Q: I have some cream cheese in the freezer. Will that still work for making cheesecake, or should I go get fresh? What else can I make with it? I know I won’t need all of it for the cake.
Answer: Cream cheese usually freezes well. Depending on how it was wrapped and how long it was frozen, it might be crumbly. If it is, add a teaspoon or two of cream or milk to it when you soften and mash it, to get it nice and soft and smooth again. It might need a bit more work to get smooth, but it should be good to use.
Other than cheesecake, cream cheese is good on bagels or sandwiches, of course. If you want to brighten them up for the holidays, add a drop or two of food coloring to tint them red or green and cream it in well. There are plenty of things you can add, such as chopped green olives, red pimentos or radishes to make them more holiday-festive.
Cream cheese with shredded sharp cheddar, a bit of Tabasco or cayenne and maybe some mayonnaise makes a great cheese ball or dip. Just remember that cream cheese is cream, which means lots of fat. It’s 65 percent fat, mostly saturated. So go easy!
Q: Is there any nutritional value in blueberries after they’ve been baked in muffins or boiled in oatmeal?
Answer: There is certainly a lot of nutritional value left after cooking. Some vitamins and some of the antioxidants will be destroyed by the heating, but not all. And some will probably become more digestible, more available to us, after cooking. That’s true of beta-carotene, what our bodies use to make vitamin A. We get more of it from cooked fruits and vegetables than we do from the raw ones.
I don’t have any specific information on the antioxidants in blueberries and how they’re affected by heating, but those dark blue pigments are pretty heat-stable, so they’ll still be there. The berries that remain whole, as in a muffin, probably have more vitamins and antioxidants left after cooking than the ones that are broken or mashed. That’s simply because those nutrients are more likely to be damaged by air as well as heat. So mashing the berries and exposing the insides to air causes some loss.
Still, blueberries are well worth eating after they’ve been cooked. Freezing is not going to destroy any of the nutrients, so if frozen berries are more convenient for you, get them. Depending on the year, frozen berries often will be in better shape, with fewer moldy or smashed berries than fresh. Don’t feel bad about using them.
Reminder to readers: This time of year, if you’re getting packages delivered from friends or family, be sure to open and check them immediately. Frozen or refrigerated food gifts that might be safe sitting on the doorstep in the frozen North will not survive our warm weather here. Get food gifts inside and into the refrigerator or freezer as quickly as possible. Keep them safe so you can enjoy them at your leisure.
Mary A. Keith, a licensed dietitian and health agent at Hillsborough County Extension, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.