Ultimate Brownie Cheesecake

We are dessert lovers! I mean I am really not kidding you when I tell you I work out so I can eat dessert. I will work out for an hour so I can eat a piece of cheesecake without feeling *too* guilty. I have learned that life is not meant to be free of dessert so we should indulge on occasion. But I also know that life is about balance, so I can’t eat cheesecake every day and not suffer the consequences if I am not working out. I like a sweet after dinner, but on most days it is a biscotti. However during the holidays I make a Cheesecake. And not just any old cheesecake. I usually make my Ultimate Turtle Cheesecake.  

However this year I wanted to stretch a little further and make something different. I happened upon a recipe from one of my favorite cooking websites, Smitten Kitchen, and made a few tweaks and there it was!! She called it Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake because the brownie bites are nestled lovingly inside the cheesecake and it looks like a mosaic pattern , but I wanted to give it my own spin, so let me introduce you to

 

 

Ultimate Brownie Cheesecake

 Adapted from Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake by Deb Perleman of Smitten Kitchen

Step One: The Brownie

Adapted from Baker’s One Bowl Brownies

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

¾ cup butter (1 ½ stick)

1 ¾ cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×13 baking pan with foil, with ends extending over the sides of the pan. Grease the foil.

Microwave chocolate and butter in a large microwavable bowl on high for 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixed with butter. Stir in sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and salt, mix well. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out with fudgy crumbs. It is important not to overbake the brownies as they will be going back in the oven in the cheesecake batter. Cool brownies on wire rack in pan.

Once brownies are cool cut them into ¾ to 1 inch cubes to put into the cheesecake batter. You will have more brownie than what is needed for the cheesecake batter. It is up to you what to do with the leftover brownies. (wink wink) Although next time I will crumble some of them up and put them on top of the ganache of the cheesecake. I mean is anything really too extra at this point with this cheesecake?? I think not.

Step Two: Chocolate crust

 1 ½ cups finely ground chocolate teddy grahams (or chocolate graham crackers)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Stir the ingredients together and then press into the bottom and up the side about an inch of a buttered 9-inch springform pan.

Step Three: The Cheesecake

 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons lemon juice

¾ cup sour cream

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups brownie cubes (from above recipe)

Beat cream cheese on low until creamy (if you want a nice thick New York style cheesecake, be careful not to mix on high because that will incorporate too much air into mixture). Once cheese is creamy, add eggs in one at a time and incorporate into cream cheese. Add vanilla, sugar, lemon juice, sour cream, beating on low speed until each ingredient is mixed in, scraping down bowl between additions.

Fold brownie cubes in very gently and pour mixture into prepared pan. Put springform pan in a shallow baking pan, (this will catch any spillover) in the middle of the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly jiggly when the pan is shaken.

Step Four: Chocolate Ganache

Adapted from Purdy’s original recipe

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped; or ½ cup semi-sweet or bittersweet morsels

2 ounces butter

¼ cup heavy cream (I used coconut milk)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon (or more to create desired consistency)

Grind the chocolate into powder in a food processor. Scald the butter and milk in a saucepan. With the machine running, pour the hot milk/butter into the food processor with the chocolate. Blend until chocolate is smooth. Add the vanilla and sugar until smooth. If needed add more powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Spread over cheesecake while chocolate is still warm. Chill until ready to serve.

This cheesecake was absolutely amazing! It was delicious and creamy and decadent and everything you would want or desire in a cheesecake or a special dessert!

 

I hope you love this decadence as much as we did! It will take me a month of working out to work it off, but man oh man it was worth EVERY drop of sweat!

Ultimate Turtle Cheesecake Recipe

A few years ago I was looking for a Turtle cheesecake recipe for my love.  She had asked me to make a cheesecake for Christmas Dinner, and I know that caramel and chocolate are two of her favorite things! So I tweaked a recipe and came up with this Ultimate Turtle Cheesecake!

The kids are not huge cheesecake fans, and Karol doesn’t really like to share this cheesecake, so they have ice cream or chocolate pie instead.

I promise you this cheesecake is amazing!  I have tweaked the recipe a bit over the years, but it is my “go to” Turtle Cheesecake recipe.  I want to share it with you all!  If you love chocolate, caramel and cheesecake this is the one for you too.  Try it, you will love it!!

TURTLE CHEESECAKE
Ingredients:

¾ cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs  (crushed)  **I used chocolate teddy grahams, because I couldn’t find chocolate graham crackers.

½ cup melted butter (or margarine)

3 (8 oz) packages of softened cream cheese

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
 (I use the fat free kind)

½ cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels

2 tablespoons chocolate syrup

2 tablespoons caramel sundae syrup

½ cup pecans (chopped)

¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
** I add 1/2 cup sour cream to give the cheesecake a more “New York” style.

** I also take some caramel candies and melt them with a little bit of heavy cream and then pour on top of the crust to form a caramel layer between the crust and the cheesecake.

Step 1: Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees and grease a 9 inch spring form pan. Combine Chocolate graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl. Press mixture onto the bottom and 1 inch up the side of the spring form pan.
Step 2: In a bowl beat cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until its smooth. Add sugar, lime juice, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat together until fully mixed.
Step 3: Microwave chocolate morsels in 10 second intervals until morsels are just melted. Stir 2 cups of cheesecake batter into the melted morsels.  Then spoon separate batters alternatively into the crust. Start with the batter without the morsels, then with the morsels, and end with the batter without the morsels.
Step 4: Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cheesecake is set (when the center moves just slightly). When cheesecake is done, cool completely. After the cheesecake is cooled top with chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, pecans, and chocolate morsels. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

Crust in pan:

melt caramels mixed with about 3 tbsp of heavy cream:

Pour melted caramel on top of crust:

Mix Cream cheese, milk, and sugar until smooth:

Mix in eggs, vanilla, lime juice and sour cream (Sour cream makes it more dense like a new york style cheesecake.  It is optional)

Mix together until smooth:

Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler.  (I prefer this to the microwave…less chance of chocolate burning)

Mix melted chocolate in with two cups of batter.  You will end up with some chocolate and some white batter:

Not sure why streaks in picture. It is chocolate batter in the pan. Then white batter goes on top, then chocolate and topped off with white.

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.  The cheesecake will be slightly jiggly in the center.  That is okay.  Once it is out of the oven, decorate with caramel and chocolate syrup. I also put some mini chocolate chips on top.  And pecans if desired.

Then slice and enjoy!!

YUM!

Greek Chicken and homemade Tzatiki sauce

We have tomatoes! LOTS of beautiful, juicy lovely cherry tomatoes. So many tomatoes I don’t even know what to do with them anymore. Oh and cucumbers. We have those too! Lots of them.

So with lots of cucumbers and tomatoes, the first thing that came to mind was a cucumber and tomato salad, but Karol said she wasn’t a fan. So I had to think about what she does like. And what she (and the rest of the family) like are chicken skewers. With a greek marinade, and pita bread and feta cheese. We like Tzatiki sauce also, but the boys can live without that. We eat this Greek Chicken and homemade Tzatiki sauce many times in the summer because it is so easy and so Delicious!!

So off to the grocery store I went to get some greek yogurt and pita bread. I always make my own Tzatiki because it just tastes better. One thing I will say is that it tastes even better the day after you make it then the day you make it so if you can have the presence of mind to prepare (as I didn’t) and make your Tzatiki the day before it will be much yummier. In this case they got what they got. Just kidding, we loved it and we like it even more the next day!

First, you make a simple marinade for the chicken and let it sit in there for as long as you have — sometimes I have 20 minutes and sometimes (although not as often as I would like) for as long as 24 hours. Mostly I just forget to plan ahead. Either way the chicken will taste delicious. Then you make a huge amount of Tzatiki. More than you think you will need, but trust me, it goes fast.  You chop lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion (for others than my family I do this, we are not big red onion eaters). Then you grill the chicken. You can either grill your chicken whole or use skewers. For some reason my family just loves food on a skewer. We also always grill the pita bread. Grilling gives it a nice texture and takes away some of the “flour” taste. A super easy way to feed a family or even a large gathering, and you will hardly break a sweat. Added plus of making a light, summer meal that everyone will love and they can take what they want or don’t want, (onions and sauce for my kids, and pita bread for the people not eating gluten) and you can just simply enjoy a lovely glass of whatever your favorite summer beverage is (I like a white sangria personally, or wine spritzer) and enjoy the smell of grilled food and the sound of happy people on a summer evening!

Grated cucumber

 

Yogurt

I put my yogurt in paper towels (because I don;t have cheesecloth) and then put in over a large cup (a tall plastic container works also). I wrap a rubber band around it so the liquid will drip through the cloth and your sauce will be thicker. You definitely DON’T have to do this, especially if you use Greek yogurt which has less moisture. I just like my sauce thick.

 

Tzatiki….yum!

 

We freeze the chicken with the seasonings on them. Makes dinner prep faster and easier.
Chicken done.

 

Ready to assemble. Also, side note I used Naan bread.

 

Ready to devour! Delicious!
Chicken
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-4 (depending on size of group) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Tzatziki dressing
  • 1 1/2 cups (554 grams) plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 hothouse, English or seedless cucumber, unpeeled (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Assembly
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced (we skip this unless there is company that likes it)
  • About 1 pound small-medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 hothouse, English or seedless cucumber, chopped
  • small can of black olives, sliced
  • 4 large pitas (intending 1/2 per person) or more as needed
  • crumbled feta cheese

Prepare the chicken: Combine all ingredients in a large freezer bag. Rub all around, coating chicken as evenly as possible. Let marinate for 20 minutes or up to 24 hours, whatever time you have. (we put marinade on chicken and then freeze with marinade, easy peasy when thawed)

Make tzatziki: Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Slice your cucumber in half, and remove the seeds. Coarsely grate your cucumber and after sitting for a few minutes, wring it out as well as you can. All of that liquid makes the sauce too wet. Add wrung-out cucumber to yogurt bowl along with lemon juice, sour cream, dill, garlic, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Chill until needed.

Prepare salad components: Arrange, onion, tomatoes, black olives and cucumbers on a platter, or in bowls.

Cook chicken: Heat your grill to high heat or a grill pan to medium-high. Remove chicken from marinade and grill on first side until dark lines appear, about 5 minutes, then flip and grill for 3 minutes more on second side. Cooking times will vastly range by the thickness and coldness of your chicken, as well as variations between grills. Transfer cooked chicken to a cutting board, let rest for a couple minutes while you quickly heat/toast your pitas on the grill. (or cube chicken and put on skewers)

Cut chicken into chunks. Cut pitas into wedges. Add to platter with vegetables and let everyone dig in.

Recipe Notes

This is a great recipe to make ahead of time. Add the marinade to the chicken, package for the freezer and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then grill or bake in the oven.

We make this a LOT in the summer. Definitely  a family favorite and super easy!!