Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

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If you don’t like peanut because due to allergies or a mental illness then this recipe isn’t for you, man. It’s chock full of peanut buttery goodness and the perfect amount of milk chocolate– simply divine.

When you think of perfect food combinations, what comes to mind? Peas and carrots, meat and potatoes, wine and cheese . All of these are significant flavor profiles that we understand, growing up here in America. But what about the best combination of all —chocolate and peanut butter? Not only is this the best of flavor concoction known to man, but it’s the mix I never stray from at Pinkberry.

I really don’t buy the whole romantic idea of chocolate finding peanut butter by a chance, clumsy collision between a dude with a chocolate bar and a lady sashaying with a spoon and a jar of Jif. That was just a cheesy commercial! In fact, most accounts of history award the founding of this famous combination to Harry Reese, who began working for Milton Hershey’s Pennsylvania chocolate factory in 1917. Talk about a flavor fusion that endured! Mr. Harry Reese invented the peanut butter cup, the one and only REESE’S Peanut Butter Cup!

I was a bit weary of mixing peanut butter and cream cheese, the core ingredient of cheesecake. If you’re anything like me, the thought of cream cheese and peanut butter intentionally mixed probably gives you a bit of pause… I don’t know cheese plus sweetened peanuts? That can’t be right! Well, I was wrong. They are a perfect match. The tangy/saltiness of the cream cheese help the peanut butter hit all the right notes.

Oh, and just a random site note– don’t you hate it when recipes don’t call out brand names? For goodness sakes a “chocolate sandwich cookie” is an OREO. A ” chocolate peanut butter candy” is a REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUP. Phew, glad I got that off my chest.

Ingredients

Crust:

  • ·         1 cup crushed Oreos ($1.25)
  • ·         2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted ($.10)

Cheesecake:

  • ·         2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened ($2.50)
  • ·         1/2 cup creamy peanut butter ($1.00)
  • ·         1 tbsp all-purpose flour ($.03)
  • ·         1/4 cup half & half ($.20)
  • ·         2 eggs ($.40)
  • ·         2/3 cup sugar ($.10)
  • ·         1 tsp vanilla extract ($.05)

Chocolate Ganache Topping:

  • ·         1 cup chocolate chips ($1.00)
  • ·         1/2 cup heavy cream ($1.00)
  • ·         1 cup mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, chopped ($2.00)

Total: $8.28

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the Oreos and melted butter with a spoon. Place muffin liners into each cup and add about 1-2 teaspoons of the crumbled graham crackers to the bottom of each cup. Bake for 5 minutes.
  2. While the crust is baking, prepare the cheesecake batter. In a bowl combine the 2 packages of softened cream cheese with the peanut butter and sugar. Mix well. Add the flour, half & half, and vanilla extract and mix until just combined. Finally, add the eggs and stir until incorporated.
  3. After the Oreo crusts have been removed from the oven, lower the temperature to 350. Spoon the cheesecake batter into the muffin tin. Fill the cups almost to the top. Bake for about 15 minutes in the preheated oven. To test, gently shake the pan. The center should barely jiggle when done.
  4. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecakes to slowly cool (this will help prevent the cheesecakes from cracking). Open the oven door a few inches to allow the heat to escape. Once the cheesecakes are near room temperature, place them into the refrigerator to cool for at least 2 hours.
  5. Once the cheesecakes are cool, prepare the ganache. Add water to a large pot and bring to a simmer. Place a heatproof glass bowl over the pot and add the chocolate and heavy cream. Slowly stir with a spoon until the chocolate has melted, careful not to incorporate too much air. Once melted, remove from heat.
  6. Spoon 1 tsp of chocolate ganache over the cheesecakes. Sprinkle with chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups.

 

 

Mediterranean Brussels Sprouts

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If you hate Brussels Sprouts then I’m going to try and change your mind. As I mentioned in a previous post, Brussels Sprouts really got the worst PR of any veggie out there. They were always characterized as mushy, stinky green orbs that children all over the globe vehemently rejected. I too rejected the poor little guys until I was enlightened a few years ago at a trendy restaurant somewhere above the Mason Dixon line. Lately I’ve been seeing these guys fried into oblivion and smothered with some sort of shallot/ olive oil/ bacon/ salt mixture. While that sounds tasty I wanted to try something a little different that wouldn’t cost me more calories than a double cheeseburger.

I love mediterranean food, especially small plates and tapas where you can indulge in several little bites, all jam packed with flavor. This recipe incorprates the perfect balance of sweetness, bitterness and irresistible crunch. The combination of sweet figs and tart greek yogurt brings these sprouts head and shoulders above your childhood nightmare. I’m thinking these would be awesome for a tapas dinner party of sorts– hummus, lamb meatballs, zucchini fritters and of course plenty of wine. Sounds good right? Maybe I’ll have one just because! Friends, standby.  

Ingredients

  • 1 lb brussel sprouts, stalks removed and cut in half ($2.50)
  • 1 tbs olive oil ($.10)
  • 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar ($.05)
  • 4 tbs lightly toasted walnuts, chopped ($.25)
  • 5 tbs sliced red seedless grapes ($.25)
  • 3/4 C light plain Greek yogurt ($.75)
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs minced mint ($.20)
  • 1/2 c fig jam ($1.50)
  • 1/4 c water

Total: $5.60

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 500

2. Toss sprouts with 1 tbs olive oil and place cut side down on baking pan. Roast 17 minutes or until crispy and cooked through

3. While sprouts are cooking blend fig jam and 1/4 c water in blender until smooth. Cook over medium heat in saucepan until reduced in half

4. Mix together yogurt, mint and salt. Set aside

5. When sprouts are finished, splash with sherry vinegar and mix until well combined

6. Put sprouts on serving dish and sprinkle on toasted walnuts and grapes. Using a fork, alternate equal drizzles of fig mixture and yogurt mixture. Be careful not to add too much as you can serve additional sauce on the side. Season with more salt to taste, if needed,

Butternut Squash Soup

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It’s freaking COLD in DC right now. I don’t know what the heck happened but all of the sudden I feel like I live the North Pole. It went from 72 degrees last week to a low of 26 today. Not okay. The only cure for living in this frozen tundra is eating a big bowl of hot soup. It’s also the middle of fall, so of course anything involving pumpkin, squash, or any other gourd is a must.

My second favorite squash (Spaghetti is first) is Butternut. Why is it so good? It’s tastiness is one thing, but I think its actually very good for you. To be honest I’m not sure why it’s good for you but I think maybe its packed with Beta Carotene. Soooo… eye healthy maybe? Whatever. I will be completely honest with you and tell you I didn’t make up this recipe completely on my own. It’s actually a tweaked recipe from the Ritz Carlton. I know, ironic for a budget recipe blog but I did this for only seven bucks– and that’s with all organic ingredients!

Ingredients
  • 1 large Butternut Squash ($2.00)
  • 1 small yellow onion ($1.00)
  • 3 stalks celery ($.50)
  • 7 baby carrots, sliced thinly ($.20)
  • 1 Garlic Clove ($.10)
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock ($1.50)
  • 1/2 tsp. Nutmeg ($.10)
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Clove ($.05)
  • 1/2 tsp. Brown Sugar ($.05
  • 1 cup heavy cream ($1.00)
  • 1/2 cup half & half ($.50)
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Total: $7.00

Instructions
  1. Slice squash in half and remove seeds
  2. Rub clove, nutmeg and 1 tbd olive oil on squash halves
  3. Microwave (cut side down) in casserole dish for 6 minutes
  4. While squash is cooking, heat pan and sauté onions, celery, carrot, and garlic for 5 minutes
  5. Add chicken stock to sautéed vegetables
  6. Add butternut squash to stock mixture once it is removed from microwave
  7. Cook for 30 minutes on low
  8. Add cream and brown sugar
  9. Bring to a boil
  10. Blend to a smooth puree in blender
  11. Return to heat. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed

Baked Buffalo Wings

wings

Well, first off let me say that I’m deeply sorry for my month-long hiatus. In case you’re wondering why I fell off the face of the earth, my own little world has been completely turned upside down. Between traveling to the Far East (work, not pleasure), a quick, unexpected move, and taking on another job– lets just say I’ve been a bit preoccupied. Things are starting to reach some level of normalcy, so I’m back in the kitchen and ready to cook. I even have a new and improved kitchen!  Photo below…please excuse the mess. We are still unpacking.

kitchen

So, in honor of football season and stress eating, I thought I’d try my hand at buffalo wings tonight. I am a very picky wing eater. I think ever since I discovered that most restaurants use frozen, year-old chicken wings packed with hormones and other unnatural substances I’ve been a bit turned off by this classic American fare. Not to be a wing snob, but they need to be fresh, light(ish) and free of fat and chemicals for me to enjoy them.

Ok, I will make an exception. I’m probably one of five girls that actually enjoys going to Hooters. Not for the hooters themselves, but for the wings. I highly doubt that Hooters uses farm fresh organic chicken wings, but I’m willing to make an exception.

Funny story- when I was in Japan last month (home of the world’s most Michelin Star restaurants), I was DYING for buffalo wings. I know that sounds crazy, but come talk to me after eating sushi for a week straight. If you’re ever in Tokyo, you have to check out the Hooters in Ginza. Not only was I the only female in the restaurant, but the food is actually better than what we get stateside and the waitresses are hilarious. They totally play in to the stereotypes and I love it. Not to go off on a tangent, but I think anyone that sees Hooters as being “degrading to women” should take a flying leap. It’s a business. It’s successful. And oh by the way, nobody is FORCED to work there. Most importantly their wings and curly fries rock.

The next best thing to Hooters is to make wings yourself. Tonight I wasn’t in the mood for deep-fried anything, so I decided to bake these suckers. The trick is to coat them in plenty of flour and spice to ensure a nice crisp texture. The result? Fantastic.

Ingredients

  • 10 Chicken pieces (drumsticks and wings) ($5.00)
  • 3/4 C flour ($.50)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper ($.05)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($.05)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c butter ($.25)
  • 1/2 c hot sauce (I use Texas Pete) ($.50)

Total: $6.35

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray lightly with nonstick spray.

Combine flour, cayenne, garlic powder and salt. Rinse and pat dry chicken wings. In large bag, shake and coat wings with flour mixture. Place wings in refrigerator (on cookie sheet) for 45 minutes.

Whisk 1/4 c melted butter and 1/4 c hot sauce. Dredge chilled wings in buffalo sauce then bake for 40 minutes, flipping them halfway through.

Combine leftover (melted) butter and hot sauce. Once wings are done, drizzle more hot sauce on them. Serve with celery stick and ranch or bleu cheese dressing.

So anyway,

Butternut Squash and Kale Quesadillas

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It’s almost fall. Can you believe it!? Where on earth has 2013 gone? I’m very sad about saying farewell to rosé wine, white jeans and tank tops, but am so looking forward to the delicious delicacies of the season. I can almost taste Pumpkin Spiced Lattes. In celebration of the slight change in temperature, I thought I would offer a transitional recipe combining some of my favorite ingredients: cheese, kale and butternut squash.

Everyone who follows this blog is aware of my kale obsession. I didn’t jump on the kale bandwagon two years ago when some Iron Chef decided to make it popular. I’ve been eating the stuff since college. Besides being cheap and easy to cook its also incredibly good for you. Packed with nutrients, it’s rich in vitamins C and K as well as beta carotene. Kale also contains a chemical called sulforaphane, which has potent anti-cancer properties.

Let’s talk about squash. If you don’t like butternut squash, or any squash for that matter, then I think you are crazy. Butternut and Spaghetti are my favorite varieties, but I’d rank B-nut as number one. If it exists, I think I could eat a Gerber baby food jar of butternut squash, I’m not kidding. Is that weird? No but seriously, I think butternut squash contains some sort of dopamine-elevating drug similar to chocolate.

Finally, there’s cheese. I don’t even know where to begin. So I’ll just stop here…some things are just better left unsaid.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 1/2 whole Butternut Squash, seeded, peeled, chopped ($2.50)
  • 1 tbs olive oil ($.10)
  • 2 tbs butter ($.10)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Powder ($.05)
  • 1 bunch Kale leaves, torn ($2.00)
  • 8 flour tortillas ($2.00)
  • 1 tbs Butter For Frying
  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack Cheese ($2.50)
  • Sour Cream For Serving ($.50)

Total: $9.75

Instructions

Heat 1 tbs butter and oil. Add B-nut squash and season with chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, or until squash is deep golden brown and tender. Remove and set aside.

Melt 1tbs butter over medium-high heat and add in the kale. Toss and cook it for 4 minutes. Add in the cooked squash and gently toss together. Set aside.

In a separate skillet, melt additional butter and lightly brown 1 quesadilla. Add a layer of cheese topped with a layer of the squash/kale mixture, topped with a second tortilla.

Brown the quesadilla on both sides, adding more butter to the pan if needed to ensure the proper crunch and golden color.

When the cheese is melted, remove each quesadilla from the skillet and cut it into four wedges.

You will end up with four quesadillas. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

 

 

tebasakiwings

Tebasaki Chicken Wings

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I travel to Japan quite frequently for work and am fortunate enough to enjoy the some of the most amazing food on earth. Sushi, tempura, Kobe beef, you name it. While my travels normally take me to Tokyo, last year I had business trip in Nagoya, which is in central Japan. You can find most typical Japanese dishes in every city, but there are some delicacies that can only be found in certain regions of Japan.

My first Japan trip was actually to Nagoya a little over a year ago. It took about 16 hours to get there and I think I landed around 10 pm. By the time I made it through customs, took a taxi to the hotel and checked in it was almost midnight. And I was STARVING. I set out to find anything that was open and wound up in a quaint little restaurant with servers and chefs that didn’t speak a lick of English and menus written completely in Japanese. With no pictures!

The server luckily knew two words- “Ramen” and “Pork”. At this point I would’ve eaten the menu so I nodded and muttered “Hai”, which is Japanese for yes.

I was expecting a bowl of noodles in some sort of broth and maybe a piece of bacon or a pork chop? Well I got the first one—a bowl of noodles. But do you know what the pork dish was? A PIG’S BRAIN! WHY would I want to eat the brain of a pig! They aren’t even smart! I felt bad, so I cut it up and moved it around on my plate so it looked like I at least tried it. I’ll tell you one thing—the sight of that meal cured my hunger.

So anyway, I was very hesitant to break out and try anything crazy after that experience. I ended up speaking with the concierge and telling him about my run in with the brain. He laughed, and said the chefs were probably trying to play a joke on me. He told me if there’s one thing I should try in Nagoya it’s Tebasaki chicken wings. Chicken wings sounded safe to me so I was on my way to the nearest place that served them- Yamachan.

Yamachan is actually a chain with most branches in Nagoya, 34 to be exact. Based on my three visits to this joint, it’s a quite popular post-work hangout for Japanese businessmen. They serve cold, cheap Kirin or Asahi beer and wings by the dozen. You can’t miss the logo- it’s a cartoonish looking man dressed in a bird suit with a peace sign.

I actually just got back from Tokyo two days ago and I found a Yamachan! There is only one in Tokyo and it’s smaller than a closet, with standing room only. The atmosphere wasn’t as nice as the Nagoya branches, but it reminded me how much I love these wings. As an added bonus, they even provide you with a 5-step eating guide.

Yes that is Zima on the menu

Yes that is Zima on the menu

I’ll always have my allegiance to the buffalo variation, but these are really REALLY good. Totally different texture than your standard wing (they’re double fried), and the seasoning is unique and tasty. Thanks to a spoonful of pepper and a pinch of sugar, they have a perfect balance of spicy and sweet. Next time I will try a baked variation, but if this is your first time trying these wings—you gotta fry them.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken wings ($4.00)
  • ¼ C flour ($.10)
  • 2 tbs soy sauce ($.20)
  • 1 tbs sugar ($.10)
  • 1 tsp Japanese sake ($.50)
  • 2 tbs Mirin ($.50) – you can find this in the Asian section of most supermarkets
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder ($.05)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 tbs white sesame seeds ($.40)

Total: $5.85

Instructions

Rinse chicken wings and pat dry. Dredge in flour. Heat oil in cast iron or regular skillet on medium-high. Fry wings for 3 minutes or until light golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Mix soy sauce, mirin, sugar, sake, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Turn skillet to high and fry wings another 5 minutes. While chicken is cooking, microwave glaze for 1 minute.

Drain chicken on paper towels and brush sauce. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper along with sesame seeds.

Serve hot.

Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

SPAGHETTISQUASH

Squash. I feel like it’s one of those controversial vegetables like brussels sprouts and broccoli. You either love it or hate it. I don’t understand squash haters and personally, I think they are making a bit mistake. Squash is so versatile. Did you know there are over 50 varieties of squash? You can also cook it just about any way– boiled squash, fried squash, baked squash, sautéed squash, squash casserole, squash pie, squash bread. I feel like Bubba from Forrest Gump. I could really go on and on about squash.

The BEST way to eat squash in my opinion is when it resembles a noodle. Conveniently, the squash king named this variety “Spaghetti Squash”. It’s genius really. A vegetable that can replace pasta! Sure, on it’s own its a little bland and boring but trust me, with the right sauce you will love it. It might even turn squash skeptics into loyal fans.

This was the first time I tried a meaty sauce with my squash noodles. Result? Perfect. Tons of protein, low carb, packed with vegetables and nutrients. It’s also pretty easy on the wallet. You really can’t go wrong. If you are red meat averse, feel free to substitute ground turkey for the beef and omit the pancetta.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 1 large spaghetti squash ($3.00)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil ($.10)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped ($.50)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced ($.20)
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced ($2.00)
  • 1 carrot, finely minced ($.10)
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped ($.10)
  • 4 oz pancetta, finely chopped ($3.00)
  • 1 pound ground beef ($5.00)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 C cheap dry red wine ($1.00)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes ($1.50)
  • 1/4 cup half and half ($.30)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes ($.03)
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil ($.20)

Total: $17.03

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400. Poke 4 or 5 holes in spaghetti squash and microwave for 10 minutes in a large microwave safe dish.

Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or stock pot sauté the carrot, onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms over medium-high heat with 1 tbs olive oil. After the veggies are cooked through, add pancetta and cook until crispy, about 4 minutes. Next, add in ground beef and brown.

Once beef is brown, drain off excess grease then add mixture back to pan. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 C wine and scrape up brown bits, cook 2 minutes. Add in tomatoes, half and half, red pepper flakes and basil. SImmer on low for 35 minutes.

At this point, remove the spaghetti squash. Careful, it’s hot! Cut in half and remove seeds…try and keep in as much pulp as possible. Put both sides cut-side down on a greased cooking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Remove squash, then using two forks, pull out the pulp and separate noodles into a bowl.

To serve, add squash noodles to bowl with a hearty scoop of Bolognese. Feel free to add grated parmesan as well!