blueberry lemon cheesecake

I’m obsessed with this new cheesecake recipe. Like really, every excuse to make it, I do. It’s been a birthday cake twice now.

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

It’s not like I don’t talk all the time about how much I love summer fruit, so blueberries in cheesecake is a no brainer. But it’s the tangy lemon that takes this one over the top. And it makes cheesecake refreshing on a hot day. So, really, no complaints.

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

The process is super simple – cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and two eggs get beat together until they are silky smooth. Then you add the blueberries, reserving about a quarter of them to sprinkle on the top, and pour the mixture into the crust and then sprinkle the reserved berries on top.

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

The crust is the hardest part, and it’s not even that hard, it just takes a little patience. You have to grind up the graham crackers in a food processor (or go old school and crush them by hand), add a little cinnamon and sugar and melted butter, tossing it all together until you can press the cracker crumbs against the side of the bowl and they stay. The last step is to press them into the bottom and sides of a greased springform pan. You can also stretch this recipe out and make cheesecake bars using a rectangular pan and in that case, just don’t put the crust on the sides of the pan (note: line the pan with parchment paper to make it easier to get them out after they’re baked).

That goes into the oven for about 30 to 35 minutes until it just slightly jiggles in the center. The residual heat continues cooking it after you take it out of the oven, so it firms up as it cools. Speaking of cooling, you want cheesecake to be nice and cold when you eat it, as its cooled down enough, put it in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

There she is!

This recipe is adapted from Tyler Florence, or at least so says the blogger behind Epicurean Mom. Her pictures are really pretty, so if I haven’t convinced you, she will!

 

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

Crust:

9 graham crackers

2 tablespoons sugar

1/8 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 stick butter + extra for greasing the pan

Filling:

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 eggs

1 lemon, juice and zest

1/2 cup sugar

1 & 1/2 cup fresh blueberries

What to do:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease the bottoms and sides of a springform pan.

2. For the crust: crush graham crackers in a food processor until they have the consistency of bread crumbs, add sugar and cinnamon. Melt the butter and mix into the graham crackers, pulsing  a couple of times until fully incorporated. Press evenly into the bottom and sides of the springform pan.

3. For the filling: mix the cream cheese, eggs, lemon, and sugar in the food processor or using an immersion blender until smooth. Add most of the blueberries and pour the mix into the crust. Sprinkle the remaining blueberries over the top (it’s just so that some of them show).

4. Bake for 30 t0 35 minutes, until the center only jiggles slightly. Cool completely before refrigerating for at least 3 hours.

Enjoy!

California Tapas

I’ve been on a blog vacation since I arrived home two weeks ago. This, of course, does not mean that I have not consumed blogworthy foods or that I have not been cooking. On the contrary, my friend! I’ve been enamored yet again by all of the fresh delicious foods available in California. Whole Foods’ produce and cheese sections alone…it’s like heaven. Heirloom tomatoes! They represent summer for me and I think that in two weeks I’ve already consumed 10 pounds of them. I’m told to choose two cheeses because we are having guests over and need an appetizer and I struggle with commitment issues in the cheese section. So, when my parents suggested I make dinner for some friends I got a little ahead of myself and decided that a variety of tapas was the way to go. And this is the story of how I ended up the most full I have been since my uncle in Spain challenged me to eat a one pound steak…

First course: Grilled Pizzas

Three varieties to be exact.

Number 1: Olive tapenade with red onions, finely shaved zucchini, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese.

Number 2: Mushrooms and leeks with brie.

Number 3: Fig jam with figs, mozzarella, and prosciutto.

Trader Joe’s dough – why make your own when you have this (and you know I like to make my own stuff!) – on the grill is just phenomenal. The heat you can’t quite get in the oven, you’ve got on the grill. Plus, fire! It’s pretty simple to do – just stretch the dough on a lightly floured surface, lightly oil the grill, and toss it on there. After about 5 minutes, take it off, flip it and put your toppings on the grilled side. Then put it back on the grill, off of the direct heat, for about 10 minutes. When making three it’s super helpful to have plates with the ingredients all cut and ready to go for each pizza.

Can’t forget the wine! Alban Vineyards: a California Syrah with rich dried fruit flavors.

Alban

Second course: Caprese salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Burrata cheese, and Basil

I’m having a love affair with Burrata. I used to think that fresh mozzarella was the best thing ever…and then I met Burrata. There isn’t much more to say about that. So, heirloom tomatoes, basil, olives, and a balsamic reduction. THE summer salad.

Third course: Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp with garlic)

This is a typical Spanish tapa. Olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes are heated to cook peeled fresh shrimp. The sauce is as good as the shrimp and this dish must be served family style with some bread to soak up the sauce. An all time favorite in my home and my Dad made this one.

And another bottle of wine, of course! This time from the land I currently call home, Castilla y Leon.

Fourth course: Chicken Satay and Seared Scallops wrapped in Prosciutto

The pictures are getting a little dark as the night progressed. This chicken satay recipe is from foodandwine.com and it’s a winner. It’s super easy and, most importantly, delicious. Shallots, garlic, lemongrass, jalapeño pepper and fresh ginger get ground into a paste in a food processor and then soy sauce, fish sauce, ground coriander, brown sugar, and ground pepper are mixed in until you’re left with a thick paste. Half of it goes to marinading the chicken strips and the other half you cook in a little bit of oil and then add coconut milk and peanut butter to create a thick sauce. Here’s the link to the original recipe: Gingery Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

I’m getting hungry… These scallops are wrapped in a thin slice of prosciutto and seared in a bit of butter with sage leaves. After taking them out of the pan, we deglazed the pan with a couple tablespoons of white wine (the one we were drinking) and poured the sauce over top. Scallops are one of my very favorite creatures from the sea and their natural sweetness goes perfectly with salty prosciutto. The key here is not to overcook them, just a couple minutes on each side on a high flame so you get that beautiful brown sear.

Last, but certainly not least, dessert: Individual Peach Crumble

I had to do something with all the incredible peaches that are around right now. These little dishes got filled with sliced peaches that had been tossed with sugar and  cornstarch. I borrowed these measurements from a recipe for Peach Cobbler.

I baked them just like this for 10 minutes at 425º F (218ºC) and then topped them with a crumble topping. Then they went back into the oven for 15 more minutes until the tops were golden brown.

So delicious. The crumble topping is one I borrowed from my aunt’s apple pie – 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup cold butter cut into cubes, and 1 cup of sliced almonds. You have to mash the butter into it until the chunks are small and all the ingredients are mixed well and then you sprinkle this topping over the peaches. It all spreads out as it cooks to make a uniform topping.

As the month goes on, I’ll bring you more from the land of sunshine. It feels good to be home! And on vacation!

Lemon Squares

I’m officially in “summer mode”. Classes are winding down and I only have to work a few hours each afternoon. I’m at the point where I have to remind myself several times a day to remember that I have to go to work. So today after sleeping in, having a leisurely breakfast, going for a run, and still finding myself with nothing in particular to do, I felt like baking something. Only problem: I really did not feel like going out to the store – you know how that is, right? After a quick look in the pantry and the discovery of a whole lemon and some butter in the fridge (two things I rarely have!), I confirmed that, yes, I did have all the ingredients necessary to make some Lemon Squares!

The first step is to mix 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter with 1/4 cup of sugar – use a fork or a mixer – until they are creamed together. Then add 1 cup of flour little by little. I used half whole-wheat and half all-purpose, not for any other reason than that I didn’t have enough left of either type to do all one (seriously, summer mode). Keep mixing these with a fork or mixer until it looks like fine crumbs, but still holds together when you pinch it. Spread this mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased pan – the recipe called for a square 8in x 8in, but I used a rectangular one and just reduced baking time a bit. Press it down and bake at 350 ºF (or 176 ºC) for 13 minutes.

You have to let this cool before pouring in the topping, so while you wait you can make that. First, beat 3 large eggs until they get frothy.

Then, add 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of lemon zest, 1/3 cup of lemon juice (this is approximately the entire zest and all of the juice of one large lemon – good thing, because that is all I had!), 3 tablespoons of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Mix together well and when the crust has cooled, pour it over the top and bake at the same temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, until it’s set.

Once the Lemon Squares are cool, sprinkle them with 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and cut into 15 squares.

So, these are delicious. Like really, really delicious. And I was excited about them because they are only 120 calories each, but now I’ve eaten two already! These are not going to last long…

Anyway, I love lemon desserts in the summer, so this is a winner!

Ingredient List:

Crust:

  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of flour

Topping:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

*Recipe from Cooking Light (link)

This Exists

Last night a water pipe burst in my apartment (How is it that these things always happen in the middle of the night??), but a good insurance company and knowing that this is in the world made things a lot better.

I have been seeing commercials on TV for this: it’s Philadelphia Cream Cheese in a love affair with Milka Milk Chocolate – and it’s finally made it to my local supermarket and, in turn, to my stomach. Why did no one thing of this before??

Happy Friday, everyone!!

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips & Walnuts

Banana Bread muffins to be exact. It’s not the kind of thing you can plan to make. It has to happen because you got carried away and bought more bananas than you could eat, and then you went out of town for a couple of days, and then came back to bananas that looked like this:

And that’s when you know that special time has come. It’s pretty exciting. In my own humble opinion, banana bread is a bummer without chocolate chips. We had a neighbor when I was growing up who made us a loaf one time and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Over the years I’ve tried various recipes, and finally, it’s happened – I’ve found the best banana bread recipe ever. So, check it out – it starts with 1/2 cup (100g) of unsalted butter at room temperature and a cup of sugar. Cream them together ’til they’re that nice light yellow color. Then add 2 large eggs, one at a time, mixing each one.

One. And Two.

Then mash up those over-ripe bananas (minimum 2, but I used 4 for extra moisture, sweetness, and all around banana goodness) using a fork, or a potato masher. Add it into the butter, sugar, egg mix. Also, add 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Now it’s time for the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix 1 1/2 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add the dry to the wet and mix until fully incorporated.

Now add semi-sweet chocolate chips (about a cup).

And chopped walnuts (or not – up to you – about half a cup).

Now you can put this into a loaf pan – you’ll probably need two, but I’m not sure because I always make them in cupcake molds. I have these super cool silicone cupcake molds shaped like hearts. They are good because they are reusable and don’t stick, so you don’t have to put any cooking spray in them.

These go into a 350ºF (176ºC) oven for 12-15 minutes until they are golden brown on top. Like this!

This mix made 16 muffins. That’s a lot of yummy muffins to have around tempting me…

Anyway, now you know what to do when your bananas get too ripe. Try it, you won’t regret it.

Now, here’s the ingredient list:

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup ripe bananas, mashed (more makes it more moist!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Props to epicurious.com for this one (link)

Classic Fudge Brownies

Again, I’ve been MIA for several days. Sadly I was without a kitchen this past week because a few months ago a radiator leak damaged part of the wood floors in my living room. After putting the repair off week after week, I finally relented and let them come to sand and re-varnish the whole living room. Unfortunately, my kitchen is part of the living room, and I was left without access to anything. I ate a lot of junk food in bed this week… Actually, now that I think about it, it was kind of just like college… Anyway, I was not feeling my best by Saturday when I was finally allowed to go back in. And the only part of this that is related to blogging is that I was in no mood to talk about the delicious things I couldn’t cook while living in my bedroom. So, right before this whole ordeal commenced, I made these amazing, delicious brownies.

I made them for my cousin’s birthday. The last time I had seen her she had mentioned that one of the best discoveries she made while living for a few years in the good old US was brownies. It’s no wonder to me that foreigners gain weight while visiting us… But, I have to agree that brownies are pretty darn good. So, when her birthday rolled around she had a little get together at her house and I decided to make these for her. Now, I want to explain (or make a disclaimer about) this “finished product” picture. I made the brownies in the morning before going out to lunch with my “Spanish Family” or, to those of you who know them, the Collia’s. It was a lot of lunch, and even more wine…at some point I came home and took this picture. I only noticed it was blurry, out of focus, and kind of unflattering to the brownies the next day when I scrolled through the recent pics on my camera.  But, trust me, they are the rich fudgey brownies you crave. Oh, and the rest of the pictures are good.

So, this recipe is only slightly more difficult than a boxed mix (which is the only type of brownie I had made until this point). Start with 3/4 cup of all purpose flour, 3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 cup of white sugar and 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, whisked together. Note from me: I couldn’t find “unsweetened” cocoa, so I just reduced the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar)

Then, in a double boiler (or if you don’t have one of these, like me, two saucepans of slightly different sizes, the larger one filled with water and the smaller set inside, floating on the water) melt 6 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks. Once it’s melted, add one cup of milk (any fat content works, I used fat-free). Whisk it over the boiling water until it’s nice and smooth.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk two large eggs. Then very slowly, add this chocolate mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. Since the chocolate is hot, you want to do this a very little bit at a time so that the eggs don’t cook. So a little continuous stream is the way to go. Lastly, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Once that’s finished go back to the dry ingredients. Add another 1/2 cup of chocolate chunks to it and 1/2 cup of walnuts (if you want to). Then add the chocolate egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until completely incorporated.

Pour this into a baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of walnuts (if you chose to use them). Bake at 350 degrees for about 17-19 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with crumbs, but not molten brownie mix.

Let them cool completely before trying to cut them, difficult as it may be. I know I can’t prove the chewy goodness of these brownies with a picture of the finished product, but I will tell you that I took this entire pan to the party and when I left the plate was empty. So you know, just saying…you should try these.

Ingredient list:

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips/chunks, separated half and half
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, separated 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

*Recipe courtesy of cookinglight.com (link)

Strawberry and Chocolate Chip Scones

Last summer I ate the best scone ever. At Arzimendi Bakery in Emeryville. They have the best pizza and some of the best baked goods. Anyway, this scone attracted me because it was a strawberry and chocolate chip scone. Sounds amazing, right? It was. So for Sunday brunch-day, I decided to pay homage and attempt to replicate.

Using a basic blueberry scone recipe from foodnetwork.com, I substituted blueberries for chopped fresh strawberries (which oddly, I found even though it’s 20 degrees out and definitely not strawberry season) and chocolate chips. The only small problem I ran into is that strawberries release a lot of liquid, so my dough was quite wet and hard to handle, but the outcome was still incredible and moist. They just don’t look as perfect and pretty as scones usually do.

So, since I can’t leave any recipe alone, I made another substitution other than the choice of filling – I also substituted cream for 1/2 plain yogurt and 1/2 milk. This makes something similar to buttermilk, and while not necessary, a little healthier while still guaranteeing moist baked goods.

This recipe is pretty straight forward, the only trick is to cut cold butter into the dry ingredients so that the flour is full of little butter pieces (just like you’d do when making a pie crust). This is important so that when it bakes, the butter melts and forms air pockets which add moisture. That could be the difference between a light flaky scone and a dense pasty one.

Here it is uncooked. As I said, it’s a bit sticky because of the strawberries, but as long as you don’t over work the dough, it’s not a problem – they stay whole and don’t dye all the dough pink.

I had a bit of coconut milk left over from that delicious soup in the last post, so I brushed the tops of the unbaked scones with that, rather than cream, and then sprinkled a little sugar on top.

Just look at that deliciousness. They are still warm and the chocolate is melted…

Here’s how to make it:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients and cut in butter using a fork until it looks like coarse crumbs. Fold in strawberries and chocolate chips carefully so as not to mash the fruit (the color will bleed and make the dough pink). Mix yogurt and milk in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add in yogurt and milk mixture. Gently combine to incorporate, don’t overwork the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, press the dough into a rectangle about 12 in x 3 in x 1.5 in. Cut the rectangle in half and then each half in half again. Cut each quarter diagonally making 2 triangles. Makes 8 scones.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet and brush the tops with coconut milk (or plain milk/cream) and sprinkle white sugar over top. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-17 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.

Enjoy!

*Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence on foodnetwork.com (link)