In the Kitchen

Sweet Tea Alternatives

Sweet Tea Alternatives

As summer draws to close and we begin to think about Pumpkin Spiced Lattes there is one drink I refuse to give up just because the temperature changes. Ice Tea. I’m not referring to everyone’s favorite sweet tea, I’m referring to my own ice tea concoctions. They are great alternatives to sweet tea.
In an effort to kick the Coca Cola habit and lessen the amount of sugar in my drinks, I needed to come up with an alternative that was more flavorful than plain water. And there are only so many times in a day when a packet of powdered Propel mixed with water will do.
I turned my attention to the stash of tea I had, from white tea to black tea and a host of other flavors there where a lot of teas to play with.  I focused on our favorites, Red Zinger, Earl Gray and White tea.  I came up with three fabulous refreshing drinks for any summer day.
A long time favorite of mine has been the proverbial Arnold Palmer, half ice tea half lemonade.  I changed out the black tea and replaced it with an Earl Gray. Admittedly, I can’t take all the credit- there’s a Sandwich shop that serves this all the time.
Three easy to make ice teas

Three easy to make ice teas

Earl Gray & Lemonade

Make up eight cups of Earl Gray tea- this will makeup a pitcher of ice tea
Chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour or pour it over ice
Add in a cup of lemonade to sweeten it a little,
or use fresh squeezed lemon juice and sugar to taste
Enjoy!
Red Zinger with Club Soda 
Make up a cup of Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea
Chill it or pour it over ice
Pour half a glass over ice and top off with Club Soda
White Tea with Mint 
Make up a glass of white tea and pour it over ice. Add in a sprig of mint and enjoy. You can add sugar to taste, but it’s great without it.

Irish Cream Cheesecake

This Irish Cream Cheesecake was my first attempt at making real cheesecake, not something from a box or a too easy no-bake cheese cake.  I made it for my husband’s birthday and of course his folks were coming for dinner,  so the pressure to impress the in-laws was on.  Miraculously, I manged to pull it off without cracking the cake.  To say I impressed myself would be, well, an understatement.

It’s no secret that cheesecake can be difficult, but if you are daring it can come out really well.

Irish Cream Cheesecake

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 1hour and 20 minutes

Ready in:  9 hours and 20 minutes

You need 1 9 inch spring form pan for this recipe.

Ingredients: 

1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs

1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup butter (melted)

3 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese softened

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

3 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

For the crust:  In a large bowl mix the cookie crumbs, confectioner’s sugar and 1/3 cup cocoa. Add the melted butter and stir til well mixed. Pat into the bottom of the spring form pan. Bake for 10 minutes then set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees ( 230 degrees C)

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, white sugar, flour and 1/4 cup cocoa. Beat at a medium speed until well blended and smooth. One at a time add the eggs, mixing well after each one. On a low speed blend in the sour cream and Irish cream liqueur. Poor over the baked crust.

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temp to 250 and bake for another 60 minutes.

When you remove it, loosen the cake from the rim of the pan with a knife. Let it cool and remove the rim.  Chill before serving. If it cracks on you, you can take a damp spatula and smooth the crack then dust with chocolate cookie crumbs.

You can serve this with some fresh whipped cream or a drizzle of chocolate sauce.  It is really good!

Halloween Dinner – Perfect Pumpkin Soup

Halloween night is a busy evening for families; between getting home from work, dressing the kids in their costumes and feeding them a nutritious meal before the candy rush there hardly seems to be enough time.  If you think ahead, it can all be done with no stress making the evening a lot of fun for everyone.

A simple soup and sandwich meal is perfect. The soup can be made ahead and the sandwiches are easily assembled.  My favorite combo is spicy pumpkin soup paired with grilled sandwiches.  The soup takes a mere 50 minutes from start to finish and is the perfect seasonal soup for Halloween.

Start with:

1/4 cup of butter

1 onion chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp coriander

1/8 tsp red pepper

3 cups vegetable broth

1 16 oz. can of pumpkin

1 cup of whole milk

Then in a medium stock pot melt the butter, add in the onion and garlic cook until tender. Add seasonings and cook another minute. Next add in the broth and bring to a low boil for 15-20 minutes. Add in the milk and the  pumpkin and boil for 5 minutes.  Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds (optional) and enjoy!

Serve it up with your favorite sandwich.

Clean up is quick and easy, leaving you plenty of time to get the kids dressed and out the door for Halloween haunts and trick or treating.

Homemade ricotta cheese

Homemade ricotta is easier than you might think.

I collect cookbooks and during  a random trip to Marshall’s I found the Gourmet cookbook.  It’s a compilation of their recipes that appeared in the magazine, it’s all inclusive and has incredible recipes.  As I was flipping through it I found a recipe for  homemade ricotta.  I thought how hard could it be?  Honestly, it was pretty easy.

You will need 1/2 gallon of milk,  1 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 tsp salt, and 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice ( about 1 1/2 squeezed lemons).  You will also need a large sieve, a bowl, 6 qt heavy pan, and cheese cloth.   It will yield 2 cups.

Start by lining the sieve with the cheese cloth, and placing it inside the bowl.

Heat the milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil over a moderate heat. It will take awhile, so just stand by and stir occasionally to keep it from scorching the pan. Let it boil for a minute or two.  Turn it down to low, add the lemon juice simmer and stir constantly until it curdles. Pour it into the cheese cloth and let it drain for an hour.  Pour it into a storage bowl and it’ ll keep for two days.

You can serve it for breakfast with a little honey and cinnamon or enjoy it for dessert.  You can also use it in any recipe that you would use ricotta in.

It is amazingly good, you may just want to eat it with a spoon.