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Food For Thought

As the holidays approach, our lives become flooded with the pressures of upcoming family events.  Dinners and receptions decorating and shopping, the Christmas tree, and don't forget the cards (does anyone still mail Christmas cards?).  As we try to remember all the little details and all the little children on our list, at times, we can forget about ourselves.  We can get lost in the preparations of the season and unconsciously forget to take time to enjoy the moment.

From a culinary viewpoint, I would ask you to consider what can be done ahead of time in your meal preparation, which would help you to enjoy the holidays just a little more.  How about a dessert which in fact is actually better when prepared several days in advance - a cheesecake.

Having started my catering business many years ago, I began with a small cheesecake service.  I provided a selection of over 45 different cheesecakes to local restaurants, resorts and private clients.  Selections ranging from French white chocolate almond cheesecake to a German black forest cheesecake.  At one point, we had so many cheesecakes coming out of our kitchen, my daughter (three years old at the time) thought her last name was Ventura Cheesecake.  No joke!

But, there are those of us who believe that a cheesecake is not a cheesecake unless it is a simple . . . cheesecake.  So, here is my recipe.  Make it, call it your own, but promise me that you will enjoy the holidays a little more this year.

Ventura Cheesecake Recipe

8" to 9" spring form pan
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
1 1/2 lbs premium cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 oz sour cream
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs
1 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
To prepare crust:  melt butter and brush small amount to coat spring form pan.  Pour rest into bowl and mix with crumbs and sugar.  When blended, place into pan and coat sides dusting well and keeping a firm base.  Pat the bottom of the pan with the back of a spoon to make firm.  Crust is ready for the batter.
To prepare batter:  blend first three ingredients in a mixer at medium speed.  When creamed and light and fluffy, blend in sour cream.  Mix well, then add eggs and blend well.  Batter is ready to be poured into the crust.
Bake at 325 with your spring form pan on a protective sheet pan till done.  All ovens are differenet but the cake should take about 90 minutes.  Give it a slight jiggle to make sure it is set up.  Let cool completely.  Unmold your cheesecake and plate for presentation.  Some cracking may occur.  This is acceptable and you may top your creation with fruit or dusted powdered sugar.  Oh, one last thing . . . enjoy the holidays.
Paul Ventura