 stick of butter (the other half I used in the frosting)
3 eggs
12 oz vanilla yogurt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda***
1 1/4 tsp of cornstarch***
2 1/2 tsp cream of tartar***
1/2 tsp salt
1 pint of strawberries, diced

1/2 stick softened butter
6 fresh strawberries
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

These are made the same way as stated above. Blend the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time to the mixture, add vanilla yogurt and vanilla extract until all well blended. Add the rest of the dry ingredients until just blended. Fold in the diced strawberry.
I checked them at 20 minutes. I had to pull some out of the pan b/c they were done while the other half weren't. Probably shouldn't have put all the muffin pans in at once...

For the frosting, I tossed the strawberries in the food processor first, then added the butter and added half a cup of powdered sugar at a time, pulsing a little each time to blend until I had the consistency I wanted. I didn't want the frosting too sweet, I wanted everyone to be able to taste straight up strawberry. It ended up being a nice liquidy consistency, which dripped in the paper cups and on the sides. Exactly what I was going for.

They were so moist and thick. The frosting was not too sweet, which is exactly what I was going for.
***So when you run out of baking powder (or just accidentally sprinkle baking soda before you realize your mistake, like me), you need to use about a fourth of the amount of baking soda than baking powder, then an equal amount of cornstarch and double the amount of cream of tartar.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gouda is Goooood!!!!

So I normally don't just rave about something food that I haven't cooked or baked myself, but hey, sometimes, it is just necessary. That is the case in Starbucks new breakfast sandwich (which they serve all day long). Bacon, Gouda Cheese, Egg Frittata on Artisan Roll.

Mmmmm..... I have to say, I have been skipping breakfast at home as of late b/c I've decided to spend that 5 mintues on myself rather than food. Well, I regret it on my way to work when my stomach starts in on me and my not eating, so I went to Starbucks yesterday morning and as I pulled up, they offered the new sandwich up. Now we all know I love bacon, so that was a duh. But when she said Gouda cheese, I about near moaned out loud. I LOVE Gouda cheese. I used to just snatch slices of Gouda cheese when I worked on the line at Panera Bread in college. I loved the stuff.
Well, I would normally (maybe once a week or less) would get the bacon, egg and cheddar on an English muffin and a banana chocolate Vivanno for breakfast. Well as I opened the paper bag yesterday and smelled the yumminess, I knew this would be good. Oh so good, I had another one today. Seriously, everything about it is prefect. Except the nutritional facts. But hey, once a week isn't bad right? (Even though it was twice already this week!!!)

So go to starbucks.com and see check to see if the location near you sells them and go try it!!! It's really yummy!!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bacon bacon bacon bacon.........

So I love bacon. I had this bacon maple cupcake a few months back and have been trying to re-create it since. I haven't mastered it yet, but in the meantime, it doesn't hurt to try other yummy recipes!!

I found this recipe on petebakes. He is another bacon lover and so not afraid to put bacon in a cookie. I saw this recipe and knew that I could get a few people to enjoy it. (Or if not, eat it all myself) Unfortunately for Pete, his friends weren't as interested in his cookies as mine were. I brought them to my co-workers on Monday and they were inhaled. I only heard one negative comment and that was from Andy, who was recently challenged to eat french toast that had been soaking in bacon grease for a couple of hours. He went home not feeling so great and can't stand the taste of bacon now... Poor guy. He did walk away w/ $38 more than he had before. Yeah, my co-workers are goofy. :)

A few of the comments:
"These cookies are crazy good!"
"Interestingly yummy!"
"OMG I want more"
"Bacon! You have bacon in these??? Ugh..." Too seconds later.. "OMG" and she grabbed another one and ran off

So I pretty much followed Pete's recipe to the T. The only difference is that I used milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet and also chopped up a bar of Mo's Bacon Bar and added that into the dough w/ the bacon and chocolate chips. I have to say, it was really hard to NOT eat the candied bacon before chopping it up and folding it into the dough. I did try it first, obviously, but it took everything I had not to just gobble it all down...

So I started out w/ the brown sugar on the bacon and popped them into the oven. I used think cut bacon. It wasn't low sodium or anything, just straight up think cut yummy piggy bacon.
After 15 minutes, I took them out to flip them. They didn't look done at all:
Before I flipped them, I made sure the side that was down was coated in the brown sugar liquidy goodness. I flipped them and put them in for aout 15 mins. The ones on the end were done, so I took those out and put the rest in for another 5 mins. They got nice and dark and caramelized:
I forgot to mention too, I didn't use a full pound of bacon. I figured that the combo of the six strips here and the bacon bar would be good enough. I should have made more though, just so I could eat some of it.
I did the bacon first and chopped it and the chocolate up, mixing it all together so it folded into the dough better. Then I made the dough. I used the one on Pete's site, which apparently is just the Tollhouse cookie recipe. My personal recipe is a bit different, so I thought I would just go with this since it was right in front of me... Plus my recipe makes like 100 cookies...
The dough was yummy. I always lick the beater and scrape the bowl after I'm done. Yummy yummy yummy.

The cookies were even better. 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. After they cooled, I ended up with deliciousness!!!