Thursday, December 2, 2010

'Tis The Season

Enjoying The Holidays

I have decided for the entire month of December, to only publish fun, lighthearted, easygoing articles to enjoy my favorite time of year. Full of fun, steeped in tradition, bright lights, pretty decorations, snow (no shortage of this the past 2 days), Christmas Carols, Holiday movies, (my favorite, Christmas Vacation) and scrumptious FOOD! I love to bake during the holidays.

The business of science, cosmetic industry politics, and anything which causes my blood pressure to elevate, and that tiny vein to pop on the side of my temple, are going to be placed aside until 2011.

I truly wish we could do this all year round since undue stress is a destroyer of health, but during the holidays, I know my heart gets lighter and I choose to steer away from any negative and place a smile on my face all day long. It just seems easier when we are surrounded by all the lights and decorations adorning homes and shopping malls. Parties are in full swing and people become more generous and cheerful this time of year. It is also a time I celebrate many things and show gratitude each and every morning I rise from my bed. When I see what is going on in our world, I pray for those less fortunate this year, and remind myself, "there only by the Grace of God go I."

So in keeping with the feelings of Joy and Peace and to stop and take a breather from our hurried lives, I would like to share a great dessert recipe which is simple to make, keeps calories down, and is already pre-portioned so you don't have to figure out how much you can have. Also the versatility of these little gems is astounding.

Mini Cheesecakes: Makes 16
Approximately 128 calories per serving

Items You'll Need:

Muffin Tin 2 1/2 inch cups
Muffin Paper Liners
Box of Vanilla Wafers
2 - 8 oz Light Cream Cheese
1 - 8 oz Nonfat Sour Cream
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar (packed)
2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 Tsp. Lemon Extract
2 Tbs. Lemon Juice
2 Eggs
2 Tsp. Lemon Zest or Dried Lemon Peel

I enjoy this cheesecake for the slight tangy lemony flavor, and it goes great with many toppings. Tart with sweet is always a favorite. Plus the addition of sour cream leaves these much lighter in texture than having it all be in cream cheese.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

On medium speed mix your cream cheese, sugar, sour cream and extracts together. Add lemon juice and beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time beating on low speed until well mixed. Now add your lemon zest.

Line your muffin cups with paper liners and place a single Vanilla Wafer in the bottom of each cup. They will not fill the entire cup so don't worry about it. You can also crush the wafers to fill the bottom of the cup if you prefer. Or you can use Keebler Shortbread cookies instead and they fit perfectly.

Or you can go to the mini muffin paper cups which will make your cakes even smaller but the Vanilla Wafer will fit perfectly at the base of the cake. Just realize if you opt for smaller cakes then this will just about double your recipe in servings. So many ideas!

Now pour the batter in each muffin cup to 3/4 full. Place in the oven for 20 minutes to bake. They will poof up a bit and may even crack some during baking, but will recede as they cool. Don't be concerned with cracking since these will also shrink as the cake cools and will be less than noticeable once you top them.

Take out pan and cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Now gently lift each cake out by the paper edges and cool another hour on the rack before moving them to the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours for them to set firmly. You can now safely remove the paper cups from the cakes and place them on your serving tray. The tiny cakes will now have a small indentation in the top, perfect for accenting them with your favorite topping, such as blueberries, strawberries, chocolate, etc. etc.

They are perfectly portioned and are fantastic with tea, or as a dessert after your holiday meal. They make a perfect party platter also at the buffet table.

Remember, any topping you add to these luscious cakes, tack on a few more calories. But that is easy to handle by just reading how many calories in your favorite topper by the tablespoon size.

Have fun and experiment with different textures. You can use crushed chocolate wafers or oreo cookies as a crust, or graham crackers still, or make a pocket within the cheesecake with your favorite fruit or pie filling. You can swirl flavors through the mixture such as jams or drizzled chocolate. So many ideas to play and have fun with these wonderful holiday gems.

Also they now have mini cheescake pans if you want to go shopping for one, which allows you to bake your tiny cake in the pan without the paper cups, and then are removed by inserting your finger in a hole beneath the pan, and sliding the cake up and out....similar to a spring form pan.

Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday thus far and keep safe and warm, preferably by a cozy fire with your favorite hot beverage and a dreamy mini cheescake balanced on your knee.

Seasons Greetings.....Happy Holidays and Blessings to all.

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