Monday, May 27, 2013

Chocolate Toffee Cheesecake

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One of my favorite desserts is cheesecake.  I admit, I've come a long way when it comes to making dessert.  I remember the first time I ever made cheesecake.  I tried to make a cherry cheesecake for my first husband.  He tried to be sweet about it, but it was terrible!  I made him throw it away!

If he could have piece of this now, even he would be impressed!  Here are the ingredients:


2 packages of chocolate graham crackers
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup sugar


4 packages cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch salt
1/2 cup cocoa
1 bag toffee bits 

1/4 cup flour
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted


1/2 jar caramel topping
1 cup toffee bits

In your food processor, crumble the chocolate graham crackers and sugar.  Slowly add the melted butter.  Press this mixture into a large cheesecake pan that has been well greased.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Let cool.

Clean out the food processor and add the cream cheese and sugar.  Turn on high speed and add eggs, one at a time.  Add vanilla, cream, salt, flour and cocoa.  Cream together.  Slowly add melted chocolate.  Cream together.

Remove to a bowl.  Stir in toffee bits. 

Pour into the crust.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 300 and bake an additional 50 minutes or until the center is set.  Remove and cool.  Take a knife and run it around the edge.  This will help decrease the chances that the cheesecake will split.  Refrigerate overnight.
Before serving, sprinkle caramel and toffee bits over the top.

Memorial Day

Today was the first time I went to my father's grave.  Mom wanted to go this weekend, Memorial Day weekend. Dad died in November - I guess you'd say we've all been avoiding the issue.  But, his death is always with us - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter.  Every.  Single.  Day.

Dad served in the Air Force and so he is buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.  If you've never been to a national cemetery, I encourage you to visit at least once in your life. 

Jefferson Barracks is a peaceful place, full of honor and integrity.  I am proud to say that my father is buried there.

As we drove into the park, Jonah brought up the fact that during WWII, Italian prisoners of war were sent there.  Mom added that my father would visit them, bring the prisoners food and interpret letters for them, so they could send letters home.

I didn't know these things about my father, but Jonah did.  You see, dad brought Jonah to Jefferson Barracks a few times.  This was a special place for dad.  He was proud to be an American citizen, proud to have served his country.  I'm glad that dad shared some special things with Jonah - that Jonah had that time with dad.

Today, Memorial Day means something different for me.  I can't really put into words what I'm feeling.  My father left a void in my soul.  He was a very special man and life just isn't the same without him.  But, seeing his grave among all of those soldiers was inspiring.  Now, the entire world knows how special my father was. 

All of men and women in that cemetery sacrificed so much for our freedom!  How often do we take that for granted?  How many of us would have the courage to face what those brave men and women faced?  Are we teaching our children about those sacrifices that those men and women gave?

My rambling reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
George Santayana

Make sure your children learn what they can from those around them.  Never take your loved ones for granted.  Make sure your children understand the sacrifices that were made for them.

Panna Cotta

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Panna cotta was always a dessert that I thought I couldn't make.  I thought it was above me.  I thought only those trained in the culinary arts would be able to master such a dessert.  Boy, was I wrong!  It turns out it is one of the easiest desserts I've ever made!  If you really want to impress someone, break out this recipe!


2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar

Begin by cutting the vanilla bean in two and scraping the seeds in the heavy cream.  Throw the vanilla pod in the cream as well. Heat that until just before boiling and remove from heat.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes so that the vanilla flavor infuses the cream.

Remove the vanilla pod.  Turn on medium heat.  Add the sugar, gelatin, and milk.  Allow that to boil slightly, stirring constantly so that the cream doesn't burn.  Remove from heat and put into individual custard bowls.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

When you are ready to serve, take a spatula and run it around the edges to help loosen the custard.  I served my panna cotta with macerated cherries.

Mom said panna cotta was her favorite dessert and she loved it!  If only Alex Guarnaschelli could see me now!


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tried and True Recipe #14

My summer decompression has started!  Yes, I'm still working but going into an empty office/school is not stressful at all!  I'm excited that it is summer!  I plan on devoting a lot of time to my blog and my family.

I loved the recipes this week.  I am always so inspired by your creativity and taste.  Here are two of my favorites:

Paint Splatter Birthday Cake by Cupcake-n-Bake

Mushroom Stuffed Pork Chops With Black Garlic by A Kitchen Hoor
(That name cracks me up)!

Don't forget to grab a button!  If you are interested in being a co-host, drop me an email at
Remember the rules:

1. Link up a family recipe or craft
2. Please follow my blog - I'll follow you back
3. Please link to this post in your blogs-there is a button on my sidebar to make it easy
4. No spam, contests or giveaways please
5. Please note that by linking up your posts and projects you are giving me permission to use your photos in the featured posts and possibly on my social media outlets. All photos will be linked back to your sites and your posts
6. Visit at least two of the links and comment on the page so the blogger knows you visited
Have fun!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Banana Cream Pie

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YUM!  That is the one word I use to describe this pie.  I know it would be easy to buy some pudding mix and throw a pie together, but I wanted to make everything from scratch.  It didn't disappoint and it was easy!

Mom says this pie reminds her of her dad's banana cream pie.  Last night she was over for dinner and she told this great story.  When my grandfather was stationed in Hawaii, during WWII, his platoon was getting ready to be shipped out.  Grandpeepaw was in line, getting his immunizations.  He had a reaction to a shot and fainted.  Needless to say, he became very ill and was not able to recover for 3 weeks.  By this time his platoon had already gone to the Pacific.

The commanders didn't quite know what to do with my grandfather so they asked him what his skills were.  He told them that he was a baker by trade.  The man asked him if he knew how to make banana cream pie and my grandfather said yes.  The man said, "Come with me."  Grandpeepaw followed him to the kitchen, and made a banana cream pie.  It turns out, that was the favorite pie of the base commander!  That is where grandpeepaw finished the war!

If this pie resembles anything like his, I am proud!

Ingredients for the crust:

1 1/2 packages of graham crackers
5 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Ingredients for the pie:

1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups + 1/4  cup whole milk
3 bananas, sliced
1 jar of ice cream caramel sauce
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Put the graham crackers in your food processor to make crumbs.  Slowly add the melted butter and vanilla.

Press the crumbs into a well greased pie plate.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

In a saucepan, add 2 cups of whole milk and 1/2 cup sugar.  Heat on medium, stirring constantly.  Add the salt.   

In a separate bowl, add the 1/4 cup milk, cornstarch and egg yolks.  Whisk.  When the heated milk mixture is near boiling, take 1/2 cup of hot milk and whisk it into the egg mixture.  Then, slowly whisk the egg mixture into the hot milk.  This is called tempering the eggs.  If you do not do this, the eggs will scramble when you pour it into the hot milk.

Let the milk boil slightly, stirring constantly.  When it starts to thicken up, remove from heat.  Stir in the vanilla and let cool.

With your mixer, whip together the heavy cream and powdered sugar.  Let that mix for several minutes until it becomes whipped cream.  Refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the pie.

When the pudding is completely cool, slice the bananas.  Layer them in the bottom of the pie shell.

Pour some caramel sauce on the bananas.
Layer pudding on top and repeat.
Cover entire pie with whipped cream.
Chill and serve.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Surprise Recipe Swap

It's that time of the month again - Surprise Recipe Swap.  Each month I am paired with a blogger.  I get to check out their blog and pick a recipe to cook.  Another blogger looks at my blog and cooks one of my recipes.  It is so much fun!  Thanks to Jutta from Hungry Little Girl for organizing this every month!

This month I was paired with Jenni from Jenni's Ferris Wheel of Food.  I really liked her blog.  It not only had recipes, but I got to sneak a peek at some crafts she was working on.  Jenni is a woman after my own heart!

I chose to cook her recipe for Snickerdoodle Blondies.  They looked so good!  Here are the ingredients:

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup cinnamon chips
2 Tbsp granulated sugar (for topping)
2 tsp cinnamon (for topping)

In your mixer, combine butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Add the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Slowly add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until all is combined.  Stir in the cinnamon chips.  I didn't have cinnamon chips, so I added chocolate chips.

Press into a 9x13 pan that is well greased. 

Combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping.  Sprinkle on top.  Cook in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Let the blondies cool and then cut into squares.

These were so good!  Check out Jenni's blog!  You won't be disappointed.


Tried and True Recipes #13

I'm late this week - the story of my life lately.  The end of the school year has make me super busy and this week was a whirlwind! 

The party this week was fantastic once again.  We had two co-hosts and each lady picked a favorite recipe.  Lynn from Turnips 2 Tangerines picked Peanut Butter Mini-Cheesecakes by Something Sweet Winnie's Blog

Marly from This and That picked NY cheesecake from Bakewell Junction as her favorite:

To spice things up a bit, I picked Hot and Spicy Chicken Masala from Treat and Trick

Thanks so much for linking up some great recipes!  OK, time for a new week!  Don't forget to grab a button!  If you are interested in being a co-host, drop me an email at

Remember the rules:

1. Link up a family recipe or craft
2. Please follow my blog - I'll follow you back
3. Please link to this post in your blogs-there is a button on my sidebar to make it easy
4. No spam, contests or giveaways please
5. Please note that by linking up your posts and projects you are giving me permission to use your photos in the featured posts and possibly on my social media outlets. All photos will be linked back to your sites and your posts
6. Visit at least two of the links and comment on the page so the blogger knows you visited

At the end of the week, I, along with each co-host, will pick out a few of my favorites! Spread the word - there are so many great blogs out there. Let's learn from each other!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Strawberry Pie

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Strawberries are in season!  Time to make dessert!  I wish I was the type of gal to eat strawberries for their natural wholesome properties.............but, no, I need to add sugar!

Here are the ingredients for this pie:

Pie crust:

2 cups crushed pecans
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt

Pie Filling

1 quart strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 box strawberry Jello
1 tablespoon lemon juice

First, make sure your pecans are crushed.  Put them in your food processor if needed.  When they are crushed, put them in a bowl and add the rest of the crust ingredients.  Press the mixture into the bottom of a well greased pie plate.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove and let cool.

In a saucepan, crush one cup of strawberries.  I used a potato masher and it worked great.  To this, add the sugar, Jello and cornstarch.  Stir to incorporate.  Slowly add water and lemon juice.  Cook until mixture boils, then remove from heat.  Allow to cool.

Once your crust is cool, put the remaining sliced strawberries in the pie pan.

Slowly pour the Jello mixture over the strawberries.  Chill for 2-3 hours before serving.  Top with whipped cream.

Maria likes to help in the kitchen!  I love when she comes over!


Ricotta Meatballs

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The thing I love about meatballs is that you can put anything in them and they still taste great.  Well, almost anything...........

Italians love their meatballs!  This recipe is a variation of my original meatball recipe.  Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • Olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Shallots - 1 large shallot, minced
  • Garlic - 4 cloves minced
  • Parmesan Cheese - 1 cup shredded
  • Parsely - chopped, 1/2 cup
  • Basil - chopped, 1/4 cup
  • Ground Beef - 1 pound
  • Italian sausage, ground, 1/2 pound
  • 1 egg
  • Ricotta cheese - 1 cup
  • Salt
  • Pepper 
 Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl.  Roll the meatballs to the size you want.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Let the meatballs finish cooking in your sauce.  Here is a great recipe for marinara sauce.  If you aren't planning on serving these with sauce, finish cooking them in the oven.


Shrimp Fried Rice

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We don't eat a lot of Asian food but every once in a while I get an urge to eat some fried rice.  Here is an easy, quick recipe that your whole family will love!


1 cup shredded
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 cup uncooked rice
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

It is best to use leftover rice for this dish.  If you don't have leftover rice, then just plan ahead and make the rice the day before.  Keep the rice in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Cut all of your vegetables so that they are ready to go.  This dish comes together very quickly so be ready.

Combine the last 4 ingredients.  This will be your sauce.

Heat a large pan or wok. Whisk the eggs together and scramble in the hot pan.  Set aside.

Heat the wok back up.  Combine 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil.  Add 1 clove garlic and 1 tablespoon onion to the oil.  Be careful not to burn the garlic!

Start cooking the carrots first.  This is the heartiest vegetable and will need to the longest to cook.  Saute the carrots 3-4 minutes before adding the rest of the onion, broccoli and peas.  Saute 3 minutes before adding the cabbage and shrimp.

Cook 3-4 minutes and remove from heat.  Set the shrimp and vegetables aside.

Heat the wok back up, adding the rest of the vegetable and sesame oil.  Add the rest of the garlic to the oil.  Add the rice and let the rice toast and soak in the oil before stirring-about 2 minutes.

Stir the rice, adding in the sauce.  Let the rice cook 3-5 minutes before adding in the eggs, shrimp and vegetables.