Blueberry Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Since moving, my work schedule hasn't been all that predictable. The first few weeks were, a nice 7a-4p, with weekends off, but of course that didn't last. This week, I have today and Thursday off. I have no idea for next week. But not having the sense of predictability is hard for me. I'm a routine kind of a gal.

Today had some semblence of normalcy that I did on my days off in CA. Went to the library (albeit by bus and not walking), got myself a chai, then came back home. Which is exactly what I would do on my first day off. So, some comfort there, at least. :)

So! The idea originated with blueberry cheesecake bars. But I never found a recipe that suited what I was imagining. Out of nowhere, while Dave was watching a baseball game, I believe, I said aloud, "Chocolate-covered blueberries! I wonder if I could make cheesecake bars using that flavor?" Dave then turned to look at me, simply saying, "What?!". You'd think after three years, he'd be used to random outbursts on food. Hmm.

Anyways, I put together a few different recipes, and to be quite honest, I'm not sure how I feel about them. I had a small piece earlier, and I have mixed feelings. Thus, no picture. LOL It's denser than the average cheesecake, and that might have something to do with it. I'm hoping that they'll be better tomorrow. :)

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup butter, melted

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. cocoa
½ tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch baking pan.

For crust: Mix together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cocoa, and butter. Press onto bottom of pan.

For filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Add cocoa and vanilla. Pour onto crust. Place berries on top of the cheesecake, pressing down just slightly.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Refrigerate for at least four hours before serving.


SHF 45: Berry Tartlets

Today was really warm. Scratch that. Today was really hot. Definitely the warmest since moving home. The heat index hit 96. And if you've spent any time in New England in the summertime, heat generally equals humidity. When you walk out your front door and you feel like you just stepped out of the shower. When you stick to patio furniture. And I won't even begin about one's hair practically doubling in size due to frizz. ;)

Dave decided to grill tonight, so I thought I'd surprise my parents with a nice dessert. But I really, really did not want to use the oven. A friend of mine online had linked to a fruit tart recipe over at NPR, and that got the ball rolling. The thought of the mascarpone cream was really what did it for me. But as I still lack the confidence and counterspace to properly work with dough, I went with pre-made tart shells. At least, I went with those mentally. At the grocery store, they didn't have them. So I went with the puff pastry shells, which require 20 minutes of oven-time. *shrug* Well, it could have been worse, right?

Later in the evening, as I was perusing the food blogs, I discovered that this month's Sugar High Friday is being hosted by Susan of Food Blogga, and the theme is berries. Timing actually worked WITH me for a change. :)

These came together like a dream. From the NPR recipe, I went with the mascarpone cream, and then decorated with blueberries and strawberries. As an alternative for my mom, who can't do the seeds, I used peaches, and she was quite pleased. I think the cream part is going to be my go-to for fillings these days. Oh, it was like heaven on a spoon.

6 puff pastry shells
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup very cold heavy cream
¼ cup sugar
Strawberries, sliced

Prepare puff pastry shells as directed.

Once they are fully cooled, beat mascarpone cheese, cream, and sugar until mixture holds stiff peaks. Spoon into shells. Decorate with fruit. Keep chilled until serving.


Chocolate Decadence Cake

I had a very simple, very direct request from my mom for baking this weekend. Chocolate. A self-described chocoholic, she started hinting at it on Wednesday or Thursday. By yesterday evening, it became a flat-out, "Are you baking something with chocolate yet?" So I thought I'd be a good daughter and make something super chocolatey for her.

One of my earliest food-related memories involves chocolate. I can still easily see myself stirring the pudding, standing on my stepstool, and wanting so badly to taste it. And then the absolute HORROR of having to wait for it firm up! But what I remember even more? Licking the wooden spoon. There are pictures of three-year-old me, with chocolate smeared all over my chubby cheeks.

And, hey, sometimes when licking the spoon or the beaters nowadays, sometimes chocolate still makes its way onto my face. ;)

Found over at VeryBestBaking.com, it pulls together VERY easily. The batter is very light in texture, almost mousse-like. As a finished product, it's very fudgey, very rich. Definitely meeting my mom's chocolate criteria. :)

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round baking pan.

Microwave 1 cup of chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl on HIGH for 1 minute, then stir. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs, then beat for 2-3 minutes. Add melted chocolate. Alternately add flour and milk. Stir in remaining morsels. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool completely on wire rack.


Blueberry Coffee Cake

Well, my weekend didn't go exactly as planned. I did sort through a lot of books from my younger days that are going to be donated. The current count is 325 books. Mostly of the Sweet Valley Twins, Sunset Island, Freshman Dorm, etc. My pre-teen and teenage years books, mostly. And I still have more going; probably about a hundred of the Babysitter's Club books. Yep, I was one of those. Had to have every single one. No, those obsessive traits aren't around anymore at all. ;)

Anyways, I didn't get to make the lime blondies yet. Maybe next weekend. This morning I concentrated on making something that I could bring to work. When Dave and I went to the grocery store, there were blueberries on sale - a pint for $1.50. Not bad, right? Thus my search for blueberry-related baked goods was on.

I found the basic outline of this one over at AllRecipes and altered it a bit, adding brown sugar and some more spices. Looking back, some sour cream would have done well, too, but the convenience store at the top of the street charges insanely high amounts ($2.98 for an 8-ounce package of cream cheese!) It tastes well enough, though. The 'streusel topping' leaves a lot to be desired, though. But it's decent enough. *shrug*

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries

½ cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Alternately add flour mixture and milk, beating until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in berries. Gently spread into prepared pan.

Mix together brown sugar, flour, and spices, then cut in butter, mixing until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake at 375F for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on wire rack before cutting.


Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

If it hasn't been obvious yet, Culinary Concoctions by Peabody is one of my favorite blogs. I generally read my "blog list" once or twice a week, and bookmark as needed. But when I'm not sure exactly what I want to make, Peabody's is one that I'll browse through, and more often than not, I'll find something that sounds great. And today was no exception.

Dave and my dad spent most of the day outside, redoing the stairs on the deck, so I wanted to make something just for them. My dad is growing less picky when it comes to baked goods and Dave won't argue with anything peanut butter. So when I saw this recipe, I knew it would be a winner. Since my big pan is still in use, I halved the recipe and used a 9-inch pan.

And, now that I think about it, this could be a Peabody weekend, as I really need to use some lime juice and FINALLY have acquired some cake flour. ;)

These taste exactly like peanut butter cookies. I almost felt like the bars should have criss-crosses on the top, they're that similar. The only thing I didn't do was the topping, as I was lacking in ingredients. (I really miss being within walking distance of a grocery store) Even without it, though, it's that classic pb cookie flavor. :)

1½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup cold butter, diced
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
½ tsp. vanilla
½ cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch baking pan.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Beat butter and sugars until light and fluff. Add egg and vanilla, then add peanut butter, mixing well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating just until completely incorporated. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Makes about 16 bars.