Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving in Absentia

Once again I'm on the road for Thanksgiving, but thanks to having been blogging pretty much since the beginning of time I still have lots of tips, recipes and ideas for your holiday.

Looking for an ice breaker, try my trivia game.
Need cranberry sauce recipes or maybe want to try a pumpkin hummus, I've got you covered.
Pumpkin pie recipes, pumpkin cheesecake ice cream, yep, got those.
Looking for ways to make Thanksgiving more meaningful?  I've got the links for that as well.

For all this and more, click here and see all my Thanksgiving posts past.  I look forward to sharing Thanksgiving recipes with you next year.

Here's wishing you a happy, meaningful and delicious Thanksgiving.

P.S.  Need ideas for those leftovers?  Check out my j weekly post this Friday on some creative ways to re-purpose them

Thursday, November 06, 2014

How Green Was My Cream Cheese -- Lactose Free and Organic (Plus a Green Valley Wasabi Dip Recipe)

Editor's Note: Samples of the below mentioned product were provided by the manufacturer.  No other compensation was provided.

Green Valley Wasabi Dip
Green Valley  Organics is introducing it's lactose free cream cheese this week and I was given six tubs of the stuff to try out in advance.

I personally don't have an issue with lactose intolerance but I do know several folks for who this is a problem, so I thought I would see what the Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Cream Cheese was all about.  For more about the product and company, click here.

It's a soft cream cheese sold in 8-ounce tubs. The taste is somewhat milder than other cream cheeses I've tried but it is very acceptable.  A few of the samples I received had some liquid separation, but it was easily mixed back in to the cheese. The texture was creamy and rich, and I liked that it was made in a solar-powered creamy in nearby Sonoma County and that it is certified kosher and gluten-free.  I also liked that there are no stabilizers, gums, fillers or other additives (hence perhaps some of the separation I experienced).  This is a cream cheese that almost everyone can enjoy.

Where GVO shined was in cooking.  At room temperature, it mixed completely smooth very quickly and then worked well in a variety of recipes baked and frozen.  For recipes using cream cheese (which were tested with the GVO product), see my post featuring Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream and Apple Caramel Cheese Flan.

In honor of the cream cheese's introduction to the U.S. market, I've adapted a recipe I recently learned from our cousin Debby from Brazil.  She says she and her friends in Sao Paulo heat cream cheese and mix in some wasabi paste and serve warm, room temperature or chilled.  I tried it and liked it.  Use a green-tinted wasabi paste, which gives a very light green color (add a drop of food color for a little more color if desired). I used the kind from a tube. The condiment varies in heat (especially if you are mixing it from a powder yourself) so you may want to add in increments until you get the desired level of heat.  Remember if you plan to serve the dip chilled you'll need to add more since cold dampens the heat.

I used the Green Valley product below, but you can use any soft tub (not whipped or brick) cream cheese, lactose free or not.

Green Valley Wasabi Dip
Serves 4-8

1-8 oz. tub soft cream cheese
3/4 to 1 Tbs. wasabi paste, or more or less to taste

Heat cream cheese in small pan over low heat, stirring until smooth and cheese is warmed throughout.  Remove from heat, stir in wasabi paste until smooth.  Serve warm, room temperature or chilled with chips or dipping vegetables.

Two Fall Dessert Recipes -- Apple Caramel Cheese Flan and Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Ice Cream
Was it the brightly colored fall leaves that inspired me?  The crisp juiciness of the season's first apples?  The promise of pumpkin pie?  I'm not sure what lead me to create these two new fall-flavored desserts, Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream and Apple Caramel Cheese Flan, but there was one unifying theme -- cream cheese.

More precisely, a local dairy gifted me with six tubs of the stuff (but no other compensation).  I'm not mentioning brands here, but I will say I was motivated to develop some recipes, the result of which are posted below.  Use lactose-free cream cheese and the non-dairy margarine if you have lactose issues.  The recipes are tested and work with those products.  If lactose toleration is not an issue for you, use regular soft (not whipped or brick style cream cheese) and pile on the whipped cream.  Most commercial caramel sauces do contain some dairy, so you may also need to seek out a non-dairy caramel sauce for the flan or make your own based just on sugar and water

Try one of both of these as an ending to your fall (and even Thanksgiving) dinner.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
Makes about 1 Quart

This frozen dessert has the flavor of pumpkin pie with the added tang of cream cheese. Not too sweet, it is rich and satisfying.

No pumpkin pie spice in the house?  May your own.  Combine four parts ground cinnamon, two parts ground ginger, one part ground nutmeg and one part ground allspice.  Add a dash of ground clove if you'd like.

2-8 oz. tubs soft cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1-15 oz, can of plain pureed pumpkin
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Pour cream cheese in a large bowl.  Stir until smooth.  Mix in vanilla, sugar, pumpkin and spice.  Stir until very smooth and well combined.  Cover and chill.  Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions.  Eat immediately or store in airtight container in freezer.  Take out of freezer about 20 minutes before serving.  Scoop into serving dishes. If desired top with caramel syrup, whipped cream and chopped pecans or walnuts.

Apple Caramel Cheese Flan
Slice of flan with extra caramel sauce
Serves 8

This flan variation combines sweet, buttery, crisp and tangy for a refreshing dessert.  If you use the sugar and water homemade caramel option (see above), you won't need extra to drizzle at the end. Double the apple and butter if desired to use extra as a topping.

About 6 Tbs. caramel sauce, plus extra for drizzling
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored (peeling optional) and diced
1-8 oz. tub soft cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
8 ox. apple juice
4 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat bottom of 9-10" cake pan with about 6 Tbs. of caramel sauce (heating sauce slightly if it is not easy to spread). 

Melt butter in large skillet, saute apple pieces until softened.  Scatter apple pieces on top of caramel sauce in cake pan. (Apple pieces will distribute through flan as it cooks.)

In a large bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth.  Stir in vanilla, sugar and juice, mixing until smooth and well combined.  Stir in eggs, again mixing until smooth.  Pour over apples in prepared pan.

Plan cake pan inside a large, rimmed baking pan.  Boil water and pour hot water inside the larger pan until it comes up about halfway to the outside of cake pan with the flan (do not pour water into cake pan).  You are making a ban marie to help the flan bake evenly and without cracks.

Bake about 45-60 minutes until the flan is somewhat set (it will still be somewhat jiggly) and lightly browned.  Carefully remove cake pan from the hot water, cover and chill for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, run a thin knife around the outside of the flan to loosened it from the pan.  Dip bottom of pan briefly in a basin or bowl of hot water.  Quickly invert cake pan over serving platter.  If flan does not release from pan. Turn over and dip pan back in hot water and try again. (Usually flan releases just fine the first time.)  Or slice and serve from pan.  Drizzle with extra caramel sauce as desired.