Monthly Archives: September 2008

Celebrate Good Times, Come ON!

How do I celebrate good times, you ask? Why, with cheesecake, of course! Isn’t that what you celebrate with? If not, it should be….what’s not to love about cheesecake? Except for maybe the unfortunate side effects on bellies, hips, butts and thighs nationwide. That part is not so good. Meh….we’ll worry about that later.

So WHAT am I celebrating, you may ask? It’s the middle of September so no major holidays coming up. Both our birthdays are in June, so it’s not that. Our anniversary is in May, that’s long past. No one is pregnant, got a huge raise at work, or won the lottery. What’s left??

Actually, this weekend I’m celebrating me. I’m celebrating my life and all the fantastic people in it. What better way to celebrate me then to surprise myself with my favorite dessert! “Aw, Self, that’s so sweet! You shouldn’t have…really, this is too much. Oh no, I simply couldn’t…well, maybe just a couple bites. Thank you self, for being so good to myself….”

Okay, so that’s pretty silly….but honestly, for some reason, I just felt like celebrating this weekend! This year has been a little difficult for me. I went from working a ridiculous amount each week to not working at all in a matter of 24 hours. When I was let go from my previous position, I was so let down and disappointed in myself. I was probably the only one who didn’t see it coming. How embarrassing. How could I have let that happen? What the hell is wrong with me? I carried that anger and disappointment around with me all summer long. I felt like a failure. As recently as three weeks ago, I was up in the middle of the night still crying about what happened. I just couldn’t let it go, couldn’t shake all the negative things I felt about myself.

Well, I am pleased to say that I am FINALLY letting all that go. I am so thrilled that my new job is working out so well, that I can go home each night knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life that day. I made a tough day a little bit more bearable for someone right here in our community. I am so thrilled that I can look back at everything and know I’ve learned a lot about myself and what’s really important in life. Great family, good friends, and good food. Ha…well, the good food part is important to me at least. It’s comforting to know that I can confidently say I am not destined for so-called great things….six figure salaries, corner offices, my name on the door….but it’s okay because I have great people who support me no matter what. Eric and I are happy. We don’t have to go without. This little life we’ve started together just keeps getting better. And now that I am finally at peace with my life outside our home, I can concentrate on celebrating all the little things that make my life great! 🙂

So, in honor of my new found peace and happiness, I decided to celebrate by making my very first cheesecake! I LOVE cheesecake. So bad, but oh so good. I hadn’t had the courage to tackle it at home…until now! The wind was blowing and the rain was falling this weekend…the perfect weather for a fall favorite…PUMPKIN!

Now, for a long time, I was never really that thrilled with anything pumpkin. Probably because the only way I ever had it was in pie form and….eh….I don’t know…it’s just okay for me. Not awful, I’ll eat it, but it’s not my absolute favorite. I decided that it’s not the flavor that bothers me when it comes to pumpkin pie, but the texture. So I thought I might enjoy the flavors of pumpkin more if it were in cheesecake form. Eric really likes pumpkin…and he REALLY, REALLY likes cheesecake. So this pumpkin cheesecake was right up his alley.

The results: Fan-freakin’-tastic! Perfect creamy texture. Great flavor. I loved the ginger cookies in the crust. I was pleased with how it turned out. It only cracked a teeny bit on top. Not bad for my first try!

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE (Recipe Source: Joyofbaking.com)

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

1 cup (100 grams) graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cups (50 grams) finely ground ginger cookies, homemade or store bought

1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated white sugar

4 – 5 tablespoons (56 – 60 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake:

2/3 cup (145 grams) light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound (454 grams) cream cheese, room temperature

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup pure pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)

Topping:

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven.  Butter (or spray with a non stick spray) an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan.
  2. For Crust:  In a medium sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, finely ground ginger snap cookies, sugar, and melted butter.  Press the mixture onto the bottom of the prepared spring form pan.  Cover and refrigerate while you make the cheesecake filling.
  3. For Cheesecake:  In a separate bowl, stir to combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), on low speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Gradually add the sugar mixture and beat until creamy and smooth (1 to 2 minutes).  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree.
  5. Pour the filling over the chilled ginger crust and place the spring form pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips.  Place a cake pan, filled halfway with hot water, on the bottom shelf of your oven to moisten the air.  Bake the cheesecake for 30 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees C (165 degrees C) and continue to bake the cheesecake for another 10 – 20 minutes, or until the edges of the cheesecake are puffed but the center is still wet and jiggles when you gently shake the pan.
  6. Meanwhile whisk together the sour cream, vanilla extract and sugar.  Pour the sour cream mixture over the top of the baked cheesecake and rotate the pan slightly to evenly distribute the topping.  Return the cheesecake to the oven and bake about 8 minutes to set the topping.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  Loosen the cake from the pan by running a sharp knife around the inside edge (this will help prevent the cake from cracking).  Then place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pan so the cheesecake will cool slowly.  When completely cooled, cover and refrigerate at least eight hours, preferably overnight, before serving.

Serves 10-12 people.

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Filed under desserts, fruit

I could get used to this!

So things are a little different for me these days. The Summer of Erin is over and I am back to work. My new job is great so far! It’s nice to be doing something that really benefits other people. Working with volunteers is so laid back…everyone is so nice! Probably because it takes a nice person to actually want to be a volunteer. LOL!

The best part of all is that my office closes at 4:30! This makes me happy! I actually work 40 hours a week. No more working from home in the evening. No more Saturdays at the office. At 4:30, I leave my office and the whole day behind. By quarter to 5 I’m home and making us dinner! Woo hoo! By 7 dinner’s done, the kitchen’s clean and I have the whole evening to do whatever I want. What I want usually involves the couch, the blanket, and something on TV Eric doesn’t want to watch.

Tonight, with all the time I had to make dinner before Eric I got home, I decided to try a new recipe. This pasta dish is totally different and delish! I’m on kind of a red pepper kick these days so when I spotted this a couple weeks ago, I knew I just had to try it. Although…being a red pepper kick is kind of unfortuante because, DAMN, those things are expensive!! Over 2 bucks each. Luckily, they were on sale this week! Woo! The salami adds such a great flavor and texture and the wine just makes it even better! It’s so easy too! The sauce needs to simmer for a half hour or so, but it goes together quick. Yum! We really enjoyed this! 🙂

SPAGHETTI WITH SALAMI AND PEPPERS (Recipe Source: The Essential Pasta Cookbook)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 oz. sliced spicy salami, cut into strips
  • 2 large red bell peppers, chopped
  • 11 oz. canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used more like 2/3 cup…more booze makes everything better!)
  • 1 lb. spaghetti

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Add the onion, garlic and salmi and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, over medium heat. Add the pepper, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and the wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced and the sauce is the desired consistanecy. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  3. About 15 minutes before the sauce is ready, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and return to the pan. Toss half the sauce with the pasta and divide among serving dishes. Top with the remaining sauce and serve.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Filed under pasta, veggies

A Man-Pleasing Meal

Ahhh…it’s good to be back to blogging. I’ve been running around like crazy the last couple weeks with my new job and all the traveling we have been doing. I feel like I haven’t been in the kitchen in months!

Today was a cloudy, rainy, cold day here in northeast Iowa. A sure sign that fall is on the way. I was craving something warm and comforting for dinner. Since Eric is really busy with school and work,  and he was really a trooper going all the way to Indianapolis with my family this weekend even though he’s completely swamped, I thought he deserved a meal I knew he’d love. I have a tendency to put my own tastes before his because…well, I guess I’m a selfish, terrible wife. Heh….

This was way yummy and totally hit the spot on a cold day. The original recipe calls for grilling the calzones, which would be delicious I’m sure. I baked mine…because there was no way I was going to stand out there in this weather!! The perfect meal for hard working, meat loving man!

BACON CHEESEBURGER CALZONES WITH SPICY CAJUN KETCHUP (Recipe Adapted from: Everyday with Rachael Ray)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound refrigerated pizza dough
  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used closer to a cup, I like lots of cheese
  • Salt
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400*, divide the pizza dough and form into two balls. Place in a large bowl greased with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temp for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the beef over medium heat, breaking up the meat, until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  3. In the same skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Reserve the drippings in the skillet (I soaked up a bit of the drippings with a paper towel and reserved about 1/2 tbs.). Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes; add to beef. Crumble the bacon into the beef mixture and stir in the cheese; season with salt.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1ball of dough into a 12-inch round and transfer to a large oiled baking sheet. Place half the beef mixture on one side of the round. Top with half the tomatoes. Fold over the dough to form a half moon; crimp the edge to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough. Brush the calzones with olive oil. Pierce a vent in the top of each calzone. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

**Note:** I ended up with about a quarter of the filling left, probably because I didn’t roll my dough enough and I got nervous about filling them too much because I thought they’d burst. You could probably get away with only 1/2 pound of meet and two slices of bacon for two people.

SPICY CAJUN KETCHUP (for dipping!)

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 3-4 drops hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning

Combine and enjoy! 🙂

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Filed under beef, pizza