Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Time to move...

It's official - From Whence the Sweet Bird Sang has officially transitioned to an entirely new blog - a bird in the kitchen.

We're now located at abirdinthekitchen.com and can't wait for you to join me there to indulge in as much food and food related business as is humanly possible.

Be sure to visit the about tab when you visit the new site - it'll give a better idea of the set-up of the new site and a hint as to the new directions I'll be taking in the new location, both domain-wise and geographically.

See you soon!

a bird in the kitchen

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


There are some changes coming - and coming soon.

Soon this blog will be boasting a new name, a new site, and a new location - both domain and geographical. When I started it just over a year ago I had no idea I'd stick with it long enough to justify a more involved format.

It does.

Additionally, in the next few weeks Mr. TA and I will be relocating to the East Coast - and I'm sure you all understand how unlikely it is I will be cooking anything in the car to talk about. We will be making some pretty amazing stops on our journey to the other coast though, and I'll be sure to provide any photos of interest upon my return to the blogosphere.

I'm not sure how long it will take to get my kitchen stuff back, but as soon I do I'll be back in the kitchen, cooking away to my heart's content.

See you on the other side!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pumpkin Pancakes with Honey - Strawberry - Raspberry Syrup

This recipe was a complete FAIL.

As I was mixing it all up I knew there had to be something wrong with it - there's no way a pancake batter should be as thick as muffin batter.

I added milk until it was right, but after so much experimentation I only had enough batter left to make a few small pancakes.

After being totally frustrated and wasting about an hour and a half of my damn morning trying to figure out this recipe - I realized that I'd copied the recipe down incorrectly.

Go me.

I imagine that if one were to actually make these pancakes properly they would likely be delicious. I wasn't a fan. I did like the strawberry substitution for half the raspberries though.

The recipe is at Vegetarian Times.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles

I remember as a child my sister and I made ice pops nearly every opportunity we had during the summer. We'd sift through the refrigerator, mixing juices and creating different flavor concoctions to pour into the molds. Grape juice, apple juice, lemonade, root beer - you name it, we tried to freeze it.

My favorite then was grape - I believe hers was apple.

I still enjoy a good popsicle over ice cream any day of the week, although I think that has more do to with my freakish sensitivity to cold (thanks to a particularly unskilled dentist a few years ago) than with an actual preference.

I must admit that now my tastes run a little bit more involved than just a simple frozen juice, even though I doubt I'd turn down a grape popsicle most days (a real one, not the fake flavored, frozen garbage people feed to their kids nowadays), especially if it were with my sister.

I was quite delighted to find David Lebovitz's recipe for Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles yesterday.

They are ridiculously easy to make and therefore surprisingly delicious in their simplicity. I can see myself eating a ridiculous amount of these for the rest of the summer. Especially considering that Mr. TA and I will soon be vacating the Central Coast for a rather sultry location on the East Coast in a matter of weeks. I'm sure once I reach that heat I'll be downing these babies on an hourly basis.

Check out his recipe here: Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles. If you like coffee ice cream you will fall in love with it.

Nutritional Estimate

This is a nutritional estimate, I do not claim it to be exact - although it is pretty close.

Using David's recipe cut in half (1 cup coffee + 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk) in a 4 popsicle mold, each popsicle will have:

Calories: 88
Carbohydrates: 15g
Fat: 2g
Protein: 2g

The entire recipe (2 cups coffee + 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk) contains:

Calories: 702
Carbohydrates: 122g
Fat: 16g
Protein: 18g

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bistro Christine

I love French food.

Love it. Could nearly eat that and only that every day for the rest of my life.

It would be an even easier decision to make were the French to suddenly include noodles and potstickers to their repertoire.

That being said, I am hypercritical of every single thing that enters my mouth - whether it's a burger or a soufflé, it must be well executed. I'm ever vigilant of the quality of my own cooking, which frequently disappoints me, and equally so with other's. I'm the worst, however, at restaurants.

I worked in the food industry for nearly all of my very short adult life up until two years ago. With the knowledge of what goes on in the back of the house, I see little reason for poorly composed or inadequately cooked foods. In fact I visited a restaurant this week that I adored in the past, only to be severely disappointed with nearly everything ordered.

With that preface, I must introduce you to Bistro Christine. A new kid on the culinary block of Monterey, CA, Bistro Christine is quickly becoming well recognized as a serious contender for the best purveyor of French cuisine in town. I've now been to Bistro Christine twice - and each time I was so completely blown away by the simple perfection of their food that I am heartbroken I will be moving across the country soon.

The cooking is classic French, compliments of the owners and chef (husband and wife team Christine and Francis) hailing from Normandy. The focus is on homey, bistro style cuisine using the freshest, highest quality ingredients to create simple, well-made food that showcases the inherent qualities of each component. Add to that a well-appointed wine list and the exemplary service offered by Christine, and I find it difficult to top the experience had at this little bistro.

The first thing brought to the table is a basket of homemade bread - still steaming from the oven.

It was still so hot, in fact, that I singed the tips of my greedy fingers while trying to steal a piece too soon.

My MiL, in town visiting for special occasion, chose a 2006 Puma Road Pinot Noir from Franscioni Wines at Black Mountain Vineyards. This pinot is to die for. It's not currently available for retail sale - and it's a travesty that it's not. Fruity and fresh with the perfect body. It was well put in this article, that "Someone could’ve taken all the fruit out of this bottle and painted a pretty serious still-life."

To start I ordered the endive gratin - a recipe I've noticed in Simple French Food but was wary to attempt until having tried it.

It is a head of endive, wrapped in ham, smothered in Béchamel and topped with cheese It is then baked until hot and bubbly and the cheese gets all browned and sexy.

It may not sound all that glamorous, but it is a classic French preparation. It was perfectly made, well seasoned, and so superbly delicious I could easily eat one every day. Sadly, I don't think my thighs would appreciate that.

Next up was a crock of Onion Soup au Gratin - a dish so often defiled that I tend to avoid it on most menus. At Bistro Christine, however, it is quite obviously prepared at length. The onions are caramelized to perfection, the broth is quite obviously made from beef bones, and the cheese is Gruyère. As a side note, if you're making this soup at home and do not use Gruyère, I reserve the right to kick you in the shins.

If you can't find a recipe you like, use Thomas Keller's. Because really, there isn't much that man can't do well.

For entrées, my husband ordered medallions of filet mignon with a black pepper sauce.

The medallions were melt in your mouth tender and the black pepper sauce - my god! Divine is the only word that can attempt to describe it.

My MiL ordered sea scallops in a tarragon sauce.

Although I'm not a huge fan of tarragon, I can appreciate it in small doses. This pushed the limits of that, but the sauce itself was outstanding. The scallops were flawlessly cooked and, as you can see, generously portioned.

You'll have to excuse the blurriness of the scallops. I forgot my tripod, the lighting was not in my favor, and that Puma Road Pinot was starting to work it's magic...

I ordered the half roast chicken au jus with fries.

I cannot actually remember the last time I had enough confidence in a restaurant to order the chicken. I've always thought that if I wanted to chew on dried leather that I'd prefer to use one of my neglected pairs of Anne Klein stilettos. I was feeling adventurous though - and was not disappointed. It was moist and juicy, the skin crisp and well-seasoned. And the fries - my god the fries.

They were accompanied by a homemade mayonnaise that nearly brought me to tears.

My husband insisted that he didn't like it because it wasn't the "right" color - meaning a bleached, anemic white. I responded with, "No - this is most definitely the right color." Homemade mayonnaise makes my heart sing - the jarred kind makes me want to - well, you know.

Christine, lovely woman that she is, brought us a sampler of desserts - gratis.

They too were well-executed, though I am unsure if these are made in house. Whether they are or not has not effected their quality though.

A lovely frozen lemon confection -

And a perfect lemon tart, both topped with candied lemon and orange peel.

There was also a brandied chocolate mousse that could not have been more delicious, but without my tripod I was only able to capture a blurry mess that only slightly resembled a chocolate mousse.

It was a lovely meal - one that I hope to repeat at least once more before our move away from Monterey. I hate to sound like a walking advertisement for anything, but I am a firm believer in supporting good restaurants. Bistro Christine deserves to succeed. My worst fear for this place is that someone will dine here and not appreciate the gem that it is.

If you are in Monterey - stop by. You won't be disappointed.

Bistro Christine
481 Alvarado Street
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 644-0819


Wed-Sun. 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Wed-Sun. 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lemon-Vanilla Bean & Berry Tarts

No 4th of July BBQ is complete without a tasty dessert, and the combination of lemon French yogurt cake, vanilla bean pastry cream, and fresh berries is hard to beat.

The handy thing about garnishing cute little individual tarts with fresh berries is that they are amazingly beautiful and look like you slaved in the kitchen for hours to complete - which is rarely ever the case. That being said, I'm ever the fan of delicious eats that look impressive and are in actuality so easy a trained chimp could make them.

The cake itself is a variation on Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake - tweaked a little bit to cut the fat. It's very easy to make and packs a refreshing lemony flavor.

As you're celebrating the 4th today remember to be safe. And please, take a moment to think about the men and women who have sacrificed so much, and those who continue to do so, to keep our country safe and secure.

Happy 4th of July!

Lemon-Vanilla Bean & Berry Tarts

Serves 12

Lemon Yogurt Cake

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup greek/plain, strained yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 jumbo eggs
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F

Grease and line a rimmed half-sheet pan (jelly roll pan) with parchment paper. Set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, zest, and vanilla bean seeds. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet. Using a rubber spatula fold the oil into the batter until it is fully incorporated. Pour batter into the prepared sheet pan and bake 10-12 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Meanwhile, cook the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside and cool. When the cake comes out of the oven, allow to cool for ten minutes. Brush the top of the cake with the lemon syrup and allow to soak in.

Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups nonfat milk
1 vanilla bean

Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan (off heat), whisk together sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks and salt. Gradually whisk in milk (1 tablespoon at a time to start) until smooth. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds with the tip of a paring knife; add seeds and pod to milk mixture. Cook over medium-high, whisking occasionally, until the first bubbles appear on surface; continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute more. Pour pudding through prepared sieve into bowl; discard solids. Place plastic wrap directly on entire surface of pudding to keep skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours, and up to 3 days. To serve, whisk just until smooth.

To Assemble

Using a 2 3/4 - 3 in. round cookie cutter cut out 24 rounds from the lemon cake. Using a pastry bag or a small spoon top 1 round with a tablespoon or so of the pastry cream, top with a second round of cake, and place another tablespoon of pastry cream on top. Garnish with berries and mint sprigs as desired. Repeat until all twelve are assembled. Devour at will.

There's no break down on nutritional content for these - mainly because I can't get it exact enough to be comfortable enough to give a specific number. From what I've gleaned they're about 225-250 calories per tart though.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


This just goes to show how bad I am at remembering momentous occasions...apparently my one year anniversary of blogging was yesterday.

Thank you to all my readers - and especially my commenters - you've made the last year a very special, and surprisingly fulfilling journey.

I started this blog after moving to a new area. It was the first time I'd ever moved outside of the greater Seattle area and I didn't know a single soul other than my husband. I'd just gone through a very personal tragedy and was grasping at straws to keep myself sane. I'd been reading food blogs for a while, but didn't think I had the chops to write one myself - it seemed very intimidating.

Nevertheless, I jumped in with both feet and found it to be at once challenging and therapeutic. I have evolved and improved as a cook and as a photographer and can only hope to continue doing so as I progress.

Again, thank you to everyone who has contributed to the last year - either with ideas, advice, or a nice comment or two along the way.

I guess it's into the kitchen for another year of making tasty foods and writing about them - I hope to see you, same time and same place, this time next year.


Roasted Strawberry Compote with Vanilla Bean

There are few Monday afternoon activities that top walking down the street to my town's farmers market and picking up a basket of freshly picked, California-grown strawberries. I'm not sure what it is about the Central Coast area, but the powers of earth and awesomeness have collided and provided some prime strawberry-growin' turf.

I grew up in a small town in Northwest Washington State on a defunct raspberry farm. The area however, was not only well known for its raspberries, but also the strawberries, blueberries, and hazelnuts the fertile soil allowed to flourish. I remember many a day of going strawberry picking with my mother and sister to make jams, jellies, and whatnot. (Later in life we simply bought them in 5-gallon buckets from a local farm, but I still enjoy the memories of picking them by hand - though I'm sure I drove my mother batty while doing so.)

The strawberries from my childhood memories cannot even begin to compete with the berries they grow here. They are easily the best strawberries in the world. Still warm from the sun, plump and a deep garnet red. The flavor nearly explodes on your tongue - a burst of sweetness followed by the barest hint of tanginess. When I drive to the other farmers market in Monterey I have to buy at least one extra basket for the 10 minute drive home - they're impossible to resist.

I'm also sure that the people driving behind me can understand, though probably don't appreciate, the many strawberry hulls that go flying out my window as I drive along the coast.

I saw this recipe in Vegetarian Times a couple months ago and decided I had to try it. When I pulled it out this week to finally make it I realized that it called for frozen strawberries. Needless to say I was not going to be using some nasty old frozen berries when I had these priceless gems sitting in front of me. Instead I just froze some of my fresh berries. It worked perfectly - and probably came out better and with more flavor than if I'd used storebought frozen berries.

This is delicious, you should try it. We ate ours on frozen yogurt for dessert and in crepes for breakfast the next morning, though the versatility in no way stops at those two dishes.

Also, should you ever venture into the Central Coast area - don't forget to try the strawberries.

Roasted Strawberry Compote with Vanilla Bean
adapted from Vegetarian Times, February 2009

5 cups frozen whole strawberries
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 475°F.

Coat 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Toss together strawberries, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean with back of knife, and stir into strawberries along with bean. Bake 25 minutes, stirring often. Remove vanilla bean before serving.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Shrimp & Spinach Stuffed Portobellos

Sometimes, when I have way too much time on my hands, I think about how it was discovered that certain foods are edible.

I'm sure everyone's thought about who the first guy was to eat a chicken egg - imagine his wife's face when that happened. "Honey, what are you doing? Don't play with that. Stop bothering the chicken! What are you doing with that frying pan...? OH MY GOD."

Similarly, the potato (once deemed poisonous), escargot (Seriously, who thought that one up? Whoever you are though, thank you!), and caviar seem equally as unappetizing when the attempt is made to look at them as if you'd never seen them before. Who's going to pull up a plant, see some weird looking round tuber thing stuck to its roots...and then decide to put it in their mouth? Also, how many raw potatoes were eaten before it was discovered that they're way better cooked?

All that being said, the mushroom is another one of these mystical, extremely tasty foods that frequently makes its way to our dinner plates that, at any point in our culinary history, could easily have been discarded as poison - or just plain gross. I mean, picture it in your head, walking through the damp woods your boot kicks over a bit of leaf litter revealing a spongy, brown plant. It's covered in dirt and leaves, possibly some kind of protective mucus - who's first thought is, "Gee, I should put this in my mouth"? (I know that question mark isn't where it's supposed to be - sue me.)

Again, whoever it was that tried them first - thanks. Because mushrooms are insanely delicious. Especially when they're stuffed with spicy shrimp, cheese, and spinach and then baked until they're hot and bubbly with yummy goodness.

My brother-in-law gave me the idea of pairing shrimp with sriracha - a spicy Asian condiment - while I was in Florida. For this idea I will be forever grateful. It's quite possibly my new favorite thing in the world. If you've never tried sriracha (pronounced sir-a-cha), or never tried shrimp cooked in a little butter and sriracha - you must immediately drop everything that you are doing and go make some right now. NOW.

I decided that instead of using ridiculous amounts of mayo or cream cheese to hold it all together that I'd use Laughing Cow Cheese. It's a spreadable cheese (great on Wheat Thins) that's only 35 calories per serving. I used the Garlic & Herb one - they're pretty tasty. I keep those and the little Babybel cheeses in the house at all times. They're been a great snack while I've been trying to lose weight (23 lbs. so far! 10 more, I'll be at 120, and life will be good!). Now that I recognize the versatility of the spreadable ones though, I definitely won't be giving them up when I quit trying to lose weight.

Even if you don't try the whole recipe, for whatever reason, I cannot stress this enough. Every single person in this world (except those allergic to shrimp) should try shrimp cooked in sriracha.

It will change your life.

Shrimp & Spinach Stuffed Portobellos

Serves 2

8 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained of all water
1/4 small onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Laughing Cow Spreadable cheeses
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Babybel Light, cut into small pieces (substitute mozzarella or other light cheese)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
10 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sriracha
2 portobello caps

Preheat oven to 375 F

In a medium mixing bowl combine spinach, onion, garlic, cheeses and mayo. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. In a skillet over medium-high heat melt the butter. Cook the shrimp until just pink, toss with sriracha. Set aside. Place the portobello caps gills side up in a casserole dish. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Top each cap with half the shrimp and half the spinach mixture. Return to oven and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the spinach is heated through and the cheese is warm and bubbling.

Nutritional Estimate

This is a nutritional estimate, I do not claim it to be exact - although it is pretty close.

1 serving equals one whole stuffed portobello cap

Calories: 245
Carbohydrates: 15g
Fat: 15g
Protein: 18g


CORRECTION 6/27: I am a numbskull and forgot to include the tablespoon of butter in my nutritional estimate. Therefore, the new estimate is:

Calories: 296
Carbohydrates: 15g
Fat: 20g
Protein: 18g

I would also like to point out that in omitting the mayonnaise saves 180 calories and 20g of fat, effectively halving the fat content of the recipe. This would make each cap only 206 calories and 10g of fat.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Buitoni Contest

A couple months ago I participated in a contest put on by Foodbuzz and Buitoni pasta to develop a new pasta sauce for their new Riserva line of pastas. I'm not much of a contest-entering kind of person - I have a perfect score of zero in the competitiveness slot in my personality. However, when I saw the grand prize was a set of brand new pots and pans, I decided that the worst thing that could happen was not winning. A novel concept, eh?

In any event, I entered this recipe: Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with a Cognac Cream Sauce and Baby Pea Shoots.

I didn't win - that honor is reserved for Taste With the Eyes and the lovely recipe for Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Veal, Portobello, Fried Sage and a Pinot Noir Cream Sauce.

I did however place as one of the runner-ups, which won me the sweet-ass colander you see above and enough pasta swag to keep me and the mister carb-loading until next year.

A complete list of the runner-ups is located at Foodbuzz. I recommend checking out the other recipes that placed, they all sound quite tasty.

Thanks to Foodbuzz and Buitoni for giving me the opportunity to participate - and thanks for the cool stuff. I'm not big on buying premade foods, but that Mushroom Agnolotti is good. I'll be stuffing myself on that for the next few months...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Orange-Ginger Custards

While typically a big fan of custards, I am not a fan of ginger. Fresh ginger, that is. Powdered ginger is quite delicious. My other half, however, is a huge fan of all things ginger. The original recipe calls for a tangerine and ginger combination, which I'm sure would be better than orange.

I originally saw this recipe in the November issue of Vegetarian Times. I bookmarked it because I knew he would like the ginger in it, but like most recipes from magazines it sat on the shelf for the last eight months or so. I decided to finally try it out this week - cleverly waiting until tangerines were out of season. As such I substituted oranges.

The mister said it was quite delicious, and while I found the flavor combination to be less than stellar, texturally it was creamy, smooth, and in all ways outstanding.

I can definitely see this recipe being used as a vehicle for all sorts of flavor combinations.

Cardamom and allspice with fresh figs...star anise and cinnamon...lemongrass and Thai basil...grapefruit and vanilla...

Orange-Ginger Custards
adapted from Vegetarian Times, November 2008

Serves 6

2 cups nonfat milk
zest of 1 orange
1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped roughly
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
supremed orange sections for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat milk, zest, and ginger in medium saucepan over medium heat, until milk’s surface begins to bubble, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and cool. Strain milk through fine sieve into medium bowl, discarding zest and ginger. Mix in sugar. Beat eggs with pinch of salt in small bowl. Whisk beaten eggs into milk mixture. Fill 6 4-oz. (1/2-cup) ramekins with custard. Place ramekins in roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water that reaches about one-third up sides
of ramekins. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until custards jiggle slightly. Remove from water bath, and cool. Garnish each custard with an orange section before serving.

Nutritional Estimate

This is a nutritional estimate, I do not claim it to be exact - although it is pretty close.

Calories: 119
Carbohydrates: 21g
Fat: 2g
Protein: 5g

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lime Meringue Tartelettes

Lime and Lemon Meringue pies and I have always had a contentious relationship. As long as I can remember I've always had an affinity for sour foods. Sweets hold little power for me - I could probably go the rest of my life without chocolates, cookies, and candy and not really miss them - but sour foods, that's another story. Put me in a room with a bag of Sour Patch Kids and there's little wonder who'll be walking out of their uneaten. (Now that I'm thinking about it, if I ever see a Sour Patch Kid that I think might be capable of eating me I bet it will change my entire outlook on food in general.)

As such, I've always loved lime and lemon meringue pies. I'd discard the meringue and eat the mouth-puckering filling all by itself. When the husband asked me to make a Key Lime Pie yesterday I decided it wouldn't be such a bad deal. Unfortunately it is nigh impossible to find key limes or key lime juice around here, so plain lime it was. Nevertheless, it turned out deliciously.

Typically I am not a fan of prepackaged food making its way into my kitchen, but the ease of the miniature graham cracker shells were just too hard to pass up while I was grocery shopping. We'll blame it on the jet lag from just having got back into town the night before. If you're uninterested in using the premade shells, feel free to make your own by mixing crushed graham cracker with a little sugar and melted butter.

Additionally, some people choose to add green food coloring when making lime pies and tarts to differentiate them from lemon confections. I didn't - I think food coloring is for Easter eggs. If Mother Nature had intended lime juice to be neon green she would've made it the same color as the rind - but she didn't, so enjoy it as it is. That being said, obviously feel free to do whatever the heck you want.

Lime Meringue Tartelettes

Makes 4 Tartelettes

4 mini graham cracker shells
4 yolks
125 g sugar (1/2 cup)
56 g butter, softened (4 tablespoons)
zest of 1 lime
100 ml lime juice (1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons)
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar

In a medium saucepan whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until thoroughly combined. Add butter, zest, and lime juice and stir continuously over med-low heat until thickened - about 7-10 minutes. Do NOT let boil. If it starts to simmer, remove the pan from heat and whisk until it cools enough to place back on the burner without bubbling. Divide the filling between the 4 graham shells, approximately 1/4 cup per each shell. Place in the refrigerator to set up while making the meringue. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a metal bowl (NOT aluminum), add the cream of tartar and egg whites. Whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar in a slow, continuous stream until all is combined. Continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Top each filled shell with a large dollop of meringue. Place the 4 shells on a baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until meringue is nicely browned. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with lime zest if desired.

Nutritional Estimate

This is a nutritional estimate, I do not claim it to be exact - although it is pretty close.

1 serving = 1 tartelette

Calories: 446
Carbohydrates: 61g
Fat: 21g
Protein: 6g
Fiber: 1g

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New Love...

For the first time there's a man other than my lovely husband that's got me wrapped around his tiny little fingers.

I've never felt the driving need to procreate that some women do. The pitter-patter of little feet and the scent of baby shampoo does little for me.

...or at least it didn't until I met him.

I still don't feel the push to start a family, but at least now I know how truly wonderful it can be.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Off to see the wizard...

...or at least my brand new baby nephew.

I'll be incommunicado for the next few weeks as I help my lovely sister and her husband welcome their new baby boy into the world.

See you all soon!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Cherry Strudel

It's that Daring Baker time of the month again.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

I'd never even thought of making a strudel before, so when I discovered that this month's challenge was just that I was quite happy. The rules for the challenge were fairly straightforward, we have to make the dough recipe from the selected cookbook but were free to decide what kind of filling we wanted.

I wasn't feeling super creative this month and I just happened to have bough some of the first fresh cherries of the season at the farmer's market, so cherry strudel it was. I halved and pitted the fresh cherries and used some crushed pistachio to give it some crunch.

The filling wasn't what intimidated me about making the strudel though, it was the dough. Although there isn't a great deal of it, the point is to roll it out as super thin as you possibly can so that there is layer upon layer of flaky, crunchy dough surrounding the filling - kind of like phyllo. The problem with this is that it requires a great deal of flat work space - ideally a large dining table.

However, the husband and I live like total college students and the only kitchen table we've ever had was commandeered to be the new computer desk for his gigantic computer when we moved to California. We do have a nice little table in the kitchen that we eat breakfast at on the weekends, but it's nowhere near the size one needs to roll out strudel dough.

My solution? Mini strudel.

It worked amazingly well. This dough is so supremely easy to work with it's kind of ridiculous. I was anticipating all sorts of headaches with this baby, even with only making strudel a fraction of the size of a normal one. I couldn't have been more wrong. It was like the dough was actively conspiring to help make this successful. Oh to have all my Daring Baker recipes go this well.

Linda has the recipe posted for the strudel and the traditional filling posted over at her blog, make life sweeter!, so if you're interested in trying it out yourself you can find it there.

If you're like me and don't have the space to roll out one enormous strudel, or you're too lazy - which is also like me, quite frequently - it's quite simple to make some mini strudels. This also gives one the opportunity to try out many different types of filling with only batch of dough.

My method for cherry-pistachio strudel:

Divide strudel dough into eighths, roll out as thinly as possible,

brush with melted butter, sprinkle with crushed pistachios,

top with part of cherry filling (which is merely a pound of pitted, fresh cherries tossed with a tablespoon of sugar), roll into a tight cylinder, and brush with more melted butter.

Bake at 400 F for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown, let stand for ten minutes, devour.

Easy as pie.

...or strudel.

Be sure to check out all the other Daring Bakers and their lovely creations this month at the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thai Sticky Rice With Mangoes (Khao Niao Mamuang)

Sticky rice with mangoes is a Thai dessert often sold by vendors with street carts in the spring and early summer while mangoes are in season.

It's an incredibly simple dessert to make, given that one has the ability to steam the sticky rice properly, with only 5 ingredients.

First a note on sticky rice itself; sticky rice, also called glutinous rice, is a short grain rice that is widely cultivate in Southeast Asia. Although it is called glutinous rice, it does not contain any gluten. 'Glutinous' is used in the sense that the rice is sticky, unlike other varieties of rice that are dry and fluffy when cooked. Sticky rice is also frequently called sweet rice, waxy rice, and botan rice.

Additionally, while most rice (at least in the West) is boiled, sticky rice must be soaked for several hours and steamed. I use a traditional steamer that is available in many Asian stores and on Amazon.com that looks like this:

Water is put into the lower basin and set to boil, while the rice is placed in the steamer basket. Some prefer to wrap the rice in cheesecloth before putting it into the basket. I used to take this extra step, but once I realized that the rice easily releases from the basket and cooks exactly the same way I eliminated the cheesecloth. A lid from a pot (I use the lid to my 2 quart saucepan) is placed over the top of the rice to trap the steam in the basket. The water boils and steams the rice for about 20 minutes, and voila - sticky rice.

I imagine that one can use any type of steamer that uses this method to cook the rice, it doesn't have to be a traditional basket steamer. I've never attempted it any other way, but I'm sure that someone could McGyver up a method to make it work.

For this recipe, once the rice is steamed it is simply left to soak in a pot of warmed, sweetened coconut milk until it absorbs it all and then topped with chopped, ripe mango and some sesame seeds. It's one of my husband's favorite things to eat, and if I can remember to soak the rice (it must soak for at least 8 hours before steaming) I usually make it for him whenever I find mangoes on sale.

I've used regular coconut milk for this recipe, only because the commissary was out of lite coconut milk. Coconut milk is one of the only plant products that is extremely high in saturated fat. As such I have usually tried to limit our intake of coconut milk, but according to this article on Forbes.com, I may have the wrong idea about coconuts. All the talk about good fats vs. bad fats gets can be overwhelming - but apparently even though coconuts are high in saturated fat, it's a Medium-Chain Triglyceride that the body burns as it would a carbohydrate, for energy, instead of storing it, like normal saturated fat.

All that being said, this is a delicious and ridiculously easy dessert that's great for the mango season. I suggest trying it at least once, you may fall in love with it as we have.

Thai Sticky Rice with Mangoes (Khao Niao Mamuang)

Makes 6 servings (90g rice + 75g mango)

1 cup dry glutinous rice, soaked for at least 8 hours and then steamed over boiling water for 20-25 minutes
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons sugar (preferably grated palm sugar, but white granulated will do)
2 mangoes, pitted, skinned, and chopped roughly
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

In a medium saucepan heat the coconut milk and sugar over med-low heat until hot, but not boiling. Reserve two tablespoons of the mixture, set aside. Place the still warm sticky rice into the coconut milk mixture, cover with lid, and let rest for 5 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice. Serve rice with the chopped mangoes on top, drizzle the reserved coconut-sugar mixture over the mangoes and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds.

Nutritional Estimate

This is a nutritional estimate, I do not claim it to be exact - although it is pretty close.

1 serving = 90g rice + 75g chopped mango + 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

Calories: 262
Carbohydrates: 43.5g
Fat: 9g
Protein: 3.5 g

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Refried Beans

I've always loved refried beans - they're filling and they're tasty - what can be bad about that, right?

As it turns out, refried beans are called refried because they are first cooked, then mashed and fried in lard/fat to give them their characteristically smooth, creamy texture.

Tell me the thought of that doesn't just totally skeeze you out. Beans frying in lard - not my idea of tasty fudz.

I decided that if I was ever going to eat refried beans again I had to develop my own method of making them. Turns out it's so easy that I'm pretty sure a trained monkey could actually do it.

Seriously, no exaggeration needed.

So, next time you've got a hankering for some tasty refried beans to add to your bean burrito, nachos, taco salad, etc. try this instead of loading up at your favorite Mexican joint.

Your arteries will thank you.

Refried Beans

Makes 4 Servings (1/2 cup/100 g)

1 (14 oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
kosher salt

Process the onion and garlic in a food chopper/processor until nearly pureed. If you don't have a food processor/chopper, throw on some sunglasses and chop until they're a super fine mince. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a 2 qt. saucepan until it begins to shimmer. Add the onion and garlic mixture and cook until softened, about two minutes. Add the chili powder and cumin, mixing until evenly distributed. Add the drained, rinsed pinto beans and add enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until water has decreased by half. Mash beans with a potato masher until they resemble your desired level "refried-ness." If still too thin for your liking, let sit over med-low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are as thick as you like. Serve immediately, or store in refrigerator with plastic wrap pressed directly on surface of beans so as not to form a skin.

Nutritional Estimate

This is a nutritional estimate, I do not claim it to be exact - although it is pretty close.

1 serving - 1/2 cup/100 g

Calories: 81
Fat: 1.5
Protein: 5g

Friday, May 22, 2009


Pork is an amazing, wondrous meat.

I've often considered going vegetarian - for health and environmental reasons - but it's always pork that keeps me an omnivore.

I like it smoked, baked, braised, cured - you name it, I'll eat it. I could abstain from all other meats for the rest of my life, just leave me my delicious oinky friend and I'll be just fine.

That being said, I bought a whole pork loin a while back and have since been finding different ways to use it. Following in the steps of my lovely, frugal mother, whenever I see a sale on a protein I stock up. I'd portioned the loin into different sizes for different purposes and finally found myself with one last piece left - a 1.5 lb. roast.

I figured I'd just treat it like any other roast, but as I was perusing the interwebz looking for what to do with it I decided that I'd much rather have carnitas. I already had everything else in the house that I'd need to make a delicious latin-style meal, but was unsure how well the substitution of loin for shoulder would go.

Traditionally carnitas is made using a boneless pork shoulder, also known as a Boston Butt (god only knows how it became both a butt and a shoulder). It's browned in a dutch oven and then slow-braised at a low temp for several hours. When it's fork tender it's pulled apart so it can soak up the residual juices - and then depending on tastes you can throw it back in the oven without a lid for a while to crisp up, or keep it tender and soft.

Although pork loin has a minimal amount of fat, there's relatively little marbling - nothing in comparison to what a shoulder roast has got going on. Nevertheless, I figured it was worth a shot. If it goes horribly wrong we can always order pizza, right?

I am very happy to say that it turned out amazingly well. Surprisingly well. Shockingly well.

I could eat a whole damn pot of it given the time, opportunity, and exemption of weight gain from eating that much pork at once.

I am aware that this is not a traditional recipe. However it is delicious, it's lower in fat than the traditional style, and it's damn easy to make.

You should eat this.


Serves 4

1 1/2 lb. boneless pork loin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 (14 oz) can beef broth
2 garlic cloves, smashed and then minced
2 bay leaves
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a large ovenproof skillet or dutch oven with lid, heat the two tablespoons oil over medium to medium-high heat. Season all sides of the pork loin generously with the kosher salt. Sprinkle the chili powder and cumin over all sides of the loin as well. Place the loin in the hot oil, and allow to cook, undisturbed, until it is browned. Repeat until all sides of the loin are browned, about 2-3 minutes each side. Pour in the beef broth, add garlic and the bay leaves. Cover with the lid and put in 325 F oven for two hours. After two hours check the loin, most of the liquid should be gone and it should be fork tender. If it is not, continue braising, checking every 30 minutes until it is. Using two forks, pull the meat apart and toss in the residual juices. If crispy carnitas is desired, return to the oven, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until the top is crispy. If not, serve as is with warmed tortillas and whatever condiments are preferred.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What do you do with a drunken sailor?

Why save the wine corks of course!

Sadly the story behind my wine-cork cork board is not nearly so interesting as straying behind a meandering, intoxicated seafarer who willy-nilly casts about the stoppers of his preferred beverage, picking up each and dusting them off before attaching them to a board.

I'm lucky enough (or boring enough compared to the above example) to have relatives that truly enjoy this beverage of the gods. If it had been just me it would've taken years to accumulate all these corks.

Regular wine-drinker or not, I'm quite pleased with my creation. I saw a wine-cork cork board in a magazine spread on a house in Northern California and fell in love. Granted, theirs was outside and about 6 feet by 9 feet, but mine will do just fine.

It was really quite simple to make. A little tedious - and painful - but simple. Depending on the thickness of the frame you have you may have to cut each of the corks in half lengthwise so that they don't stick out too far. If you're smart, you'll go through the extra labor of finding a thick frame - I didn't, and after spending about two hours cutting corks in half yesterday morning the tendinitis in my right arm is about to kill me.

But, after collecting the corks and buying the frame, all that really needs to be done is arrange them in a suitable manner and glue them there.

Easy as pie.

Well, actually easier than pie depending on the pie.

If you like puzzles you'll really enjoy fitting the corks in and out in different shapes and designs. If you're like me and would rather gouge out your own eyes with a salad fork than solve a puzzle then the highest level of difficulty in design you'll get to is likely what you see here.

I'm so damn creative.

So get to that wine-drinkin' and save your corks. Then put them on the wall in a pretty way so people will admire your craftiness and forget that you're a lush and drank that many bottles of wine.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Daring Ricotta Gnocchi

Two and one half years after establishing the Daring Bakers, Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice have created a whole new outlet for my food addiction with the introduction of the Daring Cooks.

One could never think that these two ladies could be more lovely, but then they astound with you lovely notions such as this one.

The next few months of my life are going to be, in a phrase, completely effing insane. Nevertheless, I plan on participating and enjoying both groups and expanding and honing my cooking and baking skills through their gentle encouragement.

For the inaugural recipe, Lis and Ivonne chose a ricotta gnocchi recipe by Judy Rogers. The recipe is located in her cookbook, titled for her restaurant of the same name, "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook."

I've only ever had gnocchi once before - and to be completely honest I was less than impressed. When I discovered what the recipe was for this month I was vaguely disappointed, but still retained hope that ricotta based gnocchi - and those made by my own two hands - would taste better than the packaged gnocchi I'd tried previously.

I was pleased that this recipe was quite easy. The only time consuming portion is draining the ricotta of the excess whey to ensure a firm gnocchi. Considering that draining the ricotta requires little to no active participation on my part, I was even more pleased.

These gnocchi were most definitely better than the packaged kind I'd had before - no surprise there. I still don't think gnocchi will ever make its way onto my list of favorite foods - but at least I've got another recipe to add to my repertoire of things I can make that will usually impress other people.

I've included below both the recipe for the gnocchi and the helpful tips provided by Lis and Ivonne if you wish to try these out yourself. I highly recommend these for anyone who 1) likes gnocchi, 2) likes ricotta, 3) likes Parmesan (that's what they taste like mostly), or 4) has some spare time and feels like trying a recipe that's entertaining and relatively tasty.

I didn't get too crazy with my version of the recipe, though we were granted latitude in deciding what flavorings or sauces we wanted. I stuck with some good old Parmigiana-Reggiano, sauteed them in French butter, and sprinkled them with some freshly ground black pepper, a few shavings of the PR, and some fresh chopped chives. They were pretty tasty, though a little egg-y in my opinion - something I heard from many people who made this recipe.

Thank you to Lis and Ivonne for not only hosting the first month of the Daring Cooks, but also for creating a super-awesome group for people that are more comfortable with the stove-top portion of the oven. I can't wait to see what's going to get cooked up for next month...

Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi
From The Zuni Café Cookbook.

Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)

Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1 hour.


- If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. As Judy Rodgers advises in her recipe, there is no substitute for fresh ricotta. It may be a bit more expensive, but it's worth it.
- Do not skip the draining step. Even if the fresh ricotta doesn't look very wet, it is. Draining the ricotta will help your gnocchi tremendously.
- When shaping your gnocchi, resist the urge to over handle them. It's okay if they look a bit wrinkled or if they're not perfectly smooth.
- If you're not freezing the gnocchi for later, cook them as soon as you can. If you let them sit around too long they may become a bit sticky.

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.

If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.

To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.

Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.

Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.

Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3 Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.

With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.

At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.

Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4 Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.

In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.

Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).

When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them to finish cooking.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I cannot even begin to put into words how incredibly relieved I am to be finished with this semester.

This was one of the most academically challenging last few months of my life. When I started college the first time at 15 it was easier than the five courses I've been taking since February.

But I took my last final this morning...and I am free!

I'm taking summer semester off because I'm going to be spending a large chunk of June in Florida. My sister is having her first child and I am so excited to meet him that I could just scream.

Additionally we'll be moving. In July. We just don't know where to.

Tell me that's not stressful, eh?

In any event, I'll have plenty of time over the next few weeks to whip up some tasty treats to share with the 7 people who read this thing.

I'm going to attempt to make recipes that are as low-calorie as possible. While suffering through the hardest load of classes EVAR - I've also managed to lose 15 lbs. I'd like to lose 5 more before I make it to Florida in a couple weeks and then after that I'm hoping and wishing to lose another 10-15 lbs. I figure that I weighed 120 lbs. for a large portion of my adolescence and dammit I'm going to get there again.

Even if I go insane in the process.

Hopefully that won't happen. But I bet if it did my husband and I would still get along great. And by that I mean he's a crazy person (love you, honey!).

I lost the power cord to my camera's battery charger for about a week, so I wasn't able to take pictures of as many things as I'd like. I finally found it though and managed to grab a few shots of a childhood favorite of many...circus animal crackers!

And oh boy is it ever.

I remember my friends having these in their school lunches and being totally envious of them. My mother never bought these kinds of things for us when we were kids - she believed in us eating things that were actually good for us....lame-o. Every chance I got I'd try and trade at the lunch table for a couple of these babies.

After trying them again, courtesy of Foodbuzz, I'm quite sad to admit that my childhood tastebuds were horribly mistaken - they taste nothing of the delicious, sprinkle-covered awesomeness that I remember. More like someone dipped cardboard in sugar.


At least they're still cute though.

I've also developed a distinct love for swiss chard in the last couple weeks. I'd never tried it before, although I've eaten just about every other green under the sun, and after my first exploration into the world of chard-y-goodness I am hooked!

It's particularly delicious sauteed up with mushrooms, shrimp, tomatoes, and cheese ravioli (tortellini in this shot - I ended up making it again a few days later but was out of ravioli).

I found that it is also delicious in baked penne. Though considering that the ingredients are largely the same it shouldn't have been too surprising. I'll blame it on the fact that my cognitive abilities have sunk to that of a goldfish after exercising my big juicy brain so thoroughly for the last few months.

And so concludes my update on the last few crazy, crazy weeks. I hope to be making a particularly tasty treat in the next few days for a particularly daring group - if you catch my drift.

Hasta luego, mi amigos.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

See you soon...

funny pictures of cats with captions

It's that finals time again folks...

I'll have my nose stuck in books for the next week brushing up on systems development, Kantian ethics, Piaget's development stages, and the AP style of documentation.

See you on the other side!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Daring Lime Cheesecake

Hoo-boy did I drop the ball this month. I should've had this baby up a couple days ago. I'll resist from blaming it on homework (but it was homework's fault. stupid homework.)

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Jenny chose quite the delicious recipe, I will admit. It was a little too rich for me, so I did change it up a little bit.

I replaced the heavy cream with evaporated milk and halved the butter in the crust. I also replaced the extracts and flavorings in the original recipe with fresh squeezed lime juice and added lime zest to the graham cracker crust.

It was delicious.

I let myself eat two pieces before sacrificing it to the trash can gods.

I'm on a diet here, people. (Whoo - lost 12 pounds!) I can't be eating cheesecakes for weeks on end.

Which is how long I would've been eating it because I wasn't smart enough to halve the recipe.

This was a very good cheesecake. It was a very good recipe. Jenny was a great host. Be sure to check out her blog and the rest of the Daring Bakers on the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.