I’ve made my fair share of cheesecake bars, raw “cashew” cheesecakes and creamcheese swirled brownies, but very few true, decadent, whole cheesecakes. This cake is rich, creamy and high. New York style with a sky-high crust, distinct layers and a sticky, sweet compote poured over. Plums, raspberries, cherries… use whatever is in season near you or, as in my case, whatever canned fruit you have in the pantry.
Black Doris Plum & Vanilla Layered Cheesecake
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I followed Smitten’s method for avoiding cracking of the cheesecake. This involves a very high oven temperature for the first 12 minutes of baking before reducing it for a further 40 – 50 minutes. Mine still cracked so up to you whether you try this, or bake it for a full hour in a moderate oven. I added a wee bit of cocoa to the malt biscuits to achieve a base that was darker and richer than that of sweet cookies (can’t get chocolate wafers in NZ). Again, completely optional.
1 packet (250g) malt biscuits (or vanilla wines or graham crackers)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa (optional)
150 grams butter, melted
Whizz biscuits until finely ground. Add sugar, cocoa and melted butter. Whizz until well combined. Squeeze mixture between fingers – it should stick together (if it doesn’t add a little more melted butter). Press into base and sides of greased 21cm springform pan. Place in freezer while preparing cheesecake filling.
750g (3 packs) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
4 canned Black Doris plums, pureed in food processor
Preheat oven to 250˚C. Beat together cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and flour with an electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed until each egg is incorporated. Scrape down bowl well between additions – cream cheese will always accumulate in the bottom. Remove crust from the freezer and place on an oven tray (to catch drips). Pour half of the vanilla cheesecake into the base. Add pureed plums to remaining cheesecake and combine well. Pour over vanilla cheesecake. (Here I find it handy to let first layer firm up in the freezer while mixing the plum cheesecake. This helps prevent the layers from mixing while being poured. Also pouring the plum mix over a spatula helps evenly distribute it over the vanilla layer.)
Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes or until puffed. Carefully watch your cake because some ovens will top-brown very quickly and if yours does too fast, turn the oven down as soon as you catch it. Reduce the temperature to 140˚C and continue baking until cake is mostly firm (center will still be slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken), about 40 minutes more.
Remove from the oven, run a knife around the top edge of the cake to loosen it and cool the cake completely in springform pan on a rack. Once cool, place in refrigerator to chill overnight (or at least 6 hours).
1 large can (850g) Black Doris Plums
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
Strain the can of plums, discarding the syrup. Mix plums with lemon and sugar, lightly pressing to break up the whole plums. Let sit to allow juices to mingle. Pour over chilled cheesecake and return to the refrigerator until ready to serve.
This dish is inspired by a shared love of huge mushrooms by my mother and I. We picked up a pack of portobellos from the supermarket, without a clue as to how we would prepare them. A newly assembled BBQ (by myself no-less) at our holiday house needed a trial, so grilled portobellos and herby chicken patties tested the burners and combined to make a strange, but wonderful burger.
The mushrooms we had were not huge, and as usual they shrunk a little on cooking, meaning these ended up more as sliders and two were required per person. If you can, find some ginormous mushrooms, allowing you to make much larger chicken burger patties.
Chicken Pesto Burgers on Portobello Mushrooms
For those with allergies or avoidance’s, the burgers can just as easily be made without the egg and without the breadcrumbs/oats. They might just be a little more fragile on grilling. Or, of course you could use whatever burger recipe you darn well like.
300g ground chicken (mince)
2 Tbsp pesto
handful chopped herbs (I used cilantro and spring onions)
breadcrumbs (or ground oats) as required
salt & pepper
Mix together all ingredients, adding breadcrumbs (about 1/4 cup) until mixture is manageable – not too wet. With wet hands, roll mixture into small patties – this will make 9 – 10. Grill on BBQ until no longer pink inside.
8 large or 16 medium Portobello mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
Gently wipe any dirt from mushrooms. DO NOT USE WATER. Lay them gill side up and sprinkle over chopped garlic and a little salt & pepper. Grill on BBQ until juices are released.
Top mushroom with chicken burger pattie and desired fillings (a dollop of pesto and a whole sundried tomato). Top with another mushroom and enjoy.
It was a choir of birdsong that woke me from a deep slumber this morning. Ah, vacation in New Zealand.
There is no doubt that living in a Northern community in Canada has made me more appreciative of the little things. But I never expected to miss New Zealand’s birds so much. The ravens of the North do little by way of choir. They just tear apart garbage bags. And grow to disturbing size (like little dogs really).
I hear Alberta has some wonderful birds, which I’m excited to see (and hopefully hear in song) on return to Canada in a couple of weeks.
In the meantime, while I vacation with my parents in our serene lakeside bach… overlooking the rustic boatsheds that line the shore, beneath the expanse of cloudless blue sky, anticipating a ride in our wooden boat over to the natural hot pools as the warmth of this Spring day eases… I take a moment to appreciate the birdsong of the New Zealand Tui.
Red Beet Wheat Germ Waffles
Recipe De La Casa original
Serves 3 – 4
I could rave about how beets have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification benefits, but really, pink waffles are just fun! Beating the yolks and whites separately ensures fluffy, light waffles, despite being 100% wholewheat with the added weight of wheat germ. They freeze well and can easily be re-heated in the toaster.
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup olive oil (or butter)
1 T maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
1 roasted beet, pureed (recipe below)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups wholewheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
salted butter for greasing waffle machine
Preheat waffle machine to moderate temperature.
Whip egg white to stiff peaks and set aside. In a seperate bowl whisk together egg yolks, milk, oil, maple syrup and beet puree until smooth. Mix in baking powder, cinnamon, flour and wheat germ. Gently fold in the egg whites. Cook waffles according on well-buttered waffle machine. Serve with natural yogurt, authentic maple syrup and poached fruit (tis the season here for rhubarb).
To make beet puree:
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Halve 1 beet and place in roasting dish. Add 1 inch of water. Roast for 60 – 90 minutes until easily pierced with a knife. Let cool and remove skin (it should easily peel off). Whizz in food processor, adding a little lemon juice if too thick to process. Store puree in fridge until needed.
A crumble that is simple and delightful. Packed with nutritious, hearty ingredients (nuts, seeds, coconut, honey, bananas) and void of refined sugar, dairy and grains, this makes for an indulgent afternoon pick-me-up, a healthful dessert or, heck, even breakfast.
I spent most of this week in Dunedin (south New Zealand) with my best-friend-since-childhood Phoebe, exploring, hiking, cafe-ing and baking. Two foodie highlight were this banana crumble, served to us by her lovely friend (who brilliantly elected to add chocolate to the original recipe) and a miracle bread baked by Phoebe herself – more a birdseed loaf than your typical baked bread. I’ve been dying to try the miracle bread out myself, so now that I am back at my parents home, you can expect to see it pretty soon.
Grilled Banana Crumble
Recipe from Petite Kitchen (food writer for Viva magazine)
Serves 3 – 4
3 ripe bananas, sliced into rounds
2 tbsp honey
juice of half a lemon
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp honey
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup silvered almonds
1/2 cup ground almonds or seeds
1 tsp chia seeds (optional)
4 squares dark chocolate (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Yeehaw! We arrived in Calgary – the city of rodeos and cowboys. We’re yet to see such Western fare; so far it has been a whirlwind of Flat Whites, site-seeing, train catching and neck massages in relief from gazing up at the sky scrapers. Welcome to the city!
Despite being complete non-chain-store eaters, we have enjoyed the odd treat from Jugo Juice and Yogen Früz. We have explored a number of markets – farmers and more mainstream commercial ones. We have sussed out the local, natural grocery stores and observed (in grief) the damage from the horrendous flooding earlier this year. We have conquered the transit system and been awed by Car2Go – a brilliant means of transport for those trying to get around without their own car.
Most importantly we have become well acquainted with the two top cafes in town – Caffe Rosso and Phil & Sebastian.
Both of us have a month’s break from Calgary while I travel and Jesse undergoes training for his new job, but when we return we will be on the prowl for more excellent food stops – suggestions are well-welcomed!
The last eighteen months has flown by in Norman Wells. We’ve been through culture shock, wanderlust and extreme homesickness, sometimes all at once. We’ve experienced endless sunlight and 35˚C in summer, near-endless darkness and -45˚C in winter. We’ve grown accustomed to riding without helmets, leaving for work with 3 minutes to cycle, greeting the bank teller like a long lost friend, being totally comfortable (and socially acceptable) wearing jeans and sneakers at work.
All is about to change next week when we pack up the four suitcases we arrived with (we even did a practice pack again) and shift our lives to the city.
Calgary awaits us. It’s time to move forward in our careers and Canadian adventure in a more (shall we say) civilized part of this country. With abundant opportunities (work wise and otherwise) for us both, a thriving food culture, and a city life we are both terrified of and eager for, Calgary has drawn us.
We anticipate the change with anxiety, not just the sorrow of saying goodbye to those we’ve forged friendships with, but anxiety for all that comes with living in a bustling city.
The last two weeks we have been trying to soak up the Northern lifestyle as much as possible. Enjoying the plenteous down-time, the relaxed atmosphere, the genuine friendships, local wild meat, our tiny community church. We’ve been cooking meals very strategically, aiming to use up every item just in time. It has worked out perfectly – there are some benefits to choosing not to stock up with a barge order.
In clearing out the freezer I came across an icecube tray of frozen chipotle chilies, plus an overripe avocado lurking in the back of the refrigerator. A quick reference check on Annies Eats and it was Chipotle Chicken Kebabs (who calls them kabobs!?) for our dinner. This is the best avocado cream we’ve had – far better than our usual guac. Any remainder is fabulous as a dip for corn chips.
Chipotle Chicken Kebabs
Recipe from Annies Eats
For the chicken:
Juice of 2 limes
½ cup of vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
¾ tsp. chili powder
¾ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 chipotle in adobo, seeded and minced
2 lbs. chicken breasts and/or thighs, cut into 1½-2 inch pieces
Minced fresh cilantro, for serving
For the avocado cream sauce:
1 avocado, split and pitted
½ cup low-fat greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a medium bowl or a baking dish/pie plate, combine the lime juice, oil, spices, garlic, brown sugar, and chipotle. Whisk together to combine. Add the chicken pieces to the marinade and mix well to ensure that they are all coated and mostly submerged. Cover, refrigerate, and let marinate for 30-60 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a grill to medium-high and oil the grates. When the chicken is done marinating, thread the pieces onto skewers for grilling. (If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them first to prevent charring/burning.) Dispose of the excess marinade. Place the kebabs on the grill (a George Foreman-style press worked well for us) and let cook, turning once or twice, until all sides are slightly browned and the internal temperature registers 160˚ F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove to a plate and let rest 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with minced fresh cilantro, if desired.
To make the sauce, combine the avocado, yogurt, garlic and lime juice in the bowl of a food processor or a blender. Process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve alongside the kabobs for dipping.
With all this Paleo talk going on, I’ve been thinking about bacon. And reading about bacon (scroll down towards the end of the article for the more interesting part on saturated fat and cholesterol). Still not sure if it should appear in my diet much more than it does (rarely, in tiny portions tossed through pasta, wrapped around chicken breasts or a crispy slice with pancakes).. but figured it about time it appeared on the blog.
This cake is definitely not attractive to the health conscious. And most will skim over this post out of fear it will tempt them too much. But boy is there a time and a place at some point in your life, for this cake. The combination of sweet caramel, salty bacon, rich, espresso-hinted chocolate cake and bittersweet chocolate frosting is divine. It draws all the senses together. It is moreish but at the same time decadently satisfying. A bacon lover’s birthday recently called for such indulgence. It was enjoyed on a cool fall evening with a group of Norman Wells friends, following a rather challenging couple of baseball matches (perhaps more challenging for us Kiwis more accustomed to a cricket bat).
All in all this is a very simple recipe. A basic chocolate cake, a can of condensed milk, a block of chocolate for a simple buttercream frosting and a pack of bacon. That’s it. The condensed milk is boiled in a large pot of water (still in its can) until it turns into a rich, dark caramel. The bacon is candied and crispened. The cake is stacked with the caramel and bacon layered between and the whole thing is slathered in a bittersweet chocolate frosting.
Chocolate Caramel Bacon Cake
Recipe from Korena in the Kitchen
I doubled the recipe for the cake as I was wanted a quadruple layer 20cm cake rather than the 15cm cakes that the original recipe made. Obviously this meant I didn’t have quite as much caramel as desired, and at $7 a can here I decided skimping was fine. This doubled cake easily served 20 (a small slither goes a long way with such decadence) so the following recipe will serve approximately 10.
Rich Dark “Ultimate” Chocolate Cake
85g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot coffee
3/4 cup white flour (pref. high grade, bread flour)
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place the chocolate and cocoa in a large bowl. Pour over the hot coffee, cover and let sit for about 5 minutes until chocolate has melted. Whisk until smooth, then let cool to room temperature. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and soda. Set aside. When the chocolate mixture has cooled, add to it the eggs, oil, vinegar and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture and whisk again until smooth.
Divide the batter between two 6″ round cake pans than have been greased and the bottom lined with parchment paper. Wrap each pan with a strip of damp towel (a strange concept but really works to help the cakes bake with a flat top) and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out fairly clean – only a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Invert the cakes onto a cooling rack, peel off the parchment paper, and allow to cool completely.
Dulce De Leche
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Peel the label off the can and place it in a pot, covered with water so that it is completely submerged. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover, reduce to low, and simmer for 3 hours.
Keep an eye on it and top up the water as needed to make sure that the can stays completely covered the entire time. Don’t let this scare you but, there is danger of the can exploding if no longer submerged. Once the 3 hours are up, remove the pot from the heat and let the can cool completely in the water – overnight. Once cool, scoop the caramelized contents of the can into a bowl, sprinkle it with a good pinch of flaky sea salt, and stir until smooth. If necessary, stir in a few drops of milk to make it easily spreadable.
6 slices thick-cut smoked bacon
6 Tbsp brown sugar
Place the bacon on a wire rack on a foil-lined baking sheet and coat one side with the brown sugar. Bake at 350˚F for about 15 minutes, then flip, coat the other side with sugar and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, until deeply caramelized. Let cool on the rack – the bacon will get crispy as it cools. Chop into small cubes.
250g of dark chocolate
3 tbsp Dutch processed cocoa powder
3 tbsp hot water
1/2 cup butter, soft
1/4 cup icing sugar
Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool. Mix together the cocoa and water. Set aside to cool. Place butter and icing sugar In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until very light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled melted chocolate, then the cocoa powder mixture then set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature before frosting the cake.
Assemble the Cake
Cut each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Place one layer on a cake base and spread it with about 3 tbsp of Dulce de Leche. Sprinkle it with a little pinch of sea salt, then with 1/4 of the chopped bacon pieces. Repeat with the second and third cake layers and top with the fourth, pressing down firmly to stick them together. Frost with the chocolate frosting and decorate the top with the remaining Dulce de Leche and diced bacon.
I spent the last week noticing things about our town. Noticing how you receive a wave from every car that passes – the small, left-to-the-last-minute jab over the steering wheel. How you drop into the bank and get complimented on today’s lunch served at the cafe (and “oh-my-word how amazing are those Marathon Cookies!”). How one can go for a long walk on a Sunday afternoon and not see another soul. Attending a local portrait painting class with one of Canada’s top artists, for free. Likewise, attending Yoga classes and Circuit training also for free. Never thinking twice about leaving the car or the house unlocked. How the neighbour drops a bag of kiwifruit in the fridge (A joke? Perhaps. Hugely appreciated, yes!). How valued our visits with friends are – a stop by on a Sunday afternoon turns into an extended hangout over tea (or wine). Getting a whole gym to yourself on weekends. The extremes of weather and daylight and the anticipation that brings.
And the joy in simple everyday things. Well, things that would be simple in a non-isolated town. Receiving a new purchase almost two months after ordering it online! Getting groceries sent up from the city! Delving into a container of yogurt that hasn’t expired and cutting a head of fresh broccoli that has no mould! Cracking an avocado that, in contrast to those in our little Northern store, is NOT brown, bruised and bland but creamy, green and bright in flavour.
Spinach & Mushroom Quinoa Stir Fry
Serves 3 – 4
An ideal way to use up leftover grains is to stir fry them with veggies and eggs like you would rice. Any grains would work – we had quinoa left over from our week’s lunches and it made for a delicious, nutritious, high protein take on a popular Asian takeaway.
1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa1 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic
handful veggies (spinach, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes)
1 whole egg
2 egg whites (or sub with another whole egg)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
juice of one lemon
1 tsp brown sugar or honey
handful chopped herbs (cilantro or parsley)
hot sauce (we like our Kaitaia Fire but our stash from NZ is running low.. hint hint)
Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Toss in the veggies and garlic and stir fry. Add quinoa and fry until starting to brown. Crack the eggs in and stir until egg coats everything and cooks. Mix together soy sauce, lemon and sugar and pour over. Mix through herbs and dish up. Serve with the most perfectly ripe avocado you can get your hands on, freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of hot sauce.