Maple Cheesecake

cheesecake

Most people would probably disagree, but I think the best part of cheesecake is the crust.  I love that graham cracker crumbly deliciousness. The cheesecake part of cheesecake is growing on me, but for many years I considered it an over-rated dessert.  Somewhat plain, not quite worth the calories. And frankly, plain old New York cheesecake still doesn’t do much for me.

But smooth, sweet silky maple cheesecake is a whole different story. 

Maple syrup screams holiday season to me, and it makes everything feel more festive.  We devoured this whole cake at Thanksgiving (which means I still have a ton of leftover pumpkin pie – anyone have any fun ideas for what to do with half a leftover pie?) and I plan to make it again for Christmas.  With a subtle maple syrup flavor in the cake, and a more intense punch of maple syrup in the crust, this cake blew away the rest of our dessert spread. It’s smoother than a traditional New York cheesecake, a truly decadent texture. And you know what?  You don’t really have to wait for a holiday to make this cheesecake.  There is nothing wrong with cheesecake on a Tuesday.

Maple Cheesecake

Serves 10-12

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

3  cups graham cracker crumbs

1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter

1 1/2 cups maple syrup, divided

24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup sour cream

4 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Candied Cranberries for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a food processor, grind the nuts until well chopped, but not a paste. In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, nuts, melted butter, and half a cup of maple syrup.  Press the mixture evenly into a 10-inch springform pan and wrap the bottom of the pan with two layers of foil to prevent leaks.

Beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  Add the sour cream and beat until incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla and beat well, scraping down the edges of the bowl. Fold in the remaining cup of maple syrup. Carefully pour the cream cheese mixture into the crust. Bake for 60-70 minutes until golden on top.  The cake will not be set, but will set as it cools.  Chill the cake overnight before unmolding and serving.  Top with a handful of candied cranberries, if desired.

Published in: on November 27, 2011 at 8:11 pm  Comments (17)  
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Thanksgiving Sides to Savor

Can I tell you a little secret? 

I don’t really like traditional Thanksgiving sides. 

Actually, it’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I don’t love them.  And I want to love them. I feel like I’m supposed to swoon over mashed potatoes, but I find most versions kind of boring.  And stuffing? Um, it’s mushy bread. 

But I do love Thanksgiving. I love curling up on the couch with a big mug of coffee to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I love spending the afternoon in the kitchen with my family.  I love lingering around the table. And Thanksgiving isn’t really about the turkey anyway, it’s about family and friends.  I know I’ve harped a lot lately on the concept of good living, but I promise this is the last time.

There’s a moment, after the pumpkin pie, when the whole family is full and happy and laughing. To me, that moment is truly the height of good living. As I mentioned before, the folks at Fage (makers of yummy Greek yogurt)  have asked a few of us food bloggers to weigh in on what makes for good living.  And while I’d gladly trade lumpy mashed potatoes and chilly New England weather for crispy spanakopita and Mediterranean sunshine, we can live the good life right here in Connecticut too. Whether corn bread stuffing makes you drool or not, be sure to savor all of the good moments this week!

And should you like some inspiration for deviating from the usual green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole, one of the following recipes might make a fun addition to your Thanksgiving line up.

noodle kugel

New England Noodle Kugel

 

sweet potato

Sweet Potato and Gorgonzola Gnocchi

 

barley side dish

Roasted Onion Barley Risotto

 

chestnut apple tart

Chestnut, Gorgonzola and Apple Tart

 

As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program, I have been entered for the chance to win a trip to Greece courtesy of FAGE. You too can enter to win one of three trips to Greece by entering the FAGE Plain Extraordinary Greek Getaway here: http://www.fageusa.com/community/fage-greek-getaway

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 7:55 pm  Comments (6)  
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Cranberry Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt

I believe in dessert.

I believe in dessert every day.  Which is probably why I do not believe in bikinis! 

But in all seriousness, a tiny taste of sweetness, a little bite of pleasure each and every day is my definition of good living.  As I mentioned last week, the folks at Fage (makers of wonderfully creamy Greek yogurt) have asked a handful of bloggers to weigh in on the concept of good living, and to my mind, what it really boils down to is one simple word: dessert.

Dessert is about indulgence, about treating yourself well, about a moment of pure pleasure.  It doesn’t have to be extravagant - a square of dark chocolate, a bowl of sweet berries – but it does have to be savored.  Without guilt.  Gobbling up a cupcake and spending the whole night worried about the calories is not part of living the good life. All bikini jokes aside, I think good living is about finding a balance that includes dessert. 

When I was in high school, I spent a summer in France, living with a family in Lyon.  My French ‘Mom’ made all my meals. My lovely picnic lunch always included a tiny sweet treat.  And our fresh and flavorful multi-course dinners always ended with an indulgent bite of something lovely.  The pleasure of dessert defined that summer.  And yet, I lost 10 pounds.  Go figure.  

Fifteen years later, I still haven’t figured out how to eat like a French woman.  But lightened up treats help me to keep balance and live the good life.  Frozen yogurt is, of course, a constant favorite. Lately I have been obsessing over creamy, tart versions, and am loving making my own. This cranberry chocolate chip frozen yogurt is extra tart thanks to the seasonal fruit, and lusciously creamy when made with Fage Total.

This frozen yogurt would be a wonderful addition to a Thanksgiving spread.  But personally, I like to savor a scoop while sitting on my sunny porch all on my own. The sweet, tart flavor of the yogurt plays off the rich bits of chocolate.  And the color is beyond pretty!  But the best part of this recipe is how quick and easy it is to make.

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Frozen yogurt

Serves 4-6

12 oz fresh cranberries, rinsed

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons strawberry jam

18 ounces Fage 2% plain Greek Yogurt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a saucepan, cook the cranberries and sugar over medium low heat, stirring often, about 10 minutes, until the berries all burst.  Press the cranberry mixture through a strainer (this will take some effort as it will be thick and jammy, just be patient and press with the back of a wooden spoon).  Discard the solids in the strainer and cover and refrigerate the strained sauce. Once chilled, stir together the cranberry mixture, maple syrup, jam, and yogurt until well combined.  Add the mixture to your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers directions, adding the the chocolate chips towards the end of the process.  This yogurt is at its best and most creamy when eaten right away, but can be stored in a sealed container in the freezer for a few days if need be. 

As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program, I have been entered for the chance to win a trip to Greece courtesy of FAGE. You too can enter to win one of three trips to Greece by entering the FAGE Plain Extraordinary Greek Getaway here: http://www.fageusa.com/community/fage-greek-getaway

Published in: on November 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm  Comments (5)  
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Good Living for Breakfast: Pear, Yogurt, and Feta Frittata

greek yogurt frittata

On day two without electricity here in chilly Connecticut, I began to dream of the sea.  On day three, I saw sparkling azure water and white Cycladic houses perched on craggy cliffs. By day four I was imagining myself relaxing in the sunshine on a balcony high above the Mediterranean, sipping coffee from a dainty espresso cup and munching honey-drenched loukamades. By the time the power came back,  five days after our freak fall snowstorm, the Greek Isles were calling my name. 

Enjoying a leisurely breakfast on that hilltop hotel balcony, with the sea breeze in my hair and the scent of Greek coffee filling my nose - now that would be good living!  And with impeccable timing, the folks at Fage Total (makers of luscious, creamy, healthy Greek yogurt), through the magic of Foodbuzz, have asked a handful of bloggers to weigh in on the concept of “good living.”

It would be easy to live the good life on a sun-drenched Mediterranean beach.   But here’s the thing: I’m not in Greece.  And neither are you (well, most of you).  We’re here, in our own real world lives, where we don’t eat breakfast off cobalt porcelain while lounging on hotel balconies. If you’re like me you make a mad dash to work and scarf down breakfast at your desk.  Or maybe you devour a granola bar while driving carpool, or grab a donut from the drive-through.  Despite our busy schedules, good living shouldn’t be reserved for vacation.

I’m on a mission to make good living happen every day.  And I’m starting with breakfast.

fage total frittata recipe

Turning my desk into a cafe in Mykonos may not be realistic, but I can certainly do better than a handful of cereal on a napkin and a paper cup of coffee.  To me, good living is about enjoying the details.  It starts with a good coffee mug.  Mine is pink, heavy and just the right size.  Filled with hot coffee, its rounded shape keeps my cupped hands warm as I sip.  Real utensils, too, are worth the effort.  Although they have to be washed, they make a meal feel like a meal, something to be savored not simply consumed.  I have a stash of spoons, forks and cute little plates in my desk drawer that help me to enjoy the moment of my breakfast, however short.

Someday I might actually make time to eat breakfast at home, but for now, I have an arsenal of quick portable breakfasts that still make me feel pampered. It’s no surprise that most of my favorite quick breakfasts include Greek yogurt – it’s creamy, decadent, and chock full of protein.    The possibilities are endless, but here are just a few of my favorite on-the-go or at work breakfasts:

pumpkin greek yogurt

-My Pumpkin Yogurt Breakfast Parfait 

-Fage 0%, fig jam, and toasted pine nuts layered in a portable container and sprinkled with cinnamon

-An egg, scrambled with a bit of chipotle hot sauce, rolled in a tortilla with canned black beans, a spoonful of Fage 0%, and a sprinkle of chopped fresh cilantro if you’re feeling fancy

-Fage 0%, a handful of dried cherries, and a few chocolate chips stirred into (instant or reheated) plain oatmeal

-Toasted ciabatta topped with Fage 2%, orange zest and strawberry jam

-A PB+J parfait: slightly warmed smooth peanut butter stirred into Fage 2%, layered with strawberry jam and sliced banana (and maybe even crumbled crisp bacon if you’re in an Elvis kind of mood!)

-A smoothie made of dried dates microwaved in a cup of orange juice, then whirred in a blender with Fage 2%, ice and honey

-This Pear, Yogurt and Feta Frittata!

This frittata is my latest breakfast obsession. It’s quick to make, so if you can spare a few minutes of sleep, it would be a great candidate for a leisurely at-home weekday breakfast.  But it reheats wonderfully, in either a toaster oven or a microwave, so it’s a perfect take-to-work option, assuming you have kitchen access on the job.  But even if you don’t, this frittata is delicious cold or at room temperature.  And if you’re really on the go, it is incredibly fantastic stuffed into a pita with an extra dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and even a handful of toasted nuts if you like.

fage total

I’ve always been a big fan of the sweet and salty combination.  The salty feta, tangy yogurt, sweet pear and earthy honey make for a fantastic taste experience.  What is really special here, though, is the texture of the eggs.  Adding yogurt to the egg mixture makes this frittata taste anything but healthy.  But it is healthy, and to my mind, good living requires nutrition as well as indulgence.  This frittata fits the bill; it tastes wonderful, looks beautiful, feels decadent and powers me through my morning.  And it works great for lunch or dinner too.  I should know since I just ate it for three meals in a row!

Pear, Yogurt and Feta Frittata

Serves 3-4

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 eggs

3 egg whites

6 ounces fat free Greek yogurt, divided

pinch of salt

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1 small pear, thinly sliced

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

3 tablespoons honey

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a nonstick oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Wisk the eggs, egg whites, and half of the yogurt together until smooth and no lumps remain (this can take a few minutes).  Stir in the salt and pepper. Add the egg mixture to the skillet and swirl slowly to make sure it settles evenly in the pan.  Quickly arrange the pear slices on top and then sprinkle with the cheese.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the egg is set and the cheese melts, about 10 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the oven and slide the frittata onto a serving plate (it should slide out easily). Drizzle the frittata with honey and serve with a dollop of the remaining yogurt. Delicious hot or cold!

As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program, I have been entered for the chance to win a trip to Greece courtesy of FAGE. You too can enter to win one of three trips to Greece by entering the FAGE Plain Extraordinary Greek Getaway here: http://www.fageusa.com/community/fage-greek-getaway

Published in: on November 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm  Comments (16)  
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