Decadent Baked Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce

My sweet husband and I really don’t celebrate Valentines. We’re not fans of the pressure to perform and really we think we should be madly in love every day. However, this year we did have some friends around for dinner and as part of that I made this amazing cheesecake for our dessert. Let me tell you, if this dessert was only available one day a year I would celebrate the heck out of that day. This is a decadent, rich baked cheesecake that is best made the day before you want to serve it so the cheesecake can fully set and the flavors fully meld, so think ahead, but definitely make it!

Now, before we get to the recipe itself a few words about the topping. In the last few months we’ve had several folks mention that they love jam in a jiffy, but they just don’t eat that much jam. So the question became, can you use the mix for anything else and can you use only part of the mix? I’m happy to say that the answer to both of these questions is a resounding: Yes! Now, there is one minor caveat. You need to zip the bag up and shake it really good before spooning the mix out because there can be a very minor settling of the various things in the mix and without shaking you’ll get more or less of the sugar or the thickener or what have you. So shake first, but then go ahead. In this case we’re going to make a raspberry sauce which is lovely over cheesecake or angel food cake or by the spoonful using only a half cup of the mix. So it’ll go far with these uses.

That said, to the recipe!

Decadent Baked Cheesecake

Crust:

2 sleeves graham crackers, crushed

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 Tablespoon sugar

Filling:

24 ounces (3 bricks) low fat cream cheese, softened (You can use the full fat or the greek if you want, but do NOT use the fat free. It tastes awful and picks up a bitter aftertaste when baked.)

1 cup lite sour cream (Again, full fat is fine, but NOT fat free)

1 cup sugar

4 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

2 Tablespoons quality vanilla

2 eggs

3 egg yolks

1/3 cup half and half

Prepare a 9 or 10 inch springform pan by lining with parchment paper. (9 inch will make a thicker cheesecake, 10 inch will be thinner, the only change in procedure is the baking time). Prepare crust by combining cracker crumbs with sugar and melted butter. I like to mix everything in a large ziploc bag and shake it up until all the crumbs are well coated. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 325 for 10 minutes until toasty brown.

In a stand mixer combine cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and Ultra Gel and whip until smooth. This will take several minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom and beat for an additional 3 minutes. In a separate container combine vanilla, eggs, egg yolks and half and half and whip together. Pour a little bit at a time into creamed cheese mixture until all is incorporated. Whip for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Pour filling over crust and move to a 235 degree oven. For a 9 inch pan cook for 1 1/2 hours. For a 10 inch pan cook for 1 3/4 hours to 2 hours. The center will still jiggle, but, trust me, it’s done. Turn off the heat and allow the cheese cake to sit in the oven for 1 hour. Remove to the counter for 1 hour then into the fridge over night.

Raspberry Sauce

12-16 ounces frozen raspberries

1/2 cup jam in a jiffy mix

1/4 cup sugar

zest from one small lime

water or lime juice as needed to reach desired consistency

Microwave raspberries for 3-4 minutes until they are soft and have given up some of their juice. Stir in the sugar and the jam in a jiffy mix until fully incorporated. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add lime zest and stir. If the mixture is too thick, which will depend on how juicy the berries are, add a little water or lime juice to thin to a consistency for drizzling over cheesecake.

To serve: Cut cheesecake into small wedges and drizzle with raspberry sauce and whipping cream. Garnish with fresh raspberries and mint as desired. This makes a really rich cheesecake so I suggest cutting into at least 12 pieces for a 9 inch pan and 16 for the 10 inch pan.

Emergency Sugar Cookies

These were not the Valentine’s sugar cookies that I was going to share with you this week. I have a recipe for kick butt sugar cookies. They’re thick and chewy and hold shape beautifully and freeze and if they get dried out you use them for cookie crumb on the bottom of a cheesecake. I intended all those things. Then this week totally got away from me and I found myself in a sugar cookie emergency as I had to have cookies for an activity on Wednesday no matter what. Now…I pondered just pushing through said sugar cookie emergency and still making the original recipe today, but, truth told, the emergency sugar cookie recipe is also kick butt. So after much pondering today you’ll get my emergency sugar cookie recipe, which is a go to, works-every-time, learned to make them when I was 6 recipe, and then we’ll do a surprise flash back next week and give you the roll out version.

Soo…as I was saying, these sugar cookies are fast and phenomenal. They are wonderful to eat plain, are a perfect base for fruit pizzas, frost like a dream or can be rolled in sprinkles, nuts, powdered jello or colored sugar for many different effects. They freeze well either as dough balls, large rolled in sprinkles logs or after baking. As well our sugar cookies strike the perfect balance between the camps of crispy cookie and chewy cookie with a crisp buttery edge and a rich chewy center. And the batter only takes about 15 minutes to whip together and you’re good to go, talk about an ideal cookie.

One of my other favorite things about this recipe is how kid friendly it is. It’s simply enough that even very young children can help make the dough, and everyone can get involved when it comes to decorating whether you’re topping it with fruit or frosting, sprinkles or M&Ms.

Quick Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, soft

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar and whip until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl combine all dry ingredients and stir well. Mix dry ingredients into creamed mixture until thoroughly incorporated. If serving plain scoop by tablespoons onto cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are golden brown. For other uses chill the dough for at least 15 minutes to make it easier to work with. For fruit pizzas scoop into 3 ounce balls and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 15-18 minutes until edges are golden brown. Allow to cool on tray for 3 minutes before moving to cooling racks. For sprinkle covered cookies, scoop by tablespoons and roll into a ball, roll the ball in desired topping and move to cookie sheet (If you are worried about the topping making a mess you can line your cookie sheet with parchment paper). Cook for 10-12 minutes until done through. To freeze: either scoop dough into balls and freeze individually before moving to a freezer bag, or form into long logs, roll in sprinkles and then roll in waxed paper and aluminum foil. Date and freeze. Good for upto 3 months.

Buttercream Icing

1 cup butter, soft

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

3-4 cups powdered sugar

milk or cream as needed to achieve desired consistency

In a stand mixer combine butter, salt, vanilla and Ultra Gel with 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Beat until very thoroughly combined. Scrape down sides and beat an additional 30 seconds. Add additional powdered sugar to reach a spreadable or pipable consistency. Thin if needed with milk or cream. Color and get to icing! (This recipe is excellent for cake as well, though sometimes I’ll add a Tablespoon or two of Jam in a Jiffy raspberry jam for flavor and color and it’s excellent!)

Orange Muffins

There are so many fun citrus fruits in season right now that I thought since I’ve been on a quick breads and muffins kick that I’d feature a wonderful orange muffin. I love this recipe as it has a bright orange flavor without too much sugar. The other fun thing about these orange muffins is the flexibility to create your own add-ins or just go with the original flavor. Some of the things we’ve added: blueberries, cranberries, white chocolate, poppy seeds or pecans. It’s also easy to make a light orange glaze to top them with if you want more sweetness and orange pop. Our orange muffins feature Ultra Gel so they can easily be made in sizes ranging from tiny bite sized muffins to large muffins and freeze beautifully for breakfast on the go!

I personally really like the combination of raspberry with the orange muffins, so I’ll serve mine with my Jam in a Jiffy Raspberry jam (I always have some in the freezer!). So so yummy and the bright red against the pale orange makes for a beautiful table for a baby shower, wedding shower or brunch. And even with the jam the total calories for one muffin is just over 200, a perfect snack.

orange muffins

Orange Muffins (From the Ultra Gel Answer Book)

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup olive oil

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp vanilla

zest of one medium orange

juice of one medium orange (2-3 Tablespoons maximum)

4 1/2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 3/4 cup flour

3/4 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoons salt

3-4 Tablespoons additional add ins if desired

Combine sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, orange zest, orange juice and Ultra gel and beat until smooth and light yellow/orange. Add buttermilk and mix well. Sift together remaining dry ingredients and add to mixture, beating until just combined. As always do not over mix. Fold in add ins and spoon into lined muffin tins, filling each cup 3/4s full.

Bake at 350 degrees until light brown and the center tests done with a toothpick.

This makes 24 standard sized muffins at about 184 calories per muffin, or two medium loaves of orange bread.

Cool before moving from pan and serving or freezing.

Blueberry Buckle with Thick Gel

I often get asked what kinds of things you can use Thick Gel in. The answer is pretty much anywhere that you’d use cornstarch in the same proportion, but with better results. Thick Gel is a wonderful cornstarch that has a beautiful set. Thick Gel products can be frozen, refrigerated and canned with beautiful results helping you to keep food better longer.

Today’s recipe is a little different though. This is a Blueberry Buckle which usually has cake flour in it. The difference between cake flour and all purpose flour is that cake flour generally has a lower protein content and is more easily dispursed, this is a combination of the grain type and the grinding method. However, with a little help from Thick Gel we can make our own cake flour substitute that give us the benefits of cake flour with the additional benefits of Thick Gel. It’s a win win.

Cake flour replacement recipe:

1 cup of all purpose flour – 2 Tablespoons + 2 Tablespoons Thick gel. Sift well and use anywhere cake flour is called for.

So getting back to our buckle, this recipe uses the rest of the blueberries I had on hand from last blog’s recipe and adds some ginger for kick, all poured into a 9×9 square or 10 inch round pan and cooked up into a beautiful breakfast cake. Well, breakfast, lunch, late night snack…anytime you want a hit of blueberries and tender cake. This is pretty good warm with a little milk poured over it too or a side of ice cream and all with blueberry antioxidants and flavor. Yummy!

Blueberry buckle

Blueberry Buckle with Thick Gel

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup Thick Gel

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground ginger

2 ounces unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup milk

3-3 1/2 cups blueberries

Streusel:

1/2 cup sugar (this is also really good if you do 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar)

1/3 cup cake flour mixture

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp candied ginger, well chopped

2 ounces unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

Make streusel by combining the sugar, flour, nutmeg and ginger. Add the butter and work in with a fork until it reaches a crumb texture. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine flour, Thick Gel, baking powder, salt and ground ginger. Set aside.

In a stand mixer beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Add 1 tsp vanilla and mix. Alternate adding dry mixture and milk until all in incorporated. Again, this is a quick bread method so don’t over mix. Fold in blueberries and pour into a baking dish which has been sprayed with non stick spray or greased.

Sprinkle streusel mixture on top of the cake and bake for 35 minutes until golden brown. Test with a tooth pick and remove from oven. Cool 10 minutes before depanning and serving.

Moist Carrot Apple Muffins

carrot apple muffinsI think the new year gets all of us thinking about eating a bit better. If we don’t come by the need naturally there are plenty of TV commercials and ads to remind us that we over indulged over the holidays and now have a few extra pounds we’d like to say goodbye to. So this is the time of year I start going through my recipes looking for those that will help get me out of that nutritional rut. As well as the mother of a nearly 2 year old I’m always looking for ways to get more fruits and vegetables and less sugar into her diet. This recipe for Carrot Apple muffins is good on both fronts!

I originally found a recipe for Carrot Apple muffins over at Picky Palate and I liked the results except that I wanted a little more moisture to the muffin and I really wanted to get at least 12 muffins out of the batch so it filled the whole muffin pan. There’s just something about three empty spaces that hurts my slight sense of OCD. So I made some adjustments and ended up with these Carrot Apple Muffins. Like other Ultra Gel infused muffins carrot apple muffins freeze well, so this is a great recipe to bake up and freeze as snacks or a breakfast accompaniment for the rest of the week. If they last that long.

I have to admit that my Carrot Cake loving heart really wants to glaze these muffins with a little but of cream cheese icing, but nodding to the health aspect I’ll refrain. They’re moist and sweet as is and really don’t NEED a glaze, but if you wanted to I won’t tell. You could also easily add a few golden raisins or craisins, but as my Bunneh doesn’t like those in muffins I tend to refrain. What other add ins strike you?

Moist Carrot Apple Muffins

4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons honey

1 large egg

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup applesauce, unsweetened

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 cup wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice (or 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon cloves)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine butter, sugar and honey in a stand mixer and whip until light. Add egg and beat well. Add carrots, applesauce, vanilla, buttermilk and Ultra Gel and mix until well incorporated. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients. Add in two batches and mix until just combined. Remember these are a quick bread so too much mixing will make the muffins tough.

Scoop out into a lined muffin pan (I use a 2 ounce scoop and get 12 muffins). Bake for 20-22 minutes until tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before removing from tray. Serve warm or cold.

To Freeze: Cool carrot apple muffins completely and remove to a gallon sized ziploc bag. Remove as much air as possible without crushing muffins. Freeze.

Clam Dip

It’s a funny thing how long it can take to learn all the things that your sweetheart likes or dislikes when it comes to food. After nearly 7 years together I have just learned that Bunneh loves clam dip. I’m still not sure how I missed this, but there you have it. So for our New Year’s celebrations I decided to make clam dip for Bunneh. It’s actually a fairly straightforward recipe, but one that can be pretty heavy and calorie laden. With a little work I came up with substitutes and a bit of Ultra Gel to give the clam dip hold and was told the end result was awesome. As it’s all gone today I must concur.

Clam Dip

Clam Dip

8 ounces light cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup light sour cream

7 ounces minced clams, drained (juice reserved)

salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce

3 teaspoons lemon juice

1-2 teaspoons garlic powder (depends on how garlicky you like it)

1/4 cup clam juice from drained clams

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

Combine soft cream cheese and sour cream and mix well. Add clams, worchestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic powder and clam juice and mix well. Whisk in Ultra Gel. Allow to stand in the fridge for 30 minutes to let flavors ripen, over night is even better. Serve with potato chips! (Little Girl ate it with a spoon).

New Year’s Appetizers – Sour Cream Brownies

Somehow it’s already New Year’s Eve. I’m not sure exactly how that happened. No one asked my permission and it seems like it was just barely Christmas Eve yesterday! However, I can’t complain too much because around here New Year’s Eve is a day for watching bowl games and eating a variety of appetizer foods all leading up to the stroke of 12 celebrations.

So here’s a sneak peak at our New Year’s Appetizer menu.

* 7 Layer Bean Dip

* Clam Dip

* Cucumbers with Cream Cheese and Dill

* Pumpkin Spice Muffins

* Chicken Wings with Buffalo Sauce

* Chicken Teriyaki Wings

* Rotisserie Prime Rib

* Sour Cream Brownies

* Cream Cheese with Raspberry Jalapeno sauce

So we’ll have pictures to share as the day goes on. Here’s the first and the recipe for the Sour Cream Brownies, which are kick butt, just in case you wondered. We use Ultra Gel in the brownies to preserve the moisture and help to provide a tender crumb. This allows us to cut back on the fat and use a light sour cream without giving up a bit of flavor. :)

Sour cream brownies

Sour Cream Brownies

10 ounces semi sweet or bitter sweet baking chocolate

6 ounce unsalted butter

4 ounces unsweetened applesauce

2 large eggs

1 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1/2 cup light sour cream

In a microwave safe bowl combine butter and chocolate. Microwave on medium power in 30 second bursts until mixture is smooth. Add applesauce and sugar and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and Ultra Gel and stir to combine. Gradually whisk flour mixture into chocolate mixture until just combined. Fold in sour cream. Sprinkle a few mini chocolate chips in or on top as desired.

Pour mixture into a greased baking pan and bake at 375 for 25-35 minutes depending on the depth of your pan. This makes really thick 8×8 brownies, thinner 9×9 brownies and thin 9×13 brownies. The oven temp stays the same for each, but you will need to adjust your total baking time.

Allow to cool, cut and serve. This makes a very rich brownie so I suggest serving it in small pieces or with a little cream or ice cream to cut some of the richness.