Cooking

The Cheesecake Challenge

Yesterday took me on a new baking adventure: cheesecake. I volunteered to bring dessert for Bible study, and I vowed to try something new. Here enters cheesecake. I needed a treat high school students were sure to eat, so I started brainstorming cheesecake flavors. I ruled out plain early on, considered chocolate, and ended on Reese’s. I am embarrassed to admit, but this is a Pinterest dessert if I’ve ever seen one.

The cheesecake preparation process was simpler than I expected. I’m not sure what I expected exactly, but apparently not that. I followed Taste and Tell’s recipe for the cheesecake and everything worked well. I made the cheesecake the night before and chilled it still in the springform pan with the sides on. Then, about two hours before serving I removed the sides and added chocolate topping from Oh My God Chocolate Desserts. I then put the cheesecake back in the fridge until serving it. I recommend doing this method because everything held together well.

Experiment: chocolate peanut butter cheesecake Result: tbd

A post shared by Taylor Lindell (@taylorelindell) on

Upon serving, the cheesecake was gone in under five minutes, so I guess it was hit! Many friends also saw the baking process and have requested I make it for them soon. All good signs. It did look pretty delicious. Let’s start with the Oreo crust, move to the chunks of Reese’s in the cheesecake and on top, and end with the dark chocolately topping. So… yum. Now I have cheesecake under my belt, and it’s on to the next challenge.

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It’s Over

Post Super Bowl sadness enter… Now! Super Bowl Sunday is a day filled with football, commercials, friends, and food. Lots and lots of food when I’m around. Because really, what is a football game without friends and snacks? Way less fun is the answer.

Though a snackadium (Google it) surfaced a few times as a viable idea, I talked the kids and friends out of it in favor of other favorites. To clarify, yes, I did host this party with the kids, but I also invited my friends.

After much debate we decided on guacamole (duh!), bruschetta, bacon-wrapped dates, spinach and artichoke dip, and nachos with cupcakes and snickerdoodle cookies for dessert. And what’s a party without a signature drink? My best friend Sue made “fizzy punch” for the kids.

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Now the fun is over, and I’m already thinking about the next party. You can never have too many parties

Fajita Spice Mix

I cook Mexican food in phases. I’ll make salsa and guac a few nights in a row, then Salsa Chicken the next night, and eventually I get around to mojitos (which I learned to make with fake sugar simple syrup and they are AWESOME–way better than they sound). Then I remember how much I enjoy cooking Mexican! It’s easy, healthy, and people generally like it.

I think the spice is best rubbed on chicken right before cooking. Making the spice blend ahead sets you up for a quick and easy dinner.

Fajita Spice

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp salt

Mix together all ingredients.

Raking Leaves and Creating Memories

Balsamic Mahi Mahi with Broccoli

I identify myself as unusual, and here’s why: I recently recognized raking leaves as a 2014 top fall memory. With the identification comes a story. A college friend and I spent our fall break at my house in Minnesota. My friend comes from Hawaii, where leaves don’t fall (weird!), so she had never before raked leaves. Shockingly, I found myself excited to head to the yard with my family and friend for her first leaf gathering experience, and even more shockingly, I enjoyed being out there. Thus, raking leaves is a fond memory. Afterwards the girls went for manicures and pedicures, perhaps favorably tainting my thoughts.

Fall is here, temperatures are dropping, and famers market season is wrapping up, so I’m making the most of the last fall vegetables: broccoli, onions, and parsley.

Balsamic Mahi Mahi with Broccoli

1/2 lb mahi mahi

2 medium heads broccoli

1/4 cup onion, roughly chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp parsley

Salt and pepper

Steam broccoli until still slightly firm, about 6 minutes. In a large skillet, heat butter and olive oil on medium high. Place mahi mahi in skillet, season with parsley, salt, and pepper; and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn mahi mahi and add onion to skillet, sautéing until mahi mahi is cooked through and onion is translucent, 4-6 minutes. Turn heat to low, add broccoli, balsamic vinegar, and garnish with extra parsley. Stir to mix flavors and serve.

Italian Chicken

Italian Chicken

I forget how much I love being with the campus community. All my friends live within a one mile radius, so someone is always popping by the house. This might inhibit productivity, but it greatly improves student satisfaction!

In other news, I have been an iPhone 6 owner for ten days. I only dropped it once so far (probably a record for me), and although I harbored a bit of skepticism with the bigger screen, I quickly adjusted and now love it.

Back to the community that I love… My boss just stopped over with tomatoes from his garden, so what was I to do? Cook with them, of course! Thus, I made Italian Chicken, a simple weeknight dish.

Italian Chicken

1/2 lb chicken tenderloins

2 medium tomatoes

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add chicken and season with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Brown and cook chicken (about 3 minutes each side), and remove to place in baking dish. Top chicken with a single layer of sliced tomatoes and parmesan cheese and bake for 7 minutes. Serve when the cheese looks delicious and gooey!

Cumin Roasted Carrots

Roasted Carrots

Hello, second week of school. I’m settled back at school in Illinois, where I’m reconnecting with friends and starting to study. So far I love living in a house with my six best friends. All six of us are rational and considerate, so we’ll never have conflict. Stop laughing. I know we’ll have disagreements, but for now we’re on top of the world finding each other and the house.

I know the transition to fall vegetables has begun, since I saw Brussels sprouts at the farmers market last weekend. That being said, it’s time to roast carrots. This is the simplest side you’ll make, but it looks fancy and delicious.

Roasted Carrots

1 bunch carrots (about 15 medium sized)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cumin
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange carrots on jelly roll pan in a single layer and coat with olive oil. Sprinkle cumin, salt, and pepper on carrots. Roast carrots in oven, turning once, for 35-40 minutes, or until carrots are soft.

Summer Veggie Salad with Herb Vinaigrette

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SO MANY VEGETABLES. That’s what I thought this week after our CSA delivery. However, it’s important to note I didn’t view this as a problem; rather, I immediately planned to make a salad. Summer Veggie Salad with Herb Vinaigrette resulted from my planning, so there we were eating our vegetables and herbs. As you’ll gather, the salad works with any raw veggies, the fresher the better, so throw in what you have. I listed the vegetables I used below, since I loved the mix.

Summer Veggie Salad

2 ears of corn

1 cucumber

1 zucchini

2 heirloom tomatoes

3 carrots

Herb Vinaigrette

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp basil

1 tsp sage

1 tsp chives

salt and pepper

Boil water for corn, and cook corn for about 3-4 minutes. Roughly chop all veggies, and combine in a large bowl. If warm, rinse corn under cold water to cool, then cut off from cob. In a container with a lid, combine olive oil, apple cider vinegar, dijon, basil, sage, and chives, and shake to combine. Season veggies with salt and pepper, and toss with vinaigrette. Let salad sit covered for 15 minutes to let flavors blend.

Cod with Sage

Some days I look 16–a reality I realized upon being carded buying tickets to an r-rated movie. Or the timid high school ticket clerk wanted nothing less than to misstep and sell tickets to someone under 17. The worst! Regardless, after showing my ID, the poor kid (he was a kid) realized I am, in fact, old enough to see the movie and sheepishly handed me a ticket. Someday I’ll appreciate lean estimates on my age, but for now I’ll simply laugh.

I would recommend the movie, 22 Jump Street, for a laugh, given the ridiculous nature of the storyline. Two  nearly 30-year old cops go undercover as freshman at a local university to uncover a drug trade.Though not the thought-provoking type, I certainly laughed throughout the showing.

Before seeing the movie I made cod. Cod, a mild fish, is low in calories and high in protein. I like to cook it many ways–grilled, oven baked, or pan sautéed. Cod is a thicker filet, so it won’t flake apart as easily as other fish. Once seasoned and cooked, cod is delicious.

I made Cod with Sage on the stove, but the recipe also works on the grill, though I recommend using a grill pan to make sure the fish doesn’t fall through.

Cod with Sage

1 lb cod filets

3/4 cup worcestershire

3 sage leaves, chopped

2 tsp celery root

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp salt

Mix worcestershire and sage together in a small bowl. In another small bowl, combine celery root, garlic powder, cayenne, and salt. Sprinkle dry seasoning on all sides of cod. Using a basting brush, coat cod in worcestershire. Heat a drop of oil in a large sauté pan, and add cod to pan. Cook cod on medium high for 7-9 minutes, making sure fish is just cooked through and flaking with a fork.

Roasted Cauliflower

It seems I’m turning into quite a traveller. This weekend marks my third plane trip in six days. I am visiting friends from school in the Chicagoland area this weekend! I love being busy, but next weekend I’ll spend time at home.

Roasted Cauliflower is a year-round favorite at our house. Roasted veggies are always fit for the colder months, but we roast locally grown farmers market cauliflower during the summer.

Time to board the plane. See you in Minneapolis!

Roasted Cauliflower

1 medium head cauliflower

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop cauliflower into 1 inch florets. Place cauliflower into sealable sack and add olive oil, tossing to coat. Place cauliflower in oven safe baking dish, add garlic, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook cauliflower until lightly browned, 35-45 minutes, depending on desired softness.

Turkey Burgers with Avocado

A week of travel is underway on my end. My family and I spent a long weekend in Manhattan dining, seeing, and walking, and we had a wonderful time. We stayed near Grand Central Station, so we witnessed the bustle of the workday in New York City. We all love visiting cities and are pretty fascinated by the city lifestyle, so we enjoyed seeing that.

Family at Olives

One of our favorite restaurants was The Meatball Shop, where every dish comes with a meatball. There are a few locations, but we went to the one in Chelsea. We also tried Olives, which provides an intimate environment and good food, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the price. And of course we made a few trips to Magnolia Bakery because I absolutely love their Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake!

We also loved seeing Aladdin on Broadway and walking through Central Park.

Today I fly on work’s corporate jet (it’s as cool as it sounds) across Minnesota, and this weekend I’ll visit friends in Chicago.

We made it home from New York just in time to cook Dad dinner for Father’s Day, and he loved these Turkey Burgers with Avocado. As you can see, we chose not to eat them with buns this time, but you can eat them however you prefer.

Turkey Burgers with Avocado

1 lb ground turkey

1 tbsp egg whites

1/2 avocado, mashed

2 green onions

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp season salt

Salt and pepper

Heat grill to high. Combine all ingredients except turkey and egg whites in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix in turkey and egg whites until combined with other ingredients. Also using your hands, form mixture into patties 1 inch thick and 3 inches wide and place on foil. Cook patties on hottest part of grill to brown, 1-2 minutes each side. Move patties to indirect heat until cooked through, 6-9 minutes. Serve with preferred toppings and with or without buns.