Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lady Finger Cheesecake with Balsamic Macerated Strawberries

Having friends who love cooking as much as you do are amazing. Not just because you're guaranteed a good meal when you visit their house, but also because they'll share the yummy recipes they use with you! My friend Nicole (who introduced me to the incredible Toffee Dip) had myself and a few other of our girlfriends over a few weekends back. The meal was delicious, of course, but the dessert... to die for cheesecake. We all begged for her to share the recipe and needless to say, we were all thrilled when we realized that the recipe did not include any baking. A no bake cheesecake that tasted incredible and was impressive? Yes please!!

I adjusted the recipe slightly, as I did not have vanilla extract on hand but did have a whole vanilla bean. But, if you're without vanilla bean, you could easily use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Then I decided that the cheesecake needed a topping. Nicole served hers with cherry topping but I decided to get a little crazy and go for strawberries... but not just any strawberries. Balsamic Macerated Strawberries. These were amazing and impressive to my dinner companions and paired so very well with the sweet and smooth cheesecake.

Make this and I promise you'll re-think ever making a traditional cheesecake ever again.

Enjoy :)

Lady Finger Cheesecake with Balsamic Macerated Strawberries

For the cheesecake...
3 packages of lady fingers
4-8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1 whole vanilla bean, stripped

Mix cream cheese, sugar & vanilla. Set aside. Whip heavy cream until stiff. Combine whipped cream with cream cheese mixture.
Line spring form pan with lady fingers (bottom and sides) spread 1/2 of cream cheese filling. Put another layer of lady fingers and then spread on rest of mixture. Refrigerate over night. Top each piece cut with strawberries and serve.

For the strawberries...
1 container of strawberries, hulled and sliced in four pieces
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Place the strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar, tossing to coat. Refrigerate overnight.
30 minutes before serving, pour balsamic vinegar over top and toss. Serve over cheesecake (or eat straight from the bowl - I won't judge you).

Balsamic Butter Pasta with Grilled Chicken, Roasted Asparagus and Roasted Squash

The recipe title is certainly a mouth ful but it's worth every single word. This pasta dish came into my life via, you guessed it, Pintrest and a link to Food & Wine Magazine. the recipe did not call for chicken or squash but I wanted to beef up the pasta a bit and the addition of both was very welcome. that along with some roasted shallot and garlic made this a dish that I know I'll come back to again and again.

If you do not have asparagus or squash on hand, the beauty of this recipe is that any roasted vegetable would work. Broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower... Whatever tickles your fancy! Want to make this recipe even MORE decadent? A dollop of ricota cheese stirred in at the end would make this dish extra creamy and oh so delicious.


Balsamic Butter Pasta with Grilled Chicken and Roasted Asparagus & Squash
(adapted from Food & Wine Magazine)

1/2 pound asparagus, cut in thirds
1/2 pound summer squash, sliced into 1/2 inch half moons
1 pound chicken tenders, cut into cubes
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 pound penne
1 stick butter

Heat the oven to 400°.
Sauté the chicken in EVOO. Season with salt and pepper and cook until done.
Snap the tough ends off the asparagus, discard them, and cut into thirds. Put the asparagus, summer squash, shallots an garlic on a baking sheet and toss with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until 3 tablespoons remain. Stir in the brown sugar and the stick of butter. Allow the butter to melt and stir to combine.
Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and toss with the vegetables, sauce, and chicken.

Gorgonzola Garlic Bread

When I set out to make a pasta feast for MR. TL and I on Saturday evening, I knew it had to involve some delicious bread to sop up the leftover sauce from the pasta! I snagged a noce round of sourdough bread from Whole Foods and thought we'd be content with just that, as is... that is untilI spotted a recipe for Gorgonzola Garlic Bread on my new favorite site, Pintrest. The recipe looked easy enough but still swanky enough to impress Mr. TL with my kitchen prowess.

The result - a delicious hunk of bread with lots of snappy garlic flavor and just the right kick of gorgonzola. I paired it with a balsamic pasta so the sweetness of that helped offset the punch of Gorgonzola flavor. Enjoy!

Gorgonzola Garlic Bread
(adapted from Thibeault's Table)

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Cream the butter with the Gorgonzola cheese.
Add garlic to cheese mix.
Season with salt and pepper.
Leave loaf whole, but cut slices so that the loaf stays together. Spread cheese mixture in between each slice and reshape loaf.
Wrap loaf in foil.
Place in 400°F oven for 15 - 20 minutes and serve hot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ham, Cheddar and Fig Panini's with Balsamic Field Greens

Summer has arrived in full force here in RI and the last thing I want to do is turn the oven on. The solution? A hearty panini with a light salad on the side.

OF course you could stuff a panini with whatever you have on hand and to me, as long as the cheese is ooey gooey and the bread is crisp and tasty, you're good! I opted for a combo of honey ham, sharp cheddar, and fig preserves. Combined with the toasty bread, it was a sure winner.

The salad lets you get creative too but tonight I went with a reenactment of a salad that Mr. TL and I while photographing a wedding a few weeks back. It was the perfect combination of field greens, toasted almonds, dried cranberries and goat cheese. Dressed with a sweet and tangy balsamic vinaigrette and you have a guaranteed winner.

Enjoy :)

Ham, Cheddar and Fig Panini's with Balsamic Field Greens

Panini's (Yield: 3 sandwiches)
1/2 lb deli ham (I used honey ham)
1/2 lb cheddar cheese (I used extra sharp)
3 tablespoons fig preserves
6 slices dense bread (I used a sourdough)
extra virgin olive oil for brushing

Preheat your panini grill to medium heat and brush with extra virgin olive oil.
Spread 1/2 tablespoon of fig preserves on each piece of bread.
Layer the ham and cheese accordingly on each piece of bread and form a sandwich.
Brush both sides of the sandwich with oil and place on the panini grill.
Cook 5-7 minutes or until the bread is crisp and the cheese is melted.

1 bag of mixed field greens
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup almond slivers, toasted
balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)

Wash field greens through your salad spinner and allow to dry.
Toss greens with balsamic vinaigrette and then top with goat cheese, cranberries, and almonds.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
(adapted from
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp agave nectar
3/4 C extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, and agave nectar in a blender.
With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil through the opening in the lid to process into a thick dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
The dressing can be made up to 1 week ahead, stored in a covered container and refrigerated. Stir well before using.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Watermelon Sangria

There are a few things I love about summer. Flip flops, warm summer nights, and pitchers of sangria happen to be on the top of my list. My go-to sangria is a White Peach Sangria that I've adapted from my friend Katy but wanted to try a new recipe to mix it up so when I spotted Watermelon Sangria on a Pintrest page, I knew I had to give it a whirl.

As with any recipes, I made it as is at first. The good thing about cocktails is that you can always add to the cocktail to tweak the recipe to how you'd like it. Following the original recipes as is, the sangria was more tart than smooth. If you're someone who likes that, then follow the recipe verbatim. I, however, like my booze to go down smooth and taste like you're drinking juice ;)

I decided to add a touch more watermelon schnapps than required in the original as well as a bit of simple syrup to sweeten it up. The addition of the extra schnapps and simple syrup really sweetened this up, but not to the point of being overly sweet. The result was a fruity, cool, and super summery cocktail that was enjoyed by everyone at the party I brought it to. In fact, as I was taking my pitcher and leaving, one party go-er requested that I go home and whip up another batch and bring it back. Yeah. It's THAT good. Enjoy :)

Watermelon Sangria
(adapted from The Party Dress)

1.5 L dry white wine (I used pinot grigio)
2 cups watermelon schnapps
1 cup white cranberry juice
4 cups freshly scooped watermelon balls
2 limes, cut into half-wheels
1 cup simple syrup (recipe below)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large ceramic or glass container and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve over ice.

Simple Syrup

1 cup tap water
1 cup sugar

Bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the cup of sugar and reduce heat to low.
Continue stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Let the syrup cool to room temperature, then pour into a clean glass jar and store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Frozen Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Sandwiches

I feel like every event I've been to recently has required a dessert. Mr. TL is certainly not complaining about that and when I told him that the request for this weekend's 4th of July celebration was my Frozen Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Sandwiches, he was a very happy man.

Make this recipe one time and I guarantee your friends and family will be begging for you to make them again and again. Simple, easy, and incredibly wonderful on a hot summer day. It's the perfect treat to cap off a day full of sun, fun, and BBQ food. Enjoy!

Frozen Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Sandwiches
(Yield: 25 sandwiches)

8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz cool whip
2 tablespoons sugar
50 chewy chocolate chip cookies
sprinkles, nonpareils, candy, nuts, etc. to roll the cookie sandwiches in

Combine softened cream cheese, cool whip, and sugar in a mixing bowl on medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended.
Use a small cookie scoop (I use THIS ONE from Pampered Chef and it's perfect) to place a dollop of filling onto a cookie bottom.
Take a second cookie and smoosh (that's the technical term) it together to form a sandwich.
Roll your cookie sandwich in sprinkles (jimmies for us RI'ers!), candy, nonpareils, chopped nuts... the possibilites are endless!
Stack your sandwiches on a plate, cover with foil or plastic wrap, and freeze for 4-6 hours or until firm. Serve frozen.