Monday, December 30, 2013

Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars


Perhaps you are looking for something different to prepare for the remainder of your holiday gatherings, or stuff to do with the kids while everyone is out of school?  This is super easy, definitely not fussy or complicated, and family friendly!
 
I was browsing the internet recently and saw a recipe similar to this, but using all homemade components.  Sounded great, but I know that during the busy holidays, not everyone is interested in taking that much time to make everything from scratch.  So I simplified this to make it more "busy mom friendly." 

Print this recipe!   

Ingredients:    
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 Tbsp melted butter
  • ~ 2/3 roll of prepared chocolate chip cookie dough
  • 10 oz cream cheese, room temperature (I used the reduced fat version)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Step-by-Step:
Crust -  Let's start on that crust.. add 5 Tbsp melted butter to 1 1/2 cups graham crackers.  Combine with a fork until it resembles very coarse sand.   If you are in a time pinch, graham cracker crumbs are available in the "already crumbs" form; but making crumbs is a great thing to let the kids do.  Throw them in a zip top bag and let them pound them into crumbs.
Press into an 8"x8" pan which you have prepared with parchment paper (enough to hang over the sides) and a bit of cooking spray.   

I used my meat pounder for this, but the bottom of a drinking glass would work just fine.
Bake at 325 for about 6 min. 
Filling -  With a mixer, cream together the room temperature cream cheese and sugar.  Add the room temperature egg and vanilla and beat enough to combine. 
10 oz reduced fat cream cheese at room temp + 1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
Pour the filling over the baked crust.

 
Topping -  Break the prepared cookie into pieces about the size of a large marble.  Flatten them slightly into disks and place them over the filling.  You will almost completely cover the filling.


Bake -   Bake uncovered at 325 F for about 30 minutes.  The cookie dough should look dry and the cream cheese should be "set" when you jiggle it. 
Grasp the batter by the parchment paper hanging over the pan and lift it out, setting it on a cooling rack. 
Cut into bars when cool. 
Perfect for a big glass of milk, a cup of coffee, or a nice hot cup of tea.

I hope you have enjoyed this recipe!  There are certainly plenty more where this came from.  Why Recipe Index to see what else I've been cooking.
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Here are some bonus recipes for you.
Cajun Crawfish Bread

Mahogany Glazed Chicken

Double Chocolate Pecan Pie

Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

Seared Marinated Tuna Steaks

Ritzy Cheddar Baked Chicken

Carrot Souffle - Just like at Picadilly!
 
Written Method:
Crust - Combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter for the crust.  Press into an 8"x8" pan which you have prepared with parchment paper (enough to hang over the sides) and a bit of cooking spray.  Bake at 325 for about 6 min.   Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Filling -  With a mixer, cream together the room temperature cream cheese and sugar.  Add the room temperature egg and vanilla and beat enough to combine.  Pour the filling over the baked crust.

Topping -  Break the prepared cookie into pieces about the size of a large marble.  Flatten them slightly into disks and place them over the filling.  You will almost completely cover the filling.

Bake -   Bake uncovered at 325 F for about 30 minutes.  The cookie dough should look dry and the cream cheese should be "set" when you jiggle it.  Grasp the batter by the parchment paper hanging over the pan and lift it out, setting it on a cooling rack.  Cut into bars when cool.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Secret Ingredient Mac and Cheese

Well, let's see.  Recently, I had a call from someone asking me to come up with a mac-n-cheese recipe that was more "substantial" and wouldn't just "run all over the plate" when you ate it.  I was looking through the fridge and pantry to see what was what and I also saw that there were some carrots that needed to be used.  It got me thinking... "Hmmm.. I wonder if I could add these carrots to the mac and cheese where no one would know they were in there.  It certainly would increase the nutritional level of the dish.  And they are even the same color!"  And that is how an idea is born.  Of course one idea led to the next, and by the time I finished my morning run, I decided that cauliflower would work great, too, as both of these are super mild.  Between the time the idea was hatched and the time I got back from the grocery,  I had somewhat of a plan.  I would roast both of the vegetables, which really makes them very mild (and you don't lose nutrients to boiling), then puree them and add them to the cheese sauce.  I convinced myself that my kids would never know it.  That idea became the challenge.

The only problem was Lily, whom I had just picked up from preschool on the way back from the grocery.  Once she smelled the vegetables that had just finished roasting, she of course wanted a piece of the action.  Suffice it to say that I didn't exactly finish with the same amount of vegetables that I started with.  She demanded a bowl of them, which she polished off while watching a movie.  Yes - not chocolate, not chips, not cookies for this little girl.  Roasted veggies!  So I guess I can't complain about that, right?  Besides that, the movie time gave me the chance to puree the rest and add them to the sauce without her seeing me.

The verdict - no one knew.  It was delicious!  So smooth and creamy.. and yes, substantial!  I seasoned it up with some more secret savory ingredients to offset the sweetness and give it more depth of flavor, and topped it with some delicious toppings.  Yes, it's true.  I like garnishes on my foods.  They make the dish very pretty, and give it more interesting textures and flavor combinations.  You think I may have food A.D.D. at all?  I love "comfort" food, but I still don't want it to be boring.

Print this Recipe!

Ingredients:
  • 1 (1 lb) box of rotini pasta
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 head chopped cauliflower 
  • olive oil + kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup chopped onions
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp ground mustard powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 pound low fat (2% milk) Velveeta, cut into chunks
  • garnishes - 1 cup sharp grated cheddar cheese, French fried onions, chopped cooked smoky bacon, crispy fried sage leaves
Step-by-Step:
Chop and season the vegetables with a little olive oil drizzled over the top, plus kosher salt.  Roast the vegetables at 400 degrees for around 30 min.  Stir around after about 20 minutes.
2 cups chopped carrots, 1 head of chopped cauliflower
after roasting
Puree the roasted vegetables in a food processor (or blender), and add 1/2 cup water to thin them out.
roasted vegetables
1/2 cup water
Saute 3/4 cup onions in 1/2 cup butter.   It looks like a lot, but we are making a whole casserole dish full of this recipe, so we'll need a fair amount of sauce.
While your onions are cooking down, you will probably want to start your water boiling.  When it does, salt the water and add a whole box of twisty pasta.  That's what Lily calls them.  Cook 9 minutes.  Drain.   They should still be a little al dente because you will finish them in oven.
1 pound cooked, drained rotini pasta
When onions begin to soften, add the garlic.  When the garlic is soft and fragrant, add 3 Tbsp all purpose flour.  I didn't add the garlic in the beginning because I didn't want it to burn.  It doesn't take nearly as long as the onions.
Cook the flour for an additional 3 minutes or so,  then start whisking in the 3 cups of milk.  It should get thick pretty quickly.  Tip - If your milk is room temperature rather than cold, it will have less of a tendency to clump up. 
This is the foundation of our roux.
3 cups room temp or slightly warmed milk
Next, add in the 1/2 pound of reduced fat Velveeta, cut into chunks, and the pureed vegetables.
 
The roasted vegetables will lend a sweetness to the recipe, which I didn't necessarily want.  So let's get this thing seasoned up and make it savory.... with 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp ground mustard, 1 tsp kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper. 
 
Adjust your seasonings to taste, then pour your sauce over the cooked, drained noodles.  Stir well to combine.   Just look at how creamy and cheesy this is!
Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and add the mac and cheese.  Top the casserole with a cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese, French fried onion strings, cooked and chopped smoky bacon, and fried crispy sage leaves.  Yes, of course the sage leaves are optional.   Do this your way and have fun!
Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
French fried onions
cooked, crumbled bacon
I fried the sage leaves in a little butter for a minute or so, then drained on a papertowel.  The crispy leaves are awesome.  They just crumble in your mouth and are much less pungent than the fresh leaves.

Bake your casserole at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or so.  Keep an eye on it so it won't over brown.   Keep in mind that if you made this in advance and had it refrigerated, it will obviously take longer than this to heat through.  In that case you may want to tent it with aluminum foil until heated through, then remove the cover to brown slightly at the very end.  Don't let the foil touch the top, because it will stick to your cheese.  Heaven forbid we should lose any of the cheese!
As you can see below, I also tried baking the mac and cheese in individual ramekins.  In case you are wondering, this works just as well!  They make an awfully cute presentation for dinner guests, and in the case of someone like me who LOVES mac and cheese - it's also portion control!!!  :)
For the critics who will inevitably write and say that this is not "mac" and cheese if you use rotini rather than macaroni.... I invite you to just breathe deeply, live a little, and lighten up.
I hope you enjoy this recipe!  You can smile knowing that you added all those extra nutrients and a ton of fiber to one of your family's favorite dishes!  Why don't you pop on over to my Recipe Index to see what else I have cooking up in my kitchen?!  You are sure to find something just right!

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Here are some bonus recipes for you.
Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella Sticks with Spicy Marinara

Sparkle Peach Martinis

Mongolian Beef

Cajun Chicken Salad

Apple and Bacon Stuffed Brussels Sprouts

Creamy Tomato Soup

Toasted Cous Cous Salad with Asparagus and Tomatoes

Roast Chicken and Mushroom Cannelloni

Written Method:
Chop and season the vegetables with a little olive oil drizzled over the top, plus kosher salt.  Roast the vegetables at 400 degrees for around 30 min.  Stir around after about 20 minutes.  Puree the roasted vegetables in a food processor (or blender), and add 1/2 cup water to thin them out.

In a medium saucepan, saute the 3/4 cup chopped onions in the 1/2 cup butter.  Let them cook several minutes, then add the 2 cloves of finely minced garlic.  While your onions are cooking down, you will probably want to start your water boiling.  When it does, salt the water and add a whole box of twisty pasta.  That's what Lily calls them.  Cook 9 minutes.  Drain.   They should still be a little al dente because you will finish them in oven.  When onions and garlic are soft, add 3 Tbsp all purpose flour.  Cook for an additional 3 minutes or so,  then start whisking in the milk.  Tip - If your milk is room temperature rather than cold, it will have less of a tendency to clump up. 

Add in the 3 cups of milk, 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp ground mustard, 1 tsp kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper.  It should get thick pretty quickly.  Next, add in the 1/2 pound of Velveeta, which you cut into chunks, and the pureed vegetables.  Adjust your seasonings, then pour your sauce over the cooked, drained noodles. 

Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and add the mac and cheese.  Top the casserole with fried onion strings, cooked and chopped bacon, and fried crispy sage leaves.  I fried the sage leaves in a little butter for a minute or so, then drained on a papertowel.  The crispy leaves are awesome.  They just crumble in your mouth and are much less pungent than the fresh leaves.  Bake your casserole at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or so.  Keep an eye on it so it won't over brown.

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