Eat Your Sweetheart Out: Snickers Cheesecake

Eeeeeeeee! It’s the season of sugar! (You really can’t make weight loss resolutions until after Easter, seriously). Valentine’s Day is today, and I sure hope your pancreas is ready for what I’m about to dish up. 🙂

It started with the urge to make a decadent cheesecake for my mom’s birthday.

When I googled snickers cheesecake, I came up with results that showed cheesecakes with swamps of Snickers bar chunks on top. This seemed like a good idea (and it’s not bad, I’ve had it at the Cheesecake Factory before), but not quite what I was hoping for, as far as great flavor and texture are concerned. Instead, I decided to pay tribute to the spirit of a Snickers bar, with roasted, salted peanuts, hot fudge, caramel, and whipped cream on top. I think I’ve created a winner! Snickers Cheesecake

If you’re looking to make dessert this Valentine’s Day (or any celebration, for that matter), you’ll appreciate this cheesecake recipe. It’s not too hard (considering) and it tastes way better than shoving mutilated candy bars in your cheesecake batter. 🙂

Ditch the box of chocolates, Forrest Gump… you and your Valentine will die and go to candy heaven with this recipe.

Ode to Snickers Cheesecake
(Heavily adapted from a recipe for Irish cream cheesecake from Favorite Old-Fashioned Desserts by Pat Dailey)
By Brenna Arnesen

CRUST
1 – 9 oz. box Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
4 T unsalted butter, melted

FILLING
1 c. plus 2 T granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 lbs. (4 – 8 oz. packages) cream cheese, softened
1 T cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla extract

TOPPING
Hot fudge sauce
Caramel sauce (I used jarred for both, quick & easy)
Roasted salted peanuts, coarsely crushed
Whipped cream (from a can)

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Crush the cookies into fine crumbs in a food processor or blender. Add the butter and mix well. Transfer crumbs to a 10-inch springform pan and press them into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake until the crumbs are set, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the filling, mix the sugar and eggs in a food processor or with an electric mixer for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese in batches and mix until thoroughly smooth. Add the cornstarch and vanilla and mix well.

Pour the filling into the crust. Bake until the cake is just set in the center, about 35 – 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, but leave the oven on.

Take your crushed peanuts, approximately 1 – 1.5 cups worth, and sprinkle on top of cheesecake. Return cheesecake to oven and bake for 6 minutes or so, until peanuts set and get slightly toasted. Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with room temp hot fudge sauce and caramel sauce to your liking. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours before serving, and then serve with whipped cream.

And snicker at how easy this dessert was to make! 🙂

Have a sweet Valentine’s Day! What are you eating and drinking tonight?

Love,
The Rambling Vine

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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What to Drink When You’re Expecting Part II

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s challenging being a pregnant wine-lover. While very light drinking – especially after the first trimester – is probably not going to harm the baby, science still cannot tell us how little alcohol it takes to cause damage, and that’s just not something I’m willing to risk. My guilt wouldn’t let me anyway: I sneak thimble-sized sips of wine or beer from my husband every now and then, and I still panic a tiny bit. It’s just not worth it to me, although once I’m in my 8th or 9th month I may be so uncomfortable I’ll be willing to risk a glass of wine once a month. 🙂

However, there’s still “in the mean time.” It’s now June, and I am in my 21st week, or about  month 5. Still 4 more months of good behavior in store.

More than enjoying a glass of wine on its own, I have missed wine the most when I’ve had a very rich meaty or cheesy dinner and I don’t have those precious few sips of wine to wash it down and ease the digestion of fat. It makes a huge difference now in my ability to digest and enjoy a meal. Certain dishes like rich, buttery, cheesy pastas or marbled cuts of beef with velvety sauces are unbearable now without a glass of wine!

One night not too long ago, I went out to eat with my girl friend and in the spirit of yea-I’m-celebrating-with-my-out-of-town-friend-I-should-live-it-up I ordered macaroni with three cheeses and kielbasa sausage (makes me sick just to read that now!). What the heck, I thought. I never order this sort of thing, it will be a treat. The dish came, and it was wonderful and addicting, but then I began to fear the power of all that oily cheese and butter and the havoc it would soon wreak on my GI tract. There is a reason I never order this sort of thing without wine! What have I done, I thought to myself with the same disgust and self-loathing of someone who’d just signed up to run a marathon through Death Valley on a July noon. We were about to go see a movie after dinner… would I miss most of it because my body insisted I stare at bathroom wall art work instead?

But then I remembered what I could do! Although I didn’t have a tasty glass of wine with which to complement my mac and cheese, I recalled hearing about Italians from Modena, the region famed for prized aged balsamic vinegars. I had bought a fine bottle for my dad as a birthday present, and remember reading the tag on the bottle that listed how the people of Modena enjoyed their vinegar: over strawberries, over parmesan cheese, or – gasp! – even by the spoonful after a meal. Huh, that’s nifty, and makes sense, I had thought to myself. Vinegar is highly acidic and breaks down fat molecules, thus helping you digest. Taking a spoonful of rich balsamic vinegar after a meal is like a tonic or digestive aid, more medicinal in purpose, but if you select a sweet, dessert-y balsamic, it’s more pleasant than a harsh, cheap, low quality vinegar. The Latin and Greek roots of the word balsamic even mean “balsam-like” or “restorative” or “curative.”

With this snap revelation from Bacchus the Italian wine god, I asked our server if he could bring me some balsamic vinegar. After his first failed attempt of bringing me malt vinegar (the kind Brits put on their fish & chips – not something to slurp on its own!), he did manage to find some better balsamic and brought it to the table (someone got an education in vinegar that night). My friend had an empty condiment cup from her nacho toppings, so we emptied it and I filled it like a shot glass and slammed that baby down without too much puckering.

Praise the Lord, I had no issues! That shot of vinegar did the trick in helping me digest some mighty rich food. I think it probably worked better than a glass of wine because of how much concentrated acidity is in balsamic vinegar as opposed to a single glass of wine. Who knew, huh?

The restaurant balsamic was OK, but definitely not the finer, aged, gourmet kind you can savor on its own, with its dark, rich, syrupy smooth sweetness. Sometimes those bottles will run you $30, $40, $50 even, depending on how long it has been aged, and also the name brand.

If you want a fabulous, authenic, aged balsamico from Modena, with great texture and smooth, complex aromatics, have I got a sweet little secret! It’s even less than $20. You must think I’m crazy, right? Ha, check this out….

The sweet little secret is Barrel Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Tsillan Cellars in Lake

Nectar of the gods, aged balsamic vinegar. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

Nectar of the gods, aged balsamic vinegar. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

Chelan, WA. You know it must be good if we’ve downed most of the bottle, right? We bought this 8.45 oz. bottle for only $12 when we were wine tasting at Tsillan (pronounced Shuh-lan) Cellars last summer. This balsamic vinegar is from Modena, Italy and “is aged up to 18 years in wood casks. Its sweet yet subtle character makes it the most famous vinegar in the culinary world.”

Tsillan Cellars is a gorgeous Tuscan-style villa overlooking the lake. I could totally die happy there. I’ll definitely blog about some of their other wines down the road. For now, trust me when I say that they make fantastic wines and an astonishingly awesome balsamic. I don’t see this vinegar for sale on their website, so you may just have to plan a trip out to Lake Chelan soon for some wine tasting. Darn! 🙂

This vinegar is scrumptious on its own (I’ve enjoyed a couple spoonfuls since being preggo) or mixed with a fine olive oil to drizzle onto roasted veggies or in which to dip big hunks of rustic rosemary bread. For a special treat, drizzle over strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and mint with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar. Or, for an even more ridiculously special treat, stuff some medjool dates with bleu cheese, wrap with bacon, and roast in the oven until cooked through, dark and crispy, then drizzle balsamic over the top. Freaking. Unbelievable.

There’s something mysterious yet appealing about balsamic vinegar’s whole “sweet and sour” routine. It’s complex and satisfying, which is apparently something preggos crave a lot, like pickles and ice cream. Don’t worry, I haven’t gotten to that stage yet, at least not eating them together. Balsamic vinegar is a whole new paradigm, like parenthood.

So, if you’re like me, an abstaining preggo who may get herself in trouble from time to time with rich dinners, make it your Mary Poppins mantra that “Just a spoonful of balsamic vinegar helps the indigestion subside… in the most delightful way!” 🙂

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What to Drink When You’re Expecting Part I

Well, it’s official, I’m pregnant! My due date is October 22nd, I am 19 weeks along, and we just found out a couple day ago we’re having a boy. My husband and I are both super excited to start this new chapter of our lives (especially my husband, I kept him waiting long enough for kids!). 🙂

Just to have a little fun, I thought I would do a two-part series on “What to Drink When You’re Expecting” on The Rambling Vine. With all the fun options taken away during those nine months, what’s a woman going to drink that will be enjoyable and not a drag? Here are the results of my investigation.

In anticipation of possibly getting pregnant last fall and winter, I cut down on my caffeine and alcohol intake in order to accustom myself to the probability of going without for about 9 months. So by the time I found out I was indeed pregnant, it wasn’t too hard to abstain, since I’d been having maybe a quarter to half a single glass of wine, not finishing a beer, etc.

I have to admit I’ve had tiny sips of my husband’s beer on random occasions these last few months, hardly enough to harm a fly. Sneaking sips, though, only reminds me of what I’m missing, and that I had to find some satisfying alternatives.

So, I turned to the common non-alcoholic beverage alternatives, most of which involve way more sugar than I’m used to drinking (fruit juice, sodas, iced teas, etc.). Of course water with some fresh lemon is fantastic in copious quantities and should top the list of every pregnant woman, but everyone gets tired of water and needs other options for variety.

First off, because I want my research to benefit the rest of abstaining humanity, here are some of my favorite beverage finds that aren’t too sugary (not like a Pepsi, anyway) and give you some refreshing flavor:

Dry Soda (I especially like Rhubarb and Lavender… low calorie, not too sweet)
Izze Sparkling Juices (My favorites are GrapefruitClementine, and Green Apple, refreshing)
San Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (I like their flavor the best of the sparkling mineral waters… and believe me, I tried a lot in my first trimester)
The Republic of Tea Orange Ginger Mint Tea (helps aid digestion and calm your stomach)
Seattle’s Best Decaf Coffee (for a rich, smooth decaf that tastes like regular coffee)

I am grateful to each and every one of these aforementioned beverages for taking care of my tummy and nausea during the first trimester and satisfying my thirst. Your kindnesses will never be forgotten!

And just when you think, hey, sparkling water and tea ain’t so bad, I can do this, you wander into Total Wine & More with your husband, stroll down the aisles and salivate over the beautiful, exotic wines and tempting craft beers that beckon you from their shelf perches. I pouted as I realized I couldn’t buy wine for myself for a while longer yet, in large part because we already have plenty of wine that will need to be consumed after I give birth (and indeed it shall be heartily imbibed!).

As I wandered by the O’Douls in one of the beer aisles, I looked up and read the “Non-Alcoholic Beer” tag, and had a moment of truth… this was the one and only time I’d have to try non-alcoholic beer and wine, and see if the stuff was actually worth drinking. Does it actually hit the spot and make you feel like you’re not missing anything? So I grabbed the sales guy, asked him what he thought their best non-A beer and wine were, and purchased those immediately. Anything for the sake of research!

So here is the non-A beer I bought:
Paulaner Thomas Brau Non-Alcoholic Brew from Munich, Germany

Thomas Brau Non Alcoholic Beer

Thomas Brau Non Alcoholic Beer

“Brewed in strict accordance with the German Beer Purity Law, Thomas Brau delivers German brewing heritage in a non-alcoholic beverage alternative. Enjoy Thomas Brau during business lunches, anytime where true beer taste is desired!” Yes, business lunches, just what I needed this for! 🙂
This isn’t terrible, it’s a lighter beer but the flavor is OK, especially if you don’t remind yourself it’s non-A. There is less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. I wouldn’t turn one down if offered one of these at a BBQ, but for sipping on its own, meh. On the whole, not bad.

And here is the non-A wine:
St. Regis Non-Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon

St. Regis Non-Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon

St. Regis Non-Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon

I have to say I liked the beer much better compared to this swill.

Here are my tasting notes on this “beverage”: on the nose, mildewed gym socks overshadowed by aged cardboard, on the palate, stewed dirt with hair spray, and on the finish, garden compost mingled gently with bleach and tobacco. And I’m being serious!

If this is the best non-A wine they have to offer, then leave it, it’s horrible. I have nothing good to say about this. Even my husband tried it and found it abysmal.

Well, that saved you some money, right? 🙂

In conclusion, if you are REALLY missing wine, and you REALLY want, in my opinion, the closest thing to it? Stick with grape juice, specifically, R.W. Knudsen Family Organic Concord Grape Juice. It has no sugar added, is super thick, dark, viscous, and very close to a heavy red in its body and appearance. It’s very rich without being too sweet. Trying pouring a little over ice, it comes as close to hitting the wine spot as you can get. I’m calling it “preggo punch.”

Have any of you found really good non-alcoholic beverages that got you through your pregnancy? What were they? Also, stay tuned for part two of this series! 🙂

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.