Monday, September 17, 2012

Tiramisu Cheesecake

My dad is an amazingly talented woodworker, a talent from which Jason and I have benefitted exceedingly well. Amongst other things, he made our dining room table out of a fallen cherry tree! It is a beautiful piece of workmanship and I am very lucky to eat off of it nearly every day.

As we get our home ready for the new addition, there are a couple projects that Jason and I would like to tackle but don't exactly have the skill set necessary to get them accomplished on our own. Not wanting to take an unfair advantage (let's be clear, I do want to take fair advantage) of his wood-working abilities, I sent him an email proposing an exchange. It went something like this:

Hey Favorite Daddy in the Whole Wide World:

Can we barter goods and services? In exchange for your assistance in carpentry, I can offer you both both pesto and cheesecake (not together unless that's your request).

Favorite Daughter in the Whole Wide World

Yes, I get that this is not exactly a completely even exchange, but I also know that my pops loves some cheesecake. Happily, I can report he agreed to a brainstorming session so long as it included cheesecake and a cappuccino. Thus my idea for a tiramisu cheesecake was born!

Tiramisu Cheesecake
Kelley Gondring

Preheat oven 500º

Combine in a medium bowl:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup sugar

Thoroughly mix so that all ingredients are well incorporated. Pour mixture into the springform pan. Spread crumbs evenly across the bottom, using your fingers to firmly pack. Place in refrigerator.

In an electric mixing bowl, add:
2 eight ounce packages cream cheese, softened
2 eight ounce package reduced fat cream cheese, softened

Using the paddle attachment, mix at moderate speed for thirty seconds.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly add:
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons whipping cream

Mix 1 1/2 minutes so that the ingredients are smooth and creamy. Half way through, scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Over beating the batter will result in it rising too much and then falling when it cools, so set a timer if necessary.

One at a time add:
4 large egg yolks
Beat until yolk is incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and repeat.

Using a low speed, mix in:
1/2 cup freshly brewed strong espresso, cooled
until just incorporated.

Pour batter into the spring-form pan over top of the graham cracker crumb crust. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and bake for 12 minutes. Reduce temperature to 200º and bake for 40-45 minutes, removing foil about half way through.

Turn off the oven and use a wooden spoon to hold the oven door ajar (yes, the center of the cheesecake should still be jiggly in the middle). Let the cheesecake sit for 30 minutes.

While the cheese cake is in the oven cooling, prepare Mascarpone Topping.

Mascarpone Topping
adapted from tiramisu recipe in The Joy of Cooking

In a medium bowl with a handle, beat on high until thick and light yellow:
3 large egg yolks
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Whisk in:
2 tablespoons sweet Marsala
1 1/2 teaspoons water

Place the bowl over a skillet of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the temperature reaches 160º. [I tried this traditional way and it took forever! As I've mentioned before, I like to cook at night, so after 10 minutes or so, I got impatient and placed the mixture in a glass Pyrex container and put it in the microwave for 15 seconds. I then whisked it, measured the temperature, and repeated three times. If you do it this way, you just need to make sure not to overcook the eggs.] Set mixture in the refrigerator to let cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat on high until soft peaks form:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Set aside.

After 10 minutes or so, remove egg mixture from the refrigerator and whisk in:
6-8 ounces Mascarpone cheese
Gently fold in the whipped cream mixture.

At this point, the cheesecake it probably ready to come out of the oven. Pour the Mascarpone topping over the top of the cheesecake and evenly spread. Place in the refrigerator overnight to let both the cheesecake and the topping completely cool and settle.

Decorate with chocolate shavings, cocoa powder, whipped cream, and espresso beans.

Eat up!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dried Cranberry Apple Crisp

When I posted on Facebook the news of our pregnancy, an old friend from high school sent me a message and let me know that she, too, was pregnant. As our due dates were just fourteen days apart, it became absolutely necessary to get reacquainted with one another! So we met for dinner one Monday night at The District and started catching up on the last ten years. Who we'd married, where we worked, how pregnancy was treating us. Before I knew it, we were in the same birth class, and I had a new-old friend back in my life!

Rachel and her husband, Chip, came over to the house on Sunday night for dinner. It was great to be able to talk about pregnancy and the scariness of giving birth, but it was equally great to be able to talk about things that had nothing to do with pregnancy! Jason and I had a great time with them, and I imagine this only the beginning of our second-round friendship.

For dinner, we had homemade lasagna much like the one I wrote about here, but I made homemade tomato sauce and used the homemade basil lasagna noodles I'd made the previous weekend. For dessert, I made a crisp because it didn't require a trip to the grocery store, and I was able to make a dent in the dozen or so apples taking up space in our fruit bowl.

As an aside, Mom came over in that afternoon so we could run errands together. I sent her home with two ramekins of crisp, and today I got this little ditty from Dad:

The apple crisp was so delicious
And the cute little ramekins
Make handy cat dishes
For Ziggy and Muffins

Dried Cranberry Apple Crisp
inspired by epicurious

Serves 8

Preheat oven 400º

In a small saucepan, bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat:
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick

Let cook for about 10 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed by the cranberries. Remove from heat and toss out cinnamon stick.

Place the cranberries in a large bowl with:
6 small apples, peeled, cored, and diced
Evenly combine. Distribute fruit between eight one-cup ramekin dishes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine to form a coarse meal:
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sliced almonds, diced
1 cup oatmeal
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
pinch salt

Distribute the topping evenly amongst the ramekin dishes (about 1/4 cup for each).

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the topping golden brown.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Eat up!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal, and Pecan Cookies

Waiting for former President Clinton to give his speech at the Democratic National Convention, I decided I needed to make cookies. Today, I enjoyed them on the front porch with a cold glass of milk.

Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal, and Pecan Cookies
Kelley Gondring

In a large mixing bowl, cream together:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour

Mix in:
1 cup diced pecans
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup oatmeal

Place dollops of cookie dough on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. Dunk in milk if desired.

Eat up!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fettucini Alfredo w/ Broccoli + Sausage

This is a really easy recipe - perfect for a weeknight meal. From turning on the skillet to sitting down for dinner, I think it took 25 minutes.

Fettucini Alfredo w/ Broccoli + Sausage
Kelley Gondring

Serves 4

In a medium skillet, heat:
1/2 cup water
2-3 links sweet Italian sausage

Cover and let cook for 6-8 minutes or until no pink remains in the sausage. Remove skillet from heat. Drain water. Transfer sausage to cutting board and cut into full moon. Return to skillet and heat to medium-high. Let brown for 1-2 minutes. Transfer to plate covered with paper towels. Blot off excess grease. Drain all but about 1 tablespoon of oil from the skillet.

Add to the skillet:
1/4 white onion, finely diced
Reduce heat to medium and cook onions 3-4 minutes or until tender.

2 cloves garlic, minced
Sauté one minute, stirring constantly to prevent garlic from burning.

1/2 cup butter

Once butter has melted, stir in:
1 cup whole milk

Once milk and butter are combined, stir in:
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
pinch oregano

1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
Cover skillet and let broccoli cook for about 5 minutes or until it is tender. Mix in the cooked sausage.

While the broccoli is cooking, bring water to boil in a small pot. Add four servings of your favorite pasta. I used the Homemade Basil Pasta I made this weekend.

To serve, plate pasta first and evenly distribute the Alfredo sauce with broccoli and sausage between plates.

Eat up!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Homemade Basil Pasta

We get about half the amount of sunlight that is necessary to nourish our backyard garden, making it nearly impossible to grow much of anything back there. Fortunately, herbs seem to thrive and we've had quite the harvest of basil, oregano, and thyme. We've even had two lemon basil volunteers pop up and successfully produce. As the summer begins to fade, so, too, does the basil. In light of that fact, I made a couple batches of Lemon Basil Pesto. Because I ran out of cheese and nuts for more batches of pesto (I love the stuff!), I decided to spice up my normal homemade pasta by adding basil.

Homemade Basil Pasta
Kelley Gondring

Special Equipment: Pasta Machine [Kitchen Aid also makes an amazing Pasta Roller Attachment]

This recipe yields 18 lasagna noodles and two servings of linguini noodles.

Add to a food processor:
2 cups flour
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon olive oil

Pulse together until the ingredients just come together. The dough should be a bit crumbly rather than one cohesive ball. Remove from the food processor. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Cut the dough into four pieces using a serrated knife. [I find that the shape you choose to cut your dough will effect the length and width of your finished product. Cutting the dough into strips works well for longer noodles like angel hair and linguini whereas quartering the dough works well for lasagna noodles and when making ravioli.] Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

To roll out pasta, carefully follow the directions that come with your Pasta Machine. Remember to lightly sprinkle flour on the dough whenever it begins to go from tacky to sticky, as it will get stuck in your machine if you don't.

Pasta can be dried for later use or it can be boiled immediately for whatever delicious dish you're making for dinner! Unlike store-bought pastas that typically need 8-10 minutes to cook, the homemade stuff only needs a couple minutes in boiling water.

For those of you who choose to dry the pasta, lay out several clean kitchen towels. Place the pasta flat on the towels and let air dry for several hours. A note of caution: Dogs like pasta! The last time I made pasta, I left it to dry on the kitchen counter -- apparently close enough to the edge for our smart pup to pull the side of the towel off the counter, causing the pasta to fall on the floor and quickly disappear into her belly. When I walked back into the kitchen from whatever I was doing (clearly, not watching the dog), I noticed that the towel was cockeyed, the pasta was gone, and the dog was nowhere to be found. Funnily enough, I actually yelled for Jason and asked him if he'd eaten my noodles! Sydney never confessed, but when she innocently rolled over for a belly rub, her taut tummy gave her away.

Because the basil gives the noodles themselves a kick, I'd pair them with a milder sauce, such as a garlic butter or an alfredo.

Eat up!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Individual Chicken + Veggie Pot Pies

The first time I made this recipe, I tripled it to serve 13 friends our entree course at the Progressive Dinner Party we organized. I ended up with six or seven leftover pies because the recipe really only needed to be doubled, so Jason and I froze them and ate them when we either didn't have the time or the energy to cook.

What with birthing classes, game night, and prenatal yoga filling up our weeknights, we've managed to go through all those pies already! I decided use my Labor Day to make another batch since we didn't go anywhere for the holiday (and all our friends did). To be sure, this is at least a half-day endeavor, so plan accordingly. I actually split it up into two days, saving assembly for day two just because that worked better for our schedule.

As a side note, I'm not sure how real cooks who are pregnant roll out pie dough! Instead of being able to use my tummy straight-on to hold the waxed paper in place, I had to awkwardly use my side/hip and ended up with quite the flour-covered baby bump when all was said and done. When Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, I wonder what ingenuity I'll have to employ to get the job done! Thoughts? Suggestions?

Individual Chicken + Veggie Pot Pies
adapted from epicurious

Add to a large mixing bowl:
3 cups coarsely chopped cooked chicken*
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon salt

*Because I wanted to the stock for other uses, I followed the recipe here to cook the chicken. I'd never used leeks to make stock, and I thought it was delicious. However, if you want to save a couple hours of your time, it is perfectly fine to buy a rotisserie chicken or to cook your own chicken breasts and/or thighs.

Bring about 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Add:
1 cup green beans
Cook for 2-3 minutes so that the beans just begin to get tender. Drain and add to mixing bowl.

In a large skillet, heat:
2 tablespoons olive oil

Once oil is hot, add:
2 red or orange bell peppers, finely diced
8 ounces Cremini or shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 small white onion, finely diced

Cover and let cook 4-5 minutes so that veggies start to get tender. Uncover and let cook an additional 2-3 minutes to allow the excess water to evaporate. Remove veggies from skillet using a slotted spoon and place in the large mixing bowl.

Using the same skillet, add:
3 handfuls fresh spinach
Cover and let wilt (this will take about 2 minutes). Remove from heat. Let cool. Squeeze excess water from spinach and add to the mixing bowl.

Again, using the same skillet, melt over medium heat:
1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
Whisk flour and melted butter together to make a roux. Once roux is made, stir in:
1 1/2 tablespoons beef base
2 cloves minced garlic

A little at a time, whisk in:
1/2 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup milk
1 cup chicken stock

Once all the liquids have been incorporated, remove from heat. Add the sauce to the mixing bowl. Use a spatula to evenly distribute the sauce among the chicken and veggies.

In a food processor, combine:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened

Pulse about 30 seconds or until ingredients come together. Remove from processor and form a large ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes. The goal is for the dough to be warm enough to roll out, but not so warm that it becomes a gooey mess! [I actually made the dough the night before I put the pies together, so I refrigerated it overnight. Before rolling it out, it had to soften for about 30 minutes while sitting on the kitchen counter.]

Cut dough into eight (8) evenly divided pieces. Use your hands to work into small rounds. Lightly flour and place between two pieces of wax paper.

Method #1
The is the method I used to give the pot pies a crust on the bottom, top, and sides. I put these in 2" aluminum tins and froze them for future dinners.

1. Use rolling pin to form a 9" disc.

2. Place one cup of filling in the middle of the disc.

3. Pull one side of the dough to the middle of the filling. Repeat four times (so five times total). By making it five-sided instead of four sided, it is easier to form a circle in the end.

4. Flip over the pie. Use the palm on your hand to flatten the pie a bit. Use your fingers to make the edges of the pie more circular and to create a small crust.

5. Use a fork to create a decorative edge.

6. Place in a 2" ramekin or aluminum tin.

If cooking immediately, preheat oven to 375º and bake for about an hour. You'll want to cover the top with aluminum foil so that the tops don't get too brown before the bottom and sides of the crust are cooked through. About five minutes before removing the pies from the oven, remove the aluminum foil. Use a basting brush to lightly coat the top of each pie with an egg wash.

Method #2
This is the method I used to give the pot pies a thicker top crust with no bottom or side crust. The benefit of this method is that it is easier assembly-wise and you don't have to worry with the bottom and side crusts getting cooked all the way through. However, I find these are harder to freeze because the edges of the crust hang over the side of the cooking dish (in my case a 3" ramekin).

1. Use rolling pin to form a 4 1/2" disc.

2. Fill each ramekin with 1 cup filling.

3. Place the dough on top of the ramekin.

4. Tuck the dough that's hanging over the edges onto the sides of the ramekin. Use fingers to create a crust.

5. Use fork to create a decorative edge.

Preheat oven to 375º and bake for 35 minutes or until the crust begins to turn golden brown. Once the crust begins to brown, use a basting brush to lightly coat the top of the each pie with an egg wash.

Eat up!

Lemon Basil Pesto

Lemon Basil Pesto
Kelley Gondring

Thoroughly wash and dry:
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1/4 cup tightly packed lemon basil leaves

Place in food processor.

1/4 cup pine nuts*
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese**
2-3 cloves garlic
salt + pepper to taste
two drizzles olive oil

Pulse ingredients together 20-30 seconds so that they are all about the same side. Puree 60-90 seconds or until paste forms. Do not add more olive oil before pureeing, as the basil will release its own oils and moisture.

*I used almonds because I was out of pine nuts.
**I used Dubliner cheese because I had a little block sitting in my refrigerator's cheese drawer; because it gives the pesto a somewhat stronger cheese flavor I used a little less than 1/4 cup.

Use on pasta or as a base for pizza.

Eat up!