SECRET RECIPE CLUB: MINI-CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE BITES

August is already knocking at the door, this year is flying by.  But before a new month starts, there’s always the excitement of the last Monday of the month, with Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club. For those who are new to this concept, bloggers are paired in secret, have a few weeks to stalk their assigned site, and everyone in the club blogs about their recipe on the exact same day and time. Nothing cooler than that, you must admit…  This month I was paired with Colie’s Kitchen.  Nicole, who hosts the site, is a full-time college student, with a full-time life of organized chaos.”  Ha!  I can totally relate…  She is married and a “bonus mom”, what a great expression, much better than step mom,  I guess I can relate to that too.  I had quite a few options selected as possibilities for my assignment, like her Lasagna Rolls, her Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins (great idea!),  her Oh My God Macaroon Pie, and her Cauliflower Cheddar Fritters.  But, as is often the case with The Secret Recipe, I took the sweet path, and ended up with these super cute single bite (ok, a couple of bites) desserts…

MiniCheesecakeBits

 

MINI CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE BITES
(from Colie’s Kitchen)

3 Packages of Neufchatel, softened
1 + 1/4 cups sugar
1 (8 ounce) container of dairy sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
28 Oreo cookies halves, removing the cream center
28 cupcake tins/liners

Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until blended. Add sour cream and vanilla and beat until fully mixed.

Beat in cocoa and flour. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until well blended.

Remove Oreo filling with a butter knife and add one half of a Oreo to each cupcake tin. Fill each tin with one large spoon full of cheesecake filling until you have filled all 28 then go back and top off each tin with any extra filling.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

Refrigerate 4 to 6 hours. Store covered in refrigerator or in the freezer.

 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I cannot tell you how much fun I had making this recipe! The toughest part was discarding the filling of the Oreo cookies. Part of me wanted to throw caution to the wind and behave like my former self of decades ago: shamelessly open the Oreos, scrape them clean, and try to sneak the cookie halves to the trash can without my Mom realizing. That never had a happy ending.  At most, I could get by with a couple of cookies, then pay a price for my behavior. Waste not. Ever. Do you know how many kids in the world went to bed hungry last night?  Apparently, I did not. (sigh)

The idea of using Oreos as a base for these cheesecake bites is a strike of genius!  Perfect size for cupcake liners. Because the recipe made so many and I only have one muffin baking pan, I got the disposable aluminum pans at the grocery store, and was quite pleased by how well they worked.  No difference in quality of baking, although in the name of full disclosure, I confess that I dropped one of the disposable pans while taking them out of the oven.  Huge big mess, coupled with language even more colorful than the cupcake liners. I am glad there are no hidden cameras in our home…

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If you follow my blog, you know that I never add the caloric content of any of my recipes for the simple reason that I don’t pay attention to it. But, since Nicole provided that info, I will share it with you: one of these babies has only 134 calories, which, as far as dessert is concerned, sounds pretty moderate to me.  Keep in mind this interesting linear fit, though. It can be cruel to your waistline.

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Nicole, thanks for such a cute recipe that was very appreciated by our colleagues at the department…  I hope you had as much fun as I did with my assignment this month.

As usual, if any of my readers would like to see all assignments for my group, click on the blue amphibian at the end of this post, and enjoy the ride through the blogosphere…

ONE YEAR AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Grated Tomato Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: A Taste of Yellow to Honor Barbara

THREE YEARS AGO: Gratin of Beefsteak Tomatoes

FOUR YEARS AGO: Tour de France Final Stage: PARIS

FIVE YEARS AGO: Snickerdoodles with a Twist

CRISPY CORNMEAL SWEET POTATO FRIES

I am not quite sure how many recipes for oven-fried sweet potatoes I’ve tried in the past few years in a quest for the right amount of crunch outside, and a creamy, perfectly cooked interior. It’s not easy to get this combination. All my previous attempts failed to impress us, but this version was definitely blog-worthy.

Cornmeal Crusted Sweet Potatoes
(made on May 09th; blogged on July 24th)

CRISPY CORNMEAL SWEET POTATO FRIES
(adapted from My New Roots)

2 – 3 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
4 Tbsp. cornmeal
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp paprika (sweet, hot or smoked)
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Scrub the sweet potatoes well under running water. Slice them into long sticks (thinner than 1/2 inch). Place them in a bowl of water, swish around a few times, then drain. Lay them on a clean tea towel and dry thoroughly. Let them air dry completely.
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Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. On low heat, melt coconut oil in a small saucepan. Place cut potatoes in a plastic bag, seal and shake the bag vigorously to coat (this can also be done on a baking sheet, drizzle the oil over and toss very well to coat). Add cornmeal, salt, and smoked paprika to the bag and toss well to coat.
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Place potatoes on a lined baking sheet, making sure that they are not overlapping.
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Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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We are not too wild about buying frozen food, but Alexis frozen sweet potato fries are the exception to this rule. I have no idea what they do to make their sweet potatoes so crisp, without any apparent coating. Still, I am glad this recipe gave us a nice alternative, with the added bonus of being able to season them according to our mood, or what we are having as a main dish. In this particular evening, we had open-faced cheeseburgers with slices of avocado and tomatoes.  The sweet potatoes with the amazing paprika our friend brought all the way from Slovakia were perfect alongside.

dinnerDinner is served!


ONE YEAR AGO:
Pan-grilled Tilapia with Smoked Paprika & Avocado Cream

TWO YEARS AGO: Golden Saffron and Fennel Loaf

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2011

FOUR YEARS AGO: Heavenly Homemade Fromage Blanc

FIVE YEARS AGOA Perfect Sunday Dinner

CHICKEN IN GREEN PIPIAN SAUCE, SOUS-VIDE STYLE

This classic Mexican recipe was featured in Marcela Valladolid‘s show on Food TV, Mexican Made Easy. It pairs a delicious sauce of cooked tomatillos and pumpkin seeds with boneless chicken breasts.  I decided to adapt her recipe for sous-vide cooking, and was very happy with the outcome.  The meat ended up perfectly cooked, not a hint of dryness.  The sauce is simply to die for, if you are a vegetarian, skip the bird, but make the sauce. Roasted cauliflower would be amazing paired with a little pipian…

ChickenPipianSauce2
CHICKEN SOUS-VIDE WITH GREEN PIPIAN SAUCE
(adapted from Marcela’s Mexican Made Easy)

for the chicken:
4 boneless chicken breasts
4 little pats of butter (probably ok to skip it)
1 large lemon, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the sauce:
1 + 1/4 cup green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 Serrano chile, stemmed
1/2 medium white onion, roughly chopped
1 + 1/2 cups chicken broth, warmed (I used a lot less)
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, place them in sealable plastic bags, add a tiny pat of butter and a few slices of lemon over each breast. Seal the bags. Place in the water-bath set at 140 F for three hours.

While the chicken cooks, prepare the sauce (can be made a couple of days in advance). Preheat a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot. Toast the pumpkin seeds, stirring constantly, until they have expanded and begin to pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a plate to cool. Reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish.

In a medium, heavy saucepan, simmer the tomatillos, Serrano and onions in salted water to cover until the tomatillos turn a dark green color, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatillos, Serrano and onions to a blender and puree with the chicken broth, cilantro, sugar and toasted pumpkin seeds until smooth (the sauce will be a little coarse). Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, slice the chicken crosswise on the bias. Transfer to a serving plate. Spoon the green pipian sauce on top and garnish with the reserved toasted pumpkin seeds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

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Comments: I am having a great time with my Anova sous-vide gadget. Most recipes I tried were big hits, a few disappointed me, but isn’t that true for any type of cooking?  You cannot win them all. For boneless chicken breasts, it is hard to come up with a better cooking method. I included butter in the bag, but it would probably be just as nice and tender without it. With sous-vide, you will never get the beauty of grill marks or that copper, enticing tone that roasting or broiling would offer.  But, in a recipe such as this one, in which the meat will be served under a sauce, the cosmetic aspect will be taken care of.  Imagine a very delicately poached chicken, boosted with the flavor of a spicy sauce with the crunchy pepitas on top: Mexican heaven, in sous-vide form! No sous-vide around?  Check Marcela’s original recipe using a regular oven.  I am sure it will be amazing too…

ONE YEAR AGO: Classic Shrimp Gobernador Tacos (another Marcela Valladolid’s recipe!)

TWO YEARS AGO: A Walk Towards the Sunset

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Heavenly Home-made Fromage Blanc

FIVE YEARS AGO:  A Perfect Sunday Dinner

THE HEART OF BRAZILIAN COOKING

Heart of palm (palmito) is perhaps not appreciated enough outside Brazil, but back home people love it in many types of preparations: pies, pastéis, filling for pasta, and in its purest form: “salada de palmito“.  Let’s practice those words now, by repeating after me four or five times. Ready?   ;-)
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I’ve always been quite fond of a simple salad along the lines of this one pairing fresh, juicy tomatoes with slices of heart of palm, often adding black olives for color contrast and that boost of brine flavor.  But, a few weeks ago Denise, a Brazilian blogger who lives in the US shared her take on salada de palmito, and I knew I had to make it right away.  Denise blogs exclusively on Brazilian recipes, so if you want to learn more about my home country cooking, stop by her blog, and enjoy the tropical ride!

HeartsPalmSalad

 

HEART OF PALM SALAD SKEWERS
(adapted from Denise’s blog, From Brazil to You)

for the skewers:
6 heart of palm stalks, cut each stalk in half or thirds
8 grape tomatoes
Arugula or spring mix leaves, or any green of your choice
fresh parsley leaves for decoration

for the Lemon-Za’tar Dressing:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon agave nectar
a good pinch of za’tar
salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the salad, assemble 4 salad skewers by inserting and alternating heart of palm chunks, grape tomatoes, salad greens of your choice.

Once skewers are assembled, chill in refrigerator for about 30 minutes, covered with a wet paper towel. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients together well until obtaining a thick and homogeneous dressing.

Drizzle the heart of palm salad skewers with the dressing, and serve sprinkling parsley leaves on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

A little trivia about this post: recipe found on May 14th; enjoyed on May 17th; blogged on July 17th. 

Comments:  This was such a fun way to serve heart of palm! You can change it around in many ways, adding red onion chunks (like Denise recommends in her post), or black olives, maybe roasted zucchini slices. I can even envision some grilled halloumi cheese, making it a “Brazil meets Greece” version.

The lemony, acidic flavor of za’tar makes it a great addition to salad dressings. I added a touch of agave nectar to mellow things a little, but you should play with this basic vinaigrette idea and change it to suit your taste.

Denise, thanks for keeping Brazilian food always in my mind, every new post brings a smile to my face, and a sense of nostalgia for foods of my childhood.

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 This post had been scheduled for a while, but just a couple of days before going live, I learned that Denise got a very well-deserved prize: her blog was chosen as one of 50 of the best Mom-blogs!  You can read all about it here.  Denise, you deserve all the recognition, I am thrilled for you!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Potluck Frittata and Lavoisier

TWO YEARS AGO: Home-made Corn Tortillas

THREE YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Peanut Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Brigadeiros: A Brazilian Party!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lemony Asparagus

 

OUR WORK IN THE NEWS!

Our latest publication in the Journal of General Physiology, made the cover of the magazine, and also got us a press-release online… We are thrilled!  

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For the press-release, click here.

“If we can understand exactly how this acquisition process works, we can design, isolate or identify small molecules that inhibit the iron uptake process. Those are potentially antimicrobial agents that could protect people and animals against bacterial disease.”

 (Phillip Klebba, Professor and Head of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Kansas State University)

WHITE CHOCOLATE MACADAMIA NUT COOKIES

I think I should add a new category to my recipes: PLEASE MAKE ME! This one would go right in, without a shadow of a doubt.  Of course, if you are part of the team that hates white chocolate and rather goes for statements like “it’s not real chocolate“, and “any chocolate connoisseur should walk away from such abnormality“… then, maybe these cookies are not for you.  I am not 100% sure, though.  Something about the marriage between white chocolate and macadamia nuts might shake the convictions of even the most stubborn anti-white chocolate being. Please make these. As Mel described them in her post: these are absolute perfection.

CookiesServed

 

WHITE CHOCOLATE MACADAMIA NUT COOKIES

(from Mel’s Kitchen)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces white chocolate chips
1 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until the mixture is well-combined.

Add the vanilla and eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy and light in color, 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the flour, salt and soda and mix until just combined; a few streaks of flour remaining are not a problem.

Add the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts and mix until combined and no streaks of flour remain.

Roll tablespoon (or slightly larger) size balls of dough and place on silpat or parchment lined baking sheets, 1 to 2 inches apart.

Bake for 9-11 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Growing up, I did not like nuts.  In those days, back in Brazil, they were awfully expensive, something reserved for special occasions, which in our family meant…. December, with Christmas and New Year’s Eve on the horizon.  My Dad would buy walnuts and pecans, still in their shells, and every evening after dinner, would sit at the sofa, patiently cracking them, one at a time. He loved to show off and crack them karate style, much to my Mom’s despair, as pieces of shell would fly everywhere, and sometimes his hand would be hurt in the process.  He never admitted to being hurt, instead acted as if he felt no pain whatsoever. If a nut resisted his blows, he would walk to the door that separated the living room from my bedroom, wedge the nut between the frame and the door, and crack it by attempting to shut the door close. Mom would not approve of that either, as it makes a royal mess on the floor.  As you can see, anything but a real nut cracker was part of the game. Not that we did not have one, I vividly remember a beautiful silver gadget sitting over the table, neglected to a minor decorative role.  Go figure.  Dad probably thought that nut crackers were for sissies. After all that hard work, he would dig chunky pieces of walnuts from the shell, and offer me. Silly child that I was, I promptly twisted my nose.

But now that I am older and wiser, I find myself in love with every single type of nut, oddly enough maybe the Brazil nut is the one I like the least. But macadamia, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts… love them all!  Roasted, salted, raw, in sweets, in sauces, in pestos… Dad would be proud.

Cookies

Make these cookies sooner rather than later…

 ONE YEAR AGO: Cilantro-Jalapeno “Hummus”

TWO YEARS AGO: A Moving Odyssey (has it been two years already?)

THREE YEARS AGO:
  Hoegaarden Beer Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO:
 Ancho-Chile Marinade: Pleased to Meat you!
 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Shrimp Moqueca

OH, MY GOD! I THINK I SAW SOMETHING….

At the end of a beautiful Summer night we were sitting at the kitchen island chatting about our  day. From the corner of my eye I see something.

“Oh, my God!  I think I saw a mouse!”.

“No, you didn’t”.

(That type of remark never fails to hit a nerve)

“What do you mean, no I didn’t?” 

“You really think you did? Where?”

“From under the stove, I think it ran and passed through the air conditioning vent at the bottom of the cabinet”

composite4(Phil – reluctantly, I must add – gets up and inspects the vent)

“There is NO WAY a mouse can pass through THAT. Don’t worry, you didn’t see anything”

 (I wasn’t particularly thrilled, but accepted that maybe it was all part of my vivid imagination)

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 TWENTY MINUTES LATER….

I get up to grab a glass of water in the fridge.  I know, I know, it’s always me. Never anyone else.

A gray mouse dashes between me and the fridge, and hides behind the trash can.

 (Insert high-pitched scream here)

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You see? You see? I TOLD YOU!  Why don’t you EVER BELIEVE ME?  You think I’m some kind of a Drama Queen, don’t you? So there you have it: THERE WAS A MOUSE ALL ALONG!  We’ve probably been living with this monster for months, maybe there is more than one, maybe there is a whole family, but NOOOOOO, “you didn’t see a mouse, Sally”.

“Ok, ok, I am sorry. We do have a mouse. I tell you what, let’s get the dogs to take care of him”.

So we devised this perfect plan.  First, Phil stood by the trash can with a broom ready in case the creature decided to run away.  Then, doing my best to stop shaking, I locked Chief in his cage, and brought Oscar and Buck to the war zone. I was actually quite optimistic,  having witnessed more than once Buck retrieving and killing snakes in our backyard.

“Ready boys? Ready boys? There’s a mouse, there’s a mouse, GO GET IT!”

(Phil moves the trash can. No action, apart from my preemptive screaming)

“Where IS the mouse?”

“I don’t know, maybe it went inside the trash can, let’s see”

“NOOOOOOOOOOO!  Don’t open it here, if the mouse jumps out I WILL have a heart attack and die, I SWEAR I WILL. You simply cannot open it here. How can you even CONSIDER doing that?

(I think the husband sighed)

“OK, FINE!  I will carry it all the way to the garage and open it there if that makes you happy.”

I did not care for his tone a bit, but was too terror-stricken to let him have a piece of my mind. Plus, the “all the way to the garage” is a few steps, but “I” am the Drama Queen. How unfair is that, can you even stand it?

As he is moving the trash can, the rodent pops from underneath, runs like Usain Bolt, ignores my crazed screaming, and passes right by Oscar’s nose. Our valiant dog BACKED AWAY FROM IT, as if afraid, disgusted or a mixture of both.  Buck? He was already laying in his bed, oblivious to the whole thing.

Mouse disappeared under the stove.  Five minutes later he pops up out of who knows where over the countertop by the sink, sprints in front of my beautiful salt and pepper bowls, jumps and dives through the opening of the stove burner!

mousedive

In a complete state of mental disarray,  I called it a day. Left the kitchen after informing Oscar and Buck that – effective immediately – they were on a diet.

Phil set up a mouse trap with ham and peanut butter and placed it under the stove.   The beast was pronounced dead next morning, around 5:25am, when we entered the premises to have our cappuccino.

Never a dull moment, my friends.  Never a dull moment.

ONE YEAR AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Hoisin-Grilled Chicken & Soba Noodles

TWO YEARS AGO: The Manhattan Project

THREE YEARS AGO: Carrot “Nib” Orzo

FOUR YEARS AGO:  A Sticky Situation

FIVE YEARS AGO:  The Garden