Monday, May 5, 2008

"BETTER THAN SEX" Cheesecake

For Sarah's Birthday I came up with a new Cheesecake recipe to make sure it was gluten-Free. The cheesecake filling is easy to transfer to a gluten free cake, its the crust that is the kicker. So I came up with an idea. Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies!! Two days ahead, I made the cookies, and then 24 hours ahead of the party I crumbled them for the crust. Lined them in the base of a spring form pan and TA-DA: gluten free crust!! However...I didn't want this yummy cheesecake to not blend with this peanut butter crust: So I did a chocolate Swirl cheesecake (what's better then chocolate and Peanut Butter right?) and topped it with chopped Reese's Peanut butter cups with a homemade chocolate caramel Sauce. FANTASTIC!! Very rich so the cake will go really far because you can only eat so much at a want to make the pieces VERY VERY SMALL!! Here's How I did it and I hope you enjoy it!!
SARAH'S Special Cheesecake (or as she calls it BETTER THAN SEX CHEESECAKE)
Crust: See Flourless Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe
2 1/2 lbs softened cream cheese (5 blocks-leave at room temp for thirty minutes to soften)
1 3/4 cups white sugar
3 tbs all-purpose flour (I used a special gluten free blend that sarah makes but any gluten free flour should work such as Red Mill or Almond flour would be really good).
5 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (or sour cream but I used the whipping cream since I needed that for the sauce as well).
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp grated Orange peel
1/4 tsp vanilla

Chocolate filling:
14 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white sugar

5-6 Large Reese's Peanut Butter cups (use this brand for gluten-free) CHOPPED
TIP: Freeze PB cups for thirty minutes before cutting so they are very firm. Use a very sharp knife and to gently chop them up..if you use an electric chopper or hand chopper it will destroy the cups and you want the pieces to have shape.
See below for SAUCE recipe and directions.

Directions: Preheat oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar. Use the paddle attachment for the KAMixer at this point to beat the sugar and cream cheese. Add flour, eggs (I prefer to do the eggs one at a time),vanilla and citrus peels. Switch your KA to the whisk attachment and whisk briskly to remove all clumps and get a nice fluffy consistency. Add your heavy cream and just mix until its blended in. DO NOT OVER MIX with the cream in there. If you do not have a KAMixer, you a hand mixer and look for a nice thick no clump consistency but it will not have a whipped look..will still work perfectly though. Pour half of this mixture into pan, gently spreading over PB crust. In the microwave, heat choco chips and sugar together in glass container (DO NOT USE PLASTIC) for 2 minutes. (chips will still appear to be in original form you don't want to overmelt them). Pour Chocolate chips (they will turn to thick melt chocolate as you scrape them out) into left over batter and mix until blended. You are looking for a nice chocolate mousse appearance (or with hand mixer a thick chocolate pudding type appearance). Gently pour chocolate mixture in spring form pan. You can take a knife or fork to gently swirl the two layers together or score the two layers or leave them stacked. Appearance is up to you!
Place cake in oven on top rack with a casserole dish full of water on bottom rack. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C) and continue to bake for 1 hour. Turn oven off and Leave cake in there for FOUR HOURS to cool and set. Place cake in Refridgerator for atleast 8 hours to finish setting. The water bath and long cool times (to reduce quick changes in temperature) will keep your cake from cracking! An hour or two before you need to serve the cake, top with the PB cups and Sauce. Chill another one to two hours before serving!!

Chocolate Caramel Sauce
4 tbs sugar
6 tbs heavy cream
2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), coarsely chopped or in small chuncks
1/8 tsp vanilla

Directions: Cook sugar in a very small dry heavy sauce pan or skillet over moderately high heat, undisturbed, untl sugar begins to melt. (about 1-2 minutes). Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar is melted into a medium/deep golden caramel (abotu 2 minutes). Remove Caramel from heat and carefully pour in cream (mixture will steam and bubble vigorously). Once bubbles begin to subside, add chocolate and stir until sauce is smooth. Stir in vanilla and let cool for just a minute or two so it won't melt your cake and PBcups too much!

This sauce is not the easiest thing in the world. I'm a pretty good cook/baker and I had some problems with this sauce. It took me a few tries to get it right and even then I ended up with this hard clot around the fork. If you mess up, you will know when you add the cream so you won't waste the chocolate..just grab another pan and try again. Soaking in warm water cleans the pans and forks easily so don't worry about it. TIP: WATCH it like a HAWK. Making this sauce was the fastest four minutes of my life!!

Notes: The cheesecake filling is for a NY style cheesecake so you can leave the citrus out of it if you are adding chocolate if you choose. I like it in there for that extra zest! Also, because this is for a NY style cheesecake 10-12 inch, you will have leftover batter if you add the chocolate. So I made a 10 inch cheesecake and a five inch cheesecake and just baked them together!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 Cup Chunky Peanut Butter
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 Large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Directions: Mix together ingredients until a nice sticky dough has formed. Chill for 30 minutes in refridgerator (covered in plastic). Use a rounded tablespoon to scoop out 1 inch balls and place on ungreased pan ( I use a pizza stone). Press gently with the palm of your hands. You can also do the hatch marks with a fork (press tines flat on top of cookie) but with Flourless PB cookies they don't really show up. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes.

Yard Bouquet

I know my blog is about cooking and gardening and how to make great recipes using what you grow. However, there are also other things you can do with homegrown things and while I will rarely post them, I thought a few quick mentions occasionally would not be a bad idea. Something quick and easy is to make easy floral decorations for showers, parties, birthday's etc. Many people will take some nice long stemmed flowers and put them in a vase but I like to do low floral bowls.

Directions: Take a nice simple crystal bowl and hot glue a square of florists foam in the base. This can be reused multiple times before you have to remove the foam and put a new piece in. Soak the foam in water. Choose flowers from your yard in various heights preferably with woody/stiff stems. For this arrangement I used Salmon Azaleas, burgandy old fashioned roses, yellow snap dragons and purple iris.

Arrange the flowers around the foam. I like to do the tall center and then the low sides filling in the spaces from there. Don't worry about having everything even and precise. Let the flowers natural shapes and colors blend on their own! Easy, Quick, Fun!

Dillicious Potato Salad

For one my BFF's thirtieth birthday, I had to make sure the menu was not only easy, fun and fabulous but also GLUTEN FREE. To go with the beautiful weather I chose to make my Cheeseburgers on the grill. I pulled out a great Potato Salad recipe that only needed minor adjustments to be naturally gluten free. This recipe is from "Secrets of Fat-Free Cooking" by Sandra Woodruff, RD 1995. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SARAH!!

2 pounds unpeeled potatoes (about 6 medium/small) I like to use Red potatoes.
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed I always use one can of Early Peas
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot (my carrots were looking a bit yucky so I left this out this definately needs this)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs nonfat sour cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs nonfat or light mayonnaise (Use Regular Mayonnaise for Gluten Free as many Light/fat free mayo's have added gluten).
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs Dijon mustard (use French's Yellow mustard for Gluten Free recipes)
1/4 tsp ground white pepper (black works fine)
1 tbs finely chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp dried
This is a very simple easy recipe that is healthy and tasty. I have been making it for years and it is easy to adjust by adding in boiled eggs, more onions, etc. This is the basic recipe and is tried and true just as it is.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

What is more perfect then a chocolate chip cookie? Not much. It's simple, it's sweet, crunchy, chewy, warm or cold, and above all comforting. Sweet memories of childhood, indulgent and above all: SIMPLE. Simply perfect chocolate chip cookies. I really felt like baking today but at the same time I didn't want to go all out since I have to make a Cheesecake tomorrow. Answer? Chocolate chip cookies and I have everything on hand to make them. PERFECT. Now to be honest, I have never made a simple chocolate chip cookie home made before! It's a crime I know, but what can I say? When I make cookies its usually the big batch of Christmas cookies which have tons of stuff in them and are delish and yummy...but I wanted simple. After doing a little research on recipes (I know, that took the simplicity out of it) I found that most recipes were adapted from the original TOLLHOUSE recipe so I decided to take that basic recipe and tweak it just a tad bit. Did I make the ultimate chocolate chip cookie?? Maybe, maybe not. I don't think it is the ULTIMATE chocolate chip cookie, but it is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself!!

Simply Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups SELF-RISING flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats (blended to a powder)
2 sticks butter (melted)
3/4 cup light brown sugar (mixed in with butter as it melts)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1tbs vanilla
2 eggs
14oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate chips
1 cup coconut flakes (blended to make them finer) This is Optional and can also be substituted with one cup of chopped nuts.

Beat Butter, vanilla and sugars in large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add in flour and oatmeal. Scrape down sides and continue to mix. Add in coconut and chocolate chips.

Chill dough. Drop by spoonfuls (rounded tablespoon works great) or little 1 inche balls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in preheated over at 375 degrees for 20 minutes =/- until golden brown. Let stand atleast 2 minutes: remove to wire racks to cool.