Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

I don’t dread Monday mornings.  It’s hard to complain when my week starts with baking club treats. At KIPP AIM Academy our previous 6th grade non-fiction teacher came up with the brilliant baking club idea. Every week, two baking club members are assigned to bake a specific type of dessert. On Monday morning they anonymously put their entries in the teacher’s lounge. Baking club members then sample and vote to determine which item is the best overall. Alicia and I made this recipe for bar week, and they won! They involve several layers, making them time consuming to prepare. It’s definitely worth the time though. Chocolate chips, cookie dough, cheesecake and graham cracker crumbs all in one recipe is sure to please everyone.

Crust Ingredients
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Cookie Dough Ingredients
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325°. Butter a 9″-square baking pan. Line pan with parchment paper, leaving enough to extend over the sides. Butter the parchment paper.

Filling Ingredients
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crust Directions
Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter until crumbs are moistened. Stir in chocolate chips. Press crust mixture into bottom of pan and 1 inch up sides. Bake for 6 minutes. Set pan on wire rack to cool

Cookie Dough Directions
Using an electric mixer , mix butter, brown sugar, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract at medium speed until smooth. Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside.

Filling Directions
Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar just until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating just until blended. Pour batter into baked crust. Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls over the top of the filling.

Bake about 30 minutes, or until set. Transfer to wire rack. Cool bars in pan completely, about an hour. To make the bars extra firm, harden them in the freezer. Using the edges of the parchment paper, remove bars from pan. Cut into bars and serve.

Roasted Pear Salad

I’m not a big salad person. I prefer heartier ways of consuming my leafy greens, but every once in a while I crave a refreshing salad. This combination of dried fruit, toasted walnuts, creamy blue cheese with the soft roasted pear is delicious. It has such an elegant feel, yet it doesn’t require many ingredients and is so easy to prepare. Liven up salad nights with this easy concept.
3 pears
3 lemons, juiced
3 oz blue cheese
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/4 c toasted walnuts then chopped
Olive oil for drizzling
Mixed greens 
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oven to 375.
2. Cut pears in half lengthwise, core center at seeds. 
3. Rub pears with a cut lemon to prevent browning.
4. Mix together cheese, cranberries and walnuts
5. Fill pear core with mixture.
6. Place in a baking dish.
7. Bake for 30 minutes.
8. Top the greens with your favorite dressing and a roasted pear half.

Mushroom Pea Risotto

One thing that annoys me is going to a restaurant, enjoying a delicious meal, and feeling like I can’t recreate it at home. I hate accepting that a restaurant can prepare something better than I can. Back in May, Carmen organized my bachelorette weekend in New York City. The weekend started with a food tour of Greenwich Village, where we sampled delicious food from well-known New York City restaurants. The Mushroom Pea Risotto at Centro Vinoteca was memorable, and this past weekend I was determined to recreate the dish at home. Although I could not compete with Centro Vinoteca’s truffle butter, my risotto was smooth, creamy and comforting. Yes, I spent a good 30-40 minutes stirring on the stove, but it was well worth the wait.
centro vinoteca’s risotto
my risotto
6-8 cups low sodium chicken broth 
1/2-ounce dried porcini mushrooms 
1/4 cup unsalted butter 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 cups finely chopped onions 
10 ounces white mushrooms, chopped 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine 
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms. Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the broth warm over low heat. Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the white mushrooms and garlic. Move the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Chop the mushrooms and add to the saucepan. Sauté until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes. Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3-5 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 30 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth). Stir in the peas. Mix in the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.