Monthly Archives: September 2010

Microwave Lime Cheesecake

Under normal circumstances, microwave cheesecake would be an ideal summer dessert for the sole reason that it doesn’t require you to turn on your oven.

However, this summer has been anything but normal.

So, instead, I’m going to tell you that these little cheesecakes are ridiculously easy, super tasty and highly transportable and those are three very fine reasons to consider trying it out. And, hey, if the forecasters are right and we’re going to sail through the rest of August on a heat wave, then feel free to use not wanting to turn on your oven as an excuse, too.

The more rationale, the better, I say.

Not that cheesecake should require any rationale.

These ones certainly don’t.

Microwave Lime Cheesecake I

Now, I’m not going to lie. If you’re looking for a silky smooth cheesecake with nary a crack marring the surface, lovingly cooked in a water bath and chilled overnight in the fridge, this isn’t the recipe for you.

If you’re looking for something you can whip up in seven minutes — including cooking time — that sits in the fridge for an hour and then can be devoured, giving you the same tart lime cheesecake taste as the regular kind with almost the same amount of smoothness, then this is the recipe for you.

It was for me.

The hardest part was waiting for it to chill enough.

And the best part was because I used mason jars, I could just slap on a lid and take it with me, which would be ideal for picnicking or making an office lunch a little more luxurious.

I used two one-cup (250 mL) mason jars to make the cheesecakes and had a little bit of batter left over. In hindsight, I can tell you I filled the jars a bit too full.

At some point, I may want to sit down and reexamine the subject of portion control. At the time, though, it seemed like a good idea. After all, the recipe said it makes two to four cheesecakes, so two seemed more than reasonable.

Please take my suggestion and make at least three, for a few reasons: 1: These jars are pretty giant and the cheesecake is, naturally, a bit rich and may be better in a slightly smaller dose. 2: Three or four cheesecakes means you can share more easily with more people. That or you can spread them out over several sittings.

3: You won’t be watching anxiously through the microwave door as the cheesecake mixture souffles up and over the jars’ edges, threatening to spill all over the rotating tray.

As it was, all that fretting was for nothing. They didn’t spill, but I think it would have been better without the panic.

Out of the microwave, they settled nicely into a slightly concave top.

I filled that with whipped cream — purely for esthetic reasons, of course. But later I thought some fresh fruit would have been nice.

I liked the slightly tart taste of limes countering the richness of cheesecake, but suspect this recipe can be easily adjusted to suit other flavours, such as lemon (by switching the zest and juice to that fruit) or a straight-up vanilla cheesecake by omitting the citrus and adding a teaspoon or so of vanilla extract. That would be particularly delicious topped with summer berries or a fruit compote.

After all, it only takes about seven minutes to try a new variation. The tricky part will be waiting the hour to see how it tastes.

Limes

Microwave Lime Cheesecake II

Microwave Lime Cheesecake

Adapted from TheKitchn.com

  • 3 tbsp (50 mL) butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) sugar
  • 8 oz (250 g) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) sugar
  • zest of one lime
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) fresh lime juice
  • 1 egg

Combine the graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and 1 tbsp (15 mL) sugar. Divide between two to four 1-cup (250 mL) jars or ramekins and press into the bottom.

Mix the rest of the ingredients until smooth. Divide evenly into jars or ramekins with crumbed bottoms.

Place in microwave for 2 minutes. The top of the cheesecake should appear dry when cooked. If it doesn’t look quite done, microwave at 30-second intervals until the tops appear dry. (For my extremely full jars, I needed 2 minutes and 30 seconds.) If you don’t have a rotating microwave tray, cook for 1 minute then turn the jars or ramekins and microwave for another minute.

Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour. Garnish with whipped cream or fresh berries and serve.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.

Goodbye Cake

I have a new job!

After more than a dozen years of covering news at newspapers all over hell’s half acre in B.C. before finally making it to the big leagues — the Vancouver Sun, the Globe & Mail and, now, the Calgary Herald — I have just taken over as the new full-time, permanent food writer for the Herald.

In my time as a news reporter, I’ve written about the birth of a baby beluga, health care, education, dinosaurs in Tumbler Ridge, BC, the deaths of three women killed by men they once loved even after reporting their safety concerns to RCMP. I’ve spoken with ministers and a minor celebrity or two. I’ve sat through heartbreaking testimony and watched people break down in courtrooms. I’ve cried with the family members of homicide victims.

I’ve loved it and hated it, been moved by stories and frustrated by them too.

And now I’m trading covering crime and calamity for cake, the seedy underbelly of the city for pork belly and so on.

It is, no doubt, a dream job and I’m excited. But it wasn’t without some sadness that I left the great team of city reporters. (OK, yes, I basically just moved my stuff about 20 feet from my old desk and I’m still sitting right next to my city peeps, but it’s a whole different world.) Most of all, I miss the camaraderie of so-called Civilized Sundays when I’d bring in baking, like red velvet cake, which we would eat while listening to the police scanner. It’s not so much that I miss working Sundays (because I think I could really get used to this Monday-Friday thing), it’s the ritual of it all.

So, of course, on my last city shift, I had to bring in a cake!

Iced Cake II

I did a really informal twitter poll and people voted for a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. So, I found a recipe for both and got to work a few weekends ago. And, once it was baked, I thought it would be even better to slice the cake layers in half, double the icing and go for a quadruple-layer cake. For the most part that went well, barring some uneven slicing that led to some repair work to one of the layers. I hoped for the best cutting into it that I would bypass where things had gone sideways, but luck isn’t usually on my side. And it wasn’t this time around. So the beauty shot of the slice isn’t as good as it could be. (No doubt also because I didn’t let it cool down after putting on the icing, which would have made for a cleaner cut. But I was impatient (as usual) and just wanted to try a piece of the damn thing.

Barring that one piece, I gave half to some friends who just had a baby and took the rest in to work. Yes, we ate it for breakfast. And that made it perfect.

The cake recipe comes from Rock Recipes (though I have no idea how I stumbled on it originally), while the icing is from Joy of Baking.

Though both were fantastic, I wish I had tried something a little less overwhelming with the cake, like a lemon or basic buttercream. I have a feeling the chocolate icing overpowered the extremely vanilla cake instead of letting them better each other together.

Both are fantastic, though, and well worth trying on their own.

Vanilla Cake batter

Chocolate icing

Whipped chocolate icing

Iced Cake

Cake slice

Slice of cake

Vanilla Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups cake and pastry flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup undiluted evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 325.

Sift together flours, baking powder and salt. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale. Add, one at a time, the eggs, beating well after each to make sure they are fully incorporated. Beat in vanilla. Gently fold in the dry ingredients, alternating with the evaporated milk, in three parts, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

Divide batter evenly between 2 well greased 9-inch cake pans. (I also put parchment circles on the bottom to ensure a good release.) Bake in oven for about 35 to 40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cake rest in pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting
(I doubled this recipe to have enough for a quadruple-layer cake. This is the recipe in its original measurements.)
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 cups icing sugar, sifted to remove lumps
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, put the chopped chocolate, cocoa, milk, and butter.  Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and beat in, with a hand mixer or wire whisk, the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract.  If the frosting is lumpy, strain through a strainer to remove any lumps.  Cover and place the frosting in the refrigerator until it is firm (this may take a few hours).  Once the frosting is firm remove from refrigerator and place in your mixing bowl.  Beat the frosting for a minute or two or until it is nice and smooth and of spreading consistency.

Peach, Prosciutto, Rosemary and Goat Cheese Flatbread

I bought a few peaches from the farmer’s market a few weeks ago, thinking they would be a great and simple addition to bagged lunches for work. And when they were perfectly ripe, they were fantastic. Sweet and juicy and just oh-so-peachy tasting. Then I got home from work one night and just wanted a salad. But, you know, not just a salad. And then a brainwave: what if I took the final sweet peach and combined it with some goat cheese, prosciutto and pecans.

Peach

Good god, that was a fine salad. Dressed in a light vinaigrette made with blood orange vinegar. I ate it with a few pieces of crusty baguette and it was a fantastic dinner.

It should come as no surprise that I made it again a week later when I had another group of peaches ripe and at hand.

But later, I thought I would like to try combining the bread and the salad by creating a flatbread that used the peach-prosciutto-goat cheese combination. This time with a little rosemary added in.

Is it cheating if I used some pizza dough I bought at the local Italian market? I’m going to say no. I can make dough, but when you’re at the market anyway and they have perfectly risen balls of dough for a little more than a toonie, I figure there’s no harm in taking shortcuts once in a while.

Got home, stretched it out on a baking sheet covered in a thin layer of olive oil and then just topped it with slices of peach, chopped rosemary, some ragged pieces of torn prosciutto and blobs of goat cheese. Into the oven and baked until golden, which took probably only 10 to 15 minutes, and it was good to eat.

It was delicious, though next time I may omit the goat cheese which, frankly, felt a bit like gilding the lily.

So this is less a recipe as much as a suggestion but one worth trying.

Flabread pre-oven

Peach, prosciutto, rosemary flatbread

Peach, Prosciutto, Rosemary and Goat Cheese Flatbread

  • ball of pizza dough or homemade focaccia/pizza dough, enough to cover a baking sheet
  • olive oil to lightly coat baking sheet – 1 to 2 tablespoons
  • one peach
  • 5 slices prosciutto, torn or cut into smaller pieces
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled OPTIONAL

Set oven to 500F. Stretch out dough on lightly oiled baking sheet. Top with sliced peaches, prosciutto, rosemary and goat cheese.

Bake until dough is golden, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Quinoa Salad with Curry-Lime Vinaigrette

When Twitter first came on the scene, I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. I had Facebook and email and a blog already, so did I really need another way to connect with people? But I signed up anyway. And, as it has grown, I’ve come to see all sorts of benefits that I could not have previously imagined would come from this micro-blogging/communication/networking phenomenon. I’ve made new friends, found news stories and been given a few new recipe ideas.

This Quinoa Salad with Curry-Lime Vinaigrette is one of those recipes. A friend tweeted she had been thinking a lot about biryani-style quinoa dishes. I was curious and asked for links, which she happily sent along. I liked the idea of them, but neither of the recipes really grabbed me as a whole. Instead, I was more interested in picking and choosing the bits and pieces from each that were intriguing.

And I was more than motivated to try out something similar, having impulse bought a three-pound bag of quinoa from Costco. Seriously. Some people impulse buy gum; that makes a lot more sense.

Cooked quinoa

I’ve liked quinoa for some time, ever since trying it with veggies and a peanut sauce at the Coup. But the idea of cooking it was a bit intimidating. Various reports of it being bitter or improperly cooked were enough to make me shy away from it. And then I saw on the back of this bag that you could cook it in a rice cooker. Can I make a confession here? I don’t really know how to cook rice on the stove because a former boyfriend bought me a cooker when I came back from Japan (where I had fallen in love with the one in my little townhouse). Now that’s all I use. So, knowing I could make perfect quinoa in the rice cooker was enough for me to put the giant bag of the stuff in my equally giant Costco cart.

And then I got it home and didn’t really know what to do with it.

And here we are.

So, I made this salad with quinoa and carrots and zucchini, currants and pine nuts and sort of make-it-up-as-you-go-along dressing based on what I thought would be good with hints from the other two recipes I read. Tossed it all together and it was fantastic. So I ate some more. And then I tweeted it and people started asking for a recipe. So, I made it again last week and actually wrote down what went in this time.

I was at the farmer’s market and bought some oddly coloured carrots (because I also impulse buy strange vegetables) and used them in the salad because I thought they’d be pretty. They were. But the first time I made this I used straight up normal carrots and it was just as fantastic.

Funky white carrot

Purple Carrot

Oh, and here’s the best tip I’ve read in a while for julienning vegetables perfectly. First cut it in diagonal slices, then stack those and cut into sticks. So much easier and they always look fantastic.

Julienned Zucchini

This is great right away, even better if you can let it sit for a bit so everything has a chance to hang out.

Lastly, I’d say that the beauty of a salad is it is infinitely adaptable. Don’t like pine nuts? Use sliced almonds instead. Currants are great, but I bet diced apricots or a handful of dried cranberries would also be delicious. And so on.

Curry-lime vinaigrette

Quinoa salad with curry-lime vinaigrette

Quinoa Salad with Curry-Lime Vinaigrette

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 3 green onions
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • zest and juice of one lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used olive because it’s what I had. Any veg oil will be great)

Cook quinoa according to package directions or using the “white rice” setting on a rice cooker. Set aside and let cool then place in large salad bowl.

Julienne carrots and zucchini, then slice green onions. Add to quinoa. Stir in chickpeas, toasted pine nuts and currants.

To make dressing, zest lime into a bowl, then add lime juice and honey. Whisk to dissolve honey, then add salt and spices. While whisking, slowly add oil to emulsify. Pour over salad and toss.