Classic NY Cheesecake with Cranberry cointreau sauce

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This recipe is a hybrid/tweak from several sources. This cheesecake is very rich and excellent as a stand-alone. It also makes an excellent base for toppings if you choose to remove the citrus notes.

Classic New York Cheesecake: (supposedly the original recipe from Lindy’s)

  • 5 packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 and 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbs all purpose flour
  • 1 tbs grated orange peel *optional
  • 1 tbs grated lemon peel *optional
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Crust:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk

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Step one: (crust)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease springform pan, with shortening. Remove pan. Mix all ingredients with a fork until the dough forms. Gather it up into three balls. Press one ball into the the bottom of the pan. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until light golden brown.

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Assemble the sides of the pan and secure. Press remaining dough 2 inches up the side of the pan.

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It doesn’t seem like it, but the dough will press up nicely and fill the pan.

Step two: (cake)

Heat oven to 475 degrees. Beat cream cheese, flour, orange peel, lemon peel and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.

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Beat in eggs, egg yolks and whipping cream on low speed until well-blended. Pour into crust.

Step three: Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees. Bake one hour and 15 minutes longer. Do not insert a knife to test – this will cause cracks. The center may not seem done, but will set eventually. Turn off the oven, but leave the cheesecake in there for 30 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for another 30 minutes.

Step four: Don’t release the pan, but run a spatula along the side to loosen the crust. Chill for at least three hours in the refrigerator, uncovered; preferably, overnight.

Serving suggestionsIf you don’t want to top it with fruit, Beat 3/4 cup of heavy cream until it is stiff. Top with slivered almonds.

Cranberry-cointreau sauce (source finecooking.com)

  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 12-oz. package fresh cranberries, rinsed, dried, and picked over
  • 2 Tbs. Cointreau or Grand Marnier (I have used Grand Marnier in the past because I can more easily find the travel sizes at our liquor store

Note I have used Grand Marnier in the past because I can more easily find the travel sizes at our liquor store, and it is cheaper. Both have the smoky orange tones you are looking for.

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In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, honey, and 3/4 cup water to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

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Double, double, toil and trouble

Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cranberries.

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Cook, stirring occasionally, until the foam has turned fuchsia and many of the berries have popped, about 5 min.

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Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the Cointreau. Pour into a heatproof bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours, but preferably overnight. The sauce can be made two days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Cranberries with dried cherries

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recipe source: food magazine

My father has an obsession with cranberries during the holidays. Rather than have him resort to cranberries out of the can, I decided to experiment with a new recipe; this was a big hit at the table.

You Need:

  • 1 package fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water

Step one: In a large sauce pan, combine the ingredients and bring to a boil.

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Step two: Simmer for 20-25 minutes until most of the berries have burst and the liquid is syrupy.

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Step three: Cover and chill in the refrigerator.

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Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes with cherries and walnuts

This is a great side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I cannot emphasize to you how delicious and easy this is. I planned to have leftovers, but not a single piece was left in the bowl despite making two batches.

You will need:

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbs butter, melted
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries

Step one: Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Step two: Arrange potatoes in an even layer in a 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish.

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Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Step three: Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook for 30 minutes. Add walnuts and cherries and stir. Cook for 15-20 more minutes.


Easy Holiday Appetizer

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What do you bring if you have been lucky enough to score an invite to Christmas dinner or a good holiday party? Or what do you put out that is easy and festive for an appetizer if you are the one hosting? Luckily, the answer is the same. This is stupid easy, delicious, and visually appealing:) The flavor is sweet and savory at the same time, and most people won’t realize they are eating cream cheese. They will insist it is something swankier.

You need:

  • one brick of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (full fat)
  • one jar of fig preserves (you could substitute pear in a pinch)
  • one bunch of green onions
  • variety of gourmet crackers
  • a yellow pepper or red pepper (optional)

Step one: cut the cream cheese on a diagonal and then put together so it resembles the triangle of a Christmas tree.

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Step two: drizzle the preserves over the cheese.

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This is my favorite to use

Step three. Cut up the onions. I take the end pieces and place them in the bottom so it kind of looks like a trunk, then I sprinkle the green onions in a festive way. If you want, you can cut a yellow pepper into the shape of a star and place on top of the tree.

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Enjoy:)

Cream cheese frosting

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Recipe source: Betty Crocker cookbook circa 1950’s

This is a classic frosting I use for a variety of things – sugar cookies, cupcakes or cake. It is very easy to add some variety to the frosting recipe, so it easy to use as a base for your creativity.

You need:

  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened at room temp.
  • 1 tbs of whole milk, or more as needed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar

Step one: blend cream cheese, milk, vanilla and salt.

Step two: gradually add in confectioner’s sugar and beat until smooth. Add more milk to get the desired consistency.

Ideas –

  • Peppermint – add crushed peppermint to the frosting and use them on candy cane sugar cookies.FullSizeRender(57)
  • Mocha – Blend in 1 tbs of instant powdered coffee to the frosting or add a little actual coffee in place of the extra milk.

Simple DIY Gifts for Christmas

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I’ve always thought that homemade presents were more thoughtful or special than something you could buy. For example, I value a handwritten note over a generic card from the store. Every year my sister makes me an ornament for the Christmas tree, and over the years I love unpacking them and hanging from the branches. They quickly became our favorites.  Homemade presents also are a practical way to go when you have a lot of people to give to. I am lucky enough to know a lot of people, and have a lot of acquaintances at work that I like to make feel special or thought of. Here are two that I like to do.

Homemade Bath Salts

Bath salts are really easy to make, and you can get really creative. You could add pink Himalayan salts, dried herbs, or even a little food color to make pretty colors. We stick to a basic recipe that I got from Martha Stewart.

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You need:

  1. glass jars – old salsa or jam jars work perfectly. Make sure to clean and air them out for odors
  2. labels and decoration – ribbons, rope, sharpies. A hot glue gun is nice as well.
  3. Epsom’s salt
  4. Sea salt
  5. Essential oils – we use lavender, tangerine, eucalyptus, and spearmint
  6. baking soda
  7. glass bowl

I lucked into a roll of burlap from Walmart for only $4.

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I blend 2 part sea salt, I part Epsom’s salt, 1 part baking soda in the glass bowl. Add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice. Store, label and decorate in your glass jar.

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I like the combination of eucalyptus-spearmint for energy, lavender for relaxation, or tangerine for a cheerful bath.

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Organic herbs

The first works if you keep a garden over the summer and is an excellent present for someone who loves to cook. If you grow any kind of herbs (I do organic – no sprays or additives), then this is a good trick. I usually have a ton of rosemary, basil, parsley and thyme in my garden, so those are my usual suspects. All you need:

  1. Herbs
  2. rubber bands or string
  3. glass jars – old salsa or jam jars work great
  4. labels or decoration
  5. oven

Cut the herbs you want to dry  in mid-morning before newly developed essential oils have been burned off by the sun, but after the dew has dried. Remove old, dead, diseased or wilted leaves.

You can dry them in several ways: air dry, the oven, or even the fridge – I have yet to try the last one – but here is some information if you would like to give it a try.

To air dry, bundle them and tie them with a rubber band or string and hang them in a place with low humidity – avoid the kitchen unless you have great air flow. Put a tray under them or put a brown paper bag (with a few holes for air) or a mesh bang. Let the herbs dry for a few days.

Then, put them inside the glass jars. I place a paper towel under the herbs to catch any extra and to cut down on the mess. You don’t need to crumble all of the leaves – actually the more the leaves are intact, such as for basil or parsley, the more flavor is retained.

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Label, decorate and date the jars. Now, your friends can enjoy fresh, organic dried herbs.

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Holiday: Buckeyes

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Recipe source: my sister in law

When I lived in Ohio, I discovered the magic of buckeyes. They are a bit labor intensive, but sooooo worth it.

You will need:       

  • 16 oz confectioner’s sugar (4 cups)
  • 1 18 oz jar of creamy peanut butter (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  •  1 12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • toothpicks & wax paper

Step one: In a bowl, combine sugar, and peanut butter.

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Once blended, add the butter.

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Step two: Roll the mixture into little chestnut sized balls and place on wax paper. Refrigerate.

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Step three: With a double boiler or microwave, melt the chocolate chips. Remove the peanut butter balls and put them in freezer for five minutes- they stay on the toothpick better and the chocolate hardens quicker.

Step four: Dip the peanut butter ball into the chocolate with a toothpick and slowly coat on all sides with the chocolate. Leave a circle around the toothpick chocolate free. Freeze them until you are ready to serve.

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A delicious tradition:)