Saturday, October 15, 2016

KT Baked It: Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake

Happy October! The holiday season is right around the corner, which means its almost time for the annual holiday baking and crafting festivities.

I've been getting some exercise for the baking muscle over the past month. I recently volunteered to bake a cake for a co-worker's birthday - a chocolate raspberry cake. It turned out pretty good, and since I have become the Birthday Cake Baker for the office. No pressure. Two of my co-workers did not get birthday cakes for their special day this past spring, and there became a joke in the office that they were the only people who did not have a cake. So, as a surprise, I made them each a belated birthday cake! My co-conspirator in the office discretely asked them what kind of cake they like to give me some suggestions. One likes cherry cheesecake and the other likes "anything but cheesecake."

With a little creative liberty, I decided to make a chocolate cherry cheesecake for our office manager and a white cake with strawberry whipped cream filling for our surgical scheduler. The cherry cheesecake recipe comes from Betty Crocker. I can count the number of cheesecakes I have made in the past on one hand. The last time I made one was for Thanksgiving, and it turned out fairly good. I've always found cheesecakes to be a little frustrating to make, let alone perfect (I wouldn't know though, none of mine have been perfect). The issues I run into are (1) the crust and (2) knowing when it's done. I ran into the same issues this time, not surprisingly, but it turned out delicious none the less.

What you need:
2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs - I used chocolate teddy graham crackers that were processed in my mini food processor.
3 Tbl butter, melted
4 packages (8oz each) cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup whipping cream, divided in half
1 can cherry pie filling (20 oz)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Okay, to start off you make the crust. I used the food processor to turn my teddy grahams into crumbs first. Combine the crumbs and butter well and then press into the bottom and up the sides of your springform pan. The recipe called for a 10" pan, but I only had a 9" so that's what I used. I baked my crust in the over at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes, but the recipe did not require that.

Next is the filling. Beat softened cream cheese using an electric mixer first, then add the eggs one at a time beating the mixture after each addition. Then beat in the sugar and almond extract, and finally add in 1/2 cup of whipping cream.

Time to fill the crust with the filling. Spoon 3 1/2 cups of the cream cheese filling into the crust-lined pan. Evenly spoon 1 cup of cherry pie filling over the cream cheese layer.

Looking good! Now spoon the rest of the cream cheese filling over top. Time to bake! I baked the cheesecake at 325degrees for 1hr and 20 minutes, and then allowed the cake to cool in the oven with the door ajar for an hour.

Once the cake was cooled, it was time for the chocolate glaze. In a saucepan, bring 1/2 cup whipping cream to a gentle boil over medium head. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips.

Place the cheesecake on a sheet of waxed paper and remove the sides of the pan. Spread the chocolate glaze over the cooled cake. Wow!

I refrigerated the cake overnight uncovered, then it was ready to take to work. Served with a little whipped cream and a spoonful of the left over cherry pie filling, it was quite delicious!

Here is the second cake, which was a boxed white cake mix baked in two 6" round pans. I make whipped cream frosting with whipping cream (2cups) and confectioners sugar (1/2cup). The filling between the layers was whipped cream and diced strawberries combined with granulated sugar.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

KT Cooked It: Sweet and Sour Brussel Sprouts

Today is the end of my first week of training for the Shamrock Marathon Weekend in Virginia Beach on March 18-19. Only 29 more weeks to go before I finish my goal of completing a marathon before my 30th birthday. Trying to train, work and be mommy/wifey is going to take a lot of preparation, sleep, and well, good nutrition (minus a few glasses of wine here and there...and maybe a doughnut or two). So on this episode of "What Can I Make That's Healthy Using Whatever Is In My Kitchen," I took a 2 pound bag of Brussel sprouts waiting to be cooked from the fridge and whipped up this delicious dish. The idea comes from a dish that my older sister makes - shredded Brussel sprouts, corn and black beans sautéed with a sauce that she purchases from her local Wegmans.

Luckily I had the sprouts and corn, but I had to make my own sauce. First I shredded the Brussel sprouts using these instructions that I found on Popsugar.

For the sauce, I combined the following ingredients in a small sauce pan and brought to a gentle boil before taking off the stove top:
  • 1/4 cup Ken's Steakhouse Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
  • 1/4 cup lite sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
Alright! Next, in a large skillet I sautéed the Brussel sprouts mixed with one can of whole kernel corn in 2 Tbl of olive oil until tender. This would have been even better in a wok. Add that to the Christmas list.

Finally, I added the sauce and sautéed for another 2 minutes or so, mixing well. And that's it. SO good. Next time I will make sure to have a can of black beans on hand!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

KT Baked It: Oatmeal Quick Bread

It's time for another episode of using "whatever I can find in my kitchen to make baked goods"! Today I decided to use a trio of over ripe bananas that my hubby stashed in the freezer for me a few weeks ago knowing that I would someday try to make something out of them. The best thing to use ripe bananas for is banana bread, no doubt. Today I decided to try to make a healthier banana bread that I would not feel so guilty about eating for breakfast. I adapted this recipe from a no flour, sugar free oatmeal muffin recipe by Bren Did. It turned out great!

What you need:
2.5 cups Quaker rolled oats
3 over ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Toast the rolled oats in the oven on a cookie sheet for 6 minutes.

Take 1 1/2 cups of oats and chop them in a food processor until they are about the consistency of flour.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oatmeal, baking powder, salt and spices.

In a separate mixing bowl, mash the bananas until there are no lumps. Using frozen bananas helped when it came to mixing. I microwaved the bananas in their peels until they were completed thawed, then mashed them well.

Then I added the remaining wet ingredients.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and then allow the oats to "soak" for about 10 minutes.

Put the batter into a greased 9x5 inch bread pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Cool and serve!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

KT Made It: Pillowcase Dress

Now that baby girl is finally sleeping better and things are in a more "normal" routine, I am trying to make a little time for myself including working out, a little cooking/baking and a few crafts now and then. I don't anticipate that I will be blogging as much as I was in the B.C. (Before Children) era, but a few posts here and there is plenty these days!
A few weeks ago I made a pillow case dress for my little one. These are easy dresses to make for the novice sewer and for those of us with little time to cut out a complicated pattern.
There are a lot of instructions out there to make a pillowcase dress. Here are some of the ones that I found helpful:
Dress A Girl Around The World's "Best Dress Ever" Tutorial
Bumblebee Linen's Pillowcase Dress
Here a graphic that is also helpful.
Kristen Jordan Shamus: A small idea transforms an African community -- and one close to home | Detroit Free Press |
I knew that I had only minutes to do each step while baby girl occupied herself here and there. She ate quite a few cheerios which I used to keep her busy while I made her dress. I used fat quarters instead of a pillowcase- two of one pattern for the dress bodice and one for the bottom panel. I bought one package of 1/2 inch ribbon for the drawstrings.

I made a pattern for the top of the dress, you can see the arm hole. I folded one polka dot fat quarter in half lengthwise and put the pattern piece along the fold. I cut the out the piece and added length to the bottom. I did the same with the second piece. This was the front and back of the dress.

I used the blue fat quarter to make a bottom panel of the dress.
Here are the four pieces of the dress. I spent quite a bit of time ironing out the folds...
Next, I sewed the sides together with the right-side facing in so that when the pieces were turned outward the right side of the fabric was facing outward and the seams were inside. I used a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

I do not have a surging machine or sewing machine foot, so I used pinking shears to trim the seams before pressing them with the iron. Then I sewed the seams in place.
To attach the bottom panel I turned the top of the dress right-side out and with the bottom panel seams facing outward line up the bottom hem of the dress and the top of the bottom panel. I sewed these together with a 1/2inch seam allowance.

After that I pulled to bottom panel so that the right side of the dress was facing out and then pressed the seams.
Next, I turned the dress inside out and then I folded the bottom panel in half with the "wrong side" facing together.

I made sure that there was about 1 inch of fabric above the seam that connected the two pieces of the dress. I folded the 1piec" hem inside creating a finished seam, which I then sewed in place.

With the dress sewn together, I then made a hem for the arm holes.
And, finally, the top casing for the ribbon. I did this by folding the top edge about 1inch and then sewing across.

I fed the ribbon through the casing of the front and back of the dress, tying the ribbon on one side of the dress.
Looking forward to more sewing projects!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

KT Baked It: "Whatever I Can Find In My Kitchen To Make Cookies" Cookies

When I got home from work a few days ago, I needed to have cookies! Unfortunately we did not have any in the house at the ready. However, being a resourceful person, I was able to whip up some delicious cookies from what we had in the house.

What you need:
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup each butterscotch, chocolate and white baking chips

In a large mixing bowl, cream softened butter with white and brown sugar.

Mix the egg and vanilla with the creamed sugar and butter.

In a separate bowel, mix the flour, graham cracker crumbs, salt and baking powder.

Using an electric mixer, slowly add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar.

Add in the coconut and baking chips to finish the dough.

Now its time to bake! I used a tablespoon to scoop the dough and placed each cookie about 2" apart on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until the sides are golden.

The cookies turned out great! This is a great basic dough to use for other additions like pieces of candy bars (snickers, peanut butter cups), M&Ms and chopped nuts too...mmmm!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

KT Did It: Rachel's First Birthday Party

Last weekend we celebrated our daughter, Rachel's first birthday party with family and friends. What a special day! There are so many cute ideas out there for first birthday decorations, themes, etc. I saved many of the decorations and party supplies from my baby shower with plans to use them for Rachel's first birthday party.

I made her a special 1st birthday party hat with scrap book paper and the left over tulle from what I used to make the wreath for her nursery.
I used fabric scraps to make a shabby chic high chair skirt.

For the table, I made a number one as part of the centerpiece to put next to her cake. I used cardboard to cut out the front and back of the number one. To make it three dimensional, I cut a paper towel roll into small pieces and sandwiched them in between the two sides. I used masking tape to wrap it and secure the two sides (paper mache would also have worked with modge podge and strips of news paper or magazines). I decorated the number with fabric strips and them made rolled fabric roses to put on the number. Look for the finished product below!

After my sister's baby shower, I knew that I wanted to make cupcake liners and cupcake flags for this part. I used floral and purple polka dot scrapbook paper to make the cupcake liners. For the flags, I used Microsoft Word to create the circles with the word "ONE" and number "1" on them - 6 of each for the 12 cupcakes that I bought. Yes - bought, I sold out of the homemade cupcakes. I hot glued the circles onto purple glitter paper, then cut them out leaving a border of purple paper using scalloped scrapbook scissors. I used the left over paper to hot glue a toothpick to each flag.

I also repeated the chocolate dipped Rice Krispie treats and chocolate dipped Oreos that I made for my sister's baby shower.

I also made a "Happy Birthday" sign using cardstock, hot glue and ribbon.

The final product was perfect!
Rachel had a wonderful birthday, we are so grateful for everyone who was able to attend and celebrate this special little girl with us!