Monday, April 27, 2009

Creamy Banana Caramel Cheesecake with Macadamia Nut Crust and Caramel Rum Sauce


Remember that lemon cheesecake disaster? The one where the cheesecake puffed, burned, cracked, and tasted a little bit like a lemon flavored kitchen sponge? It was a disaster. An epic disaster. I have made so many awful cheesecakes, I officially named cheesecake as my NEMESIS.

Well. Guess what. Just guess. No really!

I WIN. That's what. I finally made a cheesecake that didn't suck sweaty goat balls. That's right. This cheesecake is good.


No, wait. This cheesecake is GREAT. Dare I say it? This is the best cheesecake I have ever had. Ever. And that's saying something. Because I love cheesecake. A lot. And I know a good cake from a bad cake. And this cake is awesome.

You might be arching your eyebrows skeptically about the flavor. Banana cheesecake? Is that actually good?


YES, YES, YES! Have you ever had bananas foster? It was good, right? This cheesecake is a little like that. The cheesecake is smooth and creamy, with just a hint of mellow banana flavor, dark sweet rum, and vanilla. And don't forget the generous, rum infused ribbons of dulce de leche caramel. The crust is made of crushed macadamia nuts and unsweetened coconut. And it's topped with dark rum caramel sauce. It's kind of amazing.

I think I just might be making this again. RIGHT NOW. No really.


Creamy Banana Caramel Cheesecake with Macadamia Nut Crust and Caramel Run Sauce

This month I joined an awesome baking club called The Daring Bakers. Each month, everyone in the club makes the same "challenge" recipe, then reveals said recipe on the same day on their blogs! Is that fun or what?

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

I think this might be a MAGIC recipe. I have made so many bad cheesecakes, but this one came out perfectly, and it was so easy! After so many throw aways, it's great to have a winner. It's definitely going in my permanent file.


1 macadamia nut crust with coconut flakes

For the cheesecake:
3 sticks cream cheese (8oz each) room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1 medium banana (not too ripe!)
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 can dulce de leche

Rum Caramel Sauce:
1/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tbs butter

ok, lets get started! FIRST: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bring a LARGE pot of water to boil on the stove for your water bath.

Got that cream cheese? I hope it's room temperature! It really makes a difference. In fact, I recommend everything be room temperature - the cream cheese, the eggs, and the milk. It goes together much more smoothly, with no lumps.

Place your cream cheese in a stand mixer. Add the sugar.

Beat together until sugar is incorporated, 2-3 minutes. Try not to sample too much. Not that I have ANY IDEA how good sugar creamed into cream cheese tastes. Nope. No idea whatsoever.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing each one in completely before adding the next. TIP: Mix on LOW until just incorporated. Overmixing will make the cake rise too much in the oven.

Add the heavy cream. Also mix this in on LOW. See above for why. You know, if you forgot.

Now add a tablespoon of this.

And don't forget a tablespoon of THIS!

Now for the fun part.

Puree a banana in a food processor (or a blender). You want it really smooth. This is not a banana chunk cheesecake (yuck).

Now gently mix it all up together. GENTLY. Like, until it is JUST mixed. It will be very runny. That's ok! Pour the cheesecake batter into whatever mold you are using, and fill it up HALF WAY. (I used ramkins. Next time I will use a springform pan. Ramkins were hard).

Ready for some MORE FUN? Mix this up with a bit of rum until it is syrrupy. MMmmmm. Dulce de leche. Put a couple of blobs in and GENTLY mix some of this stuff in with a knife or a fork. You want to make ribbons. Try not to sample too much. But, well, if you do... you're stronger than I am.

Fill your pans up to the top, and top with more dulce the leche. You can make a pretty swirly design on top like I did. Remember that boiling water at the beginning? Put your cheesecakes in a BIG pan, and fill the big pan up with water, until the cheesecake(s) are 1/2 way submerged. This slows the cooking down, and keeps the cheesecakes from burning or cracking.

Now put those babies in the over, and bake for 45-55 minutes (less if you are making small cheesecakes like me). You know it's done when the outer ring is firm, but the center is still jiggly.


Turn your oven off, and let the cheesecake sit in the slowly cooking over for ONE HOUR. Then remove the cheesecakes from the water bath, and let them continue to cool on the counter. This SLOW cooling will also help to keep them from cracking.

Finally, refrigerate them overnight before unmolding.

Caramel Rum Sauce

This sauce is SO SIMPLE, but powerfully, and I mean POWERFULLY tasty. And also? Kind of fun! There is fire involved. That's all I'm going to say. FOR NOW.

This is all you need: Butter, golden grown sugar, and dark rum.

Start by melting 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan (Don't use ANYTHING no stick. We are going to be playing with fire here. We wouldn't want anyone to get hurt).

Add 1/4 cup brown sugar.

Heat on HIGH until the sugar is melted, and the sauce is bubbly.

Remember the rum? You need 1/4 cup dark rum. And some matches. (Really).

Add the rum to the bubbly sugar. Light a match - don't get too close! Those flames can shoop up to three feet high! Gently swirl the sauce as it flambes, so that the alcohol comes to the surface and is burned up by the flames.

Voila! Rum sauce. TO DIE FOR. Really. SO GOOD. Especially with bananas.


Now put it all together. This one is to celebrate Baby James' birthday! And by that, I mean what should have been his birthday - his due date! Happy zero little dude! Wait, what? You are too young to each cheesecake. Oh, ok. I guess mommy can eat your piece for you. :D

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Macadamia Nut Crust with Coconut Flakes (gluten-free!)


Do you ever get tired of graham cracker crusts? I know I do. Graham cracker crusts have been used with cheesecakes, lime bars, and fruit tarts only a hundred million times (precisely). If you are like me, you are probably thinking it's about time for something different. And if you are like me, graham cracker crusts are an annoying problem anyways, what with all that gluten and stuff. I hate that so many people assume that a good cheesecake crust can only be made out of crushed cookies, because I disagree. Strongly.


This crust is a little different for your tired graham cracker routine. But it's delicious. So buttery, crisp, and flakey! I had a REALLY hard time resisting the urge to stuff all the batter in my face before it made it into the pan. It was just SO GOOD. And it's gluten free! Unless you don't want it to be. It's really easy to make it gluten free or to make it with regular wheat flour. Whatever floats your boat. We aim to please all parties here at at Delish.

Macadamia Nut Cheesecake Crust with Coconut Flakes. Gluten-free! (or not)

By no means should we consider this recipe "complete." I imagine that there is room for a lot of room to make the recipe your own. I myself am sure I will be tweaking this recipe and making it better for a long time to come. But as a base, this recipe is a winner!

FIRST THINGS FIRST: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and get out your food processor.

Start with 1 cup macadamia nuts.

Add 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes

Add 2 tbs salted butter

And don't forget an egg yolk from a happy, free-range chicken.

And of course, you need your powders. If you are making this recipe gluten free, use the following: 2 tablespoons brown rice flour, 2 tablespoons sweet rice flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum. (If you are using wheat flour, simply sub in white whole wheat flour for the rice flours).

Pulse the ingredients together until they begin to ball up. Then pull it out and gently pat into your pan (I am using ramekins here. I don't recommend it for cheesecake, they were very hard to get out!

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until firm. Let cook before filling. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Lime and Sundried Tomatoes


Let's say you want to feed a family with one chicken breast. And let's say that you also want to to feed them something nutritious, with lots of whole foods and fresh ingredients. And lets ALSO say that whatever you make, it has to taste AMAZING. Well do I have a recipe for YOU!

When Nate and I got married (has it been 3 years already?) my parents gave us a week at a timeshare in Cancun, Mexico. If you are like me, you like to pack your vacations as full of activities and sightseeing as possible. Mayan pyramids! Freshwater lagoons! Underground rivers! Swimming with Dolphins! Jet skis! Snorkeling! Dancing! Dining!


But not this time. If you have ever been through the insanity of a wedding, you know that once the rings are on and the gown is off, all you want to do is lay on a white sandy beach for a week and chilaaaax. Which is exactly what we did. Every day we got up at noon, wandered down to the palapa for a quick bite, and then spent the rest of the day zoned out on a beach chair, piña coladas in hand. Oh, I suppose occasionally we also, I don't know, read a novel or two as well. It was kind of heavenly.

One of the great things about Mexico is, well, Hot Damn! Do they have great Mexican food! We had some pretty amazing meals while we were there. But honestly, I think one of my favorite meals from that trip was the tortilla soup we had at the palapa every day. It's simple, requires few ingredients, is healthy and low in calories (if you care about those things!), and packs a lot of punch in the flavor department. Limes. Sundried tomatoes. Queso Fresco. It's kind of amazing. Don't trust me? Try it. You'll like it!

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Lime and Sundried Tomatoes

In this recipe I had to use "mexican cheese blend" because, well, when you have a newborn baby you can't exactly just run out to the store everytime you forget something. So I had to make do. If you CAN find it near you, I recommend buying "queso fresco" a mild and crumbly fresh Mexican cheese. If you can't find it that's ok: a mild cheddar should do you just fine.

1 quart low sodium chicken stock
1 chicken breast
4 corn tortillas, slightly dried out (just leave them out while you do other stuff)
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1 jalapeño (optional) seeded and minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large juicy limes
2 splashes olive oil
kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes
queso fresco

avocado cubes
chopped cilantro

preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat the chicken breast dry, then add a splash of olive oil to chicken. Salt an pepper liberally on both sides, and roast in over for 25 - 30 minutes until golden and cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat a splash of olive oil in a large heavy bottomed cast iron pot (a regular soup pot us ok too). Saute onions, garlic, and jalapeño in the oil until just golden.

Add the stock to the pot.

And add the fire roasted tomatoes.

Add the juice of two limes. Mmm. Limes. Yummy. Bring to a simmer.

Remember that chicken? Bring it out of the oven, and let it cool down for 10 - 15 minutes, until it's cool enough to handle. Then, shred that sucker. Use two forks. It's easy!

When it's done, it should look like this. Add that to the pot with the stock. Ok.

THE END. Goodbye.

Just kidding.

Oh yeah. Toppings. DUH. Remember those tomatoes? We are going to roast them! Cut them all in half, and toss them with a splash of olive oil, some kosher salt, and some pepper. Roast them in the over at 200 degrees. When they are chewy (40 minutes or so?) they are done.

Slice the tortillas into matchstick thin slices.

Until they look like this.

Saute them in a little oilve oil on high heat, until they are crunchy.

Ok. NOW you are done.

Unless you want some other stuff. Like avocados. Or cheese. Oh, and those tomatoes? I was totally going to take a picture of them. But I ate them all before I could. They were really good. No. Really, REALLY good.

To assemble, ladle soup into bowls. Top with tortilla strips (don't add the tortilla strips until JUST before serving. Otherwise they will get soggy. Ad nobody like soggy tortillas. Yuck.) Top with tomatoes, cheese, avocado, whatever.



Monday, April 13, 2009

Grandmommy's Gluten-Free Flourless Chocolate Cake with Macerated Strawberries and Real Whipped Cream


One of the hardest parts about being on a "restricted diet," as they call it, is that you become "that girl." You all know what I'm talking about. Haven't you ever stood behind some blond toothpick of a girl at Starbucks who orders a tall, half-skinny, half-soy, quad split shot (2 shots decaf, 2 shots regular) latte, extra hot 160 degrees, with extra foam (and can that be whole milk foam please?), in a double cupped grande cup, with a 1/2 pump of sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup, 1/2 pump vanilla syrup, and 1 packet of splenda, and can you put the splenda in first before anything else? And sprinkle the top with extra cinnamon?

Who hasn't rolled their eyes at that girl?

The thing is, when I see a waiter coming at me in a restaurant, I start to feel like I'm that girl. Take the first night I was in the hospital as an example: the nurse brought me my "gluten-free meal" and I pulled off the cover to find... lasagna with wheat noodles. Doubting that the hospital kitchen had gone through all the trouble of making gluten-free lasagna just for me, I told her I couldn't eat it. It wasn't gluten-free. She was taken aback, but she took the meal away and brought me... a breaded chicken cutlet. "I can't eat this either!" I said. Obviously very annoyed with me now, she asked, "can't you just scrape the bread off?" No! I said. It will make me very sick! And then she told me, in so many words, "tough luck! If you don't like what the kitchen is making, your husband can go buy you something else. This is all there is." So Nate had to leave the hospital and find me a gluten-free meal somewhere else.

Look, if this were your normal average Joe, I would get that she didn't really know what gluten is. I didn't have a clue about it until little over a year ago. But this is a NURSE in a HOSPITAL. Shouldn't she, somewhere in her education and experience, have heard of celiac disease? Or gluten intolerance? Or even a wheat allergy for goodness sakes? (Thankfully the next morning the nutritionist came in, arranged all the rest of my meals, and slapped a red hot "ALLERGY: GLUTEN" bracelet on my wrist, confirming that I was, indeed, actually afflicted with something besides being a snobby picky eater).


I guess what I'm trying to say is, the hardest part about being on a restricted diet is when people mistake your real, life-threatening health issue for snobby picky eating. No, I can't just scrape the breading off a chicken cutlet. I'm not refusing to eat it because I'm too good for it. If my food even touches gluten, I'll get sick. If my food is cooked in the same pan as something breaded, or handled with the same utensils, of if someone say, handles a piece of bread and then touches my food without washing their hands, I'll get sick. For me, even a little contamination means three days in the bathroom being miserable. So I have to be "that girl," because if I'm not, I'll get really, really ill. And I hate being that girl.

So when someone goes out of their way to accommodate my special diet, to make sure that I am safe, I really, really appreciate it. Like all the wonderful people who have brought us gluten-free meals over the past two weeks. You rock!


When I first told my family I thought I had celiac disease, they thought I was crazy. Another one of Beck's hypochondriac self-diagnoses, to be tolerated until she gets over it and moves on to the next crazy thing. Except, of course, I just felt so DAMN good being off the gluten. EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERY ONE of my other undiagnosable "mystery" conditions improved or went away. Diabetes. PCOS. Fibromyalgia. Peripheral Neuropathy. And of course, the bloating, cramping, constipation, lethargy, fatigue, depression, acne, and facial flushing. Gone! Like a miracle!

So I've been off the gluten for almost a year and a half, and I have never felt better. My mom, in particular, has always been the skeptic about my million health issues. So I can't tell you how touched I was when my mom, she who sort of hates baking, made this gluten-free, flourless chocolate cake just for me. And it was really good!

So here's to grandmommy's chocolate cake. Look, if MY mom can make it, you can do! So if you only have one gluten-free recipe in your repertoire, let it be this one!

Grandmommy and baby James


Grandmommy's Gluten-Free Flourless Chocolate Cake with Dar Chocolate Glaze, served with Macerated Strawberries and Homemade Whipped Cream

1 gluten-free flourless chocolate cake
2 pints fresh strawberries
1 pint whipping cream
1/4 cup + 2 tbs sugar
1 tbs balsamic vinegar

1. Bake the cake according to the directions. Set aside (can be prepared up to a day ahead).

2. Rinse, hull, and quarter the strawberries. Sprinkle the strawberries with 2 tbs sugar and the balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat. Let sit at least 10 minutes.

3. In a stand mixer or with a hand blender, beat the whipping cream on high until soft peaks begin to form. Add the 1/4 cup of sugar slowly, and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Don't overbeat, or you'll end up with butter!

4. Cut a slice of cake. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, and a big spoonful of strawberries. MMmm. Enjoy!