Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pretzel Crust Sour Cream-Topped Cheesecake

I am always looking for a way to use up random items held in my pantry. Once long ago, I bought a big bag of mini pretzel twists from Wal-Mart to make chocolate covered peanut butter pretzel sandwiches. These were okay, as I tried to minimize the amount of sugar and butter in the recipe, and the pretzel twists don't squeeze around peanut butter filling as well as those square pretzels.

So I have these pretzels, and yesterday, I wanted to snack while studying, so I started dipping them in some whipped strawberry cream cheese that I had from Einstein's Bagels. This was really tasty because of the salt crystals crunching in your mouth, imparting savoriness, while melding with the sweet creaminess of the strawberry cream cheese. Pretzels and sweet cream cheese are a great combo!

Now, I am a lover of sweet and salty desserts. Sweet, sweet, sweet desserts are just to cloying to me. You really need a cup of tea, milk, or water to wash each bite down. Cheesecake is one of those decadent desserts that I have always just *kinda* liked if it wasn't too thick. I thought it'd be great to make a salty pretzel crust to cut through the heavy sweetness of the typical cheesecake filling, and adding a sour cream topping would add an extra tang and lightness that would make cheesecake more complex and palatable.

To achieve this concept, I combined three recipes I found on the internet. For the pretzel crust, I used the crust from Peanut Butter Pretzel Cheesecake Squares by Brandie from Home Cooking Memories. For the filling, I referenced Small Cheesecake by Lynn at Happier Than a Pig in Mud. Finally, for the sour cream topping, I used the part from Fruit-Topped Cheesecake with Snyders Pretzel Crust by Ellen Christian at Confessions of an Overworked Mom.

I used a 9 or 10 inch glass pie pan, which fit the pretzel filling very nicely, but when I poured the cheesecake filling in, it only filled it to halfway! I needed to double the sour cream topping from 1 cup to 2 cups in order to fill the crust the rest of the way. If you are using an 8 inch pie pan or an 8 by 8 inch square pan, I am sure the same filling and the 1 cup sour cream topping would fit. You would probably need only 2/3-3/4 of the pretzel crust though, unless you like a thick crust, to which I say  go ahead!

So, enjoy this pretzel bottom, sour cream top cheesecake and enjoy the start of fall!

Pretzel Crust Sour Cream-Topped Cheesecake

Pretzel Crust:
3 cups mini pretzel twists
1 stick butter (I used vegetable oil-based baking sticks)
 cup sugar

1 (8-oz) package of regular cream cheese
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs

Sour Cream Topping:
2 cups (16 oz) (lowfat) sour cream
4 Tbs white granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1) Crust: Preheat the oven to 325 deg Fahrenheit. process pretzels in a food processor until finely ground. Pour into a bowl and mix thoroughly with melted butter and sugar. Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan. Press the pretzel crumbs firmly into the pan and try to get the crust even along the bottom and sides. Bake in preheated oven for 10 min. Take out and let cool while you make the filling.
2) Filling: Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat in eggs one at a time until combined. Pour into slightly cool crust and bake at 325 deg F for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes while you make the topping.
3) Beat 2 cups of sour cream with 4 Tbs sugar and 2 tsp vanilla extract. Pour over cheesecake. Place back into the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Remove and let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour, then cool 6-12 hours (~overnight) in the refrigerator.
4) Top with chocolate shavings, sliced fruit, drizzle of fruit compote, or just keep it plain. Slice and serve!
Serves 10

Turkey Veggie Chili

Fall is setting in and I've been in quite the soup and stew phase. Since last week, I have made bo kho (Vietnamese beef stew), turkey veggie chili, and potato parsley soup! With the rain and colder weather setting in here in Texas (which, granted, is still rather warm), I need to battle the looming potential for colds and flus by eating lots of soup.

First, the turkey veggie chili.

This is a simple, quick, and tasty recipe that goes well on its own, with tortilla chips, or maybe even cornbread if you want that. I typically like eating chili with cornbread, but that is truthfully because I want a reason to make cornbread and eat a lot of my sweet cornbread. This time, though, I ate my chili with tortilla chips and I liked it a lot better than with cornbread. The salty crunch from the chips really gave an extra texture and salty slightly sweet corn flavor profile to the chili.

Now, I will describe what veggies I used, because that is what I had on hand, but feel free to use other good stew vegetables you have on hand. For example, zucchini/courgettes, carrots, onion, celery, broccoli stalks, green bell pepper, etc.

Turkey Veggie (Vegetable) Chili
1 lb (16 oz) lean ground turkey (15% fat)
1/2 diced onion
3 minced garlic cloves
2 chopped carrots
1 chopped zucchini
2-3 cups chicken broth
2 medium-large fresh tomatoes, diced
1 (15-oz) can of beans (I used Simple Truth organic tri-color), undrained
Chili powder
Paprika, dried oregano
Salt and black pepper
(Arby's sauce, *see Personal touch)
Green onion, cilantro, parsley, for garnish

1)  In a large pan or pot, saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat until light golden brown. Add in the minced garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add in the turkey and cook over medium-high, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon until the turkey is cooked. Remove the turkey from the pan into a bowl and set aside.
2) Add the carrots too the pan and add some water just enough to slightly steam the carrots and just enough so that the water will evaporate quickly (< 1/4 cup). Once the carrots have quickly steamed but are still firm and the water has evaporated, add some oil and saute the carrots till somewhat softer but with a little bit of firmness. Add in the chopped zucchini and saute briefly to undercook. The vegetables will cook further when simmering.
3) Return the turkey and all the juices from the bowl back into the pan. Mix together of medium heat, then pour in the chopped tomatoes and all their juices. Let cook over medium-high for a couple of minutes. Add in the chicken broth, mix. Add in the can of beans, mix.
4) Season with 2-3 Tbs chili powder, some dashes of paprika and dried oregano.  Season with some salt and black pepper. Adjust with more chili powder if desired.
*Personal touch: I wanted to give a little extra flavor to my chili, so I went through my fridge for random sauces or condiments I could add. I found a packet of Arby's sauce, which is like a ketchup or BBQ sauce but not. You can omit this or use ketchup or BBQ sauce instead
5) Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer, with a slightly open cap, for 20 minutes. Give a stir occasionally and add more broth or water if necessary.
6) To serve, ladle into bowls, add a dash of black pepper, and sprinkle freshly chopped green onion, cilantro, and/or parsley. Serve with restaurant-style tortilla chips.

Serves 4-6

This is a relatively healthy chili. It uses turkey but not the 90% lean because that would be too dry and too healthy. There is a good mix of vegetables and beans without overwhelming the meat portion. I hope you try this out, or use it as inspiration for your own chili! Thanks for reading!