Month: October 2015

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I really wish I could take credit for this recipe. I’ve been making it for so many years that it feels like mine. I mean when you’ve had something be a part of your holiday traditions longer than your children, that’s got to be something. And as often as I like to put my own twist on things, this recipe remains untouched – because it’s perfect every time, just the way it is. It’s creamy and luscious and sweet and seasonal with the pumpkin… so without further ado: From Better Homes and Gardens’ Test Kitchen Favorites:

As organic as possible: (ok, there’s my twist)

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 20 squares)

1/3 cup sugar

3 Tbsp butter, melter

2 – 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup half-and-half or light cream

1 cup canned pumpkin

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

4 eggs

1 – 8 oz carton dairy sour cream

1/2 tsp vanilla

  1. For crust, combine crumbs, the 1/3 cup sugar, and melter butter. Press onto bottom and about 2 inches up sides of an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Bake in a 325°F oven for 5 minutes; set aside.
  2. For filling, in a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese, half-and-half, pumpkin, the 3/4 cup sugar, flour, the 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, beating on low speed just until combined.
  3. Spoon filling into crust-lined pan. Place springform pan in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a 325°F oven for 1 hour or until center appears nearly set when gently shaken.
  4. Combine the sour cream, the 2 tablespoons sugar, and the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; spread over cheesecake. Bake 5 minutes more.
  5. Cool in springform pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Loosen crust from sides of pan with a thin-bladed knife or narrow spatula and cool 30 minutes more. Remove sides of pan; cool 1 hour. Cover and chill at least 4 hours up to 24 hours. Makes 16 servings.

To store cheese cake: Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Or seal a whole cheesecake or individual pieces in a freezer bag, in an airtight container, or wrapped in heavy foil. Freeze a whole cheesecake for up to a month and pieces for up to 2 weeks. To serve, loosen the covering slightly. Thaw a whole cheesecake in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Thaw individual pieces at room temperature 30 minutes.

You’re welcome! Have a great weekend!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 20 squares)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melter
  • 2 - 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 - 8 oz carton dairy sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. For crust, combine crumbs, the 1/3 cup sugar, and melter butter. Press onto bottom and about 2 inches up sides of an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Bake in a 325°F oven for 5 minutes; set aside.
  2. For filling, in a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese, half-and-half, pumpkin, the 3/4 cup sugar, flour, the 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, beating on low speed just until combined.
  3. Spoon filling into crust-lined pan. Place springform pan in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a 325°F oven for 1 hour or until center appears nearly set when gently shaken.
  4. Combine the sour cream, the 2 tablespoons sugar, and the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; spread over cheesecake. Bake 5 minutes more.
  5. Cool in springform pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Loosen crust from sides of pan with a thin-bladed knife or narrow spatula and cool 30 minutes more. Remove sides of pan; cool 1 hour. Cover and chill at least 4 hours up to 24 hours. Makes 16 servings.
  6. To store cheese cake: Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Or seal a whole cheesecake or individual pieces in a freezer bag, in an airtight container, or wrapped in heavy foil. Freeze a whole cheesecake for up to a month and pieces for up to 2 weeks. To serve, loosen the covering slightly. Thaw a whole cheesecake in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Thaw individual pieces at room temperature 30 minutes.
http://sadiesnest.com/pumpkin-cheesecake/

Loving Lately ❤️

Loving Lately: Road Trips

I love road trips. Some of my best memories growing up are from visiting new places with my family. Trying new foods from roadside restaurants and diners, taking in new scenery, and people watching (I can’t help it, I’m a studier of human nature). I still get excited about it today. I love taking my kids to see new places, getting to try new dishes and meeting new people.

View from our hotel room of the Grand Traverse Bay

View from our hotel room of the Grand Traverse Bay

It’s also no secret that I’m a huge fan of the state of Michigan. The vibrant seasonal changes, the great lakes and the produce, it’s all so good. This time my family and I headed up to the northwest shore of Michigan’s lower peninsula, one of my favorite places in the world.

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The Leelanau Peninsula, the world renown tunnel of trees, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, and even a foodie destination gaining national recognition in Traverse City and Suttons Bay were a few of our stops. I’ve been here many times, but never in the fall at its peak color. Beautiful.

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Some of my favorite things included when it finally sunk in to the kids, that the journey was the destination. “Where are we going?”, they would ask. “This is it, look out your window at the trees.”

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We drove and took in the natural wonders until we needed to stretch our legs, or eat, or check out attractions too intriguing to pass by; such as road side stands and quaint general stores.

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Good Hart General Store

Have I mentioned my appreciation of a good cup of coffee? Thank you Traverse City for your selection of cafes, with even organic ingredients, and food trucks with home bases so I can get Korean tacos while your trucks aren’t out.

Organic Pumpkin Spice Latte

Organic Pumpkin Spice Latte

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And although there is no place like home… sometimes I feel the need to hit the open road and see what I can see.

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Tailgating Season!

So I’m not the biggest football fan, weathering the elements in the parking lot over a hibachi and a cooler. My husband is a big football fan, so I don’t mind going to an occasional game, but mostly I prefer watching them from the comfort of my home. However, I am a fan of the hibachi, or a grill, and any reason to get together with family and feast!

The Grill By the time I got to my camera most of the food had been cooked.

The Grill
By the time I got to my camera most of the food had been cooked.

I really do like the idea of loading up the back of a truck or what-have-you with a to-go party. A few years ago I saw an inspiring photo from a Paula Deen magazine with a nostalgic pick-up truck full of baskets and trays holding sandwiches and drinks with coordinating plaid blankets and thermoses full of soup. It was a vision I wanted to create with my own family… in the comfort of my parents back yard, around a large bonfire pit, where we were sure to keep warm and there is plenty of space for the kids to run around (and a nearby bathroom). So began a new tradition.

Things I never knew I'd love about a minivan... reverse folding seats!

Things I never knew I’d love about a minivan… reverse folding seats!

This year we had kind of an East Coast seafood theme, which I was really excited about because it is out of the norm for me. But being that I’m not a huge fan of seafood in general (it’s a work in progress) we had a steak option.

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Steak

Steak

Cheddar Biscuits

Cheddar Biscuits

Not pictured are the baked by grill potatoes, grilled broccoli and pumpkin lattes. However, I did manage to snap a photo of dessert…

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Pumpkin Cheesecake

Sometimes I feel like there aren’t enough days in a week. We should really do this more often.

Sweet Potato Muffins

I love the smell of sweet potatoes in the morning. Actually there is something about this time of year that makes me want to bake with them all day long. I am also an advocate of muffins; for breakfast, with lunch, after dinner… Just one of life’s simple pleasures. These are a beautiful orange color and great to serve this time of year with soup or salad. See how coordinated I am?

Makes 18 muffins

As organic as possible:

2 cups Flour

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp grated Nutmeg

2 1/2 tsp Baking powder

1 tsp Salt

15 oz canned sweet potatoes (about 2 large, peeled, boiled until tender, and mashed)

2 Eggs, beaten

1/2 cup Sugar

1/4 cup Brown sugar

1/2 cup Milk

1/2 cup Walnut oil

Zest of 1 Orange

1 cup chopped Pecans

Topping:

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400°. Grease or spray a 1 1/2 muffin tins, set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. In a medium sized bowl, add sweet potato, eggs, sugar, brown sugar, oil, milk, and orange zest. Mix. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until incorporated. Gently fold in pecans. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, almost filling the cups. (Should make approximately 18 full sized muffins.) Fill remaining empty cups 3/4 full with water to prevent warping. In a small bowl stir sugar and cinnamon topping mixture and sprinkle on top of muffins. Bake for 20-25 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to serving dish. I  use a butter knife in gently assisting the muffins out of the tin. Muffins are moist and flavorful, enjoy!

Smoky Cheese Ball

I don’t want to brag, but I’ve been told I make a pretty good cheese ball. Oh yeah, life of the party – right here. It’s honestly one of the easiest things to do. It’s so much better than store bought and worth the effort. The goal is to taste like cheese and be able to spread on a cracker. Because it’s so simple, using quality ingredients is mandatory; punishable by… a tasteless disaster! (Possibly.) Over the years I’ve made quite a few variations, and this one is a crowd pleaser every time.

As organic as possible:

1/2 cup Butter (1 stick), softened

12 oz Cream Cheese (1 1/2 bars), softened

1 1/2 tsp granulated Garlic

1/2 tsp Salt

1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 Tbsp Milk

8 oz Smoked Gouda, shredded (can substitute with smoked cheddar)

3/4 cup Pecans

On the day I know I’m going to make a cheese ball, I get out my butter and cream cheese in the morning with my coffee. That way when I feel like getting to it, it’s ready to go. That’s like the extent of the difficulty. When you’re ready to get started I throw everything (except the pecans) in a stand up mixer. Although if you don’t have one, no worries; once everything is soft, it would be easy to mix by hand. Beat until creamy, scraping down the sides.

Now here is the trick for a perfect ball: Line a bowl with two sheets of cling wrap, in a cross pattern, pressing down with extra over the sides. Using a spatula, scoop the cheese into the center of the lined bowl. When all of the cheese is in, wrap the cheese with the plastic until covered and form a ball, pressing the cheese together lightly to rid of cracks and air pockets. Place back into the bowl and put in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. (You can easily make this a day ahead.)

Before serving (or transporting to a Partay) toast the pecans. I like using the toaster oven for small batches like this, but stove top and conventional oven will work too. Heat in a dry skillet over medium heat (watching and tossing) or at about 350º for 6-7 minutes, just until you start catching the aroma of the nut. I don’t like the nuts over toasted for this. Then chop the nuts into small pieces. Remove the ball from the plastic wrap and roll around in the nuts. pressing nuts onto every open space. Don’t worry if the wrap left not-so-pretty lines, they will be covered with beautiful nut pieces! Place on a serving tray with assortment of crackers and spreading knife. Get ready to live.

Smoky Cheese Ball

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Butter (1 stick), softened
  • 12 oz Cream Cheese (1 1/2 bars), softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp granulated Garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Milk
  • 8 oz Smoked Gouda, shredded (can substitute with smoked cheddar)
  • 3/4 cup Pecans

Instructions

  1. Let butter and cream cheese soften.
  2. Throw everything (except the pecans) in a stand up mixer. If you don't have one, no worries; once everything is soft, it would be easy to mix by hand.
  3. Beat until creamy, scraping down the sides.
  4. Line a bowl with two sheets of cling wrap, in a cross pattern, pressing down with extra over the sides.
  5. Using a spatula, scoop the cheese into the center of the lined bowl.
  6. When all of the cheese is in, wrap the cheese with the plastic until covered and form a ball, pressing the cheese together lightly to rid of cracks and air pockets.
  7. Place back into the bowl and put in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. (You can easily make this a day ahead.)
  8. Before serving toast the pecans. Heat in a dry skillet over medium heat (watching and tossing) or at about 350º for 6-7 minutes, just until you start catching the aroma of the nut.
  9. Remove the ball from the plastic wrap and roll around in the nuts. pressing nuts onto every open space. Don't worry if the wrap left not-so-pretty lines, they will be covered with beautiful nut pieces!
  10. Place on a serving tray with assortment of crackers and spreading knife.
http://sadiesnest.com/smoky-cheese-ball/

Loving Lately ❤️

Loving Lately #1: Fabulous Finds; Linens

You never know what you’re going to come across at an antique store or flea market; which is all the excitement! I consider fabulous finds to be great deals on great items. There is actually a thrift store not far from my house with the same name, brilliant! I had the opportunity the other day to find some beautiful linens at fantastic prices. For example, pictured is a hand embroidered harvest themed table cloth. Down the center is corn, artichokes and pumpkins to name a few, with more fruits and veggies in every corner. It’s also extra long to accommodate my dining table, but the best part is it only cost $8.50! I’m a happy girl.

Loving Lately #2: Fabulous Finds; Kitchen Gadgets


Fabulous finds could make a regular appearance on Loving Lately. They are as fun to me as easy appetizers. As much as I appreciate antiques, I’m not looking for decorative gadgets or collector’s items. I love finding utensils that can still be used today; which is why I got really excited to find the pasta cutter for round raviolis and the pie cutter/crimper for my pastries! (Also pictured is another cute linen.) I got both utensil for less than $10. I can’t wait to see what kind of beautiful things come out of my kitchen! Now if I could only justify the pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer…

Harvest Season at The Orchard

As far back as I can remember we would take a family trip in the Fall to visit a good sized orchard in the southeast corner of Michigan. My mom still tells the story of the blustery day they first walked into the large barn structure with a huge warming fire roaring in the (now closed) stone fireplace. It has grown into quite the attraction since the earlier years since we used to go, complete with bouncy house, tent sales and music shows. And sadly I think they do most of the apple pressing for the cider on weekdays, not on the weekends while the kids are out of school and we actually have the chance to go. I loved watching the apples get crushed through the viewing window, while the bees were buzzing everywhere. But the donuts and cider still taste the same, and the country store still sells local homemade treasures. They offer a huge variety of Michigan made jams, jellies, candles, honeys, and more. They still make a corn maze, where you can get lost in dried stalks grown over your head. I take my children on the hay ride, where they bring you out to pick a couple of apples right off of the tree, just like I did as a kid. And you can feed the farm animals, like goats, right out of the palm of your hand, jump in large bales of hay, ride a pony, and pretend you’re driving an immobile tractor. I love getting my kids to farm country.


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Lasagna di Spagna

This dish is a creation of love. A love of all things delicious! It has a layered lasagna feel with Spanish flavors like artichoke, olives, and Manchego. I love these flavorful hearty family style recipes. This is an Americanized version of an Italian classic with a Spanish twist, so the title is perfect.

As organic as possible:

1 1/2 lbs Ground beef

3 Tbsp Chili powder

2 Tbsp Cumin

1 Tbsp granulated Garlic

2 tsp Salt

1 tsp ground Pepper

1 4 oz can Green chilis

4 oz Spanish olives, sliced

3/4 cup diced Spanish onion, divided

4 oz Artichoke hearts, diced

2 cups Manchego, shredded (if you can’t find Monchego, cheddar will do)

1 15 oz can Tomato bisque soup (I love Amy’s Tomato Bisque, but feel free to substitute with your favorite tomato soup or enchilada sauce)

4 Large Tortillas

Preheat oven to 375°. In a skillet brown beef with 1/2 cup of onion, until ready to drain. Drain off excess fat and add chili powder, cumin, granulated garlic, salt, and pepper, toss until spices are mixed in. Taste for seasoning. Add chilis and stir until combined.

Place a couple tablespoons of the tomato soup in the bottom of a 13X9 dish. I also use this time to wet all of the tortillas in the soup, leaving two to cover the bottom and setting two aside. Start the layering process by using half of the beef mixture, half of the remaining onion, half of the olives, and half of the artichoke hearts. Cover evenly with half of the remaining tomato soup, followed by 1 cup (half) of the shredded Monchego. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients.

Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until all is heated through and bubbly. Let sit a few minutes before serving, cooling slightly and allowing dish to set up (so everything won’t ooze out when cut into). Enjoy this wonderful fusion of flavors!

Three Sisters Bake’s Chocolate Brownies

This is a chocolate lovers brownie. It is rich and decadent all by itself. I admit that I did use high quality/high percentage chocolate. And I don’t always share recipes from my cookbooks. But when I come across something that I feel others might enjoy, then I feel it is my civil obligation to pass it on. If you like your chocolate, you’re going to love this.

As written in Three Sisters Bake:

8 oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
8 oz good-quality dark chocolate (they use 53% cocoa solids Belgian chocolate chips)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
11 oz/scant 1 1/2 cups caster (superfine) sugar
3 1/2 scant cup plain (all-purpose) flour
2 oz cocoa powder
20 oz fresh cherries (optional)

Preheat the oven to 320°.

Grease and line the base and sides of a 13X9 baking dish with greaseproof (wax) paper.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate have melted. Remove the bowl from the pan and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer for about 5 minutes, until thick, glossy and pale. Pour the cooled chocolate and butter into the egg and sugar mixture and gently fold it in until well combined. Sift the flour and cocoa powder over the mixture and fold it in.

Spoon the brownie batter into the prepared tim. Ease the mixture into the corners and level it out with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes. If the brownie still has a wobble to it after 30 minutes, give it another 5 minutes in the oven. Once ready the brownie should look shiny and papery on top.

Cut into even-sized pieces and serve with fresh cherries.

Dinner Club – Fall Soup

It had been a while since our last dinner club gathering. Summer is so full, then school it was starting… But I missed it, and was ready for it to begin! You might remember that we had put cuisines from all around the world in the drawing and at the last dining event had drawn Israeli cuisine. But to get back into the swing of things, I sent out a simple invite for a soup swap. It seemed timely and seasonal, and a nice way to fall back into the groove. It was a small and intimate group this time, 7 out of our now baker’s dozen, 13. It was so good to see everyone again around my dining table, and so great to try some new things! (If you are new to my blog and would like some background information, click on Dinner Club.)

I apologize for the photography, my dining room has very little natural lighting to begin with, let alone in the evening. Because this is supposed to be like my version of a Girl’s Night Out, I make no apologies about the paper plates. (The last thing I want on my night out is a large stack of dishes…) So the place setting was kept simple. (Although for the picture it might have been nice if I had soup in the bowl. Hindsight…)

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But how beautiful is the centerpiece from the remaining flowers in Holly’s garden! After the first Dinner Club, we added this assignment. It’s essential.

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I divided the assigned tasks into 3 soups, 1 bread, 1 drink, 1 centerpiece, and a dessert.  I was assigned bread. And I am slightly embarrassed to say I took the easy way out (just this once). Although there are no rules one has to follow, in theory I’d like to challenge myself a little more. But hey, let’s be real… sometimes I’m just happy the house is ready for company and I’m dressed. So I bought the loaves at the store and the pumpkin cornbread was a box mix from Trader Joe’s. There. I said it.

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Fun dinner drinks is another thing I love. Catie made a great version of a recipe she found on-line with organic apple and pear juice with ginger ale, garnished with organic apple slices. (I hope I haven’t made my friends feel like if they’re bringing something to my house that it has to be organic…) Honestly, the pictures do not do it justice. It was so refreshing and delightful!

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How cute are the rustic apple slices to garnish the drink! They were fun to eat or add to the drink.

How cute are the rustic apple slices to garnish the cup! They were fun to eat or add to the drink.

We had trio of really delicious soups for supper. Rhonda (aka my mom) brought GG’s Beef Stew. It’s a tomato broth hearty and rustic stew, full of beef, potatoes, and carrots. It’s a family favorite where the meat and vegetables are perfectly tender -and never disappoints. Tara brought a scrumptious Autumn Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup from Once Upon a Chef. It was a gorgeous bright orange seasonal soup that I want to eat every day until December. It had a warm curry twist that I fell in love with. Molly brought a creamy cheesy Asiago Bisque from Chef in Training. Asiago Bisque! Need I say more? It had potatoes and bacon and every bite was better than the one before.


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My setting ending up looking like this.

We could have served the soups one at a time, like separate courses, but then I couldn’t have gone back and forth with spoonfuls of each one. And since they were all hot and ready to go, why not? A fall feast fit for a queen! (I really wish I was a better photographer.) But we didn’t stop there… We had to have dessert! Bailey the youngest member of our group made a white cake with a cream cheese frosting. I am also proud to say I did contribute something from scratch, Chocolate Brownies from Three Sister’s Bake.

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I had a great time as usual, and I can’t wait for our next get together! This time we will stick to the plan and try Israeli cuisine. For the recipes to any of the soups click on the name of it, highlighted in red. They are all worth it. For photography tips, ask someone who knows!