Wednesday, October 24, 2007

French Chocolate Cheesecake

I can remember being a kid a pouring over the pages of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was fascinated...drawn in by the complete escapism the book lent to me at that early age. I was probably in grade 4 or 5 and I remember my teacher asking me if I could return the book (I was a Chocolate Factory hog) so other kids, too, could have a chance to read it. I wanted it all to myself. Why, why, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy do I have to give it back???? **having a Veruca fit**

I had visions of walking through that factory...my mind was filled with Everlasting Gobstoppers, Fizzy Lifting drinks and Rainbow Drops galore!! My favorite part was when Violet chews the magic stick of gum. The one that gives her a full course roast beef dinner with all the trimmings, and that she could taste every last bite, right down to the blueberry pie for dessert!! I couldn't possibly imagine the technology behind THAT stunt.

My dad always says, "If Wendy made it, then it has to either be made of chocolate or cream cheese". And that is a bad thing how????? Yes, it is true. I admit it. And I will fight tooth and nail to be the one to make dessert. I feel just like Bree on last week's episode of Desperate Housewives...not to be outdone by someone else's prize winning Lemon pie. I try not to be so dominant, but it just happens. See what you have done, Charlie????

Most of what is good in life somehow is related to chocolate. When chocolate melts in our mouths it produces feelings of pleasure. That in itself is a bonus. When winter comes and stays for 6 months...hot chocolate helps warm our bones. Seriously...we have national holidays that would seem somehow violated if chocolate was not involved. I mean, what would Easter be without the eggs and bunnies??? Valentines day?? What would happen if all the pretty boxes contained icky hard candy?? Or worse yet...licorice?? **shudder**

To quote Martha, it is a Good Thing. If we can have just one pleasure in life, it should be good chocolate. No cheap-it-looks-like-it-was-Turtle-waxed stuff. I mean go NOW to Godiva. Make it worth every bite. Or, go to your kitchen and make this cheesecake. It might not be Godiva, but it runs a close second. It melts like a magic elixir on your tongue. Just like Violet's magic chewing gum. Only better.


French Chocolate Cheesecake
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Crust:
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1 1/2 cups ground pecans
1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

Filling:
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2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3-8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Directions:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all crust ingredients. Press in bottom and up sides of greased and parchment paper lined 10" spring form pan. ***DO NOT USE SMALLER PAN...the filling comes right to the top of the 10" pan**** Set crust aside.

Filling:
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HEAT cream in medium saucepan over medium heat just to boiling. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate chips. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until chocolate is melted. Cool for 15 minutes.

BEAT cream cheese and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl on medium speed until smooth. Add chocolate mixture; beat on low speed until just combined. Add eggs; stir until just combined. Pour into prepared crust. Place pan on baking sheet.

BAKE for 55 to 60 minutes minutes or until edge is set but center still moves slightly. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes; run knife around edge of cheesecake. Cool for 30 minutes. Remove side of spring form pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Cover; refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Garnish as desired. This makes one massive and heavy cheesecake!! Dig in!! And don't forget the caramel sauce!!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bon Jovi Squares

I am in a tizzy. A full blown fit where there is hair pulling, bodies being thrown to the floor (mainly mine), and excessive high pitched squealing.

I have a problem, you see. It is this whole Bon Jovi concert that has set me right off. He is coming to Calgary, which is only 3 hours from my house. But here it gets complicated. My sister Wanda and I made a pact. The pact was that we were going to get to one of his concerts before we die. But TOGETHER!! I can go, she can't. This just isn't right. I refuse to go without her.

The reason for this whole kafuffle started way back in the 80's. There was this album called 7800° Fahrenheit that started my obsession. It goes on from there through the permed and teased hair, the leopard print leggings, rubber bracelets and the leather jackets. Right into my bedroom, where the walls were barely visible through all the posters of that caramelly highlighted hair. **Insert light bulb moment** Talk about juxtaposition: my love of caramel = my love of his caramelly hair. I feel so deep right now. ;-)

There were songs that seemed to fit through every phase of my life. There was Silent Night...the tune that my first love, Fabian, made into our theme song. Then came Livin' on a Prayer...the song that got every hardcore 80's girl through the day. There was some Bad Medicine...the only prescription ever needed. Bed of Roses, Never Say Good bye, I'll be there for you...classic ballads for those moments when chocolate and wine is just not enough. Now that I live in Alberta, "Who Say's You Can't Go Home" rings true.

My all time favorite song is Dead or Alive. One day, I will rip into Richie's guitar riff and make it look effortless. You may laugh but this is what I aspire to be. This is also the song that I tell my children over and over I want played as they carry the casket out at my funeral. We will have none of this weepy business. Just a good quality final exit from life. Gone out in a Blaze of Glory. ( For those who have read my previous posts, this happens right after the sprinkling of the body glitter)

I remember a few years ago..back when Lauren was in her mid teens. There would be many an occasion where we would be traveling in the car, or just listening to music at home and Bon Jovi would come on. There would be screeching and running to crank the stereo up (Wanda and I). Then the air guitar and singing would commence (Wanda and I, again). Lauren and her friends would take one look at us and practically run like wounded animals from the room. Now today, after many years of never giving up and subliminal messaging in her sleep , Lauren has also developed the love for his music. Obviously a sign of stellar parenting skills.

Anyone who knows me, knows me as his Biggest Fan. I will never deny it if asked. So when you get in my car and Bon Jovi comes on the radio, don't ask me to turn it down.

So, I cannot entertain the thought of going alone to this concert. When we go...and we will someday...know there will be 2 girls, front and center whose lives were forever changed because of his songs. Words that take us back to exact moments..and to the future, where we will Make a Memory.

**Going to resume position back on the floor**

As a tribute to the Caramel Hair...I give you this recipe!

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Caramel Shortbread Squares
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2/3 cup butter
1/2 cup whole sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 bag milk chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions:
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1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. In medium bowl, mix together 2/3 cup of butter, white sugar and flour until evenly crumbly. Press into a 9" square pan, sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake until light golden brown.
3. In medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and Sweetened condensed milk. Over med-low heat, bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring the whole time. Remove from heat and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes, until thickened. Pour over baked crust. Crust can be either warm or cool.
4. Put chocolate and veggie oil in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute, then stir well. Continue for 20 second increments until totally melted. Pour over the caramel layer and spread evenly. Chill. Cut into squares.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Caramel Apple Cheesecake

Fall...the time of year that floods my mind with a thousand thoughts. The stunning colors and the smell in the air that only falling leaves and dropping temperatures can bring. Farmer's markets with pumpkins, plums, peaches and about a thousand different kinds of apples. There was also the yearly walk our family would take up on the hill beside our grandmother's house just so we could all sit for five minutes on the huge rock at the top of the hill. Even though I am not there I can still smell the air and retrace every step. Fall seems almost perfect.

Mom and Dad always had apple and pear trees growing in every nook and cranny. I loved it when picking time came. It was so hard to believe that so many apples could come from one single tree. The last time I picked apples was one afternoon with my sister Wanda. Dad had rigged up this long-handled Javex bottle picker that did the trick. After most of this one tree was picked, there were still quite a few towards the top that could not be reached. Not to give up easily, Wanda and I climbed and shook, only to end up with scraped hands, ripped jeans and no more apples.

After the picking was done, mom would go on one of her marathon pie baking tangents. She always wanted us to peel and slice the apples for her while she made the crusts. At first there was plenty of complaining, but then when we all were sitting around the table, it seemed no time and we were done. We would laugh and drink tea and inhale the cinnamon and butter aroma. It was wonderful.

I have only been gone from Nova Scotia for a few months, but I still miss these things. There may not be apple pies, but there ARE Caramel Apple Cheesecakes. It's funny, but these Alberta apples taste just like the ones they grow in Nova Scotia ;-).

Caramel Apple Cheesecake
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1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup white sugar, divided
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons butter
2 apples, peeled,cored and sliced thinly
20 Vanilla caramels (I prefer Kraft :-))
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
2 pkgs cream cheese,softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Combine flour,1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup of the white sugar and egg yolk. Blend well. Press crumbs on bottom and up sides of a 9" spring form pan (I spray mine with non stick spray and line with parchament paper). Bake at 400° for 10-15 minutes, until edges are light golden.

Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large fry pan. Add apples and cook until tender. Arrange apples on baked crust. Melt caramels with 1 1/2 teaspoons milk, stirring over low heat, till completely melted; drizzle over apples.

Beat together cream cheese, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour cheese mixture over caramel apple layer. Bake at 325° for 30-35 minutes, or until set. Cool and then chill. Serve with Caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce:
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Melt 20 caramels with 1/4 cup of milk over low heat, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over cheesecake and sprinkle with toasted almonds or hazelnuts.

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