Feta Dip

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Dips are just the best. A dinner of dip(s) a great, easy (and usually oven-less) summer dinner, and that is exactly what I did with this feta dip. I had eaten some feta dip at a get together a few weeks ago, and ever since I have been hell-bent on re-creating it at home.

This dip was particularly great outside on a hot day with a margarita. A highly recommended combination. Or any dip with a margarita.

If you will now excuse me, I have a whole bowl of it in the fridge just calling my name for dinner. And it’s all for me since I am the only feta-lover in this household.

FETA DIP

INGREDIENTS

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces feta cheese, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2-3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped chives
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Heat olive oil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

In a bowl, break up feta cheese into small pieces (you can also use a food processor as well). Mix in cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise until combined. Stir in garlic olive oil, chives, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste. Let sit in fridge at least 1 hour, preferably overnight to let the flavors develop. Serve chilled or at room temperature with Pita chips or vegetables.

Recipe from Cinnamon Freud.

Baked Crab Rangoon: Secret Recipe Club

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Three.  Day.  Weekend. !!!

Three day weekends are the best.  It’s even better when you keep forgetting that you have an extra day off, and then you get to remember: “hey, I don’t have to go to work on Monday!”.  And boy, did I need today off.  The semester is back in full swing, but I am experiencing a little lag getting back into the groove of things.

Now that I am back to being busy with work and after about a month of lots of baking and cooking during the holidays, I was ready for some easy, quick recipes.  When I was assigned Sara’s blog Cook with Sara for this month’s Secret Recipe Club, my recipe requirements were that it was somewhat healthy and that it was easy to make.

This baked crab rangoon fit my requirements perfectly.  The fried crab & cheese puffs were always one of my favorites when we ordered Chinese takeout as a kid.  But now that I had that chance to make them myself I did two things: baked them instead of frying them (because messing with oil is too much work sometimes) and added lots of crab.

BAKED CRAB RANGOON
Adapted from Cook with Sara

INGREDIENTS

20 wonton wrappers
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1-2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 scallions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon soy sauce
Sriracha sauce, optional
3/4 cup crab meat
Oil, for brushing

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix together cream cheese, Greek yogurt, scallions, garlic, Worcestershire, soy sauce, and sriracha sauce (to taste). Fold in crab meat.

Place wontons on prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Place a small spoonful on filling on each wonton. To seal the wontons, brush a wet finger along two edges of the wonton wrapper and pinch closed. Brush folded wontons with oil (or use nonstick cooking spray). Bake for 9-12 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with additional scallions and with sweet chili dipping sauce.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

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So I was healthy for a little bit this new year at least, right?  I am not trying to tempt you all away from any resolutions, but…homemade cinnamon rolls (that taste like Cinnabon) with cream cheese frosting.

Homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting. 

I know that January is meant for healthy eating, but we all need a little indulgence sometime.  Just balance some sweets with working out and healthy eating at other meals.  In doing my part working on resolutions, I recently tried a Pure Barre class, and it kicked my ass.  About 33% of the class was spent with me holding on to the bar looking around incredulously as everyone else worked out.  Phew.   A good healthy workout sometimes mandates homemade cinnamon rolls really.

And these cinnamon rolls. Oh my, these were just as good as I dreamed of.  I have wanted to make homemade cinnamon rolls for a long time, and I am so glad I did.  I remember how much of a treat it was when I would come downstairs and smell that mom had made up a batch of cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  That smell always let me know it was going to be a good start to my day.

These take a little bit of a time investment since there is yeast and rising time involved, but you can make the rolls almost completely the night before.  Because while I may like to eat cinnamon rolls early in the morning, I don’t particularly want to have to get up super early to make them.  I served these on Christmas morning, and I am certain that Santa was bitter that all he got the night before was some measly cookies.  If he had stuck around, he could have gorged on these.

HOMEMADE CINNAMON ROLLS
Barely Adapted from Lauren’s Latest

INGREDIENTS

For the Dough:
3/4 cup warm water, 115-110°F
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1/3 cup canola oil
4 1/2 – 5 cups all purpose flour

For the Filling:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the Icing:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

For the Dough:

In a large bowl of stand mixer, combine water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Pour in remaining sugar and salt. Stir on low for 20 seconds.

In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk, oil, and egg together. Pour into into yeast mixture. Use your stand mixer to stir together. Pour 2 cups of flour into bowl and mix on low until incorporated. While running the mixer, continue to add flour in 1/4 cup increments until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl (you may not need to use the entire amount of flour). Turn the mixer on high and knead for 5 minutes. Remove dough from bowl. Grease the bowl and place dough back in. Cover with plastic wrap and dish towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size,d about 1 1/2-2 hours.

For the filling:

In a bowl mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Set aside.

Punch down dough after it has risen. Transfer dough to a large cutting board that is dusted with flour. Roll out to a 20 inch by 30 inch rectangle. Spread the softened butter on the dough, leaving a 1 inch border on one of the longer sides.

Sprinkle brown sugar mixture on top of the butter. Lightly press mixture into butter using your hands or a rolling pin.

Roll the dough into a tight log, finishing on the edge with the border, using the plain dough to seal the roll shut. Score the dough every 2 inches and slice into rolls. Place into a parchment lined, greased pan (2 cake pans can work, or a 9×13 and a loaf pan). Cover and let rise in a warm place for another 1-2 hours, until almost doubled in size.

Or, you can cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight. The next morning, take out the rolls and place in a 100°F oven for about 40 minutes to take the chill off and help the rolls start rising. Then let rise in a warm place for approximately 1 hour (This is how I had them rise- you can also just let them sit in a warm place for a little longer, about 3 hours).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 17 minutes, until the tops begin to turn golden brown.

For the Icing:

In a bowl, whip cream cheese and butter together. Mix in vanilla, corn syrup, and lemon juice. Pour in powdered sugar slowly and mix to incorporate. Mix on high for 5 minutes, until icing turns a light color.

Once rolls have finished baking, spread approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the icing on top. Let them cool for about 10-13 minutes, and frost with remaining icing. Serve warm

Makes about 15 cinnamon rolls.

Blackberry White Chocolate Lime Cheesecake Bars

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My brain is currently undergoing Christmas-scramble.  My thoughts are about gifts, decorations, and crafting.  But of course I also have saved some brain power to think about food.  Holidays bring some of the best food (and an excuse to eat it- only a Scrooge won’t eat that Christmas cookie or eat another piece of bread).

For this month’s Improv Challenge, we had to make something with white chocolate and lime- two of my absolute favorite dessert flavors.  I considered making something akin to a key lime pie but ended up taking some cheesecake bars and adding some deliciously smooth, melted white chocolate and citrus-y lime zest.  Then to top it all off, I swirled in some blackberry preserves- or if you want to be more festive, swirl in some cranberry sauce or raspberry preserves.

Don’t be a Scrooge- make and share these bars!

BLACKBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE LIME CHEESECAKE BARS
Adapted from Handle the Heat

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, cut in 1 inch cubes

For the Cheesecake:
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
Zest of 2 limes
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces white chocolate, melted
3/4 cup blackberry jam

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×9 baking pan with foil and grease.

In a food processor combine flour, salt, and brown sugar. Pulse until combined. Sprinkle cold butter cubes on top. Pulse until pea sized crumbs form. Press evenly into prepared baking pan.

In a large bowl combined granulated sugar and lime zest. Rub together. Add cream cheese and beat until combined. While continuing to beat, add eggs, vanilla extract, flour, and salt until combined. Beat in white chocolate until combined. Pour cheesecake batter on top of crust.

Warm blackberry jam on the stove or in the microwave until slightly thinner.  Dollop on top of cheesecake and swirl with a butter knife.

Place 9×9 pan inside a 9×13 pan. Fill the larger pan with hot water to create a water bath. Place in oven and bake for 35-45 minutes. The center should jiggle slightly when shaken, but the edges should be stiffer looking. Cool completely. Store in refrigerator.

Thanks for Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting.  Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Layered Spice Cake and Cheesecake

I have great contention with the traditional Easter dinner of ham- meaning that I refuse to eat it.  But there are so many great things that come along with Easter.  First, our school gets a three day weekend with no school on Monday, my longest/worst day of the week.  I will snooze all morning and enjoy not having to be on campus on that Monday. Second, Easter candy.  Cadbury eggs, Peeps, and Reeses eggs fill my dreams during the spring months.  I love candy and in full disclosure, I have already begun stocking up a stash in my closet for when Easter is over.

If you need an Easter dessert rather than wonderful seasonal candy, this cake would be a perfect way to wow everyone.  This decadent cake has alternating layers of spice cake and New York style cheese cake.  Then it is all topped with cream cheese frosting.  Cream cheese on cream cheese is a wonderful thing.

Everything in my kitchen seemed to come into place with this cake: my cheesecakes didn’t crack (I promise even though you can’t see the tops),there were no cream cheese frosting thickness problems like I have had before, and my cakes came out of the pans easily.  I am extremely proud of my successful layering of this cake, and I did a little kitchen dance of celebration when I cut the first piece.  I spent a good amount of time just admiring and gazing lovingly at the cake.  I assume this is exactly like parenthood, right?  But I had to eat my child, and it was delicious.

This cake does take some time investment, but it is not super challenging as far as layer cakes go.  I suggest making the cheesecake layers the night before and chilling to help develop flavor (this recipe is from the best New York cheesecake I’ve ever made).  If you want to make it even more Easter themed, make the spice cake layer a spice carrot cake.

Hope you all have a great Easter weekend!


LAYERED SPICE CAKE AND CHEESECAKE
Spice cake from Taste of Home & Cheesecake from Cook’s Illustrated
Frosting from Our Best Bites
INGREDIENTS

For the Cheesecake:

2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, cut into 1 inch chunks and softened
10 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 egg yolks, room temperature
6 large eggs, room temperature

For the Sour Cream Spice Cake:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons all spice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
DIRECTIONS

For the Cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 500°F. Grease the sides 2 nine inch springform pans.

Transfer cream cheese to the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until pieces are broken up and cheesecake is slightly softened, 1-2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add granulated sugar and salt. Beat for 1-2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Beat until combined, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add egg yolks, beating until combined, 1-2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add eggs two at a time, beating after each addition until thoroughly combine, and scraping down bowl between additions.

Make sure your cheesecake mixture is thoroughly mixed by scraping down the bowl one last time. Place springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Divide cheesecake filling between 2 springform pans.  Bake for 10 minutes. Keeping the oven door closed, reduced temperature to 200°F. Bake for an additional 1 1/2- 1 3/4 hour, until cheesecake is golden brown on top and has an internal temperature of 150°F.

Cool cake on wire wrack for 5 minutes. Run a pairing knife around the border of the cheesecake to loosen cheesecake from pan. Cool at room temperature for 3 hours. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours.*

To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

For the Sour Cream Spice Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add egg yolks one at a time, fully incorporating the yolk before adding another.  Add vanilla extract and combine.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, all spice, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.  Alternating between sour cream and dry ingredients, mix until just combined.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with hand mixer or whisk until stiff peaks just begin to form.  Carefully fold egg whites into batter.  Divide batter between two cake pans.  Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool 10 minutes.  Run knife along edge and invert cake pan on wire rack to remove cake from pan.  Let cool to room temperature.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
 
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter.  Beat until light and combined.  Gradually add in vanilla and powdered sugar, beating until combined.  Scrape down bowl and beat to ensure ingredients are fully incorporated.
 
For the Assembly:
 
Carefully removed cooled cheesecake and spice cake from pans.  Place a cheesecake layer on serving plate, top with spice cake, then second layer of cheesecake, and second layer of spice cake.  Frost cake with cream cheese frosting.  Garnish with pecans if desired.  Cut into slices to serve.  Store in refrigerator.


*Cheesecake will keep in fridge. Cheesecake flavor will keep developing the longer you chill, but after one day the crust will significantly soften.

New York Cheesecake

One of my firmest beliefs in life is that every restaurant should have some form of cheesecake on their menu.  Just ask my family, and they will tell you the grudges I hold against restaurants that may serve good food otherwise but lack cheesecake.  It makes me sad really, a tragic loss for all patrons.
I also like to think I know what a makes a good cheesecake.  My qualifications for this last statement? The pure volume of cheesecake I’ve eaten in my 22 years on this planet. A cheesecake should have a rich, creamy filling on top of a crunchy and sweet crust.  Now, I love all types of cheesecake, but my favorite is definitely the New York style.
I made this cheesecake for a Mexican fiesta pre-celebration of the 4th of July (I was just not feeling any other Mexican desserts).  Everyone gave this cheesecake rave reviews, and as an expert cheesecake connoisseur, I can only concur.  This cheesecake is perfect in every way a New York cheesecake should be: creamy, rich, and decadent.  Unlike some other cheesecakes, this one definitely has that delicious tang every New York cheesecake should have.  This recipe definitely rivals some of
the cheesecake I have had (even in New York).My cheesecake did not turn out as perfectly as Cook’s Illustrated did (it didn’t brown on top and cracked wile baking), but it was still delicious. I guess that just means I will have to make this again soon to perfect it. It’s a tough task, but someone has to eat another cheesecake.

NEW YORK CHEESECAKE
INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
8 ounces graham crackers
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted

For the Cheesecake:
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, cut into 1 inch chunks and softened
10 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 egg yolks, room temperature
6 large eggs, room temperature

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Break the graham crackers into small pieces. Place graham cracker and sugar into a food processor. Process to fine crumbs, about 1 minute. In a large bowl combine graham crackers and butter. Stir until all crumbs are moistened. Pour graham cracker mixture into springform pan. Use a small ramekin to press crumbs evenly on bottom, keeping the sides clean.

Bake until golden brown and fragrant, 12-15 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the Cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 500°F. Grease the sides of cooled springform pan, careful to avoid disturbing the crust.

Transfer cream cheese to the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until pieces are broken up and cheesecake is slightly softened, 1-2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add granulated sugar and salt. Beat for 1-2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Beat until combined, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add egg yolks, beating until combined, 1-2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add eggs two at a time, beating after each addition until thoroughly combine, and scraping down bowl between additions.

Make sure your cheesecake mixture is thoroughly mixed by scraping down the bowl one last time. Place springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour cheesecake filling into springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Keeping the oven door closed, reduced temperature to 200°F. Bake for an additional 1 1/2- 1 3/4 hour, until cheesecake is golden brown on top and has an internal temperature of 150°F.

Cool cake on wire wrack for 5 minutes. Run a pairing knife around the border of the cheesecake to loosen cheesecake from pan. Cool at room temperature for 3 hours. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours.*

To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

*Cheesecake will keep in fridge. Cheesecake flavor will keep developing the longer you chill, but after one day the crust will significantly soften.