Monday, May 28, 2012

Kitchen Extravaganza

Now that I am back, I am back with a vengeance!  I've really missed being in the kitchen, and I think it is obvious in the fact that in the last 24 hours, I have made 3 different things!

First, today Tuck and Linda came to visit! We have not seen them in months (damn Florida!) so this was a perfect way to spend Memorial Day.  Tuck is on a bizarre diet because of his diabetes.  Basically he cannot eat anything delicious: no breads, pastas, fruit, sugar - essentially my favorite things.  Apparently everything is full of carbs, and carbs are really bad for diabetes.  So feeding him is always a bit tough.  Kenzie and Mark were in charge of lunch - grilled chicken and salad (and baked potatoes for the rest of us!) and I was in charge of his request for dessert of a low carb cheesecake.  Little did I know that low carb cheesecake means you make your own crust out of macadamia nuts, and you use Splenda!  Blegh.  But I love Tucky so I did it :)  Even though that meant dragging out the ancient food processor that my parents got for their wedding 34 years ago to get the macadmia nut crust, or blending together cream cheese, mascarpone, and ricotta, or zesting an orange....  not to mention baking the entire thing in a water bath.  I had to find a roasting pan big enough for the spring form to fit in, and fill the pan with water, but make sure that I had wrapped the spring form with enough aluminum foil to keep the water out.  Apparently, baking cheesecakes in a water bath is a must because the gentle heat prevents the cake from cracking.  Mine still had little dents, but no cracks.  The end result?  Well, I might be biased because I was so repulsed putting Splenda in it, but Tuck enjoyed it, and weirdly enough, so did Kenzie.  Mom ate only the crust.  It was not as sweet as a regular cheesecake, but it was refreshing with the orange zest and triple sec.  Definitely not something I care to make again unless Tuck requests it, but I was happy to make him something sweet that he could eat :)
Water bathing!

Then I knew I had to make something for Linny, and I remembered that she, as an avid blog reader, often texts me when I have made something that she wants to try.  I scrolled though my texts and found that she wanted to try my strawberry shortcake cookies.  Those are fairly easy, and we had strawberries, so I made those last night as well.  They are just as delicious as they were last time.  We all agree they are more like scones than cookies, which makes sense because the dough is very similar to scone dough (like you use the pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour and everything!).  I love these cookies; they are great for a summer lunch.

Tonight I had no plans to make anything else, but Linny needed my laptop for something.  I passed it over, forgetting that I had left open my beloved Annie's Eats blog.  She spied in the "recommendation" corner mac and cheese bites, and immediately asked why I hadn't made them yet.  Since Annie posted them Monday, I have been very intrigued by these, so I thought it was a perfect time to try them out.  They are easy and quick to make, and very delicious.  You'd think they would be dry, but they really aren't.  The recipe calls for Boursin garlic and herb cheese, but our little grocery store didn't have any.  I bought our local Smith Country Cheese's garlic and herb gouda spread, which worked out absolutely perfectly.  I also used whole wheat Ritz crackers in a half-hearted attempt to give some health factor to these babies.  With a whole stick of butter and 3 cups of cheese, they are far from healthy, but they are fine for a splurge every now and then :)  Unfortunately when I ran to the store for ingredients, my family called for Chinese food, so they filled up a bit before the bites were done.  I ate one, and it was great: so cheesy and gooey and delicious.  Lots of leftovers! The recipe said it yields 18, but I easily made 24.  Who wants to come over for mac and cheese bites?

low carb ricotta cheesecake
mac and cheese bites

strawberry shortcake cookies

12 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch dice or sliced thin  (2 cups)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream (if your dough seems really dry, I have added another 1/3 cup)
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.

2) Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 7 tablespoons granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cream until dough starts to come together, then stir in strawberry mixture.

3) Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing evenly apart.  My dough always needs a bit more working, so I make balls with my hands.  Work quickly though - you don't want to melt the cold butter that you cut into the dough, so this way is not the best!

Sprinkle with sanding sugar, and bake until golden brown, 24 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool. Cookies are best served immediately, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

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