Monday, March 17, 2008

Brighter living through berries

A sunny day like today can fool you into thinking that summer is right around the corner. However, just as we start getting our taste buds in line for fresh tomatoes, sweet peppers and herbs, Mother Nature will smack us on the nose with a frost warning.

Although I'm a fresh fruit purist, sometimes canned goods provide a needed lift. If cherry season is too far away, then a can of cherries can pop some cheer into any day. One of the best desserts my grandmother used to make was something she called cherry cheesecake, although, clearly, it's not a traditional cheesecake at all. It uses cream cheese, and cherries, but there's none of the finicky nature of baking a real cheesecake to go with it.

I came across this recipe from Comstock this morning, and it echoes the ingredients my grandmother used to put in her "cherry cheesecake." Simple, bursting with flavor and color, this is a no-fuss substitute for a traditional cheesecake.

2 cups baking mix
1 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling or topping
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 ounces white chocolate, melted

In mixing bowl, combine baking mix, oatmeal, and brown sugar. Cut in butter with fork or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press lightly into greased pizza pan or 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 18-20 minutes. Cool.

In small bowl, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar; mix until smooth. Spread evenly over cooled crust. Spoon cherry filling and topping over cream cheese. Garnish with blueberries. Drizzle with white chocolate.

Makes 16 servings.

And, a quick coffeecake...

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup no-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (21 ounces) Blueberry Fruit Filling or Topping
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In large mixing bowl, combine margarine, sugar, eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder and salt; mix just until combined. Spread half of batter in the bottom of a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Top with fruit filling and then remaining batter.

In small bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon; sprinkle over top of coffee cake. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool; cut into squares.
Makes 20 servings