Friday, February 26, 2010

Dear Winter,

Hey. It's me. I know you and I have never been the best of friends and I've been mostly OK with that — although for the last few years it's gotten worse and worse for me. And I think it's time we called it quits. I know I'm not the only one feeling this way, Winter. SO many of my friends are feeling the same way.

You're a drag, man. Sticking around long past your welcome, dumping tons of snow all over the place. It's got to stop.

I know, I know. It's still only February but you have to admit that it's been too cold for too long and it's time for you to start moving on. I suppose this is where I'm supposed to say, "It's not you, it's me" but we both know that's not true. It's totally you. And a bit me, too. Fine, I confess that I have it out for you, I'll give you that.

It all comes down to this:  I am SO over you. Now get your stuff and GET OUT!



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Random Dwight-isms

Dwight likes to pronounce superhero names as if they're someone's last name. Like, Joe Spiderman wouldn't be "Joe SPI-der-MAN", but "Joe SPI-der-men". Suddenly, Peter Parker's alter ego sounds vaguely Jewish.

Dwight almost never buys just one of something, particularly canned and packaged goods. I've caught this habit myself. It's maddening – and can lead to a REALLY full pantry.

Dwight can't make just "a little bit" of anything when he cooks. It comes from having been a short order cook and working in a kitchen when he put himself through college. When he makes chicken and dumplings, we could invite the entire neighborhood over and still have leftovers. But we don't because it's so good *I* want all of the leftovers!

Dwight talks to our cats at least as much as I do. (We talk to them like they know what the hell we're saying–silly humans.) At least a few times a week, I'll hear him talking from another room, and I'll holler, "Were you talking to me or the cats?" It's almost always the cats.

One time when I went away for a weekend visiting a friend, I came home and Dwight had repainted our bathroom (which is a BEAST to paint) and redecorated it a bit. It was like being on that show, "While You Were Out." It was SO cool.  He does that kind of thing a lot. I came home one day, and he'd completely swapped the furniture between the living room & the family room. Couches, chairs, end tables – the works. He switched around pictures, changed up the mantle – all by himself. When he's on a mission, watch out. The man knows how to get things DONE.

He's pretty cool.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mozzarella Stuffed Bacon Pull Aparts a.k.a The Greatest Thing Ever

Seriously, this is the best savory bread I've ever made. Ever.

This is the best party food IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.

This would have been dinner Saturday night had we not already put the steaks on the grill and made the mashed potatoes and vegetables. As it was, Dwight, myself and our dinner guests had to exercise every bit of restraint we had to stop eating this bread so we could eat the rest of dinner. But I think we all would have been happy as clams had I only made this.

This is what I'm now calling my Electric Chair meal. If I were going to the electric chair, this would be what I'd ask for. This and a bottle of wine. Seriously.

I mean... just LOOK at this bread:
bread-cheese closeup

It's bread dough, enriched with butter and an egg, seasoned with oregano (God, how I love oregano) and basil (ditto). Bake that up and I'd be a happy camper. BUT WAIT. There's more.

Take 8 ounces of bacon, dice it, fry it and save the grease. Oh, yeah.

Take a bunch of green onions and chopp em all up.

Take half a dozen oil packed sun-dried tomatoes and chop THEM up.

Mix all of those together. And you start to realize that this really might be the best thing ever.

After proofing the dough, you divide it up and to form little rolls— BUT you wrap the dough around *sniff* fresh mozzarella. I know.


After you roll up the cheese-stuffed ball, you roll it in — hold on — the reserved bacon grease and melted butter. I KNOW!


THEN you roll the bacon butter coated roll in parmesan cheese and more herbs. Put them in a bunt pan and layer with the bacon mixture until you've rolled up the last, beautiful roll. Proof, bake, eat and die a happy, happy person. My rolls didn't really hold together as rolls, probably because we ate it about 5 seconds after it came out of the oven. We totally didn't care. We grabbed a couple of forks and dug in. It wasn't pretty:

Head over to the Choosy Beggars site for the full recipe and lots of great step-by-step photos. It's where I got the original recipe. The only changes I made are:
  • I used almost 16 oz of fresh mozzarella, twice what's listed in the recipe. Hells yeah. (The recipe calls for bocconcini but my store didn't have them.)
  • I didn't get scientific with dividing the dough and getting a certain number of pieces. I just snipped pieces and rolled them up. This is also why I ended up using so much cheese.
  • I didn't use olives. I don't like them. Sorry.
  • I ended up using about 4 cups of flour instead of 3-1/2. The dough was way too wet. Use your judgment.
Please, do yourself a favor and try this. But make sure you're having company over, otherwise you might disgrace yourself and eat the whole thing. I'm just looking out for your well-being.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

In case you'd forgotten, Sunday was Valentine's Day today. I know, it's basically a Hallmark holiday, designed to sell overpriced cards, mediocre chocolate and hothouse roses that will wilt and die in about 24 hours. Can you feel the love?

I won't lie and say it isn't nice to have a Valentine, despite the general bah-humbug-ness I have about the holiday. Dwight and I have been together for the past 14 years and I'm certainly not bah-humbug about that.

It's a lot different than it was for the first Valentine's Day. We'd only been dating a few weeks and were still a bit shy and nervous. We went out to a nice dinner, were on our best behavior and went through the agony of picking out just the right card – nice without appearing TOO forward or lovey dovey.

After 12-1/2 years of marriage, we no longer bother with dinner out. Instead, we took some NY strips out of the freezer, invited over another couple, and I made cheesecake. Triple Chocolate Cheesecake, to be precise. Who needs to go out with that kind of menu?

And what says "I love you" more than Triple Chocolate Cheesecake? Not much.
cheesecake-ganache topped

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
Adapted from

9 oz graham crackers, crushed (You can use chocolate wafer cookies instead. I just didn't have any on hand)
1/4 c Smart Balance spread, melted (can use butter)
2 oz semisweet chocolate, melted
5 oz mini chocolate chips (about 2/3-3/4 cup)
3 pkgs (8 oz ea) reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), at room temperature
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 lg eggs, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9" spring-form pan with oil.
2. Melt spread or butter. Blend graham crackers in food processor into crumbs. With processor running, slowly drizzle melted butter over crumbs until combined. Press into bottom and slightly up the sides of pan. Set aside.
3. In stand mixer or large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
4. Add sugar, cocoa, vanilla and salt. Beat well. Add melted chocolate.
5. Pour approximately half of the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle mini chips evenly over the top. Carefully cover with remaining batter, dropping by spoonful and gently spreading to evenly cover the chips.
cheesecake-cc closeup
(see the little chips in the middle?)
6. Bake for 40 minutes or until center is almost set. It will be slightly wobbly. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack, leaving the cake in the pan. Once cool, place in refrigerator overnight.

Ganache Topping
adapted from Smitten Kitchen (this is from the Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake I made for Dwight's birthday last year)

3 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 oz butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)

1. Place chocolate in small, heat proof bowl.
2. In small sauce pan, heat butter over medium low heat until melted. Add cream and heat until nearly boiling, stirring constantly. Don't over heat.
3. Pour hot butter and cream mixture over chocolate.  Let sit, without stirring, about 30 seconds. Add vanilla and sugar. Mix thoroughly with small whisk, stirring until smooth and glossy. Taste and add additional sugar if you want.
4. Pour over chilled cheesecake, smoothing the top. I let mine stay within the natural "well" the top of the cheesecake made, but you could push the ganach over the edges for an artful drippy look or cover completely.
5. Chill at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.

Now, I didn't do the whole water bath thing or prop the oven door after it's done baking thing because I wasn't worried about having a pristine top. I didn't care if this cracked because of the ganache glaze. The way I see it, the imperfection of the chasm means just that much more ganache for the lucky person or persons that get those slices.
cheesecake-ganache poured
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