Saturday, December 31, 2011

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

I tweaked this recipe quite a bit based on the comments/reviews from the original blogger.  

My changes:
  1. I used the crust recipe from the back of the graham cracker crumb box.  The original recipe would have been way too hard (too much butter) and salty.
  2. I didn't put any salt in the filling.  I figured the salted caramel would be enough salt.
  3. I decreased the sugar from 1 1/4 cups to about 3/4 cups.  It seemed like way too much when you figure the dulce de leche is already sweet,
  4. I used my trusty salted caramel sauce recipe.  Why mess with a good thing?

The cheesecake was wonderful!  Not too sweet but sweet enough with the sauce.  Everything was PERFECT.  Wouldn't change a thing!

So basically it's a caramel cheesecake.  Jim said its the best cheesecake he's ever had!  Better than the Cheesecake Factory.  That's some high praise coming from him.

Now what to do with the rest of it?!  Freeze it (:  Save some for my foodie BFF's at work (:

Friday, December 30, 2011

Corn Dogs and Fried Cheese on Sticks

I don't know if deep frying is my thing.  It's not the healthiest but it was a worthwhile experiment and rare treat.

I made corn dogs and fried cheese on a stick!  I followed a recipe from the Pioneer Woman.  She knows what she's doing!  I thought we had a Fry Daddy (from Jim's bachelor days) but it must have gone the way of the Goodwill (or Disabled Vets) some time ago.  I don't have experience with deep oil so I looked up directions online and then saw all the fire warnings.  Eeeeek!  The fire extinguisher and baking soda (recommended) came out just in case!

Here are some of the corn dogs and pieces of pepper jack cheese and Colby jack.  The PW suggested using chopsticks but wooden skewers did the trick too.

I was able to use my new cast iron pot!  (Thanks Laura!)

He likes it!  He likes it!  (Shocking!)

The inside of the cheese balls.  Some were balls, some were sticks.  

So our final verdict?  I think I'll stick to state fair and carnival corn dogs.  These were good but a lot of worry.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gingerbread Cake Balls

So my gingerbread balls chilled for a day in the fridge.  I decided to tackle them the next day with some red candy coating, though I don't think it's very red.  I also neglected to see that I don't have Christmas sprinkles in the house.  I think I threw them all out last year because I questioned their age.  I made do with what I had.

So I have this nifty little chocolate melting pot now.  I used a Michael's 50% off coupon.

I had some fondue forks and used those to spear the balls temporarily to cover them with the melty chocolate.

I let most of it drip off and I tapped the side of the fork against the pot.  When it stopped dripping I carefully laid the balls on a wax paper lined baking sheet.

I added sprinkles before they dried.

And then after a quick five minutes in the freezer (when I was all done) they were set!  We each enjoyed two with a glass of milk.  Jim is my official taste tester.  He said they were good :)

My cake balls never formed perfect balls.  They were a little lumpy.  I guess I could have wet the crumbs a bit more to get them to really stick together.  I was happy with my first solo attempt though!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Andes Peppermint Cupcakes

I don't get to participate in the office potluck on Tuesday so I decided to bring my cupcakes on Monday. The office staff can spread the (food) love on Monday AND Tuesday.

These are my favorite chocolate cake recipe (from the back of the Hershey's cocoa tin) with a bit of Mint Chocolate ganache in the middle and then finally the Peppermint Buttercream on top.  I meant to only tint the frosting with green but it ended up a bit brighter than I expected.  Ooops.  A little gel coloring goes a long ways...

Truly they are NOT as green as this picture.  Close though!

I'm never really a frosting girl so a little of this frosting would have been good for me.  It was very minty and very creamy.  The block of cream cheese really made a difference I think!  The ganache was barely noticeable.  I had issues with the squeeze bottle.  The recipe suggested using a squeeze bottle but I think that's a bad idea.  Too thick.  Pastry bag next time, for sure.

This green is really freaking me out!  I don't think I've ever really colored frosting.  Well, not since the blue cookie monsters.  I'm sure they'll get eaten, right?

Gingerbread Cake

I had a plan when making this cake.  I knew that it would end up in small balls.  But first we each had a piece to "taste test".  It's a spicy, classic gingerbread cake!

I put the baked cake through the food procesor to make it into crumbs.  And I added just a bit of this "natural" caramel creamer to make it wet enough to roll into balls.

Cake balls!

I am working in stages.  I put these caked balls into the fridge for another time.  Probably tomorrow night I'll melt the chocolate and cover these babies!  Without sticks, so more like truffles.

Click here for the stolen recipe for Classic Gingerbread Cake.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Betty Crocker

Who knew that I've been following a 1974 Betty Crocker recipe?  My friend Christa gave me this recipe a few years ago and we've kept it secret because if too many people have the recipe it becomes "common". Haha.  We are silly.

It's just not the holidays unless I make this candy.  I can't wait!

I use Hershey's bars instead of the chocolate chips.

Betty Crocker 1974, English Toffee Candy

This tip was confirmed by my friend Ann last week- do not cool candy in the freezer.  The layers will separate.  I've done this a few times and it's no fun to have the chocolate and the toffee break apart.  Imperfect candy can still be eaten but it's just not the same!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cake Pops

I took advantage of a Crowdcut deal (kinda like Groupon) and signed up for a cooking class. I ended up choosing this one, Elegant Cake Pops and Truffles-

Dazzle your family and friends this holiday with a collection of elegant gourmet cake truffles. You will create a variety of cake pops and cake truffles covered in shimmering gold, silver, red, green and other festive colors. Our truffles will consist of cornmeal pound cake with rosemary infused cream, snickerdoodle cake with vanilla bean cream and gingerbread with a creamy orange infusion. We’ll top our truffles with snowflakes, sparkles, glitters and other lovely edible creations

It was great! I worried because my other experience was so-so, actually not great at all. This class was pretty basic but at least it was in an area that I didn't really have much experience. I've made cake pops before but it was a frustrating, endless effort. Here are a couple of things that I learned:

Don't do it all at once. Have the cakes and "moisturizer" (more on this below) ready a day or more in advance. Don't try and make the cake and moisturizer the same day as you're decorating. It's just too much. This was my mistake before! The instructor had all the cakes and creams ready for the class. We were given a chance to assemble the cake balls and we put them in the freezer to firm up while we worked on other things. You could even do this part ahead of time too, and then decorate on another day.

You don't need to use cake mixes and canned frosting. Bakerella (famous blogger, really THE cake pop queen) uses them because it's user friendly. You can use almost ANY crumbled cake for these cake pops. And you don't need to use frosting! Cake pops are good but using cake/frosting combos make them overly sweet. This instructor showed us that you can use any cake and infuse your own cream for the "moisturizer".

The moisturizer is just the liquid that you use to bind the cake crumbs so that you can roll them into balls. She said you can use 5-7 Tablespoons of liquid (cream, liquor, juice, etc) per 9x13 cake recipe. We did this in the class and it worked great.

Cake balls should be rolled in your cupped hand. It rolls into better formed balls that way. Just a tip.

The cake should be cooked, cooled, and then processed in the food processor. Fine crumbs. Fluffy moist cakes are not necessary, actually discouraged. If you really want to use a fluffy cake you should let the crumbs sit out for awhile so they dry out.

We used chocolate melting pots for the cake pop dipping. I learned that the chocolate I used in the past was NOT thin enough. It should be the consistency of hot fudge. We didn't really dip the cake balls into the melted chocolates, but spooned the chocolate to cover the cake ball.

If the chocolate is not thin enough you can add a Tablespoon of Crisco. This kind of grosses me out but it's necessary.

I also did not let enough of the melting chocolate drip off the cake ball in the past. The method today was to get as much of the chocolate off the cake ball as possible. This is done by tapping the stick on the side of the chocolate pot, very lightly, swirling the cake ball repeatedly as you do this.

You can decorate the cake balls immediately with sprinkles, sparking sugars, etc. They can then be placed in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to firm up.

And last, I learned that you can all of this ahead of time. Decorated and all. They can be packaged and frozen!

We also went over how to make the cake balls as truffles (no sticks) and we made cake balls in the shapes of cupcakes. I was unofficially voted the Best Cupcake maker in the class. Everyone said mine was perfect looking :)

The cooking school was very interesting. I'm going to look into more classes but I think they are pricey at regular cost. We'll see! The cooking school is called Chefs Abode.

I think I'm done for tonight. I just want to sleep :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turkey, Mushroom, and Wild Rice Soup

Still working on leftovers. We used most of the leftover turkey in this soup. Soups are my FAVE. We needed to pick up mushrooms (baby bellas), more broth, and an onion.

This simmered in the background while we played with James and enjoyed our Christmas lights.

This was a great soup. I'm so glad there is leftovers of the leftovers!

Roasted Potatoes, Chicken Sausage, and Peppers

Finally. I am into late November now. I made this easy meal on the day before Thanksgiving, after a full day of Thanksgiving prep. This meal was just chopping and roasting.

We enjoyed this but both agreed that it lacked something. A sauce? Some kind of moisture.

We do really like this sausage. It was chicken sausage with gouda cheese and apples. Precooked. So after this meal we had extra sausages and Jim has sliced and heated them through as a side with scrambled eggs. Yum.

Baked Chicken Stuffed with Pesto and Cheese

I forgot that I had pesto frozen from my basil plants this summer. I did use jarred pesto and it was just fine. I don't have a meat pounder but I tried to get the chicken as flat as I could. I only managed to fold it once over and not in a roll. It was still good.

Oh, I also used panko crumbs instead of ground almonds. I guess for this recipe I was just stealing the idea of it and not the actual recipe.

The pesto and cheese filling was good. This one will definitely be made again.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

A co-worker was having a birthday and they had a lunch party for her. I offered to bring cupcakes. And then it turned out that I couldn't even attend the lunch but I sent the cupcakes with someone else. They loved them :)

I've wanted to make a peanut butter and chocolate combo for a while, but it's not one that gets requested often so when I had free rein to make "anything" I picked these.

The peanut butter frosting was FABULOUS. Seriously, fabulous. Peanut butter and cream cheese? YES PLEASE!

The peanut butter filling tasted like the inside of a Reese's peanut butter cup. It was pretty firm, I wished it was a bit fluffier but it was fine. Delicious.

Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin

Another crockpot recipe! Jim did make this one on his own. All of it. It turned out wonderfully! The glaze was awesome- sweet, flavorful, and a little sour from the balsamic? Again, I'm trying to remember details from too long ago (11/4).

Crockpot BBQ Beer Chicken

I love these crockpot meals. I sometimes start them before I leave for work or I leave the work to my dear work-at-home husband. He does awesome work.

I think Jim did make this meal. This is way back from 11/1 so it's hard to remember. I know I did make the BBQ sauce the night before and left the recipe out for Jim.

It was good! We love these crockpot meals. I don't feel as rushed to come home and hurry a meal together for a decent time. (We like to eat at 5:30, and I get home with James at about 5:00. So RR's 30 minute meals would be handy but I don't like her style of food.)


Roasted brussel sprouts rounded out the meal.

Cheddar Corn Chowder

I love soups. I love Brown Eyed Baker soups.

I love corn. And potatoes. And bacon. And white cheddar. So this soup is for ME! It was velvety smooth and hearty.

It also froze very nicely so we had plenty of freezer bags for quick lunches.

DIY Lipton Soup Mix

I try and use fresh and natural when I can. A few of our favorite recipes have called for Lipton Soup Mix. You just have to know that it's full of chemicals, preservatives, and sodium.

So this is better. A homemade mixture of spices, with questionable bouillon powder but what are you going to do? It's a low sodium kind.

And it tastes the same! We've used in a few recipes, like our standard potroast, and it's been great.

Salted Caramel Mochas

I had a Salted Caramel at Starbucks last month and I gagged. I am officially a food snob in all areas. I did NOT like their salted caramel. It was very artificial and too sweet tasting.

When I saw this recipe on Pinterest I knew I could make it. I made my usual Salted Caramel sauce, bought the hot chocolate mix from Starbucks, made coffee as usual, and whipped up some heavy cream for whipped cream.


Heavenly. Indulgent. I need to make it again soon!

Crockpot French Onion Soup

I'm going backwards to October, looking through the food pictures that I never did blog about. This is an easy crockpot soup that we did enjoy. Jim loves French Onion soup and this came from one of my new favorite blogs, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Turns out I love Gruyere cheese!

I thought this soup was pretty sweet. I mean, literally. Is that normal for French Onion soup? I don't know. I dont' think I've ever really ordered it from a restaurant.

Jim did enjoy it. I don't know if we'll make it again because it would have to be a very definite craving on my part... and honestly I enjoy other soups so much more. I am glad I made it though.

Dulce de Pumpkin Pie

I've been craving pumpkin pie. So I made one. I am sick but I managed to get out of bed/my funk for this one :) Pumpkin pies are really easy, especially if you used a prepared crust. I think this is "cheating" but it was okay for today.

So instead of using evaporated milk you use "dulce de leche" for this filling. The canned dulce de leche is found in the Mexican food aisle. It is basically just really thick caramel sauce. Yum.

The pie tasted a bit darker than the usual pumpkin pie, but it was very good. I think it will be even better tomorrow after we let it set completely. We ate it while it was warm.

Sir James did NOT like it. Stinker. Is he really my son if he doesn't like pumpkin pie??! JK!

Kiki, real whipped cream! :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gobble until you Wobble!

My Thanksgiving plate: Herb Roasted Turkey with Sage Gravy, Double Bread Stuffing with Brown Butter, Bacon and Sage, Squash, Green Bean Casserole, PW Mashed Potatoes, and Cranberry Sauce.

The Tauer family came over for Thanksgiving. To prep we made these cute Oreo turkeys the night before. James enjoyed putting the parts together :)

We put a turkey at each place setting. James helped! It was also a good way to prepare James for guests. He knew who was coming over and he was excited for them to see his turkeys.

We needed to break out a card table. I was determined that this wouldn't be a "kid's table" Kara (college student) isn't a kid! I knew I would be insulted to be called a kid at that age :)

Oh there's Kara, relaxing on the massage chair. I went downstairs to give the 10 minute warning for food and found lots of fun in the basement. Massage chair...

Video games...

Wild claw!


I am SO THANKFUL for this little boy.

This ended up being the "Cool Table".

The turkey before (with lots of herbed butter)-

And after!

I tackled yeast again. Buttery Cloverleaf rolls.

THE BEST Green Bean Casserole. The mushroom sauce was killer. We think we might need to make some and just eat it as SOUP.

Double Bread Stuffing with Brown Butter, Bacon and Sage. You just can't go wrong with my favorite breads- cornbread and sourdough... Mmmmmmmm. And hello? BACON!

I didn't get a picture of Laura's squash. It's pictured on my plate above!

Simple cranberry sauce.

Roger and Linda brought Wild Rice Soup.

They also brought dessert- apple pie and pumpkin trifle (layered with gingerbread, pumpkin pudding, cool whip).

Again, I didn't get many pictures with family but here is James saying goodbye to Grandma Laura. He was pretty cranky towards the end so I'm glad she got a hug :)

We are thankful for so much! Thank you Familia :)

Click here for the stolen recipe for Pioneer Woman's Creamy Mashed Potatoes. I didn't end up baking the potatoes but while they were still hot I put them in the crockpot to keep warm.

We also served Ginger Tea Lemonade. Yum. Click here for the stolen recipe for Ginger Tea Lemonade. Jim is becoming the Master of GTL!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Microwave popcorn

Did you know that you can make popcorn in the microwave with just a plain brown paper bag? No oil or butter! Unless you want it for flavoring afterwards!

I just popped some and sprinkled a bit of cinnamon sugar on top. Deeeelicious!

Easy instructions: Put 1/4- 1/2 cup of corn kernels in a brown paper bag. Fold over twice. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, actually less- remove bag when you hear fewer pops, just like those other microwave bags.