Sunday, November 30, 2014

White Chocolate Bark Peppermint Oreo Cheesecake

This is a much more involved recipe than I normally tackle but it's Christmas and I'm hoping that Santa will reward my efforts.  The original recipe was SUPER complicated and I initially bailed on this one, but the challenge of it and determination to make this thing actually possible for a normal home cook took over!  The results are this four step baking bonanza below:
4 oz dark chocolate
4 oz white chocolate
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 crushed candy canes

In a microwave save bowl, melt the dark chocolate with 1/8 tsp. peppermint extract and 1/2 tsp. oil. Heat for 30 seconds then stir well to complete the melting process.  Spread in a thin layer over a waxed paper lined baking sheet.  Repeat this process with another bowl and the white chocolate.  Heat, stir and layer on top of your dark bark.  Top with crushed candy canes.  Allow to cool completely or refrigerate for 15 minutes to speed the process.  This does not have to be pretty and all even - you're just going to chop it up anyway!  You'll need 1/2 this bark for your cheesecake.  Use the other half to bribe your family into leaving you alone to let you bake in peace!
2 cups crushed chocolate Oreo's (not double stuffed)
3 Tbl melted  butter

Combine and stir until well blended.  Spray your spring form pan liberally with cooking spray and layer the cookie mixture in the bottom.   Bake at 350* for 10 minutes then remove and set aside.  Reduce oven temp to 325*

3 pkg softened cream cheese (8 oz each)
4 oz melted white chocolate
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbl flour
1 1/2 Tbl heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp salt           
2 tsp peppermint extract
3 eggs
1/2 batch of bark (chopped)

Beat cream cheese and sugar until well blended.  Add the melted chocolate, flour, whipping cream, salt and peppermint extract.  Blend well, add eggs one by one - lightly mix each.  Don't over beat this as it will add air to your batter and will lead you straight to a cracked cake.  By hand, gently fold in the chopped bark. 

Place a medium sized bowl of water in the oven (oven safe dish of course).  This will keep moisture in the oven and helps to prevent cracking.  Bake at 325* for one hour.  Turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven for another 45 minute.  The cake is done when the center inch or two is still jiggly.  Let your cheese cake cool at room temperature on a cooling rack for one hour.  This allows your cake to adjust to reduced temperatures slowly and helps reduce the risk of cracking.   When cooled to room temp, refrigerate for 4 hours.

1/2 cup Cool Whip 
4 oz softened cream cheese
2 oz melted white chocolate
1 1/2 Tbl sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix Cool Whip, cream cheese, melted white chocolate, sugar and vanilla.  Pour over cake and return to refrigerator for another 4 hours or overnight. 

Remove your creation from the spring form pan, slice and garnish with crushed candy canes and chocolate shavings.  Don't skip on the garnishing - they can help hide any surface flaws and pretty cake always tastes better!  Hand a slice of this along with your letter of wishes to Santa and I know you will be well rewarded!

Cheesecake Tips:
  • A spring form pan (with removable side and bottom) is the most commonly used pan for making cheesecakes.
  • Avoid over-beating the batter. Over-beating incorporates additional air and tends to cause cracking on the surface of the cheesecake.
  • For even marbling and the best distribution of added ingredients, such as chocolate chips or nuts, do not over-soften or over-beat the cream cheese.
  • Avoid over-baking: Cheesecake baking times are not always exact, due to variations in ovens. The cheesecake will continue to bake after it is removed from the oven. The center of the cheesecake should be just slightly moist when it is ready to be removed.
  • Upon removal from the oven, loosen the cake from the edge of the pan by running the tip of a knife or narrow spatula between the top edge of the cake and the side of the pan. This allows the cake to pull away freely from the pan as it cools.
  • Cool the cheesecake on a wire rack away from drafts. After a cheesecake has cooled completely, gently loosen the entire side of the cheesecake from the pan with the tip of a knife while slowly releasing the spring form pan clamp. Carefully remove the side of the pan.
  • Baked cheesecakes freeze well. Cool them completely and wrap them securely in heavy-duty foil or plastic wrap, but do not freeze cheesecakes with garnishes or toppings.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Broccoli Chicken

This morning, I decided to inspect my freezer and pantry before making my week's meal plan and grocery list.  I had most of what I needed to make one of our Asian take out favorites so I set my mind to Broccoli Chicken!   I haven't made this before so I googled several recipes.  Many had ingredients that I was not familiar with and were more expensive than I I made a plan - to wing it and see if I could do a super simple version.  Boy did this work!!!!  I am so happy with how this turned out!  The Hubs LOVED this and I must say - ' tis yummy enough to become a regular here!

You'll need:

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 bottle lite soy sauce
1 bunch of fresh broccoli (florets only)  or 1bag of frozen broccoli florets (I prefer fresh but either is fine)
1 small can of sliced water chestnuts
1 cup baby carrots
2 bags instant brown rice (white or long grain wild rice are fine too - your preference)
fried chow mein noodles (for garnish)
two pinches of sugar and pepper to taste

Like I said, I read a lot of recipes then went my own way with this.  I added the chicken breasts to my sauté skillet and added 1/4 bottle of lite soy sauce.  Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes (until chicken is cooked thru the middle completely) then take your tongs and separate the chicken into bite size pieces.  Add a pinch of sugar and a round of fresh ground pepper, then allow this to sit uncovered for about 10 minutes while you get your veggies and rice ready.

Start your rice in the microwave for 10 minutes on high.  I like the bagged instant brown rice - there is no clean up and it cooks perfectly every time.  You can't go wrong with this - any brand is fine. 

Julienne your water chestnuts and carrots.  Add them to your chicken and another 1/4 bottle of your lite soy sauce then cover and heat on medium until your carrots are beginning to tender.  Add the broccoli last with another pinch of sugar.  You want the broccoli to be cooked* but not mushy.  Broccoli cooks fast so wait until your carrots are ready to add it. 

*Strong caution - DO NOT OVER COOK YOUR BROCCOLI!  Mushy broccoli is yucky and you deserve better!  As soon as the broccoli is al-dente' you are done!  Take the chicken and veggie mix, serve it over the rice and top with fried chow mein noodles and enjoy! 

I have to say that I am beyond impressed with how good this is!  All the google ingredients: ginger, sesame oil, Hoisin sauce, etc. may be fine - but for me - simple works and it tastes GREAT!  Start cookin' and use a fork - chopsticks take too long! :)

Goodbye Take Out - Hello Simple At Home!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sausage Hominy Casserole

1 lb Country Sausage (I like Tennessee Pride the best)
2 cans Hominy (white or yellow or one of each)
2 cans Rotel Brand Tomatoes (mild or regular)
2 cups Shredded Velveeta (or 1/4 of a regular block of Velveeta)
1 Bell Pepper (diced)
3 Scallions (thinly sliced)

Crumble, brown and drain sausage. Drain hominy and tomatoes (you'll have to use a spoon to squish the water out of the tomatoes). Be sure you have everything well drained or your dish will be runny. Mix drained hominy, tomatoes, sausage, peppers, scallions and shredded cheese. Hold a little of the cheese to scatter over the top of the dish. Bake in a casserole dish (9x9 or 11x13)at 350* for 20-25 minutes (or microwave for 7-10 minutes).

Serve with tortillas (quarter them and serve as wedges). Goes well with Mexican Corn Bread too!