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Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #6 and Mini Lemon Berry Cheesecakes

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Give me an “S.” Give me a “P.” Give me an “R.”

I’m not going to waste your time or mine finishing the word, but I trust you get the idea. It’s spring!!! And I feel like cheering about it.

O.K. So you’re probably thinking–Get a life. It’s been spring for over a month.

Yes, that’s true. But until the fresh berries start showing up at the farmer’s markets, it’s not really spring. And just this week, the pick-your-own strawberry farm down the road opened its gates–earliest opening on record!

So it’s spring! Give me an “S.” Give me a “P.”

How ’bout give me a recipe?

O.K. Try this out for size–Mini Lemon Berry Cheesecakes. Doesn’t that just cry out for spring (and summer)? Lemon! Fresh berries! The cool richness of cheesecake! The baker, who lives a little farther north than this writer, used blueberries for this batch. But fresh-picked strawberries would work just as well. And they’ll be coming your way soon, because it’s spring!

Give me an “S.” Give me a “P.”  .  .  .

Hey, don’t throw your shoe at me. I’m not some howling dog!

mini lemon cheesecakes

Mini Lemon Berry Cheesecakes

For the crust:

4 honey graham cracker sheets

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

2 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg, room temperature

1 large lemon, juiced

For the topping:

6 Tablespoons berry jam* 

1/2 cup fresh berries*

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with 9 paper liners, and set aside.

Add the graham cracker sheets to a food processor and process until they are fine crumbs. Add the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and melted butter, and process until ingredients come together. Divide the mixture between the 9 paper liners, pressing and packing the mixture into the bottom of each liner.

Next, make the filling by adding the cream cheese and granulated sugar to a mixing bowl. Using a handheld mixer, beat the ingredients on high until smooth. Add the flour, salt, vanilla, egg, and lemon juice to the mixture, and beat until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Divide the batter between the 9 paper liners. Bake the cheesecakes in your preheated oven for 25-27 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden brown and the centers are just set. Allow the cheesecakes to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Once the cheesecakes are cooled, the centers will have sunk slightly, leaving room for the fruit topping. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the berry jam on high for 10-15 seconds, or until warmed. Mix the fresh blueberries into the jam. Spoon this mixture on top of each cheesecake. Return the cheesecakes to your refrigerator until ready to serve.

Makes 9 mini cheesecakes.

*Any berry jam or berries will do. I used blackberry jam and fresh blueberries, but any variety of berry jam and berries will work. The possibilities are endless!

mini lemon berry cheesecakes

{Adapted from Chelsea’s Messy Apron}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #6, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #6, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters, Serial #7 and Strawberry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt

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How about a Labor Day present from Reading and Recipes?

For little old me?

Yeah, that’s right, just for you.

What kind of present?

How about a yummy frozen dessert that’s skinny, healthy, inexpensive, and easy to make?

Lead me to it!

Well, you’re there. This Strawberry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt is all of those things–a Labor Day present from R&R!

Aww, isn’t that sweet!

And we’ll throw in a story for good measure–Brooke and Leah eavesdropping on the world from their hideaway under the pier.

A yummy dessert and a story too?

Our Labor Day present just for you! (Might almost think it was your birthday . . . .)

strawberry cheesecake ice cream

Strawberry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt

6 ounces strawberry Greek yogurt

2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup milk or cream

1 cup chopped fresh strawberries, divided

1 8-ounce container whipped topping (such as Cool Whip), room temperature

2 sheets graham crackers, broken up into small pieces

strawberry cheesecake ice cream close up

Add the yogurt, cream cheese, vanilla, milk, and 1/2 cup strawberries to a blender. Puree the ingredients together. Add the whipped topping to a mixing bowl. Pour the pureed strawberry mixture over the whipped topping and mix ingredients together. Lastly, fold in the remaining 1/2 cup of strawberries and graham cracker pieces. Once everything is combined, pour the mixture into a container with a lid. Place the container in the freezer for 2-4 hours, stirring every hour.

Once the ice cream reaches your desired consistency, scoop the ice cream into individual serving bowls. This ice cream is best served the same day to ensure a smooth and creamy texture. If you have any leftovers, cover and store them in the freezer for up to a week. Remove any leftovers from the freezer 15-20 minutes prior to eating to allow the ice cream to soften.

Serves 3-4.

strawberry cheesecake ice cream1

{Adapted from Cooking to Perfection}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #7 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #7, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #7, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Angels Unawares, Serial #27 and No Bake Peach Cheesecakes

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Out of the strawberries–and into the peaches!

Those of y’all (guess where we’re from–then again, we could be faking our regional identity; you never know) who follow this blog regularly (must be one or two of you out there) know we recently went through a strawberry phase, as we designated strawberries the Reading and Recipes fruit of the spring and highlighted them in several recipes.

Well, springtime is over; it’s on into summer.

And while there are many fruits associated with summer, the early summer fruit of our choice is the peach. In the temperate climates, local peaches are starting to show up on fruit stands and in the farmer’s markets. And if you’re lucky, and willing to brave the heat and those rickety leaning ladders and the itchiness of peach fuzz, you may be able to find a pick-your-own peach orchard nearby where you can pick this delicious fruit at the peak of its ripeness and juiciness. A truly ripe peach doesn’t last long or transport well, so you probably won’t find one in the grocery store. They are worth the effort if you have an orchard nearby.

And once you have your peaches (from whatever source), save out a couple for these No Bake Peach Cheesecakes. As the name tells you, this is a great summertime recipe because you don’t have to heat up the oven or the kitchen. And the graham cracker crust and Greek yogurt are the perfect complement to the delicate flavor and sweetness of the peaches. What a great treat to kick-off the Season of the Peach!

Bring on the heat. We’re ready now–with these No Bake Peach Cheesecakes!

mini peach cheesecakes

No Bake Peach Cheesecakes

4 mini graham cracker crusts

2 medium ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons water, divided

2 teaspoons cornstarch

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup peach Greek yogurt

2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, combine the peaches, granulated sugar, and 1 tablespoon of water. Heat this mixture over med-high heat, stirring occasionally, and bring to a boil. While you are waiting for that mixture to boil, mix together the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water. Once the peach mixture comes to a boil, stir in cornstarch. Bring the mixture to a boil again and stir constantly. Boil for 2 minutes, or until the mixture thickens, and remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, yogurt, powdered sugar, and vanilla with a handheld mixer for 3-4 minutes, or until very fluffy. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the graham cracker crusts. Top the cheesecake mixture with the peaches.

Refrigerate for at least an hour, or until ready to serve.

Makes 4 mini cheesecakes.

peach cheesecake

{Adapted from Cooking to Perfection}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #27 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #27, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #27, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Birthday Dinner, Part I and Mini Cheesecakes

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CHEESECAKE–the very word has come to suggest extravagance and luxury.

And with good reason–the dense and rich mixture of cream cheese and eggs and vanilla set in a complementary graham-cracker crust makes one feel pampered and special, not to mention sated and full: just like being treated to a fancy restaurant.

But with the following quick and easy mini-cheesecake recipe, you can have that feeling of extravagance and pampering right in your own home, in your own kitchen. So give it a try–you’ve earned the treat!

And while you’re at it, check out the first part of the novel Birthday Dinner. Becca is treating Zach to a birthday dinner at a very fancy restaurant, one that in fact offers several types of cheesecake for dessert (though dessert comes in Part II–have to come back next week). So while you’re treating yourself to mini-cheesecakes, listen (or read) about Becca treating Zach to a very special meal that might not end exactly how it starts out (but that part comes later too.)

single cheesecake

Mini Cheesecakes

6 pre-made mini graham cracker crusts *

6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 egg

1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

prebaked cheesecakes

{Cheesecakes before they are baked}

Add the cream cheese, egg, sugar, and vanilla to a mixing bowl. Mix ingredients together with an electric mixer until they are well blended and very smooth.

baked cheesecakes

{Cheesecakes after they are baked}

Divide the batter between the pre-made crusts. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until cheesecakes are set and no longer giggle in the middle when moved. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before putting them in the refrigerator. Refrigerate the cheesecakes for 1-2 hours, or until chilled. Serve plain, with fruit, hot fudge, caramel drizzle, or other toppings.

chocolate drizzle cheesecake

{With hot fudge drizzled on top-talk about delicious!}

*You can also make this recipe using vanilla wafer cookies. To do this, line a muffin pan with four aluminum foil liners. Place one vanilla wafer at the bottom of each liner, flat side down. Make the cheesecake batter as instructed and then divide it among the four liners. Bake for 15 minutes.

inside of cheesecake

{Recipe adapted from Dessert for Two}

And here’s the first installment of the novel:

Birthday Dinner cover

Birthday Dinner, Part I, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Birthday Dinner, Part I, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!