Saturday, December 31, 2011

To All of You

To all of you who read Carb Diva, thank you for your support. Please take a moment to let me know:
  • what you love about this blog (if anything)
  • what you don't like
  • what you want to see in 2012
I wish all of you a blessed New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

K.I.S.S.


Tomorrow a very dear friend will be having dinner with us. She's half Italian, so I'll be cooking Italian gravy with pasta. We'll have crostini as an appetizer and a salad with arugula and grape tomatoes.

But, what will we have for dessert? I thought about making tiramisu, or a zablione, but then my older daughter brought home something new from the grocery store--Jello Pudding "Candy Cane" flavor. That reminded me of a recipe I found years ago in a Pillsbury Bake Off Dessert Cook Book. I have the 1968 issue which includes "Neapolitan Cheesecake".


Neapolitan Cheesecake

Crust
1 cup flour
1/2 cup coarsely crushed after dinner mints
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup butter or margarine

In small mixer bowl, combine flour, candy, and vanilla. Cut in butter, using low speed of mixer until mixture is crumbly. Press into bottom of a 9-inch square pan. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 12-15 minutes or until delicately browned. Cool.


Neapolitan Filling
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 envelope (1 tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese
2 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup (6-oz. pkg) semi-sweet chocolate pieces, melted
2 tablespoons crushed after dinner mints


In saucepan, combine 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and gelatin. Add milk and slightly beaten egg yolks. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Add cream cheese; allow to soften, then beat with rotary beater until smooth. Cool until slightly thickened. In small mixer bowl, combine egg whites and vanilla. Beat at high speed until foamy. Add sugar gradually, continuing to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold into gelatin mixture. Divide in half. Pour melted chocolate into one portion. Spoon into baked crust. Spoon vanilla filling over chocolate. Sprinkle on crushed candy after dinner mints. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

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OK, it's a great recipe, but all that cooking, stirring, beating, whipping, whipping...phew, I'm exhausted just reading it! Here's what Carb Diva did:

Carb Diva Peppermint Cheesecake

Crust
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter or margarine

Place flour and butter in small mixer bowl. Cut in butter, using low speed of mixer until mixture is crumbly. Press into bottom of a 9-inch square pan. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 12 to 15 minutes or until delicately browned. Cool.

Peppermint Filling
1 pkg. (8 oz.) reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 pkg. Jello instant "candy cane" pudding mix
1 3/4 cups cold non-fat milk
4 oz (1/2 tub) Cool Whip whipped topping, thawed

Place cream cheese and dry pudding mix in bowl of stand mixer. Beat with wire whisk attachment until creamy and well-blended. Pour in milk and beat on slow speed 2 minutes (mixture will be thin). Let sit for 2 minutes, then fold in whipped topping. Spread on top of COOLED crust. Cover with platic wrap and chill at least 2 hours before serving.

For those of you puzzled about the title for today's blog? It's all about taking a complicated recipe and making it easier. It's not identical, but it's still pretty good. You just need to remember to "Keep It Simple Silly".

Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm in awe of a new blog

I visit quite a few blogs each day--some I enjoy for their content--innovative recipes; some are just so very well written--their words paint such a wonderful picture that I can see, taste, and smell the foods they describe. A few blogs are written by friends. And then, there's the one I discovered today. The Yellow House (http://casayellow.com) is so beautifully photographed!

I've not yet tried any of their recipes, but hope to do that this weekend.

I'll write back and let you know what I've discovered. In the meantime, visit Yellow House--I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Preparing for Christmas Brunch--Potato Casserole

Photo: www.myrecipes.com
We're just one week away from Christmas. Lights are on the porch, the tree is up (and has been de-ornamented by our new kitty at least 3 times!), and packages are wrapped. I've made three types of cookies, and hope to get at least one more completed.

A few days ago I shared with you "My Best Cinnamon Rolls" recipe. My family also likes breakfast casseroles with some combination of potatoes, cheese, onions, and creamy wonderfulness. Last year I prepared Cheesy Potato Casserole and shared that recipe with you. This year, I'm going to try a more heart-healthy recipe from the good people at www.CookingLight.com:



Hash Brown Casserole with Bacon, Onions, and Cheese
  • 6 bacon slices (see NOTE below)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (32-ounce) package frozen Southern-style hash brown potatoes
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) pre-shredded Classic Melts Four Cheese blend, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed 30% reduced-sodium, 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • Cooking spray
Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, and crumble. Discard drippings in pan. Add 1 cup onion and garlic to pan; cook for 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the potatoes; cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine crumbled bacon, 1/4 cup cheese, green onions, sour cream, salt, pepper, and soup in a large bowl. Add potato mixture; toss gently to combine. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Remove casserole from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Bake casserole, covered, at 350ยบ for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly around edges and cheese begins to brown.


6 servings

NOTE: I will make this recipe vegetarian by omitting the bacon and sauteing the onions and garlic in 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Vegetarian bacon (cooked according to package directions) or vegetarian sausage can be added if you wish.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Preparing for Christmas Brunch--My best cinnamon rolls

Some of you have asked why I've not been posting as frequently as I had in the past. In my heart and mind I want to post something every day, but these past few weeks at work have been extremely busy. Perhaps things will slow down a bit between Christmas and New Years.

Christmas! Can you believe it's just a little over one week away?

I've also slowed down on my baking of Christmas goodies--partly from lack of time, and partly because I really don't need the temptation of a dozen different kinds of cookies beckoning me to "have just one more". At the last appointment with my doctor, I tried to convince him that the jeans I was wearing weigh 10 pounds, but he wasn't buying into it.

Sigh.

So this year I'm making a few favorite cookies and immediately giving them away to friends and family. But I am still planning our traditional Christmas brunch.

Last year I experimented with a cinnamon roll filled with apples. (Cinnamon Spiral Rolls). Everyone loved them, but I think this year I'll go back to my original recipe--the one I've been using for almost 30 years. The recipe for "My Best Cinnamon Rolls" comes from a "Best of Postal Recipes (1983)" that my brother and sister-inlaw gave to me. It's a compilation of recipes from all of the chapters of the National Association of Letter Carriers--an amazing collection (over 800 pages) of recipes from all parts of our United States. Tried and true, home-cooking recipes. Thank you to Mary Medcalf, Washington State, #202 for the Best Cinnamon Rolls:

My Best Cinnamon Rolls
1 cup boiling water
1 cup instant mashed potatoes
1 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 pkg. dry yeast
2 eggs, beaten
5 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup raisins

In large bowl, mix boiling water and instant mashed potatoes. Add scalded milk, oil, salt, sugar, dry yeast and beat well. Add eggs and flour, cup by cup, and knead 15 minutes. Put in warm place and let rise 1-2 hours.

Divide in half and roll out each half to 10x15-inch rectangle. Spread melted butter on each half of dough.  Mix sugar and cinnamon together; distribute evenly over dough. Add raisins and nuts; roll up and cut  each roll into 6 pieces. Put into 2 greased 9-inch pans and let rise 1 hour. Bake 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Serendipity

I love to create contrasts in the foods I serve my friends and family. Pairing creamy with crunchy, or sweet with savory is what makes food interesting and enjoyable. Even the lowly scoop of vanilla ice cream is elevated (no pun intended) when placed atop a crisp waffle cone.

Last evening I experimented on my family and found a serendipitous combination of sweet and savory, creamy and crunchy that they raved about.


Potato Gnocchi with Roasted Squash and Gorgonzola
1 small butternut squash
1 tablespoon butter
1 500-gram (17.6 oz.) pkg. potato gnocchi
1 1/4 cups half and half
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
3 tablespoons hazelnuts, crushed
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Peel, seed, and dice (about 1/2-inch) squash--enough to make about 2 cups. Heat butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and well browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same saute pan, bring the half and half to a simmer over low heat. Add the Gorgonzola and stir until the cheese begins to melt.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium-high heat. Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and add to the half and half/Gorgonzola mixture in the saute pan. Add the cooked diced squash and stir gently until all of the gnocchi and squash are coated with sauce and are heated through.

Garnish with hazelnuts and Parmesan cheese. (Makes 4 or 5 generous servings)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Too much decadence!

Photograph: Claire Barboza (www.seriouseats.com)
My blog-friend at www.cakespy.com has published her first book (Cakespy presents 'Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life'), and it's just as amazing as her website. The only thing that tops Jessie Oleson's sweet tooth is her imagination.


All of her creations sound amazing--the type of thing I'll consume in Heaven when I don't have to worry about inches on my hips. In the meantime, I partake of her genius slowly and cautiously. But sometimes, care needs to be abandoned!


Today was one of those days--Tuesday morning Bible study with brunch. I've brought cakes, pies, and cookies. Hmmm, what about something that combines all of those? Wack-a-doodle? No, Jessie has done that. Here's her recipe for "Cookie Cake Pie."



Cake-Spy Cookie Cake Pie
1 batch (about 2 cups) of your favorite cookie dough, homemade or store-bought
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
1/2 batch of your favorite cake batter, homemade or from a mix
2 to 3 cups frosting or other topping, such as whipped cream

First, prepare the cookie dough. If you choose to use the kind that comes in a tube from the supermarket, I promise I will not judge you. Whichever you choose, be sure to bring the cookie dough to room temperature before assembling the pie, so that it will be easier to spread.

Place the pie dough in a 9-inch pie plate.

Place the cookie dough on top of the pie crust and, using your fingers or the back of a spoon, spread the dough so that it evenly coats the bottom of the crust. It should be about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. You will probably have extra cookie dough. Set your cookie dough-filled pie crust aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the cake batter as specified in your recipe and then pour it directly on top of the cookie dough until the pie crust is about two-thirds filled (the cake will rise, so you want to leave room for it to do so). You will probably have leftover cake batter.

Place the filled pie plate on a baking sheet (to catch any drips). To ensure that the sides of the cake don't bake too fast, gently place a piece of aluminum foil along the perimeter of the pie, leaving the center exposed.

Put your weighty pie-monster in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. At this point, take the pie out of the oven and remove the aluminum foil; return to the oven and bake for another 15 to 25 minutes, or until the top is domed and golden, and a cake tester comes out mostly clean. Since the types of dough and batter will vary depending on the choices you've made, you might want to start checking for doneness after the initial 30 minutes.

Let cool. If the pretty domed top of your pie collapses, don't despair; it is just more of a void to fill with frosting. Frost generously with your choice of topping. Garnish as desired.