Sunday, October 30, 2011

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Fall delicioiusness on a plate is what this is.
An original Paula Dean recipe, it's worth the effort.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Streusel topping, recipe follows
  • 1/2 cup caramel topping

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and brown sugar.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Press evenly into a 9x13 baking pan lined with foil.
Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.
Bake 15 minutes until crust is lightly browned.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 c. sugar in an electric mixer.
Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine.
Pour over the warm crust.

In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.

Sprinkle evenly with Streusel topping.

Bake 30 minutes, or until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel topping.

Streusel Topping:

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.
Yield: approximately 3 cups

My favorite caramel recipe:
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1 1/2 c. cream
4 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until it boils. Continue cooking until it reaches 248 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Store in a canning jar in the refrigerator and re-heat to soften.

A Kid Favorite: Ravioli Lasagna

I came up with this dish on a whim and my kids are crazy about it. It's SO easy! I made a couple of pans and froze them. I stock up on aluminum tins at the Dollar Store and use them for freezing my extra meals.

1 jar tomato sauce.
A quick tip: Liven up jarred sauce by sauteing some olive oil and garlic in a saucepan. Add oregano and basil to the pan until fragrant, then add the sauce and simmer. Ummmm... hello garlic! Can you tell I love it??
Cook the ravioli as directed. Place a cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan, then arrange a single layer of ravioli over it. Top with a layer of shredded cheese. Repeat the layers of tomato sauce, ravioli, and cheddar cheese. I like to use a couple of different kinds of ravioli.
For the top layer, spread a layer of pesto sauce and top with parmesan cheese.
Cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 min.. Remove the foil and let the cheese brown on top. Serve and watch it disappear!
1-2 jars tomato sauce - -depending on how saucy your family likes it
2 packages ravioli
1/2 block cheddar cheese (or around 3 cups)
1 jar pesto
3/4 c. parmesan cheese

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Freeze Fruit -- then Can it or Jam it...Later!

We love buying or picking in-season fruit, then jamming (our term for making jam) or canning. The problem is, sometimes we pick or buy, but don't have the time to process it. Here is our solution: the freezer. Freeze the fruit in a box or on a tray. After it is solid, transfer to a ziplock bag, label, and pull out when there is time!

I also love this because most of the canning season is in the summer, when it is hot and when I don't want to be in the kitchen all day. Come fall, I am ready and excited. I grab my bags and off I go. Obviously this doesn't work with all fruit, but it can work with most, especially if it is jam or fruit butters that you are making.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quick & Easy Summer Herb Marinade

In the summer this is my go-to marinade. Essential ingredients in any good marinade are an acid (like lemon juice), a fat (oil), salt, and flavorings.
I am herb-crazy-woman in the summer since I only get to use them from my garden for 3 months. Every day I make something with herbs in it, or I at least put mint sprigs in my water.
For this easy chicken recipe, whip out the food processor and throw in:
Garlic -- go for it and live a little -- toss a handful!
Olive oil - around 1 cup, though I vary how much I use depending on how many pieces I'm using.
White Wine or Lemon Juice - 1/4 -1/2 cup or so
Kosher Salt - a couple of teaspoons
Lots of Herbs - I mix basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary and parsley usually.

Process until smooth and pour most of the marinade into a ziplock with the chicken breasts. Marinate for at least 4 hours. Reserve about a 1/2 cup of the marinade for grilling.

Grill the chicken over indirect heat - which means the upper rack until the center is no longer pink. Baste the chicken with the reserved marinade and cook 3 more minutes.
I love this recipe in summer salads!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Parfaits

This deliciousness is the easiest way to use that extra rubarb in your garden. It takes no time at all, and it is Y-U-M-M-Y!

4 cups rhubarb
1 cup sugar
2 lbs. strawberries
1/4 cup water

Boil together the rhubarb, sugar, water, and strawberries until the rhubarb breaks down (about 10 min.) Let cool until thickened (at least 1 1/2 hours)

To make the parfaits:
Layer the sauce, whipped cream, and vanilla ice cream. Be sure to leave enough room on top to add sauce as the last layer.
I also like this rhubarb sauce for pancakes & waffles.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Renegade Rolls (Scrumptious Cinnamon Buns)

On my daughter's first day of summer, we celebrated by making homemade cinnamon rolls (her choice). We made fun pineapple drinks, like the ones we had in Costa Rica, and sipped on those while cooking.
My nieces joined us after a while to help us with the process.
I originally got this recipe from a Lancaster County Amish cookbook and I've adapted it over the years. The smell of these alone will send the family running wild-eyed to the kitchen.
When our last child was born, I told my husband and family by baking dozens of these babies, and at the bottom of the plate I hid a laminated little sign that said, "Here's to one last bun in the oven!"

2 pkgs. yeast
1 c. lukewarm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup milk, scalded and cooled
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
7 c. flour

Pour yeast into a container with the lukewarm water. Add the tsp. of sugar and let stand 5 min. Scald the milk and let cool to lukewarm.
Cream together butter and the 3/4 c. sugar and salt. Slowly add the eggs, one at a time. Add the yeast mixture and milk. Gradually add the flour.
Let rise until double the size. Roll out the dough and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll the dough, starting with the furthest edge out, toward you. Keep the roll as tight as possible. Cut the pieces and place in a pan. Let rise again.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 min. If not done, check every 5 min. more.

2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/2 c. + 1 tbsp. milk
3/4 stick butter, warm and softened
1/4-1/2 c. brewed coffee (depending on how strong you like the coffee flavor)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
sprinkle of sea or kosher salt

Wisk together the powdered sugar, milk, butter, coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt until smooth.

Pour onto the rolls while still warm, saving a little. After the rolls have absorbed some of the icing, pour on the rest (or I like to do this to each on the individual plates).

Friday, June 10, 2011


There is something right about the world when sitting outside on a warm summer night eating a juicy burger hot off the grill. This recipe is one of my all time favorites! My son Dawson literally bear hugs me before and after dinner when this pops up on the menu. I think food is his love language ;)

1 1/2 lb. 85% lean ground beef
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (optional)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
8 slices bacon, chopped fine
4 tsp. yellow mustard
2 tsp. worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Hamburger buns

Mix beef with all ingredients. Distribute evenly. Shape into patties (I like to use a hamburger patty mold so that they are uniform in size). Grill burgers on the hot side for roughly 4 min. per side. Take a bow and thank me later. Your family is going to LOVE these!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Flavored Cream Cheese - Making Your Own

We are big whole wheat bagel fans around here, and the flavored cream cheese is a favorite, especially the strawberry kind. One of the issues I find, though, is that the stores don't sell non-fat strawberry cream cheese, and it is more expensive to buy the flavored kinds. I can make it for less, and I can custom the fat content according to what I want it to be!
Place non-fat cream cheese (1-2 blocks), 2-3 strawberries, and powdered sugar in a food processor. I would begin with only 1-2 tbsp. of powdered sugar, and add to taste. Some like it sweeter, some like it more on the tart side. Puree until smooth.
Place in a jar and use it for weeks!

Russet Potato Fries - Everyone's Favorite

I make Russet Potato Fries often, as they are one of my kids' favorites, and they go with many dishes. They are easy to make and so much healthier than the fried version! Make them for your family and watch them disappear....
Scrub potatoes clean with a brush.
Cut up 4 large potatoes (or more if you want), slicing into "fries"
Toss with 2-4 tbsp. olive oil
Sprinkle with kosher or sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Bake at 425 degrees until crisp on the ends and soft in the middle.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A delicious, family-friendly, salmon recipe -- get those Omega 3s!

Asian Honey Glazed Salmon

1/4 c. packed cilantro leaves
2 scallions
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. grated ginger
Kosher salt and pepper
4 salmon fillets, about 6 oz. each
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. sesame seeds

Preheat the grill over medium high. Oil the grates. Finely chop the cilantro and scallion and mix in the oil and ginger. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut two 3-inch slits in the fillets, going about 1/2 way through the salmon. Evenly stuff the slits with the herb mixture. Season the fish with salt and pepper.

Stir together the lime juice, soy, brown sugar, and honey until smooth. Place the salmon on the grill until well marked, 3 min. Turn the salmon and continue to cook, brushing the tops with the sauce, another 3 min. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds. Serve with edamame and lime wedges.

Broiler Directions:
Position an oven rack so that a baking sheet set on the rack is about 4 inches below the heat source. Preheat the broiler. Place the filets on a foil lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Broil, basting 3-4 times with the sauce, about 7 min.

Champagne Chicken with Rosemary Tuscan Beans

This isn't your ordinary chik chik! Very flavorful and a great recipe to freeze for those that are doing the make-ahead thing!

Champagne Chicken
1 cup champagne
12 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
3 Tbsp. lime juice, fresh
4 cloves garlic
2 large sprigs rosemary, minced
2 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Combine champagne, thyme, lime juice, and rosemary in a bowl or ziplock bag. Add chicken breasts and refrigerate (season with salt and pepper before adding).
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove breasts from the marinade and place in a small roasting pan. Reserve marinade.
Roast chicken 20-30 min. basting occasionally with the marinade. Place chicken a platter and cover to keep warm. Pour pan juices and remaining marinade in a saucepan. Cook over med. heat until boiling and reduced. Spoon over chicken and garnish with rosemary.
With this recipe, I sometimes grill the breasts instead of roasting. Both are good!

Rosemary Tuscan Beans
2 cans white northern beans, rinsed.
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 sprigs rosemary, chopped
olive oil
sea salt

Saute minced garlic in a tbsp. of olive oil. Add the chopped rosemary until fragrant. Add the beans and cook over medium heat until flavors are combined. Add a bit of kosher or sea salt.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Scones - not just for the Brits!

Looking for an easy, whip-it-up breakfast, brunch, or snack idea? Look no further than my FAVORITE dried cherry scones! They are simple to make and simply de-lish!!!!!
The scone process is easier than you think. Watch.....
Mix the dry ingredients together.
Cut in the butter. I do this with two knives, slicing back and forth.

Add the wet ingredients.
Stir in the dried fruit or nuts.

Shape into a ball on a floured surface, or on a Silpat.
Flatten the dough into a disc and cut into wedges.
Place the wedges on a cookie sheet.
Brush with egg whites, cinnamon-sugar, or whatever the recipe says to put on top.
Bake and Voila! Fresh and easy~
I even freeze half of them on a cookie sheet before baking
and save them in a ziplock for another day.
Here's the recipe!

Cherry Scones

  • ¾ cup dried sweet cherries
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (I often substitute half whole wheat flour, but if you do this, add a bit more liquid.
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg, separated
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup half and half
Soak cherries in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cream of tartar in a large bowl.
Cut in butter with a pastry blender or knife.
Combine egg yolk, sour cream, half and half, and almond extract.
Add to flour mixture and stir until soft dough forms.
Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead gently 6-8 times.
Knead in cherries until evenly distributed.
Divide dough in half and shape into two balls.
Put each ball into a 6-inch circle.
Cut each into 6 wedges with a sharp knife.
Place scones on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Beat egg white until foamy.
Brush the top of the scones with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Serves 12

Monday, February 14, 2011

Death by Tiramisu

If you've been looking for a TO-DIE-FOR-HEAVEN-ON-A-PLATE dessert for Valentine's Day, you've come to the right place! Behold (drumroll please).......

There is an Italian chef in our town who I like to take cooking classes from whenever I can. He is simply fabulous and his restaurant is, in my opinion, hands down the best around. This version of tiramisu is my own adaptation of his original recipe. My husband actually goes down to Angelo's restaurant and picks up this lusciousness every year on my birthday (isn't that so sweet)? They expect him now-- same time same place -- I love it!

Death by Tiramisu

Coffee mixture

2 cups Strong coffee

1 1/2 tbsp. instant espresso powder

1/4 cup Brandy or Rum

¼ cup sugar

Stir coffee, espresso, and alcohol in a dish until espresso dissolves. Set aside.

Zablione Mixture

15 egg yolks

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup Marsala or Rum

1/4 tsp. table salt

Beat eggs at low speed until just combined. Place the mixture over a pot of boiling water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water (you don't want to scramble the eggs). Whip the mixture until thickened. Do not let the mixture "sit" in the bowl over the steam. The eggs will cook if not stirred continuously. Cover with plastic and set aside to cool down in the fridge.

Whipped Cream Mascarpone Mixture

6 cups of whipping cream

4 tbsp. vanilla

1 1/2-2 lb. mascarpone cheese

Pour the cold cream into a bowl. Start beating the cream slowly. If the cream is whipped too quickly, it will deflate. After 1-2 min., increase the speed to medium high until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and mix until just combined. Turn down to low and add the mascarpone in increments.

When zablione mixture is cool, place whipped cream mixture in a big bowl and carefully add ¾ cup of the zablione at a time. Fold in from the outside gently.

Final Ingredients

2 Ladyfinger Packages

(buy the hard ones --do not buy the soft kind sometimes found in bakeries.

I like the kind that are sugar coated on one side).

chocolate chips or chocolate, chopped finely in a processor

cocoa powder

To Assemble:

In a shallow dish, dip the flat edge of the ladyfinger into the coffee mixture for 1 second, flipping quickly to coat the other side, and immediately remove and place in the bottom of a 9x13 dish. DO NOT SUBMERGE THE LADYFINGER. They will fall apart if they are dipped completely into the liquid, even if you do it quickly. Repeat until the bottom of the dish is covered. Spread 1/2 of the zablione cream mixture over the top. Top this layer with ground chocolate and cocoa powder; repeat the process again with the lady fingers going the opposite direction as the bottom layer, followed by the zablione, and topped with the chocolate and cocoa powder. Refrigerate and let set until the next day.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to Roast Chicken for any Recipe

I try to protein-pack my family's diet, so I often add chicken to whatever I'm making. This is the easiest way I've found to roast chicken quickly and easily. It is also very moist and tasty. My kids love it just as it is right out of the oven!
Before I start making dinner, or earlier in the day, I place frozen chicken in a 8x13. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees on the roasting feature if you have it. If not, just regular 425 will do!
I then drizzle the top of the chicken with olive oil.
I then sprinkle the chicken liberally with kosher salt (the only salt I use), and freshly ground pepper.Cover the chicken with foil and put it in the oven for 40-50 min.
Check the chicken to see if the middle is done and the juices run clear (not pink). Cool and slice or shred.