Monday, January 7, 2013

Christmas, New Year, Cheesecake, and Hunting

Where well the heck did we go right? I know. We are not the type of bloggers that have an abundance of things to share over the holidays as we were hither and yon and back again due to family events etc.

So, what have we been up to, well I will start off with food, as in Cheesecake - REAL New York style cheesecake. No graham crackers involved. I hear those gasps out there, yes, I make cheesecake WITHOUT graham crackers, you are allowed to do that you know. Especially if you are going for more authenticity than simplicity.

You can look up traditional New York style cheesecake and it has a shortbread type crust with a standard cheesecake filling with or without the sour cream topping. Mine does not have the topping but still tastes pretty awesome. I like to pair it with cherries on top or strawberries, though this is a cheesecake that can be eaten plain as well. It has a hint of lemon to offset the fact that this recipe has 4 packages of cream cheese in it.

So, to the cheesecake:

Yes a REAL New York style cheesecake :) That's how I put it in the home cookbook with mom and Gramma's recipe. 

4 eggs for the filling, yes 4. There is also almost one entire lemon with rind and juice in the crust and in the filling, this is what cuts the richness of the cake.

Making the filling you have to have 3 packages of cream cheese with sugar, eggs, vanilla, a touch of flour, and some lemon juice and rind.

Of course it's not a cheesecake unless you have a spring form pan. This beauty I obtained through Mike's grandmother. I have this and my 3 small muffin tins from her. 

So to start this cheesecake we had to start with the crust, this is a shortbread crust made with butter AND cream cheese to help make it blend a little better but still be more traditional. 1 pkg of cream cheese, 1 stick of butter, flour, sugar, vanilla, and lemon rind. You can also just make the crust and turn them into cutout cookies much like sugar cookies.You can also take a little bit of the crust and make decorations for the top of the cheesecake after you've put topping on it, makes it "fancy."

So we start by par baking the base of the crust, so this went into a 375 degree F oven for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, much like a perfectly toasted marshmallow.

So next we have a prepared filling, after the crust cooled, I placed the crust up on the sides of the pan to create the side of the cake.

Once I had the sides put in I made sure to seal the seam around the bottom and side of the crust to ensure that the cheesecake didn't leach through, not that it would through the spring form but I like to have things done all the way for this.

Next, if you do not have one of these puppies in your oven, GO BUY ONE AND PUT IT THERE! I'm serious, this thing has corrected me on numerous occasions. Having a gas oven can sometimes cause things to be a bit inaccurate with the dial that comes with the oven. So to have an oven thermometer always in the oven it ensures I have the correct temperature. As you see here, it's at 300 degrees F, perfect for baking a cheesecake.

This pan here if filled with water, putting this pan under the cake will ensure that the cheesecake doesn't crack. You can leave this out if you were putting the sour cream topping on it or if you were just going to top before serving and didn't care but this makes the cheesecake look prettier when it's pulled from the oven.

As you can see, this is going to be a tasty cake. :)

Beautiful cake no? My plate is pretty cute too - polar bear plate with matching bowl (not pictured). Perfect for Christmas and winter time. Speaking of Christmas (you can find the recipe below for the cake). Here is my tree in front of my picture window - lights off of course.

I'm one of those people who has the random ornaments that all mean something to me, I don't do a matchy matchy or color schemed tree and my tree topper is an angel that my mom made with yarn and the plastic canvas. It's old but it means a lot that she gave it to me.

I didn't really bake cookies this Christmas season like I normally do, when doing foodie pen pal in November I received dark chocolate covered pretzel thins topped with crushed up peppermint. Can I just say, DELISH. Also, it gave me an idea, instead of taking cookies to the local fire dept I would take chocolate pretzels. I ended up making chocolate chip cookies (store bough dough) and made those real quick. It's a Christmas tradition in my family to take cookies and/or candies to the local fire dept and/or police dept to say thank you to the people that don't get to go home for Christmas. Of course, police tend to look at you funny when you hand them cookies, thinking they must be drugged or something. So it's generally our fire departments that get cookies because they don't care and want to show you around the station anyway. :)

So to make these pretzels is really super super simple. I went to Sam's Club and purchased a large bag of those pretzel thins. Then bought a large bag of chocolate chips, I got milk chocolate so to satisfy 90% of people. Then I went to Aldi and picked up about 2 packages of candy canes to pulverize with my meat tenderizing mallet. Hehe, I think my neighbor upstairs thinks I'm insane. Between the indoor bike and pounding on my counters, I guess I do make a bit of noise.

So you melt the chocolate down, a double boiler method works best because it keeps the chocolate warm while you dip. My mother had given me a giant bundle of Chinese restaurant chopsticks (she has an elderly Japanese lady at her church that hoards everything), so I used a couple chop sticks to dip each pretzel without leaving any marks on the backs or fronts after dipping. Then after they were dipped I took a pinch of the peppermints and sprinkled them atop the pretzels. I think they turned out quite well. They tasted divine too. I took a small amount to Mike's parents house for the Christmas in St. Louis and his Gramma ate it up and loved them. The fire dept was thankful too.

I didn't go the entire Christmas season without baking homemade cookies, on the left there I have fluffy snickerdoodles, that's another recipe for another time (you can look them up too, I can't remember who I got the recipe from though). Then on the right we have my mom's peanut butter cookies, which I have tweaked by using all butter instead of shortening. I like the chewiness that they have with butter better. I also received for Christmas these silicone cookie stamps that I am eager to try out for Valentine's day. It came with a heart, a snowflake and a jack-o-lantern. Can't wait to experiment.

We spent Christmas day at my folks place after spending 4 days with Mike's parents the week before. The time in St. Louis was fun because his dad will take us to the gun range to shoot in the pits as well as at the skeet range. Love it. It was a nice early Christmas with them, his sister and her hubby and his parents and Gramma. Cozy and I got more presents than expected quite honestly. Was fun.

Christmas day we were at my parents place at 9:30 am and opened presents and lounged around until dinner time. My aunt was supposed to be in Hawaii but due to snow storms all her flights were grounded :( I know she had been excited about that but at least got to spend the day with her, I think the last time we did Christmas with her was years ago. It went well and everyone had plenty to eat. Even after we left Mike was able to be a Good Samaritan and help out at a wreck, he keeps a med bag in his truck for such things. I'm quite proud of him.

Recently we made burritos, seen above there. Hyvee makes their own tortillas from scratch so we picked up some whole wheat tortillas, used the last 1/4 lb of lean ground beef, black refried beans, green pepper, onion, and salsa con queso to create a delicious and surprisingly lower calorie dinner than expected. It really hit the spot that night. Inside the burrito it had about 1 oz of ground beef, 1 Tbsp black refried beans, a few strips of onion and pepper with about a tablespoon of cheese, we then topped with cheese and the remaining beef and sided it with the remaining beans (refried beans made with black beans instead of pinto) and the I topped with avocado and tomato. 

Amazing what you can just piece together sometimes when you are just wandering around the store.

Earlier this year, in October, we had a dear friend take some pictures (no not engagement photos, just photos for the hell of it). I had some of just me for some Christmas cards I sent out as well as some of Mike and I for closer relatives. These are two of my favorites. She is such a great friend and we had a great time at the park that day.

So on to January, I found this picture above online and decided to do it, so I have a jar on my counter for things that make me happy and good things that happen. Mike has already gone and made fun of my midnight kiss for New Year's Eve and hearing "I love you" from Mike. Corny, yes. Still makes me smile and is good.

New Year's Eve our original plans were changed due to a snow storm headed into the city. Well, it was a terrible storm but enough to make us leery about venturing too far into the city on a night where drunk drivers abound. Top that with slick roads and no thank you. So we went to one of our favorite local bars and spent the evening there, free shuttle to and from (though I ended up calling a friend to pick us up because the bar failed miserably on the FROM part) and free pizza bar for anyone with a pre-sale ticket (we got ours that morning). So we people watched and enjoyed that thoroughly since we saw a couple argue about their affair, a lady turn a young buck down with the line "You're not even a man." And Mike saw a man pass out at the bar. It was quite the entertaining night, we even made friends.

So after the holidays were over I had purchased a delightful thing from Cabela's with birthday and Christmas money. (My birthday is the week before Christmas - Mike took me to dinner and we shared a large peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream - delicious but absolutely HUGE). I bought my first really warm coat in a long time. Yes, it's duck blind Mossy Oat and a "hunting" coat but it's warm and I love it. 

So today Mike went hunting. Headed out around 6 and was done by 11am. He and his buddy got their limit (3 geese) each and they got to take the dog (his name is Goose) out too. It was a good day for the mighty hunters. As you can see Mike is happy with the days kill.

He even used his Christmas present from me, face paint. I got him this cool new kind that comes in a mini deodorant like container. Pretty cool and he said it worked great and he liked it. That makes me happy. So as you can see we have been busy busy busy but we are back now. We have a post for tomorrow to, we will show you what we did with the days kill.

Here is the promised recipe though, I'm sure you just skipped down and came straight to this. :)

REAL Cheesecake *New York Style* (Mom's recipe)

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, room temperate (DO NOT FAT FREE CREAM CHEESE)
1/2 cup butter/margarine (1 stick), room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour, all purpose
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp grated lemon rind

Combine soft cream cheese and butter. Mixing until well blended. Add flour, sugar, and rind. Mix well. Form into a ball. Chill dough thoroughly.

Cookies: On a lightly floured surface, roll 1/4 cup dough into 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with assorted 1-inch cookie cutters of your choice. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 375 degrees F for 8 to 10 min or until lightly browned.

Crust: Spread TWO THIRDS of remaining dough onto the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until crust is very lightly brown. Cool. Press remaining dough around sides of pan.

Drop oven to 300 degrees F.

3 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp lemon juice (fresh is best)
2 tsp lemon rind, grated
4 eggs

Combine soft cream cheese, sugar, flour, lemon juice, and rind. Mix at medium speed, using an electric mixer. Mix until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Pour filling into crust. Bake at 300 degrees F for 1 hour 15 minutes. Or until center is set.

Loose cake from rim of pan; cool completely before removing rim and cutting.

If you wish, spoon pie filling over the top of cake and top with small cookies made earlier.
**Cherry, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, apple, chocolate, etc - let your imagination run wild.

Go out and experiment, take chances, enjoy cooking.

Go out and cook, or bake ;)