Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: cheesecake

We must give credit to Sicily for giving us some delicious desserts made with ricotta cheese. Ricotta is not a cheese but a creamy curd. The curd is cooked twice, so the name “ricotta means” re-cooked. The leftover hot whey of milk used for cheese making has milk solids and a protein called albumin, which solidifies under high heat. When the whey is reheated (re-cooked) the solid milk parts are skimmed off to drain, and this is called ricotta cheese.The foam of the whey when it is being recooked is called zabbina in Sicilian.

According to the food historian, Clifford Wright, Professor Santi Correnti, chairman of the history department of the University of Catania and a preeminent historian of Sicily, wrote that during the reign of the Sicilian King Frederick II, in the early thirteenth century, the king and his hunting party came across the hut of a dairy farmer making ricotta and, being ravenous, asked for some. The first depiction of the making of ricotta is found in an illustration in the medical treatise known as the Tacuinum sanitatis, from the eleventh century. (Pictured above.)

Ricotta is used in many Italian desserts, especially for the holidays. Here is one that we like quite a bit.

Amaretto Ricotta Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crust

1 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

Filling

2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 eggs
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Set a rack in the middle of the oven.

Combine the crust ingredients. Press evenly over the bottom and 1-1/2-inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Place the ricotta in a large mixing bowl and stir it as smooth as possible with a rubber spatula.

Stir the sugar and flour together and then add to the ricotta. Mix thoroughly into the ricotta.

Stir in the eggs 1 at a time. Blend in the amaretto and salt. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 1/2 hours tor 1 3/4 hours, until a light golden color.

Make sure the center is fairly firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack. It will sink slightly as it cools. Cover, and chill until serving time.

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fallflavorsheadWhat flavors do you associate with fall? For me the ones that immediately come to mind are apple cider, cinnamon, caramel, ginger, cranberry, pumpkin and nut flavors. Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate these flavors into your cooking.

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Apple Cider Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

Put the potatoes, apple cider and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring once, until the potatoes are tender (25-30 minutes).

Mash the potatoes with the cider until it is smooth. Add the butter and the pepper and heat just until the butter melts. Garnish with parsley.

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Pumpkin Ricotta Cheese Pie

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 1 cup of pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Crust

  • 1/3 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter

Directions

For the crust:

Place the crust ingredients, except the butter, in a food processor or blender and process until totally ground, but not powdery. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the crumbs for a topping.

Rub a little soft butter on the inside of a 9″ pie pan at least 1 1/2″ deep; use a deep-dish pan, if you have one.

If your pie pan isn’t at least 1 1/2″ deep, substitute a 9″ square pan.

Pour the crumbs into the pan, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a baking sheet, to make it easy to handle once you’ve added the filling.

For the filling:

Beat together with an electric mixer the ricotta, mascarpone, pumpkin, honey, eggs and pumpkin pie spice.

Continue to beat until creamy.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust and sprinkle the top with the reserved crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until the top of the center of the cheese pie springs back to the touch.

Chill in the refrigerator prior to serving.

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Apple Bars

Makes 20 bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped (3 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted or cinnamon chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan; set aside.

In a very large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the eggs, oil and vanilla. Stir in the apples and nuts.

Add the egg mixture to the well in the flour mixture, stirring just until moistened (batter will be thick).

Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour to serve slightly warm, or cool completely.

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Pear Crisp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 cups thinly sliced pears
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Topping

  • 1/2 cup regular rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the sliced fruit with the granulated sugar and place in the prepared baking dish.

For the topping:

In a medium bowl stir together the oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon.

Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts.

Sprinkle topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden.

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Cranberry Pecan Bread

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup sweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C).

Coat an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, oats, applesauce and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and thoroughly combine them.

Mix in the cranberries and pecans. It should have a consistency a little thicker than pancake batter.

Pour the dough into the loaf pan.

Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the loaf’s center comes out dry or an instant read thermometer registers 190 degrees F at the center of the loaf.

Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then remove the bread from the pan and let it cool before slicing.

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This past weekend, I had friends visiting us from Switzerland. I wanted to make a special Italian dinner for them. One that was not a typical Italian-American dinner but a dinner with dishes that are particular to Tuscany; one of their favorite places to visit. Dinner was big hit.

First Course

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Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Parmesan crisps, recipe below
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable broth

Directions

Melt the butter in a soup kettle and cook the onions, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, honey and wine and heat until the wine reduces a bit.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the crisps.

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Parmesan Crisps

Makes 6 crisps

.Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Do not use cooking spray.)

Mound 3 level tablespoonfuls of cheese in 5 inch long strips about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cheese is melted, soft and a very light golden color, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Do not disturb the crisps until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Using a thin spatula or knife, lift the crackers from the baking sheet.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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Sourdough Cheese Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Italian cheese (half grated parmesan and half shredded mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast, sourdough starter, sugar, butter, egg and salt in an electric mixer bowl. Beat 3 to 4 minutes.

Add baking soda to the whole wheat flour and blend into the flour-yeast mixture. Add cheese and remaining flour to  make a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth (5 to 8 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise until double (1 ½ to 2 hours). Punch the dough down. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil 2 baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Place on the oiled baking sheets. Cover; let rise until double (25 to 30 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.

Second Course

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Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage grilled and cut into 2 inch serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 shallots sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons excellent quality balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the grapes, shallots and broth and heat.

Stir pepper and salt into the grape-onion mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium, stir in the grilled sausages, wine and oregano and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced and the sausages are hot.

Arrange the sausages on a serving platter and spoon the grape mixture over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Quick Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring the broth and cream to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta.

Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, stir in the Parmesan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan until ready to serve.

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Italian Style Peas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes and serve.

Dessert Course

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Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce

Cheesecake

  • Soft butter for the pan
  • ½ cup crushed Amaretti cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cherry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted

Directions

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color.

Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours.

Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fruit sauce.

For the sauce:

Combine the water, lemon juice, amaretto, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk until smooth.

Add the cherries and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

If you want to serve it warm, you may do so; simply let it cool until it is warm, not hot or cover and refrigerate to store.

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This has always been my family’s favorite meal. This is the most asked for menu for birthdays and special occasions, after homemade pizza.

Antipasto Platter and Italian Bread

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bread

Ingredients

  • Stuffed Peppers
  • Roasted Tomatoes
  • Prosciutto
  • Salami
  • Olives
  • Cheese

Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • 1 lb to 2 lbs spaghetti (depending on how many you are serving)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

For the Sauce

  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 53 oz (1500 g) imported chopped Italian tomatoes (Preferably without salt or sugar added)
  • 6 oz can (170 g) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt  
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 or 4 basil leaves

For the Meatballs

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

To make the sauce:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.

Stir well and cook the paste a minute or two. Add the chopped tomatoes and the remaining ingredients. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat to low.

Place the lid on the pot but leave it ajar and cook the sauce until thick, about 2 hours. When the meatballs are browned, add them to the sauce after it has been cooking for 1 ½ hours.

Stir the meatballs carefully so they do not break.

To make the meatballs:

meatballs

Combine the bread cubes with the milk in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the onion and garlic.Cook until the onion is soft. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the onion to room temperature.

In a large  mixing bowl combine the beef with the cooled onion, the bread and the soaking liquid with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and form the mixture into 12 meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake the meatballs until brown all over, about 20 minutes

Italian Mixed Green Salad

  • Mixed baby lettuces
  • Cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Italian vinaigrette

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

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This quick-and-easy dessert is lighter than traditional cheesecake, since it calls for ricotta instead of cream cheese and my children love it. They always ask for it.Serves 8-10.

Ingredients

  • Soft butter for the pan
  • ½ cup crushed Amaretti Cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon  amaretto liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

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Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.

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Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color. Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours. Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fresh fruit on the side.

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What flavors do you associate with fall? For me the ones that immediately come to mind are apple cider, maple, cinnamon, caramel and pumpkin. Here are a few recipes to peak your fall taste buds.

Maple

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Maple Mascarpone Cheesecake

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16 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups walnut pieces, plus extra for the topping
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Two 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • One 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon maple flavoring
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 10-inch springform pan; set aside. In a food processor or blender combine the 1 1/2 cups walnut pieces and the 1/4 cup granulated sugar; cover and pulse or blend with several on/off turns until fine crumbs form. Add the 1/4 cup melted butter; pulse or blend to mix. Press crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until crust is firm and lightly browned on the edges. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, the 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and the brown sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed about 5 minutes or until very light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl; beat for 1 minute more. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the 1 teaspoon vanilla, the maple flavoring, and the 1/4 teaspoon salt; mix well.

Pour cheese mixture into cooled crust. Bake in the 350 degrees F oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until cheesecake is puffy around the edges but wiggles slightly when gently shaken. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl combine yogurt, maple syrup, the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and the 1/8 teaspoon salt. Spread yogurt mixture evenly over cheesecake, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edges. Bake in the 350 degrees F oven for 10 minutes more. Remove cheesecake from oven; while hot, run a thin knife around the edges. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Chill for at least 8 hours or up to 5 days before serving.

To serve, loosen cheesecake from sides of pan; remove sides of pan. If desired, garnish cheesecake with candied walnuts.

Apple Cider

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Apple Cider Sweet Potatoes

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Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

Put the potatoes, apple cider and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring once, until the potatoes are tender (25-30 minutes) Mash the potatoes with the cider until it is smooth. Add the butter and the pepper and heat just until the butter has melted. Garnish with parsley.

Cinnamon

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Apple-Cinnamon Custard Pie

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8 servings

Ingredients

  • Pastry for a Single-Crust Pie, recipe below
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 cup whipping (heavy) cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for the topping
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Prepare Pastry for a Single-Crust Pie. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten pastry. Roll pastry from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Wrap pastry circle around the rolling-pin. Unroll into a 9-inch pie plate. Ease pastry into pie plate without stretching it. Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold under extra pastry even with the edge of pie plate. Crimp edge high. Generously prick bottom and sides of pastry with a fork. Line pastry with a double thickness of foil. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes more or until golden. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar. Cook and stir until sugar starts to melt and turn golden. Stir in apples. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until apples are tender and liquid is mostly evaporated, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

In a small heavy saucepan heat whipping cream and milk over medium-low heat just until bubbly. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Gradually stir in hot cream mixture until combined.

Place pastry shell on oven rack. Spoon apple mixture into pastry shell. Carefully pour egg mixture over apple mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover edge of pie loosely with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake about 20 minutes more or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack about 1 hour to serve warm, or cool completely. Cover and chill within 2 hours.

Pastry for a Single-Crust Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut up, or shortening
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Directions

In a medium bowl stir together flour and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in shortening and butter until pieces are pea size.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the water over part of the flour mixture; toss with a fork. Push moistened pastry to side of bowl. Repeat moistening flour mixture, using 1 tablespoon of the water at a time, until flour mixture is moistened. Gather flour mixture into a ball, kneading gently until it holds together.

Caramel

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Caramel Pots de Creme

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8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place eight 4-ounce pots de creme pots, ramekins, or 6-ounce custard cups in a large roasting pan; set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine sugar, the water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Using a soft pastry brush dipped in water, brush down any sugar crystals on sides of pan. Bring mixture to boiling over medium-high heat. Boil gently, without stirring, for 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture turns an amber color. Remove from heat.

Whisking constantly, carefully add whipping cream and milk to sugar mixture in a slow stream (mixture will steam and sugar will harden). Return to heat. Cook and whisk about 2 minutes more or until sugar is dissolved.

In a large bowl whisk egg yolks until light and foamy. Slowly whisk cream mixture into beaten egg yolks. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a 4-cup glass measuring cup with a pouring spout. Divide mixture among pots de creme pots.

Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come halfway up sides of pots de creme pots. Carefully place pan on oven rack. Bake about 40 minutes or until edges of custards are set but centers jiggle slightly when shaken. Transfer pots de creme pots to wire racks; cool for 30 minutes. Cover and chill for 4 hours.

Pumpkin

Large pumpkin on a white back ground

Pumpkin Butter

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups Pumpkin Puree, recipe below
  • 1 ¼ cups pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In 5-quart Dutch oven combine all ingredients. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, 25 minutes or until thick. (If mixture spatters, reduce heat to medium-low). Remove from heat; cool.

Ladle into jars or freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Cover; store in refrigerator up to 1 week or freezer up to 6 months.

Pumpkin Puree

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ pounds sugar pie pumpkins

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut pumpkins into 5 x 5 inch pieces. Remove and discard seeds and strings. Arrange pieces in a single layer, skin sides up, in a foil-lined baking pan. Cover with foil. Bake about 1 hour or until tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop pulp from rind. Place pulp in food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Transfer puree to airtight storage containers. Store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw frozen puree in the refrigerator.


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Apples
Look for apples that are firm, brightly colored and free of bruises. The skin should be clean and shiny; a dull finish indicates the fruit may be past its prime. Refrigerate apples up to two weeks. At room temperature, they ripen too quickly and become mealy. Apples are also good baked in pies, roasted or sautéed to accompany meat dishes.

Grapes
Look for grapes that are plump, unblemished and firmly attached to a flexible stem. Ripe white and green grapes should have a yellowish cast; red and purple ones should have no green. Refrigerate grapes in a ventilated plastic bag up to one week.

Pears
Pears ripen off the tree, so most of the fruit you’ll find at the market will need a few days to soften at home. Common varieties include: Anjou, which is egg-shaped with a green, rose-tinged green, or red skin; Bosc, which has a slender neck and a brown skin (Boscs are flavorful even before fully ripe so they are good for cooking); and Bartlett, which has a red skin or a green skin that yellows as it ripens. Let pears ripen at room temperature. When they’re ready to eat, the flesh on the neck of the fruit will give a little when pressed. Refrigerate ripe pears for up to five days. Cooking can really bring out their flavor, so try them baked or poached.

Pomegranates
This slightly sour fruit has gotten a lot of press as an antioxidant powerhouse. The juice provides a tangy base for marinades and the seeds can be mixed into salads to give them flavor.

Dates
This Middle Eastern favorite is a sweet fruit that is perfect braised in stews, chopped up in desserts, stuffed with cream cheese or almonds or baked into quick breads.

Kiwi
Use this sweet fruit to add a tropical flavor to your recipes. It’s great mixed with other fruits for a fruit salad or combined with pineapple to make a tangy chutney.

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Apple-Date Cake

12 servings

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 2/3 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped peeled apple
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small saucepan combine milk, dates and salt; heat until steaming but do not boil. Remove from the heat. Stir in apple and vanilla; cool to room temperature.

Whisk in egg and oil and stir until combined. Set aside.

For the topping:

In a small bowl stir together pecans, brown sugar, butter, the 1 teaspoon flour and the cinnamon; set aside.

For the cake:

In a medium bowl whisk together the 1-1/2 cups flour, the baking powder and baking soda. Add milk mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Spoon batter into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with the pecan topping mixture.

Bake about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

fallfruit3

Italian Grape Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (135 g) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (200 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 10 ounces (300 g) small, fresh, seedless purple grapes
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F

Generously butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk and vanilla extract and mix until blended.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and orange zest, and toss to coat the zest with the flour.

Spoon the mixture into the bowl of batter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.

Stir about 3/4 of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining grapes. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes.

Remove to a rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the sides of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Serve at room temperature. Cut the cake into thin wedges.

fallfruit2

Pear Quick Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh pears (not too ripe – more hard than soft)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Mix together molasses, honey, egg white, buttermilk and oil in a small bowl or glass measuring cup.

Mix flour, bran, sugar, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and add the wet mixture all at once.

Stir in the chopped pears and walnuts.

Pour into a 9 x 5-inch lightly greased baking pan.

Bake at 350°F for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread tests done (cake tester inserted in middle of loaf comes out clean). Makes 1 large loaf.

fallfruit4

Pomegranate-Ginger Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus extra for the topping
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 1/4 cups pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine, melted and cooled

Directions

In a bowl, mix flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in crystallized ginger, lemon peel and pomegranate seeds. Make a well in the center.

In a measuring cup, blend milk, egg and melted butter. Pour mixture all at once into the well in the bowl with the flour mixture. Stir just until batter is moistened; it will be lumpy.

Spoon batter into 12 (2 1/2-in.-wide) or 24 (1 3/4-in.-wide) buttered mini muffin cups, filling each almost to the rim. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with granulated sugar.

Bake in a 425°F oven until lightly browned, about 16 minutes for the large muffin pan or 13 minutes for the small muffin pan. Remove muffins from the pan immediately and cool on a wire rack.

fallfruit5

Kiwi Ricotta Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup (about 3 oz.) gingersnap cookie crumbs or biscotti crumbs
  • 1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger, divided
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 15 oz. (1 2/3 cups) ricotta cheese
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 kiwi fruit (about 1/4 lb. each)

Directions

Combine crumbs, 1/4 cup crystallized ginger and melted butter. Pat crumb mixture evenly the over bottom of a removable-rim 8-inch cheesecake pan.

Bake in a 350°F oven until the crust is lightly brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, process ricotta cheese, egg whites and lemon juice until very smooth.

In a mixing bowl, stir together yogurt, sugar, lemon peel and vanilla. Add ricotta mixture and stir until well blended (the mixture is thin). Pour into the (hot or cool) crust.

Bake in a 350°F oven until the center barely jiggles when cake is gently shaken, 50 to 55 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between cake and pan rim.

Refrigerate cake, uncovered, until cool, at least 2 1/2 hours. (If making ahead, wrap airtight when cool and chill up to 2 days.)

Remove pan rim. Peel kiwi fruit and slice crosswise. Arrange fruit in a ring in overlapping slices on top of the cake and sprinkle with remaining ginger. Cut cake into wedges.


FN0610141_WATERMELON_02.tif

Take advantage of fresh, in-season produce to make healthy dessert recipes for your next barbecue, block party or casual summer dinner. These summer desserts are so satisfying that no one will notice that they’re lower in fat and calories.

dessert1

Berry-Lemon Shortcake

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Berry-Lemon Sauce

  • 3 cups fresh  raspberries, strawberries or blueberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 4 cups fresh raspberries, strawberries or blueberries

Directions

Allow eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Line pan with waxed paper. Grease and flour the waxed paper; set pan aside.

In a small saucepan heat milk and butter until the butter melts.

In a small bowl stir together flour, baking powder and lemon peel; set aside.

In a medium bowl beat eggs with an electric mixer on high-speed about 4 minutes or until thick. Gradually add sugar, beating on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture; beat on low to medium speed just until combined.

Add the heated milk/butter to the batter and beat until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto a wire rack lined with waxed paper; carefully peel off top waxed paper and cool completely.

Make sauce: Place the 3 cups of berries in a medium bowl and mash the berries with a potato masher.

In a small saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch and lemon peel. Add mashed berries. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Cool about 10 minutes. Stir in the 4 cups of berries. Makes about 3-1/2 cups.

Cut cake into 12 pieces. Split each cake piece in half horizontally. Place a cake bottom on an individual dessert plate. Spoon some sauce over the cake bottom. Cover with a cake top. Spoon sauce over the cake.

dessert3

Chocolate Sauce with Fruit Kabobs

Be sure to use good quality chocolate for the sauce.

16 servings

Ingredients

  • Strawberry halves, pineapple, apple, kiwi fruit chunks and raspberries
  • 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate baking bar, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate baking bar, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla and butter. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and coffee until completely melted and smooth. Keep warm or reheat just before serving.

Thread assorted fruit onto sixteen 6-inch wooden (bamboo) skewers.

To serve:

Place a few tablespoons of sauce on a serving plate and place a fruit skewer on top.

dessert2

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Makes 24 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • One 8 ounce package low-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan; set pan aside.

For the blueberry sauce:

In a small saucepan stir together the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and the cornstarch. Stir in the blueberries and the orange juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the crust:

In a large mixing bowl stir together the 2 cups flour and the powdered sugar. Cut in the butter until fine crumbs form and mixture starts to cling together (mixture will still be crumbly). Pat mixture firmly into prepared pan and bake the crust for 20 minutes.

For the cake:

n a medium bowl beat cream cheese, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the 1 tablespoon flour until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined.

Pour over the hot baked crust, spreading evenly. Drop blueberry sauce in small mounds over the cheese layer. Use a thin metal spatula or table knife to marble the mixtures together.

Bake for 20 minutes more or until the center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Remove uncut bars from the pan by lifting the foil out of the pan. Cut into bars.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Sift powdered sugar over bars just before serving.

dessert4

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cookies

28 cookies

Ingredients

  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt; stir with a whisk.

Place butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).

Add the egg yolks, espresso and vanilla to the butter; beat well. Add flour mixture and beat at low-speed just until combined. Stir in nuts.

Cover bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Turn dough out onto a sheet of wax paper; knead several times or until smooth and shiny. Shape dough into 28 (1-inch) balls.

Arrange balls 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press thumb deeply into the center of each cookie, leaving an indentation. Bake, 1 batch at a time for 10 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut-chocolate spread into center of each cookie.

dessert5

Peach Custard Pie

10 servings

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or distilled white vinegar

Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt (6 ounces)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups sliced fresh peeled peaches
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans

To prepare the crust:

Pulse pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Add flour, sugar and salt and pulse a few times. Turn into a mixing bowl and cut in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add oil and stir with a fork to blend.

Mix 1/4 cup water, egg yolk and lemon juice (or vinegar) in a measuring cup. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add enough of the wet ingredients, stirring with a fork, until the dough clumps together. (Add a little more water if it seems too dry.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times. Form into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Position rack the in lower third of the oven; preheat to 400°F. Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray.

To prepare filling & assemble pie:

Combine sugar, milk, yogurt, eggs, flour, cornstarch, vanilla (or almond) extract and salt in a medium bowl; whisk until smooth.

Roll out the dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet and invert the dough into the prepared pie pan. Peel off the remaining paper.

Trim the dough so it overhangs evenly by about 1 inch. Fold the edges under to make a plump edge; flute or crimp the edge with your fingers or a fork. Place on a baking sheet.

Arrange peaches on the crust and pour the filling on top (some peaches will float but this won’t affect the final results). Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle chopped pecans over the top. Cover the edges with heavy-duty foil (or a double layer of regular foil) to help prevent over browning.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Return the pie to the oven and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 minutes to 1 hour more.

Let cool for 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm or refrigerate until cold.



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