Thursday, March 26, 2015

tbt Easter Cheesecakes


Since 2008, I've had a tradition of baking a cheesecake every year for Easter.  It started when I was in college – we didn't get a long weekend for the holiday, so I’d stay up in Gainesville and celebrate with my friends.  Those first two years I made the same flavor – apple caramel using this recipe


In 2010 I decided to switch it up and try out this amaretto cheesecake.  It came from the book Cheesecake Extraordinaire – the recipe is outlined here on Melinda Lee’s food blog – but I added more slivered almonds to the top.     

After that, I kept up the tradition with my family.  In 2011 I made a chocolate raspberry flavor (and at that point I had a better camera too!) I followed this recipe from Cuisinart, but tweaked the crust to be a bit thicker by using 1½ cups crushed pretzels, 6 T butter, and 4 T brown sugar.  I also added a drizzle of chocolate and fresh raspberries.  

The next one in 2012 was super decadent – chocolate peanut butter.  It was adapted from this recipe from Taste of Home, but I added some crushed pretzels to the crust and decorated the top with Cadbury mini eggs.   Just a small sliver of this one was a total sugar bomb.  

In 2013 I made a pumpkin spice latte cheesecake adapted from Sprinkle Bakes.  If you plan to top it with powdered sugar stripes, make sure to do it right before you serve it, otherwise they will just soak into the cheesecake and disappear.  

It was really easy to add the stripes and made it looks super fancy!  Just cut strips of parchment paper and lay them over the cake, then dust sugar over.

Last year in 2014, I made a carrot cake cheesecake, which I think is my favorite yet!  It was adapted from Secret Copycat Restaurant Recipes – which copied it from the Cheesecake Factory.   Carrot cake is my favorite – especially with cream cheese frosting.  I added some shredded carrots and chopped walnuts to the top.  The crushed pineapple kept the cake nice and moist. 

I’d love to just repeat last year’s recipe again – but I’m trying to bake a different flavor each year.  Lance’s sister Brandi and her husband Jeremy will be in town from Idaho this year which will be exciting!  Any suggestions for what kind I should make this year?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hard Apple Cider Pork Chops


Pork chops were buy-one-get-one-free at Winn Dixie this week, so we’ve got more than we know what to do with now.  Last night I tried out a new recipe.  I’ve had pork with apples before, but this one also used a bottle of hard apple cider to infuse it with even more apple flavor.  It only took a few minutes to throw together.   

The alcohol cooks away, but if you could use just plain apple cider or juice if you’d like too (I didn’t want a whole 6-pack of cider, so I just picked up one bottle from ABC…they probably thought it was weird that I only bought that…)

Hard Apple Cider Pork Chops (adapted from Aggie’s Kitchen)

·        Thin boneless pork loin chops (we cooked 5)
·        1 t salt
·        1 t pepper
·        1½ t fresh rosemary
·        1 t garlic powder
·        2 Golden Delicious apples, chopped into large chunks
·        1 red onion, chopped
·        1 yellow onion (or we used 2 small ones), chopped
·        1 12-oz bottle apple cider
·        Drizzle of olive oil
1.  Mix together salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic powder together in a small bowl.  Season both sides of the pork chops generously. 

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Place the pork chops on the pan and cook for 4 minutes, or until chops are golden brown.  Cook on the other side for an additional 4 minutes.  Set aside on a plate. 

3. Put the sliced onions and apples in the skillet and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Pour in part of the hard cider (about ¼ cup) and deglaze pan while tossing the apples and onions. 

4. Add rest of the cider and let simmer for 5 minutes uncovered until the liquid starts to reduce.  Add the pork chops back to the skillet and cover.  Turn off heat and let sit 1-2 minutes. 

5. Serve pork chops and top with the apple and onion mixture.  We enjoyed ours with a simple salad (we had lots of veggies in our fridge we had to use up!) 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gainesville Eats: The Gelato Company, Satchel’s Pizza, Swamp Head Brewery & Bento Café

Wednesday we drove up to Gainesville for a very special occasion.  A few weeks back, my friend Gaurav let me know that he was planning a surprise proposal for his girlfriend, Padma (who is one of my closest friends!). 

I met them in college – Padma was my suitemate when we lived in the dorms.  Now they live in New Jersey, where Padma is doing her residency.  Their first date was at The Gelato Company in downtown Gainesville, so Gaurav decided this would be the perfect place to propose.  They were in Florida on vacation visiting family for the week, and he “spontaneously” decided they should take a day trip to Gville. 

Gaurav also had Padma’s old roommate Stephanie (who lives in Georgia) and his friend Ingrid (from South Florida) drive there for the day as part of the surprise.  He hired a photographer who acted like she was just a normal gelato-eating patron.  And the owner of The Gelato Company sneakily took a video of the whole proposal on his phone (which he posted on their facebook page.)


We got there early and hid in the back of the restaurant (every time someone came in we thought it was them…so much anticipation!)  When they arrived, Padma looked at all the different flavors in the case, and her favorite one, cake batter, said “Padma, will you marry me?” on the label.  She of course said yes, then was even further surprised as we all came out from the back to congratulate her.     


Afterwards we all went out to lunch at Satchel’s Pizza – which is probably the restaurant I miss most from my days at UF.  It takes eclectic to the extreme - decorated with some of the funkiest junk art you’ve ever seen.  You can even dine at a table in a graffitied van in front of the restaurant!  It’s really a fun experience.  This place would do so well in Seminole Heights – I wish they’d open a Tampa location. I have a lot of pictures over the years of our visits to Satchels - including taking my parents here when they visited me in college.   


There is usually a long wait (although there wasn’t much of one this time).  To keep you busy while waiting, there is a cool little shop/junk museum called Lightning Salvage behind the restaurant.  They sell Satchel’s merchandise along with fun novelty gifts and knick-knacks (Lance got a hat).  And while you’re there, you can order craft beers at the bar (this is new since last time I was there…)

For our meal we ordered a Satch Salad for the table.  It has a bit of everything – lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, apples, red onions, diced tomatoes, Romano cheese, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, and their secret house vinaigrette. 

They do have a lunch special 11am – 4pm – only $6.75 for a salad and a one topping slice.  But I always want plenty of their pizza to go, and they have so many awesome toppings to choose from that I have trouble picking just one.  Lance and I split a medium “Mama” pizza – which lets you choose any 4 of their 30+ toppings.  We chose ricotta, sausage, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes.  The medium is more than enough for two people to share and still have leftovers. 

After our meal, our waitress brought the dessert “menu”, which was actually presented on an old-school View-Master with pictures of the dessert options on the reel.  Pretty neat!  Of course we didn’t have room for dessert, but it was fun to click through and see the pictures. 

Satchel’s needs to be on a must-see list for everyone who visits Gainesville.  Unfortunately they are closed Sundays and Mondays, so the last few times I was in town I couldn’t go.  They also have live music, trivia nights & open-mic nights 6-9pm at the Lounge behind Lightning Salvage – although I’ve never had the opportunity to check it out.   

After walking off some of our pizza calories at the Oaks Mall, we headed to Swamp Head Brewery to try some of Gainesville’s local beers.  The address for the tasting room online actually took us to an abandoned warehouse, but we luckily found their new address, which was only 5 minutes away. 

It’s a big location not far at all from campus, but feels pretty secluded and peaceful, surrounded by trees and a retention pond.  Their tasting room, which they call “The Wetlands”, has the same rustic/industrial/modern look as all other new bars and restaurants. 

Whoever did their interiors had great attention to details – the bartop tables have cupholders built in, and the outlets even had USB ports in case you needed to charge your cell phone.   I really loved the design of their countertop inlaid with tree trunk sections. 

I also like how focused they are on sustainability.  They source as much as they can locally and team up with other companies who have strong environmental and ethical principles.  Much of the wood in the brewery design was reclaimed lumber, and they are working with Solar Impact to get a portion of their operations run on solar power. 

On Saturday, April 25th they will host an event called Tree Fest.  For every beer purchased, 5 trees will be planted at Alachua Conservation Trust’s Little Orange Creek Preserve in Hawthorne, Florida.

While we were there, we enjoyed playing games while sampling their beers (I don’t think I’d played Sorry! or Trouble in years…)  They do offer flights, but they are pre-selected beers from their year-round selection, so if you want to try their seasonal beers, you’ll need to get a pint.  I actually thought their flight selection was very good though - it had a nice variety.  It included their Wild Night honey cream ale, Cotton Mouth Belgian-Style Witbier, Stump Knocker American Pale Ale, Midnight Oil Oatmeal Coffee Stout, and Big Nose IPA.  

We actually remembered to bring our growlers this time, so we went home with the Stump Knocker and Big Nose.  It’s only $4 to fill a 32oz growler, or $10 if you have a gallon growler. 

Before heading home, we grabbed dinner at Bento Café.  Now that Rolls & Bowls is gone, this is my favorite Asian restaurant in Gainesville.  They serve sushi, along with bento boxes, rice bowls, and noodle bowls.  It’s actually expanded since last time I was there – it looks like they took over the restaurant next door as well.  It’s a casual place where you order at the counter and take your number to the table. 

I love the bento boxes because you get a whole variety of sides with your main dish – white rice, lo mein, ginger salad, and string beans.  I had the Thai coconut curry shrimp – which was just the right amount of spiciness for me.  I also had an Almond Joy milk tea (a mix of their almond and chocolate flavors…very sweet).  It was the perfect way to end our day of eating and drinking non-stop!

There are plenty of other Gainesville restaurants I miss from college, but it was great to hit up so many of my favorites all in one day. 

The Gelato Company is located at 11 SE 1st Ave #2, Gainesville, FL 32601 and is open 10am – 11pm Monday – Thursday, 10am – 3am Friday & Saturday, and 11am – 10pm on Sunday. 

Satchel’s Pizza is located at 1800 NE 23rd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32609 and is open 11am – 10pm Tuesday – Saturday.  They are closed Sundays and Mondays. 

Swamp Head Brewery is located at 3650 SW 42nd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32608 and is open 4pm – 9pm Tuesday – Friday, 1pm – 9pm Saturday, and closed Sundays and Mondays. 

Bento Café has several locations.  The one we visited was located at 3841 SW Archer Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608 and is open 11:30am – 10pm Sunday – Thursday and 11:30am – 10:30pm Friday and Saturday.