Sunday, November 13, 2011

Infinite Cheesecake, Day 5: Cookies and Cream

Oops.  So........ got a couple days behind.  It's been a crazy week.  For reals.   But... we've had lots of awesome cooking going on mixed in with the craziness!

Back to Cheesecake though. 

Today's (4 days late) flavor, with 6 of 16 points is


Placed 6th on Dante's list, 4th on mine.

I love pretty much anything cookies and cream.....Mmmmmm.

How we did it:
Crumbled oreos
Chocolate ice cream sauce

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Infinite Cheesecake, Day 4: White Chocolate Cranberry

Today's flavor, with 6 of 16 points, is


This came in 5th on both our lists.

This one was good, but the flavors seemed a bit muted.  I think it might be better with fresh a fresh cranberry topping, and possibly a slightly better white chocolate, since technically this is "Vanilla Flavored Bark"...

How we did it:Craisins tossed in melted Red Currant Jelly for a nice gloss
"white chocolate" curls

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Infinite Cheesecake: Day 3, Peanut Butter and Jelly

Today's Cheesecake, in 6th place with a combined score of 5 points out of 16, is

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Dante: 3rd place, Me: Last place

This one just didn't have enough flavor for me, and the texture of the jelly wasn't meshing particularly well.  That said, I think with just a couple modifications (more peanut butter, melting the jelly), it would be fantastic. Dante thought it was a really good combination of tastes and textures.

How we did it:
Pretty basic...
Peanut Butter and jelly (Jif and Strawberry Smuckers, of course) drizzled across the slice

Monday, November 7, 2011

Infinite Cheesecake: Day 2, Turtle

And in 7th place, with a combined score of 3/16, we have...


This was 7th on Dante's list, and 6th on mine.  It was a pretty standard Turtle Cheesecake.  Very good, but nothing phenomenal. 

How we did it:
Caramel Ice Cream Sauce
Chocolate Ice Cream Sauce
Crumbled Pecans

Happy Cooking, and stay tuned for more Cheesecake!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Infinite Cheesecake: Day 1, Heath

And in eighth place, with a combined score of 1 (Out of 16 possible points), is...

Heath Bar/Caramel

This one, while good, came in dead last on Dante's list, and 7th place on my list.

It was just rather bland.  I don't think it helped that the Heath bits were a little soft (starting to get stale?), but  it didn't "pop".  But let's be realistic here... it's cheesecake with caramel and toffee... it was still REALLY good! 

How we did it: 
Caramel ice cream sauce drizzle 
Sprinkled with Heath bar pieces (found in the baking aisle, with chocolate chips)

Happy Cooking, 

Infinite Cheesecake: Introduction

Dante's sister wants to learn some new recipes.  So, in plotting fun, easy, and (dare I say) impressive dishes for him to show her, we came up with this winner.  (The original idea was Dante's, fyi.)


It's kinda awesome.

First, you start with a standard cheesecake base.  Today's base was a modified version of the Joy of Cooking's New York Style Cheesecake.  It got a little overdone.  We actually cut the outside half inch or so off and coated the sides with graham cracker crumbs.  But the filling was AMAZING.  (I think next weekend or later this week we'll be trying out Alton Brown's recipe from Good Eats, Season 5, Episode 7 "The Trouble with Cheesecake" for a comparison).

Then (and this explains the title), we brainstormed a whole bunch of ideas for toppings.  See we figure with one good cheesecake base recipe, the number of different cheesecakes you can make is only limited by your imagination and culinary daring.  We ended up making (and sampling!!) eight different flavors by varying our choice of toppings.  We then ranked them from good to outstanding, and I'll tell you right now, there was one very clear winner.  For reference, the point system was 1-8 from each judge, based on ranking, so the lowest possible score is 1, and the highest is 16.

Over the next week, I'll be posting one of our flavors each day, along with how we made it (They were all SUPER easy!) and our evaluation of the flavor.  So stay tuned and check in this week, leading up to the big reveal of our number one flavor next Sunday!

Happy Cooking!

Saturday, November 5, 2011


We watch too much TV.  And a lot of Food Network.  I should state that right up front.  Anyway.... we decided that it would be incredibly fun to do a "Home Version" of the Food Network show Chopped.  For those of you who haven't seen it, the chefs are given baskets containing a selection of "mystery ingredients" that they must use in some way in their dishes.  There are three rounds: appetizer, entree, and dessert.  Each round has a time limit (usually 20-30 minutes), and is judged by a panel of three "experts".  

For our home version, we dropped the time limits and cut the rounds down to entree and dessert.  We also allowed each other $20 to buy additional ingredients, since we don't have a fully stocked food network pantry.  We chose three mystery ingredients for each other, with one overlapping ingredient between courses. 
Dante's Ingredients
Entree: Beef Steak, Canned Pumpkin, "Brown Bread" (Pumpernickel)
Dessert: Canned Pumpkin, Mascarpone, Golden Grahams Cereal

My Ingredients
Entree: Cream Cheese, Catfish, and Funyuns (forgot a couple in the pic... oops)
Dessert: Cream Cheese, Apple, and Whole Nutmeg

We actually managed to stay out of one another's way shockingly well considering the space we were cooking in... Here's a progress shot: 

It was a crowded workspace.

Ready for the finished products?

Dante's Entree: Brown Bread and Steak Sandwich with Pumpkin Sauce and Bacon
(I'll let Dante add comments here in the morning!)

Dante's Dessert: Graham-crusted French Toast with Pumpkin Mascarpone Filling, Vanilla Curd, and Caramel Sauce
(Same here)

My Entree: Pan-fried Funyun-crusted Catfish and Catfish Mousse "Sushi"
For this, I breaded the catfish in crushed Funyun and pan-fried it with a little bit of olive oil, then served it on a bed of spring greens with a cream cheese/onion sauce.  For the "sushi", I sliced a cucumber thin, then topped it with sushi rice that I had pressed into a pan and cut into small rounds with a cookie cutter, with catfish and cream cheese mouse and the cream cheese/onion sauce (which also had funyuns in it) and Funyun crumbs. The sushi was fantastically fresh-tasting, which was a great contrast with the strong onion flavor of the sauce, if I do say so myself. ;-) (by the way, I totally stole the idea of a cucumber-bottomed faux-sushi from a foodie email newsletter I get.  Don't remember which one right now or I'd give them proper credit.) 

My Dessert: Caramel Apple Puff Pastry with Cream Cheese and Nutmeg Ice Cream
On this one, I overcooked the sauce with the apples and they got super chewy and almost non-existant, and my puff pastry got a tad overdone, but the ice cream was a fantastic success!! (although melting already in this shot)  Very easy too, though I'm blanking on the finer details right at the moment.  I believe it was cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, half and half, and fresh-grated nutmeg, though I may be mistaken.  Unfortunately, I didn't write that one down either.  Oops. 

And here's a shot of the whole kit and caboodle out on the coffee table (our kitchen table MAY have been covered in cooling racks, mixing bowls, etc that overflowed the counter during our kitchen marathon...).

It was a LOT of food.  I don't think I finished a single item, but it was all SUPER-delicious.  And amazingly fun.  And will probably be repeated many times in the future (including possibly every year at my birthday.  This ended up being an AWESOMELY fun part of my birthday celebration this year, and I LOVED it!!).

btw, We didn't actually "judge" our foods or award points or a winner.  But I think we both won, since we ended up with an amazing meal and desserts, along with tons of fun in the kitchen, and ideas to use in the future! 

So... if you're looking for something fun to do this weekend, find a friend who likes to cook and challenge one another to a CHOPPED CHAMPIONSHIP!  It's a blast and a half. :-D

Happy Cooking!

Cooking Adventures!

Ok, so this'll be a brief (mostly pics) post.  Still trying to catch up from two and a half months of negligence.

These pics are from late Aug/early Sep, for reference... 

Another of Dante's brilliant food ideas: 
Chocolate waffles with strawberries and vanilla curd. 

"When French Toast Met Pancakes and Fell in Love"

This is basically bread dipped in pancake batter (I made mine with brown sugar and cinnamon), then cooked up like french toast.  DELICIOUS!  ... and just adorably named!

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Pumpkin Sauce

Storebought Pumpkin Gnocchi, from World Market. 
The pumpkin sauce was my creation, but I didn't write down the recipe.  And I certainly don't remember what all I used... but it was tasty!  It was decidedly savory, with a bit of a bite (cayenne, I think), with fresh peppers and zucchini. 

I think we're about halfway caught up now...... 

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

August Catch-up: Bentos 28 & 29 and Gnocchi Skins

Ok... are you ready for a flood of food blog posts?  Cuz I have like two and a half months worth of cooking to catch up on here! It will probably be done in increments, but anywho... here goes!

Bento #28: Salads and Chicken Nuggets

 Yeah, I know chicken nuggets are horrible processed high-fat/high-sodium, but darn it they're good. Got chicken nuggets, barbecue sauce (in the Spidey/Lightning McQueen dishes), graham crackers, and caesar salads.  Yum!

Bento #29: Mexican Dip

Mexican dip (refried beans, salsa, rice, and cheese), Tostitos, and a Lofthouse cookie

Gnocchi Skins?

So, we made up another batch of the amazing Gnocchi, but it seemed a shame to waste all the skins from the potatoes we cooked.  Thus were born the gnocchi skins.  Basically, after making gnocchi, we took the boiled potato skins and pan-fried them up with bacon bits and cheese, then had them for "breakfast for dinner" with fried eggs, apple slices, and Italian bread.  
They were delicious, if I do say so myself. ;-)

That wraps up the first of the catch-up posts, and I should really get ready for work now, but more to come later, including: The Chopped Championship (home version), more bentos, chocolate waffles, and more!

Happy Bentos, 


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bentos #26-7: Mix n Match!

Bento #26:

My bento: Fried Rice and Stir Fry Veggies (frozen) with a soy sauce fishy, and frozen chicken nuggets, with a spidey-dish of sweet and sour sauce.  And yeah... Sweet Baby Rays in the background.  I didn't actually take any of that tho.  I got it out for Dante's box. It just showed up in my pic. 

Dante's, same, but with a Rice Krispies Treat thrown in, and the Sweet and Sour Sauce in a Lightning McQueen dish.  We're such grown-ups.  :-D

 Bento #27: 

Salad with mozzarella and craisins again, Mini-lasagnas (see earlier post), and graham crackers. 

By the way, I forgot to mention it in the last post, but Bentos 25-27 were all made (in duplicate, mind you), in less than 10 minutes.  And the photos were taken with my phone.  

Happy bentos!


Bento #25! Hamburger Helper.... Mmmm.

25 bentos in the blog!!  That sounds like an achievement to me! (Achievement UNLOCKED!) Woo hoo!

Ok, now that the celebration's done, I suppose I ought to actually POST the 25th one, huh?  Make it for reals?

But first, I have to post a pic of the new boxes!

My Grandmother found these awesome boxes at World Market for $5.00!!  How amazing is that?!  So she bought two.  Then I bought two.  Then I picked up two for Mom.  Then I picked up two for Chloe.  They're out of the green ones now.... lol.  Anyway, they hold about 1100 mL by my measurement and have a built in silverware compartment.  And they snap closed, which is nice (don't have to find a band in the morning!).

So anyway, drum roll please...

Bento #25

Our boxes side by side so you can see how awesomely huge Dante's is.  The top layer's shallow tho, so it looks bigger than it is.  Inside, we have Cheeseburger Macaroni Hamburger Helper (YUM!), Salad with mozzarella and craisins with Raspberry Pecan dressing, and Dante has some fried rice up in the top. 

Ok, 'nother post coming in a minute, so until then....

Happy bentos!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dante may be a genius

Really.  Check out this brilliant idea from the mind of Dante:  Cheater (non-deep-fried!) Donuts.

They're amazing.

And easy.

And awesome.

Super-easy:  Take a white hamburger bun.  Make a chocolate frosting sandwich.  Add marshmallow fluff if desired.  Top with chocolate frosting.  (add sprinkles if desired).  Enjoy!

Bento Mini-lasagnas: Spaghetti, Cottage Cheese, Mozzarella, and pasta sauce in silicone cups.


It's delicious.  Really.  Recipe from Mario Batali's Simple Italian Food cookbook. 
(Recipe paraphrased/modified here)

Basic Gnocchi:

3 pounds potatoes
2 cups flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil

Boil the potatoes until soft, about 45 minutes.  Peel and pass through a vegetable mill (or strainer.  or just mash em).  Add flour, egg, and salt and stir until smooth.  Knead for 4 minutes or until ball is dry to the touch.  

Cut the dough into 6-8 pieces and roll into ropes approximately 3/4 inch wide.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.  "Flick the pieces off of a fork to score the sides" (didn't necessarily master that last part). drop into boiling water and cook until they float to the surface, about 1 minute.  Use a slotted spoon to pull out the cooked gnocchi and transfer them to a bowl.  Serve with sauce of choice.  We used Ragu Garden Combination and some seasoned burger Dante cooked up.  

Anywho... DELICIOUS GNOCCHI.  You should go make it.  Now.  Really.  and give me some.  :-D

Happy cooking!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Food Catch-up, August Edition

ok, so got all caught up on the (2) bentos this morning.  Now for some other food catch-up.

Modified Tom's Chicken Soup

So we found a recipe called "Tom's Chicken Soup" in one of my cookbooks that looked really good.  But, being me, I couldn't just FOLLOW the recipe... So this is my version.  It's got Chicken, Fake Bacon, Potatoes, Shallots, Garlic, Chicken Stock, Mushroom Stock, Milk, and "Cream" (reconstituted dry milk at high concentrations...).  It was good and hearty. Served with Italian Herb and Cheese biscuits.  Yum.  

 Mini S'mores Bears

Fourth of July.  No marshmallows, Hershey's bars, or graham crackers anywhere in the apartment.  What's a girl to do? Pull out the chocolate frosting, marshmallow fluff and Teddy Grahams!!  Cute and tasty!

 Coffee Baked Alaska

This was the one specific food request Dante made for his birthday.  And I was only too happy to oblige.  This is pound cake and coffee truffle ice cream covered in coffee-flavored meringue, baked for just a couple mins, and drizzled with chocolate sauce and mini chocolate chips. 

Red Velvet Pancakes 

These were the breakfast part of Dante Birthday celebrations!  They have cocoa powder and such in them.  Found the recipe online here:  Mine turned out rather PINK instead of red, but... it takes a LOT of food coloring to get them even this red.  And I was using paste colors.

I think that's all of the highlights, at least that we have photos of.  Hope you enjoyed!

Happy bentos!


Bento Catchup, August Style

Long time no post... Hope all (3) of you weren't TOO miserable without my witty blog posts to keep you entertained all summer..... he he he.

Two weeks.... ha!  Try two months.  But sadly, I thought it might have been more than that.  Glad to see I was wrong.  So, the summer completely got away from me.  Been SUPER busy and haven't really been packing bentos.  At all.  I think I have two bentos to post from the entire two months.  And they're both kinda cheater bentos.  *Ashamed look*  BUT!  I am resolved to start packing bentos and updating this blog again.  Let's see if I stick to it.

Ok, Bento #23:

In super cheater style, it turns out a Hot Pocket fits REALLY nicely into the top layer of my bento box...
Then there are Teddy Grahams and chocolate frosting.  Mmmmm.  Homemade Dunkaroos!

Bento #24: 

Today's bento: Stir-fried steak and zucchini from dinner last night, with a layer of brown rice underneath and a soy sauce fishy.  It's super tasty, if I do say so myself.  *eyes the clock, wondering how long til lunchtime...*

Anyway, that's it for bentos folks.  Look for another post soon with other food/life/etc updates.  

Happy bentos!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bento Catch Up!

Bento #20

First in a set of less than creative bentos... EL Fudge Cookies, goldfish crackers, and Lady Alice Apple

So..... cuz Dante's AWESOME, we got to go see BON JOVI!!!  it was Legen.... wait for it.... DARY.  (I've been using a lot of Barney-isms lately...) And since our road trip took us through Chicago, we decided to stop in at Gino's East for some amazing pizza.  Chicago-style deep dish with patty-style sausage and load of deliciousness.

Saturday morning, we ordered room service for breakfast.  Pricey, but DELICIOUS.  Seriously.  Dante got Crab Eggs Benedict (Made with jumbo lump crab meat) with seasoned potatoes, which was amazing.  As was my apple french toast, which was made with locally-grown apples.  Mmmmmm.

Bento #21

Zoo pasta salad with black forest ham and chunks of colby jack cheese, with a fresh strawberry

 Bento #22

Spring Mix with dried cranberries, shredded cheddar, raspberry pecan dressing,
and a fresh strawberry

I know there were a few other bentos in there, as well as an AMAZING cheese board that we (I) forgot to photograph (d'oh!).  It had, I kid you not, 10 kinds of cheese.  Everything from Mango Ginger Stilton to Smoked Gouda, and loads of awesome deliciousness.  But no photo.  Darn it.  You'll just have to trust me that it was awesome. 

Anywho... Happy Bentos!  Hopefully post again in LESS than 2 weeks this time...


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bento #19- Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

No bento for Weds.  Went to lunch with my Grandmother at a chinese place near work.  Decent Sweet and Sour Chicken, but no leftovers! lol

Weds night, we picked up dinner at Wendy's.  I decided to skip my standard fries (gasp!) cuz it was SOOOOOO nice out Weds.  Got an Apple Pecan Chicken Salad instead, and oh my goodness.... DELICIOUS!  Seriously.  So when I went to the store to pick up ice cream later that evening,  definitely picked up the stuff to make my own.  I think they turned out pretty well, too! 

I used Romaine Hearts as the base, because I have a bag that needs to be used up.   In the original, I think they used a Spring Mix or something similar.  Anywho... Baked chicken breast, seasoned lightly with Tuscan Seasoning Blend, a tart, crisp apple cut into bite sized chunks (don't remember which kind exactly...), crumbled light bleu cheese, and roasted pecans (I bought plain pecan chips, tossed them with a little Olivio and sea salt and baked em at 350 for 5 mins or so- worked quite well).  Topped it all with a Fat Free Raspberry Vinaigrette (Wendy's: Pomegranate Vinaigrette).  The Wendy's version also had a couple dried cranberries, I think, but I forgot to add those to mine and didn't really miss em.

My salad, in one of my Hello Kitty bowls.  I put the chicken in a silicone cup so I could take it out and warm it up in the microwave, which worked quite well..

Dante's:  Same salad, plus a baked chicken breast.

Anywho... that wraps up the bentos for this week.  Didn't take one Friday. 

Have a great weekend!


Bento #18- Zoo pasta salad, etc

Ok, so a partial repeat of Monday's Bentos, Tuesday's bentos were still VERY tasty!

My bento: Top Layer: Zoo Pasta Salad with Ham instead of Burger.
Bottom Layer: Goldfish Crackers and a Mounds Candy Bar.  Mmm.

Dante's Bento: Top Layer (shown on bottom in the pic): Zoo Pasta Salad
Bottom (top) layer: Mounds, Goldfish Crackers, and an octodog.  ^.^  he he he.

I think next time I have to bring a salad-type dish for a potluck, this Pasta Salad might just be it.  I'm really happy with how it turned out!