'Tis the season for good food and great company. My wonderful cousin and younger sister, traveling from Oregon, paid the BF and I a visit, and we showed them a few of our favorite local spots. Even though I had to work for clients while they were here, we managed to squeeze in much fun.
One day, we visited the Cantor Museum and Rodin Exhibit on the Stanford University campus. On another, we walked up and down Palo Alto's University Avenue and had dinner at a delicious Menlo Park Turkish restaurant.
The last day, we took our choco-lab Marlowe and walked around Bol Park, aka "Donkey Park" (Perry was the model for "Donkey," voiced by Eddie Murphy, in the film Shrek), and ate lunch at Thai Bistro on California Avenue. In the evening we made gingerbread cake topped with eggnog whipped cream along with spiralized celeriac latkes [Ed. note: I don't think we ate it in that order?], and watched a superb documentary called Shanghai Ghetto.
When they left, while cousin and sister went up the long escalator at a local Bart station, Marlowe let out the most woeful cries as they slowly disappeared from view. [Ed. note: We'll forward the therapy bills.]
My cousin is an expert beekeeper and gifted us with the most amazing raw honey, which we can't stop dipping into. She also gave us homemade lemongrass soap and lip balm, as well as some sinfully good Burnside Distillery small-batch bourbon, which kept everybody warm! [Ed. note: Can confirm.]
My sister is very knowledgeable and talented with rocks, stones and gems. She gave us beautiful hand-engraved stones that say "Shalom" and "DZ," which now rest proudly on the kitchen window sill that I work in front of every day. More significantly, she also gave me custody of our mom's engagement ring (we trade off every year), which was was so brilliantly polished and shiny it practically glittered. She is also adept in the landscaping arts, and got to work in the backyard well before unpacking. (She makes up for my black thumb.)
Marlowe is always a happier camper when she has a "pack," and as usual the did the nighttime "rounds," visiting the visitors as they slept.
Life is good when these girls are with us.
And it wouldn't be a family gathering without dessert, so for December: peppermint! It just says winter to me.
This cheesecake is almost too easy. No baking, no sugar, low carb and comes together in about 15 minutes. With a crust that tastes like Oreo cookies, it was the most popular dessert of the visit, even though we had plenty of other desserts with real sugar. There's only a slight change to the original recipe (upped the whipping cream from 2 tablespoons to 4), as I like a fluffier mousse-like cheesecake. Also added a pinch of salt to the crust. Should also note that I used my favorite brand of sugar substitute called Swerve, but you can use whatever you like.
Adapted from: All Day I Dream About Food
Number of servings: 16
The BF and I recently had a wonderful dinner at a neighbor's house. Husband and wife (turns out she and the BF went to the same university and graduated a year apart) and their two adorable children. The wife made a special request for something sugar-free and low carb, something I always try to pull out of the proverbial hat over the holidays.
So besides the normal sugar-full monstrosity that sent the kids (and BF) spinning [Ed. note: GERPH SNORG FLEEGLE NOP], I presented a version of this pumpkin cheesecake to the wife.
"Honey, you have to try this," she gasped at her husband. Soon, everybody was taking a small forkful.
The husband and my BF, bless them, went from sumptuous satisfied grins to quizzical bewilderment. The husband cocked his head, "This is...sugar...free?" No wonder, it really did taste like a decadent cheesecake.
The BF likes to say these are "weapons." [Ed. note: As in, people, including or especially kids, will not question whether or not the dish has a particular ingredient until you tell them.] When time allows, I experiment and make us sugar-free-grain-free-low-carb desserts (or similarly constructed main dishes) and the BF will say, "It's okay, but it tastes healthy." Kiss of death. So when something gets the "weapon" seal of approval, it must be shared. The pumpkin cheesecake will definitely make an appearance on this year's Thanksgiving dessert table.
Many have even asked me to post more sugar-free, low carb desserts, so rest assured, there will be more to come.
A big reason why this cheesecake and other such desserts can now be made: sugar substitutes have come a long way in the last 30 years. Had never found one that I liked for baking, until stumbling on a product called Swerve (swervesweet.com/products), which comes in granulated, powdered-confectioners, or brown form. This is not a sponsored post, simply have made countless desserts with it and the performance screams "real thing." Will bet you can't tell the difference.
You can purchase Swerve online, or I have been lucky enough to find in my local grocery store. Am sure you could try a different brand, but I highly recommend this one and can't vouch for other brands in the final outcome of this particular dessert.
The original recipe for this mini cheesecake says it serves two, but for the aforementioned dinner it was cut into four small pieces and was a perfect ending to the meal. Made a few tweaks to the original recipe from the blog All Day I Dream About Food: upped the cream cheese filling just a bit and doubled the whipped cream topping.
For people who count their Net Carbs, half of this cheesecake is only 3 Net Carbs.
Number of servings: 2 large or 4 small
Adapted from: All Day I Dream About Food for Swerve, The Ultimate Sugar Replacement
So, the last few weeks have been challenging. Found out that pain from my neck, down my shoulder, radiating down to my fingers was the result of pinched-nerve and mild-bone-spur issues. Not fun.
So grateful for the BF, who has been heroically helping me with everything, including the many things you can't do with one hand, such as opening jars, schlepping 50-pound food-filled bins in heavy glassware, fastening a bra hook. Good times.
It was a week where a cheesecake must be made. [Ed. note: Or a day ending in "y."]
The original recipe comes from Stella Parks of Serious Eats, and to be clear, this is not your traditional New York dense cheesecake. This particular cheesecake is creamy, fluffy and has an acutely concentrated blueberry flavor. Bodes well considering the hot summer months that will be here soon. This will be a go-to dessert for my clients.
I realize it's often said, "Hey folks this dish is really easy to make," but consider I made this for Memorial Day with one hand. It was also a hot day and I didn't have to even bake the crust. Can't wait to try the freeze-dried strawberry and mango versions.
As Stella Parks says in her blog, "Unlike fresh fruit purée or jam, freeze-dried fruit has no water or added sugar, so it packs a concentrated flavor that won't throw off the consistency or sweetness of the no-bake cheesecake filling. And thanks to the low-temperature processing method, freeze-dried fruit has the same bright flavor as fresh, not the semi-caramelized profile of a stovetop reduction."
Adapted from: Stella Parks, Serious Eats
Number of servings: 8-12
Caramel Apple Cheesecake
November, 1995. It was my BF's birthday (he was not the BF at that time), and I remember making this first-ever attempt at baking a cheesecake. [Ed. note: To quote Private Hudson from Aliens, "Game over, man. Game over."]
Yes. This is the one. Try not to stick your fork through the screen–I dare you.
This delicious caramel bomb made repeat appearances that Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas, and at different times every year after that. My mamala begged me to make it every year for the holidays, and this year I'm making it for a client's Halloween party.
The body of the cheesecake is incredibly creamy (not dense), with a touch of orange juice and a good amount of sour cream. There is a perfect crust-to-filling ratio, and the caramel apple topping is to die for (the caramel stays soft and does not stick to your teeth and harden).
Keep in mind, this makes a large cheesecake (10 inches diameter). Perfect for any get together, my favorite is to offer this at Thanksgiving.
Funny story/cautionary tale: two years ago I made this for my BF again and cut the ingredients in half to make a smaller 8-inch cake (was also going to give half to a neighbor). Just as I was presenting the entire cake to him on a platter, I dropped it. The platter broke, little shards of glass flaked all over and into the cheesecake–unsalvageable.
We stared at the floor for the longest time. Curse words seethed through clenched teeth. Tears were shed. I will not lie, this is not a 30-minute dessert. There is preparation and time involved. (Really, you have to start making this the day before you plan on serving it.) However, the process is very straightforward and the end result is so worth the effort.
Just be careful with those glass platters!
Adapted from: Bon Appetit (September 1995)
Number of servings: 16
Sticking with the strawberry theme from the last post, here's a fun single bite of goodness that has worked well for many of my Fourth-of-July catering events. There are many different ways to customize the filling (suggestions below), but the simple vanilla is a good foil for the chocolate and graham-cracker dip.
I have used gluten-free graham crackers for clients who require that; you can substitute with nuts (chopped pecans, walnuts) or even sprinkles.
Yield: 24 strawberries
I'm Jacquie, personal chef & recipe developer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Living life with my wildly funny boyfriend and dog Marlowe. Lover of books, bourbon, chocolate and movies.