Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Heaven, I'm in Heaven...Ultimate Cheesecake Recipe

And my heart beats so that I can hardy speak.
This, my friends, is the reaction you will have when you sink your teeth into this creamy, dreamy cheesecake. It is amazing! I have had this recipe for many years, not sure where it came from, but it is one of those treasures that is hand written on a piece of oil stained paper. I have made this recipe no telling how many times, and each time I am reminded of why I love it so. Cheesecake is right up there with sour cream chicken enchiladas; I want it to be part of my last supper. There is nothing like a big slab of cheesecake dribbled with homemade fudge sauce with some berries on the side, just to make you feel healthy! This cheesecake needs no additions. You will be lucky if you can get a slice to a plate before eating it off of the serving spoon. It is that good. If you have been looking for a new recipe to try or if you are a bit nervous about the thought of cheesecake, gals get your big girl panties on and get ready to knock your socks off. This would be the ultimate treat for your valentine this year. I promise this recipe is a keeper, behind lock and key and covered in a nice protective sleeve so that your copy doesn't look as bad as mine.
Well, what are you waiting for? Get to cookin'!

Ultimate Cheesecake recipe
Before I start, there are a few rules that you MUST follow to get insure that you will have cheesecake perfection when baking. You MUST, MUST have room temp ingredients. Set your cream cheese on your counter the night before you want to make this so that it has room to get really good and soft. If you are making this in the morning then set your eggs out the night before too. They will not spoil if used within the next day. I promise you need room temp. I will say this again, but you want to beat that cream cheese until you don't think you can beat it anymore. You can't over beat cream cheese (within reason) but you CAN over beat cream cheese once your eggs and other ingredients are added. And, you must provide some kind of water in the oven while baking. It's sensitive like that so just do as I tell you and you will be fine. Let's get started.

2 cups Crushed graham crackers (Typically, a box comes with three sleeves wrapped, one sleeve crushed is good) you could also use crushed oreo's if you are feeling very frisky!
1/3 white sugar
6 Tbsp butter melted
1/2 tsp cinnamon
 Combine all into a bowl. Press into the bottom of a spring form pan as evenly as possible. You must have a 10" spring form pan, otherwise, it will overflow. You can get these at any kitchen supply store or craft store typically. I do NOT go up the sides, I like the nice even look of the crust just being on the bottom. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 300. 

2 Lbs (4, 8oz packages) cream cheese at ROOM TEMP
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs at ROOM TEMP
2 cups heavy cream at ROOM TEMP
1 cup sour cream at ROOM TEMP (Get my drift?)
1/2 tsp vanilla
In the bowl of a heavy duty mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy, around 5 minutes. You want to get some air in the cream cheese that will help it have a great texture. Be sure you scrape the bowl a few times so that there is no un-beaten cream cheese hanging out in the bottom of the bowl.
Add eggs, one at a time, scrapping between each addition. Add sour cream, heavy cream and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. 
Pour cream mixture over crust.
 Before baking, make sure the rack you will bake the cheesecake on is in the middle of the oven. On the rack below it, place a large 9x13 pan and fill it at least half way up with hot water. It is easier to put the pan in, and then pour the water. Be careful to not burn yourself while bending over in the oven! I prefer a steam bath for the cheesecake as opposed to wrapping the pan in foil and setting it in a bath. This insures that no water will leak in the cheesecake and it is still getting all of the tender love and care it needs to cook perfectly.
Place your cheesecake on the middle rack, above the steam bath, and shut the door. Have no plans of opening that door for a while.
Set your timer on for 1 hour 15 minutes, top should be firm to the touch (but I prefer you not touch it) and there should be no cracks. You can open the door and slightly wiggle it, if it is WAY wiggly, cook for a few minutes more but this time should do the trick. Once it has cooked for 1 hour 15 minutes, turn off the heat and leave the cheesecake in the oven for at least 2 hours. It needs time to recoup and settle down a bit. After at least two hours, remove and allow it to come to room temp on your counter. After it has reached room temp, place it in your fridge and allow it to chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

When you are ready to serve, take a butter knife and slide it gently around the edge of the pan before removing the spring from sides. You should have a perfectly set cheesecake with no cracks or blemishes.
Serve with warm fudge sauce, caramel sauce, strawberries, whipped cream...whatever floats your boat. This cheesecake will serve at least 16 people.

Happy Valentine's Day Y'all!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Califonication - BBQ Chicken Pizza

I married quite the pizza snob. I guess it comes with the territory since he is from Illinois but I had no idea how much of one he actually was until the first time we tried to agree upon toppings. It was like trying to decide on a name for our first born. Pizza is something we do well around here. It is tasty and EVERYONE eats it so that makes this momma happy! I feel better about feeding it to my kids when it is all made in house. The salesman is a meat man so we typically do a sausage and pepperoni pie but I finally convinced him to try my BBQ Chicken pizza a few years back, and with a lot of hesitation he finally gave in and gave it his stamp of approval. I love it! I first had BBQ Chicken at The California Pizza Kitchen. They have lovely pizzas and they think very highly of them because of what they are charging for them. They are good...but I mean, when did pizza ever need to start costing so much money? I am way too cheap to pay their prices so I came up with my own version and it has been a staple in this house ever since. It has such a nice balance of sweet and heat, creamy and crunchy and a good freshness about it. I recommend that you make your dough from scratch but if you are limited on time then get a dough ball from your favorite store. Trader Joe's has dough balls for .99 each which is great. I will try to post our recipe soon, but this will have to do for now.

1 pizza dough ball
2 Tbsp coarse ground cornmeal
1/2-3/4 cup good quality BBQ sauce, we love Sweet Baby Rays honey
1-2 chicken breasts- sprinkled with burger seasoning, roasted at 425 for 25 minutes then sliced thin
2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese (can also use Gouda or white cheddar)
1 quarter of a red onion VERY thinly sliced
3 strips of bacon cooked and crumbled
Garlic Salt
Chili Powder
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Preheat your oven to 450...the hotter it is, the better it cooks!

Sprinkle your cornmeal onto a large cookie sheet or pizza stone. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is the right size then gently pick it up and move it over to your pan. It is easier to roll it out on the counter in my opinion. If the dough is super cold, pot it in the oven for around 15-20 seconds then it should roll out perfectly for you.

Spread a thin layer of BBQ sauce onto the dough. Sprinkle the chicken, bacon, onions and cheese evenly over the crust. Lightly sprinkle the pie with garlic salt and chili powder.

Bake for around 15 minutes until cheese has melted and crust is lightly browned. Remove and sprinkle with fresh cilantro. Cut and eat.

Enjoy Y'all!

Friday, February 3, 2012

For the Boys - BBQ Cupcakes

There are nights, like last night, when I had no idea what to make for dinner! I stood at my fridge looking in it with a totally blank stare, am I the only one? My oldest muffin asked for pizza, but we had cheap pizza the night before with our youth group kids and it did us all in. My youngest muffin kept saying, "ice cream", which was no help to me since that sounded like a great plan if we had not gobbled it all up the day before. I remembered that I just bought some Grands biscuits on my last trip to the store, which is not something I typically buy, and I had also purchased a package of ground beef. I remembered vaguely reading something about ground beef in a cup and quickly glanced at a few cookbooks, but after a few minutes I knew I just needed to get to cookin' or we would never have dinner on the table. I know I had something similar to this when I was younger but I don't remember much about it. This is not an overly original idea but we liked it and that is all that matters around here! These are cheap,easy and very filling. These would be great for a group of hungry hippos or would be great for a super bowl party.

BBQ Cupcakes

1 lb ground beef - I prefer lean or sirloin
3 tsp burger seasoning
1 Tbsp steak sauce
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (we LOVE Sweet Baby Ray's)
1 pkg large canned biscuits

Place the ground beef, seasoning and steak sauce in a skillet over medium heat and cook until it is browned. When it is browned, stir in the BBQ sauce and set aside. Remember, by using a potato masher you will get nice even crumbles.
While the meat is cooking, open your biscuits. Take a rolling pin and flatten out each biscuit by adding about one inch in diameter. Repeat for remaining biscuits.
Lightly spray a muffin pan and press a flattened biscuit into each cavity.
I used my BBQ sauce bottle lid to help press down each biscuit to the bottom. Spoon the meat into each biscuit. I had right at a pound of meat and I filled those babies to the top plus a bit more.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 17-20 minutes until biscuit edges are golden browned.
If you want to add cheese to your cups then sprinkle the cheese on top of each cup about 15 minutes into baking. That will allow the cheese to get all good and melty. We ate ours plain with some sliced up dill pickles on top but you could also add minced onion or jalapeno slices on top for an extra kick.

Enjoy Y'all!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gimmie Guacamole!!

I was totally wigged out by guacamole as a small child. Not sure what the disconnect was for me as a small child but guacamole frightened me. It always looked so unappetizing and was full of onions and tomatoes and other things I detested when I was young and naive. As a grown up I have finally seen the error of my ways (on some things) and I love guacamole! We make guacamole quite often around here. My youngest muffin is a very picky eater (got that from his daddy, thank you!) but he loves avocados just plain. And, I can't let half of an avocado go to waste so I usually slice it and eat it on a turkey sandwich or make a small bowl of guac to get my fix. Last year I taught a cooking class and this recipe is one that I used to open up the class. It was not until then that I realized that there are many others out there who too are frightened and hate guacamole, I had no idea. I always thought that grown adults loved everything when I was young. But I was wrong. I soon learned that when you break down guacamole and allow the avocado to shine in all of it's glory, you don't need a lot of other fancy fillers to make a good guacamole. You just need a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a whole love of love. This is the perfect dish to throw on your table this super bowl weekend. I promise, it will disappear!! If you have been afraid of guacamole before, give this a try and see if you too don't fall in love all over again.

2 Haas Avocados
½ fresh limed squeezed
1 tsp garlic salt
Combine all and serve immediately.
*Can also add fresh cilantro, diced tomatoes, diced red onion, and diced jalapeno

To cut the avocado, take it in the palm of one hand and with the other hand take a sharp knife, push it in sideways until you hit the pit, then spin the avocado around until you have sliced it in two at the pit. Twist lightly and it will pull apart.
To remove the pit, take your sharp knife and whack it gently into the pit. Wiggle it back and forth while holding on firmly to the avocado and it should pull right out.
To remove the flesh, take a spoon and slide it between the flesh and the skin and gently scoop it all out into a bowl. Repeat with remaining avocados.
Lightly mash the avocado  with the lime juice and garlic salt. If you think you must, you may add in any of the above mentioned toppings...but I love the be a purist about some things. Grab you a big bag of tortilla chips and start munching!
If for some unheard of reason you don't eat all of it at one time of you only use half of an avocado, keep the pit in the avocado half or throw the pit in the bowl and that should keep it from turning too brown.

Enjoy Y'all!