Double (GF) or Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Looking for Thanksgiving? Try my THANKSGIVING, AN INTIMATE VIEW (Redux) or click “Thanksgiving” in the subject cloud for more info than you really wanted.

There really is a song, “If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake,” and somewhere in my stacks, I even have the music for it. This chocolate cheesecake, which can be made gluten-free (Double Chocolate with a nut crust) or not (Triple Chocolate with a chocolate wafer cookie crust), is without a doubt the cake you’d bake were someone ultra-special about to knock on your door. The wonderful original recipe by well-known baker and writer Abigail Johnson Dodge (author of the fun new book SHEET CAKE) is one I found in FINE COOKING magazine — or on its website–a number of years ago. (The famous site is no longer available, more’s the pity, though another site does have the recipe. See TIPS below.) I’d make it for one person’s birthday and someone else would say, “Can I have that cake for my birthday?!” Or I’d carry it to a dinner party only for the host to pull me to the side and whisper in my ear, “I’d really love that recipe!” It’s just that kind of cake. Everyone craves it, especially chocolate lovers. Even fine fruit folk (my apple and cherry pie people) have been known to ask for an extra slice to take home.

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Blueberry Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches with Strawberry and Chocolate Sauces

In the house where I grew up in a Chicago suburb that was situated so far south that its streets ended exactly where the tall, green and golden midwestern cornfields began, the best treasures were often in the big freezer out in the utility room. Last summer’s fish from vacations in Minnesota or Wisconsin (cleaned by yours truly), stored in tubs of water, were frozen forever just as they were…or at least until the next weekend’s fish fry. Small cartons of peaches –the ones that came in after the canning was done–might be on the door for mid-winter dessert or for topping the homemade ice cream we all took turns cranking early the following summer. The thing you really had to search for, though, as they were well-hidden from my Dad, me, and all the grandkids (you know who you are), were ice cream sandwiches made from Mom’s leftover waffles. Now I don’t know how there were ever leftover waffles, but there were. And somehow my mom managed to press vanilla ice cream between a couple of them, wrap them tightly, and hide them well until they were badly needed. You get it, right? When your whole adolescent world was falling apart or the Chicago weather had turned frightening…

Jump to Recipe

“How about an ice cream sandwich?”

asked my mom…
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Whipped Cream-Filled Brownie Cupcakes

For as long as I’ve had my own kitchen, I’ve been making scratch brownies out of the 1971 BETTY CROCKER COOKBOOK. People say things like this, “That’s the best brownie I’ve ever eaten in my whole life.” And you know why? It’s not because I’m the best brownie baker or Betty’s the top of the recipe developers, it’s because most folks are used to boxed mix brownies made with cocoa instead of luscious whole bars of melted chocolate. You know, brownies are nothing but fudge on steroids. Think of them as fudge with flour… and eggs… … and sometimes a little leavening. But unless you make scratch brownies, you don’t know that.

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Chocolate Bottom Cranberry Muffins

These muffins–and muffins they be– are not an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. Not too sweet and with a pebbly-crunchy mouthfeel, they still hold a holiday-ishly decadent pizzaz with the very best bittersweet chocolate baked right into the bottom of the muffin. You can also add it at the top if a frosting effect is more to your liking (see Cook’s Notes), but I do very much like the little secret chocolate that’s perfectly hidden until you take your first bite.  If you’ve been roaring on about trying not to eat all those goodies this month (waa, waa, waa), take heart; read on…

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Make-Ahead Christmas Eve Dinner with Activities for All


I’ve worked on Christmas Eve for many years, so our Christmas Eve dinner was always something like a soup I left in the crock-pot while I directed the choir at church.  Or it might have been a made-ahead casserole like cassoulet that finished up in the oven while “Silent Night” was sung. One year I made a fish stew base early in the morning, heated it around 9pm, and threw in the seafood and fish for a few minutes until it had just cooked through.  On a rare occasion we’d go out for dinner before the first service or in between services if I had to direct an 11 o’clock.  (at left:  PPUMC Choir, Minneapolis)

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Ina Fridays — Desserts — Double Chocolate Pudding


The first Friday of every monthI blog INA FRIDAYS (all Ina Garten recipes) with a great group of cooks.  Scroll down nearly to the bottom to check out the list of blogs participating, then read up and cook some Ina this weekend!  ♥♥♥

This post is dedicated to my friend Chaya and all those she loves.

Chocolate pudding.  The words bring smiles to faces. Raised eyebrows.  We picture kids with big chocolate smiles or toddlers with their fingers in the bowl, going straight from the high chair to the bathtub when the last of the pudding is gone.  In the U.S. and maybe in quite a few other places, those words also bring to mind a box that looks something like this:


(courtesy JELLO)

And I have no beef with that box, having opened it a time or two myself when my kids were little.  In fact, it took a few years of cooking for me to realize that our simple box pudding was basically a bit quicker and not-so-rich version of pastry cream--in the vanilla flavor, I mean.  Scratch, or homemade, pudding — pastry cream’s luscious, but spoonable poor relation — is worth the extra few minutes it takes to make; there’s no doubt.  The chocolate version is, if possible, even better.  (Click here for a bona fide Emeril chocolate pastry cream recipe. Scroll down for link to Ina’s pudding recipe.)  Instead of having the sugar, cornstarch, and flavoring (vanilla extract or real chocolate) dried up in the box how many eons ago, you add them yourself, fresh,  in two shakes of a stick.


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Dave’s Cranberry Almond Chocolate Bars with Tangerine Zest And a Little Christmas


Chocolate Begins Here….

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere and lots of drops to drink.

Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate.  Christmas is chocolate.  Sounds like a good song.  And it’s just the fourth day of Christmas.  Four calling birds.  And so on.  Until Epiphany…which can also go on.

The chocolate bark from our goodie tray this year is a bark that Dave had made for me for Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago.  Truth to be told, his bark is better than mine.  Candy maker, I’m not, though my toffee was to die for this year.  (pat pat)

This bark is at the top and center of the goodie tray.  Gotta have chocolate on a holiday cookie platter.

If you’re bringing a little goodie to the New Year’s Eve party, maybe you might want to try this sweet bark, which is tres lovely with a nice red.  Of course, I favor Pinot Noir, but you might like a big Cabernet Sauvignon, a Zin or even an Italian red.  No special dessert wine needed.  Just have a little plate of this chocolate ready for dessert.  If you have a neighbor drop by for coffee, this is just the thing to pull out.  Make someone happy.  This recipe came from the Food Network (courtesy Dave Lieberman), as do so many scrumptious things these days.  There is hardly an easier dessert to make except perhaps to clean strawberries and arrange them in a bowl come summer.  And that’s not really making dessert.

Dave’s Cranberry Almond Chocolate Bars with Tangerine Zest

1/2 c slivered almonds
3 cups chocolate morsels (I like 1/2 milk chocolate and 1/2 bittersweet)
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 tangerine, zested

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Line a 13×9″ baking pan with aluminum foil.

Lay out almond slivers on baking sheet.  Bake in oven until light brown, shaking the baking pan occasionally to mix them around, about 10-15 minutes.

Melt the chocolate morsels in a double boiler over low heat.  Mix in the cranberries, almond slivers and tangerine zest.

Pour into prepared pan.  Smooth the chocolate mixture out into an even layer.  Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour.  Use a knife to break up chocolate into jagged, varied sized bars.

Oh, I almost forgot this…Jen gets Emi’s Hair all beautiful for Christmas!

Cooking with Music-French-Session II

If you haven’t been here before, I occasionally teach cooking classes at home.  Each class teaches a whole menu and each menu is focused upon a culture, country or culinary form.  This is the second session of Cooking with Music-French and there were two students–mom and four-year-old daughter. 

While August isn’t, perhaps, the very best time to learn how to bake quiche, it IS the very best time to learn how to make a great salad.  And is anytime a bad time to learn how to make a pie crust?  And, hey,  the quiche tastes wonderfully for lunch.  Chocolate mousse?  Whenever.  Here’s today’s bunch:

Chocolate Mousse = First, of course
Life is short
This is a no-egg chocolate mousse as eggs are bad boys right now:
Just melt 3/4 c chocolate chips with 3T butter and let that cool.
Whip up 1 cup of whipping cream and add 1T sugar at the end.
Fold a tiny bit of whipping cream into the chocolate to lighten it up a bit and
then fold into the chocolate the rest of the cream in three or four batches.  Spoon into pretty glasses or ramekins and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to a few hours.
Garnish with a dollop of whipping cream, some berries or grated chocolate
Et voila!  Mousse au chocolat!
Moving on from mousse to pate brisee, the super easy crust for the quiche.
“Hey, I can make a pie crust; who knew?”

Getting dirty…but eating fresh!  Like two minutes old.
Talk about organic food.  Making Jamie Olivers’s chopped salad. (click here to see the video)
Pixie dusting the salad with kosher salt and the pepper she ground.
FINALLY getting to eat dessert.  Took long enough.
We did it.
We not only cooked, we cooked together.
What a day.
We can now make–for ANYONE!!–the following menu:
Salade Printemps (spring salad w/ fresh herbs)
Quiche avec jambon et fromage (Ham and Cheese quiche)
Mousse au chocolat  (Chocolate mousse)
Fromages (cheese)
Baguette (long, thin loaf of bread) avec buerre (with butter)
Vin: (wine)
Bourgogne (blanc) (2007)-Laboure-Roi, Meursault, Cote d’Or, France
Beaujolais (2008)- Pierre Chermette, Saint Verand, France
Next Cooking with Music is
Pizza as an appetizer
Two main course soups (one vegetarian)
Apple crostada (free form pie)
Offered Saturday, September 18, 2010
We’ll cook and eat together.
Students may invite one guest for dinner each- approximately 5:30pm
Includes wine
Cost:  $50 per student
I have one opening for this class at present, but am happy to repeat it if I have requests.
This is a meal wonderful to learn for a dinner party because everything but the pizza (and it’s nearly ready) can be done in advance so that you can be…
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood or Kitchen:
Grilling Colorado peaches for a peach salsa or dessert…a blog to come!
There’s the grilled peach salsa–perfect for bbq grilled pork chops, shrimp tacos or salmon.
Skippy Jon Jones–visiting Aunt Alyce and Uncle Dave again
And they called it “puppy love.”
A few things you might do around the kitchen this week:
Buy a bunch of green beans, trim them and blanch them (2-3 min in boiling water) and throw them in freezer bags into the freezer for the winter.  I got mine for 88cents a pound.
Ditto zucchini or summer squash.
Ditto corn on the cob.  Cook it, let it cool, cut it off the cob and put it in freezer bags.
Buy a dozen red, green, yellow peppers and cut them up and freeze them in small quantities.
Go to the nursery or wherever and buy some herbs to pot and take indoors for the fall.
Stake out your apple-picking spot.  Plan a picking date.
Clean out your freezer and defrost it while it’s still warm so you’ll be ready to cook, bake and freeze this fall.
There’s still time to make peach freezer jam while the peaches are very inexpensive.  I saw some Colorado peaches for 99 cents a pound at King Soopers’.
Eat lots of salad with lots of fresh herbs and great tomatoes.
Try a home-made Cobb or a Greek Salad with grilled chicken.
Make gazpacho.
Make caprese salad.
Consider making and freezing tomato sauce.
Blueberries from Canada are still available if you want to freeze some.  Just throw them in the bag unwashed.  (Rinse them when you use them.)
Sing a new song,

Book Club and Cookies: Good for your Heart..

     I added a few grains of sea salt to some of the cookies … Wow.

Our Book Club (no-name) meets the first Wednesday of every month.  You pick your month by figuring out when you have time to clean your house and bake a couple of cookies or buy a bottle of wine.  We’re kinda new at this; we just met for the third time.   We seem to be growing by small increments, adding one new person each time.  So far, we’re all women.  Until now, we all lived in the same small up-on-the-mesa neighborhood.  Last night we had a good friend of mine join; she lives in the north end of town.  We agreed:  when it’s time for her to host book club, she’ll rent my house.  We don’t want to drive.  The wine may have something to do with liking to walk.  Perhaps this is a bit exclusive.  I don’t think we care.  Boy.

So last night was my night.  The book was MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather.  What a book.  It sparked lots of conversation about life on the plains, immigrants, and our own nationalities and backgrounds.  Maybe more than about the book itself.  Two of us discovered that each has an American Indian grandparent.  We all found out that one of us went to a  one-room school house; her father went to the same school.  Another still has a few words of German, even though her family came from Germany in the 1850’s.  We now know who feels at home in Colorado Springs and who would rather be elsewhere.

We work it this way (so far):  if you host, you choose the book for the next meeting.  The library has an extensive collection of book club books and we’ve been able to find one each time and get free copies for everyone.  Cool… and it’s accessible in lots of ways with a six-week check-out period. 

Well, this is a food blog…so how about a little about the food?   I served wine:  a nice California zin (Cigarzin) and an Alsatian Pinot Gris (Helfrich) to accompany a little cheese spread that’s great for spring.  Note:  I heard “Giada” talk about this spread and remembered it–not original–except for the addition of black pepper.

Mix equal amounts goat’s cheese and ricotta.   Add grated lemon rind and minced fresh basil to taste.  Optional:  a little fresh ground pepper on top.  Serve with skinny, crispy crackers.

(I saw this made on the Food Network–Giada, I think.  I don’t know if there’s a real recipe.)

I also served coffee and some sweet little cookies.  These are a riff on a cookie from Ina Garten’s BAREFOOT CONTESSA PARTIES, and Ina got the recipe from Eli Zabar.  Hmph.  Cookbooks bring people together; never doubt it.  Here’s how I did it:

BOOKCLUB COOKIES (Tiny shortbreads dripped, no–dipped! in chocolate)

3/4 # butter, unsalted (3 sticks) at room temp
1 c white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t salt

3.5-4.5 oz dark chocolate  (I like Valrhona Guanaja; you can try orange Lindt as well)

1/4 c sea salt, optional

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for 2 minutes until light and fluffly.  Add vanilla; beat 30 seconds.   Mix salt (yes, it’s really only 1/4 t) into the flour and beat together with the butter-sugar mixer until the dough holds together well.  Dump dough onto counter and shape into a flat disk.  Wrap in plastic and chill 30 min.

*Preheat oven to 350F.  Remove dough from refrigerator. 

*Roll the dough out 1/4-1/2″ thick (your choice).  Cut out with 2″ fluted cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake about 15-20 min, depending on thickness.  Cookies should remain fairly pale, but are done when they just begin to brown around the edges.  Cool on racks.

*Melt chocolate by placing in a deep, microwave proof small bowl, covered with a plate.  Microwave on low for about 2 minutes.  Stir; heat a little more if required.  Note:  some people would rather melt chocolate in a double boiler.  If you’d like to do that, bring a small pan of water to simmer and place a pan with the chocolate on top of the pan with water.  Make sure the chocolate bowl doesn’t touch the water.  Let chocolate melt slowly, stirring often until completely melted.

*Set out large cookie sheets or platters (2-3) and line with waxed paper.  Take a totally cooled cookie and dip its edge into the melted chocolate.  Let drip (you can wave it a little) a second or two and carefully place it on the waxed papered tray to cool and harden.  Add a couple of grains of sea salt if desired.    Repeat (this is time consuming) until all of the cookies are done.  Let sit just like that 2-3 hours until chocolate is solid.  Store covered with wax paper between layers. 

*You can also choose to leave the cookies plain, in which case they will keep longer–for weeks.

Sing a new song; bake a new cookie; read a new book; get to know your friends better….

TWO-DOG KITCHEN  –up again.  Sorry if you missed it!