Mini Raspberry-Vanilla Bean Cheesecakes

In the late summer of 1998 I moved to San Francisco from New Mexico. I had been living in the “Land of Enchantment” for a short time when I was a traveling Nurse. I still remember the long drive through the central valley of California on my way to San Francisco and seeing all the fresh produce trucks driving past me in great numbers. Convoys of huge trucks filled with roma tomatoes, and other fresh produce were cruising past me on my journey to my new home. It suddenly dawned on me that California was going to be an exciting place when it came to shopping for fresh fruits and veggies. The first taste of a really ripe apricot was one of my first amazing discoveries, the second was tasting a really ripe juicy raspberry. Grocery shopping suddenly became a little more exciting to me. Being a “foodie” this was fun for me to find such gorgeous fruit. I don’t mean to wax poetic, but this was something new to me; a raspberry that was really sweet and not half ripe. Cartons of beautiful ruby-red raspberries all stacked atop each other in neatly organized rows. A raspberry that was picked from the coastal region of California the day before at its peak of ripeness- not hard, not pale red, but deep dark red and sweet. Raspberries have been on sale this week so I took the opportunity to grab quite a few and made some fresh raspberry sauce to top my cheesecakes. You could also use frozen raspberries and it would work fine. Here is another favorite recipe of mine; a raspberry tart recipe while raspberries are in season. Click here for more facts about California raspberries as well as how to pick and store fresh raspberries from the fine folks at Driscolls. Enjoy.

Mini Raspberry-Vanilla Bean Cheesecakes

yield: 24 mini (standard muffin size) cheesecakes

Raspberry Topping

24 oz. fresh raspberries

1/2 Cup sugar

1 tsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. water

In a 3 quart saucepan combine the raspberries and sugar and let them macerate for a few minutes. On medium high heat, bring the raspberries and sugar mixture to a boil for 3 minutes while stirring continuously with a rubber spatula. Mash the raspberries with the spatula while letting it come to a boil. After 3 minutes, in a small bowl combine the cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Stir in the slurry and continue to stir for another 3 minutes to let the mixture thicken. Strain through a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl to remove all the seeds and press the mixture with the spatula back and forth to allow all of the raspberry filling to pass through. Scrape the underside of the strainer to make sure you get all of the filling into the bowl. Let the filling cool and chill in a covered container in the fridge.


4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese; room temp

1 Cup sugar

1 tsp. lemon zest

2 tsp. vanilla bean paste

4 eggs; room temp

1  1/2  Cup fresh raspberries rinsed and drained well

24 “Nilla” wafers

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare 2 standard size muffin tins with paper liners. Place a Nilla wafer in the bottom of each muffin cup with the flat side down. Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla bean paste until well combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time until just combined. Carefully fold in the fresh raspberries. Fill the liners 3/4 full with cheesecake mixture. Bake about 15-18 minutes until the centers are ALMOST set. Cool completely and chill the cakes for 3-4 hours. Top each cheesecake with raspberry topping. Serve cold.

Tangelo-Tangerine Pudding, Vanilla Pudding

Today-I’m channeling my inner child. With pudding. Pudding was a big thing in my house growing up. We always had a box of pudding mix in the cupboard. Now that I’m older, my love of a good pudding has not changed; although now I make it from scratch. It really is not hard to crank out a quick pudding from scratch. You should not let it scare you; most ingredients you need you probably already have on hand. I’m having child hood flashbacks and I might have to make pudding more often. Another child hood flashback is the beloved creamsickle. Oh as a child, how many creamsickles I would consume during summer. Icy, tart orange with creamy vanilla; a classic flavor combo. I found this recipe for tangelo-tangerine pudding in Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison, and I thought it would be fun to make a creamsickle inspired pudding parfait by making a vanilla pudding as well. Channel your inner child. Enjoy.

Tangelo-Tangerine Pudding

yield: 4 servings

(recipe adapated from Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison)

2 tsp. tangelo or tangerine zest

2  1/2  Tbsp. sugar

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 Cups fresh tangelo or tangerine juice (~10-12 tangelo’s)

tiny pinch of salt

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. orange flower water or 1/2 tsp. orange extract

1. Smash the tangerine zest with the sugar to moisten the sugar and release the aromatic oils. Transfer to a saucepan along with the cornstarch, juice and salt. Stir to dissolve the cornstarch.

2. Over medium high heat; bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring until the juice has thickened; this will take about 4 minutes. Let the mixture boil about 2 minutes while stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter and orange-flower water or orange extract. If you are making a layered parfait, pour into a container and chill or divide into juice or champagne glasses and chill. It will take about 2 hours to chill until set.

Vanilla Pudding

yield: 4 servings

2  1/2 Cups whole milk, divided

1/2 Cup sugar

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1  1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1. In a small to medium bowl whisk the cornstarch along with 1/2 Cup of the milk. Add the yolks and whisk to combine; set aside.

2. Place the remaining 2 cups milk in a saucepan along with the sugar and salt. Bring to a boil; then slowly pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the bowl with the cornstarch mixture to temper the mixture. Pour that back into the saucepan and bring the pudding to a boil over medium high heat while stirring with a rubber spatula. Let the mixture boil for about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Pour the pudding into a container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding. Let the pudding chill. If you are not making a parfait; you can pour the pudding into 4 containers.

Parfait assembly:

Layer the puddings in a glass or decorative cups; alternating the two puddings. Top with whipped cream if desired or creme fraiche. Serve chilled.

Raspberry and Cream Horns

Cream horn. This little pastry gem falls under the category simple but tasty. So simple to make. Sure you can buy them at the store, but when you make them at home you can also know that they are fresh and have not been sitting there for God knows how long. Growing up my Mom used to buy cream horns at the store all the time. We weren’t really a twinkie kind of household. Explains a lot, no? When I was in pastry school and we learned how to make fresh puff pastry this little pastry treat was one of the recipes we made. You can make a million things with puff pastry and it’s handy to have a box in your freezer when the mood strikes you to make something tasty and easy. Our teacher in pastry school; the amazing pastry chef Nancy Pitta taught us to put a spin on the recipe and add a piped stripe of raspberry jam on the inside belly of the horn before piping in the cream. I will never make a plain cream horn ever again since that day. The raspberry jam totally makes this simple treat even better.

Raspberry and Cream Horns

yield: about 12 cream horns

1 box puff pastry

metal “horns” for wrapping puff pastry on (note; if you do not have the metal horns you can create your own by using tinfoil to shape a horn shape) cannoli tubes also work if you happen to have them

coarse sanding sugar

seedless raspberry jam

stabilized whipped cream (recipe below)

Stabilized whipped cream:

4 tsp. cold water

2 tsp. gelatin

1 cup cold heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1. Chill mixing bowl and whisk attachment for at least 15 minutes before using. Place cold water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water and allow to soften 5 minutes.

2. Dissolve gelatin by microwaving for about 20-30 seconds. Remove from microwave and place the bowl in the fridge; you want the gelatin to be liquid but not warm when added to cream.

3. Remove bowl and whisk from refrigerator and pour in cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat together just until beater marks begin to show distinctly; about 1 minute. Remove the gelatin from the fridge, with the mixer still running, pour the gelatin mixture in a fine stream into cream, pouring in a steady stream while beating constantly. Beat until stiff peaks form. Chill until ready to use.

Pastry horns:

1. Thaw puff pastry according to package directions. Roll over the pastry a few times with a rolling pin to secure any seams in the pastry. With a pastry wheel or sharp knife cut strips of the puff about 3/4 inch in diameter. Lightly grease the metal horns with nonstick baking spray. Wrap the puff strips around the metal horn starting at the tapered end and overlapping 1/2 half of each strip as you make your way up the horn. Add strips as you need to so you have a continuous wrap up the metal horn. Secure and pinch any loose seams to keep the wrap tight as you go.

2. Once the horns are completely wrapped brush each horn on one side with water and press into coarse sugar. Place the pastry horns on a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet with the sugar side facing up and chill for at least 30 minutes.

3. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely on the tray.

4. Pipe each bottom floor of the pastry horn with raspberry jam. Fill the remaining pastry horn with stabilized whipped cream. These are best served the same day, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Coconut Rice Pudding With Rum Raisins

I must admit, growing up I was never into rice pudding, but as a lot of things go with getting older we develop a liking for different desserts. This is a dessert you can whip up with items you have in the pantry. I always keep coconut milk on hand, and I always have rice.  If I run out of rice you know something is seriously wrong with the world; perhaps a catastrophic event of some sort. I am married to an Asian; ergo I am Asian by proxy  ;-). We simply do not run out of rice. We buy rice in 25 lb. bags, exactly how I buy my flour and sugar. This is why Costco has extra-large flat carts. If 3 days go by without the rice cooker being fired up The Husband and my little one get a bit cranky. I think for me, the real reason for making rice pudding is just finding a valid excuse to soak raisins in rum. You know I’m a rum girl…Plan ahead when you make the pudding because the raisins should soak for a good long while in the rum. A long soak in rum=yum.

Coconut Rice Pudding With Rum Raisins

1  1/2 Cups Jasmine* rice cooked, cooled (Rinse the rice 3 times before cooking)

*[I prefer Jasmine rice, but you can also use any long grain rice]

1 (13.5 oz.) can coconut milk (1 can equals ~  1  2/3 Cup)

2 Cups whole milk

1/3 Cup sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

3/4 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or 3/4 tsp. vanilla)

1/2 Cup raisins (soaked in dark rum for 2-4 hours, strained)

Optional Garnish: toasted sweetened coconut, lime zest

1. Prepare ahead and soak your raisins in 1/4 Cup dark rum for ~ 2 hours at least; preferably 4 hours if you can.

2. In a 3 qt. heavy saucepan add the milk mixture, rice, sugar, and salt. Simmer uncovered over medium heat, stirring frequently until thickened, about 40 minutes. Stir in vanilla bean paste and strained raisins. Garnish with toasted coconut and fresh lime zest if desired. Serve warm.

3. Leftover pudding can be stored in fridge for up to one week. Pudding can be served warm or cold.

{Printable Recipe}:

Rich Chocolate Pudding

Rich Chocolate Pudding

When I was growing up, my Mother used to put me in charge of making the pudding. I’m not really sure how it happened, that I became the “Jello de Master”, but I loved doing it.   I remember feeling so grown up making that Jello brand pudding. It was a treat that we shared as a family. Many a Saturday or Sunday night we would all sit around and watch “Family TV” and eat warm pudding. Always warm, never cold.  Something about watching “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” and giant squids paired perfectly while tucking into warm chocolate pudding.  🙂

It seemed so magical watching  the transformation of this mysterious brown powder that came in such a tiny box.  Who knew that brown powder and milk would eventually yield into something so chocolatey, warm, and luscious. Times have changed, and I still like to make pudding from time to time but now I like it HOMEMADE. It doesn’t take much more effort to pull together items from the cupboard and fridge to create a really good pudding. I alway keep 60 % cacao baking bars in my cupboard for such an occasion as well as a number of things. This recipe is from a tried and true website online that you can find a multitude of sins from, be it chocolate pudding or apple pie. The website is


1 C Sugar

1/4 C cornstarch

pinch of salt

8 0z. Ghirardelli (60 % cacao) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

2   2/3 C whole milk

2 large egg yolks

2 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. vanilla


In a heavy saucepan; whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and pinch of salt. Stir in the chopped chocolate. Set aside with the burn off for now.

In a medium bowl whisk together the milk and the egg yolks until smooth and combined.

Place the saucepan with the chocolate mixture, and with the heat on medium, gradually whisk the milk/egg mixture into the chocolate mixture. Whisking constantly; heat the mixture over medium heat until the pudding comes to a boil. Still whisking; Let the pudding boil for one minute. Take off the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Pour the pudding into four 8 oz. serving cups. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface to avoid a skin from forming. Let the pudding cool enough so it is still warm, but not hot enough to burn your tongue. Enjoy!