Cannoli Cheesecake

Cannoli Cheesecake

At a gathering just before Thanksgiving, we were discussing everyone’s favorite pie.  My husband brought up his love of cheesecake and cannoli, rather than the typical turkey day offerings.  The table threw down a challenge that I readily accepted – create a cannoli cheesecake.

While a quick search on the internet brings up a few recipes, most include cream cheese. My goal was to create a ricotta cheese only cheesecake, to keep it as close to tasting like a cannoli as possible. I decided to start with a recipe from Buddy Valastro for a traditional ricotta cheesecake.  I modified the recipe to include chocolate chips and a crust made of pistachios and Biscoff cookies.

Using only ricotta results in a lighter texture, which was a nice change from a New York style cheesecake.  While the cake isn’t as sweet as cannoli filling, it was still a hit!

If a large cheesecake is too much of a commitment, you can always try my Chocolate Cherry Cannoli Cups instead – either will  make for happy guests.

Cannoli Cheesecake

Cannoli Cheesecake

Butter or non-stick spray for greasing pan
24 Biscoff cookies (~1.5 cups once crushed)
½ cup shelled pistachios
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 pounds whole-milk ricotta
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup mini chocolate chips

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 400ºF. Butter a 9-inch spring form panand place on a baking sheet.

Crush the cookies and the pistachios until fine, then mix with the melted butter.  Press into the bottom of the spring form pan. Bake for 5 minutes; remove from the oven and let cool.

In a stand mixer fit with the paddle, beat the ricotta cheese, sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, and vanilla until very smooth.

Put the egg whites in a separate mixer bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Fold the whites by thirds into the cheese mixture, then stir in the chocolate chips. Pour mixture into the pan over the crust and level it.

Put the cake in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 350ºF. Bake until the cake has risen higher on the sides than in the middle and is set but jiggling in the center, 1 hour, 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door open (using a prop such as a wine cork or large wooden clothes pin; Be careful not to let it fall into the oven). Let the cake cool completely in the oven for 1 hour, then cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours or overnight before removing the spring form sides. Slice and serve.

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Pumpkin Trifle

Pumpkin Butter Cheesecake Trifle

A few months back I saw a post for a pumpkin cheesecake trifle, which sounded like a delightful holiday dessert. It got my attention because (1) my husband LOVES cheesecake and (2) I love pumpkin pie. Since some family gatherings don’t always net a hoard of people, being able to combine two favorite desserts instead of having multiple dishes to tempt us seems great.

Pumpkin Trifle

 Over the last few weeks I’ve seen a variety of Thanksgiving trifles pop up, so I have been itching to put my spin on one. For my recipe I wanted to keep the pumpkin and cheesecake as two separate layers.  The pumpkin butter is quickly made with a bit of brown sugar, maple syrup, and a blend of spices.  The richly flavored butter is a perfect complement to the cheesecake layer. The fluffy cheesecake layer is part cream cheese part whipped cream, and flavored with maple extract.

The final piece to my trifle is soft, gingerbread cookies.  I used store bought cookies to keep prep time down, but feel free to make your own.  Layers of the gingerbread cookies, pumpkin butter, and cheesecake filling were sprinkled with a few toffee bits as a final touch.  Both my husband and I gave the trifle a thumbs up, I think we have our Thanksgiving dessert figured out!

Pumpkin Trifle


Pumpkin Butter Cheesecake Trifle

1 15 ounce can pumpkin
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
one 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened at room temperature for an hour
2 cups whipping cream
8 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon maple extract
24 soft, gingerbread cookies*

toffee bits for garnish

 

Place the pumpkin, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and allspice in a medium sized pan.  Stir to mix, then place over low heat.  Cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

Whip the cream cheese in a small bowl until soft and light. In a larger bowl whip the cream until it forms soft peaks then add the cream cheese and continue whipping on high speed until it forms stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar and maple extract.

Break the cookies into small chunks. Add half to the bottom of a trifle bowl or two 7-inch diameter bowls, then spread half of the cheesecake filling on top. Next layer the pumpkin butter on top, followed by a layer of the remaining cookies.  End with a layer of the cheesecake, sprinkling on toffee bits if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*I made mine gluten free using Enjoy Life cookies

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Monster Fudge

Monster Fudge

While the dish may be named Monster Fudge, it really doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Halloween is just around the corner.  This recipe idea came from Monster Cookies, which are peanut butter-oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and M&Ms®.

My thinking was that this particular flavor combination shouldn’t be confined only to cookies.  Why not make a loaded peanut butter fudge?

Monster Fudge

I started with a basic, easy peanut butter fudge recipe (using powdered sugar eliminates the concern of grainy texture from traditional  recipes).  Then I added chunks of granola bars for the oat and chocolate chips, and mixed in caramel flavored M&Ms® for a fudge that is hard to resist.   As you can imagine, this dessert was a hit at work and at home.  So much so, I think this fudge will have to be added to my holiday baking routine!

Monster Fudge


Monster Fudge

8 ounces salted butter
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound powdered sugar
2 chewy, chocolate chip granola bars, broken into small chunks*
1 cup caramel M&Ms®

 

Coat an 8 inch x 8 inch baking pan with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper. Place butter and peanut butter in a large sized sauce pan.  Melt over medium heat until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and powdered sugar. Stir in granola pieces and M&Ms, then spread into prepared baking dish.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, then cut into small squares to serve. Keep refrigerated.

*Use your favorite granola bar.  Dish can be made gluten free by appropriate selection of granola bar.

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Chocolate Covered Stuffed Raspberries

Chocolate Covered Stuffed Raspberries

Impressive desserts don’t have to be complicated.  Take these chocolate covered stuffed raspberries for example.  They look elegant, yet are really easy to put together.  I chose to create a lemon-mascarpone filling, but a variety of other flavors or creams would do.  A few minutes in the freezer is all they need to be cold enough for the magic shell sauce to harden, resulting in a decadent dessert fit for any occasion. Just how easy these Chocolate Covered Stuffed Raspberries are will be our secret.

Chocolate Covered Stuffed Raspberries


Chocolate Covered Stuffed Raspberries

2 pints fresh raspberries
Mascarpone filling (see below)
Magic shell sauce, chocolate

Place the filling in a squeeze bottle and gently fill each raspberry with mascarpone filling, laying them on a shallow pan or plate when filled. Reserve the remaining filling for another use. Place the plate in the freezer for ten minutes to chill the raspberries.  Shake the magic shell sauce, then pour over the raspberries to coat.  Once the coating has set, serve or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Mascarpone Filling

4 ounces mascarpone cheese
¼ cup of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

 

Mix together the mascarpone, sugar, and lemon juice. Notes: you will have mascarpone filling left over.  I enjoy mine as a topping to pancakes, just as one example.

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Southern Street Corn Salad

Southern Street Corn Salad

In my opinion, corn is a great compliment to any BBQ.  As summer draws near, magazines and the internet abound with a variety of grilled corn recipes, including street corn recipes.  It is hard to read the recipes without making your mouth water, but I have always wondered how I could serve the slathered corn cobs at a party without (a) making a giant mess or (b) compromising time with by guests. What about making a salad with grilled corn instead?

I searched for street corn salads, and most had a Mexican flavor profile.  In this recipe I went for a Southern spin, with the idea of mixing in flavors that would be similar to pimento cheese.  This Southern Street Corn Salad was a hit with my family and I can’t wait to serve it at a BBQ gathering. Enjoy!

 

Southern Street Corn Salad


Southern Street Corn Salad

6 ears fresh corn, husked
½ tablespoon melted butter
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 tablespoons diced green onions
2 tablespoons real bacon bits
2 ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

 

Preheat grill on medium high heat. Brush corn with melted butter, then grill corn for 8-10 minutes, turning every 2 minutes, until slightly charred on all sides. Cool and cut corn kernels off cob (will make approximately 4 cups of kernels).

In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, green onions, bacon bits, pimentos, and Old Bay seasoning.  Add the corn kernels and stir until coated.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: recipe was entered in the Firehouse Subs Side Dish Challenge

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Chipotle Chicken Crantada

Chipotle Chicken Crantadas

My family LOVES tacos. It seems like we easily eat them once a week, but we do venture out to other Mexican fare.  These Chipotle Chicken Crantadas are a dish I created for a contest about a decade ago, though I have revamped it some since then.  This dish is a summery version of a tostada, where refried beans are swapped for a corn spread, and the salsa features dried cranberries.  The sweetness of the cranberries is offset by the smokiness of the chipotle sauce on the shredded chicken.  

Maybe it is time we switch to a weekly Chipotle Chicken Crantada night!

Chipotle Chicken Crantada


Chipotle Chicken Crantadas

 2 tablespoons jarred, diced chipotle
16 oz can jellied cranberry sauce
 2 lbs fresh,boneless, skinless chicken breasts
 1 cup  plain greek yogurt
4 cup frozen, super sweet corn, thawed
1 t salt
1 t garlic
 2 avocado, pitted and chopped
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
8 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons lime juice
 16 Tostada shells
 2 Cups shredded green cabbage (coleslaw mix)
  
In a  large bowl mix together chipotle chilies, and cranberry sauce.
 Add a small amount of the sauce to the bottom of a 4 quart crock pot, place the chicken breasts on top, then cover with the rest of the sauce.  Cook on low 4-5 hrs (or on high for 2-3 hrs).  
Just before serving time, prepare the corn spread. Add the yogurt, corn, salt, and garlic to a food processor, and process until a smooth spread forms.   
To make the avocado-cranberry salsa, mix the avocado, onion, dried cranberries, queso fresco, cilantro, and lime juice in a medium bowl, until evenly combined. 
When the chicken is ready, shred the chicken in the crock pot, and stirring to make sure the sauce is evenly distributed.  To plate the crantadas, place 1/16 of the corn spread onto each of the tostadas, layer with equal amounts of the shredded cabbage, and then equal amounts of the shredded chicken.  Top each tostada with equal amounts of the avocado-cranberry salsa and serve.

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shrimp ceviche

Simple Shrimp Ceviche

One of the favorite dishes in my house that sets the tone for a beach vacation is shrimp ceviche.  It is light, has vibrant flavors, and looks pretty plated to boot.

shrimp ceviche

In traditional ceviche, the fish is cooked using an acid, such as lemon juice.  My recipe uses pre-cooked shrimp to be able to make the dish quickly and appeal to a broader audience.   The Simple Shrimp Ceviche is loaded with baby tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and cilantro in addition to the generous amount of shrimp.  The final touch is a bit of lime juice, salt, and fiesta lime seasoning.  The resulting dish will sure to become a summertime staple in your house too!

shrimp ceviche


Simple Shrimp Ceviche

 1 lb cooked, tail off shrimp, chilled
1 cup chopped baby tomatoes (~1/2 pint)
1 cup diced red onion
1 large Hass avocado, pitted and chopped
4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fiesta lime seasoning

 Chop the shrimp into bite size pieces and add to a large bowl.  Add in the tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and cilantro.  Cover with the lime juice, salt, and fiesta lime seasoning and stir to coat and mix evenly.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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tri-tip marinade

Marinated Tri-Tip Steak

A good steak is hard to beat, and often a must for summer barbeques or celebrations.  I often find myself making tri-tip, as my whole family loves it for its great flavor and tenderness.  Part of what makes the steak so irresistible is the easy marinade of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.  The marinade imparts just the right amount of salt and umami for a crowd pleasing steak. You can bet this is on the menu for Father’s Day!

tri-tip marinade

tri-tip marinade


Marinated Tri-Tip Steak

 ¾ cup soy sauce
¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
2 teaspoons garlic powder
4-5 lbs tri-tip steak
 

Mix the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, onion flakes, and garlic powder on a large bowl.  Place the tri-tip in a sealable, plastic bag and cover with the marinade.  Place the marinating steak in the refrigerator. Marinade the steak, flipping at least once, for 2-12 hours (longer time makes for a stronger flavor).  When ready to grill, remove the steak from the marinade and grilled to the desired temperature.

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Broccoli Salad

Broccoli Salad

Broccoli Salad seems to be one of those dishes that is a go-to for potlucks and parties.  Most recipes though mix in raisins and are coated in a mayonnaise sauce, which I wasn’t in the mood for this week. Instead, I opted for a Broccoli Salad that had more of a Mediterranean vibe.

 I mixed in feta, baby tomatoes, parsley, and walnuts for a refreshing dish. Oh, and did I mention bacon?  You can’t go wrong with adding bacon to a Broccoli Salad.  A simple lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette is all that is needed to dress the salad.  This dish was just as much of a hit as the classic recipe – why not give it a try at your next gathering?

Broccoli Salad


Broccoli Salad

½ pound broccoli pieces
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
½ pound baby tomatoes, halved
½ cup curly parsley, chopped
¾ cup walnut pieces
¼ cup crumbled bacon
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

 

Place the broccoli, feta, tomatoes, walnuts, parsley, and bacon in a large bowl. In a separate dish, mix together the oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper.  Pour over the broccoli and stir to combine until the salad is mixed and evenly dressed.  Serve; store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

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pickled raspberries

Pickled Raspberries

I was browsing through some magazines this weekend and came across a recipe for a shrub, which is an alcoholic drink with a base of pickled fruit puree. Could you quick pickle fruit for a fun dessert topping I wondered? Time to experiment in the kitchen.

pickled raspberries

I used red wine vinegar that I flavored with cinnamon, and anise to make pickled raspberries. I LOVED IT.  The play of the sour berries against a creamy vanilla ice cream was fantastic.  Who knew you could eat “pickles” for dessert?

pickled raspberries


Pickled Raspberries

¾ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup white granular sugar
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3 pieces
1 star anise
1 cup raspberries, washed

 

Place the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon stick, and anise in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Place the raspberries in a glass jar,  place the cinnamon stick and anise on top and then and slowly pour the vinegar over the raspberries.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably over night.  To serve, place vanilla ice cream

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Apple Cheddar Bread

Apple-Cheddar Bread

One of the cooking contests I am currently experimenting for is the Our Family Garden applesauce contest.  This contest has been so much fun, in part due to the enthusiasm of the host.  He has been giving contestants frequent insights into their products and business, making it a joy to share my cooking hobby with them. 

The other reason this contest has been so much fun is that the applesauce line is amazing.  Their products taste like your favorite, homemade batch – so much so that I had to be diligent to bake with it, rather than eat it right out of the jar.

One of my favorite recipe creations so far was an Apple-Cheddar Bread.  The bread is sweet, with a hint of savory, even with using the unsweetened applesauce. I loved the end result, as did my kids.  They kept requesting slices, which meant we polished off the loaf in under 24 hours.  I enjoyed eating it warm as an afternoon snack and as a breakfast treat.  I can’t wait to hear which way you prefer to eat this delightful Apple-Cheddar Bread!

Apple Cheddar Bread


Apple Cheddar Bread

2 cups flour (plus some for dusting pan)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened Our Family Garden applesauce
4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
2 large eggs
1 cup shredded, sharp cheddar
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9-inch by 5 inch loaf pan and then dust with flour.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the 2 cups of flour, baking soda, baking powder, basil, and salt; set aside.  In a separate large bowl mix together the applesauce, melted butter, and eggs and stir to mix evenly.  Gently stir in the flour mixture in small batches until it is all incorporated.  Gently fold in the cheddar, then pour into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool to desired temperature, then cut to serve. Can be served warm or cold.

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Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Classroom Treat “Giant Cupcake”

Last year my Punch Box Birthday Cake was well received, so I thought I would do another “cake” idea to celebrate by daughter’s birthday at school.  Like many schools, it is sensitive to food allergies, so edible treats for birthdays are not allowed. 

Instead, birthdays can be celebrated with small trinkets.  This is where my Giant Cupcake comes in.  I have fashioned mini treat bags to look like slices of cake, topped with a mound of “frosting”. As each student takes a slice (i.e. treat bag) they find a trinket and stickers inside.  Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Not only is this a fun way to celebrate a birthday, it is a fun project to make with your birthday boy or girl.  My daughter had fun “frosting” the giant cupcake, which made this all the more special.

Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Now I just have to decide if I make two Giant Cupcakes to serve all 24 kids in her class, or come up with a second treat . . . .

 

Classroom Treat Giant Cupcake

1 plastic, 10” diameter cheap plastic bowl ( I bought mine at the Dollar Store)
White glue
Foam brush
2 sheets of tissue paper (one for frosting, another for the cherry)
Confetti or sticker gems
12-13 mini treat bags
Masking tape
Goodie bag treats
Bottom of 10” diameter spring form pan (or 10” round cardboard circle)
 

Place the plastic bowl open side down.  Lightly spread glue on bottom of bowl with a foam brush and smooth squares of first tissue paper over sides to “frost” the bowl.  Glue a small ball of second tissue paper on top like a cherry.  Glue small gems or confetti on sides like sprinkles; let dry.  Place trinkets in bags, then fold over top, half using one fold and the remaining using two folds.  Gently tape down fold with masking tape. Place two strips of masking tape on spring form pan, sticky side up.  Arrange treat bags in a circle, alternating bags in with one fold and two folds. Gently place bowl on top (open side down) on top.

Each 10-inch round cake holds 12-13 mini bags. 

 

 

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