Key Lime Cheesecake

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Imagine a dessert that’s sweet, tart, silky, crunchy, rich and fluffy all at once.  Are you imagining Key Lime Cheesecake?  This sweet treat is one that will awaken all your senses…and is quite possibly my favorite dessert!  It’s so refreshing when it’s served ice cold on a hot day.  

Occasionally, I take orders for baked goods/desserts and this one is the one that’s most requested.  Don’t be intimidated by all the steps, it’s really quite simple!  You can even prepare the crust ahead of time or, if you’re really in a pinch, you can purchase prepared graham cracker crusts (this recipe fills 2!).  That being said, I highly recommend making your own crust with the addition of the unsweetened coconut.  The coconut really adds something special!  You can usually find it in the bulk section of the grocery store.  If not, ask!  Want to present your cheesecake in a more festive way?  Scroll to the bottom for a fun variation: cheesecake mini’s!

Go ahead, try this one!!  Your time and effort will be rewarded!  

Ingredients:

Crust
1 package Graham Crackers (about 1 ½ cups, crushed)
½ cup unsweetened coconut
⅓ cup granulated sugar
6 tbs butter, melted
½ tsp cinnamon
*If you choose not to use coconut, just increase your graham cracker crumbs to 2 cups.

Cheesecake
1 cup Nelly & Joe’s Key Lime Juice
¼ cup water
2 envelopes unflavored Knox gelatin
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
zest from 1 lime
½ cup butter, softened
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Optional: additional heavy whipping cream to decorate plus granulated sugar to taste.

Special Equipment: Springform PanIngredients w Logo.jpg

Method:

Preheat oven to 375* F.

In a food processor, process graham crackers until they turn to coarse crumbs, add in coconut and pulse until combined.  Crumbs w Logo.jpg

Transfer to a bowl, add melted butter, sugar and cinnamon.  Stir until thoroughly combined and mixture clumps.
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Press crumbs firmly into the bottom of an ungreased springform pan.  Bake for 7 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool completely.
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In a 2 qt saucepan, combine lime juice, water and gelatin.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Add sugar, eggs, and lime zest.  Lime Zest w Logo.jpg

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Whisk up the mixture until completely combined and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it just begins to bubble.  DO NOT allow it to boil.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and cream cheese together until well combined.Cream Cheese & Butter w Logo.jpg

Pour the hot lime mixture into the cream cheese mixture.  Beat with an electric mixture until thoroughly combined, approximately 2 minutes.

Refrigerate for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  You want the mixture to cool down, but not set up.

In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  (DO NOT add sugar.)

Once lime mixture is cool, fold in the whipped cream.  Make sure you combine it well, but some marbling is okay.

Pour mixture into the prepared crust, smooth out the top and refrigerate for several hours to allow cheesecake to firm up.
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Once cheesecake has set, run a knife around the edge of the springform pan to loosen the edges.  Slowly release the clasp and press the cake up out of the pan.  You can remove the bottom piece of the pan by putting a sheet of parchment over the top of the cheesecake, putting a cutting board (or other flat surface) over the parchment, then flipping the whole cake over.  Insert a butter knife between the pan and crust and the crust should pop right off.  Place your serving platter on top of the crust and flip the cheesecake back over.  Carefully remove parchment from the top.

You can serve your cheesecake naked, or decorate with whipped cream.

Whip approximately 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream in a metal bowl until stiff peaks form.  Add in sugar to taste, one tablespoon at a time, until desired sweetness is reached.

Use the whipped cream in a piping bag or frosting gun to create all sorts of designs.  My favorite is the roses and stars (pictured), which is created by using a 2D star tip.  Decorate w Logo.jpg

Variation:
You can create cheesecake mini’s, which is my personal favorite way to prepare this dessert, and it’s a lot easier to serve.  Fill cupcake pans with paper or foil liners.

Note:  You cannot prepare the mini’s in batches, they must all be done at once.  If you don’t have at least 24 spaces in cupcake pans you can purchase disposables at any dollar store/grocery store.

Press about 1 tablespoon of the crumb mixture into the bottom of each.  I like to fill all the cups before pressing to ensure the mixture is spread evenly.  Bake about 7 minutes at 375.

Fill each cupcake with the prepared lime mixture, you should have more than enough to fill each cupcake to the very top (any excess can be refrigerated and enjoyed without crust).  Refrigerate until cooled and set, at least 2 hours.  Garnish with whipped cream and lime zest.

Serve ice cold and enjoy!

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Chipotle Sweet Potato Bisque

BisqueThere are two main varieties of sweet potato here in the U.S.  Many people mistakenly refer to them as “yams” but sweet potatoes are actually not even related to the yam.  The first (and my favorite of the two) has a golden skin and white flesh.  The second is that deep copper -colored tuber with the softer, bright orange flesh, commonly used in the traditional holiday dish “candied yams.”  

Either variety, or even a mix, will do nicely for this recipe.  This bisque is not an original idea.  I found it years ago in a magazine (which magazine, I can’t remember) and have made it many times since, with a few of my own adjustments.

The beauty of this soup is that it is NOT sweet.  The potatoes offer a subtly sweet base, but the ginger, lime and chipotle really take the forefront to create a savory soup that can be as spicy as you want it.  

 Ingredients:

2 Tbs Olive Oil
2 Tbs Butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbs minced garlic
1 Tbs minced ginger
3 Tbs brown sugar
3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
7 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup dry vermouth
1 chipotle pepper in adobo (you can find this in a can in the hispanic section of
your grocery store) OR 1 tsp chipotle powder (more if desired)
2 tsp salt
2 cups heavy cream
Zest and juice from 1 lime

*Serves about 10*

Directions:

Heat oil and butter in a stockpot over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook until onion is soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.

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Add sugar, sweet potatoes, stock, vermouth, chipotle and salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until potatoes are soft.
Remove from heat and puree the soup until smooth with a stick blender (you can use a traditional blender, but I find the stick blender makes much less of a mess).
Return soup to a simmer, add heavy cream, lime juice and zest.  Salt and pepper to taste. A sprinkle of chopped pistachios would make an excellent garnish.


Bisque

Thai Jícama Salad

A few years ago I started on a mission to discover new fruits and vegetables.  Each week, I would peruse the unique displays of produce, selecting varieties that I had never before eaten or cooked with.  Eventually, I discovered the jícama and it is now on my list of favorites.

Jícama is a root vegetable of Mexican origin, also known as the Mexican Yam or Mexican Turnip.  It has a crunchy texture, much like an apple, but a very mild, earthy flavor.  This particular recipe is a spicy, savory one, but jícama effortlessly combines with fresh fruit as well.

This recipe is not entirely original.  After googling various recipes I found this recipe for Spicy Thai Jícama Salad.  Although that original recipe was delicious, I made a few alterations and substitutions to fit my own taste, and what I had in the cupboard at the time.

1 medium jícama, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
¼ cup red onion, rough chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro, rough chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded & rough chopped (optional)

Dressing:
3 TBS Chili Paste
1 TBS Hot Chinese Mustard
1 TBS Fish Sauce
2 TBS Peanut Butter
2 TBS coconut oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 TBS fresh ginger, peeled & minced
Juice of 2 Limes

Finish:
1 TBS sesame seeds
Sprinkle of Old City Salts Smoked Serrano, Ghost Pepper, or Thai Ginger Sea Salt (Optional)

In a large bowl, combine Jicama, onion, cilantro, jalapeno.  Toss together and set aside.

 

In another bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients until well incorporated.  If it looks too thick, add some olive oil until you reach desired consistency.  You should end up with about 1 cup of dressing.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.  Serve chilled, and finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a pinch of your favorite Old City Salt blend.  

*This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days, just give it a toss before serving as the dressing tends to pool at the bottom.

Savory Cilantro Sauce

Have I mentioned that I love cilantro?  It’s one of my favorite herbs.  I love the distinctive flavor and I use it in many of my dishes.  Unfortunately, fresh cilantro does not last very long once picked.  You can prolong the life of it by snipping the ends and storing it in your refrigerator in a cup of water, like a bouquet of flowers.  Or, preserve it in the freezer using this incredibly flavorful sauce.  Drizzle over meat or seafood, use as a marinade or a stand-alone sauce, toss with pasta, the sky is the limit!  ~Joanie

Ingredients:

2 cups cilantro, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
½ tsp sea salt
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:

Toss all ingredients into a food processor and puree, OR use an immersion blender.  The immersion blender takes a little more time and patience, but it works out.  Taste test it to make sure you have it how you like it.

  

Fill a clean ice cube tray with the sauce and let freeze overnight.  Once frozen, pop those babies out, throw them in a ziplock and store them in the freezer.  The small cubes make thawing a cinch, and you now can add that fresh cilantro taste to any dish.

  

White Chicken Chili

I LOVE beans.  I could eat them raw right out of the can.  In fact, I have.  I also love cumin and cilantro, as you may have already gathered from my other recipes.  This soup is like my perfect meal, and so easy to make.  It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but most of it is pretty ordinary stuff.  Don’t fret about the green chilies, they are NOT hot.  This soup has been 7-year-old approved so you can confidently serve it to your little ones.  

You can EASILY make this a vegetarian recipe by omitting the chicken and adding more beans or rice.  I’ve done that and it’s just as amazing.  You can also use dried beans, which is a little more work, but for convenience sake I just used the canned variety.  ~Joanie

Makes about 8 servings.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 onion, chopped
3-4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Tbs vegetable oil
3 cans white beans, great northern beans, or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
32 oz chicken broth
2 4oz cans Chopped Green Chilies
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp lime zest
½ Cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ Cup Whipping Cream
1 Cup (8 oz) Sour Cream

For garnishing:  Green onion, jalapeno, cheese

Directions:

Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat.  Saute garlic until golden, then add onion and cook until soft.  Add chicken, cook until chicken is no longer pink.

Add beans, broth, chilies and seasonings.  Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes.  The soup may look a little “muddy” at this point, but carry on.  Trust me.

Remove from heat.

Before you add the cream and sour cream, you will need to temper it so that it doesn’t curdle.  Scoop a little bit of soup out into a separate bowl, add cream to this small portion and stir.  Add that portion back into the soup pot.  Repeat this process with the sour cream.  If the soup is too cool after this, you can heat it back up, but heat slowly.

Garnish with chopped green onions, cilantro, and/or cheese.  I like to eat my chili with a few  chili-cheese fritos.  They are the perfect compliment to this creamy, zesty soup.

Mango Salsa

This sweet salsa is so simple to make, but the flavors are amazing!  The technique really needs no explanation, it’s just a lot of chopping, but I guarantee it will be worth the work!  Unlike many store-bought mango salsa’s, this one has zero tomato or peaches.  I like to let the mango be the star with just a few complimentary ingredients.  ~Joanie

Ingredients:

3 large mangos (or enough to yield about 4 cups, chopped)
⅓ cup red onion, finely chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
Approx 1 tsp salt

Directions:

Peel and chop your mangoes into small cubes.

**If you’ve never worked with fresh mango before, keep in mind that mango has a flat core. If you look at the stem side, you will notice the fruit is oblong shaped. Slice along the length of the fruit on both sides of the stem, then repeat along the width. This will give you the largest pieces of flesh and will make chopping easier. There is still a lot of flesh left, so slice off as much as possible without getting into the fibrous core.


Finely chop red onion to yield about ⅓ cup. You may want to add more later, but start small. A little red onion goes a long way.

Wash and chop your cilantro. The easiest way I’ve found is to keep it in a bundle, like it comes from the grocer. Chop off most of the bare stem, then finely chop as you make your way up through the leaves. I like to use about 1 cup of cilantro. You can adjust according to your taste.  If you have way more cilantro than the recipe calls for, store the extra in a cup of water, like a bouquet of flowers.

Throw everything in a big bowl (if you haven’t already) and squeeze in the juice of one lime. Yes, you can use lime juice from a bottle, about 2 TBS.

Salt to taste, give a good stir, and devour!!

Although for our purposes today, we’re scooping this salsa with plain ol’ tortilla chips, there are so many more ways to enjoy it. It goes incredibly well with blackened halibut, or add it as a semi-sweet side for smoked ham. I’d love to hear what YOU paired it with!