Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sunny Sunday Apricot Galette

Normally, I am not a morning person...not at all. I love sleep and I love my bed, but for some reason this past Sunday, I was wide awake by 5:30am. Rather than lay there tossing I got up, made some coffee, did some sunrise yoga (if you've never tried it, I recommend visiting the Yogamazing site....this guy is so fabulous).

So, there I was, wide awake, coffee'd and stretched at 6:30 in the morning. And since I had a house full of ingredients and nothing much to do, it seemed like a perfect time to bake -- especially since it was still early and relatively cool outside.

I know I just made a blueberry galette a few weeks ago, but beyond the crust, the flavor and texture of this apricot-peach one was very different. I didn't follow a recipe at all, just throwing together what I had in the house that sounded like a good combination. I used 6 farmers market apricots and 2 very small farmers market peaches, along with some fresh basil for a bit of bite. The flavors complimented nicely with the crust -- this time made with whole wheat flour and cornmeal for a nutty, earthy flavor with just a hint of sweetness.

I don't usually make breakfast pastries because JiT doesn't like sweets in the morning, but the fruity apricots and mellow pastry were perfect -- made even better topped with fluffy basil whipped cream and served with a hot cup of coffee. It made for a perfect Sunday morning -- followed directly by a Sunday afternoon cat nap.

Apricot & Peach Galette

Serves 4

1 c. whole wheat flour (or all-purpose white)
4 tbs. cornmeal
3 tbs. sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 c. cold butter
3-4 tbs. buttermilk

6 apricots, pitted and halved
2 small peaches, peeled, pitted and quartered
1/3 c. brown sugar
1-2 tbs. flour
3 basil leaves, rolled and sliced widthwise into thin strips

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine flour, cornmeal sugar and salt in a small bowl. Cut in cold butter using a pastry blender to give mixture a crumblike texture. Pour in buttermilk, a little at a time and mix with your hands until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for 30 min.

Meanwhile, combine fruit and brown sugar in a bowl. Add enough flour to absorb the juices. Stir in basil to combine and set bowl aside to let fruit juices mascerate.

Remove dough from plastic wrap and place on a floured sheet of parchment. Roll dough into a 16-inch disc and spoon the fruit mixture into the center, leaving a 2-inch edge of dough. Fold dough over to form a rough rim around the fruit and pinch edges and folds to seal. Brush the dough edges with buttermilk.

Tranfer parchment and tart to a baking sheet and bake in 350F oven for 45 minutes, or until crust is slightly golden and filling is bubbly. Cool slightly before slicing. Serve with basil-infused whipped cream and the Sunday paper.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Farm Fresh Fridays

I recently joined a CSA program -- no, its not a clandestine agency and I won't be doing any international spying. "CSA" stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and its a way to buy vegetables directly from a local farm grower. Members purchase a "share" by paying a lump sum at the start of the growing season. In return, members receive a box or bag of farm-fresh vegetables every week through the entire growing season (typically June through October in Chicago). Its a great way to support local farmers, incorporate more (and a wider variety) of veggies into your life and generally just enjoy the bounties of summer.

I joined a CSA from Harvest Mood Farms, an organic farm in Southern Wisconsin whose owners also have a home in the Lakeview neighborhood in Chicago. The farm owner, Jenny is incredibly friendly, always eager to share news about the latest vegetables coming up and offer recipes for veggies I've not seen before (this week I got Kolrabe -- stay tuned for a recipe!).

My share is about 1 grocery bag filled with veggies -- usually just enough of each for JiT and I to make a week's worth of dinners (some green beans, a few potatoes, an onion, a cabbage, etc). Its always an adventure because they give you whatever they just pulled out of the ground that week. That means everything is super-fresh but it also means you're not going to get tomatoes and strawberries every week -- a fun adventure but maybe not a good choice for picky eaters.

Since I pick my veggies up near my office every Friday, I'm going to start a new weekly post called Farm Fresh Fridays: you guessed it, each Friday I'll be posting about a dish made with local produce. If you're interested in CSAs, Harvest Moon still has shares, so email Jenny or swing by the farmer's market at Southport and Grace on Saturday morning to introduce yourself and check out the veggies!

Meanwhile, to kick off Farm Fresh Fridays, I'm sharing a yummy (and super easy) pasta I made this week: Sauteed Squash & Cheese Ravioli. I was inspired by a recipe I saw in this month's Real Simple (recipe not yet posted), but their version seemed a bit bland so I doctored things up by adding pine nuts and some lemom zest and fresh basil. And since I had both zuchinni (from Harvest Moon) and crookneck squash (from the Wicker Park farmers market) in the house, I used both for a more colorful dish.

Plus, this was literally a 1-pot, 25 minute meal. If you can chop, saute and use a fork, you can make this. Its kid-friendly (or at least JiT-friendly) and very yummy! Enjoy!

Sauteed Squash & Cheese Ravioli
Adapted from Real Simple, Aug. 2008
Serves 2

1 lb. package refridgerated cheese ravioli
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 small zuchinni
1 small crookneck (yellow) squash
1 Tbs. pine nuts
1 clove garlic, crushed
zest from half a lemon
1/4 cup shaved parmesean cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain ravioli and set aside.

Wipe out pot and put back on the stove over medium high heat. Add olive oil, zuchinni and squash and sautee until veggies are just-tender (5-7 minutes). Add the pine nuts, garlic and lemon zest and sautee a few minutes more. Add ravioli back into pot and toss to combine. Add most of the parmesean cheese, salt and pepper. Portion onto plates and garnish with additional cheese and a sprinkle of fresh basil.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Blue Heaven

I made this yummy tart about a week ago as I was trying to use up a gigantic container of farmer's market blueberries (that is not a complaint, mind you...). I brought the tart to work, where it promptly disappeared, and I've been meaning to post the recipe ever since, so shame on me.

Of course, now that I'm writing about it I'm actually making myself hungry and I don't have any blueberries at home now (but I DO have apricots and just found a similar tart recipe at Simply Recipes so stay tuned for that one!). And now I'm on a tangent.

Anyway, there is a bit of a story behind this intriguing little tart. I found the recipe in Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess but the first time I made it there was a MAJOR issue with the crust. I can't say for certain, but I suspect the book publisher messed something up when they were translating from her metric measurements. Either way, I ended up taking some major liberties on ingredients and measurements, so be warned!

All of that said, this really is a delicous tart and the cornmeal crust adds a really unique texture and taste. There's almost a hint of nuttiness and crunch to it, and its neither too sweet nor too blah like regular pastry can be. And its a perfect compliment for juicy, delicious blueberries and yummy creme fraiche.

As to creme fraiche, you can usually find it at the grocery store near other specialty cheeses. Otherwise, you can make it at home very easily by mixing equal parts whipping cream and sour cream and leaving the mixture to sit out for about 12 hours to thicken -- and NO this will not kill you and its okay to eat. If you don't believe me, just substitute some sour cream and be done with it.

Blueberry Cornmeal Galette
Adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess
Serves 2-4

1 c all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. sugar
3 Tbs. cornmeal
pinch of salt
4 Tbs. cold butter
2 Tbs. buttermilk (or regular milk, combined with 1/4 tsp. lemon juice)

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
3-4 Tbs. sugar
3 Tbs. creme fraiche (or sour cream)

For pastry, combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Add the buttermilk and combine until the mixture forms a loose dough. You may want to use your hands to bring it together into a ball; if the dough seems a bit wet sprinkle in some additional flour. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 min.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When dough is chilled, remove from the plastic wrap and place on a piece of wax paper or parchment dusted lightly with flour (or cornmeal). Roll the dough out into an even circle about 16 inches in diameter and transfer the parchment onto a baking sheet. (Note: if the parchment starts to jump around on the counter as you're rolling the dough, place something heavy -- like cast iron skillet -- on the edges to keep it in place).

Place the blueberries in the center of the dough, leaving a 4 inch border around the fruit. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of the sugar evenly over the berries and then dollop with creme fraiche. Fold the pastry crust border up over the blueberries and pinch the folds to form a rough rim around the top. For a more golden crust, brush the pastry edges lightly with milk or some egg whites mixed with water. Sprinkle additional sugar around the border.

Bake the tart for 30-40 minutes, or until the the crust is firm and golden and the fruit is bubbly with its own juices. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Very Engaging Party

This past Saturday, my very dear friends (and bridemaids) Sarah and Heather hosted an engagement party for JiT and I. The party was lovely and they even decorated using our wedding colors!
On their own, both Heather and Sarah are fabulous party hosts...for very different reasons.

Sarah, who is an excellent cook (though she claims not to be) can always be counted on for a a few of her tried and true party appetizers (including a yummy veggie pizza and delicous little taco roll ups). Round that out with the perfect condo for a party -- complete with fully-stocked bar, every type of drink and glass imaginable and a gorgeous rooftop deck with a view of the city and she and her husband Jeff are known to host a rockin bash.

Heather, on the other hand, is a true gourmet...known for going all-out with elaborate, complicated dishes (one of her crostini appetizers involved an entire roast pork loin). More than a few times, friends and family have suggested that she and I start our own catering business. Frankly, Heather is probably the better cook between the two of us just because she's riskier. If I'm hosting a major event, I usually keep the menu relatively simple with a handful of favorite dishes, a few make-ahead adventures and maybe one showstopper. Heather on the other hand goes all out -- every dish is a showstopper. A few might not turn out their best, but the majority are incredible. The girl works without a net and usually pulls it off. I'll see if I can convince her to do a guest blog for us to showcase a few of the incredible dishes she served over the weekend (mojito soaked fruit kabobs? bacon mac & cheese bites? crostini with honey, marscapone cheese and pistachios?!).

Finally, I wanted to call out the cake! Sarah is a true cake connoisseur...the first one to discover and sample most of the well-known bakeries and cupcake shops in the city. Sensational Bites is her current bakery of choice, having beat out Sweet Mandy Bs and other former favorites for the covetted spot. And the cake was GOOD...moist, rich and delicious. JT has been working his way through the leftovers (which somehow made their way home with us?) all week. If you're having a party and feel like leaving the cake-baking to the pros I very much recommend this shop!

Btw, sorry for the random photo...this is the only shot of JiT and I from the party -- we're referring to it as our "Dateline NBC" shot, since if one of us goes missing, this will surely be used as evidence. Drop the knife JiT...drop the knife.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tomato Basil Salad for a Small Town Girl

For today, the habitat has temporarily been relocated to Just A Small Town Girl, where I am guest-blogging for my friend Mandy. Swing by the site to slow down and think small town thoughts over a mental glass of lemonade...and get my recipe for Garden Tomatoe Caprese Salad. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

BONUS POST: Greatest Burger EVER

Normally, I wouldn't double up posts with two in one night, but a) this dinner was SO worthy of a bonus post and, b) my earlier post was a tad on the grumpy side

It all started with a craving for onion rings. I really, really wanted onion rings. And you can't really make onion rings for dinner without burgers, right?

So, while looking for a good onion ring recipe I decided to do a quick search for a burger recipe (in spite of JiTs wicked burger-seasoning skills).

I happened to be on the Food Network web site at the time and one of the first burgers to come up in the search was a recipe called "James Beard's Favorite Hamburger." If you have any inkling of who James Beard is you're seeing the appeal here.

The recipe was really simple but unexpected -- heavy cream in a burger? But I could see where we were heading...buttery, smooth deliciousness. I didn't follow the measurements exactly, instead going with the usual little of this/little of that method, but the basic idea was the same. I adapted as follows:

1/2 lb of ground sirloin
1/2 of a vidalia onion, grated with a cheese shredder
1 Tbs heavy cream
A few grinds of fresh ground salt and pepper

Mix the onion, cream and spices evenly into the meat and form into patties (I got three 1/2-pounders). Once the burgers were seasoned, JiT cooked them up on our cast-iron, stovetop grill pan over medium-high heat (no oil or butter needed)....4 minutes one side, 3 minutes on the other for medium-rare.

We threw them on toasted brioche/onion buns, added toppings and each took a bite: WOW!
The beef is incredibly rich in flavor, with the onion the perfect compliment and the cream....oh the cream. The burger literally melts in your mouth.

Normally I would fear talking this up too much, but I don't think thats possible. If I were considering opening a restaurant, I think I could probably build an entire concept on tonight's dinner. The onion rings were also fabulous (season-salted, floured, battered and breaded before frying) and the sweet corn we added will be worthy of its own post (easiest oven-roasted corn recipe EVER and topped with chili-lime sour cream).

I will note that the kitchen is a total disaster right now, the house is a bit smoky due to the cast-iron frying method and I managed to burn my hand while making the onion rings but this burger was worth the pain and suffering. And boy does it taste good with a beer.

Wine and Cheese: the no-cook dinner and great for weeknight guest

Even people who ENJOY cooking from-scratch, multi-course meals on a random Monday just because we can don't always want to do it. As I've said before, and will continue to remind you...even JiT and I spend plenty of nights ordering takeout or eating nachos at our favorite bar. And on some nights, we just want to crack open a bottle of wine, sit on the couch and chat about nothing and everything. On those nights....we eat wine and cheese for dinner.

We're very lucky in that we work/live close to a number of wine and cheese shops/gourmet groceries that carry lots and lots of hard-to-pronounce, impossibly fabulous cheeses, artisan breads, cured meats, delicious olives, etc. It can be easy to go a little nuts in these places, spending a fortune on wine, imported cheeses and other delicacies. But if you're mindful of portions and choose an inexpensive wine, its also possible to spend around $30 on a fabulous dinner for two.

Now, keep in mind that JiT and I are making the most of that sliver of time between getting engaged/married/living together and eventually having we are fortunate to have the time and money to enjoy a leisurely dinner of wine and fancy cheese on a Monday night. Forgive us for being indulgent.

Even if you don't have the luxury of doing this just for yourself...its a good thing to have in your hostessing arsenal on the off-chance of having guests over on a random weeknight. Whenever I host my book club, knitting club or other group of folks, I make a point to stop by the grocery or the cheese shop near my office for a few things to set out.

And really, PRESENTATION is everything. Even if your guests are 10 minutes behind you, thats all it takes to get all of the cheeses out of their wrappers and onto a platter...the olives into a real bowl instead of the little plastic deli tub, the fruits sliced and arranged etc. Your guests (or significant other) will instantly be under the impression you slaved for hours based on the fact that things look pretty.

A few other things to keep in mind (especially if fancy-named cheeses and wines scare you):
  • Get a few cheeses with different textures. I usually choose one soft (like brie), one medium (like cheddar) and one hard (like parmesean). If you go to fancy shop, don't be afraid to ask the shopkeeper for recommendations (or samples)!!!
  • A nice, crusty baguette of french bread is the perfect accompaniment to soft cheeses, though flatbreads or other crackers work well too.
  • For color and some sweet flavors to balance things grab some apples, pears or grapes
  • Meats like salamie, prosciutto or even summer sausage add substance to the meal
  • Even many grocery stores now offer an "olive bar" in their deli section -- olives, roasted red pepper and other yummies add color and variety to the platter
  • Don't worry too much about "pairing" your wines and cheeses...especially if you get a variety. Just pick your favorite red or white or whatever your in the mood for. By the second glass, it will all start to taste great together anyway.
  • And finally....I'll say it again...take everything out of the little plastic containers! I know I'm harping but its a pet peeve of mine. Everything looks better on a real plate and it really manages to elevate the experience from "here: I bought some hummus," to "would you care for some delicious hummus served from this lovely glass dish?" Its worth it people.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


So, naturally its time to talk about baby back ribs! I know its another terrible pun, but I honestly did plan to blog on baby back ribs.

Anyway, I really can't take full credit for this meal because its my mom's famous, amazing recipe and we made them while we were on vacation in Michigan. And they were awesome!

I know people tend to have really strong opinions about barbecue and probably ribs in particular (baby back or spare? pork or beef? smoke or grill? dry rub or sauce) so I understand some people are probably skeptical about trying a new recipe....but I guarantee that these are super good (not to mention very, very easy to make).

My guess is that all the protectiveness about barbecue recipes come from the fact that its such an American tradition and a really nostalgic food for most. I think everyone can relate to warm summer nights with barbecue smeared on their cheeks while Mom or Dad manned the grill. We're certainly just as opinionated -- we made these on July 4th and everyone at the table (all 9 of us) had been giddy with anticipation for days! And they were worth every messy, delicious, sweet, falling-off-the-bone bite!

The key to this recipe is cooking the ribs in the oven on very, very low heat for several hours. The kind the my mother buys (I think she usually gets them from Sam's Club) come wrapped in cellophane and she doesn't even take them out of the wrapping before she cooks them. If the kind you buy don't come that way, wrap them in a few layers of aluminium foil before throwing them in the oven.

Before serving, we unwrap them (carefully...they really are falling off the bone at that point) and toss them on the grill over medium-high flames for a few minutes on each side....just long enough to get some good char marks. Then a nice bath of sauce and onto the table.

About the sauce....true connoseurs make their own sauce, but as you can clearly spot from the picture...we don't. We tend to really like a mixture of Sweet Baby Rays regular and spicy sauces As it says on the label, "The sauce is boss," although if you have a special homemade recipe or even another favorite brand I'm not going to argue with you. Barbecue is a personal thing afterall!

Speaking of personal things...and before I get the recipe...I want to thank my friend Rachel for giving me an award last week (so much happening while I was out!). Thank you Rachel...I'm glad I've inspired your newfound cooking skills and I'm excited for more updates on your adventures in ovulation (with JiT's and my wedding less than 9 months away now, your posts continue to enlighten me about married life).

In keeping with the "rules" for this award, and in honor of paying it forward, I shall pass this award on to a few of my favorite bloggers:

First off: Mandy -- for your bravery and mad skills in the kitchen. The fact that you tackled homemade bread as your first project still facinates me. Way to go girl! For anyone not familiar with Many yet -- her blog is a great look at life in a small town. Just reading it makes my pulse slow down and has me craving a glass of lemonade!

Bayjb: Because you crack me up every single day.

Foodmomiac and Simplified Mom: Each of you gives me a glimpse at the unique day-to-day challenges and rewards of being a mom....a job thats obviously exponentially harder than most of the world gives you credit for!

Sweet Paul: Congratulations on your engagement and also because you are amazingly talented, your photos are gorgeous and all of your meals and projects are ridiculously creative!

There are some rules to this award so here they go:

If you already have the award just accept and that's all you have to do.

1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.
3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.
4. The award winner and one who has given the prize have to show the link "Arte y Pico" blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5. Show these rules. that we've got business out of the way, on to the ribs!!

Momma Bear's Baby Back Ribs
Serves 4 (if you're lucky)

2 slabs pork baby back ribs (again, we get ours from the meat counter at Sam's Club)
3 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. If your ribs came wrapped in cellophane (check at the meat counter of your store to make sure its oven-safe to 200 degrees), just leave them in the cellophane. Otherwise, wrap each slab tightly in a few layers of aluminium foil and place evenly on a large jelly roll pan. Put the ribs in the oven and cook for 2-3 hours.

Remove ribs from the oven, and when cool enough to touch remove the cellophane or foil. Heat your grill to a medium high-flame and place each slab of ribs over heat just long enough to get a nice char on each side (5-10 minutes per side at most). Turn them carefully or they may fall apart on you!! During the last few minutes of cooking, brush with barbecue sauce to coat.

Transfer to a clean platter and serve immediately with additional barbecue sauce and plenty of napkins.

P.S. In case you're wondering about "Momma Bear" that's JiTs nickname for my mother. Isn't he cute?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

All Thai-ed up this week

JiT and I have been on vacation this week, staying with friends at their summer home in Michigan. Its a beautiful place and a wonderful chance for JiT and I to do some golfing, swimming, hiking and EATING (just not necessarily blogging). But just because we're off enjoying a much-needed rest, that doesn't mean I've forgotten about all my friends still checking their computers.

Since I'm all tied up on my vacation...I'm posting on my favorite Thai recipes: Cold Peanut Noodle Salad and Spicy Shrimp Satays.

For anyone unfamiliar with Thai food (I was until I moved to Chicago), the idea of peanut butter and noodles may seem like a preschool experiment gone wrong. Its not. Its delicous. Its refreshing. Its great for lunch the next day (bring chop sticks to the office...everything is better with chopsticks!). For this recipe, I adapted from a version featured a few months ago by Smitten Kitchen (great blog!) with a few very minor changes:

- Peeled and seeded my cucumber and slice it into long, thin strips (thats just how I like it)
- Didn't include any tofu
- Substituted sugar instead of honey for the sweetener
- Added a healthy handful of fresh CILANTRO and a squeeze of lime juice -- highly recommend these additions.

Otherwise, follow the recipe as stated and enjoy!

As for the Spicy Shrimp Satays, this is something I just made up on the fly, with a combination of lime juice and spices. Be sure to reserve some of the sauce from your peanut noodles to use as a dipping sauce -- the spicy shrimp marries well with the creamy, sweet peanut sauce. Since I created the shrimp marinade from a little of this and a little of that, I didn't have much of a recipe, but I'll try to guesstimate the measurments as best I can:

Spicy Thai Chili-Lime Shrimp Satays
Serves 2-4

1 Tbs Thai red curry paste (available in the asian foods aisle at most supermarkets)
1 Tbs Sesame oil
1/2 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce
1/2 tsp cumin
Juice from 1/2 of a lime
Pinch of Salt
3/4 lb shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined (I bought medium large ones -- 13-15 count size)
5 or 6 Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Dipping sauce: Reserve some of the extra sauce from the peanut noodle recipe above

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a shallow bowl and add the shrimp. Toss to coat and place in the refridgerator to marinate. After 30 minutes, remove from refridgerator and thread shrimp on bamboo skewers; brush with additional marinade. Heat an indoor or outdoor grill to medium high heat, and grill the skewers a few minutes on each side (just to heat through and get good char marks).

To serve, top shrimp with another squeeze of fresh lime juice and use the peanut sauce recipe above as a dipping sauce.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Baby Blackberry Cheesecakes

One of my very good friends at work was recently appointed president of the Chicago Nutrition Society. To celebrate, we had a small party in her honor yesterday at the office....and what do you make for the president of a nutrition society? My answer is cheesecake.

Someone so focused on nutrition must surely enjoy the occassional decadent treat, right? Plus, I made them minature for portion control and added FRUIT on top...nevermind that it's a single blackberry. Okay, fine, no ones buying the health angle here so lets just go back to the fact that everyone deserves and occassional treat.

And boy are these a treat...and just the right size. Made in paper-lined muffin tins, these little beauties come together in a snap. Instead of graham crackers, I used shortbread cookies for the crust, mainly because that's what I had in the house. But they gave the cakes a delicous, butteryness that was just wonderful.

The cookies are easily crushed in a food processor, but since I don't have one, I just dumped the cookies into a ziploc bag, handed JiT a rolling pin and let him go to town on them.

I "cheated" for the blackberry filing: I spread of small dollop of Dickinson's Marion Blackberry Seedless Preserves (the best jam in the world) on top of the cookie crusts in each muffin cup, then topped with the cheesecake filling and baked. As soon as I pulled the finished cakes from the oven, I stuck a single blackberry onto the tops and let them cool. Then I poured a tall glass of milk and tried to restrain myself to just one.

The rest went to teh office and disappeared into a sea of women shouting things like "OMG...CHEESECAKE!" (Thanks for the compliments Jessica and Danielle)

One quick hostessing hint -- if you feel like being a dessert hero for the 4th of July -- I suggest using strawberry jam for the filling and a plump fresh blueberry on top. (If you want to take off the wrappers to serve, stick the cakes in the fridge to cool and the papers will peel right off -- very pretty). Enjoy!

Baby Blackberry Cheesecakes
Makes apx. 18 mini cheesecakes in muffin tins

1 package of Shortbread Cookies (I used half of a 5 oz. box of Nabisco Lorna Doones)
1 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp butter melted
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
2 eggs
1/3 C sour cream
1/2 C sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1/3 C blackberry jam (or other flavor of your choice)
Fresh blackberries (or other berries) to top each cake

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line muffin tins with paper baking cups.
Process the cookies in a food processor until ground or crush them in a zipper bag with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and sugar and combine until evenly mixed. Press the crumbs evenly into bottom of muffin tins. I use the flat bottom of a 1/4 cup measuring cup to firmly press the crumbs. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth, then add the eggs, sour cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla, and mix on medium-high speed until the filling is smooth and fluffy. When the crust is done, remove from the oven and spread a dollop of jam into the bottom of each muffin cup. Then pour in the cheesecake filling, filing each cup about 3/4 of the way full.

Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes, or until the cakes are firm (they will likey "crack" on top, but will smooth out once they've cooled thoroughly). As soon as you take the pans from the oven, press a fresh berry into the top of each cake. Let it cool to room temperature then chill before removing the papers. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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