Homemade Doughnuts

doughnuts

Why is it that I can resist the call of doughnuts at almost any time EXCEPT when I see a character I like eat it on TV? Then it becomes a perogative of mine to enjoy such a cakey delight. My favorites happen to be crullers, boston cream,and apple fritters. My pastry has to have density or filling to be satisfying!

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Best Ever Cheesecake

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I love the idea of cheesecake. The almost custard-like creaminess, the ever so slight chew, the sweet yet cheese-y flavour, the millions of flavour combinations you can do with it. But every time I had some cheesecake I was disappointed. Either it was too sweet, or too dense, or not cheese-y enough. And I started researching cheesecake recipes hoping to find the perfect one. Along the way I discovered that there are several main kinds of cheesecake – the New York cheesecake, the sour cream based cheesecake, the no-bake cream cheese cheesecake, and the Italian ricotta based cheesecake.

I tried each as I discovered them, still none of them fulfilling my fantasy standards. Until I came across one that combined all the ingredients on Allrecipes. I have since lost the original link and have made many a modification. But this cheesecake is damn near perfect. Though I still struggle with crusts. Why can I not successfully make a crust – crumb or pastry?

This latest cheesecake making was to celebrate one of my oldest and dearest friends move to Miami to start a career at a travel agency! So with the promise of discounted Disney Cruises ringing in my ears I baked mini heart-shaped cheesecakes to drop off before her departure. I used crushed gluten-free ginger snaps and butter to make a base crust for the mini pans, and the rest of the recipe is already gluten-free (make sure to double check your ingredients for sneakily added gluten fillers though!) so it was an easily converted recipe. =)

My most current version of the recipe is modified to fill either several mini 4″ springforms or 2 cookie crusted pie tins.

For mini cakes:

  • 6 oz Cream Cheese
  • ¼ cup Whole Milk Ricotta
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (or sour cream, I just used what I had on hand)
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Heavy Cream
  • ¾ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Egg and 1 Egg Yolk, beaten
  • ¾ teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • OPTIONAL fruit or chocolate chips

For regular cake:

  • 24 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 cup Whole Milk Ricotta
  • ½ cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1 ½ cups Sugar
  • ⅓ cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs and 3 Egg Yolks, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice

Directions for both batch sizes:
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Beat first 4 ingredients with electric mixer.
Whisk heavy cream and vanilla together, beat in eggs.

On medium speed slowly incorporate egg mixture into cream cheese.

Add lemon juice.

Once thoroughly combined, you can gently fold in any fillings or flavourings. Pour into sprayed pan of choice (with or without cookie crumb crust).

**If you want to add some jelly or chocolate swirls, now would be the time to dollop and drag through with a knife.

Bake for 10 minutes for the minis (15 minutes for normal).
Turn temp down to 275 F and bake for another 45 minutes (1.5 hours).
Turn oven off and let sit in oven for 1 hour (3 hours).

Refrigerate what you don’t immediately and voraciously consume!

Cupz n Crepes

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Cupz n Crepes is an adorable little local restaurant in ‘Tukee just a few blocks West from the I10 on Ray. I went to  meet a friend here for breakfast while visiting The Valley and am I in love! It is the best crèpe place I’ve been to in the states.

It is a seat-yourself diner, and the wait staff were pretty friendly when we went. Our order even got lost but they were quick to fix that once we brought their attention to the wait. The decor is classy cutesy with mirrors and shelves full of porcelain vases and flowers. And on the walk to the bathroom hallway you can see the cook making the crèpes the traditional way – on a giant circular grill with the little wooden spreader.

The crèpe selection is widely varied – veggies, cheese, meats, and the dessert options are plentiful!! And the price is oh so right. Most of the crèpes run in the 5-7 dollar range. A SUPER AFFORDABLE BREAKFAST OR LUNCH, non? I ordered the above pictured strawberry, honey and almond dessert crèpe.

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The crèpe itself was slightly crispy but still retained it’s chewiness. The strawberries were fresh, the honey was not overly sweet and the almonds added a great crunch and nuttiness. My friend ordered a make your own with avocado and jack cheese. It was delicious as well. The cheese was some of the freshest and creamiest I’ve ever tasted.

I was so pleased with this restaurant. I highly highly recommend it. Go and support this local place. Order a crèpe, order a café. Sit and chill for a bit à la vie française!

Apple Turnovers

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By my daddy’s request I have made turnovers! Apple ones, at that. A classic and very very simple.

What I did was buy the frozen pre-made puff pastry. With my dismal history at pie crust I didn’t feel up to the challenge of home made puff pastry. At least not today. Make sure you put the pastry in the refrigerator a DAY before you want to use it. It says you can leave it out at room temp or briefly micro it, but it really won’t hold up as well or have the same fluffy texture.

But now, I’m sure you are curious about the filling. In a pinch you can use canned filling. Super cheats two-step way of making these turnovers. If you want to get really fancy though, I suggest using the apple filling from these Wonton Apple Pies from Neighborfood blog. (Also, try out the wonton version. They are adorable and addictive and a huge hit at parties.) The filling is super simple and quick to make. And I even made it with white sugar, having forgotten I had run out of brown! But it’s pretty fail-pro0f and very open to improvisations.

Another pro-tip: drizzle the caramel sauce from that recipe over top of the turnovers and/or use as a dipping sauce!

 

IMG_3162 (2)All you have to do to put the turnovers together is cut your puff pastry dough into squares (my dough was sized so I simply cut it into quarters), put a heaping spoonful of apple filling in the center and fold over the dough diagonally to make triangles. I didn’t bother using milk or egg to seal the edges, but I did go over the seals with a fork to make a simple crimp around the edges.

Then I beat an egg quite thoroughly and brushed it on top of the turnovers to ensure they baked to a golden brown and to give them a little shine. I then popped them into a 400F oven for 15 minutes. They are done when the pastry has a nice deep color around the edges!

Let cool for 15 minutes so you don’t burn yourself and enjoy!

And if you happen to have leftovers, microwave for 30 seconds to have them nice and hot again to if you happen to need to keep warm during this polar vortex thing. Here in sunny AZ it is actually unusually warm for winter. In the 60s and 70s. But my dad and I still microwave the turnovers at night (when it gets cold enough we can pretend it is a legitimate winter here.)

 

 

Noble Hops

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I hope everyone is having a wonderful December full of holidays or at least friends and family. The New Year is fast approaching, so make sure to live up the last days of 2013 to their utmost enjoyment factor. For me that has meant staying at home in my pjs for days on end with the occasional social outing. Which also, in turn, means that I don’t really have any more holiday-themed posts. So it’s the normal restaurant and recipe reviews!

 

Noble Hops is usually one of my favorite hangouts on the Northwest side of town. It is a fancy trendy gastropub that is all to rare in this ritzy and retiree-inhabited desert city of mine. I could have sworn I already did a post on it, but having checked my archives I must admit it never happened. Here’s to fixing that problem before the end of the year!

They have delicious beers and pretty darn good appetizers (their entree fare is just a little too pricey for me to have tried without a special occasion.) I have a new and delightful beer everytime I go in and I usually order the Cavatappi Pasta (basically a super decadent and fancy mac and cheese served in a little skillet) and the Pretzel Bread served with a tangy beer sauce. The Greek Fries are delicious too, covered in feta and garlic.

As far as the trendy I was talking about, it has a very minimalistic decoration on the inside, one of the alcoves is lined with shelves of bottles – one row red, another green, another blue, and another yellow. At night there are a bunch of lights strung up around the patio area and a GORGEOUS fire pit in the middle in front of the bar. It is also open up quite late which is another unusual find on this side of town.

This visit, however, I have to say I was less than impressed with what I ordered. It was the Grilled Artichokes “small plate.” I love artichoke hearts and have always been curious to try artichoke leaves. What better place than to try it here at my favorite gastropub? I knew it was fate when I saw the table next to us had ordered the same thing. It looked amazing!

I was so excited (and starving to boot) when it came out. But after the joy of having my plate served I was immediately overwhelmed by confusion. How did I even go about eating this thing? I started picking at it and stabbing it with my fork and knife. I managed to get some leaves of and eagerly lifted them to my mouth only to encounter a tough and chewy husk. Where was the delicious and tender artichoke meat?

I was in the middle of expressing my confusion and frustration only to realize my friend who had ordered the same was already half way through her artichoke half, having no problems.

Unacceptable. I attempted to eat this thin any way I could, but it was unsatisfying and a huge tease. Even the little bit of heart at the bottom wasn’t enough to quell my hunger or anger.

Eventually I gave up. I’m not proud of it, but I couldn’t figure the damn artichoke out and the little bit of sustenance I was scraping (literally, with my teeth) off the leaves was not at all what I hoped. In a fit of despair I kindly told the waitress my problems and she amicably took it off my check and offered to get me something else. I was too frustrated and just wanted to focus on the plate of fries we were sharing and my beer (which kind I can’t remember. Our waitress was awesome and brought me three samples to choose from. All I know is that it was a red ale.)

The evening was still enjoyable. My friends and I laughed and chatted and drank. And I stuffed my face as soon as I got back home. This bad experience will by no means keep me from trying the other delicious sounding options on their menu (I WILL be back) but it will temper my adventures in ordering anything other than artichoke hearts in the future.

Pomegranate

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Right on the Ahwatukee and Chandler “city” border is a hippie, eclectic vegan restaurant called Pomegranate.

My friends had discovered this gem and were constantly raving about their favorite order – the Açaii Berry Parfait. So when I was in town they took me to it, twice in fact.

And the parfait was delicious. UTTERLY AMAZING. A concoction of açaii berry flavored cashew cream yogurt layered with house granola, crisp green apples, coconut shreds, and dried fruit presented in a kitschy mason jar.

It has charm, pizzazz and flavor! I actually could barely finish this monster of a nutritious parfait.

The rest of the menu, however, fizzled for me. It was full of vegan meat substitute dishes. When I go to a vegetarian or vegan restaurant I look for creative and inspiring VEGETABLE and FRUIT BASED dishes. Not normal dishes with tofu bacon, or “chicken” components. It feels like cheating, plus these vegan alternatives are always a disappointment in texture and taste.

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The restaurant itself is adorable. Extremely colorful and full of recycled decorations. Every table set is different and each wall is covered in some mosaic or another.

It should be too much, but they were able to pull off this vibrant and noisy color scheme into a coherent chic hippie feel.

Once over the unexpected exposure to all the colors, your eye is immediately drawn to the baked goods display. It is full of gluten free, vegan, and raw goodies for the hippie of all dietary restrictions.

Next, once you sit down you can look over the counter and watch as the waiters make smoothies by pulverizing and juicing a selection of herbs, grasses, vegetables, and citrus. It is fascinating and inspires the curiousity. I didn’t have the guts to try one of their healthy beverages this last time. But next time I will for sure. Nothing like a bright green smoothie to jump start your inner workings!

 

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Conclusion: I really enjoyed the parfait and will definitely be going there for more of it next time I am in the area. This restaurant also offers a great option for those who choose not to eat meat to any degree, as well as offers options for those who must dine gluten free. It is a food stop that offers something for everyone and I recommend that you stop by and give it a try.

Turkey, Havarti and Pomegranate Seed Panini

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Just a little lunch I threw together. It’s on cranberry walnut bread!

Just melted some havarti on either slice, put some sliced turkey from Costco (no added flavourings or meat by-products), and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds (also from Costco!) and popped in a Foreman Grill to make this delicious and warm panini.