An on-the-fly dinner for guests: fresh asparagus pasta with sun dried tomatoes and mini lime cheesecakes

I enjoy stressing myself out.

Last Wednesday night I invited my former roommate Alex over for a “lets catch up on each others lives and gossip shamelessly” sesh.  Obviously dinner was to be included.  I don’t have guests over any other way.

In hindsight, I probably should have realized that weekday evening dinners are a little chaotic.  Throw in a guest, an after work grocery shop via bike and backpack and my great need to make an extravagant, three-course meal, and you have a potential meltdown on your hands.

But not tonight.

I hope you are partially impressed by the fact that this meal was completely prepared within an under-two-hour time span.  FYI: that includes the grocery store trip and a painful, construction filled bike commute.

#awesome

For the main course,  a spaghetti dish I found on tastespotting, made with fresh pasta (ever since I was a child I’ve had a unparalleled love of uncooked, fresh pasta… much pre-dinner snacking occurred), peas, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes.  For someone who had never tried the latter two ingredients before, this was a make-it-or-break-it meal for me.  The chopped asparagus tasted like the stalks of broccoli and the sun-dried tomatoes were like slabs of dried ketchup.  This may sound gross, but I actually enjoyed it profusely.

Leftover goat cheese also made an appearance.  Happiness ensued.

If anything, the dessert was the most chaotic part of this meal.

Time was of the ultimate importance, which is why I chose to make these no-bake cheesecakes.  The recipe, which I adapted ever so slightly from Canadian Living, suggested I refrigerate everything for long periods of time.

Translation: if you are short on time, just pop everything in the freezer for an hour.  Voila, a dessert prepared and set in the blink of an eye.  Add some poorly cut lime slices and peel, and you have the cutest little cheesecakes you’ve ever seen.

Continue reading

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Fruit and Raspberry Coulis (Dinner Party, Part III)

Random intro line: The commercial for “Eat, Pray, Love” is on – I want to see it SO badly.  Plus the song in the trailer is super catchy.

I knew that my dinner party encore had to be decadent and impressive.  With these two requirements in mind, I narrowed my dessert search down to two dishes, this cheesecake, and a Chocolate Brownie Turtle Cake (from my Canadian Living Family Cookbook).  Leaving the latter until another (very soon) occasion, I went forth with preparations for the cheesecake.

Having this be only the second cheesecake I’ve ever made, I was once more concerned about my lack of water-bath for cooking the cake.  I cranked my oven down to a mere 275° F, and cooked the cheesecake for 3/4 of the required time.  Perhaps I should be more modest, but the cake turned out perfectly.  There was not a SINGLE crack, nor bubble in the top of the cheesecake.  I am extremely pleased.  Also, it didn’t taste too much like white chocolate, which pleasantly surprised me, since I’m more of a milk chocolate girl.  With patience on my side for once, I let the cheesecake cool completely before lovingly cutting into the cake to prepare it for pictures.  The results, I think, are quite pretty…

Needless to say, I had cheesecake for three major meals the next day.  Nom, nom, nom, nom!

Cheesecake Brownies

Welcome to another weekly posting of my Friday treat!  This week’s treat was requested by our team leader at work, Kristina, and was inspired by the cheesecake brownie recipes I have been frequently stumbling on this entire week.  An unrelated side note: as I type this post, I am listening to the blaring sounds of my mom’s new iPad.  It is currently being controlled by my 16-year-old brother, and he is showing me some neato 2009 megamix thing as well as commenting on Miley Cyrus’ midriff in her new album cover.  Oh weekend trips home.

I have never made brownies before, so you can probably imagine how worried I was when this recipe called on me to make them FROM SCRATCH.  Walking around the grocery store collecting my ingredients, I paused for an extended period of time in front of the “brownie-in-a-box” Duncan Hines mix.  Wouldn’t it be nice to just add three ingredients and magically have a delicious brownie batter?  Alas, I refused to give in, and promptly snatched up bars of semi-sweet chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder.  That’s what I get for stubbornly refusing to make boxed food.

Anyways, since I couldn’t find a cheesecake brownie recipe on Canadian Living, I turned to dear Martha Stewart for this recipe.  Technically these are called “cream-cheese brownies,” but when you add the word “cheesecake” to a recipe, it always becomes more fun, right?  Since I don’t have a double-boiler (and didn’t fully know what one was until I googled it late Thursday night), I just heated the chocolate and butter right over my stove element, cautiously aware of the fact that I had burned an entire chocolate bunny in a similar manner just years earlier.  IT WAS PERFECT.  Once I mixed the batter together, it was like magic.  It was delicious and rich and smooth, and so much better than I could ever imagine the consistency of a brownie batter to be.  I came face-to-face with the Dessert Gods, and I loved it.

The recipe told me to bake the brownies for 50 to 60 minutes at 350 degrees.  Obviously in our oven, this translated to 30 minutes at 300 degrees.  Oven temperature…I have conquered you.

The picture can really not do these brownies justice.  I’m usually pretty humble with my cooking skills, but these were perfection.

PS: I have been CHALLENGED by my friend Gord to a cook a meal using tofu (my mortal enemy).  I have hesitantly accepted, and will be making something tofu-fied sometime in the next week.  Watch out world.

New York Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce

Since I’ve been promising myself for about a week that I would make a cheesecake, I finally got around to doing so last night.  Let me tell you, it is quite the time-consuming process.  The ingredient mixing is the fun part…then comes four hours worth of baking, cooling, chilling and stressing out about whether or not your cake will be destroyed by the base of the spring-form pan.  Luckily, after watching a helpful, random video on topic, I was successful, and the rest is baking history!  I pretty much whipped up the strawberry sauce so the cheesecake wouldn’t look boring.  You know me, I’m all about colour!

Cheesecake verdict: my first time making this wonderful dessert was a huge SUCCESS!!!  Other than a few minor challenges served up by our psychotically hot stove, this was a rewarding experience.  Rewarding in the sense that I got three pieces of cake…