Recipe: Pepper Cheese Ball

21 Nov

I am a vair vair bad food blogger. Keeping up with posting really shouldn’t be as difficult as I make it. I cook EVERY day. Yesterday I made some nom-tastic eggplant parm, without a recipe (which I’m still sort of amazed I can do). Today I’ll probably make some butternut squash soup. I should take pictures, but I probably won’t start until it’s dark and then the pics will be crap (I prefer to use natural light) and I’ll be annoyed. To be perfectly honest, I’m probably only getting around to posting today because I have a paper due tomorrow and I am diligently procrastinating. La de da!

A few years ago my friend Nisi got me a copy of I Like You by Amy Sedaris. It’s one of the most perfect gifts I’ve ever been given. I heart Amy Sedaris, and I heart cooking, and I heart weird humor. Perfecto. There are many different recipes in this book and lots of different ideas for party themes and for party food. (Not to mention a recipe contributed by Stephen Colbert! Squee!) One of the items that is usually always included in a party menu is a cheese ball. First reading the book, I’d never seen a homemade cheese ball before. It was one of those weird retro items I’d only seen strangely prepackaged and sad looking, like fruitcake, and it had never occurred to me that a cheese ball could actually be good. You probably know why. You’ve seen the shrink wrapped monstrosities sold in supermarket deli departments and lurking in holiday gift baskets.

I decided to try making one for a New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s house, and the lucky cheese ball was Cluster Haven’s Pepper Mill Cheese Ball, chosen because of a friend’s nut allergy. I didn’t want him to be denied the cheese-y delicious. All went exceptionally well, and hey, turns out cheese balls are AMAZING. Since then (NYE 2006) I’ve made the same cheese ball for almost every party I’m invited to. Once I bring it that first time, people request it! Basically, you want to make this cheese ball. It makes you popular and everyone wants you at their parties. In fact, I am doing myself a great disservice by giving you the recipe at all, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Because I Like You.

Cluster Haven’s Pepper Mill Cheese Ball

1 stick of butter

1 8 oz package of cream cheese

1.5 C grated cheddar cheese (though really, you could use anything)

2 T grated onion (I usually use 1 tsp onion powder and 1/2 tsp garlic powder)

2 T coarsely ground pepper

The pics in this post are of a cheese ball I made for a Halloween party, so I tried to make it scary. He’s supposed to be some sort of Cthulhu/Octopus hybrid. Mostly he just looks cute. If you want to give you cheese ball a face like I did here, you need some pimiento olives and some carrot shavings.

Make sure your butter and cream cheese are at room temperature, or you’re going to hate your life.

Combine the butter and cream cheese.

Add the grated cheese and the onion (and garlic, if using). Mix thoroughly.

Pop the whole mess back into the fridge to firm up a bit, maybe 20-30 minutes, then take it out and form into a ball. The original recipe says to roll it in the pepper, but that’s never worked exceptionally well for me because I always end up with one side coated in pepper and the other bare. I’ve started just using my regular pepper mill and cracking pepper on one side of the ball, turning, cracking some more, until the whole thing is coated. It really helps if you have someone help you with this, but I live alone and I usually manage so I have faith in you.

Awwww!

If you want to give your cheese ball a face, use two whole pimiento olives for eyes (I used a teeny knife to make two hollows before I inserted the olives) and three olives for the tentacle things. Cut three olives in half and use three halves for each side of the cheese ball. Then, use carrot shavings for the nose and mouth.

I think he looks hilarious in the fridge.

Serve at room temperature with crackers.

❤ stef

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Recipe: Meatloaf&Roasted Potatoes, Dinner Club Edition!

29 Oct

Back in September I made my friends Elise and Kellie dinner as a thank-you for collecting my mail while I was in San Francisco. During dinner, they both mentioned how they wished they could cook because I made it look so easy. While I AM pretty awesome, and no doubt my brilliant culinary ballet stunned them senseless, I assured them that they were crazy because cooking was easy. I also said that if they wanted, I would teach them. And thus Dinner Club was born! They come over every week-ish (so far we’ve only managed to get together twice!) and we drink wine, and I teach them how to make something. The first time it was spaghetti with meat sauce, and last night it was meatloaf with roasted potatoes.

Honestly, it is so much fun. We goof around, drink wine, and I basically order them about and take pictures. At the end of it all we eat delicious food and I send them home with a recipe card of the meal we made.

And so I give you meatloaf with roasted potatoes, Dinner Club edition. Also, meet Kellie and Elise. They are fantastic.

Roasted Potatoes

1 lb red or yellow potatoes

2-3 TB olive oil

salt and pepper

dill or rosemary

Kellie was running late, so I made Elise chop the potatoes. Cut them into 1 inch pieces, which is usually fourths for little potatoes and eighths for medium sized. We cut these into eighths.

Toss the potatoes into a large glass or metal pan. Coat them with the olive oil and sprinkle liberally with the salt, pepper, and herbs. Pop them in the oven for 45 minutes at 350˚.

Then Kellie arrived!

They may think I'm a crazy.

And we started on the meatloaf.

Meatloaf (adapted from the venerable Alton Brown’s recipe)

1 LB ground beef

1 C breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 TB red wine vinegar

1 TB ketchup

1/2 TB Worcestershire sauce

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 C diced onion OR 1 TB onion powder

1/4 tsp paprika

1 TB dried herbs (basil, thyme, parsley, dill, take your pick)

salt and pepper

Go team!

Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix together with your hands.

Kellie's mixing, Elise is chopping garlic.

Cooking!

Using your hands, form the meat into a loaf shape and roast on a roasting pan or cookie sheet (NO loaf pans!) for 38 minutes at 350˚. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with roasted potatoes and some kind of veggie. I like brussels sprouts, green beans, or a big green salad.

I don’t have any pictures of us eating because we were super-hungry by then. But I leave you with this.

And this.

Now go forth and cook in confidence! Just remember- if it tastes good, you did it right.

stef

Recipe: Pumpkin Cheesecake

19 Oct

Man oh man. I am getting BEHIND in the blogging.

Ok, so, we left off with a whole bunch of pumpkin puree, it was about 2 cups. I decided to take that puree and turn it into delicious, soul-sustaining cheesecake. Yummy yum yum!

I was a little worried that I would have to eat the whole thing by myself, but my fears turned out to be unfounded. The cake was split equally between my internship class and my internship site-ie-a whole bunch of counselors LOVE ME right now. I don’t know why no one else has ever thought of this. Problems at work? Bring cheesecake, douchebag. (Not that I had problems. I’M LOVELY. Even without baked goods).

Ingredients (Recipe by Paula Deen).

Crust:

1 3/4 C graham cracker crumbs

3 TB sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 stick melted butter

Filling:

24 oz cream cheese (3 8oz packages)

1 15oz can of pureed pumpkin (this is where I used my homemade pumpkin puree, which I had about 2 cups of).

3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1/4 C sour cream

1.5 C sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves (I didn’t use cloves because I didn’t have any).

2 TB flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350˚.

Crush up your graham crackers. I used my hands.

Add the sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Mix until combined and then press into the bottom of a springform pan.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth (it’s supposed to be room temperature, but I put in in the microwave for about 30 seconds). Then add the pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar, spices, flour and vanilla.

Beat until well combined.

Pour into the springform pan and bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

My effing cheesecake cracked.

And it started out life as so perfect and smooth!

Right after exiting the oven.

I left it to sit for longer than 15 minutes, and I suspect this is what made it crack. It may have looked like The Land Before Time but it tasted like DELICIOUS. Cut up into slices you could hardly tell, too, so I consider this cheesecake experiment SUCCESS!

Eaaaaat meeeee!

Nommy. Remember to share!

❤ stef

How To: Pumpkin Puree

4 Oct

Alright ladies and gents. It’s that time of year again, the time when most Americans begin to experience uncomfortably desperate pumpkin cravings. You know who you are. You’re the one in the corner mainlining pumpkin spice lattes. Don’t try to hide! YOU’VE BEEN SPOTTED.

Ahem.

Sugar pie pumpkins and all manner of squash are currently on sale at Whole Foods for 99 cents a pound, which is what made me want to buy one. That and “sugar pie” pumpkin is such a cute name. Don’t you want to go buy one now? Sure you do. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I’ve never actually been a fan of pumpkin pie (one of the only pumpkin incarnations I am aware of, I’ll admit) and I’ve recently decided that this might be because my grandma uses canned pumpkin. I know, I know, apparently there are really awesome and good quality canned pumpkin products out there, but this is just my THEORY. I really want to like pumpkin pie. I feel like I might be missing out on something.  In any case, making your own puree is really easy, and if you get the pumpkin on sale it is SO CHEAP. My pumpkin cost me about $1.50. You’re welcome.

The first step is to grab your pumpkin. Hello pumpkin! He is a sugar pie pumpkin, one of the smaller, sweeter varieties best for dessert making, and he weighs approximately 1.5 pounds. Aww.

Now, wash him. Cut off his stem and then cut him into quarters. This is his better half.

Use a spoon to scoop out all of his insides-seeds and stringy pulpy bits. Put it all aside because you can use the seeds for roasting, or making pumpkin brittle.

Put the quarters on a baking sheet, cover with foil, and roast in a 400˚ oven for 35-40 minutes.

My pumpkin has battle scars.

When it’s done, the pumpkin should be soft enough for you to scrape the shell off with a spoon. I left mine for 35 minutes and it was perfect.

Allow the pumpkin to cool for 10-20 minutes, then take a spoon and scrape the shell off.

Using some sort of mixing or mashing device, puree your pumpkin! I used my very favorite immersion blender that I use for everything. You might prefer a cuisinart, or a fork. I just don’t know.

The puree will keep for a few days in the fridge. I am still trying to decide what to so with mine. Right now, I’m thinking either pumpkin cheesecake or pumpkin pavlovas. I’ll decide in the next few days and post the results next Monday. In the meantime, happy pumpkin making!

❤ stef

Recipe: Chocolate Raspberry Bread Pudding

20 Sep

Ingredients:

1.25 C bread cubes

1/2 C milk

1/4 C sugar

1 egg

1/3 C raspberries

1/4 C chocolate chips

Topping:

1 TB butter

1 TB brown or raw sugar

dash of vanilla extract

I used one of Paula Dean’s recipes for the basis of this one, but didn’t actually follow it to the letter. I’ve never made bread pudding before so I wanted to get an idea of the ratio of bread to egg to milk to sugar to use.

I love buying baguettes, but a consequence of that is that they always get too hard for me to use after a few days. To be honest, I usually end up throwing them away (which is really tragic considering I could have boatloads of homemade croutons by now) but this time I was motivated to make something of it. I had stale bread, chocolate chips, and some fresh raspberries that all needed using. Not to mention my 2 month blog absence (sorry…) and I knew I had something. I had…chocolate raspberry bread pudding, Dinner Love edition! Nomnomnom.

Cut your stale bread into little cubes. Put them into an oven-safe dish (I used my super-awesome vintage glasbake loaf pan) and set the oven for 350˚.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and sugar.

Pour over the bread cubes and stir to coat all of the bread bits in eggy sugar milk mix. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Add the raspberries and the chocolate chips and stir again.

In a separate bowl, melt the butter and mix in the raw/brown sugar and the vanilla. Pour all over the bread bits.

Bake the bread pudding in the oven on a middle rack for 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm (or cold…but having had it both ways I’m going to say that warm is better).

This makes…a tiny amount of bread pudding. The entire recipe would serve one to two people (depending on how greedy you’re feeling). Of course, you can always play with the amounts and make as much or as little as you want. I love that it isn’t too sweet, and that is probably why I ate the whole damn thing. Yup. ALL OF IT. It was like french toast on crack. And who doesn’t love that?

❤ Stef

Recipe: Simple Syrup

5 Jul

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a coffee snob. A terrible, vocal coffee snob. At least I admit it. Granted, if I’m at a diner I drink whatever coffee is available. Bad coffee is much better than no coffee at all. But given the choice I make my coffee at home, using whatever method strikes me at the time (ceramic hand drip cone, vacuum coffee pot, stovetop espresso maker), half and half, and turbinado sugar. When I make a point to go out for coffee I’m super-picky and there are only a few shops I frequent. I don’t usually like iced coffee because when I think of coffee I think of it as being hot. “Coffee” means espresso, or drip, with sugar and cream, steaming in my hands. The desire for an iced coffee is something completely separate from my desire for coffee. When I want coffee (and I so often do) I want it strong and creamy-sweet. When I want iced coffee I like it to be strong, but I want more half and half than usual (like an iced au lait?) and yes, sugar. And yet sugar is a complete nightmare to dissolve in anything cold. I’ve been drinking my coffee iced more often because Boston is a nightmare of humidity. When I wake up sweating in my sheets my last thought is for a hot beverage, no matter how much I may love my hot coffee. (And let me tell you, I love it a lot.)

I usually just dissolve the sugar into the coffee before I let it cool and add ice, but I decided to make some simple syrup instead. The nice thing about having simple syrup around is that you can use it for alcoholic beverages too (woo-hoo!) and it’s easier to tailor your coffee once it’s already iced. Sometimes I add my sugar to the hot coffee, throw in ice and milk, and I realize that I added too much or too little sugar and there isn’t much I can do at that point. 😦  SIMPALLLLL SYRUP TO THE RESCUUUUE!

Recipe:

1 C water

1 C sugar (I used turbinado sugar)

Dash of vanilla extract (oooh, fancy!)

If you wanted you could also use a different extract – like ginger, or orange blossom, cinnamon. Just take into account what you want to use the finished product for. The most important part of this recipe is the water to sugar ratio, which should be one to one. So, if you wanted to lower or increase your quantities that’s fine as long as you keep it one to one.

Mix together your sugar, water and extract and heat to just boiling. Stir occasionally as it heats and make sure the sugar is dissolving. Keep it at a gentle simmer for a few minutes, then take off the heat and allow to cool.

Once cooled, pour into a bottle or jar for easy serving. I used this super-fancy jar.

My syrup is so dark because of the turbinado sugar. Mmm!

Mix into all of your delicious iced beverages.

Liiiiiike coffee!

MM, icey.

Your iced beverages will never suffer from lack of sweetness again!

❤ Stef

Recipe: Nearly-Flourless Chocolate Cake

22 Jun

A few weeks ago, some of my friends had a massive birthday party to celebrate their combined birthdays. The party started at one of their houses, with a barbecue dinner and snacks and alcohol (of course!). Guests were asked to bring some alcohol or a snack to share, and I love an opportunity to show off. Yup, I admitted it. I cook tasty things to impress people. Also to trick them into befriending me. Muahahaha! (Wait…)

My original idea was just to make some chocolate cookies from the leftover dough I had in the freezer, but then I decided that I should put in more of an effort. I have this teeny little cookbook (in the shape of a slice of cake!) called “The Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook”. I don’t remember where it came from but it is fair to guess that my mom gave it to me.

I chose the recipe because I had all of the ingredients for it and it was rich enough that I wouldn’t need to make any frosting. I am personally not a fan of flourless-type cakes (I think they are too rich and sweet) but my mom and sister LOVE THEM so I figure I am just a weirdo and that the cake would be a hit. My initial idea was to stencil “Happy Birthday” on the cake with powdered sugar, but that went terribly. It was a crazy, messy, blurry mess of powdered sugar so I smeared it around and voila! Cake. I tried a bite at the party and I have to say, it was really good, like a crazy delicious rich brownie. It got many compliments from other people at the party, so I’m going to call this one a win. It’s so easy too, so you really have nothing to lose. This cake is NOT a lie.

6 oz semi sweet chocolate, chopped, or 1 C semi sweet chocolate chips

1 stick butter, softened

2/3 C sugar

3 eggs

1/2 C flour

Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar to dust on top

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Line a 9″ round pan with parchment paper (or grease thoroughly and shake with flour).

Melt the chocolate in top of a double boiler. I always use a glass or metal bowl and set it on top of a saucepan in place of a true double boiler.

Beat the butter until light and fluffy.

Beat in the sugar, then pour in the chocolate and mix. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Gently mix in the flour until it just disappears. Don’t over mix! Pour the batter into your prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. I usually use a fork or a knife.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan, then invert it onto a plate and top with powdered sugar.

Yum yum yummmm. I feel that this cake would also taste very very good with a little bit of raspberry jam, or with fresh raspberries. It is summer, after all.

Cut into wedges to serve, maybe with some of those berries we were talking about?? I don’t have serving pics because I brought it to a party. If I showed you pictures it would be of drunk people shoving cake into their mouth and while those are super-entertaining it doesn’t really showcase the food in the way I’d like. 🙂

❤ Stef