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Monday, July 25, 2011

It's That Time of Year

I live in Ames, Iowa.  It is a college town with 52,000 residents and approximately 30,000 are strictly Iowa State University related (more to come on that in The Situation tab).  One unique characteristic in Ames is that although it is possible to get a housing lease on a different schedule, it's difficult.  Nearly everyone rents on a 12 month schedule from August 1 to July 31.  This means that Ames is bracing for moving week.  Thank goodness I get to be a voyeur of this process this year as we won't be moving for at least another year.

This year is different for the hubs and me, though.  I suppose it's just that time of life where everything changes.  I moved down here after college and left my friends up in the Twin Cities.  The hubs moved down from his hometown, leaving his friends.  We developed friends with ISU students-- almost all of whom graduated and are moving on to start their lives now.  Although I will miss them, I am excited for them too.

Two of our friends moved out and stopped by to grill before they move.  I asked them what they wanted and they asked for an orzo salad and cheesecake.
Greek Orzo Salad
 My orzo salad (above) is Greek in nature with Kalamata and Green olives, pepperoccini, grilled squash (yellow and zucchini) and onions.  I added some fresh onions and green peppers, feta and orange vinaigrette to it as well.  It's delicious, but definitely needs to spend at least 1 day in the fridge to meld (Vulcan style and all).
Graham Cracker Crust 
To make the cheesecake I started with a basic graham cracker crust recipe (15 graham crackers and 2 tablespoons of melted butter) and I made it all my own.  I added some vanilla bean paste from All Spice, a tablespoon of instant espresso and a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder.  See my ingredients:

Then, I started making the cheesecake.  Because I do love this vanilla bean paste, I decided it'd be a vanilla bean new york style cheesecake.

Cream Cheese and White Sugar
I normally make nutella cheesecakes that require more nutella and less cream cheese, but heck-- how often does one get a cheesecake request from a friend that's leaving?!  So- I followed the recipe.  After mixing in the milk, eggs, and vanilla bean paste and baking for an hour and then letting the cake rest in the oven for 5 hours-- this is what it looked like:

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
Although this cake would have been DELICIOUS on its own- I decided to make it decadent by adding a dark chocolate ganache as a topping. 

Dark Chocolate Ganache
It was a good choice.  I made the ganache with a little bit more vanilla bean paste (1/4 teaspoon), 1 cup of heavy cream, 9 oz of dark chocolate, and 1 tablespoon of crown royal reserve and espresso (each).  I let the cake cool on the counter for about 20 minutes and then put it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  After cutting into it, it looked like this:

Cheesecake from a distance

Up-close, look how amazing it looks!
All in all it was a nice night filled with delicious food. :D

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