Curious Cook: $12? Lemme try!

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Years ago, I was in Costco, and met the then chief of police in my town. We started talking and I learned that both he and his wife are Puerto Rican.

I may have mentioned one or twelve hundred times, but I lived in Puerto Rico when I was a child and without a doubt, the food from that gorgeous little green island is the best in the world.

A lot of people have never had Puerto Rican food. The food is zesty and full of flavor. And unlike what some people do when trying to recreate it (I’m looking at you, Bobby Flay) it IS NOT SPICY HOT. There is citrus, garlic, onions, herbs, spices like achiote, but no hot peppers and chiles.

The food is so flavorful it doesn’t need mind-blowing heat to cover up the lack of taste.

In certain respects, it’s similar to Cuban food. It has many of the same notes, but unlike the pedestrian black beans of Havana, Puerto Ricans long ago discovered the best bean is the habichuela or pink bean (available in Latino grocers).

Well, meeting that man in the line at Costco that day was one of the luckiest days of my life.

The Lopez’s — Becky and the Chief — kind of adopted me, and in turn, The Kid. They have fed us, cooked with us, taught us, and been there when no one else was. They have given over and over again with no expectation of anything.

On one of the worst days of my life they were there and gave me everything they had to give. They have fed us so much and in so many ways, I wanted to begin to return the favor. Tonight, I had them for dinner.

True to form, though, Becky and The Chief came bearing delicious Puerto Rican food, including arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) and a glorious, slow cooked pork shoulder draped in a fragrant mixture of garlic, herbs, and citrus.

We actually negotiated what she would bring and what they would let me supply. I was responsible for drinks, appetizers, and dessert. If you knew my ridiculously generous friends, you’d know that little concession was a huge win for team debbie.

The Kid was tasked with dessert.

We tossed around a few ideas. We wanted something that was yummy, unique and was relatively quick and easy to make.

The bars we decided on had been first enjoyed at a restaurant dinner The Kid had attended for a friend. Everybody adored them, but they were $12 per serving. My child, raised by me and trained at culinary school decided to beat the eatery at its own game and figure out how to recreate them.

After some research and a couple of tweaks, this is the final recipe. They are so good and so rich and cost so much less than $12 per serving.

Atta Kid!

Thanks for your time.

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Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars

Recipe courtesy of The Kid

(For an 8x8)

1 can crescent roll dough

2 blocks cream cheese, room temp

1cup white sugar divided in half

1 tablespoon Cinnamon

1 stick butter, softened

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp lemon zest

2 tsp vanilla

Honey for drizzling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Heavily spray an 8x8 glass baking dish with cooking spray, and line to bottom with half of the can of crescent roll dough. Make sure to pinch together any seams.

3. Whip half of the sugar, the cream cheese, vanilla, lemon zest and salt until very light and fluffy.

4. Smooth the cream cheese filling onto the dough base, and top with the second half of the dough.

5. Whip together the remaining sugar, butter, and cinnamon until fluffy.

6. Dot the top of the cheesecake bars with the cinnamon sugar butter until mostly covered.

7. Bake until golden brown, and the sugar on top has melted, about 30 minutes, if the sugar doesn’t melt, brown and get crusty, put it under the broiler for a few minutes, but watch it every second so that it doesn’t burn.

8. Once out of the oven, drizzle heavily with honey, and allow to cool.

9. Let fully cool before slicing

10. Serve with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream

11. Serves 12-16.


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