First Challenge…Done!

29 04 2008

For those of you who don’t know, I am a member of an online group called the Daring Bakers. This month’s challenge was cheesecake pops, which are basically bites of cheesecake on a popcicle stick. Per the group’s rules, I stuck to the recipe, however, instead of cream cheese, I used neufchatel, which is a lower fat version of cream cheese. I really prefer to make cheesecake out of neufchatel because it bakes a little lighter, and less oppressive. Also, I had a little trouble getting the sticks to stay upright, but I discovered that a.) if you lightly cover the balls with foil and poke the sticks through, they have something to hold them upright when they set. Also, b.) once you dip the balls in chocolate, it forms a seal around the stick. These are really good and, now that I have the hang of things, I’m planning to make them again this weekend.

Also, this is a photo from the original recipe (it was too pretty not to post!), as my camera is having issues. However, let it be known that I dipped my cheesecake balls in dark chocolate and then lightly rolled in graham cracker crumbs, in order to replicate that perfect bite of cheesecake.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

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.

Be sure to visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see the creative Cheesecake Pops the other Daring Bakers created!

In other news, people keep talking about the whole Miley Cyrus thing and I have to say that I feel not one iota of sympathy for her. She willingly took off the flesh-colored tank top she was wearing and she approved the shots. Hell, the even spoke about them favorably in the article. And her parents and handlers were there during the photo session. Sounds to me like she was getting some heat from the Disney peeps and had to blame someone rather than take responsibility for her actions. Is the photo racy? For a 15 year old, yes. But so was the Rolling Stone cover shot of Britney Spears back in 1998 and there wasn’t anywhere near the public outcry there is over this. So why this photo? It’s actually pretty and kinda arty. And it probably wouldn’t be such a big deal if she didn’t go out of her way to issue an apology and talk about how “embarassed” she is. The Disney people are saying that this is exploitation of a 15 year old, but if we’re going to assign blame, how about if we direct it at the parents and handlers who were there, and conveniently left before this photo was taken? Who was protecting her interests if she’s so young and impressionable? She’s been in this business since she was 8 and is probably a lot savvier than people are willing to admit. In case you missed it, here is the photo. Discuss.


Loving My Life These Days

25 04 2008

Yes, you heard me correctly. I am loving my life these days and I don’t really have a concrete reason why. The baby is doing great – she just started school this week and she’s already growing by leaps and bounds and has been incredibly sweet and cute the last couple of days. Also, she is now fully potty-trained. After her first day in school (and four pairs of wet pants), Hubs and I decided that enough was enough and that she needed to learn to use a toilet like a big girl. So we told her that she’s too big for her potty and that it was time for it to go to another kid (she asked if we could give it to our friend Wendy’s little girl) because she now used the toilet. Period. It was a rough night. We tried to calm her down and sit her on the toilet lid. Finally, we pulled down her pants and sat her on the toilet while she cried. We gave her a cookie and read to her until she finally peed and then we praised her like crazy. She’s been dry and excited to use the big kid toilet ever since!

Work is going really well. I got a major compliment from both my boss and from the owner of the company, which has me thrilled. I’ve had to deal with some odd client quirks this week and I’m just needy enough that even a slight compliment, let alone a great big one, has me excited! I’ve had a really good creative week and my work has even allowed me to reconnect with old friends, which means so much more to me than I can ever say, as I have been blessed to know some truly amazing people..

And the hubs. Don’t get me started on him! He’s been a major dreamboat the last day or so, despite some bouts of butt-headedness. Seriously, how am I lucky enough to be married to a sexy guy who has a heart of gold?

And the money situation is starting to get better. It could be a lot better, but I’ve been reawakened in many ways, so my creative juices are beginning to flow again. Find a way or make a way, right? I’m suddenly able to do both again and I’m loving that!

Yep, I’m Becoming One of THOSE Women!

20 04 2008

Ever since the hubs got a new job, we’ve been in a desperate search for daycare. I’ve known for a while that she needs more than in-home daycare. She’s way too smart and, for all we know, may even be planning world domination as we speak, so the search began. I have spoken to way too many daycare centers this week and they either don’t have immediate openings or else they want a huge deposit (and maybe even a kidney) to hold her place in a class. For some reason, shelling out $200 per week AND handing over an extra $500 seems to a bit excessive. Then, I found THE place! It’s really close to my office and the staff is incredibly nice! They’ll be evaluating her Monday morning as I’m standing there, weeping that I’m handing my baby over to a group of strangers. I’m already getting a little sad about it. My baby’s starting school Monday. There, I said it.

So the hubs turned 40 this week and pretty much insisted that I treat his birthday like it was just any other day. No hoopla, no presents, nothing. Huh. I have had to explain to him that just because he’s that way, he needs to not expect everyone else to suffer from that same affliction (for the record, my birthday is next month, and I fully intend to celebrate it. Quite possibly even for a month or so!). I am, hoxever, considering an ambush celebration of some sort. You know, make a cake while he’s out, etc, but I’m not sure how well it would go over. Incredibly sweet, yes. Appreciated, I’m not sure. In any case, here is the recipe. I call it “OMG Cake” because it is THAT good!

2 cups sugar
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of electric mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Cupcakes: Line muffin cups (2 ½ inches in diameter) with paper liners. Heat oven to 350. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. Makes about 30 cupcakes.

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

Makes about 2 cups frosting.

Not much else on the agenda for the weekend – mani/pedi, hiding from the children, and maybe some highlights.

OCD and Proud of It!!!

15 04 2008

I have discovered one of the most diabolical tests EVER! It is the typing speed test and it says that touch typists should be typing at least 72 wpm, so you just know that I have been at it until I have at least achieved the typing speed I have cited in my resume. Anyway, enjoy! Just don’t blame me if you find yourself doing this at 2am, in a desperate quest to get a decent score:

Repeat after me:

Not much else going on. Had to go to the GYN today. ‘Nuff said.

Oh, and I’ve been getting Lean Cuisines lately to take to lunch, but I’ve been having a hard time opening the plastic. It’s like I can hear the containers laughing and saying, “work for it, fatty!” Either that or else there’s an issue where the packages are assembled, but, either way, I think it may be a sign to start a diet soon!

R.I.P, Office!

12 04 2008

This week, I had to pack up my office and move to a cube. Yes, I’m kind of sad about it since that was MY space, but, on the other hand, I’m kind of glad since I’m now in the middle of all of the action. Plus, I no longer have to climb up 3 flights of %$#@! stairs to get to my desk! I also had a rather interesting writing assignment that I’ll describe for now as “Disney on Acid.” It’s weird and twisted and I’ve loved every minute of it!

Hubs finally has a new job! He was driving me nuts today because he kept calling and calling and calling. I’m sure my co-workers weren’t too thrilled, either!

It’s been a long week and, quite frankly, I’m exhausted! Money stuff and, of course, kid stuff, so it hasn’t been dull this week at all! And it doesn’t help that Hubs hasn’t been sleeping too well, which means that I don’t sleep too well, either!

I’m getting ready to go out and participate in yet another focus group. I’m the floater, so, even if I don’t get called in, I still get paid to hang out and read a magazine. Call me pitiful, but I’m kind of looking forward to some down time. It will be nice to be able to sit and read without the phone ringing, the baby climbing on me, or Hubs interrupting me!

Let the Games Begin!

8 04 2008

Yep, it’s that time of year. The lesbian neighbors have dragged out their cornhole boards and have already held the first tournament, so chances are good that if you’re gay and like beer and/or cornhole, you’ve probably partied in my backyard. Holla! (oh, that didn’t sound right, did it?)

Speaking of things that don’t sound right, I was in one of the kids’ rooms yesterday, mopping and I look over toward the bunny cage and saw the strangest thing (allow me to give some background. Our bunnies are gay. As in there needs to be a disco ball hanging in their cage. Yes, they’re that gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with it). Now, I have seen the two of them humping each other in every way possible for two furry rodents in a small cage, but I was not at all prepared to see the one bunny humping the beejeezus out of the ball they have in their cage. And when I say humping, I don’t mean a gentle nudge. I mean he was makin’ sweet bunny-lovin’ to the thing! I was so stunned by what I saw that I had to hurry out of the room and make several phone calls!

It is spring, right?