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Guilt-Free Cheesecake!

After some experimenting, I've come up with a lightened cheesecake that I'm actually happy with. At 151 calories a slice. And 10 grams of protein. Eat a couple slices, and you might get away with calling it a meal!

Guilt-free Cheesecake!: It's a miracle!Guilt-free Cheesecake!: It's a miracle!

This recipe makes 8 slices. I'm using a 7" springform pan, so it won't look as thick if you're using a regular 9" cake pan. I got this one on Amazon. I've used it exactly twice so far so I can't speak for its durability, but so far I like it.

I used brownie mix for the "crust" but something else could certainly be substituted. I didn't have graham crackers or oreos on hand when I started experimenting, so I decided to just go with the brownie crust.

My Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownies

1 Container Egg Beaters Original Perfect Portions
1 Cup Fage Nonfat Greek Strained Yogurt
1/2 Package Philadelphia Cream Cheese - Neufchatel (4 oz)
3/4 Cup Polly-o - Part-skim Ricotta Cheese
1/8 Cup Honeyville Soy Protein Isolate
1.5 Cups Granulated Splenda (Or less, if you prefer. It did turn out pretty sweet.)
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

1/2 Can Comstock No Sugar Added Cherry Pie Filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease and flour your spring-form pan. (I use non-stick cooking spray.) If you don't have a springform pan, I've also been able to get away with carefully covering a normal cake pan with aluminum foil, and then greasing and flouring that.

In a small bowl, mix your 1/2 cup of brownie mix with some of the egg beaters and a bit of water. Spread that on the bottom of the pan And let it bake for a few minutes. (I'd suggest waiting until you're almost finished making the main filling before baking doing that.)

In a larger bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, Neufchatel cream cheese, Ricotta cheese, soy protein, Splenda, vanilla extract, and the rest of the egg beaters. Beat with a hand mixer until smooth. (A stick blender or something would probably do it too.)

After the crust has started to bake a bit, take it out of the oven and pour the cheesecake filling on top. Put it back in the oven and bake for about 50-60 minutes. You could probably avoid cracks by doing the whole water bath thing, but since I'm putting the cherry pie filling on top anyway, I'm not concerned about the cracks. It does rise above the edge of the pan a bit, but it sinks back down after it's been removed from the oven, and I haven't had it overflow and make a mess or anything.

Let the cheesecake cool first on the counter, and then in the refrigerator. Once it's finished chilling, spread the cherry pie filling on top. And voilĂ , you have dessert. Or lunch!

Each slice (1/8th of the cheesecake) has 151 calories, 7 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, and 9 grams of sugar.

Pickle Pot!

Big Pickle JarBig Pickle Jar Alright fine, it's actually a pickle jar. But that didn't sound like nearly such a good title!

I have, of course, been complaining about my lack of a properly photogenic pickling container. So yesterday Kris arrived home with this! I'll remove the label, but I just had to show off the fact that it's a gallon-sized pickle jar! And actually MEANT for pickles!

So.. now I have a big pickling jar and a crock of pickling cucumbers pickling in the fridge. Should I move them to the jar? Or might that hurt them? I'm not completely sure if all of them will fit. Some of them are a bit larger than I probably should have let them get, so that makes pickle arrangement less flexible.
So if they don't fit, then I would have to move them twice. Any advice? Should they just stay put for the pickling process, and I'll use the photogenic jar for the next batch?

I guess I really should have put the jar next to something in the picture, because besides the size written on it, you can't really gauge size from a pickle jar alone! Note to self: When taking a picture of something in order to demonstrate its size, put it next to something recognizable, to provide context.)

(The label design obviously belongs to Vlasic. I have no affiliation with them besides possession of a large jar previously home to Vlasic pickles.)

What A Crock of Pickles!

Submerged PicklesSubmerged Pickles More accurately, it will be a crock of pickles in 7 days. Currently, it's a crock of pickling cucumbers in brine.

Back in June, Yarndiva of Sew Old - Sew New commented on my first silk chiffon tunic post. Then I followed her back to her blog and discovered her Best Dill Pickles post. And so I planted some pickling cucumbers.
Now I have picked some pickling cucumbers and started them pickling!
Crock of PicklesCrock of Pickles
I hounded her quite a bit with pickling-noob questions. And only just noticed, upon checking that post again, that she has a picture of the salt and pickling spice that she used. And it's the same kosher salt that I got that says that it can be used in place of pickling salt, so I was thinking that maybe I'd gotten the wrong stuff. (Note to self: always look at the big pictures!)

I found that I had trouble finding proper pickling vessels. I ended up taking "crock" literally and using the crock from my crock pot. I probably should have picked the pickling cucumbers when they were smaller. Smaller cucumbers would have meant more flexibility with containers. I thought maybe I could fit them into a vase, but I couldn't. So this time it's a crock. Next time it'll be smaller pickles in a vase. That would definitely look better while they're pickling. I had trouble finding something that would work to weight the top to keep the pickling cucumbers submerged. I ended up using the lid from my Pyrex mixing bowl, because I needed something rather large in order to keep them all submerged. This is not a very photogenic pickling situation.

Kris thinks I'm crazy for wanting the cucumbers to look pretty while they're pickling, but it's not just in the fridge that I want them to look pretty. A crock pot crock and a Pyrex mixing bowl lid don't make for pretty blog pictures either! Definitely not as photogenic as Yarndiva's milk jar.

Plenty of Pesto

Basil for PestoBasil for Pesto Basil Stuffed into Measuring CupBasil Stuffed into Measuring Cup Pesto and MessPesto and Mess For the first time ever (I think) I made pesto all by myself!

I started with an absurd amount of basil. My basil in general is absurd. All of the basil you see in the bottom two pictures, that casserole-dish full of basil... all that was from pruning! I removed a couple large branches from one of the plants that was overshadowing my cilantro (and a couple branches from the marigold on the other side that was contributing to the buried cilantro.) The rest is just from taking off the starting-to-approach-flowering tops.

So basil-basil-basil.

I'd ordered a two-pound bag of bulk pine nuts from Amzaon, which worked out quite well. There were various warnings about "pine mouth" from Chinese pine nuts, but these were American and seem quite good. I ended up using about a cup of them in this batch.

While I was looking up info before I started, I came across this page on How To:Simplify that says that if you're going to freeze the pesto, you shouldn't add the Parmesan cheese right away, but right before serving it. So I added a little bit of the Parmasian, but figure on adding most of it as I use the pesto.

I used the blender for most of the process, but used the salsa-maker towards the end-- at the point where it was getting to be too much and too think for the blender to be effective, and when I was wanting to give it a bit of texture rather than make it totally pureed.

Yes, I did manage to make all that basil fit into that measuring cup. I'm thinking that when they say "two cups fresh packed basil leaves" they probably don't mean quite such extreme stuffing!

As you can see, I produced an entire salsa-maker full of finished [minus most of the Parmesan cheese] pesto. I froze an icing container full, and put a butter container full into the fridge.

Really, I need better pesto storage. A whole icing container full is really more than I'm going to want to defrost at any one time. So an idea came up in the PR chat [of course.] Ice cube trays! Freeze the pesto in ice cube trays, then store the frozen pesto-cubes in freezer bags.

So now I need ice cube trays. So, as usual, I headed over to Amazon to see what was available in the way of ice cube trays. I'm thinking I'll go with the silicone trays. these Jumbo-Size Silicone Ice-Cube Trays seem like they'd be about what I need. But of course I couldn't stop there, I had to keep looking.

And that's when I saw the Pi Symbol Ice Cube Tray! Probably not good for pesto storage, but oh-so-nifty! I'm getting a kick out of the Set of Heart and Stars Ice Cube Trays too, and those probably would be good for freezing pesto!
There are even Ducky Trays and Musical Note Trays! Decisions, decisions.

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