This year’s holiday dessert features the spectacular Egg Nog Poundcake I discovered last year. It’s easy peasy to make and looks gorgeous.

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All you need is one Egg Nog Poundcake (sans cranberries), 3 cups of cherry pie filling, and homemade whipped cream. You can add a little egg nog or nutmeg to your whipped cream, if you want.  Cut up the pound cake into cubes.  Alternate the layers of cake, cherries, and whipped cream in pretty glasses (for individual servings) or a trifle dish (for a buffet centerpiece). You can make it ahead and leave it, covered with saran wrap, in the refrigerator until you are ready for dessert. Just leave the last dollop of whipped cream for right before you serve them. FANCY!!

When the world seems too sad or scary to bear, I always find comfort in the kitchen. Focusing on creating something nourishing to my family’s body nourishes my soul, even when life is at its gloomiest. This dessert is an attempt to combine all that’s good in the world — brownies, cheesecake, and cherries — in one lovely treat.

Ingredients

2 cups of frozen pitted cherries, thawed
2/3 cup of sugar
2/3 cup of water
2 tbs cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 tbs lemon juice (I used two frozen lemon juice cubes made when I made the lemon poundcake)
1 Ghirardelli brownie mix (you’ll make this according to the directions, so you’ll need an egg and vegetable oil)
3 packages of cream cheese
8 ounces Noosa Tart Cherry yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbs vanilla
3 eggs

How I Made It

In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the cherries with 2/3 cup of sugar and 2/3 cup of water.  Cover and microwave for however long it takes to come to a boil.  You might stir it halfway through to make sure the sugar dissolves.

In a separate bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1/4 cup water.  When the cherries are bubbly,  carefully remove the bowl from the microwave. Stir in the cornstarch, then the lemon juice.  Set the cherries aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare a springform pan with a little oil or butter.

Make the brownie batter according to the directions on the box. Spread the batter in the springform pan and bake for 35 minutes. The edges will be completely set but the middle will be just set.

While the brownie bottom bakes, make the cheesecake batter.  In a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together. Add the 3 eggs, one at a time, beating to combine.  Add the yogurt and vanilla.  Allow the batter to mix until thoroughly combined and smooth. I like to turn up the speed for a minute or so to whip the batter, for a lighter consistency when it’s done.

Gently spoon cherries over the brownie batter. Use a slotted spoon so it’s not too soupy. Top with the cheesecake batter.  It will be thick, so add it in dollops and spread it gently to fill the pan (don’t just dump it in).

Bake for 55 minutes or until the middle is set (not hard, but not wet either).  Turn off the oven and let the cake rest in the oven for 20 minutes or so.  Remove the cake and let it come to room temp, then chill it in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

Serve it with a spoon of cherry sauce or a little whipped cream.

How It Turned Out

This may be the first crack-free cheesecake I’ve ever made.

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The layers are lovely, and super rich. A small piece is certainly enough.  Until later, that is.

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This recipe was inspired by a bottle of pear liqueur from Clear Creek Distillery in Oregon, received as a gift from my friend Shelley.  It’s a fancy dessert, but because it has to be made in two parts, it means going back into the kitchen after supper to complete it. So, if you plan to serve it at a dinner party, make sure you have someone who can carry the conversation and serve the port while you’re in the kitchen.

Pear Inspiration

Ingredients:

4 Anjou pears, peeled and cored but left on the stem
2 cups of pear liqueur or other brandy
2 cups of water, plus whatever extra you need to cover the pears in the saucepan
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbs vanilla
1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm pastry dough, thawed

How I Made Them:

In a heavy bottom saucepan, bring the liqueur and 2 cups of water to a simmer. Add the cinnamon stick and vanilla.  Add the pears and enough water to cover the pears.  Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the pears from the liquid and let cool standing upright on a plate.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Gently roll out the pastry dough. With a pizza cutter, cut the dough into strips (not too thick, not too thin).  Wrap the pears in the pastry, winding the strips from the bottom to the top. Trim off any excess dough.  If the strips don’t stick, use a little water to moisten the edges so they will stay together.

Pears in Progress

Bake the pears for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.  Serve immediately, with whipped cream or ice cream.

How They Turned Out:

The poached pears were lovely.  The pastry would have been prettier had I used an egg wash, but it was still good plain.

Pears in Pastry

Last Sunday, I made this recipe for pork cutlets found in the June edition of La Cucina Italiana. The secret is the fresh, fragrant Italian parsley in the stuffing mixture and plenty of garlic when you cook the cutlets. They look fancy, but aren’t complicated — and they are very tasty!

This is a simple version of cranberry sauce, that only takes about 20 minutes to make.  It’s tart without being overwhelming.

Ingredients

12 oz package of fresh cranberries
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice concentrate
1/4 cup Triple Sec or other orange liqueur
1-2 tsp vanilla

How I made it:

Rinse and drain the cranberries.  Combine the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan, then bring to a boil.  Stir to dissolve the sugar completely.  Continue until the sugar syrup is clear.

Turn down the heat, to medium high.  Add the cranberries, stirring to coat all the berries.  Add the lemon juice and liqueur, stirring to combine.  Cook on medium high heat for 15 minutes, until berries skins have split and the cranberries are soft.  Add the vanilla and stir again.

Remove the berries with a slotted spoon.  Serve warm or cold.  Reserve the sweetened cranberry syrup for another use.

How it turned out:

Refreshing and interesting, especially with the traditional holiday meal.