Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pseudo Cherry Cheesecake

I love cherry pie, and in my family, we always had cherry pie for Washington's Birthday. Of course, we also had a cherry tree in the backyard, so we had cherries that my Mom and Grandma had put up. Once we got a deep-freeze, they were frozen, and I think those were even better. But I have to rely on canned cherries or canned cherry pie filling. I'm talking about tart pie cherries, which I never find in the store fresh, even in season, or even frozen. I can get dried ones, which I do use in a lot of things, but not pie, at least so far.

This year, although I keep meaning to make a pie, I am sort of avoiding it from the calorie standpoint. But I wanted my cherry fix. I had a can of a fairly good quality cherry pie filling in the pantry. I had a carton of very good Greek yogurt in the fridge. I thought: Hmmm.

I scooped out some yogurt, scooped out some cherries. To be honest, while eating I stirred them together.

It tasted like rich, creamy cherry cheesecake. I kid you not. Heaven.

The cherry pie filling obviously has been "color-enhanced," which is pretty but might not appeal to some people. (Regular canned cherries in juice taste as good but are more pink-grey than red, so not as pretty.) Other than that, it has sugar and cornstarch. But still, the whole can is 630 calories, so about 105 calories for one-sixth, which is what you would get in a standard piece of pie. In the pie, most of the calories are in the crust, especially from the shortening or butter. The USDA says there are 490 calories in the standard slice of cherry pie. Cheesecake, depending on the recipe, can be 500 and up.

The Greek yogurt I like is 2% fat (brand is Fage, although there are others, and the skim is also not bad) and is 150 calories a cup. Shown here is about half a cup, maybe a little less. So, 180 calories for a very rich-tasting dessert. You could have a bigger serving, although I think this would satisfy most people. It really tastes rich. I think a big part of it is the "mouth feel," which comes from using the thick, wonderful Greek yogurt. (I also think the cornstarch in the pie filling helps with that.)

Of course, there's no crust, and most of us who like cheesecake love that crumbled-cookie/graham cracker/whatever crust. But face it, there's usually a ton of butter and sugar in that. Not that there's anything wrong with that. For the pseudo cherry cheesecake, you could crumble up a couple of Girl Scout cookies (also a February tradition), I suppose. I did think about it.

I really do like the Greek yogurt far better than other kinds. It's thick, it tastes rich, it has a little tang but is more like creme fraiche than the ordinary kinds of plain yogurt. I love it (without the cherries, of course) on baked potatoes.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My grocer had a special on beef tenderloins. I bought a big one, sliced it up, and most of it is in the freezer. Here's what I did with a couple of slices of it, which I can only call -- filet mignon. (It's amazing the deals you can get if you are willing to cut the large pieces of meat into smaller pieces.)

Warning: I have always said that with a good piece of beef, I prefer it cooked only to the point that a good vet could have saved it. I believe that if you are a carnivore, you should bask in it, or at least admit it.

Heat the cast iron skillet. I know, you could have a grill. It is February, and cold. I heated a cast-iron skillet. Put in a tiny bit of oil, just to coat the surface of the skillet. When it's hot, put in the filets. I cooked two, each at least two inches thick.

Two ways to go here. First night, I cooked the beef on one side in the skillet for three minutes, flipped it, and put it in the pre-heated oven at 250 for 8 minutes. Because the cast-iron skillet was hot and holding the heat, that worked. Another night, I cooked it all on top of the stove. With a lid. Again, because it was cast iron, that also worked. My goal was to not overcook it, but to get that yummy sear on the outside. If you like your beef cooked all the way through, well, first of all, do not spend the money on beef tenderloin/filet. Waste of your money. Buy chuck roasts and cook the heck out of 'em. I do that, too. But this cut -- man. You'd be nuts to cook it to gray.
Hey, sorry it's been so long since I've posted. I will make it up to you. But for now, a rant.
The food processing/marketing people are marketing microwavable steamer bags. Guess what? Anything you cook in a microwave is being steamed. That's what microwaves do. So you can buy the bag o' veggies, put whatever you want to cook for the day into a microwavable container -- I recommend a Pyrex quart-size measuring cup -- with a tablespoon of water. And zap.

Of course they will be better sauteed, but I'm saying -- if you are going to microwave, don't fall for the expensive format.


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This is me enjoying a limoncello in Rome on the last night of our trip to Italy. Funny thing is, I don't really like limoncello that much, but thought it would be great in a dessert. And wouldn't you know, The Barefoot Contessa just did a great fruit salad with limoncello. So now I can't. Oh, well.