cream cheese


I’m well again! No coughing, no sniffling, no congestion–and best of all–no wandering around the apartment like a mindless zombie.   After 2 months of wondering what it feels like to be normal again, I am indeed myself again. With renewed energy, I’ve been excited to head back into the kitchen and start up the baking again.  This post? Involves absolutely no baking–just a wonderfully fast and easy way to whip up some deliciousness.

Before I get into the Cheesecake stuffed strawberries–I just want to give you guys a look at THE BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT (EVER)!  Every so often, I tinker with the idea about getting a DSLR…but I always end up chickening out of making such a huge purchase.  But it was time…and I decided I was going to do it.  Leave it to  Mike (aka best fiance in the world) to rush out and get me one before my designated April 1st purchase.  So, I am now the proud owner of the Canon Rebel T1i (and a Canon Rebel T1i for Dummies book I’ve yet to read).  It’s beautiful!

Okay, onward with the recipe!  Mike’s cousin sent me a link to this recipe a few months back and now that we’re back in strawberry season, I was excited about giving it a try.  Strawberries stuffed with cheesecake? Ingenious!  I had a baby shower to attend this weekend, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to give these guys a shot.  And–they were DELICIOUS!  To top it off, they’re super easy!  And to answer your question–yes, they taste just as you’d expect them to.

Make them…make them now!

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Original Recipe from Indigo’s Sugar Spectrum

Good for about 20 servings ( 2 green baskets of strawberries)

INGREDIENTS

2 green baskets of Strawberries, washed and dried.
1 8oz package of Cream Cheese, softened
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
¾ cup Powdered Sugar
6-8 Graham Crackers, crushed
Semisweet chocolate, melted (optional)

  1. Once the strawberries are dry, slice off a bit of one side.
  2. Take a melon baller and spoon out the center of the strawberry, being careful to keep the walls of the strawberry intact.
  3. To make the cheesecake filling: With a mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy.
  4. Now, take the strawberry and fill the center with the cheesecake filling.
  5. Spoon the graham cracker crumbs over the stuffed strawberries.  Take a spoon and gently pat the graham crackers into the filling until crumbs “stick.”
  6. Drizzle strawberries with melted chocolate*.
  7. Place strawberries in refrigerator until ready to be enjoyed.

*Whenever I plan to drizzle desserts with melted chocolate/candy melts–I use Wilton squeeze bottles.  Fill the bottles with your choice of chocolate and carefully place bottle in a small pot with hot water to melt.  Super easy and a super neat way to enhance any dessert.  You can easily find them at your local Michael’s Craft Store.

 

 

It was Boss’s Day–and you got it–I was going to bring in something sweet.  Afterall, I don’t think they’d expect anything else.  But it had been a long week and I wasn’t feeling quite 100%.  So, I opted for a simple One-Bowl recipe and I thought I’d step away from my typical cream cheese frosting.  After looking thru my cabinet and staring at the jars of peanut butter, I couldn’t think of a better combination.  Chocolate and Peanut Butter?  Mmmmnnn…I was officially exited.

Sadly, I’m on a bit of a diet so I didn’t have any.  Yeah, I didn’t think I had it in me either–not because I can’t pass up sweets (okay…that’s just 15% of it), but because I NEVER give out sweets without making sure it passes my taste test.  Could it be?  I’m building more confidence in my baking.  Ehh…on second thought, it’s probably because I knew I was going to have a really unhealthy weekend .  I was going to meet friends up for beer and fried deliciousness that night, meeting another friend for some seafood and fries Saturday for lunch, and it was date night for the me and fiance.  Thank you Groupon for our dinner at Border Grill (which sadly screamed mediocrity).

Either way, judging from everyone’s reaction, these were definitely a hit.  All cupcakes were claimed by the time I was done for the day.  I suppose when it comes down to it–how can  you beat a pb and chocolate combo? Oh–and it probably didn’t hurt that I stuffed bits of milk chocolate in each piece for some extra chocolatey goodness.

Chocolate Cupcake with Peanut Butter frosting

Recipe yields 18-20 cupcakes

Cupcakes

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons safflower oil
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Now take the Hershey bars and break them into smaller pieces.  Stuff each cupcake well with a few pieces.
Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once . Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter, room temperature
3 oz cream cheese, softened
3-4 tablespoons milk (heavy cream if you’re brave), or as needed
1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Place the butter, peanut butter, and cream cheese into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, add milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in.  Frosting will be start to get thick.  Beat for about 4 minutes until all ingredients are well combined and frosting gets fluffy.  While my recipe does say 3-4 tablespoons, I might of lost count.  I added milk 1 tbsp at a time, until I reached a consistency I was happy with.  do quick tastes tests to get the consistence you want.
If you want to use this recipe for brownies, you can certainly have them a bit thicker.  But because these were for cupcakes, I wanted them fairly light. To each their own!

Red Velvet–the celebrated cupcake flavor that will likely define you as a baker.  And I say that with reservation, because before I found this recipe, I was never 100% happy with any red velvet cupcake I had baked in the past.  Simply put, there always seemed to be something missing.  That is, until i found this recipe.  This recipe is pure gold.  It’s perfect.  So perfect, my sister had three without frosting.  It’s so wonderfully moist and the flavor was just so distinctively red velvet.

oh-so-perfect crumb

I love this recipe.  I’ve found the one.

Oh! I also want to share this tidbit.  For the most part, I get my vanilla extract from Costco.  You get a huge bottle for about six dollars.  And to be honest, I’ve been happy with the results.  The vanilla is affordable and everything has always been tasty.  One day, I came across of bottle of vanilla from Williams Sonoma–at $20 for about 2/3 of the size.  The kicker? The vanilla extract was loaded with the actual vanilla beans.  I lost all will power.  I bought it…and regretted it the whole way home. $20?!?!  But I have to be honest.  The vanilla has truly made all the difference.  Without a doubt, the Williams Sonoma vanilla was far superior to the Kirkland brand.  It’s so wonderfully fragrant and the vanilla really comes through–even in a cupcake with so many complicated flavors.  While I may not use the WS vanilla in all my baked goods, it will definitely be my go to vanilla for all special baking occasions.

Favorite Red Velvet Cupcakes

makes 24 cupcakes

For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cocoa powder (Not dutch-processed)
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Add in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth.  This will take about 2 minutes–make sure to not over beat mixture.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.  Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

You probably couldn’t find anything easier or tastier than this spicy sausage dip–and I assure you, it’s a crowd pleaser.   People go crazy over this dip!  So much so, and this is VERY true, that one our guests lopped two heaping spoonfuls of it onto his hot link.  Yes, he did.  The dip is just so creamy and savory, it’s downright addictive!  Serve with your choice of crackers or bread and you’ve got yourself a party.  I tend to serve this with tortilla chips or a sturdy appetizer chips.

Try it at your next party–I assure you, you won’t be disappointed! Enjoy!

Spicy Sausage Dip

Ingredients
1 (16 ounce) package pork sausage
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
2 large jalaepenos, seeds removed and diced
handful of grape/cherry tomatoes, halved
2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese; room temperature
hot sauce to taste ( I used Tapatio)
Cayenne Pepper
Paprika

Cook the sausage in a skillet over medium heat until evenly browned and no longer pink. As sausage is cooking, break the meat into small pieces.  Drain fat.  Reduce heat to low, fresh tomatoes and jalapeno.  Cook for about 2 minutes until tomatoes are tender.  Add can of diced tomatoes and green chilies and mix well.  Finally, cream cheese until evenly blended. Cook just until heated through.  Add paprika, cayenne, and Tapatio (or your preferred hot sauce) to taste.  Serve warm.

Adapted from Baking Addition

Some desserts from my last catering gig.

So, I must say…I’m pretty psyched.  I’ve been booked for a gig for a 4th of July bash!  I’m super excited!  They are looking for some rather basic cupcake flavors (yellow cake and chocolate),  but I really want to spruce them up.  To me, yellow cake should eternally be paired with chocolate frosting.  It’s blasphemy to do otherwise.  I’m going to have to think of something great to fill these cupcakes with.   Pastry cream?  Raspberry sauce?  This is going to be a challenge.   As far as the chocolate cake goes, Valhrona is going to be the way to go.  I love the deep chocolate flavor…so heavenly.  I’ll likely pair it with cream cheese frosting (his favorite and obviously mine as well).  The funny thing is, I’m always asked to make desserts that are a bit more labor intensive than just simply cupcakes, that I feel strange making these.   I’m a week away from baking and I’m totally wracking my brain for something fun and creative to do to these cupcakes, without overwhelming them.   aaaaaaahhh!  To be honest, these cupcakes will be filled.  With what, I’m not yet sure…but filled they will be.

Hmm…and cupcakes are one thing…but I’m not much of a decorator.  So that’s going to be tough.  I have a few ideas running around in my head, but I really need to find a way to make these fit into the 4th of July theme.  I can obviously add food coloring, but I’d love to something special.  I’m toying with the idea of using royal frosting to create some edible toppings…but I’m a bit inexperienced.

I guess we’ll just have to see how things go. Wish me luck!

Oh!  Outside of the 50 cupcakes, I’ve just been asked to make a fruit based birthday cake!  FOR THE SAME DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Pray for me.

I’ve never had Hamburger Helper.  Not for any health related issue really, but because there was really never anything too appealing about it.  Why pay to toss your food into dehydrated cheese powder, loads of sodium, and who knows what?  Okay, okay…I still like Mac and Cheese from a box.  It’s a childhood thing…but even then, I probably have it once a year at most…with lots of sriracha.  Any how, I was at Ralph’s the other day stocking up on some butter and cream cheese (got hired to make cupcakes for a 4th of July Party!  But more on that later!) and the woman in front of me had a cartful of Hamburger Helper!  I think she must have seen the shock/curiosity in my face because she chuckled and told me, “When you have kids, you’ll understand.  And just so you know, I have 4 boys.  And it’s actually quite good.”

4 boys?  I could feel my ovaries shriveling.  Yikes.

Funny enough, I was looking for some ideas for dinner last night and came across a very Hamburger Helper oriented recipe that was rather interesting.  I don’t know what compelled me to Google “Homemade Hamburger Helper,”  but I did.   Homemade, yes.  Unhealthy? I’m thinking very much so.  But I was curious and Mike has a strange affinity for foods like this.  What do I mean?  I mean when there’s a sale on Banquet frozen foods, he gets excited.  And no matter how much I try talking him out of eating crap like that, he manages to win me over with his nostalgic references to his youth and how much he loved them as a child after having lived in Africa for 8 years.  Yes, when he wants something…he’s quick to talk about living in Africa.  I’m weak.  He talks about his life in Africa and I melt.

I digress. Where was I?  Oh right.  So after finding the recipe online, I thought it would be fun to give it a shot.  Plus, I’d we’d both have some to bring to work the next day.

Creamy Taco Mac

Ingredients:
1¼ lbs. lean ground turkey
12 oz. dry rotelli pasta (anything with grooves is nice–catches all sauce!)
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tbsp. of your favorite taco seasoning
4 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
dash of Tapatio
chopped cilantro

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Prepare pasta as directed on package.  Once al dente, drain, and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat.  A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through (no longer pink), add the chopped onion to the skillet.  Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and stir until the cream cheese is melted and the everything is well blended.  Season with salt, pepper, and Tapatio to taste.  Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.  Serve with chopped cilantro (makes all the difference!)

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

This weekend was the second (now annual) Cousin Sleepover.  So, around 7pm they began to trickle in until the last of the 5 had finally arrived.  Now, it may seem like quite a feat to equally entertain a group of people who’s ages range from 14-27, but I would say we pulled it off.  Somehow in the mist of everyone talking over everyone else, we managed to plan a really fun night.  Dinner, a scary movie, boba, and cupcakes and toss in some video games, and the last of us finally fell asleep at 5 in the morning.  Yes, 5am…and those monsters still wake up at 10:30!

Well, the annual event happened to coincide with a few birthdays, so I decided on making some cupcakes.  To be honest, I’ve been pretty tired lately and I haven’t had much time for myself.  So I decided that I wanted to do something quick and simple and decided a one-bowl cupcake batter would be a lifesaver.   I didn’t want to skimp on making anything special, so i splurged a bit and used Valrhona chocolate in place of traditional cocoa powder.  This was going to be one pricey batch of cupcakes, but I figured it was well worth it.  I didn’t have any particular frosting in mind, but in the end, made a great Oreo Cream Cheese frosting I will certainly make again.  Really, it’s nothing more than throwing tons of  Oreo crumbs into the cream cheese frosting…but you know what? It works!  The boyfriend was a huge fan…but in all honestly, I have a hard time accepting his praises since he’s never offered a single piece of criticism.  But, his cousins loved them (one of whom hates chocolate…i know…I didn’t know those people existed either) and made my day.

Either way, this recipe is soooooooo easy and produces such a wonderfully rich cupcake.

Look how beautifully dark the Valhrona comes out!

Now, I kind of wished I had one myself.  But with all the baking I’ve done for parties lately, I can’t afford to have any more dessert.  Not to mention Mike and I are having a big, fancy dinner for our Anniversary this weekend where I’m sure I’ll be inhaling 2 days worth of Calories.

Chocolate ValrhonaCupcakes

Yields approximately 18 cupcakes

3/4 cup Valrhonacocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Oreo Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2-2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 cup fine Oreo Crumbs

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in vanilla extract.  Gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar (I like to to a taste check after the first cup…because I base how sweet I like my frosting on the actual dessert it’s accompanying).  Lastly, once level of sweetness is achieved, mix in Oreo crumbs.

Recipe is my own.

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