I guess I’ll have to take the blame for Brion’s love of dessert. When we were first married years ago, he really didn’t care much about sweets. I, on the other hand, had grown up in a German family where every meal was finished with something sweet. It didn’t have to consist of anything more than a dish of vanilla pudding, but it was sweet and that’s what mattered. Funny how something like that can become so ingrained in your life. Of course, over time Brion has come to like dessert as much as I do, not really a good thing now that we are getting older … hmmm!
But I need to explain today’s decadent blog dessert. I just happens, we are celebrating Brion’s birthday so we are pulling out all the stops and having cheesecake! Of course, some of it will probably end up in the freezer but that works to.
Brion and I have never been much on giving each other ‘gifts’ for special occasions. Our time spent together ‘just living’, whether its at home or on a vacation has always been the best gift. Throughout our married life Brion has always gone above and beyond to look after us. I’m grateful to have the privilege of such a loving and caring husband.
So here we are, celebrating you, my love with rhubarb cheesecake and all the trimmings. Life is good!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WITH LOVE!
Candied Rhubarb Curls
Make the simple syrup, combining the sugar & water in a small pot and heating until dissolved. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, add gel food coloring stirring to combine. Using a paring knife (or try a vegetable peeler), slice long, thin strips of rhubarb from the outer stalk. Soak the ribbons in the cooled simple syrup for about 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 F. Line or lightly grease a baking sheet. Lay each ribbon on the baking sheet. Bake until the ribbons have dried out. Note: they will still be sticky and flexible from the heat.
If you want to make curls, work with one or two ribbons at a time so the remaining ribbons can stay soft in the oven. Wrap each ribbon loosely around skewers or the handles of cooking utensils, and let dry for around 10 minutes before gently sliding the curled ribbons off.
Cook rhubarb, sugar & water. Simmer for 8 minutes over medium heat. Add in the cornstarch & cook 2 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
Beat together the cream cheese with icing sugar until smooth then add eggs. Try not to overmix at this point. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Line a 9-inch springform pan with foil paper. Crumble together butter, flour, oats, brown sugar & salt. Add two thirds of the mixture to springform pan & press firmly. Add walnuts to the remaining crumbs & set aside.
If using a silver springform pan, bake at 325 F. If using a dark nonstick springform pan, bake at 300 F. Bake bottom layer of crumbs for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, pour cheesecake mixture over the crust & spread with a spoon, being careful not to disturb the crust layer too much.
Spread the rhubarb mixture on top of the cheesecake.
Crumble the remaining crust/crumb mixture evenly over the top & lightly press down.
Bake until topping is golden brown & cheesecake is set, about 50 minutes.
Cool completely, then decorate with fresh strawberries, rhubarb curls, chocolate malt balls & silver sugar pearls or as you wish.
- You will have extra candied rhubarb to nibble on!
Chicken balls aren’t authentic Chinese food but they were probably inspired by Chinese sweet and sour pork. The pork is replaced with chicken, it’s battered instead of breaded and the sauce is sweeter but its in the same ball park. These sweet and sour pineapple chicken balls are a type of modern Chinese food served in Canada, Ireland, United States and the UK as a staple of Chinese take-out. Due to their vast popularity among the masses, they have become linked unwilling to Chinese cuisine, for better or worse. They are largely unheard of in China, depending on the recipe and referred name.
Here in Canada, in our province of Alberta, many of the Chinese dishes that are served in small-town Chinese restaurants have a distinctly Canadian twist. Chinese Canadian food evolved over the decades and has developed into a its own unique cuisine. Some dishes that are unique to Canada and Alberta include ginger beef, cabbage chow mein & sweet and sour chicken balls. Across Canada, Chinese Canadian food has evolved from recipes that were created using the ingredients that were available to the restauranteurs decades ago.
The chicken balls we prefer are dipped in a light batter then baked in the oven as opposed to deep frying them. Brion & I enjoy them served over rice with the tangy pineapple sauce.
Sweet & Sour Pineapple Chicken Balls
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a food processor, chop chicken meat with seasoning, JUST until it is a roughly ground texture. Divide into 12-16 portions. Wet hands & roll into balls. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Do not overbake. Remove from oven & cool slightly on paper towels until batter is ready.
In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar & cornstarch. Stir in pineapple with juice, Zesty Italian dressing, (soy sauce), & minced garlic. Cook & stir over low heat until thickened. Set aside & keep warm.
In a bowl, combine all batter ingredients; beat until smooth. Add chicken balls; stir until covered well with batter.
When chicken balls are cooked in your preferred choice; pour pineapple sauce over them & serve with steamed rice.
Fresh garden veggies are what summer is made for. Eating fresh and in season not only tastes amazing but is so enjoyable.
I’m sure everyone is well acquainted with the zucchini ‘boat‘ idea. Basically zucchini sliced in half lengthwise, hollowed out and filled with whatever you choose. I think incorporating the zucchini you scoop out into the filling is a good idea. This versatile veggie takes on the flavor of whatever your cooking, so the possibilities are endless.
For this recipe, I’m keeping it simple and filled the zucchini boats with rice and succulent pieces of marinated shrimp then topped them with parmesan cheese. I find the best zucchini to use is a medium size, about 8-10 inches in length. Zucchini that is smaller than that really tastes the best but should be saved for other recipes because their not big or sturdy enough to hold the filling. Those super large zucchinis are best for grating to add to baked goods like bread and muffins.
It seems like just about the time you think you made everything possible with this veggie, one more idea pops up. Yay zucchini!
Shrimp Zucchini Boats
In a container with a lid, place cleaned shrimp & remaining marinade ingredients. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Cook rice in chicken broth until tender.
Slice zucchinis in half lengthwise; scoop out centers, leaving 1/8-inch thick shells. Place in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Chop zucchini flesh that was scooped out of centers. In a large skillet, melt butter; add chopped zucchini & sauté until tender crisp. Remove from heat & add cooked rice, garlic powder & some of the parmesan.
Fill hollowed shells with rice mixture. Drain shrimp & place on top of rice mixture. Drizzle marinade over top of shrimp boats. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until shrimp is cooked & zucchini is tender crisp.
There’s just something incredibly refreshing about pineapple tarts with their tangy, bright, acidic flavor nestled in shortbread crusts. Adding meringue puts a tropical twist on the classic meringue pie making them a perfect summer treat.
When it comes to making meringue, simple ingredients and instructions can lull you into thinking preparation is quick and easy. Make it once under the wrong conditions, however, and you may quickly change your mind.
Meringue is temperamental. Getting it right can be a tricky process. Weeping meringues aren’t very pretty. The meringue pulls back from the crust, moisture beads on the topping, and a clear liquid forms below the crust. It doesn’t hurt the pie but it’s not presentable.
Years ago, when I worked in the commercial food industry, I started using the idea of adding cornstarch to meringue to help stabilize it. Cornstarch is especially helpful in hot, humid weather when a meringue is most likely to absorb extra moisture.
The science behind this ‘secret ingredient‘ is that cornstarch is composed of long molecules that it is believed insert themselves between egg white proteins to prevent them from clotting too much while meringue is baking. Corn starch molecules also provide more hold for meringue. It will be easier to cut and is less likely to weep.
Brion & I are not crazy about meringue but do enjoy it for a treat once in a while.
Pineapple Meringue Tarts
In a bowl combine butter & sugar; beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder; add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together. Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool.
In a saucepan, combine cornstarch & sugar. Gradually add water, stirring until mixture is smooth. Add lemon zest & undrained pineapple. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture starts to boil. Reduce heat, boil 2 minutes while continuing to stir. Remove from heat, quickly stir in butter & egg yolks blending well. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
In a small saucepan, combine water & cornstarch. Heat & stir until it boils & thickens. Cool thoroughly.
Beat egg whites & salt until a stiff froth. Add sugar gradually, beating until stiff & sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla & cornstarch mixture. Beat until blended & stiff.
Divide pineapple filling between tart shells. Pipe meringue over tarts sealing to edges. If not sealed well, meringue will shrink when cool. Bake in 350 F. oven about 10 minutes until golden. Cool away from drafts.
Rhubarb is the rebel of the vegetable world. It looks like celery, tastes like sour candy, its leaves are poisonous and unlike most spring and summer produce, its barely edible raw. With such a feisty personality, its no wonder some are intimidated to cook it.
More than any other fruit or vegetable, rhubarb to me is the sign of the changing season. It is the signal that summer is arriving in those ruby red or speckled green & pink stalks. I snap up what I can in the garden and when I see it at the supermarket. I take all I can and more, slicing and freezing the excess for rhubarb cravings that come in winter.
Year-round, I save rhubarb recipe ideas I hope to make once I get my hands on the first stalks of the season. No summer would be complete without cinnamon rhubarb bread …. still warm from the oven and the heavenly smell of cinnamon in the air!
Cinnamon Roll Rhubarb Bread
In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except vanilla & food color. Heat to medium high & stir occasionally until rhubarb begins to break down completely. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla & food coloring; allow to cool to room temperature.
In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water & 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt & remaining sugar. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture, whisking together. Add flour mixture, combine then turn on a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a towel. Place in a draft-free place & allow to rise for about 20 minutes. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; set aside
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface & press down to deflate it. Fold in the two opposite sides to meet in the middle, then fold in the remaining two sides to meet, so that you've formed the dough into a square. Press down to flatten it slightly, then cover loosely and let stand for 10 minutes
With a floured rolling pin, rolling the dough to form a rectangle that's 12 by 22 inches. Make the corners as square as possible. If you're having trouble with the dough shrinking back, pause briefly before trying again.
Spread rhubarb/cinnamon filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Now fold the two long sides of the dough in one at a time, so that the meet each other in the middle. Pinch them together gently to seal the seam. Gently roll over the surface with a rolling pin to flatten the folded dough to about 7 by 25 inches.
Starting at the narrow end, roll up the dough, making a thick spiral. When you get to the end, brush a little egg wash on the loaf at the spot where the end will hit. Pinch the end a bit to seal it.
Carefully & gently place the roll, seam side-down in the buttered pan. The roll of dough should nearly fill it. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap & place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 25-30 minutes, until almost doubled & about 2 inches above the top of the pan. Meanwhile, adjust the oven racks so that you have one rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven.
Lightly brush remaining egg wash over loaf & bake for about 20 minutes. You may need to cover the top loosely with aluminum foil towards the end of baking to prevent over-browning. Bake until the loaf, when removed from the pan, sounds hollow when tapped with your fingertips. Cool on a rack.
Make glaze by whisking together 2 Tbsp rhubarb filling, 1 cup powdered sugar, and enough lemon juice to make the glaze pourable (1-2 tbsp should do it). When bread has slightly cooled, drizzle with glaze if desired.
Shortcake is such a classic dessert that is perfect for spring and summer. True shortcake has history, even pedigree, but there is some confusion as to its name. ‘Short’ is an English word that means crisp. Or, more specifically, something made crisp with the addition of either butter or shortening.
Another issue with shortcake is whether it should be cake-like or biscuit-like. Some culinary researchers claim that’s a regional preference. Even though the name has English origins, most sources agree that shortcake was a North American invention. Being so versatile, this simple, elegant dessert can be made with any number of fruits and served warm or cold.
I am using some of the LorAnn company’s Blueberry Emulsion today, to add a real pop of flavor to the glazed blueberries. These should be so good!
Glazed Blueberry Shortcakes
Spray mini Bundt pans with baking spray. Then, add some all-purpose flour to each cavity, shake it around, and discard the excess.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Then add the vanilla, softened butter, milk, and egg. With an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for about two minutes. Gently fold in the fresh blueberries.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cavities in mini Bundt pans. Each cavity should be about 3/4 full.
Bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan before attempting to remove them. Gently loosen each cake with your fingers then invert the pan to release the cakes onto a wire cooling rack.
Glazed Blueberry Topping
Place 1 cup of the blueberries in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water, sugar & cornstarch. Bring to a boil & simmer until juicy & thick. Place the remaining berries & blueberry emulsion in a bowl; add glaze mixture & toss to coat.
In a bowl, whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 2-3 tablespoons milk. Add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time to achieve the desired consistency.
Place shortcakes on individual serving plates. Drizzle with lemon glaze & top each cake with some glazed blueberries. Garnish with lemon zest.
- LorAnn's Blueberry Emulsion tastes like fresh ripe berries.
- Add instead of using blueberries or in addition to the fruit to add a punch of blueberry flavor and color. Use in any recipe as you would an extract - and experience better results. 1 teaspoon baking extract = 1 teaspoon emulsion
Hot Cross Buns, the sweet roll with a mythical history, are an Easter classic. This simple piece of spiced bread decorated with a cross, while not an extravagant treat, is a global food tradition. Given their long running history, it is no wonder there are so many fables surrounding their origin. From warding off evil spirits to cementing friendships, the stories of hot cross buns can be documented back to 6th century Greece.
While hot cross buns are now sold and enjoyed throughout the year, they were once reserved for Good Friday alone. Brion & I are extremely fond of these little gems, so every year I enjoy to come up with a new version but still not straying away from the original iconic bun (or bread) taste.
Hot Cross Cream Cheese Braid
In a bowl with a lid, marinate prepared dried fruit in your choice of alcohol or orange juice overnight or at least 30 minutes.
In a bowl, combine yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 Tbsp sugar; allow to sit until frothy.
In a bowl, combine flour, salt, cinnamon, cardamom & ginger.
In a larger bowl, melt butter slightly; add remaining sugar, beaten egg, vanilla, a portion of the marinated fruit & frothy yeast mixture. Combine then add flour mixture & continue mixing to combine all ingredients.
On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 15 minutes. If necessary, add a bit more flour. Shape into a ball; place in a greased bowl, turn over once or twice to coat the dough with oil. Cover, let rise until doubled, about 1-1 1/2 hours.
Cream Cheese Filling
In a bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla & any excess rum drained off fruit until smooth.
Assembly & Baking
On a lightly floured work surface or parchment paper, roll the dough into a 12 x 14-inch rectangle, ensure an even thickness of 1/4 inch.
Along one long side of the dough make parallel, 4-inch long cuts that are 1-inch apart (like piano keys), with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Repeat on opposite side, making sure to line up these cuts with those you have already made on the other side.
Spoon all but 1/4 cup cream cheese filling down the center of the rectangle. (Reserve the 1/4 cup of the cream cheese for making crosses on baked braid). Leaving 1-inch on the top & bottom unfilled. Smooth cream cheese mixture then top with remaining marinated fruit.
Begin folding the cut side strips of dough in pairs over the filling at an angle, alternating left, then right, as if you were braiding, until you reach the other end. Tuck the ends underneath the braid.
Transfer to a baking sheet; cover with a loose plastic wrap & a towel. Allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Just before placing braid in the oven, make the egg wash & lightly brush over the top of the braid.
Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Check after 15 minutes; if the braid is starting to brown to fast, float a piece of foil, shiny side down, over it. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly.
- If you would prefer, mix all the marinated fruit right into the dough instead of putting some in the filling.
- If you would rather not decorate with some crosses on top, use all cream cheese in the filling, your choice.
It seems the Portobello mushroom got its name in the 1980’s during a marketing effort to glamorize and hopefully sell, a mushroom that was often discarded. The Portobello mushroom is a mature form of the common mushroom known by various names: button mushroom, white mushroom or cremini mushroom.
It appears that ‘Portobello’ was the original name invented but from what I understand there is no right spelling …. Portabella, Portobella??
The mushrooms cap can be up to 6-inches wide (15 cm). Some will have smooth caps while others will have caps that slightly wrinkled.
This savory casserole combines sautéed Portobello mushroom slices, onion & egg noodles and is topped off with a buttery crumb mixture and Parmesan cheese. Brion & I really enjoy the rich, strong flavor you get from Portobello mushrooms so I think this casserole will be a keeper!
Portobello Pasta Casserole w/ Crumb Crust
Preheat oven to 450 F. In a pot of salted, boiling water cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse & set aside.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion & sauté until slightly browned. Add water & mushrooms; cover & simmer for 10-12 minutes until mushrooms have given off a considerable amount of liquid. Remove to a bowl & set aside.
In the skillet, melt 3 Tbsp butter; add flour & cook until frothy. Slowly add vegetable broth, stirring constantly as it thickens. Add salt, soy sauce & dried savory; simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add mushroom mixture & cooked noodles; toss to mix well.
Place mushroom/noodle mixture in a lightly greased shallow baking dish, cover evenly with the crumbs & top with the cheese. Drizzle with butter & bake until lightly toasted. Serve immediately.
No matter how you slice it, cheesecake is truly a dessert that has stood the test of time. From its earliest recorded beginnings to its current iconic status around the world, this creamy cake remains a favorite for dessert lovers of all ages.
The no-bake cheesecake, turned the process of making cheesecake into one that consisted mostly of stirring and chilling. Simply combine cream cheese, milk and Jell-O instant pudding mix, pour into a crust, and chill for an hour or two. The pudding mix sweetens and stabilizes the filling. Essentially foolproof, its a recipe that works every time and tastes custardy and rich with a lighter texture than the traditional cheesecake.
The original recipe for no-bake cheesecake has spawned numerous iterations, many of which were popularized by ‘Jell-O’ itself. The best part about the original formula was that it created harmony between industrialized shortcuts and the real thing. Jell-O eventually launched an entire ‘N0-Bake’ dessert line in 1966.
The simplicity of the recipe makes it endlessly adaptable. Of course, you can use different flavored pudding mixes or add spices or extracts to the filling for extra flavor and variation such as cinnamon, cardamom, lemon zest or almond extract. In addition you can serve the cheesecake with fruit or glaze as I’ve done here .
No Bake Mango Cheesecake
In a small bowl, combine crust ingredients, mixing well. Divide between mini cheesecake pan cups & press down firmly. Bake 5-7 minutes; allow to cool completely.
In a bowl, beat cream cheese 1/2 cup milk until smooth. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, cardamom & instant pudding mix; beat until smooth. Divide between mini cheesecake pan cups, filling almost to the tops. Allow to chill for at least 2-3 hours.
Place all glaze ingredients in saucepan & heat. As it comes to a boil, lower the heat & simmer 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat & allow the glaze to cool slightly. Divide glaze between mini cheesecakes & allow it to set for 3-4 hours. Ensure that the cheesecake is properly set before topping with the glaze.
- For a bit of a different look, I filled my cheesecake cups right to the top. Then I poured my mango glaze into a cake pop pan to set a bit. When the glaze was firm enough I topped each cheesecake with one forming a dome instead of a flat layer.
Crepes hail from the Brittany region of France and can be served either sweet or savory. While savory crepes are traditionally made with buckwheat flour, this particular recipe calls for wheat flour.
In North America, pancakes are a breakfast time staple best served with a large helping of syrup. However, crêpes — the humble French pancake’s ‘skinny‘ cousin — come in both sweet and savory form and can be enjoyed any time of the day. Crepes differ from typical North American pancakes in that they don’t contain a leavening agent causing the batter to rise, hence the flat outcome.
Around 2001, Emy Wada, a Japanese pastry chef who had studied in France, introduced a ‘mille crepe cake’ at her New York city bakery. The word mille means ‘a thousand‘, and while there really aren’t a thousand crepes, it might seem like it!
Crepes have become a favorite, sweet or savory delicacy all over the world. Made with just flour, sugar, salt, milk, eggs and butter, its simplicity is transcended by its versatility. A crepe can be used as a wrap or even stacked to create an elevated dessert or entrée.
Herbed Seafood Crepe Cake
In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together eggs & milk. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients then whisk in melted butter. Batter should be runny. Place in refrigerator while preparing the filling & sauce.
In a large skillet, sauté shrimp in olive oil for several minutes. Add zucchini, green onions & garlic; stir-fry for several minutes. Add mushrooms & sauté over medium-high heat until mushrooms release their liquid & soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add ginger, soy sauce & water; cover pan & cook on low heat for several minutes or until cooked. Set filling aside. Grate cheese.
Sauté minced garlic & onion in butter. Add crushed, undrained tomatoes (& water, if using). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered 15 minutes. Place in a food processor & puree. Reserve for serving with crepe cake.
Cooking & Assembly
Using a large nonstick skillet or crepe pan, add a small amount of butter over medium-high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup crepe batter onto skillet & form a circle with the bottom of cup or swirl it around the crepe pan so it flattens out. Cook 30 seconds on the first side or until it firms up, then carefully flip the crepe & cook for another 15-20 seconds. Repeat until all batter is used.
Place a crepe on a large serving plate, top with a portion of the shrimp filling & some of the grated cheese. Continue with remaining crepes, filling & cheese.
When ready to serve, place entire crepe cake in microwave & heat only until warm & cheese has melted. Slice & serve with warm tomato-onion sauce.