The Weekend Gourmet: 3/27/11 - 4/3/11 F

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies...and a Green & Black's Chocolate Cookbook Giveaway!!

I love food. Unless it's olives or liver. But if you're talking chocolate? Yes, please...the more, the better!! I was thrilled when Green & Black's organic chocolate recently sent me a copy of their latest cookbook, Ultimate Chocolate Recipes and a few bars of their delicious chocolate to whip up a recipe to share with y'all. One of my readers will also win their own copy of this fantastic cookbook and two bars of Green & Black's organic Free TradeTM certified chocolate to create their own little bit of chocolate paradise! And really...isn't that someplace we all like to visit?

There were so many recipes that caught my eye as I flipped through the book, but one stood out: Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies. Seriously? What's not to like. Dark choclate brownies studded with chunks of white chocolate and topped with a cheesecake swirl and fresh raspberries! Oh my. These brownies are sinfully good...and I mean that in the best possible way. The brownie is dense and rich, with white chocolate chunks. The topping is creamy and not-too-sweet, which allows the tart raspberries to shine through.

Let me cut to the chase and simply put it this way: You must try this recipe. Now. 

Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies
from Green & Black's Ultimate Chocolate Recipes

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 and line an 8x8 pan with parchment. Melt 2.5 sticks of butter and 6 ounces Green & Black's 70% dark chocolate in the microwave. This takes about 2 minutes; stir well to combine into a smooth mixture. Isn't this lovely? Set aside to cool for a few minutes while you get the rest of the brownie components going.

Step 2:  Add 1 3/4 cups light brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and a pinch of salt to a large mixing bowl. Whisk well to combine. Pour the cooled chocolate mixture on top and mix until smooth. Beat five large eggs in a separate bowl; add to the brownie mix, along with 2 tsp. vanilla and 3.5 ounces chopped Green & Black's white chocolate. Whisk well to combine and pour into the parchment-lined pan.

Step 3:  Make the cheesecake mixture by combining 11 ounces softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 2 large eggs until creamy. I did this in my Kitchen Aid using the whisk attachment. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the brownie mixture in the pan, making an even layer. Use a knife to create marbled swirls. Add 6 ounces of raspberries on top. I laid individual berries on top and pushed them into the batter to ensure an even distribution of the berries.

Step 4:  Bake until the middle of the brownies is just set. For me, this took about 50 minutes...but the cookbook says 30-40 minutes. Just go by sight...the cheesecake topping should be golden brown, and the middle should just barely wiggle. Place aluminum foil on top of the pan and let the brownies cool on the counter for about an hour. 

When the brownies have cooled, carefully remove them from the pan using the parchment as a sling. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut into 16 brownies. If you're like me? Sample one and let your eyes roll back in your head.

Step 5:  Place the brownies on a serving plate. If you aren't serving them right away, I recommend storing them in the fridge. Simply remove about 15 minutes before you're ready to serve to allow them to come back to room temp. Aren't these brownies just lovely, with all those layers of flavor? 

The brownie layer is dense with a very pronounced chocolate flavor since it has only 1/2 cup of flour. The chunks of white chocolate provide a nice, sweet counterbalance. The topping is slightly creamy, and the raspberries provide a nice tart bite. Add it all up, and you've got an amazing brownie on your hands. It doesn't hurt that they also look very pretty on the plate!

Now here's YOUR chance to win a copy of Green & Black's Ultimate Chocolate Recipes and two bars of Green & Black's chocolate to bake with. Simply visit the Green & Black's website. Come back and leave a comment telling me which two flavors you'd like to try and how you'd use them in a recipe. For a second entry, like Green & Black's on Facebook. For a third entry, become a follower of The Weekend Gourmet (or let me know that you already follow this blog). That's up to three separate comments for up to three entries! The contest is open until Friday, April 8th. The winner will be announced next Saturday. Good luck...

To whet your appetite further, I'll leave you with a few more recipes from the cookbook that caught my eye:
  • White Chocolate and Blackberry Cupcakes
  • Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake
  • Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Cake
  • Truly Gooey Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies
  • Velvet Salted Caramel Chocolate Torte
That's just a sampling of the wonderful recipes in this cookbook! I'm sure I'll be featuring several recipes in here in the coming months, so stay tuned...gotta spread the calories around a bit.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Two-Step Greek Ranch Dip...Perfect With Pita Chips!

One of my favorite things to munch on at parties is chips and dip...especially ranch dip!! If you've read this blog for very long at all, you know that I love to feature interesting flavor combinations in the foods that I cook. That goes for my dips too...I want lots of flavor and textures to tantalize my tastebuds.  I came up with a unique Greek spin on ranch dip for a holiday party a couple of years ago.

It was a big hit with everyone at the party, and I've made it a few other times since then. Everyone seems to enjoy the combination of flavors and textures in this dip. Keep in mind that olives are near the top of my Foods I Won't Touch list, but feel free to add some to this dip if you're an olive lover. I won't hold it against you...promise!

Two-Step Greek Ranch Dip

Step 1:  In a large mixing bowl combine: 8 ounces lowfat sour cream, 8 ounces plain Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup seeded diced roma tomato, 1/3 cup seeded diced cucumber, 3 sliced green onions, 1/2 cup crumbled feta, the juice of one lemon, and a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix. Stir well to evenly combine the ingredients.

Step 2: Refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors combine. FYI, the flavor of this dip is best if you let it chill out in the fridge overnight. When you're ready to serve, simply spoon the dip into a bowl with your favorite pita chips on the side. 

That's it...this takes about 10 minutes to whip up, and that time is spent mostly chopping up all the veggies! This would be the PERFECT appetizer to take to a Final Four watching party this weekend. The creamy feta and crunchy veggies are great additions...and the ranch dip mix provides the perfect amount of seasoning. Pita chips are perfect for this dip because they have the heft to stand up to this chunky dip...I've found that potato chips tend to break under the weight of this dip!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Strawberry-Cream Cheese Quick Bread...With Strawberry Whipped Butter

It's safe to say that strawberries are my absolute favorite fruit...I'm a very happy gal when spring comes and the red, juicy berries are back in season!! Michael loves them much that he came home from work one night this week with three containers of strawberries. I had also picked up a container on my home that day, so we suddenly had a LOT of strawberries on hand at Casa Garcia. A fridge full of strawberries meant we enjoyed eating a lot of strawberries this week. Good thing they're healthy as well as delicious!!

Some made their way into the salad featured on my Newman's Own video post, while others were added to breakfast cereal and on top of yogurt. Despite eating strawberries every single day this week, I still had most of the last container in the fridge this morning. I decided to use them to bake up a little treat. After thumbing through cookbooks and looking online, I decided on a strawberry quick bread recipe from the King Arthur Flour website. 

Never being one to leave well enough alone, I decided to add a layer of strawberry-infused cream cheese to the middle of the loaf. Then I had another idea! I also made some delicious whipped strawberry butter to serve on the side. The combination is pure strawberry it Love at First Bite if you will! This bread is very easy to whip up, and your kitchen will smell heavenly while the loaf bakes. It's sweet enough for a snack or light dessert, but is just healthy enough for a take-along breakfast.

Strawberry-Cream Cheese Bread with Strawberry Whipped Butter
adapted from King Arthur Flour's website

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350. Grease and lightly flour a 9x5 loaf pan. Make the cream cheese layer by using a mixer to combine the following ingredients: 6 ounces softened cream cheese, 2 tbs. strawberry jam, 1 egg, and 1/3 cup sugar. Set aside in the fridge while you make the batter.

Step 2:  Combine the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl: 1 stick melted butter, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup sugar, the zest of two lemons, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Whisk well to combine.

Add 1/3 cup milk, 1.5 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon to the wet mixture. Whisk well to combine. Carefully fold 1 cup chopped strawberries into the batter.

Step 3:  Add half of the batter to the prepared loaf pan. Pour the cream cheese mixture down the center. Top with the remaining batter and smooth carefully. Use a butter knife to swirl the batter and cream cheese.

Step 4:  Bake for 55-60 minutes, until the loaf is golden and a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean. While the bread is baking, make the strawberry butter. Combine 1/2 stick softened butter, 2 tbs. whipped cream cheese, 2 tbs. strawberry jam, 2 finely chopped strawberries, and 1/3 cup powdered sugar in a bowl. Whip with a mixer until well combined and fluffy. Spoon it into a small ramekin and refrigerate to firm up.

After the bread has cooked, let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on a rack for at least an hour. To serve, slice with a sharp serrated knife. The bread is moist, with pieces of strawberry and a ribbon of strawberry-flavored cream cheese.

Serve the bread with the whipped strawberry butter on the side. The bread is delicious without it, but the flavored butter takes it over the top. And sometimes? That's just what you need...

And other times? Something is so tempting that you just have to have a bite...or two...even if you're setting up your shot! Yes...those are my bite marks in the slice of bread on the plate. At least I took time to wash my hands before taking the pic...

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