Mixed Berry Cheesecake

Often times I sit in the same coffee shop, staring at my laptop screen thinking about what to write. I’ll end up getting distracted by something and then come back to this blank template with the cursor flashing in the same spot. I’ll think, “what’s interesting to write about today?” Inevitably, I’ll get distracted again–the music I’m listening to, people watching, what’s going on with Facebook, or that “(1)” next to my email account. I can’t possibly have that “(1)” next to my inbox or my Facebook account. [I think the internet would have you believe that this is simply that the OCD in me telling me to clear that notification: see this if you aren't aware of how apparently endemic OCD is in today's society. My husband claims to have OCD and I assure you, he does not. In fact, I'd probably welcome some OCD-like tendencies...haha.]

I realized after thinking and thinking of what to write about that I should just talk about what I think about when I have cheesecake. So, a few years ago–slightly before Matt was a twinkle in our eyes–Ken and I went to massage therapy school in hopes of opening our own clinic. Let me tell you, that was one hell of a year! We both worked full-time and then went to school from 6-10pm Monday through Thursday for an entire year. Over that year, we developed friendships with some of our classmates. We were all in this together and we worked as a team. Somehow or other we all decided to have a somewhat routine late-night visit to the nearby Cheesecake Factory for drinks and a snack–massaging is hard work, you know? :) Actually, it really can be so it was needed. Those were some of the best times and it brought us all much closer. I miss our “study sessions” and hanging out with all of them. So now every time I have cheesecake, I think of those times and those friends.  In memory of those good times and all my classmates at NHI, this one’s for you guys!

This cheesecake recipe is really easy and it is soooo good. It’s actually the first one I’ve ever made. If you’re concerned about the berries “bleeding” throughout the top, I’d make sure you only use fresh berries.

Mixed Berry Cheesecake

Mixed Berry Cheesecake

For the Graham Cracker Crust:

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 9 full graham crackers)
2 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. cinnamon
6 T butter, melted and cooled

For the Cheesecake Filling:

8 oz. white chocolate
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. wild berries (I used blueberries, marionberries, and raspberries)

Preheat the oven to 325 (F).

For the Graham Cracker Base:
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Add 6 tablespoons melted butter, and stir completely into the dry ingredients to combine. The mixture should have the consistency of wet sand. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the mixture to the baking pan, and, using the back of a spoon or your hand, press evenly into 9″ springform pan. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until fragrant and golden. Set aside on a wire rack to cool.

For the Cheesecake Filling:
Use a double boiler to gently melt 8 oz. white chocolate, taking care not to scorch. Set aside to cool completely.

Using an electric mixer, cream 16 oz. cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add 2 eggs and 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating on medium speed until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to gently add the cooled white chocolate (from the first step) and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and mix until well incorporated. Spread mixture evenly over the baked and cooled graham cracker crust and tap the pan gently on the counter to let the cheesecake filling gently spread out and settle in. Sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 1/4 cups wild berries, gently pressing the berries down so that the berries are almost level with the cheesecake filling. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the cheesecake wobbles just slightly through the center and the edges are a little golden.

Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack, before placing in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours to chill thoroughly.

Recipe adapted from Hummingbird High

Frosted Lemon Cookies

Here comes the sun…doo doo doodoo! Now that I wrote that, I wonder if that’s copyright infringement with the Beatles. Well, not the Beatles, but with Michael Jackson’s estate. How he ended up owning the rights to their songs is just crazy…and highly controversial. And it certainly interferes with me being able to listen to all their songs on Rhapsody or Pandora.  OK, that was slightly off topic, but when do I ever stay on topic?

Annnyway…there’s a glimpse of Spring in the air and I wanted to grab it and capture it in a cookie, so I did.  Spring is my second favorite season with all of the flowers in bloom, new life, the pastel colors, people seem happier, and THE SUN RETURNS! I thought that perhaps if I baked something fresh and Spring-like that maybe the sun might want to stick around. So maybe if we all bake these Frosted Lemon Cookies, we have a chance! These cookies are on the tart side, so if you don’t like lemon, I can’t say I’d recommend these ones for you.  If you do, you’re in for a treat.

Frosted Lemon Cookies

Frosted Lemon Cookies

2 ¾ c. flour
2 t. cream of tarter
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. butter, softened
1 3/4 c. sugar, divided
2 large eggs
Zest of 2 lemons

For the Lemon Frosting:
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 to 3 c. powdered sugar
3 to 4 T. lemon juice

Adjust the oven racks to the upper-and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs and lemon zest; beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup sugar for rolling in a shallow bowl. Roll a heaping tablespoon (or use a cookie scoop) of dough into a ball, roll the ball in the sugar, and then place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the balls about 2 inches apart–they will spread a bit.

Bake until center is just set and begin to crack, 10-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 5 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

To make the frosting: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add more lemon juice if needed to reach the desired consistency. After cookies are completely cool, ice them with a small spatula or butter knife.

Recipe courtesy of Sweet Pea’s Kitchen