Cheesecake Pops

Well here they are! This was my second Daring Bakers challenge and I'm just getting it in under the wire. I've had a long day of cooking, cleaning, and making these suckers. I'm tired, my feet hurt, and I wanna go to bed. So, all I have to really say about this challenge is that it was fun, fairly easy but time-consuming, and this would be a great project to do with your kids if you have them. I would say wait to involve them until you're ready to dip them into the melted chocolate and then into the toppings; that part was fun I thought.

Ok, so I'm going to bed now... Here's how I made them in pictures (see recipe at the end of this post). Nah-night!











Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.


Dry Rubbed Sirloin Steak with Bbq Sauce & Potato-Poblano Gratin

Dry Rubbed Sirloin Steak with Bbq Sauce & Potato-Poblano Gratin

Leave it to Bobby Flay to think up something like this. I've seen ribs dry-rubbed and basted with Bbq sauce, but steak? I would have never thought to do that. However, after trying this recipe, I am now a believer. This was so good. It was one of those meals where you catch yourself going "Mmm..." after taking every bite. This steak actually got better with each bite.

Cook this meal for your meat-and-potatoes-lovin' guy. Cook this meal if you have a nice cold beer that you need a great meal to compliment. This was classic Bobby Flay and that's always a good thing.

Here's the play by play:

Start by mixing together ancho chili powder, ground cumin, dried coriander, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, dried oregano, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. There's your rub.

Rub the "rub" all over one side of each steak. This recipe calls for ribeye, which would have been incredible, but we had a couple sirloins in the freezer, so that's what we used. They still turned out great.

Next, drizzle some olive oil over the rubbed part of the steaks. Set the steaks aside to hang out until you're ready to put them on the grill. When grilling the steaks, just season the other side with a bit of salt and pepper and a little olive oil. No need to rub the other side; there's quite enough flavor doing it this way. It might be overkill if you did both sides. Plus, how dare you question Bobby? Huh!

Next, put the potatoes together. Start by roasting up your poblanos. As I've said before, the easiest way is to just do it right over the open flame of your stove.

Your peppers should be blackened all over when they're done roasting. Put them directly into a paper bag and close it up to trap the steam in there. Leave them in the bag for a couple minutes to loosen the skin. This makes it super easy to remove the charred skin and get them ready to be sliced.

After a few minutes, remove the peppers from the paper bag. As you can see, you can just rub the skin right off of the peppers. If they're too hot to touch, a paper towel works well, too.

After you've removed all the charred skin, slice the peppers open and remove the stem and seeds.

Now just chop the roasted peppers up and set aside.

Butter a glass baking dish and sprinkle the dish with garlic.

Peel and slice up your potatoes (I used russet potatoes because that's what we had and they worked just fine) and put down one layer in the garlic-buttered dish.

Isn't cilantro so pretty? I just love it. If I had to pick my favorite herb, it would be a neck and neck race between basil and cilantro. Wow, that would be a hard choice... So anyway, chop up some cilantro.

Top the potato slices with salt, pepper, 1/3 of the diced poblanos, and 1/3 of the chopped cilantro.

Repeat the same layering until you run out of potatoes. After making this dish, I would now say that you should change one thing. Also sprinkle a bit of cheese over each layer of potatoes. They were good as is, but I think that would be a bit better. Once you're done layering, pour the chicken stock all over the potatoes.

Now pour the cream all over the potaotes.

Cover the dish with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Top the potatoes with cheese and some more cilantro, then bake for another 15 minutes.

When the potatoes come out of the oven the second time, they look... well... delightful.

I suggest putting the steaks on the grill once you've added the cheese to your potatoes. The steaks will just be coming out as your potatoes are resting. Grill up some asparagus at the last minute, then plate up your meal. Delicious!

Ok, time to go do some Spring cleaning! Oh, and GO CAVS!!!!!!!!

James quiets 'overrated' talk from Wizards with clutch play in Game 1

Bobby's Dry Rubbed Rib-Eye Steak with Mesa Bbq Sauce and Yukon Gold Potato Gratin
Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay
Show: Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay
Episode: Rib-Eye Steak

1 cup ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.

4 rib-eye steaks (8 to 10 ounces each)
1 cup dry rub
Olive oil
2 cups Mesa BBQ Sauce, or your favorite

Heat grill or grill pan to high.
Rub each steak on 1 side with the dry rub. Brush with olive oil and grill, rub side down for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown, turn over and continue grilling for 4 to 5 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Turn the steaks over and brush the rub side with bbq sauce, turn over and grill for 1 minute.

Remove steaks from grill and brush with additional bbq suace.

Yukon Gold Gratin

2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch slices
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves plus extra for garnish
1 cup chicken stock (if canned, low sodium)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup queso anejo cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square pan and sprinkle garlic over bottom of pan.

Arrange 1/4 of the potatoes in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then 1/3 of chiles and 1/3 of cilantro. Repeat layer of potatoes, chiles and cilantro 2 more times, seasoning potatoes with salt and pepper. Top with potatoes. Pour broth over, then cream. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover pan with foil. Bake until potatoes are tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle cheeses over potatoes. Bake until liquid thickens, about 15 minutes. Cool. Sprinkle with cilantro.


Chicken, Artichoke, and Mushroom Pizza with Caramelized Onions

Delivery? Screw delivery. We make our OWN pizza. You know why? Because we can do THIS. This is good. VERY good.

It's nice to make your own pizza because you get EXACTLY what you want on it and you know damn well what quality your ingredients have. You can also get creative. Whatever you're craving, you can make it into a pizza. Mark and I recently went to a small bar/restaurant called Bar Cento in Cleveland and it served Belgian beer and made these great thin crust grilled specialty pizzas. One of the pizzas was called "Liver and Onions" and to some, that might sound gross. But to me and Mark, it sounded awesome.

Turns out, it had a foi gras and rice mixture all over the pizza accompanied by caramelized onions. Now, who thought liver and onions could turn into a pizza? That's just an example of what can be done with a pizza when you want something different from pepperoni and cheese (which don't get me wrong, I love that too).

So when I made this pizza, I was really in the mood for artichoke hearts. I had been craving them for days and I knew we just bought a new jar of them. We had an extra pizza dough left over from a few nights ago when we made pizza, so I thought I'd get creative and make a unique and hearty pizza that incorporated artichokes into the ingredients. I immediately thought of a chicken and artichoke pizza and thought back to all the times I've had that combination of toppings from a pizza delivery place. They were sometimes ok, sometimes not good at all, but never as good as I knew they could be. The chicken was always dry and there were only two flavors; chicken and artichoke. No other layers of flavor, and well... we just can't have that!

So, before I get into the toppings, let's start with the pizza dough. Mark and I did an abundance of pizza research (it was a tough job) and eventually came up with a pizza dough recipe that we both really like and the best part is... it's fat free! Yeah, seriously! It tastes good, and it's fat free. Well, the crust is. We totally screw things up once we throw down with some toppings, but what are we trying to prove, huh?

You'll find the pizza dough recipe posted below along with today's specialty pizza recipe. Here's how it's made:

Start with 1 1/2 cups tepid water and mix in 1 tablespoon of sugar until it's dissolved.

Next, add 1 tablespoon (or 2 - 1/4 oz. packets) of yeast to the water and mix until pretty much dissolved.

Once the yeast water starts to bubble up like this, you know the yeast has been activated and it's ready to go.

In a mixer bowl, combine 4 cups high gluten (12%) flour (we like King Arthur bread flour the best), and a 1/2 tsp salt. Combine that, then pour in your yeast water.

Using the dough hook, begin mixing the wet and dry ingredients together. If the dough is too dry to form into a dough ball, add a bit more water as needed. Keep doing this until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl into a dough ball.

When the dough ball forms, remove it from the mixer and turn it out on a floured surface.

Knead the dough for a few minutes until it’s got a good elasticity. Stretch the dough into a smooth ball and place it back into the mixing bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise for about a ½ hour. The dough should double in size.

After the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and turn it out onto a floured surface again.

Gently punch it down and knead it by folding the dough in half one way, then in half again the other way, to form a square. Knead it, then fold twice again. Knead it like this for a couple minutes, then stretch into a ball again, place back into the bowl again, cover with a damp towel again and allow it to rise a second time for a ½ hour. It will again double in size.

After it has risen the second time, the dough is now ready to be used! Section the dough out into three portions that will make 3 medium-sized pizzas. One pizza is the perfect size for two people.

Ok, now for the toppings. Start by sauteing some sliced mushrooms in some olive oil and butter. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. When those are done, remove from the pan and set aside.

Next, caramelize some onions.

The pizza "sauce" for this pizza was actually an olive oil, tomato, pepper, garlic, basil spread, really. To make it, heat some olive oil in a pan and combine the aforementioned ingredients.

Cook the ingredients down until most of the tomato juices evaporate and it's more of a thick sauce consistency.

Pour the sauce into a bowl and set aside. Once you've done that, you're left with this. This is called FLAVOR. We will be adding some more ingredients to this flavor now, creating our layers of... that's right, you guessed it... FLAVOR. This pizza has alot of that. (I hope you didn't expect a quick 1-2-3 recipe for this pizza. Uh, not here sister!)

I had some leftover chicken, so I added the already cooked and shredded chicken to the pan. If you're cooking your chicken from raw, I would STILL add it to this pan so the chicken can pick up the flavor. I would suggest cutting the raw chicken into small cubes first, then adding the chicken to the pan and cooking until done. Cubed chicken would work just as well on this pizza.

Next, add the marinated artichoke hearts and saute until the artichoke hearts get a little brown color on them.

Ok, kids... it's time build this pizza! Make sure your oven is pre-heated to 425 degrees so it's nice and hot for this thin crust pizza.

UPDATE: Here is the expanded aluminum screen that we use to bake our pizzas on.

Start with spreading out the sauce onto the pizza dough.

Next, add the caramelized onions, then the mushrooms.

Now for the cheese, glorious cheese. For this pizza, I used mozzarella, white cheddar, and american cheese. Yes, I said american cheese. But I'm not talkin' Kraft singles, folks. That's cheese "food". I mean the good american cheese that you get at Costco or the like. It's got a creaminess and sharpness to it and melded together with other cheeses, it really adds a little something. This combination of cheeses really made this pizza POP.

Ok, one more layer of ingredients: the chicken and artichoke heart mixture. Spread that all over the cheese.

Oh wait... one MORE layer! Not really a layer, but a finishing touch. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top.

Now bake this scrumptious pizza for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees (or until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown as you see here). If you take it out sooner, it just won't be right. Patience... (I know, I don't have any either...)

This picture really doesn't do this pizza justice. I mean, it looks a little like hurl, ya know? I SWEAR it doesn't TASTE like hurl. Not even CLOSE! It was actually a bit sweet, creamy, garlicy, and with the added crushed red pepper flakes sprinkled on top before eating, it was spicy and just perfect. If you like this combination of ingredients as much as I do, I highly suggest making this pizza. It was just so good and now I'm craving it again!

It's good to be back to posting to this blog. I REALLY missed it, but I had to hit the books hard and take care of some other things that didn't have a thing to do with food. But during that time I did cook some pretty cool things that turned out good, so keep checking back for lots of new recipes!

Oh, and if you were wondering, I passed the test! Yippee! Happy Friday and happy "temperatures in the high 70s"! In Ohio, this is an AWESOME thing after a thousand years of winter. See ya later!

Pizza Crust recipe:


4 cups high gluten (12%) flour. King Arthur bread flour is good.
1 cup warm water (between 95° and 115° F.)
1 tbsp or 2 - 1/4 oz. packets (1/2 oz. total) of yeast (1.5 tbsp, if you like it a little more "yeasty.")
1 tbsp sugar or honey
1/2 tsp. salt


In a small bowl, combine the warm water and the sugar. Once combined, add the yeast and vigorously stir until the yeast is completely dissolved in the water. Let the water/yeast mixture sit for about 10 minutes or until the water starts to look “foamy”. This tells you that the yeast is active and is ready to do its thing in the dough.

Next, in a large bowl (using your electric stand mixture if you have one – use the dough hook), combine the flour and salt. Slowly add the water/yeast mixture and let the mixer combine the ingredients into a dough. If the dough is too dry, add a bit more water as needed. Same thing if the dough is a little too wet. When the dough ball forms, remove it from the mixer and turn it out on a floured surface.

Knead the dough for a few minutes until it’s got a good elasticity. Stretch the dough into a smooth ball and place it back into the mixing bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise for about a ½ hour. The dough should double in size.

After the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and turn it out onto a floured surface again. Gently punch it down and knead it by folding the dough in half one way, then in half again the other way, to form a square. Knead it, then fold twice again. Knead it like this for a couple minutes, then stretch into a ball again, place back into the bowl again, cover with a damp towel again and allow it to rise a second time for a ½ hour. It will again double in size.

After it has risen the second time, the dough is now ready to be used! Section the dough out into three portions and roll out into a circle. No need to pre-bake the dough – just add your pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, and the toppings of your choice, then bake in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Don’t take it out until the cheese is golden brown on top. Let the pizza sit for about 5 minutes after you remove it from the oven so the toppings can setup. Then slice and serve!

Chicken, Artichoke, and Mushroom Pizza with Caramelized Onions

Dude, I'm tired... see above and you can pretty much figure out the recipe. Rock on.