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Month: May 2016

Red Velvet Cheesecake CAKE

Red Velvet Cheesecake CAKE

 

It’s my birthday!  Well, not actually today, but I’m counting May as my birthday month.  If you combine it with Mother’s Day, I get to celebrate all month, right?   I know my family would buy me a birthday cake if I wanted them to. . . . but I’m not wild about “store-bought” cake.  In fact, I’m not a huge cake fan so if I like a cake it has to be special.  This cake is special.  It takes a little more time in the kitchen than some desserts, but I think it’s worth it for a special occasion (and what could be more special than MY birthday?!?)

I found the original recipe on http://www.food.com posted by Realtor by day, Chef by night.  She has since revised it a few times and of course I’ve made a few changes.  I usually make the cheesecake part ahead of time and stick it in the freezer until I’m ready to bake the cake. This cuts the preparation time down which helps a lot because this recipe is not a quick throw-together-and-serve recipe.  This recipe is a LOT of cake.  So make it when you have a big group or do what I do:  I freeze individual slices for us to enjoy later.  It freezes well and then you don’t get tired of it . . . like that’s possible.

Cheesecake

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

2/3 cup white sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325.  In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to mix the cream cheese until it is nice and smooth and creamy.  Mix in sugar and salt and blend for about two minutes.  Add eggs and mix well after each egg, then mix in sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla.  Mix until smooth.  Set aside while you prepare the baking pan.  Place a kettle of water on the stove to boil.  Spray a spring-form pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.  Wrap a double layer of foil around the bottom and up the sides of the pan (you want to seal it so the water from the water bath doesn’t seep into the pan).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Set the pan into the roasting pan and carefully pour the hot water from your kettle into the roasting pan, filling up the pan surrounding the cheesecake.  There should be about an inch of water coming up the foil along the sides of the cheesecake pan.  Bake the cheesecake for 55 minutes.  Be very careful when you open the oven as there may be a burst of steam.  Once you’ve cooled the cheesecake you can place the pan into the freezer and let it freeze completely.  You can do this several hours ahead of time or even a few days ahead of time.

Cake

2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1  1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder – I use Hershey’s

1  1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature   Why?  The eggs will disperse more evenly into the batter, making for even cooking and a lighter texture (because the eggs trap air). To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, soak them in a bowl of warm water for 10-15 minutes.

1  1/2 cups of vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup (two 1-ounce bottles) red food coloring

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons white vinegar

1/4 cup  – 1/2 stick of butter, softened  (optional, but I like the taste and the moistness it adds)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two round metal baking pans – I usually spray with nonstick spray and then shake the flour to cover.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Add eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar to the flour mixture.  Use an electric mixer on medium-low speed and beat for 1 minute until blended.  Scrape sides and then beat on high-speed for 2 minutes.  Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake 30 minutes.  Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the pans and then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely.

Frosting

4 cups powdered sugar – I sift this to remove lumps

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese at room temperature

1/2 cup butter at room temp

1 Tablespoon clear vanilla extract    (I use regular if I don’t have clear, icing just isn’t as white!)

In a large bowl, beat powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla until it is smoother and creamy.  I add more powdered sugar if I want it a bit thicker – sometimes I use an electric mixer and sometimes I don’t.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer into the center of your cake plate.  Remove your cheesecake from the freezer – make sure to remove all parchment paper when you take it out of the pan – and add to the first cake layer.  Place the second layer on top of cheesecake.  (sometimes I put frosting between the layers)

Frost the cake.  I always frost the top of the cake first and just ease the frosting down the side of the cake.  Keep this cake refrigerated.  You can also freeze as-is.  It thaws pretty quickly.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake

 

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day

My Treasures Made By My Children

I love my sons to the point of craziness.  I’m not that unusual because I see my “mom friends” doing the same thing.  It’s one of the qualities that make me love those women – that makes us friends.  We celebrate our children and we cry over their failures and every day we are thankful that we have them in our lives.  We know our children aren’t perfect and we don’t expect them to be perfect.  We do expect them to be loving, kind and hard-working.  We expect them to try their best.  We try to live our lives in a way that would make our children choose us as role models.  In that way, and many others, they make us better.  And, as much as this may surprise our children, we really do want them to be happy!

I am fortunate to have one of my mothers left in my life so we will spend the day with my sweet mother-in-law.  I have told my sons who can’t be present due to work obligations and simple geography that we will celebrate later.  The truth is that I am celebrated all year-long. . . . . Every time they call or text just to talk or keep me updated on their lives and certainly every time I’m told that I am loved and appreciated.

It is so worth being a little crazy.

Happy Mother’s Day!

A rainy day in Paradise. . . .

A rainy day in Paradise. . . .

 

I have a friend who will NOT drive across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  She goes to great lengths to avoid it, often increasing her driving time to almost twice the time.  I love the way the bridge and water look on a sunny day, but it was a little ominous today when I traveled to St. Petersburg during our bad weather.  But a bad day in paradise is still better than a good day most other places!

 

Oat N Toffee Cookies

Oat N Toffee Cookies

 

I love to read recipes and food blogs & websites.  I have a pretty good eye for finding a recipe that’s going to work for me but every once in a while I like to go out of my comfort zone to see if I’m missing something.  I did that tonight.  I made a batch of cookies that had ingredients I don’t normally use. . . . . coconut oil and vanilla bean paste.  I have baked with almond paste before but I didn’t even know about vanilla bean paste.  Publix didn’t know about it either but said they would try to order it.  Once they called and said they could not get it for me I went straight to Amazon and bought a bottle.  Here is my affiliate link if you’d like to try it:

.

Vanilla bean paste takes the place of either vanilla extract or the “scraping” of  the inside of an actual vanilla bean (think crème brûlée).  The flavor is more intense and people supposedly love seeing the little black vanilla specks.  So, the verdict?

They were pretty delicious!  I decided I had to share the link because it’s fun to try something new.  Lemon vanilla bean coconut crunch cookies.   Here it is: http://thecafesucrefarine.com/2016/04/lemon-vanilla-bean-coconut-crunch-cookies.  This is a great site backed by some serious talent in the kitchen.  I may want to be her when I grow up.

I like to share recipes where the ingredients are at least familiar, if not already sitting in your cabinet and that are not difficult to put together.  I am going to share a recipe for a much easier cookie that I’m sure you will love.  They are more traditional and are favorites everywhere I take them.  I like them without the chocolate dip, but I’m including it as an option and you can see it in the picture.  The original recipe is from http://www.food.com and was submitted by MizzNezz.

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla

2  1/4 cups flour

2  1/4 cups oatmeal (you can use old fashioned or quick – I like the quick for the texture)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 package (10 ounce) toffee bits, like Heath. 

Cream butter and sugar and add eggs and vanilla.  Mix dry ingredients and then add to mixture.  Add toffee bits.  Bake on freezer paper (on your cookie sheets) and bake for around 12 minutes at 350 degrees until light golden brown.  Sometimes I dip the cookies (see pic) in chocolate.  I use the Ghirardelli Candy Making & Dipping Melting Wafers . … Choice of White Chocolate or Dark Chocolate.  You could also just add milk chocolate chips to the cookie mixture – or use the chocolate covered toffee bits and skip the Ghirardelli.  (Or you can just make the cookie like the recipe reads!!!)

All cookies seem to freeze well and these are no exception – with or without chocolate.

Pancakes For Breakfast!

Pancakes For Breakfast!

 

Weekends almost demand a fun breakfast for at least one of the days.  This is the meal we are most dedicated to with our diets, often waking to egg muffins, yogurt and fruit or steel-cut oatmeal.  It’s also the meal that is sometimes  the most sinful – or delicious, depending on your viewpoint.  We can choose from Eggs Benedict, doughnuts, coffee cakes, scones, beignets, croissants and PANCAKES, to name a few favorites.  Pancakes sounded delicious to us today but I don’t buy pancake mix.  There’s no need to with a good recipe.  The ingredients are all ingredients you most likely have on hand:

1  1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2  1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg

3 Tablespoons melted butter

1 cup milk

1/4 cup yogurt (I used plain Greek, but vanilla would be good too!)

Beat egg slightly and stir in butter, milk and yogurt.  Combine dry ingredients and stir into egg mixture.

Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto a griddle lightly sprayed with Pam.  When bubbles begin to appear, flip and cook a few minutes until brown (I always peek before I flip!).

Sunday night is also a great night to have breakfast for dinner.  Of course then you have to decide which meal gets pancakes!  Lat doesn’t eat pancakes without spreading peanut butter on them before he pours on the syrup.  I grew up spreading butter on my pancakes before the syrup.  What’s your favorite topping?

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