Archive for October, 2012


Cutie Patootie #3

Cora’s 1st birthday!

Two of my grandkids just had birthdays. Yea! Cutie Patootie #3 turned 1 and the little Chunky Monkey turned 2 within a few days of each other. My daughter planned a creative double-party for the kids, with one side being decorated for Cora and the other for Corbin. She asked for a pink cheesecake for Cora’s table, and I had the perfect strawberry cheesecake recipe for it! Click for recipe.

Only part of this got eaten at the party, which wasn’t a problem, because it kept nicely in the refrigerator for the second party a couple of days later.  Cutie Patootie #1, who is 6 and was very busy at the party, slowed down long enough to taste it for me and declared it “OK.” Her mother, who has eaten my cheesecakes for years, said it was delicious. Pink Cheesecake, Strawberry Cheesecake

I liked it but it was a bit more subtly flavored than I’d like. Then again, I had a piece less than 24 hours after it was baked, so the flavor might have intensified a bit with time. If you want a really intense strawberry flavor, top it with more strawberries or spread a high-quality strawberry jam on the top of the cheesecake before you serve it.

I got this recipe from Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook, a collection of 50 recipes from the owners of Junior’s restaurant in New York. I love cheesecake, so when this cookbook came out, I added it to my collection. I had never used cornstarch in a cheesecake until I made this recipe. I think it helps balance all the liquid from the whipping cream and the berries in the recipe; at least I assume that’s the purpose of it. It also may be the reason this cheesecake sliced up so beautifully. None of my other cheesecake recipes have ever sliced so cleanly!

If you need a dessert for a pink-themed party, this is it! If you just want a good cheesecake with the strawberries built-in, this is also it! Eat up!

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The first place I had Cuban food was a restaurant called Havana in West Palm Beach, FL. The second place I had Cuban food was Havana in WPB – about three days after the first time.

Boliche & Brown Rice

You can see the roasted garlic in the lower corner of the piece on the left, and the delish ham stuffed in the middle of the piece on the right. Yum!

The Pretty One and I were in Florida visiting relatives and the beach. When we arrived I told my cousin I wanted to try some Cuban food in Miami. I’m not sure where I got the idea I needed to try it, but it was probably from one of those food shows I watch way too often. As luck would have it, my cousin said they lived within blocks of an excellent Cuban restaurant, and plans were made!

I enjoyed the food; The Pretty One enjoyed the view. The young lady who seated us was gorgeous! So when asked where we wanted to eat on our last night in town, I chose Havana and The Pretty One agreed.

Several years later I still remember the ropa vieja, the rice & beans, and the plantains. Contrary to what many people think, Cuban food is not spicy. It’s flavorful, but it doesn’t carry a lot of heat. Cuban food is good, down-home comfort food. Simple ingredients, simply prepared. For the most part, Cuban recipes use ingredients you can find at your local grocery store, although some items you might need to hunt down at a specialty store or online.

I started looking for recipes before I even got back to KC, and couldn’t wait to make some Cuban food in my own kitchen! The first recipe I tried was this Boliche. Click for recipe. I couldn’t resist trying this roast that’s stuffed with ham, studded with garlic, browned, and then cooked in a wine mixture.Boliche I used a pork roast, but in reading the recipe for the 17th time, I realize I could also have used a beef roast.

This turned out to be a really easy recipe, despite the steps of stuffing and studding the roast. Don’t let those steps intimidate you. It’s not hard, and the pay-off is huge! The garlic roasts as you brown the meat, then infuses the broth with a wonderful, mellow garlic flavor. The roast cooks on the stove for close to 3 hours, and the smell will have you watching the clock waiting for it to be ready!

Being cooked in a liquid keeps the roast juicy, even when you reheat the leftovers. I shared the roast with a friend, and we ate it with brown rice. The traditional beans and plantains would be great accompaniments, and if I cook this for a big family meal, I’ll be sure to include those.

Oh, and I should mention the leftovers make a great “soup” if you pile some rice, chunks of roast and broth in a bowl.

I’m certainly glad I ventured out to try a new cuisine, and have got another Cuban recipe in mind to try soon. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

I was invited to dinner at my daughter’s a couple of weeks ago. After we finished the chicken enchiladas she’d made, my son-in-law looked over and asked, “What did you bring for dessert?”

“Nothing,” was my reply. “Tish told me not to bring anything.” “What?!? Why’d you do that?” he asked his wife. It seems Alex had been hoping for the pumpkin cake I’d made last fall for him, and was disappointed when it didn’t appear. I promised to bring one the next time I saw him, which turned out to be last weekend for their kids’ birthday parties, and he was appeased. Pumpkin Spice Pudding for Alex's Cake

This cake is an adaptation of the Hornet’s Nest Cake from The Cake Mix Doctor. It’s crazy-easy and comes out perfect every time! Basically, you make pudding, fold in a cake mix, then top it with pecans and chips before baking.  The original recipe calls for vanilla pudding, butterscotch chips and pecans. The chips sink slightly into the cake to create holes, which mimics the appearance of a hornet’s nest. No frosting is needed, and would probably be just too much sweetness anyway. (Yes, there is such a thing as too much sweet!)

I saw some Jell-O Pumpkin Spice instant pudding mix in the store last fall and thought I could do something with it. I’ll admit I don’t get excited about all the pumpkin stuff on the market in the fall. It’s just not one of my favorite flavors, nor is it in the top 25 probably. But my daughter and her husband love pumpkin stuff and I thought I’d play with the pudding mix somehow.

This Hornet’s Nest Cake came to mind, because I think you could change it up to use whatever flavor pudding, cake mix, and type of nuts you like and come out with something that is both easy and impressive. So I went with pumpkin spice pudding, a yellow cake mix, a combo of butterscotch and white chocolate chips, and pecans. I thought it was good, but Tish and Alex liked it even more and requested it a couple times after that. Click for recipe.

Son-In-Law Cake (Pumpkin, Butterscotch & Pecans)The cake is moist, and the top layer is both sweet and crunchy, as the chips and nuts stay near the top of the cake and the nuts brown a bit. I haven’t checked the stores to see if the pudding is out yet, since it’s seasonal, but I’d guess it’ll be there soon if it’s not already. I was lucky and had stocked up at the end of last year’s holiday season so I still had 1 box stashed away.

If you can’t find pumpkin spice pudding, try butterscotch or maybe a butter pecan, if there is one, and add some pumpkin pie spice to the pudding mixture. Alternatively, use vanilla pudding and a spice cake mix, and add pumpkin pie spice to either the cake mix or pudding. I’d start with about a tablespoon of the pumpkin pie spice, smell and taste your mixture, and add more spice if you think you want it.

I delivered the cake to Alex last weekend and he declared it, “All mine!” Since we didn’t cut it while I was there, I can only show you a picture of the un-cut results. But trust me on this one – it’s a really delish cake that takes maybe 5 minutes to throw together.

Give it a try and let me know if you make any variations to Alex’s version!