Mainely Inspired- Mini Balsamic Strawberry Cheesecakes

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Sometimes a dish comes along that you fall head over heels in love with. For me that was cheesecake. I remember the time I first tasted it, I was sitting with my family in a booth at a Marie Calendar’s in Auburn, CA waiting for highway 80 to open so we could get up to our ski cabin. Up to the moment I tasted it, the best thing in the world to me was the powder day we would inevitably have the next morning, cheesecake changed that one bite later. I think my brother ate his entire piece in three minutes flat. I on the other hand I savored mine. It was the perfect combination of flavors, sour from the cheese and sweet from the sugar and the texture was unlike any other I had tasted. Love at first bite. Although I have since learned that there are many better cheesecakes than Marie Calendar’s that is still one of my favorite food memories.

For a long time I was so infatuated with restaurant cheesecake that I never dreamed it could be made at home, from scratch. One summer my Mamma had her friend Carlyn up to stay with us in Maine for a few weeks. Carlyn made the most delicious strawberry cheesecake I had ever had, and introduced me to the (dangerous) idea that your favorite restaurant desserts can indeed be made in your very own kitchen. Turns out the hardest part of cheesecake is finding a springform pan.

Fast forward several years and I wanted to make my favorite dessert into an easier to eat (and bake) treat. Enter cheesecake cupcakes, or mini cheesecakes, my new favorite (and impressively easy) dessert for when the boyfriend and I have company over for dinner.

IMG_3373What you need:

Cheesecakes:

Cupcake tray

Cupcake liners

8 graham crackers, processed in the food processor to crumbs

1/2 stick of butter, melted

2 packages cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

2/3 -3/4 of a cup of sugar, depending how sweet you want the cheesecake

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin by mixing together the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs together in a bowl. Press 1 teaspoon of the mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner and bake for 6 minutes to set. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a regular bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer) add remaining ingredients. Beat until light and fluffy. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into the cupcake holders and bake for 15 minutes or until set.

Cool on the counter, and chill for at least 4 hours. Top with strawberry balsamic reduction, recipe follows.

DSC_0043Strawberry Balsamic Reduction:

Unfortunately I don’t really have a recipe for this one, I cook strawberries (or raspberries if I don’t have strawberries, I bet blueberries would work too) with balsamic vinegar until it reduces, the fruit breaks down and it forms a lovely thick sweet-tart sauce. It is incredible poured over ice-cream, and as we discovered the other night, a great accompaniment to cheesecake!

 

 

Happy Eating!

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Mainely Inspired – Easy Home Baked Crusty Bread

Baked BreadThere really isn’t anything quite like freshly baked bread. Especially right from the oven, with good butter. It is one of life’s simplest delights, and one my Mamma mastered so well I have always been a bit afraid to try baking “real” bread. Now when I say real bread, I mean the kind with yeast. I am all about pumpkin bread, banana bread and even beer bread, pretty much any quick bread you can name. The yeast bread however, I have always left in Mamma’s capable hands. Having recently moved away from San Francisco, and Mamma’s cooking, I have finally taken it upon myself to attempt to master the art of bread baking. This loaf is a very simple white bread, nothing too fancy going on but it’s a great place to start for beginners (like me).

 

You will need:

  • 1 packet of yeast
  • 1 ½ cups luke warm water
  • 3 ¼ cups flour
  • ½ tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • olive oil for rising bowl
  • warm place to let the bread rise
  • pizza stone for baking

 

Bread KneadingStart by mixing the warm water, sugar and yeast in a bowl let this mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until you see bubbles forming on the top. This wakes the yeast up, and makes rising your dough easier. Next, mix the water/yeast mixture, flour and salt together in your mixer with the dough hook. If you don’t have a stand mixer, do this by hand. You want the dough to pull together into a ball, not a perfect one but it should hold together.

At this point, knead the dough a few times to form a ball, and place it in your oiled bowl. Let the bread rise in a warm place, covered in a clean dishtowel, for at least two hours. I recommend preheating the over to 170 degrees, turning it off before it gets all the way hot, and rising your bread in the oven.

Before BakingWhen you are done letting the bread rise, take it out of the oven and knead the dough into a ball and rest it on parchment paper on top of the oven. Heat the oven to 450 degrees, with the pizza stone on the middle rack and a baking pan on the rack below (you will later fill this with hot water). Let the bread rise a second time, for about 45 minutes. After the second rise, cut 2-3 slashes in the top of the bread with a sharp serrated knife. Slide the bread, with the parchment onto the pizza stone and pour hot water in the baking pan and quickly close the door. Bake 25-30 minutes.  Let cool before slicing (I usually cheat here, but I hear it makes the bread better to wait).

Happy Eating!

Toast

 

Mainely Inspired – Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

My boyfriend loves chocolate chip cookies, plain as you can get, nestle tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. So when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dessert this year, and he said chocolate chip cookies, it should have come as no surprise (although I do admit to being a bit disappointed). Now don’t get me wrong, chocolate chip cookies are awesome, but I have been making them since I was 12 and I was selfishly looking forward to showing off my baking skills. To satisfy both of us I decided to make chocolate chip cookie pie, and the results could not have been more delicious. This pie has a crispy crust, gooey chocolate chip center and manages to truly be the best of both a cookie and a pie combined into one.

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You will need:

Deep dish pie plate, buttered

2 3/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1 cup salted butter, at room temp

1 1/2 packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

3 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla

1 package chocolate chips (your favorite variety)

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees (farenheit). Start by creaming together the softened butter and sugars in a bowl of a mixer (I use a stand mixer, but before I had one I used to do this by hand, it’s a great arm workout). Add in the eggs, beating after each one until fully incorporated, and repeat with the vanilla.

Next, mix together the other dry ingredients in a bowl. Here is where most recipes tell you to sift these ingredients together: call me a rebel but I have never once done this and my baking has never suffered for it. Mix in the flour, a bit at  time trying to avoid making a spectacular mess with the electric mixer as I often do at this stage. Once the flour is all combined (check the bottom of the bowl if you are using an electric mixer) fold in your chocolate chips, and try not to eat all the cookiepie dough before it gets into the pie plate.

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Cook the pie until the crust is golden brown and starts to firm, and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean enough that it seems gooey but not raw, which is a rough calculation but I trust you can manage it. I suggest you serve this with ice-cream, because its delicious.

Good luck trying not to eat it all in one sitting, and Happy Eating!

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Mainely Inspired Goes Southern!

I have spent most of my life living and vacationing on coasts of the USA. The farthest I have ever lived from the ocean is about seven miles, and I generally prefer to be within walking distance, so when boyfriend told me he got into business school at Vanderbilt in Nashville TN, the idea of moving was a bit daunting. Nashville is, at the shortest, 447 miles from the ocean, and for a girl who has built a life on the coast this is a distance I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around. On the upside it’s only a two hour flight from Boston! Luckily for me I am still living a very bi-coastal lifestyle, spending most of my time in San Francisco and heading out to Nashville for weekends when I can, talk about a long commute!

Balcony Herb Garden

As I adjust to life in a new city, and trading sailboats for train yards (and two cities) I am very excited for the exciting things ahead, not to mention having a whole new apartment to decorate! So far, my favorite addition to the new place is our balcony herb garden, although the plants are small now, it will be nice in the future to have fresh herbs at my finger tips to cook with any time I want.


As anyone who knows me can verify, I love fresh produce, so my first order of business on my very first weekend in Nashville was finding a farmers market, and the Nashville Farmers Market did not disappoint. Although what I found was different from back home in San Francisco, there was a huge variety, and the tomatoes were massive! Some of my favorite finds were fresh peaches from Georgia via The Peach Truck (have to love my namesake state) and a 102 pound watermelon (you break it you buy it).

102 Pound Watermelon Georgia Peaches

Stay tuned for more on Nashville craft coffee and cocktails, fried green tomatoes (how can I resist) and my attempt at southern peach cobbler.

– Georgia

Love My City by the Bay – Beacon Coffee and Pantry

A few months ago a new coffee shop opened up just a few blocks up the street from my apartment, Beacon Coffee and Pantry. The lighthouse in the window intrigued me immensely (I have a penchant for all things nautical, you can probably blame my summers in coastal Maine) but in a neighborhood that can at times be filled with tourist traps I was mildly skeptical. I fell in love the first time I walked through the door, and that was before I tasted the Beacon Menucoffee!

On the left hand wall they have their “pantry” full of small production food products from popcorn to pasta sauce to candy bars. They even sell my favorite snacks Have’a Chips and Pirate’s Booty. It isn’t a full market as they don’t sell fresh produce, but if you need a quick snack and a coffee before a drive to wine country its a great stop.

Beacon Pantry

So lets talk coffee: first thing you should know is that I am addicted. Second is that in true San Francisco form I love my small batch roasters and if you can tell me what farm in (insert country here) you sourced your coffee from I am ecstatic. This does not mean I don’t drink Starbucks, or love my Dunkin’ Donuts I just really appreciate small batch Beacon Latte'scoffee as well. In the same way that you can love a Oreo’s and your grandmothers cookies. There is a time and place for both.

Beacon Coffee and Pantry serves Sightglass Coffee and thanks to them it has fast become my favorite new small-batch coffee roaster in San Francisco. My Saturday morning ritual isn’t complete without a soy latte from here. If coffee isn’t your thing, they also make an amazing spicy chai tea latte and have an assortment of about ten loose leaf teas to choose from.Sightglass

On the weekends they also often host pop up shops from local artisan bakeries and food producers, just one more tasty reason to stop by!

-Georgia

Beacon Bread

Mainely Inspired – Shrimp Ceviche

Mainely Inspired – Shrimp Ceviche

I love seafood of almost all kinds. Whether its lobster cooked out on an island after a day of boating, a basket of fried clams, a good piece of salmon at Fish in Sausalito, oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co or Fish tacos in Mexico in my opinion; if it’s freshly caught it’s hard to go wrong.

This brings me to a particular favorite: ceviche. It is healthy (if you skip the tortilla chips), incredibly tasty, very adaptable to specific tastes and relatively easy to prepare. While I am sure there is a better definition to be found, the one I go by is seafood “cooked” in citrus juice (and sometimes a bit of tequila if you are feeling adventurous), add in some chopped onion, avocado, cilantro and any peppers you may want and let it marinate for a few hours and you have a delicious cold seafood dish.

For this particular version I decided to go with shrimp, however feel free to experiment (bay scallops work really well, as does any firm white fish such as halibut cut into a ½ inch dice)

You will need:Fresh Shrimp Ceviche

  • 1 pound raw medium or large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1-2 avocados (depending on taste)
  • 7 limes
  • 3 lemons
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Large pot of boiling water

Begin by juicing the citrus into a large, nonreactive bowl and mixing with spices (glass or ceramic, stay away from metal for this one). Blanch the shrimp in boiling water for 1 minute, just until outsides are pink but not cooked through (if using other seafood skip this step) and immediately run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Chop the shrimp into 1 inch pieces and submerge in the citrus juice (make sure the citrus covers the shrimp, as this is what is going to “cook” it all the way). Let marinate for an hour or two, just before serving toss in avocado and cilantro (tomato and onion are also great additions to this dish; my boyfriend just doesn’t prefer them so I leave them out).

Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

Happy Eating!

Mainely Inspired – Back to Blogging

After a 6-ish month hiatus I’m back! It could be the upcoming trip to Boston and Maine in July or simply that I missed blogging but whatever the impetus I am excited to get started again. I have plenty of updates from the last few months coming soon as well as some healthier recipes as my boyfriend and I have started eating “clean, lean and green” 6 days a week in preparation for beach season (and Maine!) Don’t worry though; we have cheat days so the baked goods will still be making an appearance.