A Busy Day, part 2 – Toblerone Cheesecake

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: Desserts, January 2011

While I was munching on delicious Caramel Corn I embarked on my first attempt at baking a cheesecake. I was nervous and excited. I have eaten many a slice of cheesecake but had never tried to make one myself. My mom had inspired me to give it a try because she had made 2 incredible cheesecakes over Christmas. If she could do it so could I!

I decided on a ‘Toblerone’ cheesecake…for no other reason than that is the recipe I had and it sounded yummy.

What you will need:

1 1/4 cups of Oreo Baking crumbs

1/4 cup butter, melted

3 pkgs (250g each) cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla

3 eggs

1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping

1 bar (100g) Toblerone chocolate bar, chopped (or beaten up with a rolling pin!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together Oreo crumbs and melted butter and press onto bottom of 9 inch springform pan.

Beat cream cheese, brown sugar and vanilla.

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low/medium speed after each addition, until blended.

Pour over crust.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until center is almost set. Run a knife around the rim of the pan to loosen cake, cool before removing rim.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Spread caramel and chopped chocolate before serving.

I have to say, for one of the first times in my entire life….I am proud of myself. I am TOTALLY patting myself on the back for this one. I am also getting on the trampoline to work off the 15,000 calories I baked (and plan on sampling)  today! Yes ladies, there will be samples brought to work tomorrow…if my a$$ is growing because of my blog then SO IS YOURS! Share and share alike. 😉

I can’t believe this was my first try at cheesecake and how well it turned out!!!!

Yay me.


love, peace and chicken grease,

-A Cooped Up Chick

A Busy Day, part 1 – Caramel Corn

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: Desserts, January 2011

I’m not sure what came over me. I was supposed to get a remote car starter installed at Future Shop today but because my car is “high tech” and has a knee airbag they couldn’t do it. Found this out after wandering around Winners for an hour. I was so disappointed and depressed I decided I was going to bake a cheesecake.

ps – I have never baked a cheesecake before.

While I was picking up the ingredients for the cheesecake I remembered that my friend Mark sent me a recipe for caramel corn and the only thing I was missing for THAT recipe was corn syrup. Lo and behold what should magically appear in my shopping cart but some corn syrup. Because what goes better with cheesecake than caramel corn?

Since I wanted to munch on the caramel corn while baking the cheesecake (yes, my mind works in mysterious ways) I started with the corn.

I cannot buy the stuff in the store, not because I am so Anti-commercialism or because everything has to be homemade but because I have a nut allergy. Specifically cashews but I try and stay away from all nuts because God only knows what nuts have touched what nuts. Sorry, lost my train of thought there for a second. Yes…anything that reads “May have come in contact with other nuts” I have learned to stay away from. That statement can cover a broad range of stages in my life. I’ll save that for therapy though. The point is no “Crunch-n-Munch” for me.

First step is to pop your corn. About 1 cup of unpopped corn. I used 3 bags of natural flavor microwave popcorn since we disposed of our air popper in 1984. Make sure to sort through your bowl of popped corn for flop corn (unpopped kernels) otherwise you won’t need Dionne Warwicks psychic Friends network to tell you a dental visit could be in your future.

Next take 1 cup of butter and melt in a saucepan on the stovetop.  Add 2 cups of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of corn syrup and 1 tsp of salt.

Bring to a boil and hold the boil for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add 1/2tsp Baking Soda. The baking soda will make the caramel foam, do not be alarmed! 🙂

Keep stirring while the foam builds.

Pour evenly over popped corn. Mix as well as you can. Don’t worry if every kernel is not coated. This will be fixed in the next few steps.

Place on a cookie sheet in a preheated 250 degree oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Take out and stir around to coat more popcorn. Place back in the oven and bake an additional 15 minutes. Take out and stir again. Place BACK in the oven for 15 more minutes. You will be baking for a total of 45 minutes.

Cool on waxed paper right away…do not dilly dally! It hardens quickly.

Get your cookie sheet(s) into water immediately or you will be getting the chisel out to remove the hardened caramel.

THIS is the BOMB!! So yummy. Not sure if I should thank my friend for sending me the recipe or blame him for the guesstimated 12 lbs i’m going to gain from this sweet snack.


love, peace and chicken grease,

-A Cooped Up Chick

Sticky Chicken

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: Chicken Dishes, January 2011, Main Course

I had a great friend request a non-Martha Stewartish recipe. Something that normal people, mere mortals, could make. I think that was a compliment but the jury is still out on that.

One of my favorite easy recipes is for a marinated baked chicken dish that we call “Sticky Chicken”.

Usually I use a whole, cut up fryer chicken but since it is -32 outside and didn’t feel like leaving the warm and cozyness of my humble abode I used what I had available…boneless and skinless chicken breast.  Still turned out great but it is better with the bone-in skin-on variety.

You should start this the day before, its better if you can marinate the chicken overnight in the fridge.

In a measuring cup mix together 1/2 cup of soya sauce and 1/2 cup of Italian salad dressing. Pour 3/4 cup into a container (or large Ziploc bag). Place your chicken in the marinade and fuggedaboutit (insert bad mob accent here). Refrigerate remaining marinade for basting.

You could marinate it for 3 or 4 hours but overnight is best…the salt in the soya sauce tenderizes the chicken and the flavors really permeate the longer it can marinate.

Drain chicken and discard remaining marinade. Place chicken on a rack on a cookie sheet. The rack is very important because it stops the chicken from sitting in the drippings which would cause the skin to get slimy.

Sprinkle chicken with garlic salt and onion powder.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes (for boneless skinless) or 45-60 minutes for bone-in chicken…or until the juices run clear and the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 170 degrees.

Brush chicken occasionally with reserved marinade in fridge.

Really simple recipe with very few ingredients.  As the chicken cooks the soya/dressing marinade caramelizes and gets nice and gooey sticky (hence the name) and its awesome on fluffy basmati rice.


love, peace and chicken grease,
-A Cooped Up Chick

Hash…its not just a drug.

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: January 2011, Main Course

I remember going to P.E.I with my Nanny, my Mom and my Sister way Way WAY back in the day and every morning we would have Corned Beef Hash for breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It was THE best. Salty, potatoey goodness.

In my older years I made my own, I tried the canned corned beef (not bad) and then cooking my own corned beef (even better). Then I realized you didn’t have to use corned beef in your hash, you could use anything…bacon, ham, chorizo (a spicy Spanish sausage)

Ex. of a Chorizo Harsh I made:

You can also leave out meat altogether and have a vegetarian version.  Of course the main component and the only REQUIRED ingredient is potatoes.  Boil your potatoes first in salted water…I prefer to leave the skin on mine so make sure you wash them well before boiling.

Let them cool before dicing. It makes it easier on your hands and also ensures the potatoes don’t fall apart.

Now select your veggies and give them a rough chop. I like red and green peppers, onion and fresh button mushrooms. Feel free to experiment…shiitake mushrooms, zucchini, yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes. Whatever strikes your fancy. Pick your spices. I use a liberal amount of dill, its my favorite, black pepper, celery salt (i love the flavor of celery but hate the consistency) and garlic. Hmm. If you use fresh garlic is it still considered a spice or is it then a vegetable? Something to think about! Regardless, get your garlic ready.  Chop up your meat too. You want to have everything ready to throw in the pan because to get a good crust on your hash you want to cook it at a fairly high heat. In this hash I used Virginia Ham. It has a slightly maple syrup taste that is divine with the spices and veggies.

Heat your pan. Best to use a deep frying pan or a cast iron pan. When placing your hand about an inch above the pan you should be able to feel the heat radiating off the pan. If you do then its ready to add the olive oil. Let the oil heat up for about 30-45 seconds then add your diced potatoes. You should hear a nice sizzle. Add all your spices but do not stir the potatoes. Let them cook, undisturbed, for about 4 minutes. You WANT the crust to form and if you fiddle with them too much it won’t happen.

Now stir and add more spices. Have a light had on the salt based spices and heavier on the pepper and dill. Let cook again for another 4 minutes. Do NOT stir.

Now make a well in the center of the pan (its the hottest spot) and add a dollop of margarine. Let it melt and add your veggies in the center. Salt and pepper the veggies.

Stir everything together once the onions and mushrooms soak up the margarine. Again…let them cook. It is really hard to stop yourself from stirring but try.

After another couple of minutes make another small well in the center and add 1 tsp (or so) of olive oil and some garlic.

Add your ham or bacon or sausage and stir everything together. Give it another 4-5 minutes of cooking and its ready to eat.

This makes a great Breakfast-for-Supper option because its a balanced meal. Meat, starch and veg….and the kiddies won’t mind! Hell, they probably won’t even notice!

mmmmmm look at that CRUST!


love, peace and chicken grease,

-A Cooped Up Chick

My version of Bolognese (WITH homemade noodles!)

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: Beef Dishes, January 2011, Main Course

Wow. There are so many different versions online of Bolognese sauce.  Approximately 83% claim to be “authentic” yet they are all different in some way. I, in no way shape or form, claim this sauce as authentic. I took bits and pieces of around 8 different recipes and created my own bastardized version. All I know is that it is rich and thick and yummy. Just like I like my sauces (and my men for that matter but that is a whole different type of blog).

Funny story. A few of the sites I was perusing said to be sure to use a great red wine, if you wouldn’t drink it don’t use it. Now for any one that knows me here in lies my first problem. I don’t like wine. At all. Unless you count Boones as wine then I don’t touch the stuff! So I sent out an S.O.S on Facebook asking for help (thanks Nicole for the suggestion even though I didn’t take it! :)) and sent a BBM to my friend the wino (Oh c’mon Steph, you know you are. Love ya!). I was still very confused but went to the liquor with purpose, planning on leaving with a good red wine. I get in the store and head to the wine section. There was a nice man there stocking the shelves. He nodded and smiled. I went to the reds. Hmm’d and scratched my chin and lifted a few bottles and read a label or two then immediately turned around, looked at the gentleman and said “Ok. I’m not even going to pretend. I have no idea what I am doing. Please Help me.” He took pity on me, probably because of the deer-in-the-headlights look on my face. I told him I needed a dry red wine at a  decent price and he handed me a bottle of 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz from Argentina called Las Moras.

Don’t ask me if its any good. I have no idea.

On the way to my car I looked at the bottle and realized it had a cork. Dammit. I only use screw off bottles tops. I called my parents house from my cel phone. Dad answered and I said I needed help. I had a bottle of wine that has a cork and I need to come over so he can open it. He said “Erin. You realize its only 12:17pm right?” Great, now my Dad is planning my intervention. Apparently he doesn’t know me at all. Now had I called him and said “I can’t get the screw top off my quart of rum” then he is allowed to worry.

Luckily Dad came to my rescue (note to self: buy a corkscrew) and opened my wine for me. Time to create a sauce!

Most of the recipes had the same type of beginning so I started the same way.

Everything is better with bacon. Some recipes used bacon, some used pancetta. Since I already had bacon in my fridge (I ALWAYS have bacon in my fridge!) I just diced up some bacon and added it to a hot stock pot with some olive oil. Then I added the mirepoix (or in Italian cuisine, soffrito) which is diced onion, carrot and celery. Let this sweat down for about 8 minutes or until the onions are translucent and everything is nicely carmelized.

Now its time to add the meat. Apparently this is the great debate and has caused virtual verbal fist-fights, throw downs, smack downs and Italian grandmothers to disown family members. At least that is what it says online. Then again it also says online that Big Foot exists and that Brad and Angelina got married over Christmas. I don’t know what to believe anymore. Ok. I digress. For my sauce I used ground beef and ground lamb. I have seen recipes that used ground pork or ground veal with the ground beef but the lamb was cheapest, and i’m frugal! I think the point is to used at least 2 types of ground meat and one of them should be beef. But I say…do whatever you want or whatever you can afford. Cook your meat until browned and looks something like this:

Add the wine, about a cup. If you need some let me know, I have 3/4 of a bottle of Shiraz just sitting here. 🙂

Cook this, stirring frequently, until the wine reduces. Most of the recipes I read now called for some beef stock. I didn’t have any (well I did but it had been in my fridge so long it was almost a solid and about 8 months beyond the expiry so I threw it out) so I added a 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Whatever. Beef, chicken, its a stock…it worked. 6 of one, half a dozen of the other. Come si come ca. Carpe Diem. Its all good.

Add your choice of tomatoes. I used a can of crushed tomatoes and it turned out perfect but I am sure that diced tomatoes would have been just as great.

One thing everyone agreed on is that this has to simmer to bring out all the flavors. For a very long time…almost until the end of time. I put this pot on at 1pm ish and let it cook on low/sim until we ate at 530pm. My stomach growled the entire time because my house smelled so scrumptious. I just kept tasting the sauce, because that is what a good cook does! Plus that was the only way to shut up my gut.

Now you could end here but the recipes that called themselves “AUTHENTIC” said that you have to add milk or cream to the bolognese sauce 5minutes or so before serving so that is what I did. I turned the sauce off for about 15 minutes…to let it cool down then started stirring in whipping cream.

It was the perfect addition. It cut down on the winey taste and just tied everything together. I then turned the sauce back on simmer while I waited for the salted water to boil for the noodles. Speaking of which….on to noodle creation.

I had won a 50-25-25 draw online on my friends website and decided to invest my winnings in a pasta maker. I had always wanted one but never had the extra money to buy one…or always found a pair of shoes or a purse to buy instead.

I bought a Shulle Pasta machine on ebay. Great price and including shipping it was only $50.98!

Found another great recipe online for pasta that had a video to accompany it. Since it was incredibly simple I decided that was the one for me.

2 cups of sifted all purpose flour

3 eggs

a pinch of salt

Add the flour to your food processor and pulse a couple of times…acts just like a sifter!

Add the eggs and a pinch of salt and pulse until combined. It is going to look like slightly lumpy cornmeal but if you pinch some between your fingers it should stick together.

Upend onto a clean surface that has been lightly floured and form into a ball. Let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Cut into 4 pieces and flatten into a disc shape ( i took the following picture after I had already rolled one out into noodles…I CAN count!)

Now follow the instructions on your pasta maker or if you don’t have one use a rolling pin until the dough is really really thin. Then roll up the dough like a jelly roll and cut into desired size noodles like fettuccine or tagliatelle.

Cook the fresh pasta in boiling, salted water for only 2 minutes. Literally. If you are using dried pasta cook 5-8 minutes or until al dente.

Serve immediately.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did. Lotsa leftover sauce here at the Cooper household….no noodles though!

love, peace and chicken grease,

– A Cooped Up Chick

The best stinkin’ pizza ever

Author: Cooped Up Chick  //  Category: January 2011, Main Course

Lately while shopping the frozen food aisle I have noticed an overwhelming surge of Margherita pizzas. I had tried this variety when I traveled in Italy and found it amazing…super fresh super flavorful super good. I had the feeling it wouldn’t be so super in the frozen form so I decided to recreate what I had in Italy.

Quick history lesson:

In 1889, during a visit to Naples, Queen Margherita of Savoy was served a pizza resembling the colors of the Italian flag. Red (tomato), white (mozzarella cheese) and green (basil). This kind of pizza has been since named after the Queen as Pizza Margherita (information obtained on Wikipedia).

The best pizza is made from the best ingredients so splurge on fresh mozza, make your own dough (God bless my bread maker!!!) and use real, fresh tomatoes not pizza sauce or canned tomatoes.

For the classic recipe all that is needed is Roma (plum) tomatoes, Mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves and dough.

I added a few things and was forced to change a couple as well.

For my variety you will need (for a 12inch pizza):

3 Roma tomatoes

1 cup aged Old white Cheddar cheese

Basil leaves (this time of year I could not find fresh basil so i used fresh basil in the tube…Gourmet Garden)

sliced Mozza ball

sprinkle of salt, pepper, dried oregano

drizzle of light tasting Extra Virgin Olive Oil

First make your dough and allow to rest and proof. Use whatever recipe you have or this is a great recipe for bread machine pizza dough.

1 1/2 cups water (90 degrees)

1 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsps olive oil

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 1/4 cups bread machine flour

2 tsps bread machine yeast

Add all ingredients in bread machine pan in order as listed. Use dough setting and allow to rest under overturned bowl for 10 minutes before rolling and placing on pizza pan. This recipe makes enough dough for 2 12-15 inch pizzas (depending on how thick or thin you like your crust).

Take the 3 tomatoes and dice. Then add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and mash with potato masher. This will extract as much juice as possible out of the tomato and since we are not using a traditional “sauce” this is something we definitely want to do.

Shred your cheddar and slice your mozza.

Prepare your dough in the pizza pan. It is easiest to roll the dough on a floured surface and once it is almost at the desired thickness transfer to the pan. I have not yet mastered the art of throwing dough (spinning it on your knuckles) and many a dough ball has met an untimely death by landing on my floor. Yes I am a neat freak and a bit OCD however my floor is NOT clean enough to eat off of and for that I blame my two Chihuahuas, Mojito and Marley.

My beautiful girls!!

Nice thin crust!

If you are using the prepared Basil paste (like I had to) now is the time to add it. If you are using fresh, torn basil leaves then add them after you add the tomatoes.

Add the shredded cheddar and diced/mashed tomatoes.

Add your sliced mozza, sprinkle of dried oregano and drizzle of olive oil.

Bake at 425 degrees for 18 minutes or until cheese is browned and crust is cooked.

Slice and serve. This is without question THE best pizza I have ever made and pretty damn close to the best pizza I have ever eaten. Gourmet even! Sometimes I just sit back, with a mouth shoved full of good food and think to myself “DANG i’m good!” 😀

I hope you give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.

love, peace and chicken grease,

– A Cooped Up Chick