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Mom’s Cheesecake

April 14, 2014 Dessert, Menu No Comments
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My Mom’s cheesecake has been part of our family’s Easter tradition for as long as I could remember. Along with peanut butter eggs, chocolate bunnies and a marathon viewing of “The Ten Commandments”, Mom’s cheesecake is a seasonal must. Where’s your Moses now?

It wasn’t just the eating of the cheesecake that I looked forward to each year. It was the routine involved around the cheesecake that made it so special. My brother and I would help her make the cheesecakes on Holy Thursday. On Good Friday, we would help her slice and divide the cakes, and neatly wrap the portions in aluminum foil. On Holy Saturday,  we would go along with my Dad to make the family deliveries, so that her cheesecake could be enjoyed on Easter Sunday. To this day, my Mom still loves to bake and share her cheesecake, and everyone looks forward to receiving a hearty piece tightly wrapped in foil.

For this year’s Easter post, I am very proud and honored to share with you my Mom’s recipe. This isn’t a traditional ricotta cheesecake. It’s made with cottage cheese, so it has more of a creamy taste and texture. Also unlike traditional ricotta cheesecake, this version absolutely stands up on its own with no additional fruit or chocolate toppings needed (not that I mind that on traditional cheesecake). Just a quick dusting of cinnamon, and you are as good as gold.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy and Blessed Easter Season!

Mom’s Cheesecake

Crust:
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
1/2 tspn baking powder
1 cup flour
3 tbspn sugar

Mix ingredients together. Press the crust mixture into a greased and floured 8 inch square pan.

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. cottage cheese
2 eggs
4 tbspn flour
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 tspn vanilla extract
2 cups milk

In a blender or mixer, mix ingredients together well. Pour into crust and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350˚ for 45-50 minutes.

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MontAmoré Cheese

April 7, 2014 Menu No Comments
cheese2

If a cheese plate plays as important of a role on your table as it does mine, then you’re going to love what I have to share with you today. Whether it’s standing around in the kitchen waiting for our meal to cook, or sitting at the table with family and friends before a big Sunday dinner, a plate of cheese, crusty bread and bruschetta are usually being enjoyed…along with a nice glass of wine. Sharp provolone or mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and shredded basil are our usually standbys. A few weeks back, when we had some family over for dinner, I thought it would be nice to add something a little more special to the plate. The cheese that I found served this exact purpose, and I’ve had some in my fridge ever since.

sartori

MontAmoré, made by the Sartori artisan cheese family, is described on its packaging as “a sweet, creamy and fruity cheese that begins with a deliciously inviting appearance and finishes with a playful, tangy bite. It is named with deep affection for the gorgeous Dolomite mountains that tower with breathtaking beauty above the Sartori hometown of Valdastico, Italy. Prepare to fall in love.” Well, we tried it, and yes, we fell in love. I found a reasonably priced block of MontAmoré in the gourmet cheese section of my local Giant. The description sounded amazing, and I knew it was something that my family and I would really enjoy. The taste was spot-on. It’s a creamy cheese with just enough – but not too much – of a sharp bite to it. The aroma is sharp, but not as pungent as a sharp provolone. The texture is also creamier than a sharp provolone, yet not too soft. There’s no waxiness to the cheese, so it crumbles slightly when cut.

We served it along with a smoked mozzarella, which made for a really nice combination. The two cheeses worked well together on the plate, each offering a distinct and unique taste. There was no conflict of taste when going back and forth between the two cheeses. It went along well with India Pale Ale that I was drinking , along with the Chianti that everyone else was enjoying. The cheese complemented both perfectly.

If you are a cheese-lover, I highly suggest you search for a block of MontAmoré. If it is not available in your local supermarket or cheese shop, you can also order it online.

Be sure to visit the Sartori website for more information on their history and products by clicking here.

Suggested Pairings:

Wines
Chardonnay
Beaujolais
Pinot noir
Light italian red

Beers
India pale ale
American pale ale
Bock
Porter
Stout

Foods
Crusty artisan bread
Green olives
Dried nuts
Dried pineapple
Chocolate

 

 

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Baked Parmesan Wonton Chips

March 30, 2014 Appetizer, Menu No Comments
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If you’re a reader of my blog, a friend of mine on Facebook, or have recently been at a dinner party with me, you’ll know that I’ve been experimenting a lot lately with appetizers that use egg roll and wonton wrappers. These recipes have given me lots of creative energy and inspiration. They’ve also left me with an over-abundance of unused wonton wrappers sitting in my fridge.

We recently put the extra wrappers to good use as we had a little fun in the kitchen with the kids, making batches of baked wontons. The recipe is very simple and easy, and could be found on countless food sites. You place the wrappers on a cookie sheet, either whole or cut in half to make a traditional tortilla chip shape, and you bake ‘em. Done.

Baked wontons can be served plain, without any seasoning. The chips will have a light, crispy taste to them that would go well with any number of dips. To kick our chip flavor up a bit, we sprinkled them with a bit of parmesan cheese before baking them…and they were a huge hit. There was just enough cheesy zest there to really give a nice flavor to the chip.

You can go all kinds of directions with seasoning for wonton chips – anywhere from barbecue or ranch seasoning to Italian spices to cinnamon. But I would suggest to avoid salt. There is enough flavor in the wonton wrappers where just a little bit of salt may be too much. Baking without seasoning does not require any cooking spray. But if you do decide to add seasoning to your chips, be sure to spray them prior to seasoning and baking. Spraying the chips will also make for a slightly crispier chip, which we all preferred in my house.

Now chip away!

Baked Parmesan Wonton Chips

1 package wonton wrappers (found in the produce section of your grocery store)
grated parmesan cheese
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400˚. Place individual wrappers, either whole or cut in half diagonally, on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Lightly spray the top of the chips, then lightly dust the chips with grated parmesan. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes.

Serve and enjoy.

Ava and Jules with the wonton wrappers.

Ava and Jules with the wonton wrappers.

Seasoning the chips.

Seasoning the chips.

wonton1

 

 

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Cream Sauces Part 2: White Eggplant Cream Sauce

March 20, 2014 Entrees, Menu, Pasta No Comments
eggplantsauce1

In my previous post, I introduced you to the basics of béchamel sauce, along with other sauces that use a béchamel as their starting point (mornay, soubise and velouté sauces, to be exact). I also shared with you the recipe for my red pepper béchamel cream sauce. In this post, I’ll be sharing with you the recipe for my white eggplant cream sauce, which also borrows steps and ingredients from all of the béchamel inspired sauces mentioned above. I’m using 1 cup of diced and floured eggplant, which will help give this sauce a nice, earthy taste and, depending on how long you let it simmer, either a chunky or creamy texture. As the sauce cooks, you’ll notice that the eggplant will start to break down, thus thickening the sauce as it dissolves into the liquid base. You can control how thick or chunky you make the sauce by how long you keep it simmering. The longer you simmer, the thicker and smoother the sauce. Because the sauce could potentially thicken quickly, you’ll want to keep additional broth on hand while cooking, to help thin out the sauce when needed. You can also add additional ingredients to the sauce for extra flavor and texture. I added some peas and cooked bacon to my sauce. Anything from asparagus and ham to mushrooms would work. It’s your sauce…have fun with it!

One additional benefit to this sauce is that you can make it low fat. Whole milk or heavy cream are not necessary, which is a big plus for a cream-based sauce. You can use 2% or 1% milk. Soy milk or almond milk also works well!

 

White Eggplant Cream Sauce 

2 tbspn unsalted butter
1 tbspn finely chopped shallot
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup eggplant, finely diced and dredged in flour
1 cup milk (your preference of 2% or 1% milk, or even soy milk or almond milk will work)
1/2 cup broth (chicken or vegetable), plus additional if needed
1 tbspn grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
dash of nutmeg

Additional ingredients that I used in my version:
2 tbspn frozen peas
2 tbspn cooked bacon pieces

Heat a large, non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the butter. When melted, add the shallots, cook for 30 seconds. Add the garlic, stir together until fragrant (about another 20-30 seconds). Next, add the diced and floured eggplant, stir so that all of the pieces are coated with the butter, shallots and garlic (at this point, it will appear that the eggplant has soaked up all of the butter. When the liquid is added and the eggplant cooks, it will release all of the buttery flavor that it first absorbed).

Next, add the milk and the broth, stir together. Bring the heat down to low and stir occasionally. The eggplant will gradually dissolve into the liquid, creating a creamy sauce. Add the parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir together, then taste to see if additional seasonings are needed. You can also add additional cheese, but be aware that this will cause the sauce to thicken even more. Continue to check on the sauce and stir for about 5 minutes. At this point the sauce is heated enough to be served, and you have control of how thick you want to make the sauce. The longer you keep it on the heat, the thicker and creamier it will become. You can (and most likely will) add additional broth to the sauce as needed to thin it out a bit. Be sure to just add a little bit at a time so that the sauce does not become too thin and runny.

You can stir in additional cooked ingredients a few minutes before serving. I added two tablespoons of frozen peas and two tablespoons of cooked bacon bits, stirring them into the sauce a few minutes before serving.

Serve the sauce with penne.

eggplantsauce2

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