Monthly Archives: July 2013

Salted caramel cheesecake cupcakes

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One of my favourite things to bake is cheesecake. I’m not really sure why. I guess it happened to be one of the first things I learned how to bake once I graduated on from cupcakes. I have a classic New York Cheesecake recipe that I tend to make at least once every few months because it is unbelievable. And don’t they say that by the time you’re in your thirties you’re supposed to know how to cook a couple things really really well? Not that I’m thinking much of being in my thirties but I do like the idea of being the master of a handful of dishes.

Cheesecake can be a bit tricky- if you don’t have the temperatures right or if you overcook the cake the top will begin to crack or the sides will burn and you’ll ruin the texture and the taste of the entire dessert. Not only is it important to follow the recipe, it’s also pretty important to get to know your oven. In the past few years I’ve had to deal with a gas-lit oven that you had to basically throw a burning match into to turn on, a fan-forced oven in a brand new apartment that liked to shut itself off every once in a while, and an oven in a much older apartment that seems to be changing temperatures from minute to minute. But once you get used to the quirks you can handle pretty much anything.

Luckily I was at home when I made these cute little treats and I know that oven extremely well. This is a great recipe for party treats as you can make heaps of little cupcakes very easily. They keep well for a few days and taste amaaaazing.

Salted caramel cheesecake cupcakes
Makes 24 normal sized cupcakes
Recipe from Cooking Classy

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups finely crushed graham crackers (from 18 sheets)
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
7 Tbsp salted butter, melted
4 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salted Caramel Sauce, recipe follows

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together crushed graham crackers with 3 Tbsp granulated sugar. Pour in melted butter and stir mixture until evenly coated. Divide graham cracker mixture among 24 paper lined muffin cups, adding about a heaping Tbsp to each. Press mixture into an even layer. Bake in preheated oven 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool while preparing filling.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar with 3 Tbsp flour until well blended. Add softened cream cheese to a separate mixing bowl and pour sugar mixture over top. Blend mixture on low speed until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time and blend on low speed, while scrapping sides and bottom of bowl and mixing just until combined after each addition. Add vanilla, sour cream and heavy cream and mix just until combined. Tap mixing bowl against counter top about 30 times to release some of the air bubbles. Divide mixture among muffin cups filling each cup nearly full. Bake in preheated oven 20 – 23 minutes, centers should still jiggle slightly, don’t overbake (if they begin to crack they are starting to become overbaked). Remove from oven and allow to cool 1 hour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator and chill 2 hours. Serve chilled with a spoonful of Salted Caramel Sauce  (note: for best results spoon topping on just before serving). Store in an airtight container in refrigerator or freeze.

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Salted caramel sauce

Ingredients:
1 1 /2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water
6 Tbsp salted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream*
Maldon or coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions
Gather all of your ingredients and have them nearby ready to add to the mixture as needed. In a heavy-bottomed 3 quart saucepan, heat sugar and water over moderately high heat whisking constantly to dissolve sugar. Once mixture reaches a boil, stop whisking and allow mixture to boil until it reaches a dark amber color, carefully swirling pan occasionally. Once mixture reaches a dark amber color, immediately add butter and whisk until butter has melted then immediately remove from heat. Wait 3 seconds then carefully pour in cream and immediately whisk to combine (it will bubble vigorously). Whisk until mixture is smooth. Allow caramel to cool several minutes then pour into a glass jar to cool. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt after spooning caramel over cheesecakes.

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Pork kebabs with cold peanut-sesame noodles

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This ‘Asian cookout’ style meal is great for summer. The pork definitely has a kick from the sriracha but it’s also got a great sweet balance from the soy sauce and brown sugar. The noodles are really easy as well- all you have to do is cook the noodles, slice up the carrot and cilantro and the rest is the addition of the sesame-peanut sauce. They keep well and are served cold so they’re perfect for leftovers. Unfortunately I was still recovering from wisdom teeth surgery when I made this meal and it took a whole lot of restraint not to chow down on the pork kebabs. This can be a great weeknight dish if you make the noodles ahead of time- otherwise it’s a great dish to have outside on the weekend with a cold, crisp bottle of white wine.

Spicy pork kebabs
Serves 4
Recipe from: Domesticate-Me 

Ingredients:
1½ lbs pork tenderloin, sliced into ½ inch rounds
Bamboo or metal skewers (if using bamboo soak them in 20 minutes before cooking)
For the marinade:
¼ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
For garnish: (optional)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Preparing your spicy pork skewers:
-Start by mixing all the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl. Set the marinade aside while you prepare your skewers.
-Slice your pork tenderloin into ½ inch rounds. Thread the rounds onto the skewers.
-Place the skewers in a large Ziploc bag (or a shallow baking dish) and pour the marinade over them. Refrigerate for at least an hour. The longer you can marinate, the better.
-Remove your skewers from the Ziploc bag and place them on a lightly oiled grill or grill pan. Grill for approximately 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
Cold peanut-sesame noodles
Serves 6
Recipe from Food Network
Ingredients:
Kosher salt
12 ounces flat Chinese egg noodles
3/4 cup strong brewed green tea
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup roasted peanut oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, plus more for topping
1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled
1 small clove garlic
2 carrots, finely grated
Chopped fresh cilantro and peanuts, for topping
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook as the label directs, then drain.Meanwhile, make the sauce: Combine the green tea, peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and peanut oil in a blender. Add the sesame seeds, chili-garlic sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt; process until smooth.

Toss the noodles with the peanut sauce and carrots in a large bowl. Chill about 1 hour. Top with cilantro, peanuts and more sesame seeds.
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Mussels with white wine and cream

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I’ve spent a lot of time around mussels. Serving them, clearing them, tasting them, seeing them be cooked, seeing them be cleaned. Obviously not in that order, but you get what I mean. Working in a Belgian Beer Cafe you see a lot of mussels. Yet, I’m not quite sick of them. I used to think they were pretty gross looking but really, who doesn’t?

I first started to appreciate them in Western Australia when my parents would buy them cold from the supermarket cooked and marinated in a simple olive oil and herb mixture. I had them again in Quebec, Canada covered in garlic and cream and bacon and thought I had died and gone to heaven. And when I started living in Sydney one of my best friends told me I just had to try out this Belgian Beer Cafe where they served blue cheese mussels. Even as a red-blooded American who loves her blue cheese, I was pretty skeptical. But I tagged along- had an amazingly rich and creamy bowl of mussels and funnily enough also landed myself a trial at the restaurant that would become a big part of my life for the next two years. So yeah, mussels and I have had a pretty emotional journey.

Though we’ve been on such great adventures together, I’ve never really cooked mussels at home before. My dad’s played around with them in the kitchen once or twice but I’ve never done it myself. A few months ago Ciaran and I found ourselves at the Taste of Sydney festival and decided to bring home a packet of Spring Bay mussels. We picked up a little recipe card at the same stand and decided to go the simple route and just follow that. It’s a great weeknight meal because it’s quick, simple and low-fuss. Just pair your dish with some fresh, crusty bread and a nice bottle of wine.

Mussels with white wine & cream (Moules mariniere)

Serves: 2 as a main or 3-4 as a starter
Recipe from Spring Bay

Ingredients

  • 1kg packet Spring Bay Mussels
  • 15g unsalted butter
  • 2 (30g) purple eschallots or ½ a red onion, very finely diced
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • a sprig of thyme
  • a bay leaf
  • 100ml white wine
  • 150ml thickened or whipping cream
  • ¼ cup rough chopped continental parsley

Method

  1. Heat a large heavy based pot with a tight fitting lid over a low heat.
  2. Add the butter, when it’s melted add the eschallots, garlic and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the eschallots are clear and soft.
  3. Increase the heat to high, add the thyme, bay leaf, cream and wine and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by 1/3 in volume.
  4. Open the packet of mussels and pour into a colander, give them a light rinse.
  5. Pour the mussels into the boiling wine mixture, give them a stir and then quickly put on the lid. Cook for 3 minutes or until the mussels open. Sprinkle over the parsley and serve with the cooking liquid, some crusty bread and salad.

Note

  • The mussels will open as they cook, if there are any unopened mussels, remove the open mussels from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in a serving bowl. Replace the lid and cook the rest for 1 minute longer.

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Banoffee pie

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I’ve always wondered about banoffee pie. The only time I had ever really heard about it is in that scene in Love Actually where Keira Knightley’s character shows up at her husband’s friends house looking for a wedding tape and offers him a slice of banoffee pie or ‘munchies.’ Many people probably don’t remember the scene in this much detail but as it’s my favourite movie I could probably recite the whole thing backwards.

Anyways, I always wondered what banoffee pie is, I also wondered exactly what ‘munchies’ are but in America they cover a pretty broad range so I didn’t spend as much time contemplating that. I finally had the chance to try banoffee pie earlier this year when my roommate made it for a going away party. And it was show stopping amazing. This recipe is a little untraditional since there are pretzels in the crust but they provide a great salty balance to the sweet caramel. There is also crème fraîche in the topping which offsets the sweetness of the pouring cream as well.

Albeit an amazing dish, it’s not the easiest. It’s mostly straight-forward but this recipe doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining just how to caramelise the sugar. And it turns out caramelised sugar is a bitch.

Maybe it’s just my ineptitude in the kitchen but it took me three times to get it right. On my first attempt it burnt- filling up my kitchen with the smell of gross black caramel. The next time the sugar seemed to dissolve and then somehow magically turned back into sugar from liquid. To be honest, I almost scrapped the whole thing after that. But I was not about to let caramel best me. It seemed to be finding all sorts of different ways to laugh at me. I think the problem was that I had the heat too high so the sugar didn’t have time to fully dissolve before the mixture started bubbling. 

I used this tutorial after the first two attempts and the photos are really helpful.

No matter how tricksy caramel may be, this recipe is perfect for any special occasion.

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Banoffee pie
Serves 10

  • 3 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
  • 300 ml pouring cream
  • 400 gm crème fraîche
  • Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • To serve: shaved dark chocolate
  • Pretzel crumb base
  • 240 gm digestive biscuits, coarsely broken
  • 90 gm salted pretzels
  • 75 gm caster sugar
  • 200 gm butter, melted
  • Salted toffee
  • 200 gm caster sugar
  • 80 gm butter, coarsely chopped
  • 125 ml pouring cream

Method

  • For pretzel crumb base, process biscuits, pretzels and sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs form, add butter, pulse to just combine, press into base and up sides of a 5cm-deep, 24cm-diameter pie dish and refrigerate until set.
  • Meanwhile, for salted toffee, stir sugar and 50ml water in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and cook until caramel (6-8 minutes). Add butter, cream and ½ tsp sea salt flakes (be careful as hot caramel will spit), stir until combined, then pour over crumb base and refrigerate until chilled.
  • Arrange banana on top of caramel and set aside. Whisk cream, crème fraîche and vanilla seeds in an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Spoon on top of banana, scatter with chocolate shavings and serve.
This recipe is from the June 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
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Vodka pasta

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This is my first two-way post! So you can feel free to take the fancy or the frugal option, for whatever fits your mood. The vodka pasta was made for a birthday since it’s creamy and unbelievably rich and awesome. But it does require quite a few ingredients, plus vodka. Which down under is a little pricey. So if you don’t have the time or the funds you can make a simple creamy tomato pasta. It’s all up to you…

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Vodka Pasta

Adapted from Cook Like A Champion
Who heavily adapted it from Williams-Sonoma

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves,
minced medium yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup vodka
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil, plus additional for serving
1 pound penne pasta
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for serving

Directions: Cook pasta in well salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water, drain pasta and set aside.

Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in frying pan, remove the casings from the sausages, break into small pieces and cook until browned on the outside and cooked through. Drain on a plate covered in paper towels and reserve for later.

While the pasta and sausages are cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about a minute more. Stir in tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the tomato paste and vodka. Cook until most of the alcohol has evaporated, at least 5 minutes. Stir in cream, red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to a a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook sauce until thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Stir in basil and cheese.

Add pasta and sausage to skillet and toss to coat, adding pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. Serve topped with additional basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

And for the frugal option…
Serves 1

Ingredients:
1 cup  of pasta
1 tablespoon of cream cheese
1/2 cup of pasta tomato sauce
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
1/2 cup of frozen prawns, defrosted
sprinkle of parmesan
olive oil

Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente. While you’re cooking the pasta heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan. Put the defrosted prawns in and when they’ve cooked add the tomato sauce, cream cheese and tomato paste and stir until everything melts and becomes a nice creamy sauce.

Pour the sauce with the prawns over the pasta, mix in and sprinkle with parmesan.

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Superbowl snacks

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I love wings and fries as much as the next person- possibly even more. But if you are looking to make some healthier snacks for game day these are two great options. The edamame hummus is really simple- just pop the ingredients in the food processor and whip it up. The buffalo chicken rolls are a bit more tricky but they are definitely worth it. I almost suggest not making too many because they’re super tasty and if you’re aiming for a healthy treat it’s probably not best to eat like ten of them. They are great for a big group as they’re easy to eat and easy to share.

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Edamame hummus

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 cup edamame, cooked and shelled
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/8 cup water plus more if needed
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, blend soy beans, tahini, water, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add more water if necessary until the consistency is smooth. Place in a small bowl and serve with sliced vegetables such as capsicum or carrots.

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Buffalo Chicken Rolls

Makes 12

Ingredients
12 spring roll wrappers (I found these in the freezer section at Coles)
1 cup cooked and shredded chicken (1 medium chicken breast)
1/2- 2/3 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (I found this at my local IGA)
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup cole slaw (dry)
Small bowl of water
Nonstick cooking spray

Blue cheese dressing, for serving

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Lay spring roll wrappers on a clean work surface. In a small bowl, stir chicken* (see note below) and hot sauce until well coated, using more or less sauce depending on your spice preference. The meat should be moist with sauce.

Begin by placing one tablespoon of the cole slaw on the diagonal of the bottom right corner of one of the wrappers. Next, place 2 tablespoons of shredded spicy chicken evenly on top of the slaw. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the blue cheese crumbles over the chicken. Do not overfill.

To fold: Fold the bottom right corner over the stuffing mixture so that it covers it completely, with the tip of the corner now pointing to the centre of the spring roll wrapper. Fold in the bottom left corner, followed by the right, so that you now have formed an envelope. Roll the wrap upward one time, leaving the top left corner open. Wet your index finger in the small bowl of water and press to moisten the top left corner. Now fold that down on top of the filled roll, sealing it like you would an envelope.

Repeat with remaining rolls.

Place the rolls on a wire rack set on top of a cookie sheet (or just on a greased cookie sheet) coated with nonstick cooking spray. Spritz each roll evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the rolls crisp and turn a light golden brown.

Note: To make the chicken, place 200g of uncooked chicken breast in a small pot and fill with enough water just to cover it. Bring to a boil on your stovetop, reduce the heat slightly, then simmer for about 12 minutes, or until cooked through. Drain and let cool before shredding with two forks, pulling against the grain of the meat.

Recipe slightly adapted from Can you stay for dinner?

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Tie dye cupcakes

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The word “groovy” isn’t really heard that much anymore. I can’t really say it’s a shame, it sounds outdated no matter how you use it. That doesn’t mean people like Patrick Monahan from Train will stop using it. Despite the fact that they’ve been around since 1994 they’re still trucking on. Anyone remember “Calling all Angels” and “Drops of Jupiter”? Well, their new annoyingly addictive single “Drive By” is all about a groovy little guy trying to get his girl back by driving around in circles and dancing like a four-year old. I dare you to listen to this song and not dance. But if it still doesn’t get you in the groovy mood, these awesome little tie-die cupcakes might just do the trick.

Tie Dye Cupcakes:

Vanilla cake mix in a box and ingredients for that

4-5 colors of food coloring

Mix up the cake mix until it’s ready. Divide your cake batter into four or five bowls. Add a couple drops of food coloring into each bowl of batter and mix. Add spoonfuls of each color to cupcake liners until the liner is ¾ full. Bake for 18-20 minutes according to the directions on the box of cake.

For the frosting:
From http://sweetapolita.com/2012/03/super-duper-vanilla-or-funfetti-cupcakes/

375grams/13 ounces unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

3.5 cups (400g/14oz) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons (45mL) milk

1 tablespoon (15mL) pure vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for about 8 minutes on medium speed until the butter becomes very pale and creamy.

Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy. It takes a little while but it’s sooo worth it!

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