Saturday, August 28, 2010

Brownie Cheesecake: Take One

My mom, being the lovely woman that she is, randomly will buy brownie mix for no reason. When I see this I get very excited. I love brownies and while I don't mind making them from scratch, the box makes pretty darn good brownies. I made brownies about a month ago so I wanted to try something different this time around.

After checking my usual food sites (, Tasty Kitchen, Food Network and Taste of Home,) I checked in with (formerly Recipezaar.) This is a newer site so the amount of tested recipes is lower than at Allrecipes. Still there were several brownie recipes that looked tempting.

The only problem I came across is the number of brownie recipes that are paired with peanut butter. If Brandon and I were still living on our own this would be no big deal. We love peanut butter and there are several recipes that I saved that I will be making one day. Unfortunately we are also living with my brother and he is allergic to peanuts. That ruled out an awful lot of brownie recipes.

Just when I was starting to think that I should just make regular brownies, I came across this recipe. The original called for cherry pie filling. While I am somewhat ok with apple pie filling from a can, I do not like cherries at all and the thought of pie filling did not sound good to me, so I just omitted it. One reviewer said that the pie filling starts to liquefy the cheesecake layer so I am glad I got rid of it all together.

Here is the recipe and my thoughts will follow:

1 (19 1/2 ounce) box of brownie mix or a brownie recipe that fills a 13X9 inch pan
1/2 cup Oil
1/4 cup Water
2 Eggs

2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 egg
1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk*
8 ounces Cream Cheese

Heat the oven to 350
°. Grease a 13X9 inch pan
Combine the first four ingredients just until all of the dry mix is moistened.
Spread into the pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, beat the remaining ingredient until smooth and creamy.
Pour over the partially baked brownie.
Bake until topping is set, about 25 minutes.
Cool and refrigerate until cold**

*Condensed milk is ridiculously expensive. The only ingredients are milk and sugar. When I got back from the store I checked, and there is a recipe for homemade condensed milk. If any of you have done this, please let me know how it turn out. I plan to make this in the next few months so I will make a post about it.

**I ate the bars while they were still warm. Let them chill, it will taste more like cheesecake.

Let's look at some photos before we get to my thoughts on this recipe, shall we?

The far shot.

The close up.

Now for my thoughts:
I liked it. But. The cheesecake layer isn't as tasty as it could be. It is not sweet enough and just doesn't quite taste like cheesecake.

My plan? To make this again using a regular cheesecake recipe for the topping. I am going to have to cut it down by about a third but I think I can make it work.

My other plan? To bake this in a springform pan with either a pumpkin cheesecake or cinnamon cheesecake layer and serve it for Thanksgiving. I am very excited about this!

When brownie mix goes on sale I will buy several boxes and try to create a new recipe out of this. Stay tuned for "Brownie Cheesecake: Take Two!" (in like a month or two...)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Fajitas, They Mock You

This recipe is for something that I randomly decided to try at some point last year. I thought it would be really good to braise meat in taco sauce.

Not just any sauce, mind you. Sauce from fast food taco restaurants (Taco Bell, Del Taco, those places.)

People at Seth's would always go to Taco Bell because it was just down the street and I started asking for their leftover sauce. I made it with chicken and it was quite good. I made it with chicken again, but this time, used the crock pot. Good, but not as good.

Right now Del Taco has regular crunchy or soft tacos for $0.39. Each. How awesome is that? I knew it was time to start stocking up on sauce. (don't tell Del Taco, but I took a lot of extra sauce each time I went. Shhhh...) Brandon and I both love the medium sauce at Del Taco. Del Scorcho, it's called.

I wanted to make a fajita-like dish, with peppers and onions. This dish came out really tasty and I will definitely be making it again. They are not traditional fajitas but they are awesome none-the-less.

This post is my attempt to come up with some sort of repeatable recipe. I hope it works. Here you are:

1 lb. meat (I used some cut of beef whose name eludes me) sliced or cubed
2 bell peppers
1 med. onion
1 c. taco sauce (mild, med, or hot or any combination thereof)
Olive Oil, for the pan
Spices for the veggies (i used ground cumin, white pepper and salt
Sour Cream, to serve

Heat the oven to 250
°. Spray an 8X8 baking dish.
Place the meat in the dish. Pour sauce over the meat. Stir so that all of the meat is coated.
Cover with tin foil and bake for 60-70 minutes. Uncover and bake for about 15 more minutes.
When the meat is almost done, chop the veggies.
Drizzle olive oil into a large pan and heat. Add spices.
When the pan is hot, add the veggies.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp tender, about 5-7 minutes.
Warm tortillas and then pile on the goodness!

As I was cooking the peppers and onion, I knew I had to get some photos of the finished product, the veggies alone were so beautiful! Burrito sized tortillas were all we had so I wrapped up some fajita burritos and man, were they good! Served with a side or two and in smaller tortillas, this dish could easily serve 6 people (I fed three with leftovers. We are going to make breakfast burritos with the rest!)

Dinner was fantastic and for dessert we had these. What a great way to end a crazy day. Here are some lovely photos:

Pre-Sour Cream.

Deliciousness zoom!

Mmmm...look at the sauce!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Knock, Knock. Who's There? Banana. Banana Who?

My mom had bought a bunch of bananas for work and there were a few left over that just sat in our fruit bowl. I saw these spotty bananas the other day and knew I had to do something with them.

Banana bread wasn't really an option this time. I wanted something different. My brother ruled out Banana Cookies in favor of something more breakfast like. This muffin recipe sounded really good and had great reviews so I had to give it a try. I have found so many tasty things at and this recipe did not disappoint.

My only complaint? It didn't have enough banana flavor to me. Usually three bananas is one cup, which this recipe called for. I think the problem was that these bananas were smaller than the ones I usually buy. Other than that they were quite yummy! Recipe:

1 3/4 cups Flour
3/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice (optional)
1 Egg
1/4 cup Oil*
3/4 cup Plain Yogurt
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup Mashed Banana
3/4 cup Chocolate Chips or Chopped Chocolate

Heat oven to 350°. Grease or line muffin tins.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg, oil, yogurt and extract.
Stir the wet into the dry until just moistened.
Fold in the bananas and chocolate.
Fill the muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake for 22 minutes, or until done.
Yield: I got 17. Strange number. The original says 16. Oh well.

*All I had was olive oil so that is what I used. They came out fine.
**I chopped chocolate rather than spend the money on chips. Half was milk and half was dark.

Here are some lovely photos:

Please make these. They are so good!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Just Peachy

The fruit crisp was devoured in a matter of days so I knew I had to come up with another recipe soon.

Every week when I go to the farmer's market, the peaches always smell so delicious, I knew I had to buy some and make something fabulous.

After much searching I found this. Cake sounded like a good idea so I went ahead with it. I adapted the recipe slightly, adding more fruit because some reviewers had felt it wasn't flavorful enough.

The result was quite good. In the original recipe, it calls for the cake to be baked in a 10inch tube pan. We do not have one of these so I baked it in two loaf pans. We ate one and I froze the other. It will be a nice reminder of summer in the months to come.

Peach Pound Cake
1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla
3 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 c. chopped peaches
1 c. mashed peaches
1 t. pumpkin pie spice

Heat the oven to 325°. Spray 2 glass loaf pans.
Cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the vanilla and pumpkin pie spice to the mashed peaches. Beat into the butter/sugar.
Reserve 1/4 c. of the flour. Sift the rest with the salt and baking powder. Stir into batter.
Use reserved flour to coat the chopped peaches. Fold peaches into batter.
Divide batter into the loaf pans. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Serve with sliced peaches and whipped cream.

I used a combination of white and yellow peaches but it would be just as good with all white or all yellow or, even another fruit. Pears would be divine and now I think I have to try that!

In other news, school has started again. I am taking three classes this semester while waiting to get into a university. UC Santa Cruz has guaranteed acceptance with the Transfer Agreement Program but I wouldn't be able to go until next fall so to bring up my GPA and to keep my student loans at bay, I am staying in school. This semester I am taking Mysteries of the Ancient Maya, Sociology and Logic. Should be a fun semester!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer Fruit

Over the last few months of living in Simi with my parents again I have discovered something. I have a NEED to bake. Or at least cook. As soon as I start baking all of my stress goes away and I am happy. I first figured this out about a month ago when I made Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake, which I will post at some point.

This week Albertson's has blueberries at $2 for 18oz! I couldn't pass that great a price up so I bought 2. If my parents don't buy any I might have to buy one more container so I have a lot to freeze. Now usually when I buy blueberries, I make muffins, pancakes, and eat a lot of yogurt and cereal. This time I wanted to make something different.

After two days of searching for a good berry recipe I found this. A Triple Berry Crisp recipe with over 500 great reviews! After reading the reviews, I knew I had to make this.

Most people who reviewed the crisp advised to add more fruit, closer to 6 cups than the 4.5 cups the recipe called for. That was great because I knew I had about 3 cups of blueberries left in one container (I of course had been eating them in my cereal.) I didn't want to only use blueberries and I have totally been on a peach kick since my mom made this amazing Peach Pie (if I convince her to make it again I will post it here) and thought that would be yummy. I ended up using white peaches because I like them more than the traditional yellow.

As I sit here and finish a plate of this crisp for my breakfast, I can tell you this is one of the most delicious things I have ever made. My family loved it too which is always nice. I made it last night and it is almost half gone already! It probably won't last another three days. What will I make next?

Here is the recipe, enjoy the fruits of summer in a delicious dessert!

Fruit Crisp
adapted from here

6 cups fruit
4 Tablespoons white sugar
2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1.5 cups brown sugar
1.5 teaspoons spices (I used pumpkin pie spice)
1 cup cold butter, cut into cubes

Heat the oven to 350°. Grease or spray a 13X9 inch pan.
Toss the fruit with the white sugar (I also added a little PPS to the fruit)
Whisk together all other dry ingredients.
Using your hands or a pastry knife, or 2 forks, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and holds together when you squeeze it.
Press a little less than half of the crisp mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spread the fruit over the bottom layer. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit until mostly covered*
Bake 30-40 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbly.

*I had extra topping and didn't want to completely cover the fruit. I pressed it into a loaf pan and baked with the crisp for about 15 minutes. It is a great ice cream topping.

P.S. I am only uploading one photo and it is sitting at the top because ScribeFire is not working again. Hopefully it will get fixed soon.