Monday, January 30, 2006

Cheesecake Sampler

Cream cheese went on special this week so it was time to try out a cheesecake recipe from the free "Little Book of Cheesecakes" that I ordered a new cookbook to get. There are two recipes for New York style cheesecakes in it. One is a cheesecake sampler, i.e. each piece has a different topping, and the other is plain. They are made in different size pans which was the deciding factor for me. The plain one requires a 7" springform pan. My springform pan is a standard 9" one as required by the sampler recipe. So that's the one I made sans the myriad toppings.

This one is definitely an adventure. I don't think I've ever made anything that required 7 eggs and 3 containers of sour cream. Nor have I ever baked anything that had to sit in an unheated oven for 4 hours. It is also probably the heaviest baked good I have ever made. But in the end, it was all worth it. This is by far the best cheesecake recipe I have ever made and comes very close to being the best cheesecake I have ever tasted.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

Cheesecake Sampler
(Source: Southern Living Little Book of Cheesecakes)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
7 large eggs
3 (8-ounce) containers sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine first 3 ingredients; stir well. Press mixture firmly into bottom and up sides of a lightly greased 9-inch springform pan. Chill thoroughly.

Beat cream cheese at high speed with a heavy-duty electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add 1 3/4 cups sugar, beating well. Add egs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sour cream and vanilla; beat at low speed until smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Turn off oven, and leave cheesecake in oven 4 hours. (Do not open oven door.)

Remove cheesecake from oven; cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and chill 8 hours. Gently run a knife around edge of cheesecake to relese sides of pan; carefully remove pan; transfer cheesecake to a serving platter. Cut into 8 wedges; top each slice with desired Cheesecake Toppings.

Recycle: vanilla extract bottle

Compost: eggshells

Friday, January 27, 2006


I started my career working in Manhattan. Having grown up surrounded by orchards and dairy farms, I was drawn to the bright lights of the big city like a moth to a flame. I couldn't get enough of the energy and excitement. I spent my weekends in the City also. One my favorite activities were the street fairs. I adored the different kinds of people, merchandise and especially the food. I had to try everything. I don't know how I managed to stay thin.
My mother couldn't cook. Seriously couldn't cook. She either boiled things to death or charred them to a crisp. I didn't know that food was supposed to taste good until I moved downstate and was introduced to a whole universe of foods I never knew existed. The best thing about street fairs was that I could literally eat for blocks and never taste the same thing twice.
I recently came across a recipe for stromboli that transported me back to those heady days. I was a bit intimidated at first but the urge to recapture some of the tastes of my youth spurred me on. Turns out this recipe is surprisingly easy to make. Ten minutes is exactly the right amount of time to knead the dough into the right consistency. It rose with no problem, rolled out into a rectangle with no problem and after layering the meats and cheeses, rolled up again with no problem. One warning - layer the meats first and then the cheese. I did it the opposite way and the cheeses oozed out of the slits!
The author also offers some advice: "One hint, however, the more veggies you use, the more liquid they'll release, so too many veggies can make a somewhat soggy strombolil. Use as many different fillings as you like, but it's important to not layer them too thickly, as this will make it difficult to roll the stromboli".
Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.
(Source: )

1 1/4 cups warm water (105 F - 115 F)
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour

Fillings (mix and match as you like)
about 1/2 lb. thinly sliced meats such as ham, slami, turkey, pepperoni, etc.
about 1/4 lb. sliced cheese such as mozzarella, provolone, etc.
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Other Options
thinly sliced tomatoes
thinly sliced onions
thinly sliced bell peppers or roasted bell peppers
chopped black or green olives
roasted garlic
fresh basil

1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)

Makes about 16 slices

Combine 1/4 cup warm water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining warm water, olive oil and salt. Gradually add 1 1/2 to 2 cups flour, mixing until smooth. Gradually add enough remaining flour until you have a smooth dough that comes away from the bowl. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 minutes, working in more flour as needed. Shape into a ball, place in a greased bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375F and grease a large baking sheet (if you have a pizza or bread stone in your oven you can forego the baking sheet and bake the stromboli directly on the stone).

Punch dough down and cut in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into a rectangle about 10" x 8". Arrange fillings over dough, finishing with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Roll the dough much like you would if you were making a jelly roll. Pinch the edges of the seam and tuck the ends under.

Cut long diagonal slashes, about 1/2 inch deep, along the top of the loaf every 3 inches or so. Brush top of loaf with beaten egg, avoiding the area in the slashes. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds if desired. Bake for about 30 minutes or until bread is golden brown. Cool slightly before cutting and serving, or if you prefer to eat your stromboli cold, cool completely on a wire rack before wrapping and refrigerating.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Choc-Oat-Chip Cookies

I always check the recipes on the backs of the chocolate chip bags when I buy one (or two or three or however many my coupon is for!). Usually, it's the same old recipes but occasionally they surprise me with a new one. What intrigued me about this recipe is that it calls for milk. Whoever heard of using milk to make oatmeal cookies? I've heard of drinking milk with oatmeal cookies or dunking oatmeal cookies in a glass of milk, but actually using milk to make oatmeal cookies was a first for me.

Unlike the Chocolate-Studded Dream Cookies that I made a few weeks ago, this batter was not incredibly stiff and the cookies baked into nice rounded shapes. The flavor was unlike the usual oatmeal cookies. It was more like oatmeal cookies dipped in milk. Gee, I wonder why??? Kinda bland sums it up. I think I'll stick to just adding chocolate chips to regular oatmeal cookies.

Verdict: Not bad, but I don't think I'll be making these again.

Choc-Oat-Chip Cookies
(source: Back of the chips bag)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) buter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 ups quick or old-fashioned oats
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat brown sugar, butter and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats, morsels and nuts; mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies or 12 to 13 minutes for crispy cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 1 minute; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Recycle: vanilla extract bottle

Compost: eggshells

Friday, January 20, 2006

White Wine-Tomato-and-Clam Pasta

I'm still revelling in the fact that I can cook ANYTHING I WANT! Even seafood. And not just tuna fish. I love linguine and clam sauce so a White Wine-Tomato-and-Clam pasta dish sounded delicious. I admit I had some reservations about this recipe. There didn't appear to be enough sugar to offset the acidity of the tomatoes and the lack of tomato sauce or paste made me wonder how "saucy" it was going to be.
As the Aussies say, no worries mate. The tomatoes weren't too acidic and the clams weren't too clammy (if that's a word). I had two major problems with this recipe. The first was that after 20 minutes, the "sauce" hadn't thickened at all. The second was the part where you have to toss the pasta. How does one "toss" pasta? I know how to toss a salad , but the spaghetti very nearly defeated me. Hint: large bowl, large fork.
This recipe is a variation of a Red Wine-Tomato Pasta. To make that, just substitute dry red wine for the dry white wine and omit the clams. I'm definitely going to. This could easily become my new favorite spaghetti sauce. I've been looking for a recipe for a good spaghetti sauce for years.
Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.
White Wine-Tomato-and-Clam pasta
(Source: Southern Living 2005 Annual Recipes)

1 1/2 teaspons minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes, undreained
2 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teasponn dried basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams, drained
12 ounces uncooked thin spaghetti
1 (4-ounce) block mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Toppings: chopped fresh basil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Saute garlic in hot oil in a large skillet over medium heat 1 minute or until lightly browned. Carefully stir in wine and next 5 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes or until thickened.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Stir together hot pasta, mozzarella cheese, and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese in a large serving bowl, tossing to coat until cheeses start to melt. Stir clams into tomato sauce and pour over pasta mixture. Toss to combine. Serve immediately with desired toppings.

Makes 6 servings.

Recycle: olive oil bottle, wine bottle

Compost: garlic skins

Monday, January 16, 2006

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberries are on special this week. Okay, maybe $2.00 for 4.4 ounces isn't terribly "special", but it is the middle of winter and they came all the way from Chile. They are wonderful berries, not a single rotten one, no stems even. I felt a sudden urge for blueberry muffins.

The recipe I use is from my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook. It's the blueberry variation of the sweet muffin recipe. I prefer that one not just because it is sweet but because it also has a lighter texture than the regular muffin recipe. I strongly advise greasing the bottoms of the muffin cups with Crisco or whatever shortening you normally use or use paper cups. My muffins came out with a weird metallic taste. After giving it some thought, I realized that I had tried a "shortcut" and used a cooking spray. A quick check of the ingredients confirmed my suspicions. It claims to be all-natural. I suppose grain alcohol is natural but I'm not so sure about "propellant". Honest, that's what it says. Just one word. No explanation of what it consists of. Just propellant. I'm definitely going to think twice about using this spray again. I'm not sure I want to be eating propellant.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

Blueberry Muffins
( Source: Betty Crocker Cookbook)

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup salad oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries or 3/4 cup well-drained frozen blueberries (thawed)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottoms of 12 medium muffin cups (2 3/4 inches in diameter). Beat egg; stir in milk and oil. Mix in remaining ingredients except blueberries just until flour is moistened. Batter should be lumpy. Fold blueberries into batter.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan.

12 muffins

Recycle: salad oil bottle

Compost: eggshell

Friday, January 13, 2006

Sloppy Jose Sandwiches with Cilantro Slaw

I have completely lost my mind. I bought a new cookbook. I already have dozens of cookbooks. I have newletters full of recipes arriving in my emailbox daily. I have access to the internet with its myriad recipe sites. And I bought "Southern Living 2005 Annual Recipes" (over 900 recipes!) anyways. What I really wanted was the free "Little Book of Cheesecakes" that came with it (Remember, I am still searching for the perfect cheesecake recipe). The plan was to keep the free cheesecake cookbook and return the 900 recipe cookbook before the end of the thirty day trial period. But, of course, I started looking through it, saw a bunch of recipes I wanted to try and gave up and mailed in my check. It's hopeless. I'm a recipe addict.

I'm always on the lookout for Sloppy Joe recipes that don't involve ketchup. Have you ever read the ingredients list on ketchup? High fructose corn syrup meaing all it is is tomato flavored sugar syrup. I was a little concerned about this recipe because it involved tomato sauce with nothing to cut the acid. And I was right. It was good, but too acidic for my tastes. The cole slaw was also good. The mustard made it nice and spicy. I went to two different grocery stores but couldn't find broccoli slaw mix. That was very disappointing. It sounds delicious.

Verdict: Not bad, but I don't think I'll be making this one again.

Sloppy Jose Sandwiches with Cilantro Slaw
(Source: Southern Living 2005 Annual Recipes)

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Enova Oil
1 pound lean ground beef
2 (8-ounce) cans no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Nature's Own Honey Wheat hamburger buns
cilantro Slaw

Cook onion in hot oil in a cast-iron or large skillet over medium heat about 4 minutes or until onion is soft and tender. Stir in ground beef and next 6 ingredients, and cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until beef crumbles and is no longer pink.

Spoon beef mixture on bottom halves of toasted buns; top each with about 3 tablespoons Cilantro Slaw and remaining bun halves. Serve with remaining Cilantro Slaw.

Makes 4 servings.

Cilantro Slaw:

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Hellmann's or Best Foods Real Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 (12-ounce) package broccoli slaw mix

Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; add broccoli slaw, tossing to coat.

Makes 4 cups.

Recycle: tomato sauce cans, mustard bottles, mayonnaise bottle, vinegar bottle

Compost: onion skins

Monday, January 09, 2006

Chocolate-Studded Dream Cookies

I think I have mentioned before that I am now on the mailing list for Nestle's site, . In addition to recipes, they also offer coupons as inducements to try their products. When you print out a coupon, a recipe accompanies it. In this case, it was a recipe for cookies using the Swirled Semi-Sweet and White Cocolate Morsels. It was chocolate. I had to try it!

The batter for theses cookies comes out really, really stiff. I use a KitchenAid to mix my batters and it was laboring. You are supposed to divide the morsels putting half in the batter and the other half sprinkled on top of the cookies before putting them in the oven. These are drop cookies. I couldn't figure out a good way to top them with morsels so I put all of the morsels in the batter. They are supposed to be baked for 11 to 13 minutes but I found that wasn't enough and baked them for 15 minutes. When they came out of the oven, they were by far some of the ugliest cookies I have ever seen! They didn't bake into nice rounded cookies. Instead, they maintained their lumpy shapes.

Despite all the problems, they were delicious. I took them to a committee meeting. It was fun to watch people say they were just going to "try one" and then all through the meeting surreptitiously help themselves to more when they thought no one was looking. The bolder ones continued to help themselves as I made my way out the door at the end of the meeting! There weren't very many cookies left to bring home.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

Chocolate-Studded Dream Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Nestle Toll House Baking Cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups (10-oz pkg.) Nestle Toll House Swirled Real Semi-Sweet & White Chocolate Morsels, divided

Preheat oven to 325F.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in 1 cup Swirled Morsels. Drop by well-rounded teaspoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Top with remaining Swirled Morsels.

Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until cookies are puffed and centers are set. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Recycle: vanilla extract bottle

Compost: eggshells

Friday, January 06, 2006

Ham and Swiss Casserole

Despite the ham and swiss quiche fiasco, I continue to be attracted to ham and swiss recipes. I have nothing bad to say about this one, other than that it is incredibly bland. Probably why the cook who submitted it to said: "This is one of the only casseroles that my picky husband will eat". Picky eaters notoriously prefer bland food. I, on the other hand, love spicy food. So why do I like ham and swiss so much? After much thought, I realized that when I make a ham and swiss sandwich, I use plenty of SPICY mustard. I love reubens which have corned beef (SPICY) and sauerkraut (SPICY). So this will probably be my last ham and swiss recipe unless I find one with SPICY ingredients!

This was very fast and easy to make. I diced the ham, cheese and onions while the noodles cooked so all I had to do was saute the onion and then mix it all. I'm not sure what the purpose of the milk and eggs is. They don't add anything in the way of taste or texture. This dish would be fine without them.

Verdict: Not bad, but I probably won't be making this one again.

Ham and Swiss Casserole
(Source: )

2 cups egg noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 (6 ounce) can mushrooms, drained
1 cup diced cooked ham
1 cup diced Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Toss drained noodles with 2 teaspoons of the oil. Heat remaining oil in a skillet and saute onion over medium heat until soft. Combine noodles, onion, mushrooms, ham, Swiss cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer to a greased 3 quart casserole dish. In a bowl mix together egg and milk; pour over noodle mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Recycle: vegetable oil bottle

Compost: onion skins, eggshells

Monday, January 02, 2006

Bacardi Rum Cake

Do you believe in ghosts? I do. Strange things happen to me. For instance, last summer when it was way too hot to cook, I suddenly started thinking about a Christmas years and years ago that I spent with my elderly great aunt (one of my grandmother's sisters). I had found a recipe in a magazine for rum cake that I wanted to try. We felt very wicked as we soaked the cake in a glaze that had actual rum, not rum flavoring in it. I hadn't thought about that cake in decades. It was very weird. About a week after that, I was half-heartedly straightening up my basement, more in an effort to escape the heat than for cleanliness when I found a magazine from 1980 and on the back of it was the recipe for rum cake. Are you getting goosebumps? I did.

Aunt E passed away in 1988. I made the cake this holiday season in her memory. The original recipe uses a yellow cake mix. I no longer make cake mix cakes so I substituted a yellow cake recipe that closely approximated it. I added an egg to bring it up to 4 eggs and used milk instead of water and Crisco instead of oil. It is supposed to bake for 1 hour but it was overdone after 50 minutes. The resulting crust made it difficult to soak in the glaze. It was well worth the effort though. Thank you, Aunt E for reminding me of this wonderful cake and that wonderful holiday we spent together.

A word of caution. If you are like me and like to lick the beaters and/or the bowl, be careful. This is made with rum. It is possible to get a buzz from cake batter!

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

Bacardi Rum Cake
(Source: Woman's Day Great Holiday Baking Ideas, December 1980)

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 18 1/2 oz. pkg. yellow cake mix*
1 3 3/4 oz. pkg. Jell-O Vanilla Instant Pudding and Pie Filling
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup Wesson oil
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum (80 proof)

*If using yellow cake mix with pudding already in the mix: omit instant pudding, use 3 eggs instead of 4, 1/3 cup oil instead of 1/2.

1/4 lb. butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum (80 proof)

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and flour 10" tube or 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. Mix all cake ingredients together. Pour batter over nuts. Bake 1 hour. Cool. Invert on serving plate. Prick top. Spoon and brush glaze evenly over top and sides. Allow cake to absorb glaze. Repeat till glaze is used up.

Glaze: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in rum.

Optional: Decorate with border of sugar frosting or whipped cream.

Recycle: rum bottle

Compost: eggshells