Mini Easter Cheesecakes

Sweet and Delicious

Sweet and Delicious

I made these little gems to take to our family Easter Dinner today.  They’re a sweet treat and fairly quick to make if you need something to take somewhere.  They are modified slightly from a recipe I found on the Kraft Canada website.  Enjoy, and Happy Easter to everybody!

Ingredients (for 24 cheesecakes)

4 blocks cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

24 Golden Oreo cookies

1 tub of Cool Whip, thawed

food colouring

candy, chocolate or fruit to decorate

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a regular sized muffin tin, put in some pretty cupcake papers.  In the bottom of each one, place one Golden Oreo cookie.

In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well blended.  Add eggs, one by one, blending after each one until just blended.

Pour or scoop (I use an ice cream scoop) batter into muffin cups evenly.

Bake for 20 minutes or until centres are almost set.  Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight.

To decorate, put a few drops of desired colour of food colouring into the cool whip and mix well.  Top chilled cakes as if you were frosting a cupcake.  Add decorations.  I used Mini Eggs and Peeps.  You could totally go wild with this using whatever you wanted.  Jellybeans would be great, mini creme eggs, or fresh fruit (preferably berries that aren’t cut so they aren’t as apt to bleed).  The possibilities are truly endless.

Store in the fridge until about a half hour before eating.

Hope you all have a fabulous Easter and enjoy the time with family and friends.

Until next time.

 

 

Trifle – Tiramisu Style

TiramisuI love this recipe.  It’s beautiful to look at, and as Paula Deen always says – “we eat with our eyes first.”  It’s also delicious, which helps as well.  It’s slightly adapted from a Kraft Canada recipe.  I love the Kraft website and magazine.  It’s filled with recipes that are quick, tasty, and have ingredients that are accessible.

This is more of a trifle than actual tiramisu – as the traditional tiramisu has mascarpone and lady fingers, etc.  This is quicker, cheaper, and a little milder than the traditional recipe.

I made and served this on Saturday night.  It was a perfect compliment to my Chicken Marsala, and was quick to whip up on Saturday afternoon.  Highly recommend.

Ingredients

1 block cream cheese, softened

2 pkg of instant vanilla pudding powder

3 cups cold milk

2 cups cool whip

1 pkg – Mr. Christie Nilla biscuits – you won’t use the whole box, but they’re great for snacking.

1/2 cup strong brewed coffee. I brewed a Tassimo disc of espresso and then just topped up to the 1/2 cup with hot water.

2 squares semi-sweet chocolate – coarsely grated.

raspberries for garnish

Directions

Whip cream cheese with a hand mixer in a large bowl until smooth.  Add the powdered instant pudding mixes and cold milk.  Continue beating until thickened and smooth.  Add cool whip and fold in by hand.

Line the bottom of your trifle bowl with the Nilla wafers, and stand them up around the edge of the bowl too, so you can see them from the outside.  Drizzle half of the coffee over them.  Add half of the pudding mixture and spread out evenly.  Sprinkle the top with half the chocolate.  Do another layer of biscuits, coffee, pudding mixture, chocolate.  Garnish the top with whole raspberries.  The recipe on the website calls for more cool whip on the top, but I leave it off.  I find it overkill and don’t think it’s needed.  Without it you can see how beautiful the chocolate and raspberries are.

Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

I hope you enjoy, it’s a favourite in our house.  Great to take to a potluck, and a good recipe to have on hand at this time of year with all the entertaining that we do.

Baklava

This is a delicious, flaky, sweet pastry, full of honey, nuts and sweet goodness.  There are many claims about the origin, and many countries make various versions of it today, including Greece, Turkey, and variations in the Middle East as well.

This is a version of a recipe I found in a cookbook years ago, tweaked a bit here and there.  I’m sure that some purists will have opinions on whether this take is “correct” or not.  All I know is that when I make this recipe, there is rarely any left over.  This is really not hard to make.  The biggest thing is the time it takes.  From start to finish, including the time in the oven, plan on a couple of hours.  It’s a bit tedious, but delicious, and worth it.

 

Ingredients

Nut Mixture

2 cups walnuts

2 cups raw pistachios, shelled

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 large pinch cloves

Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 cup honey + more

dash lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

Pastry

1 cup unsalted butter

1 pkg Phyllo Pastry

Directions

Put walnuts and pistachios in the food processor separately, pulsing until coarsely ground.  Put into a bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and cloves.  Mix to combine.  Set aside.

 Next, make the syrup.  In a medium sized saucepan and heat until dissolved, stirring occasionally.  Pour the honey in and stir to mix.  Boil without stirring until the sugar reaches the soft ball stage, 239 degrees on a candy thermometer, or about 25 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and let cool to lukewarm.  At this point I usually add another healthy dose of honey and the vanilla and lemon juice.

Next, melt the butter in the microwave and get your workspace ready for assembly.  Lay down a clean dishtowel, and spray it liberally with water.  Lay the sheets of Phyllo down on top and then add another damp dishtowel on top.  Keep the Phyllo covered when you’re not working with it, in between layers so that it doesn’t dry out and rip or crack.

Butter the bottom of a large Pyrex or French White dish. Place a sheet of Phyllo on top of the butter lining it up so that two sides are flush with the sides of the pan.  Butter this layer with a brush.  Fold over any extra neatly and brush the top of that.  Add another layer of dough, continuing to brush with butter in between, alternating sides on which you are folding so that it’s not lopsided.

When you have used about 1/3 of the stack of Phyllo, add half of the nut mixture evenly over the buttered dough.

Continue to layer sheets of Phyllo, buttering as you go, until you’ve used up another 1/3 of the dough.  Spread the remaining half of the nuts.  Finish with the last third of the dough, continuing to brush with butter each layer.  When I get to the last piece of Phyllo, I like to trim the extra off, to make it nice and neat looking.

When you’re done layering and buttering, cut lenghwise in even strips about 1/3 of the way down through the pastry.  Try not to press down as you cut.  Next, meeting up with the ends of the vertical cuts, cut diagonally to form a diamond pattern.  Pour any remaining butter on the top.

Bake on a low rack in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  It will start to really puff up, especially in the centre.  Keep a close eye on it through oven door and remove when it is golden brown and flaky all over.  The centre will have puffed up, just pierce it through one of the cuts with a sharp knife.

Immediately after removing from oven, pour the syrup evenly over the pastries.  It will bubble as it starts to soak in.  Take a knife and cut almost right to the bottom and let pastries cool before eating. Cut all the way to the bottom and lift out of the pan.  You could do this in a large metal pan as well, but you would have to keep an extra close eye on it so it doesn’t burn, and perhaps drop the oven temp slightly.

 

If you like, you can reserve some of the nuts after chopping them up and sprinkle a few on the plate for garnish.  This is a very sweet dessert, and is wonderful served with a strong coffee or tea.

It keeps well out of the fridge overnight or for a day or so, though after that, I like to store in the fridge.  If it lasts that long that is. 😉  Best served at room temperature.

This is truly a wonderful dessert.  Don’t let the ingredients (if you’ve never worked with Phyllo) discourage you from trying to make it.  It takes a little while, but as with most things in life, a little extra effort reaps great rewards.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Super Easy Pineapple Upside Down Cake

This one is super easy.  I was going to make something totally different for a potluck I was going to on the weekend, but due to a stovetop malfunction (long story) I had to change my plans and I was scrambling on a Sunday morning to find a recipe I could make with the grocery store closed using only what I had on hand.  Luckily I had some pineapple, and this turned out pretty good.  It’s very light and airy.  I found this recipe on the BigOven.com iPad app.

Ingredients

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup margarine, melted

pineapple, sliced in rings

maraschino cherries – I didn’t have these, but they would be a sweet, colourful addition

2 eggs, separated

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup pineapple juice – I didn’t have this either, so I substituted orange juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar with melted margarine until completely incorporated.  Spread into the bottom of a 9″ cake pan.  Arrange pineapple pieces and cherries in a decorative design in the brown sugar.  Set aside.

In another small bowl, whip the egg yolks with a mixer until light yellow and thickened.  Gradually add in the sugar and beat well.  Add flour, baking powder, salt and juice.  Mix completely together.

In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold gently into batter.

Pour batter and smooth over pineapples in pan.

Bake 30-35 minutes.  Top will be brown, tester inserted should come out clean.  Let it cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.

Serve warm or cold.

This would be awesome with a scoop of ice cream, or some whipped cream, or even better, some rum enhanced whipped cream.  Yum!

Angel Lush Cupcakes

Beautiful, and delicious.

I found this recipe on the Kraft Canada website.  I made them for Easter and they were a hit.  They are light, airy, beautiful, and perfect for spring/summer.  To top it off, they’re super easy.

Ingredients

1 pkg Angel food cake mix

1 pkg Vanilla Instant pudding powder

2 cans crushed pineapple

1 cup cool whip topping

2 cups assorted berries.  I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare cake mix according to package directions.  Pour into pre-lined muffin tins, filling each cup to about 3/4 full.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.  They will puff up and the top will turn golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan.  Remove from pan and transfer to a wire rack to let them cool completely.  Meanwhile, make the topping.

In a medium bowl, combine powdered pudding mix and pineapple, including juice.  Mix well – you will see the juice from the pineapple combine with the powder to make a pudding like texture.  Add cool whip and mix in gently.

Top cooled cupcakes with pineapple mixture, and arrange your favourite berries on top.  Store in the refrigerator.  These can be made the day before and will still be wonderful.

Enjoy! 🙂

Blueberry Buckle

I’ve made this recipe several times – I originally got it out of my Anna Olsen cookbook – Sugar.  It is also available on the Food Network Canada website.  It’s a great coffee cake type dessert.  I love using yummy fresh blueberries for this, though frozen, thawed blueberries work fine as well.

Ingredients:

Cake:

1/2 cup unsalted room temperature butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk

2 cups blueberries

Streusel Topping:

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream together butter and sugar until pale and creamy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add alternately with milk until incorporated.  Spread batter into 9 inch springform pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle blueberries on top.

In a small bowl, blend together sugar flour and cinnamon for Streusel.  Cut in butter with your fingers until crumbly and no large bits of butter are left. Sprinkle on top of berries.

Bake for 45-50 minutes – cool before serving.

 

Another thing that I do, and I believe that Anna used it as the switch up in her cookbook, was to add a cream cheese layer.  I used a block of softened cream cheese beaten and mix in a bit of sugar and vanilla, and spread in between the blueberries and the streusel.  I would up the baking time if you do this by about 10 minutes, but still check with a tester in the middle for doneness.

This will keep in an airtight container for a few days.  It’s great with a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream, or a dollop of homemade sweetened whipped cream.  Don’t forget your cup of tea or coffee.

Grilled Fruit Kabobs

A few years ago now, we decided to have a dinner completely on the grill.  We grilled up all kinds of yummy savory things – sausages, stuffed peppers, etc etc etc.  But what to do for dessert?  My buddy Renee solved that problem with these fruit kabobs.

In this hot summer heat, we usually try to cook dinner on the grill to help keep the kitchen cool.  But what about when you’re having company, and want to make something impressive for dessert?  You can have a no-bake option, there are plenty of those.  You can fire up the oven and defeat the purpose of keeping the heat down.  Or, you can have your dessert off the grill like the rest of your meal.

Many fruits grill up beautifully.  The little bit of char from the grill combines wonderfully with the natural sugars of the fruit.  Fruit that is normally sweet gets that much sweeter when cooked over a fire.

You’ll want to use fruit that will stand up to the grill and the heat.  Raspberries and such are not recommended.  You’ll lose them for sure.  Great fruits for grilling are pineapple, peaches, strawberries, melons, even bananas.  Go crazy, use your favourites.  The little treat in between the fruit makes it that much better.  Get yours before they’re gone!

Ingredients:

2-3 different kinds of your favourite fruits, cut into chunks, about 1 inch.

1/2 to 1 loaf french bread, cut into cubes roughly the size of the fruit.

1 cup cinnamon sugar – use 1 cup granulated sugar, mixed with 1 tsp. ground cinnamon – you might not need this much, but you can save the rest for other uses.  It’s great sprinkled on buttered toast.

1/2 cup (or more if needed) melted sweet butter

A bunch of wooden skewers soaked in water for 15 minutes or so, or metal ones, whichever is fine.

Directions:

Simply roll each piece of bread in the melted butter and then cinnamon sugar.  Put the fruit on the skewers, leaving some room on one end for turning.  For every two pieces of fruit, put one piece of bread on.

Clean your grill to get all the remnants of supper off.  Lay a piece of foil over the grill at one end for the ends of the skewers to hang over so they don’t burn.  Grill the kabobs over low heat, turning as necessary.  It’s okay to get a few grill marks on the fruit and bread, but be careful, with the high sugar content these can burn easily.  There is nothing to cook through here, you’re just heating them up, getting things going.  The bread becomes candy like – it’s delicious!

These are delicious with a bowl of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, a nice fruit sorbet, or simply a big blob of Cool Whip or whipped cream to dip in.

Be sure to make lots, the average is 2-3 kabobs per person.

Enjoy!