Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hazelnut Cheesecake

I have a cache of dessert recipes that I am just waiting for a special occasion to make. Fortunately, my sister Rachel's birthday is this week, so I decided to bake something for her. I have a bunch of cupcake recipes I have been wanting to try from "Cupcakes: From the Cake Mix Doctor" by Anne Byrn, but wanted to make sure whatever I chose to make was something Rachel would like, so I sent her a list of flavors and asked which she liked best. This was her response:

mm chocolate and peanut butter! unless it's chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, bc i'm not crazy about chocolate cake or frosting in general... then i would say chocolate cream cheese (unless that's the same with cake =chocolate and frosting=cream cheese), or maybe cinnamon toast? definately not lemon, margarita, or key lime. pry not orange-almond either.
So at that moment I gave up on cupcakes and decided to make a cheesecake instead. =) I had a recipe for hazelnut cheesecake from Maryana Vollstedt that I had also wanted to make. I really love Maryana Vollstedt's cookbooks because they are filled with recipes that are appealing, accessible, and easy, but also unique. This recipe did not disappoint. I did end up having to buy a bottle of hazelnut liqueur, which made this an expensive endeavor, but I'm sure I can find another use for the leftover.

Graham Cracker-Hazelnut Crust
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, about 20 squares, broken up
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, cut up
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur
2 eggs

1 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon hazelnut liqueur

To make crust, in food processor process crackers, nuts, and sugar until mixture is fine. With motor running, add butter through the tube. Process until mixture is blended. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and with fingers press against the bottom and sides of plate. Refrigerate 1o minutes while making filling. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make filling, in food processor combine all filling ingredients. Process until well blended, about 1 minute. Scrape down filling in food processor with a spatula to aid in mixing. Turn mixture into uncooked crust. Bake until filling is set, about 30 minutes.

To make topping, in a small bowl stir together all ingredients and set aside. Remove cheesecake from oven and spread topping over. Return to oven and bake 1o minutes longer. Cool on wire rack. When cool, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Cut into wedges for serving.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dr. Feelgood

A few weeks ago, I went to the Columbus Arts Festival with my mom and sisters. It was an extremely sunny and hot day, and we were sweating like crazy. We decided to go in someplace to grab a drink and cool down, so we headed to the Surly Girl Saloon. Surly Girl has a great beer selection, so that's usually what I have. I'm not much into cocktails and usually don't order them because I prefer to have something less strong that I can sip more frequently. But on this occasion my mom ordered a drink called the "Dr. Feelgood" and I'm so glad she did because she let me taste it and it was fantastic. It was pretty simple: the menu said it was vanilla vodka and Diet Dr. Pepper.

I decided to try to recreate it at home, so I bought those two ingredients. I have found a combination that works for me: fill a pint glass about 2/3 full with ice cubes, pour in about 1 and 3/4 shots of vanilla vodka, fill the rest of the glass with Diet Dr. Pepper, and top it off with a maraschino cherry and a bit of cherry juice. It actually tastes even better when Jason makes it, although I haven't figured that out because he does it exactly the same as me as far as I can tell. I think my mom has tried to recreate this drink at her house as well so I'll have to find out what her recipe has been.

Raging Garlic Pork Stir-Fry

And I'm back, with another underexposed and out-of-focus photo! This was another hit recipe from the "Fix, Freeze, Feast" cookbook, which also brought us the Cajun Braised Skillet Chops. I think I love this cookbook. I was a little nervous about making this recipe, because Jason is adamant about disliking Chinese food. It isn't necessarily Chinese food per-se, but I was afraid when he heard the words stir-fry Jason would assume it was and automatically dislike it. To my pleasant surprise, he actually liked it. His comments were, "It tasted a lot better than it smelled" and "I was glad it wasn't sweet." (Apparently one of the reasons he is so opposed to Chinese food is that he really dislikes sweet meat. I, on the other hand, love it... give me some Orange Chicken or General Tso's any day!)

This recipe was designed to make 4 frozen entrees that are cooked individually later. I'll give the recipe as written, and then explain how I made a single entree immediately.

1 pork loin (about 8 pounds; do not use tied pork loin roast)
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
8 teaspoons minced garlic (about 24 cloves)
1 teaspoon (or to taste) crushed red pepper flakes
4 large onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 large green bell peppers, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 one-gallon freezer bags, labeled
12 one-quart freezer bags
On hand for cooking each entree:
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup cornstarch

1. Rinse and trim loin as desired. Cut pork into bite-size cubes; divide evenly among four of the 1-quart bags. Seal.

2. Whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar in a medium bowl. Divide the marinade evenly among four 1-quart bags. Into each bag of sauce measure 2 teaspoons garlic and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Seal.

3. Divide onions and bell peppers evenly among the remaining 1-quart bags. Seal.

4. Into each of the 1-gallon bags, place a bag of pork, a bag of sauce, and a bag of peppers and onions. Seal and freeze.

To cook one entree:
1. Completely thaw one entree in the refrigerator.

2. Pour off and discard any accumulated liquid from the bag of pork. Add 1/2 cup cornstarch; seal bag and shake to coat the meat.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and stir-fry until thoroughly cooked, about 10 minutes. Add vegetables and sauce. Stir-fry just until vegetables are tender crisp.

Making a single entree was actually really easy. Instead of getting a pork loin I used about 1 pound of boneless pork loin chops. I only needed 1 onion and 1 green bell pepper and used 1/4 of everything else (i.e., 3/8 c soy sauce, 1/8 c white wine vinegar, 1/2 T sugar, 2 t minced garlic, 1/4 t red pepper flakes). Once I mixed up the sauce and sliced the meat and veggies it was ready to go. I thought 1/2 cup of cornstarch was way too much. If I make this again I'll start with 1/4 cup, shake, and then see if I need any more.

I served the stir-fry with white rice. It was a really tasty meal and I will definitely make it again!