Monday, November 30, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Kristin's Cheesecake

For a 10 inch spring form pan
Shortbread cookie crust:

1 c. butter
¼ c. powdered sugar
2 c. flour

Cream butter and sugar in a mixer until completely combined, make sure to scrap the bottom of the bowl. Add flour, and mix until combined. In a buttered spring form pan, press dough on edges and about ½ up the edges. It should have no more than ¼ inch depth, so you may have extra dough. Make sure the crease of the pan (in between bottom and sides) doesn’t have a build-up of dough. You will want a consistent depth all around.
Take a piece of heavy duty foil (or two sheets of regular) and shinny side down, place your pan on top, and fold the foil up the outside of the pan. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Edges should be golden brown, if you notice the edges are browning before center is cooked through, turn the temperature down.

Cheesecake filling:

24 ounces of cream cheese (3 boxes)
¾ c. sugar
3 eggs
1 T. vanilla
¼ t. salt
1 ½ c. sour cream

Cream the sugar and cream cheese in a mixer or with beaters. Add one egg at a time, scraping the bottom of the bowl after every egg. When completely combined (it is very important that you have no lumps, so the first few steps are crucial) add vanilla salt and sour cream. Mix until smooth. Pour about 1/3 of the mix (it doesn’t have to be exact) into the crust. Set the rest aside.

Pumpkin mix:

15 oz can of pumpkin puree (single pie)
½ c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
¼ t. ground cloves
¼ t. salt
Dash of ground ginger
2 eggs

Sour cream topping:

1 ½ c. sour cream
4 T. sugar

In a large bowl mix the pumpkin puree, sugar, spices, and salt. Add one egg at a time, and whisk. Add the remaining cheesecake mixture to the pumpkin mixture. Combine until smooth and spoon on top of the cream cheese filling already in the crust. **( If you pour the mixture in the pan, it will sink below the first layer and when cooked you will not have an even surface or layers). After you’ve spooned about half the mixture and spread evenly on top, you can slowly pour the rest. Even out the top, and bake for about 1 hour and 45 minutes at 330 degrees. The cheesecake is done when a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean. Check at the 1 hour 30 minute mark first. Take the cheesecake out of the oven, keep temperature on. Spread the sour cream topping on evenly, and place back in the oven for about 5 minutes. Cool on a rack for an hour or so before placing in the fridge. You should keep the cheesecake refrigerated for at least 48 hours before serving.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

what I am thankful for...

Yes, Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful, did we all forget?
I am so very thankful for.....

-First and foremost, Martin. He's the love of my life, and he just makes everything so wonderful. We're in love, and we only look forward to every future day we get to spend together.

-My family. I love each and every one of them, and I'm so glad that I get to be with them, day in and day out. Most of my future plans involve staying in or around the area just so I don't have to leave them. Mom, Dad, Jason (Katie and kids), Doug, Ryan (Melissa and kids), Todd (Heidi, Lizzie, and almost here baby Max), Jana, and Jennifer, I love you so much.

-Martin's family. They're so amazing, and I am reminded of that with every opportunity to see them (including tonight, which is the Gallagher thanksgiving night).
-My talents. I realize that I have been blessed with creativity and the skills and ambition to do something with it, and it is not something I take for granted.

{Just a few of the major things in my life I am thankful for, there are lots of little things as well.
What are you thankful for?}
P.S. Eat lots of good food, say thank you to those who prepare it, and I hope you all have a fabulous day.
Happy Thanksgiving

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Monday, November 23, 2009

I will improve..

I just ordered my new computer!! (Martin did actually, but I helped) so I will be back to blogging in no time! Also, my sewing machine comes this next week, so I'll have things to blog about! Also, my Mom's camera came, so once my little memory card comes in the mail, I'll be taking pictures in no time!!!

I can't wait for the holidays, and to tell you the truth, they're already here! Tomorrow night I'm making the cheesecakes for my Wednesday thanksgiving bash with Martin's family, and then my family, and before you know it, Christmas will be here.

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend! I definitely did :)

{Thermal Love}

{Just making sure everyone knows that I am madly in love. Especially you Martin. }

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Chicken Alfredo with Mushrooms and Zucchini

3 servings of dry pasta (fettuccine)

2 chicken breasts

a few cloves of garlic

1 1/2 c. chopped mushrooms

1 c. chopped zucchini

1 c. cream

1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)

salt and pepper

For step by step instructions of the recipe, go here.

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I want to teach you how to cook...

I'm not a professional by any means, but for whatever reason I have always had a knack for cooking. It may be because I started at a very young age, so if you figure I began cooking and baking regularly at the age of 12, I've been doing it for over 12 years, thats a long time to develop a hobby and skill, which means, anyone can do it, given the time and practice. The fact that I LOVE to be in the kitchen may also have something to do with it.

I am asked on a regular basis for recipes of mine and I always feel bad because, I don't normally use recipes. So when I try and write it out, and someone uses that exact recipe, it most likely will not turn out the way I intended. When I cook I taste, feel, smell, and look to see what's going on and how things are turning out, as opposed to reading and measuring and more reading. This habit may have developed from the bad habit of mine to not enjoy reading, but regardless, it's just how I do things now. If you can learn to be flexible in the kitchen, your ability to prepare meals with ease will definitely shine through, and that's what I would love to teach you.

Learning how to substitute is key. When I'm making dinner or dessert or anything in the kitchen, I survey what I have first. Now sometimes you may have something exact in mind, like a pumpkin cheesecake for example (which has been on my mind for a few weeks now, I love fall so much) and so you will need to go to the store and buy the exact ingredients for what you are making, but it is still good to take note of what you have.

The other night I went into the kitchen to make some dinner and this is what happened. I'm going to share a step by step of how this dinner came to be, and really this is how I do most of my cooking. So the sooner you can become comfortable in your own kitchen, the sooner you'll enjoy, if not love, cooking. Keep in mind things don't always end up the way I planned. I don't usually botch a dinner, only because I generally use slight variations from previous dinners I've made, but I do make mistakes, no one is perfect.
  • I made a big luncheon the other day for a church activity so I had some leftover ingredients that I had wanted to use. The plan was to recreate the chicken alfredo I had made the previous day, but I was going to make a much smaller portion (for Martin, my dad, and myself).
  • I knew I had about a half a box of fettuccine left, a container of mushrooms, cream, shredded parmesan, ricotta, and a half a head of garlic, and a few extra chicken breasts.
  • A little trick to know about pasta... Almost all pasta cooks at the same speed, and it is really hard to mess up plain pasta. In a boiling pan of water, throw in whatever pasta you're cooking, and add some salt. Make sure to stir right at first, so the salt dissolves. Most boxes of pasta say to cook from 8-12 minutes, depending on how firm you like it. I prefer my pasta soft, so not al dente, which is what the instructions are for. But with this tid bit of information, you now know you can mix and match whatever pasta you want. There have been many times when I go to make a favorite pasta salad and we have about a half cup of 3-4 different pasta boxes, and so I'll just throw in all of them, it always cooks up fine. Also, you can try and buy the same brand of pasta, so you have some kind of consistency in your kitchen, which makes it easy to create new things. We like barilla :) Then you can store it like this, in canisters, and it becomes even easier to cook with pasta.

  • I started cooking the fettuccine, it probably took about 15 minutes. By the way you can use any kind of pasta for this dish. My mom uses the bow tie pasta to do her chicken alfredo, so be creative.
  • For the chicken, I used the george foreman grill. This little grill is so amazing, if you don't have one, you should go now and get yourself one. They make it in a few sizes (I have a 2 serving size, but my family has the family size, which fits about 4 servings). You can put a frozen chicken breast right in there and in about 15 minutes it will be done, it's awesome. I like to defrost any meat before putting it on the grill, so you get a more even temperature all the way through, but that's only when I'm being picky. With a little olive oil, salt and pepper, just about anything will cook up wonderfully, and with little cleanup. with a pasta dish I usually plan on 1/2 - 3/4 a chicken breast per person. So with 3 people, 2 chicken breasts will be more than enough.
  • While the pasta and chicken are cooking away (stir the pasta once in a while) I started on my sauce and vegetables. In a medium frying pan, over medium heat I start to saute my garlic (that I chopped as fine as I could get it). If you don't have garlic, use garlic salt or garlic powder, if you don't like garlic, use a fresher herb flavor like basil or thyme, or just salt and pepper, whatever you prefer. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil, and add the chopped mushrooms, and zucchini (which my dad had just brought home so I decided to throw it in as well) and salt and pepper. Add a few more tablespoons of olive oil, and either stir or flip the pan every minute or so. Once the zucchini start to show some transparency, they're done (about 5-8 minutes). Put on a serving platter and set aside. You can use any vegetable, or no vegetables, you can be extremely flexable with this meal. Throw in some onions and bell peppers if you wanna be spicy, or even some chopped tomatoes (which only need a few minutes to cook, they get mushy if they cook too long).
  • The pasta should be about done (u can cut off a small piece, let cool off and taste to see if it feels cooked through to preference). If done, pull of heat, and drain, then pour onto serving platter with veges, and toss.
  • In the same frying pan over medium heat, add about a cup of cream. (I figure about 1/4-1/3 cup per serving). While stirring, let it come to a boil. I decided not to use the ricotta, since it had made the alfredo for the luncheon a little chunky, which I did not like, but I still used the shredded parmesan (about 1/2 c.). Salt and pepper to taste and as soon as the cheese has melted, you're done! To thicken the sauce, if you would like it thicker, you can add a little more cheese and/or just cook it longer, making sure to stir the bottom of the pan very well. Pour the sauce of pasta and vegetables and toss.
  • When the chicken is done (cut through the center of a breast to make sure there is no pink) transfer to a plate, slice, and place on top of the pasta platter. Garnish with parmesan cheese, and basil (if you have it, I didn't want to run to the store, so we didn't have any).
  • So this meal could've been made with a million variations, and I hope that you see, and recipe can be changed, either to fit your preference, or just to fit what you have in your kitchen, to keep you running to the store.

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pictures from Halloween..

Because of the broken computer, posts may appear much later than the time period in which they should actually have been posted. Sorry.

Mac the little dragon was m.i.a. but we still have the ninja turtle and mad scientist. Melissa had a few more pictures on her blog.

gorgeous Heidi went as a pregnant kitty, I think she pulled it off very well :)

he was doing karate moves all night, no joke..

fairy princesses

we just can't get a pictures without some beck goofball in the background :)

that was my better homes and gardens inspired pumpkin

we decided that painting was a little more 2 year old appropriate

monet was the artist I think she had in mind, there was a definite impressionism feel to the pumpkin, I can tell you that

cutest little girl ever :)
{Melissa or Heidi let me know if you want any of these pictures,
I'm guessing you'll want a few Heidi}
p.s. I love my family (especially my sister-in-laws) it's nice not only having boys to love anymore, having only four older brothers was getting a little old :)

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Friday, November 13, 2009

spend an afternoon... hiking mission peak :)

{these are phone photos, hence the odd focus and what not}

Don't know if you've heard, but I'm in love.
Last saturday we decided to do something productive with our day off, and after a debate over whether or not we thought I could actually make it to the top (Martin thought I could, I thought I could not) we just decided to go for it. With the loving support of my man, we actually made it to the top! Keep in mind it took us a very long time, and many breaks were needed (by me of course, not Martin). But the weather was perfect, and the view was amazing, and I could not have asked for a better day.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

new and exciting things...

I have a few things to boast about, and also a few things to be excited about, and I wanted to share...

First, I'd like to explain that I am a very goal oriented person. I have things I want to achieve, or learn how to do, and I usually do it. Whether it's a new years resolution, or a monthly goal, or lifetime goal, I try to keep working towards it. In the last few months I've decided that instead of waiting for the new year to roll around, and jumpstart my plans then, I would start now.
  • For anyone that is in the ward, or a member of the church even, you know that every year there is a primary program put on by the primary kids, in which there are talks, scriptures, personal thoughts, and lots of songs. Well I've been the pianist in the primary for over a year now (I actually started right before the program last year) and it has been a big deal. I've taught myself how to play over the years with a few lessons back when I was 12 and a month or so of lessons about a year ago. It wasn't until I was asked by Jim and Cindy to play for the primary, that I had really even considered playing in front of people. Because I play every sunday and usually have to practice what I'm going to be playing during the week, the level at which I can play has increased exponentially. Also, the confidence I have when I play is so much higher than in past years (although, it could still use some work). Last year I was way too nervous and not ready, so I had the wonderful Cindy play for me, but this year, I did it!! I played the whole program and let me tell you, it was not that easy. Playing them in the primary throughout the whole year wasn't even enough practice, the last few weeks I was playing through the song list almost every day. Soooooo, that's huge accomplishment #1; playing a whole set of songs (I had actually played for the primary once or twice but just 1 or 2 songs at a time) in front of a 200+ crowd (it was nerve racking for sure). I still plan on improving my piano playing abilities. Martin actually plans to have me play with him on stage sometime!! I don't know if I'll ever do it, but he is pretty adamant about making that goal of his reality. Also, watching Regina Spektor for a few hours made me realize how much I love the piano, so I wouldn't mind making it a more central part of my life.

  • {that's Regina, she's amazing}

  • I made a quilt! With no help, and no directions, and to be honest, no knowledge of quilt making, I made a quilt. I actually made it when I was in high school I think, I was about 18, but I never completely finished it (it still isn't completely finished). But I had planned to give it to someone as a gift, and I just ended up shoving it in a closet and never finishing it. Well I needed a new blanket and so this past week, I took it out of the closet, dusted it off, took out all the pins and put it on my bed. I have a small part that needs to be sewn up still, but for the most part it's done :) I'll show pictures of it soon, which takes me to my next bit of important info.

  • I have a new camera!! (Really, my mom has a new camera, but we're going to share). She's been wanting a nice camera and she finally bought one! A nikon d90 will be arriving in the mail on the 18th, and I am so excited you have no idea. When I started my blog earlier this year I had initially wanted to wait until I had a nice camera because my dream was to put together a collection of my recipes, but with professional looking pictures, not the horrible ones I've been putting up. But I decided to start with what I had. Now I'll be able to take the gorgeous pictures I've been dreaming of! Luckily I have taken a few photo classes in the past, in high school and college, so I already know a little bit of what I'm doing. Food styling will be my new expertise :)

  • {by the end of the month I should be able to show you pictures like this, which is of course, not mine}

  • My Mom and I are going to take a photography class from Nicole Hill in San Francisco, which I am just so darn excited about. She's the photographer that had a recipe contest, which I submitted my Quiche Champignon to. Here's her blog, which is wonderful.

  • Cindy asked me to put together a lunch for a church activity tomorrow, and I am currently planning on about 40 people. Not a huge number, but the fact that I was asked, and by tomorrow afternoon it will be completed, I feel like it's something to be proud of. I'm making a chicken fettuccine alfredo with mushrooms, and a sausage bolognese as my main dishes. A side of candied yams, sauteed green beans, and a pecan cranberry salad, with my favorite pumpkin pie for dessert. Recipes will follow in a few days! (A thanksgiving feel is what I was going for if you couldn't tell).

  • Martin bought a new bed (with a little help from me) so eventually WE'LL have a wonderfully comfortable bed to share. The costco brand tempurpedic (it's amazing).

  • I'm going to teach myself how to sew. I already have a little bit of common sense and know how, but not a lot of skill I guess. Currently I am looking for an affordable sewing machine, maybe even a used one, because I have big plans! As of this month I have been working on a little side project (that will remain a secret for now) but hopefully I will be selling my secret creations to you in no time!! Since I started blogging it has been of goal of mine to be able to create something that I could give and sell to others and I think I found my niche :) I've also been collecting fabrics and clothing items for years with plans to create things on my own, but I've never put in enough time and effort in to, and that's all about the change. Heidi is my partner in crime really. We both have been wanting to sew and just haven't found the time. About a year ago, we both bought fabric and patterns to make dresses and it just didn't happen, but Heidi is working on a quilt, and I just finished mine and those dresses will be next!!

  • {I think I could make a dress like this if I really put my mind to it, isn't it pretty}

  • I'm going to have a Pumpkin Cheesecake giveaway around thanksgiving, so stay tuned!!!!

  • During the month of February I will be taking a trip to Australia!!! I will be telling you much more about that in the future :)

  • Last but not least, I am so in love I can barely contain myself. Everyday I am so thankful I have Martin in my life. And most of the happiness I have and things I achieve is due to the ever so supportive, loving, caring, understanding, helpful, sweetheart of a boyfriend I have. I love you Martin :) (Martin has been very busy himself. The band is playing all over the place this month, so if you'd like to check out a show you can view his schedule here, or just take a look for fun. He's just got the website up and running this week and I am oh so proud of him. Some of the photos and collections of photos are from me. I help when I can.)

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

I have a problem...

This has nothing to do with creativity or artistic wonder, or tasty treats, just a little personal "this is what's going on." And an explanation to the lack of posts this week (also, my computer decided it no longer wants to connect to the internet this past month, perfect timing).

In the last few months I have had terrible headaches. At first I wasn't alarmed, because to tell you the truth, I always get headaches. But, they started to feel a little different than normal, and so I googled some of my symptoms. Surprisingly, I searched for "headaches that feel like you have a band of pressure wrapped around" and I was given quite a few results with people that had the same problem. They all seemed to be related to your teeth or jaw. I was actually pretty happy, because I thought, if I have an infection or something along those lines, it means it is fixable. Went to the dentist, no infection, no wisdom tooth impaction, I have TMJ syndrome (or a tmj disorder). Which just means there's something wrong with your jaw. It's not out of alignment, stress on the muscles in your jaw and in your neck can cause jaw popping, and a loss of jaw motion, and lots of other fun stuff. Well I was able to get put on my Mom's dental insurance (thank goodness I'm a student this quarter) and so at least it's not all paid for out of pocket. But it still may take a while to fix things, if things are even fixable.

The love of my life plays in a band, and I've had to limit my time at his shows (which would make my ears ring even before I came across a jaw problem) in hopes to limit my headaches. And it is a little sad, because I love to support him and hear him play at any chance I may get. You can almost count on a swelling pain around my head by the end of the day no matter what I do, and currently pain while eating a bagel. So it's been a little rough.

{Martin sent me this picture last year when he was on tour, I think this picture was taken from coney island, or somewhere east coast, we had only been dating a month or so. Lucky me to have someone fall in love so soon and have no problem showing me or anyone else.}

Thank goodness Martin is the most understanding and patient man, and all my complaining, and sometimes crying, still has yet to phase him. We go to Jamba Juice, and play Scrabble, and just relax, in hopes to keep me feeling better. I love him :) And although I wouldn't let him buy me a new computer, which he tried insisting on, he lets me use his computer, and I managed to have 30 posts last month!! It was a little goal of mine, and even with all the nonsense going on with my head, I still managed to devote time to my little blog.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

weekend end :)

The Regina Spektor concert was so so amazing! I wanted her to play hours and hours more (unfortunately she stopped after 2). It was definitely the best show I've ever been to. I would recommend to anyone to see a show at the Fox Theater in Oakland. If you sit up in the balcony it is a lovely experience because you get to sit (which I love) and you're still very close to the stage. Loved it! The love of my life took the night off work, and I had a much better time with him than I could have had with anyone else. We also went to dinner at Scott's in Oakland on the wharf, a seafood restaurant, fabulous, I recommend it. (I love you Martin p.s.)

Halloween was also very fun. Melissa, Ryan and the boys, Heidi and liz, and John, Carrie and their boys all came over to the house for some pizza and snacks and then we went trick or treating! Holidays are much better when you have toddlers to enjoy them with.

Hope your weekend has been as fabulous as mine!

Happy Monday all :)

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