Valentine’s Day Party Bites – Dessert Style!

Here at Diva Entertains, we are planning a series of “Party Bite” blog posts in upcoming weeks, and today is the first in that series… and it’s a Valentine  DESSERT “party bites” post!  So… the post is brought to you by chocolate, red velvet and truffles, with a few more yummy things thrown in just for fun!

And to save time, I’m just going to provide links and images, since the photos speak for themselves

Hot Chocolate Truffle Balls, from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  Totally easy – totally fun!  Drop them in some hot milk for a fabulous flavor explosion.  Or eat ’em straight up – either way these are winners!

From Smuckers, Strawberry Angel Cookies.  A very easy recipe that uses a angel food cake mix.  Although the recipe calls for sugar free preserves (which is great if your on a low sugar diet), I made them with the real deal!

From Peace of Cake, Red Velvet Cookies:  So simple (use a red red velvet cake mix)…so good!  Cream cheese is one of the 5 (yes, only 5!) ingredients so you know it is going to be good!

From Baking Bites, Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies.  Need we say more?

From The Curvy Carrot, Cherry Chocolate Kisses:

And last but not least, super, SUPER easy Heart Shaped Cupcakes.  (how to make the heart shape – use whatever cupcake recipe you’d like)

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Diva Entertains Pecan Pie Cheesecake

I ran across this pecan pie cheesecake recipe years ago in Southern Living Magazine.  It received the highest rating that the magazine gives its recipe and after tasting it I can understand why.  It is sinfully delicious.  And because part of the filling calls for using a purchased, frozen pecan pie – the recipe isn’t that hard or complicated.

That being said – I’ve had to adapt the instructions a bit.  The original recipe said to “cut pie into 20 thin slices…and to arrange 10 pecan pie wedges in a spoke design in prepared pan, placing 1 cut side of each wedge on crust with narrow end towards center of pan.”  But after making this pie many times I never could get 10 perfect pieces to work let alone cut 20 narrow pieces.  Instead my instructions are a bit more ‘lax’ and depend on smooshing pieces in place if needed.  Works every time!

Diva Entertains Pecan Pie Cheesecake Whole

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Lemon Cheesecake – The Best I’ve Had!

Diva Entertains Lemon Cheesecake

You know you’ve found something really good when family and friends request it over and over again.  For their birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions.  And so it is with this recipe.  It is simply scrumptious!  And, believe it or not, light tasting. (Note that I said light tasting.  Three bricks of cream cheese hardly qualifies as a light dessert:)

This recipe comes from one of my favorite cooking magazines, Cook’s Illustrated.  Unfortunately you have to have a membership to view this particular recipe on the site.  But it is a fabulous magazine and every recipe in it is like a mini cooking lesson.

Let me start off by saying I took the easy way out with this recipe.  I skip the Baine Marie (water bath) for the cheesecake because it’s a lot of extra work and I can’t image the cheesecake tasting any more amazing than it does.  Granted, a Baine Marie does cut down on the risk of your cheesecake top cracking but, at least for me, I’m totally good with covering it with some fresh fruit or a dollop of carefully placed whipped cream.  It also calls for a top layer of lemon curd which I also leave off because: 1)um…I’m a tad lazy, 2) I think it would take away from the lightness of this cake, and 3) it wouldn’t freeze as well if there were leftovers.   But you can also make homemade lemon curd or…much easier, purchase it and top the cheesecake off with it.  I’ve found lemon curd in the “International Aisle” of most supermarkets in the “British” section.

I made up my own crust using Nilla Wafers by Nabisco, I love the vanilla-buttery taste of them.

Finally – the technique of cooking the cheesecake until it reaches an internal temperature of 150F and then turning the oven off and leaving it in the oven for an hour with the door propped open a bit makes the creamiest, most luscious cheesecake I’ve ever tasted.  All you need is an inexpensive instant read food thermometer from the cooking aisle of your grocery store.

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Chocolate Corruption Cheesecake

Diva Entertains Cheesecake Slice

I *love* cheesecake.  Which is not to say I love ALL cheesecakes.   If it isn’t rich, creamy and absolutely luscious I’m not going to make it.  Which means it needs to be the full-fat version.  Heck, it’s not something I eat every day or even weekly.  So if I am occasionally going to indulge in something that goes straight to my arteries and hips it sure better be worth it.  And believe me, this brownie cheesecake recipe is just that!

This recipe is a combination of two cheesecake recipes.  One is the famous Lindy’s cheesecake, the decadent, creamy, rich cheesecake that I grew up on and that I *love*.  The second is Marcy’s Goldman’s Chocolate Eruption Cheesecake.  I love her brownie crust and all the goodies (chocolate chips, candy bars, brownie chunks and caramel sauce) that went in it – but I didn’t care for the actual cheesecake recipe made with sweetened condensed milk. (However, Marcy is a fabulous baker and her “A Passion For Baking”, that contains her recipe, is one of my most used and beloved cookbooks)

This recipe is easily broken down into three parts:  1) The brownie base.  Made first in a 9″ x 13″ pan, the contents of which will be used as a crust for the cheesecake and the rest to cut into small chunks and add to the batter. 2) The Lindy cheesecake – a very easy cheesecake to make, and 3) the delicious add-ins.  It takes a bit of extra time because you need to make the brownies first (unless you are like one of my sister’s who would, instead, purchase a pan of brownies from her grocery bakery to save herself time and trouble.  I think it’s a great idea!) but you can always do that a day or two in advance.

The secret to a fabulous cheesecake is knowing when to remove it from the oven.  I learned from a superb lemon cheesecake recipe (to be shared this summer!)  that a cheesecake is done when the temperature at its very center is 150F.  It will still seem a bit jiggly but it stays in the turned off oven another hour and will firm then and as it cools.  This method has never failed to turn out a luscious and creamy cheesecake every single time.

Let me also say that this makes a very large and full cheesecake.  I actually invested in a small 6″ springform pan and end up making one regular size cheesecake and also a mini one.  Cheesecakes freeze beautifully and I love having the little one  on hand should I need it for last minute company.

Diva Entertains Cheesecake1

One last thing.  I am not upset in the least if my cheesecake cracks.  I’ve never had anyone refuse to eat a slice because it had a crack.   The best way to prevent a crack is to bake the cheesecake in a baine-maire (a water bath)* but it is quite a bit of work and, most of the time, not worth it to me.  But I fully appreciate it if that’s the route you choose to go.