BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE

Blueberry cheesecake4

Blueberry cheesecake6

Blueberry cheesecake7

Cheesecake has to be one of the best desserts created, and you can quote me on that. It is fluffy, it is smooth, it is buttery. What more could you ask for?! I love baking them for my friends and family. My recipe makes one of the most fluffiest cheesecakes you will ever have. It’s great by itself, but it’s even better with the homemade blueberry filling. Try this next time you want to bring a dessert to an event or gathering. I guarantee that the guests will go crazy for it.

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Cook Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes

Rest/cooling Time: 4 Hours

Ingredients:

4 packages of cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups of sugar

5 eggs at room temperature

¾ cups of sour cream at room temperature

¼ cup of heavy cream at room temperature

1 ½ tablespoons of vanilla extract

1 stick of butter, melted

½ cup of pecans

½ cup of graham crackers

1 cup of ginger snap cookies

1 cup of blueberry jam (store bought or homemade is fine; See instructions below for homemade jam)

*If you do not have ginger snap cookies, increase the volume of the graham crackers to 1 ½ cups and use half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder*

For the Blueberry Jam

1 small package of blueberries

2 cups of organic, unrefined, granulated sugar

1 cap full of vanilla extract

¼ cup of lemon juice

Lemon zest

Instructions:

For the crust:

  • Using a brush, spread some butter across the bottom of a springform pan
  • In a food processor, blend the graham crackers, ginger snap cookies, pecans and butter, until they form a moldable mixture
  • Pour the mixture in the pan, and using your hand spread it evenly across the pan, patting it down, and press it against the sides of the pan. Press the raised mixture around the side of pan so you can mold a “crust wall.” Let the crust sit until the filling is ready
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Blueberry cheesecake

For the filling:

  • Add the cream cheese and the sugar into a mixer and blend until a smooth mixture forms
  • Add the vanilla and mix again
  • Using a slow setting of the mixer, add the eggs one by one into the cream cheese mixture and blend
  • Add the sour cream and heavy cream and mix
  • Pour the mixture into the crust
  • Using a spoon, add the jam in spoonfuls across the cheesecake. It will sink to the middle area of the cheesecake. Using the back end of a spoon, swirl the cream around so it moves the jam and swirls it

Blueberry cheesecake2

For the baking/serving:

  • We are going to do a water bath while baking
  • Cover the springform pan in aluminum foil so water does not enter it. DO NOT cover the top of the cheesecake. Simply cover the sides slightly so that there is no water leaking in, about halfway up the pan.
  • In a roasting pan add 1 inch of hot water or until the water comes up halfway up the side of the springform pan
  • Add the covered springform pan into the roasting pan carefully.
  • Place the pans in the oven and bake until the cheesecake is in the center but still has a slight jiggle when moved. About an hour and fifteen to an hour and a half
  • Let the cheesecake cool and rest for 3 hours
  • Place in the fridge for 1 hour
  • Feel free to top with whipped cream, fresh fruit, or any topping of your choice
  • Serve and enjoy!

For the Blueberry Jam:

  • Add the blueberries into a pot and heat over a low heat
  • Add the lemon juice and zest into the pot and stir
  • Mix in the sugar, one cup at a time, and stir until it is dissolved
  • Raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often to avoid burning
  • Using a wooden spoon or ladle, softly press down and smash the fruit
  • Scrape off any foam bubbling on top of the mixture
  • Add the vanilla and stir
  • Let it cool down before adding it to the cheesecake

 

BOURBON INFUSED APPLESAUCE

applesauce

applesauce3

This applesauce is better than any one you will be buying at the store for two reasons: 1) you’re making it yourself; and 2) it contains bourbon. This is a delicious go-to for those snowy days by the fire that you can heat up and eat. When cooking, your home will smell with the wonderful aromas of the apple’s natural sweetness, the cinnamon, and the woodsy bourbon. It can be made for the younger crowd as well. All you have to do is replace the bourbon with apple cider. It’s also a great lunchtime snack companion for work!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35-45 Minutes

Ingredients

4 large apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks (I used Jonagold and Macintosh)

2 tablespoons of butter

¼ cup brown sugar

1/3 cup bourbon

A pinch of sea salt

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

½ cup of water

Instructions

  • In a large pot, melt the butter over a medium high heat. Let the butter cook until it starts to lightly brown.
  • Once the butter has begun to brown, add the brown sugar and stir it, combining it with the butter
  • Lower the heat to medium and cook the sugar until it begins to melt and bubble
  • Add the apples, bourbon, cinnamon, and salt
  • Cook the apples over a low heat until they soften and can be mushed, about 30 minutes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, smash the apple chunks to desired consistency. As the juices are evaporating, add the water and mix. Add additional sugar, cinnamon, or bourbon if preferred
  • Once the apples have reduced to sauce-like consistency, shut the heat off and let cool. If you prefer a smoother texture rather than chunky, once it has cooled, you can use an immersion blender or regular blender to puree
  • Serve and enjoy! You can also refrigerate for up to a week and enjoy later

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake

pumpkin pie cheesecake 2

It’s Autumn and the end of the Summer harvest, which means it’s time for colder weather, sweaters, and pumpkin flavored sweets. This takes a classic favorite, Pumpkin Spice, and incorporates it into a sweet, and creamy cheesecake. It’s a dessert that can be served from the early days of September and even included at your family’s table for thanksgiving. It’s a sweet treat that will sure have your guests, or even yourself, asking for seconds! Bake yours today!

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Cook Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes

Rest/cooling Time: 4 Hours

Ingredients:

4 packages of cream cheese at room temperature

1 ½ cups of brown sugar

5 eggs at room temperature

¾ cups of sour cream at room temperature

1 can of organic pumpkin puree

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (mix 2 teaspoons cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, quarter teaspoon cloves)

1 ½ tablespoons of vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

1 stick of butter, melted

½ cup of pecans or hazelnuts ( I used toasted hazelnuts)

½ cup of graham crackers

1 cup of ginger snap cookies

*If you do not have ginger snap cookies, increase the volume of the graham crackers to 1 ½ cups and use half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder*

Instructions:

For the crust:

  • Using a brush, spread some butter across the bottom of a springform pan
  • In a food processor, blend the graham crackers, ginger snap cookies, pecans and butter, until they form a moldable mixture
  • Pour the mixture in the pan, and using your hand spread it evenly across the pan, patting it down, and press it against the sides of the pan. Press the raised mixture around the side of pan so you can mold a “crust wall.” Let the crust sit until the filling is ready
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

For the filling:

  • Add the cream cheese and the sugar into a mixer and blend until a smooth mixture forms
  • In a separate bowl, add the pumpkin puree, eggs, sour cream, salt, vanilla and mix and whisk together
  • Slow fold the pumpkin mixture into the cream cheese mixture and blend over a low setting until incorporated
  • Pour the mixture into the crust

For the baking/serving:

  • We are going to do a water bath while baking
  • Cover the springform pan in aluminum foil so water does not enter it. DO NOT cover the top of the cheesecake. Simply cover the sides slightly so that there is no water leaking in, about halfway up the pan.
  • In a roasting pan add 1 inch of hot water or until the water comes up halfway up the side of the springform pan
  • Add the covered springform pan into the roasting pan carefully.
  • Place the pans in the oven and bake until the cheesecake is in the center but still has a slight jiggle when moved. About an hour and fifteen to an hour and a half
  • Let the cheesecake cool and rest for 3 hours
  • Place in the fridge for 1 hour
  • Feel free to top with whipped cream, fresh fruit, or any topping of your choice
  • Serve and enjoy!

For a Bourbon Toffee drizzle

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon bourbon

½ cup heavy cream

Sea salt

  • In a small saucepan, simmer the sugar and butter over a medium heat, swirling the pan instead of stirring, until sugar melts and forms a deep amber color
  • Once it has melted down, turn the flame off and add the heavy cream, swirling it. Add the bourbon and a pinch of salt and stir until the toffee starts to thicken
  • Let it cool and drizzle it on top of the cheesecake

Creamy Mexican Avocado Soup

avocado soup

avocado soup2

When you eat soup, or expect to eat soup, you are prepping to eat a warm broth filled with vegetables, grains, and proteins. What’s different about this soup is that it is served chilled. It’s an appetizing soup, especially in the summer since it can keep you cool and to withstand the heat. The combination of avocado and heavy cream make for a velvety texture that will have you licking the bowl clean.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Serves 4:

*This dish is a chilled soup*

Ingredients

5 ripe Hass avocados

1 ½ cups sparkling water

½ cup heavy cream

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup of grilled corn kernels (can use frozen or canned corn as well instead of grilled)

½ cup of black beans (can use canned beans)

2 small jalapenos, diced

1 large tomato, diced

3 ice cubes

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Tortilla strips

¼ cup cilantro

1 lime

Instructions

  • Take one avocado, cut in half, remove pit, and dice it
  • Take the remaining avocados and scoop them into a blender
  • Add the ice, oil, sparkling water, the heavy cream, the juice of half a lime, and some salt and pepper to taste
  • Blend until smooth and creamy
  • Take the corn, beans, tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, and the other half of the lime and mix them in a separate bowl
  • Transfer the soup onto plates and garnish with salsa mixture and the tortilla chips
  • Enjoy!

 

Creamy New York Style Cheesecake

Creamy NY cheesecake

Ever since I immigrated to the United States and ate a slice of cheesecake, I fell in love. It quickly became one of my favorite desserts. A cake made of a creamy cheese filling and a nice crust? Who wouldn’t love it. Below is my recipe for a traditional New York style cheesecake. This will wow not only the guests you serve it to, but also yourself after tasting how deliciously it is made!

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Cook Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes

Rest/cooling Time: 4 Hours

Ingredients:

4 packages of cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups of sugar

5 eggs at room temperature

¾ cups of sour cream at room temperature

¼ cup of heavy cream at room temperature

1 ½ tablespoons of vanilla extract

1 stick of butter, melted

½ cup of pecans

½ cup of graham crackers

1 cup of ginger snap cookies

*If you do not have ginger snap cookies, increase the volume of the graham crackers to 1 ½ cups and use half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder*

Instructions:

For the crust:

  • Using a brush, spread some butter across the bottom of a springform pan
  • In a food processor, blend the graham crackers, ginger snap cookies, pecans and butter, until they form a moldable mixture
  • Pour the mixture in the pan, and using your hand spread it evenly across the pan, patting it down, and press it against the sides of the pan. Press the raised mixture around the side of pan so you can mold a “crust wall.” Let the crust sit until the filling is ready
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

For the filling:

  • Add the cream cheese and the sugar into a mixer and blend until a smooth mixture forms
  • Add the vanilla and mix again
  • Using a slow setting of the mixer, add the eggs one by one into the cream cheese mixture and blend
  • Add the sour cream and heavy cream and mix
  • Pour the mixture into the crust

For the baking/serving:

  • We are going to do a water bath while baking
  • Cover the springform pan in aluminum foil so water does not enter it. DO NOT cover the top of the cheesecake. Simply cover the sides slightly so that there is no water leaking in, about halfway up the pan.
  • In a roasting pan add 1 inch of hot water or until the water comes up halfway up the side of the springform pan
  • Add the covered springform pan into the roasting pan carefully.
  • Place the pans in the oven and bake until the cheesecake is in the center but still has a slight jiggle when moved. About an hour and fifteen to an hour and a half
  • Let the cheesecake cool and rest for 3 hours
  • Place in the fridge for 1 hour
  • Feel free to top with whipped cream, fresh fruit, or any topping of your choice
  • Serve and enjoy!

 

Braised Oxtail and Kale with Polenta

Oxtails and polenta

Oxtail is delicious, tough meat, but when cooked properly it becomes this melt-in-your mouth delicacy. It takes a while to cook until the meat becomes tender, but once it does, you are in for a treat. I braised my oxtail with red wine and kale and served with polenta, which is corn meal that when cooked, is similar to mashed potatoes in texture and appearance.

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook Time: 3.5 Hours

Ingredients

3 pounds of oxtail

1 shallot, diced

1 large carrot, diced

2 celery stalks diced

4 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

Kosher salt

Black pepper

Red pepper flakes

Olive oil

Flour

1 cup dry red wine

2 cups chicken stock

3 parsley sprigs

2 rosemary branches

2 bay leaves

½ pound of Kale

8 cups of whole milk

2 cups of medium or fine cornmeal

1/3 stick of butter

Instructions

For the Oxtails

  • Pat dry the oxtail and season with salt and pepper all around the meat. Lightly coat with flour.
  • Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a Dutch oven and heat over a medium-high flame. Add the oxtails and cook until the meat begins to brown all around
  • Remove the meat and place it on paper towel covered plate. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until the shallots are translucent and the garlic is softened.
  • Add the carrots and celery and cook until they are softened. Once softened, add a nice pinch of the red pepper flakes depending on how much of a kick you want it to have
  • Using kitchen twine, tie together the rosemary, the bay leaves, and the parsley
  • Transfer the meat back into the Dutch oven and let it simmer
  • Add the tomato paste, wine, and stock and stir. Add the bundle of herbs
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
  • Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer after 5 minutes. Simmer over a medium heat until the mixture reduces
  • Place the pot into the oven and let it cook until meat is fork tender, about 3-3.5 hours. Turn meat every half hour
  • With 45 minutes to half an hour left, add the kale to the mixtures and coat it with the juices. Make sure to skim the fat and any excess oils off the top of the mixture with a spoon before adding the kale

 

For the Polenta

  • While the oxtails are in the oven, prepare the polenta
  • In a saucepan, add the milk and bring to a boil over a high heat
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and stir
  • In a separate bowl, add the cornmeal and stir in a little milk. Stir so that it is not lumpy, but forms a somewhat thick consistency so when you add it to the warm milk it doesn’t clump
  • Add the cornmeal slowly into the saucepan and stir until the mixture thickens
  • Stir in the butter
  • Lower the heat and stir every 10 minutes. Add water as needed if the mixture thickens. You want to keep the polenta smooth and not too thick. Season with salt and pepper if more is needed

Plating

  • Transfer the polenta onto a plate
  • Make sure the oxtails are fork tender and place them on top of the polenta
  • Garnish with goat cheese or some grated parmesan
  • Enjoy!

Wild Mushroom and Andouille Truffle Butter Risotto

Risotto

Like paella, risotto is a rice based dish cooked in broth and contains meats and vegetables. Unlike its Spanish counterpart, it originates in Northern Italy and is cooked until it reaches a creamy consistency. My recipe for risotto includes spicy andouille sausage for a kick and it is complemented by the earthy, nutty taste of the truffle butter. This succulent dish will have your mouth watering from beginning to end.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 oz fresh porcini mushrooms

1 oz dried morel mushrooms

1 diced andouille sausage

4 cups chicken stock

4 tablespoons butter

1 ½ tablespoons truffle butter

½ cup of shallots

½ cup of dry white wine

1 teaspoon saffron

1 ½ cups of Arborio rice

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Soak the dried morels in 2 cups of boiling water until the mushrooms absorb the liquid and look fuller and the water retains the mushroom essence and becomes almost like a mushroom broth.
  • Separate the mushrooms from the water in two separate containers. Before pouring the broth in the container, run it through a strainer and discard any excess residue.
  • Heat the mushroom broth with 2 cups of chicken stock in a saucepan over a medium-low heat until it begins simmering
  • In a separate pot, melt the regular butter over a medium low heat and sauté the sausage and shallots for 5 minutes, or until shallots start to become translucent.
  • Add both types of mushroom and sauté for another 5 minutes
  • Add the rice and mix it with the vegetables and sausage
  • Stir in the wine, allowing it to cook for 2 minutes before adding 2 ladles of the chicken stock, the salt, pepper, and saffron
  • Add the truffle butter
  • Decrease the heat to a low setting and let the mixture simmer until the liquid becomes absorbed then add 2 more ladles of the chicken stock
  • Stir constantly
  • Repeat the process of adding stock after the liquid becomes absorbed until the rice is fully cooked. It should take about half an hour.
  • Turn the heat off and stir in 2/3 cup of the parmesan cheese.
  • Scoop into plates and sprinkle a little more parmesan over the risotto.
  • Serve and enjoy!

 

Honey Vanilla Panna Cotta

IMG_20150503_194840

When i was young and lived in Greece, one of my favorite desserts that I would order out at dinner, or if I was fortunate and my mother made it at home, was the Panna Cotta. The dessert itself is a delectable, luscious treat that is similar to a creamier Jell-o  in texture. It can be eaten plain as it is sweet from the milk and vanilla or prepped with fresh fruit. My take on the traditional Panna Cotta recipe features honey for an added touch of sweetness and a mango topping sauce for an exotic twist on a traditional favorite.

Prep Time: 25 Minutes

Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Inactive: 6 hours or overnight

Ingredients

For the Panna Cotta

1 Vanilla Bean

1 Tablespoon of honey

2 cups heavy cream

½ cup milk

½ cup Greek yogurt

½ cup of sugar

1 packet of unflavored gelatin

For the Mango Topping Sauce

1 mango, diced

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup water

½ cup pineapple orange juice

1 ½ tablespoon brown sugar

Instructions

For the Panna Cotta

  • Place cream in a saucepan over a medium-low heat.
  • Halve the vanilla bean long wise and add the seeds and pod to the cream.
  • Add the sugar and let it simmer.
  • Add the honey and stir.
  • In a separate bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and let it sit for 5 minutes until the gelatin softens.
  • Pour the gelatin mixture into the heavy cream mixture and stir until the gelatin is dissolved.
  • Stir in the yogurt, and keep stirring until dissolved and mixed in with the mixture
  • Let it cool/set in saucepan for a couple of minutes (10 minutes max)
  • Place in either separate bowls for serving or in a large one and cover with plastic wrap
  • Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight
  • Garnish with fresh fruit of choice or with chocolate fudge and serve and enjoy.

For the Mango Topping Sauce

  • Place all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat and stir
  • As mangoes start to soften from the heat, mash them gently
  • Keep stirring until mixture thickens to desired consistency
    • If after 15 minutes it is still too runny, add ½ a pack of unflavored gelatin to thicken it