Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Strawberry Cheesecake Forever

Besides more daylight hours, spring is also a time when the fare at the table gets lighter (relatively speaking). Spring vegetables like artichokes, spinach, fava beans, and asparagus have recurring roles on many dinner tables. With swimsuit season a mere few months away, many of us are trying to incorporate more vegetables and fruits into our diets. That doesn’t mean the food can’t be tasty or that we must forgo all things sweet.

Spring fruits like pineapples and apricots, add a nice bit of sweetness to any dessert or on their own, but as wonderful as these fruits are, they still stand in the shadow of strawberries. This heart-shaped berry is packed with vitaminsfiber, and has a high level of antioxidants. They don’t contain sodium, are fat and cholesterol-free. According to WebMD, strawberries are a good source of manganese and potassium. They’re also quite versatile. Add them to your favorite yogurt, plain with a little unsweetened whipped cream, or add them to a salad for a pop of color and taste.

Nevertheless, the most popular way to enjoy strawberries is as a dessert. Strawberry shortcake, tarts, pies, and trifles are delicious. Then there’s strawberry cheesecake. I’ve found that like carrot cake, cheesecake tends to be a dessert people either love or loathe, with very little middle-ground, that is until you add strawberries.

There is something about a strawberry cheesecake that seems to defy convention. Usually made with cream cheese or even mascarpone cheese, it has a silky, fluffy, cloud-like texture. You barely chew it, and if you are like me, I can justify calories I don’t chew. How else can I order a caramel macchiato and still call it just coffee.

Although I don’t need an excuse to make a strawberry cheesecake, I made one in time for Easter, but this is a recipe you can use all summer, it’s a no-bake and doesn’t require much hands-on time making it. I love to be sure everyone who would like to make this can. So, there are adaptations in the recipes for different dietary needs, including gluten-free, low-sugar, and no sugar versions.

Strawberry Cheesecake

1 Graham cracker ready-made pie shell (Oreo ready-made pie shell, Gluten-free graham cracker ready-made pie shell

1 lb strawberries* cored and sliced

¼ cup white sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed finely)

1 package gelatin* (2 ½ teaspoons agar-agar powder)

1 ¼ cups whipping cream (full-fat coconut milk)

24 oz cream cheese* full-fat, brick-style (for lighter cheesecake, you can use 2 ½ packages of light cream cheese and  ½ package or 4 ounces of full-fat cream cheese) (non-dairy 2 ½ packages of Violife Cream Cheese, or Miyoko’s vegan cream cheese plus 4 ounces of full-fat coconut cream, you will need the vegan cream cheese to be softened. Once the coconut cream has separated from the full-fat coconut milk, beat it into the vegan cream cheese until light)

¾ cup powdered sugar (organic confectioner’s sugar or Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute)

To Serve (Optional)

whipped cream

sliced strawberries

Instructions

Cheesecake Filling

Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender.

Push the puree through a sieve to remove the seeds. (Optional, but recommended). 

Add the puree to a medium saucepan with the white sugar and bring to a gentle boil while stirring. You will need to continue stirring. It will begin to thicken and it will reduce to  about ½ of the original volume (about ¾ cup when it’s finished boiling). 

Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the boiling strawberry mixture. Remove from the heat and give the mixture a stir to ensure it’s dissolved.  If you are using agar-agar powder, mix the powder into ¼ cup of water. Let it stand for ten minutes. When the strawberry mixture begins to boil, add the agar-agar to the mixture, stir well and remove from the heat. Stir until agar-agar is dissolved and let cool to about room temperature, don’t put it in the fridge.

In a large bowl beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form.

In a separate bowl beat together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until softened.

Carefully, beat in the cooled strawberry mixture into the cream cheese a little at a time. You can do this through a sieve as well to make the strawberry mixture is smooth.  Ensure it is fully cooled first.

Gently fold in the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until it’s even.

Spoon the mixture on top of the crust, smooth the top, and place in the fridge to set for 6 hours.

Serving

When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the fridge.

Optionally, decorate the cheesecake with whipped cream and strawberries.

Slice with a very thin, sharp knife ensuring to cut all the way through the crust.

Notes

Frozen berries work too. You’ll need approximately 4 cups sliced strawberries. 

One envelope of gelatin is about 2 ¼ teaspoons. It should be enough to set 2 cups (500 mL) of liquid. 

Cream cheese should be softened to room temperature before getting started. 

Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Spring is in the air again. Why not put blueberry muffins on the table?

https://stillachicklit.com/for-serious-foodies/

The first week after Daylight Savings Time is usually pretty hard for most people. However, the arrival of spring helps make the time change a little more bearable. The days are longer and we begin to see more spring vegetables and fruits in the market.

I love blueberries. They are rich in antioxidants, sweet, and a good source of fiber. I am always on the hunt for a good blueberry muffin recipe. Luckily, the majority of the recipes I’ve tried have turned out well.

I’m sharing this recipe from the Life Made Simple blog. I adapted it for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-sensitivities, low and no-sugar diets. It’s a tasty way to get more fiber in your family’s diets. I hope you try this recipe for one fine spring morning at your home.

Blueberry muffins by Life Made Simple adapted by me

 INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, or brown rice flour)

1/2 cup cake flour ( ½ cup gluten-free all-purpose less 3 tablespoons, then add 3 tablespoons gluten-free cornstarch, sift together)

1 cup sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed fine)

1/4 cup vegetable oil – or coconut oil

4 tbsp unsalted butter – melted (vegan unsalted butter)

3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk (3/4 cup of soy, rice, almond, oat, or light coconut milk with 1 ½ teaspoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, combine and let stand for five minutes before using)

2 eggs ( ¼ cup Aquafaba, ½ cup silken tofu pureed with ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or vegan egg replacer)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

11/2 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 2 lemons or the zest of 1 lemon and 2 teaspoons of orange zest

1 1/4 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen

3 tbsp coarse sugar or raw cane sugar – optional topping

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 12 standard muffin cups with liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, lightly beat together oil, butter, vanilla, eggs, and milk.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt.

With mixing speed on low, slowly add dry ingredients. Mix until combined.

Remove bowl from stand, gently fold in blueberries. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 2/3 of the way full. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Place into oven and bake for 24-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Place muffins on wire rack to cool completely.

  • Notes
  • I used a combination of orange and lemon zest in this recipe. I also prefer adding the zest to the flour. I find that even when you mix the wet ingredients well, the zest has a habit of clumping together. If you add the zest to the flour mixture, it gets evenly distributed, and you don’t run the risk of clumps or over-stirring your batter.

Recipe adapted from Life Made Simple blog

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

As winter wanes, just one more comfort meal for the road

https://stillachicklit.com/food/

Daylight Savings Time is here once again. We have more daylight, although so far I’ve seen more clouds than sun. I’m sure that will change soon. As we begin to think about lighter meals, I decided to make a meatloaf for what’s likely the last time until we break the grill out.

Meatloaf is a favorite meal for many people, especially when the cook knows just how to bring the flavors together. I discovered a recipe for meatloaf on the Kitchn site and I like it a lot. I did adapt it with a few tweaks for vegans. I hope you’ll give this recipe a whirl.

Meatloaf recipe by The Kitchn and adapted by Chamein Canton

INGREDIENTS

1 cup torn-up bread pieces, or 1/2 cup bread crumbs (gluten-free bread or breadcrumbs)

(¼ cup to ½ cup panko crumbs For Vegan meatloaf only)

1/2 cup whole or 2% milk (rice or soy milk)

1 small onion, diced small

1 small carrot, peeled and diced small

1 stalk celery, diced small

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 pounds ground meat, such as beef, pork, veal, lamb, or a mix (1 ½ pounds ground turkey and ½ pound ground turkey breast mix) (2-packages vegan groundless beef, Impossible burger ground, Beyond beef ground, Gardein groundless beef)

2 large eggs, beaten ( ½ cup Aquafaba, ½ cup silken tofu pureed with ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (vegan Worcestershire sauce)

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

1/2 cup ketchup, BBQ sauce, or other sauce to coat (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 350°F. Arrange a rack in the bottom third of the oven, and heat to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet or other baking dish with aluminum foil.

Soak the bread pieces in the milk. Combine the bread pieces and the milk in a small bowl. Let stand until the bread has broken down into a thick porridge, occasionally stirring and mushing the bread against the sides of the bowl. You can leave the crusts on the bread or trim them off before soaking; if you leave them on, remove any large pieces that haven’t broken down after soaking.

Cook the veggies. Heat a few teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the diced onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots have softened, 6 to 8 minutes. If the vegetables begin to brown, turn down the heat. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the thyme and tomato paste, and stir until coated. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Make the meatloaf mix. Place the ground meat, beaten eggs, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, soaked bread and milk, and cooked vegetables in a large bowl. Working quickly, use your hands to work the ingredients together until just combined.

Shape the loaf. Transfer the meatloaf mixture to the foil-lined baking sheet or baking dish. Shape it into a rough 9×5-inch loaf. (If using a loaf pan, just pat the meatloaf mixture into the pan.)

Coat the loaf with ketchup or bacon (optional). Spread 1/4 cup of the ketchup mixture over the meatloaf (reserve the other 1/4 cup for later). Alternatively, drape the loaf with bacon slices.

Bake for 45 minutes. Bake the meatloaf for 45 minutes.

Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Spread the remaining 1/4 cup ketchup over the loaf. Bake until the middle of the loaf registers at least 155°F on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes more (about 1 hour total).

Cool 15 minutes before serving. Let the loaf cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. If you baked the meatloaf in a loaf pan, carefully drain off the liquid fat before transferring the meatloaf to a clean cutting board. Cut into thick slices and serve.

Notes If using the groundless beef for a vegan loaf, watch if the mixture is too wet. You can adjust by adding more panko bread crumbs to give it more structure. Most vegan ground meat manages to keep it’s toothiness, but the mirepoix might add a little more moisture to the mix. The bread crumbs will help. You’ll be able to judge when it’s right to you.

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Taking the garden path in 2021 and what’s better than a revenge body

I am still not one for resolutions. To me, the minute folks mention the word, it begins the usual graph chart. Most people are highly motivated in the beginning, then after a few weeks their enthusiasm wanes as winter’s long dark nights take a toll on workout schedules. Finally, most people drop off the chart altogether.

The better idea to me is substitutions instead of resolutions. You can begin making the changes you want to see in yourself by changing your mind set. The focus should be on a healthy body, mind, and spirit. I hear a lot about revenge bodies from people who want to get some sort of cosmic payback on an ex. Since revenge is defined as the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands. To me, that means it steeped in hate.

The word to substitute in place of revenge is empathy. Although usually applied to others, t it’s important that we empathize with ourselves and come from a place of love. The best revenge might be looking good, but , loving, looking and feeling good about yourself, can’t be topped and unlike revenge, can be served cold, hot, or never.

Now many of us north of forty and fifty chicks are making changes in our diets include more vegetables and/or lean proteins. A salad can combine the best of both in a bowl or on a plate topped with homemade dressing that allows you to control the sodium, sugar, and taste.

One of the most raved about salad dressing is from the Olive Garden. Many people love to fill up on their soup and salad. To that end, I discovered a copycat recipe for it some years ago that I have tweaked a bit. However, you can feel free to make it to your taste.

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 small or 2 large garlic cloves

2 tablespoons Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

1/4 cup fresh grated or shredded Parmesan Reggiano (Follow Your Heart Dairy-Free Parmesan, Go Veggie Vegan Parmesan grated, Go Veggie Vegan Soy-free Parmesan grated topping, Violife Parmesan Wedge)

2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (Field Roast Chao Cheese Creamy is the closest in mimicking the funky saltiness of romano.)

3 tablespoons mayonnaise (regular, light, vegan, olive oil)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a small food processor or mini-chop, pulse the garlic a few times. Add the vinegar and lemon juice. If using sugar, add it with the Italian seasoning, parmesan, Romano, and mayonnaise. Pulse the mixture a few times. Then with the processor running, pour the olive oil. The dressing will appear thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your taste.

  • If you don’t want to use Romano cheese, you can add more parmesan cheese
  • Asiago, Grana Padano, or even Taleggio cheese are great substitutes. Use the kind of cheese you prefer
Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

I was a teenage man snatcher and Martha Stewart is partially to blame

It’s a heck of a thing to call yourself a teenage man snatcher, and to point to Martha Stewart as the reason it happened. Well, I have to be honest, she was just one factor that contributed to my delinquency, and she is in good company. Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Charlotte Bronte, and Emily Bronte also contributed to my rep as a modern Victorian seductress.

I loved all things baking from a very early age. My dad gave me an Easy Bake oven when I was four, and once I saw a wedding cake, it was all downhill from there. I was hooked on stacking and frosting cakes. Eventually, my baking repertoire grew over time to include cookies, pastries, bread, muffins, and naturally more cakes. At eleven, I had a subscription to the cooking magazine, Cuisine, which eventually became Gourmet. I loved trying new recipes to challenge myself and improve my skills.

I was a teenager in the eighties. It was a time of big hair, shoulder pads, Dallas, and Dynasty. General Hospital’s Luke and Laura were the onscreen soap couple. Cooking shows were limited to PBS on Sundays and for a few precious hours on Monday evenings. I wasn’t allowed to date at the time. So, while other girls were getting ready to go out to a movie on Friday and Saturday night, I was at home or spending the night over my best friend Melissa’s house listening to the Beatles, Adam Ant, Michael Jackson, and Prince. Madonna got some airplay from us too. After all, she was a Leo like Melissa and me. Not to mention, Madonna and I have the same birthday.

I had friends, but my girl circle was fairly small, but I had a lot of guy friends. Who were really friends and not the euphemisms used to define friendship now. Melissa liked being in the kitchen as much as I did. As a result, we were able to monopolize (as other girls and some of their mother’s thought) all of the guys time with scones, chocolate cookies, muffins, and the like. By no means was it a den of ill-repute, we’d either be at Melissa’s house under her parent’s watchful eyes, or at my house with her mothership (my mother) and my younger sister.

In the beginning, learned how to set a table for company from my mother. She worked in my junior high school cafeteria as a lunch lady, but she also worked on and off for Stone catering company. That helped me get a grip on the basics, but I wanted to do it will a little more style. I was fifteen when I went on a mission to find a cookbook that combined both recipes with entertaining. I checked the shelves of my local libraries and bookstores regularly to no avail.

Then one Sunday afternoon PBS had a special on entertaining with a caterer out of Connecticut, Martha Stewart. I’d never heard of her previously, but her name and style made a lasting impression on me. I was fascinated by her attention to detail, her home décor and the way she presented food on a holiday table. Martha was my parents age and everything about her seemed smooth, elegant, and just plain regal. I scoured TV Guide to see when she was going to be on television again. I couldn’t get enough. Then one day at Waldenbooks, I saw it. Entertaining by Martha Stewart. There she was on the cover in a Victorian style white dress presiding over a perfectly decorated table. I was there with my friend Joel, who I begged to buy the book for me. Lucky for me, he bought it with the catch that I’d have him over whenever i made something from the book. That was one of the easiest deals I ever made. There was no way I wasn’t going to cook my way through the book, or die trying.

It felt like my own little storyline was happening in real life. I wasn’t going on dates but I was in the kitchen with Martha and my friend Melissa. I was in my Victorian phase. I loved Gunne Sax dresses and old lace. We made scones, muffins, bread, pies, cakes, and more kinds of biscotti than anyone could shake a stick at. Although I predate Kelis, her Milkshake song is appropriate here, except it wasn’t my milkshake that brought the boys to my yard, it was my pepperoni loaf.

Martha Stewart’s first book was my gateway drug to Cuisinart food processors, Kitchen Aid stand mixers, mini-herb choppers, wedding cake pans, Madeline molds, and more. My entertaining game was on the rise and my guy friends could reap the benefits from my properly set table.

Entertaining worked perfectly, and I had all the eligible guys were at my house and around the kitchen. The funny thing was I didn’t want anything more than friendship. Although I had to admit there was one guy I liked, and my mother was okay with him. My sister didn’t like him that much, but that was neither here nor there at the time. I wasn’t allowed to date, and he was already in college. All the man snatching hullabaloo happened because he was the object of someone else’s affection, and that affection wasn’t returned. I can’t say that I didn’t understand why she and her mother needed a heavy. Who wants to believe a guy rejected them straight out of hand. So, naturally, I was deemed a little Entertaining hussy, tempting men with baked goods and cooked meals. Still, I didn’t let it faze me in the least.


At the height of our entertaining jag, Melissa and I held a formal dinner for all the guys at her house. There was Melissa’s Greek Moussaka, my pepperoni loaf, rolls, roasted vegetables and cake for desert made by me. It was a success and enjoyed thoroughly judging by the number of second helpings and empty plates. It was the only dinner party we ever had as teenagers, but that was okay with us. I had the opportunity to show off my Martha skills long before her name became a verb and before Snoop ever heard of the lady who used to rule over an estate and property in Turkey Hill, Connecticut (at the time). I have come a long way from the wide-eyed sixteen-year-old girl when the first edition of Entertaining was released. My skills have gotten better and while I still prefer to make things from scratch, I am a little more relaxed about it courtesy of another lifestyle/tv-chef maven, Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I’ve integrated Martha’s penchant for good things, with Ina’s how easy is that philosophy, and the amalgamation works.

I’m no longer a man snatcher and my milkshake is a little thicker, but I still bring all the boys to the table, only this time, the boys are mine and the loves of my life. My twin sons Sean and Scott, who are my ultimate good thing.

I am including one of the first recipes I ever made from Entertaining by Martha Stewart Copyright 1982.

Banana Bread recipe by Martha Stewart adapted for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-sensitivities, low sugar, and no-sugar dietary needs by Chamein Canton

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan (vegan butter, margarine)
  • 1 cup sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed finely)
  • 2 large eggs (4 tablespoons Aquafaba, 1//2 cup silken tofu, pureed with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free all-purpose flour, sorghum, millet, sweet rice, or brown rice flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (dairy; light sour cream, plain yogurt) (non-dairy; soy milk, or almond milk yogurt) (vegan sour cream)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

  1. Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat to incorporate.
  2. Step 2 In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream, and vanilla; mix to combine. Stir in nuts and pour into prepared pan.
  3. Step 3 Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let rest in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

Additional Notes

  1. To make a flax or chia seed egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed/chia seed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together, and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken.
Flaxseed Egg photo from Chocolate Covered Katie