Beautiful Mochi at Itto Sushi in Chicago!

I have enjoyed Itto Sushi for years.

And after a few years living outside of Chicago, I was happy to see that one of my favorite spots for great food was still around.

Located in Lincoln Park, Itto is favored by locals.

It’s not at all scene-y or flashy but far enough off the beaten path to not be bothered by hype or tourists!

All of the food is fantastic, authentic with a few twists and turns.

Check out these deep fried sushi rolls.

And one of my favorites, unagi.

But today it was all about the mochi!

Green tee, mango, strawberry and vanilla.

Not just delicious; look at how pretty these are!

I simply worked my way to dessert and enjoyed every sweet spoonful!

  

Coconut Lime Cheese Cake with Cashew and Graham Cracker Crust! Summer Indulgence!

I came across this great recipe on Lick My Spoon.

This is a great recipe because it was easy to follow and the cake came out perfectly on the first try.

I don’t know why but I am always surprised when that happens!

Also, I have been on this kick lately with coconut, limes and mango.

This recipe calls for Key Limes but I used just regular limes and it worked out fine.

I’m sure that the unique and delicate taste of Key Limes adds a whole new dimension of flavor but any ripe fragrant fruit is just so beautiful to me.

After a long winter, Lime is the flavor I’m craving!

I did make a few adjustments.

Instead of 1/4 cup Malibu I used 1/4 cup Coco Lopez.

This cake has a very Lime forward flavor, which is lovely, however, I wanted to taste the coconut, as well.

Key Lime Coconut Cheesecake
Makes: One (10 inch) cheesecake, serves 8-10
Recipe Courtesy of Lick My Spoon

Ingredients:

Crust
1 package graham crackers (approx. 1 cup)
1 cup cashews
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Filling
1 (12 oz.) container sour cream
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
½ cup lime juice (if you can’t find key limes, substitute with regular limes)
¼ cup Malibu (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Topping
½ cup sweetened coconut flakes, toasted
Slices of lime for garnish

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Butter or spray the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cover the outside of the pan in foil. Finely grind the graham crackers and cashews in a food processor. Add the melted butter and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest, and process until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

3. Mix together the sour cream, cream cheese, and sugar. Blend in the lime zest, lime juice, Malibu, and vanilla. Add eggs in one at a time.

4. Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the pan in a large roasting pan. Create a hot water bath by pouring enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour.

5. Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top. I just toast the coconut in a dry skillet over medium heat. Keep stirring it so it doesn’t burn; it will toast up quickly. Garnish with lime slices.

6. Transfer the cake to a rack; cool 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold and firm, at least 8 hours (best overnight).

I used my artistic discretion to garnish the cake.

These gorgeous limes were my inspiration.

We’ve been eating limes with everything lately!

We’ve been making lime juice cocktails and garnishing every meal with limes!

The crust calls for lemon zest.

Fantastic!

The crust is delicious.

The lemon adds just the right amount of flavour.

Sugar, cream cheese and vanilla…..

Sounds like a good start to me.

The scent of this crust in the food processor was driving us insane.

We wanted to spoon it into our mouths.

I am happy that it made it’s way into the springform pan.

Eggs, sour cream, coco lopez and the lime zest go into the batter.

It has a mouth-watering aroma.

The cake baked perfectly.

Maybe one of my best.

The water bath is a must to avoid cracks.

Lots of toasted coconut!

Sweet and crunchy toasted coconut is divine with rich and creamy lime lovliness!

And a few more photos of my handy work.

I was so happy with the way this cake turned out.

I will be making many more of these.

I have the feeling that this will be the Summertime go-to cheese cake for picnics, parties or whatever comes our way!

  

White Chocolate Truffle Cheese Cake with Oreo Cookie Crust and Raspberry Sauce !

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While in New York for a long weekend of friends and food I came across this cheese cake!

It was love at first bite!

I love chocolate and raspberries and the truffled white chocolate is the perfect balance of flavor and sweetness to contrast the chocolate and raspberry combination.

I searched the internet for a recipe and came upon this Cheesecake Factory Copy Cat recipe.

There was a bit of tweaking; for instance, I did not incorporate the raspberries into the cheesecake during baking but rather used frozen berries and a little bit of raspberry syrup for garnish.

I garnished the cake with the fresh berries and not only did this save me a step but added a texture contrast to the dessert.

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I whipped the egg whites seperately.

I melted the white chocolate along with some heavy cream and mixed the melted chocolate with the whipped egg whites then folded this mixture into the batter.

For me, this was the essence of the “truffling”.


Ingredients

Crust:

1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs or 20 crumbled Oreo cookies (filling removed)
1/3 cup butter, melted

Filling:

1/2 cup raspberry preserves
1/4 cup water
4 8-ounce pkgs. cream cheese
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 eggs
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped into chunks

Optional Garnish:
2 ounces shaved white chocolate
whipped cream

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place a large pan or oven-safe skillet filled with about 1/2-inch of water into the oven while it preheats. This will be your water bath.

2. Combine the raspberry preserves with 1/4 cup water in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 1 1/2 minutes on high in your microwave. Stir until smooth. Strain to remove the raspberry seeds (toss ’em out), then let the strained preserves sit to cool, then put the bowl in the refrigerator until later.

3. Measure 1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (or crush 20 Oreo cookie wafers — with the filling scraped out — in a resealable plastic bag) into a medium bowl. Mix in 1/3 cup melted margarine. Press the crumb into a 9-inch spring form pan that has been lined on the bottom and side with parchment paper. Use the bottom of a drinking glass to press the crumb mixture flat into the bottom of the pan and about 2/3 the way up the side. Wrap a large piece of foil around the bottom of the pan to keep the cheesecake in the water bath. Put the crust in your freezer until the filling is done.

4. Use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese with the sugar, sour cream, and vanilla. Mix for a couple minutes or until the ingredients are smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and then add them to the cream cheese mixture. Blend the mixture just enough to integrate the eggs.

5. Remove the crust from the freezer and sprinkle 4 ounces of white chocolate chunks onto the bottom of the crust. Pour half of the cream cheese filling into the crust. Drizzle the raspberry preserves over the entire surface of the filling. Use a butter knife to swirl the raspberry into the cream cheese. Just a couple passes is fine, you don’t want to blend the raspberry and cream cheese together too much. Pour the other half of the filling into the crust.

6. Carefully place the cheesecake into the water bath in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes at 475 degrees, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top of the cheesecake turns a light brown or tan color. Remove the cheesecake from the oven to cool. When the cheesecake is cool, use the foil from the bottom to cover the cheesecake and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

7. Before serving, sprinkle the entire top surface of cheesecake with 2 ounces of shaved white chocolate. To serve, slice the cheesecake into 12 equal portions. Apply a pile of canned whipped cream to the top of each slice and serve.

Makes 12 servings.

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Ricotta Cheese Cake with Lemon Zest and Honey! Light and Delicious!

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My grandmother used to make a Farmer’s cheese or cottage cheesecake when I was growing up.

It was her “not fancy”, always good with a cup of coffee, cake.

I have yet to try these versions but decided to start first with ricotta cheese since that was what I had in my fridge!

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This cake was wonderful and whipping the egg whites makes it especially light and delicious.

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Lemon zest or even lavender is a lovely flavor note.

I plan to experiment with herbs and other flavors such as almond, orange or even rose.

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I used a 9 inch spring form pan for this recipe.

I also used Nilla Wafers with pecans and butter for the crust.

I ballparked the amount for the 9 inch pan.

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Ingredients:

6 Large eggs
2/3 cups sugar
2 tspn vanilla
2 15 oz containers whole milk ricotta cheese
2 tspn grated lemon zest

Method:

Preheat oven to 325 fahrenheit

seperate eggs

place yolks in mixer

and sugar and vanilla to yolks in mixer

Add ricotta cheese and zest and mix for 30 seconds

Beat egg whites until stiff

fold into the ricotta cheese mixture

pour mixture into greased pan

Bake until golden, approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Let cool at least 6 hours before serving

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I serve this was honey!

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Pumpkin Cheesecake! Pumpkins, Squash and Autumn Corn! The Flavors of the Season!

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It’s that time of year and nothing says Autumn like pumpkins!

Pumpkin is great in soup, cheesecake, cookies, pies, breads, curries and more.

Cooking with Fresh Pumpkin

There’s no shame in using canned pumpkin. Even professional bakers do it. But if you’re using fresh, choose small, flavorful sugar pie pumpkins–and save the big ones for carving. A four-pound pumpkin should yield about 1½ cups of puree.

To make pumpkin puree:

1. Cut the pumpkin in half and bake cut-side down, covered with foil, in a 375 degree F oven for about 90 minutes or until flesh is tender.

2. Allow to cool, scoop out the flesh, and puree.

3. Strain the puree for extra-silky smooth soups and custards.

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A trip to a local farm introduced me to all kinds of squash and corn varieties.

The possibilities are vast and are not limited to baked goods.

Pumpkins are great in savory dishes and lend themselves to spicy flavors; think curry and roasted pepper.

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Over the next few weeks I want to explore all things pumpkin, squash and corn!

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Pumpkin Cheesecake
Ingredients

1 1/2 cups graham cracker cookie crumbs
3/4 cup ground hazelnuts
3 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups canned solid pack pumpkin
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
4 eggs

Method

1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9 inch springform pan.

2.Using a fork, combine gingersnaps, hazelnuts, 3 tablespoons brown sugar and melted butter. Press mixture onto the bottom and two inches up the sides of the pan to form the crust.

3.With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the pumpkin. Mix in the cream, maple syrup, cinnamon, allspice and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing until smooth.

4.Pour batter into prepared crust. Bake in the preheated oven for 90 minutes, or until center of cheesecake is set. Allow to cool in pan for 30 minutes, then refrigerate overnight.

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I have no idea what these are but I am willing to give them a try!

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