Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Today is National Cheesecake Day... seriously, who can think of a better "holiday"? I love cheesecake! It's so versatile and can pretty much be made into any flavor. I brought this particular version to a one of my husband's family functions and it was a hit. My father-in-law said it was the best cheesecake he had ever had! I found this recipe here and knew I had to try it. Let me warn you.... this recipe takes some effort and time, but the end product is TOTALLY worth it. It's a monster (so is this post) with 4 layers of yummy goodness and the calories to match but SO GOOD. It's modeled off of The Cheesecake Factory so buying it there would cost about $50. You can make it yourself for about $10! This recipe is adapted from The Inner Gourmet.

This recipe uses 2 vanilla bean pods. If you buy these at Walmart, its $10 for only two of them, YIKES! I would not recommend this. I bought a package of 50 of them for about $25 on Amazon which is a much better price. Now you ask me, what am I going to use that many vanilla bean pods for? I agree, that's a lot of cheesecakes! I use them for much more than just the cheesecake, from making vanilla extract to ice cream. They are really awesome BUT if you don't want to have to go through using them, just increase your vanilla extract by 1/2 tsp. and leave the vanilla bean pods out.

-1 1/2 cup crushed graham crackers (This is about 1 package and can be crushed in a food processor or in a zip lock bag by hand)
-1/4 brown sugar
-1 stick of butter, softened
-1 egg yolk, slightly beaten (I sometimes omit this and it works out fine)
-1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
-16 ounces cream cheese (2 packages), softened
-1 cup sour cream
-2 Tbsp. corn starch
-1 cup sugar
-2 sticks of butter (I use 1 unsalted and 1 salted), softened
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
-vanilla beans from one pod (or substitute 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract)
White Chocolate Mousse:
-1 cup whipping cream
-3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
-4 ounces Neufchatel cheese, softened
-5 ounces White chocolate
Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
-1 cup whipping cream
-3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
-vanilla beans from one pod
Optional garnish:
-1-2 ounces milk or dark chocolate

To make the crust, crush up your graham crackers in mix them together with other ingredients. Next grab your pan, I always use a 10 inch spring form pan because I have found it to work the best. If you don't have one, I HIGHLY recommend them! Line your spring form pan with foil and then pour your crust mixture in the bottom. Spread it out so that it evenly covers the bottom. Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while you are mixing up the cheesecake.

Now in a large bowl, combine your cream cheese and butter and mix until combined. Next add in your sour cream, corn starch, sugar, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Finally, add in your vanilla bean. To remove the inside, slice the pod with a knife down the center and inside you will see the little vanilla beans. Scrap them out with either your knife or a spoon and add them into your cheesecake mixture. Mix until combined, you should be able to see the little black beans mixed throughout. See below for pictures (sorry they are dark!)!

Now pour your cheesecake onto your crust and bake at 325 for about 1 hour or until the top is light brown.

Once done, let it cool completely. If you don't, your mousse will deflate during the next step. I usually make the crust and cheesecake the night before and then make the last two layers (mousse and whipped cream) the next morning.

Once your ready to make your mousse, beat your whipping cream in a small/medium bowl until stiff peaks form. You will have stiff peaks when you can lift your mixer out of the bowl (turned off of course!) and the peaks it makes stay in place. Add in your powdered sugar and mix until combined. In a different bowl, melt your white chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds at a time until melted. Add you neufchatel cheese into your chocolate and beat until combined. This should do a lot to cool down you chocolate but if its still even the slightest bit warm, stick your chocolate mixture back in the fridge to cool. If it's even the slightest bit hot it will deflate your whipped cream! Once cool, combine your whipped cream and chocolate mixture together with a mixer and then pour over your cooled cheesecake. Stick this back in the fridge while you are making your garnish and whipped cream.

Now, it's time for the garnish! this part is optional but make your cheesecake look so much better. Seriously, the first time I made this, someone thought it was professional. :) Heat your milk or dark chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until melted. Pour it into a zip lock bag and cut the tip of the end off. Squeeze your bag and make vertical and horizontal lines on top of the mousse. This part is hard to describe in words so just look at the pictures below!

Don't worry about messing this part up, just have fun with it! Now time to make the vanilla bean whipped cream (don't worry, you are almost done!). In a small/medium sized bowl, beat your whipping cream until stiff peaks form (same thing you did earlier). Then, add in your powdered sugar and your vanilla beans (same way you did earlier) and mix until combined. Grab a large (gallon sized) zip lock bag and pour your whipped cream in it. For tips on how to do this, see this post. Cut the tip off the corner of the bag and pipe your whipped cream around the edges of the cheesecake. This part is kind of like the chocolate, you can't mess is up so just have fun with it. I usually just pipe it on randomly until I run out of whipped cream. Check out the picture below!

Now, stick it in the fridge until you are ready to serve it. Once ready, serve right out of the pan or remove the edge of your spring form pan and foil.

Can you say YUM?!?!? I hope you enjoy this AMAZING dessert!
Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Grow your own Pineapple

Hey Everyone! I hope you all are enjoying your week! Soon I will have a new recipe for you but today I wanted to share a quick post (let's face it, I'm long winded and there will probably be nothing short about it) on how to start growing your own pineapples!

Every time someone sees my pineapple plants they cannot believe I grew them. Then, they REALLY can't believe it when I tell them I grew them from a pineapple I picked up from our local grocery store. The best part is, it's REALLY easy to do! The biggest thing you need for this is a little patience! These also make great gifts. The hubby and I gave one to my father-in-law for Father's Day and he loved it!

Maybe this is my inner mother coming out but I love gardening. It brings me such joy. Seriously, there is something about going out and seeing all that hard work you have done... Not that gardening is really that hard... I pretty much just go out and water my plants every couple days. I like to think I'm really accomplishing something though.

-pineapple from the store (you want it to be as green as possible)
-clear glass
-pot (or a place in the ground)

Pineapples are one of the best fruits you can grow in a container. They are perfect for people like me who live in a rent house and can't have a "real" garden. They also grow equally as well in the ground so plant yours however you would like!

When you are in the grocery store, you want to find the pineapple that is as green as possible. Normally, if you were buying the pineapple purely to eat you wouldn't want to do that. A pineapple is ripe when the little grooves on it start to turn yellow. This is when a pineapple is at it's sweetest. If you buy a pineapple like that to grow, it will not produce roots because it has been off the vine to long. Trust me, AS GREEN AS POSSIBLE! I tried this with a ripe pineapple and it did not work out. Here is a picture of mine.

To take of the green stem, grab it firmly in one hand and twist. You should be able to twist it right out of there. Put the fruit part over to the side to cut up and enjoy later. Next, cut off the little bit of pineapple left on the end until you can see little spots in the yellow part. Those are the roots and you want them exposed to water.

Next, take the little green leaves at the bottom and peel them off one by one until the roots are exposed. This usually ends up being about 10-20 leaves. Here is a picture of one of the leaves peeled up and then another of the plant with the leaves peeled off.

The roots will poke out through those levels you created when you peeled the leaves off. Next, put your pineapple in a glass with just enough water to cover the bottom where you exposed the levels.

Next, place your pineapple plant in a sunny window and watch it grow! The roots look like little white worms and will slowly emerge from the levels. Below is a picture of what the roots will eventually get to. This takes a couple weeks.

You will know the plant is ready to put in the soil when your roots have little white sprouts coming out of them. They kind of look like little hairs. Here is what your plants look like when you have just planted it. Don't worry if the leaves on the outside start to turn a little brown (you can see that in both the cup picture and the planted picture).

Once your plant gets settled it will start growing! Below is what my first pineapple plant has grown to. Isn't it beautiful? As you can see, the leaves grow out of the middle so the ones on the outside are the oldest. That's also where the fruit will grow out of (that part takes a while).

 Water your plant about once a week to keep the soil moist and most of all, enjoy it!
Good luck! Let me know in the comments below what your favorite thing to grow is!
Friday, July 12, 2013

DIY Succulent Garden

Hey Everyone!

I have decided to start sharing gardening tips and tricks with you because my little garden has been quite successful! This was my first year to try my hand at gardening and it has worked out really well!

Today I'm sharing with you how to make a succulent garden. Succulents are pretty much the cutest little plants in the world. They are so tiny but have so much character at the same time. When I was buying mine the cashier had never seen them and though they were precious! My hubby was gone all week in Vegas (lucky!) so I decided to do a little project as a treat to myself. I'm so glad I picked this!

I have been wanting to make one of these for awhile but I was nervous about it until I saw this tutorial from Kala over at My Breezy Room. She made it look so easy so I knew I could do it! The project ended up taking about 5 minutes total to complete and it has already added so much character to our house. I can't wait to make another!

Succulents like bright indirect light so find a nice window to put them in after you make them. If you put them out directly in the sun it will scorch them because they are very fleshy plants. They are also really easy to take care of, all they need is a little water when the soil gets dry (about once a week). In the winter you will want to take that down to about once a month in order to prevent root rot.

-Glass planting pot/dish (I got mine in the wedding section, I think it's actually for floating candles but whatev)

Sorry all the pictures are kind of dark, I did this at night. Here is a picture of the glass pot I used:

I forgot to get a picture of the succulents before I planted them, sorry about that.

To make this little beauty, simply fill your pot with a small amount of soil to cover to bottom of the pot.

Next, place your succulents in one by one. You can use as many or as few as you like, but I wanted my pot to look full. I also tried to chose succulents that looked different to give the pot some dimension. It was fun picking them out, Walmart had about 20 different one to chose from! Here is a picture half way through:

Finally, fill in the spaces around the plants to make the soil even and water slightly to moisten the soil.

Isn't that so cute?! The little tiny cactus in the front is my favorite. The picture doesn't even do this thing justice because the little succulents are so cute and have so much detail.

I hope you enjoy making your own succulent garden, I can't wait to make another one!
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Favorite 4th of July Pinterest Posts

Hey Everyone!

I hope you are preparing for an awesome 4th of July tomorrow! The hubby and I are extremely excited because we have the day off work. We are planning on spending the day relaxing, we can't wait!

Today I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite 4th of July posts from Pinterest. Anytime I'm looking for an idea, Pinterest is my first stop and it didn't disappoint with the 4th of July posts! I have included a few here on the blog but there are TONS more on my 4th of July board on my Pinterest page. Please check it out!

1. Patriotic Punch from Sweet Cs Designs

I LOVE this stuff. It is so pretty and would go perfectly with any 4th of July party! Plus, you could always crank it up into an adult beverage if you wanted! :)

2. Red, White, & Blue Popsicles from The Little Kitchen

Living in Texas, we NEED something to cool us down, especially in July. These popsicles are perfect for that! They are perfect for kids (or adults!) to enjoy at any 4th of July party.

3. Flag Tank tops from Look What Erin Made

These little tank tops are the curtest and would be the perfect attire for a 4th of July party. The post is for kids but adults could rock them too!

4. Red, White, & Blue Cheesecake from Recipe Girl

This is BY FAR one of my favorite Pinterest finds! It's so cute and will have your guests thinking you are a professional! The directions are easy to follow and make an awesome product!

5. Red, White, & Blue Spaghetti from Created by Diane

Trying to be patriotic and maintain your healthy lifestyle? This is a wonderful post to help you do that. These colored noodles are so cute and the sauce is similar to the Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce I posted a few weeks ago. Very cool!

And last but not least....

6.4th of July Fruit Pizza by Hungry Happenings

I LOVE THIS! Fruit pizza is one of my favorites and this is one of the cutest fruit pizzas I have ever seen. This would be a great addition to any 4th of July party.

There ya have it! Don't forget to head on over to my 4th of July Pinterest board and check out some more awesome 4th of July finds!

Have a happy 4th of July!