Archive for July, 2012

July 30th is National Cheesecake Day!

Cheesecake is a dessert consisting of a topping made of soft, fresh cheese, usually on a crust or base made from biscuit (such as a graham cracker crust), pastry or sponge cake.[1] It may be baked or unbaked. In the United States, July 30 has been unofficially declared “National Cheesecake Day”. (Source)

I am a big fan of the combination of caramel and apples. I don’t do so well with the caramel apples you get at a fair, as they are too hard on my teeth, but the flavor combination is yummy!

I sometimes struggle with making cheesecakes that do not crack- sometimes they work, other times they don’t! However, I like to make cheesecake bites or cheesecake bars (no cracking!), so for National Cheesecake Day, I decided to make cheesecake bars using caramel and apples. I prefer to use Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples, but you can use whatever apple you like (pears would be good too!). I also made my own caramel sauce, but you could easily use a jar of caramel ice cream topping.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
Cheesecake bar recipe lightly adapted from Paula Deen
Caramel Sauce from Epicurious

2 cups flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup caramel sauce, divided
2 eggs
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and finely diced (I used Golden Delicious)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Streusel Topping:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Caramel Sauce:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature

To make the caramel sauce:
In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, and without stirring, boil it until it is a light amber color. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the heavy cream. Note: the cream may bubble up, so be very careful. Return the pan to low heat and stir until all the caramel has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature (or if using for ice cream, let cool until just warm enough to pour!).

To make the streusel:
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Add in the butter and using a fork or pastry cutter, work in the butter until the mixture is the size of peas. Set aside.

To make the cheesecake bars:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Add in the butter and using a fork or pastry cutter, work in the butter until the mixture is the size of coarse sand. Press into the bottom of a 13×9 baking pan that has been lined with aluminum foil, and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes (the crust will not be cooked all the way).

While the crust is baking, in the same mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the caramel sauce, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Mix these well, either with a spoon or with a hand mixer. Add in the eggs and mix well to combine.

Once the crust has come out of the oven, evenly spoon (or pour) on the cream cheese mixture.

In a small bowl, mix together the diced apples, remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the cinnamon. Mix well. Spread the apples evenly over the cheesecake layer. Top the apples with the streusel topping. Place back into the oven for 30 minutes or until the center is set. Remove from the oven and let cool for 1 hour. After 1 hour, serve with the remaining 1/2 cup caramel sauce, or place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Cheesecake layer…

apple layer…

streusel layer

Made with love, not calories!

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I love magic cookies bars!!! They are so easy to put together and they taste delicious!

I wanted to see if I could incorporate them into ice cream. Now, I know I could have just made a batch of magic cookie bars, chopped it up and added them to vanilla ice cream, but I really wanted more of the top layer. Plus, I know you can make ice cream using sweetened condensed milk, and as that is the “magic” component to the bars, I thought that would be ideal!

For the candy pieces, I simply combined sweetened condensed milk, shredded coconut, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Now, just like any magic cookie bar, you are free to add what you like. I know some people add nuts or butterscotch chips. They would work here also, but I tend to stay really simple when I make my magic cookie bars, so I kept it simple here also. I do have to say that the candy pieces are addicting! So sweet and chewy- I could have easily eaten the whole batch, but I didn’t. I behaved myself! The ice cream base isn’t a custard (or egg) base,  so it won’t be as creamy, but it is really easy to make (and it tastes good)!

Magic Cookie Ice Cream

Magic Cookie Pieces:
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Ice Cream Base:
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups half and half

To make the magic cookie pieces:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, coconut, and chocolate chips. Evenly spread mixture onto a silpat-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes (rotating the cookie sheet half-way through the baking time) or until the candy is set and a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once cool, refrigerate for 1 hour to let the candy harden a little. Peel off the silpat (some might be a little gooey and stick) and cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside until the ice cream has been churned.

To make the ice cream base:
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, and half and half. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
After 4 hours, give the mixture a quick whisk, then process the ice cream according to your ice cream machine manufacturers instructions. Once the ice cream is ready, scoop (or pour- the ice cream should be a thick milkshake consistency) into a freezer-safe container then stir in the chopped magic cookie pieces. Cover and freeze for 4 hours. Serve with toasted coconut (optional) and enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

I’m linked to:
Petite Hermine, I Heart Nap Time, Six Sister’s Stuff, Sweet As Sugar Cookies, Cherished Treasures

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Another week…another weekly running recap!

Sunday: Rock’N’Roll Chicago Half-Marathon (recap here)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3 1/2 mile walk
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 30 minute HIIT, 25 push-ups, 100 crunches
Friday: 30 minute run, 50 squats, 20 plank roll-overs
Saturday: 8 mile run

After coming off the race on Sunday, I took it easy during the beginning of the week. I was a little sore on Monday, so Tuesday I just walked and used it as a good shake-out for my legs. A rest day on Wednesday, and I was ready to get back into a good workout on Thursday. I have another half-marathon coming up in early September, so I can’t slack off on the miles!

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Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

For our Daring Bakers’ Challenge, we were required to make 2 different crackers, using 2 different techniques. I choose to make Hot Pepper Cheese crackers (rolling method) and coconut flour crackers (icebox method). Nick likes hot pepper cheese and I thought it would make a great cracker! I also added a little bit of crushed red pepper flakes just to bring out the heat. These little crackers have a bite to them (well, at least they do to me!!). The coconut flour crackers are made with unsweetened coconut, coconut flour, and almond flour, so they are grain free. They are a little softer than I would have liked, so next time I think I will try freezing the dough for a little while, to see if I can make thinner slices. They are still delicious and would be wonderful served alongside fruit and a fruit dip.

Hot pepper cheese crackers

Hot Pepper Cheese Crackers
Recipe adapted from Dana McFarland

8 oz. block hot pepper cheese, grated (I used Hoffman’s Hot Pepper Cheese)
1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
Sea salt for sprinkling on top (optional)

In a food processor, combine the shredded cheese, flour, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper- pulse to combine. Add in the vegetable oil and pulse until the mixture resembles small peas. Add in just enough water to allow the dough to come together. Remove the dough, split it in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly flour a flat work surface and unwrap one of the packages of dough. Roll out until the dough is 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut into desired shapes (I squared off my dough, then cut it using a pizza cutter). Transfer the crackers onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with sea salt (if desired) and bake for 15-25 minutes depending on the size of the crackers. The crackers should be a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, transfer the crackers onto cooling racks and let cool completely.

Coconut flour crackers

Coconut Flour Crackers

1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted
1/2 cup almond flour, sifted
3 eggs
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, almond flour, salt, unsweetened coconut, and cinnamon. Using a fork, cut in the butter until it is well combined. Add in the eggs and stir until everything is mixed and a dough forms. Form a log from the dough and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
After 2 hours, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap the dough and thinly slice the crackers, placing them onto a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack to cool completely. Enjoy!
Made with love, not calories!

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Half-Marathon #10!!

On Sunday I ran the Rock’N’Roll Chicago Half Marathon, along with 20,000 other runners!

Nick and I have friends (Jason and Laurie) that live a little past Chicago, so we (Nick, Jim, and I) left late Thursday morning to make the 9-hour drive to their house. While I crashed shortly after we got there, Nick and Jim were able to spend some time catching up with their friends (he is a night owl- I am not!!).

Friday evening, Jason was kind enough to drive Nick and I to our hotel. Note: I never once thought of parking when I made reservations. I have never stayed in a big enough city that I had to think about paying to park. Lesson learned (and $70 saved- thanks Jason!).

Saturday afternoon, Nick and I headed out to pick up my race packet. The expo was held at the McCormick Place, and for anyone who knows Chicago, you know this place is huge! Anyways, we were using driving directions from Nick’s cell phone and once we reached the Field Museum, we couldn’t figure out how we were going to be able to walk the rest of the way, so we caught a cab (my very 1st cab ride!). Once we reached the expo, we quickly got my bib, shirt, and swag bag. The areas were clearly marked and each bib station had 2 volunteers, so I didn’t see any big lines. The rest of the expo was similar to other expos I have gone through. I only have one complaint, and it isn’t limited to just this expo- more space was needed between aisles. It was very hard to get to some of the vendor tables, or even down an aisle. Oh, and a surprise vendor- McDonald’s had a booth! I have never seen a fast-food booth at an expo! When we left the expo, we found ourselves near a bike path. We decided to see where it would lead, and started walking. Wouldn’t you know, one of the places it comes out at, is right across the street from the Field Museum! Oh well- we both laughed at that one!
That night, Jason, Laurie, Jim, Drew (another Chicago friend!), Nick, and I, went to Lou Malnati’s for deep-dish pizza! I have never had an authentic deep-dish pizza before, and I really wanted to try some while we were in Chicago. It was so good! I only made it through one slice, but I enjoyed every bite!!

Sunday morning was sunny and very humid. At 6am as we were walking towards the corral areas, Nick told me the temperature was 75 degrees and the humidity was 76%. I thought the starting area was very well done. There were booths with bottled water, bananas, and plain bagels, available for the runners. The corrals were clearly marked and easy to find. I really liked the way they started the race. Corrals have a staggered start, every 30 seconds, with a 10-second countdown! That means there wasn’t a big push to get to the start line. That was really nice!

The route itself is pretty flat. There were stages set up along the route for the bands that were performing. A couple of spots had cheerleaders, and one of the sponsors XSport Fitness, had quite a few people out, cheering on the runners. There were 8 water spots along the course, with Gatorade being available at 4 of those spots. With the heat, it would have been beneficial to have a couple more water spots, but I think a lot of runners planned accordingly and had fuel belts or hand-helds (like I did). There were a number of medical tents along the route, and each tent offered the usual (band-aides, vaseline), but they also were handing out salt packets and handfuls of ice.

Once we finished, there was water and Gatorade available immediately. Then we received our finishers medal, and continued walking through the runners area. Bananas, chocolate milk (Refuel had a booth), pretzels, fruit cups, Jamba Juice smoothies, and popsicles were all available. I never seem to want food when I am done, so I grabbed a bottle of water, some chocolate milk, and a popsicle. I quickly ate the popsicle and went back and asked for another one. It tasted so good (even if it was grape!). The volunteer was kind enough to give me another one (cherry this time- yay!) and that one didn’t last very long either!
There were so many people waiting just outside the runners area. I’m kind of out of it (spacey!) for a few minutes after I finish a race, so all the people made me feel lost. I was able to find Nick rather easily though- he picked a really good spot, so that was nice. There have been races in the past that I have wondered aimlessly trying to find him- even if we have designated an area to meet (told you I’m kind of out of it for a few minutes- I have no sense of direction!). Jason and Laurie had come down for the race (I saw them, and Nick, about 7 miles in), so we all headed back to the hotel room. A quick shower for me, we checked out of the hotel, then on to Jason and Laurie’s for a cookout!

Overall, I enjoyed this race. I really liked the course- it could easily provide an opportunity for a PR, because it really is a flat course. I had some difficulties with the heat, so while I didn’t have a PR, I’m not unhappy with my time. Each race is a learning experience for me. I’m still figuring out my strengths and weaknesses and then learning how to improve upon those weaknesses. #11 is coming up in September!

Wow! Did you make it all the way thru? Thanks for reading!!!

Outside the Field Museum

Race day apparel: 26.2 Racerback tank top, Skirt Sports running skirt, Brooks running shoes, and an Ultimate Direction hand-held water bottle (everything pictured was purchased by me).

I’m linked to:
Serenity Now, Cheerios & Lattes

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July 25th is National Hot Fudge Sundae Day!

By now you should know I have been making ice cream every week! While I like lots of “stuff” in my ice cream, I rarely spend the time to make a sundae. Too impatient, I guess!

However, today is National Hot Fudge Sunday day. That meant I needed to make hot fudge. Warm, thick, chocolate. I tell you, it was such a pain to have to make this. Yes, that was sarcasm!

Not only is this sauce easy and quick to make, it is delicious! There is now a container of hot fudge sauce in our refrigerator. A quick re-heat in the microwave, and this is a great addition on top of homemade ice cream (and I know where you can find some great recipes…hint, hint!). I made my sundae with scoops of magic cookie ice cream (recipe coming soon!), topped with hot fudge sauce and toasted coconut!

Hot Fudge Sauce
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Prep time: 20 minutes

2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the heavy cream, corn syrup, brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add in the rest of the chocolate chips, butter, and vanilla bean paste. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Let the hot fudge cool to warm before serving it over ice cream. Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

I’m linked to:
DJ’s Sugar Shack, Blissful & Domestic, Happy Hour Projects, Sassy Sites, Simple Living, Cheerios & Lattes

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These are the last of my cherry stash. I’m kind of sad to see them go, though I delight in the fact that their departure means the arrival of raspberries and blackberries! More fruit to bake with!!

I enjoy making quick breads. They are a wonderful treat for breakfast, and making them into mini loaves means they are small enough to put into a lunchbox, or eat on the road. The sweet cherries give the bread a burst of flavor, while the walnuts give a nice crunch! The recipe makes 8 mini loaves, so I set aside 2 loaves to eat right away, then wrap the rest (individually) in plastic wrap, and store them in freezer-safe zip-lock bags. That way they last longer, and I can take one out the night before and have it ready for me the next morning to enjoy with a cup of hot chocolate.

Cherry Walnut Bread
Makes 8 mini loaves
Prep time: 15 minutes     Bake time: 30 minutes

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet cherries
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your mini loaf pan, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add in the eggs, vanilla bean paste, and sour cream. Stir in the salt and baking powder. Add in the flour and stir until just combined. Fold in the cherries and walnuts. Divide the batter evenly between the mini loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes put clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing the loaves from the pan and placing onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

I’m linked to:
Create With Joy, Add A Pinch, My Favorite Finds, Alderberry Hill, Make Ahead Meals

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