Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I'm not a big pumpkin pie fan, so for my first time hosting Thanksgiving, I decided to twist tradition and do a pumpkin cheesecake instead. Um, wow. I'm never going back. My new stepmother-in-law said it was the best dessert she's ever eaten, and my father-in-law told me she woke up talking about it the next morning (score!). As someone who never says no to dessert, I can't claim it is the best dessert I've ever eaten, but it is very tasty, and a great compromise for families with both pumpkin pie lovers and haters. Since I typed it up to send to her, I thought I'd share it here as well. Be sure to bring the cream cheese to room temperature first, as it greatly improves the texture. I also left the butter quantity in the graham cracker crust variable, as I like mine richer than most. This is a slightly modified version of the Lion House Cookbook's recipe.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs, rolled fine
3-6 Tbsp butter, melted
3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
¾ tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup pumpkin
¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp salt
1 pint sour cream
3 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Mix graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press firmly onto bottom and sides of 10-inch springform pan. Leave in fridge to chill while you do the rest of the prep.

Whip cream cheese in mixer bowl; gradually add sugar, then eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla.

In separate bowl, combine pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt. Mix well; add to cream cheese mixture. Pour filling into crust. Bake at 300 degrees for 55 minutes.

Whip sour cream; add sugar and vanilla. Spread on top of cheesecake and return to oven. Bake 10 more minutes. Cool before removing sides from springform pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Grilled Chicken Breast with Sun-Dried & Fresh Tomatoes

A double does of tomatoes lets you enjoy not only the sweet summery flavor of fresh tomatoes but the deeper, richer tones supplied by the sun-dried variety.


½ lb small red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

2 TBSP chopped drained sun-dried tomatoes

2 tsp. capers, rained

½ tsp finely chopped garlic

1 TBSP sherry vinegar

2 tsp lightly chopped fresh thyme

3 TBSP plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, tenders removed and reserved for another sue. Breast butterflied.

In a small bowl, combine the cheery tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, garlic, vinegar, 1 tsp of chopped thyme, 3 TBSP olive oil, ¼ tsp kosher salt and few grinds of pepper. Set aside, stirring occasionally to let the flavors combine.

Heat a gas grill to high. Put the chicken in a shallow nonreactive pan or plate. Rub it over with kosher salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the remaining 1 tsp thyme. Drizzle ½ tsp olive oil over each side of each piece of chicken and rub all over.

Lay the butterflied breast on the hot grill grates and cook, covered, until they have grill marks, 1 ½ minutes. With tongs, rotate the breast 90 degrees and continue grilling until grill marks form, another 1 ½ minutes. Flip the breast and cook the second side in the same way but for a little less time, grilling for 1 minute in one direction and 1 minute in another, until cooked through.

Transfer the breast immediately to two warm serving plates. Sitr the tomato miture and spoon equal amounts over each piece of chicken. Garnish with a sprig of thyme, if you like.

NOTES: I doubled but could have tripled the sun dried tomatoes. It adds a lot of taste to the dish. I am not a caper fan, so I reduced the capers to half; however, next time I will leave them out of the dish. It is up to you on how you want to make it. It is also great with couscous.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Scalloped Tomatoes

This recipe is so good. The better the tomato, the better the dish. I found it in the Barefooted Contessa's newest cookbook, The Way It Is. It is a great dish to add to the summer recipes.

Good olive oil
2 cups (1/2 inch diced) bread from a French boule, crusts removed
16 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dices (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 TBSP minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 TBSP sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black peppers
1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat 3 TBSP of olive oil in a large (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are done, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.

Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cups) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with 2 TBSP of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.

NOTES: I minimized the sugar to half the amount. I think it depends on your tomatoes. Some tomatoes are sweeter than others. I did not use plum tomatoes, but I had some wonderful Beefsteak tomatoes that I used. It was really, really tasty.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Squash Roasted

I have several squash plants. It brings lots and lots of summer squash. At times (like two weeks ago), I have more squash than I could possibly eat. But this is one of my favorite recipes. it is so simple yet so good. It is a good one for multiple types of vegetables as well.

Summer Squash, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
Extra Virgin olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 425'. Place slices in a single lay on cookie sheet or stoneware. Gently coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and then cook another 5 minutes. Remove and serve.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pesto plus ideas for recipes

Pesto is very forgiving. The measurements below can be altered or changed depending on your taste. I usually don't measure, but just put handfuls in at at time. I judge based on when it is first processed and then again when I add the oil. I add the oil slowly so I can adjust. I also substitute basil and pine nuts for mint and walnuts. Then I place it with cucumber sandwiches for a twist on a traditional tea sandwiches. Also can be made with spinach, cilantro, parsley, etc.

Fresh homemade Pesto:

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves and tender stems
1-3 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
3-6 TBSP Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp salt to taste
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place first 5 ingredients in your food processor. Pulse till mixed, the turn on low speed and slowly pour in olive oil until it makes a thick paste. Serve at room temperature.

I love summer pesto. I make lots of it in the summer when the Basil is fresh and plentiful. I pick on a weekly basis (if not more often), so I need lots of ideas. Pesto can be used in the following ways:

  • Freeze in ice cube trays for later use. Then remove and put in plastic baggie. Omit the garlic and cheese. Add right before serving.
  • On fresh, warm pasta
  • On a sandwich with fresh cut tomatoes and mozzarella (my sister and I's favorite sandwich in the summer. It is even good on a panini sandwich- slightly toasted)
  • Pizza (recipe written below)
  • On top of steak
  • Potatoes
  • Soup (think summer tomato soup)
  • Grilled Vegetables
  • On chicken or white fish-- use as a marinated
  • In lasagna instead of tomato sauce (or as one of the layers)
So there are a few ideas. If you have any other, let me know. I am always trying new ways to add pest into my recipes.

Summer Pesto Pizza

Some my friend Melissa recommended I write up some my my favorite recipes all from the garden plot. I have a rather large garden and love to create new colorful recipes. In addition, I spend the summer months PYO fruit. So I will work this summer to write up new recipes from my garden and summer of picking. One of my main goals is to can, can, can. I have started off pretty good, but cannot wait to can more.

So tonight we ate Pesto Tomato Pizza. I used a pizza dough I use on a regular basis, but changed the topping to Fresh Homemade Pesto, Freshly picked tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. It was yummy, but could be better. I suggest using the tomato pesto previously posted (the last one). I would still add more tomatoes on top, but changing it up a bit.

Summer Pesto Pizza:

Freshly made pizza dough (recipe to follow)
1/2 cup pesto (recipe to follow)
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
2 cups mozzarella cheese (I used a ball mozzarella and not shredded).

Cook dough for 5-8 minutes on 450'. Remove from oven and spread pesto on crust. Top with tomatoes and cheese. Garnish with fresh basil leaves (optional- and should be placed just before serving). Bake in pre-heated open at 450' for 5-8 minutes and cheese is melted.

Pizza Dough Recipe:
(from my friend Erika)

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 cup warm water (100'F)
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP olive oil
3 1/3 cup all purpose flour (I used 50% white and 50% fresh ground whole wheat)

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the water and let sit for 10 minutes. Stir the salt and oil into the yeast solution. Mix in 2 1/2 cup of flour. Turn dough out onto a clean, well floured surface, and knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise until doubled, the should take about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, and form a tight bowl. Allow the dough to relax for a minute before rolling it out.
Use your favorite pizza recipe. Preheat oven to 425'. If you are baking the dough on a pizza stone, you may place your toppings on the dough and bake immediately. If you are baking your pizza in a regular pan, lightly oil the pan and let the dough rise in your pan for 15-20 minutes before topping and baking it. Bake pizza in pre-heated oven, until cheese and crust are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Fresh homemade Pesto:

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves and tender stems
1-3 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
3-6 TBSP Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp salt to taste
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place first 5 ingredients in your food processor. Pulse till mixed, the turn on low speed and slowly pour in olive oil until it makes a thick paste. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pesto alal trapanese

http://memoriediangelina.blogspot.com/2011/07/pesto-alla-trapanese.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FQaRz+%28Memorie+di+Angelina%29So I love this meal. It came to me via Memorie di Angelina (a great food blog in itself). I made this recipe that night and love, love, love. I actually have referred it to several friends. It is a great tasting summer dish with a great palate for the mouth. The tomatoes make the dish, so select wisely. I cannot wait for my tomatoes are ready to be picked (the first four came off the plant on Wednesday-- more to be selected tonight) to make this fabulous light summer dish. Try and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chicken with Mango Salsa

This month's Bon Appitee magazine is great. There are lots and lots of great recipes inside. In one section, G. Paltrow is highlighted with her new cookbook. This is a recipe from there. They have it with fish, which I don't eat, so I made it with chicken. It was really, really good. They also suggest (in anohter section) to submerge your avocado half into ice water to help maintain the great green color. I tried it and it worked really well. It will keep it nice and green for a while.
1 cup Mango, diced into 1' pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup avocado, diced into 1' pieces
4 basil leaves, thinly sliced
3 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
3 TBSP olive oil
4 chicken breast
In a plastic baggie, marinate the chicken breast with 2 TBSP olive oil and 2 TBSP lime juice. Add Salt and pepper for taste. Let marinate for 20 minutes (but no longer 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 350' or grill.
Place in baking pan and Bake for 20 minutes, broil for 3-5 minutes if baking. If grilling, place on grill and cook about 7-10/side until chicken is tender.
While cooking, combine mangoes, cherry tomatoes, avocados, basil leaves and remaining olive oil and lime juice in a bowl. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Plate chicken and generously scoop salsa over top. Serve immediately.
You can also use white fish instead of chicken breast. Same recipe and ingredients as above.
I have served it alone or with couscous or rice. But a great summer recipe.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Homemade Yogurt in the crockpot

So I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE European Yogurt. It is not Greek Yogurt, but it is super yummy. Sadly I cannot find it anywhere in the US. The difference is big and vast. If you have ever been in Europe and eaten Muller's Yogurt or been in Switzerland and eaten standard yogurt, you would understand my point. I find US based yogurt aweful. It is tart, leaves a horrible aftertaste and is not good. So I have tried many homemade recipes to discover one I like. Well I found one yesterday. I tried it and it was wonderful. Here is the recipe.

1 liter milk (if unpasterized, even better)
1/4-1/2 cup of dried milk
1 container of plain yogurt (% of your choice, not ultra pasterized) or active yeast cultures

Place both ingredients in the crockpot. Cook for 1 1/2 hours on high or 2 1/2 hours on low. Then remove from heat source (outter layer of crockpot). If you have a free thermator, the temperature should go down to 110'. If not, let rest for 1 hour.
Add plain yogurt for starters or pour live cultures. Mix in.
Heat your oven to the lowest temperature you can. Place ceramic bowl with yogurt into your oven for 5-12 hours. The shorter the time, the less tart your yogurt will get. The longer, the more tart it gets.
Remove from oven and let rest for about 1 hour. Pour out the yellow or green liquids out (whey from the milk). You can keep it to put into smoothies (protein source without calories) or toss. Use some to put back into the yogurt. You can use cheesecloth to help remove more liquid, but place in sealed container in frig to cool.

I added strawberries (sliced with a little sugar and water-- cooked for 20 minutes- stirring occasionally). Let cool, then added to the yogurt. Great homemade yogurt--- I've done the same with blueberries and other fruit.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Miniature Orange Scones

I came across this recipe on a blog and made them for Sophie's birthday tea party. They are so yummy. I didn't make the glaze the recipe calls for because I was serving them with whipped cream (instead of clotted cream) and I don't think they need it.

Miniature Orange Scented Chocolate Chip Scones
recipe adapted from Teresa Miller


2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups whipping cream (heavy cream)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, salt, and chocolate chips (by hand). Pour in whipping cream. Mix or knead by hand, just until combined (about 45 second). Mix will be sticky. Flour surface. Divide dough into two sections and pat into two rounds, each approximately four inches. Note: Score each round first with a knife into 4ths , then 8ths. Then cut and put on a greased large cookie sheet. Bake 9 to 11 minutes. Let cool five minutes, then glaze.

1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons orange juice

Mix together until a thin icing consistency to pour over warm scones.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Honey Chicken on Apricot Rice

So I have not technically tried this recipe yet, but is sounds oh so yummy that will be added to next weeks list. This weeks menu is complete. I got it out of the Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook. they have a ton of great looking recipes. I may post more about them as I try them.

Honey Chicken

3 TBSP ground wheat germ
2 TBSP honey
1 TBSP Dijon Mustard
1 TBSP canned apricot nectar or apricot Jam
3/4 tsp soy sauce
6 skinless bone-in chicken breast (~5 oz each), trimmed of visible fat

1. Preheat oven to 375”

2. In a small bowl, mix together the wheat germ, honey, mustard, apricot nectar or jam, and soy sauce until well blended.

3. Arrange the chicken pieces, bone side down, on a baking sheet. Spread the wheat germ mixture evenly over the chicken breast. Bake until the chicken is opaque throughout and the wheat germ mixture has formed a crust, 35-40 minutes.

4. To serve, divide the rice among individual plates. Top each with a chicken breast.

Apricot Wild Rice


1 oz dried shiitake mushrooms, stemmed

1 ½ cups warm water

2 cups wild rice, rinsed in a fine mesh sieve under cold running water

½ cup coarsely chopped dried apricots

2 shallots

In a small bowl, soak the mushrooms in the warm water until barely softened, about 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, Coarsely chopped mushrooms. Strain the mushroom-soaking liquids through a fine mesh sieve into a measuring cup. Add enough water to equal 5 cups liquid. Pour the liquid into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the wild rice, mushrooms, apricots and shallots. Return to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until the rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

I don't do mushrooms, but instead I would use chicken stock or broth to enhance the flavor of the wild rice.

Doesn't it sound good. I will let you know. I am also thinking of serving it with saute spinach or asparagus. I am trying to think of another vegetable that could go with it too. Any suggestions?

Friday, February 18, 2011

So Papilla Cheesecake

Last evening our RS had a week night event. We had a lesson on spousal relationships and then a panel discussion with some excellent questions, insights and views. It was a rare RS event in which the men were invited, so we provided babysitting and food. It turned out great with a wonderful turnout. I want to think that the food helped. For dessert I made So Papilla Cheesecake-- from my sister that lots of people wanted the recipe. So I thought maybe people in the blogging world would also appreciate the recipe. I must warn you that it is in NO WAY low fat (it is cheesecake people), but it is quick and easy and delicious. So here it goes....

2 cans of crescent rolls
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13X9 inch pan.
Spread 1 can of crescent rolls on the bottom of the pan.
Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract together and spread on top of dough. Cover with other can of crescent rolls. Pour melted butter over the top. Sprinkle Cinnamon and sugar over top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes-- crust should be golden brown. Let sit for 5-10 minutes but serve warm.

Notes: I saw crescent rolls in a solid roll instead of individual crescent cut outs the other day. I did not try it because it was more expensive, but I think if I were to make it again for myself, I would use it. It saves some time in rolling out and looks prettier. I also do not use low fat in this recipe. That means no low fat cream cheese (it does not melt easily and does not taste the same) nor do I use low fat crescent rolls. I do go with the regular recipe ingredients and minimize my portions. One piece of dessert won't kill you and it is all you really need. But this is a good, quick dessert. You can make it ahead of time and just cook before your guest arrive.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Extract Making

So one of my favorite activities is to make my own extracts. Partially because it is super easy and partially because it is so much tastier than the store stuff-- and half the cost. It is also a great gift. So here are the simple recipes I have found over time.... (and if you want an exact recipe or all on a PDF file, just send me a note.)

Vanilla Extract

Vodka or Bourbon

Vanilla Beans (of any kind)

Fill a sealable container with the liquid of your choice (I prefer Vodka because it has no smell or taste and the true taste of the vanilla bean can be tasted). Once filled, slice a vanilla bean length wise with about pinkie size remaining together and place in the container. (I tend to make mine in the largest vodka bottle I fine with about 15-20 beans). Then let sit for about 2 months, shaking occasionally (about once a week). In two months you have vanilla extract. You make remove your bean or keep it in the extract. If you leave it in, the taste will get stronger over time. Or you may use the bean for another batch of extract OR you may take the bean out and use the seeds for vanilla sugar. It is up to you on what you do with it. I usually just make another batch. Your bean can be used up to three batches. Sometimes I leave the bean inside and just empty the extract into another container (a great way of doing it for gifts) and then refill with more liquids.

Fiori di Scilia


vanilla bean

dried lemon zest

dried orange zest

Fill your container 1/4 filled with zests-- use about 50-50 for the zest. Then slice your vanilla bean length wise except for pinkie size at the top, separate and place in the jar. Fill jar with liquid. Shake immediately and shake about 2-3 times a week. The zest will fall to the bottom, so you need to shake often for best results. Also for best results, the zest needs to be dried. Fresh zest is not as concentrated. Keep in a cool, dark place for about 2 months and voilĂ , Fiori di Scilia.

Not sure what to use this wonderful extract in.... Well it can be substituted for Vanilla extract at any time. IT just gives a fresher, fruiter flavor to items. We use ours in cookies, sweet breads, whip cream/icing, desserts- but not chocolate for some reason. It is often a main ingredient in Italian sweets and breads- Pantone for instance. It is used more often in Europe than in the US.

Almond Extract

1 Tbsp of blanched, slivered almonds (slightly toasted)


Slightly toast your almonds and then crush, but don't make a paste. They should be the size of large sand. Place in your jar/container and fill with Brandy. Once filled place in a cool, dark storage area for 1-2 months. Shake once a week. Almonds will settle to the bottom so shake well.

Peppermint Extract

dried peppermint


Place dried peppermint into the bottom of your container until about 1/4 filled. Then pour in vodka. Once poured, shake well. Shake daily for about 2 weeks. then use cheesecloth or coffee filter and drain liquids- saving it to a different jar. Throw out the used peppermint. Now you have peppermint extract.

If you let the peppermint sit for longer in the extract, the taste will be stronger. But do not keep for longer than 1 month.

Cinnamon Extract

cinnamon stick


Break cinnamon stick in half. Place in about 4 oz. of vodka. Let sit for 2 weeks to 2 months. Remove cinnamon sticks and you have cinnamon extract.

this extract is great of hot chocolate or adding to chocolate cakes, breads, cookies, etc. It will last you a long, long time.

Lemon or Orange Extract

dried lemon zest or orange zest


fill container about 1/4 with zest, then pour in vodka. Keep in a dark, cool place for up to 2 months. Remove zest and you have extract.

Most extracts are to rest for 2 months. You could go longer and you can leave in the items (minus the peppermint) which allow the flavor to continue to strengthen. If you have made the extract in a separate container (like a large Vodka bottle), then you can pour the extract into another bottle and use the items again. This is the best way to give the away as gifts. If you use a lot of extract, make plenty. Refill the current bottle as you go along with Vodka so it is melding with the vanilla. Otherwise plan on 2 months between each one.

Oh and by the way, these are super easy and quick to make- really truly easy. I do have a list of where I purchased my ingredients: zest, vanilla beans, jars, labels, etc if you want them.