Monday, April 28, 2008

Can't Beat Sweet Treats

Who can possibly resist a really yummy dessert or snack? In fact, I defy any one who may actually read this blog to NOT want to snack on at least one of my sweet treats in today's post (email me about it, please). Making home made baked goods is a simple and always appreciated way of doing something nice for you or someone you love. My first at-bats to the stove top were applications of baking. That's way I=tt's funny to me watching these Top Chefs on TV quiver at the thought of having to bake a lovely dessert when I fret over what in the H to do with chicken on a regular basis. Baking is easier than most think and a tradition in my family. I've recently baked the classic chocolate chip cookie, super sweet lemon squares, peanut butter & honey granola bars and a no-bake chocolate cheesecake from Philadelphia cream cheese website.

First up is the classic-the chocolate chip cookie. I've been making this cookie in various ways for more than fifteen years of my life. This batch admittedly are not my best, but still good enough to dunk into a fresh glass of milk.

Pete and his zombie hand looovvvee chocolate chip cookies & milk almost as much as brains!

My second favorite flavor for desserts (chocolate is first of course) is lemon. Lemon can be sweet, tart, light or heavy. It's a very versatile ingredient that pairs really good alongside something like, I don't know....Chocolate! Below are my homemade lemon squares right out of the oven (still need refrigeration and cutting). A few years ago, I would buy the lemon bar mix at the store until it dawned on me that I probably have all the ingredients needed to make them in my house regularly.

Sweet treats are totally wicked for desserts but it's important to make healthy choices for day-to-day snacking. I absolutely love dried fruit sometimes alone or sometimes with some really good nuts and other trail mix accessories. One of my mom's oldest recipes and one of my fondest is peanut butter & honey granola bars. Not only is this snack sweet and healthy, it's easy as 1-2-3. Mix 4 cups granola cereal, any nuts you'd like to add and any dried fruits you'd like to add. Melt 1 1/2 cups peanut butter and 1/3 cup of honey in a saucepan until totally melted. Mix melted mixture in with the granola totally through. Spread on a baking sheet, bake for 20 mina at 325, cool, cut and serve.

Now, the granola bars are easy but this beaut right here is so easy you will kick yourself for not trying this no-bake cheesecake recipe from Philadelphia cream cheese.Above are all the ingredients you need and it totals less than $10 at the grocery store. See the chocolate squares on the corner? Those are Ghirardhelli semi-sweet baking squares, 2 actually. Break them up and melt them down in a small saucepan over low, low heat. Careful not to burn it! Once the chocolate is all melted, take the saucepan off the hot surface. In a mixing bowl, cream together 2 cream cheeses and one 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. Next, mix the melted chocolate in totally. Up to this point, use a hand mixer. The last ingredient is a regular size of cool whip. Make sure its defrosted, spoon it into the chocolate, cc and sugar mixture gently until all ingredients make a velvety goodness of no-bake cheesecake. Spoon it into the pre-made crust of your choice and let refrigerate at least 3 hours until 24.

With food prices rising everyday, its smart to stock up with more raw foods and learn to cook and bake for yourself instead of paying out the nose for convenience. It doesn't take much to make your own sweet treat that can't be beat.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lunar Quest gets Femm-i-nized

The NSF funded project of developing a hybrid MMOG serious game we've titled Lunar Quest, is coming to a close. We project to wrap development for Phase 1 of this game by the end of May before it's June 2008 online Beta release. Lunar Quest runs on the Multiverse engine and to play the game, you can download the client from and start playing (so long as you have a Windows OPS).

The game is to serve as a new tool for learning Physics informally, and was designed by gaming professionals, Physics professors, Psychology Research Scientists, and Flash developers. Lunar Quest takes place in a 3D Moon environment but the Physics lessons actually pop-up in 2D integrated Flash minigames. We not only are trying to innovate classic education but we are also pushing the limits of the technology we use to innovate MMOG game design and status quo. And in addtion to all that, we got ourselves one hell of a Lunar Colonization Authority Female Cadet Squad! Check em out--> (By 3D modeler/animator Brent Hermanski)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Portobellos, Sweet Potatoes, Salami and Spinach

Today I entered my first recipe contests and even if I don't win any cash prizes or get my food printed in a magazine, at least I get to eat really delicious food all this week! I entered three dishes to two different contests. I entered my Portobello Rockfeller and Spinach Salami Sammies to the Taste of Home's Party-Perfect Appetizers. Pictures of the finished dishes are below and I'll be sure to post the recipe once the contest is over.
Portobello Rockefeller

Spinach & Salami Sammies

The last dish I entered is dear to me and I've been indulging myself in it's yumminess since I was even shorter than I am now (and I'm 5'1"). My mother Loretta Festa would make this dish every Thanksgiving, but only at Thanksgiving making my older brothers and I salivate all year for it. She never formally named her dish so I call it Mama's Sweet & Nutty Sweet Potatoes and I entered it for the a grand prize of $3000 in the Get Fresh with North Carolina Sweet Potatoes Recipe
Mama's Sweet & Nutty Sweet Potatoes

Wish me luck, but either way, boy did all of this taste realllll good.