A Tale of Two Cheesecakes

Good Baking

I’ve been on a little cheesecake kick recently.  Prompted by… no good reason other than a craving for cheesecake.  On Thursday I made a no-bake, ricotta and berry variety, with a pecan graham crust.  I thought it was wonderful, Josh took a few bites and refrained from any more the rest of the weekend  :)  This one was slightly healthy (I used neufchâtel cream cheese and part skim ricotta sweetened with honey and no sugar, the crust featured coconut oil instead of butter, and the topping was a mixture of fresh and beautiful summer berries), and definitely had a different texture than classic cheesecake.  Still, you can’t beat no-bake on a weeknight, and I thought this treat was perfectly summery and wonderful.

To make up for the poor reception of the ricotta cheesecake, I let Josh pick the flavor for the next one.  First he requested plain (not an option), and then when I pressed him to be more creative, he went with Oreo.  He has a wild and adventurous palate, for sure.  This second cheesecake was much more traditional, featuring full fat cream cheese, sour cream, an oreo and butter crust, and topped with a rich chocolate ganache.  My only regret is not saving some oreos for the topping, but at the time I was just too involved in the stress relieving activity of smashing oreos with the rolling pin to save any whole cookies :)

So there you have it, a cheesecake for every mood.  Feeling like a lighter and quicker variety that won’t leave you thinking that bathing suit season is officially over, this first cheesecake hits the mark.  Looking for a rich and ultra creamy traditional cheesecake that will satisfy any dessert sweet tooth, go for the oreo version.  Either way, I say you win.

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Adapted from the New York Times

Ricotta No Bake Cheesecake

  • 16 graham cracker squares (8 whole crackers), crushed
  • ¼ cup ground pecans 
  • 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
  •  Rind of a lemon, freshly grated
  •  Pinch salt
  •  About 1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries and strawberries

    Combine crushed graham crackers, nuts if using, and melted butter. Press evenly into bottom of an 8- or 9-inch square pan (glass is good) to form a crust about 1/4-inch thick. Put in refrigerator until ready to use.  Using a standing or hand mixer, or a whisk, combine cream cheese, ricotta, honey, lemon rind and salt, and blend until smooth.  Spread cheese mixture carefully and evenly over crust, using a spatula or butter knife to smooth top. Cover with fresh blueberries and chill for at least an hour, or until set. Cut into squares or bars and serve.

Oreo Ganache Cheesecake 

  • 1 pkg. (350 g or 550 g if you want more) Oreo cookies, divided
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 3 pkgs. (8-oz. – 250 g) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    Preheat oven to 325 F. Finely crush about 15-20 cookies and coarsely chop about 10 cookies; set aside. Mix finely crushed cookie crumbs and melted butter in a bowl. Press on bottom of a 9-inch springform pan; set aside.
    In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat only until just incorporated (beating the eggs too much is what makes the surface crack). Add sour cream and vanilla and beat for 30 seconds and then fold in chopped cookies. Spread mixture onto prepared crust. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until set. (If necessary to prevent top from browning, tent with foil for the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking). If it’s really wobbly, it’s not ready; if it’s only slightly wobbly (one ripple), it’s ready – it will set as it cools. Turn off heat and leave to cool completely in oven. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or preferably overnight before serving.
    Run a hot knife around the side to remove from pan. If necessary, level off top with a serrated knife. Spread chocolate glaze and garnish with Oreo halves or as desired.
    Chocolate ganache
    1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy cream
    1/8 cup (25 g) sugar
    1 tbsp (25 g) butter
    1/8 cup (25 g) corn syrup
    125 g bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
    Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream, sugar, butter and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering and pour over chocolate. Mix until smooth. Pour immediately over cake and spread with an offset spatula. Do not wait too long before spreading on cake otherwise the glaze with start to seize and leave unsightly lines.

Fig & Pistachio Mascarpone Tart

Cookies, Brownies, Bars, French Macarons, Good Baking

Commonly associated with mainstream ‘cookie’, the Fig Newton, figs are so so much more than that (but my own fig newton recipe is pretty great).  Figs are lusciously sweet and feature a complex texture that combines the chewiness of their skin, the smoothness of their interior, and the crunchiness of their seeds. Fresh figs are so seasonal it makes them elusive, and I adore elusive foods (like the springtime ramp and the mid-winter kumquat ).  Their rarity is only enhanced by the fact that they’re so delicate and perishable.   Whenever I see fresh figs at Whole Foods, I beam with delight and scoop up way more than is reasonable for one human to consume in the short lifespan that fresh figs have (2-3 days max).  And then I’m consistently astonished when I somehow finish them all in that short window.  Figs are also super nutritious, so while eating a container of 12 for breakfast may not be normal behavior, it’s not the worst.

When I gleefully brought home a loot of figs this week, I knew I wanted to make something featuring them.  So I combined a few tart recipes, mixing and matching crusts and fillings, to create this marriage of figs with pistachios.   Josh wasn’t nearly as thrilled with this tart as he was the Bourbon S’More pie, but that’s not a reflection of the figs, rather it’s because his culinary tastes could use some refining ;)  I’m working on it.



With this curst recipe, I successfully reached the maximum capacity of my mini food processor. Read: flour and ground pistachio bits were spewed into the air upon grinding. 


But it was so so worth it.


veins of butter swirled throughout


I’m on a mascarpone kick this summer.


Tart by night…


…Tart by day.

Tart Dough:

  • egg yolk – 1 large (at room temperature)
  • half and half – 2 tablespoons
  • pure vanilla extract – 1/2 teaspoon
  • unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4 – 1/2 cup
  • all purpose flour – 1 1/4 cup
  • powdered sugar – sifted – 1/4 cup
  • pistachios – 1/3 cup
  • salt – 1/4 teaspoonMix together the cream, egg yolk and vanilla in a small bowl, set aside.Combine 1/3 cup of pistachios with 1/4 cup of flour in a food processor, pulse until finely ground. The flour will absorb the oils from the nuts and keep them from turning to a paste in the food processor.Add the remaining flour, powdered sugar, salt. Pulse until fully combined.Add the cold butter cubes and pulse until the butter chunks are about the size of dimes. You want a rough texture with some floury butter chunks still visible as opposed to a smooth dough.

    While pulsing the dough, slowly add the liquid mixture just until the dough starts to come together into a ball.

    Remove from the food processor and combine the dough into a flattened and smooth oblong disk. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

    After the dough has chilled in the fridge for at least 1 hour, remove from fridge and preheat oven to 400°.

    On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out in an oblong shape if using a rectangular tart pan or a round shape if using a round tart pan, until it is about 1/4″ thick.

    Carefully ease the dough into tart pan. If it cracks or breaks during the transfer process, use your fingers and possibly scrap dough to repair.

    Cut the excess dough off, leaving a 1-1 1/2″ overhang all the way around. Then fold the overhanging dough back inward creating a thicker edge all the way around. Run your rolling pin along the top edges of the tart pan trimming off the extra dough and creating a perfect tart edge.

    Bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges begin to turn a golden brown.


  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 to 12 fresh figs

To make the filling, beat together the mascarpone and sour cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Then beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the honey and vanilla, and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Spread the filling evenly in the bottom. Arrange the figs, cut side up, in a circular pattern on top of the filling. The tart will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, but it is best when eaten the same day it is assembled.


Celebrating National S’more Day: Bourbon S’more Pie

Cakes, Cupcakes, Donuts, Cookies, Brownies, Bars, French Macarons, Good Baking

Happy National S’more Day!!  What a meaningful and significant holiday to celebrate.  S’mores are one of the most classic combinations of flavors, right up there with peanut butter and jelly, burrata and heirloom tomato, cheesecake and strawberry.  I knew I wanted to make something to commemorate the day, but then Trader Joe’s, the site of tonight’s ‘quick-grocery-stop-on-the-way-home-from-work’, threw a wrench in my plan.

“We don’t make marshmallows,” the kind Trader Joe’s employee informed me, when I asked him where I could locate them in the store.  ‘I should’ve known,’ I thought to myself.  There went my plans for s’mores cheesecake bars, AND my back up plan for s’mores cookie sandwiches.  So in a moment of improvisation, I thought I’d make a chocolate pie in a graham cracker crust, and top it with a mallow-y meringue like element.  Volia!  A makeshift s’more.  Recipe non-existent, just a combination of a graham crust I know by heart, a brownie-like pie interior, and a classic meringue creation of simply egg whites and caster sugar.  Not ideal, but I could make the situation work.   And I’d make it a little more interesting, and appealing to my husband, with the addition of a slash of bourbon :)

This pie is WONDERFUL.  I feel like it’s helped me atone for my recent sweet corn ice cream debacle.  Smooth and silky, bold in chocolate and bourbon flavor, picturesque and so festive, it’s the perfect treat for this important holiday :)  I’d recommend it whenever you want to make a s’more themed dessert, Trader Joe’s leaves you without any marshmallows, and you don’t feel like stopping at another place.  IMG_2612 IMG_2618 IMG_2621 IMG_2622 IMG_2624 IMG_2627 IMG_2629 IMG_2632 IMG_2634 IMG_2637 IMG_2640


Sweet Corn Bacon Ice Cream with Chocolate Chips

Good Baking

I spend a lot of time scanning epicurious and saveur, reading food blogs, paging through food magazines, scrolling through pinterest.  I’m always on the lookout for something off-the-beaten-path or featuring a clever twist on a norm.  With my eye for the unusual, this recipe struck me immediately.

Making home-made ice cream is not the easiest adventure.  It’s one of those processes that not everyone has the energy or equipment to complete, yet the possibilities are so endless and so much more intriguing than the ubiquitous options you see at a grocery store.  However, making home-made ice cream is also a little risky, requiring many levels of preparation (it’s hardly a “one bowl” endeavor), and when the results are less stellar than you were initially imaging, it can be pretty disappointing.  Almost 2 years ago to the day I made Cantaloupe Thyme ice cream, I remember thinking that it was interesting but I wouldn’t make it again.  About 2 1/2 years ago I made Basil Chip ice cream, my guests and taste testers were kind and complementary but I remember being disappointed that it wasn’t as dynamic of a flavor duo as I was expecting.   Last summer was the scene of the infamous Blueberry Bourbon Basil ice cream, everything about this recipe had potential and then an execution fail (a mixture not chilled enough and an ice cream maker not cold enough) turned this into an embarrassing blueberry bourbon basil soup.  Reading back through this blog the only ice cream I’ve ever made that was a success was a simple PB & J Ice Cream, but dating back to March of 2012, 4 apartments ago and served to an entirely different group of party attendees, it’s been so long that it’s hardly a relevant accomplishment worth noting.

I know by this point you’re all cheering hard for the success of this weekend’s sweet corn ice cream, but alas, I’m again disappointed.  The flavor combination was confusing at best.  The sweet corn base wasn’t sweet enough, but it was too subtly sweet to be considered savory.  The addition of bacon was a confusing crunch and the chocolate was just an additional layer that added to my dissatisfaction.  The texture was wonderful when it first emerged from the ice cream attachment but it didn’t keep or freeze well at all.  I would consider making sweet corn ice cream again, but I would make it sweeter, wouldn’t add any mix ins, and would serve immediately after initial freezing.  For now I need a break from ice cream work, I’m still doing dishes from this batch and still cleaning corn kernels off the kitchen floor.  I’ve certainly learned that I don’t want to mix corn, bacon, and chocolate in the future.  Live, learn, blog, clean up.

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  • 2 cups sweet corn kernels
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ lb. bacon, cooked and chopped
  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips
  1. Combine the corn, heavy cream, milk, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Turn off heat and let sit for an hour.
  2. After an hour, transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on high until smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve back into the saucepan discarding the solids.
  4. Turn the heat to medium and let the mixture heat back up.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks in a bowl.
  6. Once the mixture is hot, slowly pour about 1 cup into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.
  7. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the sauce pan and stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon or spatula.
  8. Transfer to a bowl, bring to room temperature then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours until fully chilled.
  9. Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions.
  10. Add the chopped bacon and chocolate during the last minute of churning.
  11. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer safe container and freeze for 1-2 hours before serving.

Door Knock Dinner: Beet-za Salad

Good Baking

My earliest memory of watching the Food Network features the long since retired series ‘Door Knock Dinners.’  Gordon Elliot (or another famous chef) would surprise an unsuspecting household with their arrival, swoop in and create a gourmet meal out of whatever the family had on hand.  They would dig through the family’s pantry and to depths of their freezer and turn what seemed like a crazy mix of ingredients into a multi course, chef-inspired event. Unfortunately the show only lasted for two seasons in the late 90’s, but clearly it left a mark in the hearts of some young Food Network fans.

This memory is relevant to this post (yes I’m getting there) because often times I play the game where I’m Gordon Elliot and I have to make something magical out of the contents of our fridge.  Going to the grocery store to get one or a few extra ingredients would defeat the game, it’s all about being creative with the random collection of items you have.  So last night, getting home late and not in the mood to go to a store, I turned our kitchen into an episode of Door Knock Dinner :)  We had some extra (odd) veggies still on hand from last Wednesday’s CSA (namely beets), an extra pizza crust from the Grilled Corn and Rosemary Pizza night, lots of cheese options (we do live in Wisconsin), and some extra chorizo from my Sunday brunch fun.  I had an idea for this Beet pesto pizza (I’ve had something similar at Salvatore’s before), so played around with the food processor, roasted cubed beets, walnuts, and olive oil to make the base.  Once I realized we had goat cheese, pistachios and pears, it was destiny that the beet pizza should become an homage on beet salad!!

While basking in my own glow of success, I realized there was no way Josh would eat a pizza inspired by beet salad, so I spilt the crust in 2 and made him a pizza of manchego cheese and cheddar bacon cheese (neither shredded and meant for pizza making, rather leftover from a cheese plate :) ), chorizo, leftover corn, and barbecue sauce (which he says he could eat on anything).  I’m pretty proud of my Door Knock Dinners his-and-hers pizza night and considered submitting my story to the Food Network to see if they’d be interested in featuring an addendum to their “Door Knock Dinners all-time best recipe” list.  Then I realized this isn’t really a recipe given I just played with mixing stuff together and absolutely didn’t measure, but still, maybe they’d be willing to make an exception?   Dear Gordon Elliot, You’re my hero.  Love, Sconemaster

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Beet-za Salad (Beet Salad Pizza):

cube and roast a few beets at 450

once semi cooled, process with handful of walnuts, splash of olive oil, and a toss of grated parm.  Spread across pizza crust like a sauce, top with pistachios, chèvre, and thinly sliced pear.  Once pizza is finished baking, drizzle with this miraculous balsamic glaze.


Spiralized Sweet Potato Casserole and Carrot Cake Banana Bread

Good Baking

A home without a spiralizer is a sad home.   Certainly one devoid of the joys of making magical veggie based creations.

I started my trip down sprializer lane hot on zucchini, turning them into pastas and serving with meatballs.  But now I’ve transitioned to sweet potatoes, which have more integrity and versatility, and are able to stand up to more cooking options than simply sautéing.  This casserole dish is a gem, it makes a ton but we love eating it for days (and I’ve been know to eat it for breakfast).  You can opt to make your own enchilada sauce, which I did the first time and regretted.  Or you can opt to expedite the process and use jarred enchilada sauce, and feed everyone (by everyone I mean your husband, you, and your growing baby)  much sooner.  We were all happier the second time around.   I’ll make this forever, it’s full of color and fresh veggies,  a great depth of flavor, and makes the most wonderful leftovers.  Get a spiralizer, and try it.


This bread is like our marriage in treat form.  Josh loves carrot cake and anything with a cream cheese frosting, I love baking with overripe bananas and making healthier twists on classics: this recipe is a perfect combo of both.  Since we’re both expending many calories these days, Josh with IronMan training and me with fully grown baby kicking around inside, there’s no reason to not have treats that we both love easily available all the time.  This bread is really more like a cake, with a healthy topping of cream cheese frosting :), and we certainly enjoyed it last night with celebration.  Celebrating a full term baby, a professional anniversary, a personal anniversary (3 months of marriage!), a most enjoyable house guest, and the conclusion of another one of Josh’s miserably long Sunday bike rides, it’s a winning combination for sure :)

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Spiralized Sweet Potato Casserole

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast (or 12 oz  shredded cooked chicken)
  • 2 sweet potatoes 12 oz total, spiralized and cut into 6-inch lengths
  • 4 medium vine tomatoes
  • 2 dried peppers
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 onion (quartered)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cumin  powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 5 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded chopped scallions for topping  (optional)


Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the spiralized sweet potatoes with the smallest noodle blade and place them in a 9 x 13 oval casserole dish.

If you’re cooking the chicken, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot and add chicken breast, cook 10 minutes. Remove from water, set aside to cool and shred the chicken. Place in a large bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add peppers, cover and simmer on medium until the peppers are soft, 10 to 20 minutes depending on the pepper.  Remove peppers and let cool, cut the stem and and remove the seeds and the inside of peppers.  Transfer to a blender.  Add 4 tomatoes to the same boiling water and cook 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, peel the skin and transfer to the blender. Blend until smooth.  Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the garlic and onion, saute until browned. Transfer to the blender with the sauce along with cumin, salt, and pepper and blend well.  Pour the mixture into the large bowl with the shredded chicken, black beans and corn.  Mix to combine, then pour over the spiralized sweet potatoes, making sure the sauce mixes well and gets in between the spirals.  Top with cheese, cover with aluminum foil and bake 1 hour, or until the sweet potatoes are tender.

Carrot Cake Banana Bread

  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup quick oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/3 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1/4 cup pecans, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
  • For the frosting:
  • 4 oz whipped or reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 8×4 or 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, quick oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together mashed banana, brown sugar, egg, egg white, and vanilla until well combined and creamy. Add in coconut oil, applesauce and almond milk, then fold in carrots. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Gently fold in 1/4 cup of pecans.
  4. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Mine took exactly 50 minutes in an 8×4 inch loaf pan. If you use a 9×5 inch pan, you may need to check the bread at 40 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan and place on wire rack to finish cooling.
  6. To make cinnamon cream cheese frosting: Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon together on medium speed for a minute or until smooth. Spread over cooled bread. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped pecans. Cut into 12 slices and enjoy!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Cakes, Cupcakes, Donuts, Good Baking

When the CSA gives you lots of zucchini, make … cake!  I made this on Thursday night, and this piece in the photo below is the last of it :)  You wouldn’t believe there’s no oil or butter in this cake!!  You can subtly taste something unique about it, but it certainly doesn’t shout “green vegetable!”.  It’s dense and rich, and while I had initially planned to top it with some sort of frosting or icing, it certainly doesn’t need it.  The cake is so moist it’s like a combination brownie & cake, and I was eating it out of the pan too quickly to remember my original interest in adding anything to the top.

Definitely worth making even when you don’t get 4 zucchini in your CSA.  Thanks to Steph Payne for generously gifting hers to us last week while she’s on vacation!!  As I type this I realize it would’ve been considerate to save you a piece… whoops :)  Next time.

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  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups peeled and grated zucchini
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C) and line an 8″x8″ pan with parchment paper or spray with baking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, vanilla, coconut sugar, and apple sauce and let this sit for 5 minutes to let the coconut sugar dissolve.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder (sifted if lumpy!), baking soda and salt. Make sure there are no clumps before going on to the next step.
  4. Add the dry mix to the wet, gently stir until combined. Be sure not to over mix!
  5. Then fold in the zucchini and 1 cup chocolate chips.
  6. Pour the batter into the pan and even the surface with a spatula.
  7. Sprinkle ½ cup mini chocolate chips on top.
  8. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes (14 minutes for the half batch) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle doesn’t come out gooey. It might still be sticky!! That’s how it’s supposed to be, just as long as it’s not raw.