Our downstairs air conditioning went out last month. Upstairs, nice and cold. Downstairs, subtropical jungle.
Walking downstairs in the morning to leave for work was like entering Hades. The plants thrived. Fruit ripened overnight. The dog watched us leave from the top of the stairs rather than following us down to the front door like she usually does.
We lived in denial for weeks, cranking up the ceiling fans in a desperate attempt to lower the temperature.
Finally, when we hit that heat wave a week or so ago, we broke down and called a professional. Ten minutes and many dollars later, I once again needed a sweater just to hang out in the living room with my hot-blooded family, who prefer the temperature set to arctic.
In one way, we had been prepared for our air conditioning to quit in the height of summer: I'd been trying no-bake dessert recipes for some time. One of the best parts about summer eating (though these are good year-round) is that you can make a lot of really good stuff without turning on the oven even once. A good blender or food processor is all you need, plus ample room in your fridge and freezer.
I'll start with the easiest one. Ready? Open cans, pour stuff into a bowl, give it a good whisk. Layer that mixture and crackers in a baking dish and put the vessel in the fridge overnight. There, you've just made an intensely rich summertime treat that'll quickly shoot to the top of your no-bake recipe collection.
I was intrigued by this one because it seems weird. You're not whipping the cream, so it's not like mousse or pudding. It's sort of like an icebox pie - but then there are those crackers. Won't they get soggy? I had to find out. Boy, was I glad I did.
And what do you even call it?
Whatever this is, it's pure chilled refreshment. The crackers don't really separate and get soggy; rather, they seem to blend right in, giving it some heft. You could use lemon or some other fruit juice instead of lime - and for that matter, thin sugar or wafer cookies instead of crackers - but the lime and the plain crackers just work.
And no one will care what it's called, trust me.
This next one is for the chocoholics. I'm hoping you like a little cheese with your chocolate, because I'm giving you a little something different: a five-ingredient chocolate and ricotta torte that's thick and smooth and just barely sweet, and gets even better with the addition of Oreos.
I made individual mini versions, because sharing is overrated.
These look like typical cheesecakes, but one bite and you'll quickly realize they're not. There's a bit more depth here, thanks to the ricotta.
Pulsing the cheese first in a food processor or blender gets it very smooth, and the addition of melted chocolate, vanilla and whipped cream is all you need. Unlike the lime concoction, these are not super sweet. I used semi-sweet chocolate, but if you prefer something sweeter go with milk chocolate.
Rather than a crushed cookie base, I simply put whole Oreos on the bottoms of the muffin tins. Then I added more whipped cream and another Oreo on top, mostly so I wouldn't eat the leftover cookies myself. (They're my one cookie aisle weakness.) For extra drama, drizzle some chocolate syrup over these before serving.
Lastly, there are lots of no-bake cheesecakes out there, both sweet and savory, and the one I found walks a thin line between both. That's because it's made with avocados, and there's really no way to describe the flavor other than a bit unusual, but definitely tasty.
It has a graham cracker crust, with a filling made from cream cheese that is processed or blended with a heaping cup of mashed avocado, sugar and coconut milk. I added some mini chocolate chips, both for crunch and because I love the contrast of the pale green filling with the tiny chips.
I wasn't sure what I would be getting when I pulled the baking dish from the freezer, but the results were better than expected. The avocado flavor is distinctly there, but it's not overpowering. It's rich, as cheesecake filling should be, and not very sweet, so I'm glad I added the chocolate chips. These are best right out of the freezer, and they quickly soften, so be careful about leaving them out too long.
These recipes aren't particularly long or labor-intensive, which means they're perfect to make for barbecues and potlucks. They're made with kitchen staples, and since they need to be chilled for best results, you can make them ahead.
They surely beat the heat but taste just as good when you're dressed like "Nanook of the North" in your own house in July.