Tag Archives: cream cheese

Morel Mushroom Toasts

25 Jan

I have a bunch of virtual friends and we decided at the end of last year to start sharing amongst each other the things we love to eat from the places we live. These virtual friends are spread all over the US and the world – Colorado, Florida, California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma, of course me in Puerto Rico and even one in Italy and another one in can’t remember if she’s in Iceland, Vietnam or Australia. That girl has me confused…

On our first round of our Foodie Exchange I got paired up the KATY, the only other vegetarian in our group. Can you believe our luck??? Well, they say there are no coincidences in life. It was up to the Universe that we would get to share what we love about our region. Katy lives in Maryland, close to DC and Baltimore… but she’s a lover of everything in her region including Pennsylvania where most mushrooms in the US are grown.

This is what I received from Katy…

 

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dried morels

But for the purposes of this post, we’ll concentrate on the baggie of dried morel mushrooms right there. Katy told me these are her favorites and that she preferred to send them fresh but was unable to locate them. So in its place she sent me these with instructions on her favorite way to eat them – sautéed with onions and thyme over toast. This is Katy’s favorite snack and she urged me to try it.

Katy is part of our Foodie Group for a reason… these toasts are amazing!!! I loved the earthiness of the morel mushrooms and how easy they are to put together. A great vegetarian snack or light lunch suitable for any foodie out there.

 Morel Toast

MOREL MUSHROOM TOASTS

½ bag of dried morel mushrooms
½ medium onion, sliced thinly
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 small garlic clove, smashed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Cream Cheese
A whole wheat ciabatta roll, sliced in half

 

  1. Bring a small saucepot with water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, add the dried morel mushrooms to the water, cover and turn off the stove. Allow the mushrooms to reconstitute in that hot water for about 30 minutes.
  2. After the mushrooms are softened again, strain the mushrooms over a fine sieve reserving the liquid for another recipe.
  3. Take the drained mushrooms and pat the dry a bit. I cut the larger ones in half, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
  4. In a small skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, the onions and the smashed garlic clove. Sautee them lightly for a few minutes. Add the softened morels and the thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cook everything together until the mushrooms have dried out a bit and looked cooked and “kinda alive”. Discard the pieces of garlic and set aside.

morels Sautee

5.  While the mushroom cook, drizzle some olive oil over the bread halves and toast in toaster oven. Slather some cream cheese or other spreadable cheese of your choice and place the morels and onions over the toasts with cheese.

 Morel Toast - Closeup

This is a great snack or even a light lunch served with a simple salad on the side. Thanks Katy for introducing me to morel mushrooms… I had eaten them in restaurants, but never made them at home. And now, this has also become one of MY favorites, thanks to you.

 

Basil Cheesecake

24 Dec

I planned the whole menu for my sister’s baby shower… and appetizers is my thing. So I had a few ideas already in my mind. I would work with puff pastry to make something savory and something sweet. I would make a version of Rosemary Almonds but using cashews, which are easier on more adult teeth. Gotta think of the grandmas…

I brought with me an exquisite Pigeon Peas Antipasto too, but I was missing something else. Like a dip. But I was running out of ideas. I can’t make Veggie Dip one more time!!!

Then… I remembered a recipe I had seen from Giada DiLaurentiis – a savory cheesecake recipe designed to use a small cheesecake pan, just like the only one I have!! I had to adapt the recipe to make it egg-free and integrated some ideas I have learned while making Pumpkin Cheesecake over Thanksgiving.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we all did… this recipe is a keeper. Great for making in advance… great to bring to a party too!!!

basil Cheesecake  KFC

SAVORY BASIL CHEESECAKE

Butter, for greasing the pan
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese, at room temperature
3 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2 tbs sour cream
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tsp egg replacer + 4 tbs water
Pinch of salt and freshly cracker pepper
1/2 packed cup chopped fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
  1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl mix together the egg replacer and the water. Whisk well to combine and set aside. The mixture will foam and grow a bit.
  3. Butter the bottom and sides of a 4 1/2-inch diameter spring-form pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with a piece of heavy-duty foil. If you don’t have heavy-duty foil, just double on the foil.
  4. Place the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, goat cheese and sour cream in a food processor. Pulse until mixed.
  5. Add the brown sugar, the egg replacer mixture, salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Add the basil and pulse until incorporated.
  6. Pour the cheese mixture into the prepared spring-form pan. Place the pan in a glass baking dish that’s slightly larger. Pour enough hot water in the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the spring-form pan. Make sure the foil top edge is above the water line.
  7. Bake until the cheesecake is golden at the edges and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken (the cheesecake will become firm when chilled), about 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour.
  8. Remove the spring-form pan from the baking dish and remove the foil. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 3-4 hours. Remove the cheesecake from the spring-form pan. Allow the cheesecake to come to room temperature before serving, about 30 minutes.
  9. Drizzle the top of the cheesecake with extra-virgin olive oil and serve with assorted crackers.

This is a great recipe to make the day before you need it. Just chill in the fridge and get out before your guests arrive. The cheesecake will hold very well at room temperature.

basil cheesecake 2  KFC

Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Shells

18 Dec

I planned the menu for my niece’s baby shower last week.  As you know… I only plan vegetarian parties, so this baby shower would be no exception. Last time we catered a lunch, but after all that was left afterwards, I decided this time around I would do the catering myself.

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Over the next few posts you’ll enjoy some of the creations I prepared for the event. I am pretty audacious because I am not afraid of trying a new recipe onto 20-30 unsuspecting guests. Some are really not that new… but new twists on old favorites. Some are just improvisations at the last minute. Like this stuffed shell recipe for example…

The main course for the baby shower menu was Broccoli/Cauliflower Stuffed Shells. You’ve already read about it here. Pastas are so popular among non-vegetarians and so easy to make in advance that I decided this would be the dish to wow once again some vegetarian lifestyle non-believers. I didn’t want to make lasagna like I did for my nephew’s birthday just a mere 6 weeks ago. But stuffed shells give you the same make-in-advance advantages but in a very different presentation. People just feel is something completely different, when in reality, it isn’t.

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I was making 2 baking dishes of stuffed shells… so my instinct was boil two boxes of large pasta shells. I never knew how many shells that would yield. When I was halfway thru my broccoli/cauliflower filling I knew that I was going to run out of filling before I would run out of shells. So my instinct was to make a cheese/spinach stuffing with some extra cheese I had bought. My family always teases me that I exaggerate… maybe it’s the Cuban in me. But I always want to err on the side of caution… we have a saying in Spanish – “Pa’ que falte, que sobre.” which translates to that I prefer to have more food than we need than to be short. So I always buy a few extra cheeses and things when I am cooking for a party. Sometimes I don’t need them, but this time it came in extra handy.

Cheese Spinach Stuffed Shells

CHEESE AND SPINACH STUFFED SHELLS

About 30 brown-rice pasta shells – I use the Tinkyáda brand
2 tbs olive oil, divided for the filling and the tomato sauce
15oz ricotta cheese
8oz package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
8 oz cottage cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese, divided
4 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 handful of basil leaves, chopped for filling
Another handful of basil leaves –chopped for sauce
28oz of diced tomatoes
About 1 tbs apple cider vinegar
4 oz of crème fraiche
4 oz of sour cream
½ cup of milk
6 Slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive Oil
  1. Bring a large pot filled with salted water to a boil.
  2. While the water boils, add the pasta shells. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until they have grown in size a bit, are flexible to the touch, but still not fully cooked. Drain the pasta shells and rinse with cold filtered water to stop the cooking process and cool them enough to handle. Set aside.
  3. For the filling, mix together the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ½ cup of parmesan cheese, baby spinach and basil leaves for the filling. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. It helps when the ingredients are at room temperature.
  4. For the tomato sauce, mix together the diced tomato, salt, pepper, vinegar, basil leaves and a small drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
  5. For the white sauce that goes on top, mix together the crème fraiche, sour cream, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and season with some salt and pepper. Set aside.
  6. Now we assemble… in your baking dish 9 x 13 glass baking dish pour the tomato sauce on the bottom. Using a small spoon, fill each shell with the cheese mixture and place in the baking dish. I can accommodate about 3 rows of 10 shells each.
  7. After all the shells are filled and placed on the baking dish, spoon the white sauce over the shells. Now sprinkle some additional parmesan cheese on top of the white sauce and finish with pieces of fresh mozzarella on top.
  8. Now we bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown. If you find the top is not browning, just turn the broiler on and watch the oven until it starts getting golden. Turn the broiler off and wait a few minutes. It’ll brown a little bit more with the oven off, you’ll see. As always… leave it there for about 10-15 more so it finishes cooking with the residual heat in the oven.

You can certainly assemble everything the night before your event, cover completely and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake. I usually take out of the fridge about 30 minutes before I want to bake… or before pre-heating the oven. Then bake as directed above.

Cheese Stuffed Shells - in progress

This dish was such a hit!!!! Both, these shells and the original broccoli/cauliflower ones, were all a great success. Even my cousin has asked me to show her how to make the recipe. It’s simple, no?? She’s excited I am posting here, but she wants a full-on demo in her kitchen. So now I know what I am eating the night before the Miami ½ Marathon I am running next month!!!!

Have you ever come up with a recipe “on the fly” that was as successful as your original recipe???? Please share…

Pumpkin Cheesecake

29 Nov

Someone over on Facebook was discussing which desserts everyone was making for Thanksgiving… and someone mentioned pumpkin cheesecake. I immediately knew that would be my dessert of choice this year.

Plus… I had pumpkin my Titi Carmín gave me and I wanted to use it all in my Thanksgiving cooking. I used part in my Pumpkin and Spinach Phyllo Pie and the rest of the mashed pumpkin in my Puerto Rican Pumpkin Fritters.

This recipe is an adaptation of 2 recipes I saw on the internet… I mostly followed Martha Stewart’s recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake, but I adapted the recipe to make it vegetarian without using eggs and used fresh pumpkin puree instead of canned pumpkin.

My springform pan is super small – I use a 4 ½” pan – and I use my toaster oven to bake it, I also had to adapt the times given in the original recipes. Because most of you guys probably have regular springform pans and will need to bake this in your regular large ovens, I will give you the original recipe proportions, temperatures and times. If you would like my adapted size, temps and times for using a toaster oven, let me know and I will gladly include too. OK???

EGGLESS PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

10 graham crackers
¼ cup brown sugar
4 tbs butter, melted
 
4 packs of cream cheese
1 ¼ cups brown sugar
1 tbs cornstarch
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sour cream
1 tbs cinnamon
A few grates of fresh nutmeg
1 tbs vanilla powder
½ tsp salt
6 tsp egg replacer + 8 tbs water
  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees, with rack in center.
  2. In a food processor, grind the 10 crackers into a meal. Add sugar and melted butter and process until well combined and resembles wet sand.
  3. Press the cracker mixture firmly into bottom of 9” non-stick spring-form pan. Bake until golden around edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool a bit before adding the filling.
  4. Reduce oven temp to 300F.
  5. For the filling, add all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse and process until the ingredients form an homogeneous mix, but stop once it’s all combined. Avoid over-processing.
  6. Place spring-form pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour filling into spring-form, and gently smooth top. Tap pan onto the counter a few times to avoid having bubbles and for the batter to settle well. Transfer to oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off oven; let cheesecake stay in oven 2 hours more (without opening the door at all).
  7. Remove from oven and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to cool completely. Unmold before serving.

I actually ¼ the ingredients in this recipe and It gave me enough batter and crust to make 2 cheesecakes in my 4 1/2” pan. Because I made in the toaster oven, as I saw no need to turn on a large oven for such a small pan, I had to adjust the cooking times because it does not need as much time in the oven as for a larger pan.

The end result is a delicious, delicious cheesecake. This is certainly a winner in my book… a recipe that will stay in my Thanksgiving and Fall repertoire for years to come.

Easy-No Cook Spinach Dip

25 May

It’s been a while since I’ve given you any dip recipes… haven’t you noticed?

Partly the reason has been I am in the midst of remodeling my apartment, including my kitchen, and between that and the miles I’ve racked up in several airlines in the last few months, there’s been little entertaining at home.

While cleaning my office I ran across a few recipes I had written but have not shared with you yet. I made this originally for a lecture on Vegeterian Appetizers at the Yoga Center.  This Spinach Dip is a quick put together, especially if impromptu company drops in on you. It’s made from staples I always have in my fridge and freezer.

EASY NO-COOK SPINACH DIP

1 small package of frozen spinach
1 cup sour cream
4 oz. cream cheese
¼ cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp Garlic Salt – optional
Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Thaw the spinach well and wring as much water out of it as possible. Cut it a bit with a knife or kitchen scissors to make the pieces smaller and easier to eat later on.
  2. Mix well with the rest of the ingredients.

If you use vegan cream cheese, vegan sour cream and Rice Parmesan cheese, this recipe is suitable for a vegan diet too. It’s just a matter of knowing the right products for your diet.

Serve it with crackers, pretzels or even carrot sticks.

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