Since my last post was about Christmas, I guess I’ll get back to reality and focus on the holiday actually at hand: the 4th of July! Happy Independence Day! As with most holidays, I imagine everyone has their own food associations for the 4th, probably usually to do with things you can smother in ketchup–burgers, hot dogs, cheesecake…
Wait–did someone say cheesecake?
I don’t actually smother my cheesecake in ketchup, but I do associate any kind of creamy, berry-topped dessert with the 4th of July. My aunt would always make one of those Jell-O and Cool Whip concoctions with a berry stars and stripes flag on the top. But a cheesecake topped with berries would be even better, yes? (I guess now would be the time to tell you that my love for cheesecake is so extreme that my husband proposed to me with one AND we had it as our wedding cake…if that tells you anything.)
Our neighborhood 4th of July potluck has been on my radar for a few weeks now, and I knew I wanted to bring dessert. When I saw this lovely recipe, it looked like the perfect choice, especially since I happened to have some 8 oz. jelly jars laying around from when I made strawberry jam. It definitely took some time to put these together, since there are several steps (and since I doubled the recipe), but they are certainly simpler to make than an actual cheesecake. Not only that, the Greek yogurt stands in for quite a bit of the usual cream cheese. Most cheesecake recipes I’ve seen call for four to five 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese, where this recipe took only two 8-oz. blocks for 15 parfaits.
How about you? What kinds of food do you associate with the 4th of July, and which are your favorites to make?
Red, White, and Blue Berry Cheesecake Parfaits
(From Annie’s Eats)
For the strawberry topping:
1½ cups chopped strawberries
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
For the blueberry topping:
1 cup fresh blueberries
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
1½ tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. water
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
For the graham cracker base:
¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1½ tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake layer:
8 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat is fine)
2 cups low-fat greek yogurt
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. heavy cream
To make the strawberry topping, combine the strawberries and sugar in a small bowl and toss with a fork to combine. Let stand at least 1 hour, stirring once or twice, until the berries have released their juices. Mash the berries a bit with the fork. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the blueberry topping, combine the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. In a small pinch bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Stir the berries occasionally when they begin to release their juices. Once the juices are bubbling, stir in the cornstarch mixture. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.
Set out 8 8-oz. mason jars (small glasses will also work). In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter. Stir with a fork until evenly combined. Scoop about 1½ tablespoons of the mixture into the bottom of each jar and tamp down gently with the bottom of a small glass.
To make the cheesecake mixture, combine the cream cheese and greek yogurt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add in the confectioners’ sugar and mix until well incorporated, 1-2 minutes. Blend in the vanilla and heavy cream on low speed, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes more. Divide the mixture between the serving jars. Spoon the blueberry topping over 6 of the servings. Spoon the strawberry topping over the remaining servings, partially draining of the excess juices before using. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
IIIIIII’m dreaming….of a whiiiiite…..Christmas….
Actually, no. I’m just dreaming of a day I can walk outside without feeling like my organs are going to melt right out of my body. This last week in Mesa, AZ has been outrageously hot. You’d think I would be used to it by now, having lived in the Phoenix Valley since I was two years old, but you know, when it’s 119 degrees outside, I don’t care who you are, it’s just too dang hot. I could swear I saw the Heat Miser from A Year Without a Santa Claus trying to sneak into an air conditioned movie theater the other day. Even with the A/C on in my house, my bag of chocolate chips was literally melting when I walked into the pantry to grab a heaping handful before dinner.
With all this organ-and chocolate-chip melting heat, I am trying to savor those moments throughout the day when I can actually get cold (in my car, usually, or at JC Penney’s where the middle-aged ladies work). I am also reminding myself that I truly would rather be excessively hot than excessively cold. Four years of college in Chicago have drilled that into my psyche pretty firmly. And yet, I can’t keep my thoughts from turning to fantasies of winter and Christmas. And if I’m going to fantasize, it might as well include food, right?
This showstopping dessert was one of the features at our Christmas party this past year. The party is an annual tradition eight years running, and as a foodie/obsessive planner, I view it as my time to shine. I spend weeks preparing the menu, and in addition to an array of Christmas cookies, I always try to include one other fabulous dessert in the lineup. The more jaw-droppingly decadent, the better. This delightful trifle fit the bill. Technically, I realize this may be considered cheating to blog about something that I actually made six months ago…but it really was that good. And if you substitute the eggnog for regular milk, this could easily transition to a summer dessert. A trifle is one dish that has the aesthetics and versatility to pull off any time of year. And if you decide to make it now, at least it won’t heat up your kitchen. 🙂
Raspberry Eggnog Trifle
(From Boston Uncommon)
2 4-oz packages vanilla instant pudding mix
3 1/2 c. eggnog (or milk)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 c. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 purchased angel food cake, cut into cubes
2 12-16-oz packages frozen raspberries (or 24-32 oz fresh)
24 whole graham crackers, crushed
Chill a mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. Prepare the pudding mixes using the package directions, substituting the eggnog for the milk, if using. Blend in the nutmeat; set aside.
Beat the cream with the powdered sugar in the chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Fold in the vanilla.
Layer 1/3 of the angel food cake, 1/3 of the pudding, 1 1/2 cups of the raspberries, 1/4 of the graham cracker crumbs, and 1/3 of the whipped cream in a trifle dish. Repeat the layers twice to form three layers. Garnish with the remaining raspberries and graham cracker crumbs. Chill before serving. Serves 24.