Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake Bars…

If you want a truly delicious and decadent sweet treat, this one’s for you. I haven’t made anything like a cheesecake for a long time, and I didn’t want to do the full blown thing, so I decided to make cheesecake bars and and am I ever glad I did. Plain and simple, this recipe is divine! There are few recipes I have on this blog that I think outshine the rest. For example, my recipe for Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza, or my Best Ever Meatballs, or my Iced Cinnamon Chip Cookies… (actually there are many more, but I don’t want to bore you with a long list). But this one goes straight to the top!

Not only is this insanely delicious, it is gorgeous to look at and simple to make. You can’t beat that. And so, without further adieu, here are a few lessons learned and the recipe.

IMG_5396Lesson Learned 1: Tips about the raspberry swirl: It couldn’t be easier to make the swirl. Just pop the raspberries and sugar in a food processor and voila, you have it. Be aware that you don’t need a lot for the top of the cheesecake. Less is more in creating a beautiful design. You can easily get away with only a 1/3 cup raspberries to create the design on top. I used 1/2 cup so I would have some extra to drizzle on the plate when I served the cheesecake.

IMG_5418Since you only need a small amount, don’t use a blender for this. If you have a mini blender or food processor, use that. Also you will want to strain the raspberry sauce.  There are tons of seeds that you will not want to have in your cheese cake. Use a spatula and press the juice through the strainer. It is a little bit of work but you get an incredibly smooth glistening sauce that you can use not only for the top of the bars but for serving as well.

Once you’ve made the cheesecake filling, all you have to do is dot the top with a little of the raspberry sauce as shown in the picture below. Take a sharp knife and gently swirl the sauce into the cheesecake mixture. It’s that simple. You can easily create a gorgeous design with no effort at all.

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Lesson Learned 2 – Line your pan with parchment paper: I am not a big fan of using cooking spray on my good pans. I find it leaves a residue that bakes on the pan and after a while can ruin the finish. I prefer greasing and flouring pans or using parchment paper. This time I chose parchment paper. I lined the bottom and left some hanging over the side. Doing that gave me handles to pull out the cheesecake once it set. (I had to use a knife on the sides that did not have parchment paper to loosen them slightly before I lifted the cheesecake out of the pan).

IMG_5380Lesson Learned 3 – Graham Cracker Crusts: They couldn’t be easier to make. The consistency of the crust should look like wet sand as seen in the picture. Spread it evenly on the bottom of the pan and press it down flat. Also, after it is baked, make sure it’s cooled completely before pouring the cheesecake mixture on top of it.

Lesson Learned 4 – The cream cheese must be at room temperature and beat it longer than you think: You will get a lumpy cheesecake if the cream cheese is not room temperature when you beat it. And beat it for a long time. I beat the cream cheese for at least five minutes. And after that as I added each individual ingredient I beat it some more. That’s the only way you’ll get a smooth consistency to the batter.

That’s it! The hardest part of making this is the clean up. I used both my small and large food processors as well as my stand mixer so that wound up being most of the work. But was the work ever worth it. I still can’t get over how good this one is. My husband says this recipe is insanely good. Enjoy!

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars…

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: Easy
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IMG_5449INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

9 graham cracker sheets (1 – 1 1/4 cups)

4 Tbs. butter, melted

2 Tbs. sugar

The Filling:

2 eight ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 small lemons, juiced and zested

Raspberry Swirl

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

1 Tbs. sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line bottom of 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper, using enough paper so it can hang over the sides. (You can also use baking spray). Set aside.

Put graham crackers into a food processor. Process until you have fine crumbs. Add the sugar to the cracker crumbs. Melt the butter and add it to the mixture, stirring until the mixture resembles coarse wet sand. Take the crumbs and spread them out evenly across the bottom of the pan. Press firmly. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Place the raspberries and sugar into a small processor and beat until smooth. Put mixture into a strainer and strain until the raspberry seeds are removed from the juice. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth, at least 5 minutes. Add in the sugar and beat until combined. Add in one egg at a time and beat until completely incorporated. Add the lemon juice and zest and continue to beat until completely incorporated.

Pour the cheesecake filling on top of the cooled graham cracker crust. Using a spatula, make sure it is spread evenly over the crust. (You might even want to take the pan and, raising it up slightly, drop it back down on a hard surface to ensure the batter is evenly distributed). Spoon the raspberry mixture in dots over the top of the cheesecake mixture. Use a sharp knife to make swirls all over the top of the batter.

Bake for 35 minutes. Let the cake cool completely and refrigerate for at least three hours or over night. Cut into squares and serve.

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The Desired Texture Of The Cheesecake…

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Oatmeal Cream Cheese Butterscotch Bars…

I have a goal every holiday season of making at least one new cookie recipe. This year I was adventurous and I made two new varieties. One new cookie was peppermint twist kisses and the other, which quickly has become my husband’s favorite, was oatmeal cream cheese butterscotch bars. The past few years I’ve ventured away from some of the more traditional holiday faire and tried more unique types of cookies. Last year, my iced cinnamon chip cookies became a big hit replacing the more traditional chocolate chip cookie in look and flavor. This year my peppermint twist kisses not only gave the look of the holiday but also provided the flavor combination of peppermint and chocolate. Yum!

This recipe is a great melding of oatmeal, cream cheese and butterscotch. It’s not all that difficult to make and it tastes divine. I found I had to buy two bags of butterscotch chips as my husband attacked the first bag when it was in the refrigerator leaving me barely enough to make the bars. Beware those elves that steal the chips before the cookies are made!

For about a year I have been chronicling recipes I’ve made and giving them my rating and lessons learned. As I look back on these recipes there’s hardly a one that has a rating below an A minus. So I’ve decided not to do recipe ratings anymore as I promise to bring you only A and A plus recipes. I will definitely continue my lessons learned, as I know how appreciative I am to learn tips and tricks ahead of time that will make me more successful in the kitchen, especially when trying a recipe for the first time.

Line the pan with foil and let it overlap the sides to create handles...

Line the pan with foil and let it overlap the sides to create handles…

Lesson Learned 1 – Preparation is key to this recipe: Prepping the pan appropriately is key to the success of this recipe. You need to line a 9 x 13 inch pan with a couple of pieces of foil. Make sure the foil overlaps on the long sides of the pan to serve as handles when you lift out the bars. Grease the foil lightly, and wait until the pan is completely cool before lifting the bars out and cutting them (more on that below). If you do that, you will have absolutely no problem removing them from the pan.

Lesson Learned 2 – You don’t need a stand mixer to make these cookies: For those of you that don’t have a stand mixer, never fear – you don’t need one to make this recipe. The bottom of the bars and the crumb topping are one in the same mixture and are made in a food processor. IMG_2403The filling can be made with a hand mixer. Personally I preferred making the crumb mixture in the food processor. I think the pulsing action of the food processor blends the butter with the sugars more completely creating a perfect crumble. The texture should resemble what you see in the picture to the right. I would not recommend trying to make the crumble by hand. I also have to admit it felt weird not using my stand mixer to make the bars, but it was a delightful departure from the usual way of making cookies.

Lesson Learned 3 – Let the pan cool and chill the bars before attempting to cut them: This is critical. The ingredients need to completely set before cutting and the only way to do that is to let them cool. Once the pan was slightly cool I covered it loosely with foil and put it out in the garage. The winter temperatures here in Colorado make it easy to use the garage as a cooling station. I don’t recommend this for warmer climates. If you live in one, let the pan cool on a cooling rack in the kitchen and then put it in the refrigerator once the pan is cool to the touch. Leave the pan in the refrigerator until the bars have completely cooled.

Although this recipe may look difficult it is really quite easy, and definitely worth it. This recipe has become my husband’s new holiday favorite. I think you will enjoy it too!

Oatmeal Cream Cheese Butterscotch Bars…

  • Servings: 36
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 sticks room temperature butter cut into small pieces

2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 bag butterscotch chips (11 ounces)

I package cream cheese, softened (8 ounces)

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)

1 lemon zested and juiced

1 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil making sure the foil overlaps the side of the pan to create handles for easy removal. Grease the foil lightly.

Combine flour, oats, and brown sugar in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter, cinnamon and butterscotch chips. Pulse until the mixture clumps when pressed between your fingers. Press half of the mixture in an even layer into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake until slightly golden and set approximately 12 – 15 minutes.

With a hand mixer beat until smooth the cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon juice and zest and vanilla. Spread the mixture evenly over the cooled oatmeal mixture. Sprinkle the remaining oatmeal mixture on the top. Bake until top is golden, approximately 40 minutes.

Cool and chill before cutting. Use the foil handles to remove the bars from the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into squares.

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Salted Caramel Butter Bars…

Holiday Cookie Platter

Holiday Cookie Platter

Today I am going to a neighbor’s house for a holiday party and am bringing a platter of my holiday cookies. This year I made eight different kinds and along the way have posted updates of my baking endeavors on Facebook and Pinterest. The cookie recipe that I am going to share with you today stole the show in terms of favorable comments and requests for the recipe.

As part of my holiday baking tradition I always try at least one new recipe. This year I tried two, salted caramel butter bars and iced cinnamon chip cookies. Both turned out fabulously and will probably become future holiday staples. At some point I will have to pick and choose since eight different types are about all I can handle in one holiday season.

The salted caramel butter bars were a big hit when I posted a picture of the finished product on FB. What I like about them, besides the fabulous flavor, is that they are relatively easy to make. My husband gave them two thumbs up which is a real vote of confidence for a new holiday cookie and although the iced cinnamon chip cookies topped my list of the new recipes (that recipe to be posted in the near future) these certainly will wind up a keeper. So here is my rating and lessons learned making this recipe.

Rating: A – hard to top a cookie that not only looks bone chilling delicious but is easy to make and tastes as good as it looks!

Lesson Learned 1: The recipe calls for one bag of caramel candies or 50 individual pieces. The bag I bought was 11 ounces and had 40 pieces in it. I bought two bags. In my estimation you need the 50 pieces to have enough caramel filling to spread so buy either a 14 ounce bag or two 11 ounce bags.

Lesson Learned 2: The most labor intensive part of this recipe is unwrapping the individually wrapped pieces of caramel. It took me about 7 minutes just to do that. If you can buy a slab of caramel that would definitely be easier, just make sure you have a sufficient amount to spread over a 9×13 pan.

Lesson Learned 3: The ingredients to make the crust call for a whole pound of butter. Although I used that, I am wondering if that couldn’t be cut down just a little bit. When I cut the bars the bottoms appeared to be a little greasy. Next time I make these I may experiment with using a little less butter. But beware, you have to be careful when experimenting with cookie recipes as the amounts need to be more exact than they do when you are just cooking something.

Lesson Learned 4: This recipe makes a lot of dough. The instructions call for using 1/3 of the dough for the base. I used more than that and still had a lot of dough to dot the top with a lot left over. Next time I make this I may reduce the portions by twenty-five percent. That still should provide plenty of dough for the crust and the top.

Lesson Learned 5: I had to make these a little earlier in the month and put refrigerate them to keep them fresh. If you do that, pull them out of the refrigerator and let them get to room temperature before serving. They are very hard when taken immediately from the fridge and you don’t want anyone cracking a tooth on them.

Lesson Learned 6: I made this recipe without the sea salt but next time I am going to try it with the salt. Either way the bars were still delicious.

I cannot take credit for this recipe. I found it posted on Facebook and discovered it comes from the website http://www.cleverhousewife.com. I will still post the recipe here so you don’t have to link to the site but I want to give credit where credit is due. Enjoy this recipe. I am sure it will become a holiday staple for you as well!

Salted Caramel Butter Bars

Salted Caramel Butter Bars

Salted Caramel Butter Bars

  • Servings: 2 dozen
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

1 lb. salted butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 TBS. vanilla

4 cups flour

Filling:

1 bag caramel candies (you will need a 14 ounce bag) or about 50 pieces

1/4 cup milk or cream

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 TBS. sea salt (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 325 and grease a 9×13 pan (or use cooking spray).

In a large bowl combine the butter and sugars and beat until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Add the flour and mix until a smooth dough forms.

Press one third of the dough evenly into the pan. Wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bake the crust approximately 20 minutes or until firm and the edges are lightly browned. Transfer the dish to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking make the caramel filling. Place the unwrapped caramels and cream in a microwave safe bowl and cook on high for 1 minutes. Stir and continue to cook for 30 second intervals until the mixture is combined and smooth. Once the caramel is melted add the vanilla and stir until combined. Pour and smooth the caramel filling over the somewhat cooled crust. If you are going to use sea salt, now is the time to add it on top of the caramel. Take the remaining chilled dough and crumble it over the entire top.

Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled topping is firm and lightly golden, about 25 – 30 minutes.  Let cool before cutting into squares.

Raspberry Walnut Bars…

I made three holiday cookies recipes yesterday and posted pictures of the final results on Facebook. Without a doubt two of the three were big hits with my friends. (The third, chocolate chip cookies, are such a traditional favorite that they did not get much attention). The biggest hit as determined by the number of recipe requests I received were the Raspberry Walnut Bars followed by the Triple Chocolate Brownie Cookies. The latter will be the subject of an ensuing blog, but today we’re focusing on the media favorite.

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Raspberry Walnut Bars

There’s a lot of reasons for this recipe being so popular. First, and probably foremost, it looks so darn delicious. Second, and not known by those requesting the recipe, it is sinfully easy to make. And third, the recipe turns out perfect first time, every time. I can’t take credit for the recipe, it was one I found a few years ago, I simply can’t remember where I found it. So up front I apologize to whomever I am not giving credit to for the actual recipe. And, as with all the recipes I make these days, I will give it may rating and share my lessons learned making it.

Recipe Rating: A++++++++++ (get the message)? I just can’t say enough about this recipe. I remember the first time I saw a picture of it. It looked so good but I thought it would be hard to make. Was I ever wrong. This recipe couldn’t be simpler and it has turned out perfectly every time I’ve made it, including the first time. And it’s not all that often that a recipe turns out picture perfect the first time you make it. So you definitely have to try this one. You will love it.

Lesson Learned 1: Perhaps the hardest thing about this recipe is preparing the pan. The recipe calls for lining a 8 inch square pan with parchment paper allowing some overhang on both sides. Trying to keep parchment paper from popping back out of the pan when you allow for overhang can be tricky. I found the easiest way to make the parchment paper behave is to take two heavy cans of anything and weigh down the paper in the pan while making the dough. That way when it’s time to spread the dough out on the bottom the paper has been somewhat trained and doesn’t jump around as much.

Lesson Learned 2: It is important to follow the directions of using the parchment paper, having the overhang and spraying the parchment paper with cooking spray. I can’t image what you would wind up with if you didn’t. But if you take the time to do it, it comes out of the pan easily and absolutely nothing sticks to the parchment paper.

Lesson Learned 3: This recipe gives you plenty of dough so don’t worry about using it to fill up the bottom. It says to use two thirds of the dough for the crust and one third to dot the top. I found that gave me way too much dough for the top. You need a lot less dough to dot the top then you think, so don’t be afraid to use more than two thirds of the dough for the crust.

Lesson Learned 4: Avoid the temptation to use too much raspberry jam. A nice even thin coat is all you need. Stick to the amount called for in the recipe.

Lesson Learned 5: Depending on how many bars you want to give out, you may have to make this recipe a couple of times. You can make the bars big or small, but the most you’ll probably get out of this recipe is 24 small bars.

I guarantee these bars will be a hit with your family and friends. You simply must try them!

Raspberry Walnut Bars

  • Servings: 2 dozen
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

Non stick baking spray

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup raspberry jam

1 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang on both sides. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. (I do this right before I am ready to put the dough into the pan).

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. (This does take a little time, most people do not do this thoroughly enough so make sure to take the time to make the mixture fluffy). Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture until combined. Do not over mix. Transfer two thirds of the dough into the prepared pan and press down evenly. Spread the jam on top. Crumble the remaining dough and dot it over the jam. Sprinkle the top with the walnuts. Bake until golden 35-45 minutes. Cool completely in the pan. (this is very important).

Holding both sides of the parchment paper, lift out of the pan, transfer to a cutting board and cut into rectangles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Raspberry Walnut Bars