Posts Tagged With: Cream cheese

294/365: National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day*

Today’s food holiday would make even a Jack-o-lantern smile: October 21 is National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day!

It’s also International Day of the Nacho, but there’s a National Nacho Day coming up in a little over two weeks, so we’ll be honoring cheese-covered tortilla chips then. And some calendars list today as National Caramel Apple Day, but the majority say that one’s celebrated on Halloween, which seems pretty fitting to me. Today, it’s all about sinfully creamy and delicious pumpkin cheesecake.

Pumpkin cheesecake is a seasonal treat that takes the best of two desserts – pumpkin pie and cheesecake – and combines them into one heavenly treat. I’ve written about the history of cheesecake in previous posts, so follow the preceding link if you need to get caught up to speed. (The fact that stands out most to me: cheesecake was served to athletes during the first Olympics ceremony in ancient Greece. Interesting concept of “health food,” huh?). It’s unknown when the first pumpkin cheesecake was created, or who invented it, but I remember trying it for the first time about six years ago. Nowadays, it’s an autumn favorite at places like The Olive Garden.

Neither of us had ever made a cheesecake before, and neither of us wanted to make a whole cheesecake, you know? That’s a lot of high-calorie leftovers. Luckily, we were able to find individual slices at New Seasons Market. I have to give a shout-out to this local grocery chain that specializes in fresh, locally grown, organic, and specialty foods. They’ve been a lifesaver for a number of challenges (bagels and lox, cherry cheesecake, etc.) and often have hard-to-find food items we can’t get anywhere else. Once again, they came through for us! We shared a slice of pumpkin gingersnap cheesecake that was like the most decadent pumpkin pie ever…and then some!

National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

113/365: National Cherry Cheesecake Day*

Today we celebrate a dessert that has been around, in one form or another, for thousands of years. I’d call that a pretty gouda run! April 23 is National Cherry Cheesecake Day.

It’s also National Picnic Day, and while the weather is ideal for such an outing, the fact that it’s a workday made the idea of trying to plan a picnic lunch in the city tricky at best. Besides, a picnic doesn’t honor any particular food, so we chose to celebrate the cheesecake instead.

Cheesecake originated in ancient Greece, and – because it was considered a good source of energy – was served to athletes in the very first Olympic games, in 776 B.C. It won rave reviews there (but the East German judges gave it a 4.6). Early recipes were pretty crude: pound some cheese, mix it in a pan with honey and spring wheat flour, heat, cool, and dig in. When Rome conquered Greece they brought the recipe back home and modified it by adding crushed cheese and eggs, and cooking it under a hot brick. As the Roman empire expanded, cheesecake recipes spread throughout Europe, with regional variations popping up in each country. Centuries later, European immigrants introduced cheesecake to America. Our unique spin on the popular dessert was the addition of cream cheese, discovered by accident when a New York dairy farmer was attempting to recreate Neufchatel, a soft French cheese. Meanwhile, Italians make theirs with ricotta, Greeks use mizithra or feta, Germans use cottage cheese, and the Japanese incorporate egg whites and cornstarch into theirs, and sell it in vending machines with a whole bunch of other odd things. In America, it can be served plain (i.e. decadent New York-style cheesecake, made with heavy cream) or with toppings such as fruit, nuts, or chocolate.

The essential ingredients in cherry cheesecake.

The essential ingredients in cherry cheesecake.

My family has an excellent recipe for cherry cheesecake that has been passed down through the generations. It’s creamy and delicious, and my mom usually makes it once a year – on Christmas day. Alas, we are more than eight months away from seeing the fat guy in the red suit trying to squeeze his ass down the chimney, so we had to go the easy route instead. I had seen individual slices of cheesecake for sale in New Season’s Market, so Tara and I stopped by there for lunch today. Sadly, they didn’t have cherry cheesecake. But they did have lemon cheesecake, and they’re a grocery store, so they also sold jars of maraschino cherries. Thus, we were able to cobble together a pretty decent cherry cheesecake which we shared bites of. It was a lot easier than making a cheesecake from scratch or having to buy a whole one, and was – as cheesecakes usually are – delicious!

Cherry Cheesecake

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

107/365: National Cheeseball Day

Much like fruitcake and Rodney Dangerfield, the food we are honoring today gets no respect. April 17 is National Cheeseball Day!

This kitschy party favorite has gotten a bad rap for years. New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser once wrote, “Cheese balls tend to be associated with shag rugs and tinsel, symbols of the middle-class middlebrow.” But wait. I happen to be a fan of all things ’70s – including shag rugs and tinsel! In fact, I received a box of tinsel as a Christmas gift last year, after complaining that I could no longer find it in stores. (Thanks, future mother-in-law!). Which probably explains why I was looking forward to celebrating the cheeseball.

Nobody knows its exact origins, but Virginia Safford’s 1944 cookbook Food of my Friends contains the first known recipe for a cheeseball. Typically made with a blend of cream cheese and another softened cheese, cheeseballs are popular party dips that, over the years, have fallen out of favor with the American public. This article has some great information as to why, and the explanation is right there in the opening paragraph: cheeseballs are viewed as “an orange softball filled with garish industrial cheeses, smacking of an untraceable sweetness, and coated with stale, often soggy, nuts.” But they don’t have to be this way! Recipes for gourmet versions are abundant. Even Martha freakin’ Stewart has come up with ways to class up the lowly cheeseball. So get on the bandwagon, folks! Let’s bring cheeseballs back into vogue!

Tara and I bought one from WinCo. Kaukauna brand. It was…well, it was a cheeseball. Maybe there’s a reason these things receive so much derision. It made an “okay” appetizer for dinner, anyway.

Cheeseball

Categories: Appetizers, Dairy | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

41/365: National Cream Cheese Brownie Day

Whew! Thank goodness today’s food holiday celebrates a dessert. It’s been two whole days! (Even though we ate our molasses bars for breakfast). Today is National Cream Cheese Brownie Day.

Brownies are delicious. Cream cheese is great. Combining the two verges on genius, if you ask me!

I already discussed the history of brownies back on January 22nd, when we celebrated National Blonde Brownie Day. Chicago World’s Fair, Bertha Palmer, yadda yadda. No need to rehash the past. I guess that means I’ll have to focus on cream cheese instead! Early versions of cream cheese date back to the 16th century, but the American version was another of those happy accidents. In 1872, New York dairy farmer William Lawrence was attempting to make a batch of Neufchatel, a type of soft white cheese popular in France, but screwed up the recipe. His cheese was richer and contained cream, so he capitalized on his mistake and called it “cream cheese.” As if that were his intention all along. Typical entrepreneur! He ended up purchasing a Neufchâtel cheese factory and mass-producing cream cheese with his business partner, Samuel Durland. In 1880 a cheese distributor named Alvah Reynolds began selling Lawrence & Durland cheese, and he created a new brand name for it: Philadelphia Cream Cheese, based on that city’s reputation for making really good movies about down-on-their-luck boxers named Rocky cream cheese. Eventually Philadelphia merged with Kraft, and to this day those silver rectangular boxes are considered to be the gold standard of cream cheeses. Neufchâtel, by the way, is still manufactured, usually as a reduced-fat version of cream cheese, since it contains 33% less fat and a higher moisture content. Tara, in fact, is quite fond of Neufchâtel. The first time she bought it, I asked her where the “real” cream cheese was. I’ve since learned not to question her in matters of cheese. Cream cheese brownies consist of regular chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirled in to the mix.

Before I get to our brownies, I wanted to mention that once again we had a surprise visitor to the blog. Or a pair of visitors, actually: Alfredo and Ilse Di Lileo, the grandchildren of Alfredo Di Lileo, the inventor of Fettuccine Alfredo. I told his story here, and his grandkids happened upon the article and dropped by to say hi. They gave me a little information on what happened to their grandfather after his pasta dish achieved acclaim, and offered a slight correction, letting me know the current name of the restaurant in Rome is Il Vero Alfredo. We were honored and humbled that they would stop by and take the time to write us. This blog continues to surprise us in unintended ways!

So, the cream cheese brownies. What can I say? What else is there to say?? They were, of course, fantastic!

Cream Cheese Brownie

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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