Cheesecakes with Chocolate Cookie Crusts and Berry Sauce

Sizzle Simmer Saute Sylvania – Sweet & savory recipes help celebrate the arrival of spring

By Jennifer Alexander Ruple

Spring is in full swing! Celebrate nature’s awakening with sweet and savory recipes created from fresh ingredients such as baby kale, tender peas and luscious berries. Baby Kale and Pancetta Pastries are a savory treat for any meal; Creamy Ham and Pea Tortellini is a fantastic way to use extra Easter ham; and for dessert, enjoy these sweet and petite Cheesecakes with Chocolate Cookie Crusts and Fresh Berry Sauce. Happy spring!

Creamy Ham and Pea Tortellini

Got leftover ham from Easter brunch? Chop it up and sauté it for Ham and Pea Tortellini. This easy-to-prepare meal comes together in no time. Serve it with a salad of fresh greens and a crusty baguette.

4 servings.

  • 16 ounces refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • Splash of white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add ham and sauté until it starts to brown. Add peas and cook for 1 minute.

Add half-and-half, wine, garlic powder and pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until thickened. Stir in Parmesan and tortellini.

Recipe by Jennifer Alexander Ruple

Baby Kale and Pancetta Pastries

Flaky puff pastry cradles fresh baby kale, crispy pancetta and melty Fontina cheese. Serve these savory pastries as an appetizer, a side dish for brunch, or pair them with soup for lunch. If you are not familiar with pancetta, it is similar to bacon as they both come from the pork belly; however, it’s not smoked after it’s cured like bacon is. You may find it referred to as Italian bacon.

8 servings

  • 1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package frozenpuff pastry sheets (1 sheet), thawed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups chopped baby kale
  • 4 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  • 4-ounce package pancetta, cooked and chopped
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unfold the pastry sheet and cut in half. Place puff pastry halves on the prepared baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes or until puffed and light golden.

Beat the egg lightly in a bowl. Add kale, Fontina cheese, pancetta, half-n-half, onion, garlic and pepper; mix well.

Spread kale mixture evenly onto hot pastries. Bake about 15 minutes more until pastry is golden and topping is set. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet set on a wire rack. Cut pastries into pieces.

Recipe adapted from Magnolia Journal, Spring 2018

Cheesecakes with Chocolate Cookie Crusts and Berry Sauce

At last, it’s time for the sweet segment of this column. Petite cheesecakes resting on chocolate cookie crusts, are drizzled with a sauce made of fresh raspberries and blackberries and are topped with more berries. They are the perfect finale to this spring celebration.

Makes 18 cheesecakes.


  • 16 Oreo cookies
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • Cheesecakes
  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs

Berry Sauce

  • 2 pints raspberries, blackberries or both
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat oven to 375 F. Line two 12-well cupcake pans with foil liners.

In the bowl of a food processor, add cookies with their cream centers. Pulse until cookies become fine crumbs. Combine with melted butter. Evenly distribute cupcake liners with crust mixture. Press mixture down with the bottom of a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add cheesecake ingredients. Mix until smooth. Pour filling over cookie crusts. Bake for 15 minutes.

While the cheesecakes are cooling, make the berry sauce. In a small saucepan, combine berries, sugar and lemon juice. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the fruit breaks down. To remove seeds, push the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Allow the sauce to cool then drizzle it over cooled cheesecakes. Top cakes with whole fresh berries.

Recipe by Jennifer Alexander Ruple

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