Old San Juan & Pina Colada Cheesecake

IMG_4464The same day we visited Castillo San Cristobal, we took a walk in its shadows around Old San Juan.

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Immediately, I fell in love with the warm, vibrant Spanish and colonial buildings.IMG_4445

Everywhere I looked I saw beauty in flora, color,IMG_4449

and architecture.IMG_4482

Old San Juan is a fascinating mix of cultures. With street and traffic signs in Spanish, it’s easy to forget you’re in a U.S. territory.IMG_4487

Contrasts of old and new abound. Modern shops and well-worn push carts

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line the cobblestone streets and alleys.

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Down one alley we found a charming cupcake bakery where everything is homemade and baked in small toaster ovens in the back of the shop!IMG_4515

After a lovely afternoon of wandering the streets and alleys and strolling in and out of shops and boutiques, we retired to the beach and indulged ourselves in a tropical libation.

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When visiting Puerto Rico, the pina colada is the frozen cocktail of choice. Originated on the island in 1954, it has been the official beverage of Puerto Rico for 35 years!

Thinking of Puerto Rico brings back memories of pina coladas on the beach and since I already baked a cupcake inspired by the drink, this time I made a Pina Colada Cheesecake!

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (1 package) graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup toasted coconut
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 (8oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup light rum
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (8oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • Garnish: whipped cream, toasted coconut, cherries (optional)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 10-inch springform pan.
  • Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar. Stir in toasted coconut. Press crust mixture into bottom of pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool completely.

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  • Drop oven temperature to 325 degrees.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping bowl after each addition. Blend in coconut cream, sour cream, rum, and vanilla. Fold in pineapple. Pour mixture into crust.

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  • Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes (center will still jiggle when moved). Turn oven off and keep cheesecake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Chill at least 6 hours before serving.
  • If desired, garnish with whipped cream, toasted coconut, and cherries.

DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO SAN JUAN: 1,576 miles

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Castillo San Cristobal & Rum Balls

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Last month, I decided to add a little history to my time in Puerto Rico with a visit to UNESCO World Heritage and San Juan National Historic Site, Castillo San Cristobal. A colleague and I spent the morning walking around Old San Juan (more on that soon!), but hadn’t quite worked up an appetite for lunch, so we decided to head up the hill to visit the massive fortress.

Built by Spain over a 150-year period and the largest European fortification in the Americas, Castillo San Cristobal is expansive, covering nearly 20 acres.

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Now flying the flags of the United States, Puerto Rico, and Spanish Empire,

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the fortress guarded the only land access to Old San Juan, which translates into stunning views of both the city and the sea.

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The fort hosts a series of sentry boxes, or guerites, used to protect itself and its city. The best known is The Devil’s Guerite, built in 1634.

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While this particular lookout isn’t accessible to the public, many others are and the views they provide are breathtaking.

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Entering the fortress, visitors walk through a tunnel that leads to the main plaza.

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There are six such hidden passages in the fort that once offered protection and the ability to move unseen from the enemy. But what about the enemy who ended up in the fortress? There’s a cell open for visitation and, on its walls, are hand-drawn ships. These drawings were one of my favorite parts of the fort visit and are said to be the work of a captive Spanish captain awaiting trial for mutiny.

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Walking across the main plaza to see the troops’ quarters and chapel, I couldn’t help but notice a pile of mortar shells.

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But instead of letting my imagination run wild with thoughts of Colonial-era battles, it ran straight to the kitchen with thoughts of Rum Balls!

This recipe was adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s and since it’s no-bake, it’s perfect for the Puerto Rican heat.

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 1/2 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers (a 12 oz box, crushed)
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Sparkling sugar and/or powdered sugar to garnish

Instructions:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and spices. Whisk in rum and honey.

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  • Using a rubber spatula, stir in vanilla wafers and pecans; mix well.
  • Place in the refrigerator to firm up slightly, about 30 minutes. (Note: The mixture may appear crumbly.)
  • Using a tablespoon, scoop out portions of the chocolate mixture and press into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the powdered sugar or sparkling sugar, coating evenly.
  • Place on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to soak in.

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Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, placing waxed paper between the layers to prevent sticking. (Note: The rum flavor will be more prominent the longer the rum balls sit before serving.)

DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO SAN JUAN: 1,576 miles

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