Blueberry Iced Green Tea

How is the weather in your parts? Here in Ohio, it has been unseasonably warm! As I speak, there is not a single fleck of snow to be seen! This time last year we were buried deep in snow and freezing our tushies off in subzero temperatures. I can’t be happier (cannot stand the cold!) :)

So anyway, about this drink- I love hosting dinners at our home, and I love to serve nontraditional foods at these get-togethers. I first tried my hand at this (recipe found at Closet Cooking) delicious Blueberry Iced Green Tea (along with a mango shake) at an Iftar (break fast) party this past Ramadan. It was a hit and gone in no time. Since then, I’ve made this countless times and it is always a something that gets rave reviews and requests for the recipe. It is quick to throw together, and is a great alternative to serving soda at gatherings!

 

BlueberryIcedGreenTeaPic

Blueberry Iced Green Tea

Yield: 8 Cups

Ingredients:

For Blueberry Syrup:

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ lemon, juiced

For Iced Tea:

  • 8 cups water, divided
  • 4 green tea bags
  • Ice, to serve

Directions:

Make Blueberry Syrup:

Place blueberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and strain the mixture into a container (discard solids). Mix in lemon juice and set aside to cool.

Make Iced Tea:

Pour 2 cups water in a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add ½ cup water and tea bags. Steep for 10 minutes. Remove and discard tea bags.

Stir in remaining 5½ cups water and prepared blueberry syrup. Refrigerate until ready to serve, adding ice as needed.

Honey Pecan Granola

I was never a fan of granola growing up. Over time, however, my tastes have evolved, and now I’m a big fan (probably has something to do with my love for all things crunchy). I love snacking on it parfait-style, sandwiched between layers of creamy Greek yogurt and sweet and juicy strawberries. It makes a great snack and breakfast, and it is SO easy to prepare!

(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)

HoneyPecanGranolaPic

 

Honey Pecan Granola

Yield: 4 ½ Cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 ½ cups pecans, coarsely chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup honey

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F and set aside a parchment lined baking sheet.

In a large bowl, combine oats, pecans, and salt and mix well. Set aside.

Combine butter and honey in a saucepan and warm over medium-high heat, until the mixture attains a runny consistency. Pour the butter and honey mixture over the oat mixture and mix well, making sure that it is evenly coated. Transfer oats to the baking sheet, spread in an even layer, and bake until lightly golden, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Allow granola to cool completely on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

New York Cheesecake (…and some musings)

I know this is a food blog, and maybe I shouldn’t be delving into these things, but I’ve had a lot on my mind lately…

As we all know, the political climate in America (and around the globe) has been burning hot. Things were simmering for quite some time, but the simmer has erupted into a full boil and is threatening to spill over.

Here in the States, we are looking into the face of a xenophobic, islamophobic, racist, hate-mongering, modern day fascist. The Republican frontrunner (?!) has brought out a very nasty side of our fellow Americans. I am so disappointed and saddened by the way my countrymen have responded to these times of trials and tribulations. Instead of coming together and supporting one another, we are being torn apart.

Places of worship are being desecrated, Muslims are being harassed in the streets and their schools, Muslim women are being targeted for wearing their religious head covering.

People that we grew up with, who know us, are responding to us with vitriol. I just feel so hurt and disappointed.

You guys, we are one. We bleed the same blood. Don’t let hate drive a wedge between us. We are better than that.

***

Cheesecake is something that I’ve been struggling with and wanting to conquer for quite some time. The last time I attempted making a standard cheesecake was in Spring 2013, when my father and mother were visiting. My Papa was a fan of cheesecake, and it was for him that I attempted to take a shot at it. The crust was slightly burnt and super soggy, and the surface was majorly cracked, but my dad savored and relished each bite.

This time around, I made sure to do my research before I got started. I went through and read about various tips and techniques, and I also reached out to the Cheesecake Queen herself, Faaiza of Modest Munchies, for some pointers (take a look at her impressive roundup of cheesecakes!). The following are techniques that will ensure you get the perfect cheesecake:

  • Be sure to grease your pan! Most recipes don’t call for the springform pan to be greased, but to help prevent cracking, make sure you’re greasing the sides. The science behind it is that as the cheesecake cools, it contracts inwards. If the sides aren’t greased, the cake will stick to the sides and crack as it contracts.
  • Use room temperature cream cheese and eggs.
  • After the cream cheese has been mixed well with the sugar, swap out your mixer/whisk for a mixing spoon and gently mix the remaining ingredients. Do not overmix!
  • Once you’ve poured the batter into the pan, tap the pan on the counter a few times. This helps release any air bubbles that could potentially lead to crackage (awesome tip from Faaiza!).
  • Low and slow baking is the way to go! Skip the water bath, and bake according to the directions on the recipe. Once the time is up, turn off the heat, and allow the cheesecake to cool down in the oven itself. The point behind this is that it allows the cheesecake to cool slowly, thus avoiding abrupt temperature changes, and eventual cracks.
  • If all else fails, cover that baby up with some fruit or whipped cream and call it a day :)

(Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.)

 

NewYorkCheesecake

New York Cheesecake

Yield: 1 9-inch Cake

Ingredients:

For Cheesecake:

  • 15 leaves graham crackers, crushed
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 pounds (4 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

For Topping:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Make Cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 325°F and set aside a greased 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, and cinnamon and mix until thoroughly combined. Transfer mixture to prepared springform pan, and press the crumbs onto the bottom. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar and whisk until smooth. Using a mixing spoon, add whipping cream and mix until just combined. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring only until combined. Add sour cream, all-purpose flour, and vanilla. Stir until just combined. Pour batter into springform pan and tap on the counter a few times to release any air pockets.

Bake for 70 minutes, and then turn off the oven. Allow the cake to cool in the oven, without opening the door, for 6 to 8 hours. Transfer to fridge and chill until ready to serve, at least 4 hours.

Make Topping:

Combine sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Spread evenly over chilled cheesecake.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

I fell in love with the flavor of pumpkin a few years ago (here are just a few of the goodies I like to make with the flavorsome squash). I’ve been experimenting with it a bit more this season, and this delicious, moist, and autumn-centric Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread was a result of said testing. It pairs well on its own, or alongside a mug of steaming tea or coffee, and it is Zuni-approved ;)

(Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.)

 

PumpkinChocolateChipBreadPic

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Yield: 1 Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon ground all-spice
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F and set aside a greased loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat together sugar, pumpkin puree, oil, water, and eggs until smooth.

Add all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and all-spice. Stir to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 60 to 80 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Allow bread to rest for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

We went apple picking with a group of friends a few weeks ago, and we came home with a 15-pound bag of apples. I had so many ideas of what I wanted to do with all of the apples (crisps, cobblers, pies, loaf cakes, bundt cakes, fritters, etc.), but alas we ate most of the apples as is, in all of their juicy, crisp, and sweet glory :)

While I’ve set aside a few apples for a pie (a must in Autumn!), I decided to make a batch of cinnamon rolls studded with diced apples. The combination of apples and cinnamon is one that I cannot resist, and it’s one of the reasons I look forward to the harvest of the fall season.

(Recipe adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.)

 

AppleCinnamonRollsPic

 

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Yield: 16 Rolls

Ingredients:

For Filling:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 apples, peeled, cored, and diced into ½-inch chunks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

For Dough:

  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 ½ – 6 ½ cups all-purpose flour

For Glaze:

  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk or heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Make Filling:

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add apples and salt and cook until slightly softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add brown sugar, all-purpose flour, and cinnamon, and stir to thoroughly combine. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the apples are cooked through and the mixture is thick, about 5 minutes. Remove apple mixture from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Set aside and cool completely before using.

(Note: Filling can be made beforehand and kept in the refrigerator.)

Make Dough:

Scald milk in a saucepan over medium heat (when milk is warm and small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Do not boil.). Pour milk into a large bowl, and add butter, sugar, and salt. Mix until thoroughly combined. Allow milk mixture to cool until lukewarm.

Add eggs and yeast, and mix until combined.

Add 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour, and knead on low speed for several minutes. Add additional flour, up to 1 cup, in increments, until the dough begins to clear the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky. Knead for an addition 2 minutes.

Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl, cover, and set aside until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.

Line two 9-inch baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.

Punch dough down and divide into two portions. Roll each portion out, on a lightly floured surface, into a large rectangle, about 12” x 15”. Spread apple filling evenly over each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border along the edges. Begin rolling at the long end, trying to keep as much of the filling inside the roll. Once rolled, the edges can be pinched together to form a seal.

Using a sharp knife, cut off and dispose of the ends of the roll. Divide each log into 8 portions, and slice.   Place the rolls in the pans, spaced no more than 1-inch apart, cut side up. Any leaked filling can be spooned over the tops of the rolls. Cover lightly, and set aside to rise until doubled, about 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Once rolls have risen, uncover and bake until golden around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.

Make Glaze:

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk or cream, and vanilla, until smooth. Drizzle over slightly cooled rolls.