Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tuesday Tasters

Since the fall of last year, I have had the unique opportunity to volunteer in my daughter's middle school office once a week. I originally had signed up to work in the library and not put myself in the position of having to answer all those questions from the parents - the same ones that I'm usually asking on the other end of the phone. But as luck - or fate - would have it, I was switched to the front office. In my initial conversations with my new friends, I quickly noticed that these lovely office ladies were very open to trying anything laden with sugar or butter. So I decided to make this a win-win and use the front office as my taste-testers (guinea pigs?) for new recipes I was compiling for my cookbook. And with that, the "Tuesday Tasters" were officially formed.

Now along with testing new recipes, I also had to work around some dietary issues, religious traditions (Lent) and personal preferences that the ladies had. Some weeks were a bit of a challenge but one thing I found out in all of this was that if you bring them sugary confections they will swoon, and by "swoon", I mean that it won't matter as much if I accidentally cut someone off on the phone while transferring a call... or sending visitors to the wrong part of the school... or constantly asking annoying questions (sorry Liz). It just means they will blissfully "bless my heart" with a smile on their lips and a fork in their hands. So next time you volunteer in your kid's school, just remember to bring a plate of something sweet. Think of it as "paying it forward" if your kid ever ends up in the principal's office... I'm jus' sayin'!

Linda's Lemon Berry Cheesecake

Linda (who I will truly miss) gave up chocolate one year for Lent and decided to never go back. (I know, very sad) but with that challenge in mind it pushed me to think more outside of the box for her. Chocolate is always easy and perfect on it's own but with that said, sweetness comes in many flavors. Since cheesecake is one of her favorite desserts I decided to mesh together a lemon bar and cheesecake to create a dessert that would send her off with lots of love.

1-1/2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
3 Tbsp. Sugar
1/3 cup Butter or Margarine, melted

4 pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup Sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 Eggs

Lemon Curd
2/3 Cup of your favorite homemade lemon curd
Here is my favorite recipe courtesy of Patent and the Pantry.

2 cups of berries (your choice) I used strawberries and blackberries because they were on sale.

HEAT oven to 325°F

MIX crumbs, 3 Tbsp. sugar and butter; press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan.

BEAT cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and vanilla with mixer until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.

BAKE 55 min. or until center is almost set. Loosen cake from rim of pan; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate 4 hours.

Right before serving, spread a nice layer of lemon curd on top of cheesecake and then pile berries on top of that. If you want a shiny look. melt 1/4 cup of apricot jam or grape jelly in the microwave until thin. With a pastry brush, carefully paint the tops of the berries to give it a beautiful sheen.

Tami's Salted Caramel Delites

Tami is a chocolate lover no doubt, but equally, she loves salted caramels. One day I brought in a container of freshly made salted caramels. She loved them so much she wondered if I could create a brownie combining her two favs. Hence this easy brownie recipe...

1 box of brownie mix (for 9x13 pan)
Follow directions except replace water with strong coffee.
Kraft Caramel Bits
1/2 caramel ice cream sauce
Kosher flake salt

Make brownies to instructions substituting the coffee for water. Spread in 13x9 pan or individual cupcake liners (24).
Sprinkle the caramel bits on top all over.
Bake per directions on box.
After slightly cooled, drizzle caramel sauce on top and sprinkle with kosher salt. Cool completely before cutting and serving.

This year has been an absolute treat (pun intended) working in the office with Liz, Patti, Tami, Linda, Susan and those sweet student runners. It has been my absolute pleasure feeding y'all and getting to know you. I can't thank you enough for testing all of these recipes!