Monday, November 30, 2009

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Thanksgiving Recap

Have you had enough Thanksgiving food? With the exception of breakfast and two lunches all I have eaten since Wednesday is Thanksgiving food. I'm not sick of the food yet but I am happy to report that all the leftovers are a meal or two away from being gone. I can't get over the amount of turkey I have eaten. I have eaten from THREE different turkeys. I do not eat turkey at all during the rest of the year so I definitely overdo it with the turkey during Thanksgiving.

Our Turkey Day Marathon started off on Wednesday with a dinner at Alex's parent's house. They decided to celebrate it early since Alex was on call Thursday. Funny thing about Alex being on have no idea how disappointed I was when I found out he'd be on call on Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday of the year and this is the second year that we don't get to spend the actual holiday together. Last year I spent Thanksgiving alone in Boston because Alex was down here in Miami trying to impress his future potential employer. This year, that potential employer is his employer and made him work Thanksgiving. So dinner with his parents was a day early. There was a ton of food and the most interesting dish was my mother-in-law's sweet potatoes. I'm used to the traditional sweet potato mixed with brown sugar, but she mixed things up and added pineapple juice to the sweet potato. This made the Thanksgiving feel very Floridian.

Bacon wrapped turkey.
The spread. My dish.
Turkey Day Marathon continued on Thursday with a dinner at my mom's house. The day completely sucked because Alex was working and I couldn't tell if I was feeling extra sensitive to this because I'm pregnant. At least I got to see my brother, hang with my sister, and get a ton of my baby books and pictures. It's nice to see how my mom hasn't changed how she does Thanksgiving dinner. There's comfort in finding the same dishes year after year.

The turkey.
The spread. My dish.
Last but not least was the turkey dinner I made on Friday. I felt very strongly about us having a dinner for just the two of us. We have so much to be thankful for and it was really important to me that we got to reflect on how blessed our lives together are. Plus, I was excited about our first turkey dinner in the new house. I didn't get too many pictures of what I made because Alex hadn't eaten anything in close to 20 hours and I didn't want to make him wait while I took pictures.

The turkey.
Partial spread. My dish.

The most interesting "trend" this year was bagging the turkey. Both my in-laws and mom roasted the turkey in a bag. Neither have ever done this and it caught me off guard when I saw the birds come out of the oven in a bag. Both swore the turkey was juicier than normal, but I think my regular roasted turkey was just as juicy. Or maybe I'm just biased.

And now, because one of the things I am thankful for the most is the expansion my love for Alex and of our family I leave you with this picture. I secretly hope our daughter is as cute and happy as I was as a child.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

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Priorities and a Sticky Mess

Life is all about priorities wouldn't you say? I am constantly prioritizing and re-prioritizing things in my life. When I was younger my main priority was doing well in school. When I was planning my wedding my priority was making sure the photographer gave me all the images of my wedding. Now my priority is my family, specifically the one I am creating with Alex. If you have known me for a while you'd know that the concept of family was very low on my priority list. I didn't believe in family or in having that network of related individuals that loved {semi}unconditionally and supported wholeheartedly. That always seemed like something others had. Something make believe. But now that I am pregnant and planning for life beyond pregnancy, my priorities have shifted in the direction of creating and nourishing the type of family environment and relationships I always wish I had. Now is when I am starting to see the importance of family and now is when I am beginning to understand what family means in the first place. So why all this talk about family and priorities? Well, I blame it on an apple.
Cakespy had posted a Caramel Apple Pie Bar recipe. The recipe sounded great and the picture she posted look delicious. I made the bars as specified, however, I doubled the amount of caramel. Why? Because the caramel was so good and it was my priority. My bars ended up being 1/5 shortbread, 1/5 apple, 1/5 topping, and 2/5 caramel. I poured the caramel on real thick. The result was a sticky, gooey, sweet mess. It was more of an apple crumble than a bar and I have ZERO problems with that. Served warm with some ice cream and this dessert is sweet indulgence.
Caramel Apple Pie Bars
Source: Cakespy, adapted from Dana Treat
Makes about 24 bars

For the crust
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling
(optional) 1/2 cup caramel sauce (here) or caramel candies
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 large Granny Smith apples, cut into thin slices
1 tablespoon cinnamon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

For the topping
1/2 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

  1. Make the crust. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8x8-inch pan thoroughly. In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Press the dough over the bottom of the prepared pan, leaving the edges slightly higher (but still even all around). Bake in the center of the oven for about 12-15 minutes, until the crust is golden and set. Let cool on a rack.
  2. While this is cooling, make the filling. In a large skillet, melt the butter and brown sugar. Add the apples to the skillet and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir the cinnamon and nutmeg into the skillet, making sure it has evenly coated the apples. Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet, and if necessary add a small amount of water to the pan to prevent scorching.
  3. Make the topping. Lightly toast the walnuts in the oven for about eight minutes; let cool, then coarsely chop them. In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and baking soda. Using a pastry blender and cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts and press the mixture into clumps.
  4. Assemble and bake. Spread the 1/2 cup caramel sauce (or caramel candies) over the bottom layer, ensuring even coverage. Spread the apple filling directly on top of the caramel. Scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking. Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into bars.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

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Turkey Day & TWD

Happy Turkey Day everyone! Hopefully everyone is either busy in the kitchen cooking up a storm or resting at home while someone else is busy in the kitchen. I had my first of three turkey dinners last night and it reminded me of why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Lots of yummy food centered around a deliciously roasted turkey, all shared with the people who mean the most. Because this first Thanksgiving was with my in-laws and they always make more than enough food and always have more than enough desserts (last night there were 5 choices), I decided to make the last of the TWD sweets today for my mom's Thanksgiving dinner. This sweet was the Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake chosen by Katya of Second Dinner. Dorie's recipe, while it sounded good, was a little too involved for me and made use of ingredients (chestnuts, chestnut spread) that weren't readily available. So I simplified things for myself and I switched things up a bit and made nutella cakelets filled with a caramel sauce topped with a thick chocolate ganache. I am very happy with the changes. The cakes came out beautifully and are so unique in flavor due to the nutella, the caramel, and the chocolate. Hopefully they are a hit tonight!
Don't forget to check out Katya's blog. If you are interested in the original recipe for this cake go here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

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A Sweet Sip

At my last doctor's appointment I had to do something I was dreading. The weeks leading up to this appointment saw me eating very little sweets, which was incredibly hard since what I have been wanting to eat the most are sweets. If I could, I would eat chocolate cake or apple pie all day long. Not only was I dreading bloodwork, but I was also dreading having to drink the Glucose Drink for the glucose tolerance test. Most of the reactions to this drink are either summed up with the words gross, gag, intolerable, and disgusting. Would I be able to drink the sweet stuff? Once the bottle was brought in my plan of attack was to chug it. I thought I could get it all down in one chug, but no. The sweet hit me, made me stop, and made me reconsider the chug-it approach. I took a second gulp and finished the drink off. I felt slightly light headed and nauseated afterward, which are normal reactions. Those feelings went away after a few minutes. So what do I have to say about this drink? Drink it cold and drink it fast. I got the Lemon Lime flavor and it tasted like flat, Sprite syrup. I really hope I don't need to do the 3-hour test. I've had enough of this sweet stuff for the year.
Has anyone ever drank this and actually liked it?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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Corn Fritters

Going off the high that is Cheesecake Factory's corn fritters I decided to give Martha Stewart's recipe a try. The fritters came together easily but they were lacking for me. They were more like corn pancakes and I was expecting more of a crunch. They also tasted a little bland; I think some sugar would have given them the taste I was hoping to attain. These are described as being savory but I think a bit of sugar would have given them a nice flavor kick that would have picked up on the natural sweetness of the corn.

Corn Fritters
Source: Martha Stewart (here)

3 ears corn, husks and silk removed (I used canned corn, about 1 cup)
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Sour cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Remove kernels: Cut off tip of each cob; stand in a wide shallow bowl. With a sharp knife, slice downward to remove kernels. To bowl, add milk, egg, sugar, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; mix. Fold in cornmeal and flour.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Working in two batches, drop batter into pan by heaping tablespoons. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt; place in oven. Repeat. Keep warm in oven up to 30 minutes. Serve with sour cream, if desired.
There won't be a TWD post today. That post will be up later in the week once I decide whose Thanksgiving dinner this dessert will be a part of. Thanksgiving is being celebrated 3 times this week and I am so ready for the turkey feast.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

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Feeling Lost

I really didn't think I would miss Boston. I thought I would be so happy to be back in Miami that I wouldn't even think about Boston. But, I think about Boston all the time. I don't miss living there and I definitely don't miss the weather mood swings. I find comfort in know that the weather will either be hot or hotter here in Miami. What I do miss about Boston is the dining. I miss not being able to go to our go-to places. If we wanted pizza we always went to Crazy Dough's. If we wanted Chinese we always went to East Ocean City or China Sky. For burgers it was The Met Burger Bar or Abe & Louie's. For Mexican it was Cactus Club. You couldn't get a better breakfast than the one at Mike's Diner. The list goes on. We had our favorite spots for every type of food and there was always comfort in knowing that if we went to those places we would get exactly what we wanted. We haven't been able to find our go-tos here in Miami. I know it takes time to search and find that gem but it sucks when you search and are constantly finding places that aren't really worth your time or tastebuds. So I feel lost. Every time I want something and Alex asks me from where my response is always "well, if we were in Boston I'd know where."

What brought on this sense of feeling lost was going to Sir Pizza. We have driven past this pizza place many times and finally decided to go in and give them a try. Their prices are incredible and hope immediately built up that this would be our go to pizza place. We ordered a cheese pizza and were disappointed. There was nothing special about this pizza. It was a bland pizza. The crust was bland, the sauce was bland, and the cheese was bland. The sauce tasted like tomato paste straight out of a can. Nothing in the pizza made me want to go back. Was it because we ordered a cheese pizza? Would the pizza have been better if it had some kind of topping on it? I mean a cheese pizza is pretty basic and I feel like it's hard to mess up, so is it us or the pizza? Who knows. It seems like the place is pretty popular. It was full of people and is even open until 4am on Fridays and Saturdays.
I guess the search will just have to continue.

Friday, November 20, 2009

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The Cake Slice: Burnt Sugar Cake

I can't believe it's November 20th already. Thanksgiving is next week. December is a blink away. January is steadily creeping on us. February is right around the corner. My due date is in February. Oh my. Let me stop before I start freaking out. Let me focus on today. November 2oth. The Cake Slice posting day. Oh what a day to bake and post a delicious cake. Not just any cake either. A burnt sugar cake. Don't be fooled by the name. Just because the word "burnt" is in its name, it doesn't mean the cake tastes burnt. It's a cake with a pretty golden color and almost a sweet, nutty taste. I quartered the recipe and was able to get 4 single mini cakes (baked for 20 minutes). Like some of the other bakers I was apprehensive about the amount of sugar in the cake and quartering the frosting gave me just enough frosting to frost the middle an tops of my two cakes. I am especially happy about this adjustment because the cake was the perfect amount of sweet.

Burnt Sugar Cake

(Recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)

For the Cake

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup milk

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1¾ cups sugar

4 eggs

½ cup Burnt Sugar Syrup (below)

For the Burnt Sugar Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup boiling water

For the Burnt Sugar Frosting

3¾ cups confectioners sugar

½ cup Burnt Sugar Syrup (above)

¼ cup (½ stick) butter

½ tsp vanilla extract

2 – 3 tbsp evaporated milk or normal milk

Method – Burnt Sugar Syrup

Heat the sugar in a cast iron skillet or another heavy bottomed pan with high sides. Heat over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts into a clear brown caramel syrup. It should be the colour of tea. Gradually add the boiling water, pouring it down the sides of the pan so that if the syrup foams and bubbles up, you should be protected.

Continue cooking, stirring often, until the water combines with the syrup and turns a handsome brown syrup. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Store the cooled syrup in a sealed jar if not using straight away.

Method - Cake

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and stir with a fork to mix well. Stir the vanilla into the milk.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer at high speed for 2 – 3 minutes, until they are well combined. Stop now and then to scrape the bowl down. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well each time. Pour in half a cup of the burnt sugar syrup and beat well. Add a third of the flour mixture and about half of the milk, beating at a low speed, until just incorporated. Mix in another third of the flour and the rest of the milk. Finally, add the remaining flour.

Divide the batter between the cake pans and bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched gently in the centre and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for15 minutes. Turn out the cakes into the wire rack to cool completely.

Method – Burnt Sugar Frosting

In a large bowl, combine the confectioners sugar, the burnt sugar syrup, butter and vanilla. Beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl now and then to bring the ingredients together. Add 2 tablespoons of the milk and continue beating until the frosting is thick, soft, smooth and easy to spread. Add a little more sugar if it is thin, and a little more milk if it is too thick.

To Assemble

Place one layer, top side down, on a cake stand or serving plate. Scoop about ¾ cup of the frosting onto the cake. Spread to the edges and place the second cake layer over it, top side down. Frost the sides of the cake, and then the top until it is evenly covered.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

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Oink Oink

Alex's brother's birthday was last week. His awesome girlfriend planned a surprise birthday luau for him that included hula dancers. Her equally awesome and extremely talented sister made a cake for the party and every time I look at it I laugh. It's just so darn clever:
Doesn't it just fit perfectly with the luau theme? It definitely made me feel like I was back at the Old Lahaina Luau again. The cake was red velvet which made for a slightly disturbing picture when the cake was being cut and served:
I am constantly in awe of the dessert talent out there. People create the most interesting, intriguing, and beautiful things.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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TWD: Apple Crisp

A huge apology to Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef. I meant to have this post up yesterday but the truth is that I didn't make the apple crisp until today. Things are getting busier around here with the due date nearing. It also doesn't help that I think my house is having an identity crisis because it keeps breaking down. Our roof is teetering very close to that line that separates the don't-replace with the replace. Our a/c has been having issues for close to 2.5 months and that includes having zero a/c for the past 3 weeks. Being pregnant, not having a/c, and living in Miami is a recipe for disaster. But at least we have a ceiling fan! Our latest issue is a bathroom leak that is pushing a planned bathroom remodel ahead of schedule. So my house is having an identity crisis. Or maybe it's a midlife crisis. My house was built in the 1940s so maybe it's telling us it wants to be young again? I was hoping it would let us have a little bit of a honeymoon period before it started nagging us. My advice is to take your home inspection as a suggestion of the condition of the house and not a statement of facts. My other piece of advice is to make sure to have a separate house repair savings account to cushion you for the inevitable breakdown of things.

So on a day where I alternate between being happy to be a homeowner and being overwhelmed by being a homeowner, apple crisp is the perfect dessert to melt the worries, even if only for a few fleeting minutes. I left out the cranberries and the shredded coconut. I kept things simple because right now I need simple. The result was a crisp that was fulfilling, satisfying, and nurturing. I just love apples and the warmth they bring once baked.
Thanks to Em for a great selection! The recipe is here and while you're looking at it make sure to check out the rest of her blog because it's pretty great. Also, don't forget to head over to the TWD site to see what everyone else baked this week.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

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A Little Honored

So you might think this is the dumbest post but I can't contain myself. I received an email today regarding a page (go here) created in honor of the M&M cookie. On this page is also a photo gallery of M&M cookies and one of my pictures is there. But that's not the cool part. The cool part is that my picture is there with one of Bakerella's. I'm a HUGE fan of Bakerella so I feel totally honored that my picture is highlighted in a round up of pretty in pink cookies along with one of her pictures. I'm blogger-awestruck. I feel like I just took a picture with a celebrity! Anyway, this is the picture and I'm sorry for the silliness of this post.
And wow, when is the last time I posted twice in one day??
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Going Into the Unknown

I'm going to leap and I don't know where I will land, but at least I am taking a chance. At least I will be doing something I enjoy. And in Alex's words at least I'll be doing something that finally makes me happy. Not that I'm not a happy person because my ultimate goal in life is to be happy, but the past few months have been tough on several fronts. I've had to wrestle with feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, and loss of control. I've had to reevaluate life, what it means to me, and where I want it to go. I've had to let go of what I thought I wanted, what I thought should be, and what I expected. I've had to embrace the new, the chaotic, the scary, and the unknown.

I am lucky enough to have a close group of friends that have been nothing but supportive each time I feel the world crumbling around me. They have inspired me and given me renewed hope. They tell me the same things Alex does but for some reason hearing it from someone not as intimately tied to me as Alex makes all the difference and allows me to really hear what they are saying.

Today I have decided to leap into the unknown. To take a chance on something new. Or semi new. You see, I'm going to take something I already do and try to do more with it. My friend Lauren suggested I try to sell cookies for the holiday season. This suggestion was supported by my other friends and was received with ecstatic enthusiasm by Alex. The more researched it the more excited I became. I can do this! I will put all my effort and energy into this and hope for the best. My idea is to start off small and sell M&M cookies with holiday colored M&Ms (I'm still figuring out pricing and quantities). Depending on how that goes I will expand. Alex wants me to become the Cold Stone of cookies and have a base cookie with multiple options for additions. I want to take it slow at first until I adjust and get more comfortable with doing something like this. So wish me luck!

Because I have dreamed of doing something like this for the longest time but was too scared to actually do it, I already had a little name and logo inspired by my precious poodle, Perla, lined up.
I really can't believe I am even attempting to do something like this. I'm scared but also very excited to see where this leads me.

PS TWD post will be up tomorrow! Sorry for the delay.

Monday, November 16, 2009

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Pregnancy Talk: Pregnant Not Fat

I have reached a milestone in my pregnancy. Not only is it the whole reaching the third and final (gasp!) trimester thing but it's also the finally looking pregnant thing. I feel pregnant every day. Oh do I feel it. Between the back aches and the not being able to sleep comfortably through the night, I definitely feel pregnant. For the longest time, however, I didn't feel like I actually looked pregnant. Sure, I have gained weight (it's my secret and I will never tell!) but the weight has sat on my body in a way that does not scream "BABY ON THE WAY!" The weight instead has sat on body in way that says "girl, put down that cookie!" But now when I look at myself in the mirror and in pictures the belly looks rounder, more full of baby. And hey, if you look close enough you can see Baby Girl pounding away at my right side. It really is amazing to see the journey your body takes and to see how each passing day confirms the existence of a growing, living person.

This is my most recent picture and I nearly screamed in delight when I saw that I look pregnant:
PS Why is it that when you are pregnant you instantly become a Buddha? I feel I may get carpet burn on belly with all this rubbing. It's like there are magnets on a person's hands that draw those hands to the belly. What is it??

Sunday, November 15, 2009

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National Bundt Day: Lemon Bundt Cake

Have you been over to The Food Librarian's blog? She has done the most amazing and inspiring thing. She made 30 bundt cakes in 30 days all in celebration and anticipation of National Bundt Day, which is today. Every day I would see her post about a new bundt cake and it was so hard to resist wanting to lick your screen. Seriously, check out this round up post about all the bundt cakes she made. It was also hard to resist not wanting to make a bundt cake yourself! I made a lemon bundt cake with a lemon glaze in a sign of bundt cake love solidarity. The cake was delicious and had just the lemony flavor I was craving.

Lemon Bundt Cake
Source: Taste of Home (here)

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk (I used 1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup lemon juice instead)
1/2 tablespoon grated lemon peel

1/2 cup powdered sugar
~2 Tbsp lemon juice

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in extracts. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in lemon peel.

Pour into a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; invert onto a wire rack. Cool 10 minutes longer. Place rack on waxed paper.

Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over the warm cake. Cool completely before serving.
A little bit of drizzle makes the world a better place.
PS This is half of the original recipe. I was able to get 4 mini bundt cakes out of half the recipe. The cakes baked for about 25 minutes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

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How I Eat Pumpkin

I wanted to surprise Alex with a special dessert. He loves pumpkin pie but never gets it because I don't like pumpkin pie. I figured I could compromise some and make him a pumpkin cheesecake. I thought the cheesecake would help take away from the pumpkin taste and this would be a dessert I would be able to indulge in too. I made the cake and Alex loved it. I, on the other hand, could do without it. I tried the cheesecake because Alex swore it didn't taste like pumpkin. At first I tried it by itself and then I reverted to my old ways and tried it with lots of whipped cream on it. Without the whipped cream the cake had that taste of pumpkin pie I don't like. I knew if I was going to finish my slice it would need some help. I put so much whipped cream on it that all you tasted was a hint of the pumpkin cheesecake. Don't let me dissuade you from trying this cheesecake though. Alex loved it and it might just be the dessert you need to love pumpkin too.
Deluxe Pumpkin Cheesecake
Source: Culinary Covers who got it from Taste of Home-Thanksgiving (here)

1 cup crushed gingersnap cookies (about 20) (I used Dorie's Molasses Spice Cookies)
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter, melted
Four 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1. Place a greased 9-inch springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 19 in. square). Securely wrap foil around pan.
2. In a small bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, pecans and butter. Press onto the bottom of prepared pan. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack.
3. For filling, in a large bowl, beat the one package of cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in remaining cream cheese, one package at a time. Add remaining sugar. Add 2 eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Add vanilla and remaining eggs, beating on low speed just until combined.
4. Place 2 cups filling in a small bowl; stir in the pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Remove 3/4 cup pumpkin filling; set aside. Pour remaining pumpkin filling over crust; top with remaining plain filling. Drop reserved pumpkin filling by spoonfuls over cheesecake; cut through with a knife to swirl.
5. Place springform pan in a large baking pan; add 1 inch of hot water to larger pan. Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes or until center is just set and top appears dull. Remove springform pan from water bath. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.
6. Garnish with chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, whipped topping and additional crushed gingersnaps if desired.
PS. I quartered the recipe and it was enough for 4 servings. Baking time was about 35 minutes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

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Lemon Spaghetti

Pasta is always my go to meal when I don't know what else to cook. At any given moment I will have at least 5 different types of pasta in the house. I love how you can throw a pasta dinner together in less than 20 minutes and still have leftovers. This recipe is one of my go to recipes when I need something quick and easy to make. Usually I just make the pasta alone, but this week I wanted to add some chicken to it so I fried us up some parmesan crusted chicken. Delicious!

Lemon Spaghetti
Source: Giada De Laurentiis (here)

1/2 pound spaghetti
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I omit)

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon zest and chopped basil.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

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Baby Talk: Catarina's Artwork

Baby Girl's nursery is coming along. In fact, all that needs to be done is installing the lighting and hanging up some frames. I am so happy that her room is almost done because now I can focus on the neglected parts of the house (have you seen my empty walls and the pile of frames in my living room??). Before finding out the sex of the baby I had entertained different ideas for the theme of the room. I had an easy time when it came to a girl. But when it came to a boy I was stumped; I liked both jungle animals and vintage Mickey. I was thrilled when I found out we were having a girl and my mind immediately started designing her room. There would be poodles, Paris, pinks, and blacks. I am beyond thrilled with how everything is coming out and I cannot wait to actually have Baby Girl in the room. I'm going to wait to share pictures of the finished room until after my shower, but for now I want to share with you my favorite part of her room.

I had discovered the etsy seller TwinkleStarArt when I still lived in Boston. I LOVED her Paris Poodle collection. I knew these prints would go perfectly in my future daughter's room so I held off on buying the prints. As soon as I found out there was a girl baking in my belly I bought the prints with the plans of framing them above the crib. And frame them I did. And it looks adorable!

I got extremely excited when I saw a complete stranger write out her name.
Each day is a solidification of Catarina's existence.
The crib and art. Close up of the prints.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

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TWD: All in One Holiday Bundt Cake

I decided to go with Dorie's All in One Holiday Bundt Cake this week, which was selected by Britin of The Nitty Britty. I was excited and nervous about trying this cake because of the pumpkin puree. I know I like apple cake but I didn't know how I'd like the cake with the addition of pumpkin puree. You see, I am probably one of a handful of people that doesn't like to eat pumpkin. I don't know what it is but I always pass on anything pumpkin. I was very happy to find that I liked this cake...a lot! It was such a delightful little cake. I omitted the cranberries and think this was a good idea because the cake had the right balance of sweet and tart (I'm not a fan of desserts that are too tart). The pumpkin puree added a nice autumn-y flavor to the cake.
I definitely recommend checking out the recipe on Britin's blog. Since TWD doesn't have to be sequential this month make sure you check out what recipe the other bakers decided to make this week.