The Importance Of A Pastry Blender

Last weekend I thought I would try out a new dessert. I found a recipe on Pinterest for Cheesecake Lemon Bars and decided to try them. I am not a huge fan of lemon but I wanted something different. The first step of this recipe involves making the crust for the bars using flour, powdered sugar and cold butter. The recipe said to cut the butter in using a pastry blender or a fork. I do not have a pastry blender so I tried using a fork……mistake. I could not get it crumbly enough. I used what I could to press into my baking dish as the crust and had to end up throwing half of the flour/sugar mixture away. I baked it in the oven per the recipe and it was a completely uneven crust. The middle wasn’t too bad but the edges were very sparse and the whole thing was way too thin. I decided to make the fillings anyway and finish the bars. It consisted of making the lemon layer then the cheesecake layer, pouring them on top of the pathetic crust and baking them in the oven.

Despite the almost nonexistent crust layer, these bars are pretty good. The lemon layer ended up running a little but that was because of the thin crust. I’m pretty sure these would have been out of this world if the crust had been done properly using a pastry blender. I don’t know why I never bought one, they are pretty cheap. Needless to say, it is now on my shopping list.

Cheesecake Lemon Bars

original recipe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Cheesecake-Lemon-Bars/Detail.aspx

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten

Instructions:

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly butter a 9×13-inch baking dish.

Whisk together 1 1/2 cup flour and confectioners’ sugar in a mixing bowl. Cut in the cold butter with a knife or pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared baking dish to form a crust.

Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside.

Whisk together 4 eggs, 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a bowl. Pour lemon mixture into the prepared crust. Skim off any bubbles from the surface of the filling. Mix the cream cheese and 1 cup sugar in a bowl until well blended. Whisk in 2 eggs, then spread over the lemon mixture. The mixtures will separate during baking.

Bake in the preheated oven until the filling is set, about 30 minutes.

I’m back…..I think

Wow! It has been so long since I posted anything! I’ve been busy. We took a vacation in February to Kauai that was absolutely amazing but it has taken a very long time to get back into a normal routine especially since this winter seems never ending. I have finally started cooking again. There’s been a few disasters and some successes as well so I hope to start posting them as soon as I can.

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

I enjoy eating bananas, however, I like them a little green.  I am not a big fan of the really ripe ones.  So sometimes, the bananas get too ripe for me by the end of the week and last time this happened, I decided to use them to make a dessert with bananas in them.

And these muffins were so good I decided to make another batch the next day and bring them in for my co-workers.  The only thing I did different with this batch was that I used sour cream instead of the pain yogurt since I didn’t have any more.  I would definitely recommend using the yogurt if you can because they were a bit moister, but sour cream can definitely be used in a pinch.

Here is the recipe I used, I got this from allrecipes.com

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 ts baking powder

1 ts baking soda

1/2 ts salt

1 egg

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 ts vanilla extract

1 cup mashed ripe banana (I did not measure but used 2 medium bananas)

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl, combine the egg, oil, yogurt and vanilla.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Fold in bananas and chocolate chips.  Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups two thirds full.  Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans. 

The Perfect Pumpkin Pie

The pumpkin obsession continued this weekend..I decided to make the perfect pumpkin pie.  I have tried several different recipes for this pie, and this is definitely my favorite one.  My husband and I had over half of the pie eaten in one evening.  It’s so fast and easy to make too..my favorite characteristics of a recipe :)

This is the recipe..I got it from allrecipes.com

Perfect Pumpkin Pie

1 15 oz can pumpkin

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

2 large eggs

1 ts ground cinnamon

1/2 ts ground ginger

1/2 ts ground nutmeg

1/2 ts salt

1 9 inch unbaked pie crust (I used a Pillsbury frozen crust)

Preheat oven to 425.  Whisk pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt in medium bowl until smooth.  Pour into crust.  Bake 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temp to 350 and continue baking 35-40 minutes.  Cool before serving.

My Pumpkin Addiction

Yes, it is true.  I have a SERIOUS pumpkin addiction.  I don’t know when it started, but I honestly can’t get enough pumpkin.  I do not like the Fall season in general, however, I am ecstatic the day they start serving the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks and the Pumpkin Cheesecake at the Olive Garden.

Now that I am cooking and baking a lot more than I used to, I am also obsessed with using pumpkin.  This weekend I made pumpkin chocolate chip brownies and a no-bake pumpkin cheesecake.  Both were divine!

First the brownies…the recipe called for a 11×7 pan..I do not have this size.  I used a 9×13 and lined it with parchment paper.  That was my first mistake.  It really would have been better in an 8×8. Below is a pic of what it looked like after it was cooked.  Normally, when a recipe gives a range of cooking times, I use the least time given and this works best with my oven.  This recipe said 15-20 minutes so I cooked for 15 minutes…mistake number 2.  The outsides were done, but the inside was definitely not.  I did not notice this until later when it completely cooled.  I did use the toothpick test to see if it was done, but I believe I stuck the toothpick close to the outside where it was completely cooked.  So the inside brownies had more of a cookie dough consistency.  This was not a problem for me, I ate them anyway :)

Here is the recipe I used. (from penniesonaplatter.com)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies 
Yield: 24 small brownies  (not even close, I think I got 12)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Line an 11″x7 inch pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine pumpkin puree, eggs and oil until smooth.  Set aside.
In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and brown sugar. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until passes toothpick test.  Cool completely before cutting.

I also made a no-bake pumpkin cheesecake.  This was much more of a success and is amazing!  Also, it’s a healthier than a regular cheesecake, but still has enough of a creamy consistency to satisfy me.

Here is the recipe.  (from http://www.skinnytaste.com)

Pumpkin Spice No-Bake Cheesecake

  • 7 oz 1/3 less fat Philadelphia Cream Cheese (I used 8 oz – the whole block)
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (I used canned)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, unpacked
  • 8 oz Cool Whip Free, thawed
  • 9 inch reduced fat Graham Cracker Crust (I used regular, store didn’t have reduced fat in the 9 inch size)

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, whip cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar for a few minutes until fluffy. Add Cool Whip and whip until smooth. Spoon mixture into pie crust and chill for a few hours, until firm.

C’mon Man!

Have you ever watched the segment, “C’mon Man!” before an NFL game?  I forget which network airs this..but it’s my favorite part of the pregame show!  Seriously, some things are so ridiculous, you can do nothing else but just say “C’mon Man!”  Take for example something that happened last night between my husband and myself.  We hardly ever argue or get irritated with each other, but the one thing that gets us more irritated than anything else is technology..speficially our desktop and laptop computers.  My husband had to teach a class today at work that he had a Powerpoint presentation for.  He had a separate sheet made up for himself that had all the notes he needed talk about which corresponded with each slide.  He had to work late so we did not get on the laptop until 9:00.  He was going to go through a practice session with me to make sure the notes matched up with the correct slides.  First step was to print off his copy from our laptop which is wirelessly connected to our printer…or so we thought.  We spent close to an hour trying to get this stupid thing to print.  It kept saying our printer was Offline and nothing I did was bringing it online.  We both think we know what we are doing on the computer when the truth is neither of us have much of a clue.  So I would try one thing, then he would try one thing.  We went back and forth like this for what seemed like an eternity..when finally..a light came on in my head somewhere and I said “Why don’t we just save the stuff on our flash drive, put it on the desktop computer and print it from there?”  Seriously, I think sometimes between the two of us..maybe we have 1 brain.  So we print it off the desktop..a 29 page document in which his extra notes are in blue and everything else is in black.  We get through 6 pages and then realize we are completely out of color ink so none of the extra notes are printing at all, just the stuff in black.  So we stop the printing, go back to the print screen and I change it to only print the remaining pages..totally forgetting we need to change it to print in grayscale.  The pages start coming out again, and again, the extra notes are not printing at all.  AGAIN, we stop the printing, this time change to grayscale and set to print only the remaining pages.  By the time we were done with the whole mess, it was about 11:00 and we were both thoroughly irritated.  No time or desire to practice the presentation at all.  What a waste…c’mon man!

Zucchini meltdown

Last night I attempted to make a recipe I recently found on Pinterest.  It seemed like a good idea in theory..however my execution needed work.  The problem was with the zucchini I shredded.  I have never shredded a zucchini before and honestly, this is the first summer I have ever even tried to cook with zucchini.  The recipe said to grate the zucchini into a dish towel and then squeeze out as much water as you could.  Well…how dare they suggest I mess up a good dish towel!  Thinking I could do this my own way, I grated the zucchini into a small strainer in the sink and squeezed out some liquid with paper towels.  Needless to say, this was not my brightest idea and totally messed up the recipe.  There was way too much moisture in the bites so they did not hold together very well.  Also, I had just done some dishes in the sink before this and apparently there was still a little dish soap in the bottom of the sink so some of the bites ended up tasting like soap :(  My husband wouldn’t even try them…I ate six.  They are pretty low cal..3 are only 108 calories.  Here is a pic of what they looked like when they were done.  This does NOT look like the pic on the blog from which this recipe was taken.  I’m also including the recipe because these would have been delicious had I taken all the moisture out of the zucchini and minus the soapy taste.  I will try these again sometime now that I know what NOT to do.

Zucchini Bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup zucchini, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°.  Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.

Grate the zucchini into a clean dish towel.  Wring all of the excess water out of the zucchini. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Fill each muffin section to the top, pushing down on the filling with your spoon so it’s nice and compacted so they don’t fall apart when you take them out of the tin.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until the tops are golden.

Use a plastic knife or rubber spatula around the edges of each tot to remove them from the muffin tin. Enjoy!!

Am I the only one who has done something like this?