Thursday, October 9, 2014

Almond Pear Cream Cheese Torte

Almond-Pear Cream Cheese Torte recipe

This might be my favorite dessert of all time.  I seriously could eat the entire thing in one sitting!
This recipe is taken from a magazine several years ago and is always a crowd pleaser.

As usual, I've cut back on the sugar from the original recipe.  I tend to use 3/4 of a cup, (divided into 1/4 cup per section instead of 1/3), rather than 1 cup divided in the original recipe.  I usually like desserts that are less sweet, so this totally works for our family, however there was one time that my pears were not sweet enough, so I should have used more sugar.  Taste and add more if needed.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter softened
3/4 cup sugar; divided
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp almond extract (optional)
1 pkg (8oz) reduced fat cream cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups sliced peeled pears (about 4 medium)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/8 tsp almond extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Beat butter and 1/4 cup of the sugar in small bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add flour and 1/8 tsp almond extract; mix well.  Spread firmly onto bottom and 1 in. up sides of a 9-in. springform pan.

Beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup of the remaining sugar in same bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.  Add egg, vanilla and almond extract; mix well.  Spread evenly over crust.  Combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon.  Add to pears in large bowl; toss to coat.  Arrange over cream cheese layer; sprinkle with almonds.

Bake 10 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 375; continue baking 25 min. or until center is set.  Cool on wire rack.  Loosen torte from rim of pan.  Cover and refrigerate 3 hours before serving.  Store leftover torte in refrigerator.

makes 12 servings.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fruit Pizza

adapted from The Lowfat Good Food Cookbook

summer 2010 108

Just about everyone I know makes a “1st birthday cake,” but for the second time, we just had a “1st birthday fruit pizza” for Miriam’s birthday (I made it for Isaac’s 1st birthday too). 

Some people just think this is the worst thing- maybe because I will never have that adorable photo with cake all over her face, or maybe its because it is an enormous milestone to turn 1, and they should have the privelege of diving into deliciousness.

I try to hold off on giving my kids refined sugar until they are 2 (although as I have more kids, 18 months is just about as far as I can get, because they see their siblings having desserts), so fruit IS their “dessert” at mealtimes.   All my kids ADORE fruit, so this is really the best thing I can make them for their birthday (and we adults LOVE this recipe!)- they just get SOO excited to see all that fruit!! 

Miriam actually ONLY wanted the fruit, and then crushed up the cookie crust in her hands and played with it.

And contrary to popular belief, I’m not missing out on the messy face photos- we have PLENTY of those from other occasions!   

The Crust:

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup soft margarine or butter
3 TBS skim milk

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp almond extract

1 3/4 cup flour (if you have a wheat grinder, you can probably use mostly soft white berries, but I’ve never tried this with ONLY wheat flour.  If you don’t have a wheat grinder, this is definitely better with white flour).

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp baking soda

The topping:

1 block reduced fat cream cheese

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp almond extract

2 1/2 Tbs sugar or honey

fresh fruit of your choice

1.  For the crust, cream the sugar and butter together until fluffy.  Add the milk and extracts.

2.  In another bowl, sift the dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture until well blended.  Cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.  (There have been times I forgot to plan ahead and didn’t have 4-6 hours.  1 hour in the freezer usually does the trick- especially if you freeze 2 separate balls of dough).

3.  Press the dough into a 12-14 inch pizza pan*, or use a similar-sized square pan if necessary.  Press the edges of the dough slightly upward to resemble a pizza crust.

4. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until golden.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the topping by creaming together the cream cheese, extracts, sugar or honey.

6.  Let the crust cool, and spread the topping over it.

7.  slice your favorite fruits into bite-sized pieces, and decorate the pizza with fruit in any pattern you like. 

* The last few times I’ve made this, I’ve been able to stretch the dough and make 2 pies- about 9 inches each.  I use my finger and thumb to make the edges pretty.

This is definitely the best fruit tart I’ve had because it isn’t overly sweet.  (Oftentimes the fruit is coated in an overly sweet glaze. ) Its also really great served with whipped cream.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cheerio Treats


So I grew up with my mom making Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treats.  I suppose she made them because they seemed a little more nutritious with some protein in them, rather than just loaded down with butter and marshmallows.  Or maybe she just made them because they tasted better, because they really do!

Because I grew up with these, I have never really liked regular rice crispy treats.   They taste soo different! 

One time I went to make them and only had Cheerios, so I decided to make “Cheerio Treats”, and add a few chocolate chips, and boy were they yummy!  (I really have to resist the urge to eat the entire plateful.)


3 Tbs butter

1/2 cup peanut butter

5 cups cheerios

5 cups marshmallows

1.  Melt peanut butter and butter together in a large bowl for about 30 seconds.  Stir until combined.

2.  Add marshmallows and stir until they are coated with the butters and microwave for about 2 minutes (or until marshmallows are melted), and stir about halfway through.

3.  Add Cheerios and stir until well combined

4.  Press evenly into a 13x9 pan (no need to grease it because of the peanut butter)

5.  Add a few chocolate chips throughout, but not too many because they may overtake the delicious flavor of the bars (but then again I’m not a huge chocolate fan).



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pasta Caprese

America’s Test Kitchen



We often eat this as a main course with a side salad, but this is also a great side dish to take somewhere in the summer.  You could add chicken if you want, but that might take away from the simple, but delicious flavors of the dressing.  This is especially yummy when you use homegrown summer tomatoes.  Don’t even try to make it with canned tomatoes, as it will become a COMPLETELY different dish!

America’s Test Kitchen recommends cubing the cheese and freezing it for about 10 minutes, so that the cheese remains in cubes rather than melting onto the hot pasta, but in the picture above, I simply shredded the cheese in my food processor and added it as the pasta had cooled a little bit, and it still turned out great.


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2-4 tsp juice from 1 lemon (I usually add a little more than this)

1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1/2 tsp or 1 tsp if you really like garlic)

1 small shallot, minced fine (I usually substitute red onion since I rarely have shallots)

1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice (I don’t core or seed it)

12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I just use an 8 oz. block of part skim mozz.)

1 lb short tubular or curly pasta, such as penne, fusilli, or campanelle

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 tsp sugar (this is mainly needed if the tomatoes are not super sweet homegrown.)

salt and pepper

1.  Whisk the oil, 2 tsp of lemon juice, garlic, shallt, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper together in a large bowl.  Add the tomatoes and gently toss to combine;  set aside.  Do not marinate the tomatoes for longer than 45 minutes.

2.  While the tomatoes are marinating, place the mozzarella on a plate and freeze until slightly firm, about 10 minutes.  Bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil in a stockpot.  Add 1 Tbs salt and the pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente.  Drain well.

3.  Add the pasta and mozzarella to the tomato mixture and gently toss to combine.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in the basil; season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice or sugar, if desired, and serve immediately.

If it tastes a little bland, it probably just needs some extra salt!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cilantro worked this year!



Every year my cilantro kind of grows straight, tall and straggly, but this year it finally worked and looks beautiful!  Maybe its because I planted it in with the rest of my garden with all the nutrients, or maybe its because I just dumped half a packet of seeds in and DIDN’T “thin” as they tell you to do.  Regardless, I’m very excited about this!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Winter Citrus Salad

adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe
This is definitely the most loved salad in our family.  In fact, this was a huge factor in getting my son over his salad hatred
1 grapefruit and 1 orange, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 small onion or 1 shallot, chopped
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
lime or lemon juice to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly chopped tarragon or a pinch dried (optional, in fact I’ve never added the tarragon)
mixed greens or spinach
1. whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, lime juice and tarragon until well combined; taste, adjust seasonings and add fruits.
2.  Spoon this mixture over each salad and mix thoroughly.  Add some toasted almond slivers or walnuts if desired.
This should serve at least 4-5 adults.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

West African Peanut Soup

Adapted from Mark Bittman
My version is basically the same ingredients as Mark Bittman’s but I added cilantro at the end, and chopped everything smaller so that the kids have an easier time eating it.  Mark Bittman says to core and halve tomatoes and to slice sweet potatoes into thick slices, but I shredded them with the food processor.
This recipe is surprisingly delicious and packed with vitamins and protein!  (I even like this but don’t usually like sweet potatoes)
1 Tbsp neutral oil (grapeseed, “extra-light olive oil”, peanut oil)
1 medium red or white onion, chopped
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbs minced garlic
1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts chopped
pinch of cayenne pepper
6 cups chicken stock
2 sweet potatoes peeled and cut into thick slices
8 plum tomatoes (coarsely chopped in food processor), or canned diced tomatoes, drained of liquid
1/2 lb collard greens or kale, chopped
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1.  Chop peanuts, or crush them with the side of a knife, orpulse them in a food processor to chop roughly.
2.  Put oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium heat; a minute later, add onion, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, 3-5 minutes.  Add chicken and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes, until just coloring.  Add 1/2 cup peanuts and the cayenne and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3.  Stir in the stock and the sweet potatoes, bring to a boil, and turn heat down to medium-low so the soup bubbles gently.  Stir in tomatoes and collards, then cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
4.  Stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter.  Taste, adjust seasoning (you may want to add more peanut butter at this point) and serve, garnished with remaining peanuts and cilantro if desired.