Happy National Cheesecake Day!

I was delighted to discover a reason to celebrate (and partake of) my favorite dessert. But before doing that, I decided to delve into the origins of cheesecakes.

Cheesecakes date back to ancient Greece. Physical anthropologists have excavated cheese molds, dated 2000 B.C., on the Greek island of Samos. In Greece, cheesecakes were considered excellent sources of energy and served to athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C. Greek brides and grooms celebrated their nuptials with cheesecake.

ancient greece

An actual cheesecake recipe from 230 A.D. has been unearthed: Pound the cheese until it’s smooth and pasty, mix the pounded cheese in a brass pan with honey and wheat flour, heat the cheesecake in one mass, cool and then serve.

When the Romans conquered Greece, they modified the recipe by adding eggs. These ingredients were baked under a hot brick oven, and the cheesecake was served warm.

As the Romans expanded their empire, they shared their recipe with the Europeans. In England, Henry VIII’s chef cut up cheese into very small pieces and soaked these pieces in milk for three hours. Then, he strained the mixture and added eggs, butter, and sugar.

A fan of the New York Style Cheesecake, I decided to research its history. German-born Arnold Reuben (well-known for his signature sandwiches) was invited to a dinner party where the hostess served a cheese pie. Fascinated by the dish, Reuben experimented with the recipe until he came up with the smooth-tasting cheesecake we all know and love.

Over the centuries, different cheesecake recipes have evolved, reflecting the cheeses and preferences of each country: Italians use ricotta cheese, Greeks use mizithra or feta, Germans prefer cottage cheese, and the Japanese use a combination of cornstarch and egg whites. More daring chefs have introduced specialty cheesecakes that include blue cheese, seafood, spicy chilies, and even tofu.

manycheesecakeflavors

I’m willing to try almost any flavor, but I’ll pass on the chilies, tofu, and seafood varieties. When it comes to creating my own cheesecake, I gravitate toward the following easy-to-prepare recipe that actually calls for frozen blueberries.

Enjoy!

Blueberry Delight

Ingredients

½ cup brown sugar
2½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¾ cup butter
8 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
32 ounces sweetened whipped cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3½ cups frozen blueberries

Directions

Combine brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, and butter.
Press into the bottom of a 9” x 13” rectangular pan.
Bake for ten minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cool the crust.
Cream together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice.
Add whipped cream and fold in blueberries using a wooden spoon.
Pour mixture into the pan.
Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Servings: 15

Any other easy-to-prepare cheesecake recipes out there?


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Keeping Cool…On a Budget!

At least once each summer, I treat myself to a Dairy Queen banana split. And each time, I try not to gasp at the “new” price . In 2017, a DQ banana split costs $7.00 (CDN). Like everything else, Dairy Queen treats have risen in price.

Glancing at the menu board, I mentally calculated the minimum and maximum amounts a family of four could easily spend on a Dairy Queen excursion. If they all selected banana splits, the cost would be $28.00 (CDN). Four small dipped cones would ring in at $12.60 (CDN). These expenses could add up if summer temperatures soar and humidity levels become unbearable.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.


Happy National Blueberry Muffin Day!

blueberrymuffinsBlueberry muffins make a delicious and simple change of pace for breakfast and afternoon snacks. They can be made in large batches and stored in air-tight containers or frozen for future use.

The following recipe is a family favorite and can be easily whipped up in less than an hour.

Enjoy!




Ingredients

½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
4 cups flour
2 cups milk
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups blueberries
Grated peel and juice of one orange

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Grease muffin tins with butter or margarine.
3. Mix oil, sugar, eggs, orange peel and juice with the electric mixer.
4. Gradually add milk, flour and baking powder.
5. Add blueberries.
6. Stir using a wooden spoon, not the mixer.
7. Drop mixture into tins.
8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Yield: 24 muffins

*Photographed by Christina Guidoccio.


On a Greek Culinary Journey

Gilda Greco, protagonist of Too Many Women in the Room, and I have a special fondness for Greek cuisine. We appreciate the simple and elegant flavors of foods and beverages that can be traced back to Ancient Greece.

Here are ten interesting milestones from Greek culinary history:

1. Feta cheese is said to be about 6,000 years old, making it one of the world’s oldest cheeses.

2. In Greece, cheesecakes were considered excellent sources of energy and served to athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C. Greek brides and grooms celebrated their nuptials with cheesecake.

Continue reading on Ryan Jo Summers’ blog.


Happy National Raisin Day!

When grapes are dehydrated to produce raisins, the nutrients become more concentrated, making a handful of raisins rich in iron, potassium, and B vitamins. But don’t take too many handfuls. One cup of raisins has a whopping 440 calories!

Here’s a family favorite recipe for raisin cookies.

Ingredients

1/3 cup margarine or shortening
2/3 cups brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, well-beaten
½ cup chopped raisins
1½ cups sifted pastry flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 Tbsp milk

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Using an electric mixer (or hand mixer), cream together margarine, sugar, and vanilla extract.
3. Add the egg and raisins.
4. Add sifted dry ingredients, alternating with milk.
5. Beat until all ingredients are well combined.
6. Drop by spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet.
7. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the centers are soft with a touch of color and the edges are golden brown.

Enjoy!


In Praise of Spinach

Today is National Spinach Day, a day set aside to honor and consider all the delicious ways we can incorporate this nutritional powerhouse into our diets.

Here are 10 interesting facts about spinach:

1. During Catherine de Medici’s reign as queen of France, spinach was served at every meal. Many modern dishes made with spinach are known as “Florentine” in honor of Catherine’s birth in Florence.

2. The earliest written record of the spinach plant was found in Chinese, suggesting the spinach plant was introduced in China via Nepal.

3. Medieval artists extracted green pigment from spinach to use as an ink or paint.

4. China is the world’s largest spinach producer with 85% of global production.

5. California accounts for almost three quarters of national production. Other spinach-growing states include Arizona, New Jersey, Texas, Colorado, Maryland, and Arkansas.

6. In the 1930’s, U.S. spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33% increase in domestic spinach consumption.

7. Alma, Arkansas—the home of “Allen Canning Company” which cans and ships spinach—holds an annual spinach festival each April. Alma proclaims itself to be the “Spinach Capital of the World”…a title also claimed by Crystal City, Texas.

8. An excellent source of protein, calcium, folic acid, fiber, and vitamins A, C, and K, spinach is also loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants.

9. A half cup of raw spinach counts as one vegetable serving.

10. Studies have found that eating cooked spinach and carrots – versus raw – results in much higher blood levels of beta-carotene, an antioxidant thought to guard against heart disease and lung cancer.

On a personal note…

I look forward to my breakfast smoothie. Here’s one of my favorite recipes:

I start with one scoop of Sun Warrior Vegan Protein Powder (vanilla flavor). Recommended by my nutritionist, this brand contains brown rice protein and works well for anyone who is sensitive to eggs, dairy, and soy. I add one-half cup of blueberries, one cup of baby spinach leaves, and one teaspoon of cinnamon. I then add six to eight ounces of water and blend.

Do you have a quick-and-easy spinach recipe to share?


A Mangiacake Tradition

italy1Scalilli. Turdilli. Crostoli. Grispelle. Biscotti. Pizzelle. I have fond memories of all those Italian desserts my mother and grandmother prepared during the Christmas season. They would start baking early in December and then make more batches as the month progressed.

While I enjoyed partaking, I was not overly thrilled with the amount of work involved. In fact, delicious and labor intensive would be two apt descriptions for many of the entrées and desserts that emerged from my mother’s kitchen.

One Christmas in the early 1970s, my mother presented a different kind of dessert. She placed a dish filled with unusual shapes on the table and said, “Help yourself to a snowball.”

Continue reading on Kathy Bryson’s blog.