Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftover Idea - Cranberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

I hope that each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. After a day delay, mine was great.

A little background - since I used to live in So. Cal, my family had their Thanksgiving on the Sunday before, and then my mom would fly down for Thanksgiving with me. Now that I have moved back to the Pacific North West, we still have Thanksgiving the Sunday before.

This year, we had a few scares that made us delay the celebration a day. My niece flipped her go kart while racing in her main. She was transported by the wonderful Raymond Fire Department to a local hospital, then transferred to Harborview. Luckily, the only injuries she sustained were a broken shoulder bone, cracked collar bone, and bruised lung.

While we were all dealing with this, and trying to support her parents through this, my SIL Kristie went to the local hospital with severe food poisoning. There is still part of me that finds it amazing she got food poisoning from a vegetarian burrito...and at my favorite fast food mexican place too! Luckily, again, she has fully recovered.

So, my number one thing to be thankful this year? Thankfully, none of my family is in the hospital, and should suffer no long term ill effects of this past week. I also learned I make a very poor burglar. I tried to break into my brothers house, and all I ended up with was 2 bruises and a wedgie...but that is another story.

Now on to the food! This little gem is perfect - its quick, easy, and tastes a little light, even though we all know its not. And the best part is it can be prepared with under 7 ingredients.

A word about the cranberry sauce used here - I make my own cranberry sauce - it's so easy, and so much better than what can be bought. It's really just cranberries, sugar, orange juice, and some flavorings...I put 1 lb of cranberries in a pan, add 1/3 c. water, juice of 2 oranges, rind of 1 orange, 2/3 to 1 cup sugar, 1 t. ginger, and 1 t. salt. Then I bring to boil, and cook until most of the cranberries have popped. I taste for sugar level, and add more if needed. Before serving, I take out the rind of the orange.

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Cranberry topping

3/4 cup cranberry sauce
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 T. sugar
1 T. vanilla
3 T. whipping cream
12 oz. white chocolate chips, melted, then cooled
20 vanilla wafer cookies

Prepare your pans - fill cupcake tins with a cupcake liner. Place one cookie in each liner. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and whipping cream. Whip for 5-6 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add melted chocolate chips, and whip an additional 1-2 minutes. Place 2-3 T. on top of each cookie in your prepared tins. Chill. Before serving, place 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cranberry relish on top. Serve Cold.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Coconut Bread, and White Bread

I love fresh bread. I love the process of creating it, whether its in a stand mixer, or kneading it by hand. I love to feel the dough change under my hands, and feel the warmth after the first rise. I love the smell of it baking - that intoxicating smell somehow makes your home feel more like home. It is just relaxing.

Yea, you normally don't hear me waxing poetic about things. I feel like I always have to add to what is being said in order for my voice to be heard. And, I'm just a reserved person. Blogging is a pretty big stretch for me. But, I love to share my cooking, so its time to overcome those obstacles.
I have been baking a lot of bread lately - at least once a week. When I bake bread, I usually make 2 loaves - one for me, and one for one of my brothers families. I know Fawn loves fresh bread, and I think Kristie does too. I know my mom does.

The first bread I made is a new recipe to me. I was looking for a great bread recipe, and I found it - if you haven't been there before, I love King Arthur Bread recipes. I followed this recipe pretty much exactly, except I added wheat gluten to my flour. And, I changed the method. I like to let my bread sit for a few minutes before I knead it. I think it gives me a nicer bread. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.

This bread is just everything you would want in a sandwich bread. It was perfect with nutella and frozen raspberry curd for breakfast, and it toasts perfectly. You can tell from the picture that I didn't let it rise enough - forgive me, I was impatient.

This second bread was a revelation to me. I have been seeing organic coconut oil all over lately. So, I did some research on it. Turns out, as long as its not super processed for you, it may not be as bad for us as we were told. And, it tastes amazing. Better than cheesecake amazing. I love that rich, tropical taste of coconut milk. Paired with coconut oil makes it even better.

Now I'm going back to my luscious coconut bread. For a printable recipe, click here.

Coconut Bread

Adapted from an already awesome recipe for white bread here

3 cups all purpose unbleached flour, or if you want more texture, 2 ½ cups flour and ½ c. wheat gluten

½ cup coconut milk

½ cup warm water

4 tablespoons melted organic coconut oil

1 T. sugar

1 T. active dry yeast (that’s about 1 packet)

1 t. kosher salt

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in ½ c. warm water with your sugar. Set aside and see if it bubbles up. If it doesn’t get at least foamy within about 20 minutes, toss and get more yeast. Once it bubbles, you are ready to go.

Add 2 cups flour (or 1 ½ cups and your wheat gluten) to a mixing bowl. Add coconut milk, yeast mixture, and coconut oil. Stir until well incorporated. Add salt, stir again. Let rest 15-20 minutes in your kitchen.

After the dough has rested, add as much remaining flour that dough will take. If you are using a stand mixer, attach your dough hook and begin on low medium speed. Your dough has had enough flour when it stops sticking to the bowl and starts forming a smooth mass. Knead in the mixer for 3-5 minutes until dough is very smooth and elastic.

If you are kneading by hand, after the first rest, turn dough out onto a floured board and begin kneading. Your dough may need up to an additional cup of flour, so be generous with your flour until your dough can take no more. Knead 5-6 minutes until smooth.

Place in an oiled dish, turning the dough once so surface is lightly oiled. Cover and let rise in warm place for up to 2 hours, until double in size.

Deflate dough and shape into a rectangle with one side of your rectangle the same size as your loaf pan, about 8”. Gently roll dough to form a loaf. Place in a lightly oiled (or sprayed) loaf pan. Cover again and let rise about 1 hour.

After your dough has risen to double again, preheat oven to 350. Bake bread for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and top sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Let cool before slicing.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Playing with your food - canned biscuits version

So, my SIL and I have entered the dark side of couponing, trying to save money on our every day items. We've learned a lot, and this is some of the fruits of our, well, labor. No, I'm not going to turn this into a coupon blog, but I do like a challenge.

I was challenged to create some variations on canned crescent rolls and canned cinnamon rolls. While I will tell you what I did, the pro's and con's of each, I must admit - I still don't care much for the canned cinnamon rolls. There just isn't a lot you can do with them to take that processed taste out of the mix. And, while some may like that distinctive taste, I don't.

The Orange rolls, however, are a different story. They can make quite a few tasty treats!

First up, the cinnamon rolls, though. The first thing I thought of is how can I reshape them. Since I have been experimenting with cinnamon breadsticks (not very successfully, they are all too crunchy and lose that soft yumminess), I knew those were out. What is left? Well, rolling them out, of course.

But, since I'm all into time saving and the like (I'm lazy), I chose to smash 'em in my tortilla press. That was more fun, too. If you chose to do this, put them between two sheets of wax paper or parchment paper, or you will have a mess on your hands. One more tip - make sure they are tightly wound into cinnamon rolls before you do this - they have a tendency to not stay together.

The other tip is with the frosting - I frosted them with the frosting that came with the rolls. Since I wanted a glaze consistency, I popped it in the microwave for about 7 seconds and it became the perfect drizzle consistency.

So, what do you do with them after you are done smashing them? Well, here are some ideas:

1. Heat a medium non stick skillet, lightly brush it with oil, and fry the cinnamon disks to make cinnamon bread. My niece loved these, and since the cinnamon rolls tend to be a bit dry if you aren't careful, these didn't dry out. And, you get the caramelly bits of the cooked sugar.

2. Form them into a large muffin tin, after you have sprayed the muffin tin, of course. Then fill with a mixture of fresh sauteed apple, a bit of sugar, and a bit of cinnamon. Bake for 25 or so minutes at 350, until the apples are warm. Drizzle with glaze and serve. If you don't want to use a fresh apple, you can use apple or cherry pie filling.

3. Turn a normal size muffin tin upside down, spray the bottom with cooking spray, and drape each of the disks around the bottom of the muffin tin. Bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes until lightly brown. Let cool completely, and use as little cinnamon roll cups. What to use as filling? Yogurt, apple sauce, or fresh fruit are all good choices.

4. Make sure the cinnamon disks are sealed, and use them for turnover dough. Some fillings I used are: 1/2 fun size snicker bar, 2 hershey kisses, fresh apples, or apple butter. They can each hold about 1 1/2 t. filling. Seal the edges together and bake for 15-18 minutes at 350, until lightly brown. Drizzle with icing.

With all of this experimenting, I have to say - the orange ones are really tasty as turnover batter. They were the first to go. What did I fill them with? Either 2 hershey kisses, or 1 1/2 t. raspberry all fruit preserves. Or, I did fill a few with 1 t. cream cheese, and they were really tasty. So, if you find yourself with some extra coupons for canned cinnamon rolls, get the orange ones and get creative.

Did I mention they were really fun to smash in my tortilla press? Yea, that was my favorite part.

Now on to crescent rolls. These are a bit easier, since they can be the base of a nice appetizer, and you can fill them with all sorts of cool stuff. I did get some of the newer crescent rounds, and they were fun to bake into little crescent cups and fill. Some if the fillings I used:

- An equal mixture of nutella and cream cheese
- Crushed Pineapple
- Yogurt
- Cook them with a funsize snicker bar in the middle.

Finally, I took some ordinary crescent rolls, and thought I would list my favorite sweet fillings for them:

- 2 t. all fruit preserves or fruit butter
- any fun size candy bar
- 2 caramel candies
- 2 hershey kisses
- 2 t. kaya
- 2 t. equal mix of nutella and cream cheese
- 2 t. pie filling

You can also dress them up a bit if you brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar before baking.