Yogurt-Cheese Tarts with Mint

Yogurt-Cheese Tarts with Mint

It is definitely summer in Seattle, as I sit here in the dark typing this, because even turning on the lights will heat the house up more than I can tolerate at this point.  That decision we made 12 years ago to forgo air conditioning comes back to haunt us every year – more and more as our climate seems to be changing.

So what do I crave in the summer?  Well, I certainly crave sleeveless dresses.  I have way too many in my closet, but as soon as it gets above 80 degrees, that’s what you will find me in.  And what am I eating?  Well, even in the sweltering heat last summer in Paris – we had cheese at every meal.  So this summer, when I am craving cheese – you will definitely find me with these delicious tarts (adapted slightly from Cooking Light) – made with the creamiest yogurt ever – Stonyfield Farm’s organic whole milk greek yogurt – because with mint, it is a wonderful refreshing combination.

prAna so graciously gave me this dress in the photograph, and if you have made it this far in the post – you too can get yourself one of these!  This dress fits perfectly, and is so comfortable that I want to wear it everyday.  I am such a sucker for soft cotton, and this is exactly what I love to wear.  Please leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a summer prAna dress of your own, and free yogurt coupons!  Drawing will take place on June 15th, and I will announce the winner shortly afterwards.

My readers can save 15% off your prAna order with this special code: SCS16DAKL

This offer is not valid for prAna Influencers, on Gift Certificates or with any other offers.

Offer valid from now until July 7!

Please note: As a Team Stonyfield ambassador, I am being compensated. All opinions are always my own.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 2 cups plain Stonyfield Farm’s Organic Whole Milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 ounces reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 12 small fresh mint leaves

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325°.

Combine cornstarch and milk in a small bowl. Place cornstarch mixture, yogurt, mint, rind, pepper, salt, feta, and Gorgonzola in a food processor; pulse to blend. With processor on, add egg and egg white; process until creamy.

Spoon 1/4 cup yogurt mixture into each of 12 small ramekins or custard cups. Bake at 325° for 25 minutes or until tarts are almost set but still slightly wobbly. Turn off heat; leave in oven 5 minutes. Remove from oven; cool 15 minutes. Top each tart with a mint leaf.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Yogurt-Cheese Tarts with Mint

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pudding

Chocolate Peanut-Butter Pudding

The other weekend, our friend’s kids came over while we (the adults) went out for dinner.  It was a long overdue date night for the four of us, and we had a wonderful dinner at this new little restaurant.  This was the second time we were there, and our friends just loved it.  Normally when we go out for dinner, the girls get to choose what they have for dinner, as long as the babysitter can make it.  Occasionally we will be out at Trader Joes and they pick something out that they want to try – they love that.  This night though, I felt like trying out some new recipes, and they were my Guinea pigs.  I bet you can guess what I made them for dinner…if you have been paying attention.  And now we get to dessert.

My older daughter came into the kitchen when I was starting the dessert – and started laughing.  She said, “Since when do you make a gourmet meal just for the kids?”  Then I started laughing.  She was right – although I would hardly consider this gourmet.  Mac and Cheese and pudding for dessert?  Well, I guess she was right.  It’s not like I had opened up a box of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese, and then a box of Jello pudding – but seriously, both of these recipes were pretty easy – I was done with both in under an hour.  I was mighty impressed with myself – and I felt like I had accomplished so much!

Now for the pudding – I am definitely a fan of Jello brand pudding – have been for years.  It is super creamy, has a decent flavor, and if you make it yourself (with the box), you are actually adding real milk, so at least it has calcium in it.  I love how you can make pudding for dessert in just a few minutes.  But, what if I told you that it takes less than 30 to make real homemade pudding?  And, that it is wonderfully rich and creamy, with nothing artificial?  I have a feeling that would get a lot of you interested.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and I put it in the pile – actually hoping that I would have a little contest with my daughter – as she made the Jello brand, I would make this.  We didn’t get to the taste test that night – since I didn’t have any Jello pudding in the house – but I know who would have won – this recipe hands down.  It just tasted real.  Oh, and did I tell you that we used up more Halloween candy in the process?  Good old Hershey Bars to the rescue.  I think I might need to write a cookbook – 100 ways to use up your Halloween candy…

So – this served 6, and when we got home we were stuffed – but there was still one left over.  Even though we had ordered one of everything on the menu, our good friend still had enough room to polish off the last one.  Good thing I licked the bowl clean when I made them…the benefits of being the cook.  Now, what are you waiting for?

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 2 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

Preparation

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa in a medium saucepan; stir with a whisk. Whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook 1 minute or until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and peanut butter, stirring until smooth. Spoon about 1/3 cup pudding into each of 6 bowls. Top each serving with 1/2 teaspoon peanuts.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pudding

Honey-Lemon Custard with Fruit

I am back from my quick trip to China – and what an amazing experience it was.  I really had no expectations – it was a work trip, and I was focussed on the content I was there to present.  I loved getting to know the employees in our Beijing offices, I loved the food, the silk market – and I loved getting a Chinese foot massage (that is really like a body massage) where they kick the crap out of you, and it actually feels amazing – if you can control yourself from laughing.

So when I go to new cities, there is one place I always want to see – the super market.  I know it sounds crazy, but that is how I really embrace the culture.  I was a little afraid to tell the people I was travelling with about my quest – so I decided to keep it quietly to myself.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t find one, since I had very little time to explore – so I told myself not to be disappointed.  After the first few meals, I was so impressed, I almost stopped thinking about trying to find one.  The dumplings kept me happy enough – oh, and the breakfast at the hotel – it was a global breakfast dream.  They had everything and anything you can think of – the highlights were the pork dumplings, honey yogurt and the watermelon smoothies.  Believe me when I say, you could get ANYTHING.

The weather in Beijing could not have been any better – it was blue sky, high 60s and clear as can be.  I could see the mountains, and again, I had no idea how beautiful it was going to be.  I finished my meetings at 3:00 in the afternoon, and decided to take a little walk around the office building.  I heard there was a shopping mall not too far down the road, and I needed a little adventure.  On my way there, I saw a sign – for Carre Four – I found it!!!!  That is a French super market that I love going to in Paris – I couldn’t believe it!  I had to go down a big escalator, and then walk quite a bit through these subway tunnels – but I finally found it.  They had a big dollar section right when I walked in – but in China, it was like the penny section – I bought some noodles for pennies.  I loved walking around and seeing all the packaged and fresh foods – the flat chickens were really the most unusual.  They were hanging with the salami – and they looked like they had been flattened and then dried.  Wow.

I could go on and on about the food – like the night we went for Peking Duck, and after they carved the meat off the bones, they crushed the bones, and deep-fried them.  The man sitting next to me just went to town – crunching away.  Or, the night we went to a 4.5 star dumpling place that looked like a fast food joint.  The food was pretty good (although the first dumpling place we went to was better), but they brought this mango custard that was amazing.  We weren’t really sure what it was, but I had to try it – and I was so glad I did – it was my favorite part of that meal.

I found this recipe in Bon Appetit, and had made it before I left for China.  It was not as sweet as what I ate there, but this was also amazing.  Let it sit for a day or so before eating, so the flavors really have a chance to develop.  I put mango on the top, but really any fruit would be excellent.  If you like a lemon custard, this is your dessert – and you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to try some!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons honey, divided
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 3 2-inch strips lemon peel
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1/4 cup light rum
  • 1 cup berries or sliced mango

Preparation

Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Heat cream, 2 tablespoons honey, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until just beginning to simmer. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Add lemon peel; remove from heat. Let steep for 5 minutes (cream should register about 160°F on an instant-read thermometer). Remove vanilla bean and peel. Gently stir in 5 tablespoons lemon juice.

Divide custard among ramekins and chill to let set for at least 1 hour or, covered, up to 1 day.

Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons honey and 1 tablespoon lemon juice with rum in a small bowl. Stir in fruit; let sit until juicy, about 1 hour. Serve with custard.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Honey-Lemon Custard with Fruit

Butterscotch Pots de Crème

It’s almost Valentine’s Day  – a day like most holidays that somewhat resolves around food.  This holiday in particular though resolves around sweets.  Most people gravitate towards chocolate – which I can completely understand, but what about trying something new this year? 

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light – and saw this as a challenge.  Make a light Pots de Creme?  How could you?  There is no way this can taste good, just no way.  But, I was determined to try – I love butterscotch, and love custard, so I figured I had nothing to lose.  Amazingly, they came out wonderful.  The first surprise was that all the ingredients below made this somehow taste like butterscotch with very little butter.  The second surprise was how creamy the custard was!  I couldn’t believe it – it was definitely rich, and with a touch of whipped cream on top, it was heavenly.  Even my husband who doesn’t like butterscotch, thought it was delicious.  For 200 calories a pot, you cannot go wrong here.

But, if you just can’t let go of the traditional Valentines fare, how about this…my absolute favorite – and also a light version.  With the little hearts on top, it is definitely screaming out for Valentine’s Day…

Ingredients

  • 3/4  cup  whole milk
  • 3/4  cup  2% reduced-fat milk
  • 7  tablespoons  brown sugar
  • 2  tablespoons  water
  • 1  tablespoon  dark molasses
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  large eggs
  • 2  large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  butter
  • 1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/4  cup  heavy whipping cream
  • 1  tablespoon  powdered sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325°.

Heat milks over medium-high heat in a heavy saucepan to 180° (do not boil). Combine brown sugar and next 5 ingredients (through egg yolks) in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk. Gradually pour 1/2 cup hot milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return egg mixture to pan, stirring constantly. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Stir in butter and vanilla. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Divide mixture evenly among 6 (8-ounce) custard cups. Place cups in a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan; add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake at 325° for 24 minutes or until center barely moves when cup is touched. Remove cups from pan; cool on a rack 20 minutes. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Place cream and powdered sugar in a bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Top custards with cream.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Butterscotch Pots de Crème\

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Crème Caramel Bread Pudding

Bread pudding, comfort food at it’s finest.  As a kid, bread pudding completely grossed me out.  I couldn’t understand how you could make a delicious dessert out of a loaf of bread.  It just didn’t seem right.  For many years, I stayed away from it – even as an adult – bread pudding was not my idea of a wonderful treat.

About five years ago I was at a very good local restaurant, and on the dessert menu was Banana Bread Pudding.  Now I thought to myself, this is something worth ordering.  Banana Bread combined with a custard all baked together, now we’re talking.  I loved it – it was crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and it was served with caramel drizzled on top – I basically licked the plate clean.

That’s all it took to get me started on bread pudding – just wait until next fall when I post my Pumpkin Bread Pudding…  I saw this recipe over a year ago in Bon Appetit, and it sat in my pantry waiting for me to make it all this time.  I just had to wait for the right occasion, and make sure I had a lot of people to serve.  After about a year, and it was still in the pile, I figured I just had to bite the bullet.  The next occasion that came up, that was it.  So, I brought it to my daughter’s book group – warning people that I was only going to bring an adult dessert.  Well – not only did the mom’s love it – but the girls loved it also.  It came out perfect – and tasted just like the most wonderful french toast with maple syrup on the bottom.  It was crispy on the top, soft and rich on the inside, just the way I like it.  Good thing I finally came to my senses.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups 1/2-inch cubes crustless egg bread (such as challah or brioche)
  • 7 large eggs
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 pinches of salt

Preparation

Spread brown sugar evenly in bottom of 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish (or other 9- to 10-cup dish). Sprinkle bread cubes evenly over. Combine eggs, cream, milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl; whisk to blend well. Pour custard through sieve over bread in dish. Let pudding stand 30 minutes, occasionally pressing on bread to submerge.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Place baking dish in roasting pan. Pour enough lukewarm water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of baking dish. Bake pudding until set, brown on top, and small knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool in water 20 minutes.

Spoon bread pudding into dessert bowls and serve warm.

test-kitchen tip

To keep the water in the roasting pan from boiling (which would affect the texture of the pudding), add several ice cubes to the water every 10 to 15 minutes to bring down the temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Crème Caramel Bread Pudding

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Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Cinnamon Caramel

One of the first “fancy” desserts that I fell in love with was a crème brûlée – that vanilla custard with the burnt sugar on top was music to my mouth.  The custard was so silky smooth, I just wanted to jump right in.  Many years later, I tried my first Panna Cotta.  The texture was very similar to the crème brûlée, but the flavor was completely different.  Instead of being on the sweet side, it was a little more acetic.  In contrast to the crème brûlée, the panna cotta was stark white – it didn’t have that yellow hue that the crème brûlée had because of the egg yolks.  I also starting noticing that whenever panna cotta was on the menu, it was served with a fruit compote – which is not usually my preference.  Nevertheless, from time to time I would order it for dessert, and I was never disappointed – until one time…

We were at an Italian restaurant that was noted for being kid friendly (normally our kids do not accompany us when we go out, but this time they did) – usually when a restaurant is kid friendly, you are not heading into a mecca of fine dining, but still, we try to choose places that are at least decent.  When we got the dessert menu, I saw the Panna Cotta, and I urged my older daughter to get it – I told her she would love it, it was like a cross between yogurt and pudding.  When it arrived at the table, it looked different – almost like jello.  She took a bite, and was not pleased.  I took a bite – and it was jello – white jello.  Whoever made it put in a little too much gelatin.  It was unlike anything I had ever had before – which was a good thing.

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and I was instantly drawn to it since it had a cinnamon caramel topping.  Also – reading through the recipe, it seemed too simple to be true.  This was my first attempt at Panna Cotta, and will definitely not be my last.  It was incredible – and the caramel sauce, OH MY.  This should be a staple for everyone when you need a quick caramel sauce – it came out perfect.  Print this out, and make it tonight – you will thank me, I promise.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (scant) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon (generous) ground cinnamon

Preparation

Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons water into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes.

Combine 3/4 cup cream and 1/3 cup sugar in heavy small saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and mixture just begins to simmer. Remove from heat. Add gelatin; stir until gelatin dissolves. Cool until warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in buttermilk and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Divide among six 1/2-cup ramekins. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Combine brown sugar and remaining 1/4 cup cream in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and caramel sauce is smooth. Remove from heat; stir in cinnamon and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Take the panna cottas out of the refrigerator and run a thin knife around the edge.  Take a plate and put it on top of the panna cotta, then turn it over.  If it does not come out, fill a shallow dish with warm water, and let the panna cotta dish soak in it for a minute.  That should help.

Spoon slightly warm caramel sauce over each panna cotta and serve.

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, click here:  Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Cinnamon

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