Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Trifles

Can you believe the 4th of July is almost here? I feel like the summer is just flying by. Our local fireman’s carnival opens up this weekend – we’re anxiously awaiting oyster and clam fritters, flaked ice in our soda, and the freshly made caramel corn that we’ll feast on Friday night. It’s a right of passage of summer around these parts…

One thing that is a lifesaver in the summertime is no-bake desserts. It doesn’t do anyone any good to heat up the oven for hours on end when it’s over 100 degrees outside. Well, anyone except your electric company I suppose… So, it’s good to have a little trick like this delicious trifle up your sleeve. Not to mention it’s quick – giving you more time to play outside in the sunshine!

I used blueberries, but  would be equally good with raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries. Or a cute would they be decorated for the 4th with strawberries and blueberries? I loved the addition of almonds into the streusel topping too, really deepened the flavor and gave it a nice nutty quality. And the lemon cheesecake filling was perfect – a nice lemon flavor from the Lucky Leaf pie filling, but not too sweet.

I layered them in mason jars – because, I’m just obsessed with them lately. This would also make for great portability to a potluck or barbeque. I will admit it makes for a large portion. I’ll probably try them in half-pint size next time. Or, couples could always share – just offer 2 spoons! A delicious, beautiful dessert for any warm summer night. 

Disclaimer: Lucky Leaf provided me with products to sample. As always, all opinions and thoughts are my own.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

A dairy opened in our little town. They’ve always been there actually, but just not open to the public. I can’t count how many times I’ve driven by, and contemplated stopping by with a milk jug to find out what the dilly was. So, when I saw a sign pop up over the winter, saying that they were opening to the public in the spring – well, let’s just say I was beyond excited.

Homemade ice cream, cream-top milk, homemade cheeses and breads. Everything is beyond wonderful! The cows are right there on the premises, and the boys love eating their ice cream on the patio by the pastures. We’ve been several times already, and are always looking forward to our next trip. It’s  on the way home when I take the “back road” to pick up our crop share – so I always try to swing by and pick up some fresh milk. The milk is so rich and creamy, and sweet. With milk of this caliber, I felt horrible mixing in store-bought syrup that’s chock-full of corn syrup and fakeness. Then I remembered Annie’s post on a homemade version, and went right to work making it. It took all but about 5 minutes, and the results were pretty much bananas.

This syrup is thick, rich, and indulgent. I can never go back to the brown bottle again! This will be a staple in my refrigerator from now on. Perfect stirred into milk, over ice cream, drizzled over pretty much any dessert. A keeper for sure!

Ricotta-Pineapple Pie

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe here on the blog for a long time. Oddly, I’d planned on making it this weekend – had all the ingredients in the fridge, waiting. But with the sad news this week, I wanted to make it so I could share it with you guys today.

This is one of the first desserts I made when learning to cook, The Sopranos Family Cookbook being one of the first cookbooks I owned. Needless to say, the show…and it’s anti-hero Tony Soprano, played by beloved James Gandolfini, hold a special place in my heart. Over the years there were so many great moments, and characters. Paulie Walnuts, Janice, Junior, Livia… I still find myself wondering what the characters would be up to today.

If anything, I know this ricotta pineapple pie would be in their lives. Carmella always made it when she wanted to “butter” someone up for a favor. The first time I made it I remember thinking that it was unlike anything I’d ever made before. The ricotta gives it such a unique texture and lightness, and not too sweet. And the pineapple topping is just the right amount of sweetness, with a hint of tart from the addition of fresh lemon juice.

I’ve modified a few things over the years. I like to use fresh pineapple instead of canned. I’ve found it has better flavor, and texture. Also, I use a blind-baked pie crust, as opposed to the graham cracker crust. It holds up better, making pretty slices possible.

Vanilla Sugar

It’s been a couple of years now that I’ve been buying my vanilla beans in bulk. It’s so wonderful to have them on hand for any recipe that calls for vanilla, and to see those gorgeous flecks of vanilla bean speckled throughout whatever it is I’ve made. I take pride in making my own vanilla extract, such better quality than the stuff from the store, and so much more economical. $5 for a little bottle…say whaaaa?

But, I think my favorite thing to do with them is also one of the most simple. Whenever I have used beans in which I’ve scraped the seeds from, I toss the spent pods into a Mason Jar filled with sugar. There’s still lots of great flavor in the beans, and it infuses the sugar with all the deliciousness of the vanilla. It’s absolutely wonderful stirred into a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Makes a wonderful vanilla simple syrup. On top of creme brûlée, or anything brûléed for that matter. Not to mention it looks so pretty sitting on my pantry shelf…

Don’t you just love these limited edition Ball Heritage Jars? Mason jars have always been my go-to for food storage in the kitchen – so useful and practical. But these gorgeous jars that Ball has come out with for their 100th anniversary are just simply lovely to look at! I’ve always loved the old jars with the blue tint, and enjoy seeking them out at yard sales and flea markets. But to have some that are actually usable? So cool! The good folks at Ball have offered to give a case (set of 6 pint jars with lids) away to a lucky reader. To enter, just leave a comment telling us what’s your favorite use for a Ball jar? In the kitchen, or anywhere. Contest runs today through June 26th at 11:59 PM EST. 

Disclaimer: I received a case of Ball Heritage pint jars to review at no cost. As always, all opinions are my own.