What sort of gifts make you really excited nowadays?
I have to be honest — the older I get, the less excited I get about gifts that include more “stuff”.
Ten years ago, things were different. I was graduating college with basically a laptop and a car and a twin bed comforter to my name. So Christmases and birthdays were very exciting occasions to when basic necessities like cookware and a desk lamp and a power tools set (often used, thankyouverymuch) would come into my life.
But nowadays? The basic necessities have (gratefully) been all covered. And I have actually been intentionally downsizing ever since selling my house a few years ago. So when it comes to gift giving, my family has been simplifying there as well and trying to focus more on building traditions and spending time together rather than exchanging more “stuff”, which is awesome.
Still, I have parents who are some of the most generous, selfless, giving people I know. And they have learned over the years that the one gift I never refuse is help around the house. Ooooooh, I love me some help around the house. When I actually owned a house-house, they would graciously drive 3 hours to Kansas City for long weekends of extensive yardwork (my least favorite part of homeownership) and usually (re)painting some random room in the house. But now that I’m living the downtown loft life, there are no gardens to weed or walls to paint. So instead, they pretty regularly come up and offer my new favorite gift: help in the kitchen.
Which. Is. Awesome.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that one of my hand-down, drives-me-nuts, least favorite parts of being single is having ZERO help in the kitchen with dishes. I can happily cook all day long. But dishes are the bane of my food blogging existence. I. Loathe. Doing. Dishes.
But when my parents come to town, guess where my dad goes first? OH yeah. To the sink. To do all the dishes.
And guess what?
Once he finishes the first round of dishes and we’ve gone through another set of pots and pans, he (willingly!) comes back to do more dishes. And more. And more. And more.
And in between doing loads of dishes, he willingly tackles whatever other random household to-do (or most often, to-fix) lists I may have written. Or make grocery runs when I forgot an ingredient. Or pick up lunch for us. Or have us listen to one of his favorite TED talks while we work. Or even organize the cabinets that hold those dreaded dishes.
And all of this he does without a single complaint.
One of the many reasons why I love him. :)
Most of the time when my parents come to town for a cooking day or two, Dad leaves the sous-chef-ing to the best cook in the family, my talented Mom. But last week when they were here, I was craving cheesecake. Specifically Nutella cheesecake. And it just so happens that cheesecake is one of Dad’s specialties in the kitchen.
He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s not much of a cook. As in, the number of things his cooking repertoire could probably fit on one hand. But a few years ago, he learned how to make a raspberry white chocolate cheesecake for Valentine’s Day. And he has been making it now once or twice a year ever since.
So I decided to stick a Nutella cheesecake on his “to-do” list last week. And sure enough, he whipped up the perfect cheesecake in no time…
…but he left it to his food styling daughter to decorate it. I might have gotten a little carried away. :)
But in my defense, it was the end of August! And when faced with the impending doom end of strawberry season, one must make every effort to eat All The Strawberries Available. So I chopped them into quarters and layered then on top of the cheesecake (it’s actually easier than it looks), and then drizzled the heck out of them with some extra Nutella.
The result? Let’s just say that it tastes even better than it looks.
And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a healthy cheesecake — what with lots of Nutella in there plus a classic Oreo crust — it is made with my favorite light cream cheese and Greek yogurt filling recipe. No heavy cream in sight. So you can at least enjoy each slice knowing that you’re eating a little less fat than usual cheesecake. And strawberries are healthy, right?
Ok, ok, it’s definitely an indulgence, but one that I’d say is worth every bite.
So big thanks to Dad for being the cheesecake chef of the day, and for just generally be the awesome and helpful and thoughtful and loving guy that he is. And since I know that he reads my blog every day, I know that he’ll read me saying…
I love you, Dad!
(Oh, and happy anniversary to you and Mom today! For once in my life, I remembered.) :)
A delicious Nutella cheesecake is made with an Oreo crust and topped with a beautiful strawberry-Nutella topping.
2 cups crumbled Oreos (*see note below)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 cup of granulated sugar
3 (8-ounce) bricks low-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I recommend using full-fat or 2% fat Greek yogurt)
3/4 cup Nutella
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 pints of fresh strawberries (approximately)
1/3 cup Nutella, slightly heated
To Make The Cheesecake:
Preheat oven to 350°F, and grease a 9-inch springform pan. Whisk crumbled Oreos and butter together in a medium bowl until combined. Press firmly onto bottom of the pan (or up the sides, if desired). Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool. Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees F.
Once the pan reaches room temperature, carefully wrap the outside of the pan in 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, being sure that there are NO gaps where water could seep through. Place the pan in a large roasting dish (or any pan larger than the springform), and bring a tea kettle or pot of water to boil in preparation for the water bath. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed for 3 minutes until smooth. Add the remaining 1 cup sugar and beat for an additional minute until well blended. Add Greek yogurt, 3/4 cup Nutella and vanilla extract, and beat for an additional minute, stopping partway to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until blended. (Do not overbeat!) Pour into crust.
Place the double pans in the oven on a shelf on the bottom third of the oven. Very carefully use a tea kettle (or large measuring cup) to pour the boiling water in the larger pan to form a water bath around the springform, so that it comes up about 1-inch around the springform.
Close the oven door, and bake about 1 hour 30 min, or until center is almost set. (The cake should still jiggle ever so slightly.) Turn oven off, and open oven door slightly. Let cheesecake set in oven 1 hour. Then remove cheesecake from oven, carefully run a knife around the edges of the cake, and then let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
Remove springform rim. If your cake is not very flat on top, you can use a knife to level it off before adding the strawberry topping if desired, or you can leave it as is. Add toppings as directed below. Then store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator in a covered container.
To Make The Topping:
Hull the strawberries, then quarter them lengthwise. Beginning in the center of the circle, place the strawberries in a circle pattern. Then add more in concentric rings until you reach the outside of the cheesecake.
Heat the Nutella just slightly in a microwave or double boiler until it has softened. Then use a fork or a piping bag to drizzle it across the strawberries.
*I crumbled the entire Oreos, filling included. We used about 1.5 sleeves of cookies, but be sure to measure the 2 cups after they are crumbled.