Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Bars

We had some cherries that we needed to do something with, so Michelle made a pie filling base with them by pitting and boiling them with some water, lemon juice, and sugar. She did this the night before so it would be chilled before adding to the top of the warm cheesecake.

We then used as a stepping off point the basic no-bake recipe from the Punta Clara Kitchen Cookbook on Cherry Cream Cheese Delights. If you’re ever in Point Clear, Alabama stop by for some of their delicious candy.

As Michelle doesn’t really care for sweetened condensed milk (I think she’s actually from another planet), we went with a more traditional baked cheesecake with Greek yogurt. We added two hits of chocolate with some semi-sweet morsels and some sweet ground chocolate.

While I’m not usually a fan of combining (adulterating) chocolate and fruit, these are a perfect match of deep chocolate flavor with creamy cheesecake and sweet-tart cherries!

Cherry Pie Filling

4 cups fresh pitted cherries, about 2 1/2 pounds
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.

Cool slightly before using as a topping.

We used a little more than half the recipe of cherry filling in the bars. The rest we are putting in the Chocolate Pound Cake!

Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Bars

1  cups graham crackers
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa
1/4 cup Greek yogurt, plain
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 recipe (or can) of cherry pie filling

Melt the butter in an 8×8 dish as the oven warms to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs evenly over the melted butter and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter the chocolate morsels over the warm crust to begin melting.

Beat together the cream cheese and ground chocolate. Mix in the Greek yogurt, egg, vanilla and salt. Beat in flour. Pour over graham cracker crust and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before covering the top with the cherry pie filling. Cool in the fridge before cutting and serving.

Shrimp Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

I had a craving for peanut sauce. What better way to get the stuff to your mouth than spring rolls?

The last time I had boiled a pot of shrimp, I made a couple of snack bags of the peeled leftovers so I could have shrimp to toss into things. They were perfect little bites in the rolls.

You can use most any veg in them but I like the coolness of the mint and cucumber and the crunch of carrots. This is especially handy if you get the peanut sauce too spicy!

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon honey

Thin the peanut butter with the hot water. Whisk in remaining ingredients and then taste for seasoning. Add more hot water if it needs further thinning. Make at least 4 hours ahead and taste again for seasoning before using.

The recipe is based on the number on shrimp I had and the number of rice paper wrappers in the package, so we knew we could make eight spring rolls.

Shrimp Spring Rolls

35 small shrimp, pre-cooked
1 cucumber, seeds removed
2 carrots
half package rice noodle vermicelli
bunch of mint
package of spring roll rice paper wrappers

Prepare the vermicelli according the package directions. Slice the cucumber and carrots into matchstick sized pieces. Chiffonade the mint leaves.

Wet the rice paper wrappers in lukewarm water. Set the softened paper on a plastic cutting board. Place some rice noodles down and then a few cucumber and carrot slices beside and on top of the noodles. Sprinkle on some mint leaves. Make one tight roll. Set down the shrimp and continue to roll, folding in the ends before the final roll.

Set on a plate covered with a damp towel until ready to serve. Don’t stack as they will stick together. They are best eaten soon after rolling but can be covered tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for a couple hours if necessary.

Yogurt and Aleppo Pepper Marinated Grilled Chicken

I’ve jumped on the Aleppo pepper bandwagon with both feet. It is a less hot and almost fruity pepper that has a slow build of heat. It makes a great marinade for chicken (and, I’ve heard, for vegetables). I like that I get flavor without burning myself.

It was a rainy afternoon but that didn’t stop me from getting out and grilling. The chicken was tender and juicy and the mild spiciness of the marinade/sauce made our mouths happy. Heck, Michelle wants me to make more sauce for her to use on chicken tenders.

If you don’t have Aleppo pepper (and you really, really should get some), substitute crushed red pepper flakes and sweet paprika. Combine 4 teaspoons of each in the bowl with 4 tablespoons warm water as the first step.

Yogurt and Aleppo Pepper Marinated Grilled Chicken

3 tablespoons Aleppo pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus zest from 1 lemon
1/3 cup honey
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

4 bone in chicken breasts (or leg quarters)

In a large bowl combine 3 tablespoons Aleppo pepper with 2 tablespoons warm water. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes for the water to be absorbed.

After the pepper has soaked, place remaining ingredients except the chicken in the bowl and whisk to combine. Reserve 1/2 cup of the marinade in a small container and refrigerate. Add the chicken to the large bowl (or pour the contents in a zip top bag) and thoroughly coat. Cover the bowl or seal the bag and refrigerate overnight.

Set the grill for indirect cooking.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Arrange the chicken skin side up on the cool side of the grill with the thickest part nearest the coals. Grill for 30-45 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the largest piece registers 160° -165 degrees F.

Drizzle the chicken with the reserved marinade and serve.

I served the chicken with couscous.

Pretzel Rolls

We had some beer brats that we were going to cook for dinner and needed something to go with them. I decided to made pretzel rolls as pretzels go great with German sausage. I used an eight loaf mini loaf pan to form the shapes although you can shape them with your hands as well.

They tasted great with lovely, soft interiors to hold plenty of mustard and the brats.

Pretzel Rolls

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
1-1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

3 quarts water
1/4 cup baking soda
1 tablespoon coarse salt

Add first 6 ingredients to bread machine in order given. Select dough cycle. When dough cycle completes, remove dough from pan to a floured surface.

Divide dough into 8 portions and make into ovals. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat conventional oven to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile, prepare water bath by bringing the 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add baking soda – it will foam up but when it subsides, drop rolls into the boiling water. Cook 30 seconds, then flip and boil for another 30 seconds.

Remove rolls to a wire rack to drain and then move to a well-greased cookie sheet or mini loaf pans. Use a sharp knife to slice a line into the top of each roll about 1/2 inch deep. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating pan midway through. Rolls will be golden brown on top and will sound hollow when done.

Remove rolls to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Peach Pops

Michelle’s parents have some very fruitful peach trees and after she had sliced and frozen 20 quart bags and 24 pint bags and dehydrated another 6 pint bags of peaches, there were still plenty left. She gave two 5 gallon buckets worth to a cousin and I decided to use some of the very ripe ones to make a frozen treat.

These pops taste like peaches and cream but are made with milk and Greek yogurt. This recipe can be made with 2 cups frozen peaches, just thaw them out to chop some and dice the others.

Adjust the agave nectar up or down depending on the tartness of the peaches and how sweet you like your pops.

Peach Pops

1 cup of peaches, roughly chopped
½ cup peaches, diced
6 tablespoons milk
2/3 cups Greek yogurt
 – I used plain but vanilla is good, too
2 tablespoons agave nectar

In a blender, puree the 1 cup of chopped peaches. Add milk, yogurt and agave nectar and blend until smooth.
 Stir in diced peaches. Fill your pops molds.

Freeze at least 4 hours.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I wanted some cookies but I couldn’t decided between oatmeal cookies and chocolate chip. So, I made the best of both worlds with these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

Chop the pecans pretty fine, so you get nuts in every bite.

Don’t be like me and grab the 1/3 cup measure when measuring the oatmeal – I thought I had put my hand on the 1/4 cup so I ended up with 2/3rds cups more oats than planned. The cookies were still delicious, they just were more oatie than planned (and Michelle seems to like them better that way). On second thought, maybe be like me.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 – 10 ounce package bittersweet chocolate morsels
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

Pre-heat oven to 350° degrees F

Place flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.

In a large mixing bowl beat together the brown sugar, granulated sugar and butter until light and creamy. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla extract.

Slowly beat in the flour. Then add oats, bittersweet morsels and nuts and mix well.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 13 minutes for chewy cookies and 15 minutes for crispy cookies.

Allow cookies to cool 1 minute on the baking sheet before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

 

Cheesy Chicken Calzone

I had been watching soccer all day Sunday (and don’t get me started on FIFA scheduling men’s final games on the day of the Women’s World Cup Final – here’s an article on why it is insulting. Here is another.) so I needed something I could eat in front of the TV. I decided a  calzone (basically a pocket pizza) was the way to go.

The entire dough recipe will make 4 good sized calzones. I divided the dough in half so I could have one calzone to eat, one for dinner later in the week and made pretzels with the rest.

I started on Saturday with an easy pizza dough in my new-to-me bread maker:

Basic Pizza Dough


3/4 cup tepid water
1/4 cup whole milk
3 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil

Place all the ingredients in order in the bread machine on the dough setting. When the machine is done with its cycle, divide dough in half and place one part in a well oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Use the other half, after an hour’s rest, for pizza or pretzels or wrap it well and put in the freezer for another meal.

I had a chicken breast thawed that I decided to use instead of more traditional sausage and pepperoni. After a quick browning of the chicken, I made a basic marinara sauce in the same skillet. I let the meat and sauce simmer together and then added to it cottage cheese (I was out of ricotta), mozzarella and Parmesan to make it very cheesy. All together, it resulted in a delicious meal that will stick to your ribs.

I used tomato sauce instead of tomatoes as I wanted to reduce the liquid in the dish.

Cheesy Chicken Calzone


1/2 recipe of pizza dough
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 chicken breast, boneless, skinless
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 Parmesan cheese, grated
2 large eggs, divided

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to rest and relax in a warm place for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Sauté the onion until translucent. Stir in the garlic. Cut chicken into 1 inch pieces. Lightly salt chicken. Add chicken to skillet and cook, stirring often, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Stir in tomato sauce. Add basil, oregano, remaining salt and pepper, and bring to boil over medium-high. Add in red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Use a fork to pull apart any large pieces of chicken. Stir to coat with sauce.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and 1 egg. Mix in the cooled chicken mixture and stir to combine.

Divide dough into two pieces. Roll each piece out into about an 8 inch circle. Don’t make them too thin or it could blowout during baking. Set the rounds on a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Place about a cup of filling on each round.

Lightly beat the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the egg wash on the border of the dough, fold over in half and press the edges together with a fork. Brush the top with egg wash and score the tops with a knife to allow steam to escape.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before eating.

Baked calzones can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen calzones in the refrigerator before reheating in a microwave. If you want the crust crispy again, get it mostly warm in the microwave and finish warming it up in a toaster oven.