Cherry Cheesecake Bars with Nutty Shortbread Crust {gluten free}I have to admit these dreamy Cherry Cheesecake Bars are a welcomed departure from squash. With the book finally being available in stores, last week was quite busy. It included a little TV appearance, radio interview, cooking class, a blog celebration and my first book signing. Whew. It was one of the most joyful weeks of my life, with so many thanks to all of you and your support. You are the ones who made it so memorable.

Cherry Cheesecake Bars with Nutty Shortbread Crust {gluten free}I planned on having a quiet little celebration, just Brian and I, once the book signing commenced on Friday. Nothing sounded better than staying at home with fancy bubbles I’d been saving and a special dessert to pair. The sweet cherries have been downright amazing this year and I had yet to do anything more than eat them by the handful. One day I couldn’t even wait until I got home from the store to dig in, which classically ended with a crimson red stain on my white cardigan. Well worth it.

Cherry Cheesecake Bars with Nutty Shortbread Crust {gluten free}In the summer I’m a big fan of chilled desserts. I know pies are the favorite of many - they definitely showcase the beautiful berries, rhubarb, peaches, plums and nectarines, but it’s true – pies still intimidate me a little bit. I tend to lean towards something that’s cool, creamy and easy to make.

Something like these cheesecake bars, studded with sweet cherries that look like jewels and a rockin’ coconutty shortbread crust.

Cherry Cheesecake Bars with Coconutty Shortbread Crust {gluten free} I’m excited to be teaming up with Sahale Snacks to bring you a few recipes that incorporate their new Fruit and Nut mixes, so when I was aiming to give this dessert something different than a traditional graham cracker crust, the Berry Macaroon Almond blend became just the answer.

Cherry Cheesecake Bars with Nutty Shortbread Crust {gluten free}It’s a combination of lightly toasted coconut flakes, crunchy almonds and cashews, with dried blueberries and a touch of lemon for a little sweetness. Ummm…. YUM! I love that they’re just simple, real ingredients. Not only did they really make this recipe special, I’m finding them to be a great, pure and natural snack when I need some mid afternoon fuel.

I’ve had success adding ground nuts to cookie crusts before, so I decided to try grinding up about a cup of this blend with gluten free flour, melted butter, and a little brown sugar.  As it was baking, the toasty, nutty smell of macaroons started to dance around the kitchen. And then I did too.

CherryinBowl-1-2Half of the juicy cherries are folded into the cheesecake batter, then the other half are dropped on top to create the cute-as-a-button polka dot pattern. In the oven they go for about 30 minutes and out comes a dessert that’s definitely too good to have just one piece. The cherries are a fantastic complement to the the creamy tang of the cheesecake, and they retain their lovely shape as they roast in the filling.

I really should have made an extra batch for all of you because I definitely owe you for your support. But….. I didn’t, so go ahead and make a pan of these tasty treats before cherry season passes. I think you’ll fall in love with them just as much as I did.


Cherry Cheesecake Bars with Coconutty Shortbread Crust

Make 16-18 bars

1 cup (140 grams) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Cup4Cup)
3/4 cup Sahale Snacks Berry Macaroon Almond Blend
5 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cheesecake Layer:
1 (8 ounce) package full fat cream cheese
1 (8 ounce) package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
20 cherries, pitted and cut in half

In a food processor, blend berry macaroon blend, flour, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan. Bake crust for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack while making filling.

Halve cherries and remove pits. In the bowl of a food processor, process cream cheese until it becomes smooth, then add eggs, sugar and vanilla. Pour into a bowl, then gently stir in half of they cherry halves, reserving 20 cherry halves for the top. Pour filling onto cooled crust. Arrange remaining 20 cherry halves, cut side up, on top.

Bake at 325°F for 35-40 minutes, until the center just barely jiggles, or a thermometer inserted in the middle of the pan reads 155-160°F. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours. Cut into 16 squares and serve. Can be made 2 days ahead. Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days.


This post is sponsored by Sahale Snacks, a brand whose mission of  seeking out and delivering the highest quality snacks from pure ingredients that are sourced with integrity and care. They’re committed to the community and strive to improve the environment and lives of the suppliers they work with.  All opinions are 100% my own, as always. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make this site possible!

1 comment   • • •   as featured in:   Spring, Summer, Sweets

Summer Squash Peach Kisses

by Amanda Paa on July 22, 2014

Summer Squash Peach KissesJust wanted to pop in with the segment from Twin Cities Live today and give you a chance to WIN a copy of Smitten with Squash as part of my Summer Squash Celebration Week! As always, I had a wonderful time with Elizabeth and new co-host Steve making delicious recipes with the zucchini and summer squash that might be taking over your garden right now.

Take a peek at the segment and learn how easy it is to make squash ribbons for the Summer Squash Peach Kisses (recipe below), as well as noodles for this Refreshing Summer Squash & Watermelon Tangle Salad. Although a spiralizer is the most popular thing for making vegetable noodles right now, save your moola and the kitchen space. Instead, a julienne peeler and y-peeler will get you the same results.

I had a few people ask where to buy the book locally so here are some spots where I know they have them in stock:

  • Bibelot
  • Common Good Books
  • Cooks of Crocus Hill (next week)
  • Golden Fig (next week)
  • Minnesota Historical Society Store

Or it’s always available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Happy cooking!

Summer Squash & Peach Kisses

makes about 18 kisses

2–3 medium zucchini or yellow squash
5 ounces ricotta cheese (or goat cheese)
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
2 peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
20–30 leaves fresh basil

Rinse zucchini, then slice off top and bottom so you have flat surfaces. Use a mandoline slicer or very sharp knife to cut zucchini lengthwise into thin slices, about 1/16 of an inch if possible. Pat dry with paper towels. Combine ricotta, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, mixing well. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of ricotta mixture into the center of each zucchini slice and spread it out evenly. Leave a little space at the narrowest end, as the mixture will spread a bit when you roll it up. At one end of the strip, place a slice of peach and 1 to 2 basil leaves; the basil should stick out a little. Roll up zucchini strips and place seam side down on a platter. Serve chilled.

8 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Appetizer, Market Talk, Recipe Box, Salad, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian

A Summer Squash Celebration

by Amanda Paa on July 21, 2014

Zucchini Noodles with Fresh Herbs + Tahini | heartbeet kitchenOver the last month, this whole writing a book thing has became real in many ways. I still feel a little weird when people ask me what the book is about and I respond bashfully with “Squash, both summer and winter varieties. You know, endless ways of turning them into delicious eats and how to figure out what is what at the market.” Some look at me like I’m a little crazy, some talk about how they’re totally not a squash person, yet I still feel support and encouragement from them all.

Humbly I admit that seeing Smitten with Squash in an actual store was something I had dreamed of since I began testing & writing. Knowing that it was supposed to be shipped out last week, I called a local shop to see if they had received it. Not revealing that I was the author when I asked, the gal said “Why yes we do. In fact I just bought one yesterday. It’s wonderful. Do you want me to set one aside for you?”

Smitten with Squash {written by Amanda Paa}My heart skipped a few beats. There’s a bit of doubting that goes along with anything you do like this….. Will people like the book? Will the recipes turn out when they make them at home? Is my writing good enough? What if nobody buys it? So when I heard the praise from the woman on the other end of the phone, I felt some of the anxiety leave.

And to top that off, six fabulous ladies whom I am so thankful to have met through this beautiful online world are helping me celebrate by sharing a summer recipe from Smitten with Squash. (I’ll share some of the winter recipes a little later this fall.) One of these gals will be posting each day this week, so stayed tuned as I’ll add the links to their posts throughout the week.

PLUS, each of us is giving away a copy of Smitten with Squash (enter below) so you can win one for your own kitchen! Be sure to hop around and see all these beautiful blogs and find some new recipes for your bumper crop of summer squash and zucchini. Oh, and if you’re on Twitter or Instagram, we’re using the #SquashLove to spread the word.

Monday: Brenda from a Farmgirls Dabbles – Spicy Summer Squash Refrigerator Pickles
Tuesday: Stephanie from Fresh Tart - Chimichurri Chicken and Veggie Kabobs
Wednesday: Robin from Robin WritesGaram Masala Dusted Pattypans & Crispy Chickpeas with Tahini Sauce
Thursday: Lindsey from Dolly & OatmealBanana Oat Streusel Summer Squash Muffins
Friday: Laurie from Relishing It – Cauliflower Zucchini Gratin
Saturday: Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen – Cherry Tomato & Summer Squash Cobbler with Rosemary Biscuits
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway open to US residents only and will conclude on 7/28/2014 at 12:00am. I will email the winner within the next two days.

Zucchini Noodles for One with Fresh Herbs & Tahini

This recipe is a foundation for so many possibilities of zucchini noodle goodness. There are two recipes for this type of dish in the book, and I’m sharing this extra one today to tell you that you don’t need a fancy spiralizer to make squash noodles. A $10 julienne peeler and watching this quick video is all you need to create strands and tangles of vegetable delight.

1 medium zucchini or summer squash, julienned into noodles using method above
handful of minced fresh parsley and mint
big squeeze of fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt & a few cracks of black pepper
1 tablespoon tahini

In a bowl combine zucchini noodles, herbs, lemon juice, olive oil and salt/pepper. Toss to coat and taste. Add more salt or lemon juice as needed. Mound onto a plate and drizzle with tahini.


7 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Market Talk, Recipe Box, Salad, Seasonal, Summer, Vegetarian

Gluten Free Oat Crepes with Rapberries and Toasted CoconutI’ve been eager to share a few recipes with you since a trial run with my new grain mill that Wondermill so graciously sent to me as part of a fun collaboration. These soft and delicate Gluten Free Oat Crepes are the first in a series of three recipes I’ve developed for them that anyone can make, with or without a mill. Grinding flour at home can actually be done several ways, like with a nut grinder, food processor, or high powered blender. I find that playing with grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds in different ways can be really fun, a chance for me bring new creativity to recipes.

Millet Oat Crepes with Raspberries and Toasted CoconutCuriosity about grinding my own flour was spurred by taking a peek at The Homemade Flour Cookbook written by fellow blogger Erin of Naturally Ella. It is such a beautiful book, and I was really drawn in by what she had to say about many store bought flours often being stripped of their nutrients. Not only that, but organic gluten free flour can be difficult to find and very expensive. Now I’m able to buy organic whole grains and beans from the bulk bin and save lots of of money, plus make super fresh flour in literally one minute.

Grain mills are not cheap, but its an investment that will pay itself off fairly quickly if you think about how often you $8-$10 for a bag of gluten free flour. Besides that, like any just picked fruit or vegetable, you can notice a difference with freshly ground flour. And because you can grind it on the spot, you won’t end up letting flour spoil. (Yes, that does happen!)

How to grind your own Millet and Oat Flour These oat and millet crepes are slightly different than traditional crepes, but truthfully (and the French may disagree) I love the nuttier flavor from the millet even better. The oat flour keeps them soft and delicate, waiting for you to roll them up them up with freshly whipped cream, toasted coconut and whatever fresh berries you have on hand.

Gluten Free Oat Crepes with Raspberries and Toasted CoconutAnd what could be easier than adding all the ingredients to a blender for a quick blitz? From there it just takes a little patience, the key to this healthy whole-grain crepe being a half hour rest in the refrigerator. Don’t have those exact flours on hand? Go ahead and substitute those by weight for the ones called for in this recipe.

Millet Oat Crepes | heartbeet kitchen Enjoy these light and delicious gluten free crepes on a Sunday morning with the ones you love and a side of nice conversation. Trust me, the next weekend you’ll want to hit repeat.

You can find the full recipe here, as well as some more insight into grinding your own flour at home. Cheers!

13 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Breakfast, Fall, Recipe Box, Spring, Summer, Sweets, Vegetarian, Winter

Grilled Garlic Scapes & Summer Squash

by Amanda Paa on July 6, 2014

Grilled Summer Squash & Garlic Scapes | heartbeet kitchenI hope you all had a fabulous 4th of July and are relaxing a little bit before heading back to the grind tomorrow. I wanted to pop in with this quick post because the time to enjoy garlic scapes and young, tender summer squash does not last long!

With Smitten with Squash’s release so close, I’d been dreaming of remaking many of the recipes since turning in the manuscript. And finally, finally I spotted the tiny yellow and green gems nestled into baskets at the market last weekend.

Naturally you might think I’d had my fill of squash after eating it every imaginable for way for nearly a year, but that just isn’t the case when you’re smitten with this Cucurbita family. Even after 80 tried and tested recipes, I still find myself thinking of different ideas. Although not in the book, these Grilled Garlic Scapes & Summer Squash rock my world. grilled summer squash and garlic scapes | heartbeet kitchenThis dish isn’t really a recipe, its more about keeping things simple and natural, allowing these two beautiful vegetables to shine at their peak. Twisty, twirly garlic scapes are available for a very short time because they’re one of the stages that garlic goes through before it ends up as papery, potent cloves. The bulb and roots grow underground while a stem, leaves and scapes soak up the sunshine above. They taste like garlicky scallions – mild and perfect for grilling or whirling into a pesto.

Grilled Summer Squash & Garlic Scapes | heartbeet kitchenAnd baby summer squash and zucchini – ugghh, they’re such a treat. The ones I used here were about 5 to 6 inches in length, which makes them perfect for cutting into quarters like dill pickle spears. I even like eating them raw because they’re so fresh and crunchy, as close to a cucumber as you’ll get.

At this stage they’ve got fewer seeds and less water content than when they’re full grown, which means you can get a nice crispy char from the grill. I find that people tend to overcook vegetables on the grill, so watch them and test so they’re just tender and still retain their shape.

Dressed simply with olive oil, sea salt & pepper, this easy July splendor is one you shouldn’t wait to try.

Oh, and if you happen to be around these parts, my FIRST book signing will be at Solo Vino Wines in St. Paul on Friday, July 25th. Because why wouldn’t I combine my two favorite things?

And if you can’t make it there, I will also be at the Minneapolis Farmers Market on August 9th for a book signing & demo. It’d be wonderful to see a few of your beautiful faces!

Grilled Garlic Scapes & Summer Squash

1 1/2 pounds of zucchini & summer squash, ideally 5-6 inches in length
2 small bunches of garlic scapes
2 tablespoons olive oil
high quality sea salt & pepper

Slice off the tops and bottoms of the zucchini and slice them in half lengthwise, then cut them in half lengthwise again. They should look like pickle spears. Place them all in a large bowl and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Put the zucchini & squash in a grill basket or grill grid. (If you don’t have either, put them in foil and lightly seal. They won’t get quite the char on them, but they will still be tasty.)

Wash and dry the scapes. Break off the harder ends (as you would like asparagus) and leave whole. Using your hands, smear about 1 tablespoon of olive oil onto the scapes and sprinkle with salt.

Prepare your grill to medium to heat. Toss scapes directly on the grill and remove them when they’re soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, a lighter shade of green and golden brown in parts. At the same time, place the basket on the grill and cook vegetables on all sides until tender (but not mushy) and slightly charred.  Remove from grill, taste and add salt & pepper as needed. Serve as is or with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, crushed pine nuts or chopped olives.

17 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Market Talk, Seasonal, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian