Tag Archives: cream cheese

Asparagus and Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Greek Yogurt

Work’s been good this past month so I was feeling a bit ‘spendy’ when I went grocery shopping.

My grocery list had ONE item on it … MILK … but I ended up spending $60 on various extras including a box of ice cream drumsticks. (SO bad … but it was a PROMO sale.)

I decided to skip replenishing my stock of potatoes so meals in the week ahead are going to feature pasta and rice side dishes. I was going to start with a chicken Alfredo. Unfortunately, it turned out that that carton of whipping cream that I was sure I had in the back of the fridge … wasn’t there.

Substitution time.

A fast search on the net and I ran across a recipe for an Alfredo sauce using Greek yogurt. I also added a couple of ounces of cream cheese and, of course, Parmesan cheese, to the sauce.

Greek yogurt … I had strained it previously because I wanted a nice thick yogurt for something else, so I had to add more pasta water than expected to thin it down enough for the recipe below.

The result was delicious, and I didn’t miss the whipping cream at all.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus and Chicken – serves 4

300 gm fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti pasta
1/2 pound (~230 gm) chicken breast, cubed**
1/2 pound (~230 gm) asparagus stalks, cut into 1 1/2-2 inch pieces

** I had a couple of chicken cutlets that I had prepped and frozen, so I used those.

Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain in a colander over a bowl. Reserve about a cup of the pasta water for use in the Alfredo sauce below. You’ll start with 1/4 cup but if your sauce tightens up you may need to add more.

NOTE: An easy way to cook your asparagus is to add it to the pot of pasta for the last 3 minutes of cooking time. It will be tender but still have a bit of crunch and retain its green colour.

Greek Yogurt Alfredo Sauce

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp coarsely ground black pepper (use white pepper if you want a whiter sauce)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine (or pasta water, vegetable broth or chicken broth; the broth will make the sauce less white)
2 oz (~60 gm) Philadelphia cream cheese, cubed
1 oz (~30 gm, 1/2 cup) shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Additional grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Melt the butter and olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced chicken and asparagus and sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top. Saute until the chicken is lightly golden and no longer pink inside and the asparagus is tender, but still a bit crunchy. Remove the chicken and asparagus to a small bowl and reserve.

Lower the heat under the saute pan to medium and add the minced garlic. Stir and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the wine (or pasta water) and scrape the bottom of the pan to bring up the fond (bits of browned chicken and garlic). Whisk in the cubed cream cheese until it melts into a ‘sauce’. You may want to add a bit more pasta water at this point to help. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 2 minutes to cool enough that the yogurt won’t curdle.

Whisk in the yogurt and the grated Parmesan cheese and then return the pan to the stove over medium-low heat. Add the reserved chicken and asparagus and stir constantly until the Parmesan is mostly melted into the sauce, 3-4 minutes. Do not let the sauce come to a simmer or boil as this could cause it to curdle.

Add the cooked pasta to the saute pan and stir so that the sauce will coat the pasta. Add additional pasta water if needed to thin the sauce.

Serve and garnish with additional grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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Strawberry “Cheesecake” Crepes with Strawberry Sauce

Thanks go to Eva of “Kitchen Inspirations” for posting her strawberry sauce recipe (link posted below) and inspiring this ‘amazing’ crepe dessert. The finished dessert itself was based on a recipe from the Allrecipe website. I happily ‘borrow’ ideas and components for dishes from wherever I find them. I used my mom’s recipe for the sweetened crepes.

I scaled down and adjusted the recipe to serve two people generously and posted the revised recipe below so that the construction of the recipe was in one place.

Strawberry Cheesecake Crepes – enough filling for 4 9 inch crepes, serves 2

4 9 inch sweetened crepes

Cream cheese filling

2 oz cream cheese, softened
6 tbsp (1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp) sifted icing sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup whipping cream, whipped (add 2 tbsp of icing sugar after the whipped cream has formed soft peaks)
4-5 large strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped for garnish

Strawberry sauce (location of the recipe)

In a medium sized bowl, whip together the cream cheese, 1/4 cup icing sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Gently fold in the sweetened whipped cream.

Divide the filling among the crepes, reserving about 1 tbsp for garnishing the finished crepes.  Add about a tablespoon of strawberry sauce on top of the cream cheese filling and some of the diced fresh strawberries.

Roll up the crepes and top with a small dollop of the cream cheese filling, a few more chunks of diced fresh strawberries and some more of the strawberry sauce.

Dig in.

Creamed Spinach … and Pan Fried Pork Chops

Vegetable side dishes are few and far between on this LJ/blog and I can’t claim that this one is particularly healthy. But it tastes SO good. And it’s easy to make with a package of frozen chopped spinach and some inexpensive and easy to source ingredients.

The basic recipe is a copycat Boston Market recipe, which is itself an adaptation of a bechamel (2 tbsp all purpose flour,  2 tbsp butter and 1 cup milk) with a few additions.

Creamed Spinach – serves 3

2 tbsp butter or margarine
2 tbsp minced onion (1 very small onion)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup milk, 2 % or whole
2-4 oz Philadelphia cream cheese, roughly cubed**
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
water, if needed

** The lesser amount (2 oz) of cream cheese is enough, but I had some extra, and didn’t want it to go to waste.

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, saute the onion until it starts to pick up some colour. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or two.

Add the spinach and stir to combine with the onion and garlic.

Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir through to coat the spinach.

Pour the milk over the contents of the saute pan, add the cubed cream cheese and the Parmesan cheese and continue stirring until the cream cheese has melted. Taste and add salt, if needed, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve. If it gets too thick, add a bit of water to thin it down.

Serve with fried chicken or pork chops.

Experiment: Mini Cheesecakes

Recently I had a cookie fail … a type of spritz cookies (ETA: they’re actually called meat grinder cookies) from a Hungarian recipe. I used an old cookie press that I inherited from my mom, but the dough was so stiff that I almost broke my thumbs trying to push it through the decorative nozzles. I finally gave up after forcing out about a dozen of each kind of cookie and threw away the rest of the dough. (I had added red gel food colour and cocoa powder to equal portions of the dough.) Even worse, the finished cookies were dry and tasteless.

In an effort to turn lemons into lemonade, I decided to grind up the cookies and use the ground crumbs as a base for individual cheesecakes.

I had about 1/2 cup of chocolate cookie crumbs to which I added 3 tbsp sugar and 3 tbsp of melted butter. After distributing the crumbs (3 tbsp each) among four 4 inch diameter disposable aluminum pot pie tins, I tamped the crumbs down with the base of a glass and baked the crusts for 8 minutes at 350 deg F, filled the cooled crusts with the cheesecake mixture made from one 8 oz package of cream cheese (I used the cheesecake recipe on the Philadelphia cream cheese box) and baked the cheesecakes until set (~20 min at 350 deg F). The chocolate half of the cheesecake based had 1 tbsp of sifted cocoa powder stirred into the mixture and I found the resulting mini cheesecakes somewhat dry compared to the vanilla cheesecakes. I decided to be economical and only fill the tins half way up, assuming that the cheesecake batter would souffle up during baking but it remained decidedly flat.

On the positive side, the cheesecakes were more palatable than the cookies. Though they won’t replace the mini cheesecakes I make with ‘Nilla wafers bases.

Black-Bottom Cupcakes

These cupcakes are a tasty cross between a chocolate cake and chocolate chip cheesecake in one convenient and portable form.

I first mentioned these cupcakes EIGHT YEARS ago. I’m pretty sure I’ve made them once or twice in the interim but I wouldn’t bet on it. I have a new stove (which runs cool) and had to bake them longer but the original time should work for most people.

Black Bottom (aka Chocolate Chip Cheesecake) Cupcakes – makes 12 large cupcakes

NOTE: The paper liners end up VERY full once they’ve baked so you can probably make 14-16

Cupcake

1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Cream Cheese Filling

1 x 8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg, room temperature
1 x 6 oz package chocolate chips **(reduce to 4 ounces if you wish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cupcakes

In a large bowl combine cocoa, flour, oil, baking soda, salt, vanilla, water, and sugar until smooth. You can use a whisk or stir gently with a wooden spoon.

Cream Cheese Filling

In a smaller bowl, cream together the cream cheese, sugar, salt until you get a smooth mixture. Stir in the egg and make sure it’s well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Line a 12 cup cupcake pan with large size paper liners. Pour equal amounts of chocolate mixture into each cup. This will be a bit more than half the liner if you use the large size liners.

Top with equal amounts of cream cheese mixture (a heaping tablespoon).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the cakey part (not the cream cheese part) of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cherry Variation

Instead of adding mini-chocolate chips to the cheesecake layer, chop up maraschino cherries and stir them in.

To the cupcake batter, add 1 tsp liquid from jar of maraschino cherries (or vanilla extract if you’re using fresh cherries)

Cream Cheese Filling

1 x 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/2 oz chopped dark chocolate
14-16 maraschino cherries (or fresh if preferred)

Optional garnish

14-16 additional whole cherries for topping the cupcakes

Prepare the filling for the cupcakes by thoroughly mixing the cream cheese, salt, egg, and sugar. When these ingredients are well combined, fold in the chocolate and cherries.

Drop about two tablespoons of the filling into the center of each of the already batter filled cups. It will sink slightly into the batter. Once each of the cups has both batter and filling, add the decorative whole cherries and then bake them for 20-25 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool slightly before serving or storing in an airtight container.

Raisin and Ricotta Cheese Blintzes

My livejournal was started years before I thought of writing a blog. There are lots of fun recipes there that I’d like to share here, but rather than rewriting them from scratch, I’m going to copy and paste a few of my favourites with minimal changes, interspersed with new material. My tamales post(s) was the first time I did so. I’ll also share recipes that I posted before I had a camera.

A basic crepe recipe can be modified in many ways to produce savoury and sweet dishes like the meat-filled Hungarian dish, Hortobágyi palacsinta, or Italian crepe manicotti, like this spinach and mushroom version.

This breakfast item, however, makes a great dessert.

My mom worked in the kitchen of a Jewish deli for over 20 yrs. In that time, she learned to make a LOT of Jewish dishes. She even cooked some of them for us. 🙂 But she never made these cheese blintzes, even though she obviously knew how to make amazing crepes.

You can use cottage cheese and cream cheese/mascarpone in the filling, but I went with an Italian ricotta cheese, as well as raisins.

Because blintzes are pan-fried in unsalted butter (or vegetable oil) before being served, the crepes are often only cooked on one side. You put the filling on the cooked side, wrap it up and then, when you fry the outside, it doesn’t get too brown. It also makes the crepes easier to roll, as they’re more flexible if only cooked on one side.

Raisin and Ricotta Cheese Blintzes – makes 10 blintzes

10 9-inch sweetened crepes, cooked on only one side
475 gm (~1 pound) ricotta cheese, well drained
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 egg
1 cup raisins (omit if you don’t like them)
1-2 tbsp unsalted butter

Garnish: powdered sugar, fruit sauce or sour cream

NOTE: I only added 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp sugar to the basic crepe recipe.

In a small bowl, add raisins and pour 1 cup boiling water over them. Let sit for 15 minutes, then drain well (pat dry in a double thickness paper towel, if you wish) and let cool to room temperature.

Combine ricotta cheese, brown sugar, lemon zest and egg. Stir in raisins and refrigerate until ready to fill the crepes.

Divide the cottage cheese filling evenly among the crepes. You’ll probably use 3-4 tbsp for each one.

To assemble, spoon the filling in a rectangular block, in the central third of your crepe. Fold the bottom third up and over the filling. Fold in both the sides like you’re making an envelope and then fold the top third of the crepe down over the filling.

Assembly – Step 1

Assembly – Step 2

Assembly – Step 3

Assembly – Step 4

In a 9-10 inch non-stick pan, melt 1 tbsp of unsalted butter over medium-low heat.

Blintzes ready to fry – See how pale they are? They won’t be that way for long. 🙂

Put 2-3 filled blintzes, or as many as will fit comfortably, in the pan. You want to leave at least an inch between the blintzes so that you can flip them with a spatula. The crepes themselves are fragile, and the filling will be soft, so they may open and the filling will spill during flipping, if you’re too forceful.

Fry on each side, about 1 1/2-2 minutes, or until golden brown and the filling is cooked through. (If you’re concerned that the filling may not be set, since it’s still quite soft while hot out of the pan, place the finished blintzes on a microwave safe plate and cook for 1 minute on high. If feeding a crowd, you can arrange all of the pan fried blintzes on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 deg F oven, for 8-10 minutes.)

Fried blintzes

You may serve these blintzes warm out of the frying pan, or at room temperature, with icing sugar sifted over the top.

I like a spoonful or two of fruit topping over my blintzes, like this mixed berry sauce, but there are people who prefer sour cream

Polish Pierogies – Potatoes, Cream Cheese and Caramelized Onions

There were a few dishes that my mother rarely, or never, made when I was growing up. Pierogies were one of them. Oh, she’d make the occasional Romanian “Gomboti cu prune” which my SIL identified as “Szilvas Gomboc” (Hungarian Plum Dumplings) for us, but I never remember eating the savoury version.

I always thought they’d be a huge amount of work so, over the years, I’ve bought the bags of frozen pierogies from the grocery store and boiled and pan fried them at home with diced onions, and served them with a heaping spoonful of sour cream.

I know that FB can be a waste of time/distraction, but one takes food inspiration wherever it’s found, and the recent flood of pierogi posts inspired ME to make a batch. (By the way, prime rib posts have been popping up in my FB cooking groups, like mushrooms after a rain. I don’t want to say that MY Christmas menu post has been the inspiration, but you can draw your own conclusion.)

I used a potato, caramelized onion and cream cheese filling … cause I had caramelized onions and the cream cheese in the fridge. I don’t know when/if I’ll make them again, though I DO want to make gomboti, the next time I find some plums at the grocery store. I think my mom used sour plums but it’s been a long time since I last had them so I’ll use whatever’s available.

The recipe is a somewhat rewritten version of one I found on Youtube. They were called “Polish Pierogies” so that’s what I’m titling this post.

Polish Pierogi – makes 24 – 32

Filling:

1 1/2 pounds potatoes (2 large russets)
2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion**
1 small clove of garlic, crushed or 1/8 tsp garlic powder**
3 ounces (1/3 cup) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

Dough:

2 1/2 cups (~11 oz) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup water, you can use a bit less

** I used about 1/4 cup of caramelized onions and the garlic powder, because I was too lazy to fry just the garlic.

Filling (make ahead):

Place peeled, quartered potatoes in a pot of cold salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender.

Meantime, brown onions & garlic in oil on med-low for 10 min.

Drain and mash the potatoes, adding onion & garlic, cream cheese, salt & pepper. (Or you can rice the potatoes into a large bowl and then add the rest of the ingredients and fork everything together.)

Set aside to cool. Shape into 1-tablespoon size mounds if desired for convenient portioning and to make the filling process go more quickly.

NOTE: I ‘quartered’ the amount of filling I had in the bowl by eye, and then scored the top of the filling with a knife. I took out the filling, a quarter at a time and rolled each quarter into a log, which I divided into 6 equal portions. Then I rolled THESE into balls. After using up half the filling, I thought the ‘balls’ were too big so on the second half, I divided each quarter of filling into 8ths. This should give you 32 generously filled pierogies rather than 24 overstuffed ones.

Dough:

Combine flour & salt in a bowl. Make a well and add sour cream, egg and water, combining with a fork or metal spoon.

Place on a well-floured board and knead for 50 turns (using a scraper if needed) until smooth. Cover with a towel or inverted bowl & let rest at least 10 minutes. You can wrap the dough in food wrap and refrigerate until the next day, if you need to, though it’s a fast dough to put together the day you make your pierogies so it’s not necessary.

Shaping the pierogies:

Divide the dough into thirds. Keeping extra dough covered, roll each section 1/8” thick, adding flour as needed. Cut 3-inch circles, saving leftover scraps of dough. Combine the leftover dough scraps from rolling the three portions for your last portion of filling.

Fill each circle with about one tablespoon of potatoes or your filling ‘balls’, fold into a half circle, and pinch edges tightly. Place apart on a towel or baking sheet sprinkled with flour.

Place the pierogies in boiling salted water, stirring at first (with the handle of a wooden spoon so as not to pierce the pierogies) to keep them separated, and cook about 3 minutes until they rise to the top, then another 30 seconds to a minute. Remove to an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle some more oil over the top of the pierogies so they don’t dry out.

You may also freeze your unboiled pierogies on the floured sheet and then place them in freezer bags.

Saute your boiled pierogies in a pan with butter or olive oil until they’re golden and serve with caramelized onions and sour cream for a delicious treat.

You can also bake them on an oiled baking sheet in a 350 deg. F oven until lightly golden.

A beautiful accompaniment to a simple boiled ham dinner.

Rugelach and Thumbprint Cookies

Both these cookies are made with the same cream cheese dough and are addictive whichever version you choose to try.

I haven’t made rugelach in ages. The recipe for the cream cheese pastry is very easy but the actual assembly is kind of fiddly. Don’t be intimidated as you can use the basic dough to make thumbprint cookies instead of the rugelach.

The picture (thumbprint cookies on the top row and various rugelach in the other 2 rows) below shows all of the cookies I made from 1/3 of the dough plus the trimming scraps. The yield varies but after making and eating the first batch, you’ll want to whip up another one immediately. 🙂

Making Rugelach

Rugelach with preserves or jam spread on pastry as a glue, ground nuts and sugar, and chocolate chips

Cutting the triangles

Rolling up rugelach

Rugelach Pastry

1 cup (8 oz.) butter, softened slightly
8 oz. cream cheese, softened slightly
2 tbsp (increase to 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups sifted all purpose flour (plus extra for rolling)

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp cold water for egg wash

Walnut filling recipe follows

NOTE: This is a very soft dough and should be handled as little as possible while chilled, using lots of flour on the working surface and on top of the dough while rolling.

In a food processor, cream together the butter, cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla until they are well combined. Add the flour and pulse just until a dough forms. (If you’ve left the butter and cream cheese at room temperature for a couple of hours it will seem overly soft, more like a batter than a dough, but will firm up during refrigeration. If you are using butter and cream cheese straight out of the fridge, it will be more dough like.)

Divide the dough in half; flatten into disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days, or freeze up to 3 months (thaw before baking).

Preheat oven to 350° F, with racks set in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a small bowl, combine egg with 1 teaspoon water to make an egg wash.

Working with one disk at a time, cut in half, place dough on lightly floured parchment paper and roll out into a 9-10 inch circle about 1/4″ thick, dusting with more flour if needed. If it cracks at the edges, bring it back together or patch if there are large tears. Using a large dinner plate as a guide, cut around the dough to make a perfect circle; trim off scraps. You can refrigerate this circle before filling if it seems to have gotten too soft.

(Combine all the scraps and form into balls for thumbprint cookies at the end of baking)

Brush the circle with egg wash, if your filling is a dry one, so as to have something for it to stick to. Divide the filling ingredients evenly among the circles made, and sprinkle on the walnut and brown sugar mixture. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut each circle into 12 equal triangles. Starting from the wide end, roll up each triangle of dough. Place the crescents on the lined baking sheets, seam side down. Brush the top of the rolls again with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, 20-22 minutes. Transfer the rugelach to a wire rack to cool completely.

Walnut Filling

1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

Mix the filling ingredients together in a small bowl.

Thumbprint Cookies

1 recipe of Rugelach pastry

1 cup of finely chopped or ground walnuts or almonds
Preserves of choice – apricot, plum

Take a piece of rugelach dough and roll into a small ball (1″ in diameter). Roll in chopped nuts. Place balls about 2″ apart onto a baking sheet which has been lined with parchment paper. Make a small depression in the ball with your thumb and fill with a scant 1/2 tsp jam. Bake for 12-15 min at 350 degrees F.