Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chocolate Lime Cheesecake

I make 1 cheesecake, and this is it. I have thought about branching out, but why mess with perfection? This is another Nigella recipe (love her), you can find the recipe here and I will put the american conversions for the ingredients at the bottom of the post. This is a seriously good cheesecake, people who don't like cheesecake like it, and people who do like cheesecake have seconds, it is just that good. I could go on and on about it, but that would get boring, so just make it and eat it and understand what I am talking about with the whole perfection thing.

Start by prepping the spring form pan and wrapping it in foil. Water always gets in the foil during the water bath baking when I make it, but I figure much more water would get into the actual cheesecake if I didn't do it.

Make the crust by processing the chocolate cookies until they are crumbs and adding the butter. Press it into the bottom of the pan and stick it in the fridge while you get on with the filling.

Start with cream cheese. Lots of cream cheese. Three packages to be specific. I cut it up into chunks, which starts to feel a bit tedious by the third package, but the food processor is happier when I do that.

Add the eggs, sugar and lime juice and process it until it is a nice creamy gloop.

Pour the gloop over the crust and put the whole thing in a roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan to create a water bath. (Pardon the blurry/steamy/not very good picture, I just really wanted an action shot)

Bake for about an hour and then immediately remove from the water bath and take off the foil.

When cool, take off the sides of the pan and place in the fridge. Be sure to take it out about 20 minutes before you serve it.

Nigella's Chocolate Lime Cheesecake
7 oz. chocolate wafer cookies
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese
1 cup sugar
4 whole eggs
2 yolks
Juice of 4 small limes (about 3/4 cup)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gingerbread Cookies

I hope everyone had a very merry christmas, I know I did. There was lots of cooking going on and seeing friends and family and drinking wine and playing in the snow. AND I got lots of food related presents (I just love kitchen gadgets....) which will be showing up here very soon as I can't wait to use them all! Anyways, back to the cooking, I have a fondness for gingerbread cookies. I am not sure where this fondness came from, my mom never made them at christmas, it has always been sugar cookies (which are amazing, by the way). Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a good gingerbread recipe, one that doesn't resemble spicy cardboard. Fortunately, the second one I tried was good, at least in my opinion. The recipe can be found here, it is another one from the food network website. It is crucial to chill the dough for several hours, and even then you need to be sure to flour your surfaces pretty well to be able to roll it out properly. But don't let that put you off, once you get the hang of it, it isn't that tricky. Also, I would love to master royal icing, but I haven't gotten around to that yet. Instead I like to put a little glaze on these, a mix of powdered sugar, milk and a sprinkle of all the spices that are in the cookies themselves.

Sift together the flour and spices. Set it aside while you get on with blending the rest of the ingredients.

Mix together basically everything else, the butter, shortening, sugar, eggs and molasses.

Slowly add the flour mixture to make a fairly stiff dough.

Divide it in 2 and wrap each half up in plastic wrap. Stick them in the fridge for 3 hours or up to 2 days. I have always left it at least overnight, so I cannot vouch for what happens after 3 hours, but after a day the dough gets firmer and changes color slightly as the flavors develop.

2 days later, during the 'blizzard of 2009' while the weather outside is frightful.....

.... gingerbread is so delightful. Roll out the dough and cut out the cookies, popping the dough back into the fridge between batches so it doesn't warm up too much. Bake them on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, I bake them for 11 minutes and they turn out perfectly.

On a slightly related note, I got these woodland creatures cookie cutters from Ikea, and I love them, but I cannot figure out why there is a whale in with a moose, fox, hedgehog, squirrel, and bear. If anyone has any ideas, let me know.

Once the cookies are done and cooled, you can frost them as you wish. I like making a kind of thick glaze with powdered sugar and milk, with a bit of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg thrown in that I smear of the cookies with the back of a spoon. Let the glaze dry before storing the cookies, or else they will all stick together in a massive glob of sugar and cookies, which may be tasty but probably not very pretty.


According to a very reputable source (wikipedia), puttanesca was actually invented by Italian prostitutes. They couldn't make it to the market every day and so they made this pasta out of things that would keep well in the pantry. I have no idea if this is actually true, but I kind of like the story, and I think my mom does too, she calls me a whore when I make it (in the most loving way of course). I know I say a lot of things are easy, but this one really is. The sauce only takes as long to cook as the pasta does, and there isn't much prep, especially if you get pitted kalamata olives (which I never seem to be able to find for some reason). This recipe is from Food Network Magazine, I got a subscription for my birthday and my parents are really reaping the benefits of that gift in the form of delicious dinners. You can find the recipe here.

Start by getting your ingredients ready for the sauce, basically slicing some garlic, chopping some olives, and rinsing some capers and put the pasta water on to boil.

Next, saute the garlic and a some red pepper flakes in a bit of olive oil (I use less red pepper flakes because I am not a big fan of too much heat).

After a few minutes add the capers and olives.

Then crush the tomatoes into the pan with your hands, add all rest of the juices from the can and then the tuna, oil and all. Let simmer until the linguine is done cooking.

Once the pasta is done, save 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain the rest and put the pasta back into the pot and dump the sauce in with it. Toss it together with a bit of the water.

Pile it up on a plate and devour while thanking the Italian whores for their culinary creativity.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hot Artichoke Dip

If my family believed in things like secret recipes, this would probably be one. Luckily we are not the secret recipe type, we all just like to talk too much for that. This dip has been present throughout my life at christmas parties, thanksgiving dinners, birthday parties and a potluck or two. It's one of the things I would make in my poorly equipped kitchens in college and impress all my friends with. It's super easy, everyone loves it, and it has four ingredients. But don't take my word for it, make it for yourself and you will see what I am talking about.

Start with parmesan cheese. You might as well just grate it in the food processor, you will have to haul it out to put together the rest of this dip anyways.

Add mayo, 2-3 cloves of garlic and a can of artichoke hearts. Blend it together.

Bake until hot and bubbly.

Hot Artichoke Dip (aka garlic pudding)

14 oz. artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
1 cup mayo (or 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup plain yogurt)
2 cloves of garlic (or 3)
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Lemon juice

Puree everything. Pour into an oven safe dish. Top with a drizzle of lemon juice, although to be honest, most of the time I forget the lemon juice and I have never noticed a difference. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serve with pita chips, slices of bread, or crackers.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Triple Chocolate Cookies

I brought these cookies when I went to my very first Redskins game. It was a lot of fun, except for the fact that we lost to the Saints, but at least the cookies were good. I basically followed the recipe on the back of the bag of white chocolate chips with a few minor tweaks. White chocolate chips are fine, but they are even better when you mix in semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips. And a generous handful of dried cranberries cuts the sweetness a bit with a nice little tartness. The process is the same you would use for regular chocolate chip cookies, but these have a bit more pizzaz.

Start with butter, beat it with the sugar and vanilla.

Add the eggs, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and flour to make a lovely chocolate dough.

Next, add the chocolate chips. You want a bit over 2 cups total and can adjust the proportions according to your taste. I used slightly fewer white chocolate chips than semi-sweet ones. These cookies are delicious with dark chocolate chips added into the mix too.

Stir in the chips and about 1/2 cup of dried cranberries. Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheets.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until done. Be sure to snag one when they are nice and warm and the chocolate chips are still melted, so yummy.

Triple Chocolate Cookies (adapted from Nestle white chocolate chip cookie recipe)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips (white and semi-sweet and/or dark)
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350
Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and flour, mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and cranberries. Drop by spoonful onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday Shrimp Sister Pasta

Sunday night dinners have always been an event at our house. My dad always makes something delicious that no one would want to tackle during the week, like stew or pot roast or chicken paprika. This past sunday, in honor of his birthday my sister and I took over sunday night dinner. My dad gave us a category of food (italian) and we made this decadent shrimp alfredo (although not as decadent as it could have been, some people use an entire stick of butter and heavy cream in the sauce). We sort of made it up as we went along and combined recipes and didn't measure anything, which explains why the recipe is not very exact, but it was fun to cook with my sister. This recipe is a good one to make with someone, I took care of the alfredo sauce while Caitlin was in charge of the shrimp and veggies. Next time we want to make a spanish dish with white wine and garlic and shrimp, yummy!

For the shrimp and veggie portion of the meal, heat up about a tablespoon of butter and a clove of chopped garlic in a big skillet. Add the red peppers, then the mushrooms.

Meanwhile, start a roux with about 2 tablespoons of butter and an equal amount of flour but also add some grated garlic, about half a clove.

Now it's time to add the cream, we used light cream because we are o so healthy here, clearly. Whisk the cream in slowly, it helps to have one person pour and one whisk, or to be less spastic than I am and able to do the two different things with two different hands. We ended up using about half a quart. Then cheese time, I love cheese. And wine, we added some of that too, just a bit from Caitlin's glass.

At this point, the veggies should be pretty tender and you can add the shrimp, and also start cooking the pasta. It looks like a lot of shrimp because it is, we used a lot, we happened to have a lot on hand, but you don't have to use quite that much.

When the shrimp is just about done add the spinach, an entire bag. Cook until it's nicely wilted down. There was a lot of liquid in the bottom of the pan, which we removed, wouldn't want shrimp/spinach juice diluting our sauce. Add the shrimp and veggie mix to the pasta.

Take the alfredo sauce, which at this point should be nice and thick and cheesy and salted and peppered.....

....and pour it over everything. Toss and enjoy.

Shrimp and Veggie Alfredo
1 1/2 cloves of garlic, one chopped, 1/2 grated
3 tablespoon butter, divided
about 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, in small strips
1 lb. shrimp, peeled
1 bag of spinach
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 quart light cream
4 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
Splash white wine

Saute the clove of chopped garlic in a tablespoon of butter. Add the red pepper, then a few minutes later add the mushrooms. When tender, add the shrimp and cook until done, about 10 minutes. Add the spinach at the very end and let it cook, it will not take very long at all. Drain excess liquid.

Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter and add the grated garlic. Stir in the flour and cook for a few minutes until lightly golden. Whisk in the cream slowly to make a smooth sauce. Add a splash of white wine. Grate in the parmesan cheese, stopping to whisk it in occasionally, if your cheese is already grated, add it in several additions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook a box of fettuccine or linguine (although in a pinch you could use any pasta you have on hand). Top the pasta with the shrimp and veggie mixture and pour the alfredo over everything. Toss together and serve hot.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Birthday Cake

This chocolate cake is for my wonderful dad for his birthday. After all he does....
....such as scaling large christmas trees that we talked him into getting....

...and putting up with the crazy dog that we talked him into getting....

....and much, much more, he deserves a chocolate cake made from scratch.
Happy Birthday Dad!!

A note about the cake itself now, it is from the cookbook Nigella Bites, and the recipe can be found here (I will give the American conversions below, as she is british and so is her website). Nigella is perhaps my very favorite cookbook author, I just love her. You should probably read some of her cookbooks, how can you not love a woman who in describing how to tell if a cheesecake is done uses the phrase "the slightest, sexiest hint of quiver within."?

Start by mixing up the dry ingredients.

Then whisk the sour cream (it sounds kind of odd, but it works), eggs and vanilla until smooth.

Take the butter, melt it and toss it in the mixer. Add the oil, then the dry stuff. When that is combined pour in the sour cream mixture to complete the luscious batter.

Pour into the pans and bake for 45 min.

Add frosting (a small confession, I did not follow the recipe for the frosting, in my family we draw the line at 3 1/2 sticks of butter in one dish, so I used one stick and one box of powdered sugar, plus enough milk to make it come together and 4oz. of melted chocolate.)

Chocolate Fudge Cake Ingredients
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup best quality cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup corn oil
1 1/3 cups chilled water

For the Fudge Icing (that I did not make)
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
(the rest of the recipe can be found on Nigella's website, the link is provided above)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mount Pelion Cheese Bread

This recipe combines two of my favorite things, bread and cheese. I also have a minor obsession with Greece, I am supposed to be taking a trip there with two lovely ladies, Tiffany and Tracie at some point after we have all graduated from college (hurry up on that Tiff, will ya?). Once there I plan on indulging in every phyllo wrapped delicacy I can find and anything that involves feta. But until then I will just have to make do with cooking things from "the bible of authentic Greek cooking," Vefa's Kitchen that I found at the library. This bread is delicious, a little sweet, very tender with pockets of soft, salty cheese.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then make a well and dump in the wet ones. Slowly combine the two.

When they have been combined, tip the dough out onto the counter and knead until it all comes together. This is a very soft dough and can be sticky so make sure to have flour standing by.

After it rises, separate the dough into four pieces. Roll each one out into a long thin rectangle. Pile crumbled feta down the center, the pinch the dough closed around it to make a cheese filled tube. Repeat.

Carefully twist each tube into a spiral. Let them rise again before topping with an egg wash and sesame seeds.

Bake until golden and eat warm.

Mount Pelion Cheese Bread (from Vefa's Kitchen, published by Phaidon Press)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/4 cups strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 scant tablespoon rapid-rise yeast
5 tablespoons lukewarm water
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 egg white
melted butter for brushing
14 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Sift together both kinds of flour and the salt into a large bowl and stir in the yeast. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the honey, oil, milk, egg white and water. Incorporate the dry ingredients to form a soft, sticky dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Brush a bowl with oil, shape the dough into a ball, put it into the bowl and brush the surface with oil. Cover and let rise in a warm space for about an hour, or until doubled in volume.

Brush a cookie sheet with melted butter.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll out each piece on a lightly floured work surface into a strip 1/8 inch thick and 2 1/2 inches wide. Place a quarter of the cheese along the center of each strip lengthwise. Dampen, fold, and pinch the edges together around the cheese to form 4 long rolls.

With the seam side down, coil the rolls in individual spirals and place, well spaced and seam side down, on the cookie sheet.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter, cover and let rise for 40 minutes, or until doubled in volume.

Beat the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water in a bowl, brush the loaves with the mixture and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake for 30-35 min, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack and serve warm.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Raspberry Snow Bars

Wednesday is my favorite day for the newspaper, it's the day the food section comes out, which is also the only section of the paper I read. This week, the food section of the paper was all about cookies. I had to try some out right away, and we happened to have all the ingredients (except for the raspberry preserves, mine had seeds and there wasn't quite a cup left in the jar) for these raspberry snow bars. You can find the recipe on the Washington Post website.

Start with Crisco.
Add the sugar, salt, egg yolks, and almond extract.
Mix it all up with the flour to form a dough, or so the recipe says. Mine was more like crumbles that I pushed into the bottom of the pan to form a crust and not at all like a cohesive dough. It worked though.
After baking the dough, spread it with the jam (I zapped mine in the microwave for 30 seconds to make it easier to spread). Next time I am adding more jam, definitely more jam is needed. Sprinkle the coconut on top of the jam.
Meanwhile (if you have a stand mixer that you can delegate to) beat the egg white with the sugar until it reaches the stiff peak stage. I love how brightly white and glossy it gets.
Spread the egg whites over the coconut. This is more difficult than it seems, at least for me it was. The egg white stuck to everything but what it was supposed to, if you persevere it will eventually get easier.

Bake the bars, let them cool and voila!

Raspberry Snow Bars (from The Washington Post, Dec. 9, 2009)


  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup for the meringue
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup seedless red raspberry preserves
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (preferably glass).

Combine the shortening, salt and 1/4 cup of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, then add the almond extract and egg yolks, beating to incorporate. Add the flour and beat to form a dough that just pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer to the baking dish; use your hands to pat the dough evenly on the bottom of the pan, creating a slight (1/2 inch or so) edge along the sides. Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden.

While the crust is baking, beat the egg whites in the (clean) bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer on low speed, until foamy, then gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar; increase the speed to high and beat to form stiff peaks. Do not overbeat.

Remove the crust from the oven; spread evenly with preserves, then sprinkle the coconut over the preserves.

Spread the egg white mixture over the coconut, making sure to cover the preserves completely. Bake for 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the meringue has picked up some color.

Let cool completely before cutting into 24 bars.