White Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bars

Shari’s Berries products were provided to me free of charge.  All opinions are my own.White Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bars | A Nerd CooksIt’s A Nerd Cooks’ birthday week, you guys.  Earlier in the week, I shared these S’mores Cupcakes with you all.

Shari’s Berries reached out to me earlier this month about their Birthday Collection, and sent me a dozen Hand-Dipped Birthday Strawberries, so I figured I’d keep the celebration going!White Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bars | A Nerd CooksTheir chocolate covered strawberries inspired me to make these White Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bars.  They are rich, decadent, and perfect for celebrating  a birthday or blogiversary.White Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bars | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe is slightly modified from My Evil Twin’s Kitchen.

You’ll need:

For the crust – 

  • 30 Oreo cookies
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, melted

For the cheesecake –

  • 3-8 oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 1 cup white chocolate, melted
  • 13 oz. strawberry jam (this kind of  jam is, well, my jam)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving some hanging over the sides.  This will help you lift the bars out of the pan after they have baked and cooled.  Spray with cooking spray and set aside.

To make the crust – Pulse the Oreo cookies in a food processor or blender until only fine crumbs remain.  Add the melted butter and pulse again until all crumbs are coated in butter.  Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer.  Set aside.

To make the cheesecake – Rinse and dry your food processor/blender.  Add the cream cheese, Greek yogurt/sour cream, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.  Process until the mixture is very smooth and creamy (this may take several minutes).

Add the eggs and cornstarch and process until smooth and creamy again.

Add the melted white chocolate, and process for a third time until smooth and creamy.

Pour the cheesecake mixture over the prepared crust and smooth it out in an even layer.

Dollop the strawberry jam onto the cheesecake.  Using a knife or toothpick, swirl the jam throughout the cheesecake.  Be careful to not go too deep, because you’ll mess up the crust.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the edges are puffed and golden brown, while the center still jiggles a little bit when you shake the pan.  Turn the heat off, but leave the cheesecake in the oven.  Prop the oven door open and allow the cheesecake to cool for an our or so, or until you can handle the pan with your bare hands.  Allow the cheesecake to cool completely at room temperature before refrigerating.

Once chilled (at least 2 hours), you can cut the bars however you’d like.

White Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bars | A Nerd CooksWhite Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bars | A Nerd Cooks

S’mores Cupcakes

Dark chocolate cake, marshmallow buttercream, and crumbled graham crackers come together in these sweet S’mores Cupcakes.S'mores Cupcakes | A Nerd CooksI’d like to wish a very happy 5th birthday to my little blog!  A Nerd Cooks is 5 years old.  Five years!

So many good things have happened in the past year: We moved to Durham, I started a fellowship that I love, Sean is very happy at his job, fun visits with family and friends, exploration of the Triangle area, many delicious food- and drink-related adventures…  And on and on…S'mores Cupcakes | A Nerd CooksLast year I made and shared this Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Ganache to celebrate my blog’s birthday, and these bonkers good Oreo-Bottomed Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Oreo Frosting the year before that.

This year, it’s these S’mores Cupcakes.  Please join me in celebrating my 5th blogiversary with these sweet and fun treats.  The chocolate cake is just the best (my favorite chocolate cake recipe – it’s moist and super chocolatey!), and let’s face it, marshmallow fluff = a gift from above.

S'mores Cupcakes | A Nerd Cooks

Like so many of the things I post on this blog, both the cake and frosting are modified versions of those found in Joy the Baker’s cookbook, Homemade Decadence.

You’ll need:

For the cupcakes (makes 3.5 dozen cupcakes) – 

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used dark, because reasons)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 cups buttermilk

For the marshmallow buttercream (makes enough to frost 3.5-4 dozen cupcakes) –

  •  4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4-6 cups powdered sugar (the marshmallow fluff makes things sweet, so you may not need all 6 cups)
  • 1-2 tbs milk (or more, depending on your desired frosting consistency)
  • 14 oz. marshmallow fluff
  • crumbled graham crackers, for sprinkling on top

For the cupcakes – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with liners.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions.  Add the vanilla extract.

Alternate between adding some of the dry ingredients with the buttermilk.  After the last addition, mix until just combined.  Scrape down the sides, making sure to get the bottom, too.  Mix for another minute.

Fill the liners 1/2 of the way full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a knife/toothpick, when inserted into the center, comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5-10 minutes in the muffin tin, then remove and place them on a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

For the buttercream – While the cupcakes are cooling, make the marshmallow buttercream frosting.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it is smooth (about 1 minute).

Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and beat on low until well combined.

Add another 2 cups of powdered sugar along with 1 tbs of milk.  Beat until combined.

Add the marshmallow fluff and beat until combined.  Depending on the desired consistency, add the remaining 1-2 cups of sugar and remaining milk and beat until the frosting reaches the desired thickness.

Beat on medium speed until the frosting is smooth and fluffy (about 4 minutes).  Slather/pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and top with graham cracker crumbles.

S'mores Cupcakes | A Nerd CooksS'mores Cupcakes | A Nerd Cooks

The Moscow Mule

Powell & Mahoney products were provided to me free of charge.  All opinions are my own.

Moscow Mule | A Nerd Cooks

The good folks at Powell and Mahoney reached out to me recently, asking if I’d be interested in trying some of their cocktail mixer products.  Unable to say no to a good cocktail, I said yes!

One of the products I received was Old Ballycastle Ginger, a mixer that is basically ginger beer, minus the bubbles.  I decided to use it in a classic Moscow Mule.  The mixer is spicy–but not overwhelmingly so–and sweet.

Moscow Mule | A Nerd Cooks

Moscow Mules have really made a comeback recently, haven’t they?  I’m definitely not complaining, because I love them.  Vodka + spicy ginger flavor + tart lime = so simple and so delicious.

Moscow Mule | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need (makes 1 cocktail):

  • crushed ice
  • 2 oz vodka
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 4 oz. Old Ballycastle Ginger
  • sparkling water (I used Lime LaCroix)
  • lime wedges, for garnish

Fill a glass (preferably a copper mug) with crushed ice.  Add the vodka, lime juice, and Old Ballycastle Ginger.  Top with sparkling water.  Squeeze a lime wedge or two into the glass and add the wedges.  Stir and enjoy.

Note: you could use a good quality ginger beer in place of the Old Ballycastle Ginger and sparkling water.

In search of more Mules?  Check out the Cranberry Vanilla Moscow Mule and Old Kentucky Mule.

Moscow Mule | A Nerd Cooks

Lemongrass and Thai Basil Mojito

These mojitos are sweet, fizzy, and just a little bit exotic.Lemongrass Thai Basil Mojito | A Nerd CooksI was recently gifted a couple of bunches of Thai basil, and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.  You can thank the good folks of Reddit for this cocktail recipe.  I posted in the cocktails subreddit asking for help, and this is what was suggested!

Lemongrass Thai Basil Mojito | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe is slightly modified from the one from The Kitchn.

You’ll need:

For the lemongrass simple syrup (makes ~1 cup) – 

  • 3 stalks lemongrass
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water

For the cocktail (makes 1 cocktail) – 

  • 1 thin slice of lime
  • several leaves of fresh Thai basil
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 2 oz lemongrass simple syrup
  • ice
  • Coconut LaCroix (or club soda)

To start, you’ll want to make the lemongrass simple syrup.  This is something you’ll want to do ahead of time, either earlier in the day or the day before you want to make cocktails.

We’ve done simple syrup before.  It’s, well, simple.  This time, you’ll start by cutting your stalks of lemongrass into 1-inch sections.  Bruise them with a meat mallet/rolling pin/mortar and pestle.  Set them aside for a moment.

Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until the sugar is entirely dissolved.  Allow it to come to a boil, then turn off the heat.  Add the lemongrass and allow it to steep for 2 hours.

Strain the syrup, pressing down on the lemongrass to extract all of the flavor.  This simple syrup will keep in the fridge for about 4 weeks.

Now, to the cocktail itself.  Add the slice of lime and basil leaves to the bottom of a glass.  Muddle them together.  Add the rum, simple syrup, and ice.  Top off with some Coconut Lacroix (my favorite) or club soda.

Need more fizzy summer cocktails in your life?  I strongly suggest you try a Coconut Mojito.  You’ll thank me later.  Still need more fizzy La Croix-based drinks?  The Grapefruit Crush is delightful, as is a Blackberry Lime Vodka Fizz.

Lemongrass Thai Basil Mojito | A Nerd Cooks

Strawberry Crisp

Sweet, tangy, and subtly spiced: this strawberry crisp is everything you could want it to be.  It is perfection when topped with vanilla ice cream.Strawberry Crisp | A Nerd Cooks

I have a bad habit of buying 2-for-1 pints of strawberries, regardless of how many I already have at home.  I can’t help myself.  They’re so good at this time of year.  Plus, I’m usually eating them for breakfast with yogurt and for lunch on this strawberry balsamic salad, so buying a ton of strawberries usually isn’t a big deal.

However, this past week, I’ve been eating overnight oats, so the strawberries started piling up.  I thought a pie would be a nice way to use them up, but honestly?  I find pie a little fussy sometimes.  That’s probably mostly because I’m still not very good at making pie crust.

All was not lost, however, because we have the crisp.  All of the pie-like goodness without any of the fussiness. Strawberry Crisp | A Nerd Cooks

Sweet, ripe strawberries are quartered, doused with lemon juice to help cut through the sweetness a bit, and coated in a flour and sugar mixture.

The strawberry goodness is then topped with a crumbly mixture of sugar, flour, butter, and pecans, for crunch.  Salt, for contrast and flavor enhancement, and cinnamon, for spice, are also added.

Want some more fruit crisp goodness?  This apple crisp from Joy the Baker is pretty darn fantastic, too.Strawberry Crisp | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe is based on, but modified from, this one found on Craving Alaska.

You’ll need:

For the filling – 

  • 2 pints strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

For the topping –

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the strawberries, lemon juice, sugars, and all-purpose flour to a large bowl.  Toss until the strawberries are well coated.  Pour the strawberries into a 9-inch pie dish. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine all ingredients for the topping.  Mix until crumbly and everything is incorporated.  Sprinkle it over the strawberries in an even layer.

Bake for 45 minutes.  Allow the crisp to cool slightly.

It’s optional, but totally recommended, to eat this while still warm, topped with vanilla ice cream.

Cinnamon Zucchini Bundt Cake

I like big Bundts and I cannot lie.Cinnamon Zucchini Bundt Cake | A Nerd CooksIt’s quickly getting to be that time of year where gardens are overflowing with zucchini.  This is can be problematic.  There’s only so much zucchini bread that one person can eat.

This cake is a slight departure from zucchini bread.  It’s still sweet, dense, and moist, but has a great cinnamon-y flavor throughout, along with a crunchy cinnamon-sugar layer in the middle. And glaze, of course.  There are also these Zucchini Banana Pecan Muffins, if you prefer muffins.

Really, if nothing else, baking this cake give you an excuse to say/sing things like what I said at the top of this post.Cinnamon Zucchini Bundt Cake | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe comes from If You Give a Blonde a Kitchen.

You’ll need:

For the Bundt cake –

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups zucchini, shredded

For the cinnamon sugar –

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs cinnamon

For the glaze –

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tsp milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a Bundt pan and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the cream cheese and sugar together for 2 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions.

Add the vanilla extract and melted butter.  Beat for 3 minutes.

In 2 batches, add the flour mixture until it is just incorporated.  Add the shredded zucchini and mix again until just incorporated.

To make the cinnamon swirl, mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl.

Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the batter.  Top with the remaining batter and smooth with a spatula.

Bake for 1 hour, or until a knife/toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Add more milk if you want a thinner glaze.  Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.

Cinnamon Zucchini Bundt Cake | A Nerd Cooks

Blackberry Lime Vodka Fizz

Sweet berries, tart lime juice, vodka, and fizzy water combine to make a summery and refreshing cocktail.Blackberry Lime Vodka Fizz | A Nerd CooksIt’s Monday, it’s hot, and a drink wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world right now.  Anyone else in a similar mental place?

It’s my first full summer in Durham, and dang.  It is hot.  I know it’s only going to get worse, too, with August right around the corner.  Cold, fizzy drinks are very necessary.Blackberry Lime Vodka Fizz | A Nerd CooksMuddle up some super ripe berries, add some tart lime juice, some booze, and top it all off with something bubbly.   Couldn’t be easier.  Or more refreshing.

Looking for another very refreshing summer cocktail?  Check out these Coconut Mojitos (also made with LaCroix!), Salty Dogs, and Grapefruit Crushes!

Blackberry Lime Vodka Fizz | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need (makes 1 cocktail):

  • 5 very ripe blackberries
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • ice
  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • LaCroix Curaté Muré Pepino (blackberry cucumber)
  • fresh blackberries and thin slices of lime, for garnish

Drop the blackberries into the bottom of a tall glass.  Squeeze half of a lime on top.  Muddle the blackberries.

Fill the glass most of the way with ice.  Add the vodka and top with LaCroix.  Garnish with slices of lime and blackberries.  Drink up!

Blackberry Lime Vodka Fizz | A Nerd Cooks