February 3, 2012

Why Isn't Peanut Butter Ice Cream a Thing?

Okay. Next time you get the peanut butter hankering (like I do on a daily basis) you have to try this. Take regular vanilla ice cream, get a big spoonful of peanut butter, and mix them together like you used to do with chocolate syrup as a kid when your parents wouldn't buy you a Frosty. It's pretty much amazing. Which got me thinking, why on Earth isn't peanut butter ice cream a thing? Sure you can get butterfinger or reese's mixed in, but what if I  don't want chunky bits of partially frozen, crappy chocolate in my ice cream? I just want some smooth, unadulterated, creamy peanut butter ice cream. You guys, we're gonna make this happen.




June 11, 2011

Midnight Cheesecake

The difference between store-bought and homemade cheesecake is probably the biggest of any dessert out there. I was never a fan of cheesecake until I tried the real stuff. It really isn't difficult to make either. So why do people buy that hard, fake-tasting, three-times-sweeter-than-it-needs-to-be cheesecake from the store?

Kiwi Cheesecake is my favorite. The first time I made it was for my 8th grade English class. I gave a presentation on the New Zealand holiday, Waitangi Day. New Zealanders love their kiwi, in fact they use the word to refer to their national bird, themselves, and anything else from New Zealand. The tangy fruit goes gorgeously with the sweet cheesecake and the tangy/sweet sour cream topping.

I decided I wanted cheesecake at about 10 pm one night and had most of the ingredients on hand. I pulled a recipe off of a website and tweaked it. Here's what I ended up with around 12:30...

Unlike other cooking, baking requires precision in measuring ingredients (that's why it's not my forte.) So unless your a brilliant chemist, you will probably need some kind of recipe. Now, that doesn't mean you can't play around with it. Just don't change anything that will change the composition. Here is the basic recipe:


*1 1/2 cup graham crackers
*6 tbsp butter
*1/4 cup sugar

*1 1/2 lb. softened cream cheese
*2 tbsp milk
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1 tsp vanilla
*4 eggs beaten
*1 cup sugar

*1 cup sour cream
*3 tbsp powdered sugar
*1/2 tsp vanilla
*3 kiwis

I didn't have graham cracker crumbs when I made this, so I used pretzels instead.  I just threw some in the food processor, ground them to about the same size as graham cracker crumbs, and made an exact substitution.

I then mixed the ingredients of the crust together and pressed them into two pie plates (springform pans are preferrable, but I didn't have them on hand). Put the crusts in the oven for 10 min at 350 degrees. 
Then, I beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. I added the eggs, milk, salt, and vanilla. I poured the batter into the crust.

I baked for 35-40 minutes until it looked like this. As soon as all the jiggle is gone and it is slightly brown over the top, it is done.

While this was cooling down a bit, I made the sour cream topping by combining the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. I spread this over the cheesecakes and returned to the oven. I cooked it for 10-15 minutes. The topping will get a sheen to it and will begin to cook into the cake. I then sliced up the kiwis and put them on when the cheesecake was completely cool.

Side Note:
I had some frozen raspberries on hand, so I decided to make a compote for my cheesecake. I put them on the stove to start cooking them and surprise! I realized we had no cornstarch. Adding enough powdered sugar to get the right consistency would have made it way too sweet, and obviously flour would have made it taste nasty. I was looking around desperately for a substitute and found this:

I have no idea what this is normally used for or why somebody in my house chose to buy it, but I figured it would have a thickening agent in it. I just added around 2 tablespoons of it to the fruit, some water, and about a quarter cup of sugar. It worked beautifully! This raspberry compote idea is a totally optional part of the recipe, but I like to see what happens when I add new things like this.

Let cool completely before you add to the cheesecake.

Once the cheesecake was completely cool and assembled, I put it in the fridge until it was cold.

In the end, I do prefer the graham cracker crust and raspberryless Kiwi Cheesecake... but this goes to show that you can almost always make substitutions and add new things. Even in baking!

I will admit that this was not the best Kiwi Cheescake I have ever made. The kiwis were harder than they should have been and the crust got a little burnt. I'm not perfect, okay?

April 11, 2011

Spicy Fish Tacos

As you break away from the habit of following recipes to the T, I should point out that recipes are not all bad. In fact, they are great. Note that the subheader of this blog is "step away from the recipe book" and not "burn the recipe book." Recipes are a great  way to get inspired. I like to think of them as a series of suggestions; a note from someone as to what works for them. Not the law code of Hammurabi. Stop worrying about if it looks right. Don't be afraid to improvise. Everyone has different tastes and the food you make should reflect that.

Here is one of my recipe-based improvisations; the poor college kid's version of fish tacos.  I had some frozen tilapia that I needed to use up, and decided to try something new with it. Most of the ingredients in the recipe for fish tacos that I had seen were not available to  me at the time, so I just used what I had and utilized the recipe's method for cooking the fish.

I started out by putting salt, pepper, a little bit of garlic powder on both sides of the fish filets. I then put them in a bowl and covered them in olive oil, lemon juice, and hot sauce (I like Louisiana Hot Sauce,) making sure that both sides were covered. Remember the proportions of these completely depend on your taste. I like it tear-inducingly spicy, so I go heavy on the hot sauce. I let the fish marinade in the mixture for 5-10 minutes and then put them on the grill.

The filets are ready to flip when they are no longer sticking to the surface of the grill. The fish is done when it is completely opaque and flaky all over. After pulling the filets off, I put them in a bowl and flaked them with a fork.

From this point on, it was as simple as assembling a taco. The filling depends on what you like. Cheese and beans are not great with the fish in this case. I think guacamole, on the other hand, is a must in fish tacos. I made a simple guac with avocados, lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt. Here are the fillings I used:

 I warmed up the tortillas in a frying pan so that they were soft and pliable. I am also a huge fan of Tortilla Land uncooked tortillas. You simply cook them in the frying pan right before you use them and they are at least 5 times better than any other tortillas you can buy at the grocery store.

Happy Taco Tuesday a day early!

(The Mickey Mouse-like plate formation was totally unintentional)

April 9, 2011


I am obsessed with grapefruit. Be it in a scented lotion, in juice form, or all by its delicious self. Grapefruit are really cheap at the store right now; I got 10 lbs of grapefruit for a dollar a couple of weeks ago! When my mom and I were driving back up to college after Christmas, she was telling me a notable grapefruit experience of her's. When she was in high school, her boyfriend's mom made her a grapefruit and avocado salad with Catalina dressing on top. She said that it was one of the best things she has ever eaten.

Grapefruit and avocado together? Does it work?  Well fast-forward a few weeks later and I realize I happen to have the two ingredients on hand. I decide to  recreate the salad. It turns out these two are a marriage made in heaven.

I started out by segmenting out the grapefruit so that it was in big pieces. 
 (If you're not familiar with how to do this, this is helpful:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Rg3kUk4pyo  )
I then sliced up the avocado by halving it, slicing the the fruit vertically, and then popping the segments out of the skin. The grapefruit and avocado segments were about comparable in size

I put these over a bed of spinich (lettuce would also work), put a small amount of salt on it, and added the dressing. I did not have any Catalina on hand, and being a college student, I was not about to go buy a bottle of dressing that I'm not a big fan of anyway for one little food experiment. I knew that the dressing had to have a nice acidic quality to it, or else the creaminess of the avocado and the dressing would drown out the grapefruit. So I decided to use caesar dressing. Any acidic dressing could work for this salad. A vinigarette would give this salad a bit more punch, and a poppyseed dressing would bring out the sweetness in the fruit. It all depends on your taste.

And voilĂ , the finished product.

This is a simple, summery salad. I had never read a recipe for this before. I just had an idea of three ingredients to put together. Even though this was easy, putting flavors together that I had not tried before was exciting.  If you are a strict recipe follower, this is a great place to start trying new things. Salads are easy to change around and experiment with because there is no cooking involved. Don't be afraid to do something that has never been done before!