Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday Treats: PB Chocolate Cheesecake

How much do I love my family?  So much that I made a cake that had a special part for each one of them!  Cheesecake for Lindsey, PB and chocolate for Pat, Chocolate for mom, and well, dad will eat anything I bake!  :)
I made this cake over the course of THREE days…it was worth every minute, though!

So, here goes….

Day ONE:  Cheesecake
20 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 Tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Boil pot of water on stove.  
2.  Meanwhile, beat together cream cheese and sugar until fluffy.  Add in vanilla and salt.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add sour cream.  
3.  Cut parchment paper in a circle and line the bottom of the spring form pan.
4.  Wrap the bottom half of the pan with aluminum foil.  
5.  Pour mixture into pan.
6.  Place pan in roasting pan and pour boiling water in roasting pan so that it comes half way up around spring form pan.
7.  Bake until just set in center, about 45 minutes.  
8.  Remove pan from roasting pan and allow to cool for 20 minutes.  Run a pairing knife around the edge and allow to cool completely. 
9.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Day TWO:  Chocolate Cake
1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
(this would only mean that I must bake this part of the cake with my morning coffee)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour two 9 inch round baking pans.  
2.  In mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  
3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla.  
4.  With mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.
5.  With mixer still on low, add coffee and mix well, scraping sides with a spatula.
6.  Pour the mixture equally into two round pans. 
7.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 30 minutes, and then turn them out to cool completely.

Day THREE:  Frosting and Assembly 
8 ounces cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup Peanut Butter (not natural)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream

1.  Beat cream cheese and PB in electric mixer on medium speed.  Add salt and vanilla.  
2.  Alternating, add powdered sugar and heavy cream until you reach a desired consistency. 
(Use this immediately or refrigerate until ready to use)

 And time for the assembly of this bad boy!
Place one round cake on a cake plate.  Top with frosting.

 Remove cheesecake from refrigerator, unwrap, remove from pan and remove parchment paper. Place cheese cake on top of frosting layer.  
If cheesecake is too large, use a knife and cut around sides to line evenly with cake.
Place top layer of cake on top of cheesecake.  Coat with thin layer of frosting to act as crumb coating.

 Refrigerate for about 30 minutes and then frost with as much remaining frosting as necessary.  

 Top with whatever your heart desires! 
I decided to shave some chocolate off of a chocolate bar (using my carrot peeler) for the top and mini chocolate chips for the sides.  
Refrigerate until ready to serve.



Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Treats

Since I'm redoing my living room and kitchen this year, our house is not very warm and cozy and lacks the Christmas spirit.  I'm a little bummed about it, but I know next year it will be even better for our cocktail party!  This weekend I decided I needed to do something around the house to make it seem more cozy and inviting so I decided to make some Christmas treats for our neighbors, mail lady, and my hair girl, all of whom I owe big thank you's to this year and always!  This was the perfect way to spend the day, as it made the house smell of the holidays with the cinnamon floating in the air!

To give you an idea of how much this recipe makes, the above picture shows the 7 mini baggies I made for those special people.  I also had two other baggies I filled for my parents and my friend, Katie, who was busy baking for her neighbors and coworkers all weekend, too!

I saw a couple different recipes online, most for pecans and some different ingredients, but this is what I came up with, and I have to say, they turned out pretty darn good!

32 ounces of raw, unsalted almonds
3 cups sugar
3 cups brown sugar
6 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup water

1.  Spray crockpot with butter spray very well, coating the entire pot and turn on low heat.
2.  In large mixing bowl, combine sugars, cinnamon and salt.  
3.  In crock pot, with a spoon, mix together the eggs and vanilla.  Add the almonds and coat with the mixture, stirring for a couple of minutes.
4.  Add the sugars and stir well to coat. 
5.  Every 20 minutes, stir the mixture for 2 hours.
6.  In two hours, add the water and stir well, continuing to stir nuts every 20 minutes for an additional hour.
7.  Spray baking sheets with butter spray.  Drop dollops of nut mixture on prepared baking sheet and allow to cool for a couple minutes.  When mixture is cool, place in airtight containers, or in my case, little baggies for neighbors, family and friends.  Try not to eat any…I dare you.  It will not happen…they are just too good!

Since you are home for a good couple hours, make sure you have something to do.  Baxter and I decided to wrap our gifts with Christmas music on in the background.  We had a great time…well, I think Bax did, too, that is until I put his Santa hat on him for a quick pic!  

 I used a twist tie to ensure freshness and then just tied some colorful ribbon around the bags.  I will add a card to each and deliver this week.  


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

I took this a couple weeks ago to our Christmas Brunch with the babies.  Although, we were too busy playing and didn't to taste it as much, I shared the wealth with other friends and family who are asking for the recipe as its so moist and delicious!  

1/2 unsalted butter, softened
zest from one large lemon
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar 
additional 1 Tbsp sugar (for sprinkling on top)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour (minus 1/4 cup to toss in with berries)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup buttermilk

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 in square pan and set aside.
2.  Cream together butter, lemon zest, and 3/4 cup and 2 Tbsp sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla.
3.  Mix flour (minus 1/4 cup), baking powder and salt.  
4.  Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and alternate with buttermilk.
5.  Mix together berries with additional 1/4 cup flour.  Fold mixture into wet mix with spatula carefully.
6.  Spread batter into prepared pan.

7.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.
8.  Allow to cool and serve warm or cool.



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Healthy Shrimp Dinner

Easy peasy weeknight meal that you can through together!

1 1/2 cup rice
1 container of low sodium, fat free chicken broth
1 pound shelled and deveined raw shrimp
2 heads of broccoli 
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp chili powder
1 lemon
olive oil

1.  Add chicken broth and rice to pot, bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cover for 40 minutes. (I always use chicken broth instead of water, butter, salt for a healthier alternative, plus I think it tastes more delicious)
2.  Meanwhile, cut broccoli into small pieces, add to ziplock bag with 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/8 tsp chili powder and shake well to get everything mixed (I think I probably used 1/4 tsp salt…you know I don't like salt).  

3.  In a bowl, combine shrimp, 2 Tbsp olive oil, zest from lemon, and 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (again, I probably used 1/4 tsp).  Place in refrigerator until ready to use.  

 4.  Once rice has about 20 minutes left, preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spread broccoli on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  
5.  Add shrimp to baking sheet for an additional 10 minutes.

 6.  Serve shrimp and broccoli mixture over a bed of rice…Viola!  


Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Weekend of Restaurants

This past weekend was crazy busy, but super fun!  It was the first weekend in a very long time that was home, in town, and NOT on call.  Ahhhhh!   Friday I headed to the spa for some much needed hair care and then for mani's with my friend Katie (and it was a darn good thing, as she got ENGAGED on Saturday in St Michaels!!!  So excited for she and Mike, truly an amazing couple!).
After mani's, I headed home to unwind with Bax a little and then we headed over to Kooper's North.  This is our go-to bar these days, as we find ourselves there at least once a week, I swear.  If you are familiar with Kooper's downtown, you know this is a hot spot up in the county now.  The food is great and we usually stick to burgers and beers but Friday night we weren't as hungry.  We opted to split the steamed shrimp and calamari.  Both excellent!  

Saturday, after moving my dining room furniture and a couple other pieces to my sister's house in Annapolis and spending time there, Bax and I headed home for some R&R.  While Bax slept the night away, I went with my aunt to check out the new Mt. Washington Tavern.  It had burned down and they completely redid it. 
It looked fantastic!  We had gotten there, and we had reservations for 7pm, but apparently, no one wrote it in the book.  Even so, the staff found us a seat in the back dining area.  

We didn't care where we sat, we were just out to have a good time.  I have to say the service was the WORST I've had…possibly EVER.  The wait staff took a good 20 minute to come over to even ask if we wanted something to drink, did not offer water, did not return for another drink for quite some time, and it took us THREE hours to get our crab wontons, turkey and fried green tomato club, and salad with filet (all AMAZING!).  This, I do not think, was the wait staff's fault.  I am not sure if they were not adequately staffed, as the restaurant had just opened and it was packed, or if something happened in the kitchen, or what not.  People were upset, even cheering when their food finally came out.  It was sad.  I was shocked to see that not even our appetizer or a drink was taken off our bill.  Needless to say, my mom recommended I call over there the next day and just let them know, in a nice way of course, that the service was not what we had expected.  The owner got right on the phone and said he completely understood and apparently the computers were down that night or something along those lines.  He is sending us a gift certificate in the mail, in hopes we will come back and give a second chance.  Which, I have no doubt I will be back.  Like, I said, the food was excellent and the place is very nicely done.  Everyone has bad nights, and I will go back…after a month or so maybe, once they get the "bugs" worked out.   
  Anyways, it was a great night, with great company, and like I said, I will be giving it a second chance. 

 Sunday was my friend's birthday and we headed downtown for a nice dinner at Ouzo Bay.  
I had heard all the talk of this place, but you have to go to really understand.  First, I must say, the service was outstanding (really, pretty much anything would be compared to the previous evening).  We ordered two cocktails, a Black Tea Santorini and an Aegean Daisy, and sipped on those.  Both pretty good.  For an appetizer we tried the grilled calamari with feta.  O.M.G.  So tender and juicy, it was delicious.  He ordered a bottle of wine for us, I'm not sure which one though, but it was the perfect pairing to go with my salmon and his seabass, both amazing.  Since it was his birthday, we ended the dinner with chocolate cake and then headed over to Wit and Wisdom for an after dinner drink.  

Phew…after all that, it's time for me to get back on the elliptical.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Running  season is over for this girl.  The chilly weather has set in, and I broke down and joined the (dreaded) gym.

Any recommendations for any new restaurants in the Baltimore area??


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Healthy Enchiladas

Inspired from, yes, Pintrest, I tried out this warm recipe on a chilly night after work last week.  Goal:  healthy and warm up the house.  Bonus:  Tasty.  Check, check, and check!

1 can chopped chili peppers
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
1 small sweet potato, chopped (I kept skin)
1 small onion, chopped
1 can corn, no added salt
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin 
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups pico de gallo, or fresh salsa
2 big handfuls of baby spinach
~8 tortillas, halved
2 cups shredded cheese (I tend to use mozzarella on these types of dishes)
Sour cream, if desired

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly grease a cooking 9 X 13 cooking dish.
2.  Place chili peppers, red pepper, cauliflower, sweet potato, onion and corn in dish.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with cumin, garlic, S&P.  Mix well with spoon until distributed evenly. 

3.  bake veggies for 30-40 minutes, until lightly browned, while stirring every 10 minutes.  
4.  Meanwhile, combine salsa and cilantro in bowl.  

 5.  Lightly grease a 8 X 8 pan.  Spread 1/4 cup of salsa mix on bottom of pan.  Add layer of tortilla pieces.  
6.  Once veggies done baking...

…top with 1/3 of veggies….

 ….half of black beans...

 …handful of spinach...

 …and top with cheese.  

 7.  Make second layer of tortilla, salsa, veggies, black beans, spinach, cheese.  Top with layer of tortillas, salsa, veggies and cheese.  
8.  Cover with aluminum foil until ready to eat (if ready, decrease oven temp to 350).
9.  When ready to eat, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
10.  Bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and everything is heated through.  
11.  Cool for about 5 minutes before serving.  


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wednesday Wellness: Turkey Spinach Ziti

Let's start here.  The wine.  Truth, Lindsey's Cuvee.  What a wonderful blend!  Especially on a cold evening.  What would you make to go with a delicious bottle of red?  

I decided on baked ziti.  But I wanted to make it a little more hearty, yet healthy.  Why not add ground turkey and spinach?!  Mmmmmmm….

12 ounces uncooked whole wheat ziti
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 pound, lean ground turkey
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
mozzarella cheese, full fat…I hate healthy low fat cheese…gag!

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
2.  Cook and drain pasta.  Set aside. 

3.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook until browned, breaking up meat, for about 3-5 minutes.  

4.  Add oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Add spinach and combine over medium heat.  Cook for about 2 minutes.  

 5.  Add tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes.  

6.  Spoon small amount of tomato mixture on bottom of 9 X 13 greased pan ( just enough to cover bottom)
7.  Top with half of cooked ziti.
8.  Layer with half of remaining tomato mixture and then half of mozzarella cheese.  
9.  Layer with remaining ziti, top with remaining tomato mixture.  

 10.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese. 

11.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until cheese is golden and bubbly.

(sorry, no picture of final product, as we gobbled it up pretty quickly and took the rest for lunch!)


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday Treats: Thankful Pumpkin Bread

Remember this picture?  See all those leaves?  That was BEFORE the hurricane.  Can you imagine all the leaves after the rain and wind?  My front yard was COVERED!  I attempted to rake Saturday morning.  Attempted…key word.  It was still pretty windy out and after about an hour, I gave up.  I got some leaves up, but most importantly, I was able to get the leaves off the freshly planted grass seed my mom had put down for me when I was away.  

After I came inside to get ready for lunch with my girlfriends, I heard a very familiar noise outside.  I looked out the window and almost began to cry!  Two men, that live on either side of me, had gotten out their rakes and leaf blowers, and were getting up every.single.leaf on our lawns.  They put all the leaves into bags and took them to the dump.  

When I came home, I went to take Bax out back to run around.  Oh.my.goodness.  They outdid themselves.  The two men had even gotten up every leaf in the backyard.  I can't even begin to tell you how many leaves there were with our big trees.  This was amazing!  

Did I also mention earlier that this one neighbor came over in the hurricane in the pouring rain and wind to deliver a little note from his wife.  It was the sweetest note, just letting me know if I needed anything or if Bax and I got bored, we were always welcome in their home.  How sweet is that?!

I was beyond thankful for their kindness.  I quickly got together my baking supplies and baked them Mom's Pumpkin Bread and delivered it to them in the morning, still warm.  

I had a few other people on my list to bake for, also.  My mom and dad had kept Bax and I warm while we were out of power last week, so of course I made them some, too.  And my other neighbor, poor thing, broke her heel…worst fracture, as it takes forever to heal.  I baked her a loaf and sat with her for a little while this weekend.  

I truly feel blessed how lucky Baxter and I are to have such wonderful neighbors and family close by.    
If you have anyone to thank, try sending over a loaf of this bread.  I assure you, you will get a big smile that makes you feel good inside!