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Posts Tagged ‘cream cheese’

You already know that my pants don’t fit.  I don’t know about you, but I find it nearly impossible to diet around this time of year.  It is so cold out that the last thing I want to eat is salad.  What really appeals to me are dishes like chili, lasagna, fresh baked cookies… comfort food.  Add on holiday celebrations, office treats, and Christmas candy sales; I am hopeless.  Well, it is fair to say that I won’t lose any weight in the last week or so of December, but I will do anything I can not to gain more weight.  As a result, I am making an effort to lighten up some of the desserts I am making over the next few hours weeks.

cheesecake 2

Honestly, I don’t do well “giving up” anything. I don’t do well with portion control either.  The first step in trying to combat that is pre-portioning desserts.  The other thing I like to do is take out some of the fat and calories where it won’t be missed.  Previously I’ve made ice cream desserts that taste delicious but are made with lots of low-guilt ingredients.  Well, I decided to make Individual Peanut Butter Cheesecakes using lower fat cream cheese with a few more decadent ingredients to balance them out.

cheesecake 5

These cheesecakes are made with a crunchy pretzel crust, a creamy peanut butter filling and chocolate chips snuck in as a layer above the crust and throughout batter.  By the way, you’d be so proud of me.  I only ate two of them!  That may or may not be because I gave some to friends and left the rest in my parents fridge.  Sorry, Mom:-)

cheesecake 4

This recipe is actually very easy and revolves mostly around a food processor.  I figured if I needed to take out the appliance for making a crust, I might as well use it for the cheesecake batter too!

To begin, fill up your food processor with salted pretzels

pretzels2

Run them through until they are mostly fine crumbs

pretzels3

In a small bowl, pour melted butter over the pretzel crumbs

adding butter

Add sugar

adding sugar

Stir until all of the crumbs are moist

Mixing crust

Press a couple tablespoons of crust ingredients into two muffin tins sprayed with non-stick cooking spray; bake for about 6 minutes

crust pre-baking

When crust comes out of oven, layer with several milk chocolate and caramel chips

chips on crust 1

Regular chocolate chips would also work, but I really like the combination of caramel, chocolate and peanut butter; set pan aside

chocolate caramel chips

Meanwhile, prepare cheesecake batter; you can shake out the crumbs from the food processor, no need to wash it

cream cheese 1

Cream 2 blocks of cream cheese in the food processor

cream cheese 2

Add sugar, flour, vanilla and salt

adding sugar flour and vanilla

Combine well

sugar flour vanilla mixed

Add your eggs

add eggs

Measure 1 cup of peanut butter chips

peanut butter chips

Microwave about 45 seconds and stir; microwave in additional 20 second increments until chips are melted; note this will be very thick

melted pb chips

Add peanut butter to cheesecake batter

add peanut butter

Process until smooth and creamy

pb mixed in

Pour cheesecake batter into a separate bowl and fold in chocolate chips

fold in chips

Use a small ladle or large spoon to put about 1/3 of a cup of batter in muffin tins

badder in pan 1

Bake cheesecakes for about 15 minutes or until mostly firm

baked 2

Serve drizzled with chocolate and caramel or sprinkled with pretzel crumbs

cheesecake 12

Individual Peanut Butter Cheesecakes, lightened up

Makes 24 mini-cheesecakes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups finely ground pretzel crumbs

4 tablespoons melted butter

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, separated

1 8-ounce block fat free cream cheese, softened

1 8-ounce block reduced fat cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup peanut butter chips*, melted

1/2 cup milk chocolate and caramel chips

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

To begin, fill up your food processor with salted pretzels and run them through until finely ground

In a small bowl, pour melted butter over the pretzel crumbs

Add 2 tablespoons sugar and stir until all of the crumbs are moist

Press mixture into two sets of muffin tins sprayed with non-stick cooking spray; bake for 6 minutes

When crust comes out of oven, sprinkle a few milk chocolate and caramel chips into each cup; set aside

Shake crumbs out of food processor and use it to prepare cheesecake batter

Cream 2 blocks of cream cheese in the food processor

Add sugar, flour, vanilla and salt; cream until well combined

Add eggs and mix well

Add melted peanut butter chips to cheesecake batter and process until smooth and creamy

Pour cheesecake batter into a separate bowl; fold in chocolate chips

Use a small ladle or large spoon to put about 1/3 of a cup of batter into each cup

Bake cheesecakes for about 15 minutes or until tops are mostly firm

Notes:

*You can replace these with regular peanut butter (not natural)

The peanut butter flavor isn’t really strong; some people may prefer this but I may try increasing the amount of peanut butter chips next time (using regular peanut butter could also help)

cheesecake 7

cheesecake 11

Are you worried about weight gain during the holidays?

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Crispy gingersnap crust, rich chocolate cheesecake layer and a light pumpkin cheesecake filling, i.e. a delicious dessert just in time for Thanksgiving

bars on plate 5

I may have served eight (yes, 8) varieties of pick-up desserts at my Thanksgiving with Friends, but these Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars won me over as the number one pick for the evening.  That wasn’t easy because all of the desserts were decadent and delicious.  Maybe it was the combination of two of my favorite flavors, pumpkin and chocolate.  Maybe it was the surprising spice from the gingersnap cookie crust.  Maybe it was the lovely creamy texture with a perfect thin crispy crust in one bite.  Maybe it was the balance of richness and lightness that allows you to eat not just one, but four two.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter.  These are delicious and if you like the sound of any of that, you must make them.

bars on plate 2

I saw Sharon’s recipe on the Curvy Carrot about a month ago and new right away I had to make it myself.  There were a couple of modifications, but the recipe is largely based on hers.  Just like she said, they were easy but a little time consuming.  Definitely worth every minute, though!

bars on plate 4

The first thing you will need to do is make the crust

crust 1

Grind up about 25 gingersnaps in a food processor until fine

crust 2

Set cookie crumbs aside

crust 3

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave

crust 4

Pour butter over cookie crumbs

crust 5

Add 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

crust 6

Mix until well combined

crust 7

Pour mixture into a 9×13 pan lined with tin foil and cooking spray

crust 8

Spread mixture evenly and set aside

crust 9

Now make your cheesecake filling

ingredients

Make sure your cream cheese is softened at room temperature

filling 1

Whip it well in your mixer until creamy and lumps are gone

filling 2

Then add granulated sugar

filling 3

Combine well until light and creamy

filling 4

Beat in eggs, one at a time

filling 5

Mix in 2 tablespoons of flour

filling 7

Now add your pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and salt

filling 8

Beat until your mixture is thick and creamy

filling 9

Now, separate 1 1/2 cups of the pumpkin cheesecake filling and set aside in a large bowl

filling 10

Measure out 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate

filling 11

Melt with butter over low heat

filling 12

Mixture will get very thick

filling 13

Add chocolate to pumpkin filling that you set aside

filling 14

Stir thoroughly

filling 15

Pour chocolate batter over crust and bake for 15 minutes

filling 16

Pour remaining pumpkin cheesecake filling on top

filling 17

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until edges begin to separate from foil and middle bounces slightly when touched

 

 

filling 18

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight

bars

Remove cheesecake from pan and cut into small bars

bars on plate 1

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from The Curvy Carrot

Makes 36 small bars

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 1/4 cups of gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 25 cookies)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Filling:

2 8-ounce packages light cream cheese softened at room temperature

1 3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

Line a 13×9 pan with tin foil and spray with cooking spray, set aside

To make the crust, grind up about 25 gingersnaps in a food processor until fine; set cookie crumbs aside

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave and pour over cookie crumbs

Add 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and mix until well combined

Pour mixture into a 9×13 pan lined with tin foil and cooking spray; spread evenly using fingers to push down crust mixture and set aside

To make your cheesecake filling, whip cream cheese in mixer until creamy and lumps are gone

Add granulated sugar and combine on medium-high speed well until light and creamy

Beat in eggs, one at a time, on medium speed

Mix in flour on medium speed

Add your pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and salt and beat until your mixture is thick and creamy

Now, separate 1 1/2 cups of the pumpkin cheesecake filling and set aside in a large bowl

Melt chocolate chips and butter in a small saucepan over low heat; mixture will get very thick

Add chocolate to the pumpkin filling that you set aside and stir thoroughly

Pour chocolate batter over crust and bake for 15 minutes

Remove from oven and pour remaining pumpkin cheesecake filling on top

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until edges begin to separate from foil and middle bounces slightly when touched

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight

Remove cheesecake from pan and cut into small bars

Notes:

I used light cream cheese because I wanted a final product that wasn’t overly rich, but regular cream cheese would work as well

I actually meant to sprinkle additional gingersnap cookie crumbs on top of the pumpkin filling before baking but forgot! I think it would add a nice touch of spice to that layer

When cutting the bars, I recommend cleaning your knife with a paper towel between slices to keep from contaminating the layers with one another

bars on plate 3

What desserts are you making for Thanksgiving?

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I may have stopped recapping Top Chef Just Desserts, but I continued to watch.  The show actually got better as the drama went away, and viewers were able to get a glimpse at some extremely talented pastry chefs.  The wide range of skills they have is incredible, from wedding cakes, to edible dresses, these chefs are pretty inspiring.

Zac Young is amazing and makes creative, delicious desserts.  He will definitely be getting my “fan favorite” vote:-)  Lucky for me, he happens to work at a New York City restaurant, Flex Mussels.  When one of my best friends from college was visiting last Friday, who also also happens to be a huge Zac fan from the show, I had the perfect opportunity to visit the restaurant!flex donuts

Flex Mussels has a wide variety of seafood dishes, along with over a dozen varieties of mussels.  They also have a chicken dish which was perfect for my seafood-hating friend.  The restaurant has a trendy vibe and is reasonably priced in the nice NYC-restaurant category.

A group of 5 of us went to the Upper East Side location for a 9:30 reservation.  The place was packed which led to slightly slow service, but the food was so good we didn’t care.  Matt and I shared the goat cheese salad plus two varieties of mussels: Italiano and Maine.  I really enjoyed the food, but honestly, was saving room for dessert.

Unfortunately, Zac was in the kitchen at the other location that night, but the desserts were still designed by him so I was ok with that.  Besides, it gives me an excuse to try the restaurant again.

The five of us decided to choose one donut each and have the waiter choose a sixth for us.  He picked salted caramel and I am glad he did! It had a surprisingly complex flavor.  My selection was fluffernutter and my friends picked blueberry, meyer lemon, chocolate and peanut butter and jelly. The donuts were the perfect ratio of filling to pastry, a taste of each in every bite.  They came warm and fresh with a side of some sort of creamy glaze.

flex donuts 2

Of course we also had to try Zac’s famous deep fried whoopie pie.

flex whoopie pie 1

O.M.G.  I now wish I had a deep fryer.  This was not the boring whoopie pie I have had in the past.  It was moist and flavorful chocolate cake sandwiched with cream cheese icing that oozed out as soon as I sliced it.  The crispy outer layer was delicious and added a great balance of textures. I’m not even sure what all of the sides were but I think the big scoop was coffee ice cream.

flex whoopie pie 2

We may have shared this around the table, but I managed to take an extra piece for myself.  It was too good to leave behind:-)  Definitely one of the top five restaurant desserts I have ever had.

Overall, it was a great night at Flex Mussels.  We all left full of delicious food and Matt and I resolved to go back for more mussels and dessert and hopefully catch Zac!

Have you ever met any famous chefs?  Did their food live up to your expectations?

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