Sweet Cooking

Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

In Brownies & Bars on July 30, 2010 at 7:41 am

Guess what? Today is National Cheesecake Day! Go out and celebrate!

Cheesecake is so good. A slice of New York Style Cheesecake rates in my top 5 things to eat in life. It’s so sinful. I just don’t allow myself to have it (except for a special occasion, of course). I can never stop at one bite when it comes to cheesecake. While it’s not a substitute for authentic cheesecake, I think these bars do a nice job of satisfying a cheesecake craving without totally overindulging.

You can find Cooking Light’s recipe for Raspberry Cheesecake Bars here.

Here are the ingredients.

This is a mixture of cream cheese, lemon zest and juice, sour cream and sugar.

This is a mixture of eggs, flour, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and a little butter.

You pour half of the brown batter into a casserole dish, top it with the cream cheese mixture and raspberries. Then you drop the rest of the brown batter on top by teaspoonful. Then swirl it all around.

This is how the dish looks after baking for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Once cool, cut into bars. Let's be honest, this is not nearly as delicious as the real thing, but it's pretty tasty!

Summer Reading for the Pretend Chef

In Miscellaneous on July 29, 2010 at 9:09 am

I have been traveling the last few days (visiting friends and family in Georgia and Alabama) so I haven’t been in the kitchen. Sorry, kitchen! I’ve missed you. I’ll be back today.

I do, however, want to tell you about my latest finds in the bookstore. I love cookbooks and all the new “chef” related novels out there. Here are my latest finds:

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

The author of this book must have an awesome publisher because you can’t pick up a food magazine without reading a raving review. I am about 1/3 finished…the 2 main characters (wildly different sisters) are slowly coming together.

This isn't a book that will grab you from the start, but I have high hopes!

A brief review from The New Yorker: Goodman’s charming reworking of “Sense and Sensibility” follows two sisters—Emily, the C.E.O. of a promising data-storage startup in Silicon Valley, in the late-nineties, and Jess, a tree-hugging vegan who meanders through graduate school at Berkeley while moonlighting at an antiquarian bookstore. There she and her grumpy boss, George, an old-school Microsoft millionaire, stumble into “a bibliophile’s Louisiana Purchase,” the rare cookbook collection of an eccentric lichenologist. Goodman ably captures the giddy atmosphere of the dot-com bubble and takes the parabola of the market as the geometry of all desire: when the Nasdaq swoons, so does Jess for George. If Goodman’s story occasionally overreaches—it has too many ingredients and relies a lot on coincidence and revelation—it remains wry, astute, and gratifying.

52 Loaves by William Alexander

I have not started this book yet, but it's next up. Read an excerpt from the book jacket below.

William Alexander is determined to bake the perfect loaf of bread. He tasted it long ago and has been trying to reproduce it ever since. Now, on the theory that practice makes perfect, he sets out to bake the same peasant bread every other week until he gets it right. He bakes his loaf from scratch. And because Alexander is nothing if not thorough, he really means from scratch: growing, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, and milling his own wheat. His journey spans three continents, a backyard wheat field, two exploding ovens, one herniated vertebra, a prolonged battle with food poisoning, a crisis of faith, and a thirteen-hundred-year-old monastery – in pursuit of perfection.

Molto Gusto – Easy Italian Cooking by Mario Batali

This book is a feast for the eyes!

I love all of the photography not to mention the recipes. They are all so simple….just a few quality ingredients and basic cooking skills are required. Check out Mario making Linguine with Clams here. He makes it look so easy! The cookbook contains chapters on Vegetable Antipasti, Seafood & Meat Antipasti, Bruschetta & Cheese, Insalata, Pasta, Pizza, and Gelato & Sorbetto. I can’t wait to make everything!

Last, but not least, my stepmother and I had a great celebrity chef (and author) siting in Sag Harbor, NY over the weekend. We were having delicious lobster rolls at Beacon when I spotted Anthony Bourdain. Anthony is kinda hot in person. Read his book, "No Reservations" if you haven't!

All of the books previously mentioned can be found at Amazon. Happy reading!

Swag Bars (sort of)

In Brownies & Bars on July 28, 2010 at 9:18 am

I like to experiment with recipes. Sometimes I’m really pleased with the results. Sometimes, not so much. Unfortunately, this is one of those “not so much” experiments.

I used this Cooking Light recipe for Swag Bars as inspiration. I adjusted a lot of the ingredients:

  • I used a natural peanut butter. I love organic and all natural products, but I have yet to find a natural peanut butter that I like. If you have a favorite, PLEASE let me know.
  • I used pure sugar cane syrup instead of corn syrup.
  • Instead of using Total cereal, I used Cheerios.

Basically, I think there were two problems here. First, the natural peanut butter just doesn’t taste good. Second, I didn’t crush the Cheerios, so the consistency wasn’t good. My bars fell apart.

Not tasty or pretty!

It looks a lot better with melted chocolate on top.

I think crushing the Cheerios would have made this dessert 10x better.

I considered throwing these out, but I couldn’t do it. I ended up putting all of the bars into a food processor and made crumbs. I think this would actually make a decent pie crust. They would also be good in a blizzard. Why are there no Dairy Queen’s in NYC? Maybe I’ll add these to a homemade milk shake! The crumbs are in the freezer and hopefully I’ll find a use for them soon.

Chocolate-Nut Zucchini Bread

In Bread on July 27, 2010 at 7:20 am

How awesome does that sound? I love zucchini bread. Adding chocolate just takes it to a whole new level! Zucchini is in season, so grab a few and make this easy and delicious bread.

Follow the instructions in the recipe. I used 2 large zucchini and grated it by hand. I had never macerated zucchini before. It removes a lot of moisture – a lot more than I expected.

This zucchini....

produced this liquid.

I followed the recipe exactly with two exceptions.

1. I used pecans instead of walnuts.

2. I didn’t chop the chocolate because I had bittersweet morsels, and I thought they would be okay as is.

When you mix all of the ingredients together, your batter should like like this. I used a loaf pan, but I think this recipe would be great as muffins, as well!

This bread takes an hour to bake at 375 degrees.

Smells great (at least Chance thinks so).

Tastes great too!

Cheese and Wine Tasting

In Miscellaneous on July 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I love cheese. I like all different kinds…stinky, creamy, hard, soft, singles, goat, sheep, cow. It’s all fantastic. I recently went to a wine and cheese pairing “class” at Sydney’s in Westhampton Beach. Erin, the owner, is a self-proclaimed cheese snob, and she really knows her stuff. I didn’t take photos at the tasting, but I did buy some of my favorite cheeses to serve at home.

I could eat this entire plate, but that would be gross.

Out of the ten cheeses we tried, I really loved the five featured above:

Upper Right – Humboldt Fog – ripened Goat’s Milk from Humboldt County, California.

Humboldt Fog is a mold-ripened cheese with a central line of edible ash (the blue line going down the center is ash – crazy, right!). The cheese is creamy, light, and mildly acidic with a stronger flavor near the rind. This cheese was my favorite. It’s got a salty flavor that I just love. It was paired with a Chablis.

Bottom Right – Manchego.

Actually, we did not taste this one. I bought it because my husband is a less adventurous cheese eater, and I knew he would like Manchego. Manchego is made in the La Mancha region of Spain from sheep’s milk. It is aged between 60 days and 2 years. Manchego is firm and has a buttery texture. Manchego has a distinctive flavor – it’s creamy with a little bit of tartness in each bite.

Middle – Fundo di Toscana Truffle from Tuscany, Italy.

This is a traditional pasteurized sheep and cow’s milk cheese studded with pieces of Spring Black truffles, with a touch of salt and aged for 20 days. This cheese is softer in texture and has an unmistakable truffle flavor.  If you are unaware of my truffle obsession, please visit the “travel” section of this blog! We had this cheese with a 2006 Brunello di Monalcino. A Tuscan cheese deserves a Tuscan wine. 2006 is supposed to be a great vintage. Be on the lookout for it on wine lists!

Bottom Left – Krystal Cave Aged Cheddar – Aged Cows Milk from England.

Kilchurn Estate Krystal Pure Cave Aged Cheddar is a very unique cheese which has been aged for 15 months in century old caves.  It has a distinctively sweet flavor, with natural calcium crystals. Now, the people in my class were all about the calcium crystals. But I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I didn’t really notice the crystals. Nevertheless, I did really like the cheese. It’s a good option for a crowd too because everyone likes cheddar! We had this with a rioja which I kind of thought was a strange pairing. The rioja wasn’t bold enough in my opinion.

Top Left – Fromage d’Affinois – Double Cream Cow’s Milk from Rhone, France

This cheese is similar to brie in look and texture. But it differs from Brie in a major way. Before the cheese is made, the cow’s milk undergoes a process called “ultrafiltration”. Ultrafiltration removes water from the milk, concentrating all other components.  Ultrafiltration results in a milk that retains more nutrients and proteins, and the cheese has a relatively high fat content of 60%. So bad for you, but so good! I loved this cheese! We had it with a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It was the perfect combination. Also…be sure to eat the rind! The rind is edible in this cheese, as with Brie.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin

In breakfast, Muffins on July 23, 2010 at 7:40 am

My dad and step mother are visiting from Alabama. I love having family and friends in town. We have lots of eating on the agenda! Last night we had dinner at Pylos in Manhattan. Pylos is a Greek restaurant that I absolutely adore. They have the best Greek salad in Manhattan. Tonight we are having burgers at the beach.  And tomorrow night we’ll eat at Mirko’s in Water Mill (best bolognese EVER). I swear they put crack in the bolognese. It’s that good. I need to butter up the owner and see if I can get the recipe.

Since we’re eating heavy meals at night, I’m not doing much in the way of breakfast or lunch. For breakfast, we’ll have fresh fruit, yogurt and these wonderful Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.

The muffins are really easy!

Mix up the dry ingredients: cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt and poppy seeds.

Combine the wet ingredients: lemon juice, lemon zest, yogurt, eggs, oil and almond extract.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into greased muffin tins - this recipe makes 12 large muffins.

Voila - a great lemon muffin to start the day. This is delicious with a latte!

Have a great weekend everyone! I hope you cook something delicious.

Trying to Eat Less Meat

In Miscellaneous on July 22, 2010 at 9:45 am

One of the new “healthy eating” fads is to eat less meat. Too much meat in your diet is not good for you and it’s bad for the world (not to mention the animals). There are many who believe our high-protein diet has contributed to some of our environmental problems – I don’t know a lot about this, but evidently it takes a ton of energy to process meat and that equates to a ton of pollution and waste (and potentially global warming!). So now we have to eat less carbs, dairy and meat. So what are we supposed to eat? That leaves grains, fruit, nuts and veggies. I’m sure a few years from now, we’ll be on an all meat, dairy and carb diet. But for now, I’m trying to find meat-less protein sources.

Enter Tofu. You can read all about tofu on Wikipedia. Here are the basics:

1. It’s soy bean curd, folks. It’s made from curdled soy bean milk. The curds are pressed into a block which is how tofu is sold in stores.

2. Tofu tastes really bland all by itself. It’s like a sponge though… marinating the tofu really adds flavor.

3.Tofu is a good source of protein, low in calories, low in fat, low in cholesterol. Click this link to find out the specific nutritional values of tofu.

I made this tofu burger while my husband was out of town. No way would he have agreed to eat this.

I think my “burger” was pretty good. I marinated the tofu in lemon juice, basil and a little olive oil.

I let the tofu and marinade hang out for over an hour.

I grilled the tofu in my grill pan for 3 minutes on each side. I basted along the way.

I made a little olive spread to go on my burger. Just diced kalamata olives with yogurt and a little sour cream.

I made it, I ate it, and I liked it. BUT I don’t like that tofu has no natural flavor. You have to use so many herbs, spices, salt, etc. to get it to taste like anything! Cardboard probably has more flavor than tofu. If anyone has any good tofu recipes out there, please send them my way. I am not giving up on it just yet.

Flourless Peanutbutter-Chocolate Cookie

In Cookies, Gluten Free on July 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm

This is the strangest cookie I’ve ever made. It contains no flour or butter. Shockingly, this cookie is really good. It’s definitely my best gluten-free effort thus far. I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of nut flours when I really should have just eliminated flour all together!

I found this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website. You can access it here. The cookies are simple to make. You just put everything in a bowl and mix up the dough.

The dough is made of peanut butter, sugar, one egg, baking soda, salt, peanuts and chocolate chips.

Roll the dough into little balls and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.

Yummy! Fresh out of the oven - the chocolate is still gooey.

Delicious and gluten-free!

This cookie is heavy on the peanut butter flavor. It reminds me of a Nutter Butter that's been dipped in a little chocolate. If you like Nutter Butters you'll love this cookie. I love Nutter Butters!

Frozen Blackberry-Lemon Chiffon Pie

In Fruit, Pie on July 20, 2010 at 10:27 am

During  our recent heat wave, I could not bear to turn on the oven. It was too hot to bake. It was pretty much too hot to do anything. I could not even attend the Bloomingdale’s sale. It was too hot to shop. So, I spent a lot of time researching no-bake desserts.

I decided to make Cooking Light's Frozen Blackberry-Lemon Chiffon Pie.

I followed the instructions in the recipe.

Start by pureeing blackberries and lemon juice in a blender.

After you have a nice puree, strain the blackberries to remove the solids. I was shocked at how many seeds are in blackberries. I considered skipping this step for a minute, but I’m really glad I didn’t. While the blackberries are hanging out, prepare the crust.

This crust is really tasty! It's crushed graham crackers, butter and low fat milk.

For the pie filling, start by beating 4 egg whites and a little salt until foamy. Then combine water and sugar in a saucepan and heat to 250°. Once you have it hot enough, you pour it over egg whites. It’s important to get the sugar mixture hot enough to make the egg whites safe to eat.

Beat the sugar and egg white mixture until stiff peaks form and fold in the blackberry puree. Then pour it all into the crust and freeze overnight.

Garnish with fresh blackberries and mint.

This pie is low in fat and calories (only 166 calories per slice) and very refreshing on a hot summer night! Plus, I love that it’s totally make ahead. Enjoy!

Cute, Little Prosciutto Bundles

In Fruit, Just Good Food, Miscellaneous on July 19, 2010 at 1:48 pm

My husband makes fun of me because I say “cute” and “little” to describe food. For example, I think cherry tomatoes are very cute and little. I also like miniature muffins. They are so cute and little. Fingerling potatoes are deliciously petite, cute and little.

Prosciutto bundles are my favorite cute, little appetizer. It’s so simple….fruit, arugula and prosciutto. It’s an awesome flavor combination. I’m a huge arugula fan and I love its spice with the sweetness of the fruit and the saltiness of the prosciutto.  This is what you do….

Toss some arugula with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Slice a nectarine, peach or plum into cute, little wedges. Melon would work too!

Buy high quality prosciutto. If the slices are thick, halve lengthwise. Chance was extremely interested in the prosciutto.

Put a few arugula leaves on one end of the prosciutto, top the arugula with one slice of fruit, wrap it up into a little roll!

These cute, little guys are packed for a picnic in Central Park! Because they are little, you can eat a lot!