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Culinary Adventures from Mexico

From Liz:

Last week, I spent seven magical days at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.  Just an hour’s drive from San Diego and a world away from my hectic, on-the-go life as a mom, I took advantage of all the amazing activities spa had to offer.  My days were filled with a wide variety of classes – yoga, body bar, dance, strength training, hiking, and even sculpting (I actually sculpted a head out of clay).  I also indulged in a few spa treatments and savored delicious meals featuring just-picked organic produce grown right at the Ranch.

One of the highlights of the trip was the two cooking classes I took at La Cucina Que Canta, Rancho La Puerta’s culinary center. The first was taught by dietitian pal, Carolyn O’Neil, my companion on the trip, and the second by La Cucina’s resident teaching chef, Ana Lorena Najar.  Anna’s recipes reflected her style of modern Mexican cuisine using locally-grown, seasonal and organic ingredients.  I prepared Arrozo a la Mexicana – brown rice with carrots, corn, onion and other ingredients picked from the garden — and watched as guests prepared Sopa de Tortilla, Shrimp a la Diabla and Ricotta Cheese Cake.

Carolyn O'Neil (center) and Chef Anna Lorena Najar (right)

Carolyn O'Neil (center) and Chef Anna Lorena Najar (right)

Of all the recipes I tried at La Cucina, the one that jumped out as the most family friendly was the Ricotta Cheesecake with Seasonal Fruit.  It actually reminded me of our Mini Mango Cheesecake recipe.  If you try the cheesecake, let me know what you think of it!

Cheesecake with Seasonal Fruit

Makes 12 Servings


  • 3 cups corn or wheat flakes cereal
  • 1/4 cup agave or maple syrup


  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups cottage cheese*
  • 8 ounces cream cheese*
  • 1/2 cup sour cream*
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 3/4 cup agave or maple syrup, divided
  • 2 cups ripe seasonal fruit, diced
  • Lavender blooms (optional)

*I think you could easily switch to lowfat and reduced fat cottage cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese.

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
  2. In a food processor, combine the corn flakes and agave or maple syrup. Pulse until coarsely ground. Firmly press the crust into the bottom of an oiled 9-inch springform pan or a cake pan with a removable bottom.
  3. Cut a piece of parchment paper to line the sides of the pan, and fit the paper snugly around the edge. Brush the paper lightly with oil (this helps release the cheesecake from the pan).
  4. In a food processor or blender, combine the eggs, cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla, zest, and ½ cup agave or maple syrup. Process until completely smooth. Pour the cheese mix over the crust.
  5. Bake 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then release the cheesecake and remove the paper. Chill, uncovered, until completely firm.

To serve: Set the cake on a serving plate and top with the fruit. Drizzle the remaining 1/3 agave or maple syrup over the fruit and decorate with lavender flowers or other edible flowers.

For more recipes from the Ranch, be sure to check out Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta: Recipes from the World-Famous Spa, written by spa founder, Deborah Szekely.