Monday, November 28, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan-Gingersnap Crust

Ok, so don't hate me but I am NOT a huge fan of pumpkin pie.  It's a texture thing.  However, I do LOVE pumpkin in almost everything else.  So when I came across this Pumpkin Cheesecake over at Our Best Bites, I was slightly giddy!  Besides, I had a great friend here over Thanksgiving who was willing to help me out in all my cooking endeavors (thanks Jen!  You are the best!).  This is my new favorite pumpkin dessert!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan-Gingersnap Crust

1 3/4 cup gingersnap crumbs (about 30 small cookies)
6 T butter, melted
3 T brown sugar
3/4 cup ground pecans

3 - 8oz blocks of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
6 oz melted white chocolate (about 1 cup white chocolate chips)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla
1/4 t nutmeg
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t cloves

- fresh whipped cream
- toasted pecans
-caramel sauce, either homemade or store bought

Preheat oven to 350.  Using 2 large pieces of heavy duty foil, securely wrap the bottom and outside of your cheesecake pan.  This will prevent leaks when using a water bath.

For the crust:
Using a food processor, crush the gingersnaps.  Next do the pecans.  Combine these together in a bowl and add brown sugar and butter.  Stir well and then press into a 9 inch spring form pan.  Evenly spread across the bottom and up 1 inch on the sides. Set aside.

For the filling:
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave, being careful not to let it seize.  In a double boiler, heat over the lowest setting and stir constantly.  In a microwave, heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until smooth.  Set aside.  

With an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Next add the pumpkin, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.

With the mixer running, slowly add the white chocolate in steady globs.  Once this is all incorporated, pour the mixture over the crust.

For the water bath:
Place the cheesecake pan inside a larger pan, like a roasting pan.  The larger pan should be at least 2-3 inches in depth.  Place in a preheated oven .  With a kettle or pitcher, pour hot water into the larger pan until the water is half way up the side of the cheesecake pan (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches).  

Bake for 60-75 minutes or until set.  The center should be just a tad bit jiggly, it will finish cooking as it cools.

When it is done, remove from the water and cool completely on a wire rack.  Once it is cool refrigerate for at least 12 hours.  This cheesecake is very soft, so sufficient chilling is a must!

When ready to serve spread the fresh whipped cream over the top, drizzle with caramel and top with pecans.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quick Artisan Bread

I am a HUGE fan of homemade bread!  And Artisan No-Knead bread it some of my very favorite!  It is SUPER easy (it only has four ingredients) and it's crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  Can you say perfect!  The only downside it that the recipe I have already posted takes 18-24 hours to proof before you can bake it.  And lets be honest, I usually don't think that far in advance to start it.  So, you can imagine my excitement when I found this recipe here.  I have made it 2 or 3 times in the last couple of weeks and I think it is just as good as that other recipe AND it only takes a fraction of the time.  Total bonus!  

Quick Artisan Bread
(1 large loaf)

3 cups flour
2 1/4 t yeast
1 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 cups water

Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.  Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest for about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Lightly oil a work surface and place dough on it. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice and then shape into a rough ball.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450.  Put a 6 to 8 quart heavy covered (oven safe - cast iron, enamel, or ceramic) pot in the oven as it heats.  When dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven.  Slide your hand under the dough and place it into the hot pot, seam side up.  Shake the pan once or twice if the dough id unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

Coven the pot with the lid and bake the bread for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

PW's Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is my husband's favorite pie.  So, of course, I had to make one for Thanksgiving!  I got this recipe from the Pioneer Woman, she never lets me down (especially when it comes to dessert!)  And I have to say, it was mighty tasty!  I did add chocolate chips because, lets be honest, you can't go wrong with pecans and chocolate!

PW's Pecan Pie

1 whole unbaked pie crust (I used the recipe below)*
1 cup sugar
3 T brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1 cup light corn syrup
3/4 t vanilla
1/3 cup melted butter
3 whole eggs, beaten
1 heaping cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Make your pie crust (recipe below) and set aside. Next, mix your sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs and vanilla all together in a bowl.  Pour chopped pecans and chocolate chips into the unbaked pie crust.  Pour the syrup mixture over the nuts and chocolate chips. Cover the top and crust of the pie lightly with foil.  Bake the pie at 350 for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking for 20 more minutes, being careful not to burn the crust or pecans.  The pie should NOT be overly jiggly when you remove it from the oven.  If it shakes a lot, cover with the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes (checking the pie every few minutes) or until it is set.  Allow to cool for several hours or overnight.

*Pie Crust
(adapted from Bon Appetite)

1 1/4 cups flour
1 t sugar
1/8 t salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 T ice water (or more)

Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter, rub with your fingertips until the mixture resembles course meal.  Add 3 T ice water and toss with a fork until moist clumps form, add more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time if the mixture is too dry.  Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 12 inches across.  Gently settle into a 9 inch pie pan, being careful not to stretch the dough (this will cause your pie crust to shrink when it bakes).  Fold overhang under and crimp edges.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lasagna Soup

I am a HUGE soup fan, so when I came across this recipe I was more than a little excited!  Talk about comfort food at its finest!  I think this is my new favorite soup! I love all of the different flavors, and the way they blend together.  There is so much going on in this soup, I had to have 2 bowls just to take it all in.  
(Ok, so that was just my justification!)  If you only try one new recipe this week, make this soup!! We served it with some fresh crusty bread, heaven, people, pure heaven!

Lasagna Soup
(serves 8)

for the soup:
1 pound Italian sausage
3 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 t dried oregano
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
2 T tomato paste
1 (28 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken stock
8 oz mafalda pasta (these look like little lasagna noodles, but more curly)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
salt and fresh ground paper, to taste (I didn't need any salt in mine)

for the cheesy yum:
8 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 t salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown sausage in a large soup pot over medium heat, breaking it up as it cooks.  Drain off extra grease.  Add onions and cook until they are softened.  Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.

Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves and chicken stock.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente.  Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time or the pasta will be mush.  Stir in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheesy yum.  In a small bowl combine ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

To serve, place a dollop of cheesy yum in the bottom of each soup bowl, top with some grated mozzarella. Ladle the hot soup over the cheese.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

There is just something magical about the smell of baking pumpkin in my house this time of year!  We have had an uncommonly warm and snow-free Fall here in Michigan (NOT that I am complaining) but it is  making it a little hard for me to believe that Thanksgiving is less than a week away!  So, this morning I needed something to get me in the mood for this beautiful, thankful season.  When I came across these muffins here, I knew they were just what I needed.  I adapted the recipe to my liking and the results were so perfectly pumpkin-y and Fall-ish! (Yes, I just made up both of those words)!

Pumpkin Muffins
(12 muffins)

1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground cloves 
1 t ground nutmeg
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 eggs
1 t orange zest
1 cup pumpkin
1 stick (4 oz) butter, melted
6 oz white chocolate chips (or semi-sweet)

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt and orange zest.  In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, eggs and melted butter, until smooth.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients until almost all the dry ingredients and moistened.  Add the chocolate chips and mix until the ingredients are just combined. (DO NOT over mix!)  Scoop batter into a greased or paper cup lined muffin tin.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the muffins are puffed up and springy to the touch.  Cool on a wire rack.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lettuce Wraps

I LOVE these!  They are a copy cat of P.F. Chang's, which are to die for.  These come pretty close.  Besides, who doesn't love a healthy, fun way to spice up chicken for dinner?  I got this recipe from my A-mazing sister who (I think) found it online.  So, thanks Abby! Now you won't have to continue to send me the same recipe over and over...

Lettuce Wraps

3 frozen chicken breasts
1 lg. carrot
8 whole mushrooms
3 green onions
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 can water chestnuts- drained
2 T oil
1/4 t. sesame oil

Iceberg lettuce
rice noodles (optional for more crunch)

Boil chicken in water with a pinch of salt and a clove of garlic. Once it is cooked through,
finely chop it.  Finely grate carrot and mushroom.  Finely chop bell pepper, onion and chestnuts. Set aside.

Mix Sauce ingredients

1/2 C water
1/4 C sugar
2T rice vinegar
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. sriracha, this will NOT make these spicy.  Double this for more kick!
1/2 C soy sauce
1/2 t. fresh ginger or 1/4 t. powdered ginger

(Double the sauce so you have some for dipping!)

Now, heat 2 T oil and 1/4 t sesame oil in a large skillet. Add onion, mushroom and red pepper.  Cook 2 minutes to soften.  Add sauce and chicken and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minute until almost all the liquid is absorbed.  Add chestnuts and carrots. Stir to combine.
Serve in the crunchy inside pieces of iceberg lettuce.  Add the rice noodles, if you are using them. Dip in the extra sauce!

 * I will use Low-sodium soy sauce next time, I like to have a little more control over the saltiness without losing the flavor.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bird's Nest

My mom used to make these for us as children.  We LOVED them.  It just made breakfast magical to me. I made them for my kids a couple of weeks ago and they can't seem to get enough of them.  It really isn't a recipe so much as an idea, but here it is just the same!

Bird's Nest


Heat a skillet and melt butter in the bottom.  Cut a hole in a piece of bread (I used a mason jar lid).  Place the bread in the pan.  Crack an egg in the middle and let it cook for a minute or two until the outside turns white.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then flip, carefully, so you don't break the yolk.  Cook on this side for a minute or two until the egg is cooked as much as you like it.  

I have also seen these made inside a slice of bell pepper, YUM!  Gonna have to try it!

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