The Simplest Most Delicious Cherry Cheesecake Recipe I’ve Ever Made

The Simplest Most Delicious Cherry Cheesecake Recipe I’ve Ever Made

I briefly touched upon this cheery cheesecake recipe in an earlier post highlighting my favorite Thanksgiving desserts, but thought if was worthy of its own mention since I recently made one for a friend. This no-bake version is my aunt’s recipe and it is always devoured. Friends cannot believe how easy it is to make considering how delicious it is. It is perfect for dinner parties since you quite literally whip it up the night before.

No-Bake Cherry Cheesecake

Ingredients
24 graham cracker squares
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 T sugar

8 ounces softened cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 pint heavy cream (also called whipping cream)
1 can cherry pie filling, chilled

Directions

graham cracker crust
Graham cracker crust (Combine 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers, 1/3 cup melted butter, 3 T sugar and press into pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool.)

whipped cheesecake filling

Beat softened cream cheese until smooth.
Add sugar and vanilla and beat some more.
Slowly pour in heavy heavy cream and beat until the mixture is thick and fluffy.

no bake cheesecake

Pour/scrape into cooled pie crust.

Chill 24 hours.

Brad Nierenberg's Cheesecake

Top with canned cherries.

This is a regular request for birthdays and special occasions. I know you are thinking that it can’t possibly be that good if it is so simple to make…but it is!

Buon appetito!
Brad

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5 Things To Do While Wine Tasting

5 Things To Do While Wine Tasting

I consider myself a bit of a wino. Not that I drink a bottle a day, but I possess a decent share of knowledge and have been to many wine tastings, including a few in Italy and Germany. I’ve made a few friends who work in tasting rooms and am often appalled by the stories they share. It is for those folks that I jump up onto my soapbox today!

Hey millennials: Get your nose out of your smartphone and into your glass. The folks who work in the tasting room are trying to share their knowledge with you about their wines. Give them your attention so they can get through it and move on to assist other customers. When you are focused on your phone and not the wine discussion you are wasting other people’s time. It’s rude!

Try everything. When you are out on a wine tasting, don’t skip around the recommended tasting menu. That menu was set up by people who know a lot more about wines than you do. Just follow along and take each ensuing swirl and sip in order. Who knows, you may just find something new that you love.

Cleanse your palate between tastes. Go ahead and take a swig of water, a piece of bread, or whatever they offer. Each new wine will taste much better if you no longer have the remaining taste of the last wine still in your mouth.

Wine tasting is not the same as beer funnels. It’s true that touring wineries for the day with a group of friends is meant to be entertaining, but try and show a little decorum. It your goal for the day is to get hammered, stick to your local pub. If you are tasting wines, use the experience to broaden your knowledge about wines. There are other people in the winery hoping to enjoy their wine tasting experience as well. If you know your group will be raucous, find a winery with a lively reputation. Hazlitt Winery in Hector, NY is a perfect example.

Tip the person who leads your wine tasting. It always amazes me that people “forget” to tip after a wine tasting. We tip bartenders and all they do is pour us a couple of drinks. These folks give us an education with every sample. The money you pay for the tasting does not include a tip, so don’t be a cheapskate. A dollar or two in tips at each winery will land you in the poor house.

Care to add any wine tasting tips of your own? I encourage you to leave a comment and join in the discussion!

 

Tomato Jam Goes with EVERYTHING!

Tomato Jam Goes with EVERYTHING!

If you have homegrown (or farmer’s market) tomatoes coming out of your ears, today is your lucky day! This recipe for tomato jam is so delicious, you’ll be spreading it on everything. Heck, I help myself to a spoonful every time I pass the fridge! Scrambled eggs, hot dogs, burgers, cheese & crackers, bruschetta … use your own imagination (or Pinterest) to figure it out. But beware, tomato jam goes down easy and when eaten in large quantities, results in a slight, albeit “so worth it,” sugar headache. I speak from experience.

I modified Mark Bittman’s recipe as listed in the NYTimes just a tad. He’s a brilliant cook so I have not changed his recipe to improve upon it. To be perfectly honest, the first time I made it, I did not have enough limes, so I improvised by adding balsamic vinegar for more acid. And I like a little more spice, as you’ll see.  Finally, I more than doubled the recipe because those tomatoes cook down so much, you’ll be sorry if you start with too few tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds ripe tomatoes, any variety, or a mixture. 
  • cups sugar, or less if you don’t want it as sweet.
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoons fresh grated ginger or 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Thai chili paste

Directions

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Core and chop all the tomatoes. You could even do a course chop in your food processor to save time. I used my Miracle Kitchen Plus which worked great!

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Toss the chopped tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients in a heavy pan and bring mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for several hours.

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You should be able to pull your spoon across the bottom of the pot and see the bottom. It will be thick like jam.

Cool and store in the refrigerator or freezer. I spoon it into small mason jars while it is still warm and screw the lid on tightly. As it cools, it sucks the lid in a bit for a tighter seal. This is not the same as canning (which you could totally do) so each jar lasts only a week or so in the fridge.

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It makes a great gift for friends and neighbors if you are the sharing type!

One amazing way to use tomato jam is on a grilled cheese sandwich with fresh mozzarella and a slice or two of fresh tomato. Talk about delicious!

If you have a recipe for tomato jam or a great way to use it, please share below!

 

Banana Split Dessert Hits the Spot

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These hot summer days are the perfect time to whip up a no-bake dessert. Who wants to heat up the oven when its 90+ degrees and humid outside? Morgan’s blog, My Grandma’s Recipe Book, was kind enough to include my Banana Split Dessert for her readers to enjoy. Here’s a peek at the end result, but if you want to know how to assemble this step-by-step, pop over to Morgan’s site for instructions and photos. She includes other delicious dishes her Grandma used to make which I am certain you will enjoy as well.

What dish do you still make that your Gram used to prepare? I’d love to know.

A Better Way to Chop

A Better Way to Chop

A friend recently sent me a few new kitchen toys and man are they awesome! The best of the batch is called the Miracle Kitchen Plus and I am having a ball experimenting with it. I decided to start with something simple. I whipped up a quick batch of mango salsa to use on top of some fresh baked flounder. It really cut back on prep time. I also received a little tool for juicing citrus and an invincible knife. All three tools are from the collection of a television Chef named Vinni Villicano.

First, let me say that this is not a paid endorsement of any kind. My friend knew I recently started blogging about some of my cooking and she thought I would enjoy trying these products and blogging about them. She was right!

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Here are my ingredients for the salsa, laid out next to the chopper. Two mangoes (which I peeled before adding), a half cucumber (peeled), a clove of garlic (peeled as well), a small bunch of fresh cilantro, salt, pepper, 1/4 jalapeño without the seeds, and the juice of one lime.

This handy little juicer worked great! It has a little filter inside which captures seeds. I simply squeezed the lime juice into the batch of salsa ingredients.

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I added all of the individual ingredients, slapped on the lid, and turned the crank a few times round until the salsa had the consistency I desired. It took minutes!

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The only thing I did notice was that the pieces are not shaped like little cubes as they are when you hand chop something and the consistency of size is not as precise as hand chopping. But honestly, for a salsa, it saved a ton of time.

Now, if you are accustomed to making everything in your electric food processor, then using this hand-powered tool may not be a revelation. But I hate pulling my big heavy food processor out of the pantry. And I hate cleaning it. This is lightweight, small, and easy to clean with either hot soapy water, or it can go in the dish washer.

 

Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

I know that Pillsbury makes a perfectly edible refrigerated pie crust, as do many other companies. But if you performed a side-by-side taste test between homemade pie dough and store-bought, the one made from scratch wins hands down!

Over the years I have made an occasional attempt to mix up my own pie crust, but it was never the right consistency. Strange, because my scones are always the perfect texture and the strategy is not that different.

This year, my New Year’s resolution was to learn to make edible pie crust. I am proud to say, I’m getting there! I practiced with a couple of quiches which were more than just edible. They were actually pretty damned tasty!

The beauty of quiche is that you can put whatever you want in one. The base for each was 6 eggs, a cup of milk, 2/3 cup light cream, salt, and pepper.

In version one I added sauteed broccoli, rendered diced speck (kind of like Italian bacon), and cheddar cheese.

For version two I sauteed yellow summer squash and added turkey sausage crumbles. (I took a shortcut and bought Jimmy Dean turkey sausage pre-cooked crumbles. They were easy and worked just fine.) I incorporated a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.

Start with the pie crust since it needs time to rest. These ingredient measurements are more of a guideline since the amount of water will depend on how it feels. Some folks swear by the food processor, but since my Gramma never used one, I decided to learn by hand.

Ingredients for Two Crusts

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt or so
2 sticks butter cut into pieces
ice water – start with about 5-6 Tbs and add slowly as needed.

Directions

Mix flour and salt. Add butter. Use pastry cutter and incorporate butter until you get a sandy texture. Add water slowly and mix until it comes together. Do not over handle. Do not add too much water or it will get soupy.

Take one half and place on floured surface. Roll out until it is big enough for your pie plate. Trim edges. Flute. Use a fork to poke holes all over. Repeat with second pie crust.

If you are making a two crust pie, then here is where instructions diverge. I pre-baked my crusts, but you would fill your crust, lay the top over the filling, and trim/crimp, egg wash, then bake.

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Place pie plates in the freezer while you prepare your fillings. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Before you bake, cover each pie dough with tin foil and add pie weights. As you can see, I used dried garbanzo beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove pie weights and foil, then bake 10-15 minutes longer. My edges ended up a bit dark, so next time I would leave tin foil around them for this last 10-15, or cover them when baking the filling.

Add your fillings and bake until the centers are set. This took about 35-40 minutes in my oven. Yours may differ.

Overall, my pie crusts were quite good. The best part came with the pie dough scraps which I rolled out, spread with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. I then rolled it up and baked until golden. My Gram always does this with pie scraps and it is delicious. She calls it Schnikerhausen. I call it yum!

What are your favorite quiche add-ins? Leave comments below so we can try different combinations!

Cookbook Recommendations by Brad Nierenberg

Cookbook Recommendations by Brad Nierenberg

Every so often I like to curl up with a good book and a glass of single malt. This weekend, the books were from my overloaded stack of beloved cookbooks. I know I typically share a favorite recipe each week, but today I’m sharing a few old friends! I hope you will be inspired to share a bit about your favorite sources for recipes as well!

Mr. Food Cooks Pasta
Art Ginsburg
Copyright 1993 by Cogin, Inc.

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I picked up my copy of “Mr. Food Cooks Pasta” back before Borders went out of business. It was tucked away on one of those bargain shelves. It’s been one of my go-to sources ever since. The writing style is easy to read and conversational. And though this little black and white book lacks any pretty photos, I still find myself using it on a regular basis.

Mr. Food, Art Ginsburg, provides a guide for pasta shapes, includes a simple chart for sauces and uses for each shape, and the opening chapter on pasta “particulars” includes a brief history and cooking instructions. Next, one of the best sections, is a quick pasta recipe chart for “meals in minutes.” The follow-on segments include pasta appetizers and side dishes, pasta soups and stews, pasta salads, pasta main courses, family favorites, and pasta sauces.

Since I love to cook and eat pasta, it’s great to have this guide to an easy and delicious meal! I think I’ve made almost every recipe in the book at least once. Many of the dog-eared corners are turned down to save the ones I like best.

Ginsburg is not Italian to my knowledge, but no matter, whether lemon linguine or chicorina soup, this cookbook is a winner in my book.

Barefoot Contessa at Home
Ina Garten
Copyright 2006 by Ina Garten

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Quentin Bacon’s photography in Ina Garten’s fifth cookbook is true food porn! After the cook’s lengthy introduction (and to be honest, I’ve never read it) she leads right into chapters entitled soup and sandwich, salads, dinner, vegetables, dessert, and breakfast.

She includes a nice section of small places to visit in the Hamptons for food. These are places she mentions on her cooking show and would be fun to add to your traveling itinerary if vacationing in the area. The last section called menus takes all the recipes from the cookbook and puts them together into menus you can try at home. I think this is brilliant!

I have not come close to recreating all the yummy recipes in this extensive cookbook, but the ones I’ve made do not disappoint. Her Sunday Morning Oatmeal is a regular in my rotation and I have zero desire to ever try another recipe for coconut cake after falling in love with hers. Where I think she really shines though is in the dinner section. From cornish hens to Asian salmon, there are several delicious and doable recipes in this section.

Holiday Cookies
Martha Stewart
2006 Issue

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Okay, so Martha Stewart’s annual holiday cookie magazine is not exactly a traditional cookbook, but if you could see the tattered pages you would know I use it often. It’s really the perfect cookie guide!

This 2006 version includes more than 100 cookie recipes and the breakdown is spot-on (as my British friends would say). The table of contents features a photo of each cookie and they are categorized as soft and chewy, crisp and crunchy, light and delicate, crumbly and sandy, cakey and tender, rich and dense, and finally, chunky and nutty. Likewise, the recipe index in the very back is alphabetized by cookie with a picture of each one for easy reference.

I wish I had the time (and calorie allowance) to make and test each and every cookie, but rest assure I have given it the old college try! It’s great to have one consolidated source to find a recipes for chocolate chip cookies identified as crisp, chewy, or cakey. After all, some days you prefer one type to another!

If you don’t own your own copy to savor, keep an eye out for this magazine next fall. A complete cookie guide is a must-have for every home baker!

What are your favorite cookbooks? I hope you’ll share the titles below!