December 31, 2013

Champagne Baby Cheesecakes - Happy New Year!

I could make tons of excuses about why I've been away, but the real reason is that I lost my inspiration.  I hit a cooking brick wall, so to say.  BUT I'm back and it feels so good to play around in my kitchen again!  I thought I would ease back in the swing of the things with a Toasty classic: baby cheesecakes!

New Years is going to be a low key affair this year after two years of expensive shenanigans where we had the most fun hanging out in the room with everyone before.  Champagne, appetizers, and games await me in Glover Park, so I thought I would contribute to the night with my signature dessert with a New Years twist!  (And also a candied bacon caramel host gift, look out for that!)

I use my typical cheesecake base of 8 oz of cream cheese, 2 eggs, and about 1/4 - 1/2 cups of sugar and added champagne that I reduced to one quarter of its volume to concentrate the festive flavor.  The cheesecakes are topped with champagne macerated strawberries and then a strawberry champagne whipped cream, using some of the macerating juice and fresh champagne for a bubbly topper!

So what's your favorite kind of cheesecake?  What do you guys want to see me put in one next?

June 24, 2013

Pepper Jelly Baked Salmon

Look, a post not related to secret recipe club!  As much as I've enjoyed having something to force me to blog over the (long, ugh) ankle recovery, I think it's time to get back to cooking what I like and what inspires me.  While I've had some great recipes and really appreciated being featured twice on the site in as many months as I was apart of the group, it is time for me to move on.  Last month was just the perfect storm for reflection on the whole situation and I came to realize that I am no good at blog groups like secret recipe club.

Don't get me wrong, I did love being apart of the 50 Women Game Changers group started by Mary of One Perfect Bite and would be pleased to do something similar again if given the chance.  In terms of secret recipe club, however, I'm not the bubbly, cheery post-a-comment-on-everyone's-post kind of girl.  I didn't like that one person pretty much copy and pasted my instructions and that another person chose to post a recipe of mine that they didn't like.  If you don't like it, then try something else!  Isn't that the whole point?  I get that it is sometimes hard to cull from someone that has completely different taste than you.  I ran into that obstacle myself when I was assigned blogs with oodles of casseroles and crock pot meals because I don't cook that way (not to knock, just not my style at this point).  But I would try multiple different recipes and variations, really do my research, and try to find something that excited me.  Seeing members that didn't give me the same courtesy disillusioned me to the whole outfit.

So I thought I would post today about a blog that inspires me, not in a forced sunny way that isn't me.  Every day for the past five years, I've listened to the super hilarious Kane Show on Hot 99.5.  Since my sister moved back in the area, we will talk about our favorite parts of the show almost every night.  A couple of years ago, Kane posted a link to his wife Natasha's blog Little Pink Monster.  I devoured all of the content in an afternoon, pouring over the adorable toddler clothes, inspired meals, and beautifully honest posts about what is happening in her life, the things that most of us are afraid to say.  Some of my favorite posts were 10%, Transparent People, the chalk hair dye, and any and all disney princess tutorials!  I love her writing and really respect what she has to say.

Last week, she posted a recipe method that I knew I had to try for myself: Cheater's Salmon Florentine.  Her idea was to take a filet of salmon, creating a pocket for stuffing by butterflying the filet, and using spinach dip to "cheat" in the flavor of spinach florentine.  Instead of spinach dip, I used my favorite spicy and sweet pepper jelly and cream cheese dip (the one that is always out for tasting at Harry and David's).  I've made pepper jelly on here before, but tonight I "cheated" too and used a prepared jelly from my quarterly trip to the Foggy Bottom Trader Joe's.  To avoid the dreaded soggy breadcrumbs Natasha warned us about, I baked my stuffed and panko-topped salmon filets at 350 F for 15 minutes and then finished under the broiler for about a minute.  The salmon is perfectly cooked, the dip inside adds an easy spicy-sweet kick that pairs beautifully with the fish, and as promised the panko is perfectly crisp.  

Simple method, simple execution, simply delicious.  I can't wait to see what else Natasha has in store! (And I hope my fan-girling won't lead to her and her husband unfollowing me on twitter...)

June 10, 2013

Buffalo Turkey Burgers - June Secret Recipe Club

Happy Secret Recipe Club reveal!  Just a quick ankle update before we dive in - I'm basically all better!  Still get a little puffy and uncomfortable, but there is definitely less strategic planning of my life based on how much time on my feet I can take.  My foot is finally fat enough to wear real shoes without any padding!  My rainbow of $10 flats is obviously frowned upon by my surgeon, so I am slowly building a collection of grown up responsible shoes in various bright colors (neon pink added yesterday, thanks Mamabear!).  I tried scar massage therapy to help sort out all the muscle weirdness around the metal bits and it seems to have helped out a lot.  All I need now is to pick up some speed for running so I can get back on the kickball field without having to yell at people not to peg me whilst hobbling to first base.  Progress!

But please forgive me for trying to catch up on regular-legged life and neglecting my kitchenly duties.  My sister and I have consisted on chicken burgers, buffalo chicken dip, and salsa the past couple of weeks, oops.  Which brings me to today's topic, the epic combination of our favorite go to dinners inspired by Jenny of Jenny's Cookbook: Buffalo Turkey Burgers!  This girl is awesome - mom of two with tons of inspiring recipes, drool-worthy desserts, and creative crafts to do with her girls.  I know I will be coming back to try these Yazdi Cupcakes, the inside of the cake looks incredible!

When I saw her recipe for Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf and the story of the meat balls being turned into meatloaf, I was instantly inspired to make her meatloaf into a burger!  My store ran out of chicken, so I chose lean ground turkey.  I added my usual grated onion and garlic to the burger base, took out the typical meatloaf ingredients, and went to town with the buffalo sauce!  Instead of adding melted butter to the meat, I cooked the burgers in a little butter and then recreated the melted butter - buffalo sauce combo to toast up the buns in the pan.  An easy sauce of bleu cheese, lemon juice, and sour cream with thinly sliced celery and red onion topped the burgers.

The result?  A spicy bleu cheesy mess of a burger that evokes all of the best parts of buffalo wings and Jenny's meatloaf.  Thanks for the inspiration!

And for some more inspiration....

May 13, 2013

Sourdough Vanilla Cashew Scones - May Secret Recipe Club

Yesterday, I went to charity 5K on the mall.  As I'm crossing the field to get to my group, I go down.  Left (good? not bionic at least) ankle and left knee rolled, awesome.  So by the end of the day (after still doing the walk because I'm a glutton for punishment) I end up walking like a penguin.  So, I'm back in my kitchen cooking on crutches.

Luckily, I planned ahead this week for secret recipe club.  I was assigned Shelley from C Mom Cook, who actually had me last month!  I was inspired by her baking audacity, with her daring challenges and sourdough surprises.  From pasta to pancakes to babka, Shelley has so many interesting ways to incorporate her sourdough starter.  

My starter is a little baby starter, only a few days old, so I supplemented the first feeding with yeast to ensure I would have a good starter by the time I had to bake.  I used whole wheat flour at Shelley's suggestion and kept it on my counter for the first week, covered with a dish towel.  I originally wanted to take one of her morning bun recipes and make it with the sourdough starter but the double ankle injuries meant I needed something fast and easy.  So, I settled on her sourdough scones.

And boy was in quick and easy!  A little bit of flour, very cold butter, and a lot of vanilla mixed in with the sourdough starter came together in the ten minutes it took to preheat my oven.  I used roasted unsalted cashews instead of dried cranberries and made a quick biscoff glaze to drizzle over the still warm scones.  I can't wait to work through the rest of her sourdough recipes because this was definitely a winner!

May 03, 2013

Funfetti Cheesecake Bites - (Secretly) Two Years Old!

Two years ago, I was at the end of the first year of grad school while also ending a long term relationship.  I had so much nervous energy without an outlet and knew I needed to throw myself into projects.  I joined a kickball league and a bocce team.  I started spending every weekend night on my girlfriends' couch to stay busy and not sit at home overanalyzing everything.  And most pertinent to this particular post, I started to write this blog.

For the first few months, I wrote in secret.  I was confident in my passion for food and could talk about it for hours, but I hadn't written anything other than design reports and immunology exams since high school.  I didn't feel proficient enough to add to the conversation, neither as an amateur cook nor a photographer.  I wanted to find myself and my style of cooking before I shared anything.

It was just me and my dinky point and shoot camera, terrible rental half-galley kitchen with no dishwasher, and low popcorn ceilings that let in absolutely no natural light.  I would write everything down in this little green notebook while I let every utensil, bowl, plate, and pan I owned soak in the sink.  The pictures were horrible and I had no idea what I was doing, but god I loved it!  Eventually, I saved up enough money to buy a "big girl camera" and decided to take myself public.  I am so happy that I did.  It was so fun to pour myself into this project, to really research food and try new things.  I love having a creative outlet and sharing my food and couldn't imagine a better way to de-stress at the end of the day!

So in celebration, yet another Toasty cheesecake!  I decided to go full-on birthday and rock the funfetti.  I couldn't use the box mix (on principle) so I turned to Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar for tips on how to recreate the flavor.  The secret to box cake fake out is cake flour, imitation vanilla extract (still not happy about it, but it does the trick!), and a whole bunch of rainbow sprinkles.  I used Tosi's recipe for funfetti cake crumbs, buzzed them up in the food processor, and approximated a funfetti version of the graham cracker crust!  I will definitely be using this trick for future cheesecake adaptations, it was so easy and a great way to impart more flavor!  A little bit of sour cream, a heaping half cup of sprinkles, and a healthy dose of imitation vanilla brought the birthday flavor to the cheesecake base.  When cooled, I topped the baby cheesecakes with a few more cake crumbs for a fun and festive finish!

One move, three broken bones, and two years later I think I'm finally getting the hang of this!  Thanks to my friends, family, and readers for supporting me in this ridiculous endeavor.  (And of course for eating my leftovers so I don't get fat... Most appreciated!)

April 15, 2013

Brown Sugar Baked Salmon - April Secret Recipe Club

Holy crap, there was a post in between secret recipe club posts last month!  I'm calling that progress, as little as it may seem.  A little bit of cooking here and there, nothing big enough to post.  I think that's why I really liked my assignment this month.  Chaya of Bizzy Bakes knows how to take the every day and put a unique spin on it!

One of her favorites is salmon.  While delving deep into her archives, I was struck by the Brown Sugar Baked Salmon she made for passover.  I really don't know the first thing about cooking for passover, but I do know this is a winner!  

Although I'm not really one to bake my fish, this recipe may have me converted.  Brown sugar, meyer lemon, soy sauce, and sesame oil make a paste-like marinade for the salmon.  Even though it seems like the sugar would be over powering (as I did as I was scooping it into the bowl), it really all comes together in the oven.

I paired it with a quick saute of broccolini and a celery root mash, but really just about anything will go with this quick fish dish.  I can't wait for lunch leftovers!

And to get even more inspiration, here's the rest of group b's submissions for April!

March 26, 2013

Mocha Baby Cheesecakes

For the first time in a long time, I feel excited to be in the kitchen.  It was something I regarded with dread because I knew I would need an aspirin and 2 bags of peas by the time I was done.  But you know what, screw it.  Instead of focusing on what I can't do, I need to just do.  I need to create things.  I need to have projects.  I need to make messes!

I decided to step back into the kitchen full force by creating one of my signature baby cheesecakes.  This was an idea born from my coworkers during a fat kid discussion, probably one of my favorite things to talk about.  I brought in some pumpkin baby cheesecake leftover from Little Toasty's birthday that went over pretty well and was getting requests to bring in more.  So, I thought I would play to my audience and ask what they wanted in a baby cheesecake.  What we brainstormed was an indulgent coffee and chocolate fantasy that needed to become reality!

I feel pretty confident with what works and doesn't work in a cheesecake at this point, so I thought I would just wing it.  Instead of normal graham crackers, I used some chocolate teddy grahams and toned down the sugar in my normal crust to accommodate for the slightly sweeter product.  I overloaded my french press with fresh ground coffee beans to create a super concentrated coffee base to add to the cheesecake batter.  Brown sugar instead of regular sugar echoed the richness of the coffee and unsweetened cocoa powder.  I used only one egg to create a denser final product.  I made a whipped cream with a dash of the concentrated coffee and then finished with a shaving of chocolate.

Rich and decadent, these little cheesecakes are sure to please any coffee lover.  Hope I did my fellow fat kids proud!  (And yes, I wrote this with my ankle sandwiched between two bags of frozen peas!)

March 11, 2013

Pretzel and Salted Caramel Brownies - March Secret Recipe Club

March Secret Recipe Club Post!  I'm so excited to share these salty sweet brownie with you, but first a quick update.  I'm mostly independent with a bit of cast thrown in here and there when I've really over done it.  I am SO HAPPY to be back on my bike, but the rain slash snow has thrown in a bit of complication.  Lost a fight with a curb last week when unlocking the bike, but I think I need one more boot day and I'm back to fighting shape.  Most importantly, I have been able to wear my rainbow of flats again!  Now back to the food...

Just last week, I was sitting at my desk and proclaimed aloud: "I really want something with chocolate and caramel... and pretzel!"  Which naturally led into a conversation about how yogurt covered pretzels are terribly inferior to chocolate covered pretzels.  I mean who would pick chobani over chocolate?  I'm not really a chocolate girl (I know, gah I'm the worst) and I always pick out the pretzels in chex mix but the combo is heavenly for me.  Add salted caramel in the mix?  Perfection.

So when I was digging through the many many recipes over on Colleen's blog Secrets from The Cookie Princess, her pretzel brownies and her salted caramel pretzel bark sounded so great that I thought I would combine them!  Colleen was the first person to ever get me for Secret Recipe Club, which premiered while I was waiting for surgery on my ankle.  It was a lovely post where she put cookie butter into one of my all time faves Nutella Buttermilk Bars.  Not only was it an ingenious swap, but her kind words about my blog and my food put a smile on my face during one of the hardest days of my life.  And to the ladies who were able to shuffle my post around the few days before for the September SRC, thank you again for accommodating this cripple.

Back to the brownies!  I used my new favorite toy, the brownie bite pan.  Those pretzels that look like a checker board fit perfectly into the molds so that you get a salty crunch in every bite.  I really loved Colleen's technique of using semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of cocoa powder or bakers chocolate, will definitely be keeping this in brownie rotation!  A quick caramel with himalayan pink sea salt (Trader Joe's, 3 bucks, just do it!) was adapted from the recent Smitten Kitchen salted caramel brownie.  I sprayed the pan with baking pam, added enough batter to fill the molds halfway, topped with a generous chunk of caramel, and finished with a pretzel on top to keep it crispy.  I'm a texture girl, I needed the crunch!

The resulting brownies are fudgy, chewy from the caramel, and salty-sweet with the crunch of pretzel.  All in all, one of my favorite desserts I have ever made.  Sorry, Nigella, your bacon brownies have been beat!  Thanks, Colleen, for the inspiration!

And for a little more inspiration, here are the rest of the B group recipes!  Happy SRC Monday!

February 11, 2013

Caramelized Onion Bread - February Secret Recipe Club

I'm a bruised up mess, guys.  I tweaked something in therapy and now whenever I use the foot I get black and blue marks all over the inside of my ankle.  Nothing is torn and the x-rays look a-okay but it is so frustrating because just a month ago I really was on my way.  So much so that I thought I could break out the bike again and start getting back my biker muscles (oh how I miss you, defined legs).  Boot and crutches are back in my routine and I'm working hard to slow down a bit and let myself heal.

So here is my monthly Secret Recipe Club culinary lifeline - an easy bread recipe that incorporates my favorite ingredient ever, caramelized onions.  I probably could eat caramelized onions plain for the rest of my life, but I would break more bones since there is not enough vitamin D in that meal.  Oh well, I'll stick to burgers and sandwiches and everything else I can squeeze it into.  Like this bread.  Oh my god, this bread.

This month's recipe comes from Amy at Amy's Cooking Adventures.  She is a stay at home mother who started learning how to cook when her kids started eating with her.  In addition to her ridiculous skills with sweets she has impressive array of breads inspired by her grandmother, the baker of her family.  As I have no yeast bread recipes on here and want to start exploring different types of flour, I decided to tried out her Caramelized Onion Bread.

I switched out the canola oil for bacon fat because I can't leave well enough alone.  A little thyme added to the onions made it a little reminiscent of the flavors I love in french onion soup.  To echo the richness of that soup, I replaced some of the water with half and half.  Because standing for a long time isn't the best thing for me, I used my stand mixer to knead for me for about 8 minutes on medium low, finishing the job on the counter.

This is the perfect twist on the whole wheat sandwich bread, a little sweet from the onions that would complement a strong cheese like brie or cheddar.  Amy originally paired the bread with tomato soup, so I think I need to make a grilled cheese for dinner...

Here are the rest of the reveals for group B:

January 14, 2013

Pumpkin Toffee Cake Bites - January Secret Recipe Club

Secret Recipe Club time!  I'm really glad I signed up for this because right now obligation is what is getting me in the kitchen.  Still busy, still almost walking.  BUT I do have almost full rotation back, can walk without a limp (with shoes on when I'm concentrating, eep), and had my first impact workout at therapy last week.  I'm working hard, people!

Today's recipe comes from Ashley at Cheese Curd in Paradise.  A new mom with a flair for the recipe redo, I was drawn to her improv cooking challenges.  In particular, I tried out the Heath Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cake because the combination sounded heavenly!  Instead of a large cake with the swirls of cream cheese, I made another one of my tiny desserts with my new brownie bite pan.  Which shows you are never too old for toys at Christmas, they just grow up with you...

This was also one of the first times finally getting to break out my beautiful aqua blue stand mixer, which has improved my baking a million fold.  I am an impatient person, so the option to leave butter and sugar to cream for five minutes while I take care of everything else I need to do for the recipe is my favorite.  Creaming with the butter this time was a combo of regular and brown sugar that gives the cake a moist, light base while cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg spice the batter.  For the canned pumpkin, I have to give a full endorsement to the 365 brand Pumpkin from Whole Foods.  As a person who doesn't love pumpkin, I have never been disappointed by the brand.  Go for the good stuff here, please.

Once the tiny cakes were baked up and cooled, I whipped cream cheese and lightly sweetened it to act as a quick frosting.  I sliced the cakes in half and layered cake, cream cheese, and then toffee bits.  They were cute little bites filled with flavor!  Thanks, Ashley, for the inspiration!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...