Monday, July 20, 2015

Strawberry Cheesecake Bars

Strawberry Cheesecake Bars

Long ago, it became a tradition for me to put a delectable dessert up on this site in honor of my birthday. I couldn't break that tradition this year, even though I don't write here nearly as often. Even though cheesecake has become one of my favorite desserts in the last couple of years, I didn't actually make these bars for my birthday. I made them about a month ago for a dinner party, but they are festive and special enough for any kind of occasion.

One year ago: Salted, Malted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
Two years ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Three years a go: Tin Roof Ice Cream Cake
Four years ago: Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Filling
Five years ago: Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream
Six years ago: Root Beer Cupcakes
Seven years ago: Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Strawberry Cheesecake Bars
(Adapted from Tastes of Lizzy T's and Mel's Kitchen Cafe)

Makes 9 large bars

For the crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

For the cheesecake Filling:
16 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4-1/2 cup strawberry preserves

For the streusel topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 baking pan with foil and spray with baking spray.

To make the crust, mix the flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Add the butter and mix until crumbly, but combined. Press the crust into the bottom of the pan in an even layer. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the crust is lightly browned.

To make the cheesecake filling, beat the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla. Set the cheesecake filling aside.

To make the streusel, mix the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and oats until combined, but crumbly.

Pour the cheesecake over the crust. Dollop the strawberry preserves over the cheesecake. Use a knife or skewer to swirl the preservers into the cheesecake*. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the cheesecake.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a clean knife inserted in the middle of the pan comes out mostly clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator to set the bars for at least four hours or preferably overnight. Cut the bars into squares and serve.

*This is easier to do if the preserves are slightly warmed. 10 seconds in a microwave should be sufficient.

Printable Recipe

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Seven Years of Delights

Oh hey there. Did you miss me? Somewhere between BodyPump classes, polar vortices, and quick trips to Nashville, California, and Hawaii, my little blog became neglected. In the past, I've celebrated another year of blogging with some sort of delicious treat. This year, I thought I would do something different and highlight some of my favorite posts from the past seven years.

Strawberry Galette with Meyer Lemon Curd in Thyme Crust. I am desperately missing Calfornia and year-round access to the best fruits and vegetables. I still cook in season and local as much as possible, but this recipe to me is the epitome of spring. Even though it is practically summer, delicious strawberries like this are hard to come by right now in Chicago.

Strawberry Galette

Cuban Opera Cake. This cake was the highlight of my friend Raul's birthday party a few years ago. It took several days to make, but remains one of my favorite recipes I have ever made.

Cuban Opera Cake

Watermelon Cucumber Cocktail. This is one of the more popular recipes on this site and with good reason. We all need a refreshing cocktail option in our summer repertoire.

Watermelon Cucumber Cocktail

Charleston, South Carolina. I was in Charleston for about 36 hours, but absolutely fell in love with that charming little town.

Arthur Ravenel Bridge, Charleston

Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars. Remember that brief moment in time when I had the time and a bright kitchen to do step-by-step photos? This bars were another super popular recipe, but they also remind me of one of my favorite days ever. This post is especially poignant because my friend who organized this wonderful day has since passed away, but his memory lives on in me and my friends forever.

Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Posh Polo

MB Post. Still remains my favorite dinner I have ever had in Los Angeles.

Bread Plate

Both posts on my trip to Namibia. My mom had just started working in the Peace Corps when my sister and I visited Namibia in late 2011. Namibia is a strange and beautiful country. If you ever have the opportunity, you should visit.

Giraffes - Etosha

Brunch at Longman and Eagle. Chicago has quite the extraordinary food scene. It was difficult to choose between this brunch or one of my fantastic meals and Parson's Chicken and Fish (negroni slushies!!), but Longman won by a hair. Land and Sea Dept. does not mess around with their stunning array of restaurants.

Fried Chicken, Waffles, Sweet Potato & Pork Belly Hash, Maple Syrup

I've mentioned before that the food blog world has become so saturated and it seems that right now I just don't have the time and energy to keep up. I can't promise I will go away forever, so check back once in a while to see what new things I've got to share or amuse yourselves in the archives. In the meantime, if you're dying to see what I am doing (eating) in my every day life. Follow me on Instagram.

One year ago: Strawberry Rosé Spritzer
Two years ago: Magic Cake
Three years ago: Nutella Pop Tarts
Four years ago: Strawberry Crisp
Five years ago: Nutella Sandwich Cookies
Six years ago: Perfect Party Cake
Seven (!!) years ago: The Return of the Glamorous Life

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

InstaEats August 2014

August was another busy month. Now that I live in Chicago, I try to squeeze as much productivity (fun) out of my summer as possible! I didn't dine out as much, but the meals I had were just fantastic.

I kicked off the month with a night with one of my friends in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. This area is booming with new restaurants and it's a part of town I don't get to nearly enough. We started off the evening with some drinks and food at The Radler. I started with a grapefruit radler (a mix of beer and German-style lemonade) and my friend got the blood orange. Both were equally refreshing on the warm night.

There was a lot to drool over on the menu, but we kept things simple with the German onion pie with bacon, garlic puree, and marinated tomatoes and the grilled knockwurst with rice, bread and butter pickles, and herbs. Though both sounded rich, it was the perfect combination for a light summer meal.
We couldn't resist leaving without dessert (and another drink) so we got the chocolate mousse and I had an Americano (campari, vermouth, and soda)
We then trekked over to Parson's Chicken and Fish for negroni slushies. Read my rave here.
And finished the evening with old fashioneds and boozy grapefruit sodas at Billy Sunday.
I mentioned in my last post that I have lost some weight recently. Clearly, I'm not dieting, especially as evidenced by my frequent lunch favorite Hannah's Bretzel. I'm actually on an all-carb diet.
A few weeks ago, I finally made my first trip to the Ravinia festival to see ABBA! It was such a fun night of music, dancing, and food. I made peanut butter and jelly blondies to share with my friends and our spread was really fantastic, complete with Swedish fish and Swedish meatballs.
A couple of months ago, I made a reservation at The Girl and the Goat. It is still one of the most popular reservations in Chicago so I made a promise to myself to keep it. It was definitely worth the wait. Highlights for me were the grilled octopus salad with guanciale, fava beans, and pistachios, the best of three cocktail with Pimm's, cucumber, and vodka, and the bittersweet chocolate cake with thai basil gelato.

We finished the night with a few negroni sorbets at Lone Wolf...can you tell I love negronis?
Last week, I traveled to NY again for work. We had a couple of great meals out, but the first night at The Wayfarer was my favorite. The lobster roll is so great and worthy of recognition, as was the maple braised bacon.
 I'm excited about what is to come in September!

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Monday, July 28, 2014

InstaEats July 2014

It's been another delicious month and especially so since I got to celebrate my birthday last week. I had a great time celebrating with friends and my mom and the tiny top hat party was a great success.

I mentioned last month that I love when friends come to visit. My friend Kris dragged me to Hot Doug's to wait for two hours in line for hot dogs. The store is closing in a few months so everyone is trying to get their last visit in before it's too late. This time I got the foie gras and sauternes duck sausage with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse and fleur de sel. It was a delight, but nothing is worth a two hour wait.

A few days later, more friends were in town. We kicked off the evening with a delicious spin on southern food at Carriage House, followed it up with some flaming drinks at Three Dots and a Dash, and completed the evening with chilaquiles and the amazing burger from Au Cheval. (Read my rave about my first meal at Au Cheval here)

The following week, I made a quick trip to NYC. Though I was there for work, I managed to sneak in some pretty great eats in just a few days. First up was dinner at Shake Shack. I'm excited they're coming to Chicago later this year!

Momofuku Milk Bar is dangerously close to my office. I love their weird, sometimes complicated recipes (Crack Pie, Compost Cookie). This time I got to try the blueberry and cream cookie and the cornflake marshmallow cookie. I actually saved these for later because I had more pressing desserts on my mind.

I hoofed it from midtown to Chelsea so I could stop by the Doughnut Plant. There was still a good selection that evening so I narrowed my choices to the creme brulee doughseed, the coconut lime doughseed, and the strawberry vanilla jam filled doughnut. The dough on all of these was a bit chewy, but I loved the coconut lime filling and strawberry vanilla jam. I would have picked up some jam to go if I wasn't traveling light.

After all that doughnut indulgence, I decided to burn some calories walking through the High Line and Chelsea Market. A couple of the restaurants I had bookmarked were totally full so I ended up at Bocca di Bacco for an extremely satisfying dinner of meatballs and caprese salad followed by a negroni nightcap at The Meatball Shop.

Back in Chicago, I went out for brunch at Waffles again and got to try their birthday cake wonut (waffle donut).

Last, my sweet friend took my mom and I out for my birthday at Ceres' Table. A feast of quattro formaggi pizza, porchetta, and salted caramel budino was a great way to celebrate the day.

Looking back at all these pictures, it's hard to believe I've been able to lose twenty pounds in the last few months. I'm looking forward to the next month of tastiness.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Middle


If you've been following this blog for a while (or know me in person), you know how old I'm turning today. I try not to freak about getting older by preparing myself and telling people I'm older at least two months in advance of my birthday. For some reason, that little trick isn't working as well this year, but I am trying to remain calm. This is my first time celebrating my birthday in Chicago (I've been in LA for the occasion the last two years) and my friends and I had a joint Tiny Top Hat party. Check my Instagram to see my super fabulous hat. As much as I like baking big fancy cakes on my birthday (see below), I also think the day can be celebrated with a simple sweet treat. These rice krispie treats take about two seconds to put together...ok, maybe a little longer, but you get the idea. They are large, but easily cut into small squares so you can share with a group and ideal for summer since no oven is required. I'm finding pleasure in the simple things and that makes getting older a little less terrible to bear.

One year ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Two years ago: Tin Roof Ice Cream Cake
Three years ago: Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Filling
Four years ago: Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream
Five years ago: Root Beer Cupcakes
Six years ago: Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Salted, Malted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
(Adapted from Joy the Baker)

Makes 9 large squares

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
40 jumbo-size marshmallows
1/3 cup malted milk powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt plus extra for sprinkling on top
6 cups Rice Krispies ceral
1 cup roughly chopped pretzel M&Ms, plus extra for sprinkling on top

In a very large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. As soon as the butter starts to brown, turn the heat to low and add the marshmallows. Stir until the marshmallows are melted and combined with the butter. Stir in the malted milk powder and salt and combine well.  Add the Rice Krispies to the marshmallow mixture and stir vigorously to combine. Add one cup of the M&Ms and mix well.

Press the mixture into a 9x9 pan. Press the remaining M&Ms into the top of the treats and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Put the pan in the refrigerator to set the treats, about half an hour. Cut into squares before serving.

Printable Recipe

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

InstaEats May-June 2014

I'm a little late to the game, but I finally joined the fascinating, eye-catching world of Instagram earlier this year. I am a visual person and it is amazing to see the ways people capture the world on this social media tool. Instagram is where I am spending most of my social media time these days, but I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the stuff I share on there, particularly the meals out that don't make it on to the blog when I don't have my big, fancy camera on me. Here are some of the things I have shared and if you are so inclined, follow me on Instagram.

I traveled to California at the beginning of May and it was a week long of working out, eating out, and green juicing.

Lunch with my mom at In-N-Out Burger. I had the cheeseburger animal-style and well done fries. I miss this place all the time.

We had a pretty epic meal at BOA Steakhouse. We ended the meal with a selection of cronuts and now I finally understand the cronut craze.

Dinner at POT at the Line Hotel. Get thee there immediately.
An amazing brunch at Sqirl. The Malva pudding cake is pure sugar heaven and a good way to balance the perceived healthiness of the crispy brown rice bowl with egg.
Back in Chicago, I have had a steady social calendar the last few months. Waffles Cafe is the home of the wonut, but they also make a mean chicken and bacon waffles dish.
This recipe for Green Shakshuka from The Kitchn is to die for. Make it immediately and then make it again.
My take on Joy the Baker's strawberry chopped salad.
I love when friends come to visit, because I can try new places on my extremely long list of restaurants to try. H.C. and I visited Three Dots and a Dash for some tiki cocktails and followed it up with spicy miso ramen at Ramen-San.
The next night more friends were in town. We got the evening started right with cocktails and appetizers at Maude's Liquor Bar and RM Champagne Salon.
We chased those cocktails with incredible ramen from High Five Ramen. Get there early to avoid a long wait since there are only fifteen seats in the whole restaurant.
Work colleagues in town meant an extravagant dinner at Sunda. Definitely order the brussels sprouts salad if you go.
Breakfast mac and cheese with bacon and a fried egg from Taverna 750, one of my favorite brunch deals in Chicago.
After all the decadence, black bean and tomato quinoa salad will help right the ship. This time I doubled the black beans and lime zest, but reduced the oil to 1 1/2 teaspoons, the juice to 1/2 lime,  and left out the sugar.
Life is certainly pretty tasty right now, and I am enjoying all of it.

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