Monday, March 31, 2014

No Bake Avocado Lime Cheesecake



My workplace is filled with amazing people, many of whom have a keen interest in food and great cooking talent. Last year, we created a company dessert "bake-off" competition (I'm happy to say I won). It was such a success that we decided to do it again this year. Each week we have a different theme - avocado, chocolate, marshmallow, quinoa, banana etc. Up to five people create their best recipe using the featured ingredient and it's judged by three colleagues. After all of the weekly competitions are completed, the weekly winners then make their best dessert for a no restrictions final bake-off. They can bake anything their hearts desire and it's judged by every person in the office. The baker with the most votes takes the title of master baker! 

I'm in the avocado category this year and I'm competing against some incredibly talented bakers. I was going to go with chocolate and avocado but instead I'm going for something lighter tasting and citrusy. The only problem with avocado is that it is hard to create something that showcases the flavour of avocado because ...well...it doesn't have a strong, distinct flavour. It does however have a great creamy texture that goes well with cream cheese. The lime definitely is the star flavour here and if I didn't tell you there was avocado in it you might not figure it out. But when I tell you it's in there, you  say "oh yeah" because you can taste it if you know to look for it. The toasted coconut goes so well with the lime and adds another layer of texture to the dessert. 

This will make a great summer dessert since it requires NO baking! And it kinda reminds me of a lime margarita (one of my favorite summer drinks)... bring on summer!!

Update: Wow, what an amazing group of competitors and desserts! I'm glad I wasn't a judge because picking a winner would have been difficult. I didn't win this round :( but the winner was a truly deserving avocado pie! The other entries included an avocado Pop-Tart and an avocado crème brûlée - both of which were fabulous!


Ingredients

You need a 9x9 baking dish.

Crust

1-1/4 c graham crackers
1/4 c coconut
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Combine all three ingredients in a mixing bowl. 
  2. Press into pan (as compactly as possible).

Cheesecake

2 large avocados, peeled and pitted (about 1.5 - 2 cups )
1/2 c granulated sugar (can add up to 2 tbsp more if not sweet enough for your taste)
1 c whipping cream
1-1/2 tbsp gelatin powder
1/2 c water, divided
1 c vanilla or plain yogurt
1 lb cream cheese
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
zest of 1 lime

toasted coconut for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a stand mixer, cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
  2. Mix gelatin with 1/4 c of water. Add 1/4 c boiling water and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Set aside.
  3. In food processor, puree avocados and lime juice until smooth.
  4. Add avocado mixture to the cream cheese and beat until smooth.
  5. Turn mixer on medium low and slowly add the gelatin.
  6. Add the yogurt and lime zest and mix to combine.
  7. In another mixing bowl, whip the whipping cream with hand beaters until soft peaks form.
  8. Using a spatula, fold in the whipping cream into the cream cheese mixture and combine well.
  9. Pour on top of crust.
  10. Smooth the top with a spatula.
  11. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours until set.
  12. When ready to serve, cut into 16 squares.
  13. Plate and top with a teaspoon or so of toasted coconut.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Brownie Sandwiches



"I scream , you scream, we all scream for ice cream!" How many times have you heard or said that line? Did you know it was actually a hit song from the late 1920s? I didn't but here is recording:



And let me tell you, I would scream for these ice cream sandwiches! Oh man, these are good! The chewy, fudgy brownie layer and the creamy, chocolaty ice cream are perfect together. Kids and adults will rave about this dessert treat. 

Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Ingredients

2 cups whipping cream
2 cups half and half
1 vanilla bean
5 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Freeze ice cream maker bowl according to manufacturer's directions (usually 24 hours before you make the ice cream).
  2. Split vanilla bean and scrape out vanilla seeds. Place in medium sauce pan with whipping cream and half and half. Heat sauce pan over medium heat. Watch carefully and stir often until it begins to simmer. Remove from the heat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and add sugar until combined.
  4. Temper the egg mixture. This means, slowly whisk in about a 1/3 cup of the simmered cream to the eggs. Repeat two more times. 
  5. Add the rest of the cream to the egg mixture.
  6. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and place on low heat. Using a thermometer heat the custard until it reaches 170 degrees F.
  7. Remove from heat and let sit for about 30 minutes. 
  8. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  9. Place custard in ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions.
  10. After 25 minutes of churning add the mini chocolate chips. (If your ice cream maker seems too full to add chips, wait another 5 minutes until ice cream is done and then add them by hand when you remove ice cream from maker).
  11. Continue to churn for another 5-10 minutes.
  12. Scrape out ice cream into freezable dish. 
  13. It will be soft - if you prefer it more frozen just place in freezer for a few hours.

Brownie Layers

This recipe is adapted from Michael Smith brownie recipe. 

Ingredients:
  • 1 cups semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (preferably pure)

What to do:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease and flour a 11 x 17 inch pan. Note: I use extra cocoa instead of flour so there is no white flour color on the brownies when baked.
  • Melt butter and chocolate over low heat. Stir until smooth and remove from heat to cool.
  • Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
  • Once melted chocolate mixture has a cooled a bit, add sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir well.
  • Add the chocolate mixture to the flour bowl and mix until incorporated.
  • Spread batter evenly into the pan.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes until an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.
  • Cool completely.

Sandwich Assembly

I made my sandwiches about two inches wide by 4 inches long but you can cut them into any size you desire.
  1. Cut the brownie layers into desired sizes.
  2. Place ice cream layer next. (If ice cream is too hard just let it sit for a few minutes to soften.)
  3. Place brownie layer to finish.
  4. Press down lightly to make sure they stick.
  5. Place them back on a cookie sheet and freeze until hard. 
  6. Wrap if desired.

Note: You could also just cut the sheet of brownie in half, spread the ice cream, top with the other half of brownie and freeze. Once frozen you would cut the sandwiches into desired size.







Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with Raisins




I love oatmeal cookies, do you? These are buttery, chocolatey and semi-healthy thanks to the whole wheat flour and oats. Your kids will love to find them in their lunch bags and you'll love them as a coffee break snack :)

Makes approx. 4 dozen cookies.

Ingredients

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup regular all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups mini chocolate chips
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
3 cups rolled oats
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom (optional)
1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In another large bowl whisk together flours, baking soda, oats, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Set aside.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugars for 5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time to butter mixture. Beat for 30 seconds per egg and scrape down sides of bowl after each addition.
  5. Mix in vanilla. Beat for another 30 seconds.
  6. Add flour mixture and combine until just mixed.
  7. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chips and raisins.
  8. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto cookie sheet lined with parchment or silpat.
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  10. Cool for 5 minutes and remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Watermelon Salad


Vancouver had its first day of sunshine and spring-like weather this week and even though it's chilly today, I'm ready for a new season, new garden and new things to plant. The kids want to plant watermelons this year - though not sure we could pull it off with our short summers. I'm leaning more towards squash, tomatoes, beans, carrots and maybe a few beets. But since I had watermelon on the brain, we made this great salad. The saltiness of the olives goes really well with the sweet watermelon and creamy feta (we used Macedonian feta). I topped it with a store bought balsamic glaze - but you could make your own by reducing a bottle of balsamic vinegar.


Makes 4 side salads

Ingredients

1 mini-watermelon or 3 cups, cubed or scooped out with melon baller
1 cup yellow tomatoes (cherry tomato sized), halved
1/2 cup feta, crumbled or cut into cubes
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
handful of chopped basil
2-3 tbsp balsamic reduction

Instructions

Lightly combine all fruit, veggies and feta in serving bowl(s). Drizzle with balsamic reduction.
Serve immediately.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Orange Surprise Smoothie

withinthekitchen.blogspot.com

The surprise in this smoothie is the addition of prunes. Prunes are surprisingly sweet and blend well (if your blender motor is pretty good). Did you notice most prunes are now labelled as dried plums? Marketing peeps thinks the marketing ploy will attract more people willing to try this nutritious fruit. And really what's not to like? They contain beneficial amounts of fiber, vitamin k, and potassium, so no matter what you call them, throw a few in your next smoothie and enjoy!

If your strawberries are very sweet you can omit the maple syrup!
withinthekitchen.blogspot.com

Ingredients

1 orange, peeled
4 large strawberries
3-4 prunes
1 cup plain low fat yogurt
1 tbsp maple syrup

Instructions

Blend all ingredients until smooth. If too thick add water and blend again. Makes one large or two small smoothies.
withinthekitchen.blogspot.com
A great way to start your day!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Scalloped Potatoes with Boursin and Fontina Cheeses

Scalloped Potatoes with Fontina and Boursin Cheese withinthekitchen.blogspot.com
So pretty! These are quite thin, thanks to the use of a mandoline.
A bit thicker would work too.

Warning: this is a dangerous recipe so continue only if you are willing to take the risk!

Or maybe just be smarter than me and use oven mitts and not a dish cloth - especially one not completely covering the ENTIRE handle of a cast iron pan! Who needs finger prints? It's not like I'm gonna break the law and need to be booked (is that even the right terminology??) and fingerprinted any time soon, right? 

This recipe is not one you want to make while on a diet...which means you'll probably be craving it when you are trying to count calories! It's creamy, delicious and contains mountains of potatoes and cheese - 'nough said.

Let it sit 15 or 20 minutes, if you can, before serving so it can set a bit. It is great the next day too.

If you don't have Boursin cheese, you can use cream cheese (one with garlic or chives would be good). 

Use a 10 inch cast iron pan that is about 2 inches high. If you use another type of baking dish keep it no deeper than 2 inches to ensure potatoes cook properly.

Ingredients

2 lbs small red potatoes
1 package boursin (or cream cheese)
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
1 small onion, chopped small
1 cup milk (not cream)
3 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Wash potatoes and thinly slice (1/8 inch) potatoes.
  3. Place in cold water so they don't brown.
  4. Saute onion in 10 inch cast iron pan over medium heat with 1 tbsp butter until translucent and just starting to brown.
  5. Remove from pan.
  6. Grease a baking dish (or if you are using a cast iron pan, just add butter to pan) with 1 tbsp of butter.
  7. Drain your potatoes and dry them with paper towel.
  8. Spread half of potatoes over bottom of baking dish.
  9. Sprinkle 1/2 of onions, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese, and 1/2 tbsp of butter.
  10. Layer the remaining potatoes over the first layer.
  11. Add remaining salt, pepper, fontina, onions and butter.
  12. In a small pot, bring milk to a simmer and add boursin.
  13. Stir until melted.
  14. Pour simmering milk mixture over potatoes.
  15. Over medium heat, bring potatoes to a simmer.
  16. Carefully place potatoes into preheated oven.
  17. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. - milk will be absorbed, potatoes soft when pierced with a fork, and cheese browned. Remove carefully!! It will be HOT.




Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Refresher Smoothie

withinthekitchen.blogspot.com
I'm not a big fan of kale - unless it's in a smoothie. I thought the kale and strawberries would shine in this smoothie but I was wrong! The ginger is the star of the show here. Even though you don't use much its flavour and refreshing nature gets top billing.

Speaking of top billing, are you watching the Oscars tonight? I am but have to admit that I haven't watched many of the nominated shows this year (except the animation ones - thanks kids!). Oh well, my favorite part is the pre-show red carpet reports - who will be the best dressed?? My money is on Lupita Nyong'o!
withinthekitchen.blogspot.com
Makes 2 smoothies.

Ingredients

handful of frozen sliced strawberries
1/2 ripe avocado
1 cup chopped frozen kale
1 inch piece of peeled ginger, chopped
2 tsp ginger syrup (optional)
1.5 cups low fat milk
water to cover (if needed)

Instructions

Blend everything in Nutribullet or blender until smooth and desired consistency is reached.

Dusting

This was given to me about 9 years ago and I love it because it reminds me of good times and wonderful people.

But I have to confess that I had forgotten about it. It has been sitting on a bottom shelf in my kitchen gathering a bit of dust. Last weekend, my 7 year old son was helping me organize the spices that I keep on the same shelf. He brought it over to me and said I "must clean this thing" because it had a good layer of dust on it. Of course, he asked me what it was, where I got it, how to use it, could he make magic potions with it etc etc ... asking a tonne of questions as kids his age do.

The stove top coffee maker and my son's questions brought back a lot of memories though I have to admit one of them wasn't how to use it! I googled (what did we do before google became a verb?) how to make espresso with it and bought some Italian coffee. I'm going to make a cup on the weekend and enjoy the coffee and the memories all over again. I know we can't go back in time, change words said or left unsaid and it's important to live in the here and now but once in awhile it's good to remember past moments, experiences and people. After all, they've made us you who we are today, don't you think?

So even though you're not asking, my advice today is to look around for something you've forgotten or perhaps are just overlooking even though it's right in front of you. Dust it off and enjoy it one more time.