Ultimate Oreo Cake

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep? Happens to me more than I’d like, but often that’s when a lot of brainstorming takes place in my noggin.

Sometimes I’d rather be sleeping, but that’s when an idea pops in my head that makes me want to start baking a massive dessert at 3am. That happens to everyone… Right?

Well, that’s what started this…

The Ultimate Oreo Cake.

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As I was laying in bed in the middle of the night desperately trying to fall back asleep, Oreos were dancing in my head. Then came the cheesecake. And the chocolate.

Oh, the chocolate.

The end result was a three layer decadent dessert made for dreams. Two moist layers of chocolate cake surrounding a thick and fluffy Oreo cheesecake, covered with Oreo Cream Cheese Icing, chocolate ganache, and little baby Oreos.

Mmmmm, Oreos.

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As my husband watched me layering all of this goodness together, he said, “Why would you want to ruin a cheesecake by adding cake to it?” I gawked at him. “That’s it, I’m locking you away in a padded room tied up in a straightjacket.”

It must not have been all that ruined since he ate an entire piece.

For the Chocolate Cake:

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup strong coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium size mixing bowl and whisk together to combine. Add liquid ingredients and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for about 1-2 minutes, until thoroughly combined. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans, pour batter evenly into pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove pans from oven and let cakes cool in pans for 12-15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

For the Oreo Cheesecake:

4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine 1 package cream cheese, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar. Beat at medium speed until combined. Add each package of cream cheese, beating after each one until fully incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides. Add remaining sugar and continue to beat. Add vanilla and eggs, beat just until combined. Finally, add heavy cream and continue to beat just until the cream is mixed in with the cream cheese.

Spoon mixture into a 9 inch springform pan. Wrap aluminum foil around outside of pan twice, making sure the outside of the pan is fully covered. Place in a larger pan (I typically use a 12 inch round cake pan for this) and fill the larger pan with water, just until the water level comes halfway up the springform pan. Carefully place in oven and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, just until the middle is a little bit jiggly. Pull pans out of oven, remove springform pan from larger pan and place on a cooling rack for cheesecake to cool completely. When it has cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer overnight.

For the Oreo Cream Cheese Icing:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

5 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 cup Oreo cookies, crushed into crumbs (easiest to use electric food chopper or processor)

Combine butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a medium size mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 3-4 minutes. Add confectioners sugar, one cup at a time, continue to mix for another 3-4 minutes. Pour in Oreo cookie crumbs and beat for one more minute.

For the Chocolate Ganache:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Dump chocolate chips in a small mixing bowl, set aside. Heat heavy cream in microwave safe dish in microwave for 45-60 seconds, until it just starts to boil. Pour over chocolate chips in bowl and whisk vigorously until chocolate melts.

Putting it all together:

Place one layer of chocolate cake on a cake board/stand. Spread a thin layer of icing on top of cake. Remove cheesecake from freezer and loosen the side. Carefully push the bottom up to remove from the side. Place a piece of wax paper on a hard surface (I typically use another cake pan) and turn top side of cheesecake down, so the bottom of the springform pan is facing up. Using a knife, loosen cheesecake from the pan all the way around. Since the cheesecake is frozen, it’s easier to handle. Once you remove the bottom of the springform pan from the cheesecake, place the cheesecake on top of the chocolate cake layer. Spread another thin layer of icing on top of cheesecake, then place other layer of chocolate cake on top. Cover the entire cake with the icing until smooth. Spread chocolate ganache on top, just pushing over the sides so it drips down. Place cake in refrigerator or freezer for the ganache to set. Pipe remaining icing on top, set baby Oreos on top of icing for added garnish. Store cake in airtight container in refrigerator for 3-5 days.

 

I’m not 19 anymore, and it shows.

Well, at least physically I’m not. Sometimes it’s fun to be a goofball- minus the obnoxious, totally clueless life perspective from when I was 19. No, I’m not saying ALL 19 year olds are like this, just reflecting on so many of the dumb things I said or did 17 years ago. There are too many to list.

No dwelling on past mistakes though, let’s talk about the physical aspect of it.

Fine, I’ve had two kids… and after that second kid, it was even harder to get back into shape and lose the baby weight (I’m still technically 20 pounds heavier than pre-pregnancy weight). You know what though?

It doesn’t matter.

What MATTERS is how out of shape I FEEL.

At the age of 19, I could exercise for one hour a day and eat WHATEVER the hell I wanted. The result? A flat tummy with lines. My diet? Bagels smothered with butter, cinnamon and sugar, Capri Suns, burgers and fries, chips, Hamburger Helper (don’t judge, we didn’t know how to cook back then), soda, pizza, and anything else unhealthy you can think of. I had a metabolism on steroids.

Well, things change.

Popping in an exercise video just five years ago and getting back into really good physical condition would take less than two weeks. These days, it feels like it takes a damn year.

Oh, and the injuries. In the past year, I’ve had a sprained ankle, sprained wrist, and strained hip flexor. How? I have NO friggin’ clue. Must be age related, and getting back into those workouts while trying to nurse a minor injury makes it even more fun.

It’s like a sloth trying to do jumping jacks during a T25 workout.

Seriously.

Modified exercises? Please. You know the girl who does the modified exercises is still in amazing physical condition and it’s a cake walk for her. Speaking of cake…

I work with food.

Not diet food.

PASTRIES.

BREAD.

DESSERTS.

PASTA.

Granted, the foods I make are for the customers and I don’t eat much of them, but I’m still surrounded by some of the most succulent aromas from the incredibly talented chefs I work for. Did I mention the food is AH-MAZING?? “I think I’ll have a salad for lunch.” The day may start out with those intentions until the “not-diet-food” is staring at me from across the kitchen. Sending its fumes over to my nostrils. It’s a conspiracy. Especially when the stomach starts singing that it’s hungry and the chefs make a family meal of hot pasta, freshly made sauce, and oven roasted chicken wings. It’s just not fair.

Time to compromise. It may take longer, but the feeling of being physically fit and having more energy to do pretty much everything is worth those 25 minute workouts. Forget the pounds, I refuse to watch everyone else around me indulge in amazing food while I stand by and say, “No, I’m not allowed to eat.” Most of what I eat is healthy, but I’m not missing out on dessert and wine if it’s not necessary.

I can deal with having a muffin top if being able to move around like a kitchen ninja is fueled by those workouts.

Compromise fulfilled.

My kids are mac n’ cheese addicts.

Mac n’ cheese seems to be the “it” thing for kids. Most kids not only like it, but they go absolutely bonkers for it.

My kids fall into that category.

Before I learned how to make it from scratch, Kraft “Thick and Creamy” lived in our pantry. I could easily blame myself for their addiction, considering it’s something that was consumed on almost a daily basis while I was pregnant with both of them. And I’m not talking about a little bowl of it, I’m talking about an ENTIRE BOX.

At one time.

All 1,100 calories.

There were no leftovers.

Ever.

Did I care that I gained 40 pounds with each pregnancy? Um, no. I was providing nourishment for my babies. That processed box of heaven was giving them nutrition, and that’s the excuse I was sticking to.

After attending culinary school, I grew some cojones and started making it from scratch. Grating fresh sharp cheddar cheese and parmesan, melting it in the bechamel sauce and stirring in those freshly boiled noodles before topping it with more cheese and baking it. Holy crap… Kraft who?? You’re fired.

Once the second kid came around, I got lazy and went back to the boxed stuff for a while, just until he got older and my sanity somewhat started to come back. I won’t lie though, I will still grab the boxed stuff every now and then, just because I still think it tastes delicious.

My daughter recently started asking for it again, because that’s what she was used to before her little brother came along. She was known as the “kid who only ate hot meals” at her old school because she refused to eat cold sandwiches. So, I’d make that mac n’ cheese for her and send it in little glass microwave safe containers that the teachers would pop in the microwave for her.

Should’ve sent in a silver spoon for her to eat it with.

Either way, this stuff is da bomb, and my daughter starts squealing like a rabid monkey when I tell her we’re having it for dinner. Or, is it me who does that? I can’t tell anymore.

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Creamy Baked Mac n’ Cheese

8 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup all purpose flour

3 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. Melt butter in a pot on medium heat and add flour, whisk until smooth and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly add milk to flour mixture, whisking constantly until smooth. Add mustard, salt, and pepper. Continue to cook on medium heat for 14-15 minutes, or until sauce is thickened, stirring occasionally. While sauce is cooking, grate cheddar cheese. Add all but 1 cup of cheddar cheese, stir. Add Parmesan cheese and stir again. Whisk constantly until sauce is smooth and cheeses are melted. Remove sauce from heat and stir in drained pasta. Pour mixture into 8×8 inch baking dish, sprinkle with leftover cheddar. Bake,  uncovered, for about 30-35 minutes. Remove dish from oven, let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

This stuff reheats and freezes very well! Great as leftovers and freezer meals!

Restaurant dining with a toddler.

I’ve heard there’s a wonderfully magical solution to fix all the problems of dining out with a toddler.

Don’t do it. Wait until they’re in middle school before going out to a restaurant again.

That’s what I hear, but we’re stubborn and like to go out to eat. Maybe even enjoy a little bit of torture that goes along with it.

We pick our battles and the restaurant to decrease the chances of having an unpleasant evening out.

Restaurant is quiet?

Nope.

Restaurant has a wait?

Double nope.

Restaurant is upscale with a pricey menu of food that our kids won’t appreciate and it’ll take 20 minutes to make?

Oh hell no.

I’m one of those people that when the waitress comes up to introduce herself and get our drink order, I say, “Can we go ahead and order our food? Little guy is like a ticking time bomb with a time limit.”

Most of our restaurant criteria when it comes to figuring out where to eat with our kids is pretty simple:

Loud.

Stuff to look at.

Room to move around when the little guy gets too antsy and starts squealing, crying, gets possessed by a demon.

Easy kids’ menu with either mac ‘n cheese or grilled cheese.

Other kids making noise so all the blame can’t be put on us. “Don’t look at us, that was YOUR kid who squealed with delight as he threw his macaroni at you!”

Although I’m crazy and do love to cook, I certainly don’t want to do it EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. Mommy needs breaks. And a cocktail. Or three.

The most rewarding part of it all is when the toddler walks away from our table (don’t worry, Daddy goes with him) to explore, then sees me from across the restaurant and yells, “MOMMY!!!” and comes running back like he hasn’t seen me in three years. At that point, he can make as much noise as he wants, because the feeling Mommy gets seeing that is just pure awesomesauce. Speaking of sauce, I need some more Alfredo with my pasta, it’s not drowning in it. Please. Also need a refill on that apple martini.

The movie “Chef” and grilled cheese sandwiches.

“Chef” is one of those movies I can watch over and over again. Jon Favreau is on my top 10 list of favorite actors, the movie is full of humor and good-hearted fun, and OH MY GOSH THE FOOD. The friggin’ food.

Even though I literally want to eat EVERYTHING he makes in the movie (other than the sweetbreads he references), one scene stuck out.

So simple.

So classic.

Grilled cheese.

While watching this with some other family members for the first time, we were all mesmerized during this scene.

He spreads butter on each piece of bread, then drizzles olive oil on a hot skillet. He places the buttered pieces of bread on the hot skillet and moves them around to combine the oil and butter, toasting the bread. Then he layers several pieces of cheese on each piece of bread before moving them around again. He carefully flips one piece on top of the other and continues to cook while the cheeses all melt together. He removes it from the skillet, spreads a little more butter on the outside, cuts it in half and splits it with his son. When they each take a bite, you can hear the crunch from the toasty bread, then see the melted cheese stretch out from their mouths to the sandwich. “It’s good,” his son says. He replies, “You’re damn right it’s good.” Um, yeah. Literally every time I watch this scene, I want a grilled cheese. Then again, I feel that way about every food item he makes during the movie. Luckily, my butt is glued to the couch and my wine doesn’t want to be left alone to step away and cook anything.

I HAD to recreate this in my kitchen.

Although this sandwich is packed full of flavor and lots of cheese, I have a sauce complex. The sandwich is dipped in either mayonnaise, ranch dressing, or tomato bisque. You know, since we’re  not counting calories here. That’s just something that I don’t need to know. Ignorance is bliss.

This has become a staple at our house, and I’ve become a grilled cheese snob. Bread isn’t perfectly toasted? Boo. Only one slice of cheese? Booo00. No butter on the outside? BOOOOO.

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Awesome Grilled Cheese

2 slices thick sandwich bread

1 tablespoon spreadable butter

1 slice swiss cheese

1 slice sharp cheddar cheese

1 slice provolone cheese

1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat an electric skillet to about 300 degrees (or a nonstick pan on stove at medium heat). Lay pieces of bread on a paper towel, spread 1/2 tablespoons butter on each piece. Spray cooking spray on pan/skillet when hot. Place both pieces of bread, buttered side down, on hot skillet. Place swiss cheese on one piece of bread, cheddar on other piece of bread. Lay provolone slice on top of cheddar, sprinkle parmesan on top of swiss.*

Cook for about 1-2 minutes, use spatula to pick up one piece of bread and turn it over on top of the other piece for the cheeses to combine. Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, or until cheese are melted and bread is toasted and a light brown color. Remove from skillet and serve.

*Why this weird process? Swiss and cheddar will take longer to melt than the provolone and grated parmesan.

SECOND COOKBOOK AVAILABLE!!!

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My second cookbook in the Moms on the Go cookbook series is now available!

Are you tired of making the same things for dinner over and over again? Are you looking for easy recipes using every day ingredients? Look no further!

The Moms on the Go cookbook series is aimed at busy moms (and dads!) who are looking for simple and delicious recipes to prepare for their family. Even if you don’t have kids, these recipes are too simple and yumdiddles to pass up!

“What’s for Dinner?” is the second cookbook in this series with over 85 easy recipes for:  breakfast & brunch, salads & sandwiches, entrees (chicken, beef & pork, vegetarian), side dishes, and desserts!

Click HERE to get your copy!

Tiramisu Pancake Stack

It’s amazing how a simple combination of several different ingredients can make your mouth water just by thinking about them. My mother-in-law is a HUGE fan of tiramisu, and while I was making pancakes for the family one morning, her mere presence had me brainstorming about tiramisu recipes. The thoughts came swirling into my head like an ocean of chocolate syrup, and it was like a huge lightbulb turned on over my chocolate-syrup-filled brain. I gasped, then started thinking about how I could make these already delicious buttermilk pancakes, but brush each one with coffee, layer them with a mascarpone cream filling and top them with chocolate syrup. I’ll accept hugs as a thank you.

tiramisu pancake stack

I couldn’t wait to try these out, and thought about how perfectly a mimosa would accompany this as brunch. If you want to get technical about what is classified as a stack, of course it’ll be anything more than one pancake and cream layer…but feel free to go ahead and make a triple-decker. It’s worth it.

Oh, and did I mention this recipe will be in my upcoming book, “What’s For Dinner?” It’s the second book in my Moms On The Go cookbook series, and will have over 100 recipes for breakfast & brunch, soups, salads & sandwiches, entrees (chicken, beef, pork, & vegetarian), side dishes, and desserts.

Click HERE to check out my current cookbook available on Amazon!

For the Pancakes:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup buttermilk

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add liquid ingredients, whisk together just until mixture is combined (batter will still have a few lumps). Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter at a time onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until lightly browned on the other side. Let pancakes cool to room temperature before assembling.

For the Cream Filling:

8 oz. mascarpone cheese

8 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed

2 tablespoons confectioners sugar

In a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and beat at medium speed with electric mixer for about 1 minute.

Putting it all together:

Lay pancake on a plate, brush with cooled coffee. Spread 1/4 cup cream on top of pancake. Layer two more times, then top with chocolate syrup.