A Slice of Cheesecake Heaven

I’m sitting here, fork in hand and singing from Donna Fargo’s Happiest Girl in the Whole USA because my girlfriend made me a cookie butter cheesecake. And to top it off, she made it with homemade cookie butter. Yummerific!

Shine on me sunshine
Walk with me world
It’s a skippedee-dooda day!
I’m the happiest girl in the whole USA.

IMG_20160820_121234

Here is her recipe:

Cookie Butter Cheesecake

Start with making Cookie Butter

2 cups cookie crumbs (28 Biscoff cookies – 1 package minus 3 cookies to crumble over top the cheesecake)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Place the cookie crumbs in a large heat-safe bowl.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, condensed milk, evaporated milk and salt. Cook until melted. Remove from heat and pour about 1/2 cup into the cookie crumbs. Stir with a rubber spatula. Continue adding the liquid mixture very gradually to the cookie crumbs until it is wet enough to hold its shape.

At this point you can place the cookie butter in a mason jar and store in the fridge for up to 14 days. Let sit at room temperature until softened before using in the cheesecake.

For the Cheesecake

1 graham cracker crust

4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cups cookie butter, divided

Bring a medium saucepan or tea kettle full of water to a boil.

Beat cream cheese in mixer on medium speed, scraping down bowl as necessary, until completely smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sugar and salt and beat, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat until mixed. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition and scraping down bowl as necessary. Add heavy cream and sour cream and beat on low until fully incorporated and completely smooth. Gently fold in 1 cup of cookie butter.

Pour cheesecake batter into crust and smooth top. Place cheesecake in deep roasting pan and set on middle rack of oven. Carefully pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come about halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake until top is just starting to brown and crack, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Turn off oven, prop door open and let cheesecake slowly cool in water bath for 1 hour.

Remove roasting pan from oven, then carefully lift springform pan out of water and remove foil. Set cheesecake on rack and let come to room temperature. Once completely cool, loosely cover cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. When ready to serve, place remaining cookie butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20 seconds until loose. Carefully remove sides of springform pan and spread the top with cookie butter. Sprinkle top with remaining crushed cookies.

 

IMG_20160820_120417

Provolone Fonduta

Cheese sauce. Oh, cheese sauce. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

This recipe is creamy indulgence to its core. I like to serve it with garlic knots but any crusty French or Italian bread will do. Also, try it poured over poached eggs at brunch or over fresh baby spinach leaves for a salad even I will eat.

IMG_20160818_161614667_HDR~2

Provolone Fonduta

1 pound provolone cheese
1 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup cream
salt and pepper

Finely dice the provolone cheese. Place the cheese and the milk together in a bowl and let sit for at least one hour.

Lightly roast the garlic in the butter and set aside.

In a double boiler, heat the cheese and milk on low heat heat until the cheese turns creamy. Whisk in egg yolks and cream and continue whisking until the mixture thickens. Stir in the garlic butter mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook and stir until it reaches the desired consistency.

For the garlic knots, use your favorite pizza dough recipe. After the second rise, divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll out into ropes. Dunk in melted butter and tie into a knot. Let rest on cookie sheet until doubled in size. Cook for 20-30 minutes in a 375 degrees F oven, until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before tearing apart and dipping into fonduta.

Peanutty Magic Bars

One of the first desserts I learned to make was the magic bars from the back of the can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (recipe here). I’ve tried over the years to add different things like peanuts or peanut butter chips but it was never nutty enough. Whilst browsing through the Skippy Peanut Butter website, however, I came across this recipe.

What a great idea to mix peanut butter with the sweetened condensed milk! As I prefer crunchy peanut butter, I’ve now added lots of peanut flavor as well as bits of peanut. Very yum and perfect to take to my volunteer shift today!

magic cookie bars

Below is my recipe.

Peanutty Magic Bars

1  1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup peanut butter – I like Skippy Super Chunk but brand and whether to use smooth or chunky is up to you
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
7 ounces sweetened, flaked coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place in the oven a 9×13 pan with the stick of butter in it to melt. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk until well combined.

Once the butter has melted, remove pan from oven and add the graham cracker crumbs in an even layer. Pour over the graham crackers the peanut butter/sweetened condensed milk mixture. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the entire surface. Layer the top with the flaked coconut and press down with your fingers.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the coconut is lightly browned. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Dining Out for Life and Spuds

dining out for life 2016One of the organizations close to my heart is the NO/AIDS Taskforce. Each year, they do a fundraising drive called Dining Out for Life, where a portion of the day’s proceeds goes to NO/AIDS Taskforce and the Food for Friends program (they home-deliver meals to those affected by HIV/AIDS and cancer in the New Orleans community).

The list of participating restaurants grows each year (check out the list here) so I always have new things to try as I make a meal matter.

This time, I headed over to Metairie to enjoy Spudly’s Super Spuds. After hanging a hard right to get onto the service road that runs alongside I-10, I found the little shack with big potatoes.

The menu offers a lot of choices if you just want a meal in a potato – over 20 varieties! I started with the fried mushrooms and then had a cheeseburger to the side of a huge baked potato.

spuds

The mushrooms were scorching hot but the ranch dressing cooled them down. The potato was light and fluffy and the burger was darned tasty with lots of melted cheese and a toasted bun.

The place is small and it gets busy but the staff stayed cheerful and friendly. All the servers were quick to check in, even getting me a refill on iced tea before I could ask for it.

I’m definitely coming back to try more of their potato concoctions.

 

 

Pork Tenderloin and Politics

I had a couple of friends over for dinner last night. Great guys and politically astute, so it was fun to chat about local, state and national politics over a meal. In case you were wondering, we solved all the world’s problems (You’re welcome!). I also was able to borrow a glass cutting kit from one of the John’s, so the evening was beyond successful.

For dinner, I did a blueberry sauce on a pork tenderloin, using blueberries that I picked and put in the freezer. I also used a lovely blueberry extract I picked up at a farmers market. If you don’t have that, use balsamic vinegar.

I served cornbread stuffing with the pork. It tasted much better than the picture looks! For dessert we had more blueberries in my Aunt Khaki’s Blueberry Crunch.

pork and corn

Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry Sauce

1 pork tenderloin
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/3 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar or blueberry extract
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Lightly rub the pork with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Combine the rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a sallow dish. Roll the pork loin in the herb mixture. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Mix together the blueberries, sugar, vinegar or syrup and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the contents to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 15-20 or until sauce has thickened. Add the lemon juice and simmer for 10 minutes more. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and brown the pork on all sides until golden. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes and drop the temperature to 350 degrees F. Cook until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.

Remove the meat to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Pour the blueberry sauce into the skillet and reheat until bubbling. Scrape the bottom of the pan to stir up any fond on the bottom of the pan. Slice the meat and then toss it and any juices in the warmed sauce before moving to a serving plate.

Serve with cornbread stuffing.

 

Cornbread Stuffing

1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 pieces of cornbread or corn muffins, crumbled
1 cup chicken stock

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. When oil smokes, add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add in the celery, pepper, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes before crumbling cornbread into the skillet. Stir to combine with vegetables. Dampen the stuffing with 1 cup of stock. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.

 

 

 

Pho Orchid Uptown

I met up with a friend today to give her a few hazelnut thumbprint cookies in exchange for a package of sourdough starter. She had been working out at St. Charles Avenue Athletic Club and was looking for something not too heavy, so we went for Vietnamese for lunch.

The Uptown Pho Orchid is a small place on St. Charles near the corner of Jackson Ave. Their pho is rather good and they have a pretty in depth menu of other items. Their other location is in Metairie (3117 Houma Blvd).

I had the combination Banh Mi – my sandwich was served on French bread and had grilled chicken, pork and Vietnamese ham along with pickled carrots and cucumber. A great combination of flavors.

banh mi

Gillian had the lunch special of scallops and veggies which she enjoyed to the last bite.

scallops

The service is pretty fast and, when I’ve gone on other times with other folks, the servers have been happy to explain the dishes to those new to Vietnamese nouvelle cuisine. Prices are quite reasonable – we both ate our fill for less than $15/person including tip.

Hazelnut Thumbprints

I turned on the television this morning expecting to tune into to a classic old Louisiana cooking show. Instead, I was treated to a woman making peanut butter chocolate mousse with tofu.

To get the horror out of my brain, I decided to use my new hazelnut flour and make cookies. Thumbprint cookies usually have jam – and you could still use some here. I think strawberry or blackberry would go really well. However, I’m not about to turn down an opportunity to use chocolate. I had planned to use Nutella but I was out so I sort of made my own spread with bittersweet chocolate and cookie butter.

The final result was nutty and chocolately and definitely what the doctor ordered to clear my thoughts of tofu surprise.

cookies

Hazelnut Thumbprints

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups hazelnut flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilia
1/2 teaspoon salt

¼ cup cookie butter
1 cup bittersweet morsels

Preheat oven to 350°. Separate eggs, reserving the whites.

In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar until combined. Stir in egg yolks. Add hazelnut flour, cinnamon, vanilla and salt and stir to combine.

Scoop tablespoons of dough. Roll the dough into balls and brush the balls with the eggs whites. Place about two inches apart onto baking sheets.

Make indentations in the center of each ball with a small measuring spoon. Cook for ten minutes.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate and cookie butter together. After 10 minutes of baking the cookies, add a ½ teaspoon of the chocolate mixture to each indentation. You may need to remake the divots first.

If you’d rather do fruity thumbprints, slightly warm 1/4 cup of your preferred jam in the microwave, just enough to loosen it up a little. As above, after ten minutes of baking the cookies, spoon jam into indentions.

Bake until cookies are set and golden around the edges, an additional 5 to 8 minutes more, rotating sheets when putting them back in the oven. Let cool on baking sheets on a wire rack for 5 minutes then transfer cookies to the rack to cool completely.

Oh, and these are gluten free, too!