Friday, April 30, 2010

Ho Ho Cake

Remember when you were a kid and Ho Ho's were one of your favorites?  Remember unpeeling the roll, trying to keep it all in one piece?  This cake comes pretty darn close to the original and so much easier to serve at a party! 

This would make a great cake for anyone from kids to adults.  This makes a 9-inch cake.  You will probably be able to cut this into 12 servings depending on how much willpower you have!

Ho Ho Cake
1 18 1/4 ounce box chocolate cake mix
3 eggs (or as called for by your cake mix)
1/3 cup oil (or as called for by your cake mix)
1 1/3 cups water (or as called for by your cake mix)
1 16 ounce can dark chocolate icing

1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon water
1 cup powdered sugar

1.  Prepare cake as directed on package for two round pans.
2.  When cool, "slice" through cakes to make 4 "thin" cakes using unflavored dental floss.
3. Beat sugar, shortening, vanilla, milk, salt and water for 7 minutes.
4.  Add powdered sugar and beat for 5 minutes longer.
5.  Lay one layer of cake on plate.
6.  Spread Cream filling on top only, do not go all the way to the edge.
7.  Lay another layer of cake on this.
8.  Spread cream filling on this too.
9.  Again layer and filling until you have all four layers on here.
10.  Ice the whole cake with the chocolate icing.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Did You Know...Cake Flour versus All-Purpose Flour

All of the recipes posted on my blog use all-purpose flour unless specified in the ingredient list. Baked goods, however, sometimes call for the use of cake flour.  I thought I would explain the difference between the two.

Cake flour is used in recipes where a fine, tender crumb is desired, such as in a layer cake.  For many cakes, where the batter is stirred, all-purpose flour is suitable.  These cakes won't be as fine textured, but they will still be tender and moist.

Made from soft wheat, cake flour contains about 8 to 10% protein.  All-purpose flour is made from hard wheat and contains about 10 to 12% protein.  Flour with a lower percentage of protein results in a cake that has a delicate tender crumb.

Cake flour is also more finely ground and has undergone a bleaching process so it will produce a cake with a finer crumb than all-purpose flour.

I have experimented with substituting one for the other in recipes and have found this to be completely true.  Typically, I will use cake flour for layer cakes such as devils food, yellow, or white.  Carrot, banana, and spice cakes do best with all-purpose flour.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Garlic Broccoli Spears

Steamed vegetables can be so boring, most of the time overcooked and underflavored.  There are two ways we really like to prepare our broccoli for everyday meals.  The first is the Broccoli in Hoisin Sauce and the second is Garlic Broccoli Spears. 

We had Garlic Broccoli Spears on Sunday with our meatloaf and baked potato.  This is simple to make and use very few ingredients.  This broccoli dish is quick, easy, and inexpensive.  For most of you requesting a healthy alternative to some of my heavier recipes, here is the one!

Garlic Broccoli Spears
1 pound broccoli, fresh, cut into spears
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper

1. Place the broccoli in a saucepan with a small amount of water; cover and cook until crisp-tender.   Place in ice water bath to stop the cooking.  Drain when cool.
2. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in saute pan over medium high heat.  Add broccoli to pan when oil is hot.  Quickly stir-fry broccoli just until heated through.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cherry Almond Biscotti

I have always liked biscotti but I am not one for the extra crispy type.  I found this recipe in the Martha Stewart Cookie Cookbook and adapted it using maraschino cherries instead of the dried cherries she called for in the original recipe.  I have made them with mini-chocolate chips as well.

I do not like my biscotti extra crispy so I only bake it after slice for 4 minutes per side.
Cherry Almond Biscotti
1 cup maraschino cherries; drained and chopped
1/2 cup amaretto
3 cups flour; plus more for work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
4 tablespoons butter; room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs (3 whole for dough and 1 lightly beaten to brush dough before baking.)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (although I used pure chocolate extract in the batch)
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds; chopped
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Soak chopped maraschino cherries in amaretto while you prepare cookie dough. 
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt  into a bowl.  Put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of mixer with paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Mix in 3 eggs, one at a time.  Drain cherries and reserve 2 tablespoons of amaretto liquid.  Add reserved amaretto to dough. Add extract.  Reduce speed to low, and gradually mix in flour mixture.  Stir in cherries and almonds.
3.  Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
4.  On a lightly floured surface, halve dough.  Shape each half into a 12 x 2 1/2-inch log.  Flatten logs to 1/2-inch thick.  Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush logs with beaten egg; sprinkle with sanding sugar.
5.  Bake 35 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Transfer to wire racks to cool, about 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
6.  Cut each long on the diagonal into 16 to 18 slices.  Transfer piees to racks, laying them on sides.  Set racks on baking sheets.  Bake 8 minutes, flip, and bake 8 minutes more.  Let cool until crisp.
7.  In small bowl, add white chocolate chips and shortening and microwave at 30 second intervals until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Drizzle chocolate over biscotti and let dry until chocolate is hard.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tomatillo Guacamole

As I was paging through this month's Food Network Magazine, I ran across a trio of recipes for guacamole.  Since I am home alone this weekend, I thought guacamole with chips would be good.  We also had left over flank steak from the other night and figured a quick fajita would be a great addition to the guacamole with chips.

Tomatillos are actually not related in any way to a tomato.  They are a berriers from the Cape Gooseberry plant.  In Mexican cultures, the tomatillo is concerned the "green" tomato.

The recipe from the magazine has been adapted to my own personal taste.  The original did not include cumin, tomato, and chili powder.  This will make about 3 cups of dip depending on the size of your avocados.

Tomatillo Guacamole
2 avocados; skin and pit removed then cubed
2 tomatillos; husks removed and rinsed to remove sticky film
1 jalapeno
1/4 cup chopped white onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 tomato; seeded and chopped

1.  Boil 2 tomatillos in water for 5 minutes.
2.  In blender, puree 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped white onion, 1 jalapeno, juice of 1/2 lime, and splash of the tomatillo water until small chunks.
3.  Remove tomatillos from water and cool.  When cool enough to handle roughly chop and add to blender with other ingredients and pulse in quick bursts.
4.  Add chopped avocado and quickly pulse again.
5.  Add ingredients in blender to bowl.  Add chopped tomato and spices.  Salt to taste.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Greek Pasta Salad

Last night was Greek night, and, also improvise night.  Those that follow my blog will remember the recipe for Lemon Oregano Chicken I posted.  Last night we had Lemon Oregano Flank Steak.  I was originally planning on making roasted potatoes but realized after getting home that we had none.  What to make now?  A quick look in the pantry and I thought pasta was the answer for a side.  We had some left over roasted tomatoes from pizza night and feta cheese in the refrigerator.  I had my answer.  The following recipe couldn't be any easier and was so good that had more this morning for breakfast along with a dish full as I am typing this!

Greek Pasta  (serves 4)
1/2 pound rotini or bowtie pasta
1 cup roasted tomatoes; chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese; cubed
2 green onions; chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning mix (Cavendar's All Purpose Greek Seasoning)

1.  Boil pasta as directed on package until al dente.  Drain.
2.  Add pasta back to the pot and next 5 ingredients.
3.  Add Greek seasoning mix to taste. 
4.  Serve warm.

Feel free to substitute or add other ingredients, such as black olives, chicken, etc.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blueberry Filling Coffee Cake

Today, as usual, the dog and the cat both were raring to go at 4:30 a.m.  Instead of going back to bed, I thought "I don't have anything to post for the blog today.", so into the kitchen I go with eyes still half closed.  I turned on the computer and while I was waiting for the coffee to brew, I needed to come up with an idea for a post. I thought cake.  I haven't posted one of those in a long time.  A coffee cake would do the trick.

I pulled up all of the cake recipes on my computer and scrolled through the list. Then I stumbled upon this recipe that my grandmother used to make.  Blueberry coffee cake is one of my favorites.  I hope you enjoy this tasty treat.

Blueberry Pie Filling Coffee Cake (8 servings)
½ cup butter, room temperature (or Crisco shortening)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup warm milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 19 ounce can blueberry pie filling

Crumb Topping:
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Grease a 10-inch springform pan (or uses an 11x7 or 13x9 pan)
3. In a large bowl cream butter with sugar until fluffy.
4. Add in eggs and vanilla; beat until well combined.
5. In a small bowl mix together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk; beat until well blended.
6. Spread 2/3 of batter into the pan, then dollup tablespoonfuls of the pie filling all over the top of the batter.
7. Dollup the remaining batter on top of the pie filling (it will look very uneven).
8. In a small bowl mix together the topping ingredients with your fingers, then sprinkle on the top of the cake.
9. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until cake tests done.
10. Adjust and watch baking time for the 13x9 or the 11x70-inch baking pan.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wilted Winter Greens Salad

We had this great salad with the beef roast and gnocchi on Easter Sunday.  This could be a new favorite salad.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy it.  The bourbon soaked apples along with the pecans really made this terrific.  A quick change in the type of greens could transform this from a winter to a summer salad!

Wilted Winter Greens Salad
1 tablespoon bourbon
3 medium apples (McIntosh, if available) washed, cheeks removed and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
3/4 cup pecan halves
Kosher salt
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 heads radicchio, cores removed, leaves removed, torn into bite-size pieces and washed and dried
1 head arugula leaves, washed and dried
1 head escarole leaves, torn into bite-size pieces, washed and dried
2 heads endive, bottoms removed and the leaves halved lengthwise

1.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
2.  In a medium bowl, add the bourbon and the apple slices. Season with salt and black pepper and stir to combine. Set aside.
3.  Make the dressing: In a large bowl, or with a mortar and pestle, lightly crush the pecans until they are in small pieces and season with salt. Add the olive oil and whisk with the nuts to make a paste-like mixtue. Stir in the cider vinegar and some black pepper. Set aside.
4.  When ready to serve, add the greens to a large bowl and stir in the dressing. Toss to coat the greens with the dressing. Transfer the salad to a platter (or individual plates). Put the platter in the oven with the door ajar until the greens wilt ever so slightly, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the apple slices.

Cook's Note: if there is any excess bourbon, leave it behind in the bowl as you top the salad with the apples. Serve immediately.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Del Rhea's Chicken Basket - Another Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives Restaurant Under My Belt!

I am currently in Chicago for my 30th class reunion.  Mom was going to cook dinner last night and I thought, lets find a restaurant that was on my favorite show Diner's, Drive-In's, and Dives.  I remembered seeing an episode about a diner that made some great fried chicken.  Del Rhea's Chicken Basket was the place and it turns out it was only 15 minutes from her house.

Del Rhea's Chicken Basket opened in 1946 out in the middle of nowhere.  It is located on the historic Route 66 in rural Hinsdale.  When the restaurant was constructed it was centrally located in the same area as a Greyhound bus hub and the old Hinsdale airport.  The restaurant has extra large windows on both side that allowed the patrons to watch the private planes take off and land.  With the construction of Interstate 55, the Chicken Basket's business suffered because no one could figure out how to get there.  Well, the patron's did finally find their way back and after 53 years they are still thriving.  Having Guy Fieri and the Diner's, Drive-In's and Dives show stop by for a visit certainly helped!
Their specialty is fried chicken.  This is no ordinary fried chicken though.  They sprinkle a heavy layer of salt over the chicken and let it rest .  Brining it so to speak.  After salting, the chicken is dipped in milk, then flour, and finally breadcrumbs.  The breadcrumbs are made especially for Del Rhea's since the 60's.  The breadcrumbs are extra fine so they do not make an overly breaded fried chicken.  Their other trick is that they deep-fry the chicken at 260 degrees for 20 minutes.  One would think that would make an extremely greasy final product but surprisingly, it is not.

The dinner also came with a soup and salad bar.  The house soup is chicken and dumpling and this could not taste more homemade.  It was delicious.  There were several salads on the bar that were in typical 50's/60's buffets.  They had a delicious creamy kidney bean salad and pickled beets that were very tasty as well.

So, if your in the Willowbrook/Hinsdale area, I would highly suggest a stop at Del Rhea's.  I have several Facebook friends from the area who have attested to the great food and service at Del Rhea's.  Thanks to Del Rhea's for some of the best fried chicken I have ever had!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Creamy Onion Soup

Kevin is a huge fan of onion soup.  I will guarantee that if French Onion Soup is one of the choices, he will go with it everytime.  I made this Creamy Onion Soup a few weeks ago when I did not have the few hours to devote to making French Onion.  This came in a close second!  Easy to make and had great flavor.  I did add about one teaspoon of thyme but that is because we like the flavor.

Creamy Onion Soup
1 pound yellow onions, sliced
2 tablespoons margarine
4 cups chicken broth
1 dash salt
1 dash pepper
1 dash thyme
¼ teaspoon seasoning blend
2 cups milk, divided
1/3 cup flour

1. In a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, sauté onions in margarine. Add broth, pepper, thyme and seasoning blend; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add 1-2/3 cup of the milk.
2. Stir flour into remaining milk until smooth; add to soup. Bring to boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes until thick.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Did You Know....Desalting Nuts

Have you ever been trying to prepare a recipe that called for unsalted nuts only to discover you only had salted ones?  Don't worry!

Cook's Illustrated had a great tip in one issue.  This will allow you to complete your recipe easily.

1.  Rinse the shelled nuts in a strainer under cool water.

2.  Spread the nuts evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and cook at 350 degrees for about 6 minutes, or until the nuts are dry and slightly toasted.

Creamy Coleslaw

Now that the weather is starting to change and the days getting longer, I thought a nice summertime salad would be in order.  Who doesn't love a nice creamy coleslaw to go with anything from hot dogs, burgers, or BBQ?  This easy to put together salad will serve 6. 

One note:  At the time I prepared this salad, I did substitute green cabbage with red cabbage.  I noticed no taste difference.  You may want to adjust the salad dressing and/or vinegar to suit your own tastes.  Mayonnaise can be substituted for the salad dressing.

Creamy Coleslaw
4 cups cabbage; shredded
½ cup carrot; shredded
1 small onion; chopped
¾ cup salad dressing
1/3 cup sour cream
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
¾ teaspoon seasoned salt
½ teaspoon ground mustard
¼ teaspoon celery seed

1. Mix cabbage and carrots.
2. In a small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients.
3. Pour over cabbage mixture.
4. Mix well and chill for several hours.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Potato Gnocchi with Peas, Prosciutto and Ricotta

On Easter Sunday, my dad and his girlfriend Mary came over for dinner.  Wanting to stick close to my Italian roots for this year, we went with a simple beef roast and two sides.  Simple and light for this spring meal.  My first instinct was some type of pasta but that can get a bit old.  I wanted something that was simple but would make a real statement. 

While sitting with my computer on my lap searching for recipes, it hit me.  In the background an episode of Tyler Florence's Ultimate was on.  He mentioned Potato Gnocchi with Peas, Prosciutto and Ricotta.  I thought this was definitely the first of the sides.

This was my first venture into the world of gnocchi.  I have to say that even though there was several steps to the process it could not have been more simple.  I baked the potatoes, baked the prosciutto and made the ricotta ahead of time so everything went together quickly.

Please, please, please try this recipe if you like any type of dumplings.  Don't let the length of this recipe intimidate you.  These are so easy and so worth it!

2 pounds (about 4) russet potatoes, or similar starchy/white variety
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 egg white
1 to 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups frozen peas, thawed
¼ pound prosciutto
1 large shallot, finely diced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
Grated Parmesan

2 cups Lemon Ricotta, recipe follows

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Scrub potatoes, pierce the skin with a fork, drizzle with olive oil and salt and place on a sheet pan. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until they are easily pierced with a pairing knife.
2. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly then peel the potatoes while they are still hot and press them through a potato ricer or food mill.
3. Put the potatoes in a large bowl with salt, nutmeg, baking powder, grated cheese and egg white.
4. Add the flour a little at a time and mix with your hands until the mixture forms a rough dough. Do not over-work the dough.
5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Gently knead the dough for 1 or 2 minutes until smooth, adding a little bit more flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking.
6. Break off a piece of the dough and roll it back and forth into a rope, about the thickness of your index finger. Cut the rope into 1-inch pieces. Gently roll each piece down the prongs of a fork while pressing a small dimple with your finger in the back.
7. The gnocchi should be slightly curved and marked with ridges. This will allow the pillows to hold sauce when served. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
8. Boil the gnocchi in batches in plenty of salted water. The gnocchi are done about 2 minutes after they float to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon. Reserve about ½ cup cooking water. If not cooking immediately, place the gnocchi in a single layer on a baking pan dusted with flour.

Note: If the gnocchi start to feather and fall apart in boiling water, you need more flour. If the gnocchi don't float after 2 minutes and are hard, you used too much flour.

9. Blanch peas in hot water and set aside.
10. Place 4 strips of prosciutto on a sheet pan and place in a preheated 350 degree F oven. Cook until the it is crispy, 8 to 10 minutes.
11. Add chopped shallots to a pan over medium high heat with 2 counts of olive oil pan of and gently saute until fragrant and translucent. Dump in the peas and toss gently to coat. Season with a little salt and pepper.season Add boiled gnocchi to the pan and gently toss.
12. Add a ladle of gnocchi water to the pan, add 1 tablespoon of butter, sprinkle with Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with crispy prosciutto and a scoop of fresh lemon ricotta. (Optional: finish with a drizzle of white truffle oil)

Lemon Ricotta:
2 cups good quality ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zested and juiced

1. Place the ricotta cheese in a mixing bowl and add the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and serve with the gnocchi.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Eggplant Gratin

As with any good Italian, a love of eggplant is a must.  Growing up in an Italian family we had eggplant two different ways.  Dipped in egg, dredged in bread crumbs and fried or an eggplant relish called Caponata.  While both of these two dishes are great, I am always looking to serve it in different forms. 

I grow this great fruit, yes I said fruit, each season. Always searching for great recipes for this black beauty, recently I have turned to the internet.  I found this recipe on the Food Network site.  My love of eggplant and ricotta cheese was a big attraction.  I believe it came from Tyler Florence.  I made this as written and it was delicous!

Good olive oil for frying
¾ pound eggplant, unpeeled, sliced ½-inch thick
¼ cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg
¼ cup half and half
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
½ cup marinara sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚.
2. Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add several slices of eggplant and cook, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer the cooked eggplant slices to paper towels to drain. Add more oil, heat , and add more eggplant until all slices are cooked.
4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, half and half, ¼ cup parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
5. In each of the 2 individual gratin dishes, place a layer of eggplant, more salt and pepper, half the ricotta mixture, and finally 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan on top.
6. Place the gratins on a baking sheet and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until custard sets and top is browned.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Did You Know...An Easy Way To Flip Cakes

When ever you have to turn a hot cake out of a pan, we all have experienced the pan sliding around on the plate or cooling rack because you can't get a grip with pot holders.

Cook's Illustrated came up with a great idea involving a dish cloth.

1.  Place the cake pan on top of a large kitchen towel and top with an inverted plate.
2.  Gather each corner of the towel and hold the ends together on the bottom of the plate.  Gripping the towel tightly in one hand, lift the cake and the plate together.
3.  Place your other hand on te bottom and gently invert the cake pan and plate onto the countertop.  Lift off the pan to release the cake.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

I made this potato salad a few weeks ago.  I only made a few modifications to the recipe as it was written.  The original from included dill pickles and for the life of me, I can not figure out why.  The taste that the pickles brought to the salad in no way was representative of a loaded baked potato.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad
5 pounds small unpeeled red potatoes; cubed
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
8 hard-cooked eggs; chopped and crumbled
1 pound sliced bacon; cooked and crumbled
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 medium Vidalia onion; chopped
1 ½ cups sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
2-3 teaspoons mustard

1. Place the potatoes in a greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered, at 425˚ for 40-45 minutes or until tender. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

2. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, bacon, cheese, and onions. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, mayonnaise and mustard; pour over the potato mixture and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


This is an adaptation from the Cheesecake Factory recipe for their original cheesecake.  Both Kevin and I thought that the different varieties and quantities of nuts were a bit much.  I made this using all vanilla wafers.  One tip...make sure to remove the cheesecake when the center is a bit jiggly in the middle.
         1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
         1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
         1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts 
         3/4 cup finely chopped vanilla wafer
         2 tablespoons melted butter
         1 1/2 lbs cream cheese 
         1 1/3 cups sugar
         5 large eggs
         16 ounces sour cream
         1/4 cup flour
         2 teaspoons vanilla extract
         2 teaspoons lemon juice

Crust: Mix all nuts and vanilla wafer crumbs with melted butter and press into a 9 inch buttered springform pan, trying to line the sides as much as possible about 1 1/2" up the sides of the pan, set aside.

Cheesecake: All above ingredients should be at room temperature before your begin.
1.  Start by beating the cream cheese until light and fluffy.
2.  Keep the mixer on a low setting throughout the beating and mixing process.
3.  Add the sugar a little at a time and continue beating until creamy.
4.  Add one egg at a time and beat after each egg.
5.  When eggs have been mixed into the cream cheese add flour, vanilla and lemon juice, mix well.
6.  Add the sour cream last and beat well.
7.  Pour cream cheese into the spring pan.
8.  Place on the top rack in the middle of a 325 degrees preheated oven for one hour and 15 minutes.
9.  When time is up, prop open oven door and leave in oven for one hour.
10.  After one hour, remove from oven.
11.  Let cool enough before the cheesecake is put into the refrigerator for 24 hours.

A cheesecake should season. The wait is worth it.  The flavor ripens and becomes enriched.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Part of the Easter Feast....Cherry Cola Salad

First of all, Happy Easter to you all! As with most holidays, ours was filled with family and a whole lot of food.  During the course of the weekend, we were able to have great visits with both members of my family and Kevin's.  Great memories and even better food!

On Saturday, Kevin's sister placed a bid on a house in our subdivision.  Both of her daughters and their children wanted to view the house so we planned a brunch with all of them and the realtor who is handling the transaction.  Pretty lucky realtor (she is a good friend of mine) if you ask me!  All totaled, we had seven adults and four children. 

Brunch started with Deb signing the paperwork and a toast with some fabulous Momosas.  The entrees consisted of a Frittata with Potatoes, Caramelized Leeks and Cheddar Cheese.  I served this with a great sauce made of sour cream and horseradish cream sauce from Stonewall Kitchen.  If you are a horseradish lover, this stuff ROCKS!  We also had Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders with Honey Dijon or Ranch Dipping Sauce and a Cherry Cola Salad.

This Cherry Cola Salad was quite tastey and extremely easy to make.  Unfortunately, I thought I would take a picture of the salad in an individual portion after everyone left but THERE WAS NONE LEFT!  I realized that you do not need to have many different items on your brunch but just make sure they are good ones!

Cherry Cola Salad
1   20 ounce can crushed pineapple
½  cup water
2   3 ounce packages (each) cherry gelatin
1   21 ounce can cherry pie filling
¾  cup cola

1. Drain pineapple, reserving juice; set fruit aside. In a saucepan, bring pineapple juice and water to a boil. Add gelatin; stir until dissolved. Stir in pie filling and cola. Pour into serving dish. Refrigerate until slightly thickened. Fold in reserved pineapple. Refrigerate until firm.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Comet Cafe, Milwaukee ... Revisited

Many of you may remember a while back when I posted an entry about our trip down to Milwaukee to the Comet Cafe.  This is an eclectic diner/dive full of tattooed waitrers,waitresse, and bartenders.  The restaurant was featured on Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives.  We ordered the Meatloaf Sandwich.  I posted some pics of that on the entry.

Well, since it is Good Friday, Kevin was off and I only worked a half day, we took a drive to see our friend Carl at his bookstore.  After our visit there we decided to hit the Comet for an early dinner.  Happy Hour just began and Old Style was on special.  Old Style?  Who even knew the beer was still made and at a buck a bottle!  BONUS!

For dinner we decided to split the "AJ's Compact Turkey Dinner" and the Homemade Chili Macaroni and Cheese.  The Compact Turkey dinner consists of three tennis ball-sized, deep-fried beer-battered balls of roasted turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes all swimming in a pool of homemade gravy.  They were delicous.  Kevin even said they were better than the meatloaf sandwich that we had the first visit.  I am still opting for the bacon and gravy covered meatloaf sandwich. 

The Baked Chili Macaroni and Cheese was also VERY good.  The serving came out in a soup bowl the size of a dinner plate.  Ground beef chili with beans mixed in with macaroni and REAL Wisconsin cheddar cheese.  What could be better!

Now, I know my family is saying all the grease, fat and gravy isn't good for you but at least this time we decided to split everything.  We even brought half of the order of Mac and Cheese home because we were stuffed.

If you are ever in the Milwaukee area, we highly recommend a trip to the Comet.  Where the atmosphere is eclectic and hip and the food is unbelievable.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Did You Know...Storing Fresh Basil

It happens to all of us, we buy very expensive fresh basil from store for one recipe.  We need to store the rest of it somehow so it won't go bad.  I ran across this tip in the July/August 2006 issue of Cook's Illustrated.

They tested many different methods of storage.  Many produced wilted or blackened leaves that needed to be discarded.  The main thing to remember is DO NOT RINSE the basil before storage.  Rinse leaves only as you need them.

The one method the tester's found worked was wrap all remaining basil in a damp (not very wet) paper towel and store in a zip-top bag, unsealed.  Store the bag in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator.  This will keep the basil fresh looking for up to one week.