Desserts

What’s Cooking? Pumpkin Cheesecake

I recently asked an American friend of mine to tell me about the various kinds of pumpkins and how to cook them. She looked at me and said “I don’t know anything about pumpkins. I get mine out of a can”.
I jokingly asked her what kind of American she was. She instantly replied “I’m a true American. I get it out of a can”.

This still makes me smile when I think back to the conversation. Because like all good jokes, it’s funny because it’s utterly true.

So, in preparation for this indulgent dessert I am about to share with you, I took to the grocery store to see what I could find. And indeed, I found a can of 100% pure pumpkin. Well, this is going to make my Thanksgiving meal prep a whole lot easier. And while the lining includes BPA, I class this dessert as our 20% of our annual healthy eating regime. Today, we enjoy the feast and it’s a rarity.

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Maybe I shouldn’t do this to you but since we must live in the real world and I simply cannot resist, I will be making my friend’s pumpkin cheesecake to share with my family. I am not hosting, therefore I can be sure I’m not going to be tempted with the leftovers in the fridge.

It is full fat, full of calories and totally divine. Cut small slices, enjoy and leave the leftovers at somebody else’s house. If there are any.

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Mrs. Brown’s Pumpkin Cheesecake

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Filling
4-8oz packages cream cheese – softened
1 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 c pumpkin puree
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Crust
1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs (I used crushed ginger snaps)
1/2 c melted butter

Mix melted butter and crumbs. Press into pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl combine cheese, sugar and vanilla. With an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Reserve 2 cups of this mixture and set aside. Pour remining onto pie crust. Into the reserved mixture add in pumpkin puree, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour over the plain filling. Bake in preheated oven for 40-60 mins or until centre is almost set. Allow to cool and refrigerate.

What do I do with ….. Wild Blueberries?

There are 3 berries native to North America; cranberries, concord grapes and wild blueberries. More specifically, wild blueberries are found in Quebec, Ontario and Maine predominately.

Blueberries are known to have amazing health benefits due to their antioxidant properties. Wild blueberries are smaller, therefore they have less pulp (meaning less water) and more skin (meaning more fibre) and a higher concentration of antioxidants.

If you have access to this amazing little fruit, try them. You can also buy them frozen if you aren’t on the East Coast. They have incredible flavour, way better than cultivated blueberries.

Although it seems a shame to waste them, wild blueberries are the best type of blueberry to use in baking. Since they have more skin and are smaller, they hold their shape better and you end up with a huge concentration of blueberries in your baking without losing the shape.

Wild Blueberry Pie or Wild Blueberry Muffins. Either are delicious, substitute them in any blueberry recipe. And don’t be shy to add more than the recipe calls for. They can handle it!

Peaches and Plums are Here!

Both available right now, I don’t which to eat first.

Enjoy them raw or make a pie or crumble if you, like me, go crazy and buy too much.

This is a recipe for a pie crust which I have used ever since I discovered it in the Yoga Journal. It’s easy and a much healthier version of most pie crusts. Pack in about 5 cups peaches and plums (sprinkled with 1/2 cup flour, 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar) for a delicious summer pie.

Flaky Pie Crust

This recipe, adapted from the Yoga Journal, uses extremely cold oil drizzled over flour instead of conventional solid shortening and is an excellent low-fat pastry.  It makes enough dough for one 9-inch pie or one 12-inch tart. Remove the cinnamon if you are using it for a savoury pie/tart.

1-½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/4 cup very cold canola oil (put a jar of oil in the freezer for 30 minutes)
1 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1/4 to 1/3 cup ice water (add ice cubes to the water)

Method:

Sift flours, salt, and cinnamon into a medium bowl. Stir with a wire whisk to mix and aerate.

Drizzle the cold oil over the flour, tossing and mixing with a rubber spatula until oil is coated with flour. Do not break up the irregular clumps that form. These clumps of fat are equivalent to the solid shortening in conventional piecrust and produce a flaky crust. Mix lemon juice or vinegar into 1/4-cup ice water and gently stir the liquid into the flour. Slowly add just enough additional water to form a rough dough.

Transfer the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and enclose the dough. Press the dough package into a flat disk, round or oval depending upon your recipe. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Unwrap the chilled dough and place between 2 large pieces of parchment paper. Roll from the center out; turn dough 45 degrees and repeat until dough is even and thin (1/8-1/4 inch thick), proper shape and size. If dough softens or shrinks back, chill.

Lightly crease a pie plate. To fit the dough into the pie plate, carefully remove the top piece of parchment. Slip your hand underneath the bottom parchment, lift and center it over the pie pan.

Flip the dough over into the pan. With the remaining parchment paper now on top, gently fit the dough snugly into the dish and carefully remove the paper. Cover the surface of the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before filling and baking.

Adapted from Yoga Journal.

 

Banana Ice Cream

A friend made this for me yesterday. It was amazingly good and I never felt in the slightest bit cheated from the real thing.

She froze 2 bananas, then put them in a blender with some vanilla yogurt and whipped it up together. You could also use plain yogurt and add a tablespoon of honey instead.

It was served to me as a scoop with a raspberry on top. My daughter got a blueberry on hers.

So creative, so simple and so yummy.

A summer of strawberry and rhubarb

When it rains, it pours. At this time of year, both strawberries and rhubarb are everywhere and need to be eaten or preserved as neither keep well.

I think these 2 fruits go together beautifully. One is tar-po0t and one is sweet, complimenting each other. Strawberries are high in Vitamin C and are delicious raw but they are on the Dirty Dozen list so it’s preferable to buy organic strawberries.

Rhubarb is a great source of fibre, vitamin C and even contains some calcium. We can’t eat the whole plant as the leaves are poisonous and the stems are toxic when eaten raw. Hence the reason rhubarb is always served cooked, unfortunately destroying some of the vitamin C content. When you are buying rhubarb, look for firm, upright stalks avoiding those with black or brown leaves.

This recipe includes a couple of ingredients you may not be familiar with but can be found in health food stores. I have included familiar substitutes that you can use in the same quantities. These are agar-agar flakes which provide the same culinary use as gelatin, but contain a host of minerals including calcium and iron as they are a type of sea vegetable. Unlike cornstarch, which is highly processed, kuzu is a natural thickener from the wild kuzu root and does not have such a starchy taste. Kuzu is known for being beneficial to the digestive system, particularly relieving any digestive discomfort. Gelatin and cornstarch can be used instead but agar-agar flakes and kuzu are widely available in health food stores, keep well and are just as easy to use.

This is a dish I love to make when pressed for time. It is simple to make and perfect for a summer’s night – whether it is a casual BBQ or a formal dinner party.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pudding

5 cups strawberries, sliced
2 cups rhubarb, diced
3 tbsp Ontario maple syrup or Ontario honey
1 tsp grated lemon zest
¼ tsp cinnamon, ground (optional)
2 tbsp agar-agar flakes or plain gelatin powder
1 tbsp kuzu or cornstarch diluted in 2 tbsp cold water 

Method:
Bring strawberries, rhubarb, maple syrup and lemon rind to a boil and sprinkle in agar-agar flakes. Simmer until all the flakes are dissolved (about 10 minutes), then add the dissolved kuzu and stir until mixture thickens.

Transfer to a bowl or individual cups and refrigerate until set. Garnish with a strawberry slice and a sprig of mint and serve with a dollop of organic yogurt, vanilla frozen yogurt or crème fraîche, if desired.

Serves 6
Recipe adapted from Elson Haas “Staying Healthy with Nutrition”