Tuesday, January 15, 2019

No Bake Espresso Cheesecake

No Bake Espresso Cheesecake. With a title like that are you even going to read anything else I write, or shall we just acknowledge you're going to skip straight to the recipe?

How about this. I'll spare you some anecdotes, my knee-slapping comedy, and my edge-of-your-seat life stories and get right to it. This No Bake Espresso Cheesecake is everything, EVERYTHING, you want in a dessert:

1. No baking, you saw that right?
2. Chocolate.
3. Espresso.
4. Oreo crust.
5. Chocolate Ganache Topping.

I mean, come on! The flavor of this is so intense and rich it tastes way more involved than it is. That's something I absolutely love, when something is actually pretty easy but the complex flavor profile will make everyone think this was a tricky thing to pull off. While this is a pretty easy dessert I have one tip: make sure you cream cheese is room temperature before starting this. Seriously, you can't skip this step. If skip you this you're going to wind up with with lots of little clumps of cream cheese that didn't spread into the creamy and smooth consistency you need, and that's going to be a huge disappointment.

I used this recipe from Baker by Nature and made a few adjustments to save time, and money! By using a pre-made Oreo cookie crust it allowed me the half the recipe and save money on making my own crust. If you want the original recipe go visit her site, otherwise keep reading for an easy, wallet-friendly, no bake espresso cheesecake.



For the Cheesecake
-1 pre-made Oreo cookie crust
-7 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
-1 teaspoon espresso powder ( I used Bustelo)
-14 oz cream cheese, room temperature (remember, don't ski letting it get to room temperature!!)
-1/2 cup white sugar
-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
-1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature

For the Espresso Ganache
-1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
-1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
-2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
-1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

1. Over a double boiler, melt the bittersweet chocolate, stirring to make sure the melted chocolate doesn't stick to the bottom or burn. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the espresso powder. Set aside.

2. In your mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese until (you guessed it) smooth and creamy. Add in both white and brown sugars, vanilla, and heavy cream, blend to combine. Fold in the melted chocolate. Pour mixture into the Oreo crust and chill at least 6 hours before serving.

3. To make the espresso ganache, place the chocolate morsels into a medium sized bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a sauce pan over medium heat and create a low simmer, remove from heat and pour half of the cream over the chocolate morsels. Whisk to incorporate the chocolate and the cream. Once smooth, stir in the remaining cream. Add in the butter and stir until melted. Stir in the espresso power. Pour over the cheesecake and return to the refrigerator until the cheesecake has been chilled for 6 hours.

Enjoy!



Sunday, January 13, 2019

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

Since I love this Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pie recipe so much, I've been thinking of ways I can make some adjustments to it and create new delicious versions. Right before Christmas it hit me: Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie. Oh my. And with it being the Holiday season, how perfect would it be to have a deep red colored dessert! But here's the thing, I realized I forgot to buy the red food coloring and there was no way in hell I was running to the grocery store the day before Christmas for one little ingredient. So creating this pie was put on the back burner until last weekend and boy was this worth the wait.

Now, I'm not really a fan of traditional red velvet with the cream cheese frosting. It just...doesn't do it for me. So when I wanted to come up with a red velvet recipe I knew that there also had to be a major chocolate component and instead of a cream cheese based frosting this gets top with vanilla bean ice cream. This is so warm, so chocolatey, so decadent. The color is also very rich and saturated and makes this not just incredible to eat but incredible to look at too. 

A couple tips:

1. Red food coloring is very potent and will stain everything easily. I mean everything....your hands, countertops, clothing. Be very careful when pouring and stirring, and definitely put the cap on the bottle as soon as you're done pouring. Trust me, you do not want a red food coloring spill.

2. Before placing this in the oven I sprinkled a few extra chocolate chips on the top.

3. Make sure you're not using a deep pie pan, if you are the pie filling won't be quite high enough to meet the crust.



This red velvet chocolate chip cookie pie is best served warm. Make sure to pop it in the microwave a bit then scoop a nice big serving of vanilla bean ice cream. 

Enjoy!



-Refrigerated pie crust (you can make your own but I'm all for saving time here)
-3/4 cup all purpose flour
-3/4 cup white sugar
-3/4 cup dark brown sugar
-2 eggs
-1 stick butter, softened
-1 tablespoon cocoa powder
-1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
-1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus a handful more to sprinkle over top)

1. Heat your oven to 350. Pre-bake your pie dough for 10 minutes, make sure you've pricked the bottom with a fork a few times to avoid it bubbling up. After crust has pre-baked, reduce oven heat to 325.

2. With your mixer, beat the eggs for 3 minutes until foamy. Then beat in both the white and brown sugars, flour, and the softened butter.

3. Remove from mixer and by hand, stir in the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Lastly, fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into pie shell and sprinkle the top of the piece with a few extra chocolate chips. Bake for 50-60 minutes until a knife comes out clean from the center of the pie. I check it at 50 minutes, then add a few minutes at a time if the center is not quite done yet.

Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Fettuccine Alfredo with Bacon and Peas

Ya know what's something that makes me feel really old? The fact that the Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune back-to-back lineup is part of my evening TV watching. That hour from 7pm-8pm is my time to unwind for the evening, have a glass(es) of wine, eat some dinner and test my knowledge of trivia and puzzle solving skills. My husband can confirm that it frequently turns into me shouting answers at the TV in complete amazement that the players don't know the answer. Admittedly, I think being contestant on Wheel of Fortune would totally be something I'd want to do if it wasn't something that was broadcast on National television. I could picture it now, Pat Sajak would start the show with the little segment where he greets each player and asks a few "tell me about yourself" questions. I'd freeze. What's my name? Where am I from? What do I like to do? If I could get over my intense stage fright and actually manage to open my mouth and speak words I'm sure it would be an embarrassment of stumbles, stutters, and totally wrong answers. So for now, I'm content to play from my couch and yell out answers as if I'm the one winning the cash.

If you like Alfredo sauce like I do, you really need to make it from scratch. Now I know I know, I know they sell the jarred version in the grocery store and trust me I'm not one to be all snooty about time-savers and cutting a few corners on a busy weeknight. But when it comes to getting the authentic fresh creamy taste of Alfredo sauce, the jarred version just isn't going to cut it. Not convinced? I'll share a story, I swear this is a true story.

In college we lived in an on-campus townhouse, myself and 7 other people. Once night while walking into the kitchen I swore I smelled that identifiable smell of throw up. My hypochondriac-self starts thinking "Great, someone has a stomach bug, now I'm going to get it. I'm going to get sick. I think I felt sick earlier.". But as I walked into the kitchen it wasn't a sickness at all. What was I smelling? Jarred Alfredo sauce cooking. I promise you I'm telling the truth. This was a well-known brand Alfredo sauce that smelled like pure vomit. Now, I'm not trying to seriously gross you out right before reading a recipe and looking at photos of my food, but I want you to understand why I say if you want good Alfredo sauce you've got to make it yourself. I won't classify this as a "quick and easy", but this definitely isn't overly time consuming and involved. Yes you have to watch the sauce, make a roux, stir and add a little of this and that to get the right consistency but the end result is a savory, warm Alfredo sauce that tastes like it came out of an Italian kitchen. Here are a few tips:

1. There's a very special ingredient you can't skip. It's the secret ingredient that takes Alfredo sauce from being a regular old cream sauce to warm and savory. Know what it is? Nutmeg! Yes, nutmeg. The same nutmeg we use in our pumpkin spice. Trust me. Do not skip this ingredient, it's just not going to be the same.

2. Using some of the water from your pasta cooking pot is the best way to thin out a cream sauce that has gotten too thick. Sometimes this happens, when you simmer a cream sauce especially one started with a roux it's going to get a little thick. You don't want to add more cream to thin it out, that will make the taste too creamy and dull out the rest of the flavors. So, as you notice the sauce getting a tad too thick, add half-ladles at a time of the boiling pasta water into the sauce pan.

3. I'm really into using a zester to grate my garlic. Chopping it is ok too, but when you zest it you get more of a paste and I find it cooks more evenly and gives stronger garlic flavor throughout the dish.

4. Lastly, I hate cleanup. Hate it. So, as a cleanup time-saver instead of returning the drained pasta to the pasta pot and pouring the sauce into that pot, I take the drained pasta and pour it into the sauce pan. This means I only have one Alfredoy-saucy pan to clean after dinner...and that's a very good thing.



I hope you enjoy this!






-1 box fettuccine noodles
-2 garlic cloves
-2 tablespoons butter
-2 tablespoons all purpose flour
-2 and 1/2 cups light cream
-4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon pepper
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-Reserve pasta water (used to thin out sauce as it simmers)
-1 10oz box of frozen peas, cooked to package instructions (I microwave :))
-5 strips of bacon, cooked and broken into pieces

1. Cook the fettuccine noodles to package instructions. You're going to be using some of the water the pasta is cooking in. 

2. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in large sauce pan over medium heat. With a zester, grate the garlic cloves into the butter. Saute for about a minute and a half until the garlic pieces are lightly browned. Add the flour and cook about a minute, then add the light cream, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Simmer 10-15 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally to prevent a film from forming over top. Now, cream sauces need a little extra attention. If the sauce is looking a little too thick, with a ladle spoon in some hot pasta water and stir to loosen the consistency. Use about half a ladle at a time. 

3. Once the sauce has simmered and the desired consistency is reached, add the cooked and drained pasta into the Alfredo sauce pan. Stir to coat all of the noodles.

4. To serve, plate the fettuccine noodle and top each serving with about 1/3 cup pease, crumbled bacon, and garnish with more grated Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Indoor S'mores

Every year for my husband's birthday, which happens to fall over Labor Day, we rent a cabin in the Catskills and enjoy a few days of the beautiful outdoors. Since we live in New Jersey just outside of Manhattan, the escape to the solace of the mountains and woods is something we look forward to every year. Admittedly, I like that the cell phone service is spotty. It makes the decision for me to stay off my phone and connect with the people I'm with. Don't get me wrong, as a blogger and Instagrammer I love the connectivity, but sometimes we all need a few days to step back and disconnect. This year, we went with another couple and rented a new cabin and had an absolute blast. The babbling brook was the perfect soundtrack to our morning coffee (ok there were mimosas thrown in there) and by night we built a large fire in the newly installed fire pit. Oh, something about the outdoors? Wildlife. I definitely got a little on edge when a huge pack of coyotes howled by sounding like they were just an arms reach away. And a rouge skunk helped himself to a bit a food we accidentally left out. But this is our yearly escape and each year we learn a bit more about making a successful cabin vacation.

If you find yourself around a campfire you're probably not too far away from s'mores ingredients. But, as you read above, we live just outside of Manhattan. City-dwellers and anyone without access to a background deserve the pleasure of a delicious chocolaty marshmallowy s'more too, right? Right.

Now, you're never going to guess where this recipe is from. Go ahead, make a guess.

Did you guess Richard Simmons? The Sweatin' to the Oldies Richard Simmons? Didn't think so.

When we were kids my mom bought a few of his cookbooks, one of them being dedicated totally to desserts called Sweetie Pie and this is his recipe for an indoor s'more. The chocolate spread is addicting. I promise you, make these once and they're going to be a recipe you return to over and over. Did I mention they take less than 10 minutes to make?

A note about marshmallow fluff, I found it in my grocery store down the baking aisle on the very bottom shelf near the spices and sugar.


Yields 5 S'mores
-1/4 cup semisweet morsels
-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
-1 tablespoon cocoa powder
-1 tablespoon powdered sugar
-Graham crackers
-Marshmallow Fluff

1. In a small pot over medium-low heat, melt the chocolate morsels and sweetened condensed milk.  Once melted, turn off heat and stir in the cocoa and powdered sugar.

2. To assemble, spread chocolate mixture onto one graham cracker and desired amount of marshmallow fluff on the other, combine to create your s'more. The amount of fluff really depends on your taste!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Spiced Blueberry Compound Butter

Here we are, the final hours of 2018. I'm ending the year right by using up my last vacation day and spending the day playing with Lilly and prepping some snack items for tonight and brunch tomorrow.

No, we don't have any party plans for this evening. See, having a little one sure does change things. Last year, Lilly was just shy of 3 months old which meant she was still in the middle of those exhausting newborn phases of not sleeping through the night and being awake at all hours of the night. So we were well awake at midnight, hoping that she was close to being ready for sleep (by sleep I mean the normal stretch of 3 hours before she was awake again and ready to eat). This year, even though she's just shy of 15 months, she's sleeping through the night but mommy and daddy are still so damn exhausted. It makes me feel even more exhausted just thinking about staying up past midnight partying. And then, there's the thought of the potential hangover the next day. But ya know what? We're totally fine to stay in, eat and have a few drinks, play a game or two and probably fall asleep before the ball drops and rings in the new year. My younger self would have been appalled by these "plans". I'm sure in a few short years Lilly will feel the excitement of New Year's Eve and want to try and stay awake for a celebration. I'm actually looking forward to that. Little kids have a way of reigniting the excitement and fun of the simple things.

In my prep for our brunch tomorrow morning, I've had this idea to make a blueberry compound butter. Compound butters are really easy to make but add something really special to your meal. The only trick is rolling up the parchment paper  to make sure the butter is really snug and tight. It's ok it it isn't perfect, after all we're talking about butter that eventually get spread and melted and will lose a perfect shape anyway. I really love how this blueberry compound butter came out. I wanted to make it a bit on the savory side, instead of a cavity-zinging sweet butter. By all means, if you're looking for crazy sweet just up the sugar, but I think you'll like this. You get the taste of fresh blueberry, warm cinnamon and nutmeg, and a bit of sugar to sweeten. Spread onto warmed biscuits and enjoy at your next brunch!





-10 tablespoons butter, room temperature
-1 cup fresh blueberries
-1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Place blueberries in a food processor and blend until smooth. It's ok to have small pieces of blueberries, it doesn't have to be completely smooth.

2. In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, combine the blueberries and butter, whip until incorporated. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

3. Unroll a large piece of parchment paper and fold in half. Spoon the blueberry butter onto the paper and form into a log shape about 1 inch in height. Fold the parchment paper around the butter and continue to roll, squeezing firmly to make sure the butter is condensed together. Twist the edges of the parchment paper. Place in freezer for 30 minutes, then move to the fridge for another 30 minutes. Slice into discs and spread onto warm biscuits.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Mini Almond Sugar Squares

The winter cold has officially taken over our household. Last weekend we took Miss Lilly to an indoor play place that we'd been to several times, one of those giant rooms that's section off into different themed play areas. Two days later the poor thing got her very first cold. I do realize how incredibly lucky we are that she made it 14 months before getting sick. She was hit hard with the head cold and she and I spent two very rough nights on the couch. I guess it's no surprise that just as she's turned the corner and starting to get better, Daddy and Mommy are getting hit with the bug. It's an orchestra of sniffles, coughs, sneezes, nose blows, repeat. Hopefully we're all back to 100% before Christmas.

A little head cold can't keep me out of the kitchen though. But isn't that the life of a mom? I really wanted to whip up these cookies because they are so easy and make the perfect little treat. The only dangerous part is they are so small you wind up eating so many of them because they are so good! My mom used to make these when we were kids, and last year I finally asked her for the recipe. I love that you actually bake this as one large cookie, then with your pizza cutter you slice them into little squares. I like going pretty small with them, the size of about two bites. They are so adorable! These would make a great gift for a neighbor or something to bring into the office for your coworkers. Or, you can always make these for no reason at all other than to snack on them with a cup of coffee. Which I may or may not be doing right now.


Tip:
-This dough is wet and a little sticky, it's not your traditional drier dough.
-Use the smallest baking sheet you have, when you spread out the dough it's not going to spread all the way to the edges. Mine looks like this. I measured 9" tall by 10".



- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
-5 tablespoons Crisco shortening
-3/4 cup white sugar
-1/3 cup vegetable oil
-1 tablespoon milk
-2 teaspoons almond extract
-1 egg
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-sprinkles + 1 tablespoon sugar for decorating

1. Heat oven to 375. In a large bowl cream together the shortening and the 3/4 cup sugar. Add in the oil, egg, milk, and almond extra and beat until light and fluffy.

2. Gradually blend in the flour, baking powder, and salt at low speed. Spread onto an ungreased baking pan. Mixture will not cover the entire pan, spread until about 1/4" thick. Mine measured 9x10. Sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon sugar and sprinkles. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes then slice with a pizza cutter to the desired cookie size.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Lime Sour Cream

Are you finished with your Holiday shopping? This is the first year that I completed all of my shopping without setting foot inside a single brick and mortar store. That's right. All shopping was done in the comfort of my pajamas sitting on my couch with a glass of wine in hand. Admittedly, sometimes that glass(es) of wine makes me awfully generous. But I feel quite accomplished, but also feeling quite old with how annoyed and frustrated I've become with the crowds that is holiday shopping. I remember in my high school days it was almost a yearly tradition for my brother and I to go Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. After dinner we'd hit the mall and divide and conquer. Looking back I can't believe my mom let us do that. People are crazy this time of year. They drive crazy. They act crazy around sales. They act crazy waiting in long lines. But, there was something fun about being in the mix of the hectic last minute shopping frenzy. I'm sure one day Lilly will want to go shopping with her friends and I'll have to put all of my fears aside and let her grow.

So this Lime Sour Cream is my new obsession. I swear I would put this on everything if I could. What makes this so great is that the lime juice cuts through the heavy tartness of the sour cream making this really light and refreshing, this won't make you feel weighed down. Put this on tacos, quesadillas, I've even used this as a dipping side to my sweet potato home fries. This is going to become your new go-to condiment.



-1/2 cup sour cream
-2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
-salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine the sour cream and lime juice, adding more or less juice depending on taste. I prefer a strong lime flavor so I'll use the 3 tablespoons. Add a dash of salt and pepper.