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Friday, March 21, 2014

Random Food Fridays - Mo' Betta Cheesecake

My dear friend, Miss Paula is just one of many friends with a gluten sensitivity. I'm not sure why this happens to so many people these days, but it seems to be a cold, hard fact. I want my treats to be yummy and to make my friends feel happy without feeling yucky. Because of this, I'm always on the look out for  good and real food gluten free recipes. I found the inspiration for this one on Pinterest. It is from a blog called Honey and Figs. Consuelo calls them Clean Eating Strawberry Cheesecake Bars. She even suggest them for a yummy and healthy breakfast. I followed her methods, for the most part, but used what I had on hand and also had to fill in some of the blanks. For example, she doesn't tell us what size pan to use and many of the measurements and ingredients are European, as she lives in Spain. One of the great things about being comfortable in the kitchen is taking an inspiration and going forward with your own knowledge and ingredients. Please check out Consuelo's lovely blog and try either version of this luscious treat.

Mo' Betta Cheesecake
13 medjool dates and water to cover
1 1/2 cups Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 carton of low-fat cottage cheese, 16 oz.
8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
1/4 cup raw honey, warmed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin and 5 tbsp. water, divided

Start by preparing the crust. Place the dates in a bowl of warm water and let them soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, you can get everything into place. Line the bottom of an 8 X 8 inch pan with parchment paper, leaving the parchment out on two sides to form a handle to lift the cheesecake out when it is set.

Pit the dates and place them in a food processor with a bit of the soaking water. Pulse until they start to break down. Add the granola and cashews and pulse until well combined and the pieces are pretty small. With the food processor running, drizzle in the melted coconut oil. When the dough begins to form a ball, it is done. Oil your hands with a bit of the coconut oil and move the dough into the bottom of the paper-lined dish. Press the dough out to a uniform thickness. Set aside.

Place 3 tbsp. of cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle with the gelatin and allow to soften. Start the kettle.

For the filling, place the cottage cheese and cream cheese in the (washed out) food processor bowl and pulse until smooth. add the vanilla and warmed honey by drizzling it in while the motor is running. (I found that when I added room temp honey, the processor blades launched the mass at the inner edge of the bowl, where it stuck like glue.) Add 2 tbsp. boiling water to the softened gelatin and stir until very smooth. Blend the gelatin mixture into the cheese mixture until all is uniformly smooth. Scoop the filling out onto the prepared crust. Smooth, cover and refrigerate 4 hours or over night.

To serve, use the paper to lift the cheesecake out of the pan and place it on a flat serving dish. Cut into squares. Conseulo said her's made 12 servings. That is a bit unrealistic in my world. I got 9 squares out of mine. Serve topped with fresh or preserved fruit.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dry Brined Herb and Lemon Chicken

When I dry brined our Thanksgiving turkey, dry brining shot into my top ten with a bullet. For chicken, it is now my #1. This is the kind of good where people take a bite, their eyes get a little wider, and they say, "What did you do?!" I'm about to tell you. Oh yes. I will tell you.

You will need:
1 Whole chicken, cut up
2 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic peeled
1 bunch Italian parsley
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
lemon zest and lemon juice from 1 large or 2 small (I used one large Meyer lemon this time)
1/4 good olive oil

Whenever I want to make chicken for a weeknight dinner, I prep it the night before. You can buy a chicken that has already been cut up, or even just your favorite pieces. My biggest suggestion here is that you keep it on the bone and leave the skin on. You will get a much juicier and more flavorful bird.

Wash and dry the chicken. Zest the lemon and whirl everything but the olive oil and lemon in a food processor and rub the mixture into all sides of the chicken. Juice the lemon and save in the fridge. Cut the remaining rind into chunks and place them pulp-side down on the chicken pieces.

The next day, while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees, rinse the brine off and pat the chicken dry again. Place on a greased or paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and reserved lemon juice and sprinkle on a few grinds of black pepper.

Roast for 40 to 50 minutes or until juices run clear. I use a digital thermometer to make sure the thickest pieces come up to a safe temperature - 165 degrees. I like to roast potatoes at the same time. Steam up some green veg and you have a fantastic meal. This flavorful chicken is also very good cold, cut up on a salad or sliced for a sandwich. Enjoy!