Chocolate Cookie Dough Cheesecake Pie

I can’t believe today is the last day of July. Before you know it, summer will be nothing but a memory, and all the store shelves will be stocked with holiday paraphernalia. Yes, I’m looking at you, Costco. Because nothing says the holidays are a’comin’ quite like a large inflatable Santa in the middle of the seafood section.

He obviously has his eyes on the king crab legs…...

In other breaking news, Alexander starts 11th grade in three weeks
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It’s going to be a bit odd for me to be driving just him to school. Or should I say, he’ll be driving to school (with me in the passengers seat) to acquire the hours he needs to get his license in November.

The streets of Austin will never be the same…..

Chocolate Cookie Dough Cheesecake Pie – adapted from Bake or Break

For the crust:
    • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
For the chocolate cookie dough:
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 2 tbs. milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
For the cheesecake:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Greek Yogurt (or sour cream)

    Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch pie pan. Mix together crumbs and butter until combined. Press into bottom and up sides of prepared pan, then bake for 10 minutes.

    Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in milk and vanilla, then add cocoa powder and flour. Mix on low speed until combined. Carefully spread dough over prepared crust. Refrigerate while making the cheesecake.

    Beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and yogurt. Spread evenly on top of cookie dough layer.

    Refrigerate about 3 hours before serving.

 

Mocha Biscotti Icebox Cake

Over the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about drive. And ambition. Enthusiasm, too. All the things that motivate you to jump out of bed every morning, full of vigor and make you excited to take on the day.

For me, my greatest passion is baking. Every single day, I look forward to that moment when I have my recipe ready, baking supplies mise en place, knowing I am going to create something delicious that I can share with my trusted tasting crew.

And even though every recipe I try doesn’t receive a 5 star rating (there have been more than a few unsuccessful ventures lately...), I never stop pushing forward and reaching for another goal.

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Goals are good. Achieving them is even better.

Mocha Biscotti Icebox Cake – adapted from Ina Garten

2 cups cold heavy cream
16 oz Italian mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Kahlua liqueur
2 tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbs.  pure vanilla extract
9 chocolate chip biscotti, crumbled

  • 12 crisp ladyfingers (saviordi)
  • 1/4 cup espresso sweetened with 2 tsp sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks.

To assemble the cake, arrange a layer of ladyfingers in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. Drizzle half the espresso over them. Then spread about a third of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the top. Crumble three biscotti and sprinkle them over the mocha cream. Place another layer of ladyfingers on top, drizzle with the remaining espresso, and follow with another third of the cream. Crumble another three biscotti and sprinkle them over. Cover them with the last third of the cream. Smooth the top, then sprinkle the remaining biscotti over the surface. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Cut in wedges, and serve cold.

Mixed Berry Jam

I have been on a huge DIY kick lately. I’m not sure what’s come over me, but I am embracing my creativeness and  reaping the tasty benefits of my work. Within the last two weeks, I’ve made ricotta cheese, sour cream, creme fraiche, and tried a new method for making thicker Greek yogurt. All of those projects were a complete and delicious victory!

My task for this weekend (aside from finishing my indoor herb garden) is going to be making mascarpone cheese. According to the directions, using unpasteurized cream is a necessary component for achieving cheese success. The stores here in Austin don’t sell such a product, but luckily I found a local dairy close to the ranch that sells unpasteurized milk and cream.  And my timing was perfect because according to the owner, the cows are going on vacation and there won’t be any milk available again until late September / early October.

Ok, they aren’t really going on vacation, the actual term used was “hiatus”.

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I wonder what cows do on their time off?

Mixed Berry Jam – adapted from food52

Combine 8 cups of mixed berries and 1 cup of sugar in a big bowl. If the fruit is tart, you may want to add more sugar. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon and stir well, dissolving the sugar in the process. Cover the bowl and let the flavors develop for at least two hours on the counter, or put the bowl in the refrigerator for a day or even two days before proceeding.

Place a colander over a large pot (at least 5 quarts, non-reactive, and heavy bottomed like Le Creuset) and pour in the fruit mixture, so the syrup goes into the pot and separates from the fruit. Let it drip for a few minutes, then place the colander in a bowl to catch any additional syrup. Put the pot on the cooktop, clip on a candy thermometer, turn the heat to high and bring the syrup to 220° F, the soft gel stage. Once the syrup has reached temperature (220° F), add the berries back from the colander (and any accumulated syrup). Keep the heat high and do not stop stirring.

Stir until the fruit is no longer floating and there is only a little bit of foam on the surface. Remove the pot from the heat, and let cool for two minutes. With a spatula or wooden spoon, gently press against the surface of the preserves: It should wrinkle slightly. (If it doesn’t, place the pot back on the heat and test again after two or three minutes at a hard boil.)

Off the heat, add a generous tablespoon of liqueur —I used Cointreau. Ladle the preserves into four or five half-pint (8-ounce) jars. Store in the refrigerator or process in a hot water bath for longer storage.

Super Crumb Crumb Cake

Today is my last day of peace, quiet and serenity.

Ahhhh – bliss…….

Tomorrow it all comes to a screeching halt, as the posse will be returning to Austin in the morning. What this means is a substantial increase in the amount of  noise, a definite surge in the amount of cooking/baking, and a high probability of rambunctious teenagers (read: Alexander’s friends) loitering about in the hopes of being invited to stay for dinner.

I think I see the potential for negotiation: dinner = helping out at the ranch.

It’s a good (albeit slightly devious) strategy…..
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Super Crumb Crumb Cake – adapted from Serious Eats

There’s crumb cake, and then there’s CRUMB cake. Be warned: it’s extremely delicious…

  • For the Batter:
  • 1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbs. (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tbs. canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk

For the Crumb Topping:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tbs. cinnamon
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 18 tbs. (9 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

Adjust rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9- by 9-inch baking pan. To make the batter, stir the flour, sugar, brown sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter, oil, egg, vanilla, and milk to bowl and whisk until smooth. Spread into prepared pan.

For the topping, in the same unwashed bowl that contained the batter, combine flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add vanilla and melted butter, and then toss with a fork until mixture forms large moist crumbs. Scatter over top of batter. Bake until center is firm to the touch, about 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or room temperature.

Yogurt Panna Cotta

I have a huge weakness for panna cotta. Correction –  I have a huge weakness for almost all desserts – but custards, puddings, and souffles are very high on my list. And anything with chocolate. But that’s another story.

Traditional panna cotta is nothing more than cream, sugar, vanilla and gelatin – and although the name translates to “cooked cream”, it isn’t cooked at all – the gelatin provides the structure to hold it together. This version, made with milk and yogurt, instead of the usual heavy cream, is perfect for breakfast. It’s not very sweet at all, so feel free to increase the amount of sugar to your liking. I prefer mine on the tart side, as it makes me feel more virtuous.

And less guilty about the chocolate chip biscotti I have after it……
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Yogurt Panna Cotta – adapted from myrecipes

2 cups milk (I used 2%)
2 tsp plain, unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 tbs vanilla extract

 Pour 1 cup milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over top. Let soften for 5 minutes, then stir until dissolved.

In a medium saucepan, mix remaining milk and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring. Remove from heat; stir in gelatin mixture, then whisk in yogurt and vanilla. Divide among 8 6-ounce ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap; chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

Serve with fresh fruit.

Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma

After spending three glorious days in Vegas with my parents, I feel invigorated, refreshed, and re-energized. The large amount of time Mom and I spent clothes shopping miiiiiiight have had something to do with it…. Seriously though, it was simply wonderful to have all that uninterrupted time with them to chat, brainstorm, plot, plan, and of course, eat.

And eat. And then eat some more….

Now I’m back in the wondrous humidity of Austin (that’s not sarcasm, I felt like a shriveled raisin in the extreme dryness of Vegas.. ), and now it’s time to sort through the mail, catch up on laundry, and plan dinner.

There’s that eating thing again….

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Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma – adapted from Sam Sifton

This was well worth the very minute amount of time and effort it took to put together. I was really ahead of the plan by prepping the marinade the night before, and the next morning, I mixed the chicken with the marinade and let it chill in the refrigerator until I was ready to cook it later that afternoon.

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  •  Red-pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. Prepare the marinade for the chicken. Combine the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and red-pepper flakes in a  bowl, then whisk to combine. Add the chicken, and toss well to coat. Cover, and store in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425. Use the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to grease a rimmed sheet pan. Add the quartered onion to the chicken and marinade, and toss once to combine. Remove the chicken and onion from the marinade, and place on the pan, spreading everything evenly across it.
  3. Put the chicken in the oven, and roast until it is browned, crisp at the edges and cooked through, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven. To make the chicken even more crisp, put the pan under the broiler for about 2 minutes. Scatter the parsley over the top and serve with tzatziki and pita bread. Tabbouleh salad would be a good accompaniment too.

Cannoli Icebox Cake

For a dessert that was declared, “One of the best cakes you’ve ever made, honey”, you might think I would have tried to get a better picture of it.

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Truthfully, I was lucky to get A picture of it. J and I absolutely loved this cake, and demolished it in about 3 days. With the summer heat in full swing, no-bake cakes and pies are high on my list.

Along with air conditioning and fruity beverages……

Cannoli Icebox Cake – adapted from Bake or Break

  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips, plus more for garnish
  • about 14 honey graham cracker sheets
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbs. granulated sugar

    Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the ricotta, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and yogurt until smooth.

    Arrange a layer of graham crackers in the bottom of a 9-inch square pan, breaking the crackers as needed to fit and cover the bottom. Carefully spread about a third of the ricotta filling over the crackers. Top with another layer of crackers and half of the remaining filling. Repeat with another layer of crackers and the remaining filling. Place the pan in the refrigerator.

    Place the cream in a large, cold mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat at medium-high speed until the cream begins to thicken. Add the sugar and continue beating until you can lift the whisk out of the whipped cream and a peak that curves downward forms in the cream. This should take 2 to 3 minutes. Spread the whipped cream over the top of the icebox cake. Sprinkle with more chocolate chips.

    Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Keep refrigerated.