Saturday, January 30, 2010

What’s the Difference?

Finally the weekend—it seems as if the week leading up to the weekend just drags by, and then the weekend itself is gone in a blink of an eye! Can anyone relate? Today my parents are coming down for the day and we’re going to have a nice dinner together and just catch up a bit! So I decided to make the dessert ahead of time (yesterday) just in case it didn’t turn out. I have never made a Black Forest Cheesecake before, but I am a fan of anything with cherries and/or cream cheese so that sealed the deal!

But first, while I was in Wal-Mart the other day getting groceries for the weekend and such, I was rifling through the cream cheeses to find the lowest priced one when it hit me as to how many different types of cream cheese there was; regular, low-fat, fat-free, and Neufchatel. Of course I knew there was various types, just like most things, but I wanted to find out the difference in how they perform in certain recipes. As I was researching, I found some other interesting differences in foods that I thought you would like—enjoy!

What’s the Difference

Cream Cheese

  • Neufchatel- Real Neufchatel cream cheese hails from the town of Neufchatel France in the Normandy region.  It is a soft, unripened, somewhat salty, yet mild cheese with a fat content of 20 to 45 percent. In America, Neufchatel cream cheese has a fat content of 23 percent.
  • Low-Fat- Emulsifiers—which help ingredients stick together—and thickeners account for most of the rest of the extra ingredients needed to stabilize the cream cheese. Not a huge taste difference from the full fat version.
  • Fat-Free- Fat-free cream cheese is a good choice for some recipes but doesn't work everywhere. It is made with skim milk and the texture is not as creamy as regular cream cheese or the low-fat versions. The best use for fat-free cream cheese is to use it in a chilled dip, dressing or dessert or where it is blended into other ingredients. It can work well in baked goods also

Brown Sugar

  • Brown sugar is simply regular white sugar combined with molasses.  To make sugar, the juice from the sugar cane is boiled and the sugar crystals are then extracted.  The remaining syrup is molasses.  Dark brown sugar has a higher concentration of molasses and hence, a stronger flavor than the light brown.

Corn Syrup

  • Corn syrup is made by processing cornstarch with acids and/or enzymes.  Cornstarch is the starch harvested from the endosperm of corn kernels.  Light corn syrup has been refined to increase its clarity and remove any color.  Dark corn syrup has had caramel coloring added and has a stronger flavor.

Cocoa Powders

  • Cocoa beans are fermented and roasted and then ground to remove most of the cocoa butter, (the natural vegetable fat in the cocoa bean).  What remains is a paste called chocolate liquor.  This is dried again and ground to produce cocoa powder.  Dutch cocoa powder has been treated with an alkali which neutralizes the powder’s natural acidity.  Depending on the recipe, you cannot substitute regular cocoa powder for Dutch cocoa powder or vice versa.  The leavening effect of many baked goods requires a delicate balance of acid and alkaline ingredients.  Regular cocoa powder is acidic while the Dutch variety is neutral.

Coffee and Espresso

  • The term espresso refers to the method of making the coffee, not the beans or how they are roasted.  Nevertheless, espresso normally employs beans that are roasted more than regular coffee beans and then finely ground.  The espresso part of the equation is injecting very hot, pressurized water through the grind to produce a dark, rich cup of coffee in a fraction of the time of regular coffee.  A cup of espresso has about the same amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee BUT a “cup” of espresso is approximately 2 oz. as compared to a 6 oz. cup of regular coffee.  Thus, ounce for ounce, espresso has notably more caffeine. 

Black Pepper

  • Ground pepper, like any ground spice will lose its flavor rapidly.  Within no time it will have little taste although it might retain its kick.  It is absolutely worth buying fresh peppercorns and grinding them as needed on your dishes.  You will add greater dimensions of flavor as well as a bite to your food. 

Black Forest Cheesecake

6-8 servings


  • 1 package (8 ounces) low fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) fat free sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) fat free frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 chocolate fiber crust (recipe below) OR 1 chocolate crumb crust (8 inches)
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
  • 1 can (21 ounces) sugar-free cherry pie filling
  • Directions:

  • In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Fold in whipped topping.
  • CIMG1606

  • Spread half of the mixture evenly into crust. Fold cocoa and confectioners' sugar into remaining whipped topping mixture; carefully spread over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
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  • Cut into slices; top each slice with cherry pie filling. Refrigerate leftovers. 
  • CIMG1609

    Chocolate Fiber Crust


    • 1 c Fiber One cereal
    • 1 bag Chocolate Fudge Hybrid Cookies(pictured below)
    • 1/4 c I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
    • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
    • water as needed


    • Pulse cereal and cookies in a food processor. Add butter, vanilla, and water until completely moistened.
    • Press into 9-inch pie plate and bake on 350 F for 10 minutes.


    Info adapted from here.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Baked in a Bowl

    Can anyone agree that winter weather is becoming a tad old and it’s only January? I woke up yesterday to 35 mph winds and about 2 ft of snow drifts—no school wasn’t cancelled, so off I went like a crazy college student in a Cougar sliding through stoplights—what a great way to start the day—it sure woke me up!

    But one good thing about cold and blustery days is that it calls for warm-you-up meals! I think we all probably have some sort of meal that we grew up eating that strikes our appetite every so often. For me, it’s my mom’s homemade baked potato soup—this time I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand, so I figured it was a good opportunity to make my own twist on it. What was your favorite growing up food?

    And having soup was the perfect opportunity to showcase one of the recipes I will be teaching in my cooking class “Bisquick Bonanza”. The description of the class reads:

    No longer think of Bisquick as just an everyday baking mix. With this class, you’ll learn to add some pizzazz to this pantry staple. Appetizers, desserts, and hearty main dishes are all bounding from a box.”

    So here’s your first sneak peak at one of the recipes, and why not make this soup for an all-around great winter meal?


    Semi-Homemade Baked Potato Soup

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    Serves: 8


    • 1-11 oz bag of Bear Creek Creamy Potato Soup mix and ingredients called for on package (pictured below)
    • 8 oz pre-cooked cubed ham
    • 1 c canned sweet peas
    • 1/2 C yellow onion, sliced
    • 2 c fresh baby spinach
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper


    • Start water called for on package to a boil. Meanwhile sauté onion in a sprayed pan until translucent. (5 mins)

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    • Once water reaches a rolling boil, dump in soup mix. Stir until well combined. Pour onion, peas, and ham in.

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    • In the last 5 minutes, add in the spinach and pepper.

    Bisquick Bread Bowls

    (I recommend using the Bisquick Heart Smart mix to up the nutritionals!)

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    Serves: 5

    **You will need Pyrex or some other type of oven-safe bowl to make this recipe.**


    • 1 package regular active dry yeast
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 3/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
    • 3 cups Bisquick Heart Smart® mix


    • In large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Stir in Bisquick mix until dough leaves side of bowl and forms a ball. Turn dough onto surface lightly dusted with Bisquick mix; gently roll in Bisquick mix to coat. Knead about 1 minute or until smooth. Cover and let rise 10 minutes.

    • Heat oven to 375°F. Grease outsides of five 10-ounce (large) custard cups. Place cups upside down on large ungreased cookie sheet. Divide dough into 5 equal parts. Pat or roll each part into 7-inch circle. Shape circles over outsides of custard cups. (Do not curl dough under edges of cups.)

    • Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Tap custard cups to loosen bread bowls. Cool 3 minutes; carefully lift bread bowls off custard cups. (Custard cups and bread will be hot.) Cool bread bowls upright on wire rack.

    What’s your favorite soup?

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    A Fiery Find & First Cooking Class

    Happy Thursday finally! I actually look forward to Thursday’s more now that I have the whole day off vs a full schedule on Friday.

    I am sure you’ve heard me mention my upcoming cooking classes. If not, a little background info—I got hired about 3 months ago to teach the first cooking classes through our city’s Community Education classes. They recently built a new high school and the home ec room that I am set to use is gorgeous! It reminds me of something on Food Network! I got to customize everything from the name all the way down to every detail! I came up with 5 classes I am going to be teaching—the first one will be on February 4th—they are 3 hour demo classes with tasting and food take-home.

    The first class is Taste of the Tropics—I thought everyone in northern Minnesota needs a winter escape and what better way than through food?! I am going to use lays and clip the recipe cards for each dish for all of the students to take home.


    • Appetizer- Tropical Fruit Pizza
    • Main Dish- Soft Shrimp Tacos with Zesty Tropical Salsa
    • Side- Tropical Glazed Ham and Potato Salad
    • Dessert- Banana Spice Cake with Coconut Cream Frosting

    Since the classes are starting up soon, I have been test-driving everything just to be sure! I will be sharing the recipes/photos on here for you guys since you can’t attend my classes! Today I made the Banana Spice Cake which I came up with quite awhile ago and previously posted. It turns out better every time!


    So my mom made a trip to Sam’s Club awhile back and got me totally hooked on their Poblano Peppers with Mexican Cheese Chicken Sausages—great nutritionals, and even better yet—great taste!

    I am not one to eat sausages plain, so I got thinking of a good casserole I could incorporate them into. Something spicy—Mexican? Yes of course!

    Poblano Cornbread Casserole



    • 3 links of spicy chicken sausage
    • 1 c mild salsa
    • 14.5 oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
    • 1 c canned corn
    • 3 tsp chili powder
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/2 c diced yellow onion
    • 1/2 c diced green pepper
    • 1 pouch (6.5 oz) cornbread mix + ingredients called for on box
    • 1/3 shredded cheddar cheese


    • Heat oven to 400°F. In 12-inch skillet, cook sliced sausage over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, add in onion and green pepper until thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in salsa, , tomatoes, corn, chili powder and cumin. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly heated.

    • Meanwhile, make cornbread as directed on pouch, using milk. Put sausage mixture in 11 x 7 casserole dish. Top with cornbread and spread until it covers dish evenly.

    • Bake 18 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese; bake 4 to 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted and cornbread is deep golden brown.


    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Spring Semester and Swapping Sweets

    I think it’s finally safe to say that things around my place have returned to a normal pace. For awhile there I just felt that I didn’t even have time to sit, yet alone blog and read blogs!

    This semester I decided to take a few less credits than the previous just because my cooking classes start soo(more info on that soon) and because I want to squeeze a few more things in besides school, eating, and sleeping. I am taking some interesting classes this semester:

    • Computer Business Applications- Learning how to use different computer applications and applying them to situations we would use in the business/corporate world.
    • Marketing- This one is shadowing my major—it’s already really interesting. Learning all about the concepts, pitfalls, and strategies of marketing everything from toilet paper to food.
    • Spanish- I have already taken four years of Spanish during high school, but just my luck, a foreign language is required for my major—plomazo!
    • Astronomy- This is my only online class this semester. I basically took it to fill my last science liberal education category, although I have always been fascinated by space and such!

    What was your favorite class you took/are taking in college?

    So before the holidays were over, I signed up for a cookie swap over at Steph Chows. I was drawn to it because number one it involved cookies, and number two, they didn’t need to be made and sent out till after the holidays which is nice because things tend to get overly hectic then.

    I have millions of cookie recipes that I love, but I have millions of bags of butterscotch chips that I bought on sale awhile ago that are calling my name. That left me with the only obvious cookie choice—Oatmeal Scotchies!


    Oatmeal Scotchies


  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups quick-cooking or regular rolled oats, uncooked
  • 1-3/4 cups (11-oz. pkg.)  Butterscotch Chips
  • Directions:

    • Heat oven to 375°F.
    • Beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
    • Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in oats and butterscotch chips; mix well. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.
    • Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies.

    Verdict: I think these turned out fabulous for a flat cookie! They were chewy, plenty of butterscotch flavor, and a perfectly crisp outside.

    What’s your favorite way to incorporate butterscotch into baked goods?

    I shipped my cookies out to Val (she doesn’t have a blog unfortunately) all the way to New York. I highly suggest using a sturdy box and bubble wrap after sealing them in zip-loc baggies.


    One of the things I love about swaps is the anticipation of what your going to get! Val spoiled me with not one, but two goodies! Cherry Wink cookies and Coconut Almond Bars—both were wonderful. Cherries are one of my favorite flavors and who can resist a chewy almond bar?

    Hope your having a great Monday even if you didn’t have the day off!

    Want to win a Vita-Mix blender? Of course you do..who wouldn’t?! Click here now for a chance.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    NuVal for the New Year

    If you’ve ever visited the healthy lifestyle blog, Carrots n Cake (Check out her new blog as well, Trading Up Downtown), you have probably heard of the company NuVal that Tina recently joined. I thought it was a great program from the get-go, and decided the concepts of their idea of healthy living would be perfect for the healthy New Years resolutions that many people strive for. Now that January is half way done, maybe your already lagging on the healthy eating front—if so NuVal is just one of the many nutritional tools available for your use and benefit in 2010.

    NuVal in a nutshell--

    • Developed by an independent panel of nutrition and medical experts, the System helps you see – at a glance – the nutritional value of the food you buy.
    • The NuVal System scores food on a scale of 1-100. The higher the NuVal Score, the better the nutrition.
    • Where can you find the NuVal scoring system? It is currently at Price Chopper, Meijer, and HyVee grocery chains—you can also suggest a store on the NuVal website.
    • You can even see how your current eats rate on the NuVal scale by clicking here. Find out even more nutrition by the numbers by becoming a member which is free!

    So I decided to pick a few of the foods I’ve been eating quite a bit lately to see what my nutritional numbers are based on NuVal’s system. How do you think your foods would be rated on NuVal’s nutritional number scale?

    • Egg beaters 100% liquid egg white= 26

    I was somewhat shocked by the low count for the Eggbeaters, but regular eggs are only 33, so not a huge difference—I would have thought eggs would have been in the 50-70’s range! Also if you do prefer Eggbeaters over regular eggs, you could choose to go with the ones mixed with yolks which would boost the nutritional number score to 36.

    Clif Luna Bars







    I thought since one of my main snacks on my vacation last week was Luna bars I’d see what they were rated. Unfortunately not too high at all which surprised me since they have so many vitamins and minerals in them.

    • 8th Continent Light Vanilla Soymilk=82

    • Regular fat-free milk=91

    Not a huge difference between soymilk and fat-free dairy milk, which brings me again to this post.

    • Butternut Squash=100

    Who knew a few sprays of FF cooking spray and 40 short minutes in the oven could produce a healthy squash fry?!

    What tools do you use to implement healthy eating choices?

    **All information adapted from**

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    SeaWorld and Busch Garden Getaway

    This trip to Florida I really saw a lot of stuff—Universal Studios and now Busch Gardens and SeaWorld. I was really looking forward to SeaWorld because I am fascinated by the underwater world and I really wanted to see dolphins because I have never seen a real one! SeaWorld definitely wasn’t as busy as Universal Studios, but there was still plenty to see! Have you been to SeaWorld?

    The first stop was a necessary viewing of the dolphins! I would love to swim with them sometime, but this time the water would have been freezing!



    We also got to see the manatee rescue exhibit, penguins (and a really weird furry one!), seals and sea otters which I got a cool video of, Shamu, walk underneath the shark tanks, alligators, crazy looking fish, and we didn’t get to see the Polar exhibit because it was closed to take down the Christmas additions.







    Weird furry penguin (Anyone know what he is called?)







    Seals and Sea Otters (video to come soon!)


    Overall, SeaWorld was a great place to visit, but I would advise buying your tickets ahead of time—number one, they were way cheaper, number two, you will bypass the ticket lines which is nice!


    I was curious to see if I would like Busch Gardens because the last time we visited Florida, we had overheard mixed and negative reviews, but we got a double ticket which paired SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, so we figured we might as well!s


    It definitely is more of a theme park rather than a zoo which is what I was expecting. There is still tons of animal exhibits and things to see, just a lot more rollercoaster's and rides. For me, I could care less about the rides because I get sick anyway, so we just took in all the rest of the things to see.

    My favorite part was definitely watching the orangutans—they were munching on apples and lettuce and came right up to glass where I could get great pictures and an up-close video!



    We wanted to take him home, but instead we had to settle for a stuffed orangutan.


    Then we decided to take a Sky Ride to get a birds eye view of the park and all of the animals from up high.



    Besides the fact that it was a bit colder up there, it was a fun time!! Then we saw even more animals—and the cool thing was they were all so close to us and it made it easier to get pictures.










    And last were the zebras


    We came to the conclusion that we would recommend Busch Gardens as a place to visit if you’re in the area!

    It took us about 3 hours or so to browse the park. Then we left and decided to start the 1 hour trek back to Orlando. Before we left, we grabbed something to eat at I-Hop across the street. I debated on getting a big breakfast with pancakes for dinner, but again I felt like eating chicken—their lemon garlic grilled chicken with red skinned potatoes and broccoli was just the right amount!


    Be back soon once I get settled with spring semester!

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Flea Markets and Universal Studios Fun

    Sunday the sunny Florida skies decided to disappear behind the clouds which left us the perfect opportunity to hit up the flea markets. We hit up the 192 flea markets and the Maingate flea markets which are both located in Kissimmee. I absolutely love scrounging for random things and of course getting major  bargains. I didn’t go crazy buying stuff like past years because I finally realized I don’t like stuffing it in my suitcase. I did find a nice watch for only $8 though!

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    I almost wish we had flea markets back home. Do you ever go to flea markets?

    And lucky for me I found a Cold stone right around the corner. I got Sinless Sweat Cream flavor mixed with Pumpkin flavor, blueberries, and cinnamon. Really good combo!

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    Monday we took a short drive into Orlando to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures. I haven’t been there for three years now, so I was looking forward to seeing everything again. Unfortunately, the weather was only in the high 40’s—I just can’t escape this cold weather, but it seems like it’s everywhere in the US right now. What are your temps where you are?


    Up first was Islands of Adventure which is more of the theme park rides.




    Comic Strip land was really cute! I love reading comics in the Sunday newspaper.


    The highlight of the day was Dr.Seuss land—I used to read all of his books when I was younger!



     Grandma and I!


    And couldn’t forget about my first love, Spongebob!


    Then we headed to Universal Studios park.


    We went on the Twister ride which simulates a tornado from the movie Twister—fire, wind, rain, loud noises—it was intense! I have a few videos from the trip, but I forgot the cord to the computer, so it’ll be up when I get home. =) The ET ride is another one of my favorites—I always would see it on commercials when I was younger and now I’ve been on it a few times, so it’s neat! Jaws is another one of the good ones you’ll want to experience. You do get wet, so we skipped it this time unfortunately. I still snuck a picture with him though!


    All of that walking definitely worked up an appetite, so we headed out to find somewhere to eat. If I had a choice of restaurants, I would usually choose a buffet just because I am one who likes to pick and choose. We found Ponderosa Steakhouse which was a really good deal and great tasting food. For $9.99 here’s what I got--

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    Grilled chicken breast with a baked potato

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    Big plate of assorted veggies

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    I thought that was a pretty good deal for such a good and healthy meal—we ended up eating there almost every night of our trip being it was so close to the hotel.

    Also, when I am on vacation, being the ice cream connoisseur that I am, I always try to scope out different ice cream places I don’t have back home. I chose to stop at TCBY which I’ve heard raves about, and now I know why! It was divine!

    Large peanut butter frozen yogurt with waffle cone pieces hit the spot. 


    Have a great weekend everyone!