Blueberry Lemongrass Cheesecake #ImprovCookingChallenge

Another #ImprovCookingChallenge, another opportunity to get outside my comfort zone! I’ve never cooked with lemongrass before – I actually had to google a picture of it so I knew what to look for in the store – but I’m really loving the result here!

 The base is beautifully rich and fluffy and then the swirl is the perfect blend of blueberry and lemon to compliment. Right after I tasted it, I texted my mom that this was going to be my contribution for Easter dinner – it’s that good!
Blueberry Lemongrass Cheesecake.jpg
The recipe makes more of the blueberry/lemongrass filling than you need for the cheesecake. Since it comes out as almost a jam-like consistency, we used our extras as jam for toast.
You can see the other bloggers’ blueberry and lemongrass creations here:

improvchallenge
The #ImprovCookingChallenge is a monthly blogging event where two ingredients are assigned to a month. Bloggers can make any recipe they like as long as it features the two ingredients. If you are a blogger and would like to join us, please visit our Facebook page.
You can also read more about the event on our home page.  If you’d like to see previous creations, check out our Pinterest board.
Blueberry Lemongrass Cheesecake 2
Blueberry Lemongrass Cheesecake
(adapted from Taste of Home)
Makes 1 cheesecake
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 4-inch pieces lemongrass
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. melted butter
3 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. flour
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, and lemongrass in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the berries begin to cook down and the sugar is dissolved. Remove the lemongrass and transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return to the saucepan and whisk in the cornstarch. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened and almost a jam-like consistency. Set aside
Mix together the graham crackers, sugar, and butter until well combined. Press into a 9″ springform pan, going up the sides slightly. Place prepared pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
In a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the sour cream, flour and vanilla. On a lower speed, add in the lightly beaten eggs and mix until just combined. Pour the filling into the crust.
Dollop 3-4 Tbsp. of the blueberry lemongrass mixture. Use a knife to swirl it along the top of the cheesecake.
Return the pan to the baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until the center of the cheesecake is nearly set. Transfer the pan to the cooling rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. Cool at room temperature for another hour, then refrigerate overnight.

Blueberry Lemongrass Cheesecake

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Chocolate Bunny Brownies #ChocolateBunnyPledge

Are you working on filling Easter baskets this week? We are. I’m so looking forward to stocking up on jellybeans, marshmallow chicks, and chocolate bunnies for my crew. You know what won’t be in our Easter baskets? Any live animals.

Each year after Easter, animal shelters and rescue groups get countless requests to take in baby chicks, ducks, and bunnies that were gifted in Easter baskets. It might seem like an adorable idea, but those animals aren’t toys – they’re a lot of work.

The Bunny Hutch is one of these groups and this year they’re asking people to take the #ChocolateBunnyPledge. Will you commit to making your Easter basket fillers candy instead of live animals? Sign the pledge here.

ChocolateBunnyBrownies

And if you’re looking for the easiest Easter dessert ever – featuring a chocolate bunny! – look no further. This is a standard brownie mix (or your favorite brownie recipe – I love this one.) Take it out of the oven during the last two minutes of baking and press a chocolate bunny and some Cadbury mini eggs into the brownies. Return to the oven for 2 more minutes to let everything meld together. Voila! Easy Chocolate Bunny Brownies.

Italian Easter Bread

I married into a big, Italian family with lots of food traditions. My favorite? Easter bread. It’s a sweet loaf covered in sprinkles. They serve it as a side dish at the big family Easter party and then we eat leftovers for breakfast until it runs out. I look forward to it every year.

Mark’s Grandmother used to make it every year for everyone in the family. Then, when she wasn’t able to, his Uncle took over the tradition. When she passed away, I got a copy of her recipe so I could continue making it.

It was easier said than done, though. Her recipe is finicky and gives hit-or-miss results. When it turns out, you get this beautiful loaf of sweet bread; When it doesn’t, you get a nice mess. After one-too-many failed attempts to duplicate her bread, I started browsing the internet for another recipe.

This recipe is close to hers, though there are a few key differences. The results taste the same, though, and I’ve yet to have a failed batch. Most importantly, it has gotten Mark’s seal of approval.

EasterBread

Italian Easter Bread
(from The Italian Dish)
Makes 2 braided loaves

2 1/4 t. instant yeast
1 1/4 c. scalded milk, cooled to room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/3 c. butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c.sugar
3 1/2 c. flour (approximate)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
Sprinkles

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, warm milk, salt, butter, eggs and sugar. Add in about half the flour and beat until smooth using a dough hook. Slowly add the remaining flour until a stiff dough forms. Don’t worry about how much flour it ends up being, just keep adding until the dough is not sticky anymore.  Knead until smooth with a dough hook or turn the dough out on floured board and knead. Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

Punch dough down, divide into 6 pieces.  Roll each piece to form a 1 inch thick rope. Using three dough ropes, braid together and pinch ends to seal. Repeat with the remaining three dough ropes.

Transfer the braids to a greased baking sheet.  Cover and let rise until double, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees

Brush each loaf with the beaten egg wash.  Decorate with sprinkles.

Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.