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Try Cheesecake for Entertaining : Tempting Do-Ahead Recipes Keep It Light and Simple for Summer

Summertime entertaining calls for light and simple recipes that will please hungry guests yet are easy on the host or hostess. Cheesecake is a good warm weather taste temptation, and it can be a special make-ahead dessert as well. Cheesecake can be baked ahead and frozen up to two weeks when wrapped securely in moisture-proof wrap. Thaw in the refrigerator or partially thaw at room temperature before serving.

Hawaiian flavors are featured in Aloha Cheesecake, made crunchy with toasted macadamia nuts and topped with a crushed pineapple and kiwi garnish. To freeze, omit the fruit and wrap securely, then top before serving. Lovers of rum-raisin ice cream will go for Rum-Raisin Cheesecake, accented with brown sugar, rum, raisins and an unusual, crunchy oat crust and topping.

For impromptu gatherings, try 15-Minute Cheesecake. The creamy cheesecake is flavored with semisweet chocolate pieces, has only a few ingredients and can be oven ready in 15 minutes. For a prettier presentation, decorate Fresh Pineapple Cheesecake with rosettes of whipped cream and dots of sweetened pineapple for an irresistible dessert in a chocolate crumb crust.

An Easier Dessert

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Some cooks are hesitant to make cheesecake because they believe the specialty dessert is complicated and time-consuming to prepare. Surprisingly, cheesecakes can be one of the easiest desserts to make, and they can free you from last-minute fussing in the kitchen. For best results, allow cream cheese to soften at room temperature 30 minutes. Or, remove foil wrapper and microwave on 50% power 30 seconds for each 8-ounce package.

To make crumbs, use a food processor fitted with the metal blade or break crackers or cookies before placing in a blender container. Process by turning blender off and on.

FRESH PINEAPPLE CHEESECAKE

1 1/4 cups chopped pineapple

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3 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup granulated sugar

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2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

Chocolate Crumb Crust

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Whipped cream

Place pineapple in medium skillet or saucepan and stir in brown sugar. Cook over low heat until most of liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Cool and reserve 2 tablespoons mixture for garnish. Beat eggs and salt, then beat in granulated sugar and softened cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla and lemon peel and stir in cooked pineapple. Turn into prepared Chocolate Crumb Crust. Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes or just until set. Remove from oven and cool, then refrigerate several hours or overnight. Before serving, garnish with small whipped cream rosettes, topping each with reserved pineapple-brown sugar mixture. Makes 8 servings.

Chocolate Crumb Crust

1 1/2 cups crushed cream-filled chocolate cookies

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1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine

Combine crumbs with butter and press over bottom and up sides of buttered 9-inch glass quiche pan or deep pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees 5 minutes. Cool.

ALOHA CHEESECAKE

1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs

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1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons milk

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2 eggs

1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts, toasted

1 (8 1/4-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

1 kiwi, peeled and sliced

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Combine cookie crumbs and butter and press onto bottom of 9-inch spring form pan. Bake at 350 degrees 10 minutes.

Combine cream cheese, sugar and milk, mixing at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in nuts, then pour over crust. Bake at 350 degrees 45 minutes. Loosen cake from rim of pan, then allow cheesecake to cool. Remove rim from cooled cake. Chill. Top with pineapple and kiwi before serving. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

15-MINUTE CHEESECAKE

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

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Sugar

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

3 eggs

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1 cup mini semisweet chocolate pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar and butter and press onto bottom of 9-inch spring form pan. Combine cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in chocolate pieces and vanilla. Pour over crust and bake at 450 degrees 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 250 degrees and continue baking 35 minutes. Loosen cake from rim of pan to cool. Remove rim from cooled pan and chill. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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RUM-RAISIN CHEESECAKE

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons oats

1/2 cup chopped nuts

5 tablespoons butter or margarine

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Brown sugar, packed

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup flour

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2 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons rum

1/3 cup raisins

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Combine 1 cup oats, 1/4 cup nuts, 3 tablespoons melted butter and 3 tablespoons brown sugar and press onto bottom of 9-inch spring form pan. Bake at 350 degrees 15 minutes.

Combine cream cheese, granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons flour and beat on medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in sour cream and rum and mix well. Pour over crust. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons flour and 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, then cut remaining 2 tablespoons butter into mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in raisins, remaining 1/4 cup nuts and remaining 2 tablespoons oats. Sprinkle over cream cheese mixture. Bake at 350 degrees 50 minutes. Loosen cake from rim of pan to cool. Remove rim from cooled cake. Makes 10 to 12 servings.


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