Saturday, August 24, 2013

Get Ready to Taste the Love! and savory cheesecake too...

About 5 years ago, one of my closest friends went through a tragic and traumatic divorce.  She is/was this incredibly strong, beautiful, smart, well-educated, and self-sufficient woman.  But this undid a lot she believed to be true about her life and really tore her up emotionally for awhile.  So I wanted to make her feel loved and special.

I did all the typical friend stuff (listen, commiserated, etc.), but I also fed her well (she exercises a LOT to deal with stress, so she can eat whatever she wants and not have to worry...  yeah, I hate her a little for that).  And at the same time she was suddenly finding herself single, I too was a bit alone (with my two young) children with my husband working overseas.  So we'd get together and make these extravagant dinners.  She loved my cooking and so I came to see cooking these wonderful meals for her as my way of saying, "sorry your ex was such a dick, but you're still special enough that people want to do wonderful things for you."

About a year after she was divorced, my husband and I ended up moving across country.  I've missed her terribly and was so excited when she decided she'd come down to visit.  And so my planning for what I was going to cook for her commenced!

I'll try to blog some of the other things I will make on Sunday for her going away Cajun brunch.  In the meantime, last night was her fancy dinner night.  The main course was a smoked, bacon-wrapped venison backstrap (tenderloin) with a 3-potato (purple, white & sweet) gratin and orange-star anise-ancho glazed baby carrots.  And it was all lovely and delicious, but not particularly new territory for me.

However, the salad/appetizer was my new adventure.  I made a nice caesar salad with a slice of savory cheesecake on the side.

What?  Savory cheesecake?  you might ask.

Yes, savory cheesecake.  I've wanted to make one for ages and finally had a log of goat cheese in my fridge that needed appropriation.  And it was FANTASTIC!

Keeping true to form, I've taken a picture and it isn't very good.

But trust me, if you think you might like savory cheesecake, you will!

Savory Cheesecake w/ Bacon, Sundried Tomatoes & Fresh Basil

1 1/2 cups crushed blue cheese crackers (or any cracker you have left over from a fancy dinner party)
1 egg white
6 Tbsp melted butter

16 oz goat cheese, softened*
8 oz cream cheese, softened*
4 oz ricotta cheese*
4 oz sour cream
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup cooked bacon, finely chopped
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
3 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix crust ingredients together and pour into a 10" springform pan.  Using your hand, press them down and just slightly up the sides, about 1/4".  Bake in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes.  Remove and set on a rack to cool.  (If it looks cracked on the bottom and doesn't totally cover the bottom of the pan, don't worry.  It will still work fine.)

Reduce oven to 250.

Thoroughly ombine cheeses and sour cream in your mixer using the paddle blade.  Then add cornstarch and salt and mix just until incorporated (do this carefully, lest you dust your kitchen in cornstarch).  Turn on the mixer and add the eggs, one at a time.  Continue until they are thoroughly incorporated, and then mix in the bacon, tomatoes, and basil.  Pour the batter over the cooled crust and spread out evenly.

Bake for 1 hour and then turn the oven off.  Leave cheesecake in the oven for one additional hour (don't open the oven) after you turn it off.

Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 3 hours.  Then use a sharp knife to run around the inside edge before popping the pan open.

I served the 3-hour cooling, but some people like to refrigerate for several hours first.  Serve at room temperature.

*You can play with this combination, especially if you're not fond of goat cheese.  This mix is just what I happened to have on hand.  Next time I might use mascarpone, blue cheese, gorgonzola, or feta.  Just aim for 24 to 28 oz of soft cheese.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Elvis Lives in Cupcake Nation!

Melissa and I were at it again tonight.  When we'd done our Hawaiian cooking the other night, there were also some cupcakes made.  For you see, we're also doing cupcakes at our party.

A lot of cupcakes.

We've been planning to make about 2 dozen of 8 different cupcakes (you can do the math, I'm too lazy) and wanted to do some test runs on them.  We started trying to make a few of them Saturday night, but kind of had to abandon it after awhile and focus on the Father's Day cooking.  So tonight we picked back up where we left off.  And oh my, what a mess we made.

This is just one small area of my kitchen, and we'd done some cleaning at this point...


Here's a horrible picture of the 5 of the 8 flavors. We'll work on the remaining 3 some other time.  (I warned you people that I'm not good at the photos.)

But let me tell you about the 5.  One was so ridiculously and unexpectedly good that it had us all giggling.  Seriously, giggling over cupcakes!  I'll get to that one last.

By the way, allow me to digress a bit.  I opened this blog tonight and saw I had a follower.  A follower!  I was so excited.

Turns out it is my husband.  He's following a blog documenting what he just ate for dinner.  That is awesomely weird.

OK, back to cupcakes.  We made...

  • Chocolate Chipotle w/ a Vanilla-Chipotle-Marshallow Frosting (front left one) - this one was tasty, with an interesting afterburn.  But the frosting wasn't thick enough.  This seemed to be a theme for us and one we're going to have to address, since our party is going to be outdoors in July in Southeast Texas.  Imagine handing a popsicle to Satan.
  • Pineapple w/ an Orange Frosting (left, behind the chocolate-chipotle) - the pineapple cupcake was really, really good, but the frosting needed to be more solidly orange flavored.  Everybody who tried it kept thinking it was lemon flavored.  But at least it wasn't melty.
  • Chocolate w/ Peanut Butter Cup Center & Peanut Butter Frosting (far back, right, in a separate pan) - we tried two different approaches to putting the peanut butter cup into the cupcake and decided we needed to compromise between the two (try putting it in after it is halfway cooked).  This was great, but by the time we were ready to taste it, we were in a sugar coma!
  • Lemon w/ Lemon Curd-Ricotta Filling & Blueberry Frosting (the two weird, gray topped ones on the right in front of the chocolate-peanut butter ones) - oh my, this was my favorite until we got to the next one.  It was soooo good, even though the frosting color was ugly.  We need to work on that.
  • The Elvis:  Peanut Butter Cupcake w/ a Banana-Creme Filling & Candied Bacon Frosting (front right) - HOLY SHYTE!  Seriously, I thought this one would be interesting and reasonably good.  But it was out-f'ing-standing!  It was stoopid good.  Melissa and I don't even like bananas, but this was crazy good.  We've got a few things to work on it, but seriously, it was good.
When we make the remaining three, I'll share the details.  Until then, I'm now going to pass out in a powdered sugar coma.  And did I mention the Elvis cupcake was good?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day Luau

I meant to take pictures.  Really, I did.

I should admit now that I'm a HORRIBLE food stylist.  My food may taste good, but if I do manage to take pics (more often than not, we're washing the dishes after dinner when I realize I meant to take a picture), they look bad.  Paper plates, bad lighting, no garnish, dirty pots and pans in the background.  Oh, how I'd love to be able to pull off those gorgeous food pics you see in the magazines.  But alas, this is not a talent I have.

But I did mean to take pictures of yesterday's meal.  My dear friend Melissa and I planned a big meal for our husbands, Hawaiian style.  In truth, it was somewhat self-serving...  she and I are celebrating milestone birthdays together next month (40 for me, 30 for her) and are doing an Elvis-Hawaiian-themed party.  So we used the day to test run a few things.

We spent the day down at McFaddin Beach, which is about 30 minutes from us.  It is a little redneck, but if you drive down a mile or so, it is pretty clean and sparsely populated.  And the kids love it.  Well, the two younger ones.  Our oldest HATES the beach.  Fortunately he's off at SpaceCamp this week.  So off to the beach we went with our Hawaiian food for a day of splashing in the waves, fishing, collecting hermit crabs, and studying Six Sigma.

Yeah, that last part sucked.  I had a Six Sigma test last night for an online class I'm taking.  Blah.

Back to the food.  Melissa and I made quite the spread.  It was so much fun cooking together too.  The original game plan included a green salad, but I overestimated the shelf-life of the lettuce I had in the fridge.  Oh well, we'll eat veggies another day...

Here was our menu:

Ahi Poke
Huli Huli Chicken
Spam Musubis
Macaroni Salad
Potato Salad
Hawaiian Rolls
Pecan Pie

OK, so the potato salad and pecan pie weren't Hawaiian.  Call Hawaii 5-0 on me.  My husband wanted them and it was his day, after all.

We kinda followed this recipe for Huli Huli Chicken.  It was so good.  We did skinless in the oven;  I think skin-on and smoked would be outrageous!
scroll down to dragonchowmein's recipe here...

And this one I followed pretty religiously for Macaroni Salad.  I was not hopeful, especially with all the milk and mayonnaise.  But it turned out to be pretty good.  I may tinker with the seasoning a bit next time, but it is a good starting point.

There are plenty of recipes out there for Ahi Poke.  I don't have one in particular to suggest.  I just use a little sriracha, sliced onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and salt.  And believe it or not, we've found the frozen ahi steaks from Sam's club work just great.  Thaw, dice up, and toss into the rest of the ingredients.  Admittedly, I overdid the sesame oil just a bit yesterday.  But everybody else loved it.

I'll do a separate post some time about musubis and pecan pie.

And then there's the cupcake testing.  That's for a later post too.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

My FaceBook page is being overrun with my food porn.  So it is time I start a blog for all things food related.  In fact, despite years and years of people telling me I should start a blog, I haven't done it till now.

I love cooking.  I love going on food adventures.  I love good grocery stores, farmer's markets, and ethnic food shops.  I love watching food shows...  sometimes (those can get boring after a while, especially all the staged drama on shows like Cupcake Wars and Chopped).  And I love sharing food stuff with other people.  Restaurant recommendations, interesting ingredients, food pictures, and recipes are all fare game here.  I'll also start moving a lot of my stuff from FaceBook to here.  Eventually.  I do have 3 young kids, a job, college, a not-so-secret desire to be a stand-up comedienne, and a husband.  So it isn't like I have tons of foodie time.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I'll always make time for food.  So here goes...