Key Lime Cheesecake

We invited some friends over for dinner last week and the weather was frightfully hot. Temperatures were extremely humid and over 100 degrees all week. My immediate thought was, “something cool, that I don’t have to make in my kitchen.” We live in a very old house, I think it was built around 1880, this means that we don’t have central air. It was a major point of consideration before we purchased the house but in the end it’s charm won us over. We have several window units that cool our house surprisingly well, but the kitchen is always hot. I don’t have a unit in the kitchen itself due to the lack of a good window and as soon as I begin using the oven or the stove, forget it.

I decided on a menu of ribs (that I could marinate the night before and Eric could grill), salad and corn on the cob picked up on the way home from the road side stand. Another point to take into consideration when creating a menu when it’s hot and humid, the heat tends to curb the appetite; keep it simple and cool. In going with the cool theme, I choose to make a key lime cheesecake for dessert.

I’ve made this recipe successfully before and love the subtle taste of lime combined with layers of flavor and the smooth rich cheesecake. The recipe is from Epicurious.com.

To start the cheesecake, make the lime custard. Combine the eggs, sugar, lime zest and lime juice in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Stir the mixture constantly until it begins to boil, continue stirring while it boils for 30 seconds. Your arm will hurt after this, you have to stir constantly for about 10 minutes; it’s worth it, I promise.

Take the custard off the heat once it has thickened.

Place custard in a small bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

It’s time to make your crust. Melt the butter and pour it into the mixture of sugar and graham cracker crumbs. Mix it well until it looks like wet sand, I like to use a fork to mix it.

Press all of the graham cracker mixture into the springform pan so that it’s even and comes up the sides an inch or so. Bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.

Now for the filling. Using an electric mixer, combine softened cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lime zest and lime juice until smooth and well mixed.

Before filling the crust, wrap the pan in 3 layers of tin foil. This helps to seal the pan from the water that you bake it in.

Find your custard, which should have thickened even more by now.

Spread the custard into the crust evenly.

Spread the cream cheese filling on top of the custard evenly.

Bake the cheesecake in a water bath (place your cheesecake pan in a larger lipped pan with about an inch of water in it) for 45 minutes.

While the cheesecake is in the oven, whisk together sour cream and sugar until smooth. When the cheesecake is slightly firm in the center, after the first 45 minutes, spread the sour cream mixture over the top evenly and bake for another 10 minutes.

Once you take the cheesecake out of the oven, run a knife around the outside to loosen it and then chill in the fridge overnight.

To serve, unhinge your springform pan and run a knife around the outside again. Gently, lift the sides of the pan off. Place onto your favorite serving plate and top with a slice of lime.

The cheesecake tasted exactly how I wanted and was a cool and delicious end to a great meal!

Here’s the full recipe from Epicurious.com:

Key Lime Cheesecake

Ingredients

Lime custard
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice or regular lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated Key lime peel or regular lime peel
Crust
  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 12 whole graham crackers)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Filling
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice or regular lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated Key lime peel or regular lime peel
  • 1 16-ounce container sour cream

Preparation

For lime custard:
Whisk all ingredients in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until custard thickens and boils for 30 seconds, about 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally (mixture will thicken).

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap 3 layers of foil around outside of 8- to 8 1/2-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Butter pan. Stir first 3 ingredients to blend in medium bowl. Mix in butter until moistened. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Maintain oven temperature.

For filling:
Place cream cheese, 2/3 cup sugar, eggs, lime juice, and lime peel in processor; blend well.

Spoon custard into crust; smooth top. Carefully spoon filling over. Set cheesecake in large baking pan. Add enough hot water to baking pan to come 1 inch up sides of cheesecake pan. Bake until almost set but not puffed and center moves slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir sour cream and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl to blend.

Carefully spoon sour cream mixture over hot cheesecake; smooth top. Bake until topping sets, about 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen. Cool cheesecake completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Do ahead Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Release pan sides from cheesecake; transfer to platter. Garnish with lime slices and serve.

Summer BBQ

Back over the Fourth of July, we had a small BBQ with friends. It was a last minute decision and so we didn’t have as many people as we would have liked, but it was still a great day. I didn’t ask guests to bring much, drinks mostly, so that means I made everything myself. Lucky for me, one of those guests was my close friend and an incredibly talented photographer; check out her stuff on her website at www.kmphotographystudio.com. She brought along her camera and was able to, once again, make my food look even better than it really was. Thanks Kris!

Some of the recipes I’ve already posted about but here is a rundown of the menu along with beautiful photos and links to all the delicious recipes. Click on the names of the recipes to get the recipes.

Grilled Bread and Marinated Tomato Salad

Orzo with Grilled Shrimp, Summer Vegetables and Pesto Vinaigrette

Real Hamburgers

Chicken Kabobs
Click here to read that post.

Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon
The filling was a little runny, but they tasted delicious!

Cherry Pie
Click here to read that post!


Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting
Click here to see this post!

I created a make-shift cupcake tower using my glass cake stand and a round glass vase turned over. It ended up looking pretty cool and notice the cute cupcake wrappers!

And to drink we sipped Blueberry Limoncello Coolers!

All the food tasted delicious, even my runny deviled eggs! My favorites were the tomato bread salad and the blueberry cupcakes with lemon frosting. Thanks again to KM Photography Studio for the incredible photos!

Anyone out there have a Summer BBQ or attend one this Summer that had a particular dish that rocked your world? (yep, I just used “rocked your world”, I’m a kid of the 90′s, so sue me!)

Chicken Kabobs

Tonight, I made one of my favorite Summer recipes, chicken kabobs. I love that kabobs combine tasty meat, veggies and even fruit if you want which means you get a side and your main meat cooked in one step! Plus, kabobs are different from the run of the mill bbq chicken or burgers and cook great on the grill.

I prefer to use a ginger, sesame marinade for the chicken and pair it with pineapple, vidalia onion and green pepper. Marinate the chicken overnight for the best flavor. Cut the chicken up into pieces and place in a Ziplock bag, pour in the marinade, seal the bag removing as much air as possible and swirl the chicken around with your hands outside the bag to make sure all the chicken is coated in marinade.

The following day, chop up all the veggies and fruit that you want to put on your kabobs.

The great thing about kabobs is that you can use anything you choose, make them according to what you like.

Using wooden or metal skewers, place all the meat and veggies/fruit onto the skewers. Cook on the grill or under the broiler until cooked through. 

Serve with a side of rice or something else you choose.

Kabobs are a great choice for a party, are relatively inexpensive to make and the combinations are endless!

I didn’t really follow a recipe for this but here are the ingredients that I used.

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut up and marinated
2 green peppers
1 vidalia onion quartered
1 pineapple chopped into 1 inch pieces
skewers
extra marinade for basting

TGIF!

I hope you are all enjoying the fact that it’s Friday, I know I am. There is no recipe post today, just a short one to let you know that I was too busy last night to put one together. What was a doing, you ask? Oh, just seeing a little band named U2 in concert!

We trucked up to Philly, through the worst traffic I’ve seen and scored a spot really close to the stage.

That’s how close we were. And yep, that’ s Bono.

U2 is Eric’s favorite band and we had a blast at the concert. The flip side is that traffic leaving was also horrendous and we didn’t get home until about 2:30am. We both had to get up for work this morning which mean’s I’m running on about 3.5 hrs of sleep. Thinking of catching a few zzz’s a lunch in my car. Anyone ever done that? Or seen one of your favorite bands in concert? Anyone love U2 like we do?

Hope you all have a great weekend, I plan on sleeping for most of it. TGIF!

Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting

In an effort to stick with my Summer flavors of blueberry and lemon, as mentioned in my last post here, I made some awesome cupcakes last week. I was looking to make cupcakes because I had wandered into the baking aisle at Michael’s a few weeks back and made an impulse buy of some larger pastry tips for icing and some really cute cupcake papers. Have any of you been in that aisle? They have some really cool stuff and I don’t think I can go there without buying something new for baking.

Anyway, because it was Summer, I searched for a recipe that was lighter and included fruit. I knew blueberries were in season and began looking for a blueberry cupcake. I came across a recipe that I had made a few years back for blueberry cupcakes from Epicurious.com, that resemble blueberry muffins, but are lighter and sweeter. This recipe called for a maple frosting which turned out to be mediocre so I threw caution to the wind and decided to pair the cupcake with a lemon icing. (I like to live dangerously!)

The cupcakes are very simple and only took me about 20 minutes to mix up. Start by combining your dry ingredients and mixing well and then set aside.

Using an electric mixer, mix together the oil and butter. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in buttermilk, vanilla, milk and grated lemon peel.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix until everything is well combined. Add the blueberries and stir in with a spoon or spatula so that you don’t squish them.

Fill the cupcake papers 3/4 full with the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 23 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a cooling rack.

While waiting for the cupcakes to cool, mix up the frosting. Start by beating the butter until fluffy with an electric mixer. Add powdered sugar gradually and beat constantly. Add lemon juice, lemon peel and vanilla. Add more lemon juice to make the frosting more spreadable, if desired.

Top the cupcakes with the frosting and a few fresh blueberries.

Aren’t they pretty?

 

Here are the recipes from Epicurious.com:

Blueberry Hill Cupcakes

Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk or low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries, frozen for 4 hours

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners. Sift flour and next 4 ingredients into large bowl. Whisk melted butter and oil in medium bowl. Add eggs; whisk to blend. Whisk in buttermilk, milk, vanilla extract, and peel. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just to blend. Stir in frozen blueberries. Divide batter among liners.

Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to racks; cool.

Lemon Frosting

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c. butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juices
  • 1/2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peels
  • 4 1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar

    Preparation
    Beat butter in a mixing bowl until it is fluffy. Add 2 c. of the powdered sugar gradually, beating constantly. Slowly beat in lemon juice, lemon peel and vanilla. Slowly beat in the rest of the powdered sugar. If necessary, add a little more lemon juice if frosting is not spreadable. Use immediately.
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    Blueberry-Limoncello Cooler – Summer Cocktail

    I came across this easy and tasty sounding cocktail using Limoncello and Blueberries while perusing Foodnetwork.com. I liked the combination of lemon and blueberry and the picture looked really pretty:

    Picture of Blueberry-Limoncello Cooler Recipe

    I’ve always been curious about the Limoncello in the liquor store and decided this cocktail sounded like a great way to try it. If you don’y know what Limoncello is, here’s a little wikipedia definition for you:

    Limoncello (Italian pronunciation: [limonˈtʃɛllo]) is an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi and islands of Procida, Ischia and Capri, but also in Sicily, Sardinia, Menton in France, and the Maltese island of Gozo. Traditionally, it is made from Sorrento lemon peel, though most lemons will produce satisfactory limoncello.

    Limoncello is traditionally served chilled as an after-dinner digestivo. Along the Amalfi Coast, it is usually served in small ceramic glasses themselves often of both ceramic and limoncello production. This tradition has been carried into other parts of Italy.

     

    Making this cocktail was very simple and after reading the reviews, I changed it a bit. Most of the reviews said that the drink was very strong and suggested using Sprite instead of club soda to add some sugar. They also suggested using more of the Sprite than the recipe called for to dilute it more.

    I simply poured 1/2 a bottle of Limoncello that we found in the liquor store and 1 liter of Sprite and then added washed blueberries. Be sure to chill add the ingredients so that the drink is cold and refreshing and feel free to add ice if you plan to serve it immediately. I did not have mint leaves so I did not add them but I don’t think it negatively affected the drink.

    It tasted lemony and refreshing, just how I had hoped! The blueberries looked very pretty floating in the drink and I liked that I could mix it up in a large pitcher, perfect for a Summer BBQ.

    Here is the full recipe from Foodnetwork.com:

    Ingredients

    • 1 (750-ml) bottle limoncello liqueur, chilled
    • 1 cup sparkling water, chilled
    • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries *see Cook’s Note
    • 5 fresh mint sprigs, lightly crushed, plus extra for garnish
    • Crushed ice

    Directions

    In a pitcher, combine the limoncello, sparkling water, blueberries, and mint sprigs.

    Fill highball glasses halfway with crushed ice. Pour about 1/2 cup of the limoncello mixture over the ice in each glass.

    Garnish with mint sprigs and serve.

    *Cook’s Note: If using frozen blueberries, add them to the pitcher just before serving.

     

    French Toast Sunday

    First, sorry for the lack of posts last week. Things got a little crazy around here and as a result, the blog suffered. I’m back now with some French toast love for you. One of my favorite things is making a large breakfast or brunch on the weekends. I’m more of a sweet breakfast person than a savory; to me brunch means big buttermilk pancakes or Belgian waffles, cinnamon rolls, chocolate croissants, or something else delicious and sweet. Essentially, I want dessert for breakfast (can you blame me?!).

    Recently, I was given one of the greatest hostess gifts on record, granted  I do not entertain  merely for the hostess gifts, but for those of you attending something in someone else’s home, a hostess gift is much appreciated. Upon arriving at our house for a small BBQ a friend handed me a bottle of wine and a loaf of home made cinnamon swirl bread. Yep, he hand kneaded this baby and baked it himself into this gorgeous loaf:

    It’s topped with cinnamon and sparkling raw sugar, take a closer look (sorry for the blurry photo):

    There is truly nothing like home made bread, especially when it’s swirled with cinnamon and sugar! Naturally, my first thought after marvelling over the bread for a bit, was French toast. So the following Sunday morning I woke up ready to try out my home made cinnamon swirl French toast.

    French toast is essentially egg, milk and spices mixed together to coat the bread; I don’t have a recipe, I make it according to how I think it should look and taste. Start by beating the eggs in a shallow dish, I used 3 eggs (a shallow dish is better for dipping the bread).

    Next, add some milk (maybe 1/4-1/2 cup) and mix thoroughly.

    There are 3 things I like to add to my French toast, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg.

    Add all these to the milk/egg mixture and mix thoroughly with a fork.

    Dip slices of bread into the mixture and make sure they are well coated on all sides. Place on a medium-low heated griddle and fry until both sides are a light golden brown.

    Top with butter, syrup and even powdered sugar or fresh fruit. This French toast was the best I’ve ever made, thanks for the amazing bread, Mike! The cinnamon swirl made it a cut above the rest.

    Cherry Pie

    As promised, I finally made a cherry pie this weekend. Cherry pie is both Eric and my favorite dessert. When we first started dating and found out that we both loved cherry pie, I think it was a sign to both of us that we were meant for each other. Soon after discovering this fact, I made him a cherry pie from scratch and our fate was sealed (at least he tells me that convinced him)!

    Typically, we eat cherry pie in the Summer, when the cherries are fresh and in February for Eric’s birthday. This year, after picking 20 lbs of cherries, as mentioned in the previous post here, I think we will have cherry pie all year long. I must take a minute though to give Eric a big thank you, he was amazing and sat in front of the Tour de France on Saturday morning/afternoon and pitted much more than half of the cherries he picked. And that is why I married him; he’s the best. In turn, I made a delicious cherry pie that afternoon.

    A pie begins with the crust. I make my pie crust with all butter as opposed to half butter and half shortening, a recipe from a William-Sonoma Pies cookbook. (Double the recipe when making top and bottom crust or a lattice top.) Cube the butter and then stick it back into the fridge so it gets really cold; all ingredients for pie crusts need to be kept as cold as possible, if the dough is too warm it will get sticky and tear.

    Pull out your food processor and fill it with the flour, sugar and salt.

    Pulse a few times so that everything is well incorporated.

    Side note: If you have a food processor and aren’t using it for making pie crust, I think you’re crazy. I used to do the old “cutting in” method with two butter knives and it doesn’t come close to the ease of the food processor. Not only does it mix the dough up faster, in mixes it better and all the butter is uniform in size. I started using one a few years ago and have never looked back.

    Once the dry ingredients are mixed, fill a water glass with ice and cold tap water and set aside. Add the cold butter cubes to the flour mixture and pulse until it looks like course sand.

     While the food processor is on, add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough sticks into a ball and looks moist (1-3 tablespoons should do the trick).

    Once the dough forms a ball, take it out of the processor (watch the blades!) and cut it in half. Wrap in plastic and stick both halves in the fridge for a half hour.

    While the crust is chilling, mix up the tart cherries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, vanilla, and tapioca. Let sit while rolling out the crust.

    Did the tapioca throw you off? Cherry pie is really juicy and I have found that cornstarch alone does not thicken it as much as I like. I add just one tablespoon of quick cooking tapioca to the filling and it thickens everything perfectly. You can’t taste or notice it, I promise.

    The secret to rolling out good crust is making sure it doesn’t stick and adding a little flavor. I use a base of flour, white sugar and cinnamon to roll out this pie crust. Put a bunch on your work surface and the more on top of the crust.

    Each time you roll, spin the dough a bit and add more flour/sugar/cinnamon to the top of it. Use a rolling pin, but do not press hard and roll in different directions. Be patient, this will take a few minutes, if you rush the dough will tear.

    Once the circle looks large enough for your pie dish, roll it up on your rolling pin and then roll it back out over the pie dish. Fold under all the edges and use your fingers to flute the edges.

    Fill the pie shell with the cherries that have been sitting and all the collected juices; top with dots of unsalted butter. Roll out the second crust, as you did the first. Use a pizza or dough cutter or sharp knife and cut long strips, if you choose to do a lattice topped pie.

    Weave the pieces gently on top of the pie to create a nice pattern.

    Place in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, then decrease the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes until the pie is bubbling.

    Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (yes, mine was home made) and some whipped cream for good measure (not home made, Redi Whip). It was delicious.

    Here are the recipes, remember to double the pie crust if you using crust on top of your cherry pie.

    Pie Crust

    Ingredients

    1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 stick butter
    1-4 tablespoons ice water

    Combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut in the butter until course, slowly add the ice water and mix together until well combined but not too wet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling out on floured surface.

    Cherry Pie Filling

    Ingredients

    4-5 cups of tart cherries, pitted
    1 cup sugar
    3 tablespoons cornstarch
    1 tablespoon quick cooking tapioca
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Combine all ingredients and pour into prepared pie shell. Top with crust or lattice top. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees; lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes until the filling is bubbling. Remove from oven allow to cool so the filling sets. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

    Cherry Mania!

    As mentioned yesterday, life is really the pits right now…yep that was a terrible joke. But I am still pitting lots and lots of cherries. I spent one hour pitting last night in front of my kitchen TV (best gift I’ve ever received) and only pitted enough cherries for one pie, that means about 4 cups or so. SIGH. I really might be pitting these things till the end of the century. I have now decided that cherry pitting should be used as a form of torture. Even with my cherry pitter the process only allows me to pit one cherry at a time. Cherry pie is truly a labor of love. Good thing I love it so much.

    Last Saturday I informed Eric that it was in fact, time; pick your own cherry season was underway. The pick your own season only lasts a few days, sometimes less than a week depending on the crop and once the farm says picking is permitted, you must get there as soon as you can. I saw the post on the orchard’s website on Wednesday and knew we had to make some extra time to go over the weekend.

    If you live in the area, we picked at Cherry Hill Orchards, they have great cherries and a nice farm store filled with even more homemade and homegrown goodies. Eric loves the cherry cider.

    After driving out to the orchard, we unloaded our containers (be sure and bring your own) and began searching for a good tree to pick from. Many trees were almost bare already but we found one that seemed as if it hadn’t been picked from yet. We quickly began filling up the large box and medium sized container we brought.

    My intention was to use both containers for picking but combine them and fill the larger box 3/4 full hoping for about 5-10 lbs. of cherries. I like to pick enough for about 3 pies; one fresh pie and two additional batches of cherries to freeze so that we can enjoy cherry pie throughout the year (Eric always requests it for his birthday in February). I had hoped to maybe get enough for 4 pies this year and perhaps make something new with my tart cherries, as well.

    I grew up picking cherries, each summer my mom would take us to the orchard and my brother and I would have a great time climbing the trees for cherries. This was Eric’s first time picking cherries and I think he got a little carried away. Once the box had a good amount, I told him we were done but he told me that he was going to fill up everything we’d brought. I kept saying we were done, and Eric kept picking. Finally he had filled up the large box and the smaller container and allowed us to leave.

    As we walked to the car carrying our loot, I asked how much Eric thought we’d picked and he said, “I think about 10 lbs.” Imagine my surprise when we placed the boxes on the scale and it registered at 20lbs! Good thing the orchard took credit cards or we would have had to leave some cherries there, I didn’t have enough cash on me. (Sidenote: yes, that is my Zappos box, don’t you just love buying stuff from them?! Free shipping and it comes the next day!)

    Each night this week I have pitted cherries for an hour or so and I’m hoping to have them all done by tomorrow…they are taking up way too much room in my fridge. I see some cherry pie in our future.

    Anyone planning a BBQ for the holiday weekend? Big plans to go away? We’ll be sticking around home but a little BBQ action is happening Sunday. I’ll tell ya all about it next week. Happy 4th of July!