Monday, April 27, 2009

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DB: Oreo Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

I absolutely loved this month's selection. After making the lasagna last month it was nice to get back to baking sweets. The cheesecake was your basic cheesecake, but the challenge was to make it unique. The cheesecake was a perfect canvas for whatever dessert you wanted to create. I tried to recreate one of my favorite cheesecakes with the homemade Oreos I made. The Oreo cheesecake tasted amazing. I've already talked about how great I though the Oreo recipe was, so I need to tell you about this's divine! It's the creamiest cheesecake I have ever tasted. The cheesecake is incredibly rich, but not overly sweet. I really can't think of another word to describe this cheesecake other than creamy. The batter was pretty liquidy so I didn't expect the end product to be so thick. I was even more impressed that my cake didn't crack and that the cookies didn't sink. This cake was a complete success :)

Thanks for your selection Jenny! Don't forget to check out the fabulous Daring Kitchen site!
Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Served with Oreos

Ultra creamy

Sunday, April 26, 2009

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Just So You Know...

Posting is probably going to be a little scant over the next few weeks. I had my last class on Friday and I am currently in complete study mode. I have five finals in the next 17 days and I am still trying to play catch up in one of my classes. I am surprisingly calm this time around, but I know I still need to bust my butt; can't let those transfer schools think I suck at this law student stuff! I cannot wait until I can say I am done with this hell of a year. At least the weather was perfect for studying outside this weekend. Boston is gorgeous this time of year.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

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Mmmm Maggiano's

One of our favorite restaurants up here is Maggiano's. In my opinion it's the PF Chang's of Italy. They are always bustling and busy and reservations can be hard to get, but they are definitely worth the crowds and the late night meal. Service is always great and the prices are phenomenal. You get a lot of food for very little money.

We started off the night with the Mozzarella Marinara. This is a huge chunk of mozzarella breaded, fried, and topped with slice of provolone cheese and marinara sauce. Fried mozzarella doesn't get better than this; the mozzarella is creamy, the breading is crunchy, and the provolone and marinara add a sweet saltiness to the dish.
Alex ordered the Chicken Pesto Linguini. This is his favorite pasta. He loves the sauce, which is an alfredo-like pesto sauce. The sauce is loaded with pine nuts and the pasta is full of roasted chicken. Because the sauce is more like a cream sauce, the pesto is very subdued. You get a hint of the herbs in the pesto but they aren't as potent.
I ordered the Chicken Parm. This chicken dish hit the spot as the chicken was incredibly juicy underneath the fried coating. The chicken was topped with provolone cheese and marinara. Melted cheese makes just about anything good and this made chicken even better.
For dessert we ordered the Apple Crostada and, omg wow, this was the best apple dessert I have ever had in my life. The apples were extremely tender and they melted in my mouth. The pastry was exactly what a pastry should be like in this kind of dessert, crisp on the outside and warm and chewy on the inside. The dessert was topped with a scoop of ice cream, which was perfect pairing for the warmth of the apples and the pastry.
Maggiano's has one location in Boston and several locations throughout the US. They are definitely worth checking out and exploring.

Friday, April 24, 2009

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Oreo Cuteness, Part 2

I am foolish. I am publishing posts without finishing them. I'm not even putting in my thoughts or pictures. My brain really is somewhere else and it all has to do with my big secret. I need my brain back and I need it back now. I have finals coming up and I need to be able to concentrate and focus on school. I recently posted the recipe for Oreo cookies I made. I thought I finished it, but I hadn't. Oops again. These cookies were fantastic. They really did taste like Oreos. The chocolate wafer cookies were such a basic cookie that they would be perfect for just about anything. What really had my impressed was the cream. It tasted EXACTLY like the cream in Oreos. It's the cream that gives these cookies away as homemade Oreo cookies.

The recipe is in this post. And now the pictures....

The cookie.
I tried to make mine double stuffed.This is what true love looks like.
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Oreo Cuteness

{For an updated post, please check here. Also, please excuse my broken brain.}

I had seen this recipe for Oreos a couple of months back and I knew I had to make them. I love Oreo cookies and they round up my top three favorite cookies of all time.

Oreo Cookies
Source: The Cupcake Project
Makes about 40 Oreo average sized Oreo cookies

The Chocolate Wafers

1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 C sugar
1/2 C plus 2 T butter, room temperature
1 large egg

1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar.

2. Beat in the butter and the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. (I totally didn't read this flatten dough part...oops!)

4. Bake for 9 minutes at 375 F. Set on a rack to cool.

The Filling
1/4 cup room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla.

2. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

3. To make a cookie, pipe teaspoon-sized blobs of cream into the center of a cookie using a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch round tip.

4. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

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Cake Slice: Chai Cake with Honey Ginger Cream

[Oops...I had a minor brain issues and posted this before the post was ready.]

What an awesome cake selection this month for The Cake Slice. Each month I fall more and more in love with Sky High. All the cakes I have made have been amazing. The recipes are so unique and creative. This cake was no exception. The best way to describe this cake is by saying it's aromatic. The smells of the chai milk, the spices, and the frosting were amazing. It's not fair that something so natural and organic can smell as good as this cake did. The cake was deliciously sweet, incredibly high, and completely satisfying. Alex said the cake reminded him of a pumpkin cake because of the spices, which means he loved it.
Chai Cake with Honey Ginger Cream
Alisa Huntsman’s Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes

1 1/3 cups of milk
6 chai tea bags, without added sweetner, such as Tazo
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp of vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups of cake flour*
2 cups of sugar
4 ½ tsp of baking powder
3/4 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp of ground cardamom**
1/2 tsp of salt
8 ounces of unsalted butter at room temp.

[*1 cup of cake flour is equal to 3/4 cup of all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.]
[**Cardamom substitute is an equal amount of brown cardamom OR equal parts ground nutmeg and cinnamon OR equal parts ground cloves and cinnamon]

1. Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F. Grease the bottom ans sides of the pans and line with parchment paper. Grease the paper as well.

2. In a small saucepan bring the milk to a simmer over low med-low heat. Add the tea bags, careful not to let the paper tag fall into the milk. Remove from heat and allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes. Remove the teabags and squeeze out the milk. Let the chai milk cool completely.

3. In a medium bowl mix the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/3 cup of the chai milk. Whisk together.

4. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining chai milk, on med-low speed. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture in three additions scraping the between additions. Divide the batter evenly among the pans.

5. Bake the cakes for 26-28 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes.Remove cakes from pans and peel off parchment paper. Cool completely.

6. To assemble the cake place one layer flat side down a serving plate and top with 2/3 cup of icing. Spread to the edge and repeat with second layer. Place third layer on top and spread the remaining ginger cream on top allowing it to drizzle down the sides of the cake like icicles.

Honey Ginger Cream

2 ½ cups of confectioners sugar
6 ounces of cream cheese at room temp.
6 Tbsp of unsalted butter at room temp.
1/2 cup of honey (any kind as long as liquid)
1/2 tsp of fresh grated ginger

Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to blend together, then scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse until smooth.

I topped my mini cakes with cake crumbs.
The cake packed quite a spicy punch :)Drip, drip.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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TWD: Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding

I almost forgot I hadn't posted this week's recipe. I'm down to the wire! I made this dessert last night and it was a hit. I've never made nor had bread pudding before so I didn't know what to expect. Alex thought I threw some bananas in this and I actually thought of doing that but decided at the last minute not to. He enjoyed it a lot and was caught off guard at first because he's never had a chocolate bread pudding. As for the bread pudding virgin? I thought it was great! It kind of tasted like french toast drenched in chocolate syrup, which probably explains why I had it for breakfast this morning. I must say I am loving the chocolate streak we've been on lately :)

Thanks to Lauren of East Side Chronicle for making a great selection this week. Don't forget to check out Lauren's blog and the other bakers on TWD!

I love the look of powdered sugar. Would you like some?

Monday, April 20, 2009

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Bad Baker

I have been a bad baker as of late. I have completely neglected my Cake Slice, Cookie Carnival, and You Want Pies With That? duties. I promise to catch up! Cake Slice post will be going up on Wednesday and I am trying to think of a how to turn a family favorite dessert into a pie for this month's You Want Pies With That? theme. That one is really going to require me to get creative. Maybe the beautiful spring season will inspire me :)
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Honest Excitement

The past few weeks have been beyond exciting. My days are filled with thinking about Miami. It's really hard to focus on Boston and school when all I can think about is moving back home. One of the perks of being back in Miami is being close to my friends again. Being so far from my support system has been one of the hardest things about living in Boston. When we found out we were moving back to Miami one of the first few things Alex said to me was "Now the girls won't hate me because I'm not keeping you away from them anymore." It was a funny thing to say, but it was so true. I hate feeling like I am missing out on things because I am so far away. That's going to change soon and it couldn't have come at a better time. Three weeks ago I found out that one of my closest friends Jen is pregnant! I can announce it now since she has already told everyone. It's been hard containing my excitement because she is the first close friend of mine that's gotten pregnant. I am going to be an auntie!! I cannot wait!

Speaking of the momma-to-be, she tagged me. I'm supposed to list 10 honest things about myself. Should be interesting :)

The Rules are as Follows:
1. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs for brilliance in content/design.
2. Show the winners and let them know.
3. List at least 10 honest things about yourself.

1. Despite all the sweets I post on my blog, I don't eat a lot of sweets. Most of the time I bake things, take two bites, and then leave the rest for Alex to finish off. He swears I am making him fat, but I like my man well fed.

2. I moved to Boston with Alex 3.5 years ago. I had no idea what I was going to do with myself once I got here. I left everything behind in Miami and I had no problem with that because I knew Alex was the man I was going to marry. I gambled on love and it worked out in my favor. I was very lucky.

3. I believe people are inherently good. I am naive in that sense. I have difficulty understanding that people aren't good and that people have bad intentions.

4. I hold grudges. I hate to say it but I do. It's something I hate about my personality but I am too stubborn to change. I didn't speak to my sister for almost 3 years and I haven't spoken to my father in over 5 years. I don't know if I will ever speak to my father.

5. I really wanted to be an actress when I was in high school. I was a drama geek and I even had a lead role in a play my senior year. It was Neil Simon's Fools. One of the best and funnest experiences of my life.

6. My philosophy is "do what makes you the happiest." My goal is to be happy and all my decisions are based on what's going to make me the happiest.

7. I cannot wait to be a mother. I cannot wait to see how Alex is with me when I am pregnant. I can't wait to see what our children are going to look like. I anticipate meeting our future children, but at the same time I am terrified of becoming a horrible mother.
8. I don't know if I want to be a lawyer. I know most 1Ls say that, but I wonder if I am going to have what it takes to reconcile my personal views and philosophies with the reality of the legal world.

9. I will be heartbroken the day Perla dies. She's been with me for almost 14 years and I don't know if I'd be able to get over that loss.
10. I like to keep secrets, especially big secrets. When I got engaged I didn't tell anyone but my mom. My maid of honor (girl Alex) found out because I sent her a card in the mail. I spoke to here almost every day after I got engaged and I didn't tell her. She was confused when she got the card because she couldn't understand how I was able to keep such a big secret from her. I wanted it to be a big surprise. I have one big secret but I'm not ready to tell it just yet.

And now my tag picks...

1. A Beginner's Adventures in Photography
2. Elyse's Confectionery Creations
3. Mermaid Sweets
4. A Chica Bakes
5. Beantown Baker
6. Pink Stripes
7. Cookbookhabit
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Breathe Breathe

Today was the Boston Marathon. I am always amazed with the people who are able to run the 20+ miles of the marathon. I love to watch them run and to hear the crowd cheering them on. Most of the people look beat up once they get to the finish line but the pride they feel in finishing the race exudes. What do they think while the are running? Do they focus on the sound of their breath or the beating of their heart? Do they hear the crowd cheering them?

This is one of the things I am going to miss about Boston. It's not just the tradition of the race, it's also the outpouring of support from strangers. I don't even know the people running, but I still feel like yelling out a "You're doing great!" or "You're almost done!" People come together on a day like this and I haven't experienced something like this anywhere else. I will miss this snippet of humanity in a city that often times feels so lonely and detached.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

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A Trip Down {Fake} Memory Lane

When I was younger I wanted to be a Girl Scout. Something about it seemed so cool. You got to wear cute uniforms, do crafty things, make friends, and earn patches. I told my mom about this desire and she signed me up for it. I went to two meetings and then stopped going because of the financial commitment. I didn't think being a Girl Scout was so expensive. I was disappointed that my mom didn't have the money for it, but like every 10 year old out there, I quickly got over it as soon as I discovered something new to fixate on (in my case, my school's free after school soccer program). Soccer ended up being a better fit for more me because the jerseys, shorts, and disheveled hair were more me than the clean cut look of a girl scout.

When we were at the store yesterday I snatched up some marshmallows because I had seen this recipe on Joy The Baker. The recipe made me day dream about all the Girl Scout campfires I missed out on. I pictured myself putting marshmallows on sticks and sticking them in the flame of a fire until they were hot and gooey and then sandwiching them between chocolate and graham crackers. After a while I snapped out of it and I sent myself to the kitchen to bake. The brownies were warm and wholesome. The brownie is chocolaty, dense, and very cake-like. I think my brownies came out more cake-like because I added graham cracker crumbs instead of graham cracker chunks. I loved seeing the brownies bake because the marshmallows puffed up in the oven and then shrunk down after they cooled. These brownies were better than any s'mores I had made up in my dreams.
S’mores Brownies
Source: Joy The Baker

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup graham cracker, roughly crushed with your hands
12 big
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9×13-inch baking pan with 2-inch-high sides. Combine first 3 ingredients in small bowl. Stir butter and chocolate in a medium sized bowl over a heavy saucepan of simmering water. Stir chocolate and butter in this double boiler until melted and smooth.

Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Stir in warm chocolate mixture, then dry ingredients. Fold in graham crackers. Pour batter into prepared pan. Dot with 12 large marshmallows. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 30- 40 minutes.

Marshmallows will be browned and puffy but will deflate as the brownies cool. Cool for at least 20 minutes than slice with a sharp knife, cleaning the knife with hot water if it gets too messy and sticky. Serve or wrap individually in wax paper for storing.

The s'more brownie.
The marshmallow & graham cracker crumbs.
See? It looks cakey.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

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Cheesecake Factory Obsession

I love Cheesecake Factory. I love that their menu is huge and full of variety. I love them even more after our most recent trip. We went for lunch on Easter Sunday and ordered the corn fritters. OMG these babies are the freakin' bomb! I thought it was completely inappropriate of me to be enjoying these fritters as much as I did. They tasted like corn casserole dipped in batter and fried until golden. It was fritter perfection. These babies were served with a chipotle-like sauce. And yes, these babies deserve two pictures...
Other than this food perfection we had sandwiches. I went with the Grilled Chicken & Avocado Club. The sandwich was huge and I felt bad not being able to finish it. The sandwich was loaded with ripe avocados, strips of crispy bacon, melted swiss cheese, and a big, juicy grilled chicken breast. I had been craving this sandwich and it totally quenched my craving.
Alex ordered the Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich. This sandwich also had a big piece of crispy chicken breast. Alex ordered the sandwich with chipotle pepper mayo because he loves chipotle mayo. The crispyness of the sandwich was a perfect match for the spicy creaminess of the mayo sauce.

Friday, April 17, 2009

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Today it dawned on me that I am a survivor. I had my very first oral argument today. I was scared out of my mind. I thought about telling my teacher to have a paramedic outside of the moot court room door just in case I fainted. As I was standing at the podium I could barely hear myself because all I could hear was the shaking in my legs. Those were the quickest 8 minutes of my life. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be and the teacher gave me great feedback. I was happy to have survived my oral argument without needing medical attention. I was even happier when I realized that I am completely done with my legal writing course for the year. That's another thing I survived that I didn't think I would. The biggest accomplishment today was wearing a suit all day and feeling like a grown-up.
As I walked home today I noticed something different about the city. People were out. In shorts. What??? Yes, you read correctly. People were outside in shorts in the city of Boston. Spring is officially here which means I survived the longest winter of my life. The city looks gorgeous now with all the trees and flowers blooming. This is my favorite time of year because the city feels so alive, vibrant, energetic, and colorful.
I heard back from Perla's vet and it turns out she is on her way to being a normal dog again. They did bloodwork on her to count her platelets and her platelets are at a normal range now. She has to stay on medication for a few months, but other than that, she is a happy and healthy little poodle. She survived this health scare and I survived my feelings of helplessness and confusion in not knowing what was wrong with her. These are her I-know-you-have-treat- and-you-better-give-them-to-me look.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

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These days my brain is mush. The best example of my brain mush is that I ran out of sugar. Can you believe I ran out of sugar??? I couldn't believe it myself. I nearly fell to the floor in my kitchen, cried, and got into a fetal position because I couldn't believe I was out of sugar. First, I ran out of butter and eggs and now I'm out of sugar. I'm a disaster. Here's a breakdown of why I have a mush brain:

8 days until my last class
13 days until my first final
27 days until my last final and the end of my first year of law school
31 days until Alex graduates
38 days until we are back in Miami

I have way too much going on right now. I am mentally exhausted from all this counting down. I might just lose my brain as its mushiness slides out of my ears.

What recipes can you make without sugar?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

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Obsession of the Week

My obsession this week is a foodie one. Have you heard of Jamba Juice? Jamba Juice is a smoothie place and they make some of the best smoothies on this continent. The smoothies are thick, creamy, and oh so fulfilling. I first discovered Jamba Juice at my undergrad because there was a location on campus. My preferred smoothie? Peanut Butter Moo'd. I love the combination of the chocolate, peanut butter, and bananas. Yum!

I wish I had 5 blenders...sigh