What's Baking: Ostkaka (Swedish Cheesecake)


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When I first saw the theme for this month's What's Baking, Bake From Your Nationality/Heritage, chosen by Amanda from Our Italian Kitchen, I was immediately overwhelmed. What's a mutt to do?  This is a serious question people!  I was stressed out about this for over half the month!

After much debate, I settled on baking something from my mom's side of the family.  There aren't many family members left and I don't know a whole lot about their heritage (Aunt Deb, we need to work on this!).  I do know that my late Grandmother was Swedish and/or had Swedish in her.  Since I don't have many memories of her, and no memories of what she cooked, I wanted to bake something in her honor.

After some research I came across Ostkaka, Swedish cheesecake, and thought this would be a good fit with the theme and my husband's love of cheesecake.  Coincidentally, or not, I had recently picked up a jar of lingonberry preserves from IKEA, which is the perfect, dare I say traditional, accompaniment for this dessert.

I settled on this recipe from Dreaming of Winter blog mainly because I was being lazy and didn't want to use raw milk and rennet, nor did I want to convert all of the metric measurements found in most of the other recipes online.  Of course I couldn't leave the recipe alone, and made a few changes based on suggestions from other bloggers and recipes I found.  The result was a very subtly flavored cheesecake/pudding like dessert.  I'm glad that I added almond extract and extra sugar, because I think without those it would definitely be lacking in flavor.  Toasting the almonds would make this even better.

After all my initial stress, I really enjoyed this month's challenge.  In fact, I've decided to investigate and cook or bake more from my heritage in the coming months.  Amanda, thank you for sparking that interest!

Oh, and that blue plate...it was my Grandfather's.  I'm not sure if he had these when my Grandmother was alive, but I've decided to believe that is true since I don't know otherwise.

The changes I made to the recipe are included here:
  • 3 large eggs
  • 7 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • 3/4 cup 1% milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 1/4 cup 4% small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 tsp almond extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl beat eggs with sugar until well combined.  Add almonds, flour, milk, cream and almond extract.  Combine well.

Using a blender (a food process may work better), blend cottage cheese until smooth.  Add cottage cheese to mixing bowl.  Mix until everything is combined.

Pour into cheesecake pan.  Bake for 1 hour.  Place on wire rack to cool.

Run knife around edge of the pan to before remove side ring.  Serve with lingonberry preserves and/or whipped cream.

Chicken Cacciatore


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During my middle years of college I lived with my grandparents.  From time to time I liked to cook a weekend meal to give my Gram a break in the kitchen and to show them my appreciation for all they were doing for me.  Back then I was following Weight Watchers and subscribed to their Smart Choice Recipe Collection which delivered a packet of recipes on a monthly basis.  When this recipe came I knew I needed to try it, since my Gramp loves all things labeled Italian food.

This brings back a lot of memories.  I remember Gramp being the pasta tester.  Gram would get out a small plate and let a few pieces cool and Gramp would give the "OK" or "a few more minutes".  I even have the faintest memories of pasta making going on in the kitchen with one of Gramp's uncles who had visited from out of town.  These are memories I will always carry with me! 

Getting back on track, since I first started making this dish I have heavily adapted it to what it is today.  The best change being adding additional vegetables (onions, peppers and extra plum tomatoes), which I like because I can eat more without feeling guilty.  This dish has become a favorite, even winning over my sister who doesn't always care for my cooking.  Hey, I try!

Here is what you'll need: 
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 8 pieces of bone-in chicken (I think thighs are best, but I've also used legs and breasts) 
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28 oz. plum tomatoes, with juice
  • 4 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
In a dutch oven on high heat, add 1 tsp olive oil and chicken parts.  Cook chicken until well browned on all sides.  Remove from pot and set aside.

Turn heat to medium-high and 1 tsp olive oil to dutch oven.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.  Add peppers and onions, salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften.  Add garlic, and continue cooking, stirring until fragrant.

Add tomatoes, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes to pot.  Stir well.  Using thongs, squeeze tomatoes to jump start their breakdown process.

Remove skin from chicken pieces (and immediately throw that crispy stuff away before you're tempted to eat it!).  Nestle chicken into sauce and vegetables.

Cover, turn heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.  Serves 6-8.

I serve this over pasta, but you could also serve on it's own, over any type of grain.

Honey Mustard Coleslaw


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I've been experimenting with different creamy coleslaw recipes and have yet to find one I really like.  I used to follow the directions on the bag of shredded cabbage, but these days I don't buy the bag anymore.  Buying the full head of cabbage stretches into multiple meals, so that is what I do now.  This may not be a good thing for JR though! ;)

Today I wanted to make JR one of his favorite lunches, a double bacon cheeseburger.  However, I can't eat a double bacon cheeseburger without gaining 5 lbs, so I make myself a single with a vegetable side dish.  I wanted a smoky burger, so I thought a honey mustard coleslaw would pair nicely.

We both really liked the zip and mild sweetness that this had, plus I was happy to be able to keep the mayonnaise to a minimum making this fairly healthy.  This is definitely something can see us eating throughout the upcoming grilling season.

Do you have a favorite coleslaw recipe I should try?

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise with olive oil
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, shredded
Combine the mustards, honey, sugar and mayo in a large bowl.  Mix well.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until well incorporated.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 15 minutes before serving.  Serves 2.

Warm Apple Buttermilk Custard Pie


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I remember a few years back having extra buttermilk and looking for recipes to use it up.  I was tired of throwing away perfectly good buttermilk.  It took me a while to figure out there are a number of uses for it: pancakes, waffles, fried chicken, biscuits (which I don't particularly care for), and I've even used it in my macaroni and cheese.  Buttermilk pie was one thing that always seemed strange and unappealing to me.  Pie is my favorite dessert, so I finally decided to give it a try, and boy was I surprised.  It was good, really good!

Recently I had extra buttermilk and began my search for even more uses.  I thought back to that first buttermilk pie I made, and began searching for other pie variations.  When I came across this recipe I was intrigued; a cross between buttermilk, custard and crumb top apple pies.  I immediately set out to make it!

I did alter the recipe a bit, cooking the apples in brown sugar vs. regular sugar, and I used an additional apple based on the reviews I read.  I also didn't read through to the end of the recipe, so I added the crumb topping before it baked, instead of allowing to make some and then adding it.  I think the brown sugar was too much because this was VERY sweet, too sweet for me, however, adding the crumb topping early wasn't an issue!

JR loved it so much he ate two huge pieces before it even fully cooled.  I think this would be well received as a Thanksgiving pie, and may make an appearance on our Thanksgiving table this year.

The changes I made are included here:

For Apple Filling 
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 green and 1 red apple, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
 For Custard:
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
For Crumb Topping:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 pie crust (I used a frozen one)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

To make Apple Filling: In a skillet over medium meeat, melt 1/4 cup butter.  Add apples, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.  Cook 3 to 5 minutes, until tender.  Set aside.

To make Custard: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1/4 cup softened butter and 1 1/3 cups sugar, and beat until creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating until they are no longer yellow.  Add vanilla and 2 Tbsp flour, and combine well.  Pour in buttermilk and beat until smooth.  Set aside.

To make Crumb Topping: Combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl.  Cut in 3 Tbsp butter or margarine until mixture is crumbly.

Spoon Apple Filling into pie crust.  Pour Custard over Apple Filling.  Top Custard with Crumb Topping.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 70 to 80 minutes, until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 1 hour before serving.  Serves 8.

Banana Oat Bread


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I have a lot of cookbooks, and it seems that each one has just a few recipes that I like.  Weekend Cook was a gift to me and a lot of the recipes use cream of x soup, etc. so there aren't many recipes in it I use, however this one banana bread uses whole foods and is great!  Not only does it use minimal ingredients, it's quick to mix up and is a nice change from the average banana bread.

The first time I made this I thought there was no way the end result would be a bread.  I had everything mixed in the bowl and it seemed soupy, but I thought I followed the directions so I hoped for the best.  I was amazed at the result, a real bread!  After a few times making this I realized the recipe calls for ground rolled oats, but I've never ground them and I like the texture so I've kept them whole.

There have been times when I've only had 2 bananas, so I added a chopped apple or peach and it's worked beautifully.  I've also made this with and without pecans.  I prefer with pecans, but without works too (like today).

You'll want to keep a close eye on this toward the end of the baking time because the edges get dark very quickly.  I think this is due to the honey, however, dark edges don't stop me from enjoying it.

Here is what you'll need:
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 bananas, chopped
  • 1 cup pecans, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until well combined.  Pour mix into prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until knife inserted comes out clean.  Cool completely before slicing.  Serves 10.

Source: I was not able to find a link to this cookbook online.  It is a collection of recipes contributed by individuals and was a fundraiser in support of local home economics programs.  This recipe is credited to Kay Atkeison, Brookland H.S., Brookland, AR.

Veal Tagine


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A few weeks back, JR and I ate lunch at a Moroccan restaurant.  JR had a lamb and potato tagine which he loved and asked me to make at home.  Just before our lunch, we had picked up some veal stew meat at the farmer's market, so I figured I would experiment with that.  The only issue was that this cuisine is new to me.  I was going to need help from my friend Google, but wouldn't you know Caitlin's Cooking and More posted this recipe just a few days later.  While the flavorings in her version are different than what JR had, it was a starting point.

I changed the recipe by using veal, subbing potatoes for squash and using double tomatoes and no stock.  We both enjoyed this, however, we agreed we'll have to try the restaurant's dish again so I can get a better idea of what it is made of since it is quite different than this dish.  I do think I would make this version again, although I would cut back on the red pepper flakes since they were too prominent (JR's preference). 

My changes are included here:
  • 2  tsp smoked paprika
  • 1  tsp  ground cinnamon
  • 3/4  tsp kosher  salt
  • 1/2  tsp  ground ginger
  • 1/2  tsp crushed red pepper flakes (next time I will only use 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4  tsp  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb beef top round, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 4  shallots, quartered
  • 4  garlic cloves, chopped
  • 28 oz. diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 potatoes, cubed
Put spices and meat in a bowl and combine until meat is coated.
Heat dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add olive oil.  When oil is hot, add meat to the pan and sear until browned on all sides.  Push meat to sides of pan. 

Add shallots to middle of pan and cook, stirring, for a minutes until slightly browned.  Add garlic and cook, stirring all together, until fragrant.  
Add tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium-low, add potatoes, and bring to a simmer.  Cover and continue to simmer for about 30 min, until potatoes are cooked through.  Serves 4.

Knock-off Tabbouleh


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Warning, this post contains parsley!  That may not be alarming to you, but it is a big deal for me.  I really thought I didn't like parsley, so much so that I contemplating making this with cilantro, however, I decided I needed to give parsley another try.  I'm glad I did, because it's not that bad afterall.
Are you wondering why this is labeled "knock-off"?  Basically because I didn't follow a recipe, and I'm pretty sure this isn't authentic in any way.  I wanted something similar to a dish I had for lunch at a Moroccan restaurant a few weeks back, and based on what I recall of the dish I came up with this.

I served this with whole wheat pita, raw cucumbers, baby carrots, grape tomatoes and hummus.  When you stuff all of these components in the pita you have yourself a delicious sandwich!

Here's what you'll need:

  • 2 cups cooked couscous
  • 1/2 cup diced English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • ~1 Tbsp chopped mint leaves
  • ~ 1/2 cup chopped Parsley
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove minced
Combine all ingredients together in a bowl.  Let sit in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.  Serves 2 for lunch, 4 as a side.

Black Bean and Corn Salad


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Here is an easy salad I made up last summer when I was looking for something quick and easy to serve with empanadas.  I made this again recently to go with these Grilled Honey Tangerine Sandwiches.  I love that it is not only easy and delicious, but healthy and protein packed.  I always make the full recipe since this is a perfect for lunch the next day.

Here is what you need:

  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn, cooked and cooled
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 2 Tbsp diced red onion
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
Mix all ingredients together.  Chill until ready to serve.  Serves 4-6 as a side.

Lighter Vegetable Quiche


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I love quiche, but it is not a very healthy meal option.  Remember when I was talking about Chicken Pot Pie, I told you how the crust was my favorite part, but I managed to do away with a traditional crust for that recipe.  Well, I just couldn't do away with a crust for this quiche so I had to figure out another way to lighten it up.  I used my trusty cookbook to help me with ratios and then I took it from there.

I figured out that I can cut out the half and half by replacing it with a combination of low fat cottage cheese and milk, use reduced fat vs. regular cheese, cut back the quantity of cheese and bulk up on vegetables.


It took me several tries to get a consistency I liked, and I was very pleased with this one.  You can definitely play around with the flavor combination here, even add meat if you'd like, but I love to stick with a simpler vegetable and cheese version.

I know there are a lot of cottage cheese haters, but this doesn't taste or feel "cottage cheesy" at all.  Plus I'll let you in on a little secret, if you've eaten my lasagna, it's in there too.  Yep, you didn't know, and you live to speak of it!

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried minced garlic
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup chive and toasted onion cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup 1% milk
  • 1 tsp dried mustard
  • 1 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 pie crust
  • 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place crust in oven and bake for 10 minutes.

While crust is baking, add oil to a nonstick skillet and heat to medium high.  Add mushrooms and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.  Add peppers, onions and garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until softened, stirring occasionally.  Once done, remove from heat and set aside to cool a bit.

In a bowl combine eggs, cottage cheese, milk, and dried mustard and stir until thoroughly mixed.

Spoon vegetables into bottom of pie crust, layer cheese on top of vegetables, and layer egg mixture on top of the cheese.  Sprinkle flour over the top of egg mixture.

Place in oven and bake 45-50 minutes until knife inserted come out clean.  Allow to set for 10 minutes before cutting.  Serves 8.

Grilled Honey Tangerine Chicken Sandwiches


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Several years ago I was living with a friend after my condo building was uninhabitable due to a fire.  She loved to cook and always included me in her family's dinner when my schedule would allow.  I always enjoyed those dinners.  I loved being able to help her prepare the meal, and it was so refreshing to sit down to dinner with a family.  Back at the condo, I often pulled together something quick and ate in silence, aside from Lacey begging for my food.  Some days I didn't mind that, but after a while it got lonely.

I was sorting through recipes the other day and came across this Rachael Ray recipe she introduced me to, and I immediately put it on my menu for the week.  When dinner time came, I was missing one of the important ingredients, a lime, but I had lemons and tangerines - time to experiment!  While lemon seemed like the obvious choice, I decided to use a tangerine.  It worked. 

I think I need to do a side by side comparison next time to determine which I like better.  But really, what's not to love about either version of an easy weeknight sandwich dinner?

See that awful looking tomato?  Yeah, I should have skipped the tomatoes.  The looked good on the outside, but not so much on the inside.  Just another reason why I can't wait for summer and my garden.

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1 tangerine
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • A handful cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp grill seasoning
  • Toppings of your choice, we used: lousy out of season tomatoes, red onion, avocado, salsa and sour cream
  • 4 rolls
In a medium bowl add  juice from the tangerine, honey, cumin, cilantro and oil in a bowl and mix well.  Add chicken breast to bowl, stirring to coat well.  Set aside 15 minutes.

Heat grill or grill pan to medium high.  Place chicken on grill pan and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Flip and finish cooking on other side.  Be careful that you pan isn't too hot, and watch as these cook since the honey burns easily.

Once removed from the heat, let the chicken sit for a few minutes.  Then serve on rolls with your favorite toppings.