No-Bake Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bars

No-Bake Cookies and Cream Bars
Why is it that during one of the hottest weekends of the summer, I decided to slow roast my surplus of heirloom tomatoes? Maybe I should have thought twice before leaving the oven on for 2 hours in the middle of the afternoon! Our poor air-conditioning was working overtime, so I decided the oven needed to be off. It was perfect timing to make a batch of no-bake cookies & cream cheesecake bars.

Besides giving the oven a break, I wanted to whip up a dessert that didn’t require much effort. With the help of the food processor, I crumbled chocolate sandwich cookies for the crust and the filling. I used an electric mixer to combine cream cheese and marshmallow fluff before folding in the cookies. The bars were sweet, cool and didn’t last very long stored in the back of the refrigerator.
No-Bake Cookies and Cream Bars
No-Bake Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from Real Simple

Makes 16 bars

Non-stick cooking spray
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2-1/2 cups finely crushed cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (about 25 cookies)
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
7 ounces marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely crumbled cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (about 7 cookies), plus more for garnish

Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the butter with the fine cookie crumbs. Press the mixture into an even layer in the bottom of the prepared baking pan.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese, marshmallow creme, vanilla extract and salt until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Fold in the coarsely crumbled cookies and spread on the cookie crust.

Sprinkle with additional crumbled cookies for garnish. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours up to 3 days. Cut into 16 squares.

Squash Blossom Pizza

Squash Blossom PIzza
I finally did it. After years of admiring squash blossoms at the farmers market, I bought a bunch. I don’t know what took me so long to give those vibrant orange flowers a try. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to just stuff them with cheese and fry them, which might be the most popular way to eat them. Sometimes I splurge on fried food when I’m at a restaurant, but the idea of standing over a hot pot of oil on the stove intimidates me.

After carefully separating the petals, I arranged them on a squash blossom pizza. I did my summer standard and grilled the pie, but inside the oven would work, too. I kept the toppings simple with tomato sauce and torn fresh mozzarella. The flowers added a hint of squash flavor, but their more significant contribution was in the looks department. The petals on this simple pizza made the slices almost too pretty to eat.
Squash Blossom PIzzaSquash Blossom Pizza
Makes 1-12-inch pizza

2/3 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon olive oil plus more for bowl and brushing pizza
1-1/2 cups bread flour plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 3/4 cup tomato sauce
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn
6 squash blossoms, de-stemmed and petals separated

In a small bowl, combine the water, yeast, sugar and olive oil. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and process until a ball of dough forms. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Place the rolled-out dough directly on the grates and grill for 3 minutes with the lid closed until the crust has grill marks and has puffed up. Turn over the crust and grill for an additional 2 minutes.

Remove the crust from the grill. Spread the tomato sauce leaving a 1/2-inch border at the edge. Arrange the mozzarella and squash blossoms on top.  Put the pizza back on the grill for a couple minutes to let the cheese melt. Slice and serve right away.

Cherry Pistachio Cake

Cherry Pistachio Cake
My cherry pitter is hiding somewhere deep in a cabinet. Not great timing since we are at the height of the season. I’ve resorted to the same technique I use for olives. With the back of a chef’s knife, I squish down on each cherry, one at a time until the flesh splits, and I pull out the pit. It’s a messy process, but I don’t mind juice-stained hands because it is one of the joys of a stone fruit-filled summer.

The reason for all the pitting was to bake a cherry pistachio cake for my coworkers. We aren’t a fruit dessert family, so if it isn’t chocolate it goes to the office. The cardamom-spiced cake turned out with a wet, almost gooey crumb especially in the center from the ripe cherries and the shredded coconut in the batter. My colleagues devoured the entire thing, and there were even requests for seconds.
Cherry Pistachio Cake
Cherry Pistachio Cake
Adapted from Epicurious May 2015

Non-stick cooking spray
1/2 cup plus 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1-1/4 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup ground pistachios
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
2 cups fresh sweet cherries
Scant 1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch diameter cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine both sugars, ground almonds, ground pistachios, coconut, flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom. Stir in the butter followed by the eggs, one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Spread the batter into an even layer in the pan.

Pit the cherries and arrange them in a single layer in the pan. Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and remaining granulated sugar.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and the top is golden brown in between the cherries. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Cover and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Mexican Street Corn

Mexican Street Corn
On my list of goals this summer is to eat as much fresh corn as physically possible. So far I’ve been doing pretty well from grilling to slicing off the kernels into salads, I am on my way to checking this off my to-dos. Whenever I fire up the grill, corn-on-the-cob always gets a spot on the grates, but last weekend I slathered on a little more than just butter when I made Mexican street corn.

Known as elotes, this Mexican corn-on-the-cob is usually smeared in a mixture of mayonnaise, sour cream and lime juice, but I used Greek yogurt instead. When I peeled back the husks, I removed the silk and braided the leaves creating a handle for each cob. Once they were grilled. I coated them in lime-spiked yogurt and sprinkled on crumbled cotija, chili powder, cilantro, salt and pepper.
Mexican Street Corn
Mexican Street Corn

Serves 4

4 corn cobs
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Salt & black pepper

Preheat a gas or charcoal to medium high heat.

Pull back the husks of each corn cob. Remove the silk and braid the leaves of the husk. Tie the braid with one of the leaves.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and lime juice.

Grill the corn, turning occasionally, until lightly charred, about 8-10 minutes.

Smear the corn with the yogurt mixture and sprinkle with cheese, chili powder, cilantro salt and pepper.

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