New Boss

I recently started a new job and with the new job comes all the usual anxiety. Will they like me? Will I know what to do? Will I make it on time traveling on yet another post-blizzard commute?

So after miraculously arriving on-time for my first day, getting settled in and looking around I realized that everybody was really nice and supportive. About an hour later one of the principles of the firm walked in and passed out a piece of paper to everyone at their desk. Uh oh, first company memo being issued…

Here is what the “memo” contained…. A recipe for a traditional New York Style cheesecake!

That’s when I knew I fit right in!

Like a good employee, I followed the Boss' directions!

Like a good employee, I followed the Boss’ directions!

You will need a 9″ dia, 3″ tall spring form pan, sprayed and I used a circle of parchment at the bottom as well.

You will also need an electric mixer ( stand or handheld) unless you fancy a good “wrist” workout.

Pulverize an 11oz box of those little vanilla wafers (or the equivalent in graham crackers) and add in a stick of melted butter. Spread this evenly in the pan trying to get it up the sides a bit too. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 500 Degree ( might want to make sure you oven is nice and clean first or there could be smoking.)

Combine: 5 qty – 8oz bricks of softened cream cheese, 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 4 Tbsp of AP Flour, 1 Tsp Vanilla, 6 eggs and beat together on high for 10 minutes until smooth. Scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Note: It helps to have all your ingredients at room temperature and this mixing step is important as it determines how smooth the texture of the cheesecake will be. ( I scrimped a little on this step and the texture on mine was a bit lumpy)

Now add in 1/4 cup heavy cream and mix till incorporated. Pour into the prepared crust and place into the hot oven. Note: it would be wise to put the spring form pan on top of a foil covered sheet pan before filling and placing into oven as this recipe goes right to the brim. It’s easier to clean a pan then your oven.

Bake 10 mins at 500 degrees, then drop the oven temperature to 250 degrees and set the time for 1 hour. At 1 hour turn off the oven and set the timer again for 1 hour and leave it in the oven still. Try not to open and peek during this process. Now remove the cheesecake from the oven and set on the counter to cool for 1 hour. At this point you can carefully remove the outer spring form and carefully wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (overnight is good) I wrapped mine with plastic so it wouldn’t absorb the orders of other foods in my refrigerator but the wrapping is optional.

Author’s note: Mine was quite dark on top because the original directions stated to put cheesecake in a 500 degree oven for 10-14 mins and I went on the long side. I am suggesting that 10 mins may be enough and you should have a lighter crust. But you can always cover that with a little powered sugar!

 

 

Going Nuts In The Snow

The last time I made these brownies (a week and 2 blizzards ago) I had a bit of chopped walnuts on hand and threw those in.

However this time I was out of walnuts and only had some pistachios on hand, pistachios that were still in the shell. Since we were on our third blizzard in like 7 days and both school and work was cancelled, I figured with nothing but time on my hands, I might as well shell the pistachios and add those to my brownies.

I really wanted to have the rich little nuggets of pistachio flavor jump out so I barely chopped the pile after I shelled them. I ended up with about 1/2 cup of shelled nuts and just threw them into my favorite brownie mix. ( I like Bob’s Red Mill GF)

Since these nuts were roasted but NOT salted, after I spread the batter into my sprayed baking dish I sprinkled just the tiniest amount of course sea salt on the top. That would give that expected salty hint that you usually get with pistachios and the combination of sweet and salty is always fun.

fudgy nut brownies

Moist and fudgy style brownies are the best in my book.

 

A Hot Mess

Some might think I was referring to the “post-blizzard” Boston streets. Although they are a “mess” they are definitely not hot. However back in my kitchen, trapped for 3 days, it was time to clean out the fridge/freezer. Thankfully because I wanted to and not because I had to due to power loss!

A pint of blueberries and a cup (+/-) of diced fresh pineapple, along with a few other items became the filling for a rustic “pie” of sorts.

I threw in a few dashes of ground cinnamon, ginger and salt with the fruit for a little something special, a tablespoon of all-purpose flour will help thicken the juices, 2 tablespoons of butter to enrich everything, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar help sweeten the deal. (you may prefer more sugar as this was a bit of a “tart” tart.)

now for the tricky part…..

I used one of those pre-made pie crusts… you know in the red or blue box, all rolled up. But I was worried it wasn’t big enough so I rolled it a bit thinner in an effort to get more surface. I thought I was being careful. I tried to close it up carefully.

However….a hot mess shortly developed. Probably had the oven a little too hot ( 375 degrees might have been better than 425) and maybe I left it in just a tiny bit too long…

 

a hot mess

It was still yummy even if it was a “hot mess!”

 

New Year, New Adventures

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions but I will resolve this year to never leave my readers stranded for over a month again!

I am coming down the home stretch of my graduate degree and with that in hand I hope to settle into a new job, regular hours and some adventurous cooking.

So as I finish up my degree, enter a new year and a new phase in life, here is a bright and easy way to enjoy “winter’s tomatoes.”

winter tomato pizza

This can be put together with items you probably already have in your kitchen.

I happened to have a “tube” of pizza dough on hand that I let hang around in my fridge for just such emergency dinners, but you could easily make your own.

I mixed a small, almost equal, amount of mayonnaise and finely grated Parmesan cheese with a generous pinch of garlic powder and salt/pepper, thinned it with a little olive oil, and used this mix as a spread on top of the dough.

Meanwhile I took the sad, winter cherry tomatoes and brighten them up with dried oregano, salt,pepper, just a tiny pinch of sugar and some splashes of red wine vinegar.

I cooked the pizza on my preheated pizza stone until the crust was all crisp and toasty and the tomatoes were just wrinkling.

Easy, bright, quick and delicious – just as I hope 2015 will be!

Breakfast Tomatoes

If you have been reading along you already know my obsession with tomatoes.

If you don’t know already… I am obsessed.

So this past weekend when I was visiting my “tomato dealer” I just had to have some these beauties immeadiately.

tomatoes on a plate

And the fact that it was breakfast time didn’t stop me.

Such good looking late season fruit needs to be handled simply and since it was breakfast and I was planning on eggs, I simply sauteed them lightly with some dried basil and butter* and served over fried eggs on toast!

 

It was all so good that I had most of it eaten up before I remembered to take a picture!

egss and tomatoes on toast

 

*if you are dairy-free just use oil!

“mash-up”

If you love guacamole and you love bruschetta- why not create a “mash-up” of the two?!

That’s exactly what I did one night for dinner. I had a PERFECTLY ripe avocado (a rare find sometimes) which I “mashed up” (pun intended!) and mixed with a squirt or two of lime juice, salt, pepper and ground cumin. I spread that on some toasted Italian bread and topped it with sliced tomatoes. A light drizzle of olive oil and some more salt and pepper and there you have the ultimate “mash-up!”

(The only thing missing was some fresh torn basil on top, but I was too lazy to go out into the garden with a flash light and get it!)

avocado and tomato toast

Raspberry BBQ

My mother is on the eternal search to find the perfect salad dressing. Not too tart, not to sweet- just perfect for her. This results in her buying and trying many different ones and when she inevitably doesn’t like them she sends them home with me. I pretty much like them all but her salad dressing tastes do run a little sweeter than my preferences. So this is how I find myself at the time of this writing with no less than 3 bottles of raspberry vinaigrette in my refrigerator.

I decided to use one of them up by turning it into a sweet and tangy homemade BBQ sauce. And I think it turned out pretty good. Watch out competitive BBQ participants I might just be on to the next greatest thing!

ribs with raspberry BBQ sauce

I simply combined the rest of a barely used bottle of fat-free “balsamic raspberry” dressing (about 3/4 cup) with about a cup of ketchup, a couple of tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, some Korean hot pepper paste for heat and a cup of water. I added in a couple teaspoons of liquid smoke for that “just off the grill” nuance. I the whole thing simmer over medium heat till reduced by about a third. I used some of it to brush on  my ribs in the last 30 min sof cooking for a nice glaze and poured additional on at serving time for that “finger-licking” delicious rib experience!