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21 November 2012

Swirly Pumpkin Cheesecake

(adapted from Horizon Organic)

Greetings Loyal Readers,

It's almost Thanksgiving! Are you running around your house frantically taking inventory of ingredients, making grocery lists, and imaginging all of the side dishes that will soon line your stomach? Well I am doing all of the above, and the excitement has me feeling a little culinarily adventerous!

I'm not a big fan of cheesecake personally, but I do find that pumpkin-anything is always a hit. So when Horizon Organic (the milk people) sent a scrumptious looking Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake recipe sailing into my inbox recently, I thought... "Hey, why not?" I'm sure the pilgrims would have loved this, and I'm guessing Ma & Pa will too.

1 1/2c ginger snap crumbs (about 8 oz.)
1/3c butter, melted
16 oz. cream cheese (2 packs)
1/2c sugar, divided
2T flour
1t vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3T sour cream
8 oz. pumpkin puree
1t pumpkin pie spice (or more)


(1) Smash a bunch of ginger snap cookies into ginger snap mulch. I recommend using a zip-loc bag and a hammer/rolling pin. Mix this into the melted butter with your bare hands (required). Use a flat surface like a measuring cup to flatten your mulch into a pie pan, venturing part way up the side if it's not too frustrating. Cook your crust for 10 minutes on 350F, and then let it cool.

**Note: I used an 8-inch pan and then 4 mini tarts. A 9-inch pan would be perfect for this.

(2) Hopefully your cream cheese is at room temperature. If not, set it on the warmest part of the stovetop for a few minutes (assuming all burners are off). Blend that with 1/4c of sugar, flour, and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Let's call this concoction A.

Concoction A, mid-stir

(3) Remove one cup of concoction A, and place it in a different bowl. Add 3T sour cream and some pumpkin pie spice to taste. Alternatively, you can add 1/2c of eggnog. I actually think this would taste better but we forgot to get it from the store. I added another 2T of sugar to concoction B, because it didn't taste sweet enough to me.

(4) Moving back to concoction A, add the pumpkin puree, the last 1/4c of sugar, and pumpkin pie spice to taste. The original recipe called for 1t, but I never measure that stuff, and I suspect that I far exceeded the prescribed amount. Follow your t-buds, people.

(5) Layer the two concoctions, starting and ending with concoction A. Use a butterknife to make a swirl through the whole thing.

(6) Bake for 15 minutes at 350F, and then lower the temperature to 300F for another 30 minute bake sesh. Cool before serving with a dollup of homemade whipped cream.

The little guys


An aerial view

Review: I guess I'm not the best judge of cheesecake due to the fact that I don't like it (see top of page for the reason that I made this dessert), and much to my dismay, the cheesecake tasted like cheesecake. However, my parents two most impartial taste-testers assure me that "the texture is smooth, and the flavors blend nicely." Also, about 1/4 of the cheesecake is already gone (as of 1-hour post baking) if that's any indication of the quality. I wouldn't make this again for myself, but I think it would go over well at a potluck. The crust is a different story. All future pumpkin pies will don this dark undergarment.
Many thanks to my guest-starring photographer!
There's no angle she can't handle..

17 November 2012

Apple Spice Cake

(adapted from

Greetings Loyal Readers,

As you know, I recently made a rather large batch (about 5 pounds) of homemade applesauce in my dear crockpot, Crocky. It was so delicious that I couldn't bear to consume it in just one format. Luckily enough, my good friend and neighbor, Danny, happened to be celebrating his 24th birthday just as my curiosity about potential applesauce derivatives peaked. By golly, he was in need of a cake!

I've often wondered what it would be like to compete on a stress-laden cooking show like Cupcake Wars or Iron Chef. I got my first taste with this cake, having only about 50 minutes to bake the cake and leave for the birthday dinner. While I personally prefer a more meandering style in the kitchen, I want you to know that this cake can be made in a jiffy, in case you too find yourself needing an apple spice cake within the hour.


1 stick (8T) unsalted butter, softened
3/4c brown sugar
1t vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2c crock pot applesauce (chunks intact)
2c all-purpose flour
2t baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1/2t salt
1/2t pumpkin pie spice


(1) Preheat the oven to 350F.

(2) In a small bowl, stir together all dry ingredients and set them aside. Don't worry, that's as boring as it gets.

(3) In a large bowl, beat the softened butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until they are nice and fluffy like little fattening clouds. Add the eggs in one at a time, mixing after each. Switch to a big wooden (or metal if you don't value tradition) spoon, and add the dry ingredients gradually as you stir. Don't stir too much though or the cake will be like a rock.

**Note: If you are not using a spiced, sweetened, homemade applesauce, you will need to add an additional 3-4T brown sugar, and 1t cinnamon. Also, shame on you.

(4) Now pull out your 9-inch springform pan, and spread the batter inside until it is even. This batter is really thick, so it's actually kind of important to do this. Bake that baby for 40-45 minutes. The top will be beautifully golden brown. The cake is done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean or when the cake springs back (or doesn't leave a dent) when you poke it.

Cream Cheese Spice Icing -- If you already have a beloved cream cheese icing recipe, don't let me stop you from revisiting it. If not, blend 5 oz. of cream cheese, 3 oz. of butter, and a dash of vanilla extract. Add about 1 to 1 1/2c powdered sugar and cinnamon until it tastes like Fall. After frosting, sprinkle the cake with extra cinnamon for good measure.

Review: The Apple Spice Cake is a delicious confection that should be enjoyed on chilly afternoons with a cup of coffee or some PG Tips. It's very dense and moist and not overly sweet, which I love for this cake. In hindsight, I wouldn't have picked it as a birthday cake since it's not terribly festive looking, but I will definitely make it again, and you should too!

The birthday boy with his loot

05 November 2012

Crock Pot Applesauce

Hello Loyal Readers,

Did you know that I'm obsessed with my Crock Pot, Crocky? Did you know that Crock Pots are known to produce delicious breads and sweet desserts? Well I am, and they are, and today seemed a great day to unite those facts by whipping up an enormous batch of homemade applesauce in Crocky.

This recipe is pretty dang easy if you're an expert apple slicer like me. If not, put on some tunes and grab a glass of wine, because it takes awhile to peel and dice 19 apples to perfection. I recommend Maria Carey's Christmas album and any Riesling. Once everything is in the pot, it's smooth sailing. Enjoy!


18 small-medium apples of various types (about 5 lbs.)
1 large green apple (optional, adds tartness)
1/4c water
2t vanilla extract
1/3c sugar
3T brown sugar
1T cinammon
1t ground ginger
1t pumpkin pie spice
pinch of salt


(1) Put water, vanilla, and salt in your crock pot, and set to high heat. This is my version of "preheating the oven."

(2) Peel and dice all apples, and wing them all into your crock pot as you chop them. I made my chunks pretty small, because I want to keep some intact for the final product. If you're going to blend the entire batch, it doesn't matter what size chunks you use, although larger chunks will take longer to soften. I cut the green apple into even smaller tidbits because I didn't want to scare anyone who meandered across a tart chunk in their bowl.

Wait! Don't throw away your scraps! You can simmer the peels and innards
with some water, cinnamon and vanilla for a sneak preview of the
aromas that your applesauce will soon emit!

(3) Stir in spices and sugars, and cover up your crock. Now it's just a waiting game... I let the crock cook for 1.5 - 2 hours before the first stir. When you stir the apples, taste one and readjust your sugar and spice levels. You might need to readjust your belt eventually, but not for another few hours. The overall cook time was about 4.5 hours with a few stirs, but I suspect 3 hours on high would have done the trick. Maybe even less, but who would ever want to rush a crock?

NOTE: Once the apples were totally cooked, I scooped out about a cup of cinnamon-apple-syrup which had accumulated at the bottom of the crock pot because I originally used 1 cup of water. Did I produce this much liquid in the recipe intentionally? No. Will I use this liquid to create a delicious apple spice cake or icing concoction in the near future? Yes. For anyone recreating this applesauce, I would reduce the water to 1/4 cup, just to steam the apples and make sure they don't burn to the bottom. If you do end up with extra liquid, scoop it out before blending because it contains a lot of sugar and spice that will alter the overall flavor.

(4) Now it's time for the big decisions. It's time to decide how chunky you want your applesauce to be. Set the chunks that you wish to keep aside, and blend the rest of the apples and their surrounding goo. Pour the chunkless applesauce back into the chunks, and stir up your beautiful pot of homemade applesauce.  I blended about 2/3 of the apples, and left 1/3 as big chunks. I was happy with this ratio. Voila!

Serving suggestion: Serve warm with vanilla ice-cream.

Shout out to two of my best appliances, Crocky & Ninja.
I couldn't have done it without you.

Review: I am already a huge fan of applesauce (as evidenced by the stacks of single-serve applesauce containers accumulating in my apartment), but this stuff is like 14 trillion times better than what you'd get at the store. The texture is more interesting (don't fear the chunks), and it tastes more complex, probably due to the various types of apples. One thing I have altered in the suggested recipe is the cinnamon content. I went a bit overboard with 3T, so I have suggested 1T, and more can be added to taste.

Would I make this again? Heck yes, I'm going to make this again -- just as soon as I see an empty crock pot!

04 November 2012

Coffee Toffee Cookies with Walnuts

There's nothing that frazzles my nerves more than an experimental recipe that yields a metric ton of food. It's like all of these random food bloggers waltz into my browser screen and expect me to just trust them with $8 worth of ingredients! Incredulous! And trust me -- I've been burned by some of these recipes in the past (and I have in turn, burned some of them).

So I stumbled upon this thing called "funfetti cookies," which calls for two sticks of butter (etc. etc.), and as much as I love funfetti anything, I just couldn't do it to my butter stock. (Plus, I don't currently have rainbow sprinkles.) So I decided to settle for a half batch with a twist...

Viddy those crumbs!

Coffee Toffee Cookies with Walnuts (adapted loosely from Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body)


1 stick (8T) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c sugar
1/4c brown sugar
2t coffee extract
1t vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
1 1/4c flour
2T cornstarch
3/8t baking soda
1/2c toffee bits
1/2c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375F and lightly grease a cookie sheet.

(1) Cream together butter and sugars until fluffy. Add extracts, egg yolk, and salt, and beat for another minute.

(2) In a separate bowl, mix together flour, corn starch, and baking soda.

(3) Slowly add the dry ingrediets to the wet ingredients, stirring in between additions. Don't stir too much! Finally, add the toffee and walnuts, and stir.

(4) Divide the batter into 8 cookies, and bake for 18 minutes or until the edges start to brown. If you prefer your cookies on the crunchy side, add 2 minutes to the cook time.  


Review: Overall the cookies have a very pleasant texture -- crunchy on the outer edge, and softer as you approach the center. These things are outright begging to be dunked! They taste scrumptiously caramely, and the walnuts were definitely a good choice. However, the coffee got lost! It was so overpowering when the dough was raw, but alas, it disappeared during the cooking process. Sadly, I have not perfected the use of coffee extract. What exactly is it for anyway?

Me: Do you taste the coffee in these things?
Pete: No, all I taste is good. 

Bottom Line: would I make them again? Yes, but I would lose the coffee extract and use vanilla instead. Something tells me these would be good with oatmeal as well.. Toffee Oatmeal Walnut Cookies, anyone? I could see it working out.

French Onion Soup

I'm doing it, people (mom, dani, chook, stragglers)! I'm creating a blog about the delicious food I bake, the disgusting food that I ruin, and food that I find interesting elsewhere. Come on this journey of carbs, protein, and fat with me!

Did you know...?
1g protein = 4 Calories
1g carbohydrates = 4 Calories
1g fat = 9 Calories
1,000 calories = 1 Calorie (aka Kilocalorie aka 1,000 "small" calories)

(You should all know that if you took Mrs. Downey's chemistry class.)

Oh my gosh, I'm nervous. It's time to get to the actual food part. Well, today I decided to attempt a classic French onion soup because Crocky was getting a little rusty, and I figured I should know how to make this soup before winter really sets in. I'm a huge fan of the onion, as you all well know.

French Onion Soup (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)


5 medium-large yellow onions
4T unsalted butter
1T olive oil
3T A.P. flour
4c Beef Broth
2c Chicken Broth
Salt and pepper to taste (easy on the salt, people!)


(1) Put butter and oil on low heat. Use your mandoline to chop up the 5 onions into thin(ish) slices. At this point your eyes will be extremely teary from the chopping. Take a moment to compose yourself. Then stir those bad boys into the fat mixture and cover the pot for 15 minutes. No need to stir-- they barely do anything. I actually turned the heat up to medium-low and gave them another 5-7 minutes.

Here are all 5 onions, chopped and ready to plunge into the butter! I do love my new Mandoline from WalMart.

(2) Open up your giant pot of buttery onions. Turn the heat up to a medium level (adjust so the buttery onion water is simmering). Cook for another 45 minutes, stirring frequently. The first 20 minutes aren't crucial for stirring, but the last 25 are very important. Don't walk away for too long, or the onions will burn. Just keep stirring every few minutes! The beautiful brown will appear slowly.

Here are the onoins mid-way through the browning process. Mmm... the smell.

(3) Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir until incorporated. If you choose to add wine, now is the time to add up to 1/2c of a dry white. I did not do this, because all I had on hand was Moscato that I stocked up on for hurricane Sandy's mini-blizzard in Boone. Add a pinch of salt and pepper if the mood strikes you. Remember to be conservative with that salt, especially if you plan to melt a pile of cheese on top.

The flour has been added! It's kind of a brownish onion mush.

(4) Now it's time to add the broth. I added the chicken broth 1/3 cup at a time, stirring after each addition and letting the soup heat back up before adding any more. My beef broth was already heated in Crocky, so I scooped a couple of cups of it into the pot more quickly than with the room temperature chicken broth. Basically, just don't add all of the broth at the same time. Smitten Kitchen said to simmer the soup for 30-40 more minutes before serving and skim if needed, but I just poured mine into the preheated Crocky on high heat. I can hear the flavors merging as I type.

Here's Frenchy in the Crocky... steaming away on high. 

I snuck an early bowl out of Crocky. MAN IS IT GOOD!

Mummmm. I can't wait for seconds!

Thanks for reading the blog, dudes! Somebody make this and tell me what you think!
Chook -- I'll try to do a vegetarian blog soon.

UPDATE: Dani has shown considerable disgust that I didn't melt cheese on top and eat the soup with a baguette. WELL, I avoided that step due to the exponential spike in calories it would cause. If you want to have it in the traditional, heart-stopping manner, follow the link to Smitten Kitchen's original recipe.