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Pumpkin Cheesecake

Last fall I experimented with the versatile flavor of pumpkin developing a completely unique paleta: Pumpkin Cheesecake.  This year I wanted to take it to the next level so I spent a few days making and remaking this recipe, playing with the spice/pumpkin/cream cheese ratio and even eliminating the pumpkin and cheesecake swirl.  Although the swirl gave a gorgeous marbled effect I decided using a solid texture would lend itself to better consistency in flavor.

One if my favorite modifications to this recipe is the addition of a graham cracker crust.  I waited until after the paleta was frozen and solid to add the crust on the outer surface.  Experimenting a few times with the concept I settled on this because the crust can be added as desired rather than as a mandatory part of the recipe.   

So why not try something a little different at this year’s Thanksgiving dinner?  The perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake paleta.  

What exactly is a paleta?

This weekend I had a twitter follower ask me the question: "What exactly is a paleta?"  This question got me thinking as to what the term paleta means to me and what it may mean to you.  

Paletas are a traditional frozen treat found in Mexican culture.  Paleterias are as common in Mexico as you would find convenience stores in the US.  There are two types of paletas: fruit based called paletas de agua and milk based called paletas de leche.  More commonly found are the fruit based paletas as fruit was/is more abundant and cheaper to buy than milk.  Traditional paletas are sweetened with sugar water, generally made from sugar cane, or not sweetened at all depending on the ripeness and flavor of the ingredients.  

In my opinion ice pops qualify as paletas when they are made by following a few rules or, or guidelines if you will.  First, paletas are made with one base flavor, generally a fruit, that takes center stage.  Secondary flavors can be added, but only to enhance the primary flavor.  A few good examples of this concept are found in some of the oldest flavor combinations: Mango & Chile*, Pineapple & Chile, Cucumber & Jalapeno*.  Second, a paleta has to be simply creative.  What does that mean?  I’m not really sure because I just pulled that outta my ass, but what I think it means is that although paletas are simply made with just one or two flavors that those flavors are thoughtfully chosen and creatively considered for the best flavor combinations possible.  For example, I make a White Grape* that is delicious (and a huge fan favorite), but to me it lacks the creativity it takes to be a true paleta.  Some of my more creative flavors and attention grabbers are Strawberry Basil*, Sweet Corn, Mexican Chocolate* (spiced with cinnamon & cayenne), Rosemary Peach, Pistachio with Ricotta Cream* and most recently Prickly Pear & Raspberry* and Mamey Fruit & Lime.  In my book those are true paletas (not that there’s anything wrong with White Grape).

*Pictured below.

  

  

Over the years paletas have become more and more popular outside of Mexico and around the world they can be found using many different aliases like Ice Lolly (UK) and Ice Pop (US & Canada) or Ice Pole (down under) and in many different languages: Ghiacciolo, Picole, Bing tiau, Ice keki, Ice poppu, Chiacciolo, Isglasspinne, Sodavandsis, Glace a l’eau and Eis am stiel.

You can also find similar frozen treats like Kakigori (Japan): packed shaved ice topped with bean paste, green tea powder and sweetened condensed milk and sometimes even icecream.  Nam Kang Sai (Thailand): shaved ice topped with sticky rice, coconut milk, nuts and taro paste.  Bing Su (Korea): shaved ice topped with beans, rice powder or rice cakes and fruit.  

I hope my wealth of knowledge on the subject hasn’t overwhelmed you (said with great humor).  I started writing and couldn’t seem to stop.  If you made it through this post without being consumed by boredom than thanks for your interest in paletas!  And thanks @jaymichaels for following and asking “What exactly is a paleta?”.

Caramelized Banana w/ Toasted Coconut

I am so excited to share this beautiful paleta with you.  I’ve been working on this recipe for a few weeks now, trying to work all the kinks to make sure it is perfect for its debut this week.  I’m doing this one for my friend Steven from my Saturday market, he’s a self proclaimed banana fanatic!  And what’s better than banana?  Banana caramelized in butter and cane sugar with pan toasted coconut.  Yummy!

I start this recipe by melting butter with evaporated cane sugar in a large pan, then adding sliced bananas when the butter mixture is hot and bubbling.  I cooked the bananas for a few minutes on each side, until they were the color of caramel and shinny.  (Its hard to see in these pictures, the lighting was bad, but let your imagination run wild.)

                    

I then transferred the bananas to the blender where I added milk, cinnamon and the toasted coconut to the mixture.  I think toasting the coconut was my favorite part of this process.  I used the same pan as the bananas to do this.  So with bits of caramelized butter and cane sugar stuck to the pan I threw in a hand full of shredded coconut and let the heat do the rest of the work.  I would like to refer to this as perfection.  

A whirl in the blender and the mixture was ready to pour into molds and freeze.  The final product is a creamy, decadent experience that is just too good to miss.  You have to try one of these!  

                

Pistachio with Ricotta Cream -an all natural revision

In the first round of Pistachio paletas I used sugar free, fat-free instant pistachio pudding mix to help with the consistency and flavor.  It was good and I got the end result I was after, but after some thought I decided to try a different approach.  I wanted to revise the recipe to use all-natural ingredients and no artificial flavors.  

I found this great homemade pistachio pudding recipe on a delicious food blog called Joy the Baker.  Taking my inspiration from this fabulous recipe I was able to eliminate the pudding mix by using a pistachio paste made of ground nuts and agave.

By replacing the fat free milk with whole milk I was able to keep a thicker consistency.  Although I added calories with the change of milk type it all evened out with the elimination of the pudding mixture.  All of these changes resulted in a delicious, healthy and all-natural paleta that I am proud to share with my friends and followers.  

                  

Fruit & Yogurt Parfait

This summer I’m on a quest to come up with figure friendly paletas.  My motivation behind this new goal is my 6’ 4” totally hot and in shape hubby who, in four(ish) months time, has gone from busting out of a size 36 to dropping 30 pounds and cinching his belts just to keep is 32s on.  He has worked so hard to achieve his goal to transform himself from couch potato into an Iron Man and I want to help him maintain his new found body.  

                          

With a new body comes new eating, sleeping and work out habbits.  Its been a total life style change, but one I can totally live with.  I’ve even lost 10ish lbs!  Not that I needed to loose weight, mind you, but I have never felt more fit in my life.  I have more energy and feel awesome in my bikini! 

With this new lifestyle we are more aware of what foods we do and don’t eat.  And of course, sweets are few and far between.  With the Fruit & Yogurt Parfait paleta I set out to come up with something to fill that void and satisfy my sweet tooth.  

I used strawberries at the peak of ripeness to insure the sweetest berries and used blueberries for a second dimension of flavor.  To really make these special, I used my tried and true homemade granola recipe with brown sugar and coconut.  The recipe makes 9 cups, but I only used about a tablespoon for each paleta.  Its just enough to sweeten each bit, but not overtake the paleta with calories.  I rounded off the parfait with an all natural, low-fat vanilla yogurt for a creamy tang to merry all the flavors together.  

So, when I ran the nutrition numbers for my newest paleta I was shocked… so ran them a second and even a third time.  I was expecting more.  At only 89 calories, 15 g. carbs. and 3 g. protein each I might just have two.  

Pistachio with Ricotta Cream

The heat of summer is here and along with the sun comes longs days at the pool.  In order to maintain your yellow polka-doted bikini body I’ve been enduring the heat of the kitchen to come up with a few figure friendly paletas.  At my house we spend a lot of our calorie intake on high protein/low carb foods like eggs, fish and shellfish, cheese, turkey, chicken, nuts and vegetables (-Except for corn, carrots and potatoes.  We only eat these sparingly because they’re loaded with starch and natural sugars.  See my post on Sweet Corn for more details.)  But based on these few ingredients I’ve mentioned above I was having a hard time coming up with appealing flavor ideas.  Because they can both be used in savory or sweet dishes I eventually narrowed down my ingredients list to cheese and nuts and so Pistachio with Ricotta Cream was born.

I’m not going to lie, on this one I used Sugar Free and Fat Free pistachio Jell-O as my base, but along with fat free milk, part-skim Ricotta cheese and freshly shelled pistachios I was able to keep the calorie and carb counts down.  You can be guilt free this summer while enjoying my Pistachio with Ricotta Cream paleta for only 116 calories, 9g. carbs and 6g. protein.    

Flavors of Fall

Apple Pecan Streusel and Pumpkin Custard with Gingersnaps.  The flavors of fall inspired by a four generation lunch with my mother, grandmother, my son and me.  While visiting my grandmother in Crossville, TN we hit up the the local Cracker Barrel, where I came across their display of seasonal flavors.   Fall is my favorite season, for the weather, the anticipation of the approaching holidays and, of course, the food.  I ordered my whole meal from the menu of Seasonal Offerings, a constant rotation of the most current flavors of each season.  

                           

My meal started with Apple Pecan Streusel french toast with Apple Cinnamon syrup, so good, and ended with a fabulous Pumpkin Custard with Ginger Snaps.  Amazing!

              

After our visit and the road trip home I spent two days researching recipes and developing the perfect paletas to mimic the amazing flavors from my seasonal lunch.

My first priority was the Pumpkin Custard with Gingersnaps.  I used my go to custard recipe, but tweaked the flavors just right so the the pumpkin was not the star of this particular flavor combination.  It allowed for the creamy flavor of custard and the crunch of gingersnaps coating the paleta to be in the spotlight.  

Then came the Apple Pecan Streusel.  This one was an interesting combination of fresh fruit and creamy custard.  Usually when I work with fruits I make paletas that are water based, but in this particular case I thought it more appropriate for them to be cream based.  They needed a rich texture to carry the spices and more importantly the pecans.  I treated the apples as if I were going to make a pie, cooking them over the stove top with butter and brown sugar until they were golden and tender.  

Instead of adding the nutmeg, cinnamon and other spices to the cooked apples I added them to the creamy base.  I let the custard cool first, allowing it to thicken, then I added the pecans and apples.  The cooled texture of the custard allowed for the pecans and apples to suspend in the mixture rather than sink to the bottom of the mold.  That would be no fun.   

          

After I created a dozen or so of these paletas I dropped them by Hanson Sports, Inc, my go to guys for taste testing.  I got constructive feedback and great complements.  A thank you to Alan C., for loving the Pumpkin Custard with Gingersnaps (He said it was the best paleta he’s ever had so far).

I had a great time discovering the inspiration and developing the recipes for these fabulous flavors of fall.  

Pumpkin Cheesecake

The most amazing and versatile flavor of fall, without a doubt, has to be Pumpkin.  Utilized for not only some of my favorite fall dishes, but for decoration as well.  Halloween wouldn’t be the same without a porch full of jack-o-lanterns carved with love and care.  Almost all of the pumpkin is edible, from the flesh to the seeds and even the flowers.  Cooking methods are as versatile and they come, roasting, baking, boiling and even steaming.  This gourd-like fruit has been holding our hands through the fall season for so long there is in fact no historical documentation of its first appearance in the culinary world.  

With all the flavor options for pumpkin, soups, bread, pies, desserts of all kinds,  I found it difficult to find my absolute favorite recipe to work with.  I decided to go with the most traditional and well known use, pumpkin pie.  

              

To get an authentic pumpkin pie flavor I used the spice ratio from my favorite pie recipe, the one I have been using for years at every Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday.  Every year I buy sugar pumpkins, perfect for baking.  I gut them first then cut them in half for more even roasting.  After spending some time in the oven I skin them and throw the tender flesh in the blender for a quick whirl for fresh pumpkin puree.  I will admit that now this year that did not happen.  I went to the grocery store and bought a can of the stuff, I am so ashamed.  Sorry.  

I wanted to give a second layer of flavor to this paleta and decided to add my other favorite dessert to the mix, cheesecake.  Having made a variety of cheesecake paletas in the past (New York Cheesecake, Blueberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Cheesecake) I simply borrowed and modified the recipe from them.  

So, not to toot my own horn too much, but my Pumpkin Cheesecake paleta is amazing!  I think I might even serve these for Christmas Eve dinner instead of a traditional pie.

                                    

-Don’t worry B, I will have something other than pumpkin for you.

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