Friday, July 26, 2013

“Cookies 'N Cream Cheesecake” Recipe, Plus A “Cheesecake Martini” Cocktail

Warning! These words are adjectives that will provoke hunger! Sinful, delicious, smooth, creamy, divine, decadent, satisfying, and a little bit of heaven on earth. Have you figured out what I am describing yet?  Is your mouth watering just thinking about it? If you said “Cheesecake,” you are correct!  Smooth and rich, cheesecake is one of the most unforgettable desserts you can consume. Did you know that Tuesday, July 30th is called unofficially “National Cheesecake Day?” What is cheesecake, and why are we so obsessed with its taste?

Cheesecake is a sweet dessert consisting primarily of a mixture of soft, fresh cheese, eggs, and sugar. It is poured on a crust of cookies, graham crackers, pastry, or sponge cake. It can be baked or not, and may be flavored with a topping of fruit, whipped cream, nuts, and chocolate. Cheesecake can also be prepared in many flavors such as strawberry, pumpkin, key lime, lemon, or toffee. There are many different types of cheesecakes besides its flavor. You have the New York Style Cheesecake, which is the most popular. There is the French style, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pennsylvania Dutch, Vegan, and Lactose-free cheesecakes. What makes these cheesecakes different are the types of cheeses and ingredients that are used to create them. Savory cheesecakes are also made, often for hors d’oeuvres. In Italy, Ancient Roman style cheesecakes are made with honey, ricotta cheese, and flour. They are shaped into loaves not flat cakes. Italian-style cheesecakes sometimes contain mascarpone cheese, sugar, vanilla, and sometimes barley flakes. This type of cheesecake is drier than American styles. Small bits of candied fruit are also added. 

There are so many delicious cheesecakes that restaurants serve for desserts, but two special eateries come to mind when I think of cheesecakes. In Brooklyn, since the 1950’s, “Junior’s” has been famous for great food, but best of all is their cheesecake. They have since added more restaurants in New York City and in Connecticut. A fabulous dining experience and make sure to leave some room for their famous cheesecake. The other restaurant is called “The Cheesecake Factory”. Evelyn created her original cheesecake recipe and opened a small shop in the 1940’s in Detroit. In 1972, with their children grown, Evelyn and Oscar decided to move their cheesecake business to Los Angeles. The restaurant was an immediate success and over 30 years later and 170 locations, the rest is history as they say. 

I sometimes watch the TV sitcom called “The Golden Girls.” These four girls were a successful classic comedy and were hilarious. Every time they all had to talk about something or were depressed they all went into the kitchen, sat around the table and ate “Cheesecake.” It seems it was a comfort food that made them feel better. A bit of trivia, the girls consumed over 100 cheesecakes during the show’s 7-year run. In reality, Bea Arthur (who played Dorothy) hated cheesecake.

My recipe this week is called “Cookies ‘N Cream Cheesecake.” This is a favorite in my family and I hope it becomes one in yours. Treat yourself to a delicious serving of this rich and indulgent treat. A pure slice of heaven, that melts in your mouth! Also a fun cocktail to share with your adult friends called a “Cheesecake Martini”. . 

“Cookies 'N Cream Cheesecake

Chocolate Wafer Crust

9 inch spring form pan
25 chocolate wafers (crushed)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pre-heat oven to 325°. Melt butter and mix with crushed chocolate wafers. Press into pie pan. Bake 8 minutes, and then cool.

Filling For Crust

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
4 eggs
20 Oreo cookies, broken into pieces

Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Gently stir in broken pieces of Oreo cookies. Pour over crust. Bake 1 hour or until center is almost set. Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Garnish cake with additional cookies, if desired.

“Cheesecake Martini”

0.75 fl oz Smirnoff Strawberry Vodka    
0.75 fl oz Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka      
1 splash Cranberry Juice

Fill shaker with ice. Add Strawberry Vodka, Vanilla Vodka, and cranberry juice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a berry of your choice.

Remember, Please Drink Responsibly!

Till Next Time……………………………….....

Copyright © 2013 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 19, 2013

"Brickle Coconut Ice Cream Bombe" To Celebrate My 150th Post And "National Ice Cream Month"

Welcome to my 150th Blog Post!! On January 18, 2011, I introduced my first post into the food blogging world. I remember being very excited about sharing my thoughts with you. When I started my blog I had said, “That you would find plenty of family stories and recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.” Now, at 150 posts later, I think I have accomplished so much and have much more to share. I owe everything to you, my readers! With 143 countries and over 46,500 followers that come back every week to see my next recipe and story, I am totally overwhelmed! I get such great pleasure from writing this blog, as it gives me the opportunity to share with you two of my passions which is; my love of writing and cooking/baking my family recipes. Your willingness to continue to read my words every week are very encouraging. 

With that being said, I need to say “Thank You” to all of you across the world. Thank You for the comments and suggestions that I have received. Finally, to my friends, family, and my mom (Madeline) in particular who has given me encouragement and shared the recipes of our family members. One last thought, I would love to thank my grandmother’s and my great-grandmother Sofia, even though they have passed on. If it was not for their stories and recipes that were passed down to my mom, I never would have been able to write this blog.

So what better way to celebrate my 150th post, than with Ice Cream! Well it is a party after all! Yes, and what a party it will be as July is National Ice Cream month and Sunday, July 21 is also National Ice Cream Day! I always loved ice cream, anyway, any flavor. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day.

Marco Polo visited China and took the technique of making ice cream to Italy. Today in Italy, “Gelato” is very popular as an Italian frozen dessert having a lower milk fat content than ice cream. Ice cream was first introduced to the United States in 1700’s. It is said that Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson were known to have regularly eaten and served ice cream. First Lady Dolley Madison is also known to have served ice cream at her husband‘s President James Madison’s Inaugural Ball in 1813. Augustus Jackson, around 1832, an African American confectioner invented a technique to manufacturer ice cream. Ice cream became extremely popular in the second half of the 20th century. Refrigeration became common and there was an explosion of ice cream stores with a vast variety of flavors. Howard Johnson’s and Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors became popular. As the soft ice cream was introduced, the USA was able to establish chains of soft serve ice cream that fit into a cone from a spigot. That is when Dairy Queen, Carvel, Tastee-Freez, and Mr. Softee were born. The 1980s saw the beginnings of Ben & Jerry’s, Haagen-Dazs, Starbucks, Cold Stone Creamery, and the rest is history!

No matter what the occasion, ice cream is a wonderful treat that adds to the celebration. Old favorites like sundaes, banana splits, milkshakes, pie a-la-mode, and ice cream cones are among the most popular and simplest choices. However, serving ideas for ice cream are only as limited as your imagination! And don't forget the cherry! Check out my recipe this week. This is my take on a fabulous and cool refreshing dessert. (courtesy of Food Network Magazine)

Brickle Coconut Ice Cream Bombe

Prep Time: 3 hours
Level: Easy
Servings: 8 servings

1 1/2 quarts vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
1 quart Butter Brickle or Butter Crunch ice cream, slightly softened
1 10 to 12 ounce frozen pound cake (Sara Lee) cut lengthwise into 1 inch thick slices 
3 tablespoons Kaluha (optional)
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Line a 3-quart, 9-inch-diameter bowl with plastic wrap. (make sure you use extra to go beyond the bowl) Scoop the vanilla ice cream into the bowl; top with a sheet of plastic wrap and gently press the ice cream into the bottom and up the side of the bowl in an even layer, stopping about 1 inch below the rim and leaving a crater in the center. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and scoop the Butter Brickle ice cream into the vanilla ice cream crater. Gently pack in the ice cream and smooth the top. Brush both sides of the pound cake slices with the Kaluha. Press the cake slices on top of the ice cream in a single layer to cover completely, trimming as needed (you may have some cake left over). Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and invert the bowl onto a serving plate. Wipe the outside of the bowl with a hot cloth, then remove the bowl. Remove the plastic wrap and press the coconut onto the cake. Serve immediately or cover and freeze for up to 2 days.

Till Next Time……………………………..

Copyright © 2013 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Corn Fritters" And A "Tomato Cucumber Salad" Recipes That Take You Back..

Picture it….Queens, NY in the late 60’s and 70’s. A young teenage girl sitting around a kitchen table with her family. The mother putting something golden and round on her plate with an aroma that was teasing her taste buds. The young girl says, “Mom what is this sweet golden fried batter called?” The mother answers her with one of the best answers ever, “It is called a Corn Fritter.” Well as they say the rest is history….I guess you figured out that I was the teenage girl. Ever since then my family and I have loved corn fritters. 

Every July 16th in the United States, people all over the country fry up a batch or two of corn fritters in celebration of “National Corn Fritters Day.” On this day, the crispy fritters are enjoyed at tables across the nation. These delightful, sweet little cakes are made with corn kernels and mixed with a batter, then fried in oil. In doing research about this day, I found no creator or origin of National Corn Fritters Day. But there is plenty of documentation to support that this holiday does exist, and it has been celebrated for years. This holiday is referred to as a “National” day, as all food and drink holidays are designed.

The word “fritter” comes from the Latin word “frictura” (frying). It was mainly used by way of Old French and Middle English. It can refer to a dessert, a side dish or a main course food. Corn Fritters are a savory snack. Traditional corn fritters are a mixture of corn kernels, egg, flour, milk, and melted butter. They can be deep fried, shallow fried, or baked and served with jam, fruit, honey, or cream. They may also be made with creamed corn, baked, and served with maple syrup. Corn fritters may have a similar appearance to, and may be mistaken for Johnnycakes. New England clam cakes and Maryland crab cakes are essentially varieties of a fritter. To change things up on a corn fritter recipe you may want to try adding different veggies such as onions, celery, and green/red peppers to a batch. You may also want to add a savory sour cream dip to your fritters for a party or a BBQ. There really is no limit to your enjoying the corn fritter, just use your imagination!

My recipe this week is, you guessed it “Corn Fritters.” My mom taught me how to prepare them for a side dish that will enhance your hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, chicken, or pork chops. This is one of my son’s favorite dishes. When he comes home to visit he always asks if I could make a batch of corn fritters. He calls it comfort food from when he was young. This week I am sharing another recipe with you called “Tomato Cucumber Salad.” This fresh and tasty summer salad adds to your corn fritters. So enjoy your Corn Fritters and Tomato Cucumber Salad! 

Tomato Cucumber Salad

1 large cucumber
3 tomatoes (about 1 lb) chopped finely

1 small onion (red) chopped finely
Fresh cilantro, a handful, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lime juice (squeezed) or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash and peel the cucumber and onion. Cut into small dice and place into a non reactive bowl. Wash and dice the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes and chopped cilantro to the bowl as well. Drizzle the olive oil over the salad. Then start off with a small amount of freshly squeezed lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad and taste, if needed adjust the quantities of lime, salt or pepper until you are happy with the balance and taste. Let your salad sit for about 15 minutes before serving, this gives the flavors a chance to infuse with each ingredient.

Corn Fritters”

1 can of creamed corn
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
1 teaspoon melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup of milk
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Vegetable oil

Heat oil in frying pan to about 365 °F. Do not burn the oil. In bowl combine corn, salt/pepper, and a well beaten egg. Then add butter, milk, baking powder, and flour. Mix together. (will be lumpy) Put generous spoonfuls of batter into the pan and flatten a bit with the back of a spatula. You should be able to fit about four fritters in a large frying pan at a time. Cook until fritters are golden browned on one side, flip, and cook until the other side is the same golden brown color. (about 4 minutes per side) Transfer fritters to a paper towel lined plate and repeat with remaining batter. You can eat then just the way they are or put some pancake syrup on them or powdered sugar. (optional, anyway you like them)

Yields: about 12-15 corn fritters

Till Next Time……………………………….................

Copyright © 2013  “Family Plus Food Equals Love”  All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 5, 2013

"Mozzarella, Prosciutto, and Tomato Skewers" For A Romantic Picnic

I hope that everyone enjoyed their Fourth of July with family, friends, fireworks, and lots of good tasty food. Did you know that July is also known as National Picnic Month? It makes perfect sense to continue your holiday weekend. So, go to the attic and find your picnic basket, a blanket, and pack some food. Are you ready for your picnic now? Wait, you can’t go anywhere yet, you need to plan this a little more. First you need to decide what type of picnic this is, do you want to go to the park, the beach, or go on a hike? My idea would be a Romantic Picnic without the children. You like many American’s spent July 4th with your family, watching the fireworks displays and enjoying spending the day with them. Picnics are extremely popular with couples in love. There is nothing like a soft blanket for two laid out in a nice shady park, for some quality time to spend with your special person. Now, this is your turn to treasure a relaxing and enjoyable day with your spouse or partner. Before you leave, here are some recommendations for supplies for your romantic picnic to be perfect.

Let’s put together a checklist of what you really need for your special romantic picnic with your loved one. To plan a romantic picnic, keep in mind these ideas; remember this is still a picnic not a formal meal, so go with the flow. The surprise factor can be enchanting. Pack some flowers, candles, or some special music to share. A big part of romance is location. Choose a spot that is special to you like a park, the beach, near a lake or in a wooded area, or maybe something different is your special place to go, on a boat, rooftop, or lastly a vineyard. Then there is the decision for a day or evening picnic. Sometimes an evening picnic is wonderful, so you can see the stars in the sky. Whatever your personality is as a couple is where you should feel comfortable.

Sometimes talking together is very important, but other times you may want to try flying a kite, playing games such as cards, backgammon, Frisbee, swimming, hiking, crossword puzzles, and also reading a book or poetry to each other. You picked a spot, found some things to do on your picnic and now we have to remember to pack some important items for an unforgettable date. Besides your blanket, you may want a pillow, a folding chair, an umbrella (for heat as well as for rain), sunscreen, hats with brims, water bottle, bug spray, napkins, disposable plates, cups, and utensils, plus a plastic bag for trash. The most essential item of your picnic is the basket you carry your food in for a memorable culinary experience.

Food is one of the most sensual pleasures people can share. Because it is a picnic you want to eat something that is easy, not that messy, and of course romantic as well as delicious. Some types of foods would include bite sized items, small items on skewers, wraps, sandwiches, cheeses, fruits, chocolates (if it is not too hot out) and you must have a bottle of wine or lemonade. Strawberries, grapes, cherries, peaches, melon cut in small pieces are delectable examples of bite sized fruit. Soft and hard cheeses with crisp crackers, a crunchy loaf of Italian bread, hard Salami, Pepperoni, Prosciutto in slices, wraps made with salads, and some tasty foods for skewers, like cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, ham, artichokes, and olives. Then we have decadent desserts like cookies, biscotti, Italian pastry, cupcakes, and bread cakes that are not gooey. One of the last items I would remember to take on this fabulous picnic is the wine of your choice. I would choose a white/rosé or a very light red. I think a Sauvignon Blanc and crisp wines like it are a good choice. Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc are among the favorite picnic wines for summertime.

Perfect! I think we have it right now, and I am on my way to my favorite picnic spot to meet my romantic person. So what makes your picnic perfect?  Is it the right food, location, good weather, things to do, privacy, peace, quiet, and your special person? I think it's probably a combination of everything! My recipe this week is a suggestion I received from Mary Ann of Ciao Italia. It is colorful, flavorful, and made on skewers, so it is easy to include in your romantic picnic basket. Enjoy! Abbondanza!!!  

Mozzarella, Prosciutto, and Tomato Skewers

16 fresh baby mozzarella balls (bocconcini)
8 thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, cut in half width-wise
16 grape or cherry tomatoes
1 loaf of crisp Italian bread
6 basil leaves or sage cut into thin strips
16 wooden skewers
Extra Virgin olive oil

Wrap individual mozzarella balls with a half slice of prosciutto and basil or sage leaves. Assemble by placing a piece of wrapped mozzarella, a tomato and repeat the order. Plate skewers on a plate or platter. Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive oil. Serve with Italian bread.

Till Next Time……………………………….....

Copyright © 2013 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved