Cooking and Composition

adventures in discourse and dinner

Good Food and Good Friends — September 21, 2013

Good Food and Good Friends

On Friday, I co-hosted a charming dinner party with The Boyfriend and his roommate. When I lived in Oxford, we always talked about having dinner parties but never really got around to it. Now that I’m living at home again, I don’t really do much cooking. I was super excited to cook for a crowd. In reality, The Fiction Guy (The Boyfriend’s roommate) did the most intensive work on this meal.

On Thursday, we decided to make basil lime chicken, a great dish from Goodeness Gracious that I found on Pinterest. On Friday, The Boyfriend and The Fiction Guy did some shopping and started on the first marinade so dinner would be ready at a reasonable hour. Trying to explain what the zest of a lime was over text message is not the easiest thing I have ever done.

With the boys in charge of the main course, I was able to focus on making a delicious dessert. I’ve been wanting to bake a pie for a long time, but I always seem to talk myself out of it. I also talk myself out of making cheesecake, mainly because the concept of a springform pan and a water bath is fairly intimidating to me. So when I found Kitchen Meets Girl’s recipe for a blueberry cheesecake galette, I knew pretty immediately I needed to make it. That was probably about two months ago, though, and Friday was the time I finally got around to making it (side note: apparently this recipe wasn’t even posted until September 1, so I guess it didn’t take me that long to actually make it. Time is sure flying lately).

Having never been a huge fan of blueberries (they are almost always too tart for me), I decided instead to make a raspberry cheesecake galette. Let me say, this was easily one of the easiest desserts I have made, even if it seemed a little complicated for me. I mainly dislike when I have steps that just require waiting or letting things sit for a specific amount of time. I also never seem to have the room in the refrigerator to chill whatever it is. Luckily, things worked out this time, even if I had to take a second trip to Kroger in the rain just to buy cornstarch.

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The Fiction Guy’s take on Basil Lime Chicken, ready to be served with some veggie pasta.

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And one delicious Raspberry Cheesecake Galette!

I think we will definitely be making these recipes again!

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Chocolate M&M Lazy Cake Cookies — July 15, 2013

Chocolate M&M Lazy Cake Cookies

If you are anything like me, the cravings for all things sweet and chocolaty hit you at the worst possible times: when you’ve just finished what should have been an overly-filling meal; when you’re in the middle of your elliptical work out at the gym; when you are in your pajamas, curled up on the couch reading a book. At least for me, these cravings are very hard. Once I realize I might want something chocolaty, the desire doesn’t go away until I’ve indulged. It would be great if there were a bakery or something similar close by, where I could pop in and by a single, small item really quickly. But that just isn’t the case. So I’m often left with choosing between going through the McDonald’s drive-thru for cookies, buying ice cream, or going to the grocery to buy something to make or something pre-packaged. The other day, I knew nothing pre-packaged was going to get rid of my desire for something warm, gooey, and chocolaty.

This is a bad predicament to be in.

Luckily, I remembered the simplest recipe for cookies I have ever made. It had been a similar night, when I was bored and had spent hours looking at food on Pinterest (this is a great way to create those sugary sweet cravings, by the way), and I ran to the store at ten at night to make this cookies after finding the pin. The recipe for these cookies is so easy, it’s really hard for me to resist going out and buying everything I need to make them again.

The recipe seems to originate over at The Lazy Mom, and I’m sure these cookies (bars?) are as great a treat for kids as they were for me and the boyfriend and friends. In fact, I’m so pleased with them that I have spent the past several nights thinking about different combinations that might be fun to try.

Chocolate M&M Lazy Cake Cookie Ingredients

  • one box chocolate cake mix
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 5 TBS melted butter
  • 2 cups M&Ms (I used a medium-sized bag, which I think is equivalent)

Directions

Melt the butter and beat the eggs. Mix with the chocolate cake mix. Mix in M&Ms.

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It really is that easy.

Spread it all into a pan. I added an extra layer of M&Ms on top for prettiness. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

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They look delicious and crackly when they come out of the oven!

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Serve however you want. I think in a bowl with ice cream is best, but these were just as wonderful eaten straight from the pan. Of course, the night I made them I couldn’t quite wait for them too cool all the way.

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There are a lot of combinations of these that would be oh-so-good! I’ve made ones with white cake (which the Lazy Mom recommends) and mini Rolos. I was thinking recently that strawberry cake and mini chocolate chips would be a nice summer treat, too. With all the candies available–and the numerous ones that are currently marketing mini and bite-sized versions–the flavor combinations will keep me making these cookies over and over and over again!

Delicious Cheesecake Dip — April 30, 2013

Delicious Cheesecake Dip

Last week, we celebrated Administrative Professionals Day in the English Department with a potluck–and let me tell you, I’ve always been bad at potlucks. It’s not that I’m a bad cook; I just rarely take the time to do the cooking. I’ve been known to bring such delicacies as Squeez-Its and juice boxes instead of actually cooking something.

So I did not want to be that person who came in with $5 worth of food they picked up last minute at the grocery store (because that’s usually me). I had initially decided to make this delicious baked spinach-mac and cheese thing, until I realized just how many I would need to make for the event and that, even if I did make them, I had no practical way to transport them from my kitchen to the department OR to keep them warm. Oh the conundrums.

Then I remembered this delicious looking dip I found on Pinterest (because let’s be honest, any cooking I do begins there or in the frozen food aisle): Easy Cherry Cheesecake Dip!

McBailey's Cherry Cheesecake Dip

Now I’ll be honest, anything with “easy” in the title is a pretty good start for me. And when you add in “cheesecake” I was pretty much sold. And, thanks to this picture, I realized I was reading The McBailey’s blog, not “Them C Baileys.” (What was I thinking?)

Honestly, this recipe was SUPER easy, and even kind of fun to make.

Ingredients for Cherry Cheesecake Dip

  • 7 oz. marshmallow fluff
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 box graham crackers
  • 2 8-oz. tubs of Cool Whip
  • 2 21-oz. cans cherry pie filling
  • 9×13 Serving Dish
ingredients
My ingredients looking delicious on their own. I used the store brand of everything because I’m a broke graduate student.

Directions

I tried to follow The McBailey’s recipe to a T. I’m not very confident in my non-recipe cooking abilities. I considered subbing a different kind of pie filling, and then decided against it at the last minute because I was worried it wouldn’t be as good.

1. Crush up your graham crackers to make a base! I used just under half the box, mixing them in batches in this cool little grinder thing I got for Christmas that I never I have a reason to use.

Cool grinder, about to do its thing.
Cool grinder, about to do its thing.

2. Put the crushed grahams into the bottom of the pan. I liked this step a lot because it didn’t require mixing them with butter and pressing them flatly into the bottom of the pan like the boxed cheesecake mixes I remember making as a kid. That was always my least favorite part. Instead, you just dump ’em in! Of course, you should try to smooth them out to a nice even layer. And may sure you don’t leave any of the pan shining through!

There's a little pan showing on the sides, but overall it worked well.
There’s a little pan showing on the sides, but overall it worked well.

3. Mix together the marshmallow fluff and cream cheese. You don’t need to use a mixer (which is sad, because I love using my KitchenAid!). I started off with a spatula, but it was kind of difficult until it got incorporated. I found a spoon worked the best, especially because it was easier to get the fluff out of the container (someone explain why the mouth of it is smaller than the bottom!).

Just stir it together really well.
Just stir it together really well.

4. Slowly add in the cool whip. Slowly is important. I used my spatula to get a nice scoop and then stirred until incorporated. Then I added more cool whip until I got through both tubs.

After cool whip, the mixture is super fluffy and delicious looking.
After cool whip, the mixture is super fluffy and delicious looking.

At this point, I had to taste the batter. I was skeptical that cool whip, marshmallow fluff, and cream cheese would taste like cheesecake. But it did! So delicious.

5. Pour into your crumbed pan. The McBailey’s passed along a super helpful tip. Ignore your intuition and start pouring into the pan on the sides. This will help you get a good covering and you won’t get all of your deliciously-crumbled graham crackers throughout the cheesecake layer.

Look how pretty! I would eat this whole pan as-is.
Look how pretty! I would eat this whole pan as-is.

Even following that advice, I still struggled a bit. I found it easier to use the spatula to “plop” scoops of the fluffy cheesecake layer into the pan. Then, once the whole pan was mostly covered, I used the remaining cheesecake layer to kind of smooth it out. It worked OK. I don’t think anyone noticed that some of the graham cracker crumbles slid around or got mixed into the cheesecake layer.

6. Top with your two cans of pie filling! I wasn’t sure I actually needed to cans, but it worked out well and created a yummy, enticing layer to the cheesecake. I’ve never been a fan of the cherries in the cherry pie filling, but I love the cherry goo, so I made a little side bowl I could snack on as I was making this.

Delicious Dip complete!
Delicious Dip complete!

Doesn’t that look great?

It tasted delicious, and I really hope it went over well at the pot luck. When I left, it looked like only a little bit had been eaten, but it was still pretty early.

All in all, this recipe was really easy to make. It took maybe 20 minutes, and I did it all standing at the kitchen table in my pajamas at 10 at night. I would definitely make this again, and enjoyed it so much I want to pass it along!