Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cheescake for the Birthday Girl

Brenda's mom, Rosie, turned 80 this past week so went to town and had a nice little family gathering for her. She is not a big fan of chocolate and her brother Randy has diabetes so we opted for a cheesecake which is relativity low carb.

I made this guy extra deep because we had so many to feed and it turned out great but I thought it would overflow the pan. Cheesecakes are easy and take no time at all really and you can flavor them up the wazoo but this one I left plain for a nice salted caramel topping (Rosie's favorite) or berries if anyone brought some (they didn't).

We had a nice dinner and forced Rose to sit while we cleaned up and put everything away.

New York Style Cheesecake

6 packages of cream cheese
3/4 c sour cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup leftover Ricotta (just because)
6 large eggs
1 tbl vanilla
2 tbl lemon juice

1/2 box graham cracker crumbs
3 tbl butter
3 tbl sugar

I used the largest pan I had which was 10 inch. Mixed the crumbs, sugar and melted butter and pressed them into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Set aside.

Mix the cake ingredients adding the eggs one at a time until all is incorporated.  Pour into pan and place in a 325 convection oven for about 1 hour or so. I just got a minor jiggle in the center then shut off the oven and allowed the cake to cool down there before placing in the fridge for a day.

The cake will slowly sink a bit in the center. I suppose a water bath  would have given me a more even rise and shape but it is such a hassle and it always leaks on me.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Nick is in Town....

Nick came to visit for the week on a rare break from school so we had to do something special since we see him so rarely during this final rotation of clinical experience before he graduates in May and hopefully moves back to Omaha. Mackenzie and Jill joined the fray as well.

Serious Eats had just posted an article about Sous Vide techniques for brisket and I found a smaller 7 pound brisket at the market, vacuum sealed and ready to rock or so I thought.
Ribs, Brisket, Baked Potato Casserole and Asian Slaw

The process takes literally days so I thawed the brisket out early on Thursday and started calculating the time needed to bring it to perfection. I believe that late Friday night after our guests left the house, I brought the sealed brisket out of the fridge and found out disappointingly that my oven was not quite large enough for this small brisket so I would have to halve it then reseal it. That gave me a chance to season it and add a bit of liquid smoke. The two smaller packages fit snugly in the oven so I let the long, slow process continue. I could not decide how I wanted the final texture of the meat which is temperature dependent so I split the difference and opted for 147 degrees for about 36 hours give or take.

When I finally took the brisket out before church on Sunday, it was not quite there yet so I placed both pieces in a foil roaster with a bit of the reserved juice, covered tightly and place in 250 degree convection oven with a rack of baby back ribs  while we went to church.

We came home to nirvana. The house smelled terrific and the brisket had finished, got a nice bark on it and the fat cap had all but dissolved. The drippings were rich and fatty so I strained them, separated the fat and cooked the remaining nectar with a bit of BBQ sauce to a great reduction to pass with the meat. I sliced the brisket which barely held together and set it aside.

Now for the sides. Brenda had some slaw left and was deciding between Asian or Blue cheese slaw and opted for Asian. I had cooked a pound of bacon anyway for another appetizer and used part of it to make a potato side. I wanted something cheesey and savory. Not my usual potato salad.

Baked Potato Casserole

5-6 medium scrubbed baking potatoes, baked and cooled, cut into 1 inch chunks
8 ounces shredded cheese. (I used triple cheddar)
1/2 c sour cream
3/4 c heavy cream
3 green onions sliced fine  green parts included
1/4 pound crisp bacon chopped
1/4- 1/2 c prepared Ranch dressing
Salt and pepper to taste

I mixed everything in a large bowl before dumping it in a greased casserole dish. Covered and baked at 350 for 40 minutes or more.  Yes, that is just what I wanted. Yum.

Monday, August 15, 2016

My lastest obsessions....

Its the little things in life that bring us pleasure and lately I have loosened up a bit about what I will spend some dollars on. Here are a few I have found in the last few weeks totally worth the spend. 

White Truffle Butter

Last year around winter time I picked up a tub of White Truffle Butter at Sam's intending to use it for some veggies around the holidays, which I did then promptly forgot about the rest of it till a few weeks ago when it made a reappearance to the front of the fridge. I have used this on popcorn and I cannot get enough. Of course now its is no longer available at Sam's until the season starts again but I will be buying a tub or 2 and putting one in the freezer until I tire of it all together. It just adds a touch of that umami that is un-explainable but I crave it.

Trader Joe's Belgian Butter Waffle Cookies. 

We were cooking for the Rainbow House and one of the church ladies brought these to make sundaes after dinner.  Why, oh why? I don't know why but we cannot keep these in our house. I might buy a box for the neighbors and visit often. God help us all.


Synder's Sweet and Salty Salted Caramel Pretzel pieces.

There ought to be a law, that's all I'm saying.

Tatianna Chocolate flavored Cigars

 Ok so sue me but I love these little mini smokes for a relaxing short hit of pleasure in the evening on the patio.  To go with them I bought a Tesla Lighter. Electronic, no gas and perfect for these little guys.

Duluth Trading Company

Despite the weird ads, I love this little store. It defines guys and everything in it is on my wish list.Its a little pricey but I am a cheapo so..... They just opened a shop here in Omaha. Love.

A Little Cooking this Weekend

I watched an episode of  'The Kitchen ' on FoodTV this weekend and GZ wrapped some chicken breasts in prosciutto after he stuffed it. The best part about the show as he showed me how to make a pocket neatly in the breast.

While the staff on the show raved about the result I was a bit cold.  Firstly, I like to brine my chicken, and I didn't. It makes it moist and juicy for me.  I made the filling and tasted it before I loaded the breasts and decided I am not a huge fan of ricotta. Its ok but I would have used bread crumbs and amped up the flavor a bit with other stuff.

The prosciutto was cut poorly at the deli and made for an uneven wrap.

Once stuffed and wrapped they enjoyed a brief stint in a very hot skillet before hitting the oven for 12-15 minutes to finish cooking.

I had 2 pans going since I made more filling and kept making more breasts.

Honestly the night of dinner I was not that impressed but as a leftovers today for lunch, it was pretty tasty. Not a lot of filling left inside but it had matured overnight and had a pretty good flavor. I would make this for company with some minor changes.

As posted on FoodTV:

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Breast

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes chopped
4 ounces ricotta
3 tbs chopped walnuts
1 tbs minced sage
1 egg yolk

Salt and pepper
6 slices of prosciutto
1 tbs veg oil
2 tbs capers
1 shallot finely diced
1 c chicken stock
1 tbs butter
1 tbs parsley chopped
 Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 375
I used a boning knife, inserted in the thick end of the breast all the way to the tip then moved the knife back and forth and turning it to create a pocket with a small opening. Make sure you don't poke through the sides or bottom and make sure you have a pretty pig pocket.

Combine the ricotta, tomatoes, walnuts, sage and egg. I used a pastry bag but it did not work well. An old plastic icing kit without a tip worked great. I filled the container, inserted the plunger and placed the opening inside the chicken and pressed. I could feel the breast filling up. I had pierced a breast or two so I lost some filling on those.

After stuffing the breast, salt and pepper them then  arrange the prosciutto  like shingles and wrap around each breast. Heat the oil in your pan of choice (I used both cast iron and my All Clad skillet) and sear the seam side  then flip over and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast for 12-15 minutes to 160 degrees F.

Remove the chicken and set aside. Heat the pan and add the capers and shallots and cook for a minute to soften the shallot. Add chicken stock and reduce by half, then swirl in the butter. Add parsley and lemon juice last. Slice the chicken and serve the sauce over the top.

We served this with just a green salad.

I also made a spread that some friends had purchased for us at an event last week. I was intrigued and read the ingredients label and tried to recreate it. It was pretty successful.

 Basil Pesto Spread

1 package cream cheese at room temp

1-2 tbs pesto. I had fresh basil so I made my own in the food chopper. Basil, olive oil, garlic cloves and walnuts with some Parmesan. Normally I would have used a jarred pesto.
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup finely shredded Monterey Jack or Italian blend cheese
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper.

I just whizzed this in my little food chopper. It was quite tasty and a nice clean green color. Something different for a change.  Served with crackers or toasted baguette.

Friday, August 12, 2016

An Unexpected Gift....Eggplants

Some beautiful eggplants found their way to me today from my good friend Chris Brown. These beauties are going to be Parmesan as well as a Baba Ganoush, a recipe I promised Chris I would post for her.

Pair this dip with some home made Na'an and you have a treat for sure. It calls for Tahini which you can find a smaller and much more reasonable jar at World Market.

so Baba Ganoush:

Basically roasted or smokey eggplant with some humus flavors and a bit of Cumin. this recipe hails from


  1. Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill.
  2. Preheat an oven to 375°F.
  3. Prick the eggplant with a fork in several places and place on the grill rack 4 to 5 inches from the fire.
  4. Grill, turning frequently, until the skin blackens and blisters and the flesh just begins to feel soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet and bake until very soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and peel off and discard the skin.
  7. Place the eggplant flesh in a bowl.
  8. Using a fork, mash the eggplant to a paste.
  9. Add the 1/4 cup tahini, the garlic, the 1/4 cup lemon juice and the cumin and mix well.
  10. Season with salt, then taste and add more tahini and/or lemon juice, if needed.
  11. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and spread with the back of a spoon to form a shallow well.
  12. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the parsley.
  13. Place the olives around the sides.
  14. Serve at room temperature.
Thanks Chris, this going to be delish!

Na'an flatbread

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling, see Cook's Note*
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Melted butter for slathering on the finished naans
  • Coarse sea salt for sprinkling


In a large glass, dissolve the dry yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar with 3/4 cup warm water (about 100 degrees F). Let it sit on your counter until it's frothy, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, salt, remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar and baking powder into a large, deep bowl.

Once the yeast is frothy, add the yogurt and the olive oil into the glass, and stir to combine. Pour the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients and add the kalonji and fennel seeds, if using, and gently mix the ingredients together with a fork. When the dough is about to come together, use your hands to mix. It will feel like there isn't enough flour at first, but keep going until it transforms into a soft, slightly sticky and pliable dough. As soon as it comes together, stop kneading. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and let it sit in a warm, draft-free place for 2 to 4 hours.

When you're ready to roll, make sure you have two bowls on your counter: one with extra flour in it, and one with water. The dough will be extremely soft and sticky-this is good! Separate the dough into 6 equal portions and lightly roll each one in the bowl of extra flour to keep them from sticking to each other.

Shape the naan. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into a teardrop shape, narrower at the top than at the bottom. It should be 8 to 9-inches long, 4-inches wide at its widest point and about 1/4-inch thick. Once you've formed the general shape, you can also pick it up by one end and wiggle it; the dough's own weight will stretch it out a little. Repeat this method with the rest of the dough. (If you're making the gluten-free version, you'll have better luck pressing the dough out with your fingertips, than rolling.)

Warm a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until it's nearly smoking. Make sure you have a lid large enough to fit the skillet and have a bowl of melted butter at the ready.

Dampen your hands in the bowl of water and pick up one of your naans, flip-flopping it from one hand to the other to lightly dampen it. Gently lay it in the skillet and set your timer for 1 minute. The dough should start to bubble.

After about 1 minute, flip the naan. It should be blistered and somewhat blackened, don't worry - that's typical of traditional naan! Cover the skillet with the lid and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute more.

Remove the naan from the skillet, brush with a bit of butter and sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt. Place the naan in a tea towel-lined dish. Repeat with the rest of the naans and serve.

This recipe is from Arti Party of the Food Network

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Spring Rolls

How cool and refreshing do these look? It is so hot outside and I didn't plan this meal because of heat but it worked out great. No cooking and easy prep made for a low calorie, fasting friendly dinner. A happy accident for sure.

Super easy to assemble but it will take a bit of practice to get nice tight wraps on this filling. In this case, less is more.

I used:
1 pound bag of frozen shrimp, thawed, tail off.
1 pkg rice papers
1/2 pkg rice noodles
1 head red leaf lettuce, a few leaves ribs removed
3/4 c bean sprouts
2 green onions shredded green and white parts
Shredded carrots
Shredded red cabbage or slaw
One bunch of cilantro, just leaves
 the recipe called for mint leaves too but I opted out.

For the sauce:

1/2 c hoisin sauce
1/4 c smooth peanut butter
1 tbl rice vinegar
1/4 c water
Squirt of Sriracha

I used the small/medium shrimps that I did not have to cut in half. I soaked the noodles in boiling water for 10 minutes then drained them.
With everything prepped and set up, begin by soaking a rice paper in water for 5-10 seconds. I placed the paper on a large plate the started with the shrimps (3) , shredded ingredients, noodles then a lettuce leaf. Roll tight, bring in sides then complete the roll. It sticks to itself well.  After making these, I figured less is better in the future making them easier to roll tight. Using the cilantro after the shrimps offsets their color and makes a nice display in the roll.  I stored them on a plate in the fridge till dinner.

I made about 8 rolls with only 1/2 the ingredients I purchased.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sous Vide cooking....

As many of you may or may not be aware, I am a big Sous Vide cooking method fan especially for any steak. I am so paranoid about over cooking a steak, that I will put the meat in frozen if I forget to thaw or not have the steak because I was not prepared timewise.

I figure I need a few hours of planning ahead before I will serve a steak cooked this way. At least 2 hours for a thawed or fresh cut. Several more for frozen. Our local grocer sells Flat Irons in vacuum packs and I simply remove them from the freezer to the water bath.

So you are asking...what is Sous Vide? It is a method of cooking food in a vacuum bag at a precise temperature for a period of time.  There are minimum amounts of time and there are point of no return amounts of time but its pretty easy really. No more sweating if the steak is over cooked and I can literally wait till the last minute to grill the now, already cooked steak. Just to add some color. I plan to purchase a nice Searz-all in the very near future to keep me in the house this winter.

If I have the cut of met in hand I can either run it though my Seal a Meal or I can just use water displacement and a freezer Ziplock bag. Either works as well. The meat will remain a perfect medium for as long as I like before removing it and searing a nice color to the outside.

I have used the method of course for more than just steaks. Chicken comes out milky and tender as does pork and lamb. I used it to cook my chicken masala in the masala spices and it was fantastic. I pre cooked all the kebobs for our tailgating party at the ballpark and gave the final skewered product a sear on the grill before serving. It was so tender and moist I have converted myself to using the method for any thing I want consistent results and super tender meats.  Every meat has a different temperature to achieve the effect. My steaks are always 132 to 134 degrees for at least an hour more like 2.  Chicken around 147 for not more than 2 hours.

I picked up a whole brisket the other day. It takes 24 to 36 hours to tenderize a brisket in the Sous Vide and I am all over this. It came in a vacuum bag too, how convenient is that? 


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