Red Velvet Cheesecake

Dear Pregnancy Cravings,
   Thank you for not being weird. I do not crave pickle and peanut butter sandwiches. I do not crave a grilled cheese with m&ms in it. I do not crave eating dirt and chalk. Thank you for keeping my cravings in a delicious and decadent food category: sweets! While my ass will surely hate you by the end of this, my stomach thanks you until the end of eternity!

What do you do when you crave cheesecake, and chocolate cake at the same time? You look up the recipe for Cheesecake Factorys Red Velvet Cheesecake- thats what you do!

What do you do when you look at the recipe and see they suggest you take two days to make it and you want it like NOW?    Panic! And then look for a suitable substitute!

I found a beyond suitable sub for the no-words-can-describe-how-good-this-is cheesecake. It is a spin off of a marble cheesecake I found on Bettycrocker.com. In this recipe, you use boxed chocolate cake mix, add cheesecake, and swirl it into a pretty design for your guests. Or... you can do what I did... and just slop it all on there (who cares about pretty right now- you want cheesecake!)

Oh yes, it really does turn out that red!
Red Velvet Cheesecake
adapted from BettyCrocker.com

* 1 box chocolate cake mix
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
* 3 eggs
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 8 oz cream cheese, softened
* 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
* 8 oz sour cream
* 3/4 cup whipping cream

To Make:
* Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 dish.
* Reserve 1 cup dry cake mix- set aside. In large bowl, beat remaining cake mix with butter and 1 egg until dough forms. Press into greased pan. Do not bake crust yet! (Um, cake batter as cheesecake crust- Betty you have my heart!)
* Now, it says in same bowl to mix the following- but clean the bowl first if you do want to make it pretty and swirly. I forgot and there was still some bright red crust mix in the bowl, so instead of turning out pure white cheesecake, it turned out pink. Dur. Ok, so in a new clean bowl, beat sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla until smooth. Beat in the remaining two eggs, sour cream, and 1/4 cup whipping cream. Reserve 1 cup of this mixture, pour the rest over the crust.
* Combine the 1 cup reserved cake mix and 1 cup reserved cheesecake mixture together with remaining 1/2 cup of whipping cream until smooth
* Spoon the chocolate cheesecake mixture over the plain mixture in the pan. Swirl with a knife to make a pretty design- or just spread it all out if you don't much care about the look of it.
* Bake 32-40 minutes until a knife comes out clean from about 1-inch away from the edge of the pan. The middle will still be gooey and will continue to cook after pulled from the oven.
* Put on a cooling rack for 30 minutes, then play in fridge for about 4 hours. Yes, this is a long time to have to wait for this yummy dessert, but it will be worth it, I promise!
* Serve on a platter with some homemade whipped cream if you desire, or just eat it straight from the pan with a fork like I do! The choice is yours- make it a good one :) Also, have a tooth brush handy- it may stain your tongue with a tangy red tint! This is only further proof that you've treated your much-deserving-self to some indulgence that day :) Wear it proudly!

And I'm Back! With Gumbo!


   I pride myself on giving you simple, easy dishes to complete when you're in a bind or just don't feel like putting in a lot of effort into meals. My recipes never include a lot of ingredients, never take more than an hour, and the results are always tasty- plus you can probably pull most of them off with the ingredients you have in your pantry already!

  This recipe is not one of those recipes. This recipe is for the day when your significant other says "Don't worry babe, I'll make dinner one night this week!" Wait? Your man doesn't say that either? Hmmmm... ok well this recipe is for when you say "Honey, if you don't make me dinner this weekend, you are going to have to take me to the Opera (Ballet, Shoe Shopping, Decoration Shopping, Furniture Shopping, Chick Flick, etc)!" Use whatever venue or activity puts the Fear of God into your man- each one is a little different- and feel free to get creative!

   This recipe is my husbands. He hand-picked it out of a cookbook his father gave us and its his favorite thing to make (and might I say, he knocks it out of the park every single time!) This recipe comes from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen cookbook. We were lucky enough to eat at his restaurant, K Paul's, when we were in NOLA in May- and I'd recommend it to anyone! Make sure you save your husband plenty of time- he will need it to prepare this gourmet masterpiece- it always takes Chris 1.5-2 hours of loving labor to complete it (leave time for the inevitable kitchen mishaps that are sure to happen by letting him loose in the kitchen all by himself!)

Here it is: Chicken and Andouille Smoked Sausage Gumbo by
Chef Paul Prudhomme
as cooked by Chris Protos!
Photo by Kyle Byrd
* 1 (2-3 lb) chicken, cut up (we use chicken breasts)
* Salt
* Garlic powder
* Ground red pepper (preferably Cayenne)

* 1 cup finely chopped onions
* 1 cup finely chopped green bell peppers
* 3/4 cup finely chopped celery
* 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (again, preferably Cayenne)
* Vegetable oil for deep frying
* 7 cups basic chicken stock
* 1/2 lb andouille sausage or any other good pur smoked pork sausage (kielbasa)
* 1 teaspoon minced garlic
* Enough rice to accommodate the number of people you are feeding - boxed stuff is fine. This gumbo recipe makes about 6 main-dish portions.

To Marinate Chicken:
* Remove excess fat
* Rub a generous amount of salt, garlic powder, and red better on both sides of each piece, covering evenly
* Let stand at room temperature for minutes

To Create Chicken Breading:
* Medium size bowl, combine onions, bell peppers, celery- set aside
* Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper in a plastic bag.
* Add the chicken pieces and shake until chicken is well coated
* Reserve 1/2 cup of the flour
* In a large heavy skillet, heat 1/ 1/2 inches of oil until very hot. Fry the chicken until crust is brown on both sides and meat is cooked (about 5-8 mins per side). Drain on paper towels
* Pour the hot oil into a measuring cup, leaving as many of the browned particles as possible in the pan
* Return 1/2 cup of hot oil into the pan

To Create the Roux
* Plan pan over high heat with oil. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup reserved flour.
* Cook, whisking constantly, until the roux is dark red-brown to black, no more than 5 minutes.
* Remove from heat and add veggies, stirring constantly
* Return pan to low heat and cook until veggies are soft, about 5 minutes

To Create the Gumbo
* Place the stock into a 5 1/2 quart saucepan or large dutch oven, bring to boil.
* Add the roux mixture to the boiling stock, stirring until it dissolves.
* Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in sausage and minced garlic.
* Simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes, stirring often towards the end of cooking time. (Be sure to start your rice during this time as well!)
* While the gumbo is simmering, dice the chicken and stir the chicken in
* Adjust the seasoning with salt or pepper if needed and serve immediately over rice

This recipe does pack a little punch- add more cayenne if you want it super spicey! We like it to where we just break a small sweat! It is worth every minute of cooking time- I promise :)  So now that you are feeling adventurous- go! Go- tell your husband he's cooking this weekend :)


Cooker Takes a Break

Hello All!

Forgive me yet again for not posting a lot lately. We are in the midst of the move to Florida, and will be leaving in just a few short days! I promise there will be plenty of posts once I have a kitchen again (but first we have to find a place to live!)

In honor of us moving for the sake of the military, I leave you with some very patriotic snacks that Chris found in his MRE (meal ready to eat- what our brave eat while in the field- they are gross) he brought home for us to try!

Yes, thats right: Patriotic Animal Cracker Cookies! USA, American Flag, Uncle Sams Hat, and the Statue of Liberty and her Torch! They tasted like freedom! Mmmm Mmmm!